Many grill masters are going to find that calibrating and seasoning their grills and smokers is one of the most complicated parts of the job. It is often the most minor issues with grills and smokers that will make all the difference between a ruined meal and one that everyone will not stop talking about. For those that are ready to take their grilling and smoking to the next level, here are a few tips for perfectly seasoning and calibrating outdoor cooking devices.
The First Steps
Before ever placing a single piece of meat in a smoker or grill, it is important to take a few steps to improving the cooking and remove any chance of health issues. These devices are often going to be filled with dust, grim, oils, coating materials, and cardboard due to the manufacturing and shipping. The first step is to wipe down the inside and outside with water and non-toxic soap and then let it dry before carrying out the first dry run.
One of the most important components of seasoning and preparing smokers and grills is to run them for 30 minutes or longer with absolutely no food inside them. For low-cooking smokers, it is ideal to run for an hour or longer, but at least 30 minutes will provide the right chemical changes to the interior. With dry runs, placing a small amount of the preferred wood inside the smokers and grills will help the carbon buildup. The heat should be kept at medium high for a short period before they are put up to the highest and hottest settings. This is also the best way to remove any lingering foreign debris or microbes.
While ovens are completely encapsulated in order to maintain a temperature, both grills and smokers often have one or more openings and are exposed to fluctuating outside temperatures. This is why it is essential for grilling enthusiasts to calibrate their grill to three distinct temperatures. These temperatures are going to be 225 and 325 Fahrenheit as well as the highest temperature possible. Unless the grill has a sensor immediately next to the grate, it is important to use a local thermometer (protected from direct fire with foil) to get a more accurate reading.
It is also important to check these cooking devices, grills especially, for any hot spots or “dead” spots. These are areas in which the grilling temperature either fluctuates throughout cooking or burns higher or lower than the rest of the grill. The grill can be broken up into 4 to 6 quadrants and the temperatures should be recorded on a piece of paper. The cook will then have a better idea of when and how to rotate the food on the grill.
In most cases, cleaning the grill or smoker and then heating it during the dry runs will be most of the seasoning. Seasoning is typically done to remove any foreign flavors or substances that could affect flavor, but some may want to take this a step further in order to improve taste and help with charring and grill marks. The three most common substances for seasoning are oil, lard, or shortening, each of which should be as flavorless as possible.
The seasoning is done directly on the grate and can be carried out within the grill, smoker, or in the oven. Many prefer the oven as it will provide the most consistent temperature, and the grate should be thoroughly coated and cooked for at least 30 minutes at a medium high temperature. From that point, maintaining the seasoning of the grate is much easier. After each use, the grate should be allowed to return to room temperature, washed very gently with mild soap and cool water and then a small amount of shortening, oil, or lard reapplied.