Why does my electric smoker keep tripping the outlet and breaker?

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  April 1, 2022

Always the latest smoking tips & tricks?

Subscribe to THE ESSENTIAL newsletter for aspiring pitmasters

We'll only use your email address for our newsletter and respect your privacy

I love creating free content full of tips for my readers, you. I don't accept paid sponsorships, my opinion is my own, but if you find my recommendations helpful and you end up buying something you like through one of my links, I could earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more

So you just bought your first electric smoker and are all set to enjoy some cooking and smoking on a lovely sunny Sunday.

The meat is thoroughly marinated, the excitement peaking as you get closer to smoking meat for a nice bbq or dinner party.

But as soon as your smoker’s heating element starts sizzling up the scenes, boom! Everything suddenly shuts down!

Soon you discover that your outlet or breaker has tripped. But guess what, you give it another try and plug it again to end up with the same scenario.

Well, let me tell you something- that’s a pretty common issue that almost every electric smoker owner has gone through at least once, and I will help you fix it!

Generally, some of the reasons your electric smoker keeps tripping the GFCI outlets and breakers include the presence of moisture or rust inside the smoker, ground problems, and most commonly, GFCI overloads.

Sounds a bit jargony? Well, don’t panic! I will get into all this in the following article and explain it to you in the most straightforward words. Plus, all the diagnostics and solutions you can manage by yourself.

How to buy a bbq smoker video
How to buy a bbq smoker video

So let’s jump in without any ado!

Why your electric smoker keeps tripping breakers

If your electric smoker keeps tripping the outlet and breaker, it is due to one of the following problems:

There’s a ground fault

A GFCI circuit breaker is supposed to cut off the electric supply if there are any current fluctuations.

GFCI stands for ground-fault circuit interrupter and a GFCI protected circuit protects the devices running on it from burning through.

If this GFCI circuit pops, it is most often due to excessive current flow in the device, which is commonly associated with a ground wire connection fault.

If the problem persists for long, it can be detrimental to the smoker and anyone standing beside it. In other words, it could also electrocute you.

Now the thing is, ground faults are challenging to identify. However, what you can do is to check all the other plugged devices for any fault.

If you find nothing unusual, the next best practice is to grab the user manual and thoroughly inspect your smoker. Keep in mind that the smoker should be powered off during the process.

If you still cannot identify the fault, just keep the smoker power cord unplugged and immediately contact a qualified electrician to conduct diagnostics.

Trust me; you don’t want to mess with ground wire issues yourself.

The GFCI is overloaded

Although there’s quite a disagreement among experts, another thing you can blame for the tripping of the GFCI outlet is overloading it with too many devices.

Generally, GFCI outlets can handle about three to four small-scale appliances conveniently. Problems begin when you try plugging in three or four high-wattage devices at once.

This could also lead to a full-fledge electrical fire; was it not tripped by the breaker.

Since these devices exclusively amplify the total wattage, tripping is usual. Just stop overloading it, and it’ll be alright.

Another reason for this can be an old and worn GFCI breaker. And even if it’s not, it’s still quite an easy test to carry out.

Just use it with any other appliance except for smokers and see if the problem recurs.

If yes, it’s time to buy a new breaker. This should solve the issue.

There’s a problem with the smoker

Sometimes, the only thing you can blame for tripping the GFCI outlet or breaker is the smoker itself.

Being an outdoor appliance, if the smoker is not weatherproofed correctly, it can lead to excessive moisture and rust build-up inside.

To see whether that’s the issue, unplug the smoker and look for rust spots, food residues, and mold spots inside the smoker.

Apart from that, you should also check the heating element of the smoker to see whether there’s any dirt accumulation around it.

If you see anything, scrub it off with a 00 (very fine) steel wool. Plus, use a hairdryer to remove moisture.

I recommend you cover up the boiler with a weather protective cover to protect the smoker from such issues in the first place.

How to find out why the breaker keeps tripping

Now that you know what could potentially cause the breaker to trip, the following are some helpful tips you can follow to identify it:

Check the GFCI outlet

See whether your smoker is sharing a GFCI outlet with any other appliance? If so, remove the other appliance and see if the breaker still trips.

This should tell you whether its the smoker causing the problem or the other device. You can also plug the smoker in another outlet for further testing.

This will also tell you if the main issue is in the GFCI outlet and not the smoker itself.

Inspect the smoker

Unplug the smoker and start inspecting it. See the interior chambers for rust, excess moisture, or grease.

If you find any, clean it out and then plug the smoker to see whether the same issue recurs.

If so, there’s a chance that the problem is in the electrical components of the boiler.

However, keep in mind that that’s only if you’re sure about the functionality of all external electrical elements.

Look for external damages

Once you’re sure that the interior is fine, its time to see things from outside.

The most obvious things you can check are the power cable’s condition, rust spots around the heating element, and any moisture surrounding it.

See if the heating element works fine

Typically, electric smokers get perfectly hot in about 30 to 45 minutes in a preheat session. If you think your smoker is taking more time than that, you have your culprit.

Your last resort is to return it to the manufacturer and have it repaired if it’s in warranty. If not, replace it.

Wondering how an electric smoker compares with a gas-powered one? Find out here

Why is it essential to fix this problem quickly?

Apart from ruining a nice backyard party, tripping outlet and circuit breaker can:

  • Start an electrical fire in the house.
  • Damage the smoker and affect its efficiency.

Apart from that, even if your manage to smoke food in it by some luck, it won’t taste the same. You’re just wasting your money.

Final words

Nothing hurts more than a faulty smoker ruining a perfect Sunday family time in the backyard (or the balcony).

But where it can have some technical reasons like a faulty ground wire or an overloaded GFCI, it can also be due to something really simple like chemical residues, rust, or even moisture inside the smoker as it is constantly left exposed to the environment.

In any case, it needs to be dealt with immediately to prevent any bad outcomes.

You can either do that by yourself (subject to your experience and qualification) or call an electrician to take care of it.

That being said, let’s wrap up this article. I hope my two cents on the topic helped you learn a thing or two that you can use to diagnose the issue.

Rather avoid electricity issues? Then simply go for a good old charcoal BBQ smoker

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.