When you finally get a Traeger pellet grill, you want to make sure the grill is firing in tip-top shape.
Knowing what the p setting is and how to adjust it will greatly improve your cooking experience with a Traeger.
Most issues people have with Traegers are the temperature fluctuating or the grill getting too hot. Both of these issues can be resolved by adjusting the p setting.
How Pellet Grills Work
Pellet grills are convenient and hands-off cooking machines that can auto-magically smoke you a piece of meat by setting the cooking temperature and waiting.
Wood pellets are fed into the firepot from the hopper by an auger. In the firepot, the pellet grill ignites and allows the wood pellets to smolder creating both heat and smoke.
A convection fan blows the heat and smoke throughout the grill thereby cooking your food from all sides at the same time.
Read this article to learn more about how pellet grills work and how to get the most out of your pellet grill.
See the image below for a diagram of how pellet grills work:
Once the grill reaches the set cooking temperature, the grill turns off the auger and allows the wood pellets in the firepot to continue smoldering. Once the temperature drops, the auger is turned back on so more wood pellets are fed back into the fire to increase the temperature.
Given that the pellet grill is waiting until the cooking temperature drops before feeding in more pellets means that minor temperature fluctuations are inevitable.
However, extreme temperature fluctuations can be resolved by adjusting the p setting.
What Is The Traeger P Setting?
The “P” in P setting stands for “pause” and is how long the grill will pause before feeding in more pellets. The higher the P number the longer pause. The P setting gives you more control over the temperature and smoke that the pellet grill produces on the SMOKE setting.
When you increase the P setting on a Traeger pellet grill, you are increasing the amount of time between each pellet cycle.
Increasing the P setting or pause time means you are feeding in pellets less often into the firepot which means the cooking temperature may drop lower before rising again.
However, increasing the P setting or pause time also means the wood pellets in the firepot will have more time to smolder which means the pellet grill will create more smoke.
Decreasing the P setting or pause time means more wood pellets will be fed into the firepot faster which means less smoke as the fire burns hotter and cleaner. However, decreasing the P setting also means that the cooking temperature of the grill will increase at a faster rate which may reduce temperature fluctuations.
Ultimately, the P setting is designed to help the pellet grill cook in colder or warmer environments. If the temperature is colder then you may want to use a lower P setting whereas if the temperature is hotter then you may want to use a higher P setting.
Recommended Initial P Setting
Generally, Traegers from the factory will have the default P setting of 2. A P setting of 2 means that the auger will run for 15 seconds and pause 65 seconds before turning back on again.
Most of the time, a P setting of 2 will work perfectly for grilling or smoking food on a Traeger.
Adjusting The P Setting
If the P setting on a Traeger needs to be adjusted then you need to understand what each P setting is doing on the Traeger.
By toggling the different p settings, the Traeger will pause at different intervals from 45 seconds to 95 seconds before turning the auger back on which feeds in more pellets.
The table below shows the times associated with each p setting on a Traeger:
|P Setting||Auger On Time||Pause Time (Auger Off)|
|P0||15 seconds||Pause 45 seconds|
|P1||15 seconds||Pause 55 seconds|
|P2 (factory default)||15 seconds||Pause 65 seconds|
|P3||15 seconds||Pause 75 seconds|
|P4||15 seconds||Pause 85 seconds|
|P5||15 seconds||Pause 95 seconds|
When To Adjust P Setting On Traegers
The P setting was designed for the SMOKE mode because that’s the only mode that is controlled exclusively by timing.
What does this mean, exactly? When the temperature dial is in the SMOKE position, the auger is running in a manual mode. The auger will run and feed pellets for exactly 15 seconds before pausing for 65 seconds when set to the default P setting of 2. The cycle will continue to repeat regardless of much the cooking temperature fluctuates.
Generally, the p setting should be set to a higher number (P2 to P4) during summer and a lower number (P0 to P2) during winter.
If the pellet grill is on Smoke but the temperatures are above 200°F then increase the p setting so that the auger pauses longer before feeding in more pellets.
Note: Traeger does not recommend using P5 unless absolutely necessary since this setting waits 95 seconds before feeding in more pellets which may cause the fire to go out.
How To Adjust P Setting On Traegers
To change the p setting on a Traeger pellet grill, use a paperclip, thermometer probe, or anything narrow and pointy in order to press the button inside the hole on the front face of the grill’s controller.
Press the button to change the p setting which will be shown on the digital display.
There may be a sticker covering the hole so remove anything that blocks this hole.
Keep pressing the button until the digital display shows your desired p setting and do not press the button again.
P Setting For Maximum Smoke Flavor
To achieve the most smoke flavor from the pellet grill, increase the P setting.
Increasing the P setting increases the pause time or the amount of time before the pellet grill feeds in more pellets into the firepot. Allowing the pellets to smolder longer will create more smoke.
Increasing the amount of smoke produced on a pellet grill will help create smoke rings on your meat. However, increasing the amount of smoke also reduces the amount of heat so the food will take longer to cook.
Make sure to pay attention when using higher P settings since the fire can go out if not enough pellets are fed into the fire. So keep an eye on your grill when using P 4 or P 5 settings.
See this article to learn more about the amount of smoke Traeger grills create in different settings.
