Pellet grills are incredibly easy to use and can produce some amazing low and slow barbecue. However, one of the issues with all pellet grills, Traeger included, is that, when compared to charcoal smokers or wood fired offsets, they do not impart a strong smoke flavor into meats.
I have seen about a hundred people on different Facebook groups and barbecue forums asking the exact same question, “How do I get more smoke from my Traeger grill?”
There are five tips below and I hope one of them works for you!
How Does A Traeger Grill Smoke Food?
If you want to know how to get more smoke from a Traeger, you should understand how the internal Traeger system works.
The hopper stores wood pellets. The auger mechanically takes pellets from the hopper and brings them to the burn box. Imagine something like a claw machine bringing the wood pellet from the hopper and inserting it into the box where it will be consumed.
While the pellets are burning a fan is used to supply additional combustion air to help achieve the desired target temperature.
The amount of smoke produced depends upon how cleanly the pellets are burning which is a function of:
- How many pellets are in the firepot.
- How much excess combustion air is present.
- The temperature of the grill.
How To Get More Smoke From A Traeger
If you are asking how do I get more smoke from my Traeger grill? Then try the following methods of:
- Turning on Super Smoke mode
- Lowering the temperature
- Playing around with pellet flavors
- Installing a smoker tube
- Start with cold meat
Let’s look at each of these options in more detail.
Activate Super Smoke Mode
The Silverton 810, Timberline, and Ironwood Series of Traeger grills include the Super Smoke feature. Activate this feature at temperatures between 165-225 degrees Fahrenheit.
The SuperSmoke function is designed to produce more “thin blue” smoke so do not expect to see billowing clouds of dirty white smoke when the mode is activated.
Adjust The Temperature
If you have a Traeger grill without the Super Smoke feature, then tried and true method of increasing smoke flavor is to lower the temperature and extend the cooking time.
When pellet grills run at low temperatures like 180F the naturally produce more smoke because it requires a small smoldering fire to maintain a low temperature.
You can adjust your recipes to include a low temperature smoking step and get a serious boost in smoke flavor. For example, instead of smoking a chuck roast for eight hours at 250F you could smoke it at 180F for three hours and then raise the temperature to 250F for the final six to seven hours.
Switch Pellet Flavors and Brands
Play around with different flavors of pellets until you find the one that gives you what you are looking for. Everyone has different taste perceptions about smoke so I am not going to try to tell you which wood is “the best” but here are some general guidelines.
- Mildest Smoke Flavor: Apple, Maple, Oak
- Medium Smoke Flavor: Hickory, Pecan, Cherry
- Strong Smoke Flavor: Mesquite
You should also try switching brands of pellets as it turns out that the products can be deceiving. Some brands are selling “Hickory” pellets that are a blend of 40% hickory and 60% oak while other brands sell “Hickory” pellets that are 100% hickory. Guess which ones have more smoke flavor 🙂
Take your time to read the labels. Just because the bag of pellets says “100% Hardwood” does not mean that the pellets are 100% made from the flavor wood that is advertised. A blend of hickory and oak can still be advertised as 100% Hardwood.
Use a Smoker Tube
You can get even more smoke flavor when you combine the methods above AND add a smoker tube to your arsenal.
A smoker tube is a stainless steel mesh tube that you pack with wood pellets. Simply light one end of the tube with a torch and place it onto the cooking grate inside the grill. As soon as you place the meat onto the grill blow out the flames inside the smoker tube and the wood pellets will start smoldering and creating a ton of smoke.
Smoker tubes are inexpensive (~$15-$25). You can get a small, six inch tube that holds enough pellets for two hours of smoke or a massive 16 inch tube that will smoke for about eight hours.
Start with Cold Meat
Last up is a simple trick that works on any type of smoker and that is to start with cold meat.
Over the years I have found the when I take meat straight from the refrigerator to a smoker it gets a stronger smoke flavor than meat that I have let warm on the countertop for an hour.
The better smoke flavor might simply come from the fact that colder meat takes longer to cook so it spends more time in the smoker or it might be something more complex. All I know is that it works for me.