You just got a new smoker, and you can’t wait to throw a barbecue. But wait, before you use it, you should know how to season a new smoker. There are many benefits of seasoning a smoker, but the most important being the purpose you bought the smoker for, which is delicious and flavorful barbecue.
If you just got your first ever smoker or you’re new to cooking on a smoker, you might not know what seasoning a smoker even means. Typically, when you hear seasoning, you would assume putting salt and pepper on the meat. Well, it’s similar, only there is no meat or salt and pepper involved.
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What Smoker Seasoning Is
Seasoning a smoker is also called curating since the process prepares the smoker for cooking. Just how you season the meat and prepare it for cooking, you season the smoker with a bunch of stuff. It essentially involves a bit of cleaning and oiling to get the new smoker ready.
Not all smokers are the same, so naturally seasoning them can be a bit different too. However, if you know the basics, you can pretty much deal with any type of smoker or grill.
You should not confuse seasoning a smoker with seasoning a cast-iron skillet, though. The latter just involves giving it a non-stick surface.
Why Season Your New Smoker
There are many good reasons to season a new smoker, even if you think paying for it and getting it delivered to your door should be enough to get cooking. You should season it for two reasons: cleaning any leftovers from the manufacturing process and preventing the smoker from rusting.
Sounds good enough? Here is what they mean in detail:
1. Remove Manufacturing Leftovers
While you may think your smoker is ready to use when it first arrives, and it technically is, but it’s not. Confused? Let us explain.
When the smoker is produced and shipped out, it still has some remnants from the manufacturing process. We are talking about dirt, metal shavings, oil, grease, adhesives, uncured paint, and more. Surely, you do not want these things to end up on your plate.
Depending on what metal your smoker is made of, these leftovers can be toxic. Not only will they affect the taste of your first few barbecues, but they may also introduce harmful metals into your body system. With seasoning, you can easily get rid of all the dirt and debris left in the smoker after the manufacturing process.
2. Rust Protection
Seasoning is also taking preventive measures to increase the life of your smoker. It specifically targets the smoker’s surfaces that are not rust-proof.
You’re probably thinking the smokers have some sort of coating or finish to prevent rusting. That is not always the case, especially not with all the surfaces of the smoker.
When you use the smoker, the moisture will gradually oxidize the metals, and you will start seeing rusting after a while. Seasoning will put another layer on these metal surfaces that prevent moisture from coming in contact with the metal. As a result, the smoker will keep looking great and will last longer.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Seasoning a New Smoker
It’s good if you know your smoker or grill well from the get-go. While the essence of seasoning a smoker is virtually the same regardless of the type, there may be a few variations.
For instance, you have to be careful with the electric heating element in electric smokers. That does not require any sort of seasoning.
1. Check the Instruction Manual
You should read the instruction manual that came with your smoker before you season it. This should very clearly tell you what you should avoid doing to the smoker. It may even have specific instructions for seasoning it, in which case, you can follow those.
2. Size of the Smoker
Different types of smokers have different features and sizes. If you’re getting a small-sized gas or electric smoker, you do not need to worry too much about the details. It will be rather quick and straightforward to season such smokers.
On the other hand, if you have a big smoker that you got to throw big parties or take part in a competition, the process could be lengthy. Since the size is big, you will need a lot of oil for seasoning.
Also, some of the newer models of smokers come with advanced features such as temperature control. These can come in handy when you’re seasoning since you can build up the temperature from low to the maximum.
It’s important to read the manual before going forward with seasoning. Do not assemble the smoker before seasoning it as you will be assembling it as part of the seasoning process.
How to Season a New Smoker
Seasoning a smoker also depends on the type of smoker you have. However, the first few steps are the same for all kinds. Here are the step-by-step instructions:
1. Clean Everything
Your first step to seasoning is cleaning. You need to clean the interior of the smoker, the grills, the grates, and the pans. You can use plain water, but adding a bit of soap or one of those grill cleaners will make it even better.
Do not use coarse cloth or brush since you do not want to damage the surface. This will get rid of any dirt, oil, or paint left behind on the different parts of the smoker.
2. Air Dry
Once you have cleaned everything, it’s time to let them air dry. This should not take long, given that most parts are solid metals.
Oiling is the crux of the seasoning process. You can spray or mop some canolla oil or olive oil on all the interior surfaces. To learn more about oils for seasoning check out our article What Is The Best Oil to Season a Smoker With.
You can also oil the grates and pans, but avoid the burner. Do not get too generous with the oil that it starts dripping. It should only cover the surface thoroughly.
Once oiled, let it sit for a bit. The reason why you do it before assembly is to oil every corner; therefore, properly seasoned.
