For some time I've been smoking meat at home, where I'm currently using a Hark electric smoker. But I've also used a number of "homemade rigs" that have worked quite well. I have read extensively into the preparation and curing of meats, so this is not at all a problem. Unfortunately, almost every time I smoke meat, I get a bit of a bitter/creosote flavour to my finished products. By no means is the cooked/smoked product "terrible" or inedible, but it is just not of the best quality. After all the research and attempts I have made, I am absolutely certain that the issue is the quality of the smoke I am producing. I have read time and time again that the ideal smoke is a "thin blue smoke", and to avoid at all costs thick, white, billowing smoke.
Please note that I have tried all the following:
- Never, ever used softwoods that contain high levels of sap. Or treated woods.
- Different types of sawdust from butcher suppliers.
- Different types of wood chips.
(I generally prefer Hickory or Redgum for Ribs and Beef)
- Left the wood chips bone dry.
- Soaked the wood chips in water.
- Soaked the wood chips overnight in a bowl of boiling water (or boiled in a saucepan at length) - the water then fully penetrates the wood.
- Rinsed and strained wet wood chips repeatedly.
- Used either sawdust or wood chips "loose" and fully exposed to air.
- Used either sawdust or wood chips wrapped in alfoil with only a few very small holes pricked through the top. This method has given the biggest improvement in quality of smoke, where it's becoming a bit more "thin blue", but not perfect.
- Opened the side wood-chip-chute to allow greater airflow through the unit, and out the top exhaust vent. This gives much more air to the wood chips or sawdust, giving rise to thick clouds of billowing, white, smoke.
- Left the side wood-chip-chute closed to restrict air flow to the wood chips. This improves the smoke quality significantly.
- Smoked (either hot smoke or cold smoke) for just an hour or two.
- Cold smoked all night.
So I've tried everything I can think of, in regards to how to burn the wood chips. But only recently I came across the following articles:
I have always put my meat in the smoker from the get-go. I haven't let the wood chips burn through their supposed "initial ignition phase" before putting the meat in the smoker. Has anyone got any experience with this concept of an initial ignition phase for wood chips and provide advice on avoiding creosote/bitterness?