You can easily clean an electric smoker by scrubbing the interior and exterior with warm soapy water (excluding the power outlet of course.) Doing so is a necessary part of the upkeep of your appliance.
As a chef, I use many different appliances for barbecuing. One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that people think they can clean their electric smokers the same way as ovens. In fact, you can end up damaging your electric smoker by using oven cleaners.
I've provided a detailed, step-by-step guide on how to clean an electric smoker safely in this article. Not only will you find the most efficient way to get your dirty smoker clean, but several pro hacks as well. Read on to find out.
Other than a can-do attitude, you need a few things to get started.
The standard advice is to start cleaning once the electric smoker cools. Why? Because the dirt and grime inside loosen when the electric smoker is fired up.
Ideally, you should let the electric smoker hit its maximum temperature of around 275 °F (135 °C) before allowing it to cool. This will make it easiest for the hardened vegetable oil buildup to come off from parts like the drip tray.
The electric smoker doesn't have to be completely cool before you start cleaning. In fact, I recommend starting while the appliance is still warm (but obviously not when it's still too hot to touch!).
I've noticed that some users heat up their electric smokers to the maximum temperature before they clean it. While this will make cleaning hassle-free, it's a waste of electricity. I recommend planning ahead to clean your electric smoker after using it to prevent unnecessarily running up utility bills.
The interior cooking chamber of your electric smoker has several removable parts:
You can slide these parts out of the smoking chamber easily. Once you do, wash them in warm soapy water.
I personally prefer to soak the parts of my Masterbuilt electric smoker before giving them a good scrubbing with a scouring sponge. You can try this to loosen up the buildup. This step is not always necessary and it depends on how severe the debris is.
If the grime is particularly tough, you can apply some apple cider vinegar before washing in warm soapy water. I've noticed that this is great for removing vegetable oil that is stubbornly clinging to the drip pan.
Some parts like the water pan won't require much scrubbing. Gently wash and rinse the water pan.
You can alternatively spray grill cleaner on the cooking racks and remove the debris with a grill brush. However, be careful. There are harsh chemicals in such cleaners that might harm the sensitive parts of your electric smoker. This is why I always stick to warm soapy water.
Once you've adequately washed the removable parts, allow them to air dry.
The smoker box is where the wood chips go in the electric smoker. You will first need to discard the ash in it.
Be careful when doing this. Do not dump the ash in your regular trash if it's still hot. You will need to discard hot ash in a non combustible container.
Dampen the soft cloth and use it to clean the remaining residue in the smoker box.
This is the part most people find tough.
The interior chamber of your electric smoker would have ash, grime and hardened grease sticking to the walls. I'll detail the most painless way to get rid of this.
First, place the tarp or newspaper pages under the smoker to catch all the debris. Otherwise, you will end up needing to clean more than just the electric smoker.
Use a plastic bristle brush and a plastic scraper for this process. Never use anything metallic because it will scratch the sensitive surfaces of your electric smoker.
Use the bristle brush to scrape off the most visible chunks of debris you see in there. Always brush or scrape downwards towards the floor.
Make sure to get the corners and nooks in the back. Most people forget about this.
Once the chunks of grime are gone, gently brush the residue off the floor of the smoker onto the tarp or the newspaper. You can discard the debris in the trash.
I want to make an important point here:
Don't scrub too harshly to get that shiny silver look of a brand new electric smoker. It's actually a good thing if the interior walls of your electric smoker are dark. This is called seasoning and it prevents rusting.
At least in the case of my Masterbuilt electric smoker, the manufacturer recommends to pre-season the appliance to burn off oils leftover from manufacturing.
Once the scrubbing is done, use a damp cloth to wipe down the walls and the floor of the cooking chamber.
Do not use oven cleaner here. Use only warm soapy water to get rid of the grease buildup.
Remember how I mentioned that dark buildup is good for your electric smoker? Keep that in mind when you clean with soapy water as well. Take care not to scrub too hard to get your dirty smoker clean.
If your electric smoker has a glass door like mine does, you will need to carefully clean both the inside and outside.
Do not use standard oven cleaner or glass cleaner here. First of all, refer to the manual of your electric smoker. If it has recommended cleaners for the glass door, use these. If not, I recommend using soapy water or just water.
Soak a washcloth in soapy water and wipe down the glass door of the smoker gently. Do so carefully both inside and outside the chamber.
