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"Once you get clear smoke"

I see this a lot - in terms of when to add smoke wood, when to add food etc. Curious....does "clear smoke" happen when all of the load has whitened off or when the temp has hit a certain point. I ask because I see lots of people suggesting dispersing the smoke wood throughout the lump and the fire will eventually find it all. I'd think that the "clear smoke" can't be when all the lump has whitened off (lit).

I might not be explaining myself very well here.....does anyone get what I mean?

As an addendum to the above, if I'm using chips, not chunks do I do the same? Bury pockets of smoke wood all throughout the lump load? Why wouldn't I do that AND add a couple handfuls of wet and dry when I have the temp stabilized and add the meat? When is it too much?

Comments

  • EggcelsiorEggcelsior Posts: 12,461
    Clean smoke is when the heavy, billowing white stuff turns into a pleasant-smelling thin blueish smoke. Too much smoke is in the "taste buds of the beholder" so personal preference will vary. There is a larger amount of this dirty smoke at the beginning - a result of inefficient burning. It occurs when you start a fire and when you put it out. In between, the fire is most efficient. This is relative of course,since a BBQ fire is inefficient to begin with in the hierarchy of combustion.
  • bicktravbicktrav Posts: 471
    I understand your confusion, and to a degree I share it.  Waiting for clear smoke makes sense when it comes to charcoal, but wood?  I'm not so sure.  If you are burying wood throughout your lump so that it will catch progressively over the course of a cook, you are guaranteeing that your meat will be exposed to the thick white smoke that comes when each piece ignites.  That thick white smoke will burn off eventually, but not before it shrouds your meat in plumes of smoke.  Nonetheless, this is how most people advocate doing their cooks, and it seems to run contrary to the whole "wait til the smoke runs clear" doctrine that many of them espouse.  The only thing I can think is that the thick white smoke from the wood is acceptable.  That's definitely not the case with charcoal.  I've put food in before the charcoal has had a chance to burn for a while, and the results were acrid and unappetizing.  But if I throw meat into the egg right after I put wood in--or even if I toss in some chips of wood while the meat is already in there--the food comes out tasting great.  Nice and smoky, but not at all off-putting the way it does when you throw it on before charcoal burns thoroughly.  So my take is, wait for the smoke to run clear when it's charcoal.  But with wood, I don't think it's necessary.  Interested to hear what everyone else has to say about this.
    Southern California
  • on my big pit which has a direct fire box and trays rotate past it, I go through several cycles of smoke... it's inevitable when you need to constantly refuel unlike our eggs.  Even my chickens I do on that at 450 has a healthy amount of smoke as soon as I throw four large oak pieces on.  That chicken turns out amazing too, decent smoke flavor but they come out puffed up like hot chicken water ballons, just full of juice!
    So, I wouldn't hesitate to put little pockets of wood in your egg or some pieces directly on during a session.  
    "Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are."
     Brillat-Savarin
  • SkiddymarkerSkiddymarker Posts: 7,530
    Smoke wood in a low and slow egg does not provide that blue cloud I used to get with a Weber kettle. The egg provides lots of sweet smoke that is pretty much invisible once the egg is stable. The idea is don't add food until the white smoke from VOCs is gone. Clear means good to go. I find a couple of handfuls pf chips or chunks (dry no need to soak) mixed throughout the lump provides the right amount of smoke. 
    Delta B.C. - Vee-Gan: old Indian word for poor hunter. 
  • Nature BoyNature Boy Posts: 8,397
    Macboy. Great topic for a thread, and a good one for newbies to pay attention to.

    Personally I use several large chunks on a small load of hot coals, then cover it all up with new charcoal and wait for 45 minutes or until smoke is peppery and un-harsh.  If you want more smoke you can add a couple more smaller chunks or chips in the charcoal above. When the fire reaches it, the wood will be plenty dry from all the heat it has been exposed to, and it shouldn't spew out nasty white smoke.

    However, there is no reason to continually add smoke during your entire cook. The smoke that gets applied to the meat does not go away. And the last thing you want is to overdo it. 

    Enjoy the experimentation!
    Chris
    DizzyPigBBQ.com
    Twitter: @dizzypigbbq
    Facebook: Dizzy Pig Seasonings
  • bicktravbicktrav Posts: 471
    edited August 2013
    Smoke wood in a low and slow egg does not provide that blue cloud I used to get with a Weber kettle. The egg provides lots of sweet smoke that is pretty much invisible once the egg is stable. The idea is don't add food until the white smoke from VOCs is gone. Clear means good to go. I find a couple of handfuls pf chips or chunks (dry no need to soak) mixed throughout the lump provides the right amount of smoke. 
    Are there any VOCs emitted when you throw some wood chips or chunks in?  Or are you talking about the VOCs from the charcoal?
    Southern California
  • gdenbygdenby Posts: 5,124
    edited August 2013
    The early, heavy bad smoke is mostly VOCs and condensing water vapor

    Unless you are buying Japanese binchotan charcoal, cost $4 - $5/lb, the charcoal still has lots of wood that is not quite charcoal. When the lump starts to burn, those wood remnants mostly burn off. Likewise, any moisture in the lump is driven off, and condensing steam vapor won't as easily condense around small particles. At temperatures a little below the boiling point, the wood combustion vapors and the condensing water make creosote. Fortunately, the creosote usually just builds up near the top vent.

    When wood for smoke is added to the lump, it has a lot of moisture in it, even good seasoned wood. While that steams off, there will be more heavy smoke.

