Does the Weber Smokey Mountain Need to be Seasoned?
The question of seasoning a brand new smoker is one of personal preference. A new Weber Smokey Mountain does not expressly need to be seasoned, but going through the process will only help break the unit in and enhance the cooking experience for future uses.
The biggest benefit to seasoning the smoker is to get an initial layer of smoke to start adhering to the surfaces inside the unit to hold heat and flavor in for future sessions. If nothing else, seasoning a new smoker gives the cook valuable experience that will help in food preparation.
What Does Seasoning Do?
The seasoning process serves two main purposes: removing any residue on the inside of the smoker left over from the manufacturing process, and coating the interior with smoke that helps maintain the temperature going forward.
This layer of smoke will help reduce the reflective coating that new smokers have and can cause them to run slightly hot. Seasoning can also help create a good seal where the different parts of the unit fit together which will help maintain a constant temperature during smoking.
What Temperature to use for Seasoning?
The seasoning process is best run at similar temperatures to normal smoking conditions. This usually is around 250 to 275.
Using a standard setup and running the smoker without any food inside should get the job done. Fill the charcoal pan partially full with unlit coals, then light some coals in a chimney starter. Once those ash over, add them to the charcoal pan.
Reassemble the pieces of the smoker and let it run for several hours uninterrupted. This mock cooking session should start coating the inside of the unit with a nice layer of smoke, helping maintain constant temperatures and holding in smoke and flavor for future smoking sessions.
Use of Cooking Oils in Seasoning
Another part of the break in process is coating the grill racks with some cooking oil to prevent food from sticking to them. Cooking oils such as olive oil and peanut oil do well since they have high smoke points.
Once the new grill racks are cleaned to remove any residue from the factory, put some oil on a paper towel and apply a thin coating to them. This will make it easier to turn and flip food on the racks as necessary without it sticking and coming apart.
Olive oil may also impart some faint hints of flavor to the food as well. Another option is to cook foods that produce a lot of grease such as bacon and sausage. Besides being delicious, cooking bacon and sausage will help season the smoker as they produce grease that will coat the inside of the unit.
How Often to Season a Weber Smokey Mountain?
The seasoning process is generally done when a smoker is first purchased and set up. The main benefit is to give the smoker the initial layer of smoke to coat the inside and help the unit settle, so the seals become tight.
Being such a well made product, the Smokey Mountain should run year in and year out with very little maintenance, and actually works better the more it is used. For geographic areas with long off-seasons, where the smoker may be buried in snow for months on end, a dry run at the beginning of the cooking season might be a good idea.
What Happens if You Don’t Season a Weber Smokey Mountain?
If an owner chooses not to season a smoker, it should still work as intended. The Smokey Mountain is designed to run at optimal temperatures of 225-275 degrees as soon as it is taken out of the box and assembled. The only adverse effect is likely to be an initial spike in temperature during the first cooking session.
Since there would be no layer of smoke on the inside of the unit, it is not unusual for the smoker to run at upwards of 300 degrees during the first cook before it is broken in. This should alleviate after a short period however, and the smoker should settle in and run as intended.
How to Season a Weber Smokey Mountain
The seasoning process is essentially a dress rehearsal for cooking barbecue. First clean the inside of the unit as well as the grill racks to get any residue from the factory off. Coat the cooking racks with a thin layer of cooking oil such as olive oil. Next, prepare the smoker using the Minion Method by filling the charcoal pan with unlit charcoals and some chunks of wood.
Light some coals in a chimney smoker, and once they ash over add them to the charcoal pan. Assemble the smoker and adjust the vents to get the temperature into the smoke zone. Now simply let the smoker run for several hours and get to work coating the inside of the unit with smoke and tightening the seals.
As discussed above, throwing some bacon and sausage on the racks will produce helpful grease, as well as delight a hungry family.
Does the Smokey Mountain Need to be Cleaned Before Seasoning?
This question is personal preference, but cleaning the inside of the unit is certainly a good idea.
Since the Smokey Mountain is build in a factory and it will be cooking food for human consumption, some soap and water will remove any residue that might be on the inside of the unit. A quick wash of the grill racks followed by a thin coating with cooking oil will also provide sanitary cooking surfaces.
The Smokey Mountain is going to spend its life coated in smoke and grease, so giving it a bath right before it is put to work is a fine thing to do.