burning wood

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Original poster
Mar 2, 2006
can you or can you not add unburned wood to your fire for added heat? ive heard two or three different things but want the truth
pappy, first off, there's always more than one way to skin a cat. Type of smoker, price of different fuels, and cooking style all figure in to how each cook will manange a fire.
Knowing what kind of smoker you're using and how you get your fire started would go a long way toward providing you with a quality answer.

That said, sure you can add wood to an exsisting fire. To get a clean burn that won't add an off flavor to the meat you'll want to enusre that you are adding the wood to an adequately hot coal bed to ensure quick, clean combustion. Preheating the wood on top of the firebox will help with this also.

I am assuming you are talking about solid pieces of wood.

It depends on:

1. Location of the firepit
2. Size of the smoker

If it is a large smoker (at least 55 gal drum or bigger) with a firepit below you will need a safety baffle (perforated metal plate) or even two to prevent flames from shooting up. Baffles will also help with heat control. And you will have to babysit your smoker. Anything smaller don't even bother.

If you have a smoker connected by a pipe (4' or longer) with a free standing firepit/smoke generator you are in a much better position. Your may find your answer under Smokehouse Design at http://www.wedlinydomowe.com
OK, Pappys question was a good one. I came here tonight looking for answers, an found some. But I still have questions. I have a charbroil vertial smoker. I have never used wood in it before, only wood charcoal. For some strange reason I cant find wood logs , only wood chunks. The bag says this can be used for heat. On a test run, they didnt work so well. I filled a charcoal chimney full, let it burn till it was burning good, put in smoker,heat went to 325. in 10 min it was 250. all in all in 1/2 hr I could not get above 220. Now 250 for me, is my smoking temp. I think I could have better luck with logs,if I could find them. But I read this post and you guys say my smoker is too small. Well, if its to small, then its too small. But if anyone has a link to where I could buy some good Hickory wood for a fire, please post it. I still want to try it for myself. Also, If anyone is intersted, I seemed to have stumbled across a BBQ sauce that is indecribable. I have been buying this sauce for over a year now,and it is the ONLY thing I have on my table, when it comes to sauces. I have never tried the "hot" version, because the regular is good enough for me. All my friends love it, it puts the WOW in peoples faces. A very good finish for your BBQ. It is not thick at all,very thin for a bbq sauce. I add it at the end of BBQing, Miss Ellen's bbq Sauce. There located in clearwater Fl. [email protected]. Look it up. And Jeff if your reading this,I tried your rub, I didnt like it, BUT, my wife went absoloutly NUTS! She loves it!Well I guess thats whats makes horse races! We all like something differant.(Why did I marry her anyway?) Oh yeah, now I remember,smoking meat,and jeffs BBQ rub gets her in the mood! LOL Just kidding! Anyway Dudes!!! I need some wood!(some how that just dont sound right) P.S. Please put a spell check on the board!!!
Mine is the silver smoker,Scott.You Know What? I screwed up didnt I! I meant to say horizonal! Sorry man! Ive got a big bbq tomorrow and Im nervous!
dave, no worries. The silver is a std horz offset. Here's a few tips that might help. Instead of trying to go all charcoal or all wood, use a combination of the two. Use charcoal for heat production, and wood for flavoring.
Start out with a load of charcoal you're comfortable with only substitue a bit of the black stuff with some wood. Once the pit begins to warm up, put a chunk or two of fresh wood on top of the firebox. This will preheat it and ensure clean ignition. When pit temp begins to drop a bit, add a chunk or two (depending on size) of the wood. This will work for 3 or 4 additions. Eventually you won't have enough hot coals left to cleanly ignite the wood, so you'll need to add more charcoal to replenish the coal bed. If you use briquette charcoal its best to prelight this in a chimney before adding to the firebox, if using lump charcoal it can be added directly to the firebox, but may take a while to get back up to desired temp again.

As a general rule, I would agree that your cooker is a little small for an all wood fire, wood just doesn't generate enough btu's to keep an adequate coalbed to cleanly ignite itself unless you burn enough of it that the pit will be way too hot.

Another thing you might want to try, is elevating the firegrate. If the grate in the firebox is too low, ash will collect and prevent good oxygen supply to the fire, also it makes it easier to occasionally clean the ashes out as a long cook goes along. On long cooks, the ashes still have glowing embers in them that can use up oxygen that should be going to the fresher fuel, this can cause low pit temps and generally frustrate the #*%^ out of you.

