There you are on a Sunday morning with your new propane smoker, ready to cook up a storm, and the smoker just won’t get hotter. Don’t stress! This is common when you’re new at smoking and it could be for a variety of reasons which are all easy to fix.
To make a propane smoker hotter more oxygen needs to be added. Oxygen increases the pressure in the combustion process which, in turn, increases the heat. The temperature of a propane smoker is controlled by regulating the amount of oxygen in the smoker.
Why is My Propane Smoker not Getting Hotter?
Let’s start by looking at the possible reasons for your smoker not reaching the temperature needed to cook your meat to perfection.
1. Your Dampers Aren’t Open Enough
Dampers are vents that are usually located at the top (exhaust) and the bottom (intake) of your smoker which are used to control the amount of oxygen in your smoker. Fire needs oxygen to heat up so you need to open your dampers completely to make your propane smoker hotter.
2. Your Temperature Gauge is Faulty
Unless you’ve invested in a reputable smoker you’ll find that the temperature gauges built-in to the smoker are generally not very reliable. It’s advisable to get your own thermometer, check that it’s working, and place it in the center of the smoker to get an accurate reading.
3. Oxygen is Escaping Through Cracks and Worn Seals
The loss of oxygen through cracks in your smoker, or through loose or worn seals will make it difficult to heat up your smoker. You should be able to compensate for this using your dampers but it is best to get the cracks repaired and seals replaced so that the smoker lasts longer, and holds its heat.
4. The Ambient Temperature Is Too Cold
If you live in an area where it gets freezing in winter, you’ll often find your propane smoker is not getting hot enough because the metal of the smoker ices up which means it will take longer to reach the required temperature. You can try preheating it or getting a special insulation blanket or cover to keep the heat in.
5. You’re Opening and Closing The Smoker Too Much
Newbie smokers may be tempted to keep checking how things are going inside the smoker, but it really isn’t a good idea because every time the smoker’s door is opened it loses a lot of heat VERY quickly. Keep the smoker’s door closed until the thermometer stabilizes at your target temperature and then put in your meat.
6. The Meat is Cooking!
When you put meat into the smoker your temperature will drop quite sharply, and for a fair length of time because the meat absorbs the heat as it cooks. It’s best to heat a propane smoker to a higher temperature than you need to mitigate the loss of heat from opening the cooker and cooking the meat.
7. Check The Fittings
Fittings to the nozzles and pipes to the propane cylinder or temperature gauge may have become clogged, not be fitting snugly, or, if it’s cold, they could also have frozen up. Check these items if none of the previously mentioned reasons increase heat in your propane smoker.
8. Check the Dampers
The dampers can also get clogged and prevent air flowing properly so you should check that they are also free of any obstructions and can open and close smoothly. The last thing you need is to release oxygen and your exhaust damper gets stuck.
The common denominator in all these reasons for your propane smoker not getting hotter is that there is not enough oxygen; find out why and you’ve found the problem. More often than not it’s because you’re a newbie and haven’t got a handle on managing the dampers.
How to Get Your Smoker to the Right Temperature
Learn to Regulate the Temperature:
You will need to learn to use the dampers effectively in order to get your smoker smoking at the temperature you need. The vent at the bottom (intake damper) is near the fuel and pulls the oxygen into the smoking chamber controlling how much oxygen is let in. Leave the top vent (exhaust damper) partially open for smoke to escape and to pull the oxygen through the smoker.
Invest in a High-Quality Temperature Gauge:
There are a number of excellent temperature gauges available and it is a really worthwhile purchase, particularly if you are living in a cold climate. There are even gauges specifically for propane smokers which are quite sophisticated and come with a transmitter so you can check the temperature while sitting on your couch or mingling with guests.
Check The Wood Chips:
Wood chips do often flare up and catch on fire which will raise the temperature in the smoker and affect the taste of the meat. You can mitigate this by wrapping the chip tray in aluminum foil to create some separation between the tray and the chips, or, if you need even more distance between the two, try placing the chips onto a cast iron pan.
Temperature Regulation Tips
- Always keep the exhaust damper open to keep airflow doing.
- Open the intake damper completely to generate higher heat.
- Open the intake damper a quarter of the way for medium heat and a slow smoke.
- Open the intake damper halfway for low heat.
- Close the intake damper to 1/8th to cool it down quickly.
- If adjustments to the intake damper don’t work then try adjusting the exhaust damper.
- If the smoker is running too cool remove some of the fuel or open the exhaust vent.
- It is best to leave the intake damper completely open when cooking the meat.
- Increase your temperature by closing the exhaust damper and opening the intake damper.
- Lower your temperature by opening the exhaust damper and closing the intake damper.
- Always keep the door closed while cooking the meat.
After reading this article you should know how to get your propane smoker hotter. Before you know it you’ll be able to regulate the temperature without even thinking about it and can shift your focus to the most enjoyable part of having a propane smoker – what you’re going to cook in it!