Being a stickburner takes a little more attention and perserverance.A basic knowledge of how YOUR Smoker works is premier to a successful Smoke.
Learn where in the Firebox the wood recieves the best airflow;front above the intakes or toward the back of the Firebox.Learn to always keep the exhaust wide open . Your control is the intake at the front(mostly) of the SFB.Do you have a good draft,or does the smoke settle in the Cooking chamber getting stale?And just what is TBS.Keep a good flow by "leaving"the stack wide open.
This is TBS , I have no shots of the heavy white smoke :
Your wood should be sized for your Smoker; mine is a 20x40"chamber with a slow cooking or heating/holding tower(big backyard unit).I burn split sticks of 8" to 10" in lenght and about 2" to 3" diameter, notice on the Fire box to heat also...
yours will most likely be different,you just have to play with the fire until when you put a stick in ,it almost immediatly catches fire. A SMALL-HOT FIRE!!!
Notice the Fire Bricks at the side...no lost space and they are 4" wide, good to increase the height of the Wood grate to allow more air to the fire...
First,make a good ember bed;pile enough wood so you build up a good emberbed . you can either start it with a weed burner or log starter,chimney starter or with cooking oil smeared Newspaper under a Tee-Pee style you used in Boy Scouts,or Criss-Cross style (put the oil dipped Newspaper under your the configuration.; just don't use Charcoal or Lighterfluid as they have additives you don't want to contend with healthwise.I mean a GOOD Ember bed,use plenty of sticks(the knotty ones and odd ones do good here) and make a good hot layer, this will be your heat source from now on...
Now the coalbed is established,close the Smoker and heat things to the temp. you want,I like 200*to 225*f. once done,close the intake some to level the heat .A probe stye set on cooking grate level(stuck through a Potato or little piece of wood)the essential here,or two through the wall therms.of good quality one on the FB side and onetoward the end of the chamber.
The reason here being you need to know your cooking heat of the chamber to know if you are going to have the IMT to a safe range to avoid the danger zone(40*f to 145*f in 4 hours) above 145*f you will be at a safe IMT heat,but you will be going to want to actually cook at 200*f to 225*f for most meats except Poultry(higher heat is needed). I use 275° to 300° for forming a better Skin.
You are now ready(30 to 45mins.prepping the fire) to place your meat into the Cooking Chamber,sit back and check the Grate Temp. every few minutes for temperature changes.
These guages on the grate level should be checked (calibrated) before each cook for accuracy(boiling water at sea level is 212*f)..These guages will help you track the Chamber temp.( you will get a better reading from a cleaned Thermometer . It's a PITA , but worth it), which is much quicker than the meat probe( if you have one IN the meat) and will help decrease the possibility of a heat spike from throwing a bunch of wood on because you saw the meat was at 100 something degrees. Check to see if your grate gauges drop 10* to 20*f,if so, add a small stick of wood that has been heating on the top of the FB.(notice the pic above).
I use the Maverick-372 dual probe ,1 sets on the grate by a clip and the other is in the meat :
Add wood through the SFB door.
DO NOT OPEN YOUR COOKING CHAMBER WHILE THE COOKING IS IN PROGRESS.This is important as you have developed an Atmosphere in the cook chamber that is using heat to exert pressure on the meat and the excaping liquid is causing humidity and the Smoke will be light , (as long as you don't let it starve for air or overstuff it with extra wood, this leads to lowered O-2 and the fire stops burning and smolders) the perfect situation to cook.
However ,if the chamber lid is opened,you lose all of this and will have to get temps. back up.That is the beauty of this method,shorter cooks than the Peeky-Peeky style everyone wants to do!!! You don't need to worry so much, the meat ( or whatever is in the Smoker) will still be there , no-one has gotten it and it sure hasn't walked away.
If you have a thinner metal type SFB Smoker,simply pre- burn the wood in a Fire Ring or truck wheel rim or Burn Barrel,then place the embers in the SFB,thus saving some life of your Smoker and the temp. will be easier to control.
Fire Barrel at side of garage in back-bad shot...
The absolute secret to Stick Smoking is "PATIENCE and PERSERVERANCE" do not open the lid.no matter what!!! BBQ is done when it is done,Not opening the lid and following the 1.5hrs. per pound of raw meat (rule of thumb), will get you right to the sweetspot of cooking.The Smoke will either be light Blue or you may not even see it,but if you can smell it,it's smoking.
While you cook, look at the smoke for color,smell,and flow out of the exhaust; if anything changes, go to the FIREBOX and start checking the problem,it may simply be you need more air(or less if the temp. is rising) or that one piece of wood is doing a smolder on you( additional air will most likely cure this),be patient and it will most likely clear-up and turn Blue , if not check the ash build-up or if your exhaust is closed some. LEAVE THIS WIDE OPEN!!!
If you don't like as much smoke flavor on your meat,turn to Pre-burning and add embers to the SFB system,it is a lighter more subtle flavor with all the taste you want and a great way to learn to control the heat. You'll enjoy sitting arond the fire and BS-ing while you sip your drinks.
Hope this helps and have fun smoking.
A summary of what to do when you are starting out with your first wood-burning offset-firebox pit:
- Try using lump charcoal until you get comfortable with your pit, or a combination of lump charcoal and wood.
- Use only seasoned wood. Green wood = bad smoke = bad-tasting meat.
- Make the fire only big enough for the job--this comes from experience. You want a small flame.
- Keep the exhaust damper wide open.
- Pre-warm the wood on or in the firebox or, better still, pre-burn the lump charcoal or wood and add burning pieces to the firebox.
- If you add cold wood to the fire in the firebox, it can cool the fire and produce thick smoke, which will lead to bitter meat.
- Learn to control your fire with fuel not the inlet damper.
- Open the smoking chamber door to let out some heat if the fire gets too high and the smoking chamber gets too hot.
- Add small pieces of wood to keep the fire going, about 1-1 1/2-inches in diameter by 10-12-inches long.
- Generally, leave the inlet damper at least 1/2-3/4 open.
- Make small changes to the air inlet damper.
- If you're only using a smoker occasionally, it's hard to develop the techniques for good fire-control. The more you practice, the better you'll get.
- Be prepared to check up on the pit every 30 minutes or so until you gain experience. If you want to watch the big football game, bringing the set out to where the pit's located is a lot more practical than bringing the pit into your TV room.
Stan aka oldschoolbbq