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How to Season ( Cure ) A New Smoker in 5 Easy Steps

how to season a smoker

So you finally purchased a brand new BBQ smoker grill. We hope you chose well and are ready to experience one of the most tasty forms of BBQ, smoked meats.

I understand what it is like to open the box of a brand new smoker. I know you’re itching to put it all together and begin cooking, but hold your horses, amigo! Regardless of the brand or kind of smoker, the five steps outlined in this article must be followed before its initial use.

Today we’re going to talk about seasoning, also referred to as “curing,” in your smoker, and no, you’re not going to put salt and pepper all over it. What you are going to do is heat treat your smoker so it lasts longer, components settle, manufacturing impurities burn off, and it is ready to smoke meat. Not seasoning your smoker can introduce contaminants to your food and shorten the smoker’s lifespan.

So, in this article, we’ll show you how to season your smoker in five simple steps.

Let’s start with: Do you really need to season your smoker?

Absolutely! After putting it together for the first time, seasoning your smoker is required and highly recommended by smoker manufacturers. 

This process is crucial because it is how you will sanitize your brand new BBQ smoker, that will be used to cook your food. Keep in mind that these smokers are touched and handled by many hands, and you do not want your food to get contaminated; touch those hands as well. Yuk.

Seasoning your smoker will help it last longer, get it ready to cook, and remove any foreign contaminants, grease, oil, or anything else that should not be in your smoker.

Not only will the seasoning process help you clean and sanitize your smoker, but it will also burn off anything from dust to bugs and anything else that may have gotten into the smoker while it was being stored in the warehouse.

Furthermore, the seasoning process can aid in the sealing of uncured paint and internal steel.

Three Main Reasons To Season A New Smoker

1. Remove contaminants, Dust, grease, and oils remaining in the smoker

As we have mentioned before, Burning contaminants that do not belong in your smoker is the primary and most crucial reason to season your smoker. 

As previously said, the primary and most important purpose for seasoning your smoker is to prevent impurities from being burned that do not belong in your smoker. Each component is welded together during the production process to form a complete unit.

In the production process (including the use of chemicals to clean regions to be welded), grease, oils, and other additives may be utilized.  

While manufacturers do an excellent job of delivering a clean product, the bottom line is the pace at which these units are manufactured, some contaminants and residues settle in the smoker and need to be burned off and cleaned. 

So, before you put any food in that smoker before you cook any food inside that smoker, you should season it to burn off any contaminants that do not belong in the cooking chamber and avoid infusing smoke from these chemicals into our food.

To avoid contamination of your food, you should burn all impurities before placing any food in the smoker. 

2. Rust prevention – Add a protective coating to the smoker and extend its lifespan.

Using cooking oil to coat the inside of a new smoker during the seasoning process will provide an additional layer of protection. 

The cooking oil will settle on the metal surfaces during the seasoning process, protecting your charcoal smoker, electric smoker, or any new smoker from corrosion. In the same way that you lubricate your tools to protect them from rusting, coating your smoker with cooking oil will help achieve the same

3. Eliminate Chemical Odors

It is also advisable to season or cure your smoker in order to remove chemical odors from oils, glues, and other production chemicals.

It does not matter how well you clean your new smoker; oil and other contaminants will remain and begin to burn during your first cooking session. Contaminants from the manufacturing process can emit smells that will stick to your food.

This is why it is strongly recommended to always do a complete cleaning burn on a brand new smoker after it is set up. During the first burn, there will be smoke and odd smells from the chemicals burning.

offset smoker
image: BBQ Grill Academy

Here is How to Season a Smoker: The Seasoning Process in 5 Easy Steps

1. Give your brand new smoker a wash.

Clean, wash, and wipe the interior of your smoker with dish soap and water, using a soft cloth to avoid scratching the surface. The soapy water will remove grease and oils. It will also serve as a degreaser, removing the majority of the contaminants left behind during manufacturing.

When cleaning the smoker with soap, be cautious of metal shavings and sharp parts that may be present. 

Be sure to wash every inch of the smoker’s interior before wiping off the internal surfaces of the smoker with another moist, clean towel. Then, take a clean paper towel and wipe out the smoker’s inside after cleaning it. 

Another reason to season or cure your BBQ smoker is to eliminate the chemical odors that emanate from lubricants, glues, and other manufacturing chemicals.

After cleaning your new smoker with soap and water, small amounts of oil and other impurities will cling and begin to burn during your first cook. 

This is why it is strongly advised to always do a complete cleaning burn on a fresh new smoker when it is first set up. 

2. Apply a light coat of vegetable oil or cooking oil

Adding a thin protective layer of oil to the metal surfaces of the smoker will aid in the prevention of corrosion. To ensure that a thin coat of oil remains after the first high-heat burn, you will want to use cooking oils or cooking spray with a high burning point. 

I prefer using a spray bottle filled with vegetable oil to apply the oil coating, but you may also use cooking spray and spread it using a soft cloth.

Apply enough oil to coat every inch of the cooking chamber, but do not go overboard. Adding an excessive amount of oil will result in spending a few more minutes cleaning off the excess oil, and you will have to burn off the excess oil.

If you are using a spray bottle, start spraying the oil from the top down and then distribute the oil using a towel.

If your smoker includes a cast iron wood chip box, feel free to spray some oil on it and season it as well.

