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Smoking with Wood on a Char Broil Silver Smoker

Discussion in 'Wood Smokers' started by wntrlnd, Oct 25, 2010.

  1. When I first got my offset Char Broil Silver Smoker I really didn't know how to get the thin blue smoke.  In fact, I had no idea what thin blue smoke was, or why it was desireable.  To me, smoke was smoke.  Eventually, from information gleaned reading a ton of posts, I came up with a method that works pretty well.  I'm posting this for anyone new to smoking and looking for  a method that's tailored specifically to the Silver Smoker or similar offset smoker.  This is what works for me.

    I use lump charcoal for heat and splits of seasoned almond wood for smoke.  While wood type is a matter of preference, or availability, I think lump charcoal is absolutely essential.  I've tried several different charcoal briquettes and I think they're a big waste of time and money.  They burn too quickly, produce too much ash, and impart harsh flavors.  Your mileage may vary.  I buy the big 40 pound bags of lump mesquite, which range in price from around $15 to $20. 

    I start by filling up a Weber charcoal chimney half way with lump charcoal.  When the lump is fully lit, I dump the coals in the back left corner of the firebox.  I add more lump until I have a nice mound of coals, maybe three or four inches deep, going.  At this stage I have the bottom vent on the firebox wide open and the top vent closed.  This first pile if coals brings the termperature of the smoker up to operating temporature.

    When I have a nice consistent burn going, I add the wood I'll be using to smoke.  At that point I close the side intake air vent to about 5/6ths closed.  Here's a peek in the firebox right about then:


    Throughout the smoke, all day, I try to keep the coals away from direct contact with the wood, yet close enough so wood smolders and produces the delicious thin blue smoke.

    It's not a great picture, but here's that thin smoke that starts coming out shortly after the wood is added. 


    My method is sort of loosely based on the Minion Method.  I just keep adding lump to the pile and regulate the heat with the side vent.  I've found I usually need to add more lump about every 30-40 minutes.  I keep a box of lump handy and can quickly scoop in a couple cups with minimal loss of temperature.  As the day goes on and the base of the pile of coals extends and the hunk of wood recedes, there is a considerable heat momentum going that helps regain temperature lost when you open the door to add charcoal.

    About an hour into the smoke, the big hunk of wood is giving up the thin blue and looks practically good as new:


    Three hours in:


    Five hours later it's still giving up the blue:


    Unfortunately, the big bags of lump have a lot of little bits and pieces.  There are always some sweet bigger pieces, but you have to get used to using the smalls.

    Here's a look at the box of smalls I have ready to shovel in by the cupload when I refuel:


    I've found I can easily get 4-7 hours worth of smoke from one similar sized hunk of wood.  I went through two boxes of lump smalls over the same time frame.

    As I said, that's what works for me!  I hope someone finds this post useful! 
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2010
  2. danmcg

    danmcg Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Thanks for sharing your method, I'm always looking for different ways to heat my smoker. I'll give it a try next time I fire mine up.

  3. You're welcome, Dan!  Thanks for the comment!

    I hope it works as well for you as it did for me.  Before I figured out this method I was burning up way too much wood.  I've done the above method 4 or 5 times now and never had to use more than one stick of wood.
  4. Thank you for the info. Smoking on a CB Silver too. Never thought of placing wood near fire to smolder. Have you tried Wicked Good lump charcoal? Great stuff lots of larger hunks. Did you do any "Modifications" to your Silver?
  5. I haven't done any mods to my Silver Smoker.  I haven't tried Wicked Good, but it sounds great!  I'll keep an eye out for it.  Haven't seen it around these parts (so. cal.).

    I've been smoking as I described above for several months now and I'm happy with the results.  Every time I smoke I just need one good size piece of wood for the smoke, and a bunch of lump to keep the heat steady.  I've done 6 hour and longer smokes with a single stick of almond.

