Acrid, bitter smoke from the very beginning

Started by Rusty_Camaro, March 27, 2021, 09:05:45 AM

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Hi Everyone!

I got my first Bradley smoker last weekend and I'm pumped to put it to use. My Bradley Digital 6-rack is joining a pellet smoker and traditional off-set hardwood smoker, hopefully to add better cold-smoking control.

I thoroughly cleaned the unit before first use, and run three "seasoning" cycles now--exactly like the manual describes. 2 one-hour sessions, and 1 2-hour session. The smoke/smell coming out of even the very first bisquette is so acrid and bitter that there's no way I would use it for food. It the kind of smell that makes you turn your head away and wince like you're in pain. I tried running it without the smoke generator (just the oven) to see if it's burning off residue, but there's no smell when the smoker isn't in use. So I've narrowed it down to the smoke system.

The unit is attached correctly and the conveyor works fine. The bisquettes are correctly seated on the heating element, and they dump off into the water at 20 minutes as prescribed. They are completely black and smell terrible when they're through. The water in the smoke bowl absolutely reeks of bitter smoke. And again, this is after the very first bisquette. So it's not an issue of too much smoke, as I've read can be the case. The vent is always open, too.

All I can think of is that the burner is too hot and the bisquettes are over-cooking, so-to-speak, because there aren't any other variables.

Or, potentially, it could be a problem with the bisquettes themselves. Perhaps they're missing something that keeps them from over-burning? I'm using Bradley bisquettes. I've combed through the forum and haven't seen any problems related to individual boxes of bisquettes, though.

The only similar problems I've found on the forum with smoke have been too much smoke over the course of hours and hours. This is not that. It's immediate, and very severe.

Has anyone had this issue? I would love any ideas or directions to investigate. At this point I simply can't use the unit and I'm burning through bisquettes trying to figure it out.

Thanks, all!

Habanero Smoker

Hi Rusty_Camaro;

Welcome to the forum.

Unfortunately your type of problem is often the hardest to answer; since smoke taste and smell is very subjective. I find that the smoke produced by the Bradley is more "mellow" than that produced by my charcoal burners. I don't get the smells from the smoke that you do, and as smelling the burnt bisquettes, I don't feel you can get an accurate sense of the flavor they produce. It's like smelling a chunk of hickory wood after it has been burnt.

You didn't mention what wood flavor you are burning. I find mesquite to be the harshest, but others do not. If you have purchased one of their specialty bisquettes, the herbs and other flavoring may produce an "acrid" smell in the smoke, but not in the food. If you have a infrared thermometer measure the temperature of the bisquette burner after it has fully heated up. It should be around 560°F, or lower. If it is burning much higher than that, then that may be a possible cause. Also I found once you season the Bradley you will always get a slight hint of smoke, even when not using any bisquettes.

My suggestion is to purchase some chicken parts, and apply smoke to them for 1:40 to 2:00 hours of apple, or maple. That is the only way you are going to get a true sense of the smoke flavor.



Thanks for the thoughts, Habanero! Here's an update:

I tested the bisquette heater, and it wavers between 590 and 605 degrees. Possibly hotter than it should. I tried it in multiple outlets and on multiple circuits just for fun, and there was no difference in temp.

I got different bisquettes, and that didn't make a difference. Both Apple and Mesquite seem to "over-burn" and smell like bitter, acrid smoke even on the first bisquette.

I did a side-by-side comparison between the Bradley and my Traeger, and the difference is night and day. The Traeger smoke is sweet and inviting, while the Bradley smoke hurts my nose.

So now I'm using a smoke tube with pellets in the bottom of the Bradley and it works perfectly. I'm getting the results I want, but probably paid way more than I needed to for, essentially, an insulated box with a vent. I could probably go through the hassle of getting another unit.

I'd love to know if anyone else had this problem, because at this point I've exhausted things to test. I'll reach out to Customer Care next week and see if they have any thoughts. Thanks!


I noticed your comment about the pucks being completely black and wonder if the temperature difference of the puck burner between what Habs advises it should be and what yours actually reads is enough to cause puck "over" burning within the 20 minute cycle?

One of the advertised features of the Bradley is that the smoke is "clean" and typically my pucks are slightly under burnt if anything?

Talking to Customer Care is a good idea, if the unit is still under warranty I would be pressing for a replacement generator because from the information you have provided you seem to have gone above and beyond trying to solve the problem yourself?  :)

Habanero Smoker

I agree with manxman, that even if you are getting a reading of over 600°F, it shouldn't make that much difference. I've been on this forum for awhile, and never seen your problem posted. Most complaints of acrid smoke are do to consumer error by over smoking your food.

