My Chargriller Pellet Grill came in yesterday, and I plan on starting a test brisket late tonight. So, today, I’ve been playing with the different p-settings trying to find the optimal way to go. My goal is to find the best setting to get as much smoke as possible, with as little variation and temp swings as possible from 225. First, my apologies for the length of this post. But, there have been a lot of questions on here regarding this smoker due to its great value vs the Traegers.. I mean, much larger and half the price? What's not to love? So, I thought I would thoroughly post my findings from today with it.
The below tests were using Lumberjack 100% Mesquite pellets (solely because that’s the one I use least often, so I didn’t want to waste the ones I use most of the time), and it ranged from 80-90 degrees out today (Houston, TX). When restarting to change p-settings, I turned it off for about 30 minutes with the lid open, cleared out the hot pot, relit it on “Smoke” until the pellets ignited, set it to the desired temp/p-setting, then shut the lid and started recording the temps after about 45 minutes. This smoker always start off hot, but, after a few cycles, it will eventually settle down into a more desired range. So, in hindsight, I recommend, regardless of what setting you go with, to let it run for about 45 mins before putting the meat on. I had a few oven thermometers on the grates to look for hot spots, and while reading about 10 degrees cooler than the iGrill, the heating in the smoker seemed pretty even from front to back of mid grill, but slightly higher on the right side of the grill, likely due to the slope of the drip pan. So, if you only have one brisket on, I suggest putting it in the middle and running it from front to back. If it’s too long, give it a rotation half way through. Also of note, other than with the P0 setting (which was dead on), the reading on the iGrill2 was typically about 10 degrees higher that what the CG (Chargriller) and oven thermometers read. So, take from that what you will, depending on what you trust more.
Note: When looking at any of the below graphs, the times when there is a decent amount of visible smoke coming from it is during the temp declines (when the pellets have a chance to smolder).
225/P0- As expected, the P0 setting was very consistent. However, I cut this test run short simply because the CG just wasn’t putting out much smoke (At least not nearly enough for my taste), and I knew at that point I would never use this setting. If I want to grill, I have an actual searing grill for that. I want to use this solely to smoke. I'm sure this chart would look more attractive had I let it run a bit longer and level out, but I didn't see the point in wasting pellets. For the most part, the only times it would put out visible smoke were the brief periods when the auger turned. It also seemed that, once it settled in, it tended to idle at a higher temp than other settings, with briefer periods below the target temp… Not what I’m looking to accomplish.
225/P2 (CG manual’s recommended setting)-Obviously more temp variability, but much more smoke. The recovery time was very brief, and would typically get back up to its max temp within one auger cycle. Then, it would slowly cool back down over 3-4 auger cycles, producing nice smoke the majority of the time. After the first few cycles, the peak temp dropped some, helping to minimize the fluctuations. I’ll be interested to see what happens over the long run when I try this setting tonight over a long smoke. While the average temp reading from the iGrill2 looks higher than desired (about 240), the CG reading was consistently about 10 degrees cooler. Also of note, when I opened the grill at the end, less than a minute after the iGrill2 showed the temperature peak at 250, the oven thermometers on the grate still all read right around 225. So, as I said, take from that what you will, depending on what you trust more. The very short temp plateaus seen during a decline are when the auger turns and dumps more pellets onto the fire (damn this iGrill2 is cool).
225/P3-I was going to jump to P4, but with P2 being somewhat close to ideal, I thought I would see if even going to P3 was worth it since it uses about 20% more pellets vs P2 (P4 uses about 35% more than P2). P3 did pretty much what I expected it to. More smoke via further prolonged temp drops, and a slightly lower average temp. Once again, even though the avg temp was a little higher than target (about 235), when I opened the lid at the end of the last peak, the oven thermometers all read right at 225.
Ideal setting?: Well, it pretty much depends on what you are comfortable with on temp swings, and how much smoke you want (duh). But, hopefully the above info will be of use to those considering buying one and wondering how this smoker performs, or help to lessen the learning curve of those who have one. When using any setting and you look at what the temp is doing, keep in mind that it typically only produces good smoke while the temp is decreasing. When it is increasing or stable, there is very little visible smoke coming from it, other than the brief period of the auger turning. Since Traeger advises against using a P-setting above 4 since it increases the chance of the fire going out (?), I didn’t even bother testing the higher p-settings… Especially with how pricey these pellets can run. If you’re a real smoke hound, I’m fairly confident the higher settings will work pretty well also, though. But, what I think I’ll do tonight is set it to 225/P2 and toss my A-maze-n tube in there for a little additional and more constant smoke. I think it’ll be more pellet efficient that way. If after a couple hours, the temp is still running a bit higher than I’m comfortable with, I’ll kick it up to P3.
Let me know if you have any questions, and I’ll be sure to post in this thread how the brisket turns out along with the temp charts.