Smoking Technique: Controling smoke on charcoal offset smkr

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Smoking Technique: Controling smoke on charcoal offset smkr

Post by SmokeHound » Sun Jun 28, 2009 5:27 pm

Okay.... I'm about to ask a potentially stupid question here.... so no laughing! :shock:

I've got a moderately sized offset charcoal smoker and I've had a lot of success with it..... (ribs, chops, chickens, butts, etc...) but I'm wondering about the best way to control the amount of smoke my food gets. It seems VERY smoky to some folks in my family...and I have to agree that sometimes it's a little overpowering. :cry:

For heat, I'm using white oak and charcoal For flavor, I use handfuls of the woodblend I like (3 parts hickory chips, 1 part mequite, 1 part cherry).

Any suggestions on controlling the smoke a little better??? I'm looking to improve my technique so any advice you smoking experts can lend would be MUCH appreciated!

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Re: Smoking Technique: Controling smoke on charcoal offset smkr

Post by dogthebear » Sun Jun 28, 2009 8:03 pm

is the smoke flavor bitter? are you getting "dirty smoke".?

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Re: Smoking Technique: Controling smoke on charcoal offset smkr

Post by Burtess » Sun Jun 28, 2009 8:19 pm

Why don't you try just the lump and oak alone, and omit the chips?
I would think you would get enough smoke flavour with just burning the oak.

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Re: Smoking Technique: Controling smoke on charcoal offset smkr

Post by SmokeHound » Sun Jun 28, 2009 10:03 pm

dogthebear wrote:is the smoke flavor bitter? are you getting "dirty smoke".?
sometimes it is but only a little and it's not every time.... At first, I thought I might have creosote build up (I've used this same smoker for about 8 years now) but I keep my smoker pretty clean...so I don't think that's the problem.... or maybe I'm mistaken :?:
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Re: Smoking Technique: Controling smoke on charcoal offset smkr

Post by SmokeHound » Sun Jun 28, 2009 10:07 pm

Burtess wrote:Why don't you try just the lump and oak alone, and omit the chips?
I would think you would get enough smoke flavour with just burning the oak.

Burt :)
Well... I really like the hickory/mesquite flavor.... Unfortunately, I'm not able to find any local wood dealers who carry hickory logs. I can get oak and fir all day long but not the stuff I really want... HICKORY! mmmm.......

Maybe it's too much oak :?: :?: But if that's the case, I've got a different problem: where to get a pickup truck load of hickory/mesquite....
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Re: Smoking Technique: Controling smoke on charcoal offset smkr

Post by Peter » Mon Jun 29, 2009 6:17 am

If you are in southwestern Ontario, hickory, oak and maple are easy to find in truckloads. Mesquite, you will have to travel some to get.

How do you control your fire? Are your stacks wide open all the time?
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Re: Smoking Technique: Controling smoke on charcoal offset smkr

Post by SmokeHound » Mon Jun 29, 2009 3:02 pm

Yep, I keep the stack completely open all the time....
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Re: Smoking Technique: Controling smoke on charcoal offset smkr

Post by dogthebear » Mon Jun 29, 2009 4:18 pm

when you add charcoal during the cook,, are you adding cold charcoal,, or is it pre-lit?
Always use pre-lit charcoal,, or you will get that nasty flavor......

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Re: Smoking Technique: Controling smoke on charcoal offset smkr

Post by SmokeHound » Mon Jun 29, 2009 6:35 pm

dogthebear wrote:when you add charcoal during the cook,, are you adding cold charcoal,, or is it pre-lit?
Always use pre-lit charcoal,, or you will get that nasty flavor......
I use the charcoal to establish a base, then I add a couple oak logs to that and extend the coal bed. Takes about 45 minutes to get that going (while the meat is coming up to temp in the kitchen). From there, I add a small split log to the fire, along with a couple handfuls of hickory/mesquite chips, then put the meat on the "barbie". I'll add a hunk of wood every 45mins to an hour (depending on the temp). Every OTHER hour, I'll add a couple more handfuls of wood blend (soaked).

Once the initial coal bed is started, I don't usually add in charcoal....

Regarding process, how far off am I ???

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Re: Smoking Technique: Controling smoke on charcoal offset smkr

Post by Peter » Mon Jun 29, 2009 8:48 pm

SmokeHound wrote:
dogthebear wrote:when you add charcoal during the cook,, are you adding cold charcoal,, or is it pre-lit?
Always use pre-lit charcoal,, or you will get that nasty flavor......
I use the charcoal to establish a base, then I add a couple oak logs to that and extend the coal bed. Takes about 45 minutes to get that going (while the meat is coming up to temp in the kitchen). From there, I add a small split log to the fire, along with a couple handfuls of hickory/mesquite chips, then put the meat on the "barbie". I'll add a hunk of wood every 45mins to an hour (depending on the temp). Every OTHER hour, I'll add a couple more handfuls of wood blend (soaked).

Once the initial coal bed is started, I don't usually add in charcoal....

Regarding process, how far off am I ???

