It’s the morning after the final summer BBQ. The smoker stands cold and silent, it’s promise delivered, it’s heat dissipated, an almost lifeless hunk of black aluminum and steel. Nothing is left but the heady smell of hickory, memories of good friends, great BBQ and a final fleeting summer day.
We (the smoker and I) are ready to have our regular morning after rendezvous. I know it’s a disgusting greasy mess and I just can’t put it away like that, after all it’s done for me in it’s final magnificent performance. With a bevy of rags, hot soapy water, paper towels and simple green I approach my old friend. Around a 5 foot perimeter of it, like shards of shrapnel from an exploded bomb, are little bits of rib meat, grease splatters and gristle. I truly have no idea how these things happen but they always do.
I carefully lift off the lid and search for a place to put it. I lay it upside down off to the side on the concrete so as not to stain anything more than it already is. With great trepidation I peek into the maw of the smoker. I can’t be poetic about it, that thing is positively disgusting. The top grate to black with smoke and has bits of the last delicacy I cooked clinging all over it. The bottom grate is a little worse as it was closer to the heat source. I remove these two and set them on the newspaper I have wisely laid our on the concrete for this purpose. This is about the time my wife asks me where the news paper is so she can read it.
Now we are deep into the bowels of the contraption. In a Weber Smokey Mountain smoker – and probably many other smokers as well, there’s a water bowl component. In the Smokey Mountain this serves three purposes.
- It provides a heat sink between the coals which are directly under the food racks and the target food.
- It provides moisture in the form of a little steam to keep your food from drying out while it smokes
- It provides the pitmaster with a unique conundrum of what to do with the island of grease and fat that ends up floating in there, particularly after a long cook of a plethora of ribs.
I carefully lift the bowl out of the guts of the smoker and the water, grease and fat glob sloshes around considerably. Some of it get on my “squirrel whisperer” t-shirt. That was my favorite t-shirt. Some of it sloshes on the concrete. I manage to get the rest of it poured into an old bucket and I set the empty bowl on the paper with the grates.
So now I have to figure out what to do with the contents of the bucket. I can’t dump it down my yard drains, the hardened grease could cause sclerosis of my pipes. I can’t dump it behind my garage – the Racoons would have a field day back there and mess up my area. I take it to the front yard. My neighbor eyes me suspiciously. I think he knows I’m up to no good. I can’t just dump it in the gutter. The fat would stay there for days.
This reminds me of a batman episode where the caped crusader finds a bomb on a pier and runs around trying to dispose of it. Everywhere he turns he’s thwarted by his moral conscience – one side of the pier has baby ducks swimming by, can’t throw it there… Meanwhile the fuse keeps burning. A humorous anecdote, but I digress. I decide to rake a huge pile of leaves in the gutter and when no one is watching I dump the bucket on top of it. The liquid goes harmlessly to the gutter and the solids are trapped by the leaves. I pick up the leaves and throw them in the yard waste can. Problem solved.
Back at the smoker I carefully clean each component with oven cleaner, simple green, and hot soapy water. I reassemble the smoker in the garage and carefully place the cover on it. I may still get one or two more final smokes out of it on a California Indian Summer fall day, but right now it’s clean, sanitary and sparkling.
I should add that the T-Shirt cleaned up well thanks to my beautiful wife’s laundry prowess. The “squirrel whisperer” will be back in action soon.