what to do if smoker is not hot enough

Last Updated on: 27th May 2023, 04:26 pm

Smoking is the most sophisticated cooking process that depends on maintaining the constant temperature for a longer time. It can become frustrating when your smoker is not getting hot enough  due to the different malfunctioning.

According to my experience, if your smoker is not getting hot enough , then you should consider removing your water pan, insulating your smoker, using a good quality fuel, preliting your charcoal and cleaning regularly to fix this issue.

 In this article we will discuss what adjustment you need to make to solve these malfunctioning.

what to do if smoker is not hot enough

Here are the most common tweaks that you need to make to heat up your smoker .You should try to adjust the maximum of these factors to heat up your smoker pretty quickly. So let’s start.

Don’t use a  Water Pan

To heat up your smoker at a higher temperature, you will need to remove the water pan from the smoker.

water pan is used to avoid drying out of meat when smoking for a longer time but when you have to increase the temperature of the smoker for grilling,it may cause problems.

The presence of a water pan in a smoker results in the evaporation of water and an increase in the humidity of the air inside the smoking chamber.

 Due to which the temperature is decreased . So you should keep in mind that if you are using a water pan ,its water will evaporate whenever the smoker reaches boiling temperature.

so if you need to heat up higher than the boiling temperature then you should consider removing the water pan.

In case you are in a situation where you have to heat up the smoker while its also necessary to use a water pan then it’s better to use hot water , so that the heat  absorbed for boiling can be minimized.

The water pan is often used to control temperature , if you are going to heat up a smoker at higher temperature then you may consider to use air vents to control temperature instead of water pan.infact air vents can also help you increase the temperature easily.we will discuss that in a while.

Use a brick 

Although it may sound odd but putting a brick in the smoker can also help you in raising and maintaining the temperature of a smoker .

Its due to the fact that when you put a brick in a smoker it Heats up to temperature of smoker and retains it .

 if the temperature of the smoker is dropped suddenly then it helps in maintaining the temperature of smoker.you don’t need to put it into the fire ,rather place it on racks ,so that it should directly be in contact with the chambers airflow.

Use a bigger charcoal basket

If you are planning to smoke food at higher temperature for longer time then it’s better to use a bigger charcoal basket so that it doesn’t run out of charcoal during the process of smoking.

If the fuel runs out during the process,then it can cause the drop in smoker temperature which can result in unevenly Cooked food like burgers with bitter taste.

Its also necessary to to keep the charcoal basket full especially if you are smoking in a cold day. Weather can also affect the amount of fuel used . Smoking in a cold weather can burn twice of fuel usually burnt during smoking.

Use pre-lit charcoal

If you are using charcoal as a fuel source then it’s necessary to pre-lit the charcoal before placing it into the smoker. If you put the charcoal directly into the smoker then may take effort and alot of time to ignite it in smoker.

The charcoal should be ignited in charcoal chimney before putting it into the smoker. It should be white hot when being placed in the smoker so that it should start the process immediately without much effort.

If the temperature drops during the smoking process, then you should have a backup of charcoal lit in charcoal chimney which should be then moved into the charcoal basket.

So it means the charcoal should keep coming throughout the process to maintain higher temperature.

Don’t Use Damp Coals

Using wet charcoal is the last mistake you can make while Smoking to ruin the taste of the food. Wet charcoal should be avoided while smoking because it may ignite but will require much more effort than the dry smoker.

But in case you are on budget or simply don’t want to throw the wet charcoal and want to use it for smoking then it should be placed on top of the dry charcoal so that it should burn on its own later during the process.

Use Lump Charcoal

If you are interested in smoking at higher temperature then charcoal smokers can be the best options for you but this also depends on the type of charcoal you are using . Different types of charcoal are better for different purposes.

Lump Charcoal produce more heat than briquettes .they also produce less ash so the fear of obstruction of airflow is also minimized while smoking at higher temperature.

Briquettes produce less heat than the lump charcoal but they can burn for longer time and hence are used for cold smoking.

The type of charcoal you choose will depend on the purpose that want to achieve with it. The minion method is often used for smoking for long time .

It’s basically a technique that according to which we only ignite a small portion of the charcoal and then place it on top of the pile of unlit charcoal. Which will burn slowly during the process.

Clean The Ash

Cleaning of the ash us also a great thing to heat up the smoker at higher temperaturs.the ash should be cleaned after every use .it will give two benefits. First it will save you from rust which can. Damage your smoker build.

Secondly If the basket is cleaned it can help in good airflow throughout the smoker and oxygen reaching the fire so that the fire should burn continuously without smothering.

in addition to that the charcoal basket should be raised a bit from the bottom ,so that the air can also cross below the basket allowing for maximum ventilation. 

