Is it OK to leave pellets in Traeger?

This is a common question for Traeger grill owners. Traeger grills are pellet grills that use hardwood pellets as fuel. The pellets are fed from a hopper into an auger, which delivers them to the fire pot to be ignited. Some people wonder if it’s okay to leave unused pellets in the hopper after cooking or if they need to be emptied out each time. There are a few things to consider when deciding whether to leave pellets in or empty the hopper after use.

Benefits of Leaving Pellets In

There are some potential benefits to leaving unused pellets in the Traeger hopper after cooking:


Emptying out the hopper after every cook can be tedious and time consuming. Leaving pellets in saves you this hassle each time you want to use the grill. You can immediately start preheating and cooking without having to first refill the hopper. This makes it easier to use your Traeger more often.

Maintains Dry Pellets

Unused pellets left in the covered hopper will stay dry and ready for the next use. If you empty the hopper after each cook, you’ll have to store the pellets elsewhere. Pellets left outside the hopper can get moist or contaminated. Keeping them in the grill ensures you always have dry, clean pellets on hand.

Saves Money

Traeger pellets can be expensive, so not having to dump out partially used bags each time saves you money. Leaving pellets in the hopper until they’re fully spent makes the most of your investment. Less waste means more value.

Preheats Faster

Starting up a Traeger takes time, partly because the auger needs to prime and deliver pellets from the hopper to the fire pot. Leaving pellets already in place allows this priming to happen faster, so your grill can preheat sooner.

Risks of Leaving Pellets In

However, there are also some potential downsides to leaving pellets in the hopper:

Fire Hazard

Pellets left sitting unused in the hopper for long periods can potentially degrade, break down, or even spontaneously combust under the right conditions. Though rare, a fire in the grill could result, especially if the hopper is left full.

Pellets Can Absorb Moisture

Even with a cover on the hopper, ambient humidity in the air can still make its way to the pellets. Over time, absorption of moisture can make the pellets burn less efficiently or even jam the auger.

Pellets Can Attract Pests

Being made of wood, pellets give off an aroma and flavor that some pests find attractive. Leaving pellets sitting for long periods can draw mice, rats or insects that could contaminate the grill or clog the auger.

Takes Up Space

The hopper may remain full even if you only use a small portion of the pellets for a short cook. This monopolizes space that could otherwise fit more pellets for a longer cook.

Reduces Freshness

Like any other ingredient, pellets lose freshness and flavor over time. Old, stale pellets won’t impart as much smoked taste compared to fresher pellets. It’s better to replenish with new pellets each cook.

Best Practice Suggestions

Neither leaving the hopper full nor emptying it completely every time is necessarily the “right” approach for every Traeger owner. Here are some best practices to balance convenience with safety:

Empty After Long Cooks

For short grilling sessions, leaving some pellets behind may be fine. But after longer smoking sessions of several hours, empty any remaining pellets. This limits buildup of large amounts over successive uses.

Remove Pellets If Rain Is Expected

Moisture is the enemy of clean-burning pellets. If the weather forecast calls for rain or high humidity while the grill is not in use, empty the hopper as a precaution.

Let the Grill Cool Completely Before Emptying

Never remove pellets from a hot grill right after cooking. Always allow the fire to fully extinguish and the grill to cool first. Then the hopper can be emptied safely.

Don’t Let Pellets Sit More Than a Few Weeks

Even with proper storage, pellets start to lose quality after sitting for extended periods. Try to use up pellets within a month or less for optimal freshness and performance.

Keep the Hopper Lid Closed

Whether the hopper is full or partially full, keep it covered except when actively loading more pellets. This limits moisture exposure or pest access.

Inspect Pellets Visually and By Smell

Look for signs of mold, bugs or rodent contamination before use. Always sniff pellets too – spoiled pellets will have an off odor that signals it’s time to empty the hopper.

Adjust Fill Level Based on Expected Use

For quick grilling sessions, a partially filled hopper is sufficient. For extended smoking times, fill the hopper to capacity with fresh pellets. Adjust as needed.

Make Completely Emptying the Hopper Part of Routine Maintenance

When doing periodic deep cleaning and maintenance on your Traeger, empty the hopper fully and vacuum out debris. Then you can refill with fresh pellets.

Factors that Influence the Decision

Several factors come into play that can impact whether you should leave pellets in or empty the hopper between Traeger cooks:

How Often You Use the Grill

For frequent grillers, leaving pellets in is likely fine because new pellets are cycled in regularly. Infrequent use demands more emptying to keep pellets fresh.

Length of Time Between Uses

Leaving pellets for a few days poses little risk or downside. Letting them sit for weeks or months is problematic due to freshness concerns.

The Covered Design of the Hopper

Traeger hoppers are covered to protect from weather. But some may seal better than others. A loose lid could expose pellets to more moisture.

Your Climate and Weather Conditions

In drier climates, humidity is less of a concern. But in humid or rainy conditions, moisture absorption by pellets must be minimized.

Where the Grill is Stored

A covered patio or garage reduces exposure to precipitation. Sitting uncovered outdoors demands more frequent emptying of the hopper after use.

Pest and Bug Problems

In areas with rodent populations or attracted insects, leaving pellets could invite contamination. Eliminating all food sources discourages pest presence.

How Full You Keep the Hopper

Nearly empty, occasional pellets pose almost no risk. A constantly full hopper can be problematic. Find the right fill level for your usage.

Using Liquid Smoke or Not

Some apply liquid smoke flavoring to pellets in the hopper between uses. But moisture from the liquid accelerates pellet breakdown.

