Cooking with wood

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Original poster
May 17, 2006
Wichita Kansas
I'm new at smoking so everything now is mainly experimental. What I've been doing is starting my heat source with charcoal and then feeding the coals with dry wood chunks to keep the temps up in the cooking/smoking range. Not soaking, not adding fresh coals, just dry wood in its natural state. Is that OK or should I be adding coals instead of dry wood for my heat?
That all depends on the type of smoker you have. Since most beginners don't start off with a big wood burning unit, I'll assume you have a small offset style or a bullet type smoker. In either case, the answer is the same.
You essentially want to use charcoal for heat and a little wood for flavoring. Charcoal is much more even burning than wood chunks.
The reason you soak the chips it so that they don't ignite, but smoke instead.
If you use lump charcoal, you don't really even need much in the form of wood for flavoring..just a few soaked chips(if any) here and there.
When adding charcoal, don't wait for the temp to drop to begin adding more charcoal...when I am using my offset, I found that adding a fewer chunks more often kept an even temp thru-out the session. It takes experimentation to see what your smoker takes to stay at the right temp and prevent the "thermal rollercoaster" that causes so much frustration and substandard Que.

lawman if the wood chunks are giving you the flavor you like and keeping your temperature at a good level then by all means continue to cook with wood. :D

However, if you are getting too strong of a smoke flavor or are having difficulty regulating the temperature on your smoker then you may want to use charcoal instead.

How's the flavor and the heat in your opinion?
So far I've been happy with the flavor but I do notice that regulating the heat is a little difficult. The meat seems to get pretty dark, almost like char but it's not, just dark. I'll try the charcoal or char wood thing this weekend to see how that works, with a little soaked chunks here and there.
The bark on brisket and pork butt always turns dark and that is normal. That's why many folks refer to them as meteors after they cook. Ribs and poultry shouldn't though.
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