Wet Vs. Dry Wood Burn Comparison

Discussion in 'Woods for Smoking' started by meateater, Jul 29, 2011.

  1. meateater

    meateater Smoking Guru SMF Premier Member

    Thanks everyone for checking it out, whatever works is the main goal ! Hey Johnny you asked. [​IMG]

  2. daggerdoggie

    daggerdoggie Smoke Blower

    Years ago, I used to soak my smoking wood for a few hours and then I read, it doesn't make any difference.

    I just tried this last night.  Soaked my large chunks of wood to put in my offset smoker for 24 hours.  I can say I was making TBS from the start with some Cowboy lump charcoal from the start. No waiting for the white smoke to burn off and, I expected the white smoke to begin forming after a while on the heat, it never did.

    I think you're on to something here.  I have only tried it once, but the results were great.
  3. Way Cool.

    Far out man.[​IMG]

  4. kid creole

    kid creole Fire Starter

    I appreciate that you did this experiment, but it's what we should expect to see.  We all knew before this started that dry wood burns faster than wet wood.  

    Why do we care what color the smoke is?  Creosote.  I think where we get hung up is, what do we want to do with the creosote?  Contrary to what some people think, we want to deposit that on the meat.   Creosote is a tasty preservative.  What we don't want is the nasty bitter junk that results from burning creosote.  By soaking, we've added water, and evaporation is cooling the hot wood.  This keeps the temps down on the surface of the wood to allow the creosote to evaporate and escape before burning.

    I don't know what the answer is.  But what I do know is that we can taste nasty burnt creosote.  If you have wood, wet or dry, laying directly on the hot coals, you are going to burn evaporated creosote.  Add a layer of ash in there, and you might be OK, or wrap it in foil.

    Either way, we can taste the result, so we can adjust our methods.  If your cooker requires that you put wood on the coals, chances are that the right way to do it is going to be to soak it.  If you've got some space near your smoker, you're going to be able to evaporate it off from a distance.
  5. meateater

    meateater Smoking Guru SMF Premier Member

    Like i said to each there own. 
  6. cliffcarter

    cliffcarter Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member


    I really think that you are confused as to what creosote is and how it forms.

    If creosote is being deposited on the meat in your cooker you need to clean out your cooker.

    Far from being tasty, creosote is simply nasty,  powerline poles are preserved with it, not food.

    How is it possible to burn something that has evaporated?

    A short article about creosote formation-

  7. meateater

    meateater Smoking Guru SMF Premier Member

    Thanks for the link, great info. [​IMG]
  8. kid creole

    kid creole Fire Starter

    For the most part, you can ONLY burn something after it has evaporated.  You need to make space for Oxygen.  This is why gasoline must be atomized before it will burn efficiently (or expeditiously), and why you can burn steel wool but make a grill out of steel.  If you want to burn creosote, put a wood chunk in a paint can.  Poke a hole in the top, and heat it up.  The gases that come off the top (largely creosote) can be lit afire, but this is specifically what we are trying to avoid in a smoker or grill.    When that flame extinguishes on top of the can, you will be left with a piece of charcoal.  That is wood with all of the creosote (and other things) evaporated off.  And, this is why we largely use charcoal or more specially designed cookers for raw wood.

    Read here about the discovery of creosote:  http://books.google.com/books?id=OCTzAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA152#v=onepage&q&f=false   .

    Paraphrased:  Creosote is a liquid identified by distilling wood.  When wood was is distilled, different liquids are recovered and some possess the same properties of preservation, but not the delicious flavor.  Creosote exists in wood, it is not created through the conditions when it's burned.

    The term has become intermingled with coal tar creosote, but they are not the same thing.  That's nasty carcinogenic stuff.  In broad terms and almost all the time when it relates to health and medicine, the word "creosote" means coal creosote.  When you mentioned telephone poles, that's coal tar creosote, not wood creosote.

    And like I said before, I'm an engineer, but science be damned, you can taste when you are doing the right thing.  If it tastes bitter, something's wrong.
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2011
  9. kid creole

    kid creole Fire Starter

    Yes, we all have unique smokers and our own taste buds.  It's more important that people know if it tastes bad it is bad, and like I said, I appreciate you sharing you knowledge, experiment, and experience.
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2011
  10. meateater

    meateater Smoking Guru SMF Premier Member

    I would like simple answers to # 25 here, that would be nice!
  11. cliffcarter

    cliffcarter Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    AhHa, so this is what you are talking about-


    I am talking about that nasty crap that builds up in the chimneys of people who burn wood. That's the same nasty stuff that will ruin meat if given a chance.

    I wouldn't eat that ever. 
  12. kid creole

    kid creole Fire Starter

    Basically.  That nasty stuff is tar, and I wouldn't eat it either.
  13. sqwib

    sqwib Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Oh boy


    I'm not going to debate this topic and will stick to my TBS, However I would like to point out a few things many of you may already know.

    The way I understand Barbecue, was that the meat was cooked indirectly with the use of hardwood coals, getting smoke was a by product of the coals burning and was not desirable the purpose wasn't to add more smoke flavor but rather to cook low and slow.

