How do you clean a reverse flow smoker? Easy steps to follow

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  April 26, 2022

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I’m sure you’ve made some delicious smoked meats lately. But do you know how to clean a reverse flow smoker to keep it functioning properly?

An important part of smoking food is to clean the smoker, especially the cooking chamber, after each use.

How do you clean a reverse flow smoker? Easy steps to follow

Reverse flow smokers are one of the most versatile grills on the market today. But, this grill does require some additional care and maintenance since it doesn’t use any liquid for cooking. To clean your reverse flow smoker properly, you will need to mix water with soap and apply that mixture to all surfaces of the grill.

After reading this blog post, you will know how to clean a reverse flow smoker properly so that you can enjoy its versatility for years to come.

If you don’t clean out your smoker regularly, you can end up with a bad creosote buildup which clogs the smoker and turns the meat black and bitter!

How to clean a reverse flow smoker

When cleaning a smoker, it’s best to avoid using any harsh chemicals or cleaning solutions because they can leave behind residues that will end up on your food.

The interior of your reverse flow smoker will need to be cleaned on a regular basis, especially if you use it frequently.

How to buy a bbq smoker video
How to buy a bbq smoker video

To clean the interior, you’ll need to remove all of the parts and pieces that are not permanently attached. This includes the racks, grates, and anything else that can be taken out.

Soap and water

Cleaning a reverse flow smoker is not as difficult as it may seem. In fact, with a little bit of effort, you can have your smoker looking and working like new in no time.

The first step is to mix water with soap in a bucket.

Next, use a sponge or brush to apply the mixture to all surfaces of the grill. Be sure to get in all of the nooks and crannies.

Allow the mixture to sit for a few minutes before scrubbing the grill clean.

Once you have scrubbed the entire grill, rinse it off with clean water. You may need to do this a few times to remove all of the soap residues.

Finally, dry the grill with a clean cloth or paper towel. Once it is completely dry, you are ready to use it again.

Steam cleaning

One of the most efficient ways to clean a reverse flow smoker is to perform a steam clean.

Using a water hose, spray or mist the inside of the smoker cooker with hot water when the temperature reaches about 300 degrees Fahrenheit. This is what I refer to as “steaming”.

You can repeat this process a second time after the fire has been re-heated to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cleaning the entire cooking area with sanitizing steam removes the grease, goop, and blobs of fat that are stuck on the insides of the smoker.

You can steam clean the whole cooking chamber to remove solidified fat.

If you want to create a “hardwood smoke glaze,” then add a large piece or two of split wood, turn the chimney damper 45 degrees, and close the firebox vents almost completely.

After each cooking session, be sure to thoroughly clean your grill.

Don’t use a putty knife or scrape tool on the walls of the smoker as this can damage it.

How to clean cooking grates in smoker

To clean your reverse flow smoker properly, you will need to mix water with soap and apply that mixture to all surfaces of the grill.

This includes the cooking grates. You can use a wire brush to scrub them clean.

Be sure to rinse the grates well with water afterward so that no soap residue is left behind.

If your reverse flow smoker has a stainless steel interior, it’s important to avoid using abrasive cleaners or scrubbers on the surfaces.

These can scratch and damage the finish. Instead, wipe the interior down with a damp cloth or sponge and mild soap.

Rinse well with water and dry thoroughly before using the smoker again.

BBQ degreaser

You can use a special bbq degreaser to clean the reverse flow smoker. I recommend you use a degreaser spray because it removes those harsh greasy stains from the grill grates.

However, be careful not to use this kind of cleaning product all over the inside of the smoker because then you can’t rinse it off properly.

When using a degreaser product, you can use a putty knife to scrape off some of the grease, but the danger is that you scratch the grates if they’re not high quality.

Cleaning the exterior of your reverse flow smoker

The exterior of your reverse flow smoker will need to be cleaned on a regular basis as well.

This is especially true if it’s made of stainless steel, as fingerprints and other marks can quickly build up on the surface.

To clean the exterior, simply wipe it down with a damp cloth or sponge and mild soap. Rinse well with water and dry thoroughly.

As with any grill, it’s important to keep the area around your reverse flow smoker clean and free of debris. This will help prevent fires from starting.

Be sure to sweep up any fallen leaves or other debris on a regular basis. Protect your smoker from the elements with a quality grill cover.

And, if you notice any grease or oil build-up on the exterior of the smoker, be sure to clean it off right away.

By following these simple cleaning tips, you’ll be able to keep your reverse flow smoker in top condition for years to come.

How to remove ashes from the smoker

A deep clean involves removing all the ashes from the reverse flow smoker.

Charcoal becomes fine ash and sometimes you miss the small particles of ash inside the smoker and so you’re smoker won’t be completely clean.

Remove all the ash with a shovel or other suitable tool. Be sure to dispose of the ashes properly.

The best practice is to scoop the remaining ash out with a plastic shovel or you can even use a plastic jug and cut off the bottom.

This removes both the large pieces of ash or unburnt charcoal and finer ash.

Alternatively, you can use a shop vac to remove the ash. Just be sure that the smoker is completely cooled down before you begin.

Once all the ashes are removed, wipe down the interior of the smoker with a damp cloth or sponge and mild soap.

Rinse well with water and dry thoroughly before using the smoker again.

Don’t forget to remove ashes from the wood chip tray too and then give the tray a good wipe down with soapy water.