    I've measured the temp at grill level and my smoker seems pretty well balanced from end to end.  The area right next to the firebox gets hot, but I'm of the opinion that you can use that fact to your advantage.  Sometimes you need an excessively hot area to crisp up skin or penetrate the thickest part of whatever you're cooking.  Knowing  the characteristics of your smoker and adapting your methods seems a lot easier than modifications to me, but then again, I'm not mechanically inclined.

    Thanks for the response and questions, rjnale!

  6. Thanks for the article, I finally have seen the thin blue smoke. When I use wood it looks like Ole Number 9 coming down the tracks. I will try this next spring. The Black Hills are not conducive for smoking in the winter.

  7. So far I've only done 3 smokes in a BBQ and am sooooooo looking forward to doing real smoke.

    That being said, the photos help - thanks a million.

    I see a lot of people use charcoal but I have so much wood available, do you think I could use your corner method with wood?

    Thanks in advance

  8. SmokinAl

    SmokinAl SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    There are a lot of guys on here that burn just wood, it gives the best taste, so they say. They have no problem getting TBS and I'm sure one will be along shortly to give you answers.
  9. good info, thanks for sharing.
  10. You're welcome, MrMeatCutter and Dave! 

    When I first started out, I tried for months and months to find a way to use only wood.   I never was able to manage to regulate the cooking chamber temperature.  I did lots of practice burns before I finally gave up on wood alone and tried a charcoal/wood hybrid fire. 

    The lump charcoal gives you a fairly consistent and predictable temperature base, and it's much easier to modulate than a strictly wood fire.  The charcoal is just a source of heat, it doesn't flavor the meat significantly.  The thin blue smoke comes entirely from the wood. 

    If you have a big enough firebox that you can have a big pile of wood embers to generate heat and then use additional wood to produce the thin blue smoke, that would work, too.  But with my Char Broil Silver smoker, there's barely room enough for a couple pieces of wood.  I suppose you could also have an external fire pit and pre-burn some wood to just the right stage and then transfer it to your firebox.

    You're lucky to have an abundance of wood!  It's scare in my vicinity.
  11. max-paul

    max-paul Fire Starter


    Thank you so very much. Been doing the old over thinking and was getting dizzy. Your discription and pictures answered all my nagging questions. I have a side fire box but not your brand. I think it is the New Brumfield or something to that effect. Point is that I first found out that you aint suppose to regulate the temperature via the exhaust damper. That it was causing the now and then acidic aftertaste. So, now I run the exhaust vent wide open. But I notice that 1) very little hickory taste, 2) I am getting the big white clouds now and then and the hickory taste has dropped off to barely tasting it. Lately I notice that the hickory smoke is a) not thin B) can be more of a strange brown, def. not TBS or any form of blue per say.

    Going to try your technic, I think you are onto something that I need to jump on board too. I can see how this will work and will try the next few weeks.

    Big Thanks for your effort to help some of use who are clueless like me.
  12. Thanks, Max-Paul!  You are definitely on the right track now that you are keeping the exhaust vent wide open.  

    I suggest trying my method and seeing how it works.  If you are using good quality natural lump charcoal it burns pretty clean, and you shouldn't have any white smoke to speak of.

    If you keep your hickory far enough away from the lump that it can slowly smolder and not catch fire, you'll be in business.  If you have the wood positioned right, it should take a few minutes to heat the wood enough start to see the wispy blue smoke.  Ideally, it should stay that way.  Once the wood is smoldering it pretty much acts like a stick of incense, just giving up smoke ever so slowly.

    Generally speaking, the only time I get white smoke is if the wood I'm using gets to the point it's given up all its smoke and become mostly carbonized.  If you leave it in long enough, it will eventually catch fire, producing an unwanted temp spike and billowy white smoke.  The trick is to yank it outta there before it gets to that point.

    Good luck and let me know how it goes!  Feel free to send me a PM if you have any questions.

    I totally know what it's like starting out!  As helpful as the members here are, there are so many different types of smokers it is difficult sometimes to get the sort of guidance you need for your particular set up.  That's why I posted this thread!  I know there are other rookies struggling with the same issues I was struggling with last summer, so I wanted to share what I learned.
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2011