What's in This Article?

Information and examples on what creosote is, and how you can identify it on your Traeger pellet grills.

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What is Creosote?

Creosote is an unwanted byproduct that occurs when wood is burnt and releases energy; other byproducts include smoke and gases. It is a dark, sticky, tar-like residue that builds up when wood is burned. It is highly flammable and can pose a serious fire hazard if it is not removed regularly. Because Creosote is a byproduct of burning wood, it only affects our pellet grills (not flat top grills).

Common Causes Creosote

  • Lack of proper air flow
  • Compromised pellets
  • Lack of proper maintenance

How Does Creosote Affect Me?

  • Creosote buildup
  • Temperature fluctuations
  • Bitter tasting food
  • Tar like smell
  • Potential grill fires
    • Creosote is extremely flammable. Heavy amount of creosote buildup can increase the risk of grill fires.

What Does Creosote Looks Like?

When creosote starts to build, it will become visually noticeable. These are examples of what creosote looks like as it flakes off, and when an accumulation of buildup occurs.

Creosote flakes.png
Creosote Flakes
creosote build up.png
Creosote Buildup



Creosote Buildup vs Paint Damage

Creosote buildup is often confused for paint damage because they share visual similarities. Many people look at creosote buildup and think it's paint chipping/flaking/peeling away from their grill. 

  • Stainless Steel vs Powder-Coated Grill Interiors: Some barrels and lids have stainless-steel insulation that is not coated but will get covered with ash/smoke during use. 

Keep in mind that both paint damage and creosote buildup are considered normal wear and tear.

  Creosote Buildup Paint Damage
Root Cause

Minimal creosote buildup is expected to occur in all pellet grills because it is a natural occurrence when burning wood.

The movement of hot air and smoke up a chimney or within the grill barrel produces creosote. As it cools, creosote solidifies and accumulates over time. 

Paint damage is damage to paint due to poor maintenance and/or high temperatures.

Paint peeling is more often than note a result of a high temperature incident like a pellet or grease fire.

Location Inside the grill: barrel walls, chimney, inside of lid. Because paint failure typically occurs after a fire, you may find indicators of paint failure almost anywhere on the grill.
Indicators Dark, tar-like buildup that can eventually flake or chip. Scorch marks, bubbling paint, warped internal components
Prevention Proper and consistent cleaning of the inside of the grill can prevent excessive creosote buildup. Proper and consistent cleaning of the inside of the grill can prevent unintentional high-heat events that damage paint.


Creosote on Grills with Stainless Steel Interiors

The following grills have full or partial stainless-steel interiors. If you are seeing what appears to be paint flaking or chipping and you have one of the grills below, what you are experiencing is creosote buildup.  Because stainless steel isn't painted, there's no paint to peel and can be removed with a deep cleaning.

  Stainless Steel Interior Parts
Lid Side Walls Back Wall
Timberline 850 checkmark.png checkmark.png checkmark.png
Timberline 1300 checkmark.png checkmark.png checkmark.png
Timberline checkmark.png checkmark.png checkmark.png
Timberline XL checkmark.png checkmark.png checkmark.png
Ironwood 650 no.png checkmark.png no.png
Ironwood 885 no.png checkmark.png no.png
Ironwood checkmark.png checkmark.png checkmark.png
Ironwood XL checkmark.png checkmark.png checkmark.png
Redland checkmark.png checkmark.png no.png
Redland XL checkmark.png checkmark.png no.png


Preventing Creosote Buildup

  • Maintain a proper air flow to the grill. 
    • Check chimney height. 
      • Grills with a chimney should have approximately a thumb's space (¾ inch or 2cm) between the top of the chimney pipe and the bottom of the cap.
    • Ensure exhaust draft is cleaned regularly. 
  • Clean out the chimney.
    • Scrub the inside of the chimney and the grease chute using a cleaning cloth or heavy-duty paper towels to remove soot and grease buildup.
      • Pro Tip: Use tongs or a stick to help guide the paper towel through spaces where your hand can't fit.
  • Clean and maintain grill as per expectations to prevent creosote buildup.

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