How to Clean & Maintain Your Smoker

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Hello and welcome to the the March edition of the Smoking Meat newsletter.  This is the perfect time of year to get your smoker ready for the up and coming warm weather, and the perfect time to invite friends and family over and show everyone your artistic abilities in the back yard.

Last month we discussed how to brine and smoke those wonderful cornish hens.BTW.. if you missed last month's newsletter you can read it here: http://www.smoking-meat.com//feb-2006-how-to-smoke-cornish-hens 

How to Get Your Smoker Ready for the Upcoming Smoking Season

This month we are going to delve into the cleaning and preparing of your smoker for the upcoming smoking season. For many of us the season is 12 months long but for some folks it is basically spring and fall with a little smoking in the summer months on days that are not extremely hot.

Some smokers are just more dedicated to the art or perhaps have more time to dedicate than others and there is nothing wrong with that.. all of us have different sets of priorities and that is completely OK.

I see this question asked almost every day and it deserves a good answer so I have spent some time doing research and coupling the information I have found with what I have found to work, I am going to dispel the mystery of how to keep your smoker unit working perfectly year after year.

Most of you seasoned your smoker when you first purchased it and this is for several reasons.. first it burns off any residual substance that might be on the metal from the manufacturing process and second, it allows you to penetrate the pores of the metal with oil and smoke to prevent rust from forming.

To season any smoker you basically apply a thin coat of peanut oil, PAM, olive oil, etc, to the inside of the smoker, close the damper about half way and allow the smoker to smoke heavy at about 225 degrees for 2 to 3 hours.

You will usually not need to reseason your smoker again unless you have used a chemical to clean the inside of the smoker thereby removing the protective coating of smoke and oil.

At the beginning of each spring I like to use a plastic puddy knife and a grill brush to lightly remove any grease buildup and/or carbon from the inside of my horizontal smoker with offset firebox. The plastic puddy knife only removes the grease down to the metal surface without scratching the surface. The grill brush can be used very lightly to dust off any excess carbon buildup on the inside of the smoker.

This is a good time to also check for any rust on the inside and/or outside of the smoker and if any is found it should be removed with a grill brush a little sandpaper and repainted with a high heat BBQ paint.

You should also oil all hinges, door handles, etc. to prevent them from rusting.

By the way.. here is an excellent tip for cleaning the grates in your smoker. To make them brand new and shiny again just place them in the kitchen oven and initiate the self-cleaning cycle. This takes the inside of the oven up to around 900 degrees and will burn every last bit of soot and grease off of the grates in just a few hours.

There are a couple of things you can do as preventive maintenance throughout the year and this article would not be complete if I did not mention them:

Always clean the ashes out of the smoker after every use just as soon as they cool down enough for it to be safe. Ashes plus water is a real rusting machine for the firebox and you don't want that. I like to clean them out into a metal bucket then when I dump them out I spray the ashes with water to make sure there are no live coals still hiding out. You would be surprised how long them puppies can stay hot on the inside and you may not even know it by looking at them.

If you are using a small vertical smoker like a bullet then consider lining the water pan and ash pan with heavy duty foil for easy cleanup afterwards.

Spray the grates with a little PAM or cooking oil to keep the meat from sticking to them for easy removal of food and easier cleanup.

If you have other ideas and/or tips for cleaning or maintaining the smoker please send them to me at [email protected] for inclusion at Smoking-Meat.com.


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