Creosote can be a headache when smoking meat. But to be honest, smoking without having creosote isn’t that hard. Thus, you don’t need to stress out!
So, how to avoid creosote when smoking meat?
For starters, you’ve to start with a clean smoker. Then try to attain a thin blue smoke. You can have that kind of smoke by starting the fire with 2-3 wood chunks. However, you gotta choose the right wood. Otherwise, you won’t get the right smoke. Also, managing the airflow of your smoker is important. Lastly, never leave your smoker dirty.
Now, this is just the short teaser. We’ve explained every step for your better understanding.
Therefore, if you’ve got enough time in your hand, stay tuned!
Is Creosote Actually Bad For You?
Creosote is a solid black residue that’s left after smoking. It’s thick and also rich in carbon. Creosote is basically the aftermath of insufficient and incorrect combustion of the wood you use. And it only takes place when you burn wood, charcoal in high heat.
Plus, creosote is responsible for the bitter smoke taste your meat gets after smoking. And this smoke flavor from the meat is hard to get rid of.
Now let’s get to the actual question, is creosote bad?
Well, it is. Because after all creosote is a chemical residue.
According to ATSDR, creosote can cause several side effects if it’s ingested or inhaled. You’ll have throat irritation if you eat meat that has turned black. Plus if you breathe in creosote, you’ll have respiratory irritation. And if you touch it with bare hands, you’ll have rashes.
Consuming too much creosote causes light sensitivity, kidney, and liver damage. So yeah, creosote is bad, and avoiding it is the right choice.
6 Easy Steps To Avoid Creosote When Smoking Meat
After knowing how bad creosote is, you’re more determined to avoid it, right?
Well, you should be. Because creosote not only turns your meat black. It can also turn your precious smoker black. Which will be quite hard to clean off afterward.
But we don’t want you to suffer from such tragic events. That’s why we’ve gathered six steps to prevent this horrible mess.
Start with Clean Smoker & Aim for Good Smoke
Using a dirty smoker to smoke meat is a crime. An unclean and rusty smoker can be one of the reasons for creosote accumulation. So, on that note, make sure you start with a spotless smoker.
After getting your smoker, the first thought you should’ve is to build a thin blue smoke. This kind of smoke is the best for smoking meat. And aiming for thin blue smoke will automatically keep you away from creosote.
Build the Fire with Little Wood
One of the rules of getting good smoke is starting with a little amount of wood. Because the wood isn’t the actual source of heat. The coal is. Wood only generates smoke.
That’s why, if you use too much wood, you’ll get white and thick smoke. And ultimately, you’ll see creosote building up in the smoker.
A rule of thumb here is to use 2-3 fist-sized chunks to start the smoke.
Also, you can only add new wood pieces, if the older ones have turned to ashes. Keep adding wood pieces little by little until you get the thin blue smoke.
Now, you might question yourself- which wood should I use for smoking meat?
We’ve solved that problem of yours as well. Just move to the next segment.
Choose The Right Kind Of Wood
You can’t just use any wood you want for smoking. Why?
Well, as you know wood is responsible for producing smoke. And this smoke can affect the taste or flavor of your meat. Interesting, isn’t it?
And what’s more interesting is that wood has a specific taste to them too. And the taste varies from wood to wood. Most people go for the wood that will match the flavor of the meat.
This is why we’ve gathered the best wood for smoking different kind of meat-
|Wood||Flavor of the wood||Best for smoking|
|Cherry, guava, peach, and maple||Mild||Pork and poultry meat|
|Pecan||Mild||Beef, pork, and poultry meat|
|Apple||Light||Beef, Pork, and poultry meat|
|Hickory||Strong||Beef, turkey, and pork|
These are the types of wood you should definitely use. Now, let’s get to know which type of wood you should never use for smoking-
- Treated, painted wood should never be considered as an option. Because if you use them, your meat will smell funny. You can even get sick.
- Old wood should always be avoided. Old woods can contain fungi and mold. So yeah they are definitely unhealthy.
- Softwood is a bad choice too. Softwood consists of terpenes and is mostly sappy. Using them will not only make the meat taste weird. But can also make you sick.
- Leave out the greenwood. Greenwood can give off bitter smoke which will eventually make the meat taste bitter.
If you want names of wood you shouldn’t use, aspen, fir, spruce, pine are some. Avoid this type of wood and you’ll automatically be able to avoid creosote.
Lastly, let’s talk about whether you should soak your wood or not-
Most people don’t soak their wood. Because soaked wood can slow down the combustion. This can bring creosote into the picture.
Some do soak wood before smoking. However, they use wood chips. Because soaked wood chips don’t affect the fire build-up negatively.
Another way to be sure about this is to look at the cooking time-
|Long (5+ hours)||Yes|
|Quick (1-5 hours)||No|
In simpler words, use soaked wood if you’re planning to slow-cook. And if not, just use dry wood.
Manage The Air Flow Of Smoker
Good airflow is essential for a good smoke. And good smoke will deliver you delicious smoked meat. That too without any creosote build-up.
