If you enjoy cooking BBQ as much as I do, you understand that it is very important to care for and maintain your most valuable tool; the BBQ smoker or grill. Grease and tar can build up in the bottom of your pit and make a real mess while attracting bacteria and other unwanted guests. Practicing a few housekeeping rules outlined below will help keep your smoker in top working condition.
If you have cooked in your smoker many times without cleaning it you probably have a layer of sludge resting in the bottom of your pit. I have even seen mold growing on this sludge. If you do, don’t panic! There is still hope for reviving your smoker. Now this is a very messy job, but in order to keep your BBQ smoker in top working condition you need to clean it out.
Put on some work clothes and a pair of long rubber gloves and get to work. Use a tool such as a small garden shovel to gently remove the sludge. Do not scrape the sides. The layer of grease actually protects the metal and keeps your pit from rusting out. The trick is to remove most of the grease while leaving a film on the surface of the metal to prevent rust.
After you have removed as much grease as you can, use paper towels to wipe the pit out. It is a dirty job, but someone has to do it. Next, clean the cooking grates. I do not like to use soap because it can remove too much grease and cause the grates to rust. The best thing you can do is to wipe them down after the pit has cooled from your last cooking, but if they are really dirty, take some time to scrape them clean. You can spray them down with PAM cooking spray when you are done to keep them oiled.
The outside of the pit needs to be cleaned too. When the firebox on your smoker is going, it is very hot. The protective coating on the smoker only lasts a little while before rust starts to set in. The best thing you can do to protect the smoker surface is spray it with PAM cooking spray each time after you use it – when the it temp says 150 or so.. It works amazingly well and helps to prevent rust. I keep mine oiled to prevent rust. It even works well on semi-rusty surfaces. Remember, if you take a little time after each cook to clean your BBQ smoker, it will be much easier to keep it in top working condition.