Clean smoke, the final discussion

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Landcrusher

Newbie
Original poster
Jun 10, 2022
6
2
Hi,

I have been researching this for months. I've read about the combustion temperature of wood, watched harry soo explain this in a vid as well as several other people and I still cannot wrap my head around this.

Example: Harry soo puts his wood chunks under hot coals and waits to see blue smoke. The same person on an offset will throw a log in there, presumably getting the "bad" smoke on the food. There's also the conflict with the "snake" method of slow cooking, you're not only igniting new coals constantly but also the next piece of wood when it comes up.

Can ANYONE clear this up at all? I read one long thread about it here but still the biggest, most glaring contradiction for me is throwing fresh wood on the offset while that is a no no for some reason on another grill.
 
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Personally I think some people way over think it, I say once you get your fire going and ready to smoke just add your wood as you need yes the smoke might get a little heavy for a few minutes but to me that wont hurt anything the same with using wood chunks on a grill just add them and enjoy,
 
As far as offset cooking goes if you leave the firebox open until the new split catches fire you won't get any white smoldering smoke. Agree with jim though. Don't over complicate things. A couple minutes heavy smoke isn't a bad thing
 
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I think what you’re bumping into is the art verse science. As long as you’re getting enough oxygen to the fuel, it’ll be fine. That’s the science. How you arrange it and add more fuel is the art and one “artist” will have a different technique. Just dive in and do a method and see if you like it, if not then try another. What works for one person may not for another due to a myriad of reasons. I was fine with my offset, but I am wood chunk challenged on my Webber…..no idea why. As you get more time on it you’ll get more understanding and evolve your own way.
 
I stopped watching bbq related YouTube and TV show videos a while ago. Why? There's A BIG difference between what actually works and what makes good video entertainment. I actually heard one of the personalities above claim that 250°F is different in different smokers. He wasnt referencing grate to lid differences, or elevation impact, he meant the actual temperature!

Bottom line for smoke: a horizontal smoker has a flow pattern that's different from a vertical smoker, even it is is a reverse flow. Bad smoke can flow over the meat in a horizontal smoker. Bad smoke bathes the meat in a vertical one.

Not overthinking. Just physical fact.
 
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Harry Soo and mad scientist bbq are ruining barbecue with their over thinking. Ask me how I know. Lol.

Seasoned wood will ignite quickly, especially if you can set it on the pit to "preheat".
They make their living doing it everyday and are on a different level than most. I find them interesting, but agree that what seems simple to them is way more than the average smoker understands. I think it tends to push average people into an area they probably shouldn’t go!
 
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I stopped watching bbq related YouTube and TV show videos a whole ago. Why? There's A BIG difference between what actually works and what makes good video entertainment. I actually heard one of the personalities above claim that 250°F is different in different smokers. He wasnt referencing grate to lid differences, or elevation impact, he meant the actual temperature!

Bottom line for smoke: a horizontal smoker has a flow pattern that's different from a vertical smoker, even it is is a reverse flow. Bad smoke can flow over the meat in a horizontal smoker. Bad smoke bathes the meat in a vertical one.

Not overthrowing. Just physical fact.
Guessing it is the same one who thinks smoking biscuits is the way to learn your pit. I stopped watching, too.
 
They make their living doing it everyday and are on a different level than most. I find them interesting, but agree that what seems simple to them is way more than the average smoker understands. I think it tends to push average people into an area they probably shouldn’t go!
Yep, and MSB mainly cooks now on a 500 gallon Fat Stack smoker, which is probably a lot easier to maintain temps across vs the typical backdoor offset.

To be fair, I first stumbled upon him and his fire management video using his OC Pecos or Brazos. Not that he doesn't know what he is talking about, but you can definitely get sucked in to minutia that makes it more complicated to smoke meat then it should be.
 
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There is a series called Chef’s Table:BBQ. There are four featured BBQ masters including Tootsie Tomanetz, Lennox Hastie, Rodney Scott, and Rosalia Chay Chuc. The big thing I noticed is one thing all four have in common is they all burn sticks. The first three burn their sticks into charcoal before using them. Rosalia used an open fire. Basically, the white smoke is gone before they cook with them.

Watch these folks at work and the great effort they choose to use in order to be masters. I have 4 cookers in my backyard. I have a gasser, pellet pooper, charcoal grill, and a mini Santa Maria fire pit. The last two are the only things I have that are even close to what these masters use.

Science is important for a deeper understanding but direct observation, imitation, and then your own adaptation with what you have will get you where you want to be. Will I ever be able to cook a mind blowing pork steak like Tootsie? I’m trying. That’s the fun part.
 
