How to Season a Smoker
You just bought a brand-new smoker, put it together, and bought an amazing cut of meat to test it out.
However, before you do, you’ll want to do one thing first: season it!
Seasoning, or sometimes called pre-seasoning or curing, is a process that involves coating the inside of the smoker with oil and heating at a high temperature for a desired length of time.
Oklahoma Joe’s Smokers says, “Seasoning a new smoker before initial use is crucial to laying the foundation for great BBQ results”.
Let’s take a look at the few simple steps you should follow to get your new smoker ready for its first use and many more.
The basics of seasoning
Seasoning a smoker has two main purposes: cleaning away contaminants that might have been leftover in the manufacturing process, and rust prevention to extend its life.
It’s also a good chance to get to know your new smoker and how to control temperature without risking ruining any expensive meat.
Here are the three steps you’ll need to take:
- Give the smoker a thorough cleaning with dish soap and water.
- Coat the entire inside of the smoker with cooking spray.
- Slowly heat the smoker to a high temperature and cook for 2 – 4 hours.
The exact method will vary depending on your type of smoker but so long as you follow these basic steps you will be fine.
So, grab some dish soap, cooking spray, and fire-making materials and let’s get started.
Step by step guide to seasoning a smoker
Once you have your smoker unpackaged and set up, it’s time to start the seasoning process.
If you don’t like to read this video shows how to season a smoker as well.
Follow the step by step guide below for seasoning your new smoker.
Step 1: Cleaning
Once you get your new smoker home it might still have some left-over oils, solvents, metal shavings, or uncured paint inside.
So it’s a good idea to give it a good cleaning to remove anything that could lead to unwanted flavors or that could contaminate the food.
Here’s what to do:
- Remove all of the racks, grates, and pans from the smoker.
- Using mild dish soap and water, wash all the racks, grates, and pans.
- Repeat for the entire inside of the smoker, including the firebox.
- Allow to air dry.
Step 2: Coating with oil
Next, you’ll want to grab some oil that has a high burn-point.
A cooking oil like canola or grapeseed oil will do the trick.
This type of oil will leave a nice hard protective surface after heating during a process called polymerization (See the tips section below for additional oils and substitutes).
Here’s what to do:
- With an empty smoker, thoroughly coat all of the inside walls and door or lid with a thin coat of oil. This can be done with a can of cooking spray or wiped on with a soft cloth.
- Coat the racks and grates with the same process. Most sources don’t recommend coating the water pan, but if you want you can just coat the outside of it.
- Let the oil soak in for 5 – 10 minutes before starting the heating process.
Step 3: Heating
For the heating process, you’ll want to slowly heat the smoker to a high temperature and keep it there for about 2 – 4 hours.
The temperature should be higher than the normal cooking temperature in order to get a good seasoning.
After the set time, you’ll then want to slowly bring it back down to air temperature. This process ensures that the relatively thin metal of most smokers won’t warp.
The steps described below are for a charcoal smoker. For a gas or electric smoker, the process is quite similar after the initial lighting steps:
Here’s what to do:
- Start by gathering enough charcoal and wood for about 2 – 4 hours of cooking time. Use the same type of wood you are going to use for barbecuing.
- Fill and light one chimney of charcoal and allow to heat for about 10 minutes.
- Open all intake and exhaust vents completely to allow the greatest amount of airflow (highest temperature).
- Add some additional charcoal to the firebox of the smoker, then add the lit coals on top.
- Slowly add wood to bring the temperature up to 300 °F.
- Maintain this temperature for 2 – 4 hours.
- Open the door/lid to ensure a good protective layer has been achieved. The walls and grates should have a dark brown color.
- Allow the smoker to slowly begin to cool down and burn to ash.
- Remove the ashes when cool.
Tips and best practices for seasoning a smoker
Here are some tips and tricks to help your seasoning process go as smooth as possible.
- Before you begin, make sure your smoker is on a level surface. You don’t want all of the oil running to the back or to one side.
- If you have a large smoker, add the liquid oil into a spray bottle instead of using a bunch of spray cans. Then use a soft cloth to spread it around evenly.
- Mop up any excess oil on the bottom of the smoker before heating. The goal is to have a thin even coating.
- If you have a gas or electric smoker, avoid getting any oil on the heating elements.
Types of oils and substitutes
As we said, we recommend an oil with a high burn-point like canola or grapeseed oil. However, you can also spice things up a little and experiment by trying some of the following variations from Food Fire Friends:
- Bacon Fat
- Red Palm Sunflower Oil
- Flaxseed Oil
- Suet (Raw Beef Fat)
- Lard or Tallow
So now that you’ve seasoned your smoker, will it need to be re-seasoned?
Yes, it’s a good idea to re-season your smoker to add protection.
Also, after many barbecues, it may start to build up creosote – the thick, oily substance left over by fire – and could produce off-flavors.
However, Meathead Goldwyn, the founder of AmazingRibs.com, says not to re-season the grates. You want to keep them spotlessly clean and don’t want to add any extra grease or carbon onto them that could transfer to the food.
A seasoned smoker will last you longer
Seasoning a brand-new smoker is a crucial step to great barbecuing.
As you can see, it’s a pretty simple process. With a little cleaning, cooking spray and fire-making materials you can have your brand-new smoker safe and ready for its first barbecue in just a few hours.
Plus, it will be protected from rust and any unwanted flavors.
So go ahead and start seasoning!
Have your own special method, tips for seasoning a smoker, or any questions on the subject? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below and remember to share if you liked this article.