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Don't Use Cover on Charcoal Grills?

 
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Mark_Leh



Joined: 08 Sep 2007
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Sat Sep 08, 2007 6:05 pm    Post subject: Don't Use Cover on Charcoal Grills? Reply with quote

I have often seen the advice not to use the cover on a charcoal kettle grill because of off-flavors which the cover imparts to the food. Is this just an urban legend which keeps getting passed around and thereby gains legitimacy, or has anyone actually run a test which demonstrates it to be true?

In my personal experience, while I have smelled something during the first few uses of a cover, I have not tasted or smelled anything awry on the food itself. I happen to wash out my cover after every use, so there is little accumulation of soot. However, if it's the soot which is causing the off-taste, then why doesn't this affect a propane grill? I have a propane grill whose cover I never wash, and there is never an off-taste (and I note that the same people who recommend cooking on a charcoal grill without the cover recommend closing the cover on a propane grill). Surely the gunk which accumulates on the inside cover of a propane grill can't be that much different from the gunk which would accumulate on a charcoal grill, can it? In both cases it's smoke, though admittedly somewhat different in composition.

Thanks in advance for any feedback on this. Maybe I'm missing something.
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Michael Chu



Joined: 10 May 2005
Posts: 1622
Location: Austin, TX (USA)

PostPosted: Sat Sep 08, 2007 7:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The only thing I can think of is that when using a kettle grill, if you lift the cover straight up, the suction can pull up ashes into your food - so you should tilt the cover and pull it off to reduce that affect... Hinged lids shouldn't have this problem because it's just tilting the lid.
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DrBiggles



Joined: 12 May 2005
Posts: 355
Location: Richmond, CA

PostPosted: Sun Sep 09, 2007 11:12 pm    Post subject: Re: Don't Use Cover on Charcoal Grills? Reply with quote

Mark_Leh wrote:
I have often seen the advice not to use the cover on a charcoal kettle grill because of off-flavors which the cover imparts to the food. Is this just an urban legend which keeps getting passed around and thereby gains legitimacy, or has anyone actually run a test which demonstrates it to be true?

In my personal experience, while I have smelled something during the first few uses of a cover, I have not tasted or smelled anything awry on the food itself. I happen to wash out my cover after every use, so there is little accumulation of soot. However, if it's the soot which is causing the off-taste, then why doesn't this affect a propane grill? I have a propane grill whose cover I never wash, and there is never an off-taste (and I note that the same people who recommend cooking on a charcoal grill without the cover recommend closing the cover on a propane grill). Surely the gunk which accumulates on the inside cover of a propane grill can't be that much different from the gunk which would accumulate on a charcoal grill, can it? In both cases it's smoke, though admittedly somewhat different in composition.

Thanks in advance for any feedback on this. Maybe I'm missing something.


Urban Legend.

The off-flavors that many have spoken and written about, is what's called Creosote. This isn't generally a problem with propane grills because of how clean propane burns. This urban legend is also one of the many reasons I never renewed my 2 year subscription to CI magazine, they believed it & published it. I wrote a nice letter to them about it.

Creosote is created through smouldering wood, either charcoaled or not. And is more of a concern for smokers than grills. This is why your grill & smoker's fire should generally controlled with a wide open exhaust and only closing up the intake. This way, most nasties will be able to escape rather than being trapped.

But Biggles, how do I know my fire is creating creosote? How will I know?

Brown smoke. If your fire or exhaust is emiting a brown smoke, that's creosote. If it's only been a few minutes, open up the lid and get the fire up to snuff. It's a smoker and it's been going for quite some time, your food is ruined and you need to scrub and reseason your smoker. If you don't, once brought to temp, your smoker will impart a bitter flavor to your food. Rarely will this ever happen to a grill's lid. If it does, clean it. Der.

So please, you don't have to clean your lid every time. I've gone over 30 years on one grill without cleaning the lid and the food it produced was amazing. Although, you will need to wire brush it regularly so any black flakes don't fall on said food.

Tend to your fire, don't go away and do chores. Pay attention and it will be just fine.

Biggles
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Mark_Leh



Joined: 08 Sep 2007
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2007 1:57 pm    Post subject: Re: Don't Use Cover on Charcoal Grills? Reply with quote

Two great responses. Thanks very much.

Michael, this is a hell of a site you're running here.
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Michael Chu



Joined: 10 May 2005
Posts: 1622
Location: Austin, TX (USA)

PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2007 5:09 pm    Post subject: Re: Don't Use Cover on Charcoal Grills? Reply with quote

Mark_Leh wrote:
Two great responses. Thanks very much.

Michael, this is a hell of a site you're running here.


Thanks! But it's knowledgeable people like Dr. Biggles (who writes Meathenge by the way) that really make Cooking For Engineers a great place.
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Thor



Joined: 24 Jul 2006
Posts: 112
Location: Camp Hill, PA

PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2007 10:31 pm    Post subject: Yummy Creosote Reply with quote

Quote:
Creosote is created through smouldering wood,


So the normal suggestion of adding water soaked wood chunks to the coals to produce smoke is just adding creosote to my diet?? Is it true that eating creosote makes your tongue numb??
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DrBiggles



Joined: 12 May 2005
Posts: 355
Location: Richmond, CA

PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2007 1:54 am    Post subject: Re: Yummy Creosote Reply with quote

Thor wrote:
Quote:
Creosote is created through smouldering wood,


So the normal suggestion of adding water soaked wood chunks to the coals to produce smoke is just adding creosote to my diet?? Is it true that eating creosote makes your tongue numb??


Your tongue is numb due to nitrites or msg. Usually found in bacon that's improperly cured.

And you're exactly right. Adding water to wood creates creosote. So, everyone NEVER ADD WATER TO WOOD !!!! Never ever, soak your wood chips. Ever, that's just crazy talk. Water and wood, NEVER !!! Man, you just saved the planet. Sigh.

Um, did you know that the manufacturers of commercial wood fired smokers require you use GREEN wood, not seasoned for their smokers? The addition of water to wood doesn't add creosote. It's the combustion of your lame ass wood that creates creosote. Der.

I own a Little Red Smokehouse smoker from J&R manufacturing. It's 2100 pounds and will smoke 250 pounds of meat at one time. The user's manual states that you should use green wood (got water in it, foo), not seasoned for 3 to 6 months.

I don't know what to tell you. If after reading what I wrote you feel that I'm totally against water, I apologize. I wrote what I wrote then and now, about combustion. You could PEE on it for all I care, just get your fire right.

Goog Luck,

Biggles
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DrBiggles



Joined: 12 May 2005
Posts: 355
Location: Richmond, CA

PostPosted: Mon Sep 17, 2007 6:04 pm    Post subject: Re: Yummy Creosote Reply with quote

Thor wrote:
Quote:
Creosote is created through smouldering wood,


So the normal suggestion of adding water soaked wood chunks to the coals to produce smoke is just adding creosote to my diet?? Is it true that eating creosote makes your tongue numb??


Here's an excellent reference and talks a little bit about such things.

http://www.bbq-porch.org/faq/07-1.htm
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