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Smoke in Chamber, None on Food

Discussion in 'Info and Practices' started by kevd1no, Apr 6, 2019.

  1. kevd1no

    kevd1no Newbie

    I've been using this set-up for cold smoking with my Smokin' It 1 or a cardboard box chamber.

    I am eternally grateful for the thread!

    The set-up worked wonders on everything I cold smoked...bacon, heavy whipping cream (for whipped cream), Cheese-Its, all kinds of cheeses, cookies. Then one day, I stopped getting smoke aroma on the food I put in. I had not changed a thing (same set-up, pellets, weather, ambient temps). I tried changing it to The containers for the heavy whipping cream, Cheese-Its, etc., all have great smoke smell, but little to none on the product itself even after 4+ hours of cold smoking. Before 2 hours was the max I needed for those products. Does anyone have any ideas what could be going wrong?

    Side note: I'm about 4,000 ft. above sea level, if that matters. Every now and then, the food will take on a smoke smell, but it will also have an unidentifiable odd off flavor. Cookies are more likely to take on the smoke flavor, but it takes forever and they have that off flavor.
  2. johnmeyer

    johnmeyer Master of the Pit

    Whenever troubleshooting something that used to work, but doesn't now, the obvious line of troubleshooting is to go over the list of every possible thing that might have changed. You say your're are at 4,000 feet of elevation, but barring major earth movement, that probably hasn't changed, so it isn't likely part of the problem.

    Here are some thoughts:

    1. Air flow. Has something clogged up, or has some orifice been accidentally closed? Are you getting the same amount of smoke actually coming out of the smoker vent as you did before?

    2. Cleaning. Most people don't clean their smokers. I did do it one time because I had gotten such a huge coating of creosote in my MES from using chips in the loader, the way it was designed, rather than an external smoking enclosure. Once I changed to the external smoking enclosure, I still got smoke coming off the creosote. This added an ashtray/bitter taste. You are, of course, getting the opposite. The only reason I bring it up is that when I did clean my smoker, the taste profile did change.

    3. Wind. The draw through some smokers changes dramatically if you have more wind. This is certainly true of my MES. Have you had a lot more wind the last few times? This is somewhat the opposite of #1. That idea was to look at whether the smoke ever makes it to the smoker, whereas this is to look and see if it goes through so quickly that it never attaches to the food.

    4. Food prep. I am becoming more conscious that the moisture on the food when it goes into the smoker makes a difference. I am still too much of a neophyte to understand whether more moisture, or less moisture is a good thing. Some people swear that you have to have a pellicle on the food before smoking. Other people spritz and spray the food many times during the smoke, which seems like just the opposite. I'm not sure which is the right thing to do with each type of food, but if you have changed anything about the moisture on the food, and the state of the pellicle, then that might make a difference.

    5. Burn temperature. There are several articles about getting the right temperature to burn the fuel that makes your smoke. In fact, when you think about it, figuring out the right burn speed is almost the definition of the art of BBQ. Too hot, and you just generate heat with little or no smoke; too cold and you make charcoal and don't get much taste.

    6. Too much duct. That article you linked to was one of several that featured absurdly long (IMHO) lengths of tubing, in order to condense as much creosote as possible. Don't get me wrong, I have a "mailbox mos" for my MES (made from a popcorn tin) and it does indeed condense a lot of creosote. However, if you make that condensing duct long enough (I think one guy ended up with close to twenty feet), I would think pretty much everything would be condensed, including the flavorful part of the smoke. If you have a really long length of duct, you could temporarily remove most of it, leaving perhaps 2-3 feet, and see if that helps.
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2019
    kevd1no likes this.
  3. kevd1no

    kevd1no Newbie

    1. Air flow - Seems fine, getting the same amount of smoke as before.
    2. Cleaning - I've definitely noticed a difference after cleaning in previous instances. Didn't have an effect this time.
    3. Wind - is pretty constant. How can I tell if the smoke is going through so fast it doesn't attach to the food?
    4. Food Prep
    - This could be an issue when I smoke meats, but I'm having the same problem with products that don't have any prep, like heavy cream and cheese-Its.
    5. Heat - I've tried it with hotter and cooler burns. Didn't seem to make a difference, but I'm definitely not ruling that out yet.
    6. Duct - This could be a problem. I'll temporarily shorten it and see what happens. I haven't checked to see what at what length I stop getting deposits.

    Thank you so much for your help and suggestions. Some of these I would have never considered.
  4. doughboyb

    doughboyb Fire Starter

    Have someone else taste it... Could be your own tastebuds are off or you are just used to the amount of smoke. Sounds like you smoke everything you eat.
  5. kevd1no

    kevd1no Newbie

    Had my wife and many others taste in the past. They confirmed my suspicions.
  6. kevd1no

    kevd1no Newbie

    Quick update:
    I shortened the piping as suggested and it made a massive difference! The smoke flavor is back! It had been so long since I smoked anything that I forgot I replaced the piping a year or two ago before putting away my rig for quite a while. The replacement piping was much longer, maybe 2x as long. That was the problem. Almost all of the smoky goodness was gone before it got to the chamber. The volume of smoke coming out of the smoker looks right again. It had been so long that I forgot what it was supposed to look like.

    Thanks for the help JohnMeyer!
  7. johnmeyer

    johnmeyer Master of the Pit

    Thanks for sharing your experience. There was a really long thread on using these long sections of tubing between the external smoke generator and the smoking enclosure. I didn't want to stick my neck out too far in that discussion, but I did politely question the wisdom of the design. Your experience seems to indicate that too much of a good thing is, well, not too good!
  8. kevd1no

    kevd1no Newbie

    I've learned (yet again) that just because something works for a bunch of other people doesn't mean that I don't have to test it in my set-up.