Trouble with creosote

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Original poster
Mar 12, 2006

Hello everyone,

My husband has been having a problem with creosote ending up on the Boston butt when he smokes it. The smoker is clean before he starts using it and he is using hickory. He has a brinkman pitmaster griller/smoker. What can be done to prevent the meat from being ruined by the creosote? What can be causing the problem? Any advice on this would be most appreciated. Thank you for your time.

Hi rusty and Welcome to Smoking Meat Forum!!

One of the things to make sure of is that your wood is dry. Burning green wood will contribute to the creosote problem. Make sure that your exhaust vent(s) are completely opened. This will allow the wood smoke to flow freely through the smoke chamber. Closing down the damper (vent) will reduce the flow and will create stale smoke. Adjust the intake vents for heat control. Open the vents up to raise your chamber temps (for more heat), close them down to lower the temp. Don't close the vent completely down or you will smother your fire.
Rusty, Welcome!
You say you're using hickory, is that your only fuel or are you using any charcoal. If so, briq or lump?

I fully agree with Dutch on leaving the exhaust damper fully open. I disagree however with using the inlet damper for heat control. A smoker isn't a wood burning stove and should never be operated like one. To achieve a clean burn, the fire should never be starved for oxygen. A smoldering (oxygen deprived) fire will produce large amounts of dark smoke and creosote.
Fire size and location should be used to control pit temps. A small hot fire will give the desired thin blue smoke that will taste clean.
Wood that is too big can also be a problem in small smokers. No bigger in diameter than a beer can and no longer than 6-8" is ideal, although length is less important than diameter.
Good points by both Earl and Scott, so I'll add another angle.

Rusty, where you from?

Reason I ask, I'm north here in the Chicago area, and my personal "creosote" problem has nothing to do with wood dryness, or smoker cleanliness. My problem is condensation, which then drips down onto the meat (in both my WSM and in my vertical New Braunfels.

So if its cold out, I definitely get it, but sometimes warm weather too, for I keep the water pan full to make sure the air is moist.


In the vertical, wrap one shelf 3/4 of the way with foil, place near the top of the chamber, no drips down from the chimney.

In the WSM (which I think is like your Brinkman) place a small, and I mean just enough cover the top of the butt, piece of aluminum foil and LAY (not wrap) on the butt.

Yoyur goal is not to "wrap" the butt, butt rather a tiny piece for the butt to wear as a "hat" to deflect any thing falling on it.

Hope this helps
I'm really not trying to be argumentitive today, but unless I'm mistaken the Pitmaster is a horz pit, available with and without a firebox.

Bill, this doesn't make your advice any less valuable, just not applicable to this particular problem.
Good point Scott

I did a search and got varied results on what the Pitmaster was.

One site said it was the Pitmaster Smoke-n-Grill, which I thought was the name on my ECB, but I gave it away so I can't be sure

Bad Search Mod
I thank you all for your advice and i will pass all this info on to my husband. I know it will help him a great deal and maybe he wont get frustrated and give up smoking all together because we sure do like the smoked flavor. Again, I thank you all. Oh and I was asked if we use anything besides wood the answer to that is no, we only use wood either hickory or oak (I think) but right now we are out of dry oak.

Thanks a bushell,

Rusty, In a smaller pit like yours, it can be difficult to burn all wood cleanly. High BTU output woods like oak and hickory help, but can eventually leave you without enough coalbed to cleanly ignite the next addition of fresh wood.
Here's something I think will help. Try using some briquette charcoal. As you get into the cook and the coal bed begins to dwindle, instead of adding wood to a depleted coalbed, light some briquette in a chimney starter and when it's ashed over, add that instead. This should only be required every 3-5 hours (depending on wind, ambient temp etc).
Another thing that will greatly improve ignition of fresh sticks of wood is preheating them on top of the firebox, you do have to monitor this as they can smolder and actually ignite, but this rarely happens unless it's very windy. When preheated in this manner, a small split of wood like I describe in my post above will instantly flame up when added to a hot coalbed.
The last hint I have for you is to keep the ashes cleaned out of the firebox as you go through a long cook. This isn't really necessary for shorter cooks (ribs, chicken etc) but for butts and briskets it can help a lot. The ashes still contain a lot of glowing embers, these do little to aid in the production of heat, but can use a lot of the oxygen available to the useful part of the fire. Make sure you put the ashes in a metal container, preferably with a lid until cool enough to dispose of properly.

Best of luck!!
Another point which has been missed is to pre-burn the wood, thus eliminating the possibility of Phenols or Creasote. If you search some of the archives you will see how my a Burn Barrel can acheive this. This is dependent upon your access to wood and where you live.

All great advise guys!

Thank again. I just hope that my husband will take this advice and put it to good use. I am also learning quite bit from ya'll.

Take care and Godspeed,

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