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Seasoning a smoker is an essential step in the protection and preservation of your smoker. This simple process is something that often gets overlooked when first starting out. I will admit, when I first got my smoker, I jumped right into smoking without seasoning it.
And while is it is not the end of the world, this is a step you do not want to skip. You spent all that money on a smoker so you should do everything you can to extend the lifespan and keep it in good operating condition. And if you are like me and skipped this step, do not worry, you can still season a smoker after you have already used it.
How To Season A Smoker:
Seasoning a smoker is surprisingly simple using the following steps.
Step 1: Clean the inside of your smoker.
With a mild detergent such as dawn dish soap, thoroughly clean the grates and the inside of your smoker to remove any dust or contaminates that might be on the surface from the factory.
Step 2: Make sure there are no gaps at the seams.
Assemble your smoker and ensure that there are no gaps or seams and that your smoker is sealed properly making corrections when necessary.
Many low to mid-range smokers are not sealed well when put together. You might need to add additional gaskets and high temperature silicone to seal your smoker more soundly. We are looking for a tight seal to help prevent heat and smoke loss.
Completing this step before oiling is especially important because the gaskets and silicone will have a hard time adhering to an oiled and greasy surface.
Step 3: Add a layer of oil to the inside of your smoker and the cooking grates.
For the best results, use an oil with a high smoke point such as: canola oil, almond oil, grapeseed oil, peanut oil, sesame oil, or sunflower oil. These oils allow you to get your smoker to a higher temperature without burning off giving your smoker the full effect of seasoning.
It is easiest to use spray oil when completing this step however you can also put your oil in a spray bottle and rub it in with a cloth.
When applying the oil, we want a good and even coating. Applying to heavy of a coat will cause the oil to run and too light of a coat will not offer as good of protection. Make sure you are NOT oiling your water pan or any heating elements in your smoker.
Step 4: Open your vents all the way and bring your smoker above 275 degrees.
Depending on the smoker and the weather conditions for the day, each smoker is going to run at different temperatures. We are not worried about the smoker getting too hot, so it is best to just leave your vents all the way open and let your smoker run.
While not necessary, a lot of people prefer to put wood in as well. This will help get rid of the metal smell and instead impart it with a smoky one. Just be sure to use wood that you would normally smoke with to prevent giving you smoker and undesirable smell.
Step 5: Run your smoker for 2-4 hours to ensure that the oil is completely cooked onto the metal.
At this point you should see a thin brown layer around the inside of your smoker and on your cooking grates. Let your smoker slowly cool down and your smoker is ready to use!
Always be sure to check the owners guide from the manufacture that came with your smoker. A lot of times they will have procedure on how to season your specific smoker. You can also find information on how to clean your smoker and handling safety.
What Is The Purpose Of Seasoning A Smoker.
Seasoning your smoker will help preserve the lifespan of your smoker and keep it in good operating condition. This step is often overlooked but seasoning you smoker offers two primary benefits.
Cleaning: When your smoker comes from the factory, there is generally solvents, oils, dirt, grime, adhesives, uncured paint from the manufacturing process that remain on the surface of your smoker. Seasoning your smoker ensures that you are starting off with a fresh and clean cooking area.
Seasoning your smoker will also help to remove the metal smell of a new smoker and instead add a nice smokey flavor. This will help enhance the flavor of your meat for the cooks to come.
Protection: When you season your smoker, you are adding another layer of protection. According to the USDA, meat is comprised of up to 75% water. During the smoking process, the water evaporates and can cause condensation on your smoker. Because most smokers are made of metal, over time smokers are prone to rusting.
Oil is hydrophobic, meaning it tends to repel water, so by seasoning your smoker with a layer of oil, you are keeping the condensation and any other water in the cooking chamber from rusting the metal.
How often to season a smoker?
In general, you should season your smoker every time you deep clean the inside of your smoker. Cleaning the interior of your smoker removes the protective layer of oil and grease that is coating the walls leaving your smoker more venerable to rust.
How often you clean the interior of your smoker is up to you. There are a lot of people who never clean their smoker, then you have the folks like myself who clean their smoker a couple times a year.
It is important to note that you should be cleaning your cooking grate after each cook; however you do not need to re-season your cooking grates each time.
Do You Season The Outside Of Your Smoker?
Maybe someone has told you to season the outside of your smoker or you read it on a forum and are wondering if you should season the outside of your smoker.
Leaving your smoker out in the sun and elements can cause general wear and tear on your smoker. The paint can start to come off leaving exposed metal eventually leading to rust. A lot of people season the outside of their smoker to help prevent this. But that does not mean you should.
There are a couple reasons why I would steer someone away from seasoning their smoker.
- Oil attracts dirt. Putting oil on the outside of your smoker is going to attract dust and other particles making the outside of your smoker dirty and grimy. It will make more of a mess when handling and storing it because of the build up of grim. It is much easier to handle a clean smoker.
- There are better ways to protect your smoker. A lot of smokers like the Weber Smokey Mountain come with a cover to use when you are not smoking. Likewise, you can pick up a BBQ cover online or at most stores easily and affordably. Placing a cover over you smoker when not in use will protect it from the elements and prolong its lifespan. Another great option is to store your smoker inside your garage, a shed, or under a canopy when not in use. This will keep it out of the sun and elements as well.
While seasoning the outside of your smoker will add a layer of protection to paint preventing deterioration, it is much easier and cleaner to pick up a cover or store it out of the elements.
How To Remove Rust From A Smoker
If you have noticed the paint on the outside of your smoker starting to peel or maybe you noticed rust is even starting to form, there is no need to worry as your smoker is still salvageable. Following the steps below can get your smoker back to good operating condition.
Step 1: Scrub the rust on the outside of your smoker with a steel wire brush until it has been removed.
Step 2: Clean the area with soapy water.
Step 3: Paint the area with a BBQ paint or another high temperature resistance paint.
To remove rust on the inside of your smoker follow steps 1 and 2. Because we do not want to paint the inside of the smoker, go ahead and season the inside of the smoker instead. After a few smokes there will be a good layer of protection to prevent future rusting.