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Why Does My Food Taste Like Charcoal? [5 Common Reasons]

Summer is right around the corner and you’re eager to try out BBQ grilling. If you’re new to this, there’s a good chance that you might be doing it wrong. We get a lot of inquiries from amateur cooks about their grill-cooked food tasting like charcoal.

Why does my food taste like charcoal?

Your grilled food will taste like charcoal if you don’t burn the charcoal properly. One other mistake amateurs make is that they don’t let the smoke clear up before cooking. It can leave a bad charcoal-like taste in your food. Letting too much grease drip in the fire can make it taste bad.

Want more detailed answers? Read this article to learn more about this topic.

Why Does Food Taste Like Charcoal?

Many of us ain’t seasoned cooks and know little to nothing about grilling. So, it’s only natural to fall prey to the classic grilling mistakes every amateur makes.

You may succeed in cooking your food on the BBQ grill. But not knowing the proper craft can leave a charcoal-ish taste in your food. A number of novice mistakes can be pointed out for this reason. They are-

Reason 1 of 5: Using Uncleaned Grill

If you’re looking for ‘’flavor’’ in the charred bits of charcoal from past grilling, good luck!

Uncleaned grills will contain the charcoal ashes that’ll cloud around your food during grilling. That’ll leave your food tasting like charcoal. 

Aside from that, uncleaned grills grow grease layers and molds in your grills. This is highly unsanitary and gross.

Reason 2 of 5: Not Burning The Charcoal Properly

We understand the temptation of standing in front of a sizzling grill with a hungry tummy. It’s a thrilling experience and you can’t wait to start grilling.

But many of us lack the patience of waiting until the charcoal is properly burnt. Grilling on unprepared charcoal is the main reason behind the charcoal taste in your food. 

The outer crust of the charcoal burns out and affects the taste of your food. 

Reason 3 of 5: Using Lighter Fluid to Fire Charcoal

We see a lot of people use lighter fluid to easily light charcoal grills. Believe us, it’s the worst practice!

Using lighter fluid does help to easily light up the charcoal, but it has huge drawbacks. Lighter fluid can make your food taste acrid. Moreover, it’s not safe for your health either.

Reason 4 of 5: Not Venting the Charcoal Grill Properly

There’s a reason why your charcoal grill comes with vents. Venting controls the heat inside the grill and lets out trapped smoke and gasses from within.

You’re doing it all wrong if you’re never using the vents. The smoke from charcoal fuel will stay trapped inside, affecting the taste of the food.

No wonder your food tastes like charcoal!

Reason 5 of 5: Letting Excess Grease Drip in Fire

If you’re grilling meat in your Charcoal grill, keep an eye on the grease you apply. Excess grease can drip into the charcoal, making it emit more smoke, coating the meat.

If you are grilling pork, you might wanna use meat church rub on them. They will overshadow the flavor of charcoal.

What to Do if My Food Tastes Like Charcoal?

Unfortunately, there’s nothing much you can do for already grilled food that tastes like charcoal. 

This flavor is often termed the ‘’scorched ‘’flavor by many. The scorched flavor is well known in restaurants as the only flavor that can’t be masked.

You can try one last attempt to mask the flavor by applying lemon or vinegar. But it won’t improve the situation much anyways. Your only option, sadly, is to dump the entire batch of food.

How to Keep Food From Tasting Like Charcoal? [Tips]

Well, so far we’ve learned all the possible reasons from the previous section. Now you might not want to repeat the same things. Because you know already it would be a huge waste. In that case, you can easily follow the following tips.

So, let’s go through it together. Shall we?

Tip 1 of 4: Deep Cleaning The Grill

You must deep clean your charcoal grill before setting up the charcoal. Use a grill brush to brush off the food residue and ashes of the previous use. Spray the grill with grease cleaner and rub off the grease from the grill.

Here are a couple of the best grease cleaners in the market.

