Common BBQ Smoker Problems & How to Fix Them

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Smoking meat and veggies should be a fun activity to do. Not only do you get a delicious dish at the end of it, but you can also experiment with different kinds of chips and marinades to make them even more unique. But, if you’ve only just started smoking, you might feel that you have a lot to still learn.

The smallest mistake or mishap with your smoker can seem like a huge error at first. You have friends and family coming over soon and it looks like your smoker’s creating too much smoke. We’ve written this article as a guide to solving both this problem as well as a few others. If it feels like replacing the entire smoker is a better option for you instead, you can check out these different brands of smokers at to pick one out.

How smokers work

How exactly a smoker works can change depending on the brand and the model. Many smokers have a second, smaller box attached to the main body of the smoker that’s called a hopper. The pellets are then moved from the hopper to a fire pot with the use of an auger, which is quite similar to a long screw. In the fire pot, the pellets are then burned to create the smoke your meat or veggies absorb.

Other smokers, typically vertical smokers, instead have a door built into the side of them, allowing you to easily add your pellets – or wood chips – and even light them yourself to start the process. Some of these smokers can even light the pellets or don’t require any wood to start working. These kinds of smokers are often electric, so simply plugging them in is all it needs to start smoking your food!

The most common problems with smokers

Though these problems can seem rather huge, it’s important to keep calm before tackling the issues. This is especially true if the main issue is the smoker itself. If you find that the meat you smoked isn’t as great as you expected, just keep reading and practice. Before you know it, you’ll be more than ready to show off your new skills!

Using the cheapest cut of meat

One of the many reasons that your brisket or ribs aren’t coming out from your smoker as delicious as you expect them to be is because of the quality of the meat you used. Getting the cheapest cut of meat to prepare and cook can be easy to do and quite tempting as well. After all, a good smoker isn’t all that cheap. But if you want delicious smoked ribs or pulled pork, you need the best quality meat you can afford to get.

The next time you go to your local supermarket to get meat to smoke, ask the butcher what you want. Typically, you want a good amount of both meat and fat. Ribs should have a good amount of meat over the bones and little fat, while briskets should have a layer of a firm or hard fat over the flat side of it. Ideally, a good cut of the brisket should also have a fair amount of marbling. Like ground beef, keep an eye out for a rough 80 to 20 percent meat-to-fat ratio for delicious smoked meat.

Creating too much smoke

If you find that your smoker’s making too much smoke, you’re more than likely using too many pellets or chips. Despite what it might seem like, too much smoke ruins the flavour of the food you’re cooking. After turning the smoker off and cleaning it out, use fewer pellets. It may take a few tries to get a hang of the right amount but aim to get thin wisps of white smoke from your smoker instead. When it comes to smoking, less is definitely more than enough 

If the amount of pellets you put in isn’t the cause, there could be too much ash or pellets where they’re burning. After each smoking session, clean out the fire pot or ash bucket to prevent this from happening.

The auger is jammed up

An issue that can happen with your smoker itself is a lack of smoke. This is often caused by the auger – the part that moves the wood pellets to the fire pot – getting jammed. Though it can be caused by a wide range of factors, the most common of them tend to be either poor quality pellets or ones that aren’t the right size. Simply check what kind of pellets you need and get a bag or two of those for the next time you fire up your smoker.

To fix the issue, turn the smoker off and wait until it’s completely shut down before unplugging and emptying what’s in the hopper. If your smoker has a small cover over the auger, unscrew it before carefully removing any pellets with your fingers. You can also use a vacuum to get out any other debris or objects. If the auger still won’t turn when you go to check, take off the panel under the auger and unscrew the motor from the part to remove any stuck pellets. 

Using lighter fluid to start the smoking process

This is one of the most common problems that many people new to smoking and barbecuing make. In an effort to start smoking faster, you soak your chips or charcoal in lighter fluid. While this does make them light faster, it also creates an awful smoke that ruins the taste of the meat. Instead, invest in a chimney starter. You can even use a few bunched-up pieces of newspaper or tissues the same way!


Once you get a hang of just how many pellets your smoker needs for a certain duration, many of these mistakes can easily be fixed. Tricks like storing your remaining pellets and chips in an airtight bucket to prevent moisture and lighting your smoker will soon become second nature with more experience. Like with many other skills and hobbies, smoking perfect food takes practice!