Spring Cleaning & Maintenance for Your Yoder Smoker

Yoder Smoker CleaningOkay so the days are getting longer, the snow is melting away and Old Man Winter is finally loosening his grip on your patio. It is time to shake off the winter blues, hear the sizzle of meat hitting hot grates and put some sweet blue smoke in the air! At Big Guns HQ that also means its time to give everything a good cleaning, a tune up and some love to make sure it is ready for the upcoming year.

We all know that guy or have a friend that insists on never cleaning their cooker, swearing that it will ruin the “seasoning”. While it’s true that a well seasoned pit is a happy one it’s also true there is a huge difference between seasoned and funky. Seasoning shouldn’t drip down nasty globs of black gunk onto those beautiful candy apple red ribs or leave little crunchy bits of Christmas turkey on your prime Porterhouse when you flip it over.

Machines need maintenance.

It doesn’t matter if you have a gasser, Yoder Smokers YS640, 48″ Yoder Flattop or a blinged out YS1500 on a comp cart, your cooker is a machine. Machines need maintenance. That’s a simple fact of life. Some need more than others but they all need a little love now and again. Another fact of life is that cleaning your cooker(s) is dirty work. Make no mistake, you are going to get dirty doing it so don’t wear the new hoodie the kids gave you for your birthday or your cool new custom Vans.

Now there as many different ways to clean your pit as there are brisket recipes and this is by no means the only way, it just happens to be the way I do it. More important than how, is the fact that you actually do it.

The first thing I like to do is take my cookers off the patio or deck and put them out in my gravel driveway where I don’t have to worry about things dripping or dropping onto the ground. I then like to fuel them up and light the fires, get them heated up nice and hot. For the grill it means a high heat ( hand over the flames 3-5 seconds) and my smokers I like to get up to 350-400. This loosens up the grease and crud and makes it easier to remove.

Use the right cleaning tools (and tunes!)

While the fires are warming up I gather up all the tools and equipment I’m going to need.

  1. Gloves. A box of nitriles and leather hot gloves
  2. An apron. I know you listened and wore the old sweatshirt but put on an apron you don’t mind getting dirty. Trust me.
  3. Grill brushes. I use wire brushes and wood brushes to remove debris from grates.
  4. A good degreaser like Safecid.
  5. A bunch of green pads
  6. A couple of rolls of paper towels
  7. A paint scraper or putty knife
  8. Steel wool and some medium grit sandpaper
  9. 2 or 3 half pans
  10. Trash bags
  11. Water hose
  12. High temp grill paint
  13. Some tunes and an adult beverage or 6

By now your grill should be nice and warm. The first thing I do is brush off all of the grates,starting at the top and working my way down to the bottom. After brushing, I pull the grate out and use the putty knife to scare off any excess still clinging to the edges, especially the bottoms and grooves where it slides in. I then set them off to the side in a large tub or sink if you have one. If your smoker has a deflector plate like the Yoder pellet cookers give then the same treatment, except start with the putty knife and finish with brush. After the grates, I start with the insides scraping off any excess grease from top to bottom once again paying particular attention to and grooves where grates mount. I like to use 2 scrapers a wide one and narrow to get into nooks and corners. Don’t forget to clean the chimney. You can tell the people that forget about this by checking out the stalagmites the have have hanging around the edges and the black streak underneath it. At this point you will probably have a fairly nice collection of nasty in the bottom, use the scraper to scoop anything loose.

Next up is the degreaser. Your cooker should be cool enough to touch bare handed by now so go ahead and liberally spray everything inside, both the cooking chambers and firebox, taking care to avoid soaking any electronics like igniters. Give it a good scrub with the green pads, keeping them soaked in cleaner and changing them often as they get clogged up. When finished go ahead and rinse everything off, once again avoiding getting electronics wet by covering them.

The inside is done so go ahead and spray the grates deflector down with the degreaser. Now here you can do a couple of things. If you happen to have a pressure washer go ahead and rinse them off with it. If not, you can put all of your grates in a trash bag and haul them down to a local car wash to rinse them off. Just be aware many car washes don’t really like people doing this which is why I don’t recommend taking the whole cooker there to clean. In my case the local guys tend to mind a lot less when I happen to have a rack or two or a tray of pork for them. Whether you use a hose, pressure washer or car wash keep in mind they are going to splatter grease all over so be careful and clean up after yourself. Your significant other or car wash guy will appreciate it.

Give the outside some attention too!

Now that we have the working parts clean its time to make the outside all nice-nice. I’m as much into the rat rod and bike scene as the next guy but for some reason that same aesthetic doesn’t carry over into the food prep realm for me. I take a minute or two and knock off any rust with a brush, sandpaper or steel wool the spray the whole thing down with degreaser and wash it off with the green pads. Make sure that you keep the surface wet so the green pads don’t scratch up the paint. If you have a stainless outside, I would use a sponge, not the green pads. Rinse her off and after it dries hit up any bare spots with the high temperature paint. I like to use Rustoleum to help prevent rust from coming back. Take your shelves off and after cleaning, hit them up with a little polish or metal cleaner. Remember the Windex commercial that said “it ain’t cool if the chrome don’t shine!”? Make that bling stand out, you spent enough money on it.

