4 Reasons Why Is Smoke Coming Out Of Pellet Hopper

A pellet grill is an efficient way to cook your food, using wood pellets with a convection-style heating element.

Why Is Smoke Coming Out Of My Pellet hopper
Smoke coming from hopper during shutdown cycle

Pellet grills are generally a safe option, but that doesn’t mean they always work. There are still risks of pellet hopper smoking. You might be wondering “Why Is Smoke Coming Out Of Pellet Hopper?”

There may be many other reasons for smoke coming out of pellet hopper besides a grease fire.

If you see a pellet hopper smoking, in your Traeger, Pit boss, or Camp chef pellet grill then there are usually two likely options: A smoker box may need cleaning or an air vent might be blocked. When there is excess ash in the auger tube and it becomes clogged, this can cause the pellets to catch on fire. Even if your pellet grill is all cleaned and you are using fresh, dry pellets, you may experience smoke coming out of a hopper that sometimes leads to an auger fire.

If your pellet grill is giving off too much smoke, read this guide to find out how to fix your problem.

Related > > How Do Wood Pellet Grills Work

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Difference Between Hopper And Pellet Box

The terms “pellet box” and “hopper” are sometimes used interchangeably in the context of pellet grills, but they typically refer to two different components of the grill’s pellet feeding system. Here’s the difference between the two:

1- Hopper:

The hopper is a larger container located at the back of the pellet grill. It is the primary storage area for the wood pellets that are used as fuel for the grill.

The hopper has a lid that can be opened to add more pellets. Pellets from the hopper are gravity-fed through an auger, which is a screw-like mechanism that transports the pellets to the firepot, where they are ignited and burned to generate heat and smoke for cooking.

2- Pellet Box (or Firebox):

The pellet box, also known as the firebox, is a smaller compartment located just above or adjacent to the firepot.

It is the area where the pellets are burned to create heat and smoke. The firebox typically has an igniter that starts the pellets’ combustion process, and it’s where the temperature is regulated to control cooking.

In summary, the hopper is where the pellets are stored, and they are transported from the hopper to the firebox through the auger.

The firebox, also called the pellet box, is where the pellets are burned to produce the necessary heat and smoke for cooking.

The terms “pellet box” and “hopper” are used differently by different grill manufacturers. So it’s a good idea to refer to your specific pellet grill’s manual for precise terminology and component descriptions.

4 Reasons Why is Smoke Coming Out of Pellet Hopper

You can see excessive smoke or flames flashing out of the hopper of your pellet grill under two circumstances: low airflow and high temperatures

The first condition is when the pellet grill is in operation and the second is when it’s on shutdown after being cooked at a high temperature.

If your grill paint is peeling or flaking or has rust check TRAEGER PAINT ISSUES (3 Tips)


Pellet hopper smoking while cooking is a very common issue. There are 2 reasons for this.

1: Grease Fire

After cooking on your pellet grill for a while, grease, and dust can accumulate. This build-up of excessive grease and dirt usually causes a grease fire.

The most common causes of smoke coming from pellet hopper while cooking are:

1. Fat in meat catches fire and melts while cooking.

2. Meat rubs against metal walls inside of the smoker.

3. Meat rubs against the metal plate on the bottom of the smoker.

4. Too much grease or oil has been used to cook food.

5. Food is too close to the flame.

2: Backdraft and Poor Ventilation

If grease fire is not the culprit, then this is usually an airflow or ventilation issue in the smoker or a lack of air resistance with the pellets.

One of the main reasons for smoke coming out of the pellet hopper is a backdraft caused by poor ventilation.

Typically, the fan isn’t blowing fast enough to generate the needed vacuum pressure to suck out smoke from the hopper, which is then able to escape.

If the exhaust or chimney vents are not functioning correctly, smoke can be pushed back into the hopper area instead of being drawn out of the grill.

This can happen due to wind conditions, obstructions in the exhaust, or improper installation. Insufficient ventilation can disrupt the grill’s airflow and lead to unpredictable smoke behavior.

Here’s a checklist that’ll help you get the air flowing smoothly in your pellet grill.

  • Clean your grill. A buildup of ash can cause airflow problems, which can cause smoke to move back through the auger into the hopper.
  • Make sure you have a level surface for your grill before firing it up.
  • While you are cooking, listen to the fan. You should notice a slight humming or buzzing noise. If you cannot hear anything, turn the grill off and let it cool down for a few minutes. After this time has passed, try to manually spin the fan with your hand to loosen or remove any debris/grease that is clogging up the blades.
  • Make sure that the fan is not installed upside down—especially if you had to install it yourself. An upside-down fan will push air to the bottom, not the top, like a traditional one. Smoke will go to the hopper instead of going to the firepot, where it should be going.
  • You can find out how the airflow is going by taking off the grate, drip tray, and baffle firepot. Turn on the grill and feel by placing your hand near the fire pot to see if any air is coming out.

