Why Do Pellet Grills Explode and How to Prevent It?

  • By: Brendan

I’ve been using my Pit Boss smoker for a few years now, and the other day while marinating some meat to cook, I heard a loud bang, which at first sounded like the popping of a party balloon.

But after looking into the issue, I was shocked to learn my pellet grill exploded. So, the big question is why do pellet grills explode, and the many ways to prevent this from happening.

There are several reasons that can cause your pellet grill to explode including improper shutdown.

Why Do Pellet Grills Explode and How to Prevent It

Why do Pellet Grills Explode? The Science Behind it?

Incorrect Shutdowns

Pellet grill explosions are mostly caused by incorrect shutdowns, and here’s why! Most pellet grill models go through a shutdown cycle, which when disrupted leaves unburnt pellets in the firepot.

These accumulated unburnt pellets are fed through the firepot when you restart the grill, resulting in too much fuel, hence causing an explosion.


Flameouts are another reason pellets grills can explode. What exactly is a flameout? A flameout just like the name suggests is when the flame in your pellet grill goes out, and can be caused by several reasons.

The biggest cause of a flameout is the poor quality of wood pellets. Wood pellets that are made from 100 percent hardwood such as Trager wood pellets are designed to maintain a perfect burn-to-smoke ratio, meaning that it’s highly unlikely that they will flameout. You should also keep your pellets away from water to prevent flameouts.

Quality of Wood Pellets

Next, make sure your fire pot and hopper are clean, and there’s no built-up ash at the base. This accumulated ash blocks the heat from reaching the pellets in the firepot.

To prevent flameouts, always check your hopper to ensure there are enough pellets to maintain a flame, because the pellets in the hopper may stop falling into the hopper at times.

How Does a Pellet Grill Explosion Sound?

A pellet grill explosion can be loud or like the popping of a balloon. The noise level depends on the number of unburnt pellets in the auger, where a larger number will cause a louder explosion.

Safety Precautions to Prevent Pellet Grills from Exploding During Shutdowns

There are several safety precautions you can take to prevent pellet grills from exploding.

1. Keep the right amount of pellets in the hopper

Maintaining the right amount (manufacturer recommended) of pellets in the hopper is one of the most important things to do to prevent pellet grill explosions.

A good rule of thumb is to load the hopper with roughly 2 lbs of pellets for every hour of smoking on low and slow, and 4 lbs for smoking on hot and fast.

2. Use a generator for backup

Your pellet grill will shut down during a power outage, so it’s best to invest in a generator to power your pellet grill.

Backup generators can be expensive, but are well worth the money, given that they prove handy in several different scenarios.

3. Check the firepot

If your pellet grill has shut down incorrectly, remove the unburnt pellets from the firepot before restarting the grill.

When restarting the pellet grill, be sure to open the lid before igniting it for better airflow, and to prevent an explosion.

How to Know if My Pellet Grill has Shutdown Correctly?

Since all pellet grills are built differently, refer to your owner’s manual for the right shutdown procedure, but here are shutdown steps for most pellet grills.

Step 1: Remove the food from the grill

It’s important to perform the correct shutdown process each time you use your pellet grill. First things first—remove the food from the smoker once it’s reached the desired temperature.

Step 2: Let the smoker run for 5 minutes

Most pellet grill manufacturers suggest running the pellet grill for another 5 minutes after you’re done cooking and have removed the food from the smoker.

Also called the natural burn-off method, turn the temperature dial to 177°C / 350°F, and shut the lid of your smoker for roughly 5 minutes.

This process is similar to the seasoning process of gas grills and gets rid of any excess food, grease and debris stuck in the smoker.

Step 3: Open the pellet smoker

After the burn-off process is complete, turn the temperature to “off”, open the lid, and let the smoker cool down.

It can take anywhere between 10 minutes to 20 minutes for the smoker to cool down completely. The cooling can take longer if your smoker is placed under direct sunlight, so it may be a good idea to move it to a shady location.

Step 4: Unplug the pellet grill

After the burn-off process, and the grill has cooled down, unplug the smoker from the electrical outlet after the fan has stopped working completely.

Step 5: Cover and store the pellet grill

It’s a good practice to cover and store your pellet grill after each use to protect it from the elements.

How to Know if My Pellet Grill has Shutdown Completely?

A tell-tale sign that your pellet grill has shut down completely is when the internal fan stops running. During the shutdown process, the grill will stop feeding pellets from the auger, and burn out any excess fuel in the firepot until there are no flames.

Take note that the internal fan can run for 5 minutes to 10 minutes during the shutdown process, so don’t unplug the pellet grill from the electrical outlet until this process is complete.

Are Pellet Grills a Fire Hazard?

Pellet grills and smokers are safe as long as you follow the right directions for use such as the proper shutdown process.

These types of grills are no more hazardous than smokers, gas grills, or campfires, considering that grease fires can occur in any grill, whether charcoal grill or a pellet smoker.

It all boils down to how you operate the smoker, and how you maintain the grill. You should also clean out the drip pan of your pellet grill frequently to prevent grease fires and explosions.

Why did My Pit Boss Pellet Grill Catch Fire?

The biggest reason why your Pit Boss grill catches fire is due to excessive grease, oil, and/or other debris.

This is why it’s very important to clean your pellet grill after each use and perform the burn-off method.

You should also keep an eye out on the grease trap and cup, and make sure there is no excess build-up of grease that can prevent it from functioning properly.

In the event of a fire, don’t panic because that’s not going to help the situation, but unplug the grill immediately from the power source so that the auger stops feeding the pellets, and the eventually goes out.

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