We live in Arizona, so we grill and use our smoker year round. But some people in colder climates will want to store their outdoor grilling tools for the winter. This is the perfect time to get it nice and clean before you store it. And if you are like us and use it all the time, this is a great time to get it looking good before the holidays. Today, I am going to show you how to clean a smoker.

How to Clean a Smoker - tips and tricks for keeping your smoker or BBQ clean

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First things first, unplug your electric smoker or disconnect the propane for your gas smoker.

You will want to wear rubber gloves to clean out your smoker as it can get very messy and your hands will get greasy. However, don’t use your favorite ones, as it is difficult to remove the grease completely from the gloves when you are done.

I am pretty good about cleaning out the smoker after each use, but I let mine get extra dirty so I can show you how to clean it – especially if yours has been neglected for a while. These instructions are for a gas smoker, but many of the same principles apply when cleaning an electric smoker.

Dirty Smoker - Before

Inside of dirty smoker

Top of dirty smoker

Inside of smoker door - before

Start by removing all the cooking racks, drip tray, and smoke basket. I usually use my grill brush to scrape off any extra food stuck on to the cooking rack before taking inside to scrub in the sink.

Brush off cooking rack with wire brush

Note: I have read a lot of reports lately of people getting the wire bristles from the grill brushes stuck in their throats or stomachs. If you prefer not to use a grill brush, you can wad up a ball of aluminum foil and use that to scrub things off.

Next, using the scraper from the grill brush or a plastic putty knife, I scrape down any extra grease or pieces of food. I start at the top of the inside of the smoker and work my way down. I usually place some paper towels or foil under the front of the smoker to catch all my grease and debris.

Scrape out any extra grease from inside of smoker

Helpful tip: Cover the burner from getting filled with grease and burnt food by covering it with a piece of foil before you begin scraping.

Cover burner with foil

Next, I fill up my sink with super hot water and some squirts of Dawn dishwashing liquid. You can try other soaps or all-purpose cleaners, but I have found that Dawn is the tried and true favorite for removing stuck on grease.

I wad up some aluminum foil and give all of the cooking racks and drip pan a good scrub. Usually, the smoker tray just needs a quick scrub as it goes underneath the drip pan.

Use aluminum foil to clean off smoker grates

I use a small wire brush to get in all the nooks and crannies of the cooking rack. It is really hard if you have had your smoker for a long time to get them completely free of any black residue.

Use a wire scrub brush to get in the nooks and crannies

I rinse it all really well and allow it to drip dry.

I use a bucket with hot soapy water (again use Dawn) and a plastic scrub brush to scrub down the inside of the smoker. Again, you may want to cover the burner area so you are not getting too much debris in there. I wipe it all down with a wet rag, and allow the inside to air dry.

Inside of clean smoker

Inside of smoker door - after

I also wipe down the outside of the entire smoker with hot soapy water and then follow that with a wet rag to rinse it off.

How to clean a smoker

You don’t want to put aluminum foil on your cooking racks, but I like to put a sheet of aluminum foil in the drip pan. Since that is where all the juices and majority of food goes, it helps to keep the whole smoker clean. And the foil in the pan won’t inhibit the performance of the smoker.

I like to clean the cooking grates and drip pan each time I use the smoker. I also dump out the ashes in the smoke tray each and every time before refilling. I try to give the inside of the smoker a really thorough cleaning like we talked about today every 3 to 6 months, sometimes more often if it is getting heavy use.

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