The Ultimate BBQ Smoker Cleaning And Maintenance Guide

Start with a clean grill. Keep it clean by brushing with a wire brush after preheating, and again after cooking. Make sure to oil your grates and your food before putting it on the grill to keep it from sticking.”

Emeril Lagasse, Celebrity chef, restaurateur, Cookbook author and TV personality

BBQ lovers and pitmasters, this one’s for you! We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to help you clear away all the grime and grease on your beloved grill this summer!

As chores go, cleaning your bbq isn’t nearly as bad as, say, cleaning your garage! And in any case, a clean bbq means savory, mouth-watering food for you and your guests all summer long.

This guide is designed for both the casual griller and the bbq aficionado. Whether you use an electric grill or prefer an old-fashioned charcoal griller, you’ll find everything you need to know about cleaning and maintaining your favorite smoker!

Check it out, and keep visiting Fire Food Chef for more useful guides, tips and reviews of the best in barbequing!

Official Fire Food Chef BBQ Smoker Cleaning And Maintenance Guide

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Common Issues with Smokers (general overview)
  3. Charcoal Smoker Cleaning & Maintenance
  4. Electric Smoker Cleaning & Maintenance
  5. Pellet Smoker Cleaning & Maintenance
  6. Gas Smoker Cleaning & Maintenance
  7. Top Smoker Brands Known for Quality
  8. How To Save on BBQ Smoker Maintenance and Replacement Parts
  9. Conclusion

1.) Introduction

If summer had one defining scent, it’d definitely be the smell of barbeque.”

Katie Lee, cookbook Author, novelist, TV food critic

There’s nothing like the smell of a bbq firing on all cylinders! As the food slowly roasts over an open fire or exposed heat, wafting over fences and through open windows, our most primal urges are awakened.

Like our early homo sapien ancestors 2 million years ago, we’re still drawn to the smell of a smoking bbq for more than just the food. An old-fashioned cookout can bring community, friends, and family together for good times, but safety should always be our first priority.

By cleaning and maintaining your grill on a regular basis, you’ll not only extend the life of your grill, you’ll also serve great-tasting food untainted by grime, grease, and soot.

2.) Common Issues With Smokers

Use your bbq smoker often enough and you’ll eventually notice a build-up of grease, hardened food, and residue on your grates, lid, and other surfaces.Carcinogenic residue can accumulate on cooking surfaces, ultimately contaminating your food with undesirable flavors and bacteria.

You might find our BBQ 101 Guide helpful if you’re just starting out.

Some common problems with smokers include:

Soot build-up: health risk, bad for lungs and anyone with respiratory issues, byproduct of burning coal or wood, produces carbon monoxide, black carbon, heavy metals

Carbon build-up: creates a layer of insulation around the grates, sticks to food, and ruins the flavor of your food

Scale build-up: combustion by-products, creosite, carbon, soot and schmutz along the sides and hood of bbq, can reduce heat distribution by decreasing the reflectivity of interior surface

The best way to ensure healthy food and a safe cooking environment is a thorough cleaning. This includes:

  • Cooking grates
  • Interior and exterior fire box
  • Hood interior and exterior
  • Control knobs
  • Ash box
  • Drip tray
  • Liner

The Aluminum Foil Incineration Cleaning Method – Don’t Do It!

Your neighbor may swear by the “foil incineration” method, but if you’ve read the manual for your grill, you’d know better!

The “foil incineration” method, as it’s sometimes referred to, is a popular way of cleaning grills, but poses serious safety risks. Typically, foil is wrapped around the cooking grates. The barbeque is then turned to its highest setting for about 20mn. Heat trapped by the foil reduces the build-up on the grates to a brittle ash that is then easily scraped off for cleaning once it cools.

Several major grill manufacturers, however, warn against this cleaning method. Weber, for example, cautions against this method, which can “…trap gas and become a fire hazard…blocking the airflow (which) causes very high heat that can damage valves, burners and supply lines”.

In addition, repeated use of this method over time can warp your grates, leave cracks in ceramic igniters, and wear out metal burners. The trapped heat can melt hoses, gas lines, and, worst of all, combust. Propane tanks are especially at risk, as the intense heat inside the enclosed cart exceeds the temperatures required for safe storage.

You’ll definitely want to choose a on open outdoor space for cleaning your bbq.

