So you’ve just unpacked your brand new electric smoker. You’re probably already salivating thinking about what you’re going to cook first.
While electric smokers offer great convenience, like all other smokers, they still need to be seasoned. So before you rip your new smoker out of the box, fire it up and throw in a pork butt, hold the phone and take a few minutes to read this guide.
Let’s have a look at why it is important to season your new smoker, how to do it, and how to make your first smoke in your electric smoker a success.
Why Do We Need to Season New Smokers?
Seasoning your smoker is as simple as doing a ‘dry run’. You fire up the smoker with no food inside. The smoke produced will leave a fine black coating on the inside of the unit.
Seasoning your smoker in this way should remove any residue, such as oil and dust, that may have been left over from the manufacturing process.
Some of these residual substances are likely to be petroleum based, or they may contain solvents. No doubt, you don’t want these hanging around in your cooker when it comes to preparing food. Not only are they potentially hazardous, but they also will make your food smell bad.
To be absolutely sure there is no residue left in the smoker for the first cook, some people like to wipe the cooker down with a sponge and some mild detergent before they season it. If you decide to wipe down the inside of your cooker before you season it, be sure not to scratch the surfaces.
Seasoning your smoker will also cure any paints or coatings on the inside your cooker, and help prevent rust from developing.
An additional benefit is that the thin layer of black smoke will enhance the smokey flavor imparted to your food. Over time this black coating will build up and the flavor should only get better!
Let’s have a closer look at how to season your new electric cooker.
How to season an electric smoker
In this step by step guide we will focus mainly on how to season a masterbuilt smoker, but the principles apply to most types of electric smoker.
Most new electric smokers will come with an instruction manual. Be sure to refer to the manual for specific instructions that may apply to your particular type of smoker.
This video from Masterbuilt does a good job of showing you basic way to cure your new smoker, but we go through a few extra steps that are worth doing.
Getting ready to season your smoker
- Ensure your cooker is assembled correctly – Most smokers will need a little assembly out of the box. Even if your smoker comes mostly pre assembled, make sure all the screws are tight and the unit is secure.
- Wipe down your smoker – Using a damp sponge and some mild detergent, wipe down the interior surfaces of your cooker, including all trays and racks. Be careful not to scratch any surfaces. Wash off the soapy residue with water. Open up the smoker and let the unit air dry.
- Coat the inside of your smoker with cooking oil – Using either cooking oil spray, or a small amount of oil on a cloth, wipe down the inside of your cooker. The surfaces don’t need to be dripping with oil, just a light coating is ideal. There is no need to coat the chip tray, heating element, grease tray, and water tray with oil.
- Place all racks and trays back inside the smoker – Place the accessories back inside the smoker. When seasoning a Masterbuilt electric smokers, do not fill the water bowl with water.
Starting up your electric smoker for the first time
- Plug your smoker into a power outlet – It is recommended that you don’t use an extension cord when firing up your electric smoker. If you must use an extension lead, make sure the cord is heavy duty, and has an earth pin.
- Open up the top vent all the way – Make sure this vent stays fully open throughout the duration of the seasoning process.
- Set the smoker to 275°F, and the timer to 3 hours – For most Masterbuilt smokers, 275°F is the maximum temperature setting. Some makes of electric smoker, like the Bradley, for instance, can be seasoned at 250°F.
Masterbuit recommends adding a load of chips when the timer has 45 minutes remaining. But if you ask around most seasoned owners do the following:
- Add 8-12 chips into the woodchip loader – While some people soak their chips, there really does not appear to be compelling reason to do so. Masterbuilt does not mention the need to soak your chips.
- After 20 minutes, add another 8-12 chips to the woodchip loader – By now there will be some ashes building up in the ashtray. These ashes will continue to produce smoke and season the smoker.
- After another 20 mins, add another load of woodchips into the loader – You can add a few more than 8-12 this time, but be careful not to overload the woodchip loader. After the third load, you can let the ashes which have built up in the ashtray do the rest of the work.
- Leave the smoker to “smoke” at 275°F until the 3 hours is up
Maintaining your electric smoker
Once the smoker is seasoned, there is no need to scrub the inside of your smoker. Every once in a while, you may want to gently wipe down the inside of the smoker to remove any loose ash. However, don’t remove the coating of black smoke.
If your smoker has a viewing window, clean it while the smoker is still warm by following these steps:
- Dampen a couple of paper towels, and scrunch them into balls.
- While the smoker is still warm (but not too hot – no trips to the ER please) dab the damp paper towel into the ash.
- Use this paper towel to wipe the viewing window. It will be all smudgy at this point, but that is ok
- Dampen some clean paper towels, and clean off the window.
- Once you have cleaned away all the ash residue, dry off the window with a fresh paper towel.
- Other brands of smoker may require the water bowl be filled with water for seasoning. Refer to the manual of your smoker to check.
- Never overload the woodchip loader with chips.
Advice for your first smoke on your new electric
Now that your smoker is seasoned and ready to go, here are some tips for your first smoke.
- It is a good idea to start with cheaper cuts of meat that are not so fiddly
- Pork butt, or a whole chicken are all good options for your first smoke.
- Your first few smokes will always be a learning curve. Luckily electric smokers are very forgiving.
- If you have also purchased a cold smoking attachment, you could try smoking cheese for your first time. Depending on your cooker, keeping the temperature down low enough to smoke cheese might be a little fiddly, but this will help you get to know your cooker. Cheese is also quick to smoke, relatively inexpensive, and delicious!
- Keep the moisture level in mind. Placing a pan of water in the cooker will ensure that the meat you are smoking does not dry out. If your electric smoker comes with a water pan, use it. If it does not, you may be able to improvise with a small cake tin filled with water, or something similar.
You’ll also want to make sure you have all the equipment you need ready before the cook. This might include a couple of extra purchases.
A good quality meat thermometer (the one that comes with the smoker is usually a unreliable) is essential for anyone who plans to smoke. It will give you an accurate reading of where your meat is up to. And it will ensure you don’t poison your guests – especially if you are cooking chicken.
Wrapping it up
Unwrapping a new electric smoker and firing it up for the first time is an exciting experience (even if you are trying to play it cool.) You are likely brimming with ideas about what you would like to smoke.
So it can be a bit of a pain in the butt to learn that you need to season your smoker before you can start cooking. But seasoning your electric smoker is not a time consuming or complicated process. We hope that this article has helped you learn how quick and easy this vital step is.
Do you have an electric smoker, or are you thinking of getting one? Do you have any other questions about seasoning your smoker that we have not covered in this article, or any handy suggestions that you would like to share? Be sure to mention them in the comments section below. And if you found this article helpful, be sure to share!