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Jan
21
2022
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Sara Hansen
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Seasoning a Smoker or Grill: Why It’s So Important & How to Do It Properly

If you just got a brand new outdoor cooker, making sure it is properly seasoned is crucial to ensuring the best results for your outdoor cooking. Seasoning a smoker or grill is one of the essential first steps before any meat touches the grates.

But, you may be wondering exactly how to season a smoker / grill properly? We’ve got you covered. In this article, we break down what seasoning is, why it is so important, and how to season a smoker or grill the right way.

 

What Does “Seasoning” Mean & Why It’s So Important

Seasoning, sometimes called curing or pre-seasoning, involves applying a coat of oil to the inside of a smoker or grill and heating it at a high temperature for several hours. Simply stated, seasoning a smoker or grill ensures that it is ready for use. According to Oklahoma Joe’s Smokers, “Seasoning a new smoker before initial use is crucial to laying the foundation for great BBQ results”. 

This process is also a good opportunity to get to know your new smoker/grill and how to control the temperature, without worrying about ruining a good piece of meat.

 

Why Seasoning is So Important

There are two main reasons why seasoning a smoker is essential before your first cooking session:

  1. Post-manufacturing cleaning
  2. Rust and corrosion prevention

The manufacturing and shipping process of smokers and grills usually leaves some forms of debris inside the cooker. This can be dust, metal shavings, oils, grease, metal shavings, wood splinters, or cardboard. This is totally normal and occurs with many different types of products. But none of these things you want in your food. 

The inside of the grill may also be lightly coated with oil that the manufacturer applies to prevent any rusting until it reaches its new home. 

So, seasoning your smoker or grill helps get rid of any debris, eliminates contaminants, removes unwanted odors, helps seal the interior surface, and cures the paint. This leaves a proper interior condition that is ideal for cooking over heat and prevents anything from tainting the taste or condition of your food.

Because seasoning cures the interior surface and the paint of your grill, it will also help protect it from any rust and corrosion building up. This greatly helps to keep it in optimal condition and extends the life of your cooker.

 

seasoning a smoker | how to season a smoker | seasoning a grill
Source: Oklahoma Joe’s Smokers

 

How to Season a Smoker or Grill For the First Time

Of course, there may be variations in the seasoning process depending on the specific type of smoker or grill, but in general, it follows a pretty standard process. Make sure to look in your cooker’s information/instruction manual for the manufacturer’s recommendations. (This book is always a good thing to read through in its entirety.)

The general process of seasoning a smoker for the first time follows these steps:

 

#1 - Clean the Inside Thoroughly

Before you get out the oil, it’s important to clean the inside of your smoker/grill well. The goal is to remove anything that could contaminate your food or leave unwanted flavor.

To clean the inside thoroughly:

  1. Remove all of the grates, racks, and pans from the smoker or grill.
  2. Use mild dish soap and water to wash all the grates, racks, etc that you removed.
  3. Use the soap and water to wash the inside of the smoker/grill, including the firebox.
  4. Allow to completely air dry.  

Check out our article on properly cleaning a grill or smoker for more info on this.

 

#2 - Apply a Coat of Oil

After the cooker has been cleaned, you want to grab a high smoke-point oil like refined avocado oil, canola oil, or grapeseed oil. You want to use one that has a smoke point of at least 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Using an oil like this will leave a nice, hard protective surface after it has been heated inside the grill, which is a process known as polymerization.

If you feel like experimenting with the oil you choose, other options that people use include red palm sunflower oil, flaxseed oil, bacon fat, suet, (raw beef fat), and lard.

To oil your smoker/grill: 

  1. While your grates and racks are out of your cooker, thoroughly apply a thin coat of oil on all of the inside walls and door or lid. You can do this with either a clean, soft cloth or a can of spray oil.
  2. Apply a thin layer of oil to the grates and racks. Don’t coat the inside of the water pan, but you can lightly coat the outside of it to help keep it protected.
  3. Allow the oil to soak in for 5 to 10 minutes before beginning the heating process. (See below)

 

smoke point of oils | seasoning a smoker | how to season a smoker
Source: Chosen Foods

 

#3 - Heat the Oil in High Heat

For this step of the seasoning process, you want to bring the smoker or grill to a high internal temperature (at least 275-300 degrees Fahrenheit) and keep it there for anywhere between 1 and 4 hours. The temperature should be higher than it would be for a normal cooking session to get a proper seasoning on your smoker/grill. Do not put anything inside except for the oil you’ve already applied or wood chips or chunks, see below.