With that in mind, let’s get started!

3.) Charcoal Smoker Cleaning & Maintenance

Equipment You’ll Need:

  • Cleaning gloves
  • Putty knife
  • Spray-on cleaner or dishwashing soap
  • Grill brush
  • Ball of aluminum foil
  • Waste disposal bag

A crumpled ball of aluminum makes a great tool for scrubbing grimy metal cooking grills clean!

Charcoal Smoker Cleaning Instructions

1) Remove the grill and charcoal grates.

2) Soak the grates in hot, soapy water for 10mn to soften grease and dirt build-up.

3) Using a grill brush or scouring pad, scrub away the dirt. A putty knife is handy for removing stubborn carbon build-up.

4) Rub the grates with a ball of aluminum foil to remove any remaining debris.

5) Empty the ash catcher and brush away any debris at the bottom of the grill.

6) Use a putty knife to scrape off grease and carbon residue.

7) Wipe down the lid and grill exterior with a damp cloth and mild dishwashing soap.

8) Reassemble your grill

Charcoal Grill Maintenance Tips

  • Clean your cooking grates after each use to reduce build-up of carbon.
  • Oil your grates using absorbent paper towel to help prevent food from sticking
  • Empty the ash catcher regularly.
  • Bbq vegetables using a grill basket.
  • Use cast iron skillets and quality cooking ware to extend the life of your grill
  • Be careful when using a grill brush to clean your grates. Check thoroughly for wire bristles that may have been left behind. These can get stuck in food and ingested.

Check out our complete review of the year’s top charcoal smokers!

4.) Electric Smoker Cleaning & Maintenance

Equipment You’ll Need:

  • Sponge
  • Rubber spatula
  • Aluminum ball
  • Rubber gloves
  • Dishwashing soap

How To Clean Indoor And Countertop Electric Smokers

1) First and foremost, be sure to turn off or unplug your electric grill.

2) Scrape off excess food and build-up from crevices and grill surface using a rubber spatula. Do not use a scouring pad, which can damage the grill’s non-stick surface.

3) Using a damp sponge and dishwashing soap, thoroughly wipe down the grill surface.

4) Wring out your sponge repeatedly as oil and grease gather.

5) Remove the grill plates to access and remove the drip tray.

6) Soak the dip tray in hot water and dishwashing soap to loosen oil, grease, and burnt food build-up.

7) Next, wash and wipe down the dip tray with a damp sponge.

8) Remove any other detachable pieces and wash individually or in your dishwasher.

9) Once all the pieces are dry, reassemble your grill according to your grill manual instructions.

We’ve also got great reviews of the best electric smokers that might interest you!

How To Clean An Outdoor Electric Smoker

Cleaning an outdoor smoker like the 40” MASTERBUILT 20075315 is relatively easy thanks to the modular design of today’s models.

1) Again, always make sure your electric smoker is switched to the off position. It’s also best to plug your grill out of any outlet before you begin cleaning.

2) Remove cooking grill grates and soak in hot water and dishwashing soap for 5 – 10 mn, depending on how grimy they are.

3) Next, use a damp sponge or scouring pad to scrape and remove grime from the grates. Soaking them in soapy water beforehand should make this relatively easy. Be mindful of scrubbing too vigorously, or you’ll risk warping them.

4) After rinsing, use a ball of aluminum and scrub any remaining debris from the grates away.

5) Depending on your model of electric grill, you can remove the liner, which is an insert directly beneath the grill grates.

6) Soak, wash and rinse the liner clean of any grease and grime, using a damp sponge. A rubber spatula should help you scrape off any stubborn build-up.

7) Wipe the exterior and lid with a damp or moistened cloth. Avoid using a dripping sponge while cleaning the lid in particular. Disinfectant wipes are another alternative that you can use to clean the knobs and handle as well glass lids. Dry with a lint-free cloth.

8) Remove and clean any detachable parts from the grill.

9) Finally, reassemble your electric grill, and enjoy!

Electric Grill Maintenance Tips

  • Clean your grill regularly to reduce build-up of cooking grease and grime. Too much grease on your grill can cause fires to flare suddenly outdoors.
  • Keep water away from any electric parts. You should never attempt to wash electric parts in your dishwasher, for instance.
  • Never attempt to clean the heating element of your electric grill.