Can You Leave Pellets In The Hopper Between Cooks?


While the pellet grill is running, pellets are fed from the hopper to the auger tube. When we turn off the pellet grill, the pellets within the auger tube will continue to heat and we notice smoke coming out of the pellet box.

Backburn in Pellet Grill

If you see smoke coming from your hopper during the shutdown mode, this is caused by a process called backburn.

Backburn means that the pellets within the auger are at a high enough temperature to cause smoke production.

Traegers are most prone to backburn, although that is rare, because of the length of their auger tube. Many newer grills use a gravity feed design so you can’t experience a “backburn” when it comes to pellets.

To get rid of the backburn, you need to turn your grill to SMOKE. This will start feeding the pellets within the auger tube toward the firepot.

Turn off the grill when it reaches a temperature of below 225 F.

From here, it’s safe to shut down the grill without any smoke coming out of the hopper and you can avoid any auger fire.

How To Prevent Auger Fire and Backburn

  • If you were cooking at a higher temperature, the pellets are fed from the hopper to the auger tube. Now put the grill into smoke mode for a few minutes before shutting it off. The grill will cool down before turning off.
  • Clean the grill thoroughly. Ash buildup can hinder airflow, which causes smoke to back up through the auger tube, affecting pellet flow and causing them to catch fire. To solve this problem you should remove ash buildup in all areas of concern, as well as cycle the feed hopper and blow all dust out.
  • You may have debris in the chimney vent slots, so clean these really well. It can be tricky to see the chimney without a light, so make sure to use a flashlight.
  • Make sure not to open the pellet hopper lid during shutdown mode.
  • Keep your grill on an even surface.

3. Smoke Billowing Out OF The Hopper

If there is a rolling mass of excessive amount of smoke coming out of the hopper, that resembles a high wave of billows of smoke pouring out of the building. This is due to the active backburn (burning pellets causing excessive smoke).

If you experienced this, we suggest you do the following to help right the situation:

  • Unplug the grill.
  • Keeping both the grill and hopper lid closed will starve the fire of oxygen.
  • If there is no active and visible fire, perform a normal grill shutdown procedure and keep all the lids closed. In shutdown mode, all the grills just stop the pellet feed and run the fan for a set time to burn off the remaining fuel in the firepot. It’s important to clean out after the grill has cooled down. Get rid of any charred pellets from the hopper.

4. Dirty or Damped Pellet

The most likely cause of smoke coming from pellet box is that the pellets are damp or have moisture and sawdust in them.

The ash from a long cook also causes the same problem. Sometimes you have to remove everything mid-cook and clean out the firecup to continue smoking.

To solve the problem, try using dry pellets or storing your pellets in a dry location to prevent moisture buildup.

Additionally, clean out the fire cup before every cook, and prepare for a mid-cook cleaning for anything over 3-4 hours.

“What to do in case of Auger fire or Backburn in Pellet Grill”

I suppose the best solution is to put the fire out. Be sure to keep a fire extinguisher nearby if the auger tube or pellet in the hopper catches on fire. Here is a complete list of fire extinguishers you can get for grill fires.

I’m sure a CO2 extinguisher would be just as good. The most important thing is you don’t want a fire extinguisher that is going to leave residue behind. Here is How to Clean Grill After Using Fire Extinguisher? A Step-by-Step Guide

If you don’t have a fire extinguisher you can follow this How Do You Quickly Put Out A Grill Fire Without A Fire Extinguisher?

Always clean the Pellet grill

By Proper maintenance, cleaning, and using good, dry pellets you can prevent auger fire and other related issues.

Keep your pellet grill clean. Dirty pellets or too much sawdust can also be the reason for pellet box smoking.

Always vacuum the ash, regularly change the foil on the drip pan, don’t let grease build up in the drain area, use good 100% wood pellets, and last but not least use the proper shutdown method of the grill and you should be fine.

Why Is My Pellet Box Smoking

If you’re experiencing smoke coming from your pellet box on a pellet grill, it can be a concerning issue that requires attention.

There are several potential reasons for smoke coming from the pellet box, and addressing the issue promptly is important for the safe and efficient operation of your grill. Here are some possible reasons and solutions:

