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Black residue from charcoal?

Mindifismoke

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Hey all,

I was having this problem for a while - black Residue on meat (even on the crust of a pizza).

I believe it is from the charcoal as I got a new smoker only seasoned it and doing a first cook today!

Reason thinking it's charcoal:

I used royal oak lump charcoal for a while and nearly everytime this same coating/residue is on whatever I cook unless it's less than 2hours, after cleaning my previous smoker I switched to a different brand of charcoal and that black stuff was no longer appearing. I thought it had to do with a dirty smoker as some suggested so I cleaned it thoroughly and never thought that it could be the charcoal.

Now in the new smoker nothing has been in it only oil and low heat for 4 hours to season and set the paint. 4 hours into this cook (2 days later) picked the brisket with a towel to rotate and had a little noticeable black Residue. Touched the side with my fingers and it's back.
Attached a picture of the fire and cooker and a paper towel ignore the chunks on it that's seasoning but the black residue on the towel is from the brisket. When its done once with beef ribs it was even worse and left that's same color oil on a white plate it doesn't change the taste or taste like anything just appearance isn't the best.

Has anyone experienced this? Does anyone use royal oak lump and not have this problem?

About the pizza I did 4 pizzas on a pizza stone in my old smoker with wood and charcoal in the firebox - closest to the cook chamber. After the second pizza I added more charcoal to keep the heat up and instead of nice golden pizza crust it was a grey crust. Only factor was adding half a chimney of royal oak.
 

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sawhorseray

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I used to use RO lump and 8-9 months back I stopped altogether. Now I like using no charcoal in my SQ36 stick burner. I make a little log cabin with 6-7 splits and light them with a weed torch, 45-50 minutes later a nice bed of red hot coals. When it's time for more heat toss on another split, that's why they're called stick burners. Try it out, might be the answer you are looking for. RAY
DSCN1754.JPG
 

pops6927

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Check your dampers, it could be creosote from the charcoal, not the charcoal itself,
 

5GRILLZNTN

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I'm going to go with Pops on this one, but with that smoker, I'd do what Ray does. I hope you get it figured out!

Dave
 

Mindifismoke

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Hey Pops for the dampers: Chimney I always leave open and aim for thin smoke dont have a lotta wood in right now just enough to keep the temp consistent so the intake is pretty closed at the moment.

Ray, I've always wanted to try that it seems like the real deal, you don't have trouble keeping a coal bed or needing to add more half way through? The wood burns down to enough coals? Seen it before from Aaron Franklin but he's starting it on the bottom of the fire box where with a grate like yours and mine doesn't it fall through for you?

Thanks for the advice!
 

flatbroke

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ever watch a charcoal chimney start? See how much white smoke is coming up until it gets going good. I’m guessing you need to leave the door open so air flows and ignites the stuff faster before closing the door. Take that time to spritz so the smoker temp drop and maybe offsets the temp spike
 

Mindifismoke

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Thanks flatbroke, that's a good idea to avoid temp spiking will try.

As for charcoal chimney I light it outside the smoker never in. The color and smell is nasty wouldn't want that going through the smoker. So I start with fully lit coals add a split or two, and if the base runs low over time (not paying attention) then I'll light another chimney of charcoal until no more visible smoke and only the few coals on the top layer aren't completely lit then add. Nonetheless you have a great point it could be those few on the top that aren't full lit causing it. It's usually not from the start only the second chimney I add that then it starts to get that color.
 

sawhorseray

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Ray, I've always wanted to try that it seems like the real deal, you don't have trouble keeping a coal bed or needing to add more half way through? The wood burns down to enough coals? Seen it before from Aaron Franklin but he's starting it on the bottom of the fire box where with a grate like yours and mine doesn't it fall through for you?
Thanks for the advice!

It IS the real deal. If you've seen the Franklin videos you know that your grate is above the firebox floor just like mine. " needing to add more half way through? ". You're going to have to add another split every 30-40 minutes, you don't pay strict attention to a offset you don't get the reward, period. The Q you'll achieve with TBS from a good offset will be second to none, but you do want to be aware of what you've gotten yourself into, you have to be a large part of the cook! Smoke with your stack wide open, add splits as needed and regulate CC temp with vents and the door of your firebox open anywhere from a crack to a few inches. If you want to set a dial, have a few beers, and take a nap get a pellet pooper, it's like a oven with some smoke. Ooo, I'll get some heat about this, but it's the truth! RAY
 

flatbroke

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Cooking on the top rack some have reported the black color in chicken. Some thing it could be sweat from the meat or steam from the food dripping off of the metal on to the food. Idk what it is. Dirty fire will also cause it especially when the wood isn’t seasoned well
 

Mindifismoke

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It IS the real deal. If you've seen the Franklin videos you know that your grate is above the firebox floor just like mine. " needing to add more half way through? ". You're going to have to add another split every 30-40 minutes, you don't pay strict attention to a offset you don't get the reward, period. The Q you'll achieve with TBS from a good offset will be second to none, but you do want to be aware of what you've gotten yourself into, you have to be a large part of the cook! Smoke with your stack wide open, add splits as needed and regulate CC temp with vents and the door of your firebox open anywhere from a crack to a few inches. If you want to set a dial, have a few beers, and take a nap get a pellet pooper, it's like a oven with some smoke. Ooo, I'll get some heat about this, but it's the truth! RAY
The video I saw was from his masterclass and what I observed is he was putting the splits on the floor of the firebox, not a charcoal grate like yours or mine. My apologies I meant to say adding charcoal half way through not splits, but seems you answered the question - our grates are pretty close to the floor so the charcoal will give residual heat after it falls through the grate but also enough space for airflow since the splits aren't on the floor? Meaning it's not necessary to add any extra lump charcoal?

