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Q-talk *ON TOPIC ONLY* QUALITY ON TOPIC discussion of Backyard BBQ, grilling, Equipment and just outdoor cookin' in general, hints, tips, tricks & techniques, success, failures... but stay on topic. And watch for that hijacking.


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Unread 02-14-2013, 09:21 AM   #1
bigbeef24
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Default Soaking wood before smoking

What is the madness behind soaking wood before smoking? Is it for the type of smoke it produces, gives you a longer smoke or adds moisture to your meat?

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Unread 02-14-2013, 09:23 AM   #2
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Soaking wood does nothing but waste time, wood does not soak water past the surface.
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Unread 02-14-2013, 09:25 AM   #3
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It's a myth really. All soaking it in water does is causes it to smolder for a while giving off an unclean burn and bitter smoke. As said, it's a waste of time and energy.
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Unread 02-14-2013, 09:31 AM   #4
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Actually, soaking wood DOES do something, and it's NOT good. The desirable smoke is referred to as sweet blue, or thin blue, but it's the result of a hot clean-burning fire. Putting wet or even damp wood on a fire has the effect of smoldering the fire and produces billowy white and sometimes even black smoke. Either way, billowy smoke is BAD, as it imparts a every bitter and some say oversmoked flavor on the meat. Plus, your meat turns black.

Small amounts of very dry (and warm if you can get it) wood works best.
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Unread 02-14-2013, 09:32 AM   #5
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Soaking is only good for small wood chips or such things that would otherwise burn right the fark up and not make any lasting smoke to help with the food. In that case, it's usually best to put them in a foil packet or a box or something to smolder in and put the packet/box on the coals.

Soaking chunks or anything larger actually is counter-productive to making good smoke, because the Thin Blue smoke you want is produced by a clean burning wood fire, which requires the wood to be burning at a high temperature in order to burn off the volatile compounds released into the air. That is what the "flame" is, those compounds burning up in the heat. If they did not burn up, you would see a thicker, darker smoke filled with all those compounds that did not burn up...which as we all know is loaded with nasty distasteful stuff. By soaking them, you are making it harder for the wood to burn clean.

Now, for units like a WSM or UDS running a Minion Method burn, that uses just a few chunks scattered throughout the coal basket, obviously that chunk is not going to be hot enough to burn off those compounds, but the coals around it will help burn a lot of those compounds, and the resulting smoke is thin enough just from the reduced amount of wood to not affect quality. This is technically the same sort of thing as using a small packet of soaked chips. While they may not be burning as clean as possible, the amount of smoke produced is rather thin.

Think of a stickburner burning a few sticks at a time. That is a lot of wood, and they need to be burning clean. That is a whole different story from a couple chunks, or a small packet of chips. Another interesting stickburner comparson (think large stickburner like a Lang) is using green wood. As long as the fire is good and hot, when you toss in taht green wood, all that crap will burn off in the heat, still producing a thin blue smoke. If you tried smoking ina UDS or WSM with green wood chunks, well, that would not possibly burn clean at all and make for some nasty food. I suppose you could soak the splits you burn in those offsets and get similar results so long as you have a hot fire, but I don't know what the point would be in doing that...you spent all that time drying the wood, why wet it back up just to burn it?

The thing is to know about smoke and fire, and what kind of fire and smoke your cooker is capable of producing, then making the best smoke you can from the fire in that cooker to make the best BBQ you can.

Hope that helps.

Oh, one more thing...

Some folks have soaked wood in flavorful liquids, like wine seasond with herbs and such. Just food for thought.

Happy cooking!
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Duh.
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Unread 02-14-2013, 09:33 AM   #6
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W.o.t.!
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Unread 02-14-2013, 09:44 AM   #7
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Any opinions on whether you should soak chips when using an electric smoker.
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Unread 02-14-2013, 09:55 AM   #8
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I have very limited electric smoker experience, but the ones I have seen would not require soaking. The chips smolder outwards from the heating element in a rather slow way. There is never really a fire going, jsut a bunch of chips smoldering from the heat put off by the heating element. So, I see no reason to slow it down even more.
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Unread 02-14-2013, 10:01 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spider22 View Post
Any opinions on whether you should soak chips when using an electric smoker.
If using chips just wrap the chips in a foil pack and poke a few holes. Doing this in a gas or electric should be fine.
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Unread 02-14-2013, 10:42 AM   #10
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Unread 02-14-2013, 12:01 PM   #11
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I have never soaked the wood chunks that I use for long cooks on the OTG or when I grill, but I have used green(that is unseasoned) apple wood chunks for smoke. Prior to cooking I split my pieces and checked the moisture content of the wood with a moisture meter. The values I got were in the 50%-55% range, which means that they were about as full of moisture as wood can get. To my surprise the smoke that I got on that pork butt cook was thin and light blue with a very pleasant aroma. I cooked at a temp range of 250°-275°.
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Unread 02-14-2013, 12:05 PM   #12
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I've only seen cooks soak wood in tv cooking shows, and they're usually chips.
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Unread 02-14-2013, 12:08 PM   #13
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i was thinking of soaking my wood chunks in some jack daniels.....

no, wait a minute, that was my taste buds i was thinking of soaking in some jack daniels :p
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Unread 02-14-2013, 12:26 PM   #14
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I used to soak wood chips overnight but never noticed a difference between it.

Been using chunks now lately and never soak those. Just throw them in the charcoal basket and let em be.

Honestly, IMHO the hype of the "deadly white puffy smoke" is way overblown. A little white smoke because you put a new piece of wood on or a little more charcoal in isn't going to ruin the meat. Cook with a choked up smoldering fire the entire cook and you might have issues, but don't sweat and freak out from a little bit of white smoke. If you have a good breathing fire going, any white smoke should clear up in a few minutes without needing adjustments.
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Unread 02-14-2013, 07:08 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigbeef24 View Post
What is the madness behind soaking wood before smoking? Is it for the type of smoke it produces, gives you a longer smoke or adds moisture to your meat?

Thanks,
Bigbeef24

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Madness....you have already answered
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