Need advice on smoking with straight wood. no charcoal.

Discussion in 'Wood Smokers' started by pa pitmaster, Jul 24, 2011.

  1. I've been smoking with charcoal since I got into real pit BBQ, but I recently tried my hand in smoking with straight hardwood logs. I got the hardwood from a local hardware store. It was a bundle of firewood similar to what Lowes sells, which is a bundle of kiln dried mixed hardwoods (was that my first mistake?). I used that because i'm having trouble finding  a local supply of log hickory or apple, and buying online is way too expensive.

    Anyways, I used the wood today in my offest smoker. I kept getting lots of big white smoke and had some trouble maintaining the fire properly. For example. After about 3-4 hours of smoking, I would throw another log in the firebox on the embers and it would start smoking like crazy (which was the cause of the mass amounts of white smoke).

    Sorry for the short novel, but some expert advice would be greatly appreciated. I guess  this boils down to two quesitons for me?

    1. Can I use those bundles of mixed hardwood you get at the hardware store?

    2. If so, what is the best way to continue to produce wood embers throughout the cooking process ( It's easy in the beginning, I just burn down the logs before I put the meat on, but what about when I need to refuel)?
  2. alblancher

    alblancher Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    Shouldn't be a problem,  How about continuing to use the charcoal and just add chunks of the firewood for added flavor?  The problem is the firewood is taking to long to get hot enough to burn off the white smoke.  You can use smaller splits of wood, preburn the wood or like I said start with a small, hot charcoal fire and gradually add small splits of wood to it.  Once the wood starts burning nice and hot you can continue to add small splits.

    The white smoke is from cold fuel.  If you build a smaller, hotter fire and add small amounts of fuel the new fuel burns faster and the white smoke dissipates a lot faster.  Just keep in mind that with small offsets temperatures can fluctuate a lot so take your time adjusting your fire.

    Hope this helps

  3. fourthwind

    fourthwind Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I'll second that your wood is likely too large for your fire and is not getting hot enough.  I use what's called "pizza splits" in my stick burners.  This is best described as a normal size split, split into 3 pieces.  If you cannot keep the heat levels down in the cook chamber while burning the wood, then you will need to go to the plan B which is use a charcoal base and wood chunks.  Some smokers just cant handle the BTU's put out by burning wood.  

    The wood you bought was also likely too dry for your pourposes.  There is a balance between being too green and over seasoned.  I have seen those packs of hardwood, and they were all way too dry.  Even say a few pieces of pine in one, so you have to be careful.  Pine smoke can do some seriously bad things to people if injested.
  4. meateater

    meateater Smoking Guru SMF Premier Member

    Welcome to the SMF. Glad to have you here. Lots of good folks, great recipes and knowledge. Looking forward to  your first qview. [​IMG]
  5. Thanks guys for the good advice. I think ill stay away from the commercialized bundles. I found a local landscaper who sells hardwood, but it sounded like they were all mixed. I did a Boston butt 4th of July weekend, and set up my firepit with burning lump charcoal and apple logs I ordered online. I would just transfer the the coals from the fire pit into the firebox. That worked out well and the butt turned out amazing.

    Then I started watching Lang smoker videos this weekend and decided to get fancy with true wood fire with not really knowing what I was doing. Needless to say I severely oversmoked my ribs and chicken today. Just when I thought was getting good, I was brought back down to reality.. Anyways I learned from it, and thanks for the advice!
  6. alblancher

    alblancher Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    The Langs are big, heavy smokers.  They are much more forgiving then a small off-set.  I have an Okie Joe and can't burn straight wood in it, I need to mix charcoal and wood.  My small Lang is straight wood except to get the fire started when I use a bed of coals to light the wood. 
  7. adiochiro3

    adiochiro3 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    The best (and nearly only) way to use nothing but hardwood is to pre-burn it in a burn barrel to generate coals.  You basically tend 2 fires with this method.  It is very labor intensive, but does make for a fantastic smoke. I've done it when I have a lot of time and am working around the back yard (so I can keep a close eye on everything).  Here's a link to an SMF thread about it:

    Just about the only other option is to make your own hardwood charcoal, which is not impossible, but very labor intensive.  

    I use hardwood lump which generates nice heat and smoke for my cooks.  It's as close to what you want to do without the huge effort.
  8. Thanks for the advice. I'm definitely going to try that. May I ask how you made that burn barrell ? I'm not too crafty with metal.  Do you know of any alternatives that I can purhcase that would give me the same affect?
  9. adiochiro3

    adiochiro3 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I did not make that burn barrel, but to do so would be super easy.  Easier still: I use a BBQ with an ash catcher under the coal grate that looks something like this:


