Which Pellet Grills/Smokers Have PID Controllers?

Hi, I’m Chris I started PelHeat.com back in 2007.

If you’re in the market for a new pellet grill/smoker you may have been told ‘you need to get one with a PID controller‘. Now, I personally would not say anyone ‘needs’ a pellet grill/smoker with a PID controller. What I would say though is it can make the process of using a pellet grill/smoker even more simple and predictable. Therefore, with this post, I’ll discuss which wood pellet grills/smokers come with PID controllers and which don’t (currently). Some of the most popular brands sell models with and without PID controllers. I’ll also explain the pros and cons of pellet grill/smoker PID controllers.

Traeger PID Controlled Wood Pellet Grills/Smokers
While all of Traeger’s latest pellet grills/smokers feature PID controllers, that’s not true of their budget/previous generation grills: Image – Traegergrills.com

Disclaimer: Hey! By the way… any links on this page that lead to products on Amazon or other sites are affiliate links and I earn a commission if you make a purchase.

Within this article, I’ll answer another pretty important question, ‘what the heck is a PID controller and how does it work?‘. I’ll explain how the alternative time-based pellet grill/smoker controllers work and the pros and cons of the two technologies.

What you should be aware of, is currently, to get a pellet grill/smoker with a PID controller it will cost you more on average. For instance, take a budget brand like Z Grills most of their models are not fitted with a PID controller, but some are. There is a growing number of PID controlled pellet grills you can get for under $500 even under $400.

Introduction To PID Controlled Wood Pellet Grills/Smokers

Some pellet grills (particularly older/cheaper models) are fitted with time-based controllers. Whereas more modern (and generally more expensive) pellet grills/smokers are fitted with PID (Proportional Integral Derivative) controllers.

A quick tip, if the pellet grill or vertical pellet smoker features WiFi, then in most cases I can think of, it will also feature a PID controller. The only exception being the Pit Boss SmokeIT panel upgrade. But what is the difference between a time-based and PID controller? Let me explain.

The previous generation Traeger Pro Controller is not a PID Controller, its a time-based controller: Image – Amazon.com

Well, a time-based controller works, as you may have guessed on timed gaps of turning the pellet feed auger motor and combustion fan on and off to (try) and achieve/maintain the set temperature. And a time-based controller works reasonably well.

However, on a time-based controller, you should expect the temperature to swing roughly 25 degrees around the set temperature. A PID controller, on the other hand, is constantly monitoring the internal grill temperature and comparing it against the set temperature.

A PID controller is then making constant adjustments to the pellet feed auger and fan speed and in some cases can maintain a temperature within 5 degrees of the set temperature. Hence, in short, a PID controller holds a much more accurate temperature. In other words, a PID controller is a much smarter pellet grill control panel.

This is a great video explaining how PID controllers work.

What PID controllers are also much better at is dealing with external temperature changes, for instance, grilling/smoking in the cold winter months. As a PID controller is constantly making adjustments in the colder months to feed in more fuel automatically.

A time-based controller won’t make adjustments to climate changes on its own. Hence, on previous generation Traeger pellet grills, you would typically have to adjust what’s called the P-Setting (pause setting) in colder/winder weather to maintain the set temperature more closely.

Traeger PID Controlled Pellet Grill/Smokers

As I’ve referenced above, Traeger has some pellet grills with PID controllers and some without. Their most popular range the Pro Series in its latest generation (Pro 575 and 780) do feature PID control panels. However, the previous generation using the Pro Controller shown above do not. I discuss this more in my Traeger Pro Series Gen 1 vs Gen 2 article.

Basically, on the Gen 2 Pro Series Traeger launched a new drive system (D2 Direct Drive) which features variable speed DC motors perfectly suited to being controlled by a PID algorithm. However, Traeger still sells a couple of models which currently don’t feature PID controllers, but I believe this will change soon. They are the Traeger Tailgater and their smaller portable pellet grills the Scout and Ranger.

Traeger Scout Non-PID Controlled Pellet Grill
As you can see from the image above, the Traeger Scout is still currently fitted with a version of the non-PID time-based Pro Controller: Image – Traegergrills.com

Traeger also now has a range of pellet grills built to a higher specification compared to the Pro Series, called Ironwood and Timberline. Both of these pellet grill models feature a similar version of the D2 controller fitted to the Gen 2 Pro Series, hence they are PID controlled.

All Traeger D2 PID control panels also come with Traeger WiFire. As I stated above, if you find a pellet grill with WiFi functionality, most examples I can think of also features PID functionality.

Traeger D2 PID Control Panel
Any Traeger pellet grill you see fitted with this D2 control panel its working on a PID algorithm: Image – Traegergrills.com

Pit Boss PID Controlled Pellet Grills/Smokers

Until recently Pit Boss didn’t have any PID controlled pellet grills and smokers, all models used time-based controllers. However, that all changed with the introduction of the Platinum Series. These are currently the best pellet grills that Pit Boss produce, therefore its only natural they should include a PID controller. The KC Combo is a popular pellet/gas combo grill.

