Have you just brought a new smoker home? Then you’re looking forward to tasty ribs and delicious briskets. But did you know you should season a smoker before using it for the first time? According to Oklahoma Joe’s Smokers, seasoning your new smoker for the first-time is a vital step to laying a foundation for great BBQ results.

What am I talking about?

In this article, I share important tips for how to season a smoker for the first time, the purpose of seasoning, and a step-by-step guide to get it right.

how to season a smoker for the first time

What is Seasoning a Smoker?

Seasoning is also called curing or pre-seasoning. Basically, it is coating the inside of a smoker with oil and heating it for a considerable time at a high temperature. This process burns off the contaminants and oils leftover or picked up after manufacturing. It is a MUST DO before cooking your first food.

Why Should You Season a Smoker?

Why Should You Season a Smoker

There are two vital reasons why you should season a smoker for the first time.

  • Remove manufacturing impurities
  • Prevent rust

Removing Manufacturing Impurities

By the time a smoker’s manufacturing process is over, the unit will have certain impurities left inside. If you don’t remove them, they can ruin the taste of your food. To avoid this, manufacturers recommend seasoning a smoker as a method of post-manufacturing cleanup.

Some of the manufacturing leftovers include uncured paint, adhesives, oils, solvents, and dirt. Moreover, some of these impurities can be toxic and are responsible for giving food an unpleasant flavor if left uncured. This is particularly so in pellet and offset smokers because of their metal frames.

Protecting the Smoker from Rust

Seasoning accomplishes a second objective which is protecting the smoker from rust. You’ll find that even if manufacturers add multiple solvents and finishes on a smoker, nothing can really rustproof the unit. As such, continuous exposure to moisture during smoking sessions will leave your smoker vulnerable to rust.

Seasoning adds a protective coating that prevents moisture from seeping into the bare metal. The carbon and smoke coating allows condensation to drip off so it will not cause rust in the metal. Remember that moisture is essential in the smoking process, so keeping your smoker in great condition will give you many great BBQs.

Do you have to Preseason a Smoker?

Like I said, curing a smoker is a MUST-DO process. It is not healthy to keep using a smoker with leftover contaminants from the manufacturing and delivery process.

Another reason why, is because of all the water vapor that forms in the cooking chamber. It’s even more important for those who burn wood instead of wood chips for smoking. Burning wood creates water vapor and carbon dioxide. If you don’t take measures to protect the inside of the smoker, you will end up with a rusty unit in no time.

Seasoning a smoker also adds to your BBQ savor. If you don’t re-season a smoker, food can lose its original flavor, and it may even taste strange or horrible.

How Long to Season a Smoker?

Curing a smoker takes several hours with the smoker heated at a high temperature. The lengthy-time allows carbon and smoke to coat the inside while killing bacteria and impurities leftover in the manufacturing process.

What is the Best Way to Season a Smoker?

There’s no best way of seasoning a smoker. All you have to do is cover some basics, which we’ll cover here. However, the exact method for pre-seasoning varies slightly depending on the model you have.

How to Season a Smoker for the First Time

So How to Season a Smoker for the First Time

Now that we’ve covered why you should season a smoker, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of the process.

Cleaning

Once you bring a new smoker home and have assembled it, it’s a good idea to clean it to remove unwanted flavors that could ruin the taste of smoked BBQ.

  • Remove the racks, pans, and grates from the smoker
  • Use a soft cloth, mild dish soap, and water to remove manufacturing oils and grime.
  • Remember to wash gently so as not to scratch any paint or damage the heating area.
  • Remove all the tiny metal shavings leftover carefully.
  • After cleaning, rinse the towel with clean water and wipe down the smoker one more time.
  • Leave the smoker to dry. It would be best to season the smoker on a sunny or windy day to help it dry faster.

Coat with Cooking Oil

The next step is coating the smoker with a high burning point oil. Vegetable oil like grapeseed oil is ideal. This is because it has a high smoke point at 420-445F. It will not oxidize and produce off-putting flavors during high-temperature cooking.

You can also use sesame or canola oil. Other oils include high-temperature palm oil, bacon grease, avocado oil, sunflower oil, canola oil, corn oil, and Safflower oil.

Using a spray bottle helps get the oil on all surfaces, including racks, lids, grates, and walls. You can also use a rag for this process. Some sources don’t recommend oiling the grates and racks, but it offers an extra layer of protection on these parts. Unless they are of stainless steel.

Avoid getting oil on the insulation gasket. Oil in the insulation gasket may reduce its effectiveness at insulating your smoker. That’s why a spray bottle is better because you can avoid the surfaces that don’t need oiling.

Once you have covered all the necessary surfaces, leave the oil to soak in for 5-10 minutes before moving on to the heating step.

Heating the Smoker

Heating the Smoker

In this step, you want to heat the smoker slowly until it reaches a high temperature. Then keep it at a high temperature for 3-4 hours.

For the specific temperature for seasoning, you might want to refer to the owner’s manual. This is because some models require much higher temperatures than others to get a full coating.

For most models, the ideal temperature for seasoning is between 225- and 300-degrees F. Any contaminants will burn off at this temperature, and it will allow the oil to seep into any imperfections.

This temperature is also safe for seasoning because it is not hot enough for starting a fire.

After the set time, you’ll want to bring the temperature down gradually to air temperature. This process will prevent the metal from warping.

Charcoal Smoker

Charcoal Smoker

Gather enough natural lump charcoal and wood to burn for 2-4 hours. Don’t use briquettes, quick-start, or rapid-start charcoal.

