Other day my friend asked me how to season an offset smoker? Actually, he is not the first person who asked me this question, and I know he won’t be the last as well. So, I thought it would be helpful to share what I know in order to help someone seasoning an offset smoker for the first time.
What is Seasoning?
Seasoning also called curing, is the process of coating the inside of a grill using oil to prepare the machine for cooking. Seasoning a new smoker is crucial before it is used. This is same for all the types of smokers including electric smokers and charcoal smokers.
However, seasoning doesn’t necessarily associate with new machines but an integral part for existing smokers as well. You have to apply oil and heat the machine to a certain temperature level for a given time. I’ll explain from A to Z how to execute this task before using offset smokers.
Why Season Your Offset Smoker?
As far as I see, there are several reasons behind seasoning a BBQ smoker other than preparing it for cooking. All in all, below are the two most important reasons that apply for all the BBQ-lovers.
Cleaning After You Receive From the Manufacturer
Seasoning a smoker for the first time is super important. A new smoker comes to you with paint, oils, adhesives, and many other substances. The amount of such substances may vary from one brand to another and can be really toxic to the human body.
To Enhance Longevity
When you use the smoker continuously, there will be moisture on the surface, which can make it vulnerable to issues like rust. A proper seasoning helps coat a layer on the grill and obviously enhances the longevity of the machine.
What Happens If You Don’t Season A Smoker?
If you don’t season a new BBQ smoker, there is a huge possibility of dust, oil, and other residue going inside of your body. This can be injurious, and some of the petrol-based substances can blend awkward taste to the food.
To make sure to get rid of everything, I wipe the entire smoker with a detergent-soaked sponge before seasoning.
In addition, if you don’t season the smoker appropriately, you are bound to face a difficult time with rust problems. A simple session of seasoning will cure the paints and coatings inside the cooker and come in handy to eliminate such risks.
How Often Should You Season Your Smoker?
The simple answer would be once right after you purchase, before the initial use. That said, there is nothing wrong with re-seasoning your smoker now and then, especially after heavy barbecue sessions, to remove the residue that makes food go off-flavor in the next time.
However, most experienced Pitmasters do not recommend re-seasoning the grates. Yes, you must make sure the machine is clear and cleaned, but adding more oil on the grills is not the wisest decision as it could encourage grease to transfer to the food you cook.
Step by Step Guide to Seasoning an Offset Smoker
For me, the process of seasoning a smoker for the first time takes a considerable time but totally worth it. This is the section of the article that I elaborate on how to season an offset smoker, and I have arranged it as a step-by-step guide so that newbies can execute without any issue. Let’s see.
The initial step is to clean in and outside of the smoker. My preference has always been a power washer for this task, and I think you can buy or rent one from the nearest hardware store rather comfortably.
Using a power washer is the easiest way to remove the residues; dust and debris have no chance to remain on the surfaces of the machine. Make sure you wash each and every part of the smoker, including the cooking chamber and smoke pit.
Now take out the iron grates and scrub them using a wire cleaning brush. This step is important, and you should apply sufficient power to remove all the remaining debris from the grills. After you give them a proper scrub, power washes the grates again. Now, take a towel and wipe the grills.
It’s time to coat the grill from oil, and this is where you have to be selective and vigilant. I use ordinary cooking oil. Can you season an offset smoker with olive oil? My answer would be yes and no. Confusing right? If you really want to use olive oil, do not use the extra-virgin version of it.
However, I prefer canola oil or vegetable oil in place of olive oil, simply because those sorts have a higher smoke point. Also note that, do not use pam to season your machine.
I have seen people use sprayers for this step, but applying liquid oil is always my go-to option because by doing that, I can make sure the oil is applied evenly on the surfaces.
After you apply the oil of your choice, let the oil on the grates for about 20 minutes before you light up the smoker. Then, light the grill. My previous experiences confirm that the best wood to season an offset smoker is oak. Then, get the temperature of your smoker to high as possible. Now you will see flames on the grills and let the process continue at least for two hours.
One crucial thing I have to emphasize is that it is essential to maintain the same level of temperature throughout these two hours, ideally above 160°. Although that is the range most experts recommend, I use to go way beyond than up to 250° to get the best results. The more temperature you apply will be better as it helps prevent the formation of rust in the future.
After two hours, and the wood burnt out completely, let the machine rest for an hour. Once the grates are cool enough to handle, carefully wipe the shiny coating. But, do not force it as you don’t want to remove the protective coating which you created with the seasoning process. Also, make sure that you have cleaned everything in and out of the smoker.
