Your smoker will likely accumulate dirt, ash and charred debris over time. Aside from affecting your smoker’s aesthetics, this can affect the flavor of your food. If you smoke meat in a grime-covered smoker, some of the compounds in the grime will rise into your meat, resulting in a not-so-pleasant flavor. And if you place your meat on a dirty grate, it could stick to the grate, which is something no home chef wants to discover. With a little work, however, you can clean your smoker to prevent problems such as these from occurring.
Scrub the Grate With a Wire Brush and Soapy Water
To clean your smoker’s grate, use a wire brush and soapy water. You don’t need any special store-bought cleaning solution for the grate. Rather, fill an empty spray bottle with warm water and a small amount of liquid dish soap and then spray it onto your smoker’s grate. After allowing it to sit for a few minutes, scrub the grate with a wire brush. If you discover any stubborn debris that doesn’t want to come off, use the scraper tool at the end of the wire brush. Most wire brushes for grills and smokers have a piece of flat metal at the end specifically for scraping stubborn debris.
Wipe Down the Outside With a Washcloth
Neglecting to clean the outside of your smoker will leave it susceptible to rusting. The dirt and grime allows moisture to settle, encouraging the formation of rust. To prevent this from happening, spray the exterior of your smoker with the same soapy water as before and then wipe it down with a clean washcloth. When finished, use a separate washcloth to dry it.
Remove and Wash Small Components
If your smoker has any small components like a smoker box, drip tray or water pan, remove and wash them. Depending on their size, you may be able to wash them in your dishwasher. If they are too big or too dirty, though, you’ll need to wash them by hand using liquid dish soap, warm water and a sponge. When finished, place the components on your kitchen counters to dry.
Some smokers have a built-in temperature probe, allowing you to check the temperature of your meat without opening the lid. If your smoker has a temperature probe, wipe it down with a damp washcloth to remove any dirt or debris. To reduce the risk of damage, do not place the temperature probe in the dishwasher or submerge it in water. Instead, gently clean it with a damp washcloth.
Scoop Ash and Debris
To clean the inside of your smoker, start by scooping any lingering ash and debris. It’s recommended that you transfer ash to a metal bucket or container to reduce the risk of a fire. Unbeknownst to many chefs, ash can stay hot for up to four days under the right conditions. So, even if it’s been a while since you last used your smoker, it’s best to err on the side of caution by storing ash in a metal bucket or container.
If you have an offset smoker with a separate firebox, you’ll need to clean both it as well as the main compartment. Ash should only accumulate in the firebox, but grime will accumulate in the main compartment as fat drips down from the meat. Failure to remove this grime will result in an unpleasant flavor the next time you use your smoker. The fatty grime will heat up, releasing its rancid flavor in the form of smoke. To prevent this from happening, scoop any debris underneath your smoker’s cooking grate in the main compartment.
Clean Bottom With Soapy Water
After scooping out all the large chunks of ash and debris, clean the bottom of your smoker with soapy water. Spray the bottom with soapy water, and then scrub it with a soft sponge (don’t use a wire brush). When finished, use a couple paper towels to dry it.
How Often Should I Clean My Smoker?
For the best smoking experience, you should clean the grate and scoop ash each time you use it. It may sound like a tedious task, but it should only a take a few minutes once you’re familiar with the steps. And by cleaning the grate and scooping ash, you’ll be able to smoke better-tasting meat.
You don’t have to deep clean your smoker with soapy water each time you use it. Rather, try to deep clean it at least once every two to four weeks, depending on how frequently you use it.
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