How to Clean a Smoker

by Raymond Archambault

A smoker is one of the best BBQ appliances anyone can have – smoking meats and other delicacies can be both delicious and a huge hit for your guests. But if there is one thing most smoker owners do not like, it is the cleaning process. Cleaning a smoker can be quite an ordeal, considering that most people are not even sure how to properly clean it.

Thankfully, you are reading this guide. You will learn how to clean a smoker and also avoid common cleaning mistakes.

Cleaning a smoker might seem tedious, but the steps are quite simple. Provided you follow the cleaning tips in this article, your smoker will stay clean and also perform well for your next BBQ.

Let’s begin!

Things to Note

Keep in mind that only non-abrasive cleaners should be used to clean your smoker. Abrasive products can cause the smoker to rust. It can also create a surface where cooking residue and grime can stick.

Cleaning the Exterior of the Smoker

First, let’s start with the easiest process, which is cleaning the smoker’s exterior.

To clean the outsides of the smoker, you will need a lint-free cloth and some warm soapy water. Wipe off the exterior until it is clean.

Make sure to dry the surface after cleaning with soapy water. Leaving it wet can promote rust. If possible, you should keep the smoker outdoors for a while to air dry.

Note that a shed or garage is the best place to store your smoker when you are not using it. Leaving your smoker outdoors for too long could cause it to rust due to the presence of moisture in the air.

Cleaning the Smoking Chamber

To clean the smoking chamber, you need to remove both the cooking racks and the ash box. Doing so will leave you with an empty smoking chamber. Make sure the chamber has cooled down completely before you start cleaning.

To clean the cooking chamber, use a soft grill brush (preferably non-metal – do not use a wire brush) to get rid of any residue and soot present. You can put a sheet under the smoker to help collect the debris you sweep out. This certainly helps to save up cleaning up the area once you are done.

Once the residue is removed, wipe and scrub the smoker’s interior surfaces using warm soapy water. If the residue on the interior wall is stuck, you can use a plastic bristle brush or a sponge to get it out without damaging the surface.

Use paper towels or newspaper to wipe down the surface down once you have removed the residue. If you used a plastic bristle brush, you should make sure that no bristles from the brush have become lodged in the crevices of the chamber.

Tip: The inside of your smoker will get dark over time. Not only is this normal, but the darkening also helps to stop the surface from rusting. In other words, you should not worry about trying to get the interior to look like when you first bought the smoker.

Cleaning After Every Use

The first step of cleaning your smoker after use is to clear the ash from the smokebox. To do this, take out the ash collection tray and empty the ash into a bin. Make sure to empty any hot ashes in a non-combustible bin. Alternatively, you should only empty the ash when it is cold. The ash box with its lids should be wiped using a damp cloth.

Remove the cooking grates, water pans, and drip tray and wash them with warm soapy water. Using a scraper is always a good option here to remove any grease buildup or gunk leftover. Avoid using any chemicals to wash these components. Once they are dry, you can apply some vegetable oil to the pans and trays to help combat rust. Oil also prevents the grates from sticking when you use the smoker again.

Next, clean the meat probe with a damp cloth. Soak the cloth in warm or hot soapy water. Do not put the meat probe into the water, as doing so could mess with the temperature measurement, causing it to become inaccurate.

The door seals tend to attract a lot of residues when cooking. Use a damp cloth to clean the residue. This should be done after each use.

The observation panel will also require cleaning. Here again, using a damp cloth is the ideal way. If the glass becomes tarnished and dirty over time, you will have to perform deeper cleaning.

Cleaning Windows and Glasses

If your smoker has a glass window like the Landmann USA Smoky Mountain Electric Smoker, you will want to pay attention to this section. Cleaning the outside of the smoker is just as important as the inside.

Landmann USA Smoky Mountain Electric Smoker with Viewing Window

Source: Amazon

There are various ways to clean the glass door on your smoker. A regular dishwashing liquid with a non-abrasive cloth soaked in hot soapy water can be sufficient. However, smokers tend to create a thin layer of residue on the glass.

To get rid of this residue, you will require some rubbing alcohol or a specialized cleaning agent made for cleaning the glass doors on smokers.

Getting Rid of Creosote

Creosote is the residue from the process of combustion. It is basically oils that didn’t burn efficiently. Getting rid of it can be quite difficult.

When creosote combines with the residue from oil, foods, and any other contaminants, it can make inside the smoker become extremely messy.

The most effective way to get rid of creosote is to get a bunch of newspapers and burn them in the smoker. Before doing this, you should remove the thermometer. The aim is to make the fire hot enough to burn the creosote. This process should be conducted once every three months to ensure that any creosote build-up is burnt and dealt with.

Cleaning the Thermostats

The thermostats are often the most overlooked when it comes to cleaning. Keeping the smoker’s thermostat is clean can be beneficial for proper temperature readings. All you need is some soapy water and a damp cloth. When you finish wiping with a damp cloth, use a dry cloth to get rid of any water or moisture.

Cleaning Up Mould in a Smoker

If your smoker has mould, it really isn’t something you should be overly concerned about. Removing the mould is actually quite easy. Mould is formed from the combination of grease and moisture, and that is why a smoker is an ideal place for it to grow.

Moisture build-up is a result of poor air circulation. So if you want to avoid the build-up of moisture, you should keep the smoker door a little open when storing it. This can help to maintain airflow.

To get rid of mould, simply follow the steps below:

  1. Get rid of any damp, porous materials or old charcoal from the smoker box
  2. Build a fire in your smoker, ensuring the temperature is as hot as possible. The heat of the fire should kill spores and mould, as well as burn off grease
  3. It is always better to burn mould off than scrape it, as scraping could cause you to inhale some mould spores, likely resulting in unpleasant health problems
  4. Once the smoker is cool, you can safely scrape off any burned residue. When doing this, you shouldn’t forget the drip pan, as well as other internal boxes
  5. Clean everything using hot soapy water and then wipe dry
  6. Before storing the smoker, you should let it air dry for some time. Do not put your smoker away when it is still damp

Conclusion

There you have it – everything you need to know about cleaning a smoker. There really isn’t too much to do. Remember to steer clear of any abrasive materials and cleaning products when cleaning your smoker.

Failure to do so could cause you to damage your smoker, which would make it even harder to clean after use.

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