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.
Yoder Smokers has overcome this challenge with their YS Series of pellet grills outfitted with their direct grilling package. When fit with this package, the grate temperature on the left side soars past the 700-degree mark and produces those coveted steakhouse quality grill marks, fast cooking times, intense caramelization, color and texture common to cooking over an open fire or gas fired grill.
Pellet grills preheat quickly, so you can start cooking almost immediately, and the pellets are available in a number of woods, for different smoke flavors. The smoke has a subtle wood-fired flavor with less of the acrid flavor that comes from standard wood or charcoal. For the maximum smoke flavor, it’s best to cook at a temperature lower than 250 degrees, while higher temperatures cook faster with less smoke.