black soot on smoked meat

What Is Black Coating When Smoking Meat?

Hey, have you ever thought of the reason behind smoker turns meat black? If you are new to barbecuing, I guess you might have at least once come up with the question, what is black coating when smoking meat?

Before I take you through the article, let me emphasize that black soot on smoked meat is pretty much normal in most situations; using a smoker obviously creates smoke and soot. However, that is not the only thing causing black soot on smoked meat. Are you curious to learn about this? Then, join me.


Is It Okay To Eat Smoked Flavor?

Using smoked flavor on food is considered an easy method to blend smoky taste into the dishes. By doing this, you can cut down many complicated processes that are associated with cooking.

However, there is nothing much to separate between normal smoke and artificial smoke flavors, especially when it comes to taste.

In addition, according to the experts, there is nothing wrong with using liquid smoke flavors in low quantities; but, it is advisable to use them in moderation to keep everything safe.

Why Does My Smoked Meat Taste Bitter?

It is because of a substance called creosote, and it is a result of a chemical reaction. When you don’t provide enough air circulation during the cooking process, the smoke has a tendency to remain on the surface of the meat, and thereafter, a chemical reaction starts to take place; the result is creosote, and eventually, your meat will become bitter.

So, make sure you facilitate smooth airflow to the smoker in order to keep this problem at bay. 

How to Tell If BBQ Has Been Over Smoked?

Understanding over smoked isn’t the hardest. After you take the first bite, if it tastes bitter, it says you have over smoked the meat.

In addition, there should be a definite difference in the taste compared to the actual taste of the meat.

When it comes to appearance, the creosote layer (the thick black layer) would be more prominent than the usual outlook. However, this is an avoidable problem, and after you complete reading this article, it won’t be an issue anymore. 

What Is Black Coating When Smoking Meat?

Again, creosote is the culprit for black residue on grilled food. It is a byproduct of wood smoke and says that your smoker is crying for proper cleaning. Let’s explore this issue to the fullest to prevent it from happening with you in the future.

To get a comprehensive understanding of creosote, it would be better if you learn the types of smoke in the first place to keep smoker turning food black.

Types of Smoke 

Basically, you can identify two sorts of smokes; billowy gross smoke and blue smoke. The Billowy gross smoke is the one that plays the spoil game and creates creosote on the meat. It usually creates a dark crust and leads to a bitter taste.

On the other hand, blue smoke is what you want to aim at as it provides you with amazing flavor and creates not that much creosote. 

How to Generate Blue Smoke to Prevent Smoker Turning Food Black?

So, what is the black stuff in smoke? I know you can give creosote as the answer to this question. But, how to get high-quality smoke? There is no rocket science; just follow these simple steps. 

Keep the Fire Small

First of all, get rid of the mentality of “big fire better smoke.” There is nothing like that but a myth. You don’t need to have a big fire to form more smoke or get a top-quality flavor.

Actually, by doing that, there is a high possibility of you ending up with an overpowering taste of meat. The situation can go bad to worse if you use wood like hickory or oak to generate smoke. 

There shouldn’t be much smoke coming out of the stack and avoid it getting thick. Another important aspect is that the smell of smoke; it’s should not be notable. 

Be Gentle When You Add Wood

If you are using a charcoal smoker, keep in mind charcoal’s job is only to provide heat. The black smoke from charcoal smokers comes because of wood. This tells you you don’t have to feed wood excessively. There are smokers that require both charcoal and wood to form smoke as well. 

So, it is crucial to understand the smoker you are dealing with; otherwise, it is inevitable to get in a position and ask questions like why does meat turn black when smoking, why does my smoked meat turn black, and so on. 

Type of wood

Using the right type of wood can be the deciding factor more often than not. I follow a couple of simple guidelines on the type of wood I use in my smoker. Here they are,

  • Say no to treated wood to form smoke.
  • Never use wood that contains resin. 