How to clean the firebox

The firebox is where you build the fire that cooks the food in the smoker. Over time, it can become coated with grease and soot.

To clean the firebox, you will need to remove all of the ashes first. Then, scrub it down with a wire brush or scrubber. Be sure to rinse it well with water afterward.

If your firebox is made of stainless steel, be careful not to use any abrasive cleaners or scrubbers on it. These can damage the finish.

Instead, wipe it down with a damp cloth or sponge and mild soap. Rinse well with water and dry thoroughly before using the smoker again.

How to clean the reverse flow plate of the smoker

  1. First, make sure that the grill is turned off and has cooled down.
  2. Next, mix water with soap to create a cleaning solution.
  3. Apply the solution to all surfaces of the reverse flow plate.
  4. Allow the cleaner to sit for a few minutes before scrubbing with a brush or cloth.
  5. Rinse the plate off with clean water.
  6. Dry the plate completely before using the smoker again.

The RF plate is the key component of this type of smoker and if it’s not perfectly clean, the smoker might not function properly.

It’s important to regularly clean the reverse flow plate of your smoker in order to prevent rust and maintain optimal performance. Follow these simple steps and your grill will be good as new in no time!

How to clean heat deflection plates

If your offset meat smoker has heat deflection plates, you need to clean them too. These are usually located above and below the reverse flow plate.

To clean the heat deflection plates, simply remove them from the smoker and scrub them down with a wire brush or scrubber. Be sure to rinse them well with water afterward.

If your heat deflection plates are made of stainless steel, be careful not to use any abrasive cleaners or scrubbers on them. These can damage the finish.

Instead, wipe them down with a damp cloth or sponge and mild soap. Rinse well with water and dry thoroughly before your next cook.

How to remove rust spots in the smoker

If you find rust spots on your reverse flow smoker, don’t panic! These can easily be removed with a little elbow grease and the right tools.

Removing rust is also part of cleaning your smoker because rusty smokers won’t function properly.

First, you’ll need to gather some supplies including:

  • A wire brush
  • Sandpaper
  • A rust converter (optional)
  • A primer (optional)
  • Paint (optional)

With these supplies in hand, you’re ready to get started on, removal! Begin by using the wire brush to scrub at the rust spots.

This will loosen them up and make them easier to remove. If the rust is stubborn, you can try sanding it down with sandpaper.

Once the rust is removed, you have a few different options for protecting the metal and preventing future rusting.

You can apply a rust converter, which will create a barrier between the metal and oxygen. You can also prime and paint the metal, which will provide a similar barrier.

Whichever method you choose, be sure to follow the instructions on the product packaging for best results.

Have an electric smoker instead? Here’s how you give your precious Masterbuilt a good deep clean

Cleaning a reverse flow smoker: tips to make the job easier

It’s safe to use a brush with metallic bristles to clean the smoker grates.

However, if you’re using a wire brush, be sure to rinse the grates well with water afterward so that no bristles are left behind.

Using abrasive cleaners or scrubbers on the stainless steel interior of a reverse flow smoker is not recommended. The finish can be damaged by these and it’s quite costly to get a new smoker.

After you clean the smoker, you need to re-season the smoker grates. This is important because it prevents the grates from rusting and ensures that food doesn’t stick to them.

To season the smoker grates, simply rub them down with high-quality cooking oil. Be sure to wipe off any excess oil before you use the smoker.

The seasoning process is fast and ensures your food doesn’t get stuck to the grates.

Why you need to clean a reverse flow smoker

  • Reverse flow smokers expose food to less smoke, which reduces the potential for carcinogens and otherwise unpleasant flavors.
  • Keeping your reverse flow smoker clean also means that it will last a lot longer than it would with constant use
  • A clean grill is better at holding heat, which can yield more consistent cooking results across all zones of the grill.
  • Cleaning your smoker prevents creosote build-up.
  • Cleaning your reverse flow smoker is also a good way to make sure that any food you cook on it will taste its best.

How often do you have to clean your smoker?

The short answer is: after every use. You need to clean the grates and cooking chamber at least, plus empty the ashtray.

Following proper seasoning, it’s imperative to keep your smoker clean and properly maintain its protective coating.

This is accomplished by cleaning the smoker of ash and food residue, being careful not to strip the smoker of its metal.

In order to keep the metal from rusting, you’ll need to re-season the smoker every now and then and occasionally clean it out completely.

Be sure to clean the RF plate too, every couple of uses at least.

It can be difficult to strike the right balance here. The oily coating must be maintained, but ash and grease must be removed on a regular basis to keep it in good condition.

The firebox can rust if ash is left to accumulate for long periods of time. Large deposits of grease must be scraped away gently because they can trap water against the metal.

After each use, smokers should be thoroughly cleaned to remove ashes and grease residue.

Takeaway

Cleaning a reverse flow smoker is essential for optimal performance and food safety. It’s a good idea to clean the smoker after each use but you don’t need to do a deep clean.

You can use a small brush and remove the ashes and just wipe down the cooking grates with hot water and dish soap. Then from time to time, you can tackle those stubborn parts.

With a little elbow grease and the right supplies, you can easily remove rust, build-up, and other debris from your smoker.

Seasoning the grates after cleaning will help to prevent rusting and sticking.

Following these simple tips will ensure that your reverse flow smoker lasts for many years to come!

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.