|Prepping the pit for first fire and seasoning|
I found a lot of conflicting information on just how to go about this so I figured that since it was just good ol’ steel, (the body of the cooker is made from ¼” rolled steel, not pipe or a tank), I would treat it basically the same way I did with new Dutch Ovens. Looking at the pit and components, including the grates, it was all new steel. Some of the things I read said to start by washing everything off, preferably with a pressure washer, but I had some reservations about that.
In my job, the equipment we use is made from many different types of steel, from your basic black iron up to high-grade stainless steel. One of the things I have seen in our equipment is that heat, steel and water can sometimes not be the best of friends. If the water used has some variations of particulates in it, it can be bad on steel and start the rusting process.
So, I decided to forego any sort of washing. I began by using a soft steel brush and dry scrub the entire inside including the grates. Once that was complete I used light canola oil and wiped everything down. I continued wiping the surfaces until the towel stopped picking up small bits and was fairly clean. I gave it one more good wipe down with a heavier amount of oil and let it sit. As a side note I feel I must mention that I did scrub the firebox with the wire brush but I only put one very thin layer of oil on the surface. No real reason other than I figured since it was going to be seeing a lot of heat and no food there was no real sense in doing it.
Now that I felt good that the interior was clean it was time to fire it up. When I have seasoned Dutch Ovens I have always used a good amount of heat for the first burn so that is what I did with the pit. I loaded up a full chimney of coals and got them going. Once they were ready I dumped them onto the grate in the firebox. Once that got going I loaded the chimney with another half load and got it fired up and dumped it on the grate when it was ready. I didn’t want to use wood for the first fire since I wanted to just go with heat, not smoke. I will mention that I did not use starter fluid for the charcoal and to this day I have never used it to fire the pit. I read on numerous sites that if you use lighter fluid it can have an affect on the pit and leave a residual smell and taste. Whether that is true or not I cannot say, but I went with the better safe then sorry principle and have just never used it in the pit….ever.
Once the temp began to rise I closed the doors on the pit and let it go. After a short period of time the oil started to smoke and we were on our way. The smell wasn’t too bad but it wasn’t that great either, just like doing a Dutch Oven. I watched the temp gauge and at one point the temperature of the pit got up to just over 400 degrees but only for a short period of time. It took about 2 ½ hours for the coals to burn down so I let it cool overnight. The next day I wiped the inside down with a heavy layer of oil and repeated the process again. This time the smoke and smell wasn’t as bad and I was able to get the temp over 400 degrees for a longer period of time. I was hesitant to get the temp much higher as I was not sure if it would warp the metal or cause some unforeseen damage. Once again I let it cool and sit overnight. The next day I opened the pit to find that the metal had turned black, just as I had wanted it to. Everything looked great. One more wipe down of the interior with a VERY light coating of oil and we were ready to roll, it was time to see what this thing could do.