There you have it, that’s the BGBBQ annual maintenance program. I know it sounds like a lot but hey if you keep up with cleaning throughout the year it’s not that bad. It doesn’t matter if you are a contest cook or a backyard guy, we all like to show off our cookers and with a little elbow grease you should be able to make your’s the center of conversation for years to come.

Sean Keever – Pitmaster, Big Guns BBQ

Skillet Crown Meatloaf

Turn that tired meatloaf recipe into something really special when you cook it on the Yoder Smoker! This recipe will change the way you think about meatloaf.

Skillet Crown Meatloaf

  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 large yellow onion, small dice
  • 1 cup beer
  • .5 oz dried oyster mushrooms
  • 2 lb ground beef
  • 2 lb ground pork
  • 9 oz chorizo
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup (plus more for brushing) Big Rick’s Chipotle Ketchup
  • 4 oz queso fresco, crumbled
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp capers
  • Cattleman’s Grill Steakhouse Seasoning
  • 4 oz manchego cheese, grated
  • 8 slices bacon, halved crosswise

Melt the butter in a Lodge 12” Cast Iron Skillet. Add the diced onions with a little salt. Cook slowly until browned. Set aside.

Combine the beer and dried mushrooms in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer until the mushrooms have softened. Drain the liquid. Dice the mushrooms.

Preheat your Yoder Smokers YS640 Pellet Grill to 375ºF, set up for indirect grilling.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the caramelized onions and diced rehydrated mushrooms with the ground beef, pork, and chorizo, as well as the bread crumbs, Big Rick’s Chipotle Ketchup, queso fresco, egg, and capers. Season with a couple of tablespoons of Cattleman’s Grill Steakhouse Seasoning. Mix well by hand.

Wipe out the Lodge 12” Cast Iron Skillet with a paper towel. Add the meatloaf mixture to the skillet. Form into a ring, following the contour of the skillet, and leaving a hole in the center. Place an oven safe, 4” bowl in the center of the meatloaf.

Season the top of the meatloaf with Cattleman’s Grill Steakhouse Seasoning. Brush a thin layer of the Big Rick’s Chipotle Ketchup over the top. Spread the grated manchego cheese over the top of the meat. Drape your bacon slices over the top of the cheese. Place on the second shelf of the cooker still set to 375ºF. Bake until the internal temperature reaches 165ºF, about 60-75 minutes. Remove from the cooker. Remove the bowl in the center, when slightly cooled. Slice and serve warm.

*These items and ingredients available at ATBBQ.com:  Big Rick’s Chipotle Ketchup, Cattleman’s Grill Steakhouse Seasoning, Lodge 12″ Cast Iron Skillet

Planked Halibut w/ Peach Glaze and Pineapple, Cucumber Salsa

Planked Halibut with Pineapple glazeIf you want to try an interesting twist on a traditional smoked fish, you’ll love the flavor burst of this halibut with peach glaze. The flavor doesn’t stop there! Add the pineapple and cucumber salsa for extra kick.  This is one dish you’ll want to make and share with special guests – it’s just that good.

  • 1 GrillPro Grilling Plank, soaked in water for 1 hour
  • 1 3/4 lb. Halibut (or other whitefish) fillet
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • Plowboys Fin & Feather Rub
  • Drop Dead Delicious Peach Apricot Glaze
  • Pineapple Cucumber Salsa
  • 1 cup cucumber, peeled and cut into a small dice
  • 1 cup pineapple, diced
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon red onion, minced
  • ½ lime, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon Pain Is Good Jalapeño Pepper Sauce
  • Pinch of salt

Planked Halibut With Pineapple-Cucumber Salsa

Preheat Yoder Smokers YS640  to to 325ºF and set up for both direct and indirect grilling. Prepare the Pineapple-Cucumber Salsa.

Rub bottom side of fillet with oil, to prevent sticking, and place on soaked grilling plank. Apply a moderate layer of Plowboys Fin & Feather Rub to the topside of the fillet. Slice Lemon, and lay slices across the fillet.

Place the plank over the direct heat. Cook until plank is dried out and smoking. Move the plank to the indirect heat side of the pit. When the thickest part of the fish reaches 140ºF, remove the lemon slices and brush the fish with generous layer of the Drop Dead Delicious Peach Apricot Glaze. Continue cooking until fish reaches an internal temperature of 145º (check the temperature using an instant read thermometer like the Maverick PT-100). Serve fish topped with the Pineapple-Cucumber Salsa.

Pineapple-Cucumber Salsa

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Toss to incorporate. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. The salsa should sit at least an hour, for best flavor.

GrillPro Grilling Plank,  Plowboys Fin & Feather Rub, Pain Is Good Jalapeño Pepper SauceDrop Dead Delicious Peach Apricot Glaze available at All Things BBQ.

