The Lowdown on the Smoke Setting on Traeger

May 18, 2023

Has the Smoke setting on Traeger grills got you confused? Well, here is a quick breakdown: it is a setting for a temperature range between 150 and 180 degrees F.

Having used various Traeger grills for many years, I have made it a point to familiarize myself with all the settings. I have used manuals, pitmasters advice, and experimentation to understand how these work.

In this post, I will explain this setting in greater detail and outline how and when to use it. Let’s get started!

Smoke Setting on traeger

Understanding the Smoke Setting on the Traeger Pellet Grill

The first time that you hear about the Smoke setting is during open lid start up process for the older Traeger grill models. Once the grill is powered up, you set it to the Smoke setting and then preheat it.

However, very little information is provided about what this setting is or what it does.

Well, on Traeger pellet grills, the Smoke setting refers to a range of temperatures between 150 and 180 degrees F.

close up of grilled skewers

As you are aware, the smoking process is often referred to as a low and slow form of cooking. Thus, it has to take place at a lower temperature – this is what this setting offers you.

See, the Traeger pellet grill works by moving wood pellets from the hopper to the fire pot via an auger. Once in the firepot, the wood pellets are ignited by the hot rod to create smoke. This smoke is then circulated via the fan.

When the Traeger grill is set to the smoke setting, the hot rod is instructed to begin heating up. Simultaneously, only a small quantity of wood pellets are delivered to the firepot. Thus, only a small amount of smoke is produced initially.

As the temperature goes up, more smoke is produced.

During this setting, the auger is on for 15 seconds and then turned off for 65 seconds. This means that the firepot is fed with wood pellets for 15 seconds and then this action pauses. During this time, the pellets are heated, allowing smoke to waft throughout the grill.

The cycle continues for as long as the Smoke setting is activated.

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Traeger Smoke Setting vs. Temperature Setting

Now, if you have read any of my previous posts or recipes or checked out an smoking article, really, you will have found that no one really uses this setting while they smoke food.

So, what gives? Why do most people seem to switch over to their desired temperature setting shortly after starting up their grill?

Well, while the smoke setting is ideal for producing that beautiful smoky flavor in food, the temperatures for this setting are quite low. This means that if you are cooking larger cuts of meat that the smoking process can take a long time.

This is why most people – including me – prefer to smoke meat at higher temperatures, around 225 degrees F to 250 degrees F. You still get a great smoke flavor but your food cooks faster at your desired cooking temperature.

The Smoke Setting vs. the 180 Degree Setting

You will have noticed that in addition to the Smoke setting on your Traeger grill that there is also a temp setting for 180 degrees F. Are these one and the same? Can they be used interchangeably?

Well, not really. See, with the Smoke setting, you are dealing with a range of lower temperatures. This means that while the Smoke setting is used, the temperature can be at any point between 150 and 180 degrees F.

When you use the 180 degree F setting, though, the cooking temperature is maintained at this point. Due to this, you get more smoke and a more even rate of cooking.

bbq chicken and thongs

I should mention that although 180 degrees F offers a more stable grill temperature, it is consider still too low for a desired cooking temperature.

As I am sure you’re aware, many meats such as brisket have to be cooked to an internal temperature of above 190 degrees F. However, if the grill temp is set to 180 degrees F, then the meat can’t achieve this desired internal temperature.

There is also the fact that at this low temperature, food is going to take a lot longer to cook.

Is There Any Use to the Smoke Setting?

Considering how rarely it is used, you may be wondering what the point of the Smoke setting is. Does anyone even use it?

Well, one of the main perks of the Traeger Smoke setting is that it is great for cold smoking. Now, don’t get confused by the name – cold smoking simply refers to smoking foods at very low temperatures. The most common of the cold smoked foods is cheese.

The Traeger Smoke setting is perfect for this as it can cook foods at a much lower temperature than is available on the temperature dial.

Some people will also use a cold smoke generator, also known as a cold smoker tube, to help things along.

