Bradley Smokers > The Digital Smokers (BTDS76P & BTDS108P)

Acrid, bitter smoke from the very beginning

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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.


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