I've met a ton of Q folk from FL on different forums and if you look in the right places, you should be able to find some very reasonably priced sources of wood in your area.

Best of luck!!
the smoker i have is b b q chef offset smoker. whenever i add unburned wood to the bed of coals it always seems to produce a huge amount of smoke. do i need to have the exhaust vent open more or just burn the wood down to coals before hand?
Good advice Scott. I think I will raise that fire grate. Ive been havin trouble with it anyway, like you said ash and all. I dont use charcoal, only wood chunks, but wanted to use wood ,but what you said about btus makes sense. Ill mix wood and charcoal chunks and try that .It makes sense now. I have a BBQ tommorow for about 8 people and dont want to experiment to much. Ill try to post pics this weekend. Wish me luck,and pray to the BBQ gods these are my inlaws,LOL.Pappy, if I can help you I think you should burn the coals down. Doing it this way will let you add smoke when you want to, not when you need heat. Wood creates a lot of smoke,and it can be very over powering to your BBQ. Maybe Scott can help you more on this. Thanks Scott PS. Also If anyone has mods withs pics on this smoker id love to see them.I will be posting one shortly with a raised fire grate! I have allso been thinking adout bringing the smoke stack down farther in the pit or making it higher. Any ideas?
Scott, that link was absolutely fantastic! I had to go to the website because my pdf file wouldnt work of the link for some reason, but that was exactly what I was looking for. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
That's a fantastic web site! It has taken me a little over a year to figure all that out. I wish I could have found the site a year ago. For all you smokers who use the off set horizontal smokers, read this well. From experience, I can tell you that it's right on! Thanks again Scott.
pappy, sorry I missed your post earlier, didn't intend to make you feel ignored, my sincerest apologies.

Pretty much without exception, you want the exhaust damper full open always, same with the inlet damper, especially when adding fresh fuel. The inlet damper should never be used to starve the fire of oxygen, as this will lead to a smoldering fire that will give really bad smoke. Burning wood down to coals before adding to the firebox is a legitimate cooking technique, but requires a LOT of wood, and if you don't have a cheap source can be very expensive. As an alternative to this method, using charcoal as a consistent reliable heat source and smaller quantites of wood as I've described above will provide excellent results. The key is to have a small but hot (read this as clean burning) fire as opposed to a larger spread out smoldering fire. If you have a nice compact hot fire, and preheat your wood on the firebox, when you add the wood to the fire, you should get nearly instantaneous combustion that will yield only a few minutes of white smoke (given that your wood is properly seasoned)that won't hurt the meat at all. If the white smoke concerns you, use this period of white smoke to mop or spray your meat, rearrange things in the pit etc.
The 2 other main culprits of excess bad smoke are green wood, and using wood pieces that are too big. Green would will make tell tale hissing sounds. Fist sized or smaller chunks or split sticks that are no bigger in diameter than a beer can (maybe a bit smaller) and no longer than 6-8" seem to work best in most small smokers.
Hope this helps, best of luck!
Hello everyone, very new to this site (just this morning) been readin through stuff and found this thread. Question regarding wood: it seems that a clean burn is being stated as better, BUT why then do many recipes or directions for chips tell you to soak them for a half hour before placing in or one the coal bed??? I have this same horizontal smoker as discussed, I have done a couple different meats with success, just recently aquired some apple wood. Unsure at this point how to go about using these apple logs and branches.
Enjoying my time here, thanks
:D Hello OAR and welcome to the board.The reason you should soak chips or chunks before putting them on the fire, is so they will smolder instead of burn.If they smolder,they will produce more smoke than they would if you put them in dry.Putting them in dry also will let them burn and can raise the temp of the smoker very rapidly.As far as the wood goes,im sure someone who knows more about it than me will answer that question shortly.
Welcomd OAR,when I get wood in the form of branches I take a circular saw and cut them into disc about 3 inches long to use for smoking.If the branches are large cut them with a chainsaw in the same fashion and use a wood chisel and bust them into smaller pieces.As far as soaking in water I throw as many as I think I will need into a bucket of water and let them soak throughout the entire smoking time adding them as needed.As stated before you dont want them to catch fire rather just smolder and produce smoke.Hope this helps you,David
Chips are different than actual small logs or splits. Chips are soaked to extend the duration of smoke production, I'm not sure this really serves to extend the smoke producing period as much as to delay it.

