Why Is My Pit Boss Smoking From The Hopper? [Causes & Solutions]

You throw some hamburgers or hotdogs on the Pit Boss and walk away. Thinking that when you return, they will be grilled to perfection. However, you notice smoking coming from everywhere, even the pellet hopper. What causes smoke to come out of the hopper? I had that happen to me about a month ago and here’s what I learned.

Why Is My Pit Boss Smoking From The Hopper?

There are several reasons this occurs and it’s due to an either an ERL code, dirty pellets, too much dust in the auger tube, the grill isn’t level, a dirty pellet grill, or it’s going through the startup phase.

why is my pit boss smoking from the hopper

I know that’s a lot to consider, especially, if you’ve never seen the Pit Boss look like it’s covered with smoke. It happens, the great thing is that it’s easy to figure out and most of the time, it’s nothing to worry about.

When mine went haywire and I noticed smoke coming from everywhere it was because of the ERL code. The grill was getting too hot, therefore, it caused smoke to come out from the hopper, sides of the door, and the chimney. The great thing is that we fixed it and now it works perfectly.

So let’s look at the possible reasons you’re dealing with this issue.

#1 ERL Code

I’ll start with the most common reason, which is the ERL code. It’s the same reason I had this issue with my grill about a month ago. If you’re dealing with an ERL code, the Pit Boss will start up like normal.

There’s even a good chance that you’ll be able to start cooking your food without any issues. However, after the grill has been running for awhile, it will begin smoking like crazy. If you’ve never seen it happen before, you may think it’s caught on fire.

What to Do?

First things first, don’t panic. Look at the control board and if you see an error code, take a picture of it with your phone. I wish I would’ve done that when my grill did that. It would’ve made it much easier to research what the error code meant.

Here’s everything I’ve learned from researching what the ERL code means. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to power off the grill using the on/off switch. Instead, you’ll need to unplug it from the wall.

The only way to get the grill running normally without smoking from the hopper is to replace the RTD probe.

Luckily for you, I created a video that walks you through on how to do it.

#2 Dirty Pellets or Too Much Sawdust

sawdust inside hopper

All pellets regardless of the brand you use are made from shaved wood and sawdust. If you’ve ever noticed when you fill the hopper with pellets, the bag contains a lot of sawdust.

Overtime the sawdust will build up in the hopper and can cause the grill to not work properly. Some sawdust is perfectly normal, however, a buildup of it can cause problems.

What to Do?

It’s important to do a deep clean of the grill on a regular basis, including the hopper. If you’re noticing a lot of dust in the pellets when loading the hopper, you’ll want to make sure you take the time to vacuum it out.

This means you’ll need to empty out the hopper on a regular basis to vacuum it out. I’ve found it easiest to vacuum it out whenever I’m changing different flavors of pellets.

#3 Dust in The Auger Tube

Before changing the RTD probe, I had no clue how much dust accumulated inside the hopper, where the electrical wires are. However, when we removed the hopper from the grill, we noticed how much sawdust had accumulated inside the hopper.

What to Do

You’ll need to remove the hopper and clean out the auger system. Once the auger is removed, use a long brush to push the pellets and dust through the tube. Of course, you’ll need to prime the grill again to get the pellets to fall into the firepot.

#4 The Grill Is Dirty

If you’re like me, you cook chicken, pork, ribs, veggies, etc on your Pit Boss. When cooking, you’re likely using oils, seasonings, and marinades to season your food. Overtime, these foods will cause the grill to become dirty.

When the grill isn’t cleaned on a regular basis, it can cause a buildup of soot and other debris inside the grill. This buildup can cause excess smoke to come from the grill, as well as causing soot and ash to ruin your cook.

What to Do

It’s important that you take the time to clean your grill on a regular basis. According to the Pit Boss owners manual, it’s important to clean the grill after 2-3 cooks. Of course, you’ll want to clean your grill more often if you’re constantly cooking fatty foods, as they will cause the grill to become dirty quicker.

To clean the grill, you’ll need to remove the grates and broiler plate. Next, use a putty knife or other similar object to scrape off any debris that’s stuck to the walls of the grill. Once you’ve removed all the debris, use a wire brush to scrub away any soot or ash that’s stuck to the grates.

After scrubbing the grates, you’ll want to rinse them off with hot water. I always soak my grates in a soap and water solution for 3-6 hours, so I don’t have to use a lot of elbow grease.

#5 It’s Going Through the Start Up Phase

Smoke coming from the hopper at startup is completely normal. During the startup phase, the grill produces a lot of white smoke. After awhile, the smoke will dissipate and will go back to normal.

What to Do

If you just started the grill, there’s nothing to do. Give the grill some time and eventually the thick white smoke will go away.

#6 Incorrectly Installed Part

If you’re like me, you do a lot of the Pit Boss fixes by yourself, because you don’t want to pay anyone else. You might be seeing smoke coming from the hopper because you installed something such as the fan upside down.

An incorrectly installed part can cause the pellet grill malfunction. For example if a fan is installed upside down, the fan will push air into the hopper instead of the cook chamber or firepot, which is where it’s supposed to be going.

If it is installed incorrectly, you won’t be able to hear the fan spinning like normal. Immediately turn off the fan and install it the correct way.

What to Do

There’s nothing wrong with DIY Pit Boss fixes. That said, it’s important to make sure you put all the parts back into the grill the right way. There are plenty of YouTube videos that will walk you through on how to replace parts on your pellet grill, regardless of brand.

Final Word

Pellet grills use pellets that are made from shaved wood and sawdust, so it’s normal for some sawdust be found inside the grill. However, when too much sawdust accumulates in the grill, it can cause issues. The auger system is designed to work off of pellets, not sawdust.

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