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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 12-09-2013, 04:52 PM   #1
cb25
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Default Learning to burn sticks...

Still fairly new to all this, as well as the site, figured I'd post this up and see if I could get some advice.

I'm cooking on a OK Joe's offset smoker (The cheaper Lowe's version, not the old reliable ones). It does pretty well, and I've definitely made some tasty food, but I'm trying to refine and improve.

My first few cooks were almost 100% lump charcoal for fuel, with wood chips or chunks for flavor. Came out pretty darn tasty each time, but I spend the majority of my day adding more lit charcoal to the box. (Although I realize I could buy/build a charcoal box and try the minion method).

This past weekend I tried cooking with lump charcoal to start the embers, then cooked exclusively with pecan wood (small logs/large chunks) the rest of the day. What I found was - my day was infinitely better cooking with wood. Temps held more steadily, I got to hotter temps much faster, etc. It really made my day easier. However, the smoke flavor is certainly more strong with cooking with wood all day instead of mostly lump -- everyone who ate said they loved it, but I felt like the smoke flavor was too strong.

I was up before dawn lighting the fire, threw on a few racks of ribs around 6am, as well as a pork butt (8lbs). Ribs were foiled after a couple hours, then unwrapped after a couple more and finished with a little bbq sauce glaze. The Butt stayed on the cooker until it hit ~200 (around 2pm -- fire got a little hotter than I anticipated for awhile, so it cooked faster) - held it in a cooler wrapped in towels until 5pm or so, then pulled apart.

The pulled pork was phenomenal, the ribs pretty dang good too -- but everything just had a little more smoke than I'd prefer. Not bitter or ashy - just strong. Like I said, everyone seemed to be happy, and said they loved it all -- but they may have just been polite. Or I'm completely overthinking all of this.

If you've read this far...thanks. Any advice for me?
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Unread 12-09-2013, 04:55 PM   #2
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sounds like you figured it out

I have the exact same cooker.

I start with a nice bed of lump or natural briqs to get things going, then its sticks from then on out.

If the coals seem to get low I may throw a handful of lump on it along with the stick to keep a good coal bed, really depends on the wood I am using
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Unread 12-09-2013, 04:58 PM   #3
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I recomend cooking with sticks in the 300 range.. Just the right amount of smoke and your cooking fast enough to where the smoke doesn't overwelm what your cooking.. also your going to want to make sure your wood is seasoned.. if it is kind of green you will get that oversmoked creosote flavor.. thats not very good..

Small words of advice from a fellow stickburner! Keep on cooking!! welcome to the stickburning ranks!
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Unread 12-09-2013, 05:00 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ButtBurner View Post
sounds like you figured it out

I have the exact same cooker.

I start with a nice bed of lump or natural briqs to get things going, then its sticks from then on out.

If the coals seem to get low I may throw a handful of lump on it along with the stick to keep a good coal bed, really depends on the wood I am using
Thanks...it's a learning process for sure, but a damn fun one.

And to DownHomeQue - thanks, running a little hotter and faster does make sense to me, so I may have to give that a run.
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Unread 12-09-2013, 05:09 PM   #5
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another tip is to use thinner diameter sticks and make sure they are pre heated good so they burst into flames quickly

thicker sticks tend to smolder if you arent careful

You will find the perfect balance
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Unread 12-09-2013, 05:14 PM   #6
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I can see how you would get more smoke from the hardwood vs the lump, and I think that it is hard to judge where you stand sometimes because, as you said, people want to be polite. I don't have an offset, so someone will probably give some more reliable advice, but if you thought it was too smokey, than I'd say it was too smokey. I wonder if you could supplement with charcoal (like RO briq's) or something to offset the amount of hardwood you have to use? From my limited experience, pecan is pretty mild so this might work well for you. It seems like the hardwood is really nice for helping to maintain a constant temp, and briq's would help as well. I just used lump yesterday for the first time and, while it does burn nice and hot, the temps weren't nearly as steady and it burned through faster at a higher temps than I was used to with briq's. Not sure if this helps, but good luck!

