Getting a brand new Traeger grill can be very exciting. But hold your horses! Don’t rush into things and start using your grill before setting it up properly.
This involves assembling the grill, priming it, and seasoning it. For this post, I’m going to assume that you’ve already put your grill together. And, believe me, assembling the unit is a real pain in the a**. But I do have some good news!
You don’t need to prime your Trager every time. There are only three scenarios when you’ll need to prime your augur. The first is upon initial startup, i.e. when you season your grill before using it for the very first time. The second is after you purge your auger tube. The third scenario is if your hopper runs out of pellets. In these three cases, you’ll need to prime your Traeger again. Priming your grill is pretty easy, so don’t stress about it.
Stick around to the end of this guide because I’ll go over everything you need to know about priming your Traeger.
What Does “Priming” Mean?
Priming a Traeger grill and priming the augur mean exactly the same thing. Both terms are interchangeable. When you prime your Traeger, what you are in fact doing is priming the augur. The augur is a component inside your grill that resembles an endless screw.
The objective when priming the augur is to get pellets into the firepot, which is the area where the pellets burn. When you decide to ignite the grill, the hotrod inside the firepot will set these pellets on fire.
To achieve this, the augur will spin slowly and carry pellets from the bottom of the pellet hopper, all the way through the augur tube, to their final destination: the firepot.
If you try to ignite your grill without priming it, the hotrod would begin to glow as intended. But, there would be no pellets in the firepot. And, no pellets = no fire. There wouldn’t be anything to burn, and your grill just wouldn’t fire up.
And, even though the augur spins when the grill is igniting, the pellets travel slowly through the augur tube. Getting pellets from the hopper to the firepot can take a few minutes and it’s possible that the hotrod would have switched itself off before the first pellets arrive.
In short, priming the augur is essential.
When Do I Have To Prime My Traeger?
Thankfully, priming your Traeger is an easy process. And, you will only need to do it in the three following scenarios.
The initial startup is also known as the burn-in, first-burn, or first firing. However, the technical term is actually “seasoning”.
I’ve written an entire guide on how to season your Traeger grill, which explains everything you need to know on a model-by-model basis. However, here’s a brief explanation of what happens during this initial start-up.
When you season your grill, you’re burning off any non-toxic chemical residues that may have accumulated on the grill components during the manufacturing process. Additionally, you’re coating the grill components with a non-stick coating (the grates in particular). This coating helps protect the grates and minimize sticking during cooking.
By definition, a grill has never been fired up before its initial start-up. And, while you might have filled your hopper with pellets as part of the seasoning procedure, those pellets haven’t made their way to the firepot yet.
Therefore, you’re required to prime your augur. In fact, this step is explicitly called out in the Traeger seasoning procedure. So if you follow those instructions, you can kill two birds with one stone and both prime and season your grill.
Purging The Augur
Are you storing your grill away for the winter? Are your pellets going bad inside the hopper and the augur? Or, do you want to try a completely new type of pellet? If the answer to any of these questions is YES, then you’ll need to purge your augur.
Purging the augur is the process of completely emptying the pellets out of the augur tube. To achieve this, you’ll have to empty your hopper first by using the lid trap door to drain the pellets out into a container.
Then you’ll cycle your augur (you can actually use the “prime augur” function in your Traeger controller menu, for those with the WiFIRE touchscreen, WiFIRE-enabled, or ARC controllers). The augur will spin and force the pellets inside the tube into the firepot, where you’ll have to vacuum them out as they’re dispensed. As the hopper will be empty, the augur tube will gradually empty itself until there are no pellets remaining inside it.
Then, the next time you want to fire your grill up again, you’ll need to prime it.
Running out Of Pellets
If you’re a bit forgetful, like I am, then you might accidentally let your hopper run out of pellets during cooking. It’s happened to me a handful of times already – and while it’s frustrating when it happens, it’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. I’m used to the slagging at this stage.
If your hopper runs out of pellets when the grill is still cooking, it won’t be long before all the pellets inside the augur tube get burned. Then, your grill will be without fuel, the fire will go out and the temperature will drop like a rock.
To get the grill up and running again, you’ll have to switch it off first. Then prime it again before you ignite. Different models have slightly different procedures for when you run out of pellets mid-cook, but the principle remains the same.
How Long Does It Take to Prime a Traeger Grill?
To prime the augur on a Traeger grill, it can take in the region of 5 minutes. Certain grills can take as little as 3 minutes and some larger models up to 7 minutes.
Do I Need to Prime the Auger After Changing Pellets?
You don’t have to prime the augur after changing pellets. However, if you’re pedantic as F-CK and don’t want your pellets getting mixed together, then you can purge the augur before introducing your new pellets. This way the old pellets and the new pellets won’t burn together. However, you’ll need to prime your augur after running out of pellets during cooking, but only once you’ve refilled your hopper.
Do You Need to Clear Auger Every Time Traeger?
You don’t have to clear or purge your augur every time you use your grill. If you plan on using your grill again soon, and if the weather is dry and your grill is sheltered, then you can afford to leave pellets inside your augur until your next grilling session. However, it’s worth clearing the augur when you give your grill a deep clean or when you’re thinking of storing it away for the winter.