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Using a Pellet Tube for Smoking Meat

Pellet Tube Instructions Hero

If you use an electric smoker and would like to have constant smoke for 5+ hours or you use a pellet smoker and just aren’t getting enough smoke flavor, I have the solution for you!

A pellet tube filled with pellets and lit at one end will provide constant smoke for 5+ hours depending on it’s size and how full you fill it with pellets.

Some of you may be here because you’ve already tried to use a pellet tube and can’t keep the darn thing lit! Well, I’ll show you how to fix that problem as well.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Pellet tube
  • Pellets
  • Torch/Lighting device

First, you will need a pellet tube. I use one that I found on Amazon really cheap and it works great!

IMG 2607

You will also need pellets and almost any pellets will work. I generally use the Pit Boss brand from Wally world because they are cheap and they work well in the smoke tube as well as in my pellet smokers.

You can also purchase pellets on amazon but they will cost more than what you can find locally. Your choice there!

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Third and possibly most important, you will need a propane or butane torch. I like the larger Bernzomatic torches like plumbers use but the smaller creme brûlée torches will also work just fine.

Here’s the torch I use which you can find at Wally World, HD or almost any other store that sells hardware and tools.

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Step 1: Fill the Pellet Tube with Pellets

Fill the tube all the way full with dry pellets.

Note: I have been known to microwave my pellets in a bowl for a minute or two before placing them in the tube to make sure they are dry but this is just something I do to make sure, it’s probably not generally necessary.

Step 2: Light the Pellet Tube

I tend to lay the smoke tube horizontally on a flat, fire-proof surface but I’ve seen some stand them straight up during the lighting procedure.

Which smoke tube position do you think is better? Post it in the comment section below.

Turn on the torch and hold the flame to the pellets for about 45 seconds to get them to burning real good.

IMG 2609 1
Ligh ‘er up!

Once they are burning, allow them to burn for around 7 minutes to create a really nice bed of coals. This bed of coals is one of the key components that keeps the pellets going for 4 to 5 hours unattended.

If the pellets are still burning after 7 minutes, blow out the flame and continue on to the next step.

Step 3: Place the Smoke Tube in the Smoker

Every smoker is different and placement is something that varies from smoker to smoker. The 2nd key component to making sure the smoke tube keeps smoking for hours on end is air.

The smoke tube must get a supply of air via a vent, hole, opening, etc. so that it can continue burning.

For instance, I often use a smoke tube in the Reqtec pellet smoker. I place it directly on the grate all the way to the left, right next to the probe access hole and that gives it plenty of air.

IMG 2617
Give it some air

In the Masterbuilt electric smokers, the smoke tube will set on the bottom rack right next to the woodchip chute. The chute needs to be open to allow air to enter and keep the smoke tube going.

If you don’t have a vent or opening, you can modify your smoker or grill to create an air inlet as long as this won’t void your existing warranty.

If you use a smoke tube in your smoker, let me know in the comment area below what position works for you in your smoker. Be sure to let us know what type, model, generation, etc. of smoker you have.

Note: I recommend NOT using the water pan when using a smoke tube. The extra moisture in the smoker could mess with the smoke tube staying lit and this is not good. If possible, leave the water pan dry when using a smoke tube.

Having Trouble Keeping the Pellet Tube Lit?

  1. Make sure the pellets are dry. If you suspect the pellets are the least bit damp, pour them into a bowl and microwave them for a minute or two to help dry them.
  2. Hold the lighter/torch to the pellets for 45 seconds. This allows more pellets to start burning which will give you a better bed of coals to keep the pellets burning inside the smoker.
  3. Let the pellets burn uninterrupted for at least 7 minutes to create that bed of coals we talked about in #2 above.
  4. Make sure the pellet tube is getting sufficient air. The pellets must get a steady supply of oxygen to continue burning for hours on end. If the pellets are going out, they may be starved for air.

Using Pellets + Woodchips in a Pellet Tube

For even more smoke flavor, you can use wood chips in with the pellets.

I recommend NOT using wood chips only but layering them. For instance, a layer of pellets, then a layer of wood chips, followed by another layer of pellets and so on and so forth.

Pellets tend to burn more cleanly than wood chips and while this is a great thing about pellets, it also means the flavor can be less strong than wood chips.

I recommend placing pellets as your last layer and that is the layer that you light to create a good bed of coals.

Give it a try and see what you think.

If you have other tips for lighting the pellet tube and/or keeping it lit for hours on end, let us know in the comments area below.