Pit Boss has now also launched their second generation of Pro Series pellet grills and as I discuss in my Pit Boss Pro Series Gen 1 vs Gen 2 article, they are now fitted with PID control panels. Well, most of them are, the entry-level Pro Series 600 still features the older time-based control panel.

Both models in the Pit Boss Platinum Series feature a PID controller: Image – Pitboss-grills.com

Camp Chef PID Controlled Pellet Grills/Smokers

Today almost all Camp Chef pellet grills are using PID controllers. The only exception appears to their cheapest unit the SmokePro SE24 which still appears to be fitted with their older time-based controller. However, other than that, all other models in the Woodwind and SmokePro range are fitted with PID controllers. The Woodwind range features a PID/WiFi control panel with a full-colour screen.

Camp Chef Gen 2 PID/WiFi Control Panel
This Gen 2 PID control panel is now fitted to almost all Camp Chef SmokePro models, though not all panels include WiFi functionality: Image – Campchef.com

The SmokePro range features the Gen 2 PID/WiFi control panel, the screen is not full-colour and it only features 2 meat probes instead of the 4 found on the Woodwind control panel. However, the PID algorithm used in both control panels is the same.

The Gen 2 PID/WiFi control panel can also be retrofitted to older SmokePro models which is good. So previous customers can upgrade their grill instead of having to purchase a new grill. The same goes for the Camp Chef Sear Box/Sidekick, a great upgrade option. The Camp Chef XXL Vertical Smoker has also just been upgraded with the Gen 2 controller.

Other Pellet Grill Brands/Models Fitting PID Controllers

Pellet Grill Brands Not Currently Fitting PID Controllers

But Do PID Controllers Produce Less Smoke?

Now, this is an interesting question, and its partly true (sort of). Though, don’t let that put you off a PID controller, because there are means to enable a PID controller to produce more smoke. But why would a PID controller produce less smoke? Well, the answer is simple, with more efficient combustion you get less smoke.

In other words, as a PID controller is more precisely balancing fuel (pellets) through the auger speed and the amount of air with a more accurate combustion process you get less smoke as a result. But we need smoke! The whole purpose of a pellet grill is to get that great flavour from cooking with BBQ wood pellets!

Yes, yes, don’t worry, a PID controller can be set up to produce more smoke, but in doing so it will also lose temperature accuracy. So when using a PID controller and a higher smoke setting you have to accept wider temperature swings than 5 degrees from the set temperature.

Camp Chef Smoke Control On Their PID Control Panels
With Camp Chef pellet grills you can set the smoke setting independent of the smoke setting: Image – Campchef.com

With the Camp Chef PID controllers, you independently set the Smoke Control setting from 1 to 10, either on the grill control panel or via your phone with Camp Chef Connect. Traeger, on the other hand, has a ‘Super Smoke’ mode on their Ironwood and Timberline grills.

Super Smoke doesnt provide the same level of granular control as the Camp Chef Smoke Control setting but it does effectively the same thing. Those modes deliberately add a time-delay into the PID algorithm, therefore you lose some temperature accuracy but you gain more smoke. Grilla Grills with their Alpha Control panel has gone for a slightly different approach.

To keep everyone happy, Grilla Grills have included both time-based and PID temperature control methods into their Alpha Smoke panel: Video – GrillaGrills.com

The Grilla Grills Alpha Control panel has both a time-based ‘Pro Mode’ which will produce more smoke and a separate PID mode if you are looking for more accurate temperature control. The Alpha control panel has now been upgraded with WiFi/App functionality.

The point is, you don’t need to worry about smoke production with PID control panels. You can make a PID panel less accurate to produce more smoke, whereas a time-based controller is limited to a rather wide 25-degree temperature accuracy.

Conclusions On Pellet Grills/Smokers and PID Controllers

I wouldn’t describe a PID controller as a ‘must-have feature’ as a pellet grill based on a time-based controller is perfectly workable. It just means you will need to be a bit more ‘hands-on’ and watch the cook a bit more closely. If you can afford a pellet grill with a PID control panel I definitely think its a feature which should carry a lot of weight when making your choice.

First and foremost you don’t want to burn/dry out your food, and you want it to be cooked properly. Well, if you are busy and not a ‘BBQ expert’ the accuracy of a PID controller reduces the risks of under or overcooking your food.

Furthermore, as I’ve discussed above, don’t worry about PID controllers not producing enough smoke, they can be set up to produce as much smoke as time-based control panels. When in higher smoke modes though you will just need to watch the cook more closely with the wider swings in temperature.

That’s it! Thanks for reading, I hope you found this article on the various brands/models of pellet grills/smokers that do and do not feature PID controllers. If you would like to learn more or you need more information on how does a pellet grill actually work, please check out my Wood Pellet Grill Smoker Guide. 🙂

A to Z List of Pellet Grill/Smoker Brands

A to Z List of Pellet Grill/Smoker Brands

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 to Z List of The Best BBQ Wood Pellets

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.

Chris - PelHeat.com

Hi, I’m Chris. I started PelHeat.com back in 2007. This website is intended to be an educational resource on BBQ pellets, pellet grills & smokers. I hope you find the information useful.

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