No matter whether you own a Traeger, Pit Boss, Camp Chef, Weber pellet grill, whatever it is, after assembly, all instruction manuals will recommend to burn-in or season the product before its use. It is an important part of using the BBQ for the first time and safe pellet grill use. Therefore, I thought I would produce a round-up article of the advice on the seasoning/burn-in process from the different pellet grills brands. However, I also want to discuss all the reasons why should want to complete this process. Right, let’s begin!
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Introduction To Pellet Grill Burn-In/Seasoning
I think part of the confusion around the need and how to complete a burn-in/seasoning process on a pellet grill/smoker are that the terms are used together, however, the reality is they are two separate processes.
The burn-in process is done to remove machine oils (non-food-based oils) as a result of the manufacturing process. It’s also done to aid in curing the paint finish on some grills/smokers.
The final reason the burn-in process is done is to actually test that all the components (control panel, auger, fan) are in working order before you load the pellet grill/smoker up with food.
Seasoning refers to using a food-based oil (vegetable or grapeseed oil are examples) to create a layer of carbonized oil across the interior surface of the cooking chamber. The benefits are in some instances to reduce corrosion (rust), as a means to add additional flavour and to make clean-up easier.
Hence, while the burn-in process and the seasoning process are done at similar times, they are not actually the same process. Furthermore, while all pellet grills/smokers should go through the burn-in process, seasoning is not essential or even recommended on all pellet grills/smokers.
The Traeger Burn-In Process
Below I’ve included the video from Traeger on their recommended steps to complete the burn-in process on their pellet grills/smokers. As Traeger states, the purpose is to burn off oils from the manufacturing process and to help create non-stick surfaces.
At the start of the video, Traeger states, ‘you only need to season your grill on the initial start up‘. Well, in certain circumstances that’s not actually true, but I’ll get to that later in the article.
While Traeger has titled their video ‘seasoning’ I should note there is no use of food-grade oil. Really, this is just a burn-in process.
After the auger has been primed (loaded) with pellets Traeger recommends an initial temperature setting of 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Once complete, they then recommend to up the temperature to 450 degrees for a further 30 minutes.
Why not just go up to 450 degrees straight away!? While Traeger doesn’t state why they recommend a two-stage temperature burn-in process it could be a means to protect the new paint finish.
As I’ve stated above, part of the reason for the burn-in process is to aid in properly curing the paint. Well, jumping up to a very high temperature too quickly could potentially damage the paint finish.
What I should note is the Traeger burn-in process above is only applicable to the latest generation WiFire pellet grills running the D2 control panel. Hence, Gen 2 Pro Series, Ironwood and Gen 1 Timberline models.
For older generation Traeger models they actually just state to jump straight up to the High temp setting (450 degrees) after the fire has been established after roughly 15 minutes (see here).
As a result, while the burn-in process on modern WiFire pellet grills takes around one and half hours, for older generation Traeger pellet grills/smokers the process only takes about one hour.
Both generations of pellet grill featured powder-coated steel. So maybe there is another reason why Traeger recommends a longer burn-in process on their more modern grills.
Pit Boss Burn-In & Seasoning Processes
Below I’ve included two videos from Pit Boss. The first video discusses the initial burn-in of a Pit Boss grill, the second video discusses the seasoning of cast iron on the KC Combo.
The start of the video discusses how important it is to prime an empty auger tube on a pellet grill smoker. This is also required if you run out of pellets at a later date when using the grill.
If the auger isn’t primed the hot rod igniter may go off before pellets have even reached the fire pot. It’s another reason why some choose to put a hand full of pellets in the burn pot initially, to let the hot rod get the fire going.
It will take roughly 10 minutes to get the fire going, the video then recommends setting the temperature to 450 degrees which will take a further 10 to 15 minutes to get up to temperature.
The article on the burn-in process on the Pit Boss website (see here) actually states a temperature of 375 degrees and not 450. Personally, I would follow both pieces of advice, start at 375 and run for 20 minutes or so and then step up to 450 for a further 20 minutes.
Why? As stated above in relation to the Traeger Burn-In process, why risk any potential damage to the paint finish by going too hot too soon!?
The process involves heating up the skillet, rubbing oil over the surface and letting it burn off. You then repeat that process two to three times to get the best non-stick surface that will also protect the cast iron from corrosion.
Seasoning the pellet cooking chamber with oil is not essential but it does have benefits as I’ll discuss later in the article. But you only want to use certain cooking oils/fats.
RecTeq Burn-In Process & Seasoning
RecTeq (formally RecTec) produce a range of premium pellet grills/smokers and they use a lot of stainless steel in their construction (see here). Anyway, their recommended burn-in process is a little different.
At the start of the video below they recommend washing the grease pan and cooking grates with warm soapy water before placing them back into the grill for the initial burn-in. Personally, I think this is good advice to follow as a means to remove some of the manufacturing oils etc.
In the video above its recommended to set the temperature to 400 degrees and to let the pellet grill run for an hour. No step-up in temperature, just straight up to that hot temperature straight away.
Is this ideal, is there a risk to the paint finish? Well, it’s important to note all RecTeq grills now feature stainless steel cooking chambers, hence there is no paint finish. Though the lid is still painted.
RecTeq doesn’t seem concerned with the straight jump to a high heat burn-in. Though there is obviously no reason you couldn’t step up the temperature gradually if concerned about the paint finish on the lid.
The video above does also have tips for seasoning the grill, not by basting or spraying with oil but by cooking some fatty chicken thighs. Not a bad idea really, you can season the grill and get dinner at the same time!
Grilla Grills Burn-In Process
The final video I’ve included is from Grilla Grills, just like RecTeq they recommend washing the grease tray and cooking racks before the initial burn-in and as I’ve stated above, I think this is good advice to follow.
