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Temperature Swings - Why Should I Care?

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  • dubob
    Club Member
    • Mar 2019
    • 130
    • Mormon Mecca
    • Bob Hicks, from Mormon Mecca
      Camp Chef Woodwind SG w/Sear Box
      I’m 78 years young and going as hard as I can for as long as I can.
      “Free men don't ask permission to bear arms.”
      “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

    Temperature Swings - Why Should I Care?

    I see a ton of discussions on various ‘Q’ boards about temperature swings of up to 100 degrees F in pellet grills. My Camp Chef Woodwind SG runs around 30 degree swings max. I’m new to the pellet grill arena and have only had mine for a year. So far, I have never given the temp swings any thought at all. The only thing I’ve paid attention to is the internal temperature of the meat I’m smoking. Setting my smoker to the HIGH SMOKE (220) mark, I put the meat in, plug in the remote INK BIRD probes and wait until I get to the desired temperature recommended for that particular cook.

    A lot of you fret about having temp swings of less than 5 degrees and buy PID units to make it so. I do have a PID unit for my Bradley smoker and have used it successfully for about 10 years now. But the real benefit for me on the Bradley is the ability to program different temps for different time cycles, not temperature control +/- 1 degree. My smokes prior to using the PID were just as good; they just required more time and interaction by me to manually adjust the temps at pre-ordained times.

    So far, on my pellet grill, my cooks have reached the required/desired meat temperature in the suggested time frame shown in the recipes. So, why should I care what the temperature swings are in my pellet grill?
  • ifican
    Club Member
    • Jul 2017
    • 55

    It really depends on what your cooking. You could debate swings on either side of the fence, its really doing to come down to what your cooking and how long temps stay elevated. I tend to care far more on elevated temps on the kamado than on the pellet cooker.


    • dubob
      dubob commented
      Editing a comment
      As I said earlier, I don't watch smoker grill temp at all. I did try to smoke 2 salmon fillets on the pellet grill and the result was not good. All fish smoking is now done in my PID controled Bradley vertical smoker. 😁
  • RichardCullip
    Club Member
    • Feb 2020
    • 116
    • Poway, CA

    For me the addition of a FireBoard and Pit Viper fan to my Weber kettle has been a game changer. With temperature stabilized close to 225 I now have the freedom to do other things while the cook is going on. I don’t have to hover around and fiddle with the lower vents to try and keep the temperature from rising or falling too far. On Saturday I was even able to drive across town to Home Depot to pick up some lumber for a project I was building. The confidence of a stable temperature has loosened the short tether to my Weber that I felt prior to getting the temperature automatically stabilized.


    • RonB
      RonB commented
      Editing a comment
      That's what my goal is too - to be able to not worry about temps continuing to rise or fall. I don't worry about reasonable swings.
  • glitchy
    Club Member
    • Jul 2019
    • 602
    • Central IA
    • Weber Summit Charcoal Grill
      w/ Big Joetisserie, SnS LP, and Vortex
      Weber SmokeFire EX4
      Weber Q1000
      Fireboard 2 Drive
      Anova Precision Sous Vide

    Stick a remote thermometer probe in your oven and graph it :-) You are totally right, you shouldn't worry too much. I don't know what the threshold you should worry is, but a 15+/- (30 degree swing) I would quit watching it. 50 plus or minus is probably a little too much though. You actually get a little more smoke from a pellet grill if it does swing. My older Traegers used to swing probably 25 degrees plus or minus and cranked out plenty of good food with consistent results, I had a newer Traeger with no swing and couldn't taste any smoke. I just quit watching too close and worrying about nothing.

    I've heard some people say some of the new grills lie on the display too, that if it isn't more than 5-10 degrees from the set temp, it doesn't show every time it's a few degrees above or below the set point.
    Last edited by glitchy; March 9, 2020, 10:57 AM.


    • Rod
      Club Member
      • Dec 2015
      • 628
      • Phoenix, AZ
      • Weber Genesis S330 with GrillGrates
        Weber Performer with SnS, DnG and Pit Viper mod
        Weber 26" kettle with SnS and Pit Viper mod
        Blackstone 36" SS griddle

        Thermoworks Smoke
        Thermoworks MK4
        Maverick ET-732

        Accessories ranging from a Vortex to bear claws.

