How to Start a Traeger Pellet Grill: Step-by-Step

Learn how to start a Traeger wood pellet grill the RIGHT way, whether it is new, empty, or full of pellets, as each scenario requires its own procedure.

Let’s go!

starting a traeger pellet grill


If you are a beginner at smoking, or new to learning how pellet grills work, you may be wondering exactly how to start your Traeger pellet grill.

Follow the step by step instructions below to learn exactly how to start that Traeger pellet grill.

The first section is for if the grill is new, or empty, and the second section is if the auger is already full of pellets.

We also show you at the end exactly how to shut down your Traeger pellet grill the proper way.


How to Start a Traeger Grill for the First Time or One That is Empty

Starting up an empty Traeger grill is slightly different than starting up one that is already full of pellets.

an empty hopper when starting a new traeger grill

If your Traeger pellet grill is truly BRAND new, you should go through the full process of seasoning it before cooking on it for the first time.

You can find our Step-by-Step Instructions on How to Season a Traeger Pellet Grill here, 

Otherwise follow these steps as follows:

  1. Fill your hopper with pellets.a traeger grill hopper filled with pellets
  2. Plug in and turn on the flip the power switch to “ON” on the pellet grill, keeping the lid open.  Set the dial to “Smoke”.   This will  start  the auger turning and bring the pellets towards the firepot.  If the auger is completely empty, this can take about 5-7 minutes to fill the auger.traeger pellet grill dial set to "smoke" when starting up
  3.  Once you hear your pellets going into the fire pot and the grill starts producing white billowing smoke, you can switch your temperature dial to your chosen temperature for the food you are cooking.pellets falling into the fire pot of a traeger pellet grill starting up
  4. Close the lid of your Traeger grill.  At this point, a more significant amount of smoke will begin coming out of the pellet grill.  This means the pellets are ignited and the pellet grill is workingpellets igniting in the fire pot of a traeger pellet grill
  5. It will take about 10 more minutes to preheat the grill, depending on the temperature you have chosen.
  6. While you are waiting, make sure you’ve got the drip pan in place, preferably covered in aluminum foil to make cleanup easier later.
  7. Make sure the grease bucket is hanging on the side to catch any grease that comes out during the cook.  Wear a good pair of BBQ gloves when you are handling these components.the grease bucket on the side of a traeger pellet grill
  8. Put your grates on. Using a good bristle free grill brush, clean off the grill grates if they have any leftover food stuck on from the last cook.  long handled bristle free grill brush


Once the grill is at your desired temperature, put your food on, use any of the included temperature probes if you wish, and cook your food!


Why use Bristle Free Grill Brushes? 

Check out our Ultimate Guide to How to Keep your Family Safe by using ONLY Bristle Free Grill Brushes, along with a selection of some of our favorites!



How to Start a Traeger Pellet Grill that has Pellets in it Already

Preparing to Start the Grill

  • Clean out your fire pot from any leftover ashes from the previous cook.  Make sure there are no obstructions in it.a clean and emptied out fire pot on a traeger pellet grill
  • Leave the lid of the grill open.
  • Add pellets to the hopper.

Note: It is alway best to empty the hopper and the auger each time you use your Traeger grill rather than leaving the pellets to sit in there.

Unless you live in a VERY dry climate, Traeger pellets will not last very long if left in the hopper where, even when covered, will be exposed to humidity and temperature fluctuations.

wet expanded pellets

Keep your pellets in an airtight sealable container like a 5 gallon bucket indoors where they will remain dry and fresh.

You will get better quality smoke out of them and they will last a lot longer.

Starting up the Traeger Pellet Grill

  • Plug in the grill.
  • Flip the power switch to ON and turn the dial to “Smoke”.
  • You will hear the fan kick on and the auger start to move and begin to kick pellets into the fire pot.  Your fire rod will begin to heat up as well.the fire rod heating up when starting a traeger pellet grill
  • Leave the lid open for about 5-7 minutes until you start to see white billowing smoke come out of the grill.  This happens when the pellets are first igniting. a traeger grill starting to make smoke
  • Once a smoke is being produced, close the lid and change the temperature dial to your desired temperature setting.
  • Allow about 10-15 minutes to preheat the grill.
  • While you are waiting, make sure you’ve got the drip pan in place and the grease bucket hanging to catch any grease that comes out during the cook.
  • Put your grates on if they aren’t already in place.
  • Using a good bristle free grill brush, clean off the grill grates if there is any leftover stuck on food from the last cook.
  • When the pellet grill comes up to temperature go ahead and put on your food!


How to Turn Off a Traeger Pellet Grill

After you have finished cooking your food, don’t just turn off and unplug the Traeger pellet grill .

Turn the dial on your Traeger pellet grills to the “Shut Down Cycle” setting.

dial set to shut down cycle on a traeger pellet grill

This setting will stop the auger from turning, and quickly turn up the temperature of your fire rod and the speed of your fan.

The reason for this is to rapidly burn off any pellets remaining in the firepot so that they don’t just sit and smolder for hours like hot coals.

You can’t smother and re-light pellets that have already ignited once like you can with charcoal.

So any pellets that have already made it into the fire pot need to be burned up.

pellets burning off during the shut down cycle of a traeger grill

The “Shut Down Cycle” feature makes quick work of this and leaves you with a nice clean firepot for your next cook.

Do not power down or unplug the pellet grill or this process cannot happen. The fan will turn off automatically after about 5-10 minutes when it is done, and then you can turn off and unplug the grill.

Once the remaining pellets have burned off, the fan has stopped, and the grill is cool again, empty the remaining pellets left in the auger and the hopper and put them in a nice dry resealable 5 gallon bucket you keep inside.

Yes, we know how tempting it is to just throw the cover back on and leave the unused pellets in the Traeger grill.

However, you will quickly find out how those pellets can absorb moisture and expand, rot, and even mold if left in there too long.

And pellets, especially Traeger brand pellets, can get expensive pretty fast when you are throwing large batches away that have been ruined when left in the hopper.a bucket full of pellets from a pellet grill

So take the extra few minutes to transfer them out of the grill once the grill has cooled down.  You’ll thank yourself later!

Lastly, empty your grease bucket if any grease accumulated in it during the cook, and then put the grill cover back on.


Now What Food Can I Cook on my Traeger Pellet Grill?

Looking for some smoky inspiration for your Traeger pellet grill?

So glad you asked.

Check out some of our great recipes of smoked and grilled food to try out after starting up your Traeger grill!

Trash Can Turkey – OK, technically not made on a Traeger pellet grill but one of the most fun ways there is to cook a Turkey…at over 700 degrees in only 2 hours! 

You’ve got to check it out!




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