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New Pit Boss 850 Pro Series from Lowes

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Joined Dec 16, 2020
First time pellet grill owner and first thread post on the site!

I grew up in the MS Delta just south down Highway 61 from Memphis and worked in BBQ and Blues restaurants from my teenage years through college. I came up smoking meats in those restaurants, have been involved in some way or another in BBQ competitions from Memphis in May down to small local delta town contests. I even ran and opened several restaurants in the Florida panhandle over a good 15 year period or so as an adult, BBQ and others, so I have what I'd say you can call a significant, ranged culinary background . However, as I mentioned, the PB850 with PID controller is my first backyard pellet smoker so I'm learning still about the technology and how to apply my existing knowledge of smoking meats to it.

I just got it last week and did my first prime brisket flat this past weekend. Turned out pretty good, but always looking to improve. Had decent smoke flavor (not too much), nice looking rings on every slice, and full of flavor with my homemade Memphis style rub. I did my slow cool down (not as long as I originally planned due to timing being off, but it worked out fine in the end), then extra wrapped while still in butcher paper, with foil over the paper, then a towel and refrigerated late night (was nervous about leaving out too long) until a little after noon the next day. At that point, I pulled it out, cut in half and vacuum sealed both. One went in the deep freeze for later and the other went in to my Sous Vide (I call her Antoinette, and strongly recommend getting one as the perfect compliment to reheating your favorite smoked meats while retaining ALL that juicy flavor and moisture- best way to reheat, bar none IMO, as long as you give yourself ample time to reach temp before serving).

My only concerns were with timing, the amount of smoke and control of smoke, and maybe I could have a had a better, darker bark (although after my wrap and with timing and all that I had to sacrifice that a bit, so that was understandable). In my experience with traditional offsets and commercial smokers I've used in the past, while obviously bigger, they produce much more smoke. At home though, my experience smoking has always been more basic, smaller, and old school... old cheap charcoal and wood chip vertical smokers here and there... I've typically cooked with more abundant smoke and more control of the smoke in the past with the more traditional and simple equipment. I feel sort of helpless in that respect with my pellet grill. I can hold the prime so that the auger does a continuous feed for a bit, but that only seemed to result in a brief burst of smoke that didn't last long at all (maybe a minute or 2 at best). The timing went much longer than I had planned for also (4 hours longer!). I stalled early and had to fight through that to get to my wrap temp (in fact, I made the executive decision to bump my temp up from 225 to 250 at this point because of the early stall and running behind schedule), then I seemed to stall a bit just before I reached 200 internal on my brisket (around mid 190s), post wrap, but eventually got there.

In retrospect, when thinking about the amount of smoke, the longer than expected cook time, and the bark not being as dark as I expected (especially, considering the brown sugar that was in my rub I expected darker) I realized that I don't recall the fan turning off at all the entire cook. Does anyone know if this is normal in a PID controlled pellet grill/smoker? Is it supposed to run constant like that? Or is it running constant, but adjusting speed to help control temp? I started to wonder if this was a defect of sort. Could a constant running fan have an effect on keeping smoker temp down or prevent a heavier smoke? I know it's important in making sure that there is no residual dirty smoke hanging around in there with my meat, but I see these videos and pictures of pellet grills with billowing smoke pumping out of them. That was not the case at all with my cook. I used a mix of maybe about 65/35 hickory/apple, and ultimately the smoke flavor was sufficient even after the Sous Vide reheat, but I just felt helpless with my smoke control and would have like just a little bit more (maybe more hickory or a heavier wood is my answer there). If the fan is not supposed to constantly run like that, it seems like it would would make sense that it be the cause of my longer than anticipated cook time, less visual smoke, and lighter colored bark.

Any advice on better control of these 3 things, the new PB850 Pro Series if anyone has any experience with this new model, or tips in general for a PID pellet grills/smokers would be much appreciated!

P.S. I came across some forums and threads discussing more advanced PID controllers that you can swap out on these pellet grills. I'm not going to rush into something like that, but very well might swap it out in the future so If anyone has any insight on that also, I'm all ears!
 

chef jimmyj

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The PB850, like many Pellet grills has a Convection Fan that runs to even out heat. This fan may be separate or is also the Fan that keeps Positive Pressure in the Feed Tube and Burn Pot to stoke the flame and to prevent a back burn and all your pellets and grill going up in flames!
The higher the Smoker temp, the hotter the Pellets burn and the Less smoke flavor you will get. The PB, goes down to 180°F. I don't know if there is a dedicated Low or High Smoke setting with your grill. Because the grill operates the way it does. To get more smoke flavor you need to add a separate Smoke Generator. There are many options but most here use the A-MAZE-N AMNTS Expandable Pellet Smoke Generating Tube, to supplement the grills smoke.
A PID just controls the normal Temp Swings better than a Digital Thermostat. A DT, may generate 20+/- degree swings. A decent PID, will limit those swings to 5°F+/-. That's pretty much the only difference..JJ
 

bregent

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I realized that I don't recall the fan turning off at all the entire cook. Does anyone know if this is normal in a PID controlled pellet grill/smoker?
Some PID controlled grills do cycle the fan, but many do not. My Memphis cycles the fan when running temps below 300F, to help induce more smoke flavor. It's likely that your PB850 does not do this, and is probably running the way it should.
 