I have  a pellet grill, and I find the opposite in smoke flavor than you do. I feel your Bradley is functioning correctly, but you are not accustomed to the type of smoke that the Bradley is producing. Many members who have moved from charcoal to the Bradley would more often have the opposite complain - that the smoke flavor is clean, and lacking something (often described as missing the "charcoal flavor".

Smoke flavor is very subjective. My main complaint about pellet smokers is that I do not get any smoke flavor, and I've tried all the tips on how to improve the smoke flavor of a pellet grill. I have a Green Mt. Jim Bowie. But I've also cooked and had food cooked on other pellet smokers, and they all lack a good smoke flavor. Have you smoked any food in the Bradley for a side by side taste comparison between the two. If you do a taste comparison, and you use sauce, I suggest you use a sauce without a smoke flavor added for the best comparison. Chicken parts are relatively cheap, and for a first trial you should only apply 40 minutes of apple.



Hi Rusty_Camaro!
I got my Bradley P10 smoker a month ago and unfortunately was very disappointed with the smell of smoke being produced.
The unit works just fine, there is no problem, it's just the smoke that is acrid, bitter, harsh - just as you wrote.
I wonder if you made any progress in this? I tried very simple recipes smoking fish or chicken - but even using just 2 or 3 pucks makes the meat smell bitter and burnt. It is also not pleasant to be around the smoker when in use.

Habanero Smoker

Hi cz_smoker;

Welcome to the forum.

The smoke flavor is different from the P10, as compared to the other Bradley smokers that have the push-type generator. I have both types of Bradley's and I noticed the difference between the two after my the first P10 cook. The P10 does produce a much stronger smoke flavor, and I also found it can produce a bitter harsh taste with just a matter of one or two bisquettes too much. I feel it is due to the bisquette burners burning the bisquettes at a higher temperature.

Whether you seasoned it or not when you first got it, it should be seasoned now. So I won't ask that question. Besides experimenting with the amount of smoke you apply, the following may be helpful.

What wood flavor are you using for your fish and poultry? For chicken and fish, use milder wood flavors, such as apple, maple or alder.

What is your vent setting? Since the heat recovery of the P10 is fast, I don't even place the vent damper in.

Before placing your meat in the smoker, pat it dry with paper towels, or air dry the meat in the refrigerator uncover until a tacky surface forms (pellicle formation). The more moist the surface, the more smoke particles will attach to the surface, so the formation of the pellicle will improve smoke flavor.

Make sure you clean the drip tray after every smoke. I often will place a disposable pan underneath the food to catch drippings. This helps with cleanup.

I hope this information helps.



Thanks Habanero Smoker, for your response!
I was only using alder and cherry flavors so far. I have some apple and maple bisquettes to try, but frankly - I don't expect that this would solve my issue.
I will try removing the vent damper, as you suggest, which will reduce the amount of smoke inside the smoker. Not sure if it affects the smoke smell as well, but I will definitely give it a try.
Also, I always put the meat into the preheated smoker to dry - approx. one hour without smoke.
I think you're right and the actual problem is the high temperature of wood burning. The pucks are totally charred and not much of them is left when disposed. I'm a cigar smoker and I know this type of harsh smoke appears when the cigar is either too dry and/or overheated. The same probably applies in the smoker.
So I was thinking - how about spraying the bisquettes with water right before use? Or is it a bad idea? Possibly damaging the smoker?
Thanks again for all your advice!
(also, sorry for my english, greetings from Czechia :-) )


Habanero Smoker

I don't get the acrid smell that you get, but I can pick it up on the food when I have applied too much smoke.

For me Cherry seems to be a little strong, plus I'm allergic to the smoke produced by cherry would, so when using cherry I have to stay out of the smoke. It makes my skin itch.

Spraying the bisquettes with water is not a good idea. It may cause them to swell, and there is not much clearance when the bisquettes travel around the turntable. Even if the make it through the turntable the water you sprayed on the bisquettes will only contribute to the amount of steam inside the cabinet, and the humidity will also contribute to more smoke sticking to the meat.

The only other thing that I can think of is to advance each bisquette after it has been on the burner for 15 minutes, but that would require baby sitting the smoker during the smoke time, also I'm not sure if that would help; if you are detecting that acrid smell while the bisquettes are burning.

If I come up with any other ideas I'll post it, because I'm still looking for a way to improve the P10 smoke flavor.



I appreciate your enthusiasm for your Bradley smoker. Regarding the acrid and bitter smoke issue you mentioned, it's been a while since you posted this question. I hope you were able to find a solution and enjoy your smoking experience to the fullest. If you're still experiencing the problem, I recommend reaching out to websites like here. They may have helpful tips or suggestions to address the issue. Don't hesitate to seek guidance from experienced smokers who may have encountered similar challenges. Happy smoking and may your future smoking sessions be filled with delicious flavors!