You may feel inclined to use a third-party thermometer to verify your grill's temperature against what the controller says. Let's talk about how Traeger grills measure internal temp and why using a third-party thermometer may not produce as accurate results as you may think.
What Is a Third-Party Thermometer?
The term, "Third-party thermometer," can be interpreted several different ways. For our purposes, when we refer to third-party thermometer, we are referring to any temperature sensor used to determine the temperature inside the grill other than the grill's built-in temperature sensor (the grill's RTD or thermocouple). This means that even products Traeger produces could be considered to be a third-party sensor when used to determine the grill's temperature vs the temperature set by and displayed on the controller.
Examples of third-party thermometers may include:
- Oven thermometers
- Instant-read thermometers
- Thermal guns / Infrared thermometers
- Meat probes (including Traeger's wired and Traeger X MEATER probes, and any probes with ambient temperature sensors like MEATER products have)
- Temperature sensors not produced by Traeger, even those connected to the grill's controller
Traeger vs Third-Party Temp Sensors: Why does it matter?
Traeger temperature sensors:
During research and development, Traeger's engineers test numerous scenarios using Traeger parts and product to ensure accurate temperature reading. The data collected from these tests is specific to the materials and parts used, and is vital information in the development of our model-specific, scaling algorithms that determine what temperature to display.
You should also understand that Traeger grills cook on an average, meaning you will see fluctuating temps (i.e. "temp swings") that average out to the set temperature. This is by design and is a key factor that promotes smoke flavor. If your grill has the Super Smoke feature, you will find that these fluctuations get even bigger in order to produce more smoke flavor.
Third-party thermometers, in contrast, are untested in Traeger grills. They take temperature at one, specific point and don't account for the many factors the logic in our controllers do with the pre-installed RTD/thermocouple.
Even third-party sensors that are connected directly to the controller are unrepresentative of the grill's temperature because the sensor may differ in size, mass, material, or position—all vital variables used in Traeger's algorithms. You will find very similar behavior when using one of these thermometers in your kitchen oven too based on the oven's design considerations and fluctuations.
Factors that Determine a Traeger Grill's Temperature
Thermometer placement (location in the grill): We estimate temperature in the center of the grill based on testing where we've collected data at many locations across the grates within the grill.
- Even if you place a thermometer exactly where the grill's temperature sensor is, you'll get a different value.
- Materials: The logic used to determine a grill's temperature is specifically designed based on the thermodynamics of the materials used in the grill's RTDs and thermocouples.
- Sensor shape, mass & orientation: Shape, mass and orientation all play a role in a thermometer's function. Traeger controllers are calibrated to display temp based on the shape, mass, and orientation of the sensor.
- Grill shape & size: As mentioned above, the algorithm for each model's controller is specific to the grill's size and shape, as well as the materials used in the grill (insulation panels, grate material, number of grates, etc.).
- Radiant heat: Not every grill is made of the same material, and these materials will produce varying levels of radiant heat, which will also affect the third-party thermometer's reading depending on it's location. For example, a thermometer placed closer to one of the grill's side panels will be exposed to more radiant heat than farther away.
- Hot Spots: It is normal for a grill to have hot spots that can vary up to 15°F from the set temp, affected primarily by how the air flows through the grill and around the internal components like the firepot, drip tray and heat baffle. Areas near key points of air flow, such as near the chimney or near the vents in the back, will consistently vary in temperature. Again, the controller takes these variances as it calculates the grill's overall temperature.
Using a Third-Party Thermometer in a Traeger Grill
You are welcome to use third-party thermometers while grilling; however, these sensors should not replace the purpose of the sensor designed for your model (i.e. the grill's thermocouple or RTD).
Traeger Customer Support will not be able to investigate nor diagnose temperature issues based on the readings of or differences between third-party thermometers and Traeger parts. The sensor's behavior, materials, shape, mass, orientation and more are all unknowns and untested with the controller's logic. While we're sure your thermometer works great, non-Traeger thermometers don't read the above factors.
If you believe your grill's built-in temperature sensor is reading incorrectly, we suggest checking out one of the following temperature-related articles:
- Temperature Swings
- Grill running below set temp
- Running above set temp
Tips for Customers Using a Third-Party Thermometer
Aside from replacing your grill's RTD or thermocouple with a non-Traeger temperature sensor, there is nothing about using a third-party thermometer that will affect the grill's performance. Here are a few tips that will help you have a successful cook when using one:
- Understand that you will observe discrepancies between your grill's sensor and your third-party thermometer.
- Traeger recipes are written according to the grill's set temperature, not temperatures read by third-party thermometers or even ambient temperature sensors on probes.
- Just because a sensor looks the same and is placed in the same spot of the original one doesn't mean that it will produce the same results of the sensors designed for your grill.
- Fluctuating temperature is by design and is actually a vital experience to produce Traeger's signature smoke flavor.
- Each grill model is different, and Traeger has developed model-specific logic that accounts for each grill's features: everything from sensor placement, materials and colors used in the grill, radiant heat, shape and size, air flow around internal components, and more.