Smokestacks and Chimneys on Pellet Grills (All The Facts)

Smokestacks and Chimneys on Pellet Grills (All The Facts)

Pellet grills come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some pellet grills have vertical smoking boxes, while others have fancier features such as WiFi and temperature probes.

So figuring out which pellet grill is the best one for you can be a challenge since the prices range from $500 to thousands based on the quality, features, and manufacturer.

One noticeable feature that is included with some pellet grills but missing on others is the smokestack. When choosing a pellet grill, it’s worth narrowing down the list based on whether or not a pellet grill has a chimney. However, it’s worth understand what a smokestack even does on a pellet grill.

So does a pellet grill need a chimney or smokestack?

Smokestacks and chimneys allow the smoke to safely exit the pellet grill further away from the cooking area. A commonly stated benefit of smokestacks and chimneys is that they will provide better airflow. However, pellet grills and smokers without chimneys will still successfully smoke food so the airflow benefit from smokestacks is minor.

Now let’s quickly cover how a pellet grill works so you can determine whether or not a smokestack is needed when selecting a pellet grill.

How Pellet Grills Work

A pellet grill is simply a grill that uses wood pellets as fuel for a fire. The firepot is where the wood pellets burn and smolder which creates the heat and smoke needed to cook and smoke food.

Below is an image that highlights the main internal parts of a pellet grill and the purpose of each part.

How A Pellet Grill Works

The image does not include a smokestack since that is not a critical piece for a pellet grill or smoker to function.

Once the pellet grill creates smoke from the burning wood pellets, the induction fan blows the smoke upwards and out of either the smokestack, vent holes, or any other exhaust area.

Smoke Venting From Pellet Grills

When using a pellet grill at a low temperature, there will be a lot of smoke that gets created. If the pellet grill is not smoking enough then check out these 5 tips for getting more smoke on a pellet grill.

As the smoke gets created by the burning wood pellets, the smoke must exit the grill somewhere. Generally, pellet grills have smokestacks, vent holes, or other exhaust areas.

For example, my Traeger below has oval-shaped vent holes on the backside of the grill’s drum:

Traeger Smoke Exhaust Vent Holes

I have used my Traeger pellet grill for smoking salmon, briskets, ribs, pork shoulders, corn, and anything else I can get my hands on.

I have never used a smokestack on my Traeger and it works perfectly fine with creating smoke and maintaining temperature.

However, sometimes the smoke will remain near the cooking area which means you may receive a face full of smoke as you lift open the grill. Below is an image of when my pellet grill was firing up and creating more smoke than usual:

Traeger-starting in Smoke Setting

Overall, not having a smokestack or chimney on my Traeger has not been a deal-breaker so I’ve never considered purchasing and installing one.

Benefits of Smokestack and Chimneys

Although a smokestack or chimney is not absolutely necessary for a pellet grill or smoker to work, these are nice additions if included in a pellet grill.

Here are the benefits of smokestacks and chimneys:

  • Hot smoke will safely exit further away from the cooking chamber
  • Have adjustable gaps to adjust the amount of smoke venting out
  • Can improve the airflow through the pellet grill and smoker
  • Helps retain heat in the cooking chamber

Although smokestacks and chimneys aren’t necessary for a pellet grill or smoker to work, there are plenty of benefits to consider when purchasing a grill that can include one.

From my own personal experience, the main benefit of a smokestack and chimney is how it helps the pellet grill retain heat in the cooking chamber. This is especially true when smoking or cooking food in cold weather.

Using Pellet Grills in Cold Weather

Depending on where you live, you may want to use a pellet grill when the ambient temperature outside is cold.

Pellet grills and smokers generally require hours to cook and smoke food so keeping the cooking chamber insulated is a top priority in cold weather.

Vent holes on the backside of my Traeger are not ideal for cold weather smoking. In fact, I’ve noticed that my pellet grill will burn pellets faster during winter in order to maintain the cooking temperature I set.

A smokestack or chimney would help prevent the cold air from entering the pellet grill which is a huge benefit for smoking in cold weather.

See this article for Igniting & Using a Pellet Grill in Cold Weather and you may notice in the image that this Traeger does have a smokestack as well:

Igniting And Using Traeger Pellet Grills In Cold Weather

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Should a pellet grill’s smoke stack be open or closed?

A: The smokestack should always remain open on a pellet grill. The smoke needs a way to exit the grill and if the smokestack is closed then the fire may go out and the food may develop an acrid taste from too much smoke.

In order to reduce the amount of smoke being produced by the pellet grill, try using a higher temperature, different wood pellets, or adjusting the p-setting so the grill waits longer before turning the auger on in “Smoke” setting.

Q: Should a pellet grill’s vent be open or closed?

A: The vent should always remain open on a pellet grill. The smoke needs a way to exit the grill and if the vent is closed then the fire may go out and the food may develop an acrid taste from too much smoke.

In order to reduce the amount of smoke being produced by the pellet grill, try using a higher temperature, different wood pellets, or adjusting the p-setting so the grill waits longer before turning the auger on in “Smoke” setting.

Q: Choose a pellet grill with or without a smokestack?

A: Smokestacks are beneficial to have on a pellet grill or smoker. However, depending on the cost the smokestack may not be worth it since the pellet grill will work normally with or without a smokestack.

Here are the benefits of smokestacks and chimneys:

  • Hot smoke will safely exit further away from the cooking chamber
  • Have adjustable gaps to adjust the amount of smoke venting out
  • Can improve the airflow through the pellet grill and smoker
  • Helps retain heat in the cooking chamber

So depending on your price range and the available pellet grills, you may opt for a pellet grill with a smokestack.

Q: Why do some pellet grills have smokestacks?

A: Some pellet grills have smokestacks in order to improve the airflow and direct the smoke away from the grill. However, smokestacks are not necessary for a pellet grill to work. Pellet grills that have vent holes or other exhaust areas will work just as well as a pellet grill with a smokestack.

Q: Do you need a smokestack on a pellet grill?

A: Smokestacks are not necessary for a pellet grill to work. However, smokestacks do help with airflow and directing smoke away from the front of the grill. Smokestacks also help retain heat in the cooking chamber since most pellet grills without smokestacks have openings or slots on the pellet grill’s body.

The major benefit of having a smokestack on a pellet grill is when the pellet grill is cooking or smoking food in cold temperatures. The smokestack will help the cooking chamber stay warmer which is critical when cooking in cold weather.

See this article to learn more about using a pellet grill in cold weather such as rain or snow.

Final Thoughts

Smokestacks and chimneys are great features to have on a pellet grill or smoker.

There’s almost no reason to not purchase a pellet grill that comes with a smokestack. However, if a pellet grill costs significantly more to just include a smokestack then it may be better to purchase the less expensive pellet grill with vent holes.

The major consideration for splurging on a pellet grill with a smokestack is if you are planning on smoking food during winter. The smokestack will help keep cold air out of the cooking chamber and retain heat which is critical for smoking food.

At the end of the day, any pellet grill will smoke food just fine whether it has a smokestack or not.

Just get out there with your favorite meat, some good drinks, and enjoy the smoke!

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Steven

I'm learning how to catch, grow, and cook my own natural food and my goal is to help others eat more food from nature. Eating natural food can taste great, be affordable and accessible with a little planning. Don't get me wrong, I still eat taco bell and pizzas every so often, but I'm trying to eat more dank food from nature! So let's eat tasty natural food together.

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