Image by Todd Dwyer (license link)
You may have heard of ‘seasoning’ or ‘restoring’ a BBQ grill or smoker before. This is a really important stage that should be done before you use your new smoker. As tempting as it is to bust your smoker out and get going, it’s vital that you do this prior to using it.
There are many assorted way to season a current smoker that might vary depending on the brand of smoker that you’re using. However, I’m going to try and keep things simple by giving you the best one that I know.
If you’re new to BBQ smoking or are just after a quick guide then I hope I’ve covered everything off so that you’re all set to get going on firing up your brand new piece of gear.
Why should you season a smoker?
When smokers arrive new, they’re prone to either containing or being coated in debris from their manufacturing. This might sound odd, but is actually fairly common.
This debris can come in the form of metal shavings, oils, cardboard, or woods to name a few. Manufacturers often coat smoker components in oil to help prevent forms of rot from setting in while it’s sitting on the store shelf. What seasoning allows us to do is remove all of this unwanted debris and preservatives and close the pores of your smoker’s trays and surfaces.
Seasoning is essentially a way of cleaning your smoker prior to use, while also getting it into the ideal cooking state. It also helps prevent any chemical aromas or flavors leaking into your food. Essentially we’re trying to ensure that your smoked food tastes as beautifully authentic as possible.
Furthermore, it helps act as a safeguard against future wear and tear by reducing the risk of rust setting in.
The main activity is to starts with a few soapy waters also a washed fabric. Give inside your smoker a rapid washing down with soapy water to remove any oil from the inside surfaces of the smoker. Be careful not to scratch the surface. Once you’ve finished, leave the smoker open and exposed to air in order for it to dry.
Part of seasoning a smoker relies on applying oil to its interior surfaces, particularly its racks. However, if you’re using an electric smoker then be careful not to apply oil to its electric heating elements. Similarly, if you’re using a gas smoker, avoid letting any oil come into contact with its gas lamps.
I recommend you use a generous amount of oil, yet definitely stop short of it resembling a stream of the stuff on its insides. We’re after a relatively thin layer here, not a pool of it!
The final stage involves heating up the smoker to get rid of any final bits of residue or debris inside it. While you could just blast it with a high temperature for a number of hours, what I recommend is to gradually raise the temperature to its maximum for 60 minutes or so before then leaving it at that temperature for a further couple of hours. Others might disagree, but this just feels like a much safer and smarter way of testing your smoker fresh out the box.
Season a Smoker – Step by Step Method
Step 1: The ideal place to start is actually before you’ve assembled your smoker. Having your smoker in its separate components will allow you better access to them, and help you clean them better.
Step 2: Clean the inside of the smoker body, grates and pans with dish soap and water. Some people just use water, but a delicate soap can act as a degreaser at this initial stage and help remove any leftover manufacturing oil or grime from the component surfaces. Use a delicate fabric to remove any excess water from the parts, and be careful not to scratch any of them. Leave to dry.
Step 3: Spray or wipe down the inside of the chamber with cooking oil. Only look to apply a thin and even coat over the surfaces of your smoker. I use cooking spray for this. Again, doing this while the smoker is unassembled is the best way to ensure that you work the oil into all surfaces, edges and corners of your smoker.
Step 4: At this point, assemble your smoker as per the instructions supplied with your model. Just be careful to handle the components carefully in order to avoid removing any of the oil coating that you’ve just applied.
Step 5: Put the water pan in the smoker, but leave unfilled. Open the smoker’s vents.
Step 6: Turn your smoker on and gradually raise its temperature, increasing it every 5 or 10 minutes before arriving at its maximum temperature. Once it reaches that maximum, leave it running for 3 hours. Note: your smoker’s instructions might recommend a full cooking cycle, in which case it might suggest a different amount of time. If this is the case then follow their suggestion.