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Thin blue line or not


Joined Dec 28, 2015
Now I am very confused. Some say we should get that 'thin blue line of smoke' and in my experience I have seen many folks in my area  who when I see them smoking meat there is a great deal of smoke coming from their smokers and not a thin blue line of smoke. I am new to smoking so please forgive my ignorance. I am using an offset smoker. Is it not better to get a lot of smoke built up inside the cooking pot so you get more smoke? How does the 'thin blue line smoke' make it better? To me it seems like the more smoke the better your meat will taste. Perhaps I am wrong about that. I have been researching smoking meat for over a year now and now I am more confused than ever. It appears there are several schools to thought. Can someone give me a clue? Thanks for our help.   


Legendary Pitmaster
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Joined Jun 1, 2008
Thick smoke usually means you have green wood or have too much air flow. Usually when its thick its not a pleasant smell. Its like an ash tray or fire place.

When you have air flow correct with nice seasoned wood or good charcoal you will get a thin blue smoke and the smoke will smell sweet. See the picture below. Left is thick and right is TBS.

View media item 495184

Also when you have think smoke creosote can build up and give the food a bitter taste. This is why you don't want heavy smoke. Also if you burn bark this will cause the smoke to be thicker.

I hope this helps.


Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
Joined Dec 26, 2007
Thick rolling smoke means a cold smoldering fire. Your meat will absorb all the heavy smoke and will taste like creosote. Bitter, like licking a ash tray!

Most meats will be in the smoke for several hours and more. A thin blue smoke means a properly burning fire that is properly vented. Because the meat will be exposed to the smoke for hours it will absorb the smoke without getting that bitter creosote taste.

Maintaining your temperature is impossible with a cold smoldering fire. A properly vented and hot fire also a controllable fire through vent control.

This is a pretty good example of my smoker running a thin blue smoke. It's is just a tad on the heavy side. It is telling me I will need to stir the fire or add a split real soon.

Hope this helps!


Master of the Pit
SMF Premier Member
Joined Aug 13, 2015
When you put in a new split you get that heavier smoke right at first sometimes, but it goes away as it gets burning good. A little bit won't hurt for a few minutes. Let your smoker find its own "happy" range. Don't try to keep an offset to 225. They burn hotter to get a clean smoke. Mine runs anywhere from 250 to 280 depending on weather. The whole "low & slow" thing gets a little bit over done IMHO....


SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster
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Joined Jun 22, 2009
Most of the time all I see is heat coming out of the stack, with just a hint of smoke from time to time.

Only when I add a split will I see a little smoke for a couple of minutes.



Master of the Pit
Joined Apr 6, 2015
The smoke from mine can be very hard to see.

A lot depends for me on where the sun is whether I can see it or not.

If the sun is behind me I can see it pretty well, if it's in front, not so much.



Legendary Pitmaster
OTBS Member
★ Lifetime Premier ★
Joined Jun 20, 2013
I know I've got it right when I have a real hard time telling whether there is smoke or not. Then I just stick my nose over the exhaust. If I can smell smoke coming out then I'm real happy.


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