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Wood burning problems

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
I have been playing with chunks of wood, mostly apple, trying to get away from buying lump charcoal. Everything has gone great except I am getting a bitter taste on the surface of the meat. Right now I have only smoked chickens using this method and when I pull and foil them I get juices from the skin on my hands. Of course I lick my fingers and find that there is a bad bitter taste. I don't eat the skin so when I serve I pull the skin and no bitter taste is left on the meat.

I am pretty sure what I am tasting is creosote and I was hoping that someone with wood experience could help me. I have some pics and I will try to give as much information as I can.

I use a SNP in my garage vented through the same vent used by my water heater.

This is the apple wood I am using. The wood is 1.5 years old, but I have only recently split them into quarters. They are about 6 - 8 inches long. I always pre heat the wood on top of the firebox before I burn them. I start my fire with a chimney full of Royal Oak Lump.

Left overs from my last smoke.

Cooking chamber with the baffle mod and a pan I use for water and apple juice.

I have modified the smoke stack with a piece of flexible muffler pipe.

I use flexible dryer pipe for the vent connection.

I want to smoke a few times next week so I need to figure out what I am doing wrong. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
post #2 of 13
I can't answer the question of why it is bitter but I can say that using a smoker inside of the house is not a good idea.

The flu to your water heater is a single wall flu and not rated for wood. In most cities it is against codes to combine the two into one flu.
post #3 of 13
Now I know you will get a nasty bitter taste if you smoke way much and with the wrong color of smoke. You want that lovley thin blue smoke when you put your meat in. If it is bright white or black (something is terribly wrong if you have black smoke) you will get a funky taste. Remember THIN BLUE SMOKE...

Now on occassion when it rains I will bring my smoker to the edge of my garage. If I pull it too close in the house reaks of smoke for weeks.

Just be careful with doing it indoors... We don't want to see you on the forum later for an obituitary...

Good luck!
post #4 of 13
Hell no! Stop that immediately! These smokers are designed to generate a certain type of air flow. They accomplish this by the size and type of parts they are built with.

For an offset build like yours, the main factors in that build are the diameter of the smoker, the length of the entire unit, and most important in my opinion, the length and placement of the exhaust stack.

For instance, with your offset - if the airflow were a little off in the direction of stagnant air or no flow, you could add as little as 6" to your exhaust pipe and get better draft.

What you've done with your's , is extend the exhaust pipe (using a water heater flu) SOoooooo far....that there is literally NO air leaving your smoker. Thus - you are tasting creosote build up on your food!

Here is what someone told me once about screwing around with your exhaust pipe. Well, FIRST you must know that you cannot ever, EVER use a smoker indoors...it can make you and your family really sick.

OK, after that rule, the first thing someone told me was think about going snorkeling as a kid...if you try and make a snorkel tube SO long - in order to go real deep - eventually you will get to a length where the physics of air flow don't work any more...no matter how hard you try, the length of the tube is too long to create draft...you would suffocate if you kept trying...can't breath.

Take your smoker outside for starters, where the wind can use the proper length of your exhaust pipe to create a DRAFT...which is how your smoker "breathes"...after that, learn fire management and temp control and you'll be off the creosote road and on to highway TBS biggrin.gif

Seriously though...you are lucky no one has died around your house...do a lot of reading about "offset smokers" and then set your rig up with mods, and ample air flow and you'll see major improvements with your 'Que!!
post #5 of 13
Wow, that's not good. Like others have said STOP using the smoker in a manner it was NOT intended for. Get that smoker outside ASAP! I used this thread to help me with fire management.
post #6 of 13
As a firefighter, I'm amazed there havent been any major complications yet. As others have said, move it outside and shorten your exhaust. That should clear things up nicely.
post #7 of 13
I'm in the pool business and we use mechanical contractors for heaters because any indoor combustion appliance has specific needs when it comes to venting and air supply. It can be very dangerous when these needs aren't met.
post #8 of 13
Thread Starter 
I didn't realize that I would stir up this level of concern for my safety. I agree that it is not the ideal situation, but it solved my problem. I live in southern colorado in an area that has terrible wind and storms usually daily. Not just a breeze, 20 to 40 mph gusts etc. During the winter the tempature is comparable to Fairbanks, Alaska (20-30 deg during the day, and 10-20 below in the night.) I never had any sucess until I moved indoors.

I am not worried about CO2 because the garage is its own structure, not sharing an attic or crawl space. I did install fire/CO2 detectors downstairs, upstairs, and in each bedroom when we bought the house 5 years ago. I have a detector in the kitchen, but it is useless cause the Mrs. tries to cook and I had to take out the batteries.biggrin.gif

The one thing that I did not think about was what it would do to the natural draft of the smoker. I never had a problem with taste when I was using the Royal Oak only when I tried switching to Apple wood. Maybe Royal Oak burns hotter?

I will rethink the garage thing, but I will still need to find a way to block the elements. Before I used the garage I tried using 3 sheets of OSB board nailed together as a shield, but it didn't work. Also it wouldn't work in the winter to block the cold. I can't be the only one with this problem, can anyone think of a creative solution? Has to be cheap for now cause I am still trying to pay off my surgeries. I have a 10" x 10" shed that the wife said I can use, but I need to build a bigger one to store crap in.

Any ideas? Oh, and moving is not an option icon_rolleyes.gifbiggrin.gif. Wife couldn't stand to be any further from her family.

Just a note, I have been doing it for almost 3 years and haven't killed a cat yet (they live in the garage at night because they are pests while we are sleeping).
post #9 of 13
You asked for suggestions. Here goes:

- Build a shed, and move the smoker there.

- Set up a similar vent tube arrangement to what you have in the garage.

- To compensate for the airflow issue, add a small fan to the TOP of the vent's exhaust port. A little PC-sized fan at low RPM ought do the job; it would operate on the same principle as an over-the-stove kitchen fan. In addition, the outward-blowing fan would help prevent the backdraft that can occur in high-wind situations.
post #10 of 13
My .02 cents here. I agree with BMAN, shorten that vent tube. Second, and I know I will get some flak for it, but I would take the stack off the grate and bring it up some if you can. Meaning, your cooking chamber is filled with smoke all the way to the bottom of the stack that next to the grate and won't exit until it goes below it, so you meat is essentially bathing in smoke instead of having the smoke lightly kiss it as it goes by. I know that some swear by running your stack down to grate level, but it could be the reason for your creasote flavor. Like I said, just my 2 cents worth. Hope you get it worked out.
post #11 of 13


My suggestion is to build a UDS and keep that thing outside...they are windproof and do very well in cold weather. The suggestion to stop using the water heater vent is a good one...the last thing you want to do is start a chimney fire in a water heater vent, (it's a vent not a smokestack) and burn down your house...You might have a hard time with the insurance company on a claim like that.
post #12 of 13
That's what you should do right away... the SHED is a good idea, I did try a wind block once in the winter and it worked ok...

But I know you don't want that sitting there all winter...so you best be thinking shed like IMO.
post #13 of 13
Another idea for you. If your looking at putting in a shed for a windbreak and such, take a look on craigslist for those backyard metal garden sheds. People are always getting rid of them, and sometimes all they want is for you to come and haul it away. A 5x7 size would be perfect for what you need and it would look nice in the back yard as well.
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