P Setting on a Pit Boss Grill: Here’s All You Need to Know!

July 21, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton
Edited by John Smits 

The P-setting on a Pit Boss pellet grill is a way to manually adjust the temperature of the smoker, as well as the amount of smoke it produces. The P-setting can range from P0 to P7, with P0 kicking out the most heat and least smoke, while P7 produces the lowest temperature and most smoke.

As a BBQ fanatic, I have several grills and smokers that I rotate between, but the Pit Boss grill continues to be my personal favorite. I have that bad boy dialed in.

In this post, I will break down what the Pit Boss P-setting is, how to use it, and drop some tips and tricks to help you crank out perfectly smoked BBQs for you. Let’s get started!

P setting on pit boss

What is the Pit Boss P-Setting?

The P-setting is a way for you to manually adjust the temperature and amount of smoke in the cooking chamber. Your Pit Boss pellet grill has to be set to smoke for you to adjust the P-setting.

The P-setting option allows you to have complete control over the temperature and smoke output while the grill is in smoke mode. This helps to offset other variables such as:

  • pellet fuel type
  • pellet quality
  • ambient temperature
  • humidity
  • wind
  • environmental changes

With greater temperature control, you can reduce the risk of temperature fluctuations. So the P-setting arms you with better control over your cooker, which (hopefully!) leads to more predictable results.

Person Grilling Sausages

How Pellet Grills Work?

Before I get into how the P-Setting button functions, I first want to give you the lowdown on how pellet grills work. A basic understanding of pellet grills is necessary to understand the P-setting. Ready for a crash course in pellet grills?

A pellet grill (also called a pellet smoker) operates by heating hardwood pellets. They are the source of fuel and smoke. Pellet grills also use electricity to run the display panel, auger, and fan.

The smoke and heat from the burning pellets are pushed from the firebox to the cooking chamber by a fan, just like a convection oven. The area where the pellets burn is also called the burn pot or fire pot.

The food is placed in the barrel-shaped cooking chamber. As the pellets are used up, an auger pushes additional pellets that are stored in a hopper. The pellets are moved down the chute and into the center of the fire pot.

How Do You Use the P-Setting on a Pit Grill?

When a Pit Boss pellet grill is first set to Smoke, the auger system turns continuously, feeding pellets into the fire pot for four minutes. Once this period is up, the auger will feed pellets based on the P-setting cycle that has been chosen. The factory setting is P4.

P-setting is sometimes referred to in the ‘que community as the “pause setting.” Depending on the P-setting that you choose, the pause time will increase or decrease accordingly.

The fuel quantity, temperature, and amount of smoke produced change as you adjust the P-setting, and the pellet flow changes.

Higher P-Setting

A higher P-setting means that the auger slows down. The cycles in between each feed are longer. This results in lower temperatures.

The high P-setting produces more smoke, which will bump up that smoke flavor. Using a higher P-setting will lengthen your cooking time, as well.

Lower P-Setting

When you lower the P-setting, you are increasing the frequency of the pellet cycle. More fuel equals more heat, and the cooking temperature will climb. Lower P-settings reduce cooking time and decrease the amount of smoke the pellet grill produces. Since the pellets are burning at higher temperatures, they smoke less.

The Different Settings – What Do They Mean?

Adjusting the P-setting will determine how much smoke and heat is created. P-settings are organized according to the auger cycle – the number of seconds that the auger is feeding the pellets and the number of seconds it is “off.”

Here is the breakdown of the P-setting chart:

  • P0 – 18 seconds on, 55 seconds off
  • P1 – 18 seconds on, 70 seconds off
  • P2 – 18 seconds on, 85 seconds off
  • P3 – 18 seconds on, 100 seconds off
  • P4 – 18 seconds on, 115 seconds off
  • P5 – 18 seconds on, 130 seconds off
  • P6 – 18 seconds on, 140 seconds off
  • P7 – 18 seconds on, 150 seconds off

For every P-setting, pellets are augered into the firebox for 18 seconds. The “seconds off” refers to the length of time between auger cycles.

The factory default setting on the Pit Boss grill is P4. Most websites and manuals will tell you to stick to this setting and not change anything. But to me, that’s what’s so cool about the P-setting. You control your cook. Bump the P-setting up for more smoke. Nudge it down if you need a faster cook. 

Vegetables Cooking in the Griller

How Do You Adjust the P-Setting?

Start off by setting the temperature dial to the Smoke setting. Again, P-settings can only be adjusted when the Pit Boss pellet grill is in the Smoke setting.

