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Traeger P Setting: What It Means For Your Next Cookout

Traeger P Setting: What It Means For Your Next Cookout

If you’re the proud new owner of a Traeger pellet grill, congratulations! These sturdily built units are designed to deliver superb smoke flavor to your grilled meats and veggies.

When you’re first starting out, though, you’re bound to have a few questions. For starters: What is the Traeger P setting, and why is it important? Let’s take a look.

Pellet Grills: A Brief Look

Before you can understand how the P setting works, you’ll need to know exactly what happens inside a working pellet grill.

A pellet grill uses wood pellets as fuel, instead of relying on the more popular options like gas and charcoal. Because the pellets are made of real wood, they imbue grilled foods with an authentic smoky taste. You can even customize your flavors by experimenting with pellets made from different wood types.

The pellets are stored in an adjacent attachment known as the hopper. When the grill is turned on, an auger component will feed the fuel into the firebox until the cooking chamber reaches the set temperature.

wood pellets burning

Defining the Traeger P Setting

So, what does all this have to do with the P setting?

The first thing you need to know is that the “P” stands for “Pause.” Therefore, the P setting dictates the amount of time that the auger will turn off between run cycles. The run times and pause times may differ depending on the brand, but they should be the same on any grills with the Traeger label.

When To Adjust the P Setting

The setting is designed to help the grill maintain its temperature when the weather outside might interfere with the inner workings of the firebox. For example, if it’s cold outside, you want to keep the auger running frequently so that the flames won’t go out.

Conversely, if the weather is warm, the grill will stay hot even when the auger pauses for longer periods. In these cases, you’ll want to use a higher P setting to make sure that the interior temps don’t run too high.

Sometimes, you’ll need to adjust the P setting even when the weather outside is mild and perfect for grilling. When you’re using the Smoke setting and the interior temperature won’t dip below 225, the P setting should be increased to allow the pellets to smolder.

As a rule of thumb, if the grill is experiencing temperature swings of 25 degrees above or below your desired range, you should adjust the P setting. Remember that the lower the number is, the hotter the fire will burn. Meanwhile, high numbers will increase the pause time, thereby ramping up the smoke production.

Finding the P Setting Button

The P setting button can be found above the temperature dial and just to the right of the display screen. Be aware that many newer units will monitor the temperature automatically, so there will be no P setting button anywhere on the control panel.

Which grills use the P setting, and which ones don’t? If the unit comes with an original Elite controller, it will have the function available. Some of the controllers for the newer models are equipped with the function as well. For example, the Traeger Scout and Junior 20 models are still manufactured with the P setting button intact.

The easiest way to tell if the grill has a P setting is to check the control board. A small hole or sticker next to the digital display means that the setting is available. The sticker might say “Call Service,” or it might just be an ordinary black sticker. Peel it off to reveal the button and adjust the setting as described below.

Also, note that this button is so small, you need a shish kabob skewer or a small screwdriver in order to access it. The tip of a pen might work, too. If you’re nervous about sticking a metal component into the control panel, use a wooden toothpick instead.

Safety Warning

Before attempting to push the button for the first time, make sure it lines up completely with the hole on the control panel. Because the button is recessed, it might sit a bit off-center, which could cause the board to short out if you jam a metal component in the wrong spot.

Use a flashlight to make sure the button is lined up properly. If it appears to be in the right place, try prodding it gently to activate the display. When the screen lights up to show the factory default setting of P2, you’ll know it’s working.

If the button is out of place, you may need to reassemble that part of the grill. You can also contact Traeger for advice. If all else fails, they should provide you with a replacement under the conditions of their warranty.

How To Adjust The Smoke Setting Temps

This is one aspect of Traeger’s pellet grills that can be unclear if you rely on the company manuals. With any luck, this section can help clarify things.

The smoke setting doesn’t use a set temperature as its template. Rather, it adheres to a basic routine: the auger will run for exactly 15 seconds, then pause for the amount of time that’s specified by the P setting.

For Traeger grills, the P setting runs from P0 to P9. Here’s the amount of time that the auger will cease running during each one of these settings:

  • P0: 45 seconds
  • P1: 55 seconds
  • P2: 65 seconds
  • P3: 75 seconds
  • P4: 85 seconds
  • P5: 95 seconds
  • P6: 105 seconds
  • P7: 115 seconds
  • P8: 125 seconds
  • P9: 135 seconds

You may notice that the increase in pause time is measured in 10-second intervals. That makes the numbers easier to remember so you can finesse the Smoke setting as needed.

