Galvanized in a smoker

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Master of the Pit
Original poster
May 12, 2013
Newark on Trent, United Kingdom.
Hello Folks.  This one comes up time after time.  I feel it needs to be addressed and we all should get on the same page as to the advice we post.  1 member says yes and another says no.  This is a food safety issue; although not a MAJOR one I feel it should be addressed

What is the opinion of the experienced members?

My friend Wade can cover you up with links to scientific studies on the subject; AND he is ABSOLUTELY correct!  We have no argument.  So long as it it used properly there are no concerns about using galvanized metal in a smoker.

Here are my concerns in a nutshell:  "It is perfectly safe to use galvanised metal in your smoker; so long as you use it appropriately."   My concern is did  the EAGER NOVICE read the whole post or did they just "skim" to the part where you say it is ok to use?  "JUST ANSWER THE QUESTION; CAN I USE IT OR NOT"?   Put it in this context:   It is perfectly safe to use galvanised metal in your smoker; so long as you use it appropriately.  That loaded handgun on the cabinet is PERFECTLY safe; so long as you don't pull the trigger.  Did they read the whole thing?


I just feel we have a responsibility to make SOME of our advice "bullet proof".  We never know who in the world is reading our posts.  How much of it they read.  How good are their English language skills?  Have they ever cooked anything in their lives?  Just how good is the quality of the galvanizing process in their 3rd world country?  We are worldwide.


DO NOT ALLOW YOUR CHICKEN TO GET ABOVE 40F ( 4.5-5.0c ), simple and to the point.  The 40-140 in 4 rule.  Bullet proof.  Can I let it get to 45F?  What if it takes 4 hours and 25 minutes to hit 140?  We just say " Don't do it"  As they gain experience things might change a little but the advice on the open forum is ( and should be ) NO.  I just feel for safety purposes we should just say no to galvanised in a smoker.  IF they then choose to ask why; we should then give them all the scientific information in a PM and fully explain what our concerns are Novices reading partial posts, etc. ).  I have done things for YEARS that I would NEVER post on the open forum for the same fears.  If not done properly some of those things could cause folks to become VERY ill.  There is my opinion.  



I just thought of a solution maybe as a Forum we could live with ( maybe ).  What if we start the answer with the " do not do list" and then answer the question?  I still have a major concern we are gonna get the " "JUST ANSWER THE QUESTION" thing and they will not read the whole post.  Well there it is folks.  Are we not responsible if they don't read the whole post, they don't speak English well, or the process in their contry is not "up to snuff"?  Or should we just "nip it in the bud" from the start and allow for food safety?  I will follow Forum policy; but just my opinion, I know what I can live with.  Keep Smokin!

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Hello Folks.  I can see that the Forum is busy because of Thanksgiving  and Christmas but I THINK this is important.  I may be wrong; have been before.  If you folks think I am wrong, just shoot it straight and tell me to shut tha * up!  I can live with that.  Just give me some sort of an opinion please.

If someone with experience sees a possible situation where a novice is cooking with equipment that (if not used properly) would poison them, that experienced person has a moral responsibility to tell the novice to STOP. I think the the first response to a question about using galvanized metal in a smoker/grill or other cooking equipment should be a response of STOP! DO NOT COOK WITH EQUIPMENT IF IT HAS GALVANIZED SURFACES EXPOSED TO HEAT!! Hopefully the novice will stop and read the rest of your advice.

Now that you hopefully have the novice's attention, you can now go into the technical details of what conditions makes galvanized metal dangerous to cook with and how to avoid the dangers. If the person does not or cannot read the list of dangers created by galvanized metal and how to avoid them, your moral responsibility has been met.

Some people with look for a gas leak with a match, some will go down holes that have poison gas without taking a gas mask and some look under a rock for poisonous snakes by raising the side nearest to them.

There is nothing you can do to prevent that type of person from disaster, all you can do is pray the disaster is a small one.

I call it chlorine in the gene pool.

I am sorry is this seems cynical but I am 72 and have watched people all my life do dangerous things after being warned that they are putting themselves and possibly others in danger. 
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We as a forum advise that the USDA standards are our guideline. That being said people have to make decisions for themselves. If you give proper advise and they ignore or do not read it then there isn't much we can do about it.

