There is nothing better on this Earth than the smell of something cooking on the smoker. The smell of the fire, along with the aroma of the meat in the smoke is enough to take you back to the days when men feasted on their kill over the open fire.
Unfortunately, unlike an open fire, a smoker must be cleaned and seasoned, and knowing how to clean your smoker properly is key in producing a quality product.
Producing a quality is not the only reason to keep your smoker clean. The following are other reasons to clean your smoker on a regular basis.
- For an Event: Cleaning your smoker for an event is a big deal. Not only does it look nicer for a crowd, but it also comes back to producing a clean product. Nobody wants to be “that guy”, that has mediocre BBQ for a group of people or judges.
- Allergies: Let’s just say you smoke some salmon one weekend, and the next weekend you are doing a cook where one of the guests has an extreme fish allergy. You do not want to endanger the people trying to enjoy your food just because you did not want to clean your smoker.
- Fire Hazard: A dirty smoker can end up being a huge safety issue. Grease and ash build up over time can not only choke the smoke up and ruin your cook but can also cause a fire and that is no good for anyone.
- Prevent Rusting: Unless you have a sixth sense or you get lucky, you cannot predict the weather. Rain and the elements wait for no man. How many times have you been on a cook and the skies just decide to open up? Your smoker is bound to get wet at some point or another. Keeping your smoker clean and seasoned will help prevent rusting.
Now that we have discussed why it is important to clean your smoker, let us talk about how to clean your smoker.
Afterall, just like a car or a house, you made an investment in your smoker. Not only do you want to get the most out of your smoker, but you also want to make sure that it lasts.
With a regular cleaning schedule and the proper know how, your best offset smoker will last you a long time. Sure, you might have a cover, but even the best covers are no substitute for a good scrubbing.
Cleaning the firebox:
Where better to start cleaning your offset smoker than where the smoking begins right?
- Begin this step by first removing the grates from the firebox.
- Using a brush or small broom, sweep the sides of the firebox, allowing the remaining ash on the sides to fall into the ash tray.
- Remove the tray and brush the sides, allowing the remaining ash to fall into the tray. *Also feel free to use a shop vacuum to remove the remaining ash.
- Empty the ashtray either in the trash OR use it in the garden, as long as you remove the large pieces of wood or charcoal.
*Reminder that if you are using charcoal, you might want to clean your firebox more often, as the ash tends to hold more moisture.
Cleaning the Chamber:
Now that you have removed all the ash and cleaned the firebox, it is time to move on to the chamber.
- Begin this task by removing the grates and the deflectors and set them aside. You will deal with them later.
- Now starting with the door (because if you start with the bottom you will just need to clean it again, and nobody likes doing things twice) take a spatula or a putty knife works great, and scrap all the build up off, allowing it to fall into the chamber.
- Pick up the deflectors and if possible, scrap the build up off and into the chamber or into the trash is fine. OR if it is just fat coated on there, wipe off with a paper towel.
- As for the grates, there are a couple things you can do. If you have a gas grill, go ahead and fire and let the grates get hot, then scrape them off with a grill brush. OR feel free to us any household degreaser, and just spray it down and wipe it off.
- Using the spatula or putty knife, begin to scrape the bottom of the chamber on any hard spots, and removing the solids by either scooping them out or a shop vac. Then just wipe it down with a paper towel in order to get the excess fat off the bottom.
If you happen to have a propane gun, you can apply the heat before you take the chamber apart and scrap what you can. After it is cool, just scrape the bottom of the chamber out and you are good to go.
Now that you are ready to clean your smoker. It also important to take care of any rust spots and to season the grates. These steps can be done at the same time, as they both require nothing but cooking spray.
With a can or two of cooking spray oil, spray the outside of your smoker as well as the grates in the chamber. Then build a fire in the firebox and get it good and hot. Once the grates stop smoking and the oil has soaked into the outside, you are done.
Depending on how often you use your smoker and what you use it for dictates how often you should clean your smoker. It is best practice to at least clean your smoker at least 2-3 times a year.
As always, it is always a good idea to refer to your smoker’s owner’s manual for any tips or suggestions for your specific model.