Best Overall Grill Cleaner
STANLEY HOME PRODUCTS Degreaser Concentrate - Removes Stubborn Grease & Grime - Multipurpose Cleaner for Home & Commercial Use (2 Pack)
Best Plant-Based Grill Cleaner
CARON & DOUCET - BBQ Grill Cleaner Oil | 100% Plant-Based & Vegan | Best for Cleaning Barbeque Grills & Grates | Use with Wooden Scrapers, Brushes, Accessories & Tools | Great Gift for Dad! (2X 8oz)
STANLEY HOME PRODUCTS Degreaser Concentrate - Removes Stubborn Grease & Grime - Multipurpose Cleaner for Home & Commercial Use (2 Pack)
CARON & DOUCET - BBQ Grill Cleaner Oil | 100% Plant-Based & Vegan | Best for Cleaning Barbeque Grills & Grates | Use with Wooden Scrapers, Brushes, Accessories & Tools | Great Gift for Dad! (2X 8oz)
$36.99
$27.99
Best Overall Grill Cleaner
STANLEY HOME PRODUCTS Degreaser Concentrate - Removes Stubborn Grease & Grime - Multipurpose Cleaner for Home & Commercial Use (2 Pack)
STANLEY HOME PRODUCTS Degreaser Concentrate - Removes Stubborn Grease & Grime - Multipurpose Cleaner for Home & Commercial Use (2 Pack)
$36.99
Best Plant-Based Grill Cleaner
CARON & DOUCET - BBQ Grill Cleaner Oil | 100% Plant-Based & Vegan | Best for Cleaning Barbeque Grills & Grates | Use with Wooden Scrapers, Brushes, Accessories & Tools | Great Gift for Dad! (2X 8oz)
CARON & DOUCET - BBQ Grill Cleaner Oil | 100% Plant-Based & Vegan | Best for Cleaning Barbeque Grills & Grates | Use with Wooden Scrapers, Brushes, Accessories & Tools | Great Gift for Dad! (2X 8oz)
$27.99

These cleaners will get rid of old grease layers off your Charcoal grills.

Tip 2 of 4: Burn The Charcoals Properly

The rule of thumb is to burn the charcoal for 20-30 minutes before you start grilling. This lets the charcoal burn properly, releasing a sweet aroma that we love in grilled foods. Well-burned charcoal will form white-colored ashes over it.

The most common charcoals used for grilling are either lump charcoals or charcoal briquettes. However, there is a special kind of charcoal that’s rising in popularity lately. It’s the smoky-flavored charcoal. 

Smoky-flavored charcoal is just like normal charcoals, but with wood shavings mixed in. The wood shavings add a smoky aroma to your food. You can also get that with normal charcoals by placing some wood shavings inside the grill.

You can manually manage your cooking temperature using a grill thermometer. Ensure the perfect cooking temperature for grilling with one of these recommended thermometers.

