A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling, passed on from his father and grandfather to him.
Doug is a hardcore barbeque enthusiast and connoisseur. While he spends most of his time on editing and research,
he sometimes moonlights as a product tester for particularly interesting things he comes across.
Smoking your own meat can be a fun and rewarding experience. However, depending on how much meat you smoke, and how often you do it, you will have to deal with dripping sauces and oils, ash, and overall dirty and greasy grills.
So, here's a simple, actionable guide on how to properly clean your electric smoker to keep it clean and free of mold, accumulation of which can mess up your health.
But before that, there's a couple of things we need to clear out.
1. When Should You Clean Your Smoker?
Unlike charcoal smokers, electric smokers don't require cleaning up after every use. Nonetheless, experts (and some manufacturers) strongly recommend that you give your smoker a thorough cleaning after every 3-5 uses to keep in peak shape.
This means you can afford to slack off a couple of times as long as you remember to give the smoker a cleanse after 5 uses, at most. And that brings us to the question...
Read also: Tips on using electric smoker.
2. What Items Do You Need When Cleaning Your Electric Smoker?
Aside from having common power tools on hand, To effectively get all the dirt and debris out of your electric smoker, you will need the following equipment:
- Soft, non-metallic bristle brush
- Several soft wiping cloths
- Trash can or bin bag
- An old newspaper, or some tarpaulin
- Some warm, soapy water in a bucket
- Spray bottle containing a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water
- Metallic spatula or ordinary grill scraper
- Vegetable oil
- Paper towels
- Rubber gloves
3. First Things First
Before you start cleaning, there are a few things you need to know about electric smokers. One, they are much easier to clean when they are still warm. And if you haven't been using it, consider leaving it on its highest temperature for about an hour or so, then turn it off and let it cool a bit before you start cleaning.
Second and most important, keep in mind that your smoker won't always be spotless after cleaning and for good reason. The darker coloring that comes with regular smoking keeps the grills rust-free and even enhances the smoking experience. So, just work on removing all the food bits and spilled oils and forget about leaving a shiny, spotless surface.
With that in mind, you are now good for the actual work, which involves the following steps:
Step 1: Disconnect the Electronics
Water and electricity are not exactly the best of buddies so detach the electric bits of the smoker from the power connection to avoid nasty accidents.
Step 2: Put On Protective Gear and Cover Your Work Area
Put on rubber gloves to protect your hands from the heat, chemicals, and debris. Also, cover the work surface(s) with newspapers or tarpaulin to avoid stains and other damages from grease and debris resulting from the cleaning process.
Step 3: Empty the Chip Tray Of All The Ash
In most electric smokers, the ash from the smoldered wood chips collects at the chip tray, which is found at the bottom of the machine. Some smokers have a smoker box in place of a chip tray. Before anything else, remove the chip tray/smoker box and empty the accumulated ash into the recycle bin.
As a precaution, place warm ash into a non-combustible container or on a fire pit.
Step 4: Remove All the Removable Internal Components
If possible, remove the grill shelves, water and drip pans and clean them separately in the bucket with soapy water. You may, however, want to first get all the grime and food bits out using the grill scraper or metallic spatula before getting to the washing part. And if the user manual rates them as dishwasher safe, throw them in and get on with cleaning the rest of the smoker.
Notably, spraying the grills with vegetable oil (after they're dry, of course) is quite effective at preventing rust. Also, depending on the amount you apply, it can also stop food from sticking to the grill the next time you decide to smoke up a meal.
Step 5: Now Clean The Insides
The smoker's interior walls may not be as dirty as the grill shelves and the pans, but they still contain varied accumulations of smoke, food chips, and oily residue - you need to clean them as thoroughly as other parts. To avoid scratches and dents, use the soft brush to firmly brush off the debris, starting from the upper parts.
Step 6: Polish Up The Interior
After getting all the tangible dirt off the interior walls, the next step involves scrubbing out all the minuscule particles to leave a sparkling surface. To do this, spray apple cider and water all over the interior, including the base, then wipe it all dry using a dry, coarse sponge or wiping cloths. You will find that some areas require multiple scrubbings, and you may need to change the cloth or sponge midway through when it gets too moist.
Step 7: On To The Window
This is probably the easiest part of the whole process but also one of that you must get right, as a dirty smoker window is embarrassing when you have guests. First, spray the entire window surface (both sides) with water and apple cider vinegar mix and give it a minute or two to "cook", so to speak. Then, use a newspaper to wipe everything dry. To prevent streaks, use firm, single movements towards a set direction.
Step 8: Do The Outside
The outer surface of your smoker is what your guests see when they come over and so it needs to be as clean as the internal chamber. The good thing is, it doesn't require any complicated steps - a thorough rub down with warm, soapy water and a cloth is all it takes. Where necessary (in case of oily streaks, etc) you can use the apple cider/water mix and soft brush combo then wipe with the paper towels.
And that's about it - your smoker is now as clean and fresh as new!
Read more: Electric smoker compared to pellet smoker.
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