Congratulations on your decision to purchase a new grill or smoker! It’s a smart investment that will open the doors to a new world of culinary activities. Before using your new grill or smoker, though, it’s recommended that you season the grate.

What Is Seasoning?

Upon hearing or reading the term “seasoning,” some people assume that it involves sprinkling seasoning on a grill or smoker. When used in the context of preparing food, seasoning does involve the application of salt, pepper, herbs, spices or other types of flavor-enhancing seasoning. When used in the context of grills, smokers and other cooking surfaces, however, seasoning refers to the application of oil.

To season a grill or smoker, you’ll need to brush a layer of oil onto the cooking grate. You won’t need any actual seasoning. Rather, you’ll need oil to season your grill or smoker. After brushing the oil into the grate, you can light your grill or smoker. As the oil heats up, it will bind to the grate, thereby forming an oily layer.

Why Should I Season My New Grill or Smoker?

Seasoning a new grill or smoker is important for several reasons. For starters, it burns off any debris or impurities lingering on the grate. Even if there aren’t any chemicals on it, the grate may contain dust from the packaging in which it was shipped. By seasoning your grill or smoker, you’ll burn off dust and other debris to create a clean, safe surface on which to cook food. Of course, you can always fire up your new grill or smoker without using oil to burn debris off the grate, but seasoning offers a few other noteworthy benefits.

Seasoning your new grill or smoker creates a nonstick cooking surface. It’s frustrating when meat sticks to the cooking grate. While this problem is more common with grills because of their high temperatures, it can occur with smokers as well. If your meat sticks to the grate, it will rip when you attempt to flip or remove it. Therefore, you should season your new grill or smoker to prevent sticking. The oil-covered grate offers a natural nonstick surface that’s suitable for all meats and veggies.

You’ll experience better-tasting food when cooking a well-seasoned grill or smoker. When you cook meat on seasoned grill or smoker, fat from the meat will melt and drip onto the oil-covered grate. While most of the liquefied fat will burn off, some of its lipids will bind to the oil. The next time you cook on the grate, your food will absorb these lipids to create an out-of-this-world flavor.

Finally, seasoning will prolong the life of your new grill’s or smoker’s cooking grate by protecting it from rust and corrosion. All grates used in grills and smokers are made of metal, with the most common metals used in their construction being stainless steel, cast iron and aluminum. But regardless of what it’s made of, all cooking grate can rust and corrode over time. As moisture from the air settles onto your grill’s or smoker’s cooking grate, it triggers oxidation within the metal from which it’s made. Oxidation then leads to rust and corrosion, which can eat away at the grate until it’s no longer able to securely hold food.

You can slow down and discourage oxidation by seasoning your grill or smoker. Once seasoned, the cooking grate will have a protective layer of oil covering it. As a result, moisture won’t be able to easily reach the metal from which it’s made, so the cooking grate shouldn’t rust or corrode. These are just a few of the main reasons to season your new grill or smoker.

Step #1) Clean the Grate

Before seasoning your new grill or smoker, you should clean the cooking grate. Most grills and smokers, including the highly popular Primo models, have a removable cooking grate. Just lift the grate up, at which point you can remove it from your grill or smoker. Once removed, wash the grate with dish soap and warm water. You can do this either indoors or outdoors. Just remember to clean both sides of the grate.

Step #2) Choose an Oil

Now it’s time to choose an oil with which to season your new grill or smoker. This is arguably the most important step, as the type of oil you use will affect the longevity and quality of the seasoning. Using olive oil to season a grill or smoker, for example, is generally a bad idea. While olive oil is loaded in nutritious omega-3s, it has a low smoke point of about 375 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. If used on a cooking grate, olive oil will burn and turn to smoke once it reaches this temperature. To ensure the oil sticks to your grill’s or smoker’s cooking grate, you need to choose a high-heat oil with a higher smoke point.

Here are a few of the top high-heat oils with which you can season your new grill or smoker:

  • Peanut oil
  • Canola oil
  • Corn oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Avocado oil

Keep in mind that most refined cooking oils have a higher smoke point than unrefined oils. Therefore, they are better suited for seasoning a grill or smoker.

Step #3) Brush Oil Onto the Grate

With a high-heat oil in hand, use a brush to apply it to your grill’s or smoker’s cooking grate. You don’t need any special type of brush for this step. Just use a basic basting brush. Alternatively, you can use a clean, unused paintbrush to apply the oil. Just pour your preferred high-heat oil into a small bowl, dip the brush into it, and brush it onto your grill’s or smoker’s cooking grate.

Of course, you should cover both sides of the cooking grate with oil. If you only apply oil to the top of the grate, the bottom will remain susceptible to rust and corrosion. So, brush oil onto both sides of your grill’s or smoker’s cooking grate for maximum protection against rust and corrosion.

Step #4) Fire Up Your Grill or Smoker

After brushing oil onto the cooking grate, fire up your grill or smoker. Fill the main fuel compartment with charcoal, light it, and wait for it to heat up. For added flavor, you can place a small pile of wood chunks for smoking next to the charcoal. The smoking chunks will release flavorful smoke that binds to the oil-covered cooking grate. Popular types of smoking chunks used to season grills and smokers include white oak, cherry, pecan and hickory. By using them in conjunction with charcoal, you’ll create a more flavorful cooking grate.

Assuming you followed these steps correctly, your grill or smoker should now be seasoned. The oil-covered grate will enhance the flavor of your foods, protect against rust and corrosion and offer a nonstick cooking surface. With that said, the oil won’t stay on your grill’s or smoker’s grate forever. To retain these benefits, you must reseason your grill or smoker at least once every two or three months.

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