• Some of the links on this forum allow SMF, at no cost to you, to earn a small commission when you click through and make a purchase. Let me know if you have any questions about this.

PID controller or Non PID controller

anglerman

Meat Mopper
167
44
Joined Mar 8, 2012
I wrote this up to share the info to some people on Facebook and I thought I’d share it here for people that may or may not know the difference. Although I’m guessing here most people do. Before I get slack I’m not giving my opinion on which one is better then another just the difference in controllers.


The biggest difference between Camp Chef, Pit Boss, Traeger and GMG Compared to the $1K+ grills likes Rec-Tec, Pellet Pro, Yoder, Memphis and I know I’m forgetting some.



The Controller the 1K+ grills have what is called a PID Controller ( Proportional, Integral, Derivative ) in short these grills have a temp probe in the cook chamber constantly reading the temp and relaying the data back to the controller which is then continually adjusting auger speed and blower fan to maintain your set temperature normally within +/- 5 degrees.


The lower priced grills may or may not have a digital temp readout on the controller and although this temperature is reading a sensor from somewhere within the grill ( Not sure where) the data is not sent back to the controller in order to control the auger and fan for maintaining chamber temperature. Most of them have a dial thermostat with pre labeled temps normally in increments of 25 – 50 degrees which can sometimes trick the owner into thinking they can set the dial to 250 and hold that temp. Don’t get me wrong some of them will hold pretty well but the company has preprogrammed these temp settings to control the auger. So say you have it set for 350 this is an example the auger might run for 10 seconds and off for 30 seconds. If you have the dial set for 225 the auger might run for 5 seconds and off for 45 seconds and the fan is blowing the entire temp. So the cook chamber temps of these grills will tend to run differently from the digital readout based on outdoor weather ( Air Temp, Humidity ) how much meat you have in and the temps of the meat, and the quality of the pellets used.


And of course the minor differences of metal thickness, type of metal ( etc., stainless ) hopper size and warranties.
 

troutman

Smoking Fanatic
556
324
Joined Aug 14, 2017
Like anything else in life, the more you pay the more you get. The PID controller is pretty much the current state of the art, with the probable exception of Yoder. I was told they have a proprietary controller but my hunch is it's based on the same algorithms as the PID.
 

bregent

Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
★ Lifetime Premier ★
1,498
509
Joined Mar 1, 2014
I wrote this up to share the info to some people on Facebook and I thought I’d share it here for people that may or may not know the difference. Although I’m guessing here most people do. Before I get slack I’m not giving my opinion on which one is better then another just the difference in controllers.

The biggest difference between Camp Chef, Pit Boss, Traeger and GMG Compared to the $1K+ grills likes Rec-Tec, Pellet Pro, Yoder, Memphis and I know I’m forgetting some.

The Controller the 1K+ grills have what is called a PID Controller ( Proportional, Integral, Derivative ) in short these grills have a temp probe in the cook chamber constantly reading the temp and relaying the data back to the controller which is then continually adjusting auger speed and blower fan to maintain your set temperature normally within +/- 5 degrees.

The lower priced grills may or may not have a digital temp readout on the controller and although this temperature is reading a sensor from somewhere within the grill ( Not sure where) the data is not sent back to the controller in order to control the auger and fan for maintaining chamber temperature. Most of them have a dial thermostat with pre labeled temps normally in increments of 25 – 50 degrees which can sometimes trick the owner into thinking they can set the dial to 250 and hold that temp. Don’t get me wrong some of them will hold pretty well but the company has preprogrammed these temp settings to control the auger. So say you have it set for 350 this is an example the auger might run for 10 seconds and off for 30 seconds. If you have the dial set for 225 the auger might run for 5 seconds and off for 45 seconds and the fan is blowing the entire temp. So the cook chamber temps of these grills will tend to run differently from the digital readout based on outdoor weather ( Air Temp, Humidity ) how much meat you have in and the temps of the meat, and the quality of the pellets used.