The Smoke setting can also be used to hold foods at a lower temperature once they are done cooking. This can be a way to ensure that your meat remains warm without it continuing to smoke further.

How to Use the Smoke Setting on the Traeger Grills?

The exact process will depend on the model of your Traeger grill. Check under the lid of your grill to determine what method you should follow. Your user manual should also provide appropriate instructions.

Before you do start up your Traeger grill, always check the hopper. Make sure that there are enough of pellets. Calculate how long your food or meat will take to smoke and ensure that there is enough of fuel accordingly.

This way, you will not have to worry about your cook stalling halfway through the process.

For the Open Lid Models

Set your Traeger to the Smoke setting and start up the machine with the lid open. Wait for the fire to establish – this can take up to 5 minutes. Then, close the lid, leave on the Smoke setting and then preheat for up to fifteen minutes.

For Closed Lid Models

For closed lid models, you can set it to the Smoke setting, close the lid, and preheat it right away for fifteen minutes.

How Long Can You Leave Your Traeger on the Smoke Setting?

There is no set time for how long you can use the Smoke setting for. However, you do need to think about the kind of cooking that you wish to do.

Are you planning on cold smoking cheeses or similar foods? If so, you can leave it in this setting until the foods are smoked all the way through.

On the other hand, if you want to smoke meat, then you should only keep it in this cooking mode until the grill has been properly preheated. After this, you will need to set it to higher temperatures.

The P Setting

If you have one of the older Traeger pellet grills, then you may noticed the P setting on your machine. This is also known as the Pause setting.

This option can be used in tandem with the Smoke setting. On some occasions, despite being set to Smoke, your grill may continue to nudge the temperature upwards until it remains steady at around 225 degrees.

To lower the temperature, you can use the P settings. They go from P-1 to P-5, with the factory setting being P-2.

red meat on a grill

Now, do you remember what I said about how the Smoke mode working? That the auger moves wood pellets inside the firepot for 15 seconds and then pauses for 65 seconds before continuing the cycle?

Well, this the factory default P-2 setting. With the P-1 setting, the pause lasts for 55 seconds. After the P-2 setting, the pauses get longer, with fewer pellets being shoveled in.

Unless you are trying to lower the temperature, though, it is best to stick to the factory setting. Go too high and you risk the fire going out completely.

What is the Trager Grill Super Smoke Mode?

This mode is only available with the Timberline Series, Ironwood Series, and Silverton 810 pellet grills.

This mode lets you hit your food with 100 percent hardwood smoke flavor. It works at temperatures between 165 and 225 degrees.

Not only does it operate at a higher grill temperature, but there is great precision fan control here. As such, there is a maximum delivery of smoke.

There are a couple of things that you should know about this Traeger grill mode. First, despite the super smoke term – you won’t actually see too much additional smoke being produced. This is because there is a greater amount of blue smoke being produced here and this isn’t as visible as the thicker white smoke.

The other thing that you should be aware of is that the grill may experience temperature swings in this mode. Thus, it is a good idea to use a hood thermometer to keep a close watch on the grill temperature.

What If There is Too Much Smoke Produced?

Interestingly enough, you will rarely find too much smoke being produced during the Smoke setting. This is more likely to occur when the grill is set to a higher temperature.

Although you may find it hard to believe, an excessive amount of smoke isn’t a good thing. It doesn’t just produce a smokier flavor, it can overpower the natural flavor profile of the food and seasoning. What’s more, it can also cause your food to taste bitter.

Therefore, if you do notice an excess of smoke, go back to the Smoke setting. As this heats the pellets at a lower temperature, the smoke should calm down in a bit.

Once this has happened, then you can turn the temperature back up.

Wrapping It Up

So, there you have it – all that you need to know about the Traeger smoke setting. Now that you understand it a little better, you can use this function to its full capability. If you are looking to learn how to cold smoke foods, you will discover that this setting will certainly come in useful to you!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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