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56 Comments

  1. Jeff, I use a propane torch to start the pellets, but in the past I have also used an electric heat gun. The heat gun is kinda fun. It causes the pellets to put out a tremendous amount of smoke just before they burst into flame. Also, as you mentioned, it is very important to allow the pellets to burn for several minutes before blowing out the flame. One more thing I’ve learned from using smoke tubes… They put out quite a bit of heat so be aware that the meat closest to the tube may cook faster than the rest of the meat. I have been using smoke tubes in my smokers for several years and really like them. (I have 2) Also, they make great gifts for your BBQ buddies that may not have one.

  2. Jeff,

    Awesome post on the Smoker Tube…!

    I have 2 that I use in my Weber Gas Genesis grill.
    Once lit, I place below the grill grate and cold smoke for hours.
    Great for camping also.
    Amazing flavor using your ribs and sauces, with cold smoking. After smoking, I apply some heat to bring meat to temp slowly and pull from grill.
    Nice smoke ring also.
    BTW, thanks for your weekly posts…!
    I have used many of your recipes and they are ALL amazing.
    Keep them coming and I’ll keep on Smokin….!
    Jeff C. Redding, CA

  3. I have been using a smoke pole for years. I did not have any luck using just pelle. works great.ts, so I used a mix of wood chips and pellets

  4. I use apple or cherry for turkey, pork fish. For cheese, (sharper the better), pecan seems to give the best flavor and MUST be done cold less than100 degrees F

  5. When I was using my Masterbuilt electric I used the A*maze*N Smoke Tubes. I recommend not lighting them in the vertical position as they may have more of a tendency to fall over and spill burning pellets.

  6. I find that microwaving the pellets for about 1 minute for the pellets that I put in the A-Maze-N Smoker 5×8 Inch Smoker Maze. I light it at both ends and this lasts about 8 hours and gives twice the smoke, which over 5 – 6 hours, gives a better smoke flavor.

  7. I use a Weber gas grill with a smoke tube,work great.my ?is just bought a ninja woodfire grill for camping uses 1/2cup of pellet ,smokes fine but find it produces xcess smoke flavor on some food and especially if food sits in ice box for a couple of days wondered if you have tested these grills and can make any suggestions.i have the Weber,mgm pellet and now the ninja,other grills have volume for smoke ninja is just too concentrated if this makes sense.
    Thankyou For all you do for bbq,smokeing meats etc.

    1. Rich, I don’t have the Ninja Woodfire but have heard it cooks and smokes well. I am wondering if it would help to use a lighter flavored pellet such as apple, alder, etc. (not sure what you typically use). I also wondered if you could use less pellets but they recommend filling up the pellet container. If I had one, I’d have to try only filling it half way and see how that affects the flavor.

      1. I have a vertical gas smoker. Master Built. Having trouble keeping tube smoker lit while using the burner for heat. I live in Calgary Canada, and winter can get cold. I am thinking the tube is not getting required air supply to stay lit, so I am thinking of injecting fresh air for it with an aquarium air pump. Same idea as some bolt on smoke generators use. Any advice you have would be appreciated.

  8. I’ve always just used a universal blend of pellets for my grill since most pellet grills are so difficult to change pellets, so everything I have smoked pretty much had the same smoke flavor. Now I’m excited to see the difference in what I smoke using the smoke flavor recommended in a recipe

    Rob

  9. I use my smoke tube for cold smoking homemade bacon in my Traeger with it turned off and unplugged. I have the extra smoking section on mine. I fill the tube generally w/apple pellets tap it on a flat surface a couple of times to settle the pellets tighter hold it on a 20-30 degree angle and put the torch to the open end for about 20 -30 seconds set it on the Traeger Firebox load my cured bacon into the cold smoker section of the Traeger close the door blow out the flame on the smoke tube close the big door on the Traeger and we are good for about 5 hours of smoke.

  10. I love the amount of smoke it puts out when it is smoking but often it flares up with flames when in the cooker. Any thoughts on preventing this from happening? Thanks. Keep up the great videos and recipes. Always look forward to your next email.

      1. It’s closed off as much as it can go. Maybe I need to pack the pellets tighter. I don’t always fill it to the top as my cooking time may be less. I have the same tube as yours. I’ll keep experimenting with it to hopefully get it right. Love smoked food. Thanks for you reply.

        1. I will sometimes fill my smoking tube with balls of tinfoil in the bottom so I can then pack the pellets on top of that to the top of the tube. That still gives several hours of smoke.

