The Savannah Stoker is a BBQ temperature controller that has proved difficult to get hold of, but is widely revered among pellet heads.
In this review well take a look at what sets this apart from the competition, and why it should be the next controller for your pellet smoker or grill.
Savannah have claimed that the Stoker is one of the most advanced PID (we’ll come on to what that means shortly) pellet grill temperature controllers out there today.
Savannah Stoker controller installed on Pit Boss offset smoker firebox. Photo: Reddit
It’s largely defined as a replacement part for controllers on Traeger wood pellet grills (except the Traeger PTG), but can actually be used with pellet grills from a range of different brands.
This includes Camp Chef, Pit Boss, and more. However note that you will probably need an adapter add-on to make them fully compatible.
The newest version includes the standard controller, but also has a grill temperature sensor and meat probe, allowing the unit to have a better sense of heat across the grill’s surface as well as the internal temperature of your meat.
This level of heat monitoring helps to give the Stoker better control over cooking levels, while also a quicker reaction time to temperature swings or flareups.
Savannah Stoker PID controller
One of the key factors in the Stoker’s excellent performance is its use of PID controller.
Excuse the science here while I (briefly, don’t worry) explain what this is.
A proportional–integral–derivative (PID) unit acts through a loop feedback mechanism to not just set temperatures, but also monitor and react to them.
Because of this, PID units tend to be the most accurate and stable types of temperature control.
Good examples of other types of PID units are cruise controls systems in cars and even a lot of home ovens.
In the case of PID temperature controllers, the unit works with the input of a temperature sensor and compares that against the preset target temperature that you have dialled in. It will then use this information to react and tweak the temperature in your grill accordingly.
Chart showing Savannah Stoker reaction time between temperature settings. Photo: Smoking Meat Forums
How to use the Savannah Stoker
Despite all the science above, what really counts is easy of use. Thankfully, the Stoker is easy to use for newbies and seasoned grillers alike.
Its intuitive control dashboard displays your target temperature and actual temperature in line, while a simple push of its Display 2 button shows the rate at which it auger runs.
If the temperature in the smoker or grill chamber drops, the auger will automatically increase its run rate to help make up for the drop in heat.
It’s pretty much that simple.
If you have a Traegar pellet grill then you should be able to plug in and get going in just a few minutes once you have hooked it up and calibrated the thermometer and meat probes.
What can add a bit of time is if you need to replace the temperature sensor on the device to make it compatible with your grill.
The Savannah allows you two increment types when in use. It has a 1°F setting range for grilling, which will allow you to tightly control grilling temperatures between 150°F and 500°F.
For BBQ smoking, the temperature increments lie at 5-10°F when cooking at above 250°F, and then 10-15°F increments when smoking at 225°F or below.
For me personally, this is a great balance as it allows tight control without forcing you to go through the tedium of only being able to add one degree at a fahrenheit at a time if you need to raise or lower temperatures quickly.
The Savannah can actually be adapted to be used with other pellet grill and smoker brands too, including:
The Savannah Stoker is compatible with pellet grills from:
- Smokin Brothers
- Smoke Daddy
- Pit Boss
- Camp Chef
- Royal Wood
- Blaz’n Grill Works
Note: Not all models will be compatible. Always check with the manufacturer before purchase.
In almost all cases however it will require an adapter, so make sure that your grill can be adapted to incorporate the Savannah before you buy.
One of the best things about temperature controllers is that they helps reduce the impact of temperature swings quickly and without fuss.
Where a lot of pellet grills or smokers can be vulnerable to the impact of wind or rain, or flare-ups from pellet burning, temperature controllers help mitigate the impact of these by acting quickly to balance temperatures.
A lot of grill and pit masters understandably prefer to control everything themselves, but even the most experienced and seasoned experts can struggle to rebalance temperatures after a surge of wind, or high flame from their pellets.
Because even and consistent temperature is absolutely integral to the success of your grill, minimizing temperature swings is vital.
Small temperature swings are a sign of a good grill user, but also a high quality grill and strong temperature controller.
The Savannah Stoker is particularly strong here. The typical swing we see when grilling is about 5 degrees, sometime 10, and when smoking it’s nearer 15 degrees. This is really good compared to a lot of other temperature controllers, where we often see ranges of up to 30°F, sometimes even as high as 50°F.
Cold smoking with the Savannah Stoker
While I would say that low temperature swings is perhaps the Stoker’s best asset, I also love its capacity for cold smoking.
I feel like not enough smoker users make enough of cold smoking, but this is also largely due to the fact that not a lot of smokers come with the functionality to do it.
The Stoker has an inbuilt fan to help you get off the ground with cold smoking.
Savannah offer a 6-inch tube smoker to help accommodate cold smoking, but you will have to add that to your order for a small extra cost. You’ll also need a cold smoke generator.
One of the controllers best features is its relighting mechanism. This functions by relighting your pellets should the smoking temperature fall significantly below your target cooking heat level.
Some types of grilling and smoking require a more nuanced approach, whereby the grilling temperatures need to change in stages.
For example, reverse searing requires smoking meat for several hours, before then finishing it with a high temperature sear or grill.
The Stoker has a built-in 3-phrase program that allows users to set up their grill to perform this type of cooking independently.
The three phases are defined as smoke, hold, and cook. You can define the duration of each of these, and the controller will allow your grill to pass seamlessly from one to the other without any interference from you.