For a quality electric smoker that’s easy to maintain, read our Char-Broil Deluxe Digital Electric Smoker review.

5.) Pellet Smoker Cleaning & Maintenance

Equipment You’ll Need:

  • Dishwashing soap
  • Spray cleaner
  • Rubber gloves
  • Scrubbing pad and cleaning cloth
  • Handheld vacuum
  • Long-handled wooden spoon or brush

How To Clean Your Pellet Smoker

1) Turn off your pellet grill. If cleaning immediately after use, let the pellet grill cool completely both inside and out.

2) Next, remove the cooking grates, drip tray, and flame deflector, and chimney dome.

Soak the removable parts in a solution of dishwashing soap and hot water to loosen the grease and grime.

3) Scrub all the removable parts with a scrubbing pad until clean. Then, let air dry.

4) Remove the grease bucket and dispose of any solid debris.The grease bucket will likely contain a lot of grease residue so you should clean it separately under running water. Otherwise, you’ll be cleaning it in greasy water!

5) Using a long-handle bristle brush and cleaning soap of your choice, scrape the chimney interior. You can also attach a scrubby to the end of a long-handled spoon if you don’t have a bristle brush that can reach inside the chimney dome.

6) To remove ash and dirt from inside the firebox, use a small handheld vacuum.

7) Carefully wipe the firebox interior with a lightly damp scrub pad. Avoid immersing the interior in water and don’t use a dripping sponge. Water can seep into electrical parts and cause serious damage!

8) Use a damp cloth or disinfectant wipes to clean the temperature probe, which can usually be found on the left side of the cooking chamber.

9) Clear away anything obstructing the smoke holes.

10) Wipe away any grime and dirt from the exterior surfaces with a dampened cloth or scrubby. You can use a spray cleaner on any stainless steel parts, or an aluminum ball to scrape away gunk.

11) Finally, you’re ready to reassemble your grill!

Pellet Smoker Maintenance Tips

  • Avoid dripping excess water into the cooking chamber while cleaning the hood.
  • Keep water away from any electrical parts, tubing, or wiring.
  • Lining the drip tray and grease box with foil will make your cleanup easier and quicker.
  • Wipe down the exterior of your pellet smoker with a moist cloth after each use.
  • Clean cooking grates after each use.
  • Always remember to remove the grease bucket and store in a place safe from animals like raccoons

Find the right pellet smoker for you with our best pellet smoker grills review.

6.) Gas Smoker Cleaning & Maintenance

Equipment You’ll Need:

  • Grill brush
  • Scrub pad/sponge
  • Toothpicks
  • Sponge
  • Dishwashing soap

How To Clean A Gas Smoker

1) First, be sure the gas supply is turned off. Remove the propane tank and store in a cool place while cleaning the grill.

2) Next, remove the cooking grates and burner covers. Soak them in hot water and dishwashing soap as needed to soften grime and grease build-up.

3) Scrape away debris from the grates and burner covers using a grill brush. Let air dry when finished.

4) Using a scrub pad, scrape away any hardened debris from the bottom of the grill’s interior, sides and hood. If you’re using a sponge, avoid dripping excessively into the grill while cleaning the interior and hood.

5) Use a toothpick to remove any debris that may be lodged in the holes of the gas burners. Make sure to clean under the burners thoroughly, where food debris tends to accumulate and harden.

6) If your grill has a drip pan, remove this and scrape away any charred remains with a grill brush or scrub pad. A grill brush or metal spatula can be used to scrape away the debris instead if the drip pan isn’t removable.

7) Wipe the interior thoroughly with a damp cloth to remove any leftover dirt. Then, wipe down the exterior surface as well.

8) With the grates clean and the interior free of debris, you can now reinsert the grates and burner covers.

Gas Smoker Maintenance Tips

  • Oil your cooking grates to prevent food from sticking. This will also make cleaning the grates easier.
  • Line the drip tray with foil for easier cleaning.
  • Wipe off grease that accumulates on the knob or control switch for the gas supply.
  • Inspect the gas lines regularly for cracks. Don’t use a liquid seal on a gas line. Instead use a synthetic pipe sleeve, which can be purchased at most hardware stores or department stores.
  • If a valve or pipe line is broken/severely cracked, it’s time to either replace your gas smoker or call in a professional.
  • Keep your gas smoker covered in between uses.
  • Never use a pressure hose to wash down your gas smoker

BTW, here’s a helpful review of the best gas smokers under $200!

