Traeger: Difference Between the Smoke and 180 Degree Settings

Learn the difference between the Smoke setting and the 180 degree setting on a Traeger pellet grill and exactly when and how to use each of these helpful modes.

traeger pellet grill controller showing the smoke and 180 degree settings

You have successfully purchased one of the fantastic models of Traeger pellet grills. Welcome to the family!

Traeger is an amazing brand that has been synonymous with grills for many decades now, and more recently with pellet grills as they have made them more and more mainstream.

We have already gone in depth about how pellet grills work, as well as how to start a Traeger grill step by step.

If you haven’t reviewed these beginner articles, give them a read and then come on back, we’ll be here.

One question we still get ALL the time though is this: What is the difference between the Smoke Setting and 180 Degree setting?

If you find yourself looking at your Traeger controller during start up and asking the same question, don’t worry, you are in good company.

We are going to give you a detailed explanation of the two settings so that you can move forward knowing what they mean and how they each work.


What is the Smoke Setting on a Traeger Grill?

The Smoke setting is a function that is used just to turn on and start the pellet grill.

a traeger pellet grill set to the smoke setting

You see pellet grills create both smoke and heat by heating the pellets with a very very hot heating rod located in the fire pot.

The smoke setting tells the Tragere to start heating up the rod and delivers just a small amount of pellets while this is happening.

This not only primes your auger full of pellets but keeps you from cooking with the acrid “white smoke” you get when the pellet grill is still heating up.

The Smoke mode will cycle the auger on for 15 seconds, then off for 65 seconds.

Just to review, here are the specific steps that you need to adhere to turn on the Traeger pellet grill properly.


How to Properly Turn on Your Traeger Pellet Grill

1. Plug your grill into an electrical outlet: Find an electrical outlet to plug it into. This unit will come with a power cord that you will need to connect to the outlet. Electricity will power the internal thermostat, igniter rod, and the internal fan, which will work together to heat the grill.

2. Place the wood pellets inside your grill’s hopper: First, select what pellet you like from the ones recommended. If you want to smoke or cook fish, you will need to buy wood pellets specifically made for this grill. Wood pellets are referred to as the “feeder” because they feed the wood-burning appliances in a smoker or grill.

Traeger pellet grill hopper filed with pellets

3. Open up the grill’s lid and turn it on: When it is time to cook, open the cover on your Traeger grill and turn it on. It will now generate heat and smoke from the wood pellets.

4. Turn the temperature dial to the “Smoke” option: Now, locate a knob on the grill and turn it so that the temperature is on the “Smoke” option.

5. Let the grill sit for about 5 minutes: You will need to let the Traeger grill preheat entirely between 2 and 5 minutes. If it has Advanced Grilling Logic, another minute or so may be necessary. Over this period, watch it to ensure it starts appropriately and doesn’t encounter any problems.

starting up a traeger pellet grill

6. Close the lid when the grill starts to roar: When this appliance begins to roar, it means it is hot enough. Close the lid immediately to help retain heat and smoke in the grill.

7. Turn the temperature dial to your desired cooking level: Once the grill is preheated and closed, turn the temperature dial to your desired cooking temperature. This could be anywhere from 180°F if you want to smoke food low and slow all the way up to 400°F depending on your Traeger model and how high a temperature it can get to.


Using the Smoke Setting on a Traeger Grill

A Traeger grill is a pellet-style grill that also smokes food. The Traeger is intended to regulate heat automatically.

You operate the device like an oven or electric smoker by setting the temperature.

The auger then dispenses pellets at the precise rate and amount needed to maintain the desired temperature.


Cooking Using the Smoke Setting

After you fire up the grill in the smoke mode on most of their Traeger grill models, you are going to then set your desired cooking temperature.

However, you CAN cook some dishes such as jerky or smoked cheese, or other cold smoked foods on the Smoke setting itself.

cold smoking cheese using the smoke setting on a traeger


The Smoke setting on most Traeger pellet grills will keep the grill temperature at about 150°F.