Smoldering is the desired effect for chips, or any sort of wood in a propane or electric smoker. Smoldering is not a desired effect in a charcoal or wood smoker, in fact it should be avoided at all costs as it will lead to foul tasting incompletely combusted compounds being deposited on the meat.
If your recently acquired applewood is newly cut, it won't be suitable for use in a smoker for at least 6 months.
The following information answers some of the questions of this topic. It is quoted from the book „Meat Smoking and Smokehouse Design†by Stanley Marianski

Dry or Wet Wood?

Almost every book advocates using wet chips or sawdust, most likely because when wet they seem to produce more smoke. This is simply not true; the extra amount of smoke is nothing else but water vapor (steam) mixed with smoke. This does make a difference when hot smoking at 105° - 140° F and the smoke times are rather short. That extra moisture prevents the sausage casings from drying out during smoking. Besides, wet chips are not going to be wet for very long; the heat will dry them out anyhow. Wood chips produce good smoke when wet and they decrease temperatures, but the moment they become dry, they burst into flames and the temperature shoots up. The grease from the sausage drops down on the little flames, the temperature goes up, and the once little flames are now big flames and in one minute we have a raging fire inside of the smoker.

When your smoker has a separate standing fire pit, you donâ€[emoji]8482[/emoji]t care much about flames because they will never make it inside the smoker. Now you can use dry wood or put some wood chips over hot embers and your meats will have a more pronounced smoky flavor. As you already know, we donâ€[emoji]8482[/emoji]t use wet wood for cold smoking because we want to eliminate moisture, not bring it in. Cold smoke warms the surface of the meat up very finely, just enough to allow the moisture to evaporate. Creating cold smoke for two days with wet wood will never dry out the meat.

When hot smoking, the smoke along with the air is drying out the casings, which develop a harder surface. The surface of the meat will become drier, too. This creates the barrier for successful smoke penetration inside the piece, and also prevents moisture from escaping outside. By using wet wood when hot smoking, we moisten the surface of the product, aiding the smoking.

To sum it all up:

·Meat smoked with dry wood has a more pronounced smoky flavor
·Dry wood may be soaked in water and used for hot smoking
·Dry wood has to be used when cold smoking

Why many smokers need a water pan?

One reason small smokers need a water dish is their fuel, charcoal briquettes or an electric heating element. When using wood, it always has about 20 % moisture, even when perfectly dried on the outside. During the first stage of combustion this wood dries out and any remaining moisture evaporates with the smoke into the chamber. Once the wood has burned out, the remaining charcoal has no water left, and in dry climates the product may be too dry. Ready made charcoal briquettes or an electric heating wire have no internal moisture, so we have to supply the water in a pan.

.Another reason for the water pan is that most little factory made smokers are enclosed units that donâ€[emoji]8482[/emoji]t receive a steady supply of air. Fresh air contains moisture, which cools sausage casings or the surface of the meat. When smoking with an open fire, lots of fresh air enters the smoker and keeps the meat from drying out. No matter how cute a small factory unit may be, it will not be able to perform the same duty without a little help from a water pan.

As the water boils at the constant temperature of 212° F (100° C), placing a water filled pan inside of a small smoker will also help to control and maintain temperature at that level. Bear in mind that this is too high a temperature for smoking quality meats and sausages.

Wood pieces, wood chips or sawdust

The type of wood used will largely depend on the smoker used, and the location of the fire pit. If the smoker is connected with a fire pit by a pipe or a trench, it makes absolutely no difference what type of wood is burned as this design can take a lot of abuse and still provides efficient and comfortable smoke generation. Most people that use these types of smokers donâ€[emoji]8482[/emoji]t even bother with chips or sawdust.

Burning wood inside of small one-unit smokers creates the danger of fire erupting. We have to use wood chips or sawdust with a safety baffle above to prevent flames from reaching upwards. This would also prevent fat from dripping down on the wood chips and starting a big fire. When preparing sawdust, do not throw it into water, but place it in a bucket and then moisten it using a spray bottle. Mix sawdust by hand until it feels moist. This sawdust will burn longer and at lower temperatures than other woods and will be the material of choice for smoke generation in small electrical smokers.

When smoking in a home made barrel-smoker with a fire pit in the bottom part of the drum, it is much easier to control the smoking process by using dry chips. These smolder and burn in a more predictable manner. Wet chips are just soaked in water on the outside, even when placed in a bucket overnight. The only way to make them really wet is to cover them with boiling water and leave them in it. Hot water penetrates wood all the way through.

As previously mentioned, the smoke production method is not as important as other factors. What makes most of the difference is meat selection, its curing, and the temperatures during smoking and cooking. In other words quality lies entirely in our hands.
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