An idea for making bisquettes for Bradley smokers

Discussion in 'Woods for Smoking' started by mw-smoke, Apr 26, 2014.

  1. mw-smoke

    mw-smoke Fire Starter

    Curious to know if folks are having success making your own wood blends for the Bradley smoker

    Got an idea for making them, and the parts are on their way. 

    A variety of wood pellets in bulk will start showing up next week.

    I'm going to run the pellets through a corn kernel grinder to break them down into a finer grain, mix with food grade gelatin and place into a mold. 

    Anyone tried something like this?
  2. jckdanls 07

    jckdanls 07 Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    can't say that I have... but sounds interesting tho ... :popcorn
  3. Humm, that is very interesting. Would think some sort of starch, such as potato or corn starch might work as a binder. Be interested to know how it works out.
  4. mw-smoke

    mw-smoke Fire Starter

    Potato starch makes sense. That's a real good idea.

    Haven't thought about how to shape them.

    Saw a youtube of a German guy making them with some cut pipe and electric scissor jack. 

    Keep ya'll updated.
  5. Just watched some youtube videos as well. The German guy actually uses potato flour. Sure seems labor intensive. I think it might take longer and use more energy to make pucks than to smoke the meat with them. Think I'll stick to buying mine. Lol.
  6. mw-smoke

    mw-smoke Fire Starter

    I can report some level of success with the first batch, so just passing along an update of my first impressions.

    After some more reading and a little experimentation, I took some wood chips and ran them through an old blender, which made a lot of small splintered wood bits. Looks like the longer the blender goes, the finer the wood is ground. 

    The closest grocery didn't have any potato starch, but I found some gluten-free organic potato flour. The ingredients listed potato starch first, so I figure it must have a lot. 

    Taking the ground up wood chips, mixing in some water and flour created a very grainy mash. The wood grinds really soak up the water, so I don't think it hurts anything to be liberal with the amount of water. Also, it looks like that the coarser the wood chips, the more potato flour will be needed to create the bond.

    Using a 2" PVC pipe and some circles of oak cut to fit inside, I filled up the pipe with some of the mash and pressed it in a vise. This resulted in a bisquette that is a little smaller diameter than an original Bradley bisquette, but about the same thickness.

    The bisquette is easy to handle, but if there are big wood splinters, it can easily split along the wood and fall apart, so grinding up for a longer should help.

    I tested with and without using the vise... using the vise produces much better results. 

    The pictures below show the results. 

    On the far left are the hand squeezed, and the right shows the bisquettes with the vise. The very light colored bisquette is an original Bradley one. Notice how find the chips are in comparison. 

    There's nothing scientific about what I was doing, so I got some varying thicknesses. So far it hasn't been a problem for the smoker to feed them. 

    I let these air dry for about a week, and the longer they dried the stronger the bond became and they were easier to handle. 

    After I picked these up to take to the smoker, I bumped into something and they all fell out of my hands and landed on the floor. The ones pressed by hand (far left in the photo), crumbled when they hit the floor. The ones pressed in the vise stayed together.

    Also of note, these were originally air drying outside overnight but it started raining. I ran out to save them and from just the little bit of rain that touched the Bradley bisquettes, they puffed up and completely fell apart. The homemade bisquettes were completely fine. 

    The wood mixture consisted of hickory chips and black cherry pellets. In the grinder, the black cherry pellets ground up into saw dust, whereas the hickory chips were much harder to grind and turn to splinters. 

    I've found that ordering bulk pellets is much cheaper than locally purchased chips. What I'll do in the future (after going through all of the chips) is order pellets. 

    I'm working on the next batch right now. The wood is all ground up to a much finer substance this time... a bit by accident. Some folks crashed their cars in front of the house, I ran out to go see to them (they're fine) and left the blender going for 15 minutes. When I got back the wood was really chewed up. 

    This batch will be 1/2 hickory, 1/4 black cherry, 1/4 maple. 

