Smoking Tips: How To Clean An Electric Smoker The Easy Way

Owning an electric smoker was a dream come true for me. I absolutely love almost everything about it. But the cleaning has always been a total pain in the butt. I hate the whole clean up process....period.

But I've learned a lot over the last 25 months of smoker ownership, and I think this quick guide on how to clean an electric smoker is going to be really useful to you, to help you avoid the hassles I have experienced.

Excess build up ok grease, food particles, carbon and creosote on your smoker racks and glass windows not only looks grim, but can reduce the performance of your electric smoker over time. The steps to keeping a smoker clean are pretty simple, and if adhered to with a good degree of discipline (this is where I used to go wrong), your electric meat smoker will look good, perform well, and last for many years.

Ok, let's get into it with this quick step by step guide. After that, I'll address some of the common questions and concerns regarding electric smoker cleaning.

How to clean an electric smoker to remove this type of burnt on oil from the grill racks

One of the most important things to mention here is the absolute requirement for non-abrasive cleaners only. Once you begin using abrasive cleaning products, you open your smoker up to rust and an even more accommodating surface for grime and cooking residue to stick to. And a scratched inspection window looks pretty shabby too...

Ok, let's get to it...

Step #1 - After Every Use

  • Remove ash from the smoke box. This usually only necessitates pulling the ash collection tray out and emptying the ash into a bin. Important to empty hot ashes into a non-combustible bin, or to ensure that all ash is cold before emptying into a plastic bin or bag. Wipe the ash box and any lids with a damp cloth only.
  • Remove and wash the cooking racks, drip collection trays and any water pans with warm soapy water, no need for chemicals or abrasives. If things are a little stuck, soak any trays for 30-60 minutes. A brush is useful for loosening heavy deposits. Tip: Once the trays and pans are dry, a little vegetable oil applied to the surfaces with a cloth, or a vegetable oil based spray does wonders for  reducing the chance of rusting, and also helps to make the surfaces less prone to sticking next time.
  • Use a damp cloth to wipe the meat probe clean. Hot or warm soapy water is the best solution for this. Wipe dry. DO NOT immerse in water as this is likely to damage the probe and screw up accurate temperature measurements.
  • The door seals often pick up a lot of residue during cooking. Wipe with a damp cloth to remove this after every use.
  • The glass door observation panel will need cleaning too. A damp cloth is again, the ideal method. If your glass does become dirty and tarnished over time, then a more detailed approach is needed, which I will cover later in this article.

Step #2 - Cleaning The Main Smoker Cooking Chamber

If you have followed the previous steps, you'll have removed the ash box and the cooking racks from the smoker. This will leave an empty smoking chamber. It's super important to make sure that this is cool before beginning the cleaning process.

  • Using a soft, non-metal brush, sweep any soot and residue out of the chamber. I like to place a sheet underneath the smoker to collect any debris. It certainly saves having to sweep up the patio after cleaning. Once all residue is removed, use warm soapy water to systematically wipe and scrub the interior surfaces of the smoker. If it's stubborn, an sponge or plastic bristle brush is ideal, and won't damage the surfaces.
  • Once clean, wipe dry with newspaper of some paper towel. Always check that none of the plastic bristles from the brush have got lodged into any crevices, they won't add anything positive to your next smoking session.

TOP CLEANING TIP!

Expect the inside of the smoke chamber to darken over time. This is normal and the darkening protects the surface from rusting. A bit like 'seasoning' a wok or heavy frying pan.

Step #3 - External Cleaning Of The Electric Smoker

Cleaning the outside surfaces of the smoker is generally the easy part. I really recommend keeping the smoker in a garage or shed when not using it. I've seen smokers that are just left outside, or under a covered porch, and the moisture in the air really takes it's toll. Rust forms in no time.

A soft, lint-free cloth and warm soapy water is all that is needed, remembering to wipe the surfaces dry after cleaning. If you can leave the smoker out for a while, to encourage some airflow, all the better.

As mentioned, I'll discuss some window cleaning options in a moment, but if your smoker does have a window, other than warm soapy water, only use cleaners specially designed for smokers or ceramic glass cooker tops. Clean both the internal and external surfaces.

Cerama Bryte Ceramic Cooktop Cleaner on Amazon is a good choice for cleaning your glass.

Step #4 - Clean The Thermostats

Often overlooked, keeping thermostats clean is vital for accurate temperature readings.  Damp cloth, soapy water...perfect! Wipe dry. No need to dismantle anything, just wipe over the surfaces.

The Cleaning IS Done....Almost!

That pretty much sums up the cleaning process for cleaning an electric smoker. Not too much to it really. But there are always questions that need answering, far more specific than a general cleaning guide. I'm going to cover some of the most frequently asked questions I have found on smoking forums and from emails from Better Homesteading visitors.

