How to clean a smoker – follow our expert advice

Explore our helpful tips and tricks on how to clean a smoker

An offfset and chimney smoker in a yard
(Image credit: Getty Images / Lucia Kindernayova)

You can't beat using a smoker for a summertime cookout. A smoker will infuse your food with a delicious flavor that cannot be matched by any other cooking method.

However, as fun as it can be, using a smoker often makes for a pretty messy cleanup. I've tested plenty of the best grills in my time, and I've had to clean up my fair share of smokers, so I've rounded up the best ways to clean a smoker so you can keep yours looking fresh and clean throughout the summer season – and for years to come.

This is all you need to know to tackle cleaning every type of smoker.

How to clean a pellet smoker

Adding pellets into a pellet grill

(Image credit: Getty Images / knowlesgallery)

The first step to cleaning a pellet smoker is an obvious one but always bears repeating – switch off your smoker and make sure that it is cool. Then, remove any unused pellets so that you can reuse them next time. Take out the grills, put them in a bucket of warm, soapy water, and then use a brush to scrape off any residue from dry rubs, marinades, or sauces.

My biggest tip here is to avoid wire brushes. These do a great job of cleaning, but they always leave little specks of wire in your grill – and you don't want these going anywhere near your food. Instead, use a stiff nylon brush, like this from Amazon.

After that, food appliance expert Fahad Javaid recommends using 'A shop vac or similar equipment to remove any ash and debris from the interior of your smoker. Use a plastic putty knife, like this set from Amazon, to scrape the lid and remove any creosote that may be stuck to it.'

Then, wipe down the interior with a damp cloth. It's also crucial that you avoid using chemicals or cleaning solvents. These can make their way into your food, leaving at best a soapy taste and at worst making it toxic. These solvents also tend to be highly flammable, which can also be dangerous to use with hot appliances like smokers.

Headshot of appliance expert Fahad Javaid
Fahad Javaid

Fahad Javaid is an expert in in the Food Equipment Services industry. He is the General Manager of Operations at Zanduco.

How to clean an off-set smoker

The cleaning process is similar for an offset smoker. Let the ashes cool – I recommend leaving them overnight just to be sure – and then remove them from the smoker. In some offset smokers, this is easy because there's an ash catcher. If not, use a shop vac, such as an ash scoop like this from Amazon, or a dustpan and brush.

Other than that, the method is exactly the same. Scrub your grills with hot, soapy water, dry them, and you're good to go.

How to clean a chimney smoker

The method of cleaning a chimney smoker is very similar to the others above. Let the ashes cool, remove them, and wash the grill in soapy water.

An extra step, however, is cleaning the chimney. Fahad Javaid says 'Using a chimney brush, ensure the chimney is free from soot. You can then clean the interior surfaces using a wire brush to remove any build-up or residue.' You don't need anything fancy – a cheap chimney brush like this from Walmart will do the job.

How to clean a kettle that's been used as a smoker

A close up of grilling sausages on a charcoal grill, with grill smoke

(Image credit: Getty Images / Sean Gladwell)

If you've used a kettle grill to smoke, the cleaning method isn't much different from cleaning up after grilling over charcoal. Remove the grill and set it aside to brush it down in hot, soapy water. Brush down the sides of the grill with a soft brush, so the ash is all collected in the the ash catcher at the bottom. Remove the ashes and then clean the insides with soapy water and cloth. Clean the grill in water and dry it well to prevent rust.


Which wood burns cleanest?

One way to make cleaning a smoker easier is to smoke with cleaner-burning wood, so there's less soot and creosote to clean.

Fahad recommends that 'For cleaner-burning wood, you'll want to reach for hardwoods like hickory, walnut, oak, or maple. These burn hotter and cleaner than softer woods like cedar, pine, or spruce. They contain less moisture and burn slower, leading to less creosote, a sticky byproduct of wood burning that can coat the inside of your smoker.'

I explore the best wood for smoking in my separate feature.

How do I clean the glass door of my smoker?

If your smoker has a glass door, use a vinegar-based glass cleaner, like this from Amazon. It will remove the soot and leave the glass pristine without using any chemicals which could be a fire hazard.

For more help with smoking, take a look at my advice on how to use a regular grill as a smoker.

Alex David
Head of eCommerce

As Head of eCommerce, Alex makes sure our readers find the right information to help them make the best purchase. After graduating from Cambridge University, Alex got his start in reviewing at the iconic Good Housekeeping Institute, testing a wide range of household products and appliances. He then moved to BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine, assessing gardening tools, machinery, and wildlife products. Helping people find true quality and genuine value is a real passion.