There are many different recommended desired temperatures and times for this step, but a general rule of thumb is to bring the temperature up to the maximum temperature rating of your smoker and leave it there for a couple of hours. *Remember, make sure to check your cooker’s instruction manual for the specific seasoning instructions suggested by the manufacturer. But, in general:

 

For Charcoal Smokers/Grills:

Use a chimney starter to get your coals up to the desired temperature. Then fill the pan with the hot coals and add some hardwood chunks or chips. If you have oiled the exterior of the water pan, leave it in without water, if it is not oiled take it out. Open all of the vents wide to let the air flow through and generate a good high heat inside. Let the charcoal burn hot until it's reduced to ash. Once it’s cool, dump the ash and brush out the pan.

Pro Tip: Make sure that for the first seasoning, when using wood, use a lighter type/flavor, like oak, pecan, or Applewood. Strong wood flavors like Mesquite and Hickory can end up adding a much stronger flavor to your foods than you were intending in the next few cooks.

 

For Pellet Smokers:

Load the hopper with your wood pellets and set the temperature dial to a high heat. Leave it running like this for at least an hour (usually 2-3). Remember, go with a lighter flavored hardwood.

(Check out our article on pellet versus charcoal smokers/grills!)

 

For Electric Smokers: 

Set the temperature dial to high and leave it running for about 2 -3 hours. You can load wood chips into the smoker box with about 45 minutes to go and add that great wood smoke flavor as well. 

 

For Gas Smokers/Grills:

With a propane gas smoker or grill, set it to the highest temperature and leave it running for at least an hour. For the last 30-45 minutes you can add wood chips or chunks to a pan to get the wood flavoring.

Pro tip: No matter what type of smoker or grill you have, after the set time for heating during the seasoning process, you want to make sure you slowly bring the cooker down to air temperature. This will ensure that the relatively thin metal of the smoker (most smokers) does not warp.

 

seasoning a smoker | seasoning a grill | how to season a smoker
Source: Green Mountain Grills

 

Pro Tips for Seasoning a Smoker

There are some insider tips and tricks you can follow to help ensure your seasoning process goes as smooth as possible:

  • For a large smoker, pour liquid oil into a spray bottle and apply it that way versus using a bunch of spray oil cans. Then use a clean, soft cloth as needed to spread the oil around evenly.
  • Clean up any excess oil that may have pooled at the bottom of the smoker before heating. Remember, the goal is to have a thin even coat.
  • Make sure the smoker/grill is on a level surface before you begin. You don’t want all of the oil to run to one side or the back.
  • With an electric or gas smoker, it is important to avoid getting any oil on any of the heating elements.
  • Only season your smoker’s/grill’s grates before you use it for the first time. They do not need to be and should not be reseasoned. Just make sure to clean and wash them after each use.

 

Properly Season Your Smoker / Grill For Best Results & Longevity

Seasoning a new smoker or grill is an essential first step to great outdoor cooking. As you can see, it is not a complicated process. You can have your new cooker cleaned, protected, and ready to go in just a few hours!

Do you have any other seasoning tips you’ve discovered? Have you developed your own seasoning method? Have questions on the process? Leave a comment below, we want to hear it!

 

Once you’ve finished seasoning your smoker or grill, chances are you’re anxious to get cooking. If you’re ready to become barbecue king or queen of your culdesac, check out the virtual Championship Backyard BBQ Classes here at BBQ Champs Academy. You’ll learn a variety of great recipes step-by-step straight from some of the top pros in the game, as well as get all the insider tips you need to know. Start mastering your smoker or grill today!

Ready to take your outdoor cooking up a level and learn competition smoking and grilling techniques for a variety of meat cuts? Grab your All-Access pass now and join Champion Pitmasters and Grillmaster in these first-of-their-kind in-depth virtual BBQ classes here at BBQ Champs Academy. You can be cooking competitor-caliber barbecue in no time!

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Sara Hansen

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