Do you like cooking in the fresh air of a summer afternoon? Do you enjoy the sizzle of a fresh burger patty hitting a hot griddle top? Do you savor the delight of cooking an entire meal on one extremely hot, even cooking surface? If you answered yes to any and all of these questions, you'll be intrigued by one of the hottest new releases in the world or grilling and griddling.
When I learned that Traeger, the brand that had popularized the pellet grill, had gone to the dark side and produced a gas-powered griddle, I was surprised and a little confused. Having built a kingdom on the premise that wood-smoked, pellet-grilled meats (or veggies but come on, really?) are superior to any other, how could Traeger casually come out with a product that was the antithesis of its mission, its purpose on this planet? I wanted to investigate, so the good folks at Traeger sent me a unit and said "Get griddlin'."
Editor's Note: Traeger didn't say this explicitly, but the brand did send me the grill so I believe it was implied.
Traeger Flatrock Flat Top Grill: What We Think
Fans of cast iron cooking — or hot, flat surfaces if you're into that sort of thing — will be pleased with Traeger's newest launch. It's a pleasure to use — there's really no other way to describe it than fun. After properly seasoning the griddle, my partner and I were able to cook up tasty, delicious meats, eggs and sides with ease. The ample space of both the cooktop itself and the side shelves made it a breeze to use; we were able to cook an entire meal all at once at the same time, which isn't possible with our normal kitchen setup. (We live in an Airstream). Although the initial setup was a little tricky, once we got the Flatrock rolling, there's been no looking back.
Traeger Flatrock Flat Top Grill: Testing Notes
There's plenty of space to get your cook on
This cooktop is large and in charge: at 33 inches x 18 inches, you've got enough space to handle 26 eggs, or 28 bacon strips, or 24 burgers. In other words, you can feed a crowd. The ample griddle isn't the only useable space, either: two side shelves bring the total cooking space up to 594 square inches. While cooking, we were able to have our plates and silverware, a small cutting board, tongs and a spatula and oil and seasoning and there was still room to shove more items on there, should we have felt the need.
Initial setup is tricky. (This includes seasoning.)
You'll definitely want two people (and maybe the six pack that Traeger suggests in its suggestions) to get this thing rolling. At 189 pounds, this is a hefty grill that really shouldn't be lifted or moved around by one person, until it's on wheels and can be rolled. I got through Step Two of the instruction booklet with a helper and then had to tackle the rest on my own - it wasn't necessarily hard, just cumbersome and time consuming. The instructions say to turn the grill over so that the bottom is facing up so that you can attach the legs to the underside. What the instructions fail to mention is that the inside of the grill is filled with four more boxes, including the one that contained the wheels in it — so after I had already lost my helper, I had to turn all 189 pounds of the grill back over to access the boxes hidden inside. Moral of the story: open the lid before you assume it's empty.
Aside from the mechanical aspect of setup, seasoning is also time consuming — you'll need to factor in another hour to get your griddle ready to rock. If you aren't familiar with the process of seasoning cast iron, Traeger breaks down the steps in an easy-to-understand way. That being said, if you're new to the game, make sure you either purchase Traeger's griddle conditioner or pick up a bottle of your favorite cooking oil before setting out to grill. I prefer olive oil, but the choice is yours.
The Traeger does not come with griddle conditioner or a cover, which I thought was a little odd; both seem pretty important for maintenance and care, respectively, and I was surprised they came with their own up charges rather than included in the almost $900 price tag. To be fair, the conditioner is not technically required: like me, you may want to use olive oil or another oil of your choice, but the extra charge for the cover seems like a miss on Traeger's part.
The cooking experience: fun
The ample room, even cooking temperatures and easy prep (after initial seasoning) and cleanup made the Flatrock cooking experience a pleasurable one. There's tons of space on the griddle for all your tasty treats, and I loved the ability to cook an entire meal all at once, on the same surface. There's really nothing that can compare to cooking your food outside, and Traeger took the already fun experience to the next level. I have a feeling my kitchen is going to get a lot less use moving forward.
Traeger included lots of thoughtful features
The grease trap, slant of the griddle top itself, simple propane tank holder, the fuel level light and the small burner lights that indicate when one is on or off all come together to make the experience of using the Flatrock intuitive, simple and effective (once you've got the dang thing set up, that is)
I didn't receive any of the accessories you can attach to the side shelves via the P.A.L. Pop and Lock Accessory Rail, but I have been creeping on the setups of reviews left on Traeger's site (and Traeger's own promotional pictures) and it looks like you can really hang a lot of stuff on your grill if you're in the mood for it.