The P-setting button is recessed on the Pit Boss control panel. You can’t press it like a regular button. It is designed like this so you don’t accidentally change the settings while using the smoker.

To adjust the P-setting, use a toothpick or a similar long, thin-tipped tool. Poke it gently – it doesn’t require that much pressure to toggle the switch.

Once you push the button, the P-setting will be displayed on the LCD screen, and the screen will begin to flash. You can then select your desired P-setting.

After P7, the cycle will go back to P0.

With some Pit Boss pellet grills, you can adjust the P-setting with a temperature dial preset.

When Should You Use the P-Setting?

I will typically use this setting whenever there is a drop or rise in temperature while I am smoking. I tinker with the P-setting frequently in the dead of winter or summer.

When the weather is very cold, I will use a lower setting. This causes the pellets to burn at a higher temperature. When it is really hot or humid out, I will use a higher setting. I use the P-setting as a way of approximating what normal cooking times would be if the weather weren’t a factor.

I use the P-setting as a way of regulating temperatures because of weather extremes. It’s a game-changer when it’s windy, too. I’ve had long cooks on my charcoal grill that gave me fits because gusts of wind kept spiking my cooker temperatures. When you adjust your P-settings, you can adapt to whatever the weather throws at you.

I would advise you to start on the default setting. It will take some tinkering to figure out the perfect setting for you. It takes a few smoking sessions on a new grill to get a feel for how she cooks. Run that Pit Boss through its paces before tinkering with the P-settings.

Do All Pit Boss Grills Have P-settings?

No, not every Pit Boss pellet grill has the P-setting options. While the Pit Boss P-setting may be synonymous with the brand, some of the newer models are doing away with this function. Look into the model of the Pit Boss pellet grill you’re thinking about purchasing to learn if it has the P-setting.

Pit Boss also manufactures griddles, charcoal grills, and other non-pellet grills. These do not have a P-setting.

The easiest way to know if the P-setting is on your grill is to take a look at the control panel and dial. You should see a ‘P’ on it, with a button below it. It’s generally to the right of the power button. If you don’t see a ‘P’, then that model doesn’t have P-settings.

Top Tips for Using the P-Setting

Here are some tips for using this feature properly on your pellet grill so that you can improve temperature control:

Burgers on the Barbecue Grill

Examine the Burn Pot

This is something that you should do regardless of whether or not you are using the P-setting. With time, burn pots can develop holes or similar types of damage. This is more likely to happen if the smoker isn’t maintained well. Keep your grill covered when it is cooled and not in use to protect your investment.

If your burn pot has holes, they’re letting heat escape. You will likely notice temperature swings if there are holes in your burn pot. Check the burn pot ahead of time. If there is any damage, replace it.

Track the Internal Temperature of Meat

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – stop using sight or time to tell you if your meat is done. These aren’t accurate measurements. Adjusting your P-settings will impact your meats internal temp – you need to track it.

The best way to know for sure if your meat is cooked all the way through is to use a meat probe. This is also known as a meat or food thermometer. Stick it into the thickest part of the meat, making sure to avoid any bone. Then, read the internal temperature to know if your food is done or not.

There are “leave-in” thermometers that allow you to monitor the temperature of what you’re cooking during the entire cook. The temperature is sent to your phone via Bluetooth or to a display panel that’s connected to a wired thermometer. 

There are also “instant-read” thermometers, which require a little more work on your end. You’ll need to probe the meat periodically to monitor your progress.

Either type of thermometer will work. I’d urge you to buy a nice one – after your grill or smoker, it’s the most important tool you own as a backyard chef.

Use High-Quality Pellets

I understand the reluctance to splurge on wood pellets that are going to be burned to ash anyway. Spending money on pellets is exactly like lighting money on fire, right? 

While I understand the argument, I’d encourage you to use good-quality pellets. They are more likely to burn more evenly, allowing for better control.

They also produce better smoke. Better smoke makes better food. If you want your food to smell and taste as good as you can – buy some decent pellets.

I’m not saying you have to choose the most expensive brand out there. There are plenty of mid-priced pellets that produce great smoke and will get the job done. Try these pellets from Oklahoma Joe’s. I’ve had a lot of success with them, and they’re cheaper than some other options.

Final Thoughts

There you have it – everything you need to know about the Pit Boss P-setting. You’ve got the Pit Boss grill of your dreams. Now, it’s time to make use of the smoke setting and perfect your BBQ game. Here’s the key point to remember: low P-settings mean more heat and less smoke. Higher P-settings mean less heat and more smoke.

It can take a minute to get the hang of this feature, but once you get it dialed in, you are sure to be hooked!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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