Adjust airflow

The airflow is the most critical factor in raising or reducing the temperature within a smoker.it affects the temperature and the taste of the food in many ways. Moreover it is needed to adjust it differently according to the stage of the smoking process.

If you are just starting out the you may need to maximize the airflow so that the oxygen should be available easily in firebox and throughout the smoker which results in quick burning of fuel and production of higher temperature.to do so you will need to open all the vents to maximize the airflow.

But as you proceed further with the smoking process, you may need to reduce the airflow so that the heat produced can be retained within the smoker.

But at the same time you will also need to open it to a smaller extent so that the gases and smoke can escape out.

If the gases accumulate within the smoker without the inflow of oxygen then they can result in smothering of the fire. It is generally considered to open 1/4 of the air vents during the process to retain heat at same time while removing the gases from the smoker.

Most of the smokers come with two types of vents , a bottom vent and a top vent. Both of these vents have different functions and are equally important. In addition to vents , smoker can also have dampers for controlling airflow.

The bottom vent is used for controlling the airflow of firebox and thus the heat produced. As mentioned above , the fire requires continuous supply of oxygen to burn steadily.so the bottom vent should be open if you want heat up the smoker to higher temperature.

The top vent is not directly involved in controlling the temperature, rather it’s involved in keeping the fire burning for longer time by performing two functions

  • When charcoal or any other fuel is burnt within a smoker, different gases are produced.these Gases should be removed out of the smoker immediately.if there is no exit for these gases then they will keep accumulating and smother the flames eventually.
  • In addition to removing gases from the smoker, the top vent also acts as a suction pump to pull the oxygen into the smoker which is necessary for burning of the fire. So whether you open or close the bottom vent , top vent should always be opened to some extent to keep the fire burning.

Do not rely on a built-in thermometer

Built-in thermometers are useful for recording the temperature of smoker without opening the lid but they are not reliable if you are using a cheap smoker.

if the temperature gauge is not accurate,it might provide faulty reading to you even if the desired temperature has been reached inside the smoker.

It’s better to modify your smoker with a reliable thermometer, so that you should know the exact temperature of the smoker. Most of the pitmasters like to use dual thermometer which not only tells you the smoker temperature but also the internal temperature of the food that is being smoked .

If you are using a smoker without any thermometer or planning to remove the built-in thermometer and smoke without it then it is blind cooking.

You are going to smoke by hit or miss method and most of the time you will get bad results because smoking is all about maintaining the right temperature at right time.

Use an insulated smoker

If you are having difficulty in heating your smoker to higher temperatures then you might consider insulating your smoker. Uninsulated smokers usually don’t heat up due to being influenced by the external factors. 

In cold Weather , un insulated smokers can’t function efficiently and require double charcoal to preform the same function. Cheap smokers are usually uninsulated due to low build Quality.

Expensive smokers come with double walled insulation which provides unmatched insulation.

If you have an uninsulated smoker, then you should consider upgrading to  a good quality and insulated smoker for outdoor smoking in cold weather.

But in case you are on budget or can’t upgrade your smoker at the moment, then you should consider modifying it with an insulated blanket to provide insulation.

you can also use tuning plates for insulating your smoker.

Protect from wind

Although adequate airflow is required to heat up the smoker, placing it in a area where it might get exposed to wind which can also effect the fire and push cold air into the smoker while expelling hot air out of the smoker. So its better to make a shelter for placing the smoker where it should be protected from wind.

Use a Cast Iron Grate

Cast iron is an poor conductor of heat and help retain heat for more time. Most of the smoker come with either cast iron or steel grates.

Steel grates may be cheaper than cast iron grates but they don’t provide heat Retention and also are not durable.

Adjust the height of grates

If you want to cook food at higher temperature then you might consider adjusting the height of the cooking grate. The lower the height of the grate,the more temperature it will get.

At higher height the heat will be far less than that of height closer to fire. But not all of the smokers allow the adjustment of grates , if it has this feature you must utilize it .

Keep the Lid Closed

Most of the pitmasters have a habit of opening the lid frequently to check the temperature or condition of the meat. Its better to use thermometer that display the temperature without opening the lid .

In this way our heat will stay trapped inside the smoker for maximum time.

Place the food on top of fire

Even if the heat is being distributed evenly throughout the smoker, the temperature might be on the top of fire compared to the left or right of the grate.

So its better to place the meat exactly on top of the fire so that it can get the maximum heat possible.

Why Can’t I Get my Smoker Hot Enough?

There are a lot of reasons that you might be having trouble getting your smoker to the right temperature. Here are some of them:

The Smoker Is Not Big Enough

The most common reason that people have a problem with temperature is because they don’t have a big enough smoker. There are two main problems with this.

