why is smoker not getting hot enough

Last Updated on: 19th May 2023, 12:08 pm

Temperature is the basic unit of cooking in a smoker . But it can be quite frustrating if it’s not getting hot enough to smoke at the exact required temperature.

if your smoker is not getting hot than it can be a result of various variables. the most common ones can include, smoking in cold weather, using water pan ,using damp wood pellets, quality of charcoal used and poor airflow.

in this blog post we have discussed most of the factors that affect your smoker temperature and ways to troubleshoot them. So let’s get started

why is smoker not getting hot enough

Smoker temperature is really crucial whether you are smoking in a smoker or grilling in a grill.

If your smoker can’t get hot enough to the temperature required to smoke the meat properly then you may end up with bitter taste or uncooked meat. 

Related:Best smoker for beginners

The temperature in a smoker is affected by various internal and external factors .Let’s have a look at most common issues involved in influencing the temperature of a smoker.

Factors affecting Smokers’ Temperature 


This is the most common cause of smokers not getting hot enough to smoke the food.it can affect your smoker even if you have bought your smoker after a complete research.

but although good quality smokers can handle it better than cheap smokers.

If this is the cause of low heat in your temperature then you may need to add double fuel to reach the required temperature. 

It’s because cold Weather freezes the build or regulator of the smoker which can create problems in heating it. It’s better to preheat the smoker to its required temperature before adding meat.

Another solution is to buy an insulated smoker that maintains internal temperature without being influenced by external factors.

but quality comes with cost.you can’t expect the same build quality in a cheaper and expensive smoker.but you can still buy better smokers in a justified price

Quantity and thickness of meat

Your smoker temperature can drop when you add meat into the smoker even if you have preheated it to the required temperature.

its because the cold meat absorbs the heat and abrupt the even distribution of heat throughout the smoker.

It’s better to add meat in a smoker in small quantities and in smaller Chunks to avoid the sudden drop in temperature.

if you have a small smoking chamber then this can be the most common cause of low temperature in your smoker.

A good practice is to preheat the smoker to a temperature a bit higher than the required temperature so that when you add the meat the temperature drop can be minimized and it will be easier to attain the required temperature again.


Most of the beginners neglect the importance of airflow for heating up the smoker. The heat is produced by the burning of fire in a firebox which requires oxygen.

so if you are smoking in a less ventilated area or the intake vents are closed then airflow flow will be decreased and it can decrease the burning of fuel.

On the other hand, if the airflow is high or air vents and dampers are opened too much then it can also cause the heat to escape out of the smoker and the temperature of the smoker can be difficult to maintain.

so it’s better to open the vents at first and close or adjust them after the fuel has started to burn.In addition to that airflow also helps in the even distribution of the heat produced. 

So if your smoker is not ventilated then it can cause the heat can’t be distributed throughout the smoker which can result in unevenly Cooked meat and faulty reading by built-in thermometer.

Fuel source

 The fuel source can Also be the cause of low temperature in a smoker. It’s better to research which fuel is better for the meat that is to be cooked.

Charcoal is a better option if you want to heat up your smoker to high temperature.

But if you want to cook it with wood then it’s better to choose the type of wood wisely to avoid later issues. It is a rule of thumb that harder wood produces more heat that soft woods.

so if you want to get high temperature with wood then it will be better to choose the harder one.

Wet or old fuel

Another factor affecting the heat produced by the smoker is the quality of the fuel. You can’t just throw an old decaying bag of charcoal into the smoker and expect to get higher temperatures.

its better to buy a fresh one which will save you from a lot of frustration during the smoking process.

In addition to that , the amount of fuel used may also affect the heat produced in a smoker, especially if you are smoking in cold weather.

if you want to maintain high temperature for longer time than we suggest that you should upgrade to a smoker with a larger firebox or modify your current smoker with a smoker basket.

Distance of meat of from fire

It can be possible that the smoker is running efficiently but the meat is placed far away from the heat source which can result in the uneven cooking of the meat.

 So if you require a high temperature for grilling or searing then it’s better to place the meat closer to the fire so that it gets the maximum heat possible.

Low temperature setting

The less common but possible cause of the low temperature can be the fact that you might have set a low temperature. 

You need to double check the set temperature to make sure that you are heating it correctly.

Moreover you should also clean the grease or any leftovers of the smoked meat around the temperature gauge or probe Thermometer to make sure that you are making adjustments  correctly based on the accurate temperature that is present in the smoker at that time.

Temperature gauge

Another cause of the low temperature is the faulty temperature gauge. Most of the smokers come with built-in temperature gauges but all of them are not reliable. 

The good quality smokers may have accurate temperature but most of the cheaper smokers’ temperature gauges provide inaccurate reading in comparison to the actual temperature in the smoker .

