At some point in your pellet smoking journey, you may have noticed tiny specs of wood that end up on your food as it smokes. Although virtually harmless, they do taint the pure smokey flavor and texture of your glorious food.
The answer? Simple. Make sure you are cleaning up your pellet grill, getting rid of all the leftover wood dust and ash from the last smoking session. The easiest and most effective way to do this is with a vacuum.
Let’s break down exactly how to vacuum your pellet grill correctly, and what to watch out for.
Can You Vacuum Your Pellet Grill?
You not only CAN vacuum your pellet grill but you should. Vacuuming your pellet grill before each use keeps the auger clean and clear of wood dust and ash. It also prevents that same dust from recirculating around the interior of your smoker landing on your food as it smokes.
Although vacuuming your pellet grill helps keep the wood flavor purer and prevents wood dust and ash from getting all around your grill and on your food, there are a few things to watch out for to protect your pellet grill and your vacuum too.
How To Vacuum Your Pellet Grill
This same process applies to any wood pellet grill, whether it’s a Pit Boss pellet grill, a Traeger grill, Big Horn Outdoors, or even if you are vacuuming a pellet stove.
Step 1: Remove All The Parts From Your Pellet Grill
The first step is to remove all the internal parts within your smoker unit. This includes the warming rack, grill grates, drip pan/catcher, and heat deflector. You should be left looking at the bare barrel and the hot rod. If you’ve used your pellet smoker recently you will likely see a build-up of wood dust and ash surrounding the hot rod and gathered at the bottom of the vessel.
Never try to remove the internal parts of your pellet grill after you’ve just finished cooking as they will still be very hot.
Step 2: Assess The Ash Situation
Take a close look to see how much ash there is and where it’s primarily building up. In my pellet smoker it gathers all around the bottom, and in the hard to reach places behind the auger.
Check to see if any of the wood dust is wet from any juices, drippings, or rain that managed to leak through and gather at the bottom. You don’t want to vacuum up any wet or damp ash or wood crumbs as it will make a mess of the vacuum head and potentially cause issues in your vacuum. Instead, take a paper towel, cloth, or shovel and collect up the wet ash and dispose of it first.
Once you’ve assessed how much has gathered and where it’s localized it’s time to prepare your vacuum and attach the appropriate head that will help you get in all the nooks and crannies.
Step 3: Vacuum The Pellet Dust
Here comes the most satisfying part, which is rare when you’re cleaning up. Make sure you’ve already cleared any wet wood dust or ash by picking it up with a shovel, or paper towel. Simply run the head of the vacuum from one end to the other, going over the whole surface a few times, and getting behind the hot rod mechanism and auger.
Step 4: Empty The Vacuum
In order to keep the quality of your vacuum cleaner, it’s always recommended to empty the vacuum immediately after you’re finished cleaning up your pellet grill. This is so that the fine dust and ash don’t smudge, stain, clog, or leave an unpleasant smell in your vacuum.
If your vacuum uses disposable vacuum bags then this step isn’t so crucial.
Best Vacuum For Your Pellet Grill
Standard household vacuums may work depending on the model and filtration, but you really want to have a quality-made vacuum that can not only efficiently vacuum up all the wood dust and ash, but also one that fits in and around all the pellet grill parts.
Snow Joe ASHJ202E Ash Vacuum
- Flexible hose to get at any angle in and around the bottom of your grill.
- Dual layers of filtration.
Specifically designed for cold ash use, whether it’s from pellet grills, fireplaces, fire pits, and other grills.
- A little more expensive for a specialized vacuum.
If you’re only using it for the pellet grill clean-up, it’s a little overkill.
If you do use your pellet grill often, or also use a fire pit, fireplace, or even a standard charcoal grill, then it’s worthwhile investing in a specialized ash vacuum. The Snow Joe Ash vacuum really will be the best vacuum for your pellet grill, as it’s more than equipped to take the wood ash easily, efficiently, and the flexible hose makes it an easy job.
Can You Use An Everyday Vacuum To Vacuum Your Pellet Grill?
Absolutely you can, but you need to be extremely careful to only vacuum the dust and ash while it’s completely cool, otherwise, you risk breaking the internal parts of the vacuum or causing a fire. You may also want to check how good the filtration system is in your vacuum, as you don’t want to clog it up, as it may cause the vacuum to malfunction. To be safe it’s always best to use a specialized ash vacuum.
If you don’t want to use a vacuum at all, you can get a brush and shovel to manually scoop up the excess ash and dust.
What To Watch Out For When Vacuum Your Grill?
- Do not vacuum any wet dust or ash. This is an easy way to make a mess of the vacuum nozzle and internal parts, and you risk causing permanent damage to your vacuum.
- Never try to vacuum hot or warm ash or wood dust. This can be dangerous as it can catch when it’s in the vacuum causing a fire and ruining a perfectly good vacuum at the same time.
How Often Should I Vacuum My Pellet Grill
I vacuum my pellet grill before every use, just to make sure I’m getting the most wood flavor, without any wood dust or specs circulating and contaminating my feast. This is an incredibly vital step if you’re planning to use your pellet grill overnight or unattended or for any long cooks.
If you’ve only done a short smoke on your pellet grill, then you may not need to get out the vacuum, but with the right tools for the job, it really is a quick and easy process, and it makes a noticeable difference in the end product and helps prevent any troubles in the auger when you start smoking!