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Pellet Smoker Not Enough Smoke, Is it Normal?

It can be frustrating every time I find my pellet smoker is not producing enough smoke. The first time it happened, I thought I needed to replace it. However, after some digging, I found out why there’s not enough smoke on my pellet smoker.

One of the reasons a pellet smoker doesn’t make enough smoke is due to temperature. Pellet smokers work differently from traditional grills where they cook in high temperatures. Factually, pellet smokers produce less smoke when the temperature is higher. It is normal for pellet smokers to produce less smoke than traditional grills though.

While high temperature is a common culprit, there are still other reasons why it may not produce enough smoke. 

How To Find Out If Your Pellet Grill Is Producing Enough Smoke

Those who recently switched from traditional grill to pellet grill may find that their pellet smoker is not producing much smoke. It is somewhat normal if you’re comparing smoke production with a traditional grill, while it can be bothersome that there is less smoke coming from the pellet grill.

However, you also shouldn’t worry if the pellet smoker produces a great deal of thick smoke during start-up. This is normal since the fire rod is still heating up and begins to burn the pellets. 

Some pitmasters prefer to put their cold meat at this stage to create a beautiful smoke ring. However, it is not the perfect kind of smoke to cook meat since it can be bitter and too thick. If you want to get the best outcome, place the meat when the initial stage of smoke has cleared up.

You’ll know your pellet grill is producing enough smoke when you see the feathery blue smoke. While it may be hard to see it sometimes, this is the ideal type of smoke you want to see from your pellet grill and not the rich white smoke.

The blue thin smoke gives the meat the right smoky flavour and not the bitter taste that you’ll normally get from white smoke.

Now, there might be a problem with the pellet grill if you notice stale smoke and this is typically caused by poor ventilation.

When the grill’s fan is not working properly, the air will not flow as it’s supposed to and will be stuck inside. It is easy to find out if you have stale smoke. You will notice that there is less smoke coming from the grill than usual.

Another way to identify if you have stale smoke is the appearance of the meat. If it turned black, you can be sure that it was cooked in stale smoke. It can also ruin the taste of the smoked meat with its bitter taste.

It is common for fans to get dirty after several uses of the pellet grill which is why you need to clean it from time to time so that any malfunction can be avoided. It’s not necessary to clean the fan after each use though.

I usually clean my pellet grill after around 20 hours of usage. If the reason why your grill is not producing enough smoke, it might be time to do a deep clean.

Why Pellet Smoker Doesn’t Have Not Enough Smoke

Low-Quality Pellets

The quality of your pellets can affect the smoke production of your pellet smoker. Using a low-quality pellet may prevent the smoker from produce enough smoke. Aside from that, poor quality pellets may also affect the taste of your food. Most cheap and low-quality pellets have wood fillers.

Sometimes the flavour or type of wood used can also affect the amount of smoke produced. For instance, I have noticed that hickory wood pellets create more smoke than apple wood.

There is nothing wrong with using Applewood pellets; I actually love them with my steaks. However, if you want to create more smoke, you can always mix apple with oak or hickory.

Damp pellets will also not produce the right amount of smoke. Pellets may trap moisture if not stored properly or have been left in the hopper for a long time. To avoid getting moist pellets, never leave them in the hopper for too long. Store them properly so they won’t get wet.

Filthy Firepot

After several hours of cooking in the pellet smoker, it can get dirty especially if you don’t clean it regularly. A dirty firepot may affect the amount of smoke produced and it will also prevent the pellets from igniting.

The firepot can accumulate dirt and ash after several uses and pellets may also pile up throughout the fire rod, preventing it from igniting correctly. 

Some may prompt an error message if the firepot is already filled with ash and dirt, depending on the brand of your pellet smoker. It is recommended to empty the firepot after each cook or as much as possible, do this before loading the hopper with pellets and starting up the grill.

Jammed Auger

Your pellet grill will also not produce smoke if the auger is jammed. This usually happens when you use the wrong size of pellets or if they are wet. If the hopper is releasing too many pellets, they may cram inside and jam the auger as well.

In the case of the auger getting jammed, the pellets will not be able to reach the fire rod. Should there be no pellets in the fire rod, there is nothing to burn. Thus, it will not produce smoke at all. You can check if the auger is jammed by removing the heat shield and see if there is a pile-up of pellets or they are clogging the auger.

How To Get More Smoke From Your Pellet Smoker

1. Change How You Grill

When it comes to grilling, pitmasters have their own styles. Some may still practice the old technique of grilling while others may take advantage of technology to make their life easier. Whatever your grilling technique is, it should also be compatible with the type of grill you are using. 

For instance, to get more smoke from the pellet grill, the temperature should be lower instead of grilling at high temperatures. The ideal temperature when grilling with a pellet smoker is 250°F (120°C) or lower, but this will still depend on the type of meat and its thickness. Starting your grill at this temperature will give your meat a better smoky flavour.

2. Clean Your Pellet Smoker Regularly 

To prevent the pellet smoker from malfunctioning, it is recommended to give it regular maintenance. Make it a habit to clean the smoker after each use. It doesn’t have to be a thorough cleaning each time.

Wiping the grease, scrubbing the grill grates and emptying the firepot after each use is enough. Making this a habit will reduce the time you need when it’s time for a deep clean. 

At thrice a month, clean the burn pot and the drip tray. The smokestack and fan should be cleaned at least once or twice a month to make sure the air flows properly.

Always check the auger for any jams and make sure the hopper is always dry before adding new pellets. Cleaning your pellet smoker regularly will not only improve the smoke production but can also prevent your meat from tasting stale and bitter.

3. Experiment With Wood Pellets

Not all wood pellets are created equal. Some woods just don’t produce as much smoke as other types of wood. As mentioned earlier, applewood produces less smoke than other types. Using the right pellets can also improve smoke production. 

Avoid using industrial pellets for your pellet grill as most of these have fillers. Aside from that, food-grade pellets are 100% natural and are available in different varieties and flavours.

Opt for high-quality pellets if you want to get the right amount of smoke. You can also experiment and combine different flavours of wood pellets. This will not only improve the amount of smoke but you can also come up with your custom flavour. Lastly, ensure that your wood pellets are not wet when you use them.

Related Questions

How do I get my pellet to smoke more?

In order to get your pellet smoker to smoke more, you should lower the temperature under 250 degrees and increase your time on the grill. The more time the meat stays in the grill, the smokier it will get.

If you are concerned that the meat will dry out, you can put water in the pan to keep it moist. Another tip is to experiment with different types of pellets.

Higher quality pellets can produce the right smoke you are looking for. You can also try a smoker tube. Smoker tubes can increase the smoke without additional heat so you can grill at your desired temperature.

How much smoke should my pellet smoker produce?

If you want to attain good cooking results, then your pellet smoker should produce a small amount of smoke. Having too much smoke will make your meat taste bitter.

A pellet smoker typically uses about 8 ounces of pellets per hour on the smoke setting and 40 ounces on high.

David Frangos
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