How do you season & clean your drum smoker to prevent fire?

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  June 4, 2022

Always the latest smoking tips & tricks?

Subscribe to THE ESSENTIAL newsletter for aspiring pitmasters

We'll only use your email address for our newsletter and respect your privacy

I love creating free content full of tips for my readers, you. I don't accept paid sponsorships, my opinion is my own, but if you find my recommendations helpful and you end up buying something you like through one of my links, I could earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more

When you get a brand new drum smoker you need to season it, which is basically burning in some cooking oil. So what I like to do is pull up my oil spray and coat the entire inside of the drum with some cooking spray. 

It’s just regular old canola oil. Then fill it up with your favorite brand of charcoal and light it up with your chimney starter or gas burner, you can do it both ways. You can also throw a wax cube in there and light it that way but I really like doing it with my favorite fire starter.

How to season and clean your barrel smoker

Here’s the reason why you want to burn a drum in. It’s because it’s got the factory oil and just like a cast-iron skillet you have to season it before use.

And it’s a really simple process. It’s just about getting the metal nice and hot and just like pores on your skin the metal once it heats up it starts to expand and the pores if you will start opening up allowing the oil to get absorbed or get baked on.

That helps season the drum. Remember to also oil up the bottom side of your lid.

I don’t need to leave the vents open because my charcoal is already lit from the firestarter. That way I can go ahead and close this lid so I’m gonna put my grate in there right away and let that burn-in as well.

Don’t forget to spray the grate down with oil as well and you can go ahead and shut the intake valves or leave it a quarter of the way open I know that’ll usually gets me to about a 300 degrees which is where you want it for seasoning the metal.

How to keep your oil drum smoker clean

There are a couple of products that I think are a must-have. I keep all of my drums clean, nice and shiny. I like to keep the external looking fresh and new and what I use is this McGuire’s quick detailer with just a rag and you only need to spray it on and wipe it down. 

If you try to do that after every time you grill you’ll keep the paint looking nice and neat.

Preventing grease fire in your vertical drum smoker

One thing I also like to use is a multi-purpose absorbent.

Before grilling I’m going to dump probably a quarter of an inch of that oil absorbent at the bottom and the reason I do that is if you do have some grease that falls on the bottom you don’t want a grease fire.

Because obviously that’s going to burn your food and you don’t want that so I always pick up a big bag of absorbent.

You do have smaller bags but quite honestly you’re spending just a couple bucks more and that’ll last me a long time. Again, you just need a quarter of an inch or so on the bottom just to absorb any grease and to prevent any grease fires so that’s what I use as well.

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.