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6 Steps For Cleaning Your Offset Smoker

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Learn how to effectively clean and protect an offset smoker!

All you need to do for cleaning an offset smoker is to grab a jar of oil, a bottle of Pam, or any soaked rag of oil and then apply it directly to the metal. After doing this, make sure to get a wood burning fire going to ensure all the metal is HOT. That will ensure that the oil can infuse with the metal, thus stopping rust from forming further. Congrats! You now have a cleaned offset smoker! Pro-Tip: do this before every cook!

Cleaning Offset Smoker – Getting Started:

Cleaning Offset Smoker - Getting Started:

Cleaning a smoker is a very important task. Often, once you are done smoking your beautiful piece of meat, there will be a significant amount of ash. Leaving this material in your smoker firebox for extended periods of time WILL cause rust accumulation and metal breakdown. NOT GOOD! To fix this, you have to tend further to your smoker. By applying certain techniques to your smoker to remediate rust build up, you are able to ensure your smoker will last probably longer than you will live – meaning it will outlive you if you take care of it. 

Now, how do I clean my smoker? Make sure you have the following at your disposal:

  • Offset Smoker
  • Pam Oil/Jar of Oil/Rag dipped in oil
  • Wood to get fire started
  • Wire Brush

Cleaning Offset Smoker – Prepping your pit

Cleaning Offset Smoker - Prepping your pit

To effectively begin the process of cleaning your pit, you are going to want to make sure the outside of your smoker has been scrubbed all the way down with your wire brush. To do this, grab your wire brush and start applying it directly to the metal. Don’t worry about scratching anything – your pit is SOLID STEEL. Essentially, it is indestructible and the wire brush really won’t have any effect on degrading the integrity of the metal. 

Usually, an offset smoker’s metal is about one-quarter-inch (1/4) in thickness. So really, DON’T worry about hurting your pit. 

Okay, so now that you have grabbed your wire brush, start scrubbing that bad boy. What do I mean by scrubbing? Literally just start scrubbing all throughout the surface area of your offset smoker. Wherever you see rust accumulating, start scrubbing that area. You will quickly start to see rust particles emit from the surface of your offset smoker. This is a good sign. Keep applying this technique to the metal, and all areas of the smoker where you see rust. Once completed, you are ready for the next steps in the process.

Here’s a picture notating what the smoker firebox should now look like:

How to clean an Offset Smoker

Notice how it almost looks like dust? That’s what it looks like. Basically, it seems like it’s just removing the rust from the metal. I primarily focused on the firebox, since that is where a lot of the rust accumulation has taken place. 

Here’s an aerial view of the overall smoker:

How to clean an Offset Smoker

Cleaning Offset Smoker – Getting Firebox Turned Up

Cleaning Offset Smoker - Getting Firebox Turned Up

Now that you have done such a great job scrubbing your offset smoker with your wire brush, you will want to get the heat cranked up to a very HOT degree.

To do this, grab some wood – Any wood will do – light it, and make sure all the vents and grates are wide open to ensure maximum airflow. This will help catch the wood on fire.

Wait about 20-30 minutes. In the meantime, go grab a beer or a Coke Zero. When you come back and find your smoker blazing, that’s great news!

Close all your grates, but leave your vents open to ensure the wood can still get some Oxygen flow. This just ensures a clean and consistent fire. Now you are ready for the final step.

Cleaning Offset Smoker – Applying Oil To The Metal

Time for the final step!

Cleaning Offset Smoker - Applying Oil To The Metal

Grab your oil and make sure you’re ready to apply it all over your Offset Smoker.

For me, I just use Pam. Using the spray can as opposed to getting a mop to get it on the Smoker really lets you get all the hard to get spots.

However, if you don’t have Pam readily available, feel free to use any type of oil you may have in the house. Some good options are vegetable oil, coconut oil, and olive oil. Just make sure you can baste it all over the Smoker. 

Since the smoker has now been scrapped down with the wire brush and a wood fire is currently burning, go ahead and spray all over the smoker.

You should notice that as the oil is hitting the metal, it’s almost like it’s getting rehydrated. In fact that’s exactly what is happening. The metal needs moisture.

Getting oil infused into the metal produces this rehydration effect, where it not only repels any further rust for the time being, but it also makes it look like the smoker is brand new!

Really, take a look at your smoker now. It’s all dark, sleek and shiny looking as opposed to before. 

Congratulations! You have now effectively cleaned your Offset Smoker!

Congratulations! You have now effectively cleaned your Offset Smoker!

