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charcoal vs wood for heat

Discussion in 'Wood Smokers' started by dolphage2, May 8, 2010.

  1. dolphage2

    dolphage2 Newbie

    Hello to all. I recently purchased a Char Griller charcoal grill with the side firebox. I have been using a propane smoker but decided I'd like to try a true wood smoker. My question is do I use lump charcoal to obtain my heat, then throw wood chunks on for flavor or just go with the wood for the whole shabang. With my propane smoker the heat was easily obtained and very little wood was needed but with this Char Griller I can see that my wood consumption will go up dramatically. Thanks for help.
  2. silverwolf636

    silverwolf636 Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    I usually start my sfb with lump charcoal first. After it gets goin, I throw in the wood. I usually start it bout an hour before I want to cook to get the heat/smoke regulated. That's just me tho.

  3. Ideally burning wood down to coals and embers (not flaming/smoldering) is the best...As this requires another pit/barrel/hole in the ground/etc to have replacement coals ready when needed, it's not very practical for day to day cooking ~~ Starting with a good quality lump charcoal and adding wood chunks as flavoring wood is the next best, and simplest approach. HTH
  4. Do what you like there is no wrong answer here as long as you can get your desired temperature and maintained it

    this is simply a matter of preference I prefer wood i go to my back yard and pick up what I need for my burn

    Others like coal or charcoal
  5. david44118

    david44118 Newbie

    i like using the lump charcoal and then getting wet wood chips going. it usually will get good heat and smoke going. agreed that the charcoal has to settle and the heat rising. i ahve a round brinkman and it works well
  6. happy2meatu

    happy2meatu Fire Starter

    I am a newbie, but my method has been working pretty well. I have a similar model to yours, a Charbroil Silver, which is a side firebox model. I have been getting pretty good consistent temp runs for 1-1.5 hours at a time. I check the fire about every .5 to 1 hour during a long smoke, and just keep adding a few chunks of charcoal at those times to keep it going. I have been using Lazarri Mesquite all natural hardwood coal (bought at the local restaurant supply store, 40 lbs for $13.95), and for smoke I just use chips or chunks in a can next to the coals. Right now my wood has just been coming from bags of smoking wood purchased at local stores where I can get it, until I find another wood source. Pretty much just depends on what works for your smoker.
  7. ohm

    ohm StickBurners SMF Premier Member

    Check out this just as a reference. Sounds like your doing good just watch when adding the wood not to get "thick" white smoke. I used to wet my chips/chunks but this just ended up producing more white smoke. I don't even use chips/chunks anymore I have a burn barrel and move my wood over into the fire box as needed. This gets me my desired thin blue smoke and plenty of smokiness in the meat. Keep it up it sounds like your on track. Maybe even post a pic on your next smoke so we can see how much smoke is coming out of your stack.
  8. michael ark

    michael ark Master of the Pit

    Start with lump to get bed of coals.Then it's time for the wood  low and slow .Just on stick at a time to keep from makeing white smoke.
  9. sqwib

    sqwib Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I have been starting with a full chimney of lump then add wood splits. On occasion I have dumped a full lit chimney of lump on an unlit chimney then after a few hours start adding the splits.

    The smaller the splits, less of a smoke problem.

    Another tip is to place the splits next to the fire or on top of the firebox to help it through the combustion stage.

    The longer the wood is smoldering before the combustion, the more likely you can get creosote buildup, that is why some "preburn" their wood, but if you use smaller splits and feed frequently, this should not be a problem.

    Another potential problem can be heat spikes during the combustion stage of wood, again, if using smaller splits this will reduce that problem significantly.

    Make sure if using wood you are vented well.

    Do not use Green wood, processed wood, treated wood, painted wood or Connifers

    Check your wood to make sure it is a suitable species for smoking.

    Be ready to babysit the smoker you will not be able to "set it and forget it".

    I hope I worded all the above, correctly.
  10. pperkins

    pperkins Fire Starter

    Excellent information, thanks! So, not to toss in another can of worms, but...I keep reading arguments for and against pre-soaking the wood that you're using for smoke.

    Your opinions? Pros vs. Cons?

    Thanks guys, you're a wealth of info!


    Perry P. Perkins
    "La Caja China Cooking"
  11. sqwib

    sqwib Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Now you did it...

    I will give my Opinion

    Presoaking wood does keep the wood from igniting quicker than non soaked wood because its WET.

    Most of the "so called smoke" coming from the chunks/chips is water vapor "steam". some think this is smoke but its mostly steam , at first anyhow.

    To keep your wood from burning up limit the oxygen to the wood and try to keep it from igniting.

    Soaking wont hurt but I feel it only delays the inevitable.

    Read This it may help a bit

    my 2 cents
  12. pperkins

    pperkins Fire Starter

    Excellent, thank you!
  13. ive mixed wood and charcoal ..it was hard to get the desired temp on my smoker.they adviced me to use all wood no charcoal.my problem is getting

    the right wood.i dont think home depot sells oak wood for fire wood.any one tried different kind of wood like pine or birchwood?
  14. sqwib

    sqwib Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Here is a guide for some woods

    by Bill Wight

    Q:   Would someone please tell me what kinds of wood are suitable for grilling?

    A:   The traditional woods for smoking are HICKORY, PECAN and OAK.  Here is a list of woods suitable for smoking:

     ACACIA - these trees are in the same family as mesquite.  When burned in a smoker, acacia has a flavor similar to mesquite but not quite as heavy.  A very hot burning wood. 

