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Wood chunks caught on fire

18
30
Joined Aug 8, 2019
Have a situation that happened to me today for the first time and trying to determine what went wrong.

I was (still am at the time this is being typed) cooking two racks of spare ribs today and about 45 minutes into the cook the wood chunks I had in the WSM literally became a fireball and my temperatures became unwieldy.

I follow the method of putting in 2 chunks (quite large, definitely fist size; maybe even a bit bigger) on top of leftover coals from previous cook, and then filling it with more on top of the wood chunks. I also throw one on the middle where I’m going to dump the lit coals for the minion method.

Well, I did that and lit about 18 coals which I then dumped in. I then gave it about 45 minutes to come up to temp, stabilize and blow off a bit of the white smoke (as is my usual method). 275 temp.

I proceeded to put the racks on and let it ride. It went from about 40 minutes when I noticed somewhat heavy white smoke and figured one of the chunks was getting hit and it would die down in 10 minutes or so like it usually does. Well today the smoke just kept getting worse and the temperate shot to 310, 320, 340...it was totally out of control.

I looked in and the chunks were literally a blaze. It was so bad I had to remove the Ribs and cook them in the oven for about 20 minutes while I played fireman and struggled to get the temperature down. I had to remove the 2 buried chunks that were a blaze.

These are very high quality chunks from Cattleman’s Grill and have used many times in the past.

Wondering if anyone has any ideas where I went wrong. The only thing I can think of is the wind. It is November in upstate NY, so it’s cold and the wind is coming in. I did try to control the wind with the bottom vents (closing down the one in the direct line, etc.).

Thanks all!
 

lemans

Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
2,867
724
Joined Dec 29, 2013
Have a situation that happened to me today for the first time and trying to determine what went wrong.

I was (still am at the time this is being typed) cooking two racks of spare ribs today and about 45 minutes into the cook the wood chunks I had in the WSM literally became a fireball and my temperatures became unwieldy.

I follow the method of putting in 2 chunks (quite large, definitely fist size; maybe even a bit bigger) on top of leftover coals from previous cook, and then filling it with more on top of the wood chunks. I also throw one on the middle where I’m going to dump the lit coals for the minion method.

Well, I did that and lit about 18 coals which I then dumped in. I then gave it about 45 minutes to come up to temp, stabilize and blow off a bit of the white smoke (as is my usual method). 275 temp.

I proceeded to put the racks on and let it ride. It went from about 40 minutes when I noticed somewhat heavy white smoke and figured one of the chunks was getting hit and it would die down in 10 minutes or so like it usually does. Well today the smoke just kept getting worse and the temperate shot to 310, 320, 340...it was totally out of control.

I looked in and the chunks were literally a blaze. It was so bad I had to remove the Ribs and cook them in the oven for about 20 minutes while I played fireman and struggled to get the temperature down. I had to remove the 2 buried chunks that were a blaze.

These are very high quality chunks from Cattleman’s Grill and have used many times in the past.

Wondering if anyone has any ideas where I went wrong. The only thing I can think of is the wind. It is November in upstate NY, so it’s cold and the wind is coming in. I did try to control the wind with the bottom vents (closing down the one in the direct line, etc.).

Thanks all!
So I used my 22WSM to smoke two 8 lb Chuckies today on the top rack an a 6 lb pork roast on the bottom. Using three chucks of Post Oak on the bottom and lump I dumped a 1/2 chimney of lit in the center. Temps held at 250 until I lifted the dome to put the meat on .. the chunks burst into flames because of the surge of oxygen. Once the meat was on and the lid closed it took maybe 15 mins to go from 300 back to 250. You gotta work fast .. especially with the 22
 
18
30
Joined Aug 8, 2019
So I used my 22WSM to smoke two 8 lb Chuckies today on the top rack an a 6 lb pork roast on the bottom. Using three chucks of Post Oak on the bottom and lump I dumped a 1/2 chimney of lit in the center. Temps held at 250 until I lifted the dome to put the meat on .. the chunks burst into flames because of the surge of oxygen. Once the meat was on and the lid closed it took maybe 15 mins to go from 300 back to 250. You gotta work fast .. especially with the 22
Thanks for the comment. I forgot to mention I have the 22 as well.

After all is said and done I was able to get the Ribs back on the smoker and turned out pretty good que. I guess some days you get it easy and other days you really gotta earn it.

Here’s where my temperatures were hanging out throughout the cook (spike downs being where I had to take the lid off). And the end result as well.

04D06967-2191-4EB5-A076-6159DF76791E.png


1173F7C9-43D1-4977-AB89-BFAF7DB48651.jpeg
 

noboundaries

Smoking Guru
OTBS Member
SMF Premier Member
7,092
1,428
Joined Sep 7, 2013
First off, nice looking ribs. Even with the runaway temps, you adapted beautifully.

Early on I witnessed EXACTLY what you described in my WSM. Here's what I figured out and how I changed my loads to basically eliminate bad smoke.

First, understand that an ashed-over hot briquette burns at 978F (a personal test I did and measured with an infrared therm). The combustion point of most wood is around 600F. 18 hot briquettes carry a LOT of heat energy that transfers to the briquettes and wood.

Second, burying wood is good, but dumping hot briquettes on top of a wood chunk is going to transfer too much heat too quickly to the most volatile component of your pile, the wood. It concentrated the heat which overheated buried wood, causing ignition and release of the volatiles in the buried chunk.

Properly preheating the wood in the charcoal is the key to avoiding a seconday ignition. I no longer put wood on top of my pile. And I make sure I have 2-3 levels of briquettes covering buried wood. The wood preheats, chars, off gasses more slowly, and never ignites with that dirty white smoke. Takes a little longer to come up to temp.

Crap, I gotta run. Will come back later.
 
Last edited:

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