Pellet grills are both simple and complex kinds of grills. They’re highly efficient when it comes to smoking, requiring wood pellets as a source of fuel and creating smoke to flavour the meat and veggies you cook on them.
However, these grills can do more than just smoke – they allow barbecue enthusiasts to barbecue, roast, and even bake with just a single grill. As a result, they are incredibly versatile and can be great for people just getting into barbecuing for the first time.
Only, in some situations, you might find that your pellet grill isn’t creating the smoke you need to start barbecuing. For beginners, this often can be a big problem since many aren’t aware of a specific kind of smoke that’s best to do smoking and grilling with. However, in some cases, even more, experienced pellet grill users are faced with their grills not creating the perfect smoke, no matter what they do.
To help you narrow down what might be the main cause of why your pellet grill isn’t smoking and what the right type of smoke is, we’ve written this article as a guide. You can also click here if you’re interested in trying out a new type of wood pellets or just want to get a pellet grill.
How pellet grills create the smoke
In order to create the smoke you need to continue your cooking processes, understanding what your fuel source is and how your pellet grill uses them can greatly help solve what is causing the lack of smoke.
Often, your pellet grill uses little wooden pellets that are made from different types of hardwoods or fruitwoods. In its most basic form and commercial price on the market, though, these wood pellets are just repurposed compressed sawdust held together with a naturally occurring “lignin” from the wood. Then, varying pounds worth of these pellets are packaged to be used for smoking and grilling.
Pellet grills themselves have a hopper in which you pour in your choice of pellets. When turned on, the pellets are moved to the grill’s firepot where they’re burned to cook the food. In many cases where wood’s used as a fuel source, smoke is normally created in addition to the fire, creating the smoky flavours. The delicious maple or apple smoke flavours you can get in foods typically comes from burning and smoking with those specific wood chips or pellets.
The types of smoke
One of the main types of smoke you get is when you first start up your pellet grill and the pellets start burning. Typically referred to as “white smoke”, this is the thick billowing grayish smoke you tend to get when your pellet grill’s fire rods haven’t properly heated up completely. While you can smoke and grill a little with this kind of smoke, your food would eventually taste like ash after about an hour of smoking with it.
The ideal kind of smoke that’s best for starting to use your pellet grill is “blue smoke”. At this point, your pellet grill’s fire rods had heated up enough and are now burning the pellets more properly than when the smoke was white. As a result, the smoke should look thinner and wispy, with a faint, almost blueish color to it when light hits it. This is the perfect time to start your barbecuing and grilling.
Reasons for why your pellet grill isn’t smoking properly
The grill’s auger may be jammed
If you aren’t getting smoke at all out of your pellet grill, there’s a chance that the main cause is your auger. The auger is the part of the grill that brings the pellets to the firepot and the rods inside it to be burned. If the pellets themselves are wet or too large, the auger can get jammed, preventing any pellets from burning. In some cases, you might also find that, while the pellets are dry and the right size, there’s too many pellets jamming the auger instead.
To fix it, remove the pellet grill’s heat shield and take a look at whether or not the pellets have in fact caused a blockage. You will likely need to turn it off properly before emptying out the pellets to retry the process later.
Your grill’s set temperature is too high
One possible reason that you aren’t getting smoke is that your pellet grill is set to too high of a temperature to get smoke. With how wood works, getting the wood pellets to create the smoke you want properly needs a lower temperature, thus the saying of low and slow. If you want to smoke a large piece or brisket or lamb, you’ll need to drop the temperature to about 225 degrees Fahrenheit to really get the process going.
There isn’t enough ventilation
In some situations, the reason you’re not getting smoke out of your pellet grill is a lack of good ventilation. To burn your pellets properly, you need to ensure that a proper amount of oxygen gets into the firepot. Much like any fire, without the oxygen the pellets just create white smoke or don’t smoke at all. Check that your pellet grill’s fan is working as it should or that your vents are open and unclogged. Either of these can be an issue and can lead to poor ventilation to the firepot.
The grill’s firepot is dirty
A far more simple cause that you’re not getting smoke is that your grill’s firepot is dirty. Much like your pellet grill’s grate needs regular cleaning, so does your grill’s firepot. If it’s filled with too much ash from previously burned pellets, the new ones brought in won’t ignite the same way as it did when you first started, giving you little to no smoke. Luckily, your grill will likely give you an error when the firepot is dirty, but if it doesn’t, give it a quick check and clean.
These are just some of the main reasons that you’re not getting any smoke even though you’ve turned the pellet grill on properly. If you go through pellets often while also storing them properly, the cause can be fixed quite easily and quickly. Once you’ve checked for any of these reasons and found out what caused it, ensure that your pellet grill gets cleaned regularly – both firepot and grates – and that you don’t stuff your hopper with pellets.