Creosote in Charcoal Grills
Taking care of your charcoal grill means that your investment can last for decades – sometimes even outliving you. Part of taking care of it, though, means acknowledging some of the challenges of maintaining a device that houses burning charcoal and wood. While cleaning gas grills usually means just scraping out grease, certain challenges exist when maintaining charcoal-burning grills.
The most predominate challenge is diagnosing creosote build-up. Creosote is an oily liquid found in natural wood charcoal that gets distilled into the air when burning. If your fire is burning clean enough, most of this exits the grill from the exhaust vent. Small amounts can accumulate on the inside of the hood, though. Initially the oil will coat the hood and bake on, leaving a glass-like sheen. When your fire is deprived of oxygen, however, it can coat the inside of the hood in a thick, greasy layer, that will bake on, eventually bubble, and then fragment, falling onto your food. This looks about as appetizing as it sounds.
There’s several ways to combat creosote so you never have to worry about tainting your favorite steak, though. First, burn a clean fire. Make sure your charcoal has the right amount of oxygen. Smoke should never be billowy or white, but should be thin and blue-ish, almost invisible. White smoke means your fire is deprived of air and is burning dirty. When the occasional creosote does pop up, even if you’re trying to burn clean fires, lightly scrape it off your grill with a grill brush or plastic scraper. This will keep it from accumulating to the point where it will fall on your food. Don’t scrub hard to damage the finish, just a light brushing will do.
Creosote occasionally looks like bubbled paint or powdercoat, and some customers become concerned that their finish is peeling. Creosote is much more common than bad powdercoat, and it can be found in all types of charcoal grills, including stainless steel models, and even ceramic cookers, where no paint or powdercoat exist. If you grill long enough, you’ll contend with creosote. Knowing how to diagnose and remove it will ensure your grill stays clean and your food stays unaffected, allowing you and your family to enjoy that smoky, grilled food without concern.