Tag Archives: Savannah Stoker

Savannah Stoker Auto-Tune

 

The Savannah Stoker is a PID controller upgrade for the Traeger brand of pellet grill. PID controllers get their name from the type of feedback loop they use to control the output. PID is short for “Proportional Integral Derivative”. A good description for those of atechnical bent can be found on the Wikipedia listing for PID Controller.

Savannah Stoker

The Savannah Stoker comes with pre-set numbers for the variables, such as the minimum temperature, and the maximum, but also for various outputs that determine, for example, the duty cycle of the auger at the minimum and and on the maximum.

For those that are interested in modifying these values, especially those who may have modified their Traeger on other ways (high speed auger motor, insulation, firebricks, etc.), they may find that they’d  like to play with the stock values.In addition, there is an Auto Tune function built into the controller module on which the Savannah Stoker is based.The following notes are taken from the manufacturers notes:

In order to start an Auto Tune, initiate normal start up and set the SV (Set Value) lower number to 250 temperature. When the pit is stable at 250, initiate the Auto Tune sequence as noted below.

  • Press and hold the Set Key to enter into the Parameter’s Menu which will show up in the PV Display (upper number) which is normally the sensor read out (pit temperature).
  • Once in the menu each time the Set Key is press the menu advances to next parameter.
  • Advance through the menu and record the current I, P and D Parameters (numbers) for reference. This way you can reset it to “factory” if you want to go back.
  • If you exit out of the menu just press and hold the Set Key to again enter the menu. To change parameters’ values use the up and down arrows.
  • Advance the menu to AT and you will see the number next to AT is 3 (normally).
  • Use the Down Arrow to change the number to 2.
  • Wait 3 to 5 seconds and the numbers in the SV Display (lower Number) will start flashing which indicates the PID is in the auto tuning mode.  This launches Auto Tune.

The auto tuning is accomplished by the PID by cycling from lower to higher temperatures 2 to 3 times.
When Auto Tuning is finished the numbers with stop flashing.

 

BBQ Smoked Chili

Smoked ChiliDecided to try out the new Savannah Stoker controller by cooking up some beef for chili. note: This is not Texas chili. It has beans and other stuff in it! Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs of stew quality beef (chuck, anything that will break down is good). I used some “bulk -buy” chuck that I had bought several weeks ago, chopped into large chunks and frozen for later use in 16oz bags.
  • Chili powder, 1-2 Tbsp per pound of beef, to taste. Mild or hot, your choice depending on your guests
  • 2 medium onions, yellow or white
  • 4 14.5oz cans (or 2 @ 28+oz) of diced tomato (this is a very tomato rich sauce. Cut back and replace with water for less tomato taste)
  • Several cans of kidney beans. I used about 4 14.5oz cans per recipe.
  • Salt, Pepper to taste
First, fire up your pellet grill or smoker, and set it to a good low smokey temperature. I used 170F for this recipe, use whatever you like. Let your grill settle in while you prepare the meat.

Start by making large cubes of your beef, 2+ inches each. We want to smoke the beef, not cook it through! Add a bit of chili powder, just enough to coat it lightly

raw meat

  Next, put the meat on the smoker. I use FrogMats to keep the beef from getting stuck on the grill, and to avoid smaller pieces from wedging down through the grate.  We’re going to leave the meat on the smoker for about an hour.

meat on the smoker

While the meat is smoking, prepare the rest of the ingredients: Dice and brown the onions in the bottom of a large stock pot, using a small amount of butter or extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). I prefer to use a low heat, cooking them to semi-translucent, more of a “sweat” than “browning”. If you prefer to caramelize them to a darker brown, that’s good too! With the onions done to your liking, add the diced tomatoes. If you prefer a more traditional, purist chili, reduce the tomatoes and add about half the capacity back using water. Adjust later to taste.

onions and tomatoes

Add the chili powder. My wife likes mild chili, both not to strong nor hot. I prefer stronger, spicier. For mild chili flavor, use 1 heaping Tblsp per pound of raw meat. For stronger taste, use up to 2 Tbls per pound. Vary the chili powder type from mild to hot based on your preference for heat. Experiment! Bring the tomato/onion/chili mix to a low boil and reduce to a simmer while waiting for the meat. After about an hour, the meat should have picked up a good amount of smoke flavor. I pulled mine and whoa, it smelled great! The meat should be dry and smokey on the outside, raw on the inside (not cooked)

off the smoker

For chili, we are going to want to cut the meat into smaller pieces. I like to get it down to sizes about the size of the end of your thumb. Remove any excessive fat or connective tissue as you go.

cutting up the meat

  Brown the meat in small enough portions that you can brown, not braise, using vegetable oil or EVOO. We don’t want to boil the meat, we want it to go through the Maillard Reaction to get that browned goodness that imparts a lot of great flavor.  You want the meat cooked mostly through, but you don’t have to worry if some are a little undercooked, as they will continue to cook in the chili for hours. As you brown each batch, transfer them to the stock pot with the tomato/onion/chili mix.

browning

During the browning, you’ll notice the strong smell of the smoke. This is what we are after!  The outside of the meat has picked up a lot of smoke flavor from the smoker. Some of this is sticking to the pan as you cook. After browning the last batch, deglaze the pan with water (white wine would be OK too). Get all the brown smoky crusties scraped up and whisked, and transfer the liquid to the stock pot.

deglaze

  Mix it all in and set the pot to simmer (very low, don’t burn it!)

all mixed in

I left this to cook for hours. You need to let it cook long enough for the meat to start to break down. About an hour before serving, add your beans. I had my wife pick up 3 different colors of kidney beans, for variety.

with beans

  The final product: Hints of smoke, definitely not your typical canned chili, nor is it exactly like your stove top cooked chili. Smoking the meat is definitely the way to go. The final product is less smoke flavored than what you are smelling all the way through the cooking process, the cooking definitely makes it milder. I will always try to take the time to smoke my chili beef going forward!

chili by bill

Savannah Stoker Quick Start Guide

I recently received my long awaited Savannah Stoker. Thought I’d write it up!

