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Gravity fed lacks smoke flavour

chesterinflorida

Smoke Blower
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Joined Nov 10, 2020
Hang with me here....... I'm gonna make a case that GF's are not about smoke flavor. I could be right, I could be wrong.

I found a Masterbuilt 560 GF on sale for half price. I expected to get a lot of white billowy smoke, I was surprised that it was blue thin smoke. Cuz, when I light a chimney of charcoal, I get white billowy smoke until it all ignites.

I remember watching " BBQ Pitmasters " and the guy who invented GF was a contestant, Walter Stump. He said " the superheated air cleans the smoke " . That stuck with me and until I bought the MB560, I was skeptical.

Stump is still building GF's, here's his site

https://stumpssmokers.com/

The fan blowing on the charcoal does " superheat " the smoke. And while it gets rid of the smoke particles we don't want, does it also get rid of the good smoke particles ?

Earlier this summer, I did a comparison rib cook. I did a rack of ribs in my Franklin offset and a rack in my MB560. Everything about the ribs was the same, except the smoker. At 2.5 hours into the cook, I checked the ribs to wrap. The Franklin ribs had the right color and were ready, but the MB ribs were still pale. They had not taken on enough smoke to get the right color. I left them on another 30 minutes before wrapping and they never did develop the same color.

Now that was a one off comparison. Maybe I did not have enough hickory in the MB ? I had a small thin split vertically in the hopper and a couple good size chunks in the ash bin. I'm gonna do this comparison again and put more wood in the MB.

Stump developed his GF for comp cooking. If you go to the link , there's a whole story of why. He did not want to have to tend to a smoker at comps. The GF really caught on with comp cookers, because of that. It was like a pellet smoker with better smoke flavor.

But in comps, smoke flavor is secondary at the most. They doctor those meats up with brines, marinades, rubs, sauces ...........so many different flavors that smoke flavor has got to get completely covered. They're producing a " one bite " piece of meat that has to packed with flavor.

So that's where I'm at on my MB gravity feed. I'm questioning if the " superheated " air does too good a job . I think the problems with pellet smokers are similar, they burn too clean, but the amount of moisture in pellets is another factor.

Here's the pics of the final product of my rib comparson. The MB rib is in the middle. It never got the color of the offset ribs, which the one on the right is a duroc rib from the offset, the other two were commodity ribs from Sams.


View attachment 512225
Good comparison. I would sugggest cooking differently next time. Run your stick burner the way you prefer and the Gravity to promote smoke flavor. I do see more smoke flavor at lower temps. It smolders the wood in the ash bin for a longer time. May want to see if that makes a difference,
 

Smokin Okie

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Good comparison. I would sugggest cooking differently next time. Run your stick burner the way you prefer and the Gravity to promote smoke flavor. I do see more smoke flavor at lower temps. It smolders the wood in the ash bin for a longer time. May want to see if that makes a difference,
I'm not a believer is smoldering wood , it creates more smoke , but its the wrong kind of smoke.

Its the kind of smoke I thought the MB would produce, and was pleasantly surprised that it did not do that.

I watched a vid the other day about how to get clean smoke from a BGE, and there were three items, the right wood, cooking at higher temps , like 275 to 300, and using a premium quality lump charcoal. WSM is the same , this is how Harry Soo cooks in comps on his WSM's.

BTW, I forgot to add above, in my comparison cook, I ran the MB at 275* and I shot for that temp in the stick burner, but that's not how a stick burner rolls.
 

Smokin Okie

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And I need to add, there's one more important step that Harry Soo does, he says placement of the wood chunks in the WSM is very important. And he places his lump charcoal and chunks like putting together a jig saw puzzle. He wants them in the proper place and touching as much as possible.
 

Ridley

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I really don't want to take the OP's thread way off track. He asked about smoke flavor from a GF. I offered results of my comparison which showed less smoke from a GF. You defended the GF by critiquing my method.

Yes , I asked a rhetorical question, should I have used more wood in the MB , and I answered it myself saying I would do this again , and use more wood. Although, I used more wood in the MB in this three hour cook, then I would use in my WSM, about twice as much.

And actually, when I checked the ribs in the MB at 2.5 hour, they looked like they'd been in the kitchen oven.

Now lets review what you told me



No chit sherlock. As if I did not know this before I lit the fires. Obviously.


Well, it was obvious to me also, you did not need to point that out, it goes without saying



Really , like I don't know that. By the time I got to this point reading your reply, I was thinking that you were gonna teach me Barbecue 101.



