Keeping your smoker in good shape will save a lot of frustration out in the bee yard. If the bellows become stiff, or torn, they can often be replaced. The grate may eventually get burned up, but it can be replaced, too. Regularly scrape off the meeting surfaces of the lid and body while the smoker is warm to keep them from getting gummed up with creosote.

Over time, depending on the fuel you use, you may get a big build-up of gunk inside the smoker and the lid. When that happens you can easily clean it up, even if it’s hard as a rock.

There are two well-known methods to do that, and we gathered a bunch of Betterbee staff members’ personal smokers and put them to the test out in our parking lot

The first method, which worked best on smokers with a moderate amount of burnt-on gunk, was to fill the body and lid cavity with crumpled newspaper 1 and then set the newspaper on fire with a butane barbeque lighter. This produced a lot of smoke, but when things had died down the remaining residue was light, flakey and very easy to scrape out. 2

The second method, using a propane torch 3, was best for smokers that had a deep layer of hardened creosote. There was such a thick layer in some of them, that their spouts were nearly closed up.  Heavy gloves are needed to do this safely. With the torch lit, apply it to inside of the smoker and the lid, keeping it moving it around as you see the creosote puff out and catch fire. It’s important to have a light touch as you don’t want to heat the smoker up enough to compromise the welds. Stop now and then, and scrape out the melted black stuff while it is still warm. 4

Smoker maintenance is a fine pre-season chore. It can make your old smoker feel brand new.