How to Season an Electric Smoker (7 Step Guide)

You just bought a new smoker, congratulations!

You are very close to making some delicious smoked meats. 

But before you dive in and start planning a brisket dinner, it’s time to season your electric smoker.

Although this may not sound like fun, it is required for you to have the best experience possible when making food in your smoker. 

For those who have never seasoned an electric smoker before, you’ve come to the right place as here at TheGrillingDad we know just the way to get it done.

Keep reading and before you know it you will have some delicious smoked ribs to enjoy!

What Does It Mean To Season Your Smoker?

Before you can dive in and begin the seasoning process, it can be helpful to know what seasoning your smoker means. Generally, seasoning a smoker means you give it a dry run, heating it up while it is empty before you begin cooking meats. 

Leaving your smoker on for a few hours with no food inside will cause a black layer to form on the inside of your smoker. Once this layer is in place, you are ready to cook some smoked meats. 

You will also add a layer of oil to the electric smoker during the seasoning process. The high heat of the smoker will help solidify this oil in place making a sort of protective barrier in your smoker. 

Read More >> The Best Electric Smokers Reviewed

Why Should You Season an Electric Smoker?

While turning your smoker on with no food inside may seem a bit strange, this does serve several different purposes.

First and foremost, seasoning your smoker removes any residues that may remain from the manufacturing process. These residues include oil, which contains petroleum that could affect the taste of your food (and your health) if your smoker isn’t seasoned before cooking your favorite meat.

Additionally, there could be paint inside your electric smoker, and the seasoning process will cure it to help keep the inside from developing rust–a critical move if you plan to keep your smoker for the long run. 

Not to mention that the layer of smoke created when you season your smoker helps to further infuse the smoky flavor into your meat. This is why the more you use your smoker, the better the meats tend to taste. 

Some experts prefer to wipe down their smoker with a wet rag before they begin the seasoning process. Whether you wipe yours out before seasoning or not is up to you, just ensure you use a soft rag so you don’t scratch the interior of the smoker. 

How Long Does It Take To Season a New Smoker?

It will take a few hours, likely almost an entire day to season your new smoker. Not only do you need to let the smoker run on high heat for 3 full hours, but you also need to allow time for you to clean the smoker with soap and water and to allow the pieces to dry before you assemble them. 

Note: Some smokers don’t need cleaned before seasoning. Always refer to your owner’s manual.

Therefore, if you have an event coming up where you would like to unveil your brand new smoker, it’s recommended to allow 24 hours for the seasoning process. You may even want to do it before that so you have a chance to practice before the real deal. 

Supplies You’ll Need For Seasoning Your Smoker

The process for seasoning a smoker is generally the same from brand to brand. There is a chance, however, that your brand of smoker requires some special directions. Always read the seasoning instructions for your particular brand before you begin seasoning your smoker. 

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the supplies you will need to season your smoker. 

  • Wood chips (of your choice, but don’t spend too much on them either)
  • Damp Sponge
  • Mild Dish Detergent
  • Cooking Oil (canola oil spray preferred)
  • An Outlet (on the outside of your home, using an extension cord is not recommended)

If you’ve got all these on hand, and have a few hours to correctly finish the seasoning process, then keep reading to get your smoker set for smoking.

7 steps to season an electric smoker

How To Season Your Smoker (7 Steps)

Step 1: Assemble Your Smoker

Although this may seem like a given, you’ll want to fully assemble your smoker before you begin the seasoning process. This includes installing any accessories such as the grill grate. 

Even though you won’t be cooking any meat, you will want to season every aspect of the smoker possible. If your smoker comes with a water bowl, fill it with water, unless the instructions for seasoning your brand of smoker specifically tell you not to do so. 

If your smoker came pre-assembled, check that all screws are tight and that all parts of the smoker are present and in working order. 

Step 2: Wipe Down Your Smoker

Remove any removable pieces from your smoker and using the sponge and the mild detergent, wipe down the inside of your smoker. Use the gentle side of the sponge so as not to scratch the surface.

Apply water to remove the soapy residue from the surface of the smoker. Allow your smoker to air dry outside before reassembling all of the accessories you removed for the washing process. 

Step 3: Coat with Cooking Oil

Using the spray on cooking oil, spray the interior of your smoker. If you are using regular cooking oil, then use a rag to give the interior a light coat. 

Careful not to go overboard on the oil, as it doesn’t need to be dripping. You only need to coat the main compartment of your smoker with oil, don’t bother coating any of the accessories or the heating element itself. 

Step 4: Power Your Smoker

Plug your smoker into an outlet. As previously mentioned, it is best to do so without using an extension cord. If an extension cord is necessary, use a heavy-duty one that can be grounded. 

Step 5: Vent Your Smoker

Open the vent on the top of the smoker (or side depending on your brand) and ensure it is all the way open. 

Step 6: Turn the Heat On

You are now ready to roll! Power on your smoker and turn it to the highest heat setting which is usually 250°F or 275°F. You should also check the owner’s manual for the suggested seasoning temperature setting. 

You will want to set the timer for 3 hours. 

