Newbie question about smoke

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Smoking Guru
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Jul 7, 2005
Midvale, UT
Folks, I received an e-mule from Richtee concerning the Thin Blue Smoke and why this is more desirable than the billowy white smoke that newbie most often encounter.

This is the message followed by my reply, and please, you veteran smokers out there, chime in with your $.02:

Richtee, This topic has been brought up a number of times at SMF but I'll answer your question here.

A thick heavy white smoke is due to the improper ignition of the chemicals and gases that are released when wood is burning. The incomplete burning of of these chemicals and gases create creosote which is not good for the body. Creosote is known to cause cancer; creosote can/will impart a bitterness to your foods and can be identified by a chemical like burning and/or numbness to the mouth and tongue.

A nearly invisible or a thin blue/gray smoke is what we are after. A smoke of this type has had the chemicals and gases burned off. Some folks that are pure wood (stick) burners will often pre-burn their wood. If you check the Wood burner Forum, SoFlaQuer has posted a sticky that talks about pre-burning wood. If you are a charcoal or propane burner, use your wood sparingly, generally two or three "hockey puck" sized pieces will burn properly and impart a good smoke flavor to your foods. You can experiment and add more wood chunks; but when your smoke becomes white and billowy, then you've added to much wood.

Also, wood should be properly seasoned at least six months before using. Green wood will release more chemicals and gases than a smoker over-filled with seasoned wood. There are those folks out there that smoke with green wood, but then they are usually using the wood for flavor and not for fire building.
Another newbie to add further.

I recently purchased a GOSM and the couple times I have used it have used hickory chunks. I added a couple to start with. The TBS starts in about 15 minutes or so. After 45 minutes or so, the TBS appears to stop, but there is still wood in the pan. At that point, I added a couple more chunks and when the smoke reappeared it was much more in quantity and was white. I dumped the pan and put in a couple more chunks and all was good.

So, I guess I am wondering, if there is still wood in the pan, but I don't see the TBS, is it still there? Should I dump the wood when I can't see it anymore and put in new wood, or let it go until the wood that is in there, burns down and is almost gone.

Thanks so much for your info. Things are going great for me in such a short period of time. Can't wait to start impressing friends and family. Actually, I already have with Q-View emails!!!!
Once your wood chunks have a white ashy look (like charcoal when it's done) that wood is not providing smoke (or any flavor) as it is burned thouroghly and completely and it is time to add more. If, however, your chunks still are mostly black, then this wood is still imparting smoke and flavor even if you can't see it.

EDIT: Deleted the quote.
Cascadedad my wife says the same thing but when she smells the smoke she knows she's eating good so no complaints
maby TBS after shave and cologne

Once youve had your GOSM for awile youll get to know how long a pot of wood will last, but when the wood turns to ash add more wood or if your like me i change the wood when ash starts forming on the wood.
A good sign is when you open the door and see smoke inside you know its working, (you might not alwase see smoke comming out) but i know my pots when full will last 2.5 hrs for long smokes so i go by the time in changing them.
I burn straight wood all the time myself. While I'm getting the barrel up to heat I put a split inside the firebox to preheat to keep creosote from building up. Every time I throw a split on the coals another goes in the firebox to preheat. Here's you a pic of the blue smoke.
Again, kind Sir- Thank you for the reply.... I read SoFlqer's article, and actually HAVE a similar set-up...just been putting the wood in too freakin' soon. My venison shoulder just went on <6AM here> enveloped in true TBS...Wheee..I can't WAIT! <In a Brinkman bullet stickburner 'till my custom pit is complete...ah well...>
mssmith - that is an absolutely beautiful piece of hardware you've got there.

chrish - you my friend are a marketing genius. i'm going to get right on that cologne idea. "Eau de Hickory". I'll do the ice bucket liquid smoke trick (a la alton brown) for the base. Might be hard to wash off though, but that'll be a *feature*.
Had leftover ribs for lunch. Shared with a couple co-workers. They were IMPRESSED. I think we all have the smoke cologne going on now. Their wives will probably think they stopped by the bar on the way home from work.
Mine knows where the smell comes from now. is reader supported and as an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.

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