Once done, use a damp cloth to rinse off the soap. I usually wipe dry to make sure the grease is fully off the glass. You should be able to see the inside of the cooking chamber clearly if the cleaning went well.
On another note, do not wipe dry the smoker door with a paper towel. Paper is an abrasive material on glass and it will most likely scratch the surface.
Most electric smokers have the thermostats and meat probes on the interior of the rear wall. Refer to your smoker's manual on how to locate these parts if you are not sure.
You will probably find some grease from meat on the probes like I usually do with mine. Nothing some warm soapy water can't get rid of.
Use a damp washcloth to wipe clean the temperature probes. Absolutely under no circumstances should you hold these parts under running water. Clean these like you would your phone.
Now this part will be easy or hard depending on how often you clean your electric smoker. If you are like my parents and rarely use your electric smoker, you may find cobwebs and dust on the rear that you will need to brush off before you begin.
Use a damp cloth and soapy water to clean the exterior of your electric smoker. Unlike the interior, the exterior doesn't have grime sticking to it. It may yet be greasy so the soap would help make your electric smoker look shiny like it's brand new.
I keep a spray bottle handy to spritz water as I clean. However, make sure your spray bottle doesn't go anywhere near the power outlet or the wires.
Do not skip over the door seal. The door seal of electric smokers can retain ash and residue from the smoking chamber. You will need to clean this with a damp cloth. You can use the spray bottle to loosen particularly thick buildup.
After you use soapy water, make sure to rinse and wipe everything. After that, you will need to wipe dry the exterior to finish things off.
I've noticed that some people spray on oven cleaner on the outside to get that new electric smoker look. It's not harmful in my opinion as long as the manual specifically doesn't prohibit it.
You can opt to use stainless steel cleaner if the exterior of your electric smoker is particularly dirty. Apple cider vinegar is a good alternative option to stainless steel cleaner. Vinegar can remove grease stains and smudges without being too harsh on cooking surfaces.
I've mentioned that you need to wipe dry everything as you clean because this is what I usually do as well. If you have a different cleaning style, don't forget to dry just about everything after the rinsing is done.
Electric smokers, just like most other appliances, are prone to molding if you leave parts damp. Therefore, you need to dry both the interior and the exterior as the final step of the cleaning process.
You can use paper towels to do this on parts that are not glass. If you are concerned about abrasions, just stick with a soft cotton cloth like I do.
Remember that you need to make sure the interior components, like the drip pan and the water pan, are completely dry as well.
The last step is pretty easy.
The best way to put the removable components back in is from bottom to the top. This is the standard procedure for the vast majority of electric smokers.
So put it in the smoke box at the very bottom first. Then the water pan, the drip tray, and cooking racks should go in last.
Hot tip: Coat the racks in a bit of vegetable oil to prevent hard residue buildup the next time you use your electric smoker.
Now, take a step back to admire the whole thing. You are all done cleaning your electric smoker!
On a final note, here are the answers to questions that home chefs frequently ask me about keeping their electric smokers clean:
The general rule of thumb for cleaning electric smokers is every 3 to 5 uses. I clean mine every 3 uses in the summer. I still clean it after occasional use in the colder months because I don't want it to stay dirty for months.
Just to be on the safe side, refer to your electric smoker's user manual for the recommended cleaning frequency.
Yes, you absolutely should clean an electric smoker. There is no skipping it because grime, debris and ash can build up during the smoking process. Not only does this affect the functioning of your electric smoker, it could potentially make food unsafe to eat.
You should clean the inside chamber of an electric smoker to remove thick grease and other undesirables that can stick to cooking surfaces. I have detailed how to do so above.
Avoid using a metal scraper to remove debris and do not use household glass cleaner on the door. These safety tips should help keep your electric smoker clean and functioning smoothly.
You can use just water to wipe down your electric smoker. Water might be adequate to remove the ash from your smoker but not all the grease. This is why I recommend soapy warm water for optimal cleaning.
You can clean a Masterbuilt electric smoker as I have detailed in the steps above. After all, I follow the same steps to clean my own Masterbuilt. That being said, as models vary, refer to the user manual for the best guidelines on how to clean your version of Masterbuilt smoker.
Cleaning an electric smoker doesn't need to be a huge hassle. It will be an easy process if you follow the steps listed above.
As always, keep these safety tips in mind. Don't use anything that the manufacturer doesn't recommend to wipe down your smoker. If you are in doubt, refer to the user's manual for instructions specific to your model.