To get the best out of your smoker this summer, annual maintenance is key to preventing the buildup of carbon. The summer heat turns the grease and oils buildup rancid. Those rancid grease and oils vaporize, flavoring your food with carbon, tar, creosote, soot and more. It doesn’t just attach to your food, but also insulates grates, preventing heat from transmitting, thus impacting the cooking ability of your smoker.
To prevent tar, creosote, soot, and more from ruining your next barbecue, it is key to clean your smoker regularly.
In this post, learn what you need to know about maintaining your smoker. These are general guidelines. You should always check your owner’s manual or the manufacturer’s website for specific instructions, as smoker models may vary.
Tools you’ll need:
- plastic putty knife
- rubber gloves
- stir wire brush
- soft scrub brush
- steel wool
- paper towels
- garden hose with nozzle (or a pressure washer)
- dish soap
- cleaner fluid
Cleaning Your Grates
Using tin foil on your grates doesn’t reduce cleaning time, but may actually be damaging your smoker’s plastic dials or its flexible hoses. Foil blocks crucial ventilation, forcing heat out of the knob holes, where it could warp the metal or crack ceramics.
Instead of tin foil, use these tips for cleaning your grates. Remember, the buildup of carbon, soot, creosote and more can appear on the sides and hood. Thin layers of carbon are OK. Thick layers are what reduces the reflectivity and reduce the heat.
Start by scraping the layers of carbon that crack and curl using a putty knife and then vacuum up the scrapings. Hose down the interior, but do so over a drop cloth or on a distant patch of grass. If cleaning near a sewage drain, then check with your town laws regulating the disposal of grease.
A few recommended mild cleansers are Dawn Grill Cleaner and Dawn Power Dissolver. Avoid using an oven cleaner on the interior and cooking surfaces, as it may be too harsh for these areas.
When cleaning the probe of a thermometer, avoid getting water into the dial! Wet bulb socks are one of the most crucial parts of a smoker. Note that each type of smoker has specific parts to avoid or areas of caution, so refer to your model’s care instructions.
To disconnect the gas supply and close the valve, turn the knob to the right to tighten and to the left to loosen.
When using water to clean the smoker, remove any electrical parts or cover them with plastic wrap. If you have glass or ceramic infrared burners, read the manual for instructions prior to cleaning.
Clean the louvers that allow exhaust to escape to reduce buildup. Remove the heat diffusers over the burners to scrape down below and in-between. As you clean, inspect the various parts of your smoker. If you notice any cracked tubes, replace them.
Check the gas and air mix on a routine basis to see if they need adjusting. Loosen the set screw on the venturi, fire up the smoker, then rotate it and see if the flame is blue with minimal orange. This is best done at night, when the flame has higher visibility.
As you inspect your charcoal smoker, the coal grate may appear warped after being used. Do not attempt to straighten it, as the grate may break. As long as it’s not preventing airflow underneath, keep using it.
To remove ashes, scoop them out with a plastic half gallon milk jug (cut in half). Ashes should always go into a metal can, as they hold moisture and can chemically attack steel. Always wait for the ashes to cool before scooping them out.
Do not use water when cleaning your pellet smokers. Digital parts can rust and water can damage parts made of sawdust. Instead, use a shop or handheld vacuum to clean.
If there is any grease/carbon build up beneath the grates, loosen it using a power steamer, then wipe off with a sponge. Clean the thermostat probe and line before cooking.
Avoid using steel wool or metal brushes on the exterior of any smoker. Instead, use a scrubbing sponge, warm water, and dish soap to gently scrub away the grime. Use a small amount of vinegar or diluted ammonia to tackle stubborn stains.
Get the best from your smoker by maintaining it using these simple tips. For more DIY maintenance advice, click here!