Cleaning An Electric Smoker - Frequently Asked Questions

How To Clean An Electric Smoker With Mold

Mold in your smoker is nothing to be overly concerned about. Removal is actually very simple.

Mold loves moisture and grease, so the smoker provides a loving environment for it. Poor air circulation results in moisture build up, so keeping the smoker door slightly ajar during storage is a good way to maintain airflow.

If you do find mold, here are a few simple steps you can take to fix the problem.

  1. Remove any old charcoal or damp, porous materials from the smoker box.
  2. Build a fire in the smoker and run it to as hot a temperature as possible. This will kill of any mold and spores, as well as burn off the grease that is a home for mold. Better to burn it off rather than scrape, as scraping could result in inhalation of mold spores, which can cause reactions in some people.
  3. Once cooled, it is safe to scrape off any burned residue. I still like to use a disposable dusk mask when doing this, just to be safe. Don't forget to clean the drip pan and any other internal boxes.racks.
  4. Use hot, soapy water to wash everything, rinse and wipe dry. If you are going to be storing the smoker away, allow some time for air drying. Don't put it away damp. Ideally a reheat after cleaning works wonders.
  5. If you are cleaning before a smoking session, follow all steps, then fire up to burn off any outstanding mold, grease or soap residues. You're ready to cook.

It's useful to remember that mold grows on organic materials. Mold is potentially hazardous if inhaled, so taking good care of your smoker hygiene is important.

How Do You Clean The Glass Door On A Smoker Or Oven

There are many ways to clean the glass door on a smoker or oven. If you keep on top of it, hot soapy water and a non-abrasive cloth can do the job, but smokers are prone to leaving a thin residue on the glass.

As mentioned, a specially formulated cleaning agent makes cleaning really easy, as does rubbing alcohol.

Mr Clean Magic Erazer pads offer a really simple cleaning method which is really effective, and they're cheap too.

This video shows a nice cleaning technique on a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker.

How To Clean Masterbuilt Smoker Glass Window

Using Apple Cider Vinegar To Clean Your Smoker

Apple code vinegar has long been used as a cleaning solution. For smokers, a 50/50 solution of ACV/Water really cuts through the grease and residue. Using hot water rather than cold makes a big difference. 

Mixing up the solution and putting it in a spray bottle, then spraying it onto the surface, leaving for a minute or two, then wiping off really makes the cleaning process a lot simpler.

Can You Clean Your Smoker With Oven Cleaner?

For really dirty smoker racks, conventional oven cleaner can be used. The bad thing about oven cleaner is it can leave a residue which could contaminate your smoked meats.

I am sure that oven cleaner can be used in the smoke box, but with many less aggressive products on the market, I'd personally prefer not to use it. If you do, rinse everything TWICE and light a hot fire to make sure all residues are burned off before smoking.

How To Clean Smoker Racks & Grills

Cleaning smoker racks and grills is, for me, one of the scourges of modern living! Ok, a bit over the top, but those things get caked up with all sorts of stuff. Grease, oil, food, they can be an utter pain.

Cleaning them after EVERY smoking session makes obvious sense. Scraping off any stuck food with a scraper, then scrubbing them down with a brush or SOS pad and soapy water is usually enough.

Every now and then, a more thorough clean is needed, and Simple Green All Purpose Cleaner is a good choice. Watch this short video on how simple it is to restore your smoker grills and racks to as-new condition, without too much scrubbing.

How To Get Rid Of Creosote In A Smoker

Creosote in your smoker box is a pain. It's the residue from the combustion process, oils that haven't been efficiently burned. Combine this with carbonaceous residues from food, oil and other contaminants, and the inside of the smoker gets pretty messy.

One thing you can do every 3 months of so is to wad up a big bunch of newspapers and light it up inside the smoker. Remove the thermometer first, and then fire it up. You are aiming for a really hot burn that will burn off creosote.

Some people use a propane torch, but I've always been concerned about damaging the surface by using too much heat. Coward that I am, a really hot fire in the smoker usually does the trick. It's a lot easier and more effective than scraping and wiping.

How To Clean A Masterbuilt Electric Smoker

Here's a nice video covering cleaning a Masterbuilt electric smoker specifically. The tips above are great for all smokers, but if you own a Masterbuilt smoker, this video might help you out.

Any More Smoker Cleaning Questions?

If you have, leave a comment and I'll add them to this FAQ. Or if you have any great methods to clean your smoker, let me know. The more useful hints we can share the better.

Happy Cleaning!

Homesteading Steve

Hi: I'm Steve and I'm a homesteader and self-sufficiency freak. I love pretty much anything that makes me less reliant on others, and more reliant on my own abilities. I try to avoid consumerism as much as possible, eat well, and try not to leave too much of a footprint during my time on this earth.

Join me for fun and adventures in homesteading land.

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