Assuming you already acknowledge seasoning as an important step before putting your smoker to use but don’t exactly know how to go about it, you’re just the audience we’re looking for! We’re here to educate you on all the benefits this act has to offer, but more so precisely how to go about it right from scratch to finish.
The core reason for seasoning is for safety and maintenance. Brand new from the store into smoking up your meats could potentially impose several risks, illness included. So if you’re ready for some seasoning tips 101, you should grab your notepad and pen, there’s a lot in store.
Why Must I Season My Smoker?
Apart from the common knowledge that pre-seasoning is a good idea, there are specific reasons to justify this. When you’ve just bought a new smoker cabinet from the store, often there is leftover residue from the manufacturing. It could be micro metal pieces, paint, or other chemicals that are harmful when consumed.
Seasoning helps get rid of all the “dirt” that could otherwise introduce foul flavors into your food. The second reason is for proper care and maintenance.
The first season is arguably the most crucial and must be done accurately. Some argue that your smoker could go on without the need for re-seasoning but this is not always advisable. For your cookware to remain in top shape even after several rounds of use, seasoning and redoing it from time to time is the secret ingredient.
What do I Need?
In a nutshell:
- Oil spray
- Soft cloth/ paper towel
- Fire materials
- Heat-proof gloves
The kind of oil you use matters. Pitmasters recommend those with a high smoke point because such will burn at very high temperatures and not cause an ugly smoke situation early on. Either canola oil or peanut oil are good starts. If these are not within reach, animal fats could serve as well.
Paper towels will come in handy when lathering the oil but these will not be needful if you choose to go with a spraying can instead. Keep a pair of fireproof gloves for when you need to set up the fire materials.
Get to Seasoning
Disclaimer, it’s going to take quite some time to be done with curing your smoker so look for a day you’re not in a rush. Once all your equipment is ready, here’s how to begin.
- Clean up with soap and water
This is to wash away the solvents and residue we talked about earlier on. Just to reach every spot, separate the racks from the unit and attend to them separately. Proceed to wipe all metal surfaces from the walls, door and then rinse with plenty of running water. Once you’re sure nothing has been left out, pat with a towel and leave it outside to air dry.
- Apply the oil
After a few minutes, be back for the greasing. The bigger your smoker, the longer it’s going to take but this shouldn’t be an excuse to slack on this step. The idea is to coat all the metal liberally and you will know this when the inside of your smoker turns shiny. Coating the outside doesn’t make much of a difference unless you have a special reason to.
Using a soft cloth helps to wipe off the excess in case you overdid it. But even if you don’t, the heating stage will take care of this. Apart from animal fats, some good oil choices to consider include; flaxseed oil, lard, or sunflower oil (red palm). Give the oil around 10 minutes to sit before moving on to the next step.
- Light up your fire
The interaction between heat and lubricants is what seals a protective layer. The combustion works to produce a polymerized film that can fight against rust. And once this is complete, you’re all good to go. Follow these steps;
- If using a charcoal grill, fill a chamber and light it up.
- Give it 10 minutes to allow the charcoal to burn turning grey. The size of your smoker will determine how much charcoal is needed so follow the user instructions for guidance.
- Transfer the hot charcoal into your firebox to serve as briquettes.
- Add a couple more unlit charcoal lumps and open the inlet and outlets for maximum airflow. It helps increase the burning temperature.
- Continue to add in wood chunks/ wood chips on top of the charcoal or in the built-in compartment.
- At this point, a temperature of between 250°F -300°F is what you’re aiming for. You want to see thin whips of smoke coming out of your smoker before closing it up.
- Maintain this range for at least 2 hours but most preferably 4 or even more.
- Once depleted, you should notice a dark brown coating in place of the previous sheen.
- Your smoker is now ready for BBQ so you can let it cool down before clearing out the ashes.
It’s recommended to utilize wood that you’ll be using in the future for your smoking. It helps familiarize you with how much smoke your cooker can put out and at what temperature. Also, if you’re unsure what amounts to fill in, begin with a few chunks roughly two ounces as you observe before making additions.
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Properly seasoned, all that should be left behind is a thin coating, as the excess oils drip into the drainage hole.
Pro Seasoning Tips
To achieve the best results:
- Have your smoker laid out on the flat ground or a level surface to prevent the oils from running towards one side.
- Seasoning requires higher temperatures than normal so ensure your fire is hot.
- Oiling the outside of your water pan keeps it from rusting.
- A gas or electric smoker is the solution to clean smoke, unlike a charcoal smoker.
Seasoning an Old Smoker
If you’ve had your cooker around for some time, you probably have the hang of it when it comes to seasoning. Nonetheless, a systematic approach is bound to give you polished results. Avoid jumping right into lubricating if your smoker is spotting some rust. Instead, scrape it off first with a wire brush or sandpaper sponge. If the rust proves stubborn, cut through it with a tough solution.
Again, give your smoker a thorough clean to eliminate the sticky grease or juices that may have got onto the rods. Use a mild soap solution and go over it twice if need be. Once your metal surfaces are dirt-free, you can proceed to apply oil.
There you have it! Season your smoker the pro way and get to enjoy the best BBQ flavors!