  11. I have a Kamado Joe and I’ve tried everything that I can think of to keep a pellet tube smoking, but it just doesn’t work. I’ve laid it at the very bottom near the vent to keep the air going, up on the grill grate and even on the ceramic smoke diverter. Nothing seems to work. Advice would be most appreciated.

  12. I got my tubes 2 Christmas ago and I love them. Unfortunately my smoker just doesn’t work anymore so I have a old BBQer (gas) I turn on the searing side of my BBQ witch a 225 degrees and the other end are my tubes and it works great

  13. If you have a Green Mountain Grill with WiFi you have an app that allows for cold smoking with a tube. it supplies oxygen but no heat from grill.

  14. I use the same tube and add apx 1/2 cup of pellets and then tap the tube on concrete to pack them. I continue that until filled just to the top of the holes of the tube. Using the same torch light the standing tube on high flame for 45 seconds. Let burn for 10 minutes using torch to keep a flame going. I then place on the left side of a Yoder Pellet Smoker away from the stack and next to the wire access vent. Always runs 5-6 hours and never goes out.

  15. I have a 4-rack, vertical gas smoker and it was a months-long chore figuring out why it wouldn’t stay lit. If you have one with both a chip and water tray in it, remove the chip tray (it’s useless) but leave the water tray to shield the pellet tube. Place the properly lit tube (as described above) on the lowest rack, open the vents all the way then smoke away.

    Physics: The gas flame literally consumes all the oxygen regardless of flame setting so the tube will snuff out. Note also that pellet trays won’t work in a vertical gas smoker which is why the developer invented the tube. Those tray types are for BBQ grills and similar appliance constructs.

  16. I’ve used a smoke tube for over a year .Puts out great smoke with little effort.I light mine right on the grate with lid open .Can’t beat it .

  17. I have one of these….I love it! Works great in a gas grill too. In fact, that’s why I bought it. I was visiting long-term with my parents who have a gas grill on their deck and I wasn’t settling for meat without smoke!! LOL

  18. Jeff, like you I lay my smoke tube down to light and have not had many problems getting 5+ hours of smoke.

    I have a Z 1000 pellet grill and did have to find the sweet spot to place it. My grill has 3 levels of racks, I place the smoke tube just above the space between the drip pan and the front edge of the grill (this is about a 1″ space) on the bottom rack. I place it on the left side so that the smoke travels across the grill.

    I have only had 1 problem with my smoke tube and that was smoking some Red Rine cheese last winter. Using the barrel and dome top from an old Brinkman smoker that the bottom was gone, set the barrel on some bricks and placed a brick in the center to set the smoke tube on. The 1st batch of cheese turned out great, the 2nd batch the smoke tube must have been getting to much air, the next morning (cheese was wrapped in cheese cloth) the cheese had melted. So I will have to play with it to make sure that the pellets don’t blaze up when I try again.

  19. Are there any special considerations for use when grilling? I’m thinking of the high air flow at high heat affecting placement. Also, I’ve got two old maze-type smoke generators, one for pellets and the other for sawdust. I’ve only ever used them for cold smoking (fish and cheese). Are these also good for use in the smoker?

    1. Joel, I have a few of the trays as well and back in the day, we used sawdust instead of pellets. The mazes work just as well as the tubes in my opinion but take up a little more space on your smoker grate.

  20. I like this idea, I wonder how it would work for cheese? I mean, with my master built smoker off
    and the tube onthe bottom shelf and cheese on the top. The temp would come up some but maybe not enough to melt the cheese. Have you or anyone you know ever tryed it like this?

    1. Skeets, lots of people use these for smoking cheese. They do need air but if you give them too much air, they can flair up and create too much heat. Give it just enough air and try to place it as far away from the cheese as possible and it will work perfectly.

  21. My amazon purchased smoke tube is hinged and opens lengthwise. I layer the pellets and wood chips lengthwise in the tube. Abundant smoke produced for 5+ hours.

  22. 12″ smoke tube in my pitboss 1150 on the left side opposite of chimney as per recommendation from my buddy from Texas. Combination of pellets and wood chips in the tube. Total smoke show! Also allows for combination of one flavor of chips in the hopper and a different flavor of pellets/chips in the tube.

  23. I wait for fall and winter and use the smoke tube in a unheated smoker or grill to smoke cheese. If your temps get above 80, you will have a mess. 3 hrs smoke, wrap tightly for a couple of weeks to distribute smoke, cut and enjoy. Some eat the cheese right away. I think it’s to strong then but mellows in a couple weeks.

  24. The tube will get hot during the 7 minute period waiting for a good burn to start. I wear a leather work glove to move and position the tube.