Step 7: Add Wood

When there are only 45 minutes left on your timer is when you will want to add wood chips to your smoker. You’ll need to be careful with how many you add at a time so you don’t overload the wood chip loader.

Start by adding 8-12 wood chips, waiting for 20 minutes before you add 8-12 more. You can add a third set of 8-12 wood chips as long as there is space and the first two rounds of wood chips have begun to become ash. 

Once the timer goes off and the 3 hours are up, your smoker is officially seasoned! Allow it to cool before you attempt to move it to a new location. 

Read More >> How to Use Wood Chips in an Electric Smoker

How Long Should You Wait Before Smoking Meats?

After you have seasoned your smoker and allowed it to cool, you are ready to smoke some food! Don’t buy too pricey a cut of meat just yet though, as it takes a bit of time to get used to a smoker. 

Even if you are an experienced smoker, you will want to try out a cheaper cut of meat in your smoker when using it for the first time. This will allow you to get a good feel of how your smoker works and how long you can expect to smoke different meats. 

For those who have cold smoking attachments, smoked cheese is a great place to start because it is cheap and hard to mess up. Otherwise, grab a nice pork butt to ease yourself into the world of smoked meats. 

Does an Electric Smoker Require Cleaning?

Once you have seasoned your smoker, there should be no need for routine cleaning. You want to leave that coat of ash on the inside as this is what will bring flavor to your food. 

If you absolutely feel you must clean your smoker, use a cloth to gently wipe away any loose ash from the inside of your smoker. You may also want to clean the viewing window with a damp paper towel. Never use any chemicals to clean your smoker.

Soaking Wood Chips for Seasoning Your Smoker

You’ve probably come across a rumor that you should soak your wood chips before you use them to season your smoker. While you can soak wood chips, this is more of a personal preference and it is not required to properly season your smoker.

Soaking your wood chips may cause your smoker to have difficulty maintaining temperature. It may also cause your meat to cook unevenly, or even dry out in certain areas. 

The reason many people think that it is better to soak their wood chips is because when they soak them and add them to the smoker, more “smoke” is developed.

Unfortunately, this is not smoke.

Rather it is just steam, and while it may smell delicious as it’s leaving your smoker, it isn’t actually smoking the meat. 

So now you’re probably wondering, what’s the upside of soaking wood chips? Well, there are a few cases where you may want to soak your wood chips and these involve cases where you soak them in something that’s not water that will add flavor to your meat. For example, it can be helpful to soak wood chips in wine or whiskey in order to infuse a desired flavor. 

Save this fancy soaking of wood chips for the actual meat, however, because when it comes to seasoning, putting your wood chips in dry is best.

Read More >> How Long Should You Soak Wood Chips? 

Things to Keep in Mind as You Season Your Smoker

Although seasoning a smoker is quite simple, there are a few things you will want to keep in mind as you do so. Seasoning an electric smoker does require high levels of heat and can carry some danger. 

1. Never Oil the Heating Element

Oil is flammable, and while you want a nice coat over your entire smoker, this does not include the heating element. Also, ensure that none of the oil you coat the rest of the smoker with can drip onto the heating element. 

2. Check the Instruction Manual

While we have provided the basic instructions for seasoning an electric smoker, some smokers may vary in their directions, especially when it comes to whether or not to fill the water bowl during the seasoning process. Always double-check the owner’s manual of your model before you begin. 

3. Keep Size in Mind

Smokers come in all shapes and sizes. If you purchase a smaller one, you will want to reduce the number of woodchips you add in step 7. 

4. Never Touch a Hot Smoker

It may be tempting right after you turn off your smoker when finishing the seasoning process, to make adjustments to the accessories, or prepare your smoker directly for smoking meat. Smokers are hot for hours after they are used and you should never touch a hot smoker. Just because it is electric doesn’t mean it cools down quickly.

Read More >> How to Get More Smoke from an Electric Smoker

Final Thoughts on Seasoning Your Smoker

Overall, seasoning your smoker isn’t that hard at all, and this one simple step can help keep your smoker producing tip-top pieces of meat for years to come. Simply ensure you wipe it down first, then follow the instructions in the owner’s manual to properly season your smoker. 

Once your smoker has been seasoned, the sky’s the limit! You are now ready to smoke some amazing pieces of meat. Not sure where to start? Check out our guide on the best meats to smoke to get some ideas. No matter what meat you pick, you can guarantee it will taste delicious as long as you season your smoker. 

Photo of author

Hope Davis

Born in Denver, Colorado as the oldest of 5 children, I learned at a young age that the grill was one of the best ways to prepare food for a crowd. And during the winter storm months, when the snow was likely to knock out the power to our house, the propane grill was a lifesaver! You wouldn’t believe the number of things you can cook on a grill when necessary. With parents who couldn’t tell salt from pepper unless you told them, I spent my late teen years making my own seasoning mixes and marinades to dress the meat before barbecues. It wasn’t long before I developed a secret marinade that people still beg me to make for them today! When I was 21 years old I bought my first smoker. Picked up some cedar chips for making a cedar plank salmon...and well, the rest they say is history! I’ve been grilling and smoking all kinds of creations ever since and I’m always excited to share my passion with others through my favorite medium--writing!

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