Need Help with Using Oak

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Smoke Blower
Original poster
Mar 21, 2013
Arlington, TX
I have been smoking for 5 years with lump charcoal. Today I bought some seasoned oak and want to start using it in my vertical smoker and NBBD.

This is my knowledge so far:

1. The bigger the smoker the bigger log you can use

2. If you choke down the fire too much you will get lots of bad smoke.

3. You want a hot small fire vs. a big low temp fire

4. If you are burning wood you have to check on it every 45 minutes or so

I got some oak, cut it down to 10 inch splits and fired up the smoker tonight. I found the smoker on the side of the road, cleaned it up, painted it, and now I want to clean it out a bit. The inside smelled like lighter fluid when I got it. I took the fire up to 550 degrees and it was smelling good.

Problems I could use yalls help with:

1. It took a long time to get the logs to catch. I finally used lump charcoal to start the fire.

2. Should my logs be on fire or just smoking shortly after I add them to the coals?

3. Tonight it took me a long time for the big smoke to stop. I never really got the invisible smoke I am use to with the lump charcoal.

4. The smell is much stronger using oak than I am use to. I am afraid it will make a bitter taste on the meat.

5. I am not sure how small the wood I am adding needs to be. If I open the vents up too much the log lights on fire, If I close the vents down too much I get the dirty smoke.

What are your thoughts? I have a big smoke planned for saturday and I would like to use the wood I just got.




Smoking Guru
OTBS Member
Aug 1, 2008
Central California
Others with more experience with verticals will weigh in.

My initial thoughts would lean toward lump charcoal with pre-burnt chunks of oak instead of sticks.

Good luck and good smoking


Smoking Fanatic
Mar 11, 2010
Penn Valley, CA
Max........I like oak for flavor so I use chucks or smaller splits.........lump/charcoal for my main heat source. I do notice a bit of white smoke when I add a chunk but that only lasts a couple of min. The only way I have been able to use it for my main heat was to have a separate fire going and shovel the coals into the smoker. Just more work than I want to deal with as watching my smoker is for the fun and relaxation......not to mention the food that comes out of it.



Smoking Fanatic
OTBS Member
Sep 8, 2009
I have never had any luck with a "fire" in the horizontal smoker you have ,  but in my off-set smoker it works fine i can make a "fire" in the offset and fine tune the air flow to get it to burn , but i still ave to use some charcoal to get the fire going but after it is the fire works good , i also think you need smaller pieces of wood to get the wood to keep it burning . not length but width


good luck !


Smoke Blower
Jun 27, 2013
Watertown, TN
Definitely split it smaller (like an inch or so square appx.), and I don't know if you'll be able to do this in your smoker, but in my offset, I put my next splits in the firebox away from the fire to pre-heat. They catch fire almost instantly that way. :)


Fire Starter
Oct 9, 2012
Necedah Wisconsin
I always use oak in my pig roaster. I will start with charcoal, then add small split oak that has been soaked in water overnight. Each time I add more wood I will put a few lumps of charcoal to keep the wood going.


Master of the Pit
Group Lead
Jul 23, 2012
Metrowest Boston , ma.
Hey Venture
You lost me with the preburnt wood?????????

I think what he's talking about is having a wood fire on the side and you get that oak burning and you take a shovel full of hot coals out every now and then and you put those in the smoker. You see that a lot in pit type cooking. Not sure how well that would work in a smoker where you have to open the cooking chamber to add wood.
Apologies to venture for jumping this answer...hope I got it right. :grilling_smilie:


Smoke Blower
Original poster
Thread starter
Mar 21, 2013
Arlington, TX
Well I smoked three briskets in my NBBD and they turned out incredible. I started with lump charcoal and then added a small split of oak every 30 minutes. Once the lump charcoal went out the wood was not staying lit. I have the dampeners open but the log still did not have enough oxygen. When I opened the firebox door the log would light but the temps got too high. I decided to chop the splits into big chunks and then adding 3 or 4 every 15 minutes. That worked great. I ran both dampeners open the entire 12 hour cook. I did not get a pic of the briskets but the smoke ring was 1/4 inch on both sides of the slices. I trimmed the fat cap to 1/4 inch and the smoke went into the meat on the fat side. Oak rules.


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