Sometimes when grilling, you might find that your grill is smoking a bit more than usual. Obviously, when you are grilling at high heat levels, you are going to see some smoke. However, too much smoke could be a problem. Too much smoke could ruin that nice steak you were looking forward to. Luckily, excessive smoke coming from a grill is an easy thing to fix and prevent.
Grills generally smoke more than usual for a few common reasons. The most common reason is because you are grilling a fatty piece of meat. It could also be because your grill grates need to be cleaned, or because you are grilling directly over the flame.
Those three issues could cause flare-up’s which can create a lot of smoke. Let’s take a deeper look at what causes your grill to smoke so much and tell you what you can do to prevent it.
What Causes a Grill to Smoke?
Like I mentioned earlier, there are a few common reasons that your grill is smoking a lot. These are not the only reason’s it could be smoking, but they are likely culprits.
Meats high in fat are probably the biggest reason your grill is smoking so much. The excess fat from the meat will drip down into the flame causing both flare-up’s and a lot of smoke. If you have ever made burgers from ground chuck, you will know this is true. Once you flip them over, a lot of fat has already melted and formed on the top of the patty and all that fat going right onto the flame is going to cause a lot of smoke. The smoke is going to go right into your eyes and believe me that is not a fun experience.
Another commonly grilled cut of meat that causes a lot of smoke is the ribeye. With marbling throughout, and the fat cap in the middle, a lot of fat is going to melt off and cause a lot of smoke. You might find it easier to make the steak inside if the smoke is going to be a problem for you.
Grill Grates Need to be Cleaned
Dirty grill grates could be another reason that your grill is smoking so much. If you are noticing that your grill is smoking more than usual, I would give your grill grates a good clean. I went over how to do that in my post on How to Maintain a Grill. If cleaning the grates is not working, try giving it a deep clean.
If your grill grates are dirty, that means there will be a lot of caked on oil and food particles. Everything that is left behind will just burn in your grill, causing all the smoke you are seeing. In most situations, when your grill is smoking excessively, it is because the grill grates need to be cleaned.
On the flip side, if a grill has never been used and the grates are totally clean, you are probably going to see more smoke than usual. This is normal for the first use so don’t worry too much about that. If it continues after the first few uses though, then something is wrong.
Grilling Directly Over the Flame
Direct grilling is when you when you grill directly over the flame. This method can cause quite a bit of smoke. While direct grilling can be a fast way to grill your food, there is also a better chance that you will burn your food. Burning your food will obviously cause a lot of smoke.
When grilling directly over the flame, any fat or oil that drips off will also go directly into the flame causing flare-up’s and smoke. For example, if you are grilling a piece of steak that is heavily marinated, a lot of the marinade will drip right into the flame and you will notice that your grill is smoking a lot more than it normally would.
How to Prevent Your Grill From Smoking
Now that we talked about some things that can cause your grill to smoke, what are some things that you can do to prevent your grill from smoking so much?
Choose Leaner Cuts of Meat
Since fatter cuts of meats cause your grill to smoke, one of the best things you can do to prevent your grill from smoking is to stick to grilling leaner cuts of meat. These leaner cuts have less fat on them that can drip onto the grill and cause smoke. If you do want to make something with a higher fat content, you could try to cook that inside instead.
Some of the leaner cuts of meat that you can grill outside would include chicken, sirloin, and flank steaks to name a few. You can also grill vegetables without having to worry too much about smoke because there is not fat on them.
I mentioned earlier that burgers are one thing that can cause your grill to smoke a lot. Most commonly, people use chuck ground beef for their burgers which is 80%-85% lean. If you still want to grill burgers outside but are worried about the smoke, you could make your own burgers out of 95% lean ground beef. You will find that these leaner burgers cause significantly less smoke.
If you want, you could also trim excess fat off your meat before placing it on the grill. While you might lose some of the flavor from this, it will not create as much smoke. Along the same lines, you could also try to use a less oily marinade. The oil dripping off will also cause your grill to smoke a lot.
The opposite of direct grilling, which can cause your grill to smoke a lot, is indirect grilling. To grill indirectly, you only turn on one side of you grill, or if you have a charcoal grill, move all the charcoals to one side. When you grill the meat, place on the opposite side so it is not directly over the open flame.
Indirect grilling will take a little longer, but you are less likely to burn your food and create a lot of smoke. Flare-up’s are also less likely because the fat and oil won’t be dripping directly into the open flame.
Grill at a Lower Temperature
Similar to indirect grilling, grilling at a lower temperature will just lower your chances of burning the meat. Burnt meat is going to create a lot more smoke. High heat will create more flare-up’s than you would normally experience. With fattier meats like burgers, I find that lowering the temperature on my grill helps prevent excessive smoke.
Scrape Your Grill After Each Use
Like I mentioned earlier, dirty grill grates are one of the most common reasons people find that their grills are smoking too much. To prevent this, make sure you knock all the debris off your grates after each use. You could do it before each use, but it is better to clean the grates after the fact (once it cools down).
It is really easy to scrape off your grill grates. Once you are done grilling, leave the heat on high and shut the lid for about 10 minutes. This will burn off most of what was left behind. After that, open the lid and scrape off anything that remains with a grill brush. If you don’t have a grill brush you could even use a ball of aluminum foil. Cleaning the grates is incredibly important for prevent your grill from smoking more than normal, so don’t skip that step!
I hope you found this article helpful. If you find that your grill is smoking more than normal, give some of the tips above a try to prevent it from smoking so much. For more tips on grilling, be sure to check out our grilling section!