A high-quality electric smoker is a hefty investment, and well worth it for great tasting, wood-fired and deliciously smoked meats. Working your smoker to achieve amazing results, however, is an acquired skill.
Even the best pitmasters using the best brands of smokers run into technical problems. Windy conditions, faulty controllers, rust, and excess moisture are just some of the typical problems you may encounter while handling your smoker.
Some problems are common to all electric smokers, regardless of brand. Other issues, however, can be fixed with a little know-how. So we pulled together our panel of BBQ experts here at Fire Food Chef and picked their brains for the tastiest troubleshooting tips we could find.
Use these electric smoker troubleshooting tips to help you get even more out of your favorite smoker!
After assembling your brand new Masterbuilt, Traeger, Char-Broil or other electric smoker, the first thing you should do is season it. Seasoning the interior will remove any residue such as oil, dust and chemical solvents that may have accumulated on surfaces during the packaging, handling, transport, and storage of the unit.
The industrial paints and powder coating used inside your smoker need to be cured to prevent rust build-up as well. If you skip the seasoning stage, you’ll be exposing your food to potential hazardous chemicals that will be intensified by the high cooking temperatures. Rust is also more likely to develop, reducing the life of your smoker.
Seasoning an electric smoker is the same for any brand, really, but here’s are the steps from Masterbuilt:
How To Assemble And Season Your Masterbuilt Electric Smokehouse
On average you’ll need to allocate 3 hours to seasoning your smoker before you can start cooking up your favorite brisk recipe. Either a timer or a smoker with a built-in timer will be extremely useful as well. Lastly, be sure to have a bag of wood chips on hand as you’ll need a fullwood chip tray for the seasoning process.
Check out: TOP 10 MASTERBUILT SMOKERS
Is your smoker plugged into a power source? Check to see that your connection to the outlet is secure. If you’re using a GFCI outlet, be careful not to trip the breaker.
Does a fuse need replacing? You may need to replace a burnt out fuse in the electric connection box in your home.
It’s unlikely that your smoker is tripping the GFCI breaker. If your smoker is pulling more current than is safe, the circuit breaker will shut off to prevent the risk of an electrical fire.
Most top brands of electric smokers are designed to use a relatively low wattage and low ampere consumption. An average-sized smoker only uses about 750 watt, while a kitchen oven uses an average 2400 watts at medium-high temperatures.
If the GFCI circuit pops whenever you plug in, try plugging the smoker into a different outlet to see if the problem recurs. Try plugging in another appliance to the outlet to see if it also trips the breaker.
Either you’ll discover it’s the outlet, or the source of the problem lies with your smoker. In this case, check for rust spots on the heating element. Moisture can seep into the element, which can trip the GFCI.
Tip: Use a propane torch and on the heating element to eliminate any moisture/buildup.
Watch: GFCI Fix For Masterbuilt Smoker
Too much smoke can produce an excess of creosote build-up inside the cooking chamber. The black, crusty residue is harmful to ingest in high quantities. If your smoker is emitting dark fumes of smoke after only a few minutes of heat, there’s a good chance that your smoker needs cleaning.
By cleaning the interior of your smoker after each use, you’ll extend the life of your smoker by several years.
Moisture and rust pose the biggest threats to the functionality of your electric smoker. Moisture, of course, can hasten the development of rust, whether your smoker is made of stainless steel, cast iron, or some other heavy duty metal.
Rust can appear on the heating element, the exterior as well as the cooking chamber. After each use, be sure to remove the cooking grates. Soak them in warm water with dishwashing soap, and use a grill brush to clear them of any food debris.
Get rid of ash from the interior using a handheld vacuum. A smokebox is a great option for limiting the amount of ash and residue inside. On exterior surfaces where rust appears, use sandpaper to file away the rust.
To prevent rust, keep your smoker covered with a quality smoker cover. Then, store your smoker in an area sheltered from the elements.
A heating element that isn’t getting hot may simply need a slight adjustment to secure it to the controller. In most cases, the heating element can be removed and replaced if needed. Refer to your user manual or contact the manufacturer.
Check for any rust on the heating element. If you need to wipe it down to remove dirt or creosote, be sure the smoker is turned off and plugged out.
Replacing The Heating Element On Your Masterbuilt 40"
Ok, so this isn’t exactly an electric smoker problem but more of a cooking problem. Specifically, the type of wood chips you’re using determine how well your wood chips smoke. Adequate ventilation is the other key factor to consider when smoking meat.
Provide sufficient preheating time for your smoker to generate a consistent, opaque smoke.
Keep the dampers on the bottom of your electric smoker to allow sufficient airflow during the smoking process. The smokestack on the top of your smoker serves as an exhaust and should also be left open while your food is cooking.
For wood chips, avoid using softwood such as fir or pine. 100% natural hardwood is your best option for a clean, healthy smolder that burns consistently. Flavored woods, or aromatic wood chips such as alder, cedar, plum, hickory, cherry or maple chips can enhance the flavor of your meat as well.
Adequate oxygen supply is critical to maintaining combustion with a propane fueled electric smoker. Strong gusts of wind can extinguish the flames, but lack of air supply can also put out the burner flames, leaving the gas to flow. This is a dangerous and unhealthy problem, but it can easily be resolved.
Quality stainless steel burners are highly durable but it’s the damper on the bottom of your smoker that will keep the fire burning. Leave the damper on the bottom of your smoker open when smoking your meat, and keep your smoker in a place sheltered from high winds.
If the burners keep going out after these adjustments, turn off the smoker immediately. Check with your manufacturer or dealer for troubleshooting tips, or refer to your warranty.
Unplug the power cord and let your smoker cool before storing it away.
Your smoker can retain heat for several minutes after hours of smoking. Allow the smoker to air out and cool down, leaving the door open to let fumes and odors air out. By unplugging your smoker, you’ll avoid using unnecessary phantom current and avoid a potential fire hazard.
Cover your smoker when storing outdoors or in a poorly insulated room.
Sunlight, wind, moisture, and rain can severely reduce the life of your smoker. Left exposed to the elements, even a stainless steel smoker will begin to show signs of corrosion. A smoker cover is typically made of weather-resistant nylon to prevent moisture and rust.
If you don’t have a smoker cover, tarp or an insulation blanket will also work.
Coat the interior surfaces with cooking oil.
Before preheating your electric smoker, coat the interior walls of the cooking chamber with cooking oil which will further strengthen the interior. It will also help remove any residue from previous cooking. For average use, oiling the smoker every six months should be sufficient. If you’re a more frequent user, every three months is a good idea.
Do not cover racks or trays with aluminum.
As noted by Weber Grills, aluminum foil may keep your grates cleaner, but it will actually restrict the intended air flow inside your smoker. The excess heat can damage internal components, particularly the internal monitor that reads the internal temperature of your cooking chamber.
Avoid using cleaning solutions on your electric smoker.
Cleaning solvents use chemicals that may leave behind chemical residues that should not be exposed to high heat. Warm water, dishwashing soap, and a quality grill brush are all you need to maintain your smoker in premium condition.
William Clay is a BBQ enthusiast dedicated to sharing his grilling (and overall cooking) expertise with FireFoodChef's readers.