  • Fill a chimney starter with charcoal and carefully light it. Give it 20 minutes for the smoke to subside and the lumps to light fully.
  • In the meantime, open all intake and exhaust vents completely. This will allow the best airflow at high temperatures.
  • To the firebox, add some unlit charcoal, then top it with the lit lumps. Add wood, preferably the flavor you will be using for cooking, and bring the temperature to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • You can leave the water pan in or not. But don’t add any water if you are going to leave it inside since we are not regulating the internal temperature.
  • For a charcoal smoker, you don’t need to meet the 4-hour markup of seasoning. Just let the coals burn until ash or until the grates go from silver to a brown or dark color.  

Electric Smoker

For electric smokers, you still need to go through washing it properly and assembling the smoker.

  • Make sure that you don’t soak any parts with electric parts. Also, do not let water pool in any area inside the smoker.
  • I also prefer that you oil the parts when the smoker is unassembled. This will help you reach all areas with ease.
  • After you’ve ensured that the interior is coated with a thin layer of cooking oil or cooking spray, go ahead and plug in the smoker and turn it on.
  • Open all the vents to allow optimum airflow because you’ll be setting the smoker to the highest temperature.
  • Set the smoker to the highest temperature (300-400F) and allow it to run for 2-3 hours. Any leftover chemicals and solvents will have burnt off after 2-3 hours.

Always use wood chips rather than pellets when seasoning an electric smoker. And please don’t use it indoors despite the electric convenience.

Tips: Use best electric smoker with automatic feeder

Propane Gas Smoker

Seasoning a gas smoker is just like you would with a cast-iron skillet. You can use any cooking oil, including olive oil and grapeseed oil. Do not cover the burner with oil. Letting oil into the burner will damage it when the unit starts heating.

  • After following the basic steps of washing and assembling your new smoker, the next step will be to attach the propane.
  • Now, open the propane valve and light the burner.
  • Ensure that the vents are open for maximum airflow when seasoning the smoker at high temperatures.
  • Allow the smoker to reach 350-400F gradually for 2-3 hours. That is, start at the lowest setting and increase the temperature after every few minutes until the smoker reaches the desired high temperature.

If your smoker’s manufacturer does not allow this type of seasoning, you can still fire it up once using cooking spray and allow it to reach a temperature above 250F once before cooking for the first time.

Seasoning an Offset Smoker for the First Time

The seasoning process of an offset smoker is similar to that of a cast-iron grill or camping oven. The purpose remains the same. You want to create a thin protective coat of oil polymerized to the surface after the oil bakes from the fire.

Oiling

  • Cover the interior with cooking oil except for the stainless steel because there’s no need to season them. Ensure all the parts have a thin layer of oil, including the charcoal grates and both sides of the heat management plates.
  • Don’t forget to repeat the oiling process on the firebox.
  • Only the inside of the smoker needs oiling.

Light the Fire

  • Light the charcoal in a chimney starter and wait for the coals to have some ash in them. This should take around 20 minutes. Next, pour the charcoal into the firebox and close all three doors in the offset smoker.
  • Again, keep the vents and the flue open but not all the way so that the coals can take a little longer before they turn into ash.
  • Aim for 300F for at least two hours. This will give the smoker enough time to form a nice, shiny resin on the inside. Continue adding charcoal to maintain the temperature at the desired range for 2-3 hours.

Seasoning a Vertical Smoker for the First Time

Seasoning a Vertical Smoker for the First Time

The steps for seasoning a vertical smoker are the same as a charcoal smoker. However, you need to verify your owner’s manual about the temperature and how long you should season a vertical smoker.

How Often should you Season a Smoker?

Manufacturers recommend re-seasoning a smoker annually. All you need to do is be mindful not to scratch the layer you formed when you seasoned the new smoker. This would expose the smoker to rust every time you cook on the smoker.

Using a Smoker for the First Time

Important: As exciting as seeing the shiny interior, do not cook on the smoker immediately after seasoning. It helps to allow it to cool down completely before your first cook.

Using a smoker for the first time is not straightforward if you’ve never used one before. But the most crucial step is seasoning which we’ve discussed above. After that, you can set it for the best BBQ that your family will love.

Briefly, here’s how to use a smoker for the first time.

  • Set your smoker’s temperature to 225F and keep it there. To do this, have two temperature probes on the ready so that you can track temperature fluctuations accurately. Insert one of the probes next to the meat for accurate readings.
  • Always use a chimney starter for a charcoal smoker. You can also use wood as a supplement to add flavor to the meat.
  • Open the intake and outtake vents, then add the coals to the firebox. Ensure the baffles are open as you input the coals. Then, you can adjust the vent openings when the smoker reaches the ideal temperature.
  • Always keep the smoker’s door closed when in use. It will prevent temperature swings.
  • Maintain the smoker’s temperature by adjusting the vent openings. When the vents are wide open, there’s lots of oxygen which fire up the coals and increases the temperature. Closing the vents limits oxygen and causes the coals to light slowly.
  • Adjust the vents accordingly until you get a nice smoking temperature of 225F.
  • Add desired wood chunks for flavor.
  • Don’t forget the water pan. It adds moisture to the smoker, which helps the meat to absorb the smokey flavor.
  • Lastly, give it time.  According to the cut size, you will need to smoke over a few hours until it is cooked through.

Final Thoughts

With the above tips, I’m convinced you now know how to season a smoker for the first time. It’s not as complicated as it sounds. By following some basic steps, you can season any new smoker, including the Masterbuilt electric smoker, which requires seasoning at a max temperature of 275F.

If you are having trouble, always consult your manufacturer’s manual to get it right.

Now, don’t let contaminants ruin the taste of your barbecue. Go on and season your new smoker successfully with the above tips.