If you want your smoker to last, you have to keep it up to par. By putting some time into maintenance every now and then you will have a smoker that will last you for a long time, safe from rust, and safe from looking disgusting. Maintenance is especially important if you’ve invested a lot of money into your smoker. And no matter what type you have, the process is equally important, and pretty much the same.
The first thing you have to do when you get a smoker is to coat it with oil. Oil, when heated, will seep into the imperfections of the metal inside of your smoker, creating a coat that will protect it against rust. So you can take any type of oil, from vegetable oil to grease, and apply it to the inside of the smoker. Once that’s that done fire it up to start seasoning your smoker. And make sure that you add something to smoke up the insides too, because the smoke will help with the process. At a temperature of about 250-275F the oil will start to do its thing and it will form a protective layer that will keep your smoker safe from rust.
However, this is not a necessary process in every case. Just pop open the manual for the grill, and check to see if it needs seasoning. In any case, firing the smoker up without any food in it is always a good idea because it helps get rid of factory residue. Also, be careful as to not up the temperature to much when seasoning, because in some cases even a temperature of 300F will damage the paint (vertical water smokers).
So you’ve got this done, your smoker is seasoned and good to go. The next thing you have to make sure that your smoker has is a lot of ventilation. A lack of ventilation means that the fire won’t be very lively, but far more importantly it means that a layer of Creosote will build up inside of your smoker, which is basically tar which you do not want to have there.
With the smoker set up and good to go, the last thing you have to take care of is periodical maintenance. You can clean your smoker every once in a while, or after every cook. In either case you have to be careful and gentle, so you do not remove the oil coating. But don’t worry, if you somehow scrub too hard and some of the coating comes off, you can always re-season the smoker. And even if you somehow don’t do that, and you find some rust inside of your smoker, you can scrub it out with some sandpaper or a wire-brush and repaint that area using heat resistant paint. Now, there is no need to get to this step, but if you do, it’s not the end of the world. Just make sure you take good care of your smoker, and it will take good care of you.