Unboxing the Savannah Stoker

The Savannah Stoker is a new product that is still under final development. The Development Team can be found at the Pelletheads website, specifically check out the Savannah Stoker thread.  You can also follow the Savannah Stoker Facebook page.

The Savannah Stoker is a drop-in replacement for the analog and digital controllers used on Traeger Grills. The goal of this product is to allow finer control of the temperatures, while giving greater control over the auger, fan and general operations.

Upon unboxing, I found the following:

  1. Savannah Stoker controller, including integrated wiring harness for Traeger grills, with a colorful faceplate.
  2. Bag containing the new temperature probe, some screws, washers, and a zip tie
  3. A copy of the manual for the Auberins SYL-2372 PID controller module, upon which this product is based.

Tools needed:

  • Phillips screwdriver
  • small “jewelers” style flat blade screwdriver (needed only when replacing digital controllers, not needed for older non-digital controllers)
  • Small diagonal cutters or scissors to cut zip ties

Installation:

First: UNPLUG YOUR TRAEGER!!!  The Traeger controller runs off 110V power, and all of the components run off 110V power, so almost every wire connector you will be touching is potentially HOT.  Unplug the Traeger, and turn on the controller to double check that it in fact is unplugged.

First to remove my “old” Traeger 180 digital controller:

Old 180 controller

Identify the connectors: First, go underneath the controller (lying on your back is simple enough to get access). Identify the 2-wire molex connectors and remove them. You may want to identify what each is connected to.

  • Power can be identified by finding the GREEN ground wire. The power connector comes from the same component as the ground wire. You can verify this as the power cord should route up into the back side of the same component as the green ground wire and the power molex connector.
  • Auger can be identified by finding the small fan and motor that is OPPOSITE the main body.
  • The fan is the medium sized fan that blows up, and can easily be seen from the bottom. Find the cable that connects to it.

Remove all of the 2-wire molex connectors.

Remove the two screws that secure the old controller. In order to remove the controller, you are going to need a simple, standard sized Phillips head screwdriver. The controller is held in by two screws, which you will want to hold onto until after you are finished, as you may want to use them to attach the new controller.

Remove unit: You may need to slide to the right or down, depending on the model of Traeger controller. Don’t force it

Removing the controller

Undo the thermal wires from the digital controller.

Thermal wire connections

Put the new controller in place: In the enclosed bag, there are 2 screws, to black stainless washers. Tie the old RTD wire up and out of the way with the black zip tie. Attach the top screw, then bottom, using the new screws if possible. Due to variations in what Traeger ships, and the variations in screw hole sizes, you may do better with your old screws.

Connect labeled connectors to proper locations.  You will test these at the end of the installation.

new connections

Place the new PID probe in the grill. You can place it anywhere, near whatever food ou are cooking. Keep it away from the direct hot air flow near the front and back of the grill. Common attachmeht points are near  the center grill or connected to the RTD.

I ran my PID wire to exit the grill up by the left hing, and then down the back, out of the way, underneath and up to the controller.  I plan at a future date on disassembling the plug end of the wire, routing it through the old temperature probe hole, and reassembling it.

Installed unit

Verification and Startup:

Note the labels: Left side: RUN OFF OFF settings for the FAN, Temp switch in the middle, and auger settings RUN OFF HIGH (aka Override)

Note: If any verification fails, unplug the unit, and check your molex connections. You probably have a loose connection or connected the wrong connectors. The Savannah Stoker ships with clearly labeled connectors.

  • Place all three switches in center OFF position
  • Plug the grill into the power outlet
  • Fan Verification: Flip fan switch to up, see the green light and hear the fan
  • Flip fan switch down, see the red light, fan is off.  Return fan switch to center.
  • Auger Verification: Flip the auger switch down, red light, hear auger run, flip back up to run, green light but auger off
  • Make sure temp probe is plugged in, placed in position
  • Startup: Fan switch up, Temp switch up. Top display will blink and then show current grill temp, bottom is “set” or target temp.
  • Grill is starting up, running the ignitor, fan and auger.
The Savannah Stoker Controller will run the hot rod whenever the grill temperature drops below 150, to avoid flame out.

For normal operation, just start it at 200 until the smoke indicates a full start, and then set your desired temperature. The default settings should work well for most cases, although I can’t wait to try adjusting the settings that control what used to be the “P” settings on the Traeger.

For shutdown, simply turn auger OFF, and the temp OFF, leaving the fan switch on until the unit is cool to the touch.

As I get more into it, I’ll start to write up the advanced usage like modifying some of the default values.