It’s Christmas Day, and I have a whole duck to cook for lunch. I was planning to cook it in the oven, but decided I had enough time to cook in the pellet grill, at a slightly lower temperature so as to give it some smoke. I will be using the grill for a turkey on Monday – it’s been about a month since I last used the grill, so I thought a test run was in order.
Good job too. Damp had got into the pellet hopper. When pellets get damp, they disintegrate into wood dust. That then dries and impacts into a kind of soft wooden cement. After vacuuming out the remaining pellets, I looked at a wood encased auger and sighed.
My last cook had left just a couple of handfuls of pellets in the hopper. I think perhaps if the hopper had been full, the damp wouldn’t have penetrated to the auger, and so the problem would have siezed the auger. But this has happened to me before, on my larger grill, and I should know better. Once the weather starts getting cold and damp, the best thing you can do with a pellet grill is to empty out both the auger and hopper, if the grill isn’t going to be used in the next day or so. This can be done in two ways:
- Use a shop-vac to vacuum out any unused pellets in the hopper, and vacuum out both ends of the auger.
- At the end of the cook, simply use a cup or jug to empty the hopper as much as you can, then simply keep running the machine until both the hopper and auger are completely empty.
(2) is a little more work, but less wasteful on pellets, as you probably won’t want to reuse pellets that have been in your shop-vac.
If you do empty your hopper and auger, you should also remember to prime the burn pot when you next cook. Normally the pellets in the auger go straight into the pot while the igniter is glowing – if you have emptied the auger, it will take longer for the pellets to get through from the hopper. A small handful straight into the pot before turning it on gets things going.
The good news? With the application of a sharp knife and a screwdriver, I managed to scrape out or loosen the impacted wood-dust from the auger, sufficiently for the auger motor to turn it. I then run through a cupful of clean dry pellets, which would have cleaned out any remaining clumps. The grill is working again, but I’ll remember to run it dry when I have finished today.