Fires versus Heat Shield installed incorrectly?

Started by Corpsman801, June 13, 2020, 02:43:21 PM

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So I have been reading your forums for over a year and hesitant post to because it is not secure, (https) and every time you enter a password, it flies across the internet in plain text, for anyone to intercept. @ADMIN, Y U NO USE SSL??!!??
Regardless, I thank you for your insight and information thus far.
I decided to register just to pass along some information I ran across today.
I purchased a digital smoker 4-rack 30" new at Cabelas/BPS around this time last year. I have been cleaning it <pretty good> but still had fires about every 3ed or 4th smoke, once from sawdust buildup behind the smoke tray that I couldn't see, and 2 other times from grease accumulated near the heating element.
This last fire broke something. When plugged in the smoker self checks ok, the smoke unit works fine, heats, pushes pucks etc. When I turn the heater on, its trips the GFI circuit it is plugged into. When I put it on a non-GFI circuit, the heating element never fires up.
At this point I assume I need an inline fuse, but "yard and pool" is out of stock on these. I will be ordering one from Bradley or Amazon after I post this.
Here's the punchline:
The heat shield protecting the heating element from drippings was probably installed incorrectly. (upside down)
It funneled any drippings that made it through the V-Shaped drip tray INTO the heating element, instead of protecting the heating element from them.
This was installed at the factory, the only thing I had to do when I bought it was assemble the racks, attach the smoke, and plug it in. I never would have noticed it or thought there was a problem if I had not had an inordinate amount of fires.
In disassembling it to figure out this power problem, and removing the heating element it occurred to me if it was designed like this, thats a terrible design, and if I just flip it over, it works to protect the heating element from drippings.
Image 1 is as it came out of the box and has been operating for the past year.
Image 2-3+ is what it looks like after inverting it and screwing it back in.
Please let me know what your bradley digital 4 rack looks like in this area. is it a funnel, or a heat shield?

Factory install, out of the box:


Inverted bottom view


The shield you describe and illustrated in the first photo was correct in the original position( as installed by factory). It is the large v shaped removable tray above the element that serves to allow heat to pass through and collects any drippings and funnels them to the centre and down into the water bowl. This is one reason to keep the water bowl filled with water throughout the entire cook. The bowl serves to contain the drippings and prevent ignition.

I believe it's possible to install the v shaped tray upside down and that would negate its usefulness entirely and could lead to fires.

The tray you re and re'd is now in upside down and will seriously affect the operation of your smoker. It should be returned to its original position before any further use.

Overloading the smoker with greasy or fatty meats or allowing the meats to touch the sidewalls during operation can also fat to drain down the side walls and collect near element leading to fires. Never crowd your racks.

I never operate the smoker close to structure or leave it unattended.

Just to clarify, the piece you repositioned is now incorrect. I believe it's intended purpose is to shield the underside of the element from any splash's from underneath as fat and oil drips into the bowl.
It's going to take a lifetime to smoke all this.

Habanero Smoker

Hi Corpsman801;

Welcome to the forum.

What you are referring to as a  heat shield, is designed to help redirect/defuse the distribution of heat, and divert some heat from the drip bowl. The factory installation is/was correct. In addition to what Orion posted, it is unclear as to whether you are running the Bradley with the heat shield as factory installed or have you been running it inverted. If you are running it inverted that would cause fires probably every time, because you would be directing the heat downward and concentrating the heat to a small confined area.

Bradley solve the issue of users installing the V tray improperly; but some end users may still find a way to install it wrong. Bradley's use to have 2 studs on each side for the V tray to be seated on. Many years ago Bradley added a stud; either on one side or both side. The extra stud(s) prevent the end user from installing the V tray wrong. Make sure when it is installed make sure it is fully against the back wall.



Orion and Habs have as usual given very sound answers and advice, both the Bradley Smokers I own had the heat shield in the under the heat element position from new.

Fires have been reported on the forum from time to time but most have been associated with the V tray being positioned upside down hence Bradley's attempts to ensure they only go in one way. The other issue that has been associated with fires albeit it rarely is people covering the correctly installed V tray with aluminium foil which can channel fat and grease where it isn't supposed to go? This is also covered in the Instruction manual. Another cause could be lack of cleaning but it sounds like you have been thorough in this area?

If none of the above can be attributed as a likely cause of your fires including an upside down heat shield then the best bet would be to discuss it with Bradley technical support as fires are very rare, fires every 3rd or 4th smoke is not something I have ever been aware of?

Welcome to the forum.


Welcome to the forum Corpsman801, I too can't add anything to the conversation that hasn't been covered already. The only thing I could add is that you never load meat on your racks and have the meat touching the back wall of your smoker, especially fatty meat like a brisket or pork shoulder. As the fat renders from the heat it can run down the back wall and accumulate on the heating elements and ignite.


Message received and understood. The heat shield should be installed as it was originally, directing heat up and away from the bowl, but overheating the drip tray, which I believe is where most of my fires start. Grease should never hit this heat shield, as the drip tray is protectign it and directing grease away from the shield and element. I will reinstall it in the original position before I use it again.

The bolts on the heat shield are unique, in the fact that there are 2 on each side, in a left top and opposite right bottom setup, however if you invert it, it is still left top and right bottom.

My smokes are almost always fatty beef briskets, and I dont trim fat. This recipe I have perfected and is my signature BBQ, and it is very messy in the smoker as I expect the smoker to eat several pounds of beef fat, turning it into tender flavorful smokey heaven. Sometimes it takes up to 18 hours for a full brisket. However, i believe this is also a recipe for fires.

When I clean my drip tray, the half that was over the heating element is always charred, black and thick, full of creosote. I believe that grease dripping on the rear half of the tray never makes it into the bowl, as it is almost instantly evaporated by the heat of the element in the tray.

Best tip for preventing fires: Clean the drip tray every time, and don't just scrape it off, scrape it, soak it, use a brillo pad if necessary, and get that bastard SHINY clean ever time.

Thanks all for the input.

The smoking lamp is LIT.

Habanero Smoker

What your drip tray looks like after a cook is usual. Having those many fires is unusual, even with fatty cuts. There are members who smoke/cook up to four butts at a time, without any fire issues. You didn't mention how frequent you refresh the water bowl. With fatty food that should be done every 3 - 4 hours. I have cooked some butts, and halfway through the cook I had to scrape off a lot of buildup on the drip tray. The vents and drip hole were getting plugged. But that was mainly caused by the sugar in the rub. But that wouldn't cause drippings to run down the wall and onto the element, unless your briskets are touching the back wall.