First, the amount of heat generated by your source is not enough to properly cook the meat. Second, you may not have enough room in your smoker for all of the meat that you’re trying to cook.

If you’re using charcoal as a heat source, then you will probably need at least an 18 inch deep smoker for it to work properly or else there won’t be enough room for the smoke and heat to circulate around your meat and cook it evenly.

You Are Not Getting The Temperature High Enough

Another reason why you might be having trouble getting your smoker hot enough is because you aren’t getting it hot enough in the first place.If you are using charcoal, then the temperature inside of your smoker should be around 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

This is a good temperature for smoking meat and will ensure that it cooks evenly and does not burn.

You Are Using The Wrong Wood

Another common problem that people have with their smokers is that they are using the wrong kind of wood. Different kinds of wood will burn at different temperatures .

so if you use a type of wood that burns at a lower temperature than what you need, then your meat will not be cooked enough. A good rule of thumb is to use hardwoods like hickory or oak for smoking meat because they burn hotter than softwoods like pine or cedar.

Your Meat Is Too Large Or Too Small

If you’re having trouble getting your smoker hot enough, then it may simply be because the cuts of meat that you’re trying to smoke are too large or too small. Bigger cuts of meat need more time in the  smoker than smaller cuts. Also, if you are smoking a whole chicken versus just the breasts, then it is more likely to burn because it is so large.

You Are Not Spritzing The Meat With Water

The final tip for getting your smoker hot enough is to spritz your meat with water before you put it in the smoker. This will help keep it moist and prevent it from drying out.

You don’t need to do this every time that you smoke something, but if you find that your meat is burning or drying out too much, then give this a try.

You Are Smoking At The Wrong Temperature

Finally, one of the biggest reasons why people have trouble getting their smokers hot enough is because they are using the wrong temperature setting.

If you are using charcoal in your smoker and not monitoring the temperature inside of it very carefully, then there’s a good chance that your meat will be undercooked by the time that you are done smoking it.

frequently asked questions

here are some of the most common questions that often come up when discussing heat maintenance in offset smokers

How Long Does it Take for a Smoker to Heat Up?

To answer the question, “how long does it take for a smoker to heat up?” you need to know how hot you want your smoker. If you want it really hot, then it will take about an hour for your smoker to heat up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

It takes a little longer if you want a medium temperature of about 275 degrees Fahrenheit. If you want a low temperature of about 225 degrees Fahrenheit, then it will take about two hours for your smoker to heat up

What If My Temperature Gets Too High?

If you are using a charcoal smoker, then you should be able to easily monitor the temperature inside of it using a thermometer.

If your temperature gets too high, then simply open the vents on the bottom and top of your smoker until it lowers again. You can also add more charcoal to help lower the temperature or even spritz your meat with water if it is getting too dry.

If you are using a gas smoker, then you will have a much more difficult time keeping the temperature in your smoker low. The best way to do this is to give it plenty of time to heat up.
It is also recommended that you smoke on low temperatures for longer periods of time and then on high temperatures for shorter periods of time.

You should also know that the temperature inside of your smoker will be lower than the temperature outside. If you are smoking in colder weather, then you will want to add more fuel or charcoal so that it heats up faster and higher temperatures.

If you are smoking in warmer weather, then you will want to be sure that your smoker is not overheating. If it is, then you will have to use the vents to lower the temperature or open the lid to let some heat out.

What If My Meat Is Not Cooking Properly?

If the meat in your smoker is not cooking properly, then there are a few things that you can do. Firstly, make sure that your smoker is not too hot and that it has plenty of time to heat up.

Secondly, check your temperature with a thermometer so that you know what it actually is inside of your smoker.

Thirdly, if your meat still isn’t cooking correctly after these steps have been taken, then you should consider adding more charcoal or wood chips and spritzing with water if needed.

How Long Does it Take for a Smoker to Cool Down?

It takes about an hour for your smoker to cool down from about 350 degrees Fahrenheit all the way down to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It takes longer if you want your smoker to cool down from a higher temperature, though.

If you have smoked overnight and it is hot outside, then allow your smoker at least two hours or even overnight before opening it up again or putting  meat in it.

The Final Verdict

Temperature and airflow are the determinants  of the taste of the food smoked inside a smoker. It is a continuous process which depends on Many factors.

We have explained the most common factors that needs to be adjusted to attain the maximum temperature inside a smoker.

If you are having trouble getting your smoker hot enough or if you aren’t getting consistent results, then take a look at some of the tips in this article and try them out.

If you enjoyed this article ,then don’t forget read our article on Are reverse flow smoker worth it

Jakob miller