How to Clean a Smoker (The Ultimate 3-Step Guide)

Arianna Foster
Published by Arianna Foster
Last Updated On: December 4, 2023

Grease and other nasty debris can cause your smoker to rot or even break down. So, the key to prolonging its lifespan is keeping it clean.

To help you do so, our grill masters created this quick guide on how to clean a smoker. Here are your step-by-step instructions.

Quick Summary

  • Regular cleaning is essential for prolonging a smoker's lifespan, including both the interior and exterior, as well as thermostats and grease chute.
  • Before each use, brush the grill grates, remove residue with paper towels, and coat the grates with vegetable oil. After each use, wipe spills, remove loose ash, and wash removable parts.
  • Clean your smoker at least every two to three cooks.

How to Clean a Smoker in 3 Steps

Dirty barbecue grills

Before we get to how to do a deep clean, I want to give you some tips on regularly maintaining your smoker. They’ll save you a ton of time in the long run.

Here’s what you should do before each use:

  • Brush the grill grates using a grill brush.
  • Remove any residue using paper towels.
  • Coat the grates with vegetable oil to prevent food from sticking.

And here’s what to do after each use:

  • Wipe spills off the surface using a damp cloth.
  • Remove the loose ash if needed.
  • Wash the removable parts (the drip pan, grease bucket, racks, etc.).

Finally, it’s time to see how to do a deep clean.

Remember that the cleaning process for electric smokers is a bit different. Read the instructions carefully to ensure that a step applies to an electric smoker.

1. Clean the Interior

interior of cooking machine

You need to cool most smokers before cleaning them. But cleaning an electric smoker is easier when it’s slightly warm.

So, if you have an electric smoker, heat it to its maximum temperature until it warms up.

Turn the smoker off, let it cool completely, and follow these steps to clean the smoke chamber:

  1. Take out all removable pieces, including the smoker box, glass door, water pan, drip tray, and racks — Place them in a tub filled with warm water and dish soap.
  2. Spray stubborn debris — Spray the debris with a mixture of apple cider vinegar and hot water for a faster breakdown. Let it soak for 15 minutes.
  3. Scrape the particle buildup on the interior surfaces — Remove food, carbon, and grease buildup using a putty knife. If you have an electric smoker, use a soft bristle brush instead.
  4. Clean with hot soapy water — Use a sponge, damp cloth, or paper towel to wipe the interior surfaces of your smoker.

Now, allow the smoker to air dry. You can wash the parts you’ve taken out in the meantime. Let them dry completely before putting them back in the smoker.

2. Clean the Exterior

Cleaning the exterior of your smoker is more straightforward.

Simply wash the outside surfaces of your smoker using a cloth, soap, and water. Don’t forget to clean the door seal because it tends to hold smoke residue.

3. Clean the Other Parts of Your Smoker

A food smoker smoking

Finally, clean the thermostats and grease chute:

  1. Use warm soapy water to clean the interior of the thermostats and grease chute.
  2. Use paper towels or a clean cloth to wipe the interior dry.

Many people skip this part and clean only the inside and the outside of their smokers. That’s why I want to explain why it’s important.

The grease channel or chute connects the drip tray to the grease bucket. If the chute gets blocked, you’re in danger of a grease fire. So, you want to clean the chute for your own safety.

On the other hand, cleaning your thermostat will prolong its lifespan and make it more efficient. In turn, this will improve your entire smoking process, so don’t skip this step.


How Do I Stop My Smoker From Molding?

You can stop your smoker from molding by cleaning it after each use. Remove food residue and grease, and wipe the surfaces using a clean cloth.

Can You Put Smoker Racks in the Dishwasher?

You can put smoker racks in the dishwasher only if the manufacturer stated so in the owner’s manual. But we don’t recommend it because the dishwasher can cause the racks to rot.

How Often Should You Clean a Smoker?

You should clean your smoker after each use. But you can get away with cleaning every two or three cooks.

Is It Safe to Use a Wire Brush to Clean Your Smoker?

Not exactly. Cleaning your smoker with a wire brush can leave hazardous residue on the grills. Consequently, the residue can contaminate food or be ingested.

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About the author

Arianna Foster
Nutritionist/Editorial Director
Arianna Foster is the editorial director and senior reviewer at Carnivore Style. She loves sharing her passion for nutrition, diverse cooking techniques, and the many health benefits of a meat diet with readers.
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