I've had my barrel smoker for about 6 weeks with no success using wood. If I use just charcoal it is very easy to operate and get desired results, but I bought the unit with the intent of using my cheap supply and easy access to wood. So far I have tried oak and hickory. My problem is that if I get the wood to burn with a reasonable amount of smoke, the temp is over 400 degrees. I reduce the air input, which gives me the right temperature, but the smoke is ridiculous, coming out of any little crack it can find, including the dripping hole. I have experience regulating fires with air tight stoves, but no luck with this barrel smoker.
Either too much smoke or too much heat
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Try building a smaller fire and bed of coals.Since I don't know how large your splits of wood are,I would recommend using splits no bigger than 2 1/2 or 3 inches in diameter .This way you will have less heat therefore you will need the wood to burn at a faster/hotter rate to keep your temps up with your vents more open..Also when you learn the perfect size bed of coals and use smaller splits of wood it will be easier to maintain your desired temp.I hope this helps keep on smoking you'll learn your equipment. I also would suggest the 5 day coarse if you haven't taken it yet.
On my last try, I used the size splits you mentioned. On my next attempt, my plan is to create a bed of coals using a full chimney of charcoal, then put a few splits of wood on the coals. Leaving all doors open, and no food on the grill, I will let the logs catch fire and burn a while until I start seeing ash on them. Then I will close the big door on the firebox, waiting a while longer until there is very little smoke coming out the of the stack.
Thanks for the reply and tomorrow I am going to look into the course you recommend.
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Next would be the 5 day e-course as mentioned above.. visit here.. http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/a/about-jeffs-5-day-ecourse
This is a great tutorial on stick burning... http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/a/stickburning101
Bountyhunter- The oak was definitely dry, the hickory was not. The hickory was my initial indoctrination to "over-smoking". That would will go sit somewhere until next year. The oak did not create as much smoke, but still way too much. I'm looking forward to this weekend when I will give it another test run. Hopefully I will get through the recommended reading before then.
Yesterday afternoon I started with one chimney of charcoal then used oak splits the rest of the time. I was able to get better control this time by working the firebox door and vents. I often got the temp too high and at times there was a little too much smoke but like many things, I have to use it to learn it. Thanks for your help.
I think I'm on track now, just have to be patient while at the beginning of the learning curve. At this point, I have to pay very close attention to the fire because that bed of coals can disappear very fast. I like that idea of putting wood on the warmer. I'll try that next time.