Some pitmasters that I know highly recommend using wood coming from fruit and nuts trees. There are valid reasons behind that thought; one prominent reason is such wood types have considerably low sap content making them suitable for smoking. Out of all, Applewood is my go-to option to reduce BBQ too much smoke. 

Another concern that pops up in most people’s minds is that soaking the wood before smoking. My advice would be not to implement it as it has a direct effect on the quality of the smoke you generate from your smoker. 


This is vital, folks; as I mentioned earlier, it is imperative to have good airflow in the combustion process of the smoker. A smooth airflow minimizes the chances of creosote and keeps the fire going in an efficient way to maintain a precise temperature.

That said, I’m not saying that you have to aim for more air. It’s more to do with the thickness of the smoke you get and the type of smoker you are using. 

If it sounds complicated, keep it this way. The airflow you allow to the smoker has to be enough to cater to the requirement of combustion, but too much air means the quicker the fire will burn.

If the fire is too much intense, there will be white smoke which is not going to help your cause. Also, the wood will not burn to the fullest. 

In order to tackle this, you can keep the exhaust open and control the heat via the intake vents. Just keep an eye on the color of the smoke and manipulate the airflow and vents to match the ideal smoke. 

How to Clean Creosote from Smoker?

So, the next obvious question is, how to clean creosote from your smoker, isn’t it? Let’s take a moment and discuss this all-important side of smoking. I need you to understand that if you handle your smoker in an appropriate way, you can drastically cut down the chances of creosote. It is easier said than done for a beginner, and I totally understand that. 

The fate of the dish you cook is just in your hands, and here is how you can clean creosote from the smoker.

Using a Propane Torch

If you have a propane torch, it will make cleaning this annoying substance off your smoker easy. With a propane torch, you can instantly burn off the creosote residue; in fact, any type of burner will do the job for you as long as it is capable of generating adequate heat. 

Once you burn off the residue, it’s just a matter of wiping the surface, and you are good to go. 

Using a Wire Brush

If you don’t have the luxury of using a propane torch, there is a simple method available for you. That is to use a wire brush to scrape off the creosote.

However, this method is more workable if you have just used the smoker and want to get rid of residue. If it is old and hard on surfaces, using a wire brush might take considerable time to provide you with a proper clean. 

After you remove the creosote residue, you can use a damp towel to clean the surfaces. 


Now, this step is utterly important and should do before you use the smoker again. If you have cleared a significant amount of creosote build-up, the value of re-seasoning is more prominent. My preference is vegetable oil for re-seasoning a smoker. However, there are several other oil variants you can try for more or less similar results. 

This Is How You Re-Season the Smoker

After you clean the smoker with one of the methods that I explained, coat the surfaces of the smoker, including racks and grates, using the oil you want. Then, bring the heat of the smoker to high for a minimum of two hours. 

How to Get Rid Of Smoke Flavor in Food?

Guys, preventing too much smoke flavor on food isn’t a difficult task to execute. It is often a result of using the wrong type of wood. Actually, there are two more contributing factors. That is not covering up your meat with a foil or using too much wood for cooking meat.

The reason why I’m emphasizing the importance of wrapping meat is that using a stronger type of wood easily leads to excessive smoke flavor. In order to eliminate that risk, you would have to use foil. 

In addition, please make sure not to use more than two or three chunks of wood to form smoke at the first half of the cooking process. If you stay away from all these elements, you can keep yourself from asking why does my smoker turn food black?

Black Soot on Food from Grill Safe to Eat?

Is soot on food harmful? This is one of the frequently asked questions among BBQ lovers. Well, before discussing the answer with you, let me tell you that this won’t be a concern for you if you implement the above steps in your next cooking.

Anyway, the common understanding is that soot on food can be injurious in the long run as there is a high possibility of swallowing different kinds of harmful chemicals. Some of these chemicals include dioxins, and benzopyrene, which are considered damaging to the human body.


So after you put all the hard yards to the smoking and finally reach a point asking why did the meat turn black on the smoker, now you should know what you have been doing wrong. It’s your own fault for causing the issue. I hope this won’t happen to you again!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top