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No visible smoke, but still small smoke ring

greg84

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Hi there, I just built my first smoker 2 months ago using the big poppa smokers kit and I'm getting better at it, but still have a lot to learn. Today I did a rack of back ribs and they turned out really good, but throughout the cook I noticed something I'm having some trouble understanding.

I started by lighting about a half chimney of royal oak lump. While that was lighting I put a coffee can with a cutout bottom in the center of the basket. I poured charcoal around the can with some apple wood chunks buried within. Then I put a nice big chunk in the can and barely buried it with unlit charcoal. Once the charcoal in the chimney was lit I poured that in the can on top of what was already there and pulled the can out. I put the basket down in the smoker and opened the vents all the way. It started smoking almost immediately and kept smoking until it got up to about 250. Then the smoke stopped. I put the ribs in and noticed that about a minute after closing the lid it started smoking again, but then stopped about 5 minutes later. It didnt smoke again until after I opened the lid to wrap the ribs, but again 5 mins and it stopped. And again when I sauced the ribs I had to open the lid, and again it started smoking , but 5 mins later it stopped.

So it seems to have something to do with air flow, but I'm having trouble understanding. If it's not getting enough air for the wood to smoke (I guess, even though that doesn't make sense to me. I doubt the coals were cool enough that wouldn't burn the wood) but its holding the temp I want at 250, then opening the vents more would get it to smoke, but increase the temp, right? So how do i keep the cooking zone at 250, but give the fire enough air to smoke?

Also I should note that there was a small smoke ring on the ribs, but they didnt really have a bark or darker color after cooking.

Is it possible that it was smoking, but so little I couldn't see it?

Thanks to anyone who can help me figure this out cause I'm sure I dont understand
 

SmokingUPnorth

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definitely possible. If you smell smoke, your smoking. did they have a smoked taste
 

greg84

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Joined May 25, 2021
definitely possible. If you smell smoke, your smoking. did they have a smoked taste
Yes, but I'm not sure that wasnt just for the final 30 mins after I sauced them. I opened the vents more at that point to try and make sure it would smoke and stick to the sauce. Also if it was smoking then why didn't I get any smoke color?

Thanks for your help
 

pc farmer

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The best smoke is the smoke you cant see, or a very lite smoke seen. Most strive to make that very lite almost invisable smoke. If you using charcoal and wood. It will get the smoke on the meat.
 

SmokinEdge

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Leave the top vent wide open and control air at the inlet. Choke it down far enough and you will see smoke (white) crack it open just a skosh more and in a minute the white will turn light blue. You have to learn your pit/cooker.
 

bhambrewer

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the smoke ring doesn't come from the smoke, but from an interaction between nitrogen molecules and the proteins in the meat
 

thirdeye

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It is odd that you noticed smoke only when the drum was coming up to temp, usually you are burning off the VOC's and getting the harsh smoke from your chunks of wood. For me this takes about an hour.... then the drum is settled in at my target temp and the charcoal and flavor wood have settled down enough to put the meat on.

At this point a drum (without a baffle) is running like any other pit, light gray or blue smoke and the aroma is pleasant, not bitter. It all changes with you add meat. Once the meat starts to cook it releases little flavor bombs that drip into the coals. Now you start to see more white smoke, and the aroma is much better than before because you have charcoal, wood and fats in the mix. Here is an early picture.... maybe 3 or 4 hours into a brisket cook in the 275° pit temp range.
muTEK.jpg
And this is a real typical look 6 or 7 hours into a cook with a good bed of coals.
Al5h8UN.jpg

Is your flavor wood really old, or really dry? Maybe the coals burned right through it?
 

greg84

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Joined May 25, 2021
It is odd that you noticed smoke only when the drum was coming up to temp, usually you are burning off the VOC's and getting the harsh smoke from your chunks of wood. For me this takes about an hour.... then the drum is settled in at my target temp and the charcoal and flavor wood have settled down enough to put the meat on.

At this point a drum (without a baffle) is running like any other pit, light gray or blue smoke and the aroma is pleasant, not bitter. It all changes with you add meat. Once the meat starts to cook it releases little flavor bombs that drip into the coals. Now you start to see more white smoke, and the aroma is much better than before because you have charcoal, wood and fats in the mix. Here is an early picture.... maybe 3 or 4 hours into a brisket cook in the 275° pit temp range.
View attachment 501176
And this is a real typical look 6 or 7 hours into a cook with a good bed of coals.
View attachment 501177

Is your flavor wood really old, or really dry? Maybe the coals burned right through it?
No I just bought the wood, and remember I said the smoker started smoking again everytime I opened the lid. About a minute after opening it would start and keep it up for about 5 mins then stop. It seems like after the smoker filled up with air from opening it would start smoking, but then when it burnt through all that extra air and was back to relying on the air it was getting through the vents the smoke stopped. It doesn't make sense to me though. If it was getting less air the fire would burn cooler and the wood would smolder not disappear, right?
 

SmokinAl

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Did you only put one chunk of wood in with the charcoal? I think I would have mixed in several chunks. Also it seems Ike you have a air flow problem. I think the bottom vents need to be opened up more & the top vent needs to be wide open. If the temp gets too high then you just built too big a fire. It happens to me too in my Lang, but I just go with the flow, if the smoker wants to run at 300 I just let it. I do shut down the dampers, but as long as your temp is between 225-300, you should be fine. The only difference being that the ribs will be done sooner at the higher temps.
Al
 

thirdeye

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No I just bought the wood, and remember I said the smoker started smoking again everytime I opened the lid. About a minute after opening it would start and keep it up for about 5 mins then stop. It seems like after the smoker filled up with air from opening it would start smoking, but then when it burnt through all that extra air and was back to relying on the air it was getting through the vents the smoke stopped. It doesn't make sense to me though. If it was getting less air the fire would burn cooler and the wood would smolder not disappear, right?
Oops, I missed that. SmokinAl SmokinAl mentioned airflow and this sounds very possible. I have two friends with BPS kit builds, the design is sound. The only time I saw any fire issues was when my buddy used too much of the bottom-of-the-bag lump that did not allow proper air flow.
 

greg84

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Joined May 25, 2021
Oops, I missed that. SmokinAl SmokinAl mentioned airflow and this sounds very possible. I have two friends with BPS kit builds, the design is sound. The only time I saw any fire issues was when my buddy used too much of the bottom-of-the-bag lump that did not allow proper air flow.
I have been using royal oak lump for the past little bit and most of the 4 bags I bought were crumbled up, so that may be a large part of the problem. Also I re read your last post and you said that the smoker would behave that way without a baffle. I added a pizza pan baffle to mine early on to try and keep the temps more stable. I thought that would be a good idea based on my research. Is that not right? Thanks
 

thirdeye

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The baffle is a give and take. You don't get the flavor of fats dripping into the fire, but in some cases the baffle helps the fire and the vortex or convection of the column of heat.
 

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