Most people spend a couple of hundred dollars to pick a good offset smoker. Most of them consider it as an investment and plan to keep it for a few years before replacing with a new model.
But, in order to maximize your offset smoker’s life, you should maintain and clean it regularly.
After a good cooking session, you will be left with a few debris of meat/food on cooking grates, ash inside the firebox, wood and a lot of fat and grease on the bottom of the cooking chamber.
Now, let’s jump into the cleaning tips and show you the best practice to follow to properly clean your smoker.
Cleaning an Offset Meat Smoker
Firstly, after you finish reading offset smoker reviews and choosing the best model for your needs, I highly recommend you to invest in a protective cover, especially if you plan to leave outside on your backyard. They are usually cheap and very effective to protect your smoker.
Also, a lot of people like to clean the smoker the morning after or before the next cooking session. There are also people who clean it after one to two weeks after they have used it.
This doesn’t impact the smoker a lot but if you do the cleaning process after you finish the cooking, you will be more motivated to use the smoker next time as you have it ready.
I personally do a full clean-up of my smoker 4-5 times per year and scrape/clean the cooking grates each time I use the smoker.
Each one has its own preferences, depending on your cooking habits and how you use your offset smoker.
Empty the Firebox
The first step of cleaning an offset smoker is to empty the firebox.
Start by removing the grates from the firebox and let the remaining ash to fall at the bottom of the firebox. You can grab a small brush and help the ash by sweeping it into the ashtray.
If you find large pieces of wood and charcoal, remove them with your hand, so they don’t get stuck into the ashtray.
Open the ashtray and tip the ashes in your bin or on the garden. Then, slide the draw back into the firebox and put the cooking grates back.
Keep in mind that different type of charcoal and wood produce different amount of ashes, so you may find a lot or just a little bit of ash into your ashtray.
Clean the Cooking Chamber
After you cleaned the ashes, now it is time to clean the cooking chamber.
Remove the stainless steel grates and the heat deflection plates, so you can easily have access to the complete chamber, top to bottom.
After each cook, the bottom usually collects quite a bit of solidified fat on it. You can simply wipe it off using a paper towel. Make sure to not use any hard-surface paper or abrasive as that may damage the proactive coating sprayed over the surface during the seasoning process from the manufacturer.
If you choose to not clean the leftover fat each time, it may actually start accumulating and overflow, which is not good.
Cleaning the Heat Deflection Plates
After cleaning the cooking chamber and the extensive fat, you should clean the heat deflection plates. They are simple to clean and you can use a paper towel to wipe down the fat, just like the cooking chamber.
If you find any stubborn parts, you can use a scraper or a spatula to carefully scrape and lift the baked food. Your food will not touch any of these heat deflection plates, so they don’t need to be perfectly clean.
Cleaning the Cooking Grates
Next, you need to clean the cooking grates. This is an important step as the cooking grates will directly touch your food, so you need to make sure they are perfectly cleaned.
Most offset smokers on the market today use stainless steel or porcelain/chrome coated grates. This makes your job much easier as these materials are easier to clean.
You first need to remove them from the smoker and let them soak into hot water in your sink. If you have a small sink, then you can find a bowl and place them in there with hot water.
If you want to have a more effective process, you can use a BBQ degreaser which makes the job much easier. Once you apply the degreaser and leave them for about 5 minutes on hot water, you can then use a wire brush to scrape the debris of food and grease.
It should not be difficult to remove the debris once they are left soaked in hot water for a few minutes.
Additionally, if you don’t want to use the hot water method, you can clean the grates once you turn off your smoker. So, as soon as you finish cooking and the grates are still hot, you can remove them and scrape with a soft wire brush to remove the debris. Heat makes this process much easier, especially if the debris are not left on the grates for a few days.
After you did all the cleaning, now it is time to set up the offset smoker as it was before.
Place each part into their place and you are good to go. Your smoker is ready for the next cook.
That was the complete guide to help you clean your offset smoker.
As I said before, cleaning and maintaining your smoker is mandatory if you don’t want to waste money and purchase a new model in just 2-3 years.
Grease and debris lower the performance and eventually will start to consume the protective layers over the surfaces of your unit, so you should really consider doing it at least a few times per year.
A complete offset smoker cleaning process shouldn’t take long. Usually, it takes about 10-15 minutes if you are doing it for the first time and a lot less if you are used to this process and have everything ready.
So, it is time for you to get your smoker shiny clean!