Hosting alfresco dining events is probably one of the most exciting things about summer. The great food, great weather, and great company make for the perfect outdoor atmosphere.
But when the festivities subside, and you’re left with a grease-riddled electric smoker, things can become much less appealing. Instead of getting ready to serve up a smokey BBQ dish to hungry guests, you’re greeted with a new challenge: cleaning your smoker.
So, if you want to overcome the cleaning dread and ensure your smoker is as good as new each time you use it, here are several tried-and-true techniques for cleaning and maintaining electric smokers.
How Does an Electric Smoker Work?
Knowing how to effectively clean your electric smoker is important to understand its components and how it works.
Electric smokers work by using an element at the base of the unit to heat a cooking chamber. The chamber uses air circulation to heat and cook the food through convection.
The components that make up an electric smoker are:
- Cooking chamber
- Grill racks
- Electric heating element
- Ash box
- Drip tray
Electric heaters also have a wood burner that is used alongside the heater. As the wood burns from the electric heating element’s heat, it gives everything you cook on the smoker that classic smokey BBQ taste.
How Often Should You Clean Your Electric Smoker?
Whether you’re curious about how often you should clean your smoker or you’re noticing it isn’t performing as well as it should, it’s recommended you regularly give it a good spring clean.
Most manufacturers suggest that you clean an electric smoker after every 3 to 5 uses. Performing these regular maintenance services will ensure it stays in good condition.
It’s important to maintain your electric smoker’s cleanliness, not just to ensure it fires up perfectly every time, but for health and safety purposes, too. Smokers that are neglected and rarely cleaned can clog up your cooking chamber, grates, and other components with harmful bacteria and microorganisms.
Depending on the type of wood you are using, tar deposits can build up inside the smoker chamber. When combined with a humid environment, such as when using a water pan in the smoker, it can cause hazardous black residue to drip onto your food.
By regularly cleaning your electric smoker, you are removing the tar, grease residue, dirt, and grime that can not only compromise the taste of your cooking but can be dangerous to consume, too.
How To Clean Each Part of Your Electric Smoker
Depending on the size of your electric smoker, it can have up to five grilling racks. Usually, the top rack gets the dirtiest, as this is where most of the meat is cooked.
To easily clean the racks, you can use a soapy mixture and scrub manually. Or, if you prefer, place them in the dishwasher.
If you’ve had a heavy BBQ session, or your racks haven’t been cleaned in a while, they may have some stubborn fat and residue that need a little more attention.
If this is the case, soak the racks in a soap and water solution for up to 30 minutes. Once removed, the residue should be easier to scrub off. Ensure you dry the racks thoroughly and remove any of the soapy mixture before fixing them back into your smoker.
For best cooking results and food safety reasons, clean the racks after every use.
With oils and sauces from marinated meats dripping to the bottom of the smoker where the drip tray is placed, chances are it’s going to get pretty dirty.
Like the grill racks, the drip tray needs to be cleaned after each smoking session. To do so, wash the tray with either distilled white vinegar and baking soda or a soap and water mixture to scrub away stains and residue.
Note that by cleaning the drip tray regularly, the chances of it rusting are reduced.
If your electric smoker has the wood option, there will be an ash box placed inside. These are great for catching the ashes all in one place rather than them scattering around the smoker.
Making the cleaning process easier, all you need to do is remove the box and dispose of the used ashes safely by placing them in a metal container until cool, then spreading them in your garden or compost pile. Clean the box with a soapy mixture, dry thoroughly, and replace.
Once all the parts have been removed, your cooking chamber will be empty.
Before you give it a deep clean, use a grill scraper to scrape any dirt or grime from the interior walls.
Next, spray the chamber with a water and vinegar mixture. Leave for a few minutes to soften the grease before cleaning the walls with a cloth or rag. For stubborn stains, you can use a bristle brush to remove any excess dirt.
The chamber’s interior will darken over time as part of the smoker seasoning process, and no amount of scrubbing will get it back to sparkling new. However, this dark coating protects the inside of the cook chamber and prevents corrosion. So, the focus of your cleaning efforts should be to remove built-up grease.
Because people are so focused on cleaning their electric smoker’s interior, they can sometimes neglect the exterior.
For the majority of summer, it will usually be placed in the garden, and for the majority of winter, it is usually stowed away in the shed, gathering dust.
By being left to the elements, such as the direct sun and wind, or enduring cold wintery conditions, the smoker’s exterior can quickly become dirty.
Cleaning the outside of the smoker isn’t a laborious job – all you need to do is wipe it down with a damp cloth. Or, if you want to go the extra mile and create a shine, spray with some oven cleaner and wipe it down.
Once you’ve cleaned the exterior of your smoker, it will look much more presentable. You’ll be able to host your outdoor summer cookouts with pride.
Why is it Important to Maintain Your Electric Smoker?
Cleaning your smoker every 3 to 5 uses prevents mold growth and rust from forming inside and outside your smoker.
Regular maintenance also ensures the efficiency of your electric smoker. By cleaning often, you can optimize its performance and prolong its lifespan. What’s more, maintaining it well will save you money in the long run – it will reduce the chances of you having to re-invest in electric smokers in the future.
So, if you’re ready to serve up some delicious BBQ flavors and wow your guests, be sure to regularly clean and maintain your electric smoker.