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PID or not to PID

MMMMSMOKE

Newbie
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Joined Aug 12, 2019
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Hi all, I been smoking food for years in a cheap propane box I got from Amazon and mastered it (the best one can do) but after seeing my sister set her Treager pellet grill and cook a pork butt for 8 hours perfectly, I decided to give a pellet grill a go. So, I bought a ZGrills 700e because of the reviews, word of mouth and the shear fact it's a Treager clone. It arrived and I assembled it in no time. I'm very happy with this grill. It's well made, well thought out and YEP it's exactly like my sisters with a different name. One thing I noticed (not unlike my sisters) is the temp. swings. 20-30 usually over. That's ok if your doing chicken, pork or beef but when I spent 5 days and $3,000 to catch the best salmon in Alaska I'd like my temp to be spot-on.
I just purchased one of these PID controllers from smokedaddy, hooked it up and I get spot-on temp but zero smoke or smoke flavor. Is it true that I have to sacrifice smoke and flavor for temp control? The bird up top was on my smoker for 4 hours and tasted more like soot than smoke. Am I doing something wrong or is there something I can do to increase the flavor WITHOUT a pellet tube or cold smoker?
 

tallbm

Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
★ Lifetime Premier ★
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Joined Dec 30, 2016
View attachment 402991

Hi all, I been smoking food for years in a cheap propane box I got from Amazon and mastered it (the best one can do) but after seeing my sister set her Treager pellet grill and cook a pork butt for 8 hours perfectly, I decided to give a pellet grill a go. So, I bought a ZGrills 700e because of the reviews, word of mouth and the shear fact it's a Treager clone. It arrived and I assembled it in no time. I'm very happy with this grill. It's well made, well thought out and YEP it's exactly like my sisters with a different name. One thing I noticed (not unlike my sisters) is the temp. swings. 20-30 usually over. That's ok if your doing chicken, pork or beef but when I spent 5 days and $3,000 to catch the best salmon in Alaska I'd like my temp to be spot-on.
I just purchased one of these PID controllers from smokedaddy, hooked it up and I get spot-on temp but zero smoke or smoke flavor. Is it true that I have to sacrifice smoke and flavor for temp control? The bird up top was on my smoker for 4 hours and tasted more like soot than smoke. Am I doing something wrong or is there something I can do to increase the flavor WITHOUT a pellet tube or cold smoker?
Hi there and welcome!

To understand the solution we must first understand the problem.
The problem you have is that more flame/heat = less smoke.
More smoke = less flame/heat.

This is the reason some people have complaints about lack of smoke flavor with pellet smokers. The pellet smoker uses the pellets for BOTH cooking (heat) and smoke. So as you cook and the heat goes up the smoke goes down.

The temp swings were likely giving you a little more smoke and that is likely the intentional design of the swings. A similar approach is taken in electric smokers but the difference is the heating element has to get hot enough to smolder chips and then the temp drops back down BUT the heat and the smoke are separated a little more than pellets being burned for both heat and smoke like in a pellet smoker.
When you eliminated the swings you eliminated the dip in temp/heat which leads to more smoke generation during those dips.

So if you want a solution without using a pellet tube then about all you can do is cook on low heat to begin with until you generate enough smoke for a long enough time. Then after that point you increase the temp and your smoke goes away.
I think the tube would be a better solution PLUS someone on here turned pellets to dust and packed the tube tightly with dust (using a piece of rebar) and was able to get like 10+ hours of perfect smoke out of the tube.

Having heat separate from smoke is a total winning combo.
That is why all of us electric smoker guys get the AMNPS and so we don't have to rely on the heating element to manage our smoke generation. I have a PID on my MES electric smoker and I now have no temp swings which makes doing sausage and bacon a breeze without worrying about causing fat out.