Now that you have wonderfully cleaned an offset smoker, here’s some questions you should be asking yourself:

  1. How often should I clean my offset smoker?
  2. Should you clean your smoker racks?
  3. How do you keep a firebox from rusting?
  4. Do I need to season my smoker?
  5. What is the best oil to season a smoker with?
How to clean an Offset Smoker

These are all VERY important! Offset Smoker maintenance does not end with just a single cleaning session. There are a variety of ways to clean an offset smoker, not just including the list made above. 

Alright, let’s dive deeper in to how to clean an offset smoker.

How often should I clean my offset smoker?

You should be cleaning your offset smoker every cook. It took a long time for myself to figure this one out, but it is absolutely essential.

How often should I clean my offset smoker?

The reasoning behind this suggestion is not to burden you with more tasks by cleaning an offset smoker, but to ensure the longevity of your cooking device. Offset smokers are a fantastic product that you want to use to cook amazing barbecue, therefore it becomes imperative to always stay up to date with your cleaning.

Not only that, there are a variety of ways to make sure that your offset smoker is always cleaned. There are different types of oils, wire brushes, parts of the smoker that need more tending to, the list really goes on.

To break it down, here’s a rule of thumb for how often offset smoker cleaning must occur:

Part of SmokerOffset Smoker FireBoxOffset Smoker Main chamberOffset Smoker Main Chamber GratesOffset Smoker Firebox Grates
Type of oil usedPam Oil Spray, Vegetable OilPam Oil SprayPam Oil Spray, Vegetable OilPam Oil Spray, Vegetable Oil
Wire brush involvedYesNot always necessaryYesYes
Likelihood of RustVery oftenNot oftenNot oftenVery often
Frequency of CleaningEvery CookWhen you see rust accumulationWhen you see rust accumulationEvery Cook

That is a quick list of items to give you a better idea on how to manage the art of cleaning an offset smoker. As you can tell, not all parts of the smoker actually need to be cleaned at a frequency of ever cook. Taking a look at the above table, you can see that the part of the smoker that needs the most attention is the firebox. 

Why does an offset smoker firebox need to be cleaned so frequently?

Great question! 

The reason you have to clean a firebox so frequently is due to all of the ash that gets generated directly on that portion of the smoker. Charcoal and wood both leave residue in the form of ash that will start eating away at the metal inside your offset smoker. 

The other parts of the smoker, as you can see, do not need as frequent of a cleaning. That’s most likely due to there not being ash touching the metal in those areas. You can even see on the table, that the firebox grates need to be cleaned as well. That is again because of their proximity to the ASH! 

So sum this up with regards to the frequency of how often you should be cleaning an offset smoker :

Just make sure you are applying a wire brush directly to the firebox and firebox grates before or after every cook! While doing this, also make sure to apply Pam oil spray or any kind of vegetable oil spray directly to the metal before heating it up.

Should you clean your smoker racks?

Another fantastic question!

Should you clean your smoker racks?

Yes, you should be cleaning your smoker racks. But the real question becomes – which smoker racks should you be giving more attention to and how often? Also, some may be wondering how to clean smoker grates at all?

Those are all valid points. 

You should be focusing on the grates nearest to the firebox. These are generally the ones that are in close proximity to any ash left behind during the cook. Remember, ASH is what causes your offset smoker to become dirty and rusty! To clean the actual smoker grates, you’ll want to take your wire brush and start directly applying it to your equipment. Start scraping and brushing over both sides of the metal.

Once you have began actually cleaning the most rust covered smoking rack, you should start to see the metal start shedding the rust particles. The rust on your rack will actually start to form some kind of powder. Take advantage of the rust being scraped off by cementing oil into the wrought iron. 

Find your nearest bottle of Pam, and take your smoker rack over by the grass. Lay it down, and start spraying it all over. This should ensure you don’t miss any spots, and it is an even surface that you can use to set the grate down on.

How do you keep a firebox from rusting?

How do you keep a firebox from rusting?

When you are trying to clean your offset smoker, you will quickly discover that fire pit rust is very prominent.

Not only that, it’s quite frankly a PAIN! It seems like almost every cook you are having to constantly tend to your smoker’s firebox and stop the fire pit itself from rusting.

Despite this constant pain, there are some remedies and offset smoker maintenance techniques that you can administer. These generally include oiling the entirety of the fire pit and actually cleaning out ALL ash present.

To prevent fire pit rust you will want to consider the following:

How much of the offset smoker firebox is actually covered in rust and how much ash is present inside. 