    You should be able to find a cheap/free used BBQ with an ash catcher pot underneath on CL within a few days of looking.  Several different models have removable ash catcher pots.  Pull out the stock grates and get some rebar and wire and make your own grate with large holes/gaps like the one shown in the link I gave you above.  lay out the rebar in whatever pattern you want, and then use the wire to wrap each joint/junction to keep it all together.  Big pieces of hot burning charcoal fall into the collection pan; I just slide off the pan and dump the fresh coals into the firebox.  No extra smoke-generating wood required with this method.  [​IMG]   As I said before -- labor intensive b/c two fires are managed, but gives a really nice smoke. 
  10. jdt

    jdt Smoking Fanatic SMF Premier Member

    if you going 3 or 4 hours on one piece of wood you must be using huge logs, My pit drafts very well so I burn a little faster than some but I am looking at a stick every 35-45 minutes, I usually have splits roughly 4 x 3 x 14, with a proper fire I get less than a minutes worth of white smoke when I add a new stick. Are you 100% sure you got dry wood? if there is moisture in the wood its no wonder your making smoke signals. Try preheating the wood on top of the firebox to dry it out and see if your results improve.  
  11. Thanks for the tip JDT. I really want to start smoking with straight wood. From what everyone says, and from what i've read in the SMF, it is definitely the way to smoke. The logs I was using were definitely too large. I can't wait to get back out there this weekend and give it another shot. I think I'm going to use my firepit to burn down the wood. It's just a round metal firepit that I purchased at lowes. There is no smoke stack to it or anything, but it should work for now.
  12. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member


    Sounds like you got a lot of good advice above.

    Now you can go out and play some more!!!

    Take notes of what you try & what happens, and anything that doesn't work for you, come back & these guys will help you again.

    I am a Watt burner, so I can't help you on this kind of thing at all !!

    I feel so useless.  [​IMG]

    Have fun too!!!

  13. rp ribking

    rp ribking Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member


    From what I understand from what I have read, is that oak is an awesome way to maintain the temp and then you add other wood (hickory, cherry etc. etc.) to the oak for the flavor.

  14. adiochiro3

    adiochiro3 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Great advice.
  15. Thanks guys. I have a question and it might be stupid one, but what exactly do you guys mean by sticks? Are you just splitting your wood to a certain size and then throwing it on the embers? I think I want to try this method, but want to make sure I'm doing it right. 
  16. jdt

    jdt Smoking Fanatic SMF Premier Member

    As far as I am aware its just a lingo thing, A stick and a split is the same thing to me, Some guys will differentiate a Log vs a split, a log being a unsplit branch/tree, a split being a larger piece of wood split into 8, 10 or more pieces. I would say an easy rule of thumb would be don't use anything larger than your forearm if your a larger guy or your calf if your smaller, a log that is 8 inches in diameter and 16 inches long won't burn worth a crap in my experience, it should be broke down into at least 3 pieces but obviously splitting by hand four is a little easier LOL. Depending on how big the tree was thats getting split you will have wedge pieces and some that come out looking like poorly done plank lumber, I use mainly Cherry which up north here at least don't get much bigger than 18 inches round, the guy I try to use got him one of these cool little buggers, even droped the Ric and Cord price $5 due to its efficiency. I would use Pecan if it was more available here, I get apple and hickory locally but the cherry gives a great look and taste, hard to oversmoke and gives a nice red hue to the meat.

    sorry for the link, I ain't good enough to embed stuff here

    I bought my pit thinking I would use mainly lump and was very suprised to find out how easy it was to burn sticks, in the thinner gauge pits its harder as you run up and down on temps but with a nice heavy gauge pit (1/4 inch or thicker steel) you are basically just maintaining the temperature the entire pit is at so one little stick burning a small fire will maintain temps in a fairly large pit no problem, of course you burn a bit more to get up to temp and it may take an hour to get to temp but in the end its well worth it.
  17. jdt

    jdt Smoking Fanatic SMF Premier Member

    forgot to mention I agree Oak is a great heat wood if your stuggling to find a source of flavor woods, by burning the oak you only have to have a little flavor wood to add occasionally. By preburning you should get rid of your smoke billowing for sure, it don't matter that its just a fire pit but I would advise if anyone else is around you just gotta watch and make sure no one throws something in it, one buster with a styrofoam plate can put some pretty nasty stuff right on your food, When I preburned I always had a sign saying "NO TRASH-COOKING FIRE" I'm sure a cigarette butt or two would not hurt nothing but that don't mean I want to eat it.  
  18. Thanks JDT.. Great info. Gonna do a rib roast on the Weber tomorrow. Still have some mods to do on my off set.
  19. oldschoolbbq

    oldschoolbbq Smoking Guru OTBS Member


    Yes,a small hot fire fed with 3"to4" pieces.As for the wood,you should have a lot of Maple there;a great fuel and taste nice and mild,terriffic to mix with other hard woods as an extender.Using pre-burned wood(to embers) is the best way to have continuous TBS.This way is great for those evenings you set out and light your firering and visit with a nice beverage.This is the way I learned and see no reason to change...I love my Butts and Briskets...[​IMG]



    Have fun and...
  20. meateater

    meateater Smoking Guru SMF Premier Member

    X 2 [​IMG]
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2011

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