Pellet Emergency: Smoker Ran Out Of Pellets While Cooking [7 Reasons]

It happens to the best of us; you’re in the middle of cooking and realize the temperature has dipped or the smoker shuts down and you’re out of pellets.

When the LEr error code message flashes on your smoker/pellet grill’s digital control panel and your cooking is being cut short by a cold grill, it can be frustrating. If you get this message it means that your grill dipped below 125 degrees for more than 10 minutes.

Smoker Ran Out Of Pellets While Cooking

In this, we’ll cover:

What to do when a smoker ran out of pellets while cooking

How to restart a smoker/pellet grill when you ran out of pellets mid smoke.

And much more!

What Happens If You Run Out of Pellets While Cooking

Here are a few things that can happen if your pellet grill runs out of pellets while cooking:

  • Temperature will drop rapidly. Without fuel, the grill cannot maintain the desired cooking temperature. This can cause food to become unsafe if it’s not fully cooked yet.
  • Food may not finish cooking through. Meats and other foods need to reach a minimum internal temperature to safely kill pathogens. An early temp drop may not allow this.
  • Smoke production will stop. Without burning pellets, no new smoke will be generated to flavor foods. Anything not fully smoked could taste bland.
  • Grease fires may occur. As the food temperature drops and grease starts to pool without smoke or radiant heat, there’s a fire risk if it ignites.
  • Grill components can overheat without airflow. The lack of convection airflow from the firepot when out of pellets can cause motors, wiring and other components to reach unsafe temps.
  • Cook may need to be salvaged on the stovetop or oven. Partially cooked food may need to quickly be moved indoors to avoid safety issues from the temp change and lack of smoke/heat.
  • Potential for meat/food spoilage. Improperly cooked meats left at unsafe temps for too long pose a risk of bacteria growth.

Having extra pellets on hand helps prevent premature endings to long cooks from running out of fuel.

What To Do When A Smoker Ran Out of Pellets While Cooking

When a pellet grill/ smoker ran out of pellet or fuel while cooking first, check the temperature of your grill. If the grill is still set to the same temperature, you can refill the hopper without any problems.

However, if the pellet grill was turned off and there were no more pellets in the hopper. Remove food first and place it in the oven. Before you fill the hopper with pellets, it’s best to vacuum out the firepot. Now Fill the auger with enough pellets to fill the holes in the firepot, then wait for some of them to fall into the firepot. You can put the grill back together now, and be sure to follow the normal starting sequence to get your pellet grill fired up.

Can You Add Pellets While Smoking?

Many people wonder whether they can add pellets while smoking, and the answer is yes! In fact, adding pellets during a cook is a common practice to maintain a consistent temperature and extend the cooking time.

You can add more pellets to your pellet grill even while it’s in use, as long as the hopper and auger aren’t completely empty.

If you can still see a few pellets at the bottom of the hopper, or if the temperature is holding steady, you’re good to go. But if you wait too long and the grill starts to shut down, don’t worry.

You can still add pellets and restart the grill using the below-mentioned steps.

7 Reasons Why Smoker/Pellet Grill Ran Out Of Pellet

traeger ran out of pellets how to restart

A smoker or pellet grill running out of pellets can be attributed to several reasons, disrupting your cooking session and leaving you in a lurch. Here’s a rundown of why this might happen:

  1. Hopper is full of pellets but when you open the hopper and see a funnel shape has formed in the middle.
  2. Or Oops, you seem to have run out of pellets mid smoke.

1. Hopper Issues: Pellet Grill Turns Off But Has Pellets

PellPellets are Tunneling/Funneling in Hopper

If your pellet grill is turned off but has pellets in the hopper, tunneling is the reason. Tunneling is a fairly common problem with pellet grills. Tunneling happens when the pellets in the hopper form a funnel shape while they’re being fed into your pellet grill hopper.

The grill funnels all the pellets towards the center, but then a lot of them get stuck on the sides.

More and more grills are adopting newer, more reliable designs that help to reduce hopper tunneling/funneling issues. But even so, it still happens occasionally.

Pellet Clumping

When pellets stick together, they might clog the feeding mechanism, causing interruptions in the pellet flow.

Hopper Blockages

Sawdust or debris accumulation within the hopper can disrupt the flow of pellets.

Tips to Resolve Pellet Tunneling/Funneling Issues in the Hopper

If you find that pellets are escaping out of the side of the pot, try this.

1- One common cause for this is that your pellets are clumping together. If the pellets are sticking to one another or tunneling occasionally, you can stir them around in the hopper with a long spoon or spatula, being careful to keep your hand away from the bottom of the hopper.