    ALDER - Very delicate with a hint of sweetness.  Good with fish, pork, poultry, and light-meat game birds. 

    ALMOND - A sweet smoke flavor, light ash.  Good with all meats. 

    APPLE - Very mild with a subtle fruity flavor, slightly sweet.  Good with poultry (turns skin dark brown) and pork. 

    ASH - Fast burner, light but distinctive flavor.  Good with fish and red meats. 

    BIRCH - Medium-hard wood with a flavor similar to maple.  Good with pork and poultry. 

    CHERRY - Mild and fruity.  Good with poultry, pork and beef.  Some List members say the cherry wood is the best wood for smoking.  Wood from chokecherry trees may produce a bitter flavor. 

    COTTONWOOD - It is a softer wood than alder and very subtle in flavor.  Use it for fuel but use some chunks of other woods (hickory, oak, pecan) for more flavor.  Don't use green cottonwood for smoking. 

    CRABAPPLE - Similar to apple wood. 

    GRAPEVINES - Tart.  Provides a lot of smoke.  Rich and fruity.  Good with poultry, red meats, game and lamb. 

    HICKORY - Most commonly used wood for smoking--the King of smoking woods.  Sweet to strong, heavy bacon flavor.  Good with pork, ham and beef. 

    LILAC - Very light, subtle with a hint of floral.  Good with seafood and lamb. 

    MAPLE - Smoky, mellow and slightly sweet.  Good with pork, poultry, cheese, and small game birds. 

    MESQUITE - Strong earthy flavor.  Good with beef, fish, chicken, and game.  One of the hottest burning. 

    MULBERRY - The smell is sweet and reminds one of apple.

    OAK - Heavy smoke flavor--the Queen of smoking wood. RED OAK is good on ribs, WHITE OAK makes the best coals for longer burning.  All oak varieties reported as suitable for smoking.  Good with red meat, pork, fish and heavy game. 

    ORANGE, LEMON and GRAPEFRUIT - Produces a nice mild smoky flavor.  Excellent with beef, pork, fish and poultry.

    PEAR - A nice subtle smoke flavor.  Much like apple.  Excellent with chicken and pork.

    PECAN - Sweet and mild with a flavor similar to hickory.  Tasty with a subtle character.  Good with poultry, beef, pork and cheese.  Pecan is an all-around superior smoking wood.

    SWEET FRUIT WOODS - APRICOT, PLUM, PEACH, NECTARINE - Great on most white or pink meats, including chicken, turkey, pork and fish.  The flavor is milder and sweeter than hickory.

    WALNUT - ENGLISH and BLACK - Very heavy smoke flavor, usually mixed with lighter woods like almond, pear or apple.  Can be bitter if used alone.  Good with red meats and game.

    BBQ List members and other internet sources report that wood from the following trees is suitable for smoking: AVOCADO, BAY, CARROTWOOD, KIAWE, MADRONE, MANZANITA, GUAVA, OLIVE, BEECH, BUTTERNUT, FIG, GUM, CHESTNUT, HACKBERRY, PIMIENTO, PERSIMMON, and WILLOW.  The ornamental varieties of fruit trees (i.e. pear, cherry, apple, etc.) are also suitable for smoking.

    Q:   Are there any types of wood I should not use for grilling?

    A:   Yes.  There are many types of wood that are unsuitable or even poisonous when used for grilling.  Don't use any wood from conifer trees, such as PINE, FIR, SPRUCE, REDWOOD, CEDAR, CYPRESS, etc.

    There are many trees and shrubs in this world that contain chemicals toxic to humans--toxins that can even survive the burning process.  Remember, you are going to eat the meat that you grill and the smoke particles and chemicals from the wood and what may be on or in the wood are going to get on and in the meat.  Use only wood for grilling that you are sure of.   

    It is beyond the scope of this FAQ to provide a complete listing woods that are unsuitable for smoking.  If you have some wood and do not know what it is, DO NOT USE IT FOR GRILLING FOOD.   Burn it in your fireplace but not your smoker. 

    BBQ List members report that ELM and EUCALYPTUS wood is unsuitable for smoking, as is the wood from SASSAFRAS, SYCAMORE and LIQUID AMBER trees.

    Here are some more woods that you should not to use for smoking:

    Never use lumber scraps, either new or used.  First, you cannot know for sure what kind of wood it is; second, the wood may have been chemically treated; third, you have no idea where the wood may have been or how it was used.  For all you know, that free oak planking could have been used in a sewage treatment plant. 

    Never use any wood that has been painted or stained.  Paint and stains can impart a bitter taste to the meat and old paint often contains lead. 

    Do not use wood scraps from a furniture manufacturer as this wood is often chemically treated. 

    Never use wood from old pallets.  Many pallets are treated with chemicals that can be hazardous to your health and the pallet may have been used to carry chemicals or poison. 

    Avoid old wood that is covered with mold and fungus that can impart a bad taste to your meat.  If you have some good cherry wood (or other good smoking wood) that is old and has a fungus growth and you want to use it, pre-burn it down to coals before you put it into your smoker.

    Grilling over a wood fire is more challenging than grilling over charcoal.  Wood burns hotter than most charcoal and as a consequence, burns faster.  Wood also stays in the 'hot coals' stage for a shorter period of time than charcoal. 
  15. Do not use pine for smoking. Use hardwoods that produce nuts or fruit.