It is frustrating that when you are in the middle of cooking and realize grill temperature has dropped or the pellet grill/smoker shuts down or you get low-level pellet notifications.
One of the reasons for this issue is pellet tunneling in the pellet grill hopper. This article will outline the basics of tunneling/funneling and some good tips to prevent tunneling issues in pellet grill hoppers.
What is Pellet Tunneling in Hopper
When the hopper has fed all the pellets in the center of the grill, but there are still lots of pellets sticking to the side of the hopper it is called ‘tunneling’. As pellets feed into the augur, they don’t fill in the space above them and form a hole or tunnel in the hopper. This can cause no pellets to make their way into the augur and with no pellets coming in, the fire goes out.
Tunneling is a common problem in pellet grill/smokers. The hopper can cause this problem by malfunctioning or by being too full.
New grills have solved this issue, but it could still happen. Sometimes hopper design can be the culprit. If the slopes at the bottom of the hopper are too shallow, this can interrupt the movement of pellets.
If your pellet grill run out of pellets while cooking here is what you need to do.
Tips to Solve Pellet Tunneling in Hopper
Hopper bridging is a common issue in pellet grills caused by the wood pellets clumping together and forming a bridge or blockage in the hopper.
This can prevent the pellets from being fed into the auger, resulting in inconsistent temperatures and poor cooking results.
Here are some ways to prevent hopper bridging:
1) One possible reason for pellet grill tunneling is that your pellets are clumping together. If your pellets get stuck together or tunnel around, try stirring them with a long spoon or spatula to break up clumps and keep your hand away from the bottom of the hopper.
I do make it a habit to open the hopper a couple of times during a long cook and just even out the pellets as they descend in the hopper. It will prevent tunneling.
2) If you notice excessive pellet grill tunneling, the problem might be due to a defect on the inside of the hopper. If you need to replace any damaged parts, be sure to do so carefully.
3) Vacuum the barrel and then use an air compressor to blow out the Auger tube. Saw dust builds up on the tube and doesn’t allow the wood to get through (the sawdust doesn’t move with the Auger) blow it all out really well and then re-vacuum.
Clean the firepot and hopper before each cook.
4) Always sift the pellet first before adding them to the hopper. This stops any dust from getting in and compressing which could cause problems with feeding the augur and cause tunneling.
Yes, it might seem like a little bit more of a hassle than just dropping the pellets in the hopper but the benefits of having fewer issues are worth it.
5) Always check the quality of wood pellets and use high-quality 100% wood pellets.
6) Keep the pellet fresh and dry. Damp pellets will occasionally turn into clumps and create tunneling or funneling in the hopper.
7) Another important tip to prevent pellet grill tunneling is to apply a silicon lubricant to the inside of the hopper wall. This will help to prevent pellet bridging and hulling issues.
How do you keep pellets from bridging or hulling?
“Hopper Bridging” or “hulling,” is a common issue faced by pellet grills. Bridging is when pellets stack up on top of one another, disrupting the flow of material through the auger. This can result in production stoppages and even fires.
Pellets may bridge or hull when they are not properly sized.
There are a few steps to avoid bridging, including adding lubricants to the pellets. Lubricants can be either natural or synthetic, with the latter being more effective.
Wrap Up: Pellet Tunneling In Hopper
Both pellet tunneling and bridging are synonymous and lead to the inconsistent supply of pellets coming from the hopper.
It is vital to shield your pellets from moisture and to keep an eye on the burn pot for any ash that accumulates. Hope this article has helped you solve pellet tunneling in hopper.
I am a writer, editor, and publisher of Grillcuisines.com – an online blog dedicated to sharing grilling tips, accessories, and recipes to encourage more people to get outside and grill.
I’m off to find out the different types of grill foods, their seasons, and how to conduct outdoor cooking properly. I’ll also show you some of my grill-worthy cooking tools & accessories!