And of course the minor differences of metal thickness, type of metal ( etc., stainless ) hopper size and warranties.
Sorry, but there is a lot of misinformation in your post.
Your explanation of non-PID controllers is just plain wrong. All of those controllers sense the temperatures of the RTD to control the duty cycle of the auger. How most of them work is that they use one duty cycle when the grill temp is above the setpoint, and another when it is below setpoint. In this way they are able to stay fairly close to the setpoint across a wide range of settings, pellet types, ambient temp, etc. They don't alter the fan speed, but not all PID controllers do either.

Now, many grills also have a smoke mode which is purely a timed auger mode. But when set to a temperature mode, they do use the RTD to adjust the temps.

And the GMG does have a PID controller, as do many <1K grills.
 

anglerman

Meat Mopper
167
44
Joined Mar 8, 2012
Sorry, but there is a lot of misinformation in your post.
Your explanation of non-PID controllers is just plain wrong. All of those controllers sense the temperatures of the RTD to control the duty cycle of the auger. How most of them work is that they use one duty cycle when the grill temp is above the setpoint, and another when it is below setpoint. In this way they are able to stay fairly close to the setpoint across a wide range of settings, pellet types, ambient temp, etc. They don't alter the fan speed, but not all PID controllers do either.

Now, many grills also have a smoke mode which is purely a timed auger mode. But when set to a temperature mode, they do use the RTD to adjust the temps.

And the GMG does have a PID controller, as do many <1K grills.
Thanks for the update, to bad I can’t figure out how to delete it.. lol
 
Last edited:

anglerman

Meat Mopper
167
44
Joined Mar 8, 2012
My brother in-law just bought the pitboss 820 and I wrote this up after watching him try to do a Pork butt Sunday... his knob was set at 250 and I was seeing the controller reading 375 and over 400 at times... and for the life of me couldn’t find a temp probe in the cook chamber wired back to the controller.
 

bregent

Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
★ Lifetime Premier ★
1,498
509
Joined Mar 1, 2014
The manual for the 820 shows the RTD facing upright, inside the barrel on the left hand side.


820_RTD.jpg
 

bregent

Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
★ Lifetime Premier ★
1,498
509
Joined Mar 1, 2014
Well, if it isn't in the correct place, that could account for the crazy temperatures you were seeing.
 

johnmeyer

Master of the Pit
1,642
408
Joined Nov 19, 2015
A little more on what a PID really does compared to what you get in a cheaper controller, like what is used in the MES smoker.

Almost any electric cooking enclosure has some sort of sensor in the oven which is then tied to a switch which turns the heat on and off as the temperature inside the cooking device goes above and below some sort of set point. The old fashioned controllers use a piece of bi-metal which bends as it gets heated. The bending causes the metal to make contact with another piece of metal, thus opening and closing the circuit to the heating element.

The problem with this approach is that even after the bi-metal switch turns off the electricity to the heating element, that element is still red hot, and therefore continues to heat the box, causing the temperature to overshoot the mark. A similar thing happens as the box cools. The switch turn the heating element back on, but the element doesn't heat up right away, so the box's temperature gets much cooler than the set point.

The PID controller looks not only at the set point, but at the rate of temperature change (the "derivative" part of PID) as the heating element is turned on and off. It uses this information to "anticipate" when to turn the heating element on and off, thus turning it on before the temperature drops to the set point, and turning off before the set temperature is reached.

A PID controller also energizes the heating element with less than 100% of the power (the "proportional" part of PID) as the enclosure nears the set point. When designed correctly, such a controller can keep the oven temperature to within a degree or two of the desired temperature.

However, IMHO, such a controller is complete overkill for most cooking applications because food isn't that sensitive to 20-30 degree over/under shoots. The set point definitely needs to be accurate (i.e., the average temperature), but small variations don't matter much.

There are exceptions to this, and sous vide is the most obvious example. That method of cooking relies on the water bath being at the precise temperature, and at not changing at all. A PID controller is mandatory.
 

Zhaas1983

Newbie
5
1
Joined Jun 16, 2018
I can say that PID controllers maybe neat and interesting, but companies like Traeger can accomplish precise control without the use of a PID controller. Her is a video of my non PID, thermostat controlled controller, and as you can see, set at 250°, it starts feeding at 245° and only rises to 260° before coming back down. It has always worked this good, even after a few smokes without cleaning, and the smoker is over 4 years old.