2- If you notice excessive tunneling, it might be due to damage from the inside of the hopper. This will make more material fall into the chute and may explain the excessive tunneling.

If you need to replace damaged parts, do so carefully.

3- Clean the hopper and check for blockages! If the hopper is full of sawdust or any other form of debris, this can increase the frequency of tunneling.

Related >> 5 Tips To Solve Pellet Tunneling In Hopper

2. Pellet Grill/Smoker Running Out of Pellets Mid Cook

While tunneling may only give a false low pellet level notification. What to do when you actually run out of fuel in the middle of a cook.

The grill may be out of pellets, but that doesn’t mean that you have to give up on your cooking! This is what you should do when the hopper runs out of pellets.

First, check the temperature of the pellet grill.

  1. If your grill is maintaining the same temperature, just refill the hopper with more wood pellets. If there’s too much air or empty space or pockets within the auger, it can cause a small but noticeable drop in temperature for the next few minutes. Your grill should be back to a set temperature momentarily.
  1. If your grill’s temperature is dropping or it has turned itself off, It sounds like you’re out of pellets and both the hopper and auger are empty. In this situation, you have to restart a pellet grill.

3. Extended Cooking Times

Longer cooking sessions, especially when grilling or smoking large quantities of meat, naturally consume more pellets. Plan accordingly and refill the hopper as needed to maintain a consistent heat source.

4. Higher than Normal Cooking Temperature

Operating the smoker or pellet grill at higher temperatures increases pellet consumption. If you’re cooking at a high temperature for an extended period, be prepared to replenish the pellets more frequently.

5- Pellet Quality

The quality and type of pellets can also influence consumption rates. Higher-quality pellets tend to burn more efficiently, while certain types may be designed for lower temperatures and slower cooking. Inferior or varying sized pellets may not burn as efficiently, impacting fuel usage.

If you use old or wet pellets, the stale pellets absorb moisture over time, preventing clean combustion.

6. Windy Conditions

Weather conditions can also affect pellet consumption. Colder temperatures or windy environments may cause the grill to burn through pellets faster. Monitor the pellet level closely in such conditions.

7. Grease or Ash Buildup

Dirty burn pot or firebox reduces air flow and causes inefficient burning of pellets.

Some other reasons for pellet grill ran out of pellets while cooking might be grill not assembled properly, too much food load – Cooking significantly more food than the grill size is rated for overloads the system, thermostat malfunction, idling at high temperature and frequent opening of lid

What to Do if Your Pellet Grill/Smoker Ran Out of Pellets While Cooking (Step-by-Step Process)

When you run out of pellets while cooking, restarting a pellet grill can be a little more complicated. That’s why I created a step-by-step tutorial to quickly get back to cooking!

1. Remove Your Food from the Grill

Remove the food from the grill and place it in the oven to keep it warm. To prevent the food from drying while you get the smoker working properly again, preheat your oven to the lowest temperature.

Cover the food with aluminum foil, if necessary, and place it in the oven

2. Check the Hopper

You’ll first want to make sure there are no pellets in the hopper, and that no other error codes are preventing it from working properly.

3. Turn Off the Grill and Wait for the Grill to Cool

Turn off the grill If you haven’t already. Pellets are transported from the hopper to the firepot, where they will cook over flames. If the grill is off for a longer period of time, there won’t be any new pellets being fed into the fire.

4. Remove the Grill Grates

It’s important to wait until the grill has cooled down before touching it. Once it’s cooled, remove the grill grates.

5. Pull Out the Drip Tray and Heat the Baffle.

6. Empty the Firepot to Ensure it is Not Full of Pellets

The firepot is a central component of any pellet grill. It needs to have some free space before adding any more fuel. If the firepot is full, then it needs to be emptied first, before adding more fuel.

7. Clean the Fire Pot and Inside of the Grill

It’s time to clean up that ash! Take a vacuum and clean the firepot and the inside of the pellet grill. You should really clean your grill more often than you think. It can be tedious, but it’s worth it to give your grill a deep clean once in a while.

8. Load the Hopper With Pellets

Load your favorite pellets into the hopper. Now is an excellent time to change the pellet’s flavor and even switch if you run out of pellets early in the cooking process.

If you don’t have the same flavored pellets, it won’t be an issue.

9. Put the Grill on a High Setting

Turn the grill on high, which is 500°F on the Traeger grill. With the auger rotating, the pellets in the hopper get funneled into the firepot so they can be combusted.

