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Smoking question

Smoking BulldawgSmoking Bulldawg Posts: 75
edited 2:29AM in EggHead Forum
When you smoke a piece of meat is important to let the initial round of heavy smoke clear before adding the meat?


  • BacchusBacchus Posts: 6,019
    You definately want any heavy smoke from starter cubes or any other type of starting fuel to burn off. You want to stabilize your temp before putting the meat on anyway. In my opinion 30 minutes from the time you light is about right.
  • Beanie-BeanBeanie-Bean Posts: 3,092
    Yessir, give it a few minutes or so...otherwise the meat gets a bitter taste to it, particularly on shorter cooks. For the low-and-slows, I'll let the chunk of smoking wood burn for a bit, then I'll add the food.

    Same thing with fresh lump--you've gotta let the initial heavy smoke clear before putting your food on.
  • civil eggineercivil eggineer Posts: 1,547
    Light the lump and let it burn until the smoke is clean. Usually takes from 15 to 30 minutes. Add your wood chips and meat after the warm up.
  • Michael BMichael B Posts: 986
    You want to either see a faint blue colored smoke, or no visable smoke at all. That could take 5 minutes or, with some of the cheeper brands of lump, or if it has been stored in a damp place, much longer.
  • Do use smoking chips or chunks?
  • RascalRascal Posts: 3,785
    The question relates to smoke from the wood chips and not the lump??
  • Smoke from the chips
  • Beanie-BeanBeanie-Bean Posts: 3,092
    I use both--I still have some leftover from the pre-egg days, and they still work well, especially the Jack Daniels ;) I just buy chunks nowadays, though and split them up if I'm doing low and slow to mix them in with the lump on those cooks when I want the smoke going the entire cook. Just pour in some lump, add some chips or a chunk, add more lump then a little more smoking wood, etc. It'll be something like a multi-layer lump/wood setup. Just don't put too much smoking wood ;)

    EDIT: Sorry, this didn't post in the correct position, but I was responding back to your question of chips vs. chunks.
  • egretegret Posts: 4,109
    Don't want to waste that good smoke! :laugh: I put my meat on right after the addition of the wood.....never had any problem with bitter taste. I think that's a figment of someone's imagination. How could the smoke cause bitterness at the onset but not during the cook? Chunks are much better to use btw.......
  • Michael BMichael B Posts: 986
    Because smoldering wood gives off a hodge-podge of resins, tars and volatile chemicals; many of which are toxic. Thick white or yellow smoke indicates the fire is not yet established. When the smoke thins out and turns pale blue, that indicates that the volatile chemicals are being burned off in the fire and not being deposited on your food.
  • thirdeyethirdeye Posts: 7,428
    You bet you should. It's a very important step. In addition to all the comments about particulates and the volatile vapors that some of the other barbecuists mentioned, putting your meat on too early deprives you of the true flavor from different, other than looking for the light smoke with a gray or blue tint, use your nose.


    This is one of my favorite smoke pictures I have on my cookin' site. It's from Scotty's Inferno and he describes the prefect smoke as " almost wonder if it's even there."

    Try this, start by comparing a strong wood like mesquite to a mild wood like alder or apple. You will see the differences right away. (both in smell and flavor on the food. Next, maybe compare hickory and apple, or oak and apple or hickory and cherry.

    Just remember, "If it's puffin' white, it ain't right; If it's blowin'blue, it's good for Q"
    Happy Trails

    Barbecue is not rocket surgery
  • yes sir. all of these are blowin sweet blue.

    also, you don't need to soak the chips or chunks to keep them from flaming in an egg. they might flame when the dome is open, but will quickly go out when you close the dome...

  • reelgemreelgem Posts: 4,256
    You need another egg Rick! :laugh:
  • i have another large and a large down at a friend's restaurant that he pays me to cook on
  • egretegret Posts: 4,109
    Wayne, not sure I'm understandin' your logic here! What do you think is coming off that wood initially that is not coming off during the entire time it's burning/smoldering? What about when we intersperse wood chunks with the charcoal on a long cook. What is coming off the wood when the coals start it burning? What about these people using stick-burners that throw in several logs/split logs during a cook? What do you think is given off these new logs when they hit the fire?
  • JeffersonianJeffersonian Posts: 4,244
    I prefer chunks, myself. They smoke more gradually and for a longer time.
  • Michael BMichael B Posts: 986
    I already answered half your question here.
    The other half is:
    With a stick burner you get a relatively small but very hot fire going. When it is burning clean, as described, you can put your food in.
    New logs are pre-warmed, generally on top of the fire box, before they are added to the fire. This way they catch quickly and give off very little acrid smoke. Since there is already a hot fire burning, what little they do give off is burned up before entering the cook chamber.
    If the cook becomes lax in his duties and the fire burns down too low, he must take the food out of the cooker and start over with the fire, add charcoal chimney of red hot coals to the fire to build it back up, or take some other action to avoid creating a smoldering condition while the food is in the cooker.
    There really is quite an art to it all.

