Originally Posted by dummy que
this weekend i cooked apork butt using stubbs & hickory some ribeye using just hickory and a brisket useing royal oak when useing the stubs & hickory there was very little ash from the charcoal in the charcoal basket what ash there was was from the hickory ( i know my ash i halve heated my house whith wood for over 30 years) useing wood there was the usual amount of flakey ash the royal oak and hickory left more ash than the stubs dose anyone know what kind of wood they make stubs from i know stubbs uses a vegtable binder royal oak it depends upon which MSDS sheet you as to what they use as binder
By definition charcoal has to be at least 85% carbon and filter grade stuff runs as high as 98%...
Wood is heated to drive off all volatile compounds and there is not enough air supplied to support combustion... Pretty basic stuff but what it creates is a whole other thing... My college organic chemistry professor I have a tremendous amount of respect for says there was no Iron Age... It was the Charcoal Age. Without the ability to get fires really hot, iron was impossible. Water in wood (either frank water or that contained in an incredible variety of organic compounds) burns off during combustion and adiabatically cools the fire. Ridding the fuel of that heat sink was critical in getting a really hot fire.
A pint of water at 212F takes 490,909 calories with it into the atmosphere, still at 212F, when it evaporates. That is a tremendous amount of heat going up the stack... A lot of the volatiles leaving about the same time as the water take a bunch of heat with them also.
Now to the connection between your question and Physics... Stubbs claims to be 100% charcoal. If the laws of Physics prevailed we could point fingers and ask where the glue was that held the "stuff" together... Well, by law and the definitions of science they can use up to 13% binder depending on the purity of the ground charcoal they use to form the briquettes.
Lignin is the standard wood binder and driven off by heat in the absence of oxygen... It is collected in several ways during charcoal production. Guaiacol is the most important flavoring (there are a couple important derivatives of this usually referred to as the same substance) from smoke. It is one of the two critical flavoring agents in smoke, the other being 2,6-dimethylphenol.
Different woods have different flavor "signatures" based on the relative values of the two stated chemicals, their derivatives, and a relatively finite set of volatiles. Those volatiles are not typically present in charcoal and form the basis for the differences in woods cherished by smokers.
Any pretenders thinking smoke is 95% art and 5% science are welcome to leave now.
A number of commercial operators pay me (handsomely) for my insight and knowledge in turning wood into smoke and I have little tolerance for guesses and speculation.
So, what does Stubbs do? They add a combination of lignin and volatiles from a selection of woods to produce a distinct flavor signature while still delivering a reliable temperature profile. It may not be the "Best" profile or even the most universally accepted... But it is excellent and extremely reliable, and incredibly repeatable. I am not in any way associated with Stubbs and have never been paid by them for looking at their product.
Lignin burns very readily and combined with the carbon base in Stubbs it produces an extremely clean burn. You noted that in your use and that in turn points to a very good observer using a lot of good old common sense coupled with a tremendous amount of experience... My hat is always off to folks that actually see what is going on around them. And I mean that sincerely!
Now... go find some madrone to burn! In the good old days it was the best wood in the entire World for charcoal used in making black powder. It leaves so little ash it is hard to believe! It also puts out a tremendous piece of heat for every stick burned. Sadly, it has little flavor in gaseous colloidal form... But in the days of black powder where rifles had to be cleaned every few shots due to ash, the absence of ash made a huge difference.
So, let's be clear about your original questions...
-It makes no difference what wood is used to create the charcoal as all the flavoring agents are usually driven off by the heat, sans air...
-The lignin and associated volatiles used as a binder for the charcoal do make a huge difference.
-The math says Stubbs uses a lot of hickory. Pecan is very closely related and is likely represented heavily. Oaks, especially white, are there. Mesquite is either not there, or in such small quantities as to be no big deal... There is room for a bunch of minor players. There is some variability in batches, but not a tremendous amount.
Adding a little to Stubbs is a good idea if you decide there is something you like better. Stubbs is not a bad starting point. Other charcoals I have looked at do nothing for flavor. Keeping the heat down in the fire will produce more of the flavor-producing compounds... It is extremely simple Physics...