      You also have to consider climate. Here in the desert if I wanted to cook at 225 in the summer time, I'd have to ball up some foil and use that to keep the lid cracked. Otherwise, my grate temps would be 300+ even with the cookers being in total shade. That was the case more so with the Traeger I used to have. The Rec Tec did way better, but still struggled in extreme heat. With the Fireboard/fan mod on my kettles I don't have that issue at all.

      For me, I like having temps dialed in. It makes it easier to plan a cook by better knowing how long a cook will take based off previous experiences. Harder to do when one cook ran at the desired temp within reason and then the next one ends up running 100 degrees hotter.


      • dubob
        dubob commented
        Editing a comment
        Good point. Not so much a factor here in northern Utah. 😉
    • rickgregory
      Founding Member
      • Aug 2014
      • 693
      • Seattle, WA

      I agree. Swings of 25-30 degrees are irrelevant. 50 is where I'd start being worried since the difference between 250 and 300 will materially affect cook time and if you're counting on being able to do something else away from the house because of the anticipated time at 250, well...

      Controlling temps to +/- 5F is, I think, partly about satisfying curiosity and the need for control as well as an important thing - repeatability. If you know that the 5lb chuck that you get is always done in 7-8 hours when you cook at 250 it's nice to have a system that can maintain 250 when it's 45F out... and when it's 75F.
      Last edited by rickgregory; March 9, 2020, 12:46 PM.


      • Nate
        Former Member
        • Apr 2015
        • 3811
        • Quarantined

        My Grilla OG has the Alpha controller which allows you to switch between PID and Non PID... 95% of the time I run the Non PID option. Grilla's argument is you get more smoke production from Non PID than you do with PID.... just restating their claim.

        A couple of thoughts:
        1. A 25 degree swing over an 8+ hour cook is probably less than a blip on the radar when you look at the temp average over the entire time frame...
        2. Most home ovens don't even have PID level consistency....

        That all being said... 100 degree temp swings are probably pretty extreme.... 20-30 not so much...

        Keep on rolling that smoke!


        • ifican
          Club Member
          • Jul 2017
          • 55

          So its really just consistency, no matter what the temp swing is, if its consistent you will get consistent results and learn the unique behavior of your grill. If the swings are large and inconsistent you will never have consistent results. Q'ing has enough variables and reasons for things to come out off, adding large temp swings to that mix is something i dont care to do.


          • Spinaker
            • Nov 2014
            • 10600
            • Land of Tonka
            • John "J R"
              Instagram: JRBowlsby
              Smokin' Hound Que
              Minnesota/ United States of America

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              Apple, Cherry & Oak Log splits for the C-60

              Buck 119 Special
              Cuda 7' Fillet Knife

              Dexter 12" Brisket Sword
              Next Major Purchase
              Lone Star Grillz 24 X 48 Offset

            I would say a temp swing of 100 F is pretty high. But if you are cooking something like a pork shoulder, it really would not matter that much.

            For brisket, I like to have much more consistent temps. +-25 F is okay.

            For ribs I am also more flexible. I try to shoot for 275 F. If it is 225 f or 300 F, I am okay with that.


            • JeffJ
              Charter Member
              • Feb 2015
              • 2409
              • Michigan
              • Jeff

              For low/slow as long as you are in the 220-300 range you should be fine. You can go even higher with pork butt and still be fine.


              • HouseHomey
                Club Member
                • May 2016
                • 5276
                • Huntington Beach, Ca. Surf City USA.
                • Equipment
                  Primo Oval xl

                  Slow n Sear (two)
                  Drip n Griddle
                  22" Weber Kettle
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                  Two chimneys (was 3 but rivets finally popped, down to 1)
                  cast iron pans,
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                  Signals 4 probe, thermapens, chef alarms, Dots, thermapop and maverick T-732, RTC-600, pro needle and various pocket instareads.
                  The help and preferences
                  1 extra fridge and a deep chest freezer in the garage
                  A 9 year old princess foster child
                  Patience and old patio furniture
                  "Baby Girl" The cat

                  Erik S.

