How To Use A Smoke Tube in a Pellet Grill

smoke box being lit with a gas lighter

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It’s hard to beat the convenience of a pellet grill for low and slow barbecue. But sometimes the smoke flavor isn’t as deep as you get from burning wood or charcoal, especially in larger pieces of meat like pork butt and brisket.

That’s where a smoke tube comes in. In this guide, you’ll learn how to use this cheap accessory in your pellet grill to add extra smoke flavor to your BBQ.

What is a smoke tube?

A smoke tube is a perforated metal cylinder that holds wood pellets or chips for smoke generation.

smoke tube, unlit, on wooden board

Similar to a smoker box or foil packet filled with chips, a smoke tube is designed for long-lasting smoke output so you don’t have to keep refueling.

You can use a smoke tube to smoke on a gas grill, cold smoke, or in this case, to help you get more smoke flavor from your pellet grill

Check out our guide to the best cold smoke generators to learn more.

How to use a smoke tube on a pellet grill

Pellet grills work by burning wood pellets already, but they have a reputation for giving food a mild, subtle smoky flavor. Using a smoke tube is a cheap and easy way to get a flavor boost. 

Getting a smoke tube ready to go is simple and can be done in the time it takes to preheat your grill. 

You can add a smoke tube at any point during a cook, but for best results, you should aim to add it near the start of the cook.

1. Make sure the tube is clean and dry.

2. Fill the tube with wood pellets of your choice

smoke tube, unlit, with pellets inside

3. Place the tube on the grill grates and light one end of the tube until a good flame is rolling. You can fan the flame to make sure it gets hot and ensures good combustion.

smoke tube being lighted with gas lighter

4. Let the flame burn for 15 minutes to make sure the pellets stay lit.

5. Blow out the flame after 15 minutes. Billowy smoke will start to form and fill the cooking chamber.

smoke tube lit with no flame

6. Put your food on the grill and smoke away.

Make sure there’s adequate airflow in the cooking chamber or the pellets will smolder out. If you’re not getting smoke generation, try moving the tube close to the air gaps in the grill lid and make sure the pellets are burning on their own after 15 minutes of being lit. 

smoke tube on bbq

How does a smoke tube work?

To start generating smoke, fill the smoke tube with the pellets of your choice and light them up. You can use the same pellets you are using in the pellet hopper, or you can mix it up. Apple and cherry is always a winning combination.

Once you get a nice flame with clean burn, blow out the flame and the pellets will start to smolder producing a good amount of smoke. 

They continue to smoke until all pellets have run their course – generally about 5 to 6 hours in a 12” smoke tube.

This will fill your cooking chamber with a steady flow of clean smoke, infusing your food with deeper flavor than you would get from the grill alone.

When to use a smoke tube?

You can use a smoke tube whenever you want to add smoky flavor to your food. Though it’s great on a pellet grill for low-and-slow BBQ, it’s also great for shorter cooks and even cold smoking.

If you’re doing hot and fast steaks to medium rare but still want some woody flavor, add a smoke tube to your grill and let it smoke while the steaks are on.

smoke tube on bbq under a rack of ribs

If you want to cold smoke cheese but don’t want it to melt over higher heat, use a smoke tube to generate smoke while the temperature stays low. 

It’s very convenient if you don’t have a designated smoker or want to add more smoke flavor to your food.

Pros and cons of a smoke tube

The smoke tube is a simple and handy piece of equipment, but not without its flaws. Let’s look at some pros and cons.


  • Cheap way to add smoke flavor to your foods
  • Portable for camping or road trips
  • Can mix and match wood types and flavors
  • Burns slowly for longer cooking sessions
  • Easy to clean


  • Thin metal wears easily with repeated use
  • Needs to be refilled with cooks over 5 – 6 hours

Smoke tube vs. smoke box. vs. foil packet

All three options are good at adding smoke to your grill when desired, but a smoke tube has some advantages over the other two.

A smoke tube burns much slower than both a smoke box or foil packet, whether filled with pellets or wood chips. The tube is designed much like the snake method and will burn linearly for 5 – 6 hours in a 12” long tube. 

A box is great when you need massive smoke in short bursts, like those hot-and-fast steaks we mentioned above. Check out our guide on smoking on a gas grill to see which method passed the flavor test.

Wood pellets vs. wood chips

and example of chips and pellets on a wooden board

Smoke tubes are designed to be used with wood pellets but use wood chips just fine. The benefit of using pellets is that they last longer with steady smoke, while wood chips tend to burn faster and need replenishing. 

Check with the manufacturer to ensure any warranties remain intact if used with wood chips instead of pellets. 

Bottom line

Using a smoke tube is an easy and convenient method to add deeper smoke flavor on a pellet grill – or any grill for that matter. 

You don’t have to buy a stand-alone smoker if you want smoke flavor and already have a grill. Throw a smoke tube on the grates and let it add that smoke flavor you want. 

Have you used a smoke tube before? Let us know how it worked for you in the comments. 

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  1. Connie olson says:

    Great reading and ideas. A great explanation on
    Using a smoke tube

  2. Great accessory ,love the ability to put extra smoke on your on your meat. Makes it richer in flavor. I’m ordering a second one for backup. Highly recommend. Piece of cake to use. Takes a few minutes to get it cranking. Don’t get impatient. It’ll do the job.

  3. Tom Wanamaker says:

    The first time I used a smoke tube it worked so well that I immediately went out and bought a second one! It also worked well for cold smoking on a grill with an attached firebox.

    I just bought my first pellet smoker and tried it for the first time a couple of days ago. I am exceedingly disappointed with the the minimal amount of smoke output. I have been smoking meets for over 30 years on grills using natural hardwoods, and I guess I’m accustomed to seeing billows of smoke coming out of the smoker. I called the manufacturer and expressed my disappointment. They are going to send me a new control board to see if that corrects the problem.

    If all else fails in the quest for more smoke, I will be reverting back to my old standby smoke tubes! They’re simple, relatively inexpensive, and they work great!

  4. I have a question, when you have placed tube in pellet grill, do you also lite your on also or wait till tube is done smoking.

    1. Breanna Stark says:

      You can do either, but I usually use the smoke tube while the grill is on to add smoke during the cook.

  5. I’ve heard where things are over smoked to the point the meat is sour? Is that a thing with the smoke tube? Thanks!

    1. It would be more a case of dirty smoke from a bad fire causing a sour taste, rather than over smoking. Wouldn’t happen with a smoke tube though.

  6. Gave a Hoot says:

    I always have trouble lighting smoker tubes. Any suggestions there?

    1. You may need to give it more time than you think. You’ll need a good lighter / torch and you want to light the end, and then slowly hold it against the outside and rotate the tube for a few minutes until everything is lit. You maybe need to blow on it a little to help

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