Wood Chips: To soak or not to soak.....

Discussion in 'Woods for Smoking' started by pne123, Sep 29, 2007.

  1. peculiarmike

    peculiarmike Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I used to use chips and used to soak them. No more.
    I use chunks and do not soak them.
    If smoke is rolling out every seam, hole, gap around the door, etc. you have TOO MUCH smoke! [​IMG]
    Granted, starting up you probably will have that for a short bit. It should lessen and thin considerably. The thin blue is close to invisible, sometimes IS invisible, but you can still smell it. That is what you want. [​IMG]
  2. fatback joe

    fatback joe Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Yeah, but it is great for adding fiber to your diet. [​IMG] Ohhhh, just had a thought about splinters on the backside..........
  3. walking dude

    walking dude Smoking Guru SMF Premier Member

    since i am following these thread for my so called "Christmas" gift.......if you have it rolling out of every crack and crevace.........shouldnt there be some mods going to, so NO smoke escapes cept thru the exhaust?

  4. richtee

    richtee Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I cannot for the life of me understand this wet wood thing. We're after thin blue, and not steamed rice here.

    You may get a flare-up upon opening your unit, but so what. It'll be gone when ya close it.

    And if ya pre-burn, you won't get that. Like Geek said, what's making the wood burn is mostly what we don't want in the smoker. I'm starting to think that I don't want to see much of anything coming out...just SMELL it!
  5. shellbellc

    shellbellc Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I used to soak and then stopped figuring I was steaming until the moisture evaporated and wood started burning. So I stopped. I also lost nearly all of any apparent smoke ring. I have a small electric smoker. Then one of the threads on here said that the "strength" of the smoke ring is directly effected by the humidity in the smoker. Hmmmm...I started soaking again and my smoke ring is back!!
  6. fatback joe

    fatback joe Master of the Pit OTBS Member

  7. walking dude

    walking dude Smoking Guru SMF Premier Member

    shell.........i wonder if thats a result of it being electric

    i NEVER soak.........i get GREAT smoke rings............tho i am using charchol........i use chunks AND chips.......hickory chunks and apple/cherry chips..........

  8. peculiarmike

    peculiarmike Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    How does that smoke ring taste?
  9. walking dude

    walking dude Smoking Guru SMF Premier Member

    like smoke............[​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

  10. glued2it

    glued2it Master of the Pit

    I'm a soaker smoker!
  11. richtee

    richtee Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    In an ideal world D8de. But you live in Iowa.

  12. started soaking again and my smoke ring is back!!

    I use a log pit style smoker and find that I get the smoke ring deep into the meat from the low and slow method like 10 - 12 hrs, more than moisture in the wood. I use hickory whether it is green with bark or aged makes no noticable difference. I find that the deeper the smoke ring the tastier the meat and the more BBQ I sell.
  13. fritz

    fritz Meat Mopper

    Not sure if this is the problem, but here is my two cents.

    In order for wood to BURN CLEANLY, it has to first be dry and
    "seasoned". Why do that if you're just going to allow the wood cells
    to soak up water?
    When you soak the wood, as it dries when heat is applied, there is a
    point when parts of the wood are JUST dry enough to actually start to
    smolder.... but because the temperature is below the point of full
    combustion, the burn is incomplete and the smoke and steam carry with
    it unburnt components that you really DON'T want on your food.
    This conglomerate of unburnt particles are lumped together into the
    word 'creosote' - a gummy, tarry compound that, when enough
    accumulates in a chimney or in your pit, is combustible by itself,
    (because it contains UNBURNT stuff!)

    The purpose of this story is: I, for one, don't want creosote,
    unburnt, bitter, tarry substances on my food.
    I want a nice subtle, but noticeable smokey flavor on my food.
    I want a nice, well-established smoke ring in the meat, indicating
    that the heat, smoke and enzymes and sugars in the meat have had a
    nice day interacting in the pit.
    I don't want unburnt components of incomplete combustion, like glue,
    adhering to the outside surfaces of the meat, PREVENTING the above-
    mentioned interaction of heat, smoke and enzymes and sugars in the meat.

    THAT is why I and lots of "old-timers" say "Don't Soak Your Wood".
    (why would you soak something you intend to burn??? That white stuff
    you see when it first starts smoldering is mostly steam.)
  14. glued2it

    glued2it Master of the Pit

    When soaking wood it actually acts a sponge soaking only water to the outer edges of the wood chunk. To actually water log a chunk would take some time. If the wood was to reach it's combustion level it would flare up. Seasoned wood even has a level of moisture content.

    Using unseasoned wood causes creosote not soaked chunks or chips.Wood is made up of solids (cellular structure) and high moisture content, with the latter under the best of conditions rarely falling below 11 to 17%. Combine this with the fact that as a tree grows it leaches all types of nutrients and minerals from the surrounding soil creating a mixture of solids. As this mixture burns, moisture and minerals are released in a gaseous form.

    This is what we call smoking meat. If you soak your chunks you are only adding water. This will not affect the Celluar structure or cause any chemical reactions.
  15. I would soak em if I was you.  Too much of a waste when you don't soak them.  They burn too fast.
  16. joliver449

    joliver449 Newbie

    i soak my chunks (i try to avoid chips) for at least 24 hours. Usually more. Haven't experienced any crazy flare-ups. Don't know if this is the legitimate way to do it but it ain't broke for me, so i won't fix it.
  17. el ropo

    el ropo Newbie

    Smoking with wet wood has always caused too much of the nasty white smoke.  I've been using a few half fist sized chunks of pecan and hickory, buried at different depths in my charcoal basket, then place 10-15 hot coals on top for minion method.   As the pile burns down, I get an equal amount of barely visible thin blue smoke, wonderfully deep smoke ring, and great bark.

    When I used to smoke with wet chunks, or chips, there was always nasty white smoke billowing out, and the meat tasted like ARSE.  Now with dry chunks, my meat always tastes like wonderful bbq, with no acidic, or off tastes.

    I vote never use wet wood.  This is a pic of my superbowl sunday picnic roast smoke on my el cheapo modified Brinkmann Gourmet:


  18. bbally

    bbally Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Soaking chips adds the components to make creosote.  I have not soaked for years now.

    Make a smoke box that limits the O2 getting to the chip to get maximum smoke and minimum crap.

    Can be as easy as an old 9X9 baking pan with foil over the top and holes poked in it.
  19. tjohnson

    tjohnson Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Insider OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    i also believe if you have a better heat sink, like a cast iron pan, the chips smolder better.

    Can't create fire without Oxygen, so Bob's idea makes sense.

    I stopped soaking my chips when I had a nasty creosote bacon experience.

  20. bbally

    bbally Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Just so you know, the molecule that causes the best tindall effect (white looking smoke in spectroscopist language) is the break down of the wood components cause SOX (SO2, SO3 an SO4) when water is added to the flu gas the H2O molecule becomes very active.  As the vapor moves from the heat and starts to cool it causes a reaction that creates H2SO4 (sulphuric Acid) which it the most common reason the smoke is white to the eye.

    Last edited: Mar 25, 2011

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