I do pay close attention - I'm still learning everytime I cook on it, if I didn't or if no one paid attention they(I) wouldn't know what went wrong or what went right and how to improve. Currently I'm adding splits every 20-25minutes (using smaller splits 6in and half a beer can diameter), still looking for the right size, think 8" and beer can size would do it, but that's also good keeps me more active behind the firebox.

One time on my first smoker (electric) was cooking beef ribs didn't pay attention since it's electric big mistake.. Ribs were almost done and came out to check make sure they were done, and surprise grease fire the smoker was in my family's gazebo. Could have been much worse but lucky timing, everything was okay nothing burned down and saved the ribs! Since that day I've learned not to leave any smoker unattended..
 

D.W.

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I don't really see it on the napkin that would be of concern, but it concerns you. What I've found is when you are starting your fire you are creating that dirty smoke, and had this issue, it comes at a cost, but leave your fire box door open, stack damper wide open, BUT most importantly leave your cooking chamber wide open until the charcoal is rolling and the split you add ignites immediately - looks like you are warming them. Once that split is lit, close the lid and wait for the temp and manage fire accordingly. It's all about leaving that cooking chamber open initially until you've got good coals and good wood. Otherwise that creosote will get in there quick.
20180831_070112.jpg

One other item, if it is cold where you are or the rig is cold when you start it you can get a condensation effect that will drip that oil and any unwanted particles collected on your food. Just need to wipe out with a towel.
 
Last edited:

Mindifismoke

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Joined Aug 30, 2019
Cooking on the top rack some have reported the black color in chicken. Some thing it could be sweat from the meat or steam from the food dripping off of the metal on to the food. Idk what it is. Dirty fire will also cause it especially when the wood isn’t seasoned well
Yep I've had grey looking chicken come outta my previous smoker..
Many factors I guess may need to use elimination to find the source or multiple sources of the problem. Wood that's not seasoned well is possible some batches I've gotten recently could be questionable.. however now after seasoning it more myself it reads 10-12% moisture.
 

Mindifismoke

Fire Starter
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Joined Aug 30, 2019
I don't really see it on the napkin that would be of concern, but it concerns you. What I've found is when you are starting your fire you are creating that dirty smoke, and had this issue, it comes at a cost, but leave your fire box door open, stack damper wide open, BUT most importantly leave your cooking chamber wide open until the charcoal is rolling and the split you add ignites immediately - looks like you are warming them. Once that split is lit, close the lid and wait for the temp and manage fire accordingly. It's all about leaving that cooking chamber open initially until you've got good coals and good wood. Otherwise that creosote will get in there quick. View attachment 451941
One other item, if it is cold where you are or the rig is cold when you start it you can get a condensation effect that will drip that oil and any unwanted particles collected on your food. Just need to wipe out with a towel.
That's a nice pit! Big with the cooking chamber on the side. To clarify when using charcoal light a chimney and when you add it to the firebox make sure it's all glowing then add a split leaving all the doors open? After that split is good and about to become coals add another and if it combusts rapidly then close the doors?
Also creosote can build up fast at any time? so if it started in the beginning of the cook later on its possible for the air pulling through to drag the particles on to the meat, or whatever in the CC? I understood it will always build up clean fire or dirty but always over time.
The napkin wasn't a great example but that was only part way through the cook, in the end there was not much residue on the brisket but a hotel pan I had with beef cheeks in it was covered in black powder maybe its creosote? Assuming thats the same stuff that's discoloring everything else I put in the CC.
 

D.W.

Meat Mopper
164
202
Joined Jul 13, 2018
That's a nice pit! Big with the cooking chamber on the side. To clarify when using charcoal light a chimney and when you add it to the firebox make sure it's all glowing then add a split leaving all the doors open? After that split is good and about to become coals add another and if it combusts rapidly then close the doors?
Also creosote can build up fast at any time? so if it started in the beginning of the cook later on its possible for the air pulling through to drag the particles on to the meat, or whatever in the CC? I understood it will always build up clean fire or dirty but always over time.
The napkin wasn't a great example but that was only part way through the cook, in the end there was not much residue on the brisket but a hotel pan I had with beef cheeks in it was covered in black powder maybe its creosote? Assuming thats the same stuff that's discoloring everything else I put in the CC.
I do what you do and have a few splits warming initially. Once the coals are flaming/glowing I add the first split. Once that is burning nice and clean I'll close the cooking chamber lid, firebox lid, and put the other split on top of the firebox to continue warming. I'll continue to add wood on top of the firebox as I put the warmed ones in every 45 minutes give or take. Also when the cook is done, I open everything back until the fire burns out. I never choke it off to put it out. I do still get some build up that I clean off with paper towels, but not as often and not as much.
 

Mindifismoke

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I do what you do and have a few splits warming initially. Once the coals are flaming/glowing I add the first split. Once that is burning nice and clean I'll close the cooking chamber lid, firebox lid, and put the other split on top of the firebox to continue warming. I'll continue to add wood on top of the firebox as I put the warmed ones in every 45 minutes give or take. Also when the cook is done, I open everything back until the fire burns out. I never choke it off to put it out. I do still get some build up that I clean off with paper towels, but not as often and not as much.
Great information thank you! I usually close everything off once finished and clean when cooled or the following day but that's a good tip much appreciated.
 

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