    I light the tube in the standing position and place a small amount of gel alcohol on top of the pellets before lighting. This is almost necessary if you do not have a torch lighter.

  25. I light mine vertically and usually place it toward the back of the rack, my reasoning is to keep it away from the temp prob. Is that an issue, that hasn’t been mentioned by anyone yet?

    1. Ron, You make a great point.. I think it is smart to not get it too close to the temperature probe in the smoker as this can give the controller a false reading and could affect the cooking temperature.

  26. Your smoker tube instructions are very helpful. I have a Gorilla Grill pellet smoker and it doesn’t put near as much smoke into the meat as my old wood smoker. I tried a smoker tube but couldn’t keep it burning after I lit it with a torch. Now I know to let the flame burn for 7 min. Before I blow it out. I’ll give this a try. Thank you.
    Dean Coates

    1. Popeye, I have played with most other smoke generators on the market and most of them work pretty good including the Smoke Daddy. I just feel like the pellet tube is a lot simpler and less expensive for most people. I personally feel like all pellet smokers should come with a pellet tube since they just don’t produce enough smoke for most people. The new Camp Chef Woodwind Pro is heading the right direction with their smoke box that allows to you insert wood chunks for smoke. I just received one of these a few weeks back and a review is forthcoming. It works extremely well and the flavor is blowing me away.

  27. Great idea about using the wood chips! I will try it next time I smoke. I use a Camp Chef 24″ Smoke Vault to smoke my venison summer sausage that I make. It can produce a low temp, around 160 to 180 degrees needed, but produces little smoke with out a little help. The tube does the job very well but hard to find the types of wood I want to use in a small bag. I do not have a pellet smoker and I don’t need them in my old Oklahoma Joes Stick burner. Thanks for the great recipes you send out, I have tried several of them.
    North Texas Fan

  28. My Pit Boss vertical is too air tight and I am not going to drill a hole in it so I can get a smoke tube to stay lit.

  29. *Excellent post on the smoke tube!
    *Camp Chef 24 Smoke Vault
    *I light my 12 inch smoke tube in the vertical position.
    1. Dring of the pellets is very important. The pellets will not burn right if damp. Microwave 30-60 seconds. Don’t want a flair up. Start at low end. Watch the whole time.
    2. The lighting as stated is very important as well. Get a good burn with flame before snuffing flame to let smoke. A metal soup can or the like work well to put out flame.
    3. The placement by air vent helps to keep the burn going.

    1. I have a A MAZING PELLET Tube. I use an electric heat gun to light the pellets. Takes a little longer, but it dries the pellets out nicely. Gun reaches 550 F.

  30. What not to do…. I recently placed this very smoke tube shown in this article on top of the fire box where the auger turns out the pellets. Ended up catching the hopper on fire and ruined the plastic bushing that supports the auger. What a mess! Ordered new parts. I have a Z-Grille 600 series.

  31. I use a Green Mountain pellet grill. I use a tube smoker and lay it to the left side next to the probe holes for good air. I used to have trouble keeping it lit, even with microwaving the pellets, but now I place a smallish flat rock about 1 1/2 inches thick in the back left corner and prop the back end of the tube on the rock. Always stays lit. Love the good smoke flavor. Have always used A-Maze-N pellets, last time had to order from Pit Boss website, I am afraid they are going out of production

  32. I usually sit mine near the air intake, but also away from the food, since the smoke tube will also generate some food and could overcook something like salmon.

  33. On RecTec 590 I put the smoke tube horizontally across the grates over the gap between the drip pan and side of smoking chamber. The air circulation from convection fan passes across tube and keeps the pellets smoldering/burning

  34. During the 7 minute burn at start up is the tube in or out of your RecTec smoker? If in is the door open or closed? You don’t mention handling the tube once it is lit.

    1. Jim, Others may do this differently, I start mine outside the smoker and let it it burn for about 7 minutes then once I blow it out, I carefully place it in the smoker where I want it.

  35. I honestly believe that your newsletters are the best deal on the net. You give us a subscription to your newsletters as well as your recipes for your BBQ sauce and 2 rubs.
    You are consistent with your emails & updates and your emails are unobtrusive.
    Thanks for your thoughts and expertise Jeff.

  36. I have an 8 yr old Masterbuilt 30″ electric smoker. Have been using smoke tube for abt 5 yrs. I light it vertically with a Benzomatic type torch as you described. Once burning for 5-10 mins, I place the tube vertically in the front portion of the smoker (standing it upright on the bottom of the smoker and in front of the racks/grids). I think it stays lit better than when I have tried it horizontally as you described.