7.) How To Save on BBQ Smoker Maintenance and Replacement Parts

In this section we’ll take a look at a few ways to maintain your BBQ smoker over time. After purchasing a brand new grill, go through the owner’s manual and familiarize yourself with its unique features and recommendations for proper maintenance.

If you’re planning to refurbish/repair a used grill or smoker, you can troubleshoot and resolve most problems by following the directions below.

For more serious problems such as gas line cracks or damaged digital/electric components, refer to a professional or the warranty on your grill. If your grill doesn’t come with a warranty (or you’ve misplaced it), don’t attempt to repair malfunctioning parts on your own. You could inadvertently cause a fire by failing to reassemble the parts properly.

Impaired Burners

Your burners take a lot of wear and tear over time. They should be cleaned carefully after use, rather than allowing grease to harden and build. The average burner has a lifespan of 3 years. If you notice corrosion or damage, replace them right away.

Clogged Venturi Tubes

Venturi tubes direct the flow of gas or propane from the tank to the burners in your grill or smoker. An opening in the fuel line allows air to enter so that a flame is created. This gap or aperture can attract insects and spiders. You can insert an aluminum screen can keep critters out without obstructing airflow to the tubes. Most modern venturi tubes, however, already include some kind of protection.

Smoky Grill

Excessive smoking isn’t healthy for you or your food. It’s usually a sign of grease build-up inside. Regular cleaning should fix this problem.

Excessive Flames

Inspect fuel lines and hoses for any cracks that may need sealing or replacing.

Yellow/orange Flame On A Gas Smoker/Grill

You may need to adjust the venturi shutters that regulate gas flow. Locate the venturi tube adjustment screw. Turn the gas on low, then loosen the screw and adjust the shutters until the flame turns blue. Once it’s set, turn the gas off and tighten the screw.

Poor Heat Distribution/Low Flame

Most electric smokers and pellet grills are designed for even heat distribution. Natural gas or propane grills, however can get damaged. One or more burners may be clogged. You can use a toothpick to remove clogs in the gas line. Adjusting the venturi shutters should also help in this case.

Damaged Fuel Hose And Regulator

You shouldn’t attempt to adjust the regulator settings, but a clogged vent hole can cause irregular air flow. A worn or damaged O-hole on the fuel hose can also cause gas to escape. You can easily clear away any debris clogging the vent hole but a damaged fuel hose should be repaired or replace immediately.

Malfunctioning Control Valves

Over time knobs on your control valves can get stuck due to grease and grime build-up. A simple cleaning should fix the problem. Valves are complex with several components

specifically designed for your model. If the control valves are unresponsive, it’s time to invest in a new smoker or grill.

Worn Out Liner

Between the cooking grates and burner you’ll typically find a tray installed that’s used to capture drip from food. Also known as a radiant, this plate is made of either metal, ceramic briquettes or lava rock. They are designed to aid in heat distribution as well.

Lava rocks are porous and need to be replaced frequently. Ceramic or metal, however, should be cleaned regularly and will not need replacing as often.

8.) Top Smoker Brands Known For Quality

So now that you know how to clean and maintain your smoker, you might be considering what type to purchase. Lucky for you, we’ve combed through thousands of products and reviews online to make your selection process easier.

If you search online, you’ll invariably come across the same major brand names: Primo, Weber, Cajun, and Kamado to name a few. While aesthetics are important to your decor, there are other more important factors that will determine which brand and type you decide on.

Factors To Consider When Buying A Smoker

Features: Removable parts for easy cleaning, see-through lids, and temperature controls are great features that will make maintaining your smoker much easier.

Performance: Even heat distribution and temperature variance controls are crucial to any quality bbq. Read online reviews from real people to get a sense of how reliable your smoker will be.

Durability: More features can also means a higher risk of something breaking. Low-grade parts and painted steel can deteriorate quickly after only a few uses.Smokers made of 304 stainless steel, for example, are costly but highly durable.

Price: Your budget isn’t the only factor when purchasing the right smoker brand. Consider how often you plan on using it, as well as how many people you plan on serving on average. A small charcoal grill, for example, is portable and inexpensive, but not ideal for serving large families or events with lots of people.