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Grill: I light a chimney and dump the hot coals in the grill, add some wood and meat, cover and find some shade to sit in. Bullet Smoker: I pour a ring of charcoal around an open ended 1# coffee can, bury some wood, pull out the can and pour in lit charcoal topped with a wood chunk, add meat and find some shade to sit in. Meat tastes fine, I don't have anxiety attacks when I grill or smoke.
 
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My experience says very plainly that what needs to be managed is the temperature of the fire. If the fire is hot enough it will burn and clean white smoke. Don’t confuse this with the size of the coal bed or fire. Two different things when maintaining pit temperature. Building a hot fire the right size for your pit is the key. Might be small or large, but it’s the fire temp that cleans smoke. This requires good air flow or draw/draft. Many box store offset cookers have poor air flow and are small so maintaining the perfect hot fire is difficult and many struggle with this In the 225 to 300F range. The fire gets cool then they add a split that is likely too big and bang white smoke with no heat to clean it and the food tastes bad.

In my smokehouse I use a propane burner and a cast iron skillet on top to smolder wood chunks. Think of that,,,, a smoldering white smoke producing chunk of wood that is maybe 400F no fire no flame just smoldering wood. Why do the meats come out so beautifully colored and delicious? It’s the big turkey fryer burner that is the fire and heat source. The heat coming around the pan is hot enough to burn the smoke clean. Just food for thought.
 
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... I actually heard one of the personalities above claim that 250°F is different in different smokers. He wasnt referencing grate to lid differences, or elevation impact, he meant the actual temperature!

...
I believe this to be true due to draft differences. It's like wind chill, but inverse. Take a kettle smoker such as the SnS on which you intend to smoke a 5 lb butt right out of the 'fridge. Your air probe temp at the grate may read 225 F. Next to it, you have a nice offset on which you intend to smoke a 5 lb butt right out of the 'fridge. Your air probe temp on the grate may read 225 F. Are the two cookers the same temp? No - not as far as the butt is concerned. Because the weak draft of the kettle doesn't even come close to the strong draft of the offset. The offset will cook a cold 5 lb butt quicker than a kettle will cook a cold 5 lb butt. I've read the relative difference can be up to 25 degrees F. And I believe it.

An analogy might be a standard kitchen oven at 225 F relative to a convection kitchen oven at 225 F. A convection oven will cook quicker.
 
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Last night as I sat on my rocker on my screened porch watching my smoker, I was also watching the latest vid on MSB via a tablet and the topic was a bit shocking as it flew in the face of many discussions I have heard and read over the past few years.



Interesting.

Next, I went over to Chud's BBQ and guess what? He said the same thing! "And you don't have to be too afraid of dirty smoke."



I know these guys are buddies and talk to each other and share info, as both these vid came out on the same week.

Anyway, I found this interesting.
 
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I probably represent the epitome of minimalist technique when it comes to running my smoker. I've only had stick burners all my life. Never had a electric, gasser, pellet or charcoal only smoker. I do have a Weber kettle but don't use it as a smoker. I don't use electronic gadgets of any kind. No meat probes no ambient temp probes no wires or bluetooth. I do have a Thermoworks instant read therm that I use when serving a crowd just to be certain I'm always in the safe zone. I've never injected a piece of meat in my life nor have I ever wrapped anything on the smoker. I may be missing out but it's my method and it produces results I want.

It is very easy to overthink the process of cooking meat. Guys like Harry Soo and others make a living out of over thinking this stuff largely because they are competitors who's income is dependent on beating the other competitors so they drag every aspect about smoking meats down into the deep weeds and convince themselves they have found a technique that no one else has to give them an advantage. Just to be clear competition cooking is something I never cared to do and I view it as a entirely different approach to cooking. To be blunt I would never do to a piece of meat what some of these competitors do but that's an entirely different discussion.

I run my smoker burning clean and most times all I can see is a heat signature. Exhaust is always wide open and often times so is the intake but I will adjust on the intake side often times. I just add a split when I think it needs it and not worry about a few minutes of dirty smoke. I also think people get tangled up in wringing their hands worrying about a temperature drop or spike and take all sorts of measures to run at a constant temp using computerized fans etc. I will open the doors as little or as often I want to check for color or to poke a brisket for the jiggle or to maybe spritz some ribs without regard to the if you're looking you ain't cookin' mantra.

