Re: burning woodThe following information answers some of the questions of this topic. It is quoted from the book â€žMeat Smoking and Smokehouse Designâ€ by Stanley Marianski
Dry or Wet Wood?
Almost every book advocates using wet chips or sawdust, most likely because when wet they seem to produce more smoke. This is simply not true; the extra amount of smoke is nothing else but water vapor (steam) mixed with smoke. This does make a difference when hot smoking at 105Â° - 140Â° F and the smoke times are rather short. That extra moisture prevents the sausage casings from drying out during smoking. Besides, wet chips are not going to be wet for very long; the heat will dry them out anyhow. Wood chips produce good smoke when wet and they decrease temperatures, but the moment they become dry, they burst into flames and the temperature shoots up. The grease from the sausage drops down on the little flames, the temperature goes up, and the once little flames are now big flames and in one minute we have a raging fire inside of the smoker.
When your smoker has a separate standing fire pit, you donâ€™t care much about flames because they will never make it inside the smoker. Now you can use dry wood or put some wood chips over hot embers and your meats will have a more pronounced smoky flavor. As you already know, we donâ€™t use wet wood for cold smoking because we want to eliminate moisture, not bring it in. Cold smoke warms the surface of the meat up very finely, just enough to allow the moisture to evaporate. Creating cold smoke for two days with wet wood will never dry out the meat.
When hot smoking, the smoke along with the air is drying out the casings, which develop a harder surface. The surface of the meat will become drier, too. This creates the barrier for successful smoke penetration inside the piece, and also prevents moisture from escaping outside. By using wet wood when hot smoking, we moisten the surface of the product, aiding the smoking.
To sum it all up:
Â·Meat smoked with dry wood has a more pronounced smoky flavor
Â·Dry wood may be soaked in water and used for hot smoking
Â·Dry wood has to be used when cold smoking
Why many smokers need a water pan?
One reason small smokers need a water dish is their fuel, charcoal briquettes or an electric heating element. When using wood, it always has about 20 % moisture, even when perfectly dried on the outside. During the first stage of combustion this wood dries out and any remaining moisture evaporates with the smoke into the chamber. Once the wood has burned out, the remaining charcoal has no water left, and in dry climates the product may be too dry. Ready made charcoal briquettes or an electric heating wire have no internal moisture, so we have to supply the water in a pan.
.Another reason for the water pan is that most little factory made smokers are enclosed units that donâ€™t receive a steady supply of air. Fresh air contains moisture, which cools sausage casings or the surface of the meat. When smoking with an open fire, lots of fresh air enters the smoker and keeps the meat from drying out. No matter how cute a small factory unit may be, it will not be able to perform the same duty without a little help from a water pan.
As the water boils at the constant temperature of 212Â° F (100Â° C), placing a water filled pan inside of a small smoker will also help to control and maintain temperature at that level. Bear in mind that this is too high a temperature for smoking quality meats and sausages.
Wood pieces, wood chips or sawdust
The type of wood used will largely depend on the smoker used, and the location of the fire pit. If the smoker is connected with a fire pit by a pipe or a trench, it makes absolutely no difference what type of wood is burned as this design can take a lot of abuse and still provides efficient and comfortable smoke generation. Most people that use these types of smokers donâ€™t even bother with chips or sawdust.
Burning wood inside of small one-unit smokers creates the danger of fire erupting. We have to use wood chips or sawdust with a safety baffle above to prevent flames from reaching upwards. This would also prevent fat from dripping down on the wood chips and starting a big fire. When preparing sawdust, do not throw it into water, but place it in a bucket and then moisten it using a spray bottle. Mix sawdust by hand until it feels moist. This sawdust will burn longer and at lower temperatures than other woods and will be the material of choice for smoke generation in small electrical smokers.
When smoking in a home made barrel-smoker with a fire pit in the bottom part of the drum, it is much easier to control the smoking process by using dry chips. These smolder and burn in a more predictable manner. Wet chips are just soaked in water on the outside, even when placed in a bucket overnight. The only way to make them really wet is to cover them with boiling water and leave them in it. Hot water penetrates wood all the way through.
As previously mentioned, the smoke production method is not as important as other factors. What makes most of the difference is meat selection, its curing, and the temperatures during smoking and cooking. In other words quality lies entirely in our hands.