There is your problem! Why would you add wet wood to a fire? When you add wood; make sure it is DRY, open the inlet vent to ensure a good initial burn, then throttle it back. Adding unlit charcoal is Ok, just follow the same procedure - please don't tell us you are using briquets! Adding the flavour wood before the meat goes on - same thing, add dry wood, wait till the smoke just about disappears, then add the meat.
Good luck, let us know how the next cook goes.
By the way, in an offset, I have found chunks to be a lot better for flavour than chips. Chips work best in smoker boxes in gassers.

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Re: Smoking Technique: Controling smoke on charcoal offset smkr

Post by SmokeHound » Tue Jun 30, 2009 1:19 am

Nope.... no briquettes here...just the lump!

As for adding wet wood to the fire... that was one of several techniques I was shown when I first got my smoker. BUT...I'm going to follow the steps you listed and see what happens when I smoke my brisket and butt this Friday (it'll be an overnighter...)...

Thanks everyone for your advice and guidance! (and for not laughing!) :wink:

I'll let you know how this all turned out (and hopefully I'll remember to take pictures!)...

Cheers!
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Re: Smoking Technique: Controling smoke on charcoal offset smkr

Post by Peter » Wed Jul 01, 2009 3:54 pm

My last reply was a bit short and maybe a little "edgy"; I get annoyed about things that seem (to me, anyways) so simple and commonsense.

So, here is a "fire control for offsets 101". All you guys with WSMs and other bullets and clay cookers and so on, tune out, OK, this is for stick burners. We like to call ourselves "real" BBQers.

Choose your wood before you start cooking. It should all be dry and as free from bark as you can get it. A little bark won't hurt but try to avoid it. You probably will be cooking in the dark at some point so make sure you are looking at it, not looking for it. Get it all stacked up, ready to go. A couple of bubbly pops in the middle of the night --- you need to have your ducks in a row.

Get a good splitting axe and learn how to use it. Small splits and larger splits are what this way of cooking is all about.

Hickory is the king of firewood and oak is the queen. Maple is next; its also very plentiful here in Ontario. Cherry and apple are very nice to have around, too. I live in northern Ontario; all of these woods are "exotic" here. I have to import all of these woods. I have learned to cook with birch and poplar and still get good results. You can cook with any wood that comes from a tree that bears fruit or nuts .... period! Please don't use softwoods; pine, cedar and so on all have their place in cooking but don't add them to your fire in the offset.

Open the stack full and leave it open. This is important. The only time you close the stack is to put out a grease fire under the meat. Bad on you if you need to do this. The stack stays open all the time, control is in the inlet air only.

Now, to build a fire, use paper, shavings, lit chimneys of charcoal or whatever else but do not use a chemical starter in an offset. You will never get the smell out of it (or out of your food). That goes for the self starting charcoals and so on; avoid them like the plague. Some of the high end offsets have built-in propane "log lighters". They are great,! Toss in a half a bag of lump and a couple of logs, light it up and go have another coffee. Nothing could be easier. If you don't have one, you gotta do it the hard way. Tiger torches are impressive, too. nothing beats them for show and they do a good job of starting fires.

Once the fire is going well; thin blue smoke and all and the pit is coming up to temp; its time to build the fire for adding meat. Add a couple or three logs (or splits in a smaller cooker), open the inlet vent and wait for the fire to burn down a bit to coals, then add the meat. Opening the doors will drop the temp but open the inlet to get it back up to temp then throttle back. You will get to know when and how much in time. Long learning curve here but worth the effort. The inlet door is the ONLY way to regulate temps effectively. If the temps get too high, wait for them to drop and don't add as much wood next time. This is where the splits and smaller splits come in. If you are using a flavour wood along with a base wood, add it earlier in the cook, right before the meat goes on. Let it burn down to coals, then add the meat. Next wood addition can be base wood or flavour wood; your call, or both.

Take notes, and learn from them. Learn to understand what you are doing and it will get a lot easier. I think that offsets are the best way to get results but they are not the easiest, for sure.
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Re: Smoking Technique: Controling smoke on charcoal offset smkr

Post by Burtess » Wed Jul 01, 2009 4:08 pm

Peter wrote:All you guys with WSMs and other bullets and clay cookers and so on, tune out, OK, this is for stick burners. We like to call ourselves "real" BBQers.
Boooooo..... LOL.. b2
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Re: Smoking Technique: Controling smoke on charcoal offset smkr

Post by teacup13 » Thu Jul 02, 2009 3:29 am

hickory and mesquite will give you that strong smoker flavor IMHO... i use oak for my base because it gets hot and stay hot...very mild in flavor alone.... for flavoring my preferred wood is cherry,apple or maple.

i myself am not a fan of mesquite or hickory because they can be overpowering and also because on the part of northern ontario i am from maple,apple and oak are easy to come by.

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Re: Smoking Technique: Controling smoke on charcoal offset smkr

Post by bbbrown » Thu Jul 02, 2009 12:23 pm

Great reply Peter.
I too find it a little annoying when what seems so simple can be overwhelming to some. LOL.
Saying that, I remember when I was starting out, I was totally confused also. I'd say to myself, "this is a smoker so more smoke is more better". NOT.

Bryan b6

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