To prevent fire pit rust you will want to consider the following:

You will want to begin removing all of the ash immediately. To do this, I would recommend grabbing an ash bucket from your local grocery store. They’re usually pretty cheap, no more than $10-20 and can last quite a while if you take care of them.


Above you can see a really nice looking ash bucket for the offset smoker, that allows for rapid exiting of all ash present. Doing this will only help you eliminate all fire pit rust from accumulating. I can’t guarantee that rust will NEVER start to accumulate again after doing this, but I can guarantee that your fire pit box metal will not be slowly eroded away. Yes, ash can eat completely through your quarter inch thick steel of your smoker overtime. This is why it is critical to clean it out!

How do you dispose of ashes from a smoker?

You can dispose of ashes from a smoker by pouring it into an ash bucket. I like to grab a small shovel and start scraping it out of the fire pit itself and into the ash bucket. You’re also going to want to make sure that you wait about 12-24 hours after you have stopped your cook. This is because although the ash is inside the bucket, you can never be too certain that the ash isn’t still active. Basically, you really want to make sure that the ash isn’t hot and has the potential to start a fire once you finally dispose of it.

A common method of disposing of ashes from a smoker is to simply throw it away in a trash bag. This is the simplistic way of doing it, but you can also use it as fertilizer. Disposing of ash as fertilizer is a great way to recycle your wood and also help your grass or garden grow. Super cool stuff!

Before you start oiling your fire pit – go ahead and just check how much rust is actually on it. This will give you an idea of how often you potentially need to be actively trying to prevent fire pit rust. If the rust is starting to accumulate in splotchy areas – it may not need as frequent cleaning. If the fire pit is rusted all over – that should serve as a pretty clear indicator that you should always be cleaning it.

Alright, that’s the first way of helping to prevent fire pit rust. On to the second recommendation. Oiling the entirety of the pit. 

Oiling a fire pit

Should I oil my fire pit?

Oiling a fire pit

You should always be oiling your fire pit. This will help to cure and season your smoker and firebox. In addition to cleaning out the ash out of your fire pit – you will be helping the iron to seal the porous surface area from accumulating any rusty particles. Science!!

What kind of oil do you put in a fire pit?

Pam oil is the recommended type of oil to put in a fire pit. You don’t HAVE to use this specific type of oil, it’s just really easy to get all the hard to reach areas that you normally can’t get with basting other types of oil.

In practice, to help deter fire pit rust you will want to grab the Pam oil or whatever type of oil you have at hand. Promptly start spreading it all over the metal, and just ensure that once you have the oil on over the fire box, you can rest assured that you can start to eliminate fire pit rust.

Do I need to season my smoker?

Do I need to season my smoker?

You should always be re seasoning a smoker when you have the chance. Actually, many of the steps above play directly into seasoning your smoker. You’re going to want to apply all of these steps every cook. If you don’t have the time to clean your smoker and especially season your smoker – don’t worry too much. The most important thing is to get all of the ash out of your fire box. I really can’t stress how important that part is.

If you are just starting out and have a brand new smoker – it’s very common to hear that you should be oiling it all over. It basically just imparts more flavor onto all of your cooks by capturing a lot of smoke and other meat residue onto the metal. Seasoning your offset smoker creates a prime environment for cooking amazing barbecue.

How to clean offset smoker – BBQ Dropout’s Final Thoughts

How to clean offset smoker - BBQ Dropout’s Final Thoughts

We’ve covered a lot of ground in this post!

We went through actually cleaning an offset smoker with detailed step by step explanations, and provided some excellent pictures that tangentially further explained each step.

Furthermore, I provided y’all a YouTube video where I apply each of those principles to my personal offset smoker. Afterwards, there were some common questions I noticed people had about cleaning an offset smoker. They mainly centered around general maintenance and care for the smoker itself, and also inquired about how to thwart against any kind of fire pit rust from accumulating. Really interesting stuff.

To sum it up, here’s some quick reference tips on how to clean an offset smoker:

  1. Properly prep your offset smoker for cleaning by using a wire brush to scrape away rust
  2. Getting your firebox turned up really hot
  3. Apply oil to the metal of the offset smoker
  4. Admire a cleaned offset smoker

Following those simple 4 steps will ensure that you will have the most clean offset smoker around town, guaranteed.

Despite those 4 simple steps on cleaning an offset smoker, I realized there were some lingering questions. To some those up, here’s a quick recap:

  1. You should be cleaning your offset smoker every cook
  2. Your smoker racks should also be cleaned and seasoned every cook
  3. Keep a fire pit from rusting by removing all ash and using oil to seal the metal

All of that being said, there’s still a TON of stuff to go over. So stay tuned!