 

bregent

Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
★ Lifetime Premier ★
1,498
509
Joined Mar 1, 2014
I can say that PID controllers maybe neat and interesting, but companies like Traeger can accomplish precise control without the use of a PID controller. Her is a video of my non PID, thermostat controlled controller, and as you can see, set at 250°, it starts feeding at 245° and only rises to 260° before coming back down. It has always worked this good, even after a few smokes without cleaning, and the smoker is over 4 years old.

Yes, we know they can work good and most of the time they do. And you don't need precise temperature control to make good food. But there are many cases reported when they do not achieve reasonable temperature control. I've seen many folks with Traegers, CampChef and other non PID controlled grills complain about wild temperature swings. I had a new CampChef that would overshoot by more than 100F each cycle and eventually flame out. You just don't hear much about those types of problems with PID controllers, or other controllers that use algorithms that are more sophisticated than simple timed duty cycle controllers.
 

Zhaas1983

Newbie
5
1
Joined Jun 16, 2018
Yes, we know they can work good and most of the time they do. And you don't need precise temperature control to make good food. But there are many cases reported when they do not achieve reasonable temperature control. I've seen many folks with Traegers, CampChef and other non PID controlled grills complain about wild temperature swings. I had a new CampChef that would overshoot by more than 100F each cycle and eventually flame out. You just don't hear much about those types of problems with PID controllers, or other controllers that use algorithms that are more sophisticated than simple timed duty cycle controllers.
Maybe I just got lucky then, but after 4 years of a lot of use, I have never had a flame out or a huge overshoot, except maybe during startup, with my cheap $350 pellet popper. I have looked into it a lot lately though, and have seen a LOT of issues with temp swings. It just seems pretty simple to me, kick auger on when the temp drops to 5° below set temp, and off when it rises 5°. I also think a proper p setting helps a bunch too.
 

Retread68

Newbie
6
1
Joined Sep 12, 2018
Forum Newbee here, but old enough to be well into medicare! A couple months ago I made a midlife change (anyone can hope) and purchased a Camp Chef PG24DLX smoker after reviewing mindless numbers of various brand reviews, etc. After using the smoker 3 times I contacted customer service regarding temp swings (as indicated on the controller and verified with independent accurate thermometer inserted into the smoke chamber, ie: cooking area).
The set pt was 300, for 3 hrs temps continuously swung from 205 to 405. After 3 hrs the set pt was adjusted to 250. For the next 1 hr temps swung between 190 to 342. After 4 hrs the temp went to 525 and I shut the thing down.
Not wanting to complain 1/2 cocked, I decided to put a couple nice racks of rib on to smoke for 5 hrs. Long story short, the smoker performed exactly as previously except after 4 hrs 10 min the controller threw an error code and shut itself off.

I contacted Camp Chef customer service with a lengthy log of actual temps achieved and asked for help. They immediately sent a new thermometer and a new controller and explained they had not seen one of their controller shut itself off. I have one! Camp Chef customer service is EXCELLENT !

Unfortunately Camp Chef's Chinese made controllers aren't representative of the fine people that work at the company. With the new thermometer and controller installed I smoked 4 trout for 90 minutes at a temp set pt of 225 last night. Ahhh true to it's fine design/build quality, the controller maintained a consistent temperature between 160 and 362 with verified temps using an independent thermometer in the cooking area indicating true temps to be approx 10-35 degrees warmer.

My question to anyone/everyone is: Should I invest in a new after-market PID controller, go back to plain grilling on the gas grill and buy someone else's smoked BBQ, dig out the 45 yrs old cast aluminum hibachi, or just go on and check into the local old folks home and dream about BBQ ? Obviously a different Chinese controller mfg'd for Camp Chef has little chance of providing acceptable results, so I just won't even throw that option out there.