Tips and Best Practices for Seasoning an Offset Smoker
Here are some of the basics and best practices that I follow to make the most out of the efforts that I put in. Hope these will help you as well.
- Keep the smoker on a flat surface. This may sound so simple and straightforward, but keeping your smoker on a level surface is utterly important. If not, all the oil you apply would drift onto the back or sides of the grill, which will eventually lead to improperly seasoned grills.
- Before you apply or spray the oil, it is imperative to use a power washer or similar equipment to get rid of the manufacturer’s debris. Do not apply oil without a thorough clean.
- If you notice excess oil on the grills or the surface of the smoker, get rid of it before you heat the smoker. You must ensure all the surfaces get an even coating of oil in order for the seasoning to become efficient.
- The instructions that I provided thus far were related to seasoning an offset smokers; if you are dealing with an electric smoker, never let oil to creep into heating elements.
Things to Keep in Mind before Seasoning a New offset Smoker
Other than the above-mentioned best practices, it would be helpful to consider the below points before seasoning a offset smoker.
Refer To the User Manual of the Manufacturer
Although the information I furnished is from my prior experience, it is always a good idea to run through the user manual before you execute the task. From there, you will get how to preseason a smoker according to the specifications of the manufacturer. I urge this because different brands have certain must-follow guidelines, and deviating from them can be detrimental to the machine.
Consider the Size of Your Machine
The answers to how to season an offset smoker can get somewhat changed depending on the smoker’s size. Obviously, the hassle and time would be much lesser when you have smaller-sized smokers. In addition, the amount of oil and the size of the coating also do vary accordingly.
Moreover, there are smokers with built-in temperature gauges, which you can take to your advantage when setting the maximum temperature for the seasoning. Long story short, the size of the unit does play its part in the seasoning process.
Maintenance after Seasoning
Your responsibility in terms of taking care of the machine doesn’t end with initial seasoning. Don’t get me wrong; this is not re-seasoning I’m talking about here (I will explain about re-seasoning an offset smoker a wee bit before the end of the article). A good Pitmaster takes care of the machine with a proper cleaning after each use.
You must remove the food leftovers, ashes, and other particles as soon as you finish cooking. However, you should not remove the coating that you established via seasoning. Just keep it clean and tidy; your smoker will love it.
What Temperature Should I Season My offset Smoker?
The rule of thumb is to maintain a consistent temperature level of above 160° for at least two hours. The more heat you apply, the better the grills become. Applying a temperature of above 160° helps the oil form a shiny coating during the burning process, and the oil will bake into the grates more successfully.
If possible, there is nothing wrong with exceeding the 160° barrier. However, as said earlier, I get better results all the time when I reach the 250° mark.
Seasoning Wood for Smoking
When you are burning the wood, make sure not to create a big fire in the smoker. It will hurt the consistency of the temperature. The fire should always be small and steady.
The amount of wood depends on the size of the smoker you use. I’m not in a position to suggest you an exact amount, but there is no rocket science in this as you can easily figure out how much wood you need to generate a steady fire throughout the process.
Talking about the wood types, mild flavor fruit woods, oak, mesquite, pecan, and hickory are a few of my favorites for the job. You can use pellets, chips, chunks, or whole logs for the seasoning.
I hope you can remember me saying that most Pitmasters do not recommend re-seasoning. However, after you use the smoker for a considerable period of time, eventually, it does demand another seasoning. This is more to do with the rust formation, and you must season it again to remove creosote.
Re-seasoning is more or less similar to initial seasoning; all you have to do is scrub and wash the grills before you start following the steps that I explained.
Is Seasoning A Smoker With Lard Possible?
Yes, experts use lard in place of the usual cooking oil. However, if you are doing it for the first time, it would best to stick with the orthodox methods as you have no prior experience. But, yeah, you can use lard to season an o smoker.
Do I Have To Season Outside Of Smoker?
There are people who support seasoning outside of the smoker. However, I’m not recommending it simply because of sanity issues. In addition, since you are not burning the oil, it will become prone to rust.
What Is The Best Way To Degrease Your Offset Smoker?
Scrubbing and washing are the most commonly used methods to degrease an offset smoker. For better results, you can opt for a BBQ degreaser. After you apply a BBQ degreaser, leave the grills for about five minutes and scrub them using a wire brush.
I assume the guidelines provided today have answered the question of how to season an offset smoker. The first and crucial factor that you have to keep in mind is that you must season the smoker before the initial use, and it has to be done at least for two hours at high-temperature levels. There could be many left unanswered; if so, please let me know via a comment. Thanks and have a great day!