10. Turn Off the Grill after the Auger is Filled with Pellets.

Wait for a few minutes until you see 5-7 pellets in the firepot. Now turn off the grill.

11. Put Everything Back Together in the Grill

Let the grill cool down and put all the internal pieces like the heat baffle, drip tray, and grill grates.

12. To Finish Grilling, Turn the Grill Back on and Resume Your Cook

The pellets will ignite and create smoke as you set the cooking temperature.

If your pellet grill gets too hot and starts to rise by more than 50°F above the temperature you set it, wait at least 1-2 minutes to see if it stabilizes and then comes back down.

Too many pellets in the grill can result in pellet grill fires and explosions, so it’s important to know how to prevent this from happening.

If there is a larger buildup of pellets in the firepot, then the fire will start burning hotter & the temperature will rise quickly. Once the temperature in the pellet grill/smoker stabilizes, put your food back on the grates and resume cooking.

We recommend that you wait 10-15 minutes before placing the food back on the grill. This will allow the inside of it to heat up and come to the desired temperature.

For restarting Traeger, Recteq, Campchef, Z grill or any other pellet grill after running out of pellets follow tha same steps.

Tips to Never Run Out of Pellets

Here are a few tips to follow so that you never ran out of pellet while cooking

1- Calculate Pellet Usage in Advance

Before you start cooking, always calculate how many pellets you will need based on the temperature, cook time, and size of the hopper. This will help you to ensure that you have enough pellets on hand and avoid running out mid-cook.

2- Keep a Backup Bag of Pellets

Always keep an extra bag of pellets on hand, even if you think you have enough for your cook. You never know when you might need a little extra fuel to keep your grill going.

3- Shake the Hopper Periodically

To maximize the space in your hopper, use smaller pellets or shake the hopper periodically to help settle the pellets. This will help prevent the pellets from getting stuck and ensure a steady flow of fuel to your grill.

4- Monitor Your Pellet Consumption By Setting An Alarm

One easy way to ensure that you don’t run out of pellets while grilling is to set an alarm that reminds you to check on your pellet level. You can do this by using a timer or alarm app on your phone or grill.

Simply set the alarm for a time interval that makes sense for your cooking needs, such as every hour or every 30 minutes. When the alarm goes off, take a quick look at your pellet hopper to make sure that there is enough fuel to continue cooking.

If the hopper is getting low, you can easily add more pellets before they run out completely. This simple tip can save you from the frustration of running out of pellets in the middle of a cook.

Conclusion: What to do When Smoker Ran Out of Pellets While Cooking

It is important not to let your pellet grill run out of pellets, as this will result in an uneven cook. To avoid this, it is best to have a backup supply on hand check the hopper before cooking, and make sure they are always full during cooking.


What Happens When Traeger ran out of pellets
during a Cook?

When Traeger run out of pellets, they will stop producing smoke. The cooking process is halted as a result. There is no need to worry about running out of pellets during a cook because the Traeger grill will send a notification alerting the user when it’s running low on pellets and needs more.

When this happens, add the next size of fuel pellets to the hopper. Then the pellet smokers will automatically feed pellets when they’re needed. In order to fire up the pellet grill again, please make sure you’ve followed the right steps for starting the pellet grill.

Can you add pellets to the smoker/pellet grill while cooking?

Some people ask whether or not you can add pellets to a pellet grill while cooking. The answer is yes, you can add pellets to the hopper while cooking.

Pellets can be added regardless of whether the grill is on or off. To get rid of air pockets in the hopper, make sure you gently shuffle the pellets with a long spatula before they enter the auger.

If a smoker ran out of fuel overnight is meat still good to eat?

If a smoker ran out of fuel overnight and the meat has not reached a safe internal temperature, then it may not be safe to eat.

The risk of bacterial growth increases when meat is left at temperatures between 40°F and 140°F (the “danger zone”) for an extended period of time.

It depends on how long the food was in the smoker and at what temperature.
It’s important to check the internal temperature of the meat using a meat thermometer to ensure it has reached a safe temperature.

The recommended internal temperature for beef and lamb is 145°F (63°C), while poultry should reach an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C).

If the meat has been in the temperature danger zone (between 40°F/4°C and 140°F/60°C) for more than two hours, it may not be safe to eat and could potentially cause foodborne illness. In this case, it’s best to discard the meat as a precaution.

Related Articles:

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Best Pellet Grill For an Apartment?

Can You Leave A Smoker Unattended?[ 7 Tips] 

Smoker Ran Out Of Fuel Overnight

Do Pellet Smokers Cook Faster? 

Can You Use A Pellet Smoker In The Winter?

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