How annoying. Planning for the day, preparing the meat, getting everything sorted only to find out your pellet grill just won’t heat up to the temperature you need!
Plus, the design of pellet grills aren’t as simple as the ol’ charcoal or gas smoker, so it takes a bit more investigation to find out what’s causing the issue.
Here’s the most common reasons why your pellet grill is not heating up and what you can do to fix it – so you can get on with the cooking.
How Does A Pellet Grill Generate Heat
A pellet grill requires electricity to power the digital display and rotate the auger to feed wood pellets to the firepot. But, the heat from a pellet grill is actually generated by the burning of the wood pellets, facilitated by the stoker fans which feed the flames oxygen to maintain your desired temperature.
If any part of this process is disrupted then your pellet grill will stop generating heat and begin to cool down, or not heat up at all! This process is the same no matter what pellet grill you are using, whether it’s Pit Boss, Traeger Grill, Camp Chef, or a portable pellet grill.
It’s important to note that pellet grills do work on maintaining an ‘average’ temperature rather than an exact one, so it’s normal to have slight temperature swings
Why Is My Pellet Grill Not Heating Up?
Pellet grills have a few more bits and bobs than a classic charcoal or gas smoker, and so there are a few more possible reasons why your pellet grill is not heating up.
The main reasons a pellet grill won’t heat up comes down to old or moist pellets, blocked fire pot, bad weather conditions, or problems with the auger. Here we explore all of these reasons in depth, as well as how you can go about fixing them so you can continue with your barbecue.
1. Old Or Wet Pellets
In many cases, using old, wet, or damaged pellets can be a major cause of temperature issues in pellet grills.
Pellets that have absorbed too much moisture break down into dust in the hopper and auger, and the end result is something that just won’t catch or burn consistently.
The best way to test your pellets is to take one medium-to-long pellet between your fingers and do the “snap” test. Slowly start to bend a wood pellet, and if you hear a distinct “snap” then they are fresh. If it crumbles or simply breaks apart then it’s likely it’s too old or has taken on too much moisture.
This can sometimes also cause your pellet grill to get too hot too, as in general old pellets create problems in the auger and fire pot.
Replace your pellets by emptying the pellet hopper and running the pellet grill until they stop loading into the fire pot. Load fresh, high quality wood pellets such as Traeger Wood Pellets or Bear Mountain and start the grill.
2. Blocked Fire Pot
The second most common reason why grill pellets may not heat up properly is due to the high build-up of ash, wood debris, and dust inside the fire pot (or burn pot). This can lead to the grill malfunctioning, as there are too many pellets in the fire pot, which may shut it down completely, or may cause burning issues.
Clean and vacuum your pellet grill before every use. Take out all the internal parts, inspect the fire pot, and use an ash vacuum to clean the entire fire pot and vessel of all wood debris and ash. Replace all the parts and light the grill as normal to see if this has made the difference.
3. Grilling In Harsh Weather
Pellet grills rely on induction fans to stoke the flame, burning the wood pellets that are fed into the fire pot. I’ve had multiple occasions where windy conditions have completely stopped my pellet grill from heating up.
This is often accompanied by the low temperature warning on your pellet grill — indicating that your pellet grill was operating at a temperature too low for too long. Funnily enough, the low-temperature warning is more often caused by windy conditions than cold.
Keep the grill in a spot that is well protected from the elements, like tucked away around a corner, or in an open patio. Any place where the wind won’t sweep through it causing heating issues.
Resist the urge to use your pellet grill in your garage, and it poses unnecessary risk.
You can also change the “p-setting” of your pellet grill too. The p-setting refers to “pause”, and controls the rate at which wood pellets are fed into the fire pot. Refer to your owners manual for directions on how to change it, but it’s usually a small black hole next to the digital display that you can poke with a pin.
4. Malfunctioning Parts
If your wood pellets are in good shape, it’s a still sunny day, and your fire pot is completely clear of debris, and your pellet grill still won’t heat up, then it may be an internal part malfunctioning.
This could be caused by a weak induction fan, broken auger, or bad hot rod, all of which will cause temperature issues or issues heating up. It could even be the digital display, ignitor, or the actual smoking chamber if it’s corroded and has holes in it!
The best thing to do is to take out all the internal parts of your pellet grill including the heat baffle, grill grate and drip tray, and investigate each function of your pellet grill.
When you first switch on your pellet grill you should hear the induction fan. You should then see if the auger is feeding the wood pellets into the fire pot. These should being to smoke and catch fire from the ignitor and hot rod within only a few minutes.
Once you’ve identified which part is to blame, then you can actually order a replacement part directly from the manufacturer. There are marketplaces where you can get all the pieces, but often if you contact your grill’s supplier they will be able to organize a replacement part for you, which may even be under warranty depending on your grill’s brand.
Pellet grills are top of the line in terms of convenience and reliability, but even the top brands and models like a Pit Boss Grill, Z Grill, or a Traeger Timberline can suffer from temperature issues.
The most likely reasons your pellet grill isn’t heating up comes down to the pellets, blocked fire pot, or weather conditions which are all relatively quick to fix. If it is caused by a faulty or malfunctioning part, then you may want to fire up the oven, gas grill, or other smoker while you wait for your replacement part to be delivered!
If you’re still stuck, check out this master checklist which might help.