Pellet Smoke Output at Altitude

Discussion in 'Pellet Smokers' started by coloradogranite, Sep 12, 2016.

  1. Hi all,

    I’ve been heavily researching pellet smokers, and I’m considering pulling the trigger on a MAK 2 Star General (upgrading from my MES), but have a question about altitude and smoke output (I live at 7,400 feet, just west of Denver).  I’ve read a considerable amount of info on how altitude affects cook times, boiling points, oxygen levels, etc., but haven’t been able to find its effect on smoke output.

    I’d like a lot of smoke flavor, and I plan to aim for fairly low cook temps (170-220 deg.) to maximize smoke output, save for the last bit if I want to finish off my cook.  I don’t need high temps at all … I have a Napoleon grill I love for that.

    I could hypothesize high elevation making smoke output go either way:

    1) It might lower smoke output, because it needs to burn more pellets (from less oxygen and often colder ambient temps), therefore pellets burn at higher temps to achieve a given cook temp in the food chamber, and I’ve read plenty that says burning at higher temps reduces smoke due to more complete combustion.


    2) It might increase smoke output, because, with less oxygen and colder temps require burning more pellets (same as above), it makes more smoke just from the increased volume of pellets being burned.

    So does anyone know which it is?  A little of each?  Or might something else be going on?  If you have specific MAK experience on this issue, great, but I’m open to all pellet smoker advice, assuming the situation would be similar.

    Thanks in advance for your knowledge!!

    p.s., this is my first post, aside from a Roll Call post, so if this is in the wrong forum or I didn't ask the question correctly or something along those lines, I'll take a demerit and welcome constructive criticism on what to do better.  Thanks.
  2. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    At 7,400 ft. there is a problem when it comes to combustion, as you know...   Whether it be incomplete, forming creosote, or inadequate heat and needing forced air make up air...   Pellet burners use flame as their heat source...   flame consumes smoke...  My suggestion would be to add a secondary smoke source like the AMNTS tube smoke generator made and sold by AMAZIN Products...  Todd Johnson... a long time member on this forum...  The AMNTS seems to be one of the few smoke generators that functions at high altitude....   Take a minute and call Todd..  He can answer most if not all of your concerns and may have some great suggestions.....
    • A-MAZE-N Products, Inc. 
    • 1932 Shawnee Road, Eagan MN  55122-1032
    • Ph: 651.352.2831
    • Fax: 651.352.2871
  3. Thanks!  Do you know if the AMNTS is feasible in a MAK?
  4. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Call Todd.....  He knows everything....
  5. yahoot

    yahoot Newbie

    I have used pellet eaters up to 8500 ft. No issues at all with the smoker (regular altitude problems with cooking temps). Smoking low and slow is the beauty of pellets and I have never had a problem running at 170.

    All the pellet smokers I have used have a fan that pushes air through the burn chamber, so combustion is simply not a problem. Even though there is slightly less oxygen at altitude, the fan blows so much air volume through the burn chamber it just doesn't matter.

    You could add a tube smoker (I use one or a smoke maze in the electric smoker), but I did some experiments with them in my pellet smoker and I wasn't convinced they added any flavor I couldn't get by running low and slow. If you are in a hurry and running hot, a pellet burner puts out less smoke (inverse relationship between heat and smoke in pellet smokers) so a tube can help, but otherwise you will get plenty of smoke without a tube.

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