How to Clean an Electric Smoker

CLEANING AN ELECTRIC SMOKER featured image

Time to maintain the device that delivers manna from heaven in the form of smoked foods to enjoy!

Mundane, perhaps, boring, but absolutely necessary for continued operation; it is time to clean that electric smoker.

Pro-tip: Before using, prep the food racks with a light food oil spray or wipe with vegetable oil on a paper towel. This will make your post smoking clean up much easier.

Let the device cool down if recently used.

Bits and pieces

electric smoker inner Pieces cleaning

First thing is to take out all the pieces that are meant to be removed by you, the operator of the electric smoker. Typically this will be the aforementioned racks, a water pan, a drip tray, and smoker box and/or ash pan. Be certain the ashes are cool, and if so dump them in your garbage. Wipe down the smoker box with a damp towel and set aside.

If the other components fit in your dishwasher that is a great way to get them clean ultimately. Regardless, the first step is to soak them in hot soapy water to loosen things up. Using gloves and a scrub brush, knock loose most of the debris and caked on stuff. Work through all the pieces, then set up a fresh tub of soapy water, or put the pieces in the dishwasher. Using a scrubber or scrubbing sponge, clean each component.

Understand that some patina or discoloration may occur in different metals during the smoking process, so things may never get that sparkling clean, fresh out of the box look. If you want to aggressively clean, a stainless steel scouring pad will help get you there, but do check the owner’s manual to be certain you do not ruin any finishes on your components. Here are some additional ideas for cleaning stubborn grates.
pdf manual

Inside the box

Our goal is not to get these surfaces down to the bare metal. Some patina of smoke is fine, even desirable. The more you use it the darker the interior will become. This patina will also help keep rust off the chamber of your smoker.

We also will not use harsh cleaners. Those nose curling smells will get into your food, and while probably not toxic, it certainly goes against the goal of making tasty things to eat.

basic cleaning components

You will want to have the following items for this process. Sponge, warm water, plastic garbage bag and a plastic bench scraper or putty knife. Resist the urge to use a metal blade as it is easy to scratch or mar the interior surfaces, opening opportunities for rust to begin.

Cut the garbage bag open and lay across the bottom of the smoker. Using the scraper, dislodge any pieces from the top, sides, and rails. Slide the plastic bag onto the ground in front of the smoker, tucking one edge of it well behind the bottom of the opening. Scrape the bottom of the cabinet, pushing any debris out of the smoker onto the bag. Make sure the bag is under the length of the door and repeat the process on the inside door surfaces.

Using a damp sponge, not dripping wet, wipe down to entire interior of your smoker. If you have a glass window use a degreasing agent on the glass only. Wipe down with a damp towel and then finish with glass cleaner and a dry towel or paper towel.

Rinse your sponge and get fresh water. Wipe down the seal around the door of your smoker using just a damp sponge, and clean the surface on the cabinet that it seals against. This is a good opportunity to look closely at the gasket and be sure of its integrity for future use.

Outside the box

cleaning outside of electric smoker

You should be able to get the exterior adequately clean with just a sponge and water. Usually the exterior just needs the dust cleaned off, although the top can need extra attention. You can use a mild detergent, just be sure to finish by wiping down with plain water. And don’t forget the back surfaces as well.

For the glass, glass cleaner is just fine. Do this last so that it stays more pristine.

Ready to store

Do not put it away wet, particularly the interior. Sealed up, your smoker is a ripe climate for mold or rust to thrive. If you have a nice warm day, give the interior a quick drying off with paper towels or such, dry off the pieces and put them back, then let the unit sit with the door open for at least an hour.

If it is cooler then you need to be more diligent. Make sure every piece is fully dried off before returning it to the cabinet. Use paper towels, shop rags, old towels or newspaper to get the interior as dry as possible. Even still, we recommend letting the unit sit with the door open to fully dry out.

Longer term and tips

If your smoker sees frequent use, you may not need to do this entire cleaning after every use. Certainly all the removable components should be cleaned after every use as a point of maintenance and for the longevity of your smoker.

Indoor storage is preferable. A more constant temperature environment will help with longevity, as will the protection from the elements.

Some smokers will work with a layer of foil along to bottom surface for easy clean up. Only do this if the heating element is far enough away that the foil will not be in danger of melting.

Using vegetable oil on the rack surfaces that contact food will make clean up easier. In some cases it may make sense to put a very light layer of oil on them after cleaning as well.

Be gentle when cleaning the temperature sensing probe, hot water and a soft sponge should be all you need to use. Be aware of it in the cabinet so you do not damage it during your cleaning process.

Relatively speaking, an electric smoker has simple components. With some diligence, and a little effort, you can keep yours functional for many years to come.

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