    The BGE takes care of all of this for you. New lump and wood chunks are pre-warmed, What little the new material gives off is burned off in the small but hot fire, etc.
  • thirdeyethirdeye Posts: 7,428
    Well, I'm the first to admit tht the ~thirdeye~ logic is...well just that, ~thirdeye~ logic. I did learn to cook on a stick burning pit, but I don't think you will buy that as a stand-alone answer. The good thing is, using wood as a primary fuel does make you have respect for a proper fire and also forces you to learn fire control. Okay enough of that, back to your questions....

    Granted, now we are talking about a fire using lump charcoal and some wood for flavor. You know that black, acrid, creosote layer that builds up on the inside of your cooker? I think the same thing is deposited on your meat if it goes into the pit too soon. Getting back to the specifics of wood, initially the first things to burn off would be moisture and the volatiles which include carbon monoxide, methanes, VOC's followed by a bunch of other stuff. Now if one were to put chunks on top of the pile of coals, you would get a lot of these things burning off at once, say in the first 45 minutes.

    Putting some chips or splits into the lump, so that the fire reaches it in a delayed fashion, reduces the amounts (in a given period of time) of the volatiles that are coming off the wood.

    Adding logs to a stick burner is tricky (a pre-burn pit is a better idea) but the venting in them is way different than we experience in an upright ceramic cooker. A sidewinder type of pit will have the opening of the stack (or a series of baffle or tuning plates) strategically located to direct the flow of heat and the smoke. It flows across the meat instead of the meat always being in the path of the smoke like in an Egg. When adding logs during the cook, you adjust your vents to allow the harsh smoke to pass out of the pit quickly, then re adjust to take advantage of the good smoke later.

    A great snip from an article that Dave Lineback wrote follows.....he gets into some of the specifics that are above my reasoning.

    Wood does not burn directly. Rather, when heat is applied it first undergoes a process of thermal degradation called pyrolysis in which the wood breaks down into a mixture of volatiles and solid carbonaceous char. The cellulose and hemicellulose form mainly volatiles while the lignin mainly forms the char. Exactly what products are formed by each depends upon the temperature, heating rate, particle size, and any catalysts that might be present.

    The solid char remains in place. What goes up with the volatiles are a gas fraction (carbon monoxide and dioxide, some hydrocarbons, and elemental hydrogen), a condensed fraction (water, aldehydes, acids, ketones, and alcohols), and -- here we go! -- a tar fraction (sugar residues from the breakdown of cellulose, furan derivatives, phenolic compounds, and -- pay attention here -- airborne particles of tar and charred material which form the smoke.

    If oxygen is present and the temperature is sufficiently high, burning of the volatiles occurs. When temperatures are too low or when there is insufficient oxygen for complete combustion of the volatiles, smoldering occurs. This is characterized by smoking, the emission of unoxidized pyrolysis products. (This is the awful tasting stuff, creosote, that will give barbecue a bitter taste.) If the temperature is high enough and sufficient oxygen is present, then flaming combustion occurs with less smoking and more complete oxidation of the pyrolysis products. Further pyrolysis of volatiles during flaming combustion may cause char particles (soot) to form.

    The remaining lignin char burns in the presence of oxygen in glowing combustion. These are my beloved coals that yield the thin blue smoke that makes great barbecue! And, that's why it is so important to preburn the wood to coals."

    Dave Lineback

    Happy Trails

    Barbecue is not rocket surgery
  • i was going to say the same thing!
    well, not exactly the same, but some of the same points kinda.

    i like to consider the smoke and the smoke flavor as an ingredient in the recipe, and not an overpowering presence. that's why i use different kinds of wood for smoke, so i can change the effects it has on the food. sometime, the lump alone is just enough to let you know it's there without the addition of chips or chunks and without being overpowering. sometime, i'll add so many chips and chunks in the beginning the egg is smoking like a wild locomotive, and then add the meat just before the dense white smoke turns to blue. once you open the dome and let out the initial dense smoke, the addition of the fresh air calms down the smoking and it turns to sweet blue quickly

    thirdeye logic works for me ;)
  • Michael BMichael B Posts: 986
    You can just see the blue smoke coming off the small offset on the left.

    Further reading:
    Fire Management For Offset Firebox Smokers:
    Airflow & Smoke discussion on The Smoke Ring.
  • egretegret Posts: 4,109
    Good Lord, son! :laugh: That's almost more than I can digest at one time. Thanks for the answers, Wayne and Michael. Happy eggin' to ya'......
  • thirdeyethirdeye Posts: 7,428
    Yeah, that was pretty windy. You know what? I left out the most important thing.....No matter what anyone says, figuring out the combination of seasoning, heat, time and smoke flavor that suits you is what makes barbecue so wonderful.

    Until next time,
    Happy Trails

    Barbecue is not rocket surgery
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