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Unread 12-09-2013, 05:15 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DownHomeQue View Post
I recomend cooking with sticks in the 300 range.. Just the right amount of smoke and your cooking fast enough to where the smoke doesn't overwelm what your cooking.. also your going to want to make sure your wood is seasoned.. if it is kind of green you will get that oversmoked creosote flavor.. thats not very good..
This is good advise. You don't want green wood. Also, having a cleaner and/or hotter fire will give you the thin blue smoke that you are looking for. This doesn't mean that your cooker area where your food is needs to be hotter, that is another challenge itself, but that your fire chamber be burning efficiently. Look at your smoke coming out of your chimney next time. If it is thick and white, and not thin and blue you are going to get a heavy smoke flavor and possibly some "off" flavors.

You can limit smoke penetration by wrapping in foil or butcher paper partway through your cook. However, my guess is that your smoke isn't thin and blue and is a bit harsh.
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Unread 12-09-2013, 05:21 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by legendaryhog View Post
This is good advise. You don't want green wood. Also, having a cleaner and/or hotter fire will give you the thin blue smoke that you are looking for. This doesn't mean that your cooker area where your food is needs to be hotter, that is another challenge itself, but that your fire chamber be burning efficiently. Look at your smoke coming out of your chimney next time. If it is thick and white, and not thin and blue you are going to get a heavy smoke flavor and possibly some "off" flavors.

You can limit smoke penetration by wrapping in foil or butcher paper partway through your cook. However, my guess is that your smoke isn't thin and blue and is a bit harsh.
It was thin and blue probably 50% of the time, thin (but slightly thicker) but white the rest of the time -- didn't get the big, billowing white smoke that I was worried about. So it wasn't terrible, but I think you're right, I could get it a little bit cleaner.

I'm guessing a bit of time for the wood to season will help.

Really appreciate the input everyone.
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Unread 12-09-2013, 05:27 PM   #9
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You've been given some great advise above.
The only thing I can add is be sure you keep a small hot fire and keep the vent WFO (wide farkin open) and control your temps and air floe through your intake vents.

good luck and don't give up, wood fired Q is the best







in my humble opinion
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Unread 12-09-2013, 05:33 PM   #10
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You've been given some great advise above.
The only thing I can add is be sure you keep a small hot fire and keep the vent WFO (wide farkin open) and control your temps and air floe through your intake vents.

good luck and don't give up, wood fired Q is the best
Oh I won't give up. My worst day tending a fire and cooking is still better than most other days regardless of how the food turns out!
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Unread 12-09-2013, 05:36 PM   #11
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Rite on
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Unread 12-09-2013, 05:37 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cb25 View Post
It was thin and blue probably 50% of the time, thin (but slightly thicker) but white the rest of the time -- didn't get the big, billowing white smoke that I was worried about. So it wasn't terrible, but I think you're right, I could get it a little bit cleaner.

I'm guessing a bit of time for the wood to season will help.

Really appreciate the input everyone.
I think your on the right track. I cooked a brisket, couple of butts and some chicken Saturday usin stratght pecan and found the smoke flavor to be very mild. My wood is seasoned and I get up to temp before adding any meat. I preheat my splits on top of the fire box and they ignite right away when added. Thin blue smoke all day long.
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Unread 12-09-2013, 05:44 PM   #13
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Some observations from a recent convert to all wood on an old OK Joe offset:

Wood definitely gets up to a and maintains temp. Much better than all lump in the big offsets.

Use small pieces of very dry wood. I've been buying mine from Academy. I usually wind up splitting the "mini logs" into smaller pieces because the temp can get away from you.

You need flames to produce the thin blue smoke. If the wood is only smoldering, I get big clouds of white smoke.

Use a mild wood. I've been very happy with pecan.

Bottom line, I've been very happy with the switch to wood.
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Unread 12-09-2013, 05:49 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 104timberwolf View Post
Some observations from a recent convert to all wood on an old OK Joe offset:

Wood definitely gets up to a and maintains temp. Much better than all lump in the big offsets.

Use small pieces of very dry wood. I've been buying mine from Academy. I usually wind up splitting the "mini logs" into smaller pieces because the temp can get away from you.

You need flames to produce the thin blue smoke. If the wood is only smoldering, I get big clouds of white smoke.

Use a mild wood. I've been very happy with pecan.

Bottom line, I've been very happy with the switch to wood.
Thanks. Honestly the ease of the cook compared to using charcoal all day was worth gold. I just need to fine-tune the smoke a bit, I think. I get bags of chopped