    Many of us stickburners use wood, some purist use hot coals, the latter of the 2 produces a less smokey flavor, which was preferred many moons ago.

    Smoking is a different beast and can be used as a means of curing foods as well as smoking foods.

    I done a little homework on the process of burning wood when making my own charcoal

    Gasification Process: The essence of gasification process is the conversion of solid carbon fuels into carbon monoxide by thermochemical process. The gasification of solid fuel is accomplished in air sealed, closed chamber, under slight suction or pressure relative to ambient pressure.

    What this means is all the water is evaporated from the wood and the gasification process begins

    Pyrolysis: is the thermal decomposition of biomass fuels in the absence of oxygen. Pyrolysis involves release of three kinds of products : solid, liquid and gases. The ratio of products is influenced by the chemical composition of biomass fuels and the operating conditions.

    This is when the wood starts burning and releases highly volatile gasses and other fun stuff.

    This process leads to carbonization, like lump charcoal

    I have done this process in a 55 gallon drum and the gasses being expelled were like a blow torch and the tar left behind could fill a coffee can.

    Upon opening the Drum after it had cooled the tar coating/Creosote on the inside of the drum was enough to choke you.

    For more info and video on this, click on Homemade Charcoal in my signature.

    My point is that the stuff was left behind because it was in a sealed unit and captured everything but the gasses which had burnt up during gasification.

    If not in a contained unit all the by product has to go somewhere so in essence you are still getting this stuff on your food. This really opened my eyes as to what was actually in the wood

    However, the idea is by achieving what the good folks of SMF refer to as "TBS", limits the amount of creosote/Tar buildup on your food and smoker. This is achieved by having proper ventilation and proper combustion.

    The Philosophy on SMF, or what I have come to believe the philosophy is on SMF is that more smoke at one given time (white billowing smoke = more undesirable smoke) and Less smoke (Bluish thin smoke gives a more desirable smoke) the reason it looks blue is less concentration of smoke.

    Here's a quick story: The other day I accidentally threw on one of my Junk pieces of wood while doing 4 chix.

    The bark was that spongy crap, anyhow I noticed it when I got an undesirable smoke from my stack, so I opened up the smoker.

    I was too late the birds had what looks like little tiny hairlike ashes on them, sort of what you would see if burning plastic or styrofoam.

    Anyhow I spritsed them and wiped them down to try and save them. I did manage to save them.

    If too much creosote/tar builds up on the food it leaves a nasty bitter taste, it gives a tingling sensation on your tongue... have you ever tested a 9 volt battery with your tongue, sort of like that.

    Here's a brainteaser for you guys, Technically speaking wood does not burn. It is however true.

    Personally I don't want To see any smoke at all...I want to smell it.

    My 2 cents
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2011
  14. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Thanks SQWIB!!!

    Great post!

  15. Thank you for that link.

    As someone that not only used wood heat all my like as far back as i can remember i still use it. I had a wood stove built from a small company that the EPA put out of business with the new regs and i knew about creosote as i scrub the chimney down at least once every month in the heating season.

    I think there is a great bunch of misinformation regarding Creosote on food on the different forums. Hopefully this info will help with some of that.

    Knowledge is power. [​IMG]

  16. Actually Liquid smoke is pretty good. In moderation. I gave some to a guy once after i show him how i made a smoked salmon spread using the liquid smoke and he thought a little was good so a lot was better. He actually dumped it on his beef steak like Ketchup or BBQ sauce.


    Any way the American Cancer Society recommends it for those who wont give up there smoked meat. They have pamphlets in the treatment waiting rooms warning about eating smoked meats and using liquid smoke instead.

    For my money when used in moderation i have never been able to find some one that could tell the difference unless new what to Look for in smoked meat.

    Smoke ring, Color on your fingers etc etc.

    If buying smoked meat in the stores you have to be careful about how they state smoke flavoring added etc.

    Most of the cheese i found in the stores used liquid smoke. It just does not penetrate like real smoke would but then again i like it very heavy smoked.

    And now for the Statements clairifier.

    This is only my Humble Opinion.[​IMG]

  17. kid creole

    kid creole Fire Starter

    I agree with every thing you wrote except this.  The coating on the inside of the drum was tar, not wood creosote.  The blow torch of gases was wood creosote, and this is what would be captured (without burning) to make liquid smoke.  The tar is tar, and is separated from cresosote (liquid smoke) via distillation.
  18. coffee_junkie

    coffee_junkie Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Thanks for the thread M E. I have a recipe that works for me also and it involves soaking chips and using try chunks.
  19. sqwib

    sqwib Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I understand the stuff inside the drum  to be vaporized creosote.

    The stuff that dripped out was tar like but I understand this to be 3rd stage creosote.

    The Blow torch gases are methane and methanol as well as acid and Carbon Dioxides, however, creosote is present in these gasses.

    Here's a video showing the vapor, then gasification

  20. Now I'm really confused.....

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