Remember: For each setting, the auger will run for 15 seconds before it shuts off. There’s no way to adjust this run time, only the amount of time between pauses. That can be confusing to some newbies, but if the grill is in good working order, it should go smoothly once you get the hang of it.

The factory default for most Traeger pellet smokers is P2 (the Scout model, which uses a default setting of P4, is the exception). That means that if you don’t adjust the P setting when the grill is in Smoke mode, the pause time will automatically be set to 65 seconds.

Using the P2 setting should give the grill an internal temperature of 150 to 180, which is ideal for slow-smoked meats such as beef jerky. Once it’s reached your desired temperature, you can adjust the cycle as needed.

Remember: When the temperature gets too high, increase the P setting. If the temps dip too low, use a lower setting.

To make adjustments, press the button as directed above. When the button is pressed, the digital readout should display the current setting. Each subsequent press of the button will increase the setting until you reach the maximum at P9. After this, it will reset to P0.

If you read the manual carefully, you’ll see that Traeger recommends keeping the setting within the P0 to P4 range. If the pause time is any longer than 85 seconds, you run the risk of the fire dying out. Since you’ll use up more wood pellets if you have to keep restarting the fire, it’s in your best interest to keep the flames going.

We would also recommend changing the setting by only one increment at a time, especially at first. If you interfere too much with the auger’s run time, the system might get overwhelmed, leading to jam-ups and more extreme temperature fluctuations.

How To Relight The Grill

If the fire does go out before you’re finished cooking, there are certain steps you should take to ensure your safety. Improper relighting can cause what’s known as “over-firing,” which may damage the grill and even result in injury.

First, turn off the grill and let it cool until you can handle the components without burning yourself. This should take about 15 to 20 minutes.

Open the grill and remove the heat baffle, drip pan, and cooking grate. Use a scoop to remove all the pellets, ash, and debris from the firebox. You can also use a shop-vac for this step, but make sure the ashes have had a chance to cool completely, or the hot embers may cause your vacuum filter to catch fire.

Reload the hopper, if necessary, and replace all the components you removed. Then restart the grill as you normally would.

Other Tips for Controlling Temperature

The P setting is a useful function for the older Traeger grills, which don’t make these adjustments on their own. However, there are other ways to ensure that the firebox will maintain a steady temperature during cooking. These are a few of our favorites.

Buy an Insulated Blanket

Insulated grill blankets are a fine way to protect your investment. They help the grill maintain an even temperature by shielding the unit from wind, rain, or extreme heat and cold. When the grill is working more efficiently, you’ll burn through fewer pellets, too. That makes the upfront cost of the blanket worth it in the long run.

Traeger makes customized blankets and other accessories for its pellet grills and smokers. If it fits into your budget, we would recommend using one of these. That way, you’ll be guaranteed a snug fit, which will make the blanket more efficient.

Make Use of the Meat Probe

While it’s important for the grill to remain at a steady temperature, there’s no better way to judge its performance than to test the meat itself. Whether you’re smoking a whole packer brisket, a couple of chickens, or a piece of Boston butt for pulled pork, a quality meat probe will let you know when your masterpiece is nearing completion.

Many of Traeger’s grills come equipped with dual probes that make it easy to check the internal temperature of the meat. You might also consider buying a unit that comes with Traeger’s WiFire technology, so you can check the temps from your smartphone or tablet.

grilled steak and probe

Use Quality Pellets

The company manufactures its own line of wood pellets, which are designed exclusively for use with Traeger pellet smokers. There are plenty of flavor options available, from cherry to apple to hickory. We would strongly recommend using these customized pellets for optimum results.

If you can’t find Traeger pellets, at least make sure that the ones you choose are high-end. Cheaper pellets will burn through too fast, create more of a mess, and deliver inferior flavor. They might even have an adverse effect on the inner workings of your grill.

Whichever pellets you buy, store them in an airtight container so that they won’t suffer damage from rodents. Because they can also get moldy when exposed to excess humidity, keep the pellet container in a cool, dry place.

Keep the Grill Clean

A dirty grill will rust out much faster than a grill that’s cleaned out regularly, so make sure you set aside the extra time for maintenance. If the fire pot has any burn holes in it, too much air will get inside, which will increase the temperature.

Final Thoughts

When you purchase a Traeger grill that offers the P setting, a clear understanding of the function is essential to success. When you know how to adjust the settings properly, you can keep your pellet grill running at your desired temperature for many happy seasons to come.

Best of luck, and happy grilling!