I also like to use this procedure on the cooking grates and any other metal components inside the smoker. Smoker seasoning is also about rust prevention, so keep that in mind as you go through the process of seasoning your smoker using these methods.

A very thin layer of oil on the exterior of the smoker is also something I like to do, and while putting oil on the outside of the smoker will not make it rustproof, it will unquestionably assist.

By the way, the oil you use to season your favorite cast iron skillet will work just well too.

3. Clean the water pan

The water pan is an important component in your smoker. 

It is imperative to note that the water in the water bowl will steam up and reach the food in the smoker. As a result, the water bowl must be cleaned. 

Take a bucket of soap and water and thoroughly clean the bowl before then rinsing it. You can coat the outside of the bowl with a small amount of olive oil to protect it from rust.

4. Do a High Heat Burn

Doing a high-heat burn is a critical step in smoker seasoning, and it is the one step you do not want to skimp on. A high heat burn will scorch the inner walls of the smoker to a temperature high enough to burn off any extra oil, grease, and other residues from the manufacturing process.

Some manufacturers advocate doing a high-heat burn with simply the grates inside the smoker, while others recommend performing this process with the water bowl inside.

My advice is to place the water pan in the smoker for a short time but enough time to let it heat up enough to burn off any undesirable residues. 

An hour should be enough time. Suppose the pan is constructed of thin metal. In that case, it is recommended that you remove it from the smoker during this high-heat cooking cycle.

This procedure is rather straightforward. Begin by firing up your smoker and adjusting the temperature to somewhere around 350 and 400 degrees. Make certain that all of the air vents are completely open and let the smoker operate for at least three hours.

Some smokers feature a preheat cooking cycle option, and other manufacturers provide specific temperature recommendations for seasoning a new smoker. Check the owner’s manual for maintenance tips.

For example, if you are seasoning a Masterbuilt electric smoker, the suggested seasoning temperature is 275 degrees Fahrenheit for three hours.

BBQ smokers, unlike BBQ grills, are not meant to operate at high temperatures for long periods. Inexpensive smokers may not do well when subjected to high temperatures. 

While the seasoning process is taking place, keep an eye on your smoker. When seasoning a smoker, pay close attention to any signs of warping or paint damage.

If you notice any warping or paint damage, turn down the smoker’s temperature immediately.

Never leave the smoker alone, especially if you are seasoning a new smoker for the first time. Seasoning a new smoker is also an excellent opportunity to check that all of the mechanisms are functioning correctly before the first cook.

Seasoning A Charcoal Smoker

Seasoning a charcoal meat smoker is similar to seasoning a gas smoker, the only difference is you will need to use more charcoal to reach high temperatures and maintain these temperatures for several hours. 

Remember to season a new smoker in an open space. You will be operating the smoker at high temperatures.

Seasoning an Offset Smoker

You’ll need a lot of charcoal to season a large offset smoker. Prepare yourself accordingly. You can simply feed hot charcoal into the offset firebox if you have lit coals available on another grill. 

Electric smokers

Seasoning a smoker is not difficult, and electric smokers make it much easier. After you’ve completed the preceding procedures, plug in your smoker and set the temperature dial to high, or in the case of most electric meat smokers, to around 275 degrees F for a high-temperature burn.

5. Final Step – Let the smoker cool down and clean, again

After running the smoker on high for a few hours, allow it to cool. As soon as the smoker is cool to the touch, you can remove any leftover debris or ashes. You can even use a shop vacuum to deep clean the inside of the smoker.

During this last step, I like to visually inspect the smoker to make absolutely sure that all of the parts and components are still tight and look to be in good working order. When operating a smoker at high temperatures, one issue may arise: the metals will expand and contract, potentially leading a few nuts and bolts to become loose.

To make sure that everything is in proper working condition, inspect the smoker from top to bottom. Inspect the smoker to verify that there is no severe warping or paint damage and that the legs and door hinges are firm.

Without any fluff or unnecessary nonsense, this is how to season a smoker in five easy steps: The process is straightforward, with the objective of thoroughly cleaning the smoker before using it for cooking food.

In a nutshell, use dish soap and water to clean your smoker. Smokers should be covered with a light coat of vegetable oil to prevent corrosion before being subjected to a high-temperature burn to remove any leftover impurities.

Will I ever need to re-season my smoker?

Yes, re-seasoning your smoker is a great way to provide a protective barrier. It is not a bad idea to spend a few hours seasoning a smoker to protect your investment.

Aside from that, after a few meat smoking sessions, your smoker will begin to build up creosote. This thick, oily substance accumulates together with grease and filth. 

Always season a new smoker, knowing I will be repeating the process soon, so I like to take notes and write down what works and what is a waste of time.

A seasoned Smoker is a happy smoker

Now that you know how to pre-season and cure your smoker, you have a smoker ready for its first smoking session. 

Some Post-Seasoning Tips

After operating your smoker on high for a few hours, some of the oil you applied in step 2 will be burned by the heat. Feel free to add a very thin layer of oil to keep everything lubricated.

BBQ is all about outdoor cooking, and if your smoker will be exposed to the elements, consider buying a grill cover for it. Protecting your smoker from UV rays, rain, and snow is simple with these barbecue covers.

To further rust-proof your smoker, store it away from humid areas, and never leave it exposed to the elements.

One Last Word

Seasoning a new smoker is crucial, and it is something that should never be ignored or disregarded. The procedure is simple: operate the smoker at high temperatures for a few hours. This is a process that you do not want to skip.



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