P Setting For Maximum Heat
To achieve higher heat from the pellet grill on the SMOKE setting, lower the P setting.
Lowering the P setting reduces the pause time or the amount of time before the pellet grill feeds in more pellets into the firepot.
The P 0 setting only waits 45 seconds before feeding more pellets into the firepot. So expect to have a higher temperature fire that burns cleanly which means less smoke.
If the cooking temperature is rising too high then adjust the P setting to a higher P setting so the grill will pause longer before feeding in more pellets into the firepot.
How To Restart Pellet Grill
If the fire on the pellet grill does go out then you need to check a few things before restarting the grill.
A pellet grill that has shut off mid-smoke cannot just be restarted since the firepot may be full of extra pellets which will lead to a large fire.
Here is a quick summary of the steps to correctly restart a pellet grill:
- Remove the grill grate and drip pan
- Slide heat baffle over to reveal fire pot
- Return any unburned pellets back into hopper
- Use a shop vac to vacuum out burned pellets and ash
- Turn pellet grill and wait until 5 pellets fall into firepot
- Slide heat baffle back over firepot and return grill grate and drip pan
- Follow ignition sequence and wait until pellet grill fires up
See this guide for a step-by-step photo guide of restarting a Traeger pellet grill.
More Tips For Temperature Control
While the P setting is a helpful and useful setting on a Traeger to adjust the grill’s temperature, there are other ways to control the temperature on a pellet grill.
Here are a few tips that may come in handy when trying to control a pellet grill’s temperature.
Use A Grill Blanket
The main reason for temperature fluctuations on a pellet grill is that there is too much cold air entering the grill’s drum or cooking area.
Generally, most newer pellet grills will have a completely enclosed drum with a smokestack or an insulated drum. However, if your pellet grill is struggling to reach the cooking temperature or if the cooking temperature has extreme fluctuations then use a grill blanket.
A grill blanket can be placed over the grill’s drum to add a layer of insulation. The grill blanket will help keep the heat inside of the pellet grill’s cooking area and also keep cold air out.
Grill blankets are also a great tool to use if you are using a pellet grill outside while it rains or snows so it provides that extra layer of insulation.
See this guide for more tips on igniting and using a pellet grill during winter.
Use A Meat Thermometer
The cooking temperature that the pellet grill shows on the digital display is the temperature inside of the grill. Similar to an oven set to 350°F, the oven itself is 350°F but the inside of the food is usually colder.
So use a meat thermometer in order to see what the internal temperature of the food you’re cooking is. This way you can determine how fast or slow the food is actually cooking.
Even with cooking temperatures that fluctuate, the food will still cook, and ultimately the food’s internal temperature is what will determine when the food is ready.
I highly recommend using a wireless thermometer that is either WiFi or Bluetooth so you can monitor your food even if you step away from the grill.
This is the Bluetooth thermometer that I use smoking multiple things on my pellet grill since it has 4 thermometer probes.
I purchased the 4 probe Bluetooth thermometer off Amazon and it has been my favorite thermometer so far since the thermometer is rechargeable, there are 4 probes, and you can set temperature alarms on the app.
Setting a temperature alarm of 190°F when smoking a brisket means the app will alert you when it’s the brisket is ready to be pulled from the grill.
Cook With Quality Pellets
Always use high-quality pellets when smoking or cooking with a pellet grill. The fuel is one of the most critical factors you can control since this will impact the smoke’s flavor and how well the pellet grill operates.
You can use other brands of pellets inside of a Traeger pellet grill, just make sure the wood pellets are from a reputable brand.
Avoid using heating pellets or other wood pellets that are not intended for pellet grills.
Low-quality pellets can cause the pellet grill to jam or function improperly which will impact the cooking temperature of the grill.
Keep The Grill’s Lid Closed
A huge tip to using a pellet grill in cold weather is to keep the grill’s lid closed as much as possible. Keeping the pellet grill’s lid closed is a good tip to use in any weather.
Although it can be tempting to admire how the rack of ribs or brisket looks, the pellet grill uses indirect heat to cook and smoke food from all sides at the same time.
If the grill’s lid is open too often then the food will not cook as fast or at all.
So keep that grill’s lid closed and wait until the food is ready!
Make Adjustments To The Smoke Cap
Check the chimney cap and adjust it to achieve the proper amount of airflow.
If the chimney cap is on too tight then there will not be enough airflow for the fire to get hot enough to raise the cooking temperature.
On the flip side, if the chimney cap is too open then there may be too much airflow which allows the fire to get too hot. So tighten the chimney cap if the grill’s cooking temperature appears to rise too fast or too high.
Our Favorite Traeger Pellet Grill
Traeger Grills Pro Series 34 Bronze
- High temperature powder coated steel
- Cooking temperature range of 180°F to 450°F
- Digital control board with LED display
- Large cooking area with secondary heating rack
- Porcelain-coated wire cooking grids
Now that you know how to adjust the P setting on your Traeger pellet grill, you can fine-tune the temperature and smoke output to achieve the best possible result.
Keep in mind that there are other ways to regulate the temperature on a Traeger pellet grill. So make all the necessary adjustments until your pellet grill is firing perfectly for your preferences.
Check out our other articles for more tips and tricks on using pellet grills and smokers!