Concept of seasoning an electric smoker

How to Season an Electric Smoker

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Colleen Roberts

Expert writer

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For those 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 than a traditional charcoal smoker. Maintaining heat control and cleaning up once you are done cooking can be easier.

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!

You need to do one important step 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?

Electric smoker being seasoned outdoor

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

The 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 can contain metal and other unhealthy industrial contaminants. These contaminants are not cleaned 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 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 extend your smoker’s life. 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 normally formed during smoking will drip down instead of seeping into its metal walls.

Things You Need to Season or Cure Your Smoker

A pinch of wood chips in hand

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, mesquite or maple wood chips are perfect with the seasoning process. 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 them in your smoker. This helps remove most of the residue left behind from manufacturing.

The process of seasoning is relatively simple:

  • Ensure 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
Hand adding wood chips to electric smoker

How Do You Know When Your Smoker Is Seasoned?

During the first two hours of seasoning, 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 carbon coating on your smoker’s interior walls. 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 clean up any spills that may occur. Invest in a cover and keep your smoker protected from harsh weather conditions.

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