Another cause may be that the temperature gauge may have been broken and is not able to record temperature correctly.so you need to make sure that it’s working and if not ,you should replace it with other reliable smokers.

In addition to the temperature gauge, it’s better to use a probe Thermometer to get the idea of the temperature at which the meat is being Cooked so that we should make adjustments to the setting of the smoker after comparing the reading of both the temperature gauge and probe thermometer.

Low build Quality

It’s also possible that the smoker has a bad build Quality which can result in the temperature being affected by external factors.

 In addition to that the build Quality is also affected if cheaper smokers are heated to higher temperatures. Due to which heat leaks out and it becomes difficult to maintain a constant temperature.

Leakage of heat

It’s a difficult task to heat up a smoker to the required temperature but the smoker is not sealed completely, the heat can leak out of the smoker and becomes difficult to heat up again.

 Even if you manage to heat it again it may not produce the best flavor due to the being smoked at fluctuating temperature.

Most of the cheap smokers come with gaps in the firebox and smoking chamber , so it’s better to buy a completely sealed smoker to avoid later complications.

If you can buy a new one then you should modify your current smoker with silicon coatings to minimize the leakage.

Propane or electric smoker

If you are using a propane or electric smoker then you need to keep in mind that these Smokers are not designed for high temperature cooking. 

They are designed for low and slow cooking. Although they can be heated upto 300F° . 

If your propane smoker can’t heat up to even 250F° then it is possible that there may be some malfunctioning. 

The most common is that the temperature gauge is not working correctly which means that even if your smoker is working at the right temperature,you will not be able to get the accurate reading.

Accumulation of Ash 

Accumulation of Ash in the firebox can also be cause of smoker not being able to heat up .if the firebox of the smoker is not cleared after use then the ash of the charcoal or Wood can accumulate in the firebox which results in obstruction if the airflow to the fire.

If the airflow is obstructed,the oxygen can’t reach the fire due to which the flames are suffocated and eventually distinguished. 

In addition to that it can also result in uneven heat distribution of the heat throughout the smoker.

It’s better to clean the smoker after every use to avoid ash accumulation and rusting of the smoker. 

It’s better practice to raise the charcoal pan a bit above the bottom so that the ash can fall through and smoker can work for a longer time without ash accumulation.

Using wet charcoal

The fuel used in the smoker should be dry and easy to light. If wet charcoal is added to a smoker or water from the water pan spills over the charcoal then it will become difficult to ignite the charcoal and produce steady heat.

If any of the case happens with you when you end up with wet charcoal then the best choice in this situation is to simply replace the wet charcoal with the same amount of dry charcoal .

Charcoal is not prelit

If the charcoal used is not kit before adding it to the smoker,then it may take ages to ignite it within the smoker.

charcoal chimneys are used to pre lit charcoal before placing it into the smoker.it will save you from the effort required to lit charcoal in smoker.

Opening lid frequently

Opening the lid too often can lead to the leakage of heat out of the smoker. Most of the people open the lid during the process to check the temperature which can affect the heat in two ways . 

  1. Firstly, if the smoker has been heated to a higher temperature then the heat will leak out and will become difficult to heat up again.
  2. In the second scenario , the smoker might have low temperature due to low airflow.when you open the lid the temperature will overshoot suddenly which can result in burning of the meat or other accidents. none of the conditions is better for smoking. 

It’s better to use built-in temperature gauge or modify with custom thermometers which let you know the temperature without opening the lid.

you can also you use probe for determining the temperature at which food is being smoked because sometimes due to uneven heat distribution the smoker temperature can differ from that temperature on which food is being smoked.

Tips For Keeping The Smoker At The Right Temperature

Now that we discussed major factors involved in influencing your smokers temperature, let’s discuss some tips to increase your smoker temperature

Smoke in a ventilated area

The most important tip I can give is to choose a ventilated area to start smoking. It will help you in both maintaining the temperature of the smoker while providing enough airflow so that the food retains its tenderness when being smoked for a longer time .

Open all vents

If you have Selected a ventilated area for smoking but closed all of your air vents then all of your efforts will go in vain.

 The airflow in the smoker is maintained by these vents and they need to be adjusted according to the temperature you need

If you are just starting out fire then you may need to maximize the airflow to allow combustion and ignition of the charcoal. 

But once the fire is lit and the smoker is off to the start you may need to minimize the airflow if you want to retain heat for a longer time e.g. for cold smoking.

Smoker is placed at level

In addition to the above mentioned tips ,it is a better idea to place the smoker at an even level to help the even distribution of heat.

if the smoker is imbalanced then one side smoker may be heated more than the other which may lead to unevenly smoked meat.

Dry and pre-lit charcoal

The temperature of the smoker depends on the type and quality of fuel used .its better to use fresh and dry fuel to make sure it ignites quickly.