If you’re lookin’ you ain’t cookin’

Troy Smith, Loaded WichitaTroy Smith loves to cook. So much so, he has his own channel on YouTube all about his cooking adventures. So when it became clear he needed a quality barbecue pit to add to his cooking gear, he really did his research.

Yoder is the only company that has a lifetime warranty against rust-through on the offset smokers. And the turnaround time is only 6 to 8 weeks. Between the warranty and quick delivery, and on top of the manufacturing quality, Troy was sold on Yoder. His Wichita offset smoker was delivered April 18, 2014, just three days after the manufacture date. And it arrived fully loaded.

The Loaded Wichita has several features that most people order with their offset grills. These include: cooking door counterweight, heat management plate and 2nd level slide-out shelf. Troy’s Wichita also came with a charcoal grate in the cooking chamber along with two probe ports at the end of the chamber. He also added a propane log starter and the Wichita cover. Finally, Troy added “Yoder Smoker” metal plate welded between the legs at the smokestack end so everyone would know this was the real deal.

Troy uses his backyard grill a lot. Between March and November he cooks about five to ten days out of the month if not more. During the winter months, he cooks on it once or twice a month. “My YouTube fans really enjoy watching me cook on my Wichita,” says Troy.

“Ole Wichita sure can cook up some mighty fine BBQ!”

Troy says his best cook involved a wrap test of USDA prime briskets from famed Lobel’s of New York. Around 5 am Troy loaded up the Wichita with pecan wood and prepped the briskets with a simple Texas rub of salt and pepper. Once the Wichita was at the right temperature, he put each of the three briskets on and waited for his friends (from YouTube) to arrive. “The smell of smoke and the briskets wafting through the air was intoxicating,” said Troy.

When the briskets hit the stall, he left one as it was and wrapped the other two. One was wrapped in butcher paper, the other in foil. Troy pulled the brisket off when the internal temp was 198° Farenheit or when it felt tender to the touch. He let the brisket rest for two to three hours then everyone tasted the briskets on camera and gave their opinions as to flavor, bark, texture and tenderness of the meat. Each was outstanding in it’s own way. And being able to share this cook with his YouTube friends made it all the more special.

The secret to cooking on a Yoder Smoker? Troy says the key to excellent barbecue is knowing your pit.

“It will take you five to six cooks to learn your pit and get it to do what you want it to,” he says, “but once you learn your pit, you will be impressing friends and family with that fine tasting BBQ only a Yoder Smoker can make.”

Why an offset instead of a pellet grill?

“Pellet grills are fantastic for those who don’t have the time, or desire, to tend a fire on an offset during a long cook or for those wanting to step up their game from a gas or charcoal grill,” Troy explains

Troy said that every type of grill has its place and each is great for what they are capable of doing. In his opinion, Troy says that pellet grills don’t give you nearly the same “smokehouse” flavor in the meat that the Yoder offset pits will generate. That’s why Troy cooks with the Wichita offset grill.

If you’ve been looking for the perfect smoker for your home, Troy would tell you, if you’re lookin’ you ain’t cookin!
So give us a call and let us help you choose the perfect cooker.



Smoked Salmon Cakes with Chipotle Aioli

Smoked Salmon CakesIf you’re a fan of seafood, you’ve probably had crab cakes.  This recipe switches that up with a delicious smoked salmon cake.   I’t’s perfect as an appetizer or main course.
Chef Tom breaks down how to season and smoke the salmon before putting together the final salmon cakes and serve with a nice aioli.

  • 1.5 lb fillet of salmon
  • Plowboys BBQ Fin and Feather
  • 1 lb red potatoes
  • 1 red bell pepper, minced
  • 3 green onions, green parts only, minced
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1.5 limes
  • 2 cloves garlic. minced
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1/2 (7 oz) can chipotles in adobo

Preheat your Yoder Smokers YS640 Pellet Grill to 275ºF, diffuser in, griddle over firebox and an A-Maze-N Tube Smoker on the main grate. Place your favorite pellets in the tube smoker and light.

Rub the fillet of salmon with a little olive oil, then season with Plowboys BBQ Fin and Feather. Smoke until the internal temperature reaches 145ºF, about 30-40 minutes. Remove from the smoker and turn the temperature up to 425ºF.

Cook your potatoes until they’re all the way tender. Cool and give a rough chop.

Remove the flesh of the fish from the skin. Discard the skin. Break up the fish in a mixing bowl. Add the potatoes, minced red bell peppers, green onions, garlic, breadcrumbs and the zest and juice of one lime. Mash everything together, and mix well. Taste and season with salt and Plowboys BBQ Fin and Feather. When you like the seasoning, add the eggs and mix well. Form into 2.5-3 oz patties.

Cook the salmon cakes on the griddle on both sides until well browned.

To make the aioli, mince the chipotles in adobo sauce. Combine with the mayo. Add the juice of half of a lime. Mix well.

Serve the smoked salmon cakes with the chipotle aioli and enjoy!


*Plowboys Fin & Feather rubA-Maze-N Tube Smoker, and cast iron griddle available online at All Things BBQ.