    But (if what I've read is correct, and so is my understanding) once the carbon in the charcoal is burning, it is more reactive w. oxygen than the smoke wood. Once the burning lump has blown out its VOCs, and the air flow has been cut to a minimum, the carbon grabs the oxygen before the wood can kindle. Then the wood just "bakes" away. The heat from the burning lump turns the smoke wood directly into vapors that are mostly desirable. If the wood is smoldering, or burning when it has enough oxygen, there would most likely be bad flavors and smells. But the Egg allows enough air flow control that one can avoid those situations.

    For quite some time, I was worried that the Egg didn't appear to be smoking enough. I couldn't see billows. But comparing the smoke from an Egg to an offset cooker, or even a commercial pit, where fresh wood is always being added for fuel, not flavor, is incorrect.
  • The VOCS will boil off all wood in the egg whether it has burned or not.  The VOCS are "boiled" off when the heat gets above a certain temp, around 300 if I remember correctly.  If you add new wood to the cook, then yes you will get some VOCs boiling off, but if you dont over do it you should be ok, thats much different than a whole egg full of fresh wood...
    Simi Valley, California
  • TjcoleyTjcoley Posts: 3,475
    I've seen a difference in amount of VOC's and bad smoke from bag to bag. Some bags of WGWW had a lot of bad smoke in the beginning, others had very little. Same with RO and most recently Forrestlump. First bag burned clean quickly, second bag took at least 15 minutes to burn off. Latest bag is fine with little bad smoke. Just wait til the bad smoke clears. Biggest issue I've had, when there is a lot of bad smoke in the beginning, I get sensitized to it and its all I can taste in the food, Rest of the family says its great with no bad taste, but it affects me. Leftovers are fine.
    __________________________________________
    It's not a science, it's an art. And it's flawed.
    - Camp Hill, PA
  • SkiddymarkerSkiddymarker Posts: 7,530
    bicktrav said:
    Smoke wood in a low and slow egg does not provide that blue cloud I used to get with a Weber kettle. The egg provides lots of sweet smoke that is pretty much invisible once the egg is stable. The idea is don't add food until the white smoke from VOCs is gone. Clear means good to go. I find a couple of handfuls pf chips or chunks (dry no need to soak) mixed throughout the lump provides the right amount of smoke. 
    Are there any VOCs emitted when you throw some wood chips or chunks in?  Or are you talking about the VOCs from the charcoal?
    VOCs from the charcoal. @gdenby has it right the way I understand it. Specifically "The heat from the burning lump turns the smoke wood directly into vapors that are mostly desirable." Egg air flow is so precise, the smoke wood does not flare, unless you open the dome. 
    Delta B.C. - Vee-Gan: old Indian word for poor hunter. 
  • macboymacboy Posts: 14
    Now the new trick to learn......how to tell if the smoke is clear at night! Lit a fresh load about 45 min ago (10:30 pm), with smoke wood pockets dispersed through the load. Letting it creep up to 225/250. If I can get if to hold for 40 min I'll put the pork in and watch for another hour before leaving it for my pillow. Have temp alarm set. Here's hoping......
  • TjcoleyTjcoley Posts: 3,475
    Worry less about clear and more about how it smells. The smell of VOC's burning off is distinctive and acrid. If it smells good, you are good to go.
    __________________________________________
    It's not a science, it's an art. And it's flawed.
    - Camp Hill, PA
  • bicktravbicktrav Posts: 471
    So is the takeaway here that you're good to throw wood chips/chunks on while the meat is on without having to pull the meat to let the smoke run clear?
    Southern California
  • gdenbygdenby Posts: 5,124
    edited August 2013

    bicktrav said:
    So is the takeaway here that you're good to throw wood chips/chunks on while the meat is on without having to pull the meat to let the smoke run clear?
    Yeah, altho' I don't know how to fit chunks in w/o removing the grill, or platesetter, etc. A big change like that would mess the temp control, I think.

    There will likely be some visible smoke after adding more wood. That should mostly be just condensing water vapor. There may also be a little bad smoke because some of the wood burns during the temperature spike from opening the dome. Don't add so much the fire is damped.

    I believe the term for "baking" wood is pyrolyze, as opposed to oxidize, which is burning. When the wood burns, it releases all sorts of unpleasant vapors, mostly at temperatures just below catching flame.  FWIW, before buying the Egg, I came across a design for an "old fashioned" brick pit designed from some guys from one of the Carolinas. It had a separate chamber just for burning wood down to coals. The cooking chamber never had any wood in it, just burning lump. Since then, I've come across advice from several people running stick burners that recommends adding just enough wood to the fire to keep it going when the fire from the remaining coals is still strong enough that the wood will quickly be reduced to new coals.
  • scarri3rscarri3r Posts: 29
    I usually just mix either chunk or chips in throughout my lump.  I soak my wood overnight however I let it dry a few hours before I mix it in.  Burns a little slower.  I will wait until the heavy smoke clears and then put my meat on.  Smoked turkey breast indirect on the v-rack over is heavenly over a drip pan.  I usually do it it 20 mins a pound @ 275 - coated with olive oil.  
  • macboymacboy Posts: 14
    @Tjcoley - thank you. I "get" the 'if the smoke smells good' thing after sitting beside the Egg yesterday for a couple hours pre and post-meat insertion. There was NO WAY I was going to be able to tell if the smoke was clear blue in the dark but I could definitely smell a change.
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