Come on man, you think you really needed to tell me this ????



Again, anybody whose lit a Weber chimney of charcoal, knows this. This very basic stuff. Its not a revelation.



Now , this is the question at issue. Stump says it does, but he's a comp cook, and frankly, those guys would prefer to have an electric oven, if the rules allowed for it. They don't want to tend a smoker and smoke flavor means nothing to their heavily doctored meats.

Then you proceed to offer your method of running a gravity feed. Thanks, but I don't need that lessen. I don't see the value in lit coals in the hopper of a GF that has a fan.




And this could've been the concise version of your entire post.

But again, you're stating the obvious. I expected the reader of my post to already be aware of that. I don't have to be told that. I mean really, think about what you did, you told me I can manage the amount of smoke on my MB ............ dang man. I'm not new at this. And I'd already addressed it with a rhetorical question and I'll add more wood next time I try this.

My apologies to the OP. He asked a legit question that I've also pondered.

Don't mind me, I. Finding the debate interesting.

At least I feel that I am not alone in thinking that getting a smoke flavour can be, at the very least tricky in a GF.

I'd love to hear people's methods of getting flavour. The ash pan doesn't seem to work well for me. I did try the chute and it worked better but I cannot really see how to add more wood if needed when the chutes burnt through the wood and the chute has loads of charcoal to get through before it got to any new wood I added.
 

chesterinflorida

Smoke Blower
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55
Joined Nov 10, 2020
I'm not a believer is smoldering wood , it creates more smoke , but its the wrong kind of smoke.

Its the kind of smoke I thought the MB would produce, and was pleasantly surprised that it did not do that.

I watched a vid the other day about how to get clean smoke from a BGE, and there were three items, the right wood, cooking at higher temps , like 275 to 300, and using a premium quality lump charcoal. WSM is the same , this is how Harry Soo cooks in comps on his WSM's.

BTW, I forgot to add above, in my comparison cook, I ran the MB at 275* and I shot for that temp in the stick burner, but that's not how a stick burner rolls.
I like running my bigger meats like Briskett and Butts at 275 In my GF. It cooks about the speed I like and I think it keeps more moisture in the meat. Stuff like ribs though, I often cook lower to get more smoke on them.

That lower temp smoldering wood in the Ash pan does pass through the fire though on a gravity feed, so its different that a BGE smoldering wood and trapping it in a lower air environment. You could say it twice burns , and when it goes through the fire it burns off a lot of the bitterness.

I do like mixing chunks in the charcoal chute and using the ash pan together.
 

Smokin Okie

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In the primary Masterbuilt thread in this forum, IIRC , there was a couple of people who were trying to run all wood in the 560. They were putting an entire 1/4 split into the chute. I don't recall their results entirely but I don't think the idea caught on, Im thinking they got a lot of acrid flavor ? ??

My first impression , is there's gonna be a lot of acrid smoke unless the split is in flame. And I would not want a burning split in my 560.

That thread has a lot of pages to sort through, but its in there somewhere. But smoke flavor in a GF is gonna be about the quality and the amount of wood. I can't see any other factor.
 

chesterinflorida

Smoke Blower
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Joined Nov 10, 2020
But smoke flavor in a GF is gonna be about the quality and the amount of wood. I can't see any other factor.
From my experience temperature plays a huge roll. Also colder meats absorb more smoke flavor. Same principle used by pellet smokers where they cook for extended periods at lower temps.
 

Smokin Okie

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Joined Jun 27, 2018
From my experience temperature plays a huge roll. Also colder meats absorb more smoke flavor. Same principle used by pellet smokers where they cook for extended periods at lower temps.
To get lower temps, the oxygen to the fire is reduced which produces more smoke, but its not thin blue smoke. Its white smoke. Its white because it has other particles that are reflecting light to give it that color.

Its those other particles that produce other flavors. I won't call them off flavors because some people like that flavor on their meats. Its pretty much established that most people want to avoid those flavors.

But in the end , its the amount of fuel that controls temps. If oxygen is cut back to a big fire, it will smolder. If the size of the fire is reduced and oxygen is cut back, it will still produce thin blue. This is how cooking temps in a stick burner are managed. Temps are not managed with the amount of air the fire gets, as on a WSM or a GF, its managed with the amount of fuel. And for most people, that's done while keeping the smoke a consistent thin blue or even clear.

