Friday, January 25, 2013

I found a cure for the cold weather blues.

Traeger makes a really nice insulation blanket for their pellet grills, but they cost $144 more than this.

So Traeger pellet grills are really an amazing tool for turning damn near anything into an amazing meal. They run on hardwood pellets that are fed into the firebox to maintain a user setpoint (in degrees) or when dialed to the smoke setting they do just that.

This is my Traeger BBQ075 Texas Grill
"Designed after the traditional Texas Style wood cookers, the Texas brings old fashioned wood cooking into the 21st century by featuring a high-tech auger-fed burner, electronic autostart ignition, multi-position digital thermostat control, and EZ-drain grease system."

This thing is great but when the weather gets cold you find your grill burning extra fuel to overcome the cold ambient temperatures. There are a few ways to help combat this, one is to increase the thermal mass by adding firebricks or sand. The second is to insulate the barrel to try and keep the heat from escaping in the first place.

Traeger offers a solution but there are a couple flaws to their method  First, it doesn't play well with the front folding shelf. Second, it does not cover the bottom of the barrel. Third, it's down right expensive. The proper blanket for my machine is $179.

So I took matters into my own hands, did some reading and research from reputable sources like and then began thinking of ways to combat the cold. 

What I came up with was an understanding that the barrel of my Texas grill is just over 6 feet in diameter. Tillman makes welding blankets that are 3' X 3' and are resistant to temperatures up to 1800°F. They are also Non-flammable, non-melting, non-shrinking, scratch free.

The best price I found on these was a CyberWeld for $22.95 X 2 + FREE S/H = $45.90.

Next I thought about what the best way to secure these blankets to the barrel of the machine. I thought about sewing nylon straps to them and using clips like Traeger does but talked myself out of it because sewing thick materials suck and they look like they interfere with the lid closing. So what I came up with was rare earth magnets. 

I searched around and found 10-pc Strong Rare Earth Disc Magnets 3/4" x 1/4" Neodymium on Amazon for $9.29 + $1.75 S/H = $11.04.

I received both packages within 3-4 days and put everything together. 

I placed the blankets on top and bottom and secured them with the magnets. Everything fit very nice and the magnets did a great job of sticking the blankets to the grill.

Bottom / under the folding shelf
Lid open

Here are a couple of angles via the camera phone, sorry about the haze. I'm too lazy to get out the big Nikon.

Scary magnet warning that came on the box - They are pretty powerful with 19lbs of pull force.

I then fired it up and gave it a test run. It heated very fast and maintained temp much better than before. I'll be curious to see how much it saves on a low and slow cook.

A nice smoky startup.

The internal temperature is quickly approaching 450°F, the surface of the blanket it under 120°F and you can hold your hand on it infinitely. 

The magnets on the other hand get rather hot, so be careful!

Non-scientific temperature measurement.

Not bad for a cold Colorado night ~19°F

So, hopefully it works out as well for you as it did for me. More importantly, saves you some $$$

Total build cost = $56.94