Any thoughts, suggestions, or snide remarks will be accepted - some appreciated more than others. Thank you.
Sorry for the long venting post.
 

anglerman

Meat Mopper
167
44
Joined Mar 8, 2012
Forum Newbee here, but old enough to be well into medicare! A couple months ago I made a midlife change (anyone can hope) and purchased a Camp Chef PG24DLX smoker after reviewing mindless numbers of various brand reviews, etc. After using the smoker 3 times I contacted customer service regarding temp swings (as indicated on the controller and verified with independent accurate thermometer inserted into the smoke chamber, ie: cooking area).
The set pt was 300, for 3 hrs temps continuously swung from 205 to 405. After 3 hrs the set pt was adjusted to 250. For the next 1 hr temps swung between 190 to 342. After 4 hrs the temp went to 525 and I shut the thing down.
Not wanting to complain 1/2 cocked, I decided to put a couple nice racks of rib on to smoke for 5 hrs. Long story short, the smoker performed exactly as previously except after 4 hrs 10 min the controller threw an error code and shut itself off.

I contacted Camp Chef customer service with a lengthy log of actual temps achieved and asked for help. They immediately sent a new thermometer and a new controller and explained they had not seen one of their controller shut itself off. I have one! Camp Chef customer service is EXCELLENT !

Unfortunately Camp Chef's Chinese made controllers aren't representative of the fine people that work at the company. With the new thermometer and controller installed I smoked 4 trout for 90 minutes at a temp set pt of 225 last night. Ahhh true to it's fine design/build quality, the controller maintained a consistent temperature between 160 and 362 with verified temps using an independent thermometer in the cooking area indicating true temps to be approx 10-35 degrees warmer.

My question to anyone/everyone is: Should I invest in a new after-market PID controller, go back to plain grilling on the gas grill and buy someone else's smoked BBQ, dig out the 45 yrs old cast aluminum hibachi, or just go on and check into the local old folks home and dream about BBQ ? Obviously a different Chinese controller mfg'd for Camp Chef has little chance of providing acceptable results, so I just won't even throw that option out there.

Any thoughts, suggestions, or snide remarks will be accepted - some appreciated more than others. Thank you.
Sorry for the long venting post.
This would be my suggestion

https://smokedaddyinc.com/product/pellet-pro-exclusive-pid-controller-pellet-grill-upgrade/

Although I’d call the company to find out for sure if it fits and what it involves
 

Retread68

Newbie
6
1
Joined Sep 12, 2018
Thanks Anglerman - That is the exact PID controller I was looking at. They have some very specific specs for the fan/auger on that controller to work with. I will call them instead of the old folks home and see what they suggest.
Have a wonderful day. I will be trout hunting in Missouri next week !
 

anglerman

Meat Mopper
167
44
Joined Mar 8, 2012
Thanks Anglerman - That is the exact PID controller I was looking at. They have some very specific specs for the fan/auger on that controller to work with. I will call them instead of the old folks home and see what they suggest.
Have a wonderful day. I will be trout hunting in Missouri next week !
I own thier pellet hopper which I installed on an old propane smoker. Temps earlier hold within +/- 10 but 95 percent of the time it’s +/- 5
 

Humo18

Smoke Blower
127
25
Joined Aug 7, 2018
Forum Newbee here, but old enough to be well into medicare! A couple months ago I made a midlife change (anyone can hope) and purchased a Camp Chef PG24DLX smoker after reviewing mindless numbers of various brand reviews, etc. After using the smoker 3 times I contacted customer service regarding temp swings (as indicated on the controller and verified with independent accurate thermometer inserted into the smoke chamber, ie: cooking area).
The set pt was 300, for 3 hrs temps continuously swung from 205 to 405. After 3 hrs the set pt was adjusted to 250. For the next 1 hr temps swung between 190 to 342. After 4 hrs the temp went to 525 and I shut the thing down.
Not wanting to complain 1/2 cocked, I decided to put a couple nice racks of rib on to smoke for 5 hrs. Long story short, the smoker performed exactly as previously except after 4 hrs 10 min the controller threw an error code and shut itself off.

I contacted Camp Chef customer service with a lengthy log of actual temps achieved and asked for help. They immediately sent a new thermometer and a new controller and explained they had not seen one of their controller shut itself off. I have one! Camp Chef customer service is EXCELLENT !

Unfortunately Camp Chef's Chinese made controllers aren't representative of the fine people that work at the company. With the new thermometer and controller installed I smoked 4 trout for 90 minutes at a temp set pt of 225 last night. Ahhh true to it's fine design/build quality, the controller maintained a consistent temperature between 160 and 362 with verified temps using an independent thermometer in the cooking area indicating true temps to be approx 10-35 degrees warmer.

