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Thick white smoke

Discussion in 'Propane Smokers' started by gableguy, Dec 20, 2010.

  1. I'll start by saying I'm new at smoking and have a lot to learn. I currently use a brinkman vertical propane smoker. I've only cooked pork butts so far but have noticed every time I get that thick white smoke, buy haven't noticed a bitter taste to the meat yet. I use soaked hickory chunks 2"-3" thick and am constantly adding more wood. How much wood should be used when when smoking? I think I'm using way too much. I currently have the chip pan directly above the flames and the water pan above the chips. Would it make a difference if I put the water pan above the flame and then put the chip pan above the water pan? Any tips on how to achieve that perfect blue smoke would be greatly appreciated.
  2. pineywoods

    pineywoods SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster Staff Member Administrator Group Lead OTBS Member OTBS Admin SMF Premier Member

    All you need is the smell of smoke or thin blue smoke (TBS) it really doesn't take a lot of wood. White smoke out of a propane smoker is too much wood more often than not. Some people soak the wood others don't try it both ways and pick the one that works best for you
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2010
  3. realtorterry

    realtorterry Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Try putting your chunks off to the side so they only smolder & not catch fire! If you smell it your smoking
  4. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Whoa! Yep, too much wood, and way too often. You should get white smoke at first, but this should change to the thin smoke after 5-10 minutes depoending on the amount of wood used, among other factors which I'll explain below. The white smoke is water vapors and volitile substances naturally found in the wood which are flashing off and evaporating. This is a normal part of the process to get to the smoke you really want to see, but every time you add more smoke wood, you'll get more white smoke, so the less often you add wood the better for optimum smoking conditions.

    A couple things come to mind for me here:

    1) I don't soak my smoke wood, as this just seems to delay the actual generation of smoke until the excess water has all evaporated from the wood;

    2) I can use 1 chunk at a time and get 3-4 hours form it with a gasser, and I've run 2 factory gassers and two charcoalers with gas conversions in the past, so the rest will work with most any smoker;

    3) You only need small amounts of wood for smoke. The key is to maintain the proper level of heat and air (oxygen) getting to the wood which will only allow it to smolder, not burn rapidly. More heat and/or more air equals more smoke generation. The varied levels of heat can be changed by moving the wood holder closer/farther away from the smoke, or moving the wood further away from the central heat source of the burner and closer to the edge of the pan or box;;

    4) Regulating the air getting to the wood can done several ways: if a pan is used, you can partially cover the smoke wood with foil, or place directly into a foil pouch. Another method I've used is to burn out (to remove nasties) a small beans or soup tin can and place the wood inside the can next to your heat source. If the smoke comes on too fast for too long, you can put the lid to the can on (burnt out also) to regulate the air even more, and this fits just loose enough if opened with the old style can iopener to allow some air in and the smoke to escape more slowly;

    5) The size of the smoke wood matters. Larger will smolder more slowly, and smaller more rapidly. I use chunks for long smokes, such as brisket or butts, and ships for shorter smokes like chickens or smaller cuts of pork, beef or chicken pieces and fish. I have 2' to 4" chunks, 1/4" x 3/4-1" chips and slivers which are just about the thickness of a round toothpick and bit bigger, and 1" long. I use them all for different purposes and with different methods to control the rate of smoke generation, based upon their burn rate.

    6) With a gas fired smoker, you should be able to control the smoke to the point of having charred pieces of smoke wood left in the pan/box/can/foil pouch when the smoke stops. This idicates an incomplete burn of the wood, and that's what creates the smoke you want to smell coming from the smoker, and taste in your food;

    This is what I've followed for a couple years now and I no longer have issues with smoke in any of my 4 rigs.

    Also, as mentioned above, if you can smell the smoke or it brings tears to your eyes if you put your face near the vent, you're good to go. Don't add wood if you can't see the smoke...that's when you just need to sniff around the rig a bit...if you smell meat cooking, but no smoke, it's time for wood.

    Just lay back and see what happens on your next smoke. You may find that just using unsoaked chunks is all you need to have a decent smoke going for several hours without even tending to the smoke wood. Never know 'til ya try it. Then, once you see how it's doing on it's own, you'll know if corrective measures are needed.

    Remember, if you can smell it...

  5. Thanks for the help, I plan on doing another round of butts on Friday so I'll be sure to try some of the tips n tricks mentioned.
  6. Hello been reading up on this and some really great tips in here.  I am fairly new to smoking, been doing it for over a year now.  I see that as long as you smell the smoke, even if you don't see it, it's a good thing.  The question I have though is if your tempature drops, then you would need to add more wood right?  But then sometimes when I do to get them temp back up white smoke starts up. 

    I mainly use Hickory Logs and chunks for my smoking.

  7. scarbelly

    scarbelly Epic Pitmaster OTBS Member

    Great response Eric - You nailed that process dead on.

    Guys if you follow that advise you will be successful
  8. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Hi Shea,

    Just checked your roll-call post...are you still using the brinkmann vertical with side fire box? If so, with the charcoal fire, you can use the larger chunks and just keep them close to the edge of the coal grate/basket and you should be able to keep a nice, slow smolder going with the smoke wood until it's all burned up. If you still want more smoke, adding chunks with hot coals works fine. There's nothing really wrong with the white smoke on ocassion from adding more wood...you just don't want to see it continuously. I have added smoke wood just before the remaining chunk(s) are gone, just to keep it coming the whole time. As for temp drops, just maintain the fire with fuel and damper controls...the smoke wood shouldn't effect the heat much, unless you're running it as a stick-burner.

    One other thing with the charcoal fire that I've run accross is a heavy coal smoke if I add cold briquttes, so I preheat in a chimney over a propane burner until the bottom 1/4 to 1/3 is burning and the heavy smoke has stopped. I've tried different versions of the minion method for briq firing, but get the nasty coal smoke every time.

  9. I am smoking a brisket right now, about 3 hours into it.  Just made a post not to long about it here:


    I didn't use any charochol, I used a bunch of Hickory chunks and about 1 1/2 hickory logs.  Mainly had blue smoke, expect when I added some more chunks to help bring up the heat then got some white smoke, but didn't last very long.  Went back to blue haze again. Heat has been maintaing around 200-135. But Heat went down to 188 so I just added 1/2 hickory log and some soaked hickory chunks.  Only up to 194 and dosen't seem to want to go past that.  I have the Vent were the fire is at fully open and the top of the brinkman were the little round smoke stack is closed.  Thought maybe that would help bring up the temp some more.

  10. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Get the top vent wide open, pronto! You'll have a wicked amount of stale smoke and it will result in a nasty, bitter taste...probably enough creosote to make your lips and mouth tingle and go numb.

    Open top vent and close down in the intakes (side fire box) to slow down the burn rate/fire control. Maintain heat with the intakes only, and close the exhaust a bit to hold some heat, but without ventilation, you'll have no draft to get the fire burning on top of having stale smoke.

    Not sure how the hickory fire will be as far as smoke flavor...may be really strong...have no hardwoods here, so can't run my rigs as stick-burners, but I do know that hickory is a very sharp smoke.