Hey Todd – what pellet grill do you have? Also, by short cooks, how long are you talking? Have you looked at the burn pot? If it’s overfilled, you may need to vacuum it out, along with the interior of the cooker. Then, put 10 or so pellets into the burn pot and start it up again. See if that helps. There should not be much if any ash in the food chamber area or on the food. At least not in my experience.
Hey Tom, first, thank you so much for reading the article and expressing your approval of it. It means a lot to me that the information posted on this site is useful for the people. To your question about pellet grills, yes. You must always use BBQ grilling pellets with these cookers. You cannot use raw wood with them. However, should you find yourself with access too hard woods like Hickory or maple, or fruit woods like apple, cherry, or peach – this is something that could be readily used in a charcoal smoker.
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Traeger's, unlike other models, have a temperature probe, these sensors tell it if the temperature is too low and automatically feeds more pellets to the fire. You can set up the temperature in 5-degree increments. Other brands and cheaper versions only offer three settings low, medium and high. There is no sensor to monitor the temperature. If you are purchasing a pellet grill it is because you can set it and forget it. If you plan to hoover then it makes more sense to use a standard smoker or to transform your grill into a smoker.

I have used this cooker at least once a week for two years. I recently had a couple of issues with it going out and was thinking it was having a serious issue. Quite frankly as much as I use it it should be worn out by now. Here is what I discovered. Carbon had built up on the tempeture probe and the grill wasn't getting accurate readings. Suspecting the temp probe I checked it with an external one and it was off 50 degrees or more. I am assuming that the readings were off enough that the grill controller just shut it off kind of a fail safe? 30 seconds with steel wool and we are back in business.
Most grills feature a primary cooking area (the main grate) and a secondary cooking area (additional racks). In a pellet grill, there’s less difference between the two grilling areas because it mainly cooks by indirect heat, so the temperature is the same throughout the grill. It’s best to pay attention to a pellet grill’s total cooking area because it is the sum of the primary and secondary cooking areas.
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