The pic below is my smoker running the coveted thin blue but I actually feel that is a bit heavy. Bottom line is there is so much stuff to read and video's to watch that things get contradictory quickly and confusion sets in. Once I realized it's about fire, heat and meat and not much more everything became much easier and the results much better.

thin-blue.jpg
 
I probably represent the epitome of minimalist technique when it comes to running my smoker. I've only had stick burners all my life. Never had a electric, gasser, pellet or charcoal only smoker. I do have a Weber kettle but don't use it as a smoker. I don't use electronic gadgets of any kind. No meat probes no ambient temp probes no wires or bluetooth. I do have a Thermoworks instant read therm that I use when serving a crowd just to be certain I'm always in the safe zone. I've never injected a piece of meat in my life nor have I ever wrapped anything on the smoker. I may be missing out but it's my method and it produces results I want.

It is very easy to overthink the process of cooking meat. Guys like Harry Soo and others make a living out of over thinking this stuff largely because they are competitors who's income is dependent on beating the other competitors so they drag every aspect about smoking meats down into the deep weeds and convince themselves they have found a technique that no one else has to give them an advantage. Just to be clear competition cooking is something I never cared to do and I view it as a entirely different approach to cooking. To be blunt I would never do to a piece of meat what some of these competitors do but that's an entirely different discussion.

I run my smoker burning clean and most times all I can see is a heat signature. Exhaust is always wide open and often times so is the intake but I will adjust on the intake side often times. I just add a split when I think it needs it and not worry about a few minutes of dirty smoke. I also think people get tangled up in wringing their hands worrying about a temperature drop or spike and take all sorts of measures to run at a constant temp using computerized fans etc. I will open the doors as little or as often I want to check for color or to poke a brisket for the jiggle or to maybe spritz some ribs without regard to the if you're looking you ain't cookin' mantra.

The pic below is my smoker running the coveted thin blue but I actually feel that is a bit heavy. Bottom line is there is so much stuff to read and video's to watch that things get contradictory quickly and confusion sets in. Once I realized it's about fire, heat and meat and not much more everything became much easier and the results much better.

View attachment 635811
Well said. If those guys all just keep saying the same thing, we will stop clicking. I stopped clicking anyway, but you know what I mean. So, as stated, 2 of them come out with videos suddenly saying dirty smoke is fine, at least early on in a cook.

Maybe they are trolling us all.

I used to make great barbecue on my cheap old Char Broil. I got my Bell Fab, stumbled upon mad scientist bbq, and thus began the over thinking, and...bad barbecue. Back to under thinking, my wife will tell you I am good at that lol, and back to good barbecue and much more enjoyment.
 
I probably represent the epitome of minimalist technique when it comes to running my smoker. I've only had stick burners all my life. Never had a electric, gasser, pellet or charcoal only smoker. I do have a Weber kettle but don't use it as a smoker. I don't use electronic gadgets of any kind. No meat probes no ambient temp probes no wires or bluetooth. I do have a Thermoworks instant read therm that I use when serving a crowd just to be certain I'm always in the safe zone. I've never injected a piece of meat in my life nor have I ever wrapped anything on the smoker. I may be missing out but it's my method and it produces results I want.

It is very easy to overthink the process of cooking meat. Guys like Harry Soo and others make a living out of over thinking this stuff largely because they are competitors who's income is dependent on beating the other competitors so they drag every aspect about smoking meats down into the deep weeds and convince themselves they have found a technique that no one else has to give them an advantage. Just to be clear competition cooking is something I never cared to do and I view it as a entirely different approach to cooking. To be blunt I would never do to a piece of meat what some of these competitors do but that's an entirely different discussion.

I run my smoker burning clean and most times all I can see is a heat signature. Exhaust is always wide open and often times so is the intake but I will adjust on the intake side often times. I just add a split when I think it needs it and not worry about a few minutes of dirty smoke. I also think people get tangled up in wringing their hands worrying about a temperature drop or spike and take all sorts of measures to run at a constant temp using computerized fans etc. I will open the doors as little or as often I want to check for color or to poke a brisket for the jiggle or to maybe spritz some ribs without regard to the if you're looking you ain't cookin' mantra.

The pic below is my smoker running the coveted thin blue but I actually feel that is a bit heavy. Bottom line is there is so much stuff to read and video's to watch that things get contradictory quickly and confusion sets in. Once I realized it's about fire, heat and meat and not much more everything became much easier and the results much better.

View attachment 635811

Thanks for the writeup! What smoker is that, btw?
 
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The one I'm currently using and will probably be the one I'm buried in is a custom fab job by a independent fab guy from Texas. Unfortunately he passed several years back.
Sorry to hear, it looks great
 
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