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What happened to cooking with wood?

post #1 of 45
Thread Starter 
As I read through some of these post, I am getting a little confused. Where do words like dampeners, controls, propane, manifolds and charcoal come into play smoking meat?

How many people just build a fire, set the vent so that enough air gets into the fire box so the pit holds a certain temp? Why does it have to be so complicated?

I will admit, if I can not find enough dry twigs around the yard to build a fire in the firebox, I will use some charcoal to get the logs going - I am so ashamed and embarrassed about the charcoal though, I am weak. The charcoal is made into a row, with an oak log on each side.

But, as I read through some of the post here, there is talk of wood chips in cans and wood chips in foil - why not just use real wood? Wouldn't that just be easier? If you have to "add" wood to smoke meat, why not just start out with wood instead of adding it?

To me - smoking does not include charcoal with wood chips, or propane with wood chips, or smoke "flavored" sauce.

It aint smoked unless you use a truck load of wood.

post #2 of 45
I can easily see going to a nice wood burner at some point.

Whole wood burners take more attention, a bit more space, but there's rewards to it too I'm more than certain.

My choice was portability and also a frank consideration of what would get me smoking most often (because doesn't help having a nice smoker if you aren't going to use it as often.)

I decided an electric or propane smoker would probably end up with my using it the most. In the end I went with an electric.

Still use wood (as you noted smaller chips of wood), though I don't need to worry as much about regulating temperature. I also don't get as much flexibility with temperature as a negative. (Can't go over 275 in this smoker.) Its a tradeoff I suppose.

In addition to the utility for me, its also a great way to enter into smoking. I grew up grilling over charcoal. If you can make beginning smoking a smaller barrier, both economically and in terms of learning curve, you get more people back to smoking, a good % of whom will probably at some point be getting a wood smoking setup.

That's my 2 (and a half adjusted for inflation) cents PDT_Armataz_01_28.gif
post #3 of 45
Hi Kev,
Well....I wouldn't go that far as some of the people on here do not have the means to have a smoker that #1 can hold a truck load of wood or others such as I do not have access to some of the exotic woods and can also be hampered by bylaws that will not allow one to smoke or at least heavily. I also am new to this as many others are and if starting out with a propane unit is easier until we get a handle on it and we are using chips in foil or a coffee can....who cares really as one of the things that smoking does is allow one some time to spend time with family and friends and enjoying good food...because someone is using propane or foil or even an electric smoker doesn't make that person any better or worse than someone that smokes with a big unit that can hold a truckload of wood. Some day we may all be in a positon to be as great of a smoker as some of these people on this site are and maybe even get to the stage of getting over the fear of putting large quantities of expensive meat into a smoker and have the confidence to do so. I won't condem anyone for using anything to smoke as long as they are having fun and getting the experience of being a smoker and sharing great food with family and friends....just my 2 cents...coming from someone who uses propane and now electricity....
post #4 of 45
More'n one way to skin a cat. Some of us just do it more efficiently than others. icon_wink.gif
post #5 of 45
I do use one of those chimney starter thingys of charcoal to get things started but do use wood after that, and mine don't have wheels. Brinkman Gourmet Cooker here so I can't use big logs...and get the brake dust cleaned up on the Jeep.biggrin.gif
post #6 of 45
Well Kev, I think it's all about choice. Some folks can't afford a $2000-$3000 trailered stick burner (that's a cheap one). Some don't want one. Some prefer a smaller smoker that fits on the deck or patio. Some prefer a gas smoker, some like electric. Some use chips, some use chunks, some use sticks or splits. Some use (gasp!) pellets! There are a LOT more backyard smokers out there than competition smokers. Where do you suppose those competition smokers came from????
Diversity is what makes things interesting, and not just in the smoking world either.
The end product is the same - smoked whatever you are cooking.
I don't have a stickburner. But I WILL set my Q next to yours ANY TIME. wink.gif

(I judged a comp. last summer where a guy with a couple 55 gal. drums and charcoal kicked butt on 28 other teams, most cooking on stickburners.)
post #7 of 45
Well said Mike. And I learn a little or alot from all, no matter what smoker they use. Thats what makes this site great.
post #8 of 45
Thread Starter 
So far, mine has cost about $400 - $500 to build.

Even when I had a vertical 18 inch in diameter grill, I still used wood. I guess a lot of it has to do with choice and a mind set. Most people (not all) go to somewhere like Lowes or Home Depot and buy a gas or charcoal grill. That person gets used to using gas or charcoal and that is all they ever use.

Being exposed to different ideas might broaden a persons horizons. Years ago, while on the way to work one morning I saw a guy pulling a pit. The firebox had a fire in it and red hot coals were falling onto the road. I first saw the glowing goals on the road and wondered what that was. I caught up with the guy and his pit at a red light. I thought to myself - wow. That guy is going to have a party today.