Airflow mainly refers to the monitoring of the smoke your smoker is giving off. You’ll get the two results depending on two different airflow-
|High||Too much heat (225+ degrees Fahrenheit)||White and thick|
The airflow of a wood/coal-based smoker often has to be handled by human hands. Because it’s all about adjusting the smoker’s vents. Therefore, you need to take your strong foot ahead.
However, there’s one correct way to get the right amount of airflow. And that is by keeping the exhaust of your smoker open.
After that, you’ve to control the produced heat with the intake vents of your smoker. Because the intake vents are the only way the air can come into the smoker.
Different smokers have different types of intake vents. That’s why don’t forget to read the ‘get the right type of smoke with different smokers’ segment.
Make sure to monitor two important factors- the color, and quantity of the smoke. And then adjust the smoker’s vents accordingly.
Furthermore, the ideal temperature for smoking is around 225-250 degrees Fahrenheit. Thus, only add meat after your smoker has reached that range. You can easily check the temperature through the temperature gauge.
And if your smoker doesn’t have a temperature gauge, use a meat thermometer. Just how you can use it to test tough corned before fixing it.
On that note, here are some of our favorites-
Get the Right Type of Smoke with Different Smokers
Just take the thermometer near the place you’ll cook the meat. And you should get the temperature of the inside.
Not every smoker functions in the same way. Therefore, it’s better to know how you can get the right smoke with your smoker.
So, on that note, we’ve discussed the fire building process of two common smokers-
Offset smokers are pretty well-known to grill masters. To get the right smoke using this smoker, you’ve to follow some steps.
Before getting into the steps, grab the required equipment-
- Wood logs/chunks
- Smoker Thermometer
- Hand gloves
If you have these with you, you can move on to the steps-
- To start the fire get a couple of unlit charcoal. And use a chimney starter to light the coals.
- After that, put the lit coal on the far side of the firebox. Then place some wood logs that are about the equal size of a soft drink can in the firebox.
- Don’t put them on the heated coals. Only place them on the coal if the wood logs are dry and heated enough.
- Once the wood pieces on top of the coal, wait for the fire to build-up. Within this time, you can place another wood log in the firebox to hit up.
- Remember to keep all the vents completely open. And check the temperature with the smoker thermometer.
- Lastly, after reaching the right temperature, adjust the side vents of your firebox to be ⅓ open. And the chimney lid has to be halfway open.
Now, just keep an eye on the smoke and adjust the vents accordingly. And you’ll get the thin blue smoke in no time!
Kamado cooker is another charcoal-based smoker. And getting the correct smoke by using this smoker isn’t that hard.
By the way, you’ll need similar equipment you needed for an offset smoker.
Now let’s check out the steps, shall we?
- At first, add coal to the bottom of your firebox. Then add 2-3 wood chunks on the coals. After that, put some more coals on top of the woods.
- Once you’ve made the base, discard a few of the coal pieces from the middle. And start the fire. Then you’ve to close the grill lid and keep both the vents open for a while.
- You can adjust the vents in two ways for two types of temperature ranges. We’ve mentioned them in simple words for you-
|Temperature||Meat type||Vent adjustment|
|225-275 degrees Fahrenheit||BBQ meats (Beef, pork ribs)||Keep the bottom vent 1-inch open. And the top vent closed. But make sure the holes of the daisy wheel are open|
|225-400 degrees Fahrenheit||Chicken wings, turkey, whole chicken||Keep the bottom vent halfway open. Then open the top vent a little bit along with daisy wheel holes.|
That’s all you need to do for a kamado cooker to get started. A small tip is to close all the vents and holes after you’re done cooking.
Other than these two, there are some other ways to use charcoal smokers. You can start the fire with them by following some of these steps. However, the process is a bit different.
Always Keep Your Smoker Clean
Lastly, after smoking the meat, you’ve to clean the smoker. You can’t keep the smoker dirty in any circumstance.
Because creosote can build up in a dirty smoker easily with the help of grease, ash, and fat. Thus, use soap and water to scrub the smoker afterward.
And that, my friends, is how you can smoke meat without creosote. Just aim for the thin blue smoke. And you’ll have no creosote problem while smoking meat.
Question: Why does creosote take place?
Answer: Well, there are several reasons why you’ll come across creosote. The first reason can be using a dirty smoker. Then incomplete combustion is another big reason.
Question: What’s the easiest way to prevent creosote when smoking?
Answer: The easiest way you can avoid creosote is by aiming for thin blue smoke. And to get the thin blue smoke, you’ve to go through the steps we’ve discussed above.
Question: How much smoke should come out of a smoker?
Answer: Too much smoke is never welcomed to cook your meat properly. You’ve to get a thin wisp of blue smoke instead. For that, you’ve to start with a small amount of wood. Otherwise controlling the smoke will be very hard.
That’s all we had on how to avoid creosote when smoking meat. By the way, did you know that too much creosote can even cause death? Well, now you’ve another reason to avoid it.
Now, did you understand all the steps?
Let us know your thoughts in the comment section. And lastly, have a safe day!
Hi, I am Tanjila. I am a Law student currently pursuing my LLB degree at BUP. I have worked for a Marketing agency for over a year as a content manager. I like a discourse on Politics, Poetry, Cooking, Music and takes immense joy in being a wordsmith. And me being a Food Lover, am just sharing some cooking experience on this blog.