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I get asked this question quite often and it's always something like, “why is my Masterbuilt smoker not smoking?”.
There are lots of other cabinet style electric smokers as well that have this same exact issue. Basically any electric smoker with a heating element that uses that same element to heat the smoker and heat the wood chips so they'll smoke, may have this problem.
I have the answer but first allow me to explain:
In this type of smoker, when you plug it in and turn it on, a heating element comes on and heats the smoker. There is likely a wood chip tray directly above the heating element that you fill with wood chips.
The heating element cycles on and off to maintain the set temperature of the smoker. This means it might be on for say 4 or 5 minutes then off for 4 or 5 minutes. On a really warm day, it may be off more than it's on as it may not require much to maintain the temperature.
In fact, it may not be on enough to even get the wood chips smoldering so they can create smoke.
You have to sort of coerce or trick the element into coming on so it can get the wood to smoking.
I have a few options:
Don't turn on your smoker until you are ready to begin cooking.
Go ahead and load wood chips into the tray and fill the pan with water then once you place the food into the smoker, turn it on and set the temperature. This will give the heat enough time to get the wood smoking and your problem will be solved.
Preheat the smoker ahead of time but only to the lowest temperature your smoker will maintain. Fill the pan with water but don't place wood chips in yet.
Once you place the food into the smoker, then fill the wood chip tray at the same time and close the door.
Immediately turn your smoker up to your smoker temperature which will cause the heating element to cycle on to bring up the temperature.
This should be enough time to cause the wood chips to smolder and start creating smoke.
Preheat your electric smoker like usual. Go ahead and fill the water pan but don't place wood chips in the tray yet.
Once you place the food into the smoker, then fill the wood chip tray but hold the door open long enough to let plenty of the heat escape so the heating element will be forced to come on so the chips can smolder and create smoke.
What about adding more wood chips?
Every time your wood chips burn up and you stop seeing smoke, you'll want to add more wood chips to the wood tray and hold the door open slightly so some heat can escape, forcing the heating element to come back on and get the wood to smoking.