In addition to that , if you are using charcoal then it’s necessary to pre lit it in a charcoal chimney before placing it in the smoker to save time.

Wind can be problem

Although airflow is necessary for the heating of a smoker,it should be a problem in adequate amounts to get better results.

 If you place a smoker in a place where it can be exposed to wind then it can also result in leakage of heat out and inoculation of cold air inside the smoker which can result in temperature drop.

Right type of fuel

And last but not the least you choose the type of fuel to use wisely.whether you want to use wood or charcoal, you should go with the one that is suitable for the meat that you are smoking. 

You should keep in mind that hardwood is better than softwood and charcoal is better than briquettes in terms of producing more heat.

Why is my master-built smoker not getting hot enough?

There two main reasons for master-built smokers not getting hot enough to smoke which include using a water pan and closing all the vents of the smoker. lets discuss them one by One

Using a water pan in a smoker is no doubt a best practice to increase humidity and control temperature.
 but it may become an issue when it comes to heating up your smoker to high temperature because the evaporation of water and humidity will decrease the temperature.
so it’s better to not use water pan when you want to heat up your smoker at higher temperature.

The second reason is the closure of the air vents due to which the airflow is blocked which result in less oxygen available for combustion and it results in stopping the fire from burning.

Why Propane Smoker Not Getting Hot Enough?

The low temperature in a propane smoker can be caused by different factors ,most common of which is safety system activation. 
Safety activation is a control mechanism in propane smokers which stops the smoker when the temperature of the smoker exceeds a certain threshold.
To Decide whether it is due to safety activation or not you may need to close the valves and notice if the flames move or are not affected by the closure. 
If you think it is due to the safety activation then follow these steps to solve this .

1-First of all close the valves and close the propane tank too.
2-Detach the tank from the regulator
3-Wait for 30-60 seconds
4-Then attach the tank to regulator again
5-Open the valves carefully
6-Ignite it after 15-25 seconds

Hopefully It will solve the problem caused by safety activation.
The other reasons can be tank quality. If the tank is small or low then it can also cause the drop in temperature. Moreover the Cold weather can also freeze the regulator.

if that’s the case then you can solve it by following these steps.

1-First of all it’s necessary to turn off the valves and stop the fire.
2-Then carefully detach the regulator from the tank
3-After detaching the regulator it’s necessary to place it away to avoid any accidents
4-Then take a heat gun or heat dryer and put them to the lowest setting. Then expose the frozen regulator to the heat gun . 
5-The regulator will get unfrozen by heat gun and after that you can modify it with an insulated blanket to avoid Freezing again.

How often should I add charcoal to my smoker?

Adding charcoal to a charcoal smoker is not a rocket science and has no specific set standard.it depends on the type of meat you are smoking and the technique by which you want to burn the fuel.
In addition to that you can also decide it according to weather conditions.
if the weather condition is normal then you can go with 8-10 lumps or already set quantity. 
But if the weather is cold then you may need to add double the quantity of charcoal.

Why Charcoal Smokers Not Getting Hot Enough?

Charcoal smokers are normally heated quickly but if you are unable to heat up your smoker to required temperature then it can be due to different problems with charcoal.
which can include any of the following

1-It’s possible that you may not be using enough charcoal to heat up. the quantity of charcoal depends on meat but as a rule of thumb you are good to go with 8-10 lumps of charcoal in start.
2-The second case is spilling water from water pan onto the charcoal. you may need to replace it with dry charcoal to ignite it
3-The third can be the method by which you are burning the fuel ,if it’s snake or minions method . Minion method is often used for producing more heat.

why electric smoker is not getting hot

if your electric smoker is not getting hot, then it can be due to using water pan, smoking in cold weather, faulty temperature controller, faulty auger that might feed pellets, and malfunctioned hot rod.
Electric smokers are usually used for smoking at low temperatures for longer time. if your electric smoker is not getting hot enough to smoke, then something is wrong. you need to check the components mentioned above and troubleshoot them.

why your reverse flow smoker is not getting hot enough

The most common reason for reverse flow smoker not getting hot enough is the poor airflow. if the airflow is not maintained inside the reverse flow smoker, then it will smother the flames which can lead to low temperatures.
in addition to that, reverse flow smoker can also not get hot due to other issues like using water pan, poor cleaning, bad quality fuel, cold weather and using less amount of fuel.


So now that you have read the complete guide you should check your smoker to identify the problem with your smoker. 

You should also follow these tips to avoid the frustration of temperature drop in future.but if you are unable to detect and solve your issue then we recommend taking help from a professional to stay safe while operating your smoker.

We hope that this blog post will help you in solving the problem with your smoker. If you want fix your smoker issues the n check out our guide on what to do if smoker is not hot enough

Jakob miller