I have always been partial to wood. Even though I have a gas grill (I am so weak and ashamed) it rarely gets used. I also have a home made habatchi (or how ever you spell it) that uses a hand full of charcoal to cook with.
post #9 of 45
I have a wood burner on a trailer and I use only wood , and I really enjoy using it. It does require a lot of attention though , and those all night brisket smokes get harder as you get older. I was fortunate enough to have a friend that owns a welding buisness and I work for a steel company , so I have about $ 1500.00 tied up in it. That includes building a 10' trailer , the pit , firebox , wheels and tires , etc. Oh and beer for the guy welding. I can see where someone might want to use a smoker that doesnt require you to be with it the entire time.
post #10 of 45
yup dats what do. Just climb one a dem der oak trees go in a squirll nest and pick three difernt size nuts to adjust my vent HAHAHAHA
post #11 of 45

Smoked Meat is Smoked Meat

I happen to use wood, but here in Maine, oil can be as high as $3.50 per gallon. Many homes here on cold days, use 7 to 13 gallons per day($25 to $45 per day).

I'll bet my neighbors wonder why I am heating the outdoors with my pit for 30lbs of meat instead of burning the wood for heat!!

I think its all in the operator, not necessarily the machine. I used to turn out some pretty yummy Q on my gas grill with just a handful of chips. I love my pit, but I hate to fire it up unless I fully load it up, because I know me and my fellow Mainers are paying over $220 per cord for green firewood!!

I respect those who have figured out different ways of impressing there Families with AWESOME Q:-)
post #12 of 45
WOW 220 a cord, is the government selling it.? Its around 50 here.
post #13 of 45
I am just getting started and to tell you and I was afraid of starting with charcoal... Actually I have a charcoal unit that has not been used yet because I am waiting for my mother in law to bring my afterburner.

I have to much on my life's plate right now, between school and work and didn't want to have to tinker with something all day or learn a new craft from scratch. Maybe I will go back to basics some day but for now I need simple....

Kind of like fishing... you start with a enclosed spinner, then a spinner and eventually fly. I am still at the spinner.

post #14 of 45

Are ya kiddding?

How much to ship me 10 cords of dry oak?
post #15 of 45
Man I paid $245.00 for the last cord I bought.
post #16 of 45

Cut and Split

Yeah, I know it would be pretty tough to even find someone around here to cut and split the wood for $50/cord. I'm moving to Michigan! What's the minimum wage over there?
post #17 of 45
Here in Tulsa after the ice storm people are giving away multiple chords of wood. The price of seasoned firewood will be nothing this year!

Maybe I should haul some up north!
post #18 of 45
I'm a wood burner and I love it...but there are times when I wish I had a charcoal or propane burner.
It's not easy finding wood in my area, dried cow chips are available and tops of fence posts can be trimmed off.....

I'm glad wood isn't the only option to smoking good food.smile.gif
post #19 of 45
Howdy Kev,
Considering the various idiosyncrasies of the hobby I applaud your concept of strictly using wood for smoking, albeit both you and I resort to using charcoal just to get the fire going. That said if electric, gas, or charcoal smokers are blurring the edges, at least in the eyes of the purists among us, then I would question where the true boundaries actually lie.

I've had opportunity to attend several Indian Pow-Wows where salmon was smoked by simply lashing it to a plank and placing it in proximity to a real fire. I've seen biltong made in South Africa by hanging game meat on a string and again simply strung up near a fire pit. Jerky was being made this same way in the Americas long before Lang ever got into the business of building fire belching monstrous and expensive tow around smokers. In truth weren't smoke houses devised simply to keep the rain off the fire and provide a structure to hang meat from rather then to concentrate the smoke or control the heat?

Point being, if one is to be truly purest about it, why would the use of charcoal, propane or electricity be any more of of detractor from the true art of smoking meat any more than the use of a large steel device built to hold an enclosed fire and a chamber to hold the smoke?

Granted a modern smoker is far more efficient than an open fire which is why both you and I use them. For some in more urban environment or who find themselves time constricted an electric or propane fired device might be the best option they have to pursue the hobby. If I had access to wide open spaces, an unlimited supply of wood and no environmental restrictions, I might resort to simply hanging my meat by a smoky fire myself. But I don't so I resort to throwing sticks in my iron monster in the back yard. But this is just my take on the purest concept.
post #20 of 45
I built an electric smoker just for ease of use. Just lazy I guess. I'd love to build an actual wood smokehouse someday. Maybe when I'm retired and the wife drives me out of the house. I've gone from hunting with modern firearms to black powder and wood bows so maybe I'll get more basic with smoking also. I tend to lean toward purest in some ways.

I seemed to remember reading that the main purpose of early natives hanging the meat over a fire was to dry it so it didn't rot. The smoke was merely to keep the pests away.

On the cost of wood: My father-in-law and I probably cut down 10 cords of white oak wood yesterady cleaning out some fence rows. These were massive trees that had all died at the same time. I'm going to be cutting wood off of these for quite a while. Seasoned oak around here can sell for 35-65 a cord.
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