There’s an art to smoking food on a pellet grill. But to get those picture-perfect results, you need your pellet grill to function at its highest level.
Consistent heat is key, so what happens when your pellet grill gets too hot? If you’ve experienced this phenomenon, you know that it can dramatically alter how the food cooks on a pellet grill.
Common reasons for a pellet grill getting too hot are ash buildup in the firepot, improper startup, hot weather, and a low p-setting. Regular maintenance and adjusting the p-setting will generally resolve any issues with a pellet grill getting too hot.
Now let’s cover the most common reasons for a pellet grill getting too hot and how to resolve the issue.
Normal Temperature Fluctuations of Pellet Grills
Pellet grills naturally fluctuate their heat during cooking. Pellet grills work to maintain an average temperature, and any fluctuations that do occur are handled on the fly. As a result, you might see temperature changes within the 5°F or even 10°F range.
This is perfectly normal and to be expected. It’s certainly not enough to affect your food. The real problem comes when you get temperature fluctuations much higher than the norm — fluctuations around 25°F or more.
If the pellet grill is producing too much heat when you cook then you are going to have either food that cooks faster than you anticipate or food where one side cooks faster than the other.
Pellet grills that run too hot can dry out food unless you’re monitoring the internal temperature of the food via a thermometer.
Here are the 5 most common reasons why pellet grills get too hot:
- Firepot Buildup
- Improper Startup
- Incorrect Installation
- Low Quality Wood Pellets
- Weather and P-Setting
Now let’s examine the most common culprits behind pellet grills getting too hot so you can fix the issue.
1. Firepot Buildup
Over time, the pellet grill’s firepot accumulates dust and debris from burning wood pellets. The leftover residue is usually in the form of ash and pellet dust.
Occasionally, the fire may get smothered from too much ash and dust. The pellet grill will continue to feed in more wood pellets which creates a large buildup of wood pellets in the firepot. If the pellet grill re-ignites the built-up wood pellets then a hot fire will burn until the wood pellets burn off.
Another common scenario is all the sawdust accumulating in and around the firepot can ignite over time.
Firepot buildup can be prevented through regular maintenance by cleaning out the firepot after every 2-3 cooking sessions.
Vacuuming Out The Firepot
A good maintenance item to check off after every 2-3 cooking sessions is vacuuming out all the ash and sawdust in a pellet grill.
Make sure to wait until the grill has safely cooled down and use a shop vac when cleaning out a pellet grill.
Although it can be intimidating to take apart your pellet grill and clean out some of the internal components the first time, this process is safe and easy to do after you get the hang of it. Not to mention vacuuming out the firepot will keep the pellet grill in tip-top shape.
2. Improper Startup
Another common reason for a pellet grill getting too hot is improperly starting it up.
Incorrectly firing up a pellet grill will usually lead to wood pellet buildup in the firepot. Generally, pellet grills will have trouble firing up unless the ignition sequence is followed.
So always make sure to correctly fire up a pellet grill even when the pellet grill shuts down mid-smoke. Here’s a step-by-step photo guide for correctly restarting a pellet grill that runs out of pellets.
When you first turn on your pellet grill, make sure it is set at the lowest setting. This should be the “smoke” setting. Wait about eight minutes, and you should see thin wisps of blue smoke. This lets you know the grill is igniting the wood pellets and will be ready to use.
You can then set your smoker to your desired temperature. After the grill has successfully preheated, you may proceed with grilling.
Keep in mind that the cooking temperature tends to increase and fluctuate when firing the grill up. Wait until the grill’s temperature has stabilized before placing food onto the grill, which usually takes about 10-15 minutes.
3. Incorrect Installation
Incorrectly installing or putting the pellet grill back together can lead to inconsistent heating. So it’s important to double-check that components like the heat baffle, grease tray, and grill grates are inserted correctly before firing up the pellet grill.
Make sure these components are secured in their correct position for optimal heating. For example, if the pellet grill’s grease tray isn’t in the correct spot, excess grease can drip into the firepot or accumulate in the drip tray which can lead to flare-ups and even the pellet grill catching on fire.
So making sure the pellet grill’s components are in the correct location is critical to prevent a pellet grill from getting too hot.
A quick look over your pellet grill before use can ensure optimal performance, so take a moment to do this every time you bring the pellet grill out.
4. Low Quality Wood Pellets
If you’ve never used subpar wood pellets, consider yourself fortunate, as they can result in clogged augers, smoke coming from the hopper, and other pellet grill issues. Low-quality pellets may contain too much moisture, break down too easily, or have too much loose sawdust in the bag.
Other low-quality pellets create too much ash which will lead to heat fluctuations in the firepot.
Investing in high-quality wood pellets from reliable brands will ensure that the pellet grill operates correctly. See this guide for the best wood flavor pairings with the food being smoked.
5. Weather and P-Setting
Grilling in cold temperatures is known to affect smoking temperatures, and the same is true when grilling in hot temperatures. While you can’t control the weather, you can control where you grill.
The best place to use a pellet grill is out of direct sunlight, rain, or snow. By keeping the pellet grill out of the sun, the pellet grill should run at a lower temperature.
Although pellet grills have thermometers in the grill itself that are supposed to measure how hot the grill is, keeping the grill out of the sun will ensure that the temperature does not get too hot.
Another possibility is adjusting the P-Setting, or pause setting, if your grill comes equipped with it.
The P-Setting is a control feature that lets you adjust how often wood pellets get fed through your grill’s auger. To determine whether your grill has a P-Setting, check the digital display for a small, round indentation.
Similar to resetting a calculator or other digital devices, the P-Setting on grills requires you to press in the indentation with a paper clip or pen. Pushing in on it lets you adjust the feed rate of the wood pellets. And in doing so, you can slow down this rate to ensure even smoking temperatures.
P-Setting Times on Traeger Pellet Grills
Here are the times associated with each p-setting on Traeger pellet grills:
|P-Setting||Auger On Time||Pause Time (Auger Off)|
|P-0||15 seconds||Pause 45 seconds|
|P-1||15 seconds||Pause 55 seconds|
|P-2 (factory default)||15 seconds||Pause 65 seconds|
|P-3||15 seconds||Pause 75 seconds|
|P-4||15 seconds||Pause 85 seconds|
|P-5||15 seconds||Pause 95 seconds|
Source: Traeger p-setting
If you have exhausted all of the above methods, you may need to contact your pellet grill’s manufacturer. There should be a customer service department that can walk you through the best way to resolve your inconsistent temperature issue.
Moreover, some grills may have a setting that lets you restore your unit to factory default. So if all other options fail, this could remedy your problem and get you back to grilling without issue.