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Smoker Producing Black Oily Coating on Meat: What is it and How to Prevent it

By Pellet Grill Pros May 04, 2022 0 comments

Don’t you hate it when you’re enjoying a delicious meal when you taste something weird and bitter?

What is this black oily coating on the meat? Well, that’s creosote, and it can be difficult to deal with. Our grilling pros will explain how you can prevent this undesirable coating on your meat!

What is Creosote?

Creosote is a black oily substance caused by smoke condensing on a cool surface.

As the wood in your smoker burns, it vaporizes and forms smoke. Once this smoke lands on a cool surface, you can see black specks forming, which is creosote. 

 

Creosote consists of cresols, phenol, and guaiacol, none of which sound good to eat.

Why Does it Make Meat Bitter?

Naturally, such chemicals will leave an unpleasant taste in the mouth.

Creosote builds up in your smoker as you burn wood, leaving it trapped in the smoker and consequently coating your food with it.

Is Creosote on Meat Dangerous for Your Health or Toxic?

Creosote in large amounts is definitely toxic. 

You can experience stomach pain or a burning feeling in the mouth. This is why it’s important to always clean your smoker after use.

How to Test a Smoker for Creosote

Creosote can form in two different ways: 

1. You used the wrong combination of oxygen, heat, and fuel.

2. You did not clean your smoker after use.

Luckily, you can easily test if creosote is forming the next time you smoke! The next time you use your smoker, leave an ice-cold glass of water nearby.

As the smoke condenses, you may see black dots on the glass, creosote forming.

You can also check your smoke’s color and smell; if it smells bitter or looks dark gray or heavy white, these could create creosote.

How to Get Rid of Creosote in a Smoker

Creosote is easily preventable with the proper maintenance and cleaning. Here are a few steps to eliminate the black oily coating on meat:

Clean Your Smoker/Grill Regularly

As expected, remember to clean your smoker or grill!

Remove all excess residue immediately before it hardens, as little bits could fall onto your meat the next time you cook!

Wrap the Meat in Foil

Wrapping your meat in foil will protect it from falling bits of creosote. If you have not found the time to clean out the residue, this is another alternative to keep your meat protected.

Open the Vents

Creosote can form because of a lack of oxygen.

Opening your grill’s or smoker’s vents will allow more oxygen to flow inside, preventing creosote from forming. That way, you won’t have to adjust your smoker’s temperature!

Reduce Wood Chips

Too much wood chips will cause your smoke to become too dense. You want the right amount of wood to give off the right amount of smoke to prevent creosote formation.

Oklahoma Joe's Mesquite Wood Smoker Chips

Other Possible Causes of Creosote

Here are some other causes as to why creosote is present in your meat:

Poor Firewood Combustion

Wet firewood or lack of air can cause your fire to burn and produce smoke poorly, resulting in creosote forming.

Poor Temperature Control

The temperature inside your smoker could also be a reason for creosote forming. 

Poor temperature control means your charcoal [1] is not hot enough to burn, fire is burning the coal too fast, or similarly, if there is not enough airflow.


FAQ

Here is the most frequently asked questions article section if you have a question that is normally asked by many regarding the topic!

Can Burning Charcoal Produce Creosote?

Yes, burning charcoal can produce creosote if the temperature is poorly controlled. Charcoal is formed similarly to creosote; by burning wood in a low-oxygen environment.

Creosote is formed during the charcoal-making process. If the process goes well, very little creosote residue will be formed. You must maintain proper temperature control to prevent even the best-quality charcoal from forming creosote.

Can Hardwood Produce Creosote?

Yes, hardwood can produce creosote if burned too high without any ventilation.

If you want to prevent creosote from forming, remember to balance all the elements, like temperature, ventilation, fuel, heat, etc.

Conclusion

Creosote is gross to find in your meat, but it can be avoidable. You cannot afford to be careless about your meat because once it becomes intoxicated, you cannot consume it anymore. 

All it takes is proper maintenance and effort, and you can safely enjoy meat with no nasties!


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