Eric, I’m sorry for the trouble you’ve had with your Traeger. Not sure this will help, but here is how I make sure I don’t have the problem you had. When I start after a long previous cook or any cook at all really, I vacuum out all the dust and vacuum out the burn pot. Then, I put a handful of pellets into the burnt pot, insert the heat deflector, the drip tray, and grate. I find that this keeps things working well. Sometimes, the burn pot will get too full of ash and this can cause the problems that you had. Give it a try. If it works, please let me know.
Cooking surface – Whole 702 square inches at our disposal, which is a lot. But if this is still not enough for you, you can buy a second shelf and expand the cooking surface by extra 352 square inches. That’s the total of 1052 square inches of meat grilling or smoking space. I think when it comes to this pellet grill, you can’t complain about insufficient space.
Because the burn pot is small, there is usually a hot spot directly over it. Some units have an optional perforated section above the burn pot so you can put the meat over direct flame, but the ones I've tested still do not sear properly. And there is no way to set up a 2-zone cooking system with a cool zone. As with most other grills and smokers, the differences between lower and upper racks is not huge, so think of it as one heckuva indirect heat convection smoker with precision temperature control.
Access to electricity has its downfalls. First, if the cord isn’t long enough you will need to make sure you have a proper extension cord. Using the wrong cord is a fire hazard. Do the math (watts / volts = amps) and make sure you have the right extension cord. The smoker is also less mobile, and if it's stored outside it absolutely must have a cover. Electrical components and weather don’t mix.
160ºF up to 500ºF temperature range for slow smoking to grill (25,000 BTU). Stainless Steel meat probe measures internal food temperature. Simple Ash Cleanout System (patented).Smart Smoke Technology. Stainless Steel fire box. Digital controller automatically maintains cooking temperature. Grease Management System. Blue LED digital temperature display..Bottom utility rack. Large, heavy wire grilling area dimensions: 19.5" x 22". Included warming rack provides (570 sq. in. total cooking surface).