Second, Mark in the video below discusses the importance of priming the auger with pellets as part of the initial fire-up of the grill. The process is a little different though as unlike the Pit Boss above, the Grilla Grills doesn’t feature a dedicated prime button.
In terms of temperature and run time for the burn-in Grilla Grills recommends 450 degrees for 45 mins, not a step up in temperature. Personally, I would step up in temperature, maybe 300 degrees initially before jumping to 450.
While the Grilla Grills do feature a stainless steel lid and stainless steel grates and grease tray the cooking chamber is powder-coated steel. Hence, stepping up the temperature gradually on an initial burn to avoid paint curing problems I think is wise.
Conduct The Burn-In Before Seasoning With Vegetable Oil Etc
So as I’ve discussed at the top of this article, I think its confusing for many people when the term ‘seasoning’ is used when really a burn-in process is taking place. Unless food-grade oil/fat is being added then seasoning is not taking place.
What I also think is important to know is to not add vegetable oil or fat to the cooking chamber for seasoning until the burn-in process is complete, but why?
Think about it, one of the main purposes of the burn-in process is to remove manufacturing oils before you cook food on the pellet grill/smoker.
Well, if you spray vegetable oil around the cooking chamber before the burn-in is complete instead of removing the manufacturing oil it will be mixed with the vegetable oil.
Which Cooking Oil Can You Use For Seasoning?
Ok, so let’s say you have completed the burn-in process on your new pellet grill/smoker and wish to carry out the seasoning process with oil over the interior surfaces of the cooking chamber/racks.
Doing so can actually aid with the flavour of the food and it gives the grates a non-stick surface. Furthermore, painted carbon steel surfaces are eventually going to go rusty. Hence, seasoning with vegetable oil etc is a means to protect the steel from rust/corrosion.
So can you use any cooking oil etc? Well, you need to use an oil with what’s called a ‘high smoke point’. In other words, cooking oils that are not going to burn off easily. Hence, this is why you don’t want to use olive oil for seasoning as it has a low smoke point of 375 degrees.
Good cooking oils for seasoning include grapeseed oil, canola oil and vegetable oil. They all have a smoke point temperature of over 400 degrees. Hence, they will produce the most durable seasoned finish.
The easiest way to apply the cooking oil around the interior of the cooking chamber and over the racks is using a stray oil can. Though you can obviously also baste with a brush.
Alternatively, you can also use animal fat such as bacon grease. Though you should note, that everything you cook will end up having a hint of bacon.
Once coated in oil/fat you then will need to get the pellet grill/smoker up to its highest heat setting again to carbonize the oil to achieve the protective/no-stick effect.
Is The Burn-In/Seasoning Process A One-Time Thing?
With regards to the burn-in to remove manufacturing oil/residues etc sure, after that initial burn-in, they will be removed.
However, let’s say you left your pellet grill unattended for several months in a humid environment. Next time you come to use it there could very well be a build-up of mould on the interior of the cooking chamber.
Any sane person is not going to want to put their food into a mouldy BBQ. Hence, besides trying to wipe off that mould you would probably (and wisely) want to heat up the pellet grill and maybe go through the seasoning process again. I discuss this topic more in my article on how to clean a pellet grill/smoker.
Eventually, the protective and non-stick properties of the seasoning process fade away. Therefore, every now and again you will want to spray additional vegetable oil around the cooking chamber and heat it up. Especially if you start to see corrosion/rust on the interior of the cooking chamber.
My Final Thoughts On Burn-In & Seasoning
So as I’ve stated above, I really wish pellet grill/smoker manufacturers would be more clear with their language around these processes to avoid confusion as the burn-in process is separate from seasoning the interior of the cooking chamber.
Anyway, the burn-in process on every pellet grill/smoker is essential for safe use and to check the unit can operate correctly before you load it up with food. The seasoning process is more optional, though not for raw cast-iron skillets/pans etc, its essential.
However, seasoning the interior of the cooking chamber and cooking racks does have several benefits such as making the racks non-stick and aiding in keeping corrosion of the cooking chamber at bay.
That’s it! I hope you found the information and videos above useful/informative. Please check out my Wood Pellet Grill/Smoker Guide for more of my articles. 🙂
Back in 2007 when I first become aware of pellet grills and smokers the only brand I was really aware of was Traeger. Traeger is really where this whole concept of cooking with pellets started in the 1980s. It was a ‘slow burner’ (pardon the pun) but since the 2010s is really when pellet grills and smokers started to get mainstream awareness, discussed alongside gas and charcoal grills. There are now over 30 pellet grill/smoker brands that I’m aware of, and the link above goes to my A to Z list of brands article.
Now, you may already be aware of a few of the other brands such as Pit Boss, Camp Chef, Z Grills and I’m sure you are aware of Weber, though you may not have known they have entered the pellet grill game. However, they are now many, many more brands to look into. Some may be what are commonly referred to as ‘Traeger clones’, but many others are offering their own unique designs and features.
A pellet grill/smoker is only as good as the BBQ pellets you put into it. The type/quality of the BBQ wood pellets you use will impact temperature performance and smoke flavour. There are many pellet flavours including Apple, Hickory, Mapel, Oak and Walnut to name but a few. However, some brands are hardwood blended pellets whereas others are 100% single wood species.
In this article, I provide details on over 20 brands of BBQ wood pellets, their range of flavours, whether they are 100% single wood species or hardwood blended pellets, their typical price and where they are available. I also provide tips on how to get the best deal when buying BBQ wood pellets and how to test pellet quality. Finally, I discuss the new kid on the block, charcoal pellets and their special attributes compared to all other hardwood BBQ pellets.