I hope this info helps and I wish I had a better solution for you other then recommending the tube which you are trying to avoid lol :)
 

SlowmotionQue

Smoking Fanatic
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Joined Feb 6, 2019
View attachment 402991...That's ok if your doing chicken, pork or beef but when I spent 5 days and $3,000 to catch the best salmon in Alaska I'd like my temp to be spot-on.
I just purchased one of these PID controllers from smokedaddy, hooked it up and I get spot-on temp but zero smoke or smoke flavor. Is it true that I have to sacrifice smoke and flavor for temp control? The bird up top was on my smoker for 4 hours and tasted more like soot than smoke. Am I doing something wrong or is there something I can do to increase the flavor WITHOUT a pellet tube or cold smoker?
First off, pellet grills have their limitations. Some of which were described in the above reply.

Limitations which can be easily reached quick, fast and in a hurry when it comes to smoking certain foods. At least to my tastes anyway.

I'm a big believer in the right tool for the job. Which is why I do not depend on my pellet smoker to handle all of my outdoor cooking chores. I have different cookers for different task. And so my suggestion to you would be to cook certain foods or types of foods on cookers which are best suited for handling those particular foods.

This is why I don't sear steaks on a pellet grill.

Just as there is no "universal tool" in your tool box which is adept at driving nails, tightening screws, cutting wood, metal, or PVC pipe and removing bolts, ....there is no do it all universal outdoor cooker capable of doing everything well, despite how badly some of us seem to want that to be so.

Pellet grills simply suck at some chores, and are great at others, and that's the truth.

How much smoke flavor did you get on that same salmon from Alaska in your smoker when it didn't have the PID controller?

The bottom line here for me is, were I to spend 5 days and 3 grand to catch the best salmon in Alaska, there is absolutely no way on God's green earth, including Alaska, that I would trust any pellet smoker to smoke food that I had gone to that extreme and extent for, because I know that no pellet smoker is going to give me the smoke profile that wood and/or charcoal is going to give me for that meal.

Anyway, when I do salmon, and I assume you're talking about hot smoking here, I use either my Kamado Joe or my Weber kettle, with lump charcoal, hickory wood chunks, and cedar planks soaked either in white wine or water.

This technique gives me the medley of smoke flavor that I want coming from the light amount of lump charcoal, I use a minimal amount, the hickory wood chunks smoke, again, not too many chunks, don't want to overpower the salmon with smoke, and the water or white wine steam coming from, rising from the cedar wood, and the smoke coming from the cedar itself as the underside of the plank eventually dries out and smolders but does not ignite.

I'll sometimes hit that with my Searzall if I've put a honey glaze on it, sometimes not, and/or to get a Maillard reaction.

And needless to say, my pellet smoker cannot touch that. Cannot get anywhere close to doing the above in terms of the medley of smoke flavors, and it is why I don't put salmon nor Wagyu beef when I get my hands on it, onto my pellet smoker.

But again, just me and my own tastes, but I certainly would not put salmon that I had gone to the expense and effort that you are describing above onto any pellet smoker. PID controlled or not. Smoke tube or not. Pellet smoke is simply too light for my taste to use for salmon. I'd get a good weber kettle and go from there.

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MMMMSMOKE

Newbie
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Joined Aug 12, 2019
Interesting... I guess I'll give one of the tubes a try. My salmon is so delicate that with the temp swings they're done before the smoke has a chance to set in... and if everybody is getting better flavor with AMNPS, who am I to cut against the grain
Thanks for the useful information
 

MMMMSMOKE

Newbie
6
2
Joined Aug 12, 2019
Great pic's. and you're absolutely right... Salmon had ok smoke flavor before the PID but was done in 45 min. and little to no taste after (tasted mostly the brine) Maybe when it matters I'll resort to my well broken in stand up propane box. Glad I didn't get rid of it - It does an awesome job on turkeys.

