Originally Posted by sbshaveice
Why shouldn"t one use charcoal in an offset?
Sorry it's taken me so long to get back to you on this, I had a really busy weekend! It's not that it's impossible to use charcoal in an offset, in fact many have had some success with charcoal baskets and using the minion or some other method to get maximum burn times with charcoal but it is a real challenge with an offset. Offset smokers by the nature of their design just do not lend themselves to charcoal as the primary fuel source because they require free and clear ventilation which wood loves but charcoal loves TOO much. Charcoal, which performs very well with little air flow tends to ignite very quickly and all at once in a wide open offset creating a huge temp control problem and when you choke down on the dampers to control the heat, any wood that is present will not burn but smolder. You have to remember that offset smokers force heat and smoke to run sideways before being allowed to go up and exit the cooker. If ventilation is hampered you end up with low temps and smoldering wood which in turn leads to smoke hanging out in the cooking chamber and finally the end result is creosote and bitterness on your food. Basically it's about choosing the right fuel for the cooker that you have, just as you would choose the right fuel for your vehicle. A diesel engine isn't designed for gasoline any more than a gas engine is designed for diesel. Charcoal cookers such as WSM's, Eggs or insulated verticals are designed to use charcoal with a small amount of airflow to get long burn times and efficiency, whereas offsets are designed to burn wood with plenty of constant airflow. If you are burning charcoal in your offset successfully then you are not using a large amount of wood in your fire, (maybe a few chunks or even some chips) and you have a good system in place for adding coal precisely as needed to maintain temps without huge fluctuations. So in a nut shell burning charcoal in an offset can be done but it is much more challenging to do that than to just give the cooker what it wants as a fuel source which is wood. I start with a lit chimney of charcoal and a couple of splits, allowing them to ash over to create a quick coal bed and then I'll add a split as needed to maintain a small but hot and clean burning fire. The consensus for adding splits seem to be about every 45 minutes or so but that varies for different cookers. My exhaust damper stays wide open and my intake is usually about 1/3 to 1/2 open depending on the temp that I want. After starting with charcoal, no more is added to my fire and wood becomes the primary fuel source, so throughout the cook my offset is breathing normally and performing at it's optimum level. As long as I manage my fire consistently my pit will easily hold temp and produce the clean "blue" smoke that makes great Q.