Blue smoke vs smoldering

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Fire Starter
Original poster
Aug 17, 2011
Shedd, OR
Hi All,

It's been years since I last did a brisket on my WSM, and this time I tried to focus on smoke quality.

While watching some of the newer YouTube video about producing good smoke, I was led to believe offset smokers can reliably produce the most desirable clear "blue smoke", but that dried wood chunks embedded in charcoal smokers technically "smolders", and it's not obvious to me if "smoldering" should produce blue or white smoke.

With 6 fists of pecan embedded in the middle layer of a Minion charcoal (Royal-Oak) pile, I dumped 33 white hot briquettes on and waited ~20 minutes before putting the briskets on. With the briskets on, I had about 45 minutes of moderately white smoke followed by another 45 minutes of thin inconsistent steam-like smoke, and then the smoke remained clear "blue" for the next 10 hours.

Question is, was the first 1-1/2 hours of moderate white to thin steamy smoke good? Could it have been the pecan wood "smoldering" in an acceptable way? Could it have been the unlit charcoal and pecan just starting to catch and producing bad white smoke? I often worry no white-ish smoke means the wood chunks have burned away and no more flavoring will happen.

The briskets came out fairly well, but next time I'm wondering if I should let the WSM go to clear blue smoke before putting any meat on. The attached pic was the resulting Angus Choice brisket.



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Start your fire at least 30 minutes an hour is even better yet before you put the meat on and roll with it.
As long, as it doesn't look like the smoke in the back, you're good to go.

Bury your chunks in you coals is the way to do it unless you're using splits, then heat your splits up on top of your firebox before you add them to the firebox will help reduce white dirty smoke.
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White smoke is nothing more than moisture, that's why they preheat the wood before its put into the fire box, there's no evil toxic chemicals coming out of the charcoal and wood that can harm you, yes it can carry flavors better because of the moisture content of it but there's not much other way on a Weber to preheat the wood to help stop the white smoke, there is a long time from the start of a cook till the end and a lot of harsh smoke gets mellowed down by juices washing the meat imo, I done a lot of experimenting when I started smoking 35 years ago and found that meat had bitter smoke flavor on the outside when it wasn't up to temp internally, but by the time it hit the done temp the flavor had stopped being bitter. and when I say bitter it was tongue and lip tingling lol , store bought wood is less likely to create white smoke due to being kiln dried but can still have a fair amount of moisture due to the humidity , sap is what holds the moisture and a fair amount of flavor and when its dried out produces less white smoke ,I have cooked on green hickory and it can and will numb your mouth so a smaller amount of it is needed to be used. also a water pan will throw steam out as its coming up to temp, I also believe the water pan helps smoke to stick better and helps regulate the temps on the Weber smokers. More ways than 1 to skin a cat and none are wrong, pick 1 method and change 1 thing at a time when you cook so you can tell what if any difference is made. Just remember every piece of meat is different and can taste different than the last.
Also the hotter the fire the less smoke you will have, all smokers smolder to some amount as the air is regulated to keep the temps under control, a stick burner moves a lot of air and with a small hot fire less smoke than a large low temp fire, pit temps can run the same in the cook box but in the fire box its a different set up on temps and smoke ect
Wood needs exposure to air to burn without smoldering, I would suggest placing the wood on top of fully lit (white) briquettes.
The chunks of wood will very quickly start to show flames and that will reduce the white smoke.
It's all about the air, more air equals better combustion, less air equals incomplete combustion which causes bad smoke and bad flavors in the meat.
So is this white or blue smoke?
Smoking a rump roast in a Weber kettle.

Your video (thanks!) shows what I had in the second 45 minutes, a mild steam-like smoke that is between what I believe is white and blue (clear). With dried wood chunks + charcoal + Minion method, the smoke you show is what I'm wondering about; is it a good smolder smoke, or a bad white smoke.

As long, as it doesn't look like the smoke in the back, you're good to go.
View attachment 503544

Thanks. I started with a tad more smoke than the front example, but no where near the back example.

My hot charcoal dump usually hits the tops of the wood chunks and probably ignites them in short order. Harry Soo puts his wood chunks on the bottom of a Minion, which has me wondering if the charcoal heat intensity still sets off the wood chunks early, and if the white hot layer of charcoal above could tone down some of the smokiness.

I do both, I bury a few chunks and toss a few on top. I've tried both methods and find absolutely zero differences between the two. I just let the fire roll for at least 30 minutes before I add the meat and have never had an off putting dirty smoke taste to any of my food. is reader supported and as an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.

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