The pellet grill system heavily relies on induced air to provide ignited pellets with enough oxygen to maintain a complete burn. During my time managing customer service and helping produce pellet grills for Traeger, Pit Boss, and other grill companies, I spent much of my time focused on airflow and how it affected the way the grill ran. From the simplest to the most complex, air has a huge influence on the way a grill runs. Soot, swinging temperatures, even an inability to light can all be caused by a lack of airflow.
There are two primary pieces to the air system: the fan and the fire pot or burn grate. The fan forces air from outside the grill into the burn area (fire pot or burn grate). The oxygen provided by the fan ensures that the pellets are burned completely and the fire can keep up with the fuel being provided. As a general rule, the more air that can get into your burn area, the more fuel it can burn, the hotter the grill can get, and the faster it can get there. Some of today’s grills even use dual fans to reach temperatures of over 600°.
The burn grate or fire pot is the second part of the airflow system in which the air is channeled from outside the grill and into a burn area. Combustion occurs in the burn area. Pellets drop into the fire pot or burn grate, and super-heated air from an igniter smolders the pellets while the air from the fan provides the oxygen necessary for the pellets to ignite. At higher temperatures, enough pellets are sent into the burn area to maintain a consistent flame, while at lower settings, the fan will help burn the pellets down to a few coals before they are covered and the fan provides the air to ignite the smoking and smoldering pellets.
Your burn grate or fire pot will have holes in it that are vital to proper performance. The size, location, and pattern of the holes significantly affect the grill’s airflow and, in turn, fire. To keep your grill at its peak, you will want to consistently clean your burn area and prevent any holes from being blocked. Many of today’s grills have removable burn grates and fire pots that make cleaning the burn area a breeze, while others require grill grates and drain pans to be removed. In either instance, you will want to check and clean your burn area as often as possible.
Because of their functions, the fan and fire pot or burn grate should almost always be the first place to check if your grill is having an issue. Grills can go out or not light at all, they can see large swings in temperature, they run consistently above or below the set temperature, or even produce soot because of a lack of airflow. When troubleshooting, make sure your fan spins freely and is clean. When checking the burn area, clean it no matter what. After cleaning, ensure all of the holes are clear and that the holes haven’t expanded from heat and corrosion.
The airflow of a pellet grill allows it to perform the way it does, from smoking to high temperatures. By forcing oxygen directly into the fire, the system is extremely efficient and provides the optimal amount of air to fully burn pellets. Airflow is essential to any burn, and the pellet grill uses it to give customers the wide-ranging ability and ease for every cook.
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