Best Overall
Pilita Digital Meat Thermometer for Cooking, 2022 Upgraded Touchscreen LCD Large Display Instant Read Food with Backlight, Long Probe, Kitchen Timer, BBQ, Oven, Silver
Best Basic / Budget
Taylor Precision Products 5932 Large Dial Kitchen Cooking Oven Thermometer, 3.25 Inch Dial, Stainless Steel
Best Temperature Gun
KIZEN Infrared Thermometer Gun (LaserPro LP300) - Handheld Heat Temperature Gun for Cooking, Pizza Oven, Grill & Engine - Laser Surface Temp Reader -58F to 1112F - NOT for Humans
Best Outdoor Digital
ThermoPro TP-17 Dual Probe Digital Cooking Meat Thermometer Large LCD Backlight Food Grill Thermometer with Timer Mode for Smoker Kitchen Oven BBQ, (Silver, 2 Probes)
Best Smartphone Enabled
MEATER Plus | Smart Meat Thermometer with Bluetooth | 165ft Wireless Range | for The Oven, Grill, Kitchen, BBQ, Smoker, Rotisserie
Pilita Digital Meat Thermometer for Cooking, 2022 Upgraded Touchscreen LCD Large Display Instant Read Food with Backlight, Long Probe, Kitchen Timer, BBQ, Oven, Silver
Taylor Precision Products 5932 Large Dial Kitchen Cooking Oven Thermometer, 3.25 Inch Dial, Stainless Steel
KIZEN Infrared Thermometer Gun (LaserPro LP300) - Handheld Heat Temperature Gun for Cooking, Pizza Oven, Grill & Engine - Laser Surface Temp Reader -58F to 1112F - NOT for Humans
ThermoPro TP-17 Dual Probe Digital Cooking Meat Thermometer Large LCD Backlight Food Grill Thermometer with Timer Mode for Smoker Kitchen Oven BBQ, (Silver, 2 Probes)
MEATER Plus | Smart Meat Thermometer with Bluetooth | 165ft Wireless Range | for The Oven, Grill, Kitchen, BBQ, Smoker, Rotisserie
$16.99
$6.24
$14.80
$25.99
$99.95
Best Overall
Pilita Digital Meat Thermometer for Cooking, 2022 Upgraded Touchscreen LCD Large Display Instant Read Food with Backlight, Long Probe, Kitchen Timer, BBQ, Oven, Silver
Pilita Digital Meat Thermometer for Cooking, 2022 Upgraded Touchscreen LCD Large Display Instant Read Food with Backlight, Long Probe, Kitchen Timer, BBQ, Oven, Silver
$16.99
Best Basic / Budget
Taylor Precision Products 5932 Large Dial Kitchen Cooking Oven Thermometer, 3.25 Inch Dial, Stainless Steel
Taylor Precision Products 5932 Large Dial Kitchen Cooking Oven Thermometer, 3.25 Inch Dial, Stainless Steel
$6.24
Best Temperature Gun
KIZEN Infrared Thermometer Gun (LaserPro LP300) - Handheld Heat Temperature Gun for Cooking, Pizza Oven, Grill & Engine - Laser Surface Temp Reader -58F to 1112F - NOT for Humans
KIZEN Infrared Thermometer Gun (LaserPro LP300) - Handheld Heat Temperature Gun for Cooking, Pizza Oven, Grill & Engine - Laser Surface Temp Reader -58F to 1112F - NOT for Humans
$14.80
Best Outdoor Digital
ThermoPro TP-17 Dual Probe Digital Cooking Meat Thermometer Large LCD Backlight Food Grill Thermometer with Timer Mode for Smoker Kitchen Oven BBQ, (Silver, 2 Probes)
ThermoPro TP-17 Dual Probe Digital Cooking Meat Thermometer Large LCD Backlight Food Grill Thermometer with Timer Mode for Smoker Kitchen Oven BBQ, (Silver, 2 Probes)
$25.99
Best Smartphone Enabled
MEATER Plus | Smart Meat Thermometer with Bluetooth | 165ft Wireless Range | for The Oven, Grill, Kitchen, BBQ, Smoker, Rotisserie
MEATER Plus | Smart Meat Thermometer with Bluetooth | 165ft Wireless Range | for The Oven, Grill, Kitchen, BBQ, Smoker, Rotisserie
$99.95

Tip 3 of 4: Avoid Lighter Fluid

Try to steer clear of using lighter fluid to ignite the charcoals. You should equally avoid buying match light charcoals. These charcoals are pre-soaked in lighter fluids and make your food smell like lighter fluid.

There are many safer alternatives to lighter fluids to fire up the charcoal. One very cost-efficient and safer alternative is to use newspapers to light up charcoals. It’ll save you from the harmful effects of lighter fluid.

Tip 4 of 4: Ensure Proper Heat Control

Ventilation is a very important part of the grilling process. It brings in oxygen inside the grill while kicking out the smoke and gases from inside.

It helps balance the heat level inside the grill, not affecting the taste of the food. You can use a big egg thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature.

FAQs

Is food that smells like lighter fluid good for health?

Lighter fluid is highly toxic to human health. It consists of toxic components such as hydrocarbons that are dangerous for the respiratory system. Using them in grilling is even more hazardous as you’ll be consuming their residue.

Can you get sick from charcoal grilling?

Yes, you can get sick from smoke while charcoal grilling. Fat and grease from meat can drip to coals and emit more smoke. These smokes are very harmful to human health that can even cause cancer. 

Can you light charcoal using vegetable oil?

Vegetable oil alone won’t be able to light the charcoal easily. But if you throw some paper in the mix, vegetable oil can do the job. It can make charcoal last long and burn for a longer period.

Final Words

You got the answer to your question, why does my food taste like charcoal? Hold your patience and let the charcoal burn properly before you start grilling. Remember to clean up the Charcoal grill after you’re done grilling.

That’s all for today, folks. Happy grilling!