Unlike more fragile and highly sophisticated home instruments, the best electric smokers combine simplicity with ruggedness. Therefore, if the smoker is stored properly and electric smoker cleaning tips are followed regularly, the average electric smoker will work fine for a long time. However, if you are using the smoker on a regular basis and are not a pro at managing the temperature, the fluctuating heat inside the smoker (even with a standard temperature controller) can wreak havoc on both your food and the health of the smoker. The answer to “how to maintain an electric smoker” is therefore to be found in “how to ensure that the temperature inside the smoker remains even and stable”, though there are some additional maintenance tips as well. To make it easier for you to concentrate on the culinary aspects of the smoking, we have compiled a list of such easy DIY tips.
Use a Thermostat and Thermometer If Your Smoker Doesn’t Have Them
Most of the best electric smokers today come with accurate thermometers that provide good reading of the temperature at the level of the food. However, older products may come with thermometers that take only the temperature of the upper part of the chamber, which is bound to be lower than that at which the lower racks are situated. To avoid this error, take a thermometer and place its detection shaft in contact with the lowest rack/grille, or if you want to stay safe (in case of a heat spike), pass it through a non conducting product placed on the surface. Usually, a small inexpensive vegetable like potato will do.
Note : Meat probes are excellent alternatives, but it is impossible to monitor the temperature throughout the chamber using just a single heat probe. Hence, a heat thermometer placed on the rack (you can have multiple thermometers for multiple racks) is a better idea.
You could also purchase a thermostat/rheostat/thermocouple and connect its wires to the heating element if you find that the existing temperature control is not doing a sufficiently good job. This will help regulate the temperature inside the smoker and thus allow for easier answers to “how to maintain an electric smoker”. Note however that not all electric smokers have heating elements that are conducive to standard disc thermostats and you should check the configuration manual carefully to see if there is provision for a thermostat.
Ensure Sufficient Heat Insulation
Every one of the best electric smokers comes with a thick layer of heat insulation that ensure that heat does not leak out. In addition, you can purchase one of the heat insulation blankets that contain an insulating mesh that wraps around the body of your product. This is especially helpful if due to uneven heating or poor construction, the inherent heat insulation of the machine is malfunctioning and heat is leaking out. Further, they will ensure that the internal heating insulation system is not further damaged.
If however the internal system appears to have been incapacitated, you may want to contact the manufacturer and see if they can place additional heating insulation inside the machine ( this is somewhat complex and should not be tried at home).
Use A Smokestack With Flexible Pipe
Under normal circumstances, smoke produced by the heating element rises rapidly and moves out of the smokestack. This leads to poor heating on the sides of the smoker and excess heating around the smokestack area. Apart from producing poor food, this in the long run can make you wonder how to maintain an electric smoker without paying exorbitant bills for changing the damaged internal insulation and clearing the clogged smokestack area.
The solution then is to take a flexible pipe that fits the diameter of the smokestack. Usually, a cloth dryer pipe of 3” diameter should be good enough for the purpose. Fix the pipe to the smokestack and extend it to near the surface of the heating element. Make sure that the pipe does not touch the heating element or the sides of the smoker under any circumstances as this may melt the pipe and cause additional maintenance headaches.
With the pipe in place, the smoke rises to the smokestack through the narrow pipe and thus has more time to spread around the chamber. At the same time, the smoke coming out of the smokestack is regulated and chances of being suffocated by a huge burst of smoke are reduced. However, using a pipe would mean that the tips for using an electric smoker properly would include cleaning out the pipe regularly for residue that may clog it from time to time. This maintenance tip is simple and involves taking a cleaning brush with a long handle and running it around the inner surface of the pipe every two weeks or so.
Make Use Of Fire Bricks
Fire bricks, as the name suggests, are the simplest means of maintaining a fire. Place a couple of these bricks on the lowest rack before initiating the heating. Note that the bricks must not be placed on higher racks as this will make the bricks useless. Once the heating has been initiated, the fire bricks will maintain the temperature – if the heat dies down, it will ensure that the existing heat is maintained, while if the heat rises, it will ensure that the excess heat is absorbed and the overall temperature maintained.
Heat The Smoker At Regular Intervals
Smokers need to be used regularly to keep the heating element and the temperature controls in good order.Even if you’re not using the smoker for long periods of time, it is a good idea to place a few random vegetables (or even dry vegetable waste) and set the timer to about an hour. Since you won’t actually be cooking the products placed inside the smoker, the temperature does not matter. Once the one hour period is complete, clean up the smoker as you would after a normal smoking session and store it away.
Coat Surfaces With Cooking Oil Regularly
When you first started out with an electric smoker, you probably coated all the surfaces with cooking oil. Doing this not only removes remaining packing residue, it also makes for more even heating, thereby lengthening the life of your electric smoker. One of the major parts of “how to maintain an electric smoker” guide is to keep the surfaces coated with cooking oil, preferably after 3 months of heavy usage (or 6 months of moderate usage).
Do Not Overload The Trays/Racks
One of the common suggestions made in the electric smoker buying guides is to buy a sufficiently large smoker so that more food can be cooked per session. Even with the largest smokers, however, there is a limit to the amount of food that can be cooked. Beyond it, the food not only cooks unevenly, but can also overburden the smoker and reduce its lifespan. If you wish to understand how to maintain an electric smoker in top shape for a long time, you should note the maximum capacity for each type of food product and load the racks accordingly.
Electric smokers don’t need a lot of attention, and can continue to work even when you forget one or more of these steps. However, given that excess and uneven heating is their greatest nemesis, it is always advisable to ensure that heat spreads evenly and goes out at a steady pace through the correct outlets. Most of the above tips are geared towards this end and go a long way in insuring your smoker against damage and therefore, against types of maintenance that you yourself cannot undertake. Coupled with others like avoiding excess loading of racks and use of efficient thermometers, they can prove to be the best answers to “how to maintain an electric smoker” regardless of the build and exact type of the smoker.