When I first got my offset Char Broil Silver Smoker I really didn't know how to get the thin blue smoke. In fact, I had no idea what thin blue smoke was, or why it was desireable. To me, smoke was smoke. Eventually, from information gleaned reading a ton of posts, I came up with a method that works pretty well. I'm posting this for anyone new to smoking and looking for a method that's tailored specifically to the Silver Smoker or similar offset smoker. This is what works for me.
I use lump charcoal for heat and splits of seasoned almond wood for smoke. While wood type is a matter of preference, or availability, I think lump charcoal is absolutely essential. I've tried several different charcoal briquettes and I think they're a big waste of time and money. They burn too quickly, produce too much ash, and impart harsh flavors. Your mileage may vary. I buy the big 40 pound bags of lump mesquite, which range in price from around $15 to $20.
I start by filling up a Weber charcoal chimney half way with lump charcoal. When the lump is fully lit, I dump the coals in the back left corner of the firebox. I add more lump until I have a nice mound of coals, maybe three or four inches deep, going. At this stage I have the bottom vent on the firebox wide open and the top vent closed. This first pile if coals brings the termperature of the smoker up to operating temporature.
When I have a nice consistent burn going, I add the wood I'll be using to smoke. At that point I close the side intake air vent to about 5/6ths closed. Here's a peek in the firebox right about then:
Throughout the smoke, all day, I try to keep the coals away from direct contact with the wood, yet close enough so wood smolders and produces the delicious thin blue smoke.
It's not a great picture, but here's that thin smoke that starts coming out shortly after the wood is added.
My method is sort of loosely based on the Minion Method. I just keep adding lump to the pile and regulate the heat with the side vent. I've found I usually need to add more lump about every 30-40 minutes. I keep a box of lump handy and can quickly scoop in a couple cups with minimal loss of temperature. As the day goes on and the base of the pile of coals extends and the hunk of wood recedes, there is a considerable heat momentum going that helps regain temperature lost when you open the door to add charcoal.
About an hour into the smoke, the big hunk of wood is giving up the thin blue and looks practically good as new:
Three hours in:
Five hours later it's still giving up the blue:
Unfortunately, the big bags of lump have a lot of little bits and pieces. There are always some sweet bigger pieces, but you have to get used to using the smalls.
Here's a look at the box of smalls I have ready to shovel in by the cupload when I refuel:
I've found I can easily get 4-7 hours worth of smoke from one similar sized hunk of wood. I went through two boxes of lump smalls over the same time frame.
As I said, that's what works for me! I hope someone finds this post useful!
Edited by wntrlnd - 10/24/10 at 11:23pm