Updated May 5th, 2013.
Fixed broken links.
TBS (Thin Blue Smoke) ... Less is more!
There are many variables to consider, Humidity, type of smoker, type of wood, quality of wood, size of wood, how the wood is placed in the chip pan, the heat being applied to the wood, amount of oxygen the wood is receiving ...to name a few.
So please experiment a bit and find what works best for you.
- Some cherry from a ½ cord that I had recently picked up sliced on the band saw.
- Stacking the wood will lengthen the smoke duration, place them in the chip pan and placed the lid on top. This method achieved longer smoke durations. For more smoke volume lay the pieces side by side.
- The camera didn't pick up the wisp of smoke from the picture to the left, but it is doing what I wanted it to do, Notice the bottom piece appears to be finished and the top piece has a little life left in it. Notice the small spent piece of cherry on the left in the chip pan. Although I could hardly see any smoke, I could smell it faintly.
- The photo below shows the wood to the right that was on the bottom in the chip pan, completely spent and the one on the left that was on the top has a wee bit of smoke left in it... notice the reddish brown color in the center/right.
- The piece on the left could have stayed in a wee bit longer. Notice, there is no white ash.
- Tried some small cherry chunks. Awesome TBS going on in the photo below.
- The smaller chunks started to ash up more when I removed them from the smoker and they got more oxygen.
- They did ash up a tiny bit, however when I removed them from the smoker and they were exposed to even more oxygen they ashed up at a much quicker rate.
- The photos below are what you want the wood to look like when it has been used up.
- Spent Wood
- AMNPS smoke.
TBS is not the only way to smoke, you can lay down a heavier smoke, I have found the AMNPS to lay down a much heavier smoke than my chunk method... with great results.
I do not soak my wood, some soak the wood, I believe this does nothing but delay the inevitable. Moisture needs to be expelled from the wood before it starts smoking, some see the water vapor coming off the wood and think it's smoke but it's actually steam, this is short lived and will start smoking once the water has been expelled. I won't go into the science behind it, but I urge you do some research and testing yourself and then decide what works best for your smoker and your style of cooking.
So with that said, this is my two cents on the subject of TBS;
By decreasing the oxygen to the wood and controlling the heat, it will smoke lightly and last longer.
You may not to see the smoke but if you can smell it then you are in good shape.
The smoke flavor is very mild, but it's a “good quality smoke”.
Heavy white Billowing smoke can cause a creosote residue on the food, ruining your food or even getting you sick, try to stay away from that heavy billowing smoke.
You may notice a tingling sensation on your tongue if it has creosote on it, (much like the sensation you get by placing your tongue on a 9V battery), some refer to this as a bitter taste.
On some smokes I have noticed the smoky flavor is so mild that you can smell it on your fingers after eating something like ribs but not distinctly taste it on the ribs, however, after it has been refrigerated a few hours it seems to get a stronger smoky flavor and smell.
It seems the smoke flavor is stronger after it has cooled down in the fridge.
My goal is achieving a subtle smoky flavor to compliment the food not overpower it.
The cherry wood is mild when achieving TBS, but can be very strong if heavily smoked.
Stronger flavored wood such as Mesquite would benefit from this method.
If chips are to be used I would make foil pouches and poke the foil several times with a fork, just watch the heat.
I try and avoid the wood going to ash, if you are not careful, the ash can blow around and get into your food and the ash has all kinds of nasties in it.
If you take a piece of the spent wood it should snap easily and be black all the way through.
Before I knew what I was doing I would try to get the heaviest smoke possible although I don’t recall ruining any food, with the exception of jerky.
In the past I would always be adding wood and had a ton of ash, now I get no ash, use a lot less wood, leave the door shut longer and cleanup of the chip pan is as easy as removing a few pieces of spent wood chunks with tongs.
Stacking or placing the wood upright on the narrow side, gives you a longer burn times.
To remove and/or add wood try this. (for the Big Block)
- Keep a pair of tongs and a pair of pliers handy during the smoke.
- Monitor the smoke as it will start to really smoke towards the end. I have noticed the chunks tend to really smoke when they are nearly spent, they sort of supernova.
- Using extreme caution, take the pliers and slide out the chip pan rack and remove the lid with the pliers and lay it on a heat safe surface.
- Remove the spent chunks with the tongs and place them somewhere heat safe as well (save these chunks). To do this you can use a metal pot or can with a lid, just make sure to place it on a heat safe surface.
- Add the new chunks; stacking and laying the chunks upright on the narrow edge gives a longer smoke, side by side gives more smoke.
- Using extreme caution take the pliers and place the lid on top of the chip box and slide back into position
- After the chunks have cooled, snap them in half to see how you did!
- Don't throw away these chunks they can be used as lump coal.
Edited by SQWIB - 5/7/13 at 8:07am