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Pellet Grill Not Making Enough Smoke? 5 Proven Solutions

Not getting enough smoke from your pellet grill?  Try these 5 easy solutions to get back to smoking delicious food in no time.

a pellet grill not producing enough smoke

How a Pellet Grill Makes Smoke

Before you can understand all the reasons you might not be getting enough smoke out of your pellet grill, you should understand the basics of how a pellet grill works, and HOW it makes smoke.

Pellet grills, such as Traegers or ZGrills brands, work by conveniently feeding wood pellets that you have bought to a firepot via an auger mechanism.

wood pellets in a traeger pellet grill about to make smoke

This auger moves automatically to control the flow of pellets based on temperature you set when you start the pellet grill.

Much like a wood stove or oven, the smoke is a by product of the pellets being burned in the fire pot, which also creates your heat.

So if you aren’t getting enough smoke, the problem usually lies with the pellets themselves, and/or how they are being burned with regards to temperature and airflow.

 

What Kind of Smoke Pellet Grills Make

Start-up “White Smoke”

In addition, not all smoke created by a pellet grill is equal.

When you first start up a pellet grill it is normal to get lots and lots of thick white smoke as the fire rods goes through the process of heating up.

Until the firerod is hot enough, it is only going to smolder the pellets rather than burn them cleanly, hence the thick, copious amounts of white smoke created.

white start up smoke in a pellet grill

 

Now, some people like to throw cold meat on during the startup time to help add extra smokey flavor and go after that coveted smoke ring on their meat.

Another hack is to cold smoke cheese with this smoke before the grill has a chance to heat up and melt the cheese.

But understand, you would not want to smoke with this type of smoke the whole time.

Your meat would taste like an ashtray after about an hour of being exposed to this thick “dirty” white smoke.

A little goes a long way.

 

Cooking “Blue Smoke”

Once the firerod has gotten hot enough, it will burn the pellets more “cleanly” and the smoke produced will be thinner, bluer, and more wispy.

This is the prized “blue smoke” coveted by BBQ elites and competition smokers the world over.

This is where the magic the happens and is the type of smoke you want when you are cooking a large cut of meat for hours upon hours while enjoying a drink from the cooler under your hardtop gazebo.

thin wispy blue smoke when cooking on a pellet grill

However, this smoke can be hard to see at times, much harder to see than the thick startup white smoke.

Many beginner smokers mistake this for their pellet grill not producing enough smoke.  But understand, this is the type of smoke you WANT when cooking your meat.

 

Reasons a Pellet Grill May Not Produce Enough Smoke

Now that we understand how a pellet grill works, how it makes smoke, and also what kind of smoke we are looking for, let’s look at some reasons you may still not be getting the amount of smoke you want.

 

Your Temperature is Too High

Pellet grills actually produce more smoke at lower “low and slow” temperatures than they do when cooking at higher “hot and fast” temperatures

This is just a fact of thermodynamics and how wood burns.

turning up the fire on a pellet grill

Think about how when you are starting a campfire it smolders and smokes like crazy until the fire gets hot enough to burn the logs cleanly.

This isn’t to say you SHOULD turn the temperature down to get more smoke, it all depends what you are cooking.

A large leg of lamb is going to be smoked low and slow at maybe 225°F while a ribeye steak is going to be seared hot and fast at the highest possible temperature of at least 450°F or higher.

Just don’t expect the grill to produce as much smoke when cooking the steak. The pellets are being burned clean and FAST and not producing much smoke rather than smoldering like they do at lower temperatures.

 

Your Pellets are Old, Cheap, or Have Absorbed Moisture

Pellets for pellet grills work best when they are dry and relatively fresh.  Pellets don’t last very long if stored outdoors, especially in the hopper of your grill.

They absorb moisture and don’t burn as well, and if they absorb enough can even rot and mold.

Always store your pellets indoors in a sealed 5 gallon bucket to keep them fresh and dry.

And empty the unused pellets from your grill and hopper after you are done cooking.

Sometimes, it just comes down to using poor quality pellets.  After all, the smoke comes from the pellets right?

a bucket full of pellets

Many off brand and cheap pellets are full of more fillers than wood, which will not create as high quality smoke.  Check the % wood on the bag of pellets you are buying.

We are particular fans of Bear Mountain Premium All-Natural Hardwood Pellets

Always make sure to buy high quality pellets that are compatible with your pellet grill .

 

Your Auger is Jammed

Sometimes the auger can get jammed if there are wet pellets, the wrong sized pellets, or just too many pellets crammed in there.

If the pellets can’t get to the firerod, they can’t burn and make smoke.  On some models, this is accompanied with an error that may come up in the middle of the cook.

Take a minute to remove the heat shield and see whether the pellets have all piled up and clogged around the auger or firerod.

 

Your Firepot is Dirty

If your fire pot is dirty and full of ash, it won’t ignite the pellets as well either. This can also cause your pellets to pile up inside the fire pot around the firerod and not ignite properly.

You will likely also get an error if this happens.

Make sure to clean out the ash in the firept from the last cook before loading your hopper and starting up your pellet grill.

 

Poor Ventilation

Pellets need oxygen to ignite, burn, smolder, and produce smoke.  If for any reason you are not getting enough airflow to the firepot, you either wont get any smoke or will only get thick dirty white smoke.

a vent on a pellet grill

 

A Fan is Not Working

Check that your fans are operating properly as these help deliver oxygen to the pellets and ignite them.

A broken fan can limit how much airflow you get and the amount and quality of your smoke.

 

Clogged Vents

Check any vents on your pellet grill that they are opened and not clogged either as this will limit airflow and smoke production as well.

 

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