    I haven't added up total costs involved, but it is much, much cheaper than buying. It took me maybe 20 minutes of pressing, while the grinding pretty much happens without direct supervision (multi tasking). 
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2014
    jckdanls 07 likes this.
  7. mw-smoke

    mw-smoke Fire Starter

    Finished pressing the next batch and now they're air drying.

    Here's the recipe:

    5 parts wood chips

    1 part water

    1 part potato starch

    Mix thoroughly, creating a moist but not watery solution. 

    The resulting mash should easily crumble in your hands:

    I press the bisquettes using:

    - a 4" long, 2" diameter PVC pipe

    - three 2" diameter, circle cut pieces of 1" thick oak board

    - a vice

    First, with the PVC pipe, drop a 2" circle cut board inside:

    Next, fill with the wood mash. This is pretty much eye-balled, but it might be about 1/3 cup.

    I know there is enough mash if the next circle cut board fits almost flush with the end of the PVC pipe:

    Place the next 2" circle cut board on top:

    Place in the vice press and squeeze. 

    The vice will be just about flush with the PVC pipe.

    Its okay if it isn't perfect or if the pipe is slightly cattywampus... it will still feed through the Bradley smoker

    Remove the pipe from the vice and push the 2" circle cut board through. 

    The bisquette will be slightly stuck to one of the 2" circle boards. 

    I've found the best way to remove it is to slightly twist the bisquette, like opening a soda bottle. 

    I smooth the edges off slightly before placing on the drying rack.

    If not, they'll naturally fall off since they fit around the sides of the compression and aren't really tight on. 

    Here are 24 freshly made bisquettes.

    I started off slow this time since I had to remember my technique and I was trying to be a bit more scientific about the proper ratios for mixing the mash. 

    For comparison, an official Bradley smoker bisquette on the far left. Notice how perfectly round and smooth it is. 

    Mine are definitely not as clean looking, but they work perfectly. 

    I'm also able to control the exact ratios of wood that I want to burn.

    When it comes to making my own wood mixes, I could probably get very similar results by mixing and stacking different flavors of Bradley bisquettes. 

    This is definitely cheaper in cost; I can press these out in less than a minute per bisquette, and the raw ingredients are way, way cheaper.

    Either way, cost or no cost savings, it's all a hobby and its been fun to experiment. 

    One last thing, notice how much finer these wood chips are cut compared to the first batch seen in the photos from the previous post. 
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2014
    bigtrain74 likes this.
  8. smokewood

    smokewood Smoking Fanatic Group Lead

    Hiya MW-Smoke, 

    That's fantastic, your pictures make it really easy to understand the process involved.

     I am based in the UK, and have been asked a few times if we make briquettes, (which we unfortunately don't) and then could be start making them!! 

    We cut our own wood chunks so we have an abundance of chainsaw chippings/dust, I was wondering if that would work as you would have a mixture of very small chainsaw chippings and dust mixed together? Or alternatively do you think fine dust that you use for cold smoking would work?

    As it is rather damp and cold in the UK what about drying them out in the oven? 

    I look forward to your reply.   

    Best Wishes & keep up the good work

  9. mw-smoke

    mw-smoke Fire Starter

    Hiya Smokewood,

    I think the chainsaw chippings & dust will work fine, as long as there aren't any splinters or slivers. The bisquettes can fall apart along splinters or slivers, so its better to have the chips real small. 

    Mixing dust & chippings is good because the dust fits between the chippings and help hold everything together.

    The first time that I made the bisquettes, I was anxious to see the final results, so I let them dry in the oven at a real low temperature to speed up the process. I haven't noticed anything unusual about doing it that way, but just make sure that its long enough so that the middle of the bisquettes are completely dry. 

    These hand-made bisquettes actually hold up to wet weather and humidity better than the authentic Bradley bisquettes. I don't know how many Bradley bisquettes I've lost from morning dew settling on bisquettes accidentally left out overnight, or even ones in the cardboard box if they get a little rain on them. 

    If you make some, come back and post the pictures. I'd like to see the results and learn about your process.

