What To Do When Your Pit Boss Runs Out Of Pellets?

It happens to the best of us, you’re in the middle of the cook and you realize the temperature has dipped or the smoker shuts down. Let’s take a look at what to do when your Pit Boss runs out of pellet grill and if it’s bad for the grill.

What to Do If Your Pit Boss Runs Out of Pellets?

If the grill is still set to your temperature, you can refill the hopper, without any issues. However, if there are no more pellets in the hopper, and the grill has shut off, remove the food and go through the priming process to get the auger to begin feeding pellets into the firepot.

what do you do when your Pit Boss runs out of pellets

All that may sound complicated, but it’s not. We’ll discuss the process of getting the grill back on so you can resume smoking your food.

But first, let’s take a look a look at how the pellets flow through the hopper.

Running Out Vs Tunneling

Running Out of Pellets

There are different versions of running out of pellets that can affect the temperature of the grill, shut down feature, and the overall cook.

Let’s take a closer look at them and help you get back up so you can get back to grilling.

Hopper is Empty: Running out of pellets means that the hopper is completely empty. But there here may still be some left in the auger, and the temperature of the grill won’t be affected.

Empty Pockets in the Auger: If the smoker has been unsupervised and ran out of pellets in the hopper, there may be pockets of empty pellets in the auger.

When this happens, the grill’s temperature will drop, as the auger feeds through the empty pockets in the auger. Adding more pellets will get the grill to the set temperature.

Both Auger and Hopper Are Empty: In the case where both the hopper and the auger are empty, the temperature will drop and the grill will shut itself off. If this happens, remove your food and keep it warm in the oven while you tend to the grill.

Once the grill has cooled to touch, remove the grates and flame broiler to check out the firepot, to make sure there is no buildup of pellets that can cause a fire. This is a good time to vacuum any ash, especially, if you haven’t cleaned it in a while.

Load the hopper with more pellets and turn the grill back on. Turn the Pit Boss back on to the highest setting. The auger will then start moving the pellets into the auger.

When that happens, turn the grill off and put the internal pieces back into the grill. Once the grill reaches the proper temperature, you can put the food back on.


Pit Boss pellets tunneling in the hopper

Tunneling occurs when the hopper still has pellets, but due to the funneling action, there isn’t sufficient weight pushing the pellets down into the auger.

You’ve likely seen this happen when using your Pit Boss on a long cook. You open the hopper lid and you notice the pellets tunneling creating an empty pocket in the pellets.

When you notice it, just spread the pellets around with your hand to ensure the hole is covered, otherwise, the pellet grill will “tunnel out.”

If the tunnel becomes too big, the auger won’t run out of pellets causing the grill to lose temperature or shut down.

Restarting the Pit Boss After Running Out of Pellets

Restarting the Pit Boss after running out of pellets is a little more involved that’s why I created a step-by-step tutorial with pictures to help you get back to cooking.

What Happens When the Pit Boss Runs Out of Pellets During a Cook?

If the Pit Boss runs out of pellets during the cook, the grill will either drop in temperature or shut down completely. As soon as you feed it more pellets, you can commence grilling.

Is It Bad If The Pit Boss Smoker Runs Out of Pellets?

If caught early enough, it’s fine and the grill will shut off when it isn’t getting any fuel. that said if left unattended for long periods the food can reach the danger zone temperature, in which bacteria can grow faster.

This is where foods are allowed to sit between temperatures of 40 and 140°F for more than an hour. It’s important to monitor your grill during the cook and never leave it unattended.

The Smoke IT app makes it monitor the smoker without having to sit in front of it. But you’ll still need to open the hopper during a long cook to make sure it’s full and to prevent tunneling.

Can You Add Pellets to Pit Boss While Cooking?

Yes, you can add pellets to the Pit Boss while cooking. Just open the lid and put the new pellets on top of the old pellets. If you’ve checked the hopper before the cook, you won’t have to worry about doing this on a short cook.

However, for long cooks or 4 hours or more, you may have to add more pellets at least once throughout the cook.

Can I Use My Pit Boss Smoker Without Pellets?

No, the hardwood pellets are the fuel that is necessary for the cooking process. Similar to how a gas grill won’t work without gas, you can’t run a pellet grill without hardwood pellets.

Final Word

We’re all human and anyone who owns a Pit Boss has run out of pellets at one point. Maybe you’ve almost run out or experienced a “tunnel out” but caught it in time.

Regardless, now you know what to do if you run out of pellets during a cook. To prevent this from happening, get into the habit of checking the hopper before every cook, to make sure you have enough pellets.

And if you never run out of pellets, then it means you’re not using your Pit Boss enough!

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