My question to anyone/everyone is: Should I invest in a new after-market PID controller, go back to plain grilling on the gas grill and buy someone else's smoked BBQ, dig out the 45 yrs old cast aluminum hibachi, or just go on and check into the local old folks home and dream about BBQ ? Obviously a different Chinese controller mfg'd for Camp Chef has little chance of providing acceptable results, so I just won't even throw that option out there.

Any thoughts, suggestions, or snide remarks will be accepted - some appreciated more than others. Thank you.
Sorry for the long venting post.
Hi retread68, could you share with us the results of smoking your 4 trout? In spite of the variations were the results good? or were the trout's flavor ruined?
 

Retread68

Newbie
6
1
Joined Sep 12, 2018
Humo - The first time I smoked trout fairly much like I normally cook them on charcoal grill. The smoker dried them out, they were over cooked, and not even honorable mention-able!
The 2nd time they were in brine for 8 hrs before going in the smoker, short pieces of skewer sticks were used to keep them open (whole fish), they were smoked for 1 1/2 hrs with hickory pellets and they were delicious. No Blue Ribbon yet, but I'm working on it.

The brine was: 1/2 gal H20, 1/2 cup table sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup salt, 2 Tbsp garlic powder, and 3 Tbsp Lemon juice. After 8 hrs soaking, rinse very well, pat dry and place in smoker. I was surprised at how moist and flavorful they were. I will add some Cajun Spices to the next batch just for a little zip.

The trout came from Montauk - if you are familiar with the place. Last week majority of my catch were 1-2 lb each on #12 olive woolly bugger, with bling.
 

Humo18

Smoke Blower
127
25
Joined Aug 7, 2018
Humo - The first time I smoked trout fairly much like I normally cook them on charcoal grill. The smoker dried them out, they were over cooked, and not even honorable mention-able!
The 2nd time they were in brine for 8 hrs before going in the smoker, short pieces of skewer sticks were used to keep them open (whole fish), they were smoked for 1 1/2 hrs with hickory pellets and they were delicious. No Blue Ribbon yet, but I'm working on it.

The brine was: 1/2 gal H20, 1/2 cup table sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup salt, 2 Tbsp garlic powder, and 3 Tbsp Lemon juice. After 8 hrs soaking, rinse very well, pat dry and place in smoker. I was surprised at how moist and flavorful they were. I will add some Cajun Spices to the next batch just for a little zip.

The trout came from Montauk - if you are familiar with the place. Last week majority of my catch were 1-2 lb each on #12 olive woolly bugger, with bling.
In other words, in spite of the temp variations the smoked trout came out ok? Thanks for the tips on smoking fish eventually I would like to try that. I am familiar with Montauk, beautiful stream but somewhat crowded at times. Sounds like you are a fly fisherman and enjoying your "youth", good for you. Haven't fished Montauk in 18 years.

Planning on betting a Woodwind with the sidekick in the next few weeks, I'm encouraged by your comments regarding Camp Chef's great customer service.
 

Retread68

Newbie
6
1
Joined Sep 12, 2018
Humo - I've been going to Montauk for ohhh.... 60 yrs. It is important to enjoy every day! I will be at Bennett Spring in a couple weeks. Montauk suffered a 500 yr flood 2 yrs ago and with that a lot of stream change. MO DNR stepped up and made tremendous repairs, which they normally do not perform since it is designated "natural area". Yes, fly fishing is the game for me. Attendance numbers have been on the decline since the early 70s, probably due to costs, reduced keep #s, and reduced size. For the last couple months the fish have been larger.

Camp Chef has gone beyond all expectations trying to corral the temp swings. They replaced the controller and thermometer; then they replaced the entire hopper assembly, w/controller, thermometer, and 2 meat thermometers. This replacement resulted in a more acceptable temp range. Not wonderful, but acceptable and I believe they have done everything possible to satisfy. Dixie K at CC customer service is one of a kind - a great person.

Best of luck to you with hunting trout and cooking them!
 

Latest posts

Hot Threads

Top Bottom
  AdBlock Detected

We noticed that you're using an ad-blocker, which could block some critical website features. For the best possible site experience please take a moment to disable your AdBlocker.