Why Is Smoke Coming Out Of My Pellet Hopper? (3 Reasons)

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

While using a pellet grill, sometimes you will see smoke coming out of the hopper. You must be wondering “Why Is Smoke Coming Out Of My Pellet Hopper?”

There may be many other reasons for smoke coming out of pellet hopper besides a grease fire. 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 you think too much smoke is coming out of the hopper of your pellet grill, this post will tell you what to do about it.

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

Traeger Fire In Auger Tube

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

What To Do When Pellet Grill Runs Out Of Pellets Mid Cook?

2 Reasons For 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.

1. SMOKE COMING OUT OF PELLET HOPPER WHILE YOU ARE COOKING

Smoke coming out of the hopper 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: Airflow Issues

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

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.

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?

2. SMOKE COMING OUT OF PELLET HOPPER WHILE SHUTTING DOWN THE PELLET GRILL

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 hopper.

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 back burn, 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 towards 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 a 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 dustout.
  • 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.

Smoke Billowing Out OF The Hopper

If there is a rolling mass of the 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. On 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.

“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 in case the auger tube or pellet in the hopper catches on fire. Here is a complete list of fire extinguishers you can get for grill fire.

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?

By Proper maintenance, cleaning, and using good, dry pellets you can prevent auger fire and other related issues. Keep your pellet grill clean, 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.

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, take out the bottom few handfuls and discard any dust that’s accumulated. 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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