When buying a new smoker, you need to take a few steps to ensure that it cooks properly and, more importantly, safely. The first thing you need to know is how to season an offset smoker. We’re going to cover the exact process as well as some things to avoid during the process.
What is an offset smoker?
An offset smoker is typically a long horizontal smoking chamber with a fire box attached to one side where you may use fuel such as charcoal briquettes, wood, or other materials.
Usually, there will be a door for the firebox and a door for the cooking area where both doors open upwards. Some offset smokers will have the firebox door open outwards.
On the inside of the smoker, there will typically be charcoal grates as well as stainless steel cooking grates on top.
The outside of the smoker will have a thermometer and potentially shelves on the sides and front for plates.
Why should you season a smoker?
Seasoning smokers, offset and other types, is the process of burning it at maximum heat fully one time before using it for cooking. This helps to burn off unwanted residue and seal the paint.
When a smoker, offset or not, is first sent from the manufacturer, it usually comes with oils, dust, and other debris from the manufacturing and shipping process. Smokers that are set up at stores can also collect dust over time.
The last thing you want is to cook all of this and get that flavoring into your meat. So, to help get your smoker ready to use, you must season a new smoker or charcoal grill before using it for meats.
What do you need to season a smoker?
There are a few different items that you will need to properly season your smoker. It’s important to note that you only have to season a new smoker so don’t worry about this if you’re buying one that is used.
You may need to clean your smoker if it’s bought used, but the seasoning process will only need to take place on new smokers.
Some of the items that you will need to complete the seasoning process properly includes:
- Power washer for cleaning the surfaces of the smoker
- Oil for coating (vegetable oil, cooking spray, olive oil, cooking oil, etc.)
- Brush for cleaning charcoal grates
- Paper towel to wipe the smoker (or fabric towel you don’t mind getting dirty)
What are the steps for seasoning an offset smoker?
The process to season a new smoker can take a while. Fortunately, most of this process is set and forget, so there’s no need to stand around through the entire seasoning and cooking cycle.
There are, however, a few steps that you will need to actively go through before you put in place the final touches for seasoning.
Step 1: Power Washing The Outside
Step one is to thoroughly clean the outside as well as all internal surfaces with a power washer. If you don’t have a power washer, it’s possible to rent one from your local hardware store.
During the manufacturing process, excess oils, dirt, and other debris can coat the outside and may coat all the internal surfaces as well. Before you begin smoker seasoning, you want to power wash all of these pollutants so that they don’t become baked into the paint.
Dust and other debris can also cause your meat to have strange flavors and emit unpleasant odors if you try using your grill without cleaning these. Make sure to power wash the entire outside as well as the inside of both the cooking chamber and smoke pit.
Step 2: Cleaning The Grates
After you’ve thoroughly cleaned the outside, you want to take out all of the cast iron grates from the cooking chamber and the fire chamber and ensure they are cleaned. It can help to powerwash each of these, but you don’t want to stop there.
Take a wire cleaning brush and scrub every part of all of the grates. You want to scrub off any debris and oils that are on the grates which could cook into your food during the first cook. After you’ve done this powerwash the grates a second time to wash off any of the debris which is left over.
You can also use dish soap to wash the grates. Either way, take your towel and thoroughly wipe down the grates after cleaning to prevent rusting.
If your smoker came with a water pan, make sure and clean this as well. Once you’ve completed this, set aside all of the grates and the water pan and turn your attention to your smoker. For more in-depth guide on how to clean cast iron grill grates read this article.
Step 3: Covering The Grill In Oil
This is the most important step, and you must pay close attention during this process. You need to go through and apply a cooking oil of some type to the entire interior of your new smoker to serve as a protective layer. Do not use water as this can cause your smoker to rust, and applying a protective coating is intended to prevent this.
Try and use an oil type that has a high smoke point for your offset smoker. Keep in mind that you want to avoid extra virgin olive oil and stick to canola oils or vegetable oil as these have a higher smoke point (1).
“The smoke point of cooking oils varies widely. In general, the more refined an oil, the higher its smoke point, because refining removes impurities and free fatty acids that can cause the oil to smoke”
- Leslie Beck, Registered Dietician (2)
You may find that using a spray is the best option, especially if you have a big smoker, as it may give you less hassle when trying to apply the oil coating. Some people opt for liquid oils just make sure if you use this that you evenly apply 1 coat of oil everywhere inside the smoker.
Step 4: Lighting the Grill For Seasoning
After you’ve applied the oil, you want to let it sit for around 15 minutes up to 20 minutes. This helps us set the oil and allows fumes from the oil to escape from the chamber to avoid flare-ups.
After the oil has had time to set, it’s time to light the grill to season it. You want to avoid using any type of wood or wood chips to season your smoker as this can set into the interior. Instead, use the best smoker charcoal.
Get the charcoal going and try to get the temperature up as high as you can. Once you have the flames going, you will want to leave the dampers half-open. You will want to keep the process going for at least 2 hours.
- Guide to Seasoning an Electric Smoker
- Seasoning a Masterbuilt Propane Smoker (An Easy-to-Follow Guide)
Step 5: Maintaining The Temperature
During this time, it is important to monitor the temperature to make sure it’s consistent. You ideally want to keep the temperature above 165 degrees throughout the entire process. With that said, we always try to get the temperature to around 250 degrees whenever we season a smoker.
Make sure to keep the temperature up throughout the entire two hours (3). This will help to set the oil into the surface and create a protective layer. This will help to prevent rust from developing in the future.
The other benefit of this seasoning process is it will burn off any residue from the manufacturing process, which could create strange flavors in your meat.
Recommended Article: How To Insulate A Smoker Firebox
Step 6: Cleaning After Cooking
After you’ve let everything burn off, and all of the charcoals have died off, let the smoker sit for at least an hour. This should be sufficient time for everything to cool down so that you can wipe everything down.
Once the smoker has sufficiently cooled down, you need to wipe off the shiny coating from any leftover oil that hasn’t burned off. Don’t use anything abrasive to wipe down the smoker as this can scratch into the protective coating that you just created during the seasoning process.
Aside from any abrasive fabrics, you want to avoid cleaning products as these can build up a residue which can then burn off and get into your meat. We prefer to use microfiber cloths, but you can also use soft paper towels.
Go through the entire interior and wipe down everything. Ensure that you also go through any cracks or crevices as best you can.
What Are Some Things To Be Aware Of
One thing you want to think about is that the shiny surface leftover after seasoning is what will protect the inside of your smoker.
You do not want to wipe this off or scratch into it. Even after your first few times cooking with your smoker, you want to avoid cleaning this off.
If you do need to clean the inside of your smoker, use soft paper towels or a soft microfiber cloth to avoid scratching off the surface.
This will be sufficient for wiping fat and other debris off of the interior. For the cooking grates remove them to clean separately.
As long as you keep this protective layer intact, your grill will stay protected and avoid any rusting or other issues.
Thankfully, if you’re wondering how to season an offset smoker, it’s not too difficult. The process will take a few hours, but there aren’t too many steps, and it’s not expensive. You also don’t need a lot of equipment or anything too complicated to complete the process.
Just remember that seasoning your new smoker is essential if you buy a new smoker. This will help to remove any debris or oils leftover from manufacturing. The last thing you want when smoking your Butcher Box delivery is for your meat to absorb any harmful fumes from this debris.
What's next? Read this article to find out what is the best portable smoker in our opinion.