  1. Poor Pellet Quality: Low-quality or damp pellets can create excessive smoke and even smolder inside the hopper. Ensure you’re using high-quality, dry pellets that are appropriate for your grill.
  2. Excessive Airflow: If there’s too much airflow around the pellet box, it can cause pellets to smolder and produce smoke. Make sure the hopper lid is properly closed to limit airflow.
  3. Pellet Jam or Blockage: A pellet jam or blockage in the hopper or auger system can lead to uneven feeding and combustion, causing smoke. Check for any obstructions and clear them if necessary.
  4. High Hopper Fill Level: Overfilling the hopper can put pressure on the auger, leading to friction and smoke production. Keep the pellet level below the maximum fill line.
  5. Auger Issues: If the auger is not functioning correctly, it can lead to inconsistent pellet feeding and combustion, resulting in smoke. Check the auger for proper operation.
  6. Improper Shutdown: If the grill was not shut down properly during the previous use, there might be smoldering pellets left in the firebox that can produce smoke when you start the grill again.
  7. Temperature Fluctuations: Rapid temperature fluctuations, such as opening the lid frequently, can lead to pellet combustion issues and smoke.
  8. Ignition Problems: If the ignition system isn’t working properly, pellets might smolder instead of igniting, leading to smoke. Check the igniter and ensure it’s functioning correctly.
  9. Grill Calibration: Incorrect grill temperature settings can cause inefficient pellet combustion and smoke. Make sure your grill is calibrated properly.
  10. Ventilation: Adequate ventilation is crucial for proper combustion. Ensure that exhaust and air intake vents are not obstructed.

If you’ve tried troubleshooting the issue and the smoke from the pellet box persists, consult your grill’s manual for specific guidance.

You can also consider reaching out to the manufacturer’s customer support for further assistance. It’s important to address any unusual smoke issues to ensure your grill operates safely and effectively.

Traeger Smoke Coming Out of Hopper: Traeger Fire In Auger Tube

There are many complaints about Traeger pellet box smoking so much in many social forums. Excessive Traeger hopper smoking is not normal, so it is important to investigate this and take the necessary precautions.

Traeger smoke coming out of pellet box:

If you’re noticing smoke coming out of the pellet box on your Traeger grill, it’s important to address the issue to ensure safe and proper operation. Here are a few potential reasons why Traeger smoking from hopper.

  1. Improper Ventilation: Traeger smoke from hopper could be a sign of poor ventilation in the grill. Ensure that the exhaust vents are clear and not obstructed, as proper ventilation is crucial for the efficient combustion of pellets and the safe release of smoke.
  2. Combustion Issues: If the pellets are not burning efficiently in the firepot, it could lead to the production of excess smoke that travels up the auger and into the pellet box. This can be caused by factors like poor pellet quality, lack of airflow, or an improperly functioning firepot.
  3. Backdraft: Backdraft occurs when air flows in the opposite direction than intended. This can happen if there’s a sudden change in wind direction or if the grill’s exhaust system is not working correctly. Backdraft can push smoke back into the pellet box.
  4. Grill Positioning: The placement of your grill can affect its performance. Make sure your Traeger grill is positioned in an area with good airflow and minimal exposure to strong winds.
  5. Maintenance: Regular cleaning and maintenance of your grill are essential. Clean the firepot, burn chamber, and other components regularly to prevent buildup that can hinder proper combustion and ventilation.

Here is a detailed article Why is My Traeger Pellet Box Smoking (6 Reasons & Quick Fixes)

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons for the smoke and pellet grill hopper fire and how can we keep the smoke out of the hopper and food.

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Pit boss Smoke Coming From Pellet Hopper

The most likely reason for smoke coming out of pellet hopper pit boss pellet grill is that there is a buildup of sawdust or pellets that is catching fire.

To solve Pit Boss smoke coming out of hopper, turn off the Pit Boss smoker and wait for it to cool down completely. Then, remove any excess pellets or sawdust from the hopper and clean the area thoroughly with a vacuum cleaner.

Ensure the pellet box’s lid is closed properly to prevent excess airflow that might cause pellets to smolder or smoke.

Avoid Overfilling because overfilling the hopper can lead to pellets pushing against the auger, causing friction and generating heat and smoke. Keep the pellet level below the maximum fill line.

Make sure the auger is functioning correctly and not jammed. A jammed auger can lead to unusual pellet feeding and smoke production.

The ash from a long cook also causes Pit Boss hopper smoking. Sometimes you have to remove everything mid-cook and clean out the firecup in order to continue smoking.

Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and maintenance to prevent this problem from happening again in the future.

Here is a detailed article on Smoke Coming Out of Pellet Hopper Pit Boss(6 Reasons & Quick Fixes) 

12 Pit Boss Recipes to Try

A Few Suggestions For The Best Ash Vacuum For Pellet Grill For Easy Ash Clean Up

1. Snow Joe Ash Vacuum w/Metal Storage Tank

2. PowerSmith PAVC101 10 Amp Ash Vacuum

3. Vanpore Ash Vacuum Cleaner

Conclusion: Why Is Smoke Coming Out Of My Pellet Hopper?

Sawdust causes many auger fires in pellet grills. I believe the key is to pay close attention to how much sawdust has been collected in your hopper.

Instead of adding all the pellets at once, remove the bottom few handfuls and discard any accumulated dust. The dust won’t burn well and will clog the auger.

If you are experiencing pellet tunneling or pellet bridging, here is the article Tips To Solve Pellet Tunneling In Hopper


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