    Good luck!
  10. smokewood

    smokewood Smoking Fanatic Group Lead

    Hiya MW-Smoke,

    Thanks for getting back to me I really appreciate it.  I will have to buy some Bradley Bisquettes so I have something to compare them with, but looking at your photos and your calculations yours are about 2 inches across and approximately 1 inch thick, so I will work on that.  We do not have Potato starch in the UK so I am thinking of using corn flour (corn starch) as an alternative binder.  I will post some photos as soon as I have made some bisquettes so we can compare notes.

    What size and weight are the bradley bisquettes? so I can do a rough calculations from them also.

    Thanks for your help

    Regards & Best Wishes

    Last edited: Oct 11, 2014
  11. smokewood

    smokewood Smoking Fanatic Group Lead

    Hiya MW-Smoke, 

    I tried my first batch last night, which was unsuccessful.  As I can't find potato starch in the UK I tried using corn flour (corn starch instead).  I tried different mixtures of chips down to dust and found that dust offered the best consistency unfortunately the briquettes were far to fragile and still fell apart.  I made a press with my vice and pressed them like you did on your your photos.  

    A couple of questions:

    1.  Has the water got to be hot to bind the potato starch

    2.  Are you relying on the potato starch to bind the briquettes, or the pressure from the vice, or both

    I will try another substitute for potato starch

    I look forward to your comments

    Regards N Stuff

  12. jckdanls 07

    jckdanls 07 Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    this is a great idea... However smokewood... the only hesitation I would have with the chainsaw chippings is the oil from the chain . ... this had been discussed NUMEROUS times here on SMF... It's been said the safest way to do it would be to start with a new chainsaw that hasn't had any oil in it yet and use only vegetable oil in the oiling system .... justa thought ....
  13. smokewood

    smokewood Smoking Fanatic Group Lead

    Hiya JckDanls 07

    I am one step ahead of you, we already run our chainsaws on vegetable oil.[​IMG]
  14. olesen1985

    olesen1985 Newbie

    You can find a recipe for making Bradley bisques on you tube, just type how to make Bradley bisques 2.... It's a dane who has made the video and he's not that good talking English.... But you can get an idea of how to make them.
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2014
  15. smokewood

    smokewood Smoking Fanatic Group Lead

    That's a really good video, and his press is really well made.
  16. a g k

    a g k Fire Starter

      This is my first post here, but I have made over 200 bisquetts in the last year or so. Some of the first ones were not the greatest, but did work. I think from experimenting that 2" is a little small as the just burned one does not get completely pushed off the burner. I use a 2 ton hydraulic car jack ( already had so didn't have to buy) , and for a mold used a 2 1/2 inch Milwaukee hole saw with the teeth ground off. Look at the utube video in the earlier post for details on the mold & pipe/ washer setup for extracting compressed pucks.

      And yes the Potato starch needs to be near boiling in order to make a jel. I found by mixing 1 part potato starch ( potato starch should be available in the natural/organic department of any supermarket) with 24 parts dust is about right for most sawdust. Mixture needs to be about the consistency of cookie dough, or quite dry so you don't squeeze water & jel out when compressing.

      I have had success using a miter saw with a 10 inch blade with 24 teeth gives nice size sawdust. Green wood works better than dry, but both work.   Have gotten 3  5gallon pails of red oak sawdust from a local guy that sells firewood which he gave me for free.

      These pucks cost less than 5 cents each and can be made in less than 2 minutes.

  17. smokewood

    smokewood Smoking Fanatic Group Lead

    Thanks AGK for the heads up,which are your video's on you tube so I can have a look at them?
  18. a g k

    a g k Fire Starter


      Sorry, I did not make a video of my process, but was referring to an earlier post on this thread. I do have the link somewhere on my computer & will post it when I find it. Alan
  19. smokewood

    smokewood Smoking Fanatic Group Lead

    No worries, thanks for looking
  20. olesen1985

    olesen1985 Newbie

    Anyone who knows the diameter and thickness/hight of a original Bradley bisquette when it's laying flat on the table???

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