                I’ll try and answer your question. I dont want temp swings of any degree for bbq. The idea is low and slow to do its work on muscle fibers.

                i want my fuel to go to gently coaxing the most flavor and tenderness from my cuts of meat. I don’t want my fuel to go to seizing the fibers then spending its time trying to relax the fibers/cell structure.

                on my chicken for example I want higher temps for shorter periods to render fats, blow through evaporative cooling and crisp my exterior all while being done in about an hour.

                I don’t have time or patience to fuss with wild temp swings on my exterior cooker.

                My convection oven makes up for it with air flow.

                That is IMHO.


                • HawkerXP
                  Club Member
                  • Jul 2016
                  • 5506
                  • Virginia
                  • 2 Weber Performers, 1 kettle, 1 Smoky Joe and a PBC
                    Dot and Chef Alarm with probes
                    Slo n Sear
                    Cold beer

                  I don't have a way to digetly chart my cooks. Don't use a fan. Not worried about fluxuating temps. Usually only have a probe on the grate and one in the meat. Some like doing this complex tracking thing. Not sure if it effects the final product. IMO.


                  • jerrybell
                    Charter Member
                    • Aug 2014
                    • 333

                    I have a Camp Chef pellet cooker. I used to worry about the fluctuating temperatures and it just made the cook way less enjoyable for me. I look at like this: Any cut of meat I'm smoking has way more thermal mass than that tiny temperature probe. For the brief duration of the measured air temperature swings, the meat just doesn't have time to react much. I like the food that comes off the cooker and don't believe the brief swings affect the taste, texture, or tenderness to a degree that I can detect. I set my grate temp alarms with enough range to detect a prolonged temperature spike or flameout and don't worry about brief swings.


                    • dubob
                      Club Member
                      • Mar 2019
                      • 130
                      • Mormon Mecca
                      • Bob Hicks, from Mormon Mecca
                        Camp Chef Woodwind SG w/Sear Box
                        I’m 78 years young and going as hard as I can for as long as I can.
                        “Free men don't ask permission to bear arms.”
                        “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

                      Originally posted by jerrybell View Post
                      I set my grate temp alarms with enough range to detect a prolonged temperature spike or flameout and don't worry about brief swings.
                      I never heard of doing that. How is it done? I have the Inkbird 4-probe bluetooth unit that came with 3 meat probes and one cooker probe. I've never used the cooker probe, because the grill has one built in.


                      • jerrybell
                        jerrybell commented
                        Editing a comment
                        I simply mean that I set the high and low alarm points for the cooker probe for large excursions from the set temperature. For instance if my cooking set temperature is 225, I'll set the low temp alarm for the cooker probe at about 140 and the high temp alarm for about 310. If it's hitting either of those temps I know I need to have a look at the cooker.
                    • Alphonse
                      Club Member
                      • Oct 2019
                      • 255
                      • LA (Lower Alabama - gulf coast)

                      Low and slow for me on my pellet grill means I want to keep it at 225F and avoid spikes. A pellet grill is a highly convective cooker. The temperature on the surface of the cook is important since it affects the rate of removal of moisture from the meat.

                      A highly convective and turbulent gas stream of 300F will evaporate water much quicker than one at 225F. That is just a fact of thermodynamics and that is why it matters.


                      • jerrybell
                        jerrybell commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Doesn't wrapping minimize the influence of convection?

                      • Alphonse
                        Alphonse commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Yes, of course it does but it is the trip to 160F internal temperature before you wrap it that dries it out. Even beyond that you still have conductivity through the wrap and I would still want to go without spikes for the benefits of a slow cook.
                        Last edited by Alphonse; March 10, 2020, 04:00 PM.



                    Meat-Up in Memphis 2021

                    SOLD OUT! Secure your spot on our waitlist now. First-come, first-served!
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                    Meat-Up in Memphis



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