To get lower temps on a GF, the amount of air is reduced to the coals, which means the coals burn at a lower temp, and thus the chunks smolder. IDK how this plays into Stumps theory of " superheated air cleaning the smoke " . How can the air be superheated and produce lower cooking temps ? It seems adverse. The theory is , that the white smoke from smoldering chunks passes through the hot coal bed and is cleaned whether cooking at high temps or low temps, does not seem that it would matter what the cooking temp is.

There's a theory by some, that people who have smoked with charcoal/chunk and then buy a pellet smoker, complain about the lack of smoke flavor with pellets. And that could be because they're accustomed to the flavors from white smoke that are produced by smoldering wood chunks. The pellet smoker could just burn a lot cleaner than they're used to. IDK that myself, I've never cooked on or tasted food from a pellet smoker.

BTW, this cooking at lower temps to create more smoke, is what Harry Soo tries to avoid by running his WSM's at 275* , which if you've cooked on a WSM, that's a high temp for those cookers.
 
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chesterinflorida

Smoke Blower
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55
Joined Nov 10, 2020
I’m not sure it works that way in a Gravity. You cut the air and it may burn 2” in the chute, add more air, you may burn 4”. Still thin blue smoke, but one is a smaller fire and one is a larger fire that burns more fuel. At least that is how I am thinking it works. My Gravity feed tends to burn thin blue at 225 and at 275 degrees, except at the beginning when bringing up to temp, its billowing white at the time. Compared to a WSM, you have a much more defined ares for the fire to burn in a Gravity.
 

Smokin Okie

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I’m not sure it works that way in a Gravity. You cut the air and it may burn 2” in the chute, add more air, you may burn 4”. Still thin blue smoke, but one is a smaller fire and one is a larger fire that burns more fuel. At least that is how I am thinking it works. My Gravity feed tends to burn thin blue at 225 and at 275 degrees, except at the beginning when bringing up to temp, its billowing white at the time. Compared to a WSM, you have a much more defined ares for the fire to burn in a Gravity.
Then how does that impact smoke flavor ?

If you're getting thin blue at low or high temps, temp would have no impact on smoke flavor . When lower temps produce more smoke, its white smoke that's being produced due to smoldering. That's what the pellet smokers are producing at lower temps, they reduce fan speed and create more smoldering pellets.

Now, the amount of smoke would impact smoke flavor, which the amount is determined by the amount of wood.

Soooo, smoke flavor is determined by quality and amount of wood.

Stumps GF theory, is that the smoke is cleaned by passing through the hot coals, it should not matter if there's 2" or 4 ". Does 2" clean the smoke more than 4" ?

In a stick burner, wood that's in flame, burns a lot hotter than smoldering wood, and that's why it produces cleaner smoke, the wood has to be in flame.
 

chesterinflorida

Smoke Blower
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Joined Nov 10, 2020
Then how does that impact smoke flavor ?

If you're getting thin blue at low or high temps, temp would have no impact on smoke flavor . When lower temps produce more smoke, its white smoke that's being produced due to smoldering. That's what the pellet smokers are producing at lower temps, they reduce fan speed and create more smoldering pellets.

Now, the amount of smoke would impact smoke flavor, which the amount is determined by the amount of wood.

Soooo, smoke flavor is determined by quality and amount of wood.

Stumps GF theory, is that the smoke is cleaned by passing through the hot coals, it should not matter if there's 2" or 4 ". Does 2" clean the smoke more than 4" ?

In a stick burner, wood that's in flame, burns a lot hotter than smoldering wood, and that's why it produces cleaner smoke, the wood has to be in flame.
You are missing time as a factor in this. Meat only picks up smoke flavor at lower temperatures. If you cook it lower and slower in will pick up more smoke flavor, assuming you have smoke flavor for it to pick up.
 

Mr. Zorg

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Joined Aug 26, 2021
I believe mopping and / or spritzing, restoring a surface moisture layer, allows absorption of smoke regardless of meat bulk temperature.

My primary modification of the Minion Method is the lit coals are the last thing that goes in the pit. I prep my meats minimum of several hours beforehand, preferably overnight and longer if brining, and the meat goes straight from my refrigerator to the smoker.
 

2fatpugs

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One more thing to take into account whether the wood you got is kiln or natural dried. With kiln dried wood you need to watch out for the moisture content. Ideally you want between 16-20% moisture.
 

Ridley

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One more thing to take into account whether the wood you got is kiln or natural dried. With kiln dried wood you need to watch out for the moisture content. Ideally you want between 16-20% moisture.
The wood I am using is not kiln dried, I felled it myself a couple of years ago. Stored outdoors in a woodshed.

So I don't think it is because the wood is too dry.
 

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