After the oiling phase, you can start assembling the smoker according to the instructions given in the manual. You can wear gloves during this part, so you do not mess the coating.
Well, at this step, you’re not actually going to cook something. The idea is to let the smoker heat up and complete a cooking cycle. This will burn off any chemical residue left on the smoker. Put the water pan in its place, but keep it empty.
You can keep the vent open or closed, but open is better. Now, set the temperature at the max setting and run it for a complete cook cycle.
Alternately, you can start slow and then slowly increase the temperature. You can run it for several hours this way.
If you have an electric or gas smoker, leave it running for at least an hour. If you have a charcoal grill, fill it with heated charcoal and run the grill till its ash.
Before the end of the cooking cycle, you can introduce wood to infuse smoky flavor and kill the metal smells. You can use some fruitwood with mesquite or hickory.
Seasoning an Offset Smoker
Seasoning an offset smoker like the Char-Broil Offset Smoker is fairly simple. You essentially follow all the same steps from one to four. Before you move to the cooking cycle, if you used aerosols, let the doors open so that any fumes can escape.
After about 15 minutes, you can go ahead and light the charcoal and the charcoal chimney firestarter separately. Once they light up, you can dump them into the firebox. Now, close all three doors, and only let the vents open partially. The target temperature is 300 degrees. At this temperature, it should burn for at least two hours.
The smoke and heat from the charcoal will cook the oil on to the internal surface. When you open the doors, you will see a shiny coating on the inside. This coating is from the oil and will serve as a protective layer over time.
How Long Does It Take to Season a New Smoker?
As you can guess from the steps outlined above, the whole process of seasoning a new smoker can take several hours. Cleaning, oiling, and then assembling the whole thing can take an hour at least.
Then heating and completing one cooking cycle depends on the smoker you have. It could take anywhere from two hours to five hours for the whole process.
It’s well worth the effort and time since you will be preparing your smoker to give the best outcome in terms of flavor, performance, and life of the smoker. The best part is you do not have to do all of this repeatedly. You could after a while when you need to clean it up. Re-seasoning, so to speak, can be done every year and would normally take the same time, which is a few hours.
What Is the Best Oil to Season a Smoker?
This should not be a debate, but different people have different opinions. You could use canola or sunflower seed oil.
Some people prefer using grapeseed oil because it can burn at high temperatures. Olive oil is also a good choice because of flavors and quality.
Nonetheless, whatever oil you have at home should be good. You could end up using quite a lot of oil so generally, avoid using expensive ones. Just make sure that the oil you use for coating the smoker has a high burning point.
You can have fun with the seasoning process if you like. If there is any room for variation, it’s with the water pan.
Though you’re supposed to leave it empty, you can fill it with beer or apple juice. Many people like to start their smoker with bacon to eliminate those chemical smells.
To learn more about oils for seasoning check out our article What Is The Best Oil to Season a Smoker With.
Maintenance After Seasoning
Your seasoning responsibility is not completely over, even after seasoning. Though you do not have to oil the surfaces again, you do need to ensure you properly clean them after use.
You will need to remove all the ash and food leftovers, but without removing the coating you put while seasoning. It’s different when you’re doing a thorough yearly cleaning. In that case, you can scrub everything and then season it again.
Why Clean Your Smoker After Seasoning
The ash in the firebox should be cleaned regularly. If you allow it to sit, it can absorb moisture and ultimately cause rusting. That’s what you’re trying to avoid with seasoning in the first place.
You can gently scrape the ash deposit out of the firebox. Any food built-up can be removed with utensils.
The idea is to partially clean the smoker after every use so that it’s ready to use the next time and that the oil coating stays intact. How often you may need to thoroughly clean and re-season depends on your use too. As a rule of thumb, once a year is good enough to keep the smoker cooking efficiently.
Cleaning and re-seasoning is also a good time for inspecting the smoker to see if any nooks and crannies have rust. If you spot some rusting, try scraping it with sandpaper.
If it’s very apparent, you can use a heat-resistant paint made explicitly for cooking appliances like smokers and grills. Make sure to scrub it down to the metal before you apply the paint. This will allow it to absorb the paint well.
Now that you know all the ins and outs of how to season a new smoker, you can go ahead and prepare your smoker for all those delicious and juicy barbecues. No matter what type of smoker you have, Pioneer Smoke Houses has all the information you need. Seasoning a smoker takes time, but it’s quite simple and easy.
Again, you must understand what the model of your smoker is precisely like. It will eliminate all the guesswork, and you will know everything about it from seasoning to cooking to cleaning afterward.