Do the tubes add that much flavor say to hamburgers?
Thanks
 

MMMMSMOKE

Newbie
6
2
Joined Aug 12, 2019
50 lbs of salmon left and that doesn't include the shelf of Halibut
salmon.jpg
... Guess I can hone my skills by the time it gone
 

SlowmotionQue

Smoking Fanatic
499
160
Joined Feb 6, 2019
Great pic's. and you're absolutely right... Salmon had ok smoke flavor before the PID but was done in 45 min. and little to no taste after (tasted mostly the brine) Maybe when it matters I'll resort to my well broken in stand up propane box. Glad I didn't get rid of it - It does an awesome job on turkeys.

Do the tubes add that much flavor say to hamburgers?
Thanks
45 minutes of exposure to pellet smoke from a pellet grill?

I’m not surprised that you got little smoke flavor.

Running at what temperature?

Yeah, your concern about lack of smokiness on your salmon is not hard to understand.

PID or non PID is probably not likely to make much of a taste difference. For a couple of reasons already alluded to.

One other thing I should have pointed out about the cedar plank. When I use them, in addition to the charcoal and hickory, I’m getting smoke from the smoldering cedar on the bottom side of the plank too once the liquid evaporates from it.

The water or wine and the steam from them is serving two purposes. It keeps the cedar from igniting right away and it keeps the salmon moist. Moist foods take on smoke better. This is part of why people spritz over long smokes.

Finally, my pellet grill is not going to get hot enough to make the underside of a cedar plank smolder like my charcoal burners will. For my tastes, I want that cedar plank to smolder underneath and smoke too and impart some of that cedar flavor onto the salmon.

Unless I turn my pellet smoker way up and nuke the salmon, I’m not going to be able to scorch that plank and make it smolder. But turning my pellet grill way up, would also cancel out any smoke flavor I could hope to get from pellets in the burn pot by jacking up the temp like that.

The lump, hickory and cedar bring the flavor. There’s a method to my madness. Hope that helps.

Try your propane burner and see if you get better results.

I’m guessing that you will.
 
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tallbm

Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
★ Lifetime Premier ★
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Joined Dec 30, 2016
Great pic's. and you're absolutely right... Salmon had ok smoke flavor before the PID but was done in 45 min. and little to no taste after (tasted mostly the brine) Maybe when it matters I'll resort to my well broken in stand up propane box. Glad I didn't get rid of it - It does an awesome job on turkeys.

Do the tubes add that much flavor say to hamburgers?
Thanks
The tubes should generate a good amount of smoke and therefore flavor. It is reported that the tubes are a little stronger than the AMNPS tray when burning pellets.
If I remember correctly the pellet dust packed tube gave perfect smoke just like the tray does. So you can go pellets in tube for stronger smoke for up to 3 hours or pack it with pellet dust for possibly 10+ hrs of lower strength smoke.

Making pellet dust is easy. Just wet the pellets and they will swell up. Dry them back out (oven or smoker or summer sun) and they come apart at the touch as large pellet dust particles.

Finally, you could get a great amount of smoke simply by cold smoking the salmon for like 2 hours (no heat) and then turning on the grill to cook the salmon in the final 2 hours while STILL running the tube for smoke.
I do something similar with chicken wings. I run the AMNPS tray on them with the heat very very low so they get more smoke flavor and then finish cooking them after I am happy with the amount of smoke I know they have gotten.

Having smoke generate separate from heat generation gives you maximum flexibility period! :)
 

MMMMSMOKE

Newbie
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2
Joined Aug 12, 2019
you guys are absolutely right. I feel as if I just told someone I'm a race car driver... well? what kind of race car/truck? what kind of terrain? and at what speeds?

One race vehicle doesn't make you a master racer of vehicles. Your input has helped me to realize this and it's exciting to know I much more to learn and more gadgets to try. It will be a sad day for me when I have nothing left to gain from smoking meats than a perfect smoke. Another one of those "it's the journey not the destination" epiphanies.
Thanks guys
 

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