Monitor Traeger pellet levels with your phone, control your grill with Amazon Alexa

After experiencing the joy of wood pellet grilling, it's fun to see a useful accessory and more smart home integration launch from the folks at Traeger Grills.

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Last year I discovered how easy it can be to smoke a brisket in the Traeger Ironwood 650 and my family has been enjoying an assortment of meats, pizza, and vegetables since then. The Ironwood 650 is a WiFIRE grill with smartphone connectivity that allows me to monitor grilling sessions from afar. However, a few times while I've been at work I have had my wife open the pellet hopper, snap a photo of the pellets, send the photo to me, and then have her fill the hopper.

Traeger's new pellet sensor helps you monitor your pellet levels from anywhere you have connectivity, but it's still not perfect. It's an $80 accessory that works with the Pro 575, Pro 780, Ironwood 650, and Ironwood 885 grills and at the prices those grills sell for this monitor should be included.

In addition to the release of the pellet sensor, Traeger also extended its smart home connectivity to Amazon Alexa. WiFIRE capable grills can now be monitored and controlled with both Google Home and Amazon Alexa with commands for power, grill temperature, probe temperature, timer, smoke settings, and pellet sensor levels.

Also: BBQ by phone: Traeger's smart grill raises the heat of your summer party game

Hands-on with the Traeger Pellet Sensor

The Traeger Pellet Sensor is designed for easy installation with a simple design that has a LED light to illuminate the pellets and two screws to mount it inside the hopper.

I was following the directions to remove the rubber grommet from inside the hopper, but the rubber broke and slipped out of my hand with the connecting wire going back into the opening and out of reach. There is actually a bit of fine print in this specific installation instruction to not let the cable go back into the opening so I thought I was out of luck.

Being that I am an engineer, I refuse to give up so easily though so at first tried to fish the wire back through the opening. When that didn't work, I investigated where I could open up the grill to access the wire. It turns out, you can remove four screws from the under the pellet hopper to access the internal electronics of the Traeger grill. I found the loose wire, reached up with it in my fingers, and then routed it back through the opening.

There is a plug-in connector that attaches to the pellet sensor and then the two screws you removed are used to secure the pellet sensor in place. Make sure to cover the auger and bottom of the pellet hopper so you don't lose the screws if they slip out of your hand.

After putting everything back together, plug in and turn on your grill to see the status of your pellet sensor on the outside display. When you cook you will also see pellet status in the smartphone app.

A pellet sensor is exactly what I was hoping to see last year when I first started testing this connected grill. While it provides a decent estimate of remaining percentage of pellets, it also underestimates the remaining pellet level as pellets empty in the middle of the hopper while they stack up along the edges. I regularly saw the remaining percentage jump up about 20% when I leveled out the pellets with my hand.

It would be great if there was something that shook the hopper every once in a while or scraped inside to level the pellets, but at least you get some indication of your pellet level with the sensor. Then again, for $80 it really should be a bit more precise. If it was included with the more expensive grill models I wouldn't be as picky.

One other feature I would personally love to see integrated into the Traeger app is a place to enter the type of pellets in the hopper. I currently have a Google Keep notebook where I record the type of pellets I put in the hopper, but I tend to bounce between three or four different types of wood and if I go a few weeks between grilling I can forget what pellet type is in the hopper.

Amazon Alexa commands

To setup your compatible grill with Amazon Alexa, first make sure you have the Alexa app on your smartphone. You will need to then enable the button in the Alexa app to link to your Traeger account and discover your grill.

After making the connection between your Amazon Alexa account and your Traeger grill you can then use Amazon Alexa-capable devices or your smartphone to monitor and control your grilling experience.