4
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Joined Dec 16, 2020
The PB850, like many Pellet grills has a Convection Fan that runs to even out heat. This fan may be separate or is also the Fan that keeps Positive Pressure in the Feed Tube and Burn Pot to stoke the flame and to prevent a back burn and all your pellets and grill going up in flames!
The higher the Smoker temp, the hotter the Pellets burn and the Less smoke flavor you will get. The PB, goes down to 180°F. I don't know if there is a dedicated Low or High Smoke setting with your grill. Because the grill operates the way it does. To get more smoke flavor you need to add a separate Smoke Generator. There are many options but most here use the A-MAZE-N AMNTS Expandable Pellet Smoke Generating Tube, to supplement the grills smoke.
A PID just controls the normal Temp Swings better than a Digital Thermostat. A DT, may generate 20+/- degree swings. A decent PID, will limit those swings to 5°F+/-. That's pretty much the only difference..JJ
Thanks for your response, Chef Jimmy!

I'm familiar with the difference between PID and DT, that's why I opted for this model as my first pellet grill. I wanted the better temp control without spending a $1000 on a Traeger or Camp Chef, plus I like the easy slide for direct flame access if I want to use it for something as simple as throwing on some burgers or to just get a quick sear. I'm also familiar with the correlation between temp and amount of smoke, however I was unsure if the fan running constant was normal. Thought maybe if it pulsated on and off or ran in intervals it may allow the smoke to build more inside before being released through the stack. Thinking of it like that, I started to wonder if there was an electrical issue or something with the fan. I actually saw those A-MAZE-N cylinders recommended on a Pit Boss article addressing tips to increase smoke if desired. I will have to grab one to play with now.

Thank again!
 
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Joined Dec 16, 2020
Some PID controlled grills do cycle the fan, but many do not. My Memphis cycles the fan when running temps below 300F, to help induce more smoke flavor. It's likely that your PB850 does not do this, and is probably running the way it should.
That must be it! I'm glad to hear yours runs in intervals though. It proves my train of thought on the fan running in intervals or in cycles like that would induce more smoke flavor like you said. Considering the price of $500 on these new Pit Boss 850s with PID, I'd imagine they had to take some shortcuts in some places. Maybe this is one of them.

Do you know anything about upgrading PID controllers? I've read a little bit about people upgrading their DT controllers to high end PIDs and never looking back, saying that it provides complete control. I'm wondering if doing something like this down the road might be something to consider consider. The grill/smoker itself is built like a tank. Seems like it could last a lifetime if cared for properly and modified when need be. I just don't know much about compatibility and am not overly confident in my knowledge of anything related to backend electrical work.
 

mike243

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I don't think I would replace my controller unless I could make it do everything I wanted, just keeping the temp steady wont help produce more smoke imo, its been proven that low temps provide more smoke, the cycling helps with that, I would try a tube to add xtra and drive the unit stock for awhile, you might find it does a great job without spending more $. Pellet brand also makes a difference, I have a lot of fun trying different brand/flavor of pellets, none have been bad but some give more flavor,
 
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Joined Dec 16, 2020
I don't think I would replace my controller unless I could make it do everything I wanted, just keeping the temp steady wont help produce more smoke imo, its been proven that low temps provide more smoke, the cycling helps with that, I would try a tube to add xtra and drive the unit stock for awhile, you might find it does a great job without spending more $. Pellet brand also makes a difference, I have a lot of fun trying different brand/flavor of pellets, none have been bad but some give more flavor,
Like I said in my original post, I have no intention in replacing the controller any time soon. Perhaps in the future though. I've simply read a few posts and experiences in changing out PID controllers for upgraded, more advanced ones and they all seem to love it. This doesn't really have anything to do with my smoke question. Just a curiosity.
 

bill1

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You only get the billowing smoke on a pellet grill at first start up and occasionally coming out of smoke mode and the controller's pouring on the pellets. If you want more smoke flavor from the pellet grill, search to see what others are doing. The key is to stay in the 200-225F region. High set temps burn the pellets hotter, giving more heat but less smoke.

But for all smokers, most agree most of your smoke flavor comes in the early part of the cook. When you're reaching the stall temp, increasing the temp set point to 250-300F gets the job done faster (and IMO better) with negligible penalty on smoke flavor.

95% of all pellet machines use the same Chinese-sourced fan. But there's a lot of variation among vendors and within product lines as to how the fan speed is controlled. Even for vendors using the same basic controller electronics, there's quite a bit of variability in how they program them. (And how the user interface looks!) Mine never goes off but varies a lot in speed. I doubt any of them would turn off completely because the risk of the fire going "out" in the crucible is then too great. People are slow to figure out that's happened, do some not-wise things, and a lot of bad customer feelings occur when that happens so vendors go to great pains to keep that from happening.
 

JWFokker

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Run 180-200F to start, when you hit 140F internal bump it to 225F and let it run until the meat stalls. Your choice whether to wrap or bump the temp to 250-300F. Pellet tube is good, loaded with wood chips is better. Use oak, hickory or pecan pellets, lighter woods don't have much flavor (maple, cherry, apple, etc).
 
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