For those of us who love great BBQ and are ready to take our barbequing skills to the next level, purchasing a smoker is the natural next step for would be “pit masters.” Today, meat smokers – and electric smokers in particular – are gaining popularity.
This is because they are easier and less messy to use than a traditional charcoal smoker. It can be easier to maintain heat control and clean up once you are done cooking.
It is very tempting to throw a brisket or pork butt into your smoker immediately after you have it out of its box.
Not so fast!
There is one important step you need to do first before you smoke your first piece of meat. You must season your new smoker before you attempt to smoke your first piece of meat.
What is Seasoning?
If you have ever owned a cast iron pan, you may be familiar with the term “seasoning.” This process prepares it for being used to cook. With an electric smoker, the seasoning process also prepares your electric smoker for cooking.
Seasoning accomplishes three goals:
- It removes dust, oils, and other contaminants from the smoker’s inner chamber
- It helps prevent rust from forming inside your smoker
- It gives you a good starting base for providing a good flavor to what you will smoke first in your smoker
Season is a process that typically only needs to occur once – when you first get your new smoker! But you may want to season it again after:
- you have done a significant cleaning of your smoker
- when you are planning to smoke meat with a different type of wood to improve the flavor
- whenever you feel like you want to improve the flavor of your smoked meat
Why Seasoning is Important
With the growing popularity of electric smokers, manufacturers are mass-producing them. And just like other items made of metal, the manufacturing process leaves industrial oils, solvents, uncured paint, and dust. The dust that can contain metal and other unhealthy industrial contaminants. These contaminants are not cleaned away before the smokers are packaged and shipped off to be sold by retailers.
What Happens If You Don’t Season
If you were to use your electric smoker without seasoning it first, whatever you cook in right away will taste horrible. It could also make you and your family sick from the contaminants that will get into your food. Seasoning is needed to properly remove the remnants of the manufacturing process by burning them away and sanitizing your smoker.
Seasoning your Smoker Isn’t Just for Flavor
The seasoning process is also important for helping to extend the life of your smoker. Despite all the oils and industrial materials used while your smoker was manufactured, none of them were used to rust-proof the interior of your smoker. Because moisture plays a big part in the smoking process, there is always the risk of your smoker becoming vulnerable to rust.
When you season your electric smoker, you are creating a protective coating for its inner surfaces that helps prevent rust. You are essentially coating the inner walls with a layer of smoke and carbon. Condensation that is normally formed during the smoking process will just drip down instead of seeping into its metal walls.
Things You Need to Season or Cure Your Smoker
Seasoning your smoker does not require any special tools or materials. However, you will need to have wood chips available to get the job done. You can usually find wood chips available online or locally at your:
- Grocery store
- Hardware store
- Big box home improvement store
There may be a variety of different types of wood chips available. Eventually, you will discover which ones are your favorites for smoking and may even come up with your own mixed blend. But for now, with the seasoning process, mesquite or maple wood chips are perfect. The burning of the wood chips actually helps in sanitizing your smoker.
Steps to Season Your Smoker
The seasoning process can effectively begin as you assemble your electric smoker. It is a good idea to wash the racks, drip pan, and water pan with hot soapy water and dry with a soft towel before placing in your smoker. This helps remove most of the residue left behind from manufacturing.
The process of seasoning is relatively simple:
- Make sure that your empty water pan and wood chip box have been placed in your smoker.
- Plug your smoker into an outdoor, preferably GFCI outlet
- Turn your smoker on
- Open the vents
- Set the temperature to at least 275 degrees
- Set the timer for 3 hours
- During the last hour, add at least 1 cup of wood chips
- After the timer goes off, turn off your smoker
- Allow the smoker to cool off entirely
How Do You Know When Your Smoker is Seasoned?
During the first two hours of the seasoning process, you will smell all the industrial oils and dust burning away. It can be quite smelly. After adding the wood chips in the final hour, you will begin to smell a more pleasing scent of burning wood.
Once your smoker has cooled off, open its door. You will see a coating of carbon on the interior walls of your smoker. Do not wipe this coating away. It will protect the walls of your smoker. Now you are ready to start using your smoker.
Proper seasoning is the key to preparing your electric smoker for years of enjoyable use. To help prolong the life of your smoker and the quality of its smoking, quickly cleanup any spills that may occur. Invest in a cover and keep your smoker protected from harsh weather conditions.