Why Does My Food Taste Like Charcoal? (5 Reasons)

Why Does My Food Taste Like Charcoal (Explained)

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Cooking food on a barbecue in the backyard with friends and family is a great experience.

But if you do not know the proper BBQ grilling, there are chances your food might not taste as expected. People usually ask why their food tastes like charcoal.

So, if you also have this question, continue reading this article to the end to get relevant details. So, let’s get started.

Why Does My Food Taste Like Charcoal?

The main reason for the food to taste like charcoal is the improper BBQ technique. If the charcoal is not appropriately burnt, the grilled food will taste like charcoal.

Also, if there is excess grease used or the grill is not cleaned properly before cooking, there are chances that the food won’t taste right. You must also ensure that the smoke is released correctly, or you will get a smoky charcoal taste. 

5 Reasons Why Your Food Taste Like Charcoal

If you are working with BBQ grilling for the first time, you might not know the right way to burn your charcoal.

Most of us are beginners and not seasoned cooks, so this is quite common. 

Even if you have worked with BBQ quite a lot, incomplete knowledge can leave a charcoal-like taste to your food. But there are various reasons for this. So, let us look at the top reasons here:

Reason 1: Using Uncleaned Grill

When cooking on a grill, making sure that it is clean is very important. Not only is this unhygienic, but it can also make your food taste bad.

An uncleaned grill can have old charred pieces of coal stuck in them. These pieces can become ash when burnt and clouded around the food you are preparing. This is one of the reasons for the charcoal kind taste of food.

Also, uncleaned grills can have a layer of grease or mold growing on them, which is gross. Using such grills to cook your food is not recommended at all. 

For many people, it might sound surprising that using lighter fluid to fire charcoal can impact food taste.

Though using the fluid, you can get the charcoal to burn easily, but the drawbacks on taste are huge.

Reason 2: Not Burning The Charcoal Properly

Not Burning The Charcoal Properly

To have the food cooked properly, you must ensure that the charcoal is burnt correctly. It requires time and patience.

But if you cook on unprepared charcoal, there is a high chance that your food might taste like charcoal.

Grilling is a great experience, but it can be daunting without proper knowledge. If the outer crust of the charcoals burns out, it will affect the taste of your meal.

You must balance the burning by turning and properly shuffling the charcoal pieces.

Reason 3: Using Lighter Fluid To Fire Charcoal

The lighter fluid used to fire charcoal tends to add a pungent taste to food. Also, this is not good for health. So, it’s better to avoid using lighter fluid to fire charcoal.

Reason 4: Not Venting The Charcoal Grill Properly

Charcoal grills come with vents. The main aim of the vents is to maintain the heat inside the grill. It also lets the trapped smoke and gases be released. 

But most people need help understanding the right use of the vents. In such a case, vents are left unused, and the smoke remains trapped inside the grill. This smoke affects the taste of the food cooked negatively. 

Reason 5: Letting Excess Grease Drip In Fire

Letting Excess Grease Drip In Fire

When grilling, you need to apply grease, especially with meat. But if the excess grease is applied, it will drip into the charcoal, creating more smoke. The smoke can coat the meat and affect its taste adversely.

The same is the case when you are grilling pork. But if you use the meat church rub on them, it will overshadow the taste of charcoal.

So, knowing the right amount of grease can be helpful. 

What To Do If My Food Tastes Like Charcoal?

The truth is that you cannot do much if the food tastes like charcoal. Since your food is already grilled and ready, you have several options to correct it.

This kind of food is popularly known as scorched flavor in restaurants. This is the only flavor that you cannot mask.

The only solution that can help is using lemon and vinegar. You can apply this mixture on the surface of the grilled food as the last attempt. But even this solution can only improve the situation a little.

In most cases, the entire batch needs to be dumped at the end. 

How To Keep Food From Tasting Like Charcoal? [5 Tips]

Now, you know the top reasons that can make your food taste like charcoal. Though one thing is sure, there is no solution to mask your food tasting like charcoal. And we are sure you must be willing to avoid such instances at all costs. 

So, here are a few tips you can follow to prevent your food from tasting like charcoal. 

Tip 1: Deep Cleaning The Grill

The first and most effective tip to try is cleaning your grill. When you deep clean your grill, all the grease and waste are removed, which makes it perfect for the next cook. 

You can use a grill brush to clean up the food residue and ashes from the previous cook. Using a grease cleaner can be helpful. It will melt away the grease and help you rub off the residue easily.

The two top ones that are usually recommended for the purpose are:

  • Stanley Home Products Degreaser Concentrate is a multipurpose cleaner, best for home and commercial use.
  • Caron & Doucet – BBQ Grill Cleaner Oil is a 100% plant-based and vegan cleaner.

Here is a video on how to deep clean the grill

Tip 2: Burn The Charcoals Properly

If you burn the charcoal properly, there will be less residue and smoke, making the food taste right.

The basic thing to remember here is that charcoal takes 20-30 minutes to burn properly. After this, it will start realizing its aroma in the air. 

To check if the charcoal is burned properly, check its ashes. It will be white.

You should also use the right quality of charcoal, which is either lump charcoal or charcoal briquettes. A smoky-flavored charcoal is gaining popularity because of the aroma it adds to food. 

The option is to use normal charcoal with wood shavings to get the same aroma.

To ensure the same, you need to maintain the right cooking temperature. For this using the grill thermometers is recommended. The best ones are:

  • Pilita Digital Meat Thermometer for Cooking
  • Taylor Precision Products 5932 Large Dial Kitchen Cooking Oven Thermometer
  • KIZEN Infrared Thermometer Gun (LaserPro LP300)
  • ThermoPro TP-17 Dual Probe Digital Cooking Meat Thermometer
  • MEATER Plus – Smart Meat Thermometer with Bluetooth

Tip 3: Avoid Lighter Fluid

As already said, using lighter fluids can spoil the taste of your food. The best thing to do is to avoid using lighter fluids to burn the charcoal. 

The best way is to burn the charcoal using efficient and safe newspapers. Also, you should avoid using charcoals that are pre-soaked in lighter fluids.

Tip 4: Ensure Proper Heat Control

The very purpose of the ventilation is to help you with heat control.

Keeping an eye on the temperature and using the ventilation system provided will help you attain the right temperature and heat for cooking.

You can use a thermometer to check and maintain the temperature.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Food That Smells Like Lighter Fluid Good For Health?

No, food that smells like lighter fluid is not good for health. Lighter fluids are toxic, and the hydrocarbons in them can affect the respiratory system of humans. If you use them in grilling, they can prove to be very dangerous for your health.

Can You Get Sick From Charcoal Grilling?

Even though the chances are low, you can still get sick from charcoal grilling. The smoke emitted while grilling is not healthy. Also, when fat and grease drip on charcoal, the smoke increases. This smoke can even cause cancer, so be cautious when grilling.

Can You Light Charcoal Using Vegetable Oil?

Yes, you can use vegetable oil to light the charcoal. But vegetable oil alone cannot work, so you would be required to use it with newspaper. This mix can make the charcoal burn longer.

Final Words

You must now be able to understand why your food tastes like charcoal. The reasons for such a situation are quite basic, and their solutions are simple too.

All you need is patience and an understanding of how to burn charcoal properly. Ensure cleaning up of the grill after every cook.

A clean grill and properly burned charcoal will give your food a great taste without any doubt.

So, just follow these simple steps and have that perfect grill easily. We hope you have got all your answers to know.

Share this with your friends and family so that they can also have a better grilling experience.

Happy Grilling!

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