All of our bbq smoker recommendations have been selected from leading brands like Weber.

Fire Food Chef Best Pellet Grill Recommendation

RT-700 Bull

Innovation and convention are finely balanced in the Rec Tec 700’s sturdy design to give pitmasters all the tools they need to keep patrons and guests salivating!

  • 17.5″D x 16″W x 17.5″H
  • Heavy Duty stainless steel construction
  • 1700 + sq in of cooking area
  • 40 lb hopper capacity
  • 3 stainless steel grates
  • Stainless drip pan
  • Stainless heat deflector
  • Wi-fi- remote control using Rec-Tec Grills app
  • Smart Grill Technology controller
  • Auto-lighting (HotFlash Ceramic ignition system)
  • Temperature range of 200 – 500 F
  • Powder coated for long-lasting durability
  • Dual meat thermometers
  • Uses 100% natural wood pellets
  • 6-year warranty

You really can’t get better than the state of the art Rec Tec 700. Durable, feature-rich, and suitable for any grilling occasion, this grill twill make anyone fall in love with the art of the barbecue.

Every feature is built with bbq lovers in mind. from the remote wi-fi capabilities to the rollerblade-style wheels fitted for easy carriage, this grill does it all well! The 40 lb. hopper and

over 1700 sq in of cooking area give you plenty of room to maneuver.

Read more of our Rec Tec 700 Bull review.

Fire Food Chef Best Electric Smoker Recommendation

40” Masterbuilt 20075315 Electric Smoker

  • Digital LED display and control panel
  • 1200 watt heating element
  • RF remote control incl. on/off, temperature, meat temperature, time, light, and light
  • Meat temperature probe
  • 4 chrome-coated smoking racks
  • 975 sq in of cooking area
  • Convenient handle and wheels
  • Viewing window
  • 90 day warranty

This easy to clean, extra large-capacity unit is, in our opinion, the best electric smoker out there for its mid-price range. It’s as easy to clean as it is on the eyes, there’s enough room to cook 12 whole chickens -or a whole lot of burgers!

Patented side wood chip loading system – add chips without opening the smoker door

Integrated thermostat temperature control for even, consistent smoking

Full viewing window

Read our more detailed 40” Masterbuilt review here.

Fire Food Chef Best Charcoal Grill Recommendation

Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill

  • 22” diameter grill (cooks up to 13 burgers)
  • Rust resistant porcelain-enameled lid and bowl
  • Lid-mounted temperature gauge
  • Extra large-capacity ash catcher
  • Convenient lid hook for storing lid while cooking
  • 1 Steel-plated, hinged cooking grate lifts easily for refueling/fire access
  • 10-yr limited warranty

This popular Weber model packs one heck of a punch for its size. Considered a classic in design and functionality, the Weber Kettle Premium is proudly made in the US, and remains a fixture of the traditional American cookout.

We really like the aluminum vents which help control air flow, giving you the option to grill or smoke your meat. Its sturdy porcelain enamel bowl handle holds up under high temperatures, which means your investment will last for years to come!

Check out more of our Best Charcoal Grill reviews here.

Fire Food Chef Best Gas Smoker Recommendation

Masterbuilt GS30D Propane 2-Door Smoker

30-in diameter cooking grill

4 chrome-plated smoking racks

717 sq. inch of cooking area

Stainless steel burner

Type-1 regulator and hose

Push-button ignition

Removable porcelain-coated wood chip tray and water pan

Locking door

Built-in temperature gauge and touch-wire handle

This 2-door gas smoker from Masterbuilt is easily our favorite after examining hundreds over the years. One of the largest of its kind, its high-capacity cooking space allows for several dishes going at once, with temperature gauge to help you monitor your culinary masterpieces.

The main drawback is the lack of wheels, which means you’ll have to lug the 66 lbs yourself.

Read more of our review of the best gas smokers under $200.

9.) Conclusion

We’re constantly reviewing new bbq products and services to bring you the latest and best. Use this guide to help you find a smoker that suits your needs and your budget, or share it with someone you feel will benefit.

If you’ve got a suggestion for a quality smoker or grill, we’d love to hear your feedback! Thanks for visiting Fire Food Chef and happy grilling!


About the Author William Clay

William Clay is a BBQ enthusiast dedicated to sharing his grilling (and overall cooking) expertise with FireFoodChef's readers.