As for the galvanized example this is difficult because it is only dangerous when when exposed to extreme temps like a firebox. Now that being said generally we will tell people that its not recommended because of the health reasons. But in this example because of the scientific data we can't say 100% no. Here is why but where this is a gray area is that this article doesn't mention at what temp the coating breaks down. So then you would need to also link them to this

As you can see some things aren't cut and dry. But at the point you think advise is unsafe then you can reply with your source for the info that is to the contrary to what was given or you flag the post to notify a moderator by clicking the flag button on the bottom left of the post that you think is unsafe. View media item 500102

I hope that this will help clear the air.
Also I am glad you brought this issue up so that we can be mindful to help and flag when needed.
Therein lies the problem. Very little in food safety is black or white. 40 to 140 in 4? Good guideline but only in that it should lead you to think, " Hey my 4 Butts been in 5 hours and just hit 140...I need to see if there is an issue..." They come here for an answer...Problem is, on average, one group follows the rule blindly and advise to toss the meat no matter what. One group misquotes the rule applying it to all meat telling the newbie to toss the $100 worth of meat, when Intact muscle is exempt and could take 6-8-10 hours to get to 140 and still be safe. One group are pretty sure it is fine, and say so but add " When in Doubt , Throw it Out..."  Just to cover their A$$es!  And the last group knows the facts and details, give accurate info and tell the newbie they are Fine. Now the Newbie has a mix of 10 Toss the meat, a couple You are probably Fine, but.. and a couple you are fine and why...Confusing? Maybe but it's Your $100 worth of meat and Your families health...

 " WHEN IN DOUBT THROW IT OUT? " HORSE HOCKEY!!!! When in doubt ASK AN EXPERT! If your Car breaks down on the way home do you just ask the next passerby or two what he thinks and when the answer is " I think it's shot! "  You just abandon it? NO! You call a Mechanic and find out, For Sure, what you need to do...There is No Difference here. There are many members that take the time to learn and are happy to share their knowledge...

What happened to Personal Responsibility? No one that has access to a Computer and comes to SMF should take the First Response as the only answer or be too lazy to use the Search function. When it comes to you and your families health...Do your due diligence and spend a little time researching and when you find one or more threads or articles with an answer it's Your responsibility to read start to finish., not ours to give an All Encompassing General Statement that attempts to cover every possibility and likely Falls Short most of the time, costing the Newbie money and SMF their reputation for be knowledgeable, friendly and helpful...JJ
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JJ.  Hello my friend.  Understood and well stated.  I guess we do need to draw a line between responsibility and the individuals' response to our advice.  In Texas we often see a young dog which has been bitten in the head by a rattlesnake, you hope he makes it.  You seldom see an old dog bitten.  I am on board.  That is the Forum position and I will follow that.

You are absolutely correct JJ as you know.  Should I throw this meat out?  You get 485 different answers.  Going out on a limb here but for some of these question,. Leads should answer them.  BUT as a Lead I would always say No in answer to this question. AND if they are not sure they need to be contacting Mods.  And if the Mods aren't sure they should know who to contact.

Just throwing it out here:  Just looking for ideas.  Post yours'  Should there be a list  ( not exhaustive ) of JUST  CERTAIN questions that come up repeatedly,  and the agreed Forum response? Questions that are asked time after time.   I am not trying to be difficult.  Most of the Leads and Mods are clued up on this. But I think just to state Forum policy.   What about a folder/library were a Lead/Mod/Admin can copy a folder and PM ALL the information to a member at once?  Scientific and wives tales all in one.  I agree with what Brian said.  Things are not always black and white.  If he knew some of the things I do he would have a heart attack!  
  Right, wrong or other wise I just feel we as a Forum need to be united in our advice ( ON ONLY CERTAIN ISSUES )  JJ hit the nail; it depends on where you ask the question.  Soak wood or don't; well that doesn't matter in the long run.  JUST CERTAIN ISSUES!  I am not one for " RULES AND REGULATIONS! and a former Marine I believe in freedom of speech.  I just feel that if some of these questions could be answered in the same way it would avoid confusion.

The question is: CAN GALVANIZED CAUSE A HEALTH ISSUE IN A SMOKER?  The Forum position is the USDA says it is safe; so it is safe.  I am good with tha as it is the Forum position.  So the Leads and Mods should "spout the party line".  ( I don't mean that as it sounds.  I just could not find the words to sat it differently. DUMB as a rock! )  

MAN!  I DID NOT want to talk about this on the open forum.  I am not completely ( you may receive arguments over that ).  This SHOULD be private!  New members DO NOT need to see this.  I just knew no other way to reach all of you  Keep Smokin!

I started to reply to this half a dozen times and each and every time I ended up stopping. Every logical response I settled on had some very good argument nay-saying it, and I managed to talk myself out of it. If I can't even get myself and me to agree on a proper info policy, then a solution to your question is gonna be hard to find.

