Why Do My Smoked Ribs Turn Black?

Having the family or friends over for some fun in the sun while you smoke ribs in the backyard is a glorious way to spend the day, but this can all be ruined by your smoked ribs coming out black. The meal is thus incomplete, and nobody has the stomach or desire to eat blackened meat. Thankfully there are solutions, but first, “Why do smoked ribs turn black?”

The usual reason smoked ribs turn black is creosote; this is the most likely culprit. Other reasons could be that the temperature and cooking time is incorrect, there is too much sugar in your rub, or perhaps even the amount of wood used is too much. Or even due to stale smoke.

why do my smoked ribs turn black

So you have experienced this before, and now you are looking for the reasons, which, thankfully, we have. The next time you decide to make smoked ribs, you will be better equipped to ensure that they come out just right, so to find out more, be sure to read on. 

Additionally, we shall offer some helpful tips on how to prevent the issue from reoccurring in the future.

Creosote Build-Up Causing Your Smoked Ribs To Blacken

The build-up of creosote is the most likely culprit in why your smoked ribs are coming out black; however, what on earth is it even? Additionally, how do we solve this issue? Creosote is a thick and oily substance that is a residue produced by extreme heat within a smoker. 

To test if the problem is, in fact, creosote build-up, hold a glass of ice water above one of the vents of your smoker and keep it there for a few minutes. 

If black specks begin to build up on the glass, you know creosote is your issue.

You will want to clean the entire smoker and do a thorough job. Start by scrubbing it down properly, but try to avoid using any potent cleaning agents for the job as you do not want remnants of that to stay in your smoker. 

Although it makes your meat look bad, creosote is also not good for your health, so if it’s been a while since cleaning it, you may need to do so.

Cooking At Too High A Temperature Could Blacken Your Smoked Ribs 

To begin with, if you smoke your meat at a high temperature and then additionally allow it to sit for too long, you may have just discovered the reason behind your blackened smoked ribs. 

Any smoked meat typically needs to be cooked at a lower temperature, and you need to gauge how long you allow it to smoke – not all meat takes forever to cook through. 

What you should aim to do as a general guide is to smoke your ribs at a temperature between 225 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature is too high and the duration too long, you’ll end up with burnt ribs which are tough and tastes terrible if you decide to try to eat them. 

High temperatures usually burn the meat’s exterior while the inside is still raw.

Additionally, you do not want to put your meat in the smoker immediately; instead, prepare the smoker, and then once it is ready, allow it to sit for roughly 10 minutes. Check the temperature and then, if it is too hot, seal the vents to cool them slightly, or if need be, open them to increase the temperature – you can also do this while smoking your ribs.

Using Too Much Sugar-Based Rub 

Sugar-based rubs can be applied to various types of meat, and you may choose to put some on your ribs to add some additional sweetness; however, there is a catch to it; if you overdo a salt or sugar-based rub, you could be causing your meat to blacken. This is because these components can stimulate burning within the smoker. 

This will cause the temperature to rise, or your ribs may become flame-grilled, which is the last thing you want. In addition, this will undoubtedly lead to the ribs becoming blackened, so perhaps consider reigning in on how much sugar rub you put on your ribs or eliminate it, ultimately allowing you to avoid the risk entirely.

Alternatively, you can brush some honey or maple syrup onto your ribs (if they do not already have some sort of basting) and then place them in the smoker. This will help to alleviate the problem as these are far less likely to cause heat flares within the smoker.

Using Too Much Wood May Be Causing Your Ribs To Blacken

Sometimes people over or underestimate how much wood they need in their smoker (if it is the kind that uses wood), which can impact how your ribs turn out. The most common phenomenon is that folk tend towards the side of using too much wood as they feel that it will increase the heat and result in faster cooking. 

Another reason people add extra wood to the smoker is they believe that the meat will only absorb the smoke for a certain period and then stop altogether. 

This is a misconception; the additional smoke will only cause your ribs to blacken, especially if you leave them in for an extended period. Again you are faced with the predicament where the ribs may cook externally but not internally. 

Or you could have thoroughly singed ribs that no one will want to eat as they are overcooked all the way through. You will not have deliciously smoked ribs but rather tough and chard meat, which will ultimately have to end up in the trash.

To avoid this problem, we advise you to place less wood into the smoker and add additional if necessary. 

Keep an eye on the smoker; if you feel it is not reaching the desired temperature, you can always add more. Adding more wood to the smoker is always easier than removing it.

Your Ribs May Be Turning Black Due To Stale Smoke

This one ties in slightly with the issue of creosote in that it is due to the smoker not being clean enough. The cleanliness of the smoker you are using is likely the culprit if you are experiencing stale smoke, and thankfully this is also an easy fix. 

So to avoid having black ribs, you will want to take the same advice as found under that heading and apply it here. 

However, it is not uncommon for many people to encounter this issue with their smokers, and it all comes down to the smoker needing a good cleaning. 

Keeping it clean will not only prevent your ribs from blackening, but it is also good for your overall health, as you do not want to eat food prepared in an unclean smoker.

So you need to get some warm, soapy water and scrub down the interior of your smoker (avoid using harsh chemicals as these could leave an unhealthy residue). I recommend reading the owner’s manual of your particular smoker to ensure you’re cleaning it properly.

Keeping your smoker clean will alleviate this problem and help fend off creosote.

Final Word

We hope you found a possible solution to your problem and wish you happy meat smoking. Always remember these tips when considering what may be causing your smoker to blacken your ribs, and you should find a solution among them. 

Also, be sure to keep your smoker clean and well maintained so that it is a hygienic device in which to smoke whatever meat you desire. 

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