Best Practices for Storing Leftover Pellets

When you do empty the Traeger hopper after cooking, proper storage of the remaining pellets is important:

Use an Airtight Container

Store pellets in a sealed bucket or bin to keep out moisture and pests. Plastic storage totes work well for larger amounts.

Consider Vacuum Sealing

For long term storage, vacuum seal leftover pellets in bags. This removes oxygen and prevents staleness for months.

Add a Desiccant

Silica gel packs help absorb ambient moisture in the container. Just make sure not to ingest desiccant accidentally!

Keep Pellets Cool and Dry

Avoid storage areas with humidity, condensation issues, or wide temperature swings. The ideal is a consistent 65-75°F.

Store Out of Sunlight

Light can also degrade pellets over time. Keep containers in the dark, or use opaque storage bins.

Use Oldest Pellets First

When refilling the hopper, be sure to use up older pellets before fresher ones. Rotate your supply.

Keep Safe from Pests

Inspect storage containers periodically for any signs of insects or rodent infestation. Deal with any pest problems immediately.

Minimize Air Exposure When Refilling

Limit the hopper open time when adding more pellets. This reduces moisture absorption and maintains desired pellet fill level.

Signs Your Pellets Have Spoiled

If properly stored between uses, wood pellets typically last anywhere from 6 months to a year before quality degradation. But there are some signs that your pellets have spoiled and should be discarded:

Mold Growth

You may see fuzzy mold on pellets if they’ve absorbed excess moisture. This can happen even in sealed containers, depending on humidity levels.

Warping or Crumbling

Pellets that were subjected to moisture may swell and warp out of shape. They may also crumble more easily instead of staying intact.

Insect Infestation

Look for small bite marks, webbing, larvae or live insects in the pellets. Rodent droppings or urine odor are other giveaways of contamination.

Strange Smell

Take a whiff of the pellets. If you smell anything other than wood scent, such as mustiness, ammonia, rotting or something chemically off, they’ve gone bad.


The pellets may darken or look muddy over time. Some mold growth can also leave colorful spots on the wood.

Failure to Ignite

Spoiled pellets won’t catch fire as readily in the fire pot. If ignition issues arise, bad pellets may be to blame.

Excess Fines

Fines are pencil shaving-sized wood bits that result from pellet breakage. Too many fines filling the hopper signals degradation has occurred.

Jamming Auger

Contaminants or moldy pellets that have expanded from moisture can jam up the pellet delivery system.

Safety Tips

When dealing with your Traeger hopper and pellets, keep in mind these safety recommendations:

Read All Instructional Material

Thoroughly read your owner’s manual and understand proper grill operation and maintenance recommendations.

Keep Children and Pets Away

Do not let kids or animals access the grill, hopper or stored pellets unsupervised.

Handle Pellets Carefully

Wood pellets can generate sawdust that could be an irritant if inhaled or get into eyes. Avoid spreading dust.

Store in Approved Containers Only

Never put pellets in flammable containers or use gasoline, kerosene or other fuel to start pellets.

Avoid Accumulating Large Quantities

Only keep enough pellets on hand for your reasonably expected usage. Limit potential losses and risk if they go bad.

Inspect for Damage Regularly

Check for any damage to the hopper, auger or other grill parts that could cause a malfunction leading to fire.

Don’t Modify the Grill

Never alter or modify the grill in any way not approved by Traeger. This could impact safety and performance.

Exercise Caution Around Flames

Be careful when emptying the hopper to avoid burns. Make sure the fire is completely out before cleaning the grill.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are pellets safe to use after getting wet?

If exposed to moisture, pellets may swell in size or start to disintegrate. Wet pellets can jam the auger or fail to ignite properly. They’re unsafe and should be discarded.

How do you properly dispose of spoiled pellets?

Due to potential moisture content or contamination, spoiled pellets should not be burned for heat or used in gardens. Seal in bags and dispose with regular household waste pickup.

Can you reuse pellets that are left over after a cook?

Yes, unused fresh pellets can be left in the hopper or saved in an airtight container for reuse, as long as they haven’t been exposed to moisture or absorbed odors.

What’s the shelf life of wood pellets?

In ideal cool, dry storage conditions away from sunlight, unopened wood pellets can last up to 3 years before showing reduced quality. But for peak freshness, try to use within 1 year.

Why are my pellets burning inconsistently?

Pellets that have absorbed moisture may burn less uniformly and generate more smoke. Old, low-quality pellets may also burn inefficiently compared to fresher ones.

Should you immediately add more pellets once the hopper gets low?

No, wait until the cook is completed. Immediately refilling low pellets causes overflow. Instead, make a habit of always starting with a full hopper.

Can pellets get wet if left in a Traeger overnight?

If the lid is securely closed and the grill is covered properly, pellets should stay dry overnight. But extended exposure to rain or snowfall will eventually cause moisture seepage.


Deciding whether to empty the pellet hopper after every Traeger cook or leave pellets in place requires evaluating convenience versus potential risks. If used frequently and proper storage precautions are taken, leaving modest amounts of pellets in the hopper between grilling sessions poses little downside. But for long term non-use or very humid conditions, removing all pellets helps minimize fire danger, moisture damage, pests, and auger clogging issues. Establishing good pellet rotation and monitoring for signs of spoilage allows enjoying the benefits of your Traeger while also maintaining safety. With the right pellet and hopper management, you can relax knowing your next meal will have that perfect wood-fired flavor.

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