I fear you've opened up a real can of worms here Danny.

Hopefully smarter heads than mine can solve this conundrum.

Maybe a sticky with 8-10 frequently asked questions wth short concise answers and then links to relevant USDA or FDA documents which address those issues in more detail.

As to the original question regarding using galvanized steel in the construction of a smoker, my understanding is that galvanized steel should not be used when it may come in contact with acidic foods. I guess the question then becomes, is barbecue sauce as used in many smoking recipes acidic enough to trigger the no galvanized rule?

But from everything else that I know about galvanized steel, my preference is to not use it at all and stick to mild or stainless steel for smokers and cooking. Galvanized has some appropriate places for use, where you want rust and corrosion resistance. But for smokers, we use rust resistant pain and fat/oil/seasoning coatings to accomplish that, so there's not really a reason to use galvanized in smokers or grills.
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I can see the usefulness of a sticky and think it is a good idea. The Intro to the Safety forum, I wrote, covers the Rule and smoking temps unless there is cure used, but judging from some responses I see, I doubt it gets read. On galvanized, I have seen guys that wanted to use it as a fire basket and cooking grates.
 Bad idea and all agreed. But I have also seen a post where a guy was building all steel but wanted to use galvanized for the Smoke Stack...Some of the Anti-Galv anytime crowd admonished him then went bananas when a reply said it was safe as a stack. Recently we had a post about using Aluminum pans and foil...That almost went South getting agreement over it's safety. How the Heck do we get SMF folks to agree when the USDA, FDA, countless College researchers, Doctors and assorted Experts can't agree on most Food Safety guidelines and rules. Then add the Hippy Health RAGS, the Paranoid Reports and the Conspiracy Theorists and you don't know whom to believe..." Never eat Nitrates or Nitrites. Eat Raw Veggies! "...Report..." There is more Nitrate and Nitrite in a Small Spinach Salad, than a Whole Side of Bacon after cooking!!!...
I think the the first response to a question about using galvanized metal in a smoker/grill or other cooking equipment should be a response of STOP! DO NOT COOK WITH EQUIPMENT IF IT HAS GALVANIZED SURFACES EXPOSED TO HEAT!! Hopefully the novice will stop and read the rest of your advice.
As for the galvanized example this is difficult because it is only dangerous when when exposed to extreme temps like a firebox. Now that being said generally we will tell people that its not recommended because of the health reasons. But in this example because of the scientific data we can't say 100% no. Here is why but where this is a gray area is that this article doesn't mention at what temp the coating breaks down. So then you would need to also link them to this
Brian and Oki have highlighted a couple of the challenges that get faced whenever we start to talk about using galvanised surfaces with food. There is some guidance from the USDA and other learned sources (though surprisingly not much) that zinc coatings are OK providing that they do not come in direct contact with the food - especially not if the foods are acidic. There is even less guidance though regarding the use of zinc plated components elsewhere in the smoker. People generally comment that it is not a good idea to use galvanised metal in your firebox - however there seems to be little authoritative evidence to support that. If someone has a good source then please point me towards any relevant links. If we (as a forum) were to consider warning people specifically about potential dangers of using zing components - even in the fire box - we really need some good evidence to base this warning on.

As in Brian's links, there are non food related sources that talk about temperatures where zinc coatings can potentially detach from their steel surfaces - but this does not necessarily make it dangerous, especially if they fall into the firebox and are swept away with the ash? There are sources warning of the dangers of zinc oxide vapours when welding  at high temperatures - but none that I can see that demonstrate that there are any hazards at the temperatures involved even in the typical smoker fire box (~700 F, ~400 C). Even though these temperatures are close to the melting point of zinc, would they be sufficient to cause sufficient zinc / zinc oxide vapour in your  smoker that was potentially toxic? The acceptable occupational health guidelines for zinc oxide exposure is 5 mg / m3 throughout a working day of 10 hours. I cannot find anywhere where levels inside a smoker have been measured. 

If there was any chance of hazard from using zinc or galvanised coatings in hot food preparation environments then you would think that some obscure sub department within the FDA would have at least written a discussion paper on it - they seem to have done so about almost every other food related topic.

Would using some galvanised components in your smoker be more hazardous than the galvanised coatings on some kitchen stove burners or propane burners, the galvanised components in your toaster, or walking down the street where vehicles with galvanised exhausts are driving?

There is stronger evidence of the hazards to health from smoked foods in general   so maybe it would be more relevant for us to warn people about the dangers of using smoke in their smoker....
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