If you’re new to smoking, there’s a very high chance that you’ll produce creosote in your smoker. It’s this black, oily residue that remains in the grates or the sides of the smoker.

Creosotes are formed as a result of having too heavy smoke inside the smoker. If you’ve seen white smoke going out of your smoker, that’s already an indication that your fire is not burning clean. This usually happens because:

  • There’s too much fuel on your smoker
  • Your coals are not hot enough
  • There’s not enough airflow
  • The fire is burning your coals too fast

In other words, you don’t have great control over the temperatures inside your smoker.  Of course, it’s undeniable that it takes a lot of time before you get used to your smoker, but until you learn proper control, you’ll be suffering a lot from the effects of creosote.

When the smoker has too much creosote, it can cause every meal that you cook in it to taste bitter. It can even numb the tongue at times.

So, be careful of creosote build-up. As much as possible, get rid of it every after you use the smoker, or else you’ll be dealing with a lot more mess. And if you’re in that stage, know that there are three steps you can do to get rid of the creosote:

Use a weed burner or propane torch
Use a scraper or wire brush
Re-season with Vegetable Oil

We’ll explain the three further below…

Use a Weed Burner or Propane Torch

The very first thing you can do is to grab a propane weed burner or propane torch. Then, simply burn off all the creosote residue you find inside the smoker. Any burner or torch will do as long as it produces high heat.

You’ll observe that the creosote starts turning into ashes and will just automatically fall off the grates and other areas where they can be found in your smoker. After that, simply wipe the surfaces clean.

Use a Scraper or Wire Brush

Next, if you don’t have a weed burner or propane torch, you can use a scraper or a wire brush. This method takes longer than the first one but still does the job. This is also more ideal to do after you’ve just used the smoker as the creosote is not sticking that hard on the surface yet.

You can also use this method alongside the first one. So, after you’ve burnt off the creosote, try to see if there are still traces left. If there are, grab a scraper and start to scrape them off clean.

Then, wipe off the surface with a damp towel to get rid of the residue. And just like that, your smoker will be looking new.

Re-Season With Vegetable Oil

If you’ve already gotten rid of the creosote, you can re-season your smoker again.

This step is highly recommended after a creosote build-up. Since you’ve cleaned it thoroughly, you need to ensure that it’s protected again. You can use vegetable oil to season your smoker, or you can also try bacon fat, red palm sunflower oil, flaxseed oil, suet, and lard.

Make sure to use the same process as to when you first smoked your smoker:​

  • Clean the smoker
  • Coat the surfaces, racks, and grates with oil
  • Heat the smoker at a high temperature for 2-4 hours

Doing this will get rid of any traces of the creosote inside.

Don’t Have a Weed Burner or Propane Torch?

If you don’t have a weed burner or propane torch, that’s not a problem. Some people recommend just hitting the grates with a water hose to soak the creosote. If things are really messy, they also use an oven cleaner too. 

Scrape the creosote off and make sure to rinse it clean. After that, spray the surfaces with cooking oil, then fire the smoker up for a few hours.

Recap

Nobody likes creosote. But, sometimes, there’s really nothing you can do about it, especially if you’re new to this whole smoking process. Just make sure you have a propane weed burner and wire brush ready in case you’d need it for the cleaning game.

It’s also best to be reminded that cleaning and maintenance are essential when owning a smoker. If you don’t want to experience the effects of creosote build-up, clean up your smoker every after use. This way, the next time you’ll use it, it’s clean and ready, plus you won’t worry about your meat tasting bitter.