Weber Grill - ashy food
When I use my Weber grill with the cover on, my food will have a greenish ashy or sooty surface. This does not happen uncovered. It didn't always happen. I noticed it a couple years ago. I always use Kingsford charcoal, a chimney starter and newspaper. Every time before I grill I scrape the sides of the kettle and the cover and wipe then down with wet cloths. I clean, scrape and oil grill rack. I clean the bottom ash catcher before I grill. If I use the cover, I've tried the vents all variations of open/closed. All the same result. Before I buy a gas grill does anyone have suggestions .
I'll echo many of the recs here: black print newspaper only (no color or 'slicks'), light the chimney outside the kettle, and leave the top vent WIDE OPEN. This, IMNSHO, is the most important one, because vent control means fire control, and fire control determines whether you have a small, hot, clean-burning fire, or a large, cool, smoldering (that is, *creosote-generating*) fire.
You want to control the size of the fire by monitoring the amount of fresh air getting to the fire (this comes from the bottom vent), but you want to make sure that your exhaust can escape freely, through the wide-open top vent. Closing the top vent damps the fire and makes it smaller/cooler by choking it with sooty smoke. OTOH, closing the bottom vent keeps a fast but small supply of fresh air, encouraging a small, hot fire that burns cleaner and creates the thin, wispy blue smoke we all know and love.
I don't know exactly what you are experiencing, as I've never really seen this either. The only time I've ever found a "sooty" or some such surface on grilled food is when a flaming fire is suddenly put down by putting the lid on the grill. That has only ever happened through inattention, so it doesn't really apply here. It's a mistake, not a method of cooking ;-)
That said, I agree with all of the suggestions presented before this. Do try lump charcoal, to see if you prefer it. I think it burns hotter, and definitely produces less ash. I use it sometimes, but I do usually use Kingsford, as I like the control and consistency it provides. When cooking with the lid on, do keep the top vent fully open, using bottom vents to control temperature. I, like others, prefer to light my chimney outside the grill, as I have never liked having that light, papery ash flying about when I lift the lid on the grill. I have a split cement block on which I set my chimney until the charcoal is ready, then dump into the Weber. Be aware that it is not recommended to set that chimney on a porous stone surface (like my block), as any moisture in the surface can cause the stone to "explode", possibly showering the area with lit charcoal and stone bits. Perhaps a second grill, a piece of steel, etc. would be a better option. I know of people who have had a part of their concrete patio explode in such a manner. Yeah, I still use my block.
I don't really clean the inside of my Webers either. I will place the cooking grate over the hot fire for a couple minutes, and then wire-brush it well. That is all that is necessary. If you are finding soot to wipe away on the inside of the kettle, I again wonder if you are smothering a flaming fire, which will make soot. Covering a bed of coals should not make soot.
Paper bags from the grocery store are another great fuel source for lighting your charcoal in a chimney.
I have 3 Weber kettles on the patio right now, with another
3 or 4 that could be brought out if the need arises. I would not trade any of them for a gas grill. I do own two gas grills, but one is old and tired, and has almost never been used since I got my first Weber. The other mounts to a swing-away rack that fits into the 2" receiver hitch on my truck, ans is used for tailgating and cooking on the beach.
Cheez62, I'm glad to find somebody that has more grills than we do.
Gas grills are great too, but I prefer the Weber. I put the newspaper-and-charcoal filled chimney on the bottom grate of the Weber, having taken the top grate off. When it's hot I dump the charcoal on the bottom grate, put the top one on, and proceed. There's nothing there to cause soot.
Webers are great! I like to "rescue" them from people who are throwing them away or selling them cheap on Craigslist. Those people are often replacing them with a gasser. Too bad that they don't know what they had.... My most recent find was a 22 1/2" One Touch Gold, in very good condition, with the charcoal baskets for indirect cooking, for $30. My favorite find though, a Weber Ranch Kettle. A bit more than $30, but still a fantastic bargain!
Using the bottom grate to hold your chimney works fine, but I have sometimes still found that papery ash floats about. there are some summer squash, peppers and onions on my Weber right now as I type, and I had just lit my chimney on my block, as usual.
Maybe you might want to switch to real hardwood charcoal. Also make sure that the newspaper in your chimney is all black and white print, not color.
Personally, I rarely clean my grill and have never had to clean any other part of the Weber. It has a light seasoning to it but no gunk worth cleaning off, and I think a properly seasoned kettle makes better tasting food. I also never grill with sauces. Only straight meat like steaks, chops, or burgers.
Chicken is done on a Weber vertical with the pan, so no juices drip. This is the only time I put the top on my Weber while cooking.
Back a long, long, time ago when I had a propane grill I found it was a lot more messy than my Weber burning hardwood.