This lower temperature, in conjunction with maybe an ice bath placed below the food will allow you to smoke foods like cheese and fish without heating them up to much.

Under this model, the auger can supply only enough pellets to produce smoke while keeping the grill temperature below 150°F.

Cooking the food in the smoke setting for some time will allow you to incorporate more smoky flavors into your dishes while keeping the temperature low.

Just watch to avoid the thick white smoke that gets produced right at initial start up when using the Smoke setting on your Traeger.


There’s Too Much Smoke

Traeger grills can produce an excessive amount of smoke at times. You will see this especially when you use them in a Cooking mode (especially higher temperatures) and then change back to the Smoke setting.

traeger pellet grill making thick white start up smoke

As the pellets already in the firepot burn and cool down at the same tie, they will produce a lot of thick white smoke.

To resolve this issue, turn off the grill using the Shutdown Cycle Setting before going back to the Smoke Setting and let it cool down for a few minutes before turning it back on.


What is the 180 Degree Setting used for on a Traeger?

The 180° setting is a cooking temperature and is the lowest cooking/smoking temperature (other than the Smoke Setting if you choose to cook on that setting as described above).

This setting maintains a very low temperature at which to cook your food.

Many BBQ enthusiasts target the prized 200-225° F range for large fatty cuts of meat like brisket, pork butt, and ribs that need to be broken down and brought up to temperature very slowly.

While 180°F is the extreme low end of this range for slow smoking, having it at your disposal can come in handy, especially if you find your food has reached its target internal temperature before guests arrive and you want to HOLD it at a food safe temperature above 165° F without over cooking it.


Differences Between the Smoke Setting and the 180 Degree Setting on a Traeger

  • The Smoke setting is used to start up the grill and will produce thicker white smoke that is not ideal for flavoring food.
  • The 180 Degree setting is recommended for very low and slow cooking or for HOLDING your finished meat at a food safe temperature.
  • The Smoke setting lets you technically run the grill at a lower temperature of 150°F for cold smoking foods like cheese, fish, or jerky.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Super Smoke setting on my Traeger?

This breakthrough in grilling technology provides the maximum delivery of smoke at temperatures as high as 225 degrees, thanks to Traeger’s new Super Smoke mode. Traeger’s Super Smoke mode is achieved by maintaining a classic low and slow BBQ temperature coupled with precision automatic fan control for maximum smoke production.

What is the longest time I can keep a Traeger on the Smoke setting?

According to Traeger: In most cases, if the grill runs hot when smoke is selected, it is because the lid was closed too soon when the grill was started. We recommend leaving it unlocked for at least 10 minutes after fuel is added to the grill to allow the fuel to burn off before closing the lid.

Can you smoke food as low as 180 degrees on a Traeger?

Always keep in mind what your target internal temperature is going to be.  If you only cook at 180°F, your food’s internal temperature is never going to get higher than that.  While poultry is safe to eat at an internal temperature of 165-175°F (white vs dark meat), other cuts of meat like brisket and pork butt taste best when brought up to around 203°F internally.

At what temperature does meat stop absorbing smoke?

Cold meat absorbs more smoke flavor than hot meat. So most smoky flavor absorption occurs up to approximately 135-140°F EXTERNAL temperature. However, this is a difficult thing to truly measure and there is vast debate online about this concept.

Can you grill without smoke on a Traeger?

The higher your temperature setting, the faster the pellets will burn and will therefore produce less smoke.  Picture a roaring hot smokeless fire vs a fire you are just getting started that smokes like crazy.




Leave a Reply
  1. After on smoke for 1-2 hrs it basically stops heating we are trying to smoke fish PLEASE HELP

  2. Hi Eileen- Is the grill shutting itself off after 1-2 hours or just not making heat? Check that you are not out of pellets first or that the auger is not jammed and pellets are making it to the firepot. Then check that your firepot is not overloaded with ash causing it to block the ignitor rod from reaching new pellets coming to the pot. Also check that your ignitor rod is still hot when the grill is on. Hope that helps.

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