Pic of a dirt fire box filled with ash

How To Clean Pellet Smoker – Maintaining Peak Performance

As temperatures rise and people start socializing more outdoors, many of us start to fire up our pellet smokers/grills and start enjoying the favorable tastes you can only get from Barbecuing or grilling something.

To a lot of us, there is nothing that compares to the taste of good Barbecue. Whether It’s doing a slow cook Brisket or a fast cook of Hamburgers and hot dogs. The downside to all of this is all the grease, and sauce drippings make a mess out of the inside of the grill/smoker.That is why we are going to discuss How To Clean a Pellet Smoker.

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Looking at dirty Grill/ How to clean pellet smoker

Don’t let that get you down; we are going to discuss a few basic cleaning tips that should work on most Pellet Grills/Smokers.

Getting Started

The first thing I would do is gather up the items that will help with the process of cleaning.

  1. A pair of gloves. (I use disposables one that I can throw away after I am done)(not required but helps)
  2. A shop vac. (I don’t recommend using your house vacuum, it might start to smell after a while)
  3. A brush of some kind. ( I use an old paintbrush)
  4. Plastic scraper or putty knife.
  5. A pan/bowl of soap and water.
  6. A rag or washcloth you don’t mind getting all greasy.

After you get everything rounded up that you will need, let’s head out to the Pellet Grill/Smoker. But, first, if you are not real good at remembering or have never taken apart your Pellet Grill/Smoker. I would take some pictures the first time to help you remember where everything goes.

 Make sure your Pellet Grill/Smoker is unplugged any time you are working on it.

Cleaning the Grill Grate

The Grill Grate is actually pretty simple when it comes to keeping clean. I will give them a quick brushing with my soft-bristled grill brush after each cook, and once again when I start up the Pellet Grill/Smoker after it has got up to temp. The Food particles come off pretty easy when the grate is hot, and the Grease burns off as well.

You can use soap and water on them if you feel they are not getting clean enough. You can remove them from Grill/smoker and wash them by hand. (I normally only do this once or twice a year) Then replace them on Grill/Smoker. Just make sure you run the Grill/Smoker afterward for 10-15 mins to dry them out.

They make cleaners for use in cleaning them as well. Just be careful. Not all grill grates hold up real well to harsh chemicals. If you are unsure what yours is made of, I would stick to soap and water or just a grill brush.

For this Cleaning, we are just going to remove them and place them on a piece of Cardboard.

Dirty Drip pan

Next Is The Drip Pan

The drip pan is where all the grease and droppings from your BBQ sauce, glazes, and other sauces build-up from Cooking over time. So, the first thing is to take your plastic Scraper and scrape off as many of the chunks as you can.

scraping drip pan

Then I like to take my shop vac and vacuum up as much of the scraping as possible.

Vacuuming up debris from drip pan

Once I got a good majority of the chunks scraped off and have the debris vacuumed up, I remove the Drip pan. Pay attention; normally, one side will have slots or grooves to hold it in place. Pay attention to where they are. It will make it easier to put back together.

After removing the drip pan from the smoker/grill. I will then take my rag and get it wet in my pan of soapy water. Then I will rub down the drip pan to help soften and clumps that are left on it. Once I have got it softened up, I will take the plastic putty knife and scrape the drip pan once again.

I will continue this process until I have it cleaned up fairly decent. Remember, we are not trying to make it spotless..just trying to get all the grease and debris off.

Getting To The Bottom Of It

Now that we have the drip pan removed, we can see the bottom of the Grill/Smoker.

inside the Grill looking at ash

As you can see, it is covered with ash from the wood pellets and debris that tried to escape when I scraped the drip pan.

Now we take our brush and brush all the ash to one side, so it is easier to vacuum it all up.

brush ash to one side

Once we have everything in a pile, we will vacuum it up and vacuum out the fire burn pot.

vacuum out fire burn pot.How to clean pellet smoker

Then once we have all the ash and debris vacuumed up. I like to take a rag that’s been dipped in soapy water and rung out. I then proceed to wipe everything down, trying to get as much of the grease as possible. Don’t forget the grease trap!

Almost There!!

Now that we have everything cleaned up to a satisfactory level. Let’s start putting the frill back together. Did you remember to take photos as you took them apart? If not, it should not be too tough to do from memory. Next, let’s put the Drip plate back in. Does yours have slots or grooves on one end? Make sure to put them back on the proper side and make sure they’re in the slots.

Now, let’s put the grill grates back in. This part is done.

What About The Outside

We can’t forget about the outside. Depending on the Materials of your grill, we can spray it down with a BBQ grill cleaner and wipe it down with a dry rag. (follow the product’s instructions) Depending on what the grill is constructed of, you might not be able to use certain ones, so check. We can always just use hot, soapy water, though. It takes a little more elbow grease, but it can work. Just remember, when it comes to Pellet Grills/Smokers, there are electronics, so you want to be cautious when using water or any other liquids around the controls.

Plus, If you have pellets in the hopper, you don’t want to get them wet. So if you plan on getting crazy with the water, I would recommend removing them first.

Let’s not forget to clean out the grease bucket or Grease trap, Depending on what you have.

That was fun

Now that you are done, you can now start your pellet grill/Smoker up and start cooking something to make those taste buds water, or Just get it up to temp to make sure everything is dried, usually off 10-15 mins and shut her down.

I just want to point out. My Pellet Smoker was extra dirty. I usually clean it out after every 20-25 hours of use or 3-5 cooks, depending on what I am cooking. It had probably been closer to 45-50 hours since I had cleaned it. I wanted to show you pics of extra dirty components.

I know some people don’t like to clean their pellet smokers at all (other than the burn pit). They say it is seasoning. But, I can honestly say I think the food ends up tasting better if the Pellet Smoker is Kept clean. I notice a difference in the taste. Plus, it gets up to temp faster if it’s kept clean and seems to keep a more stable temp. There is also the issue if grease starts pooling in the bottom, there is a chance at grease fires—nothing worse than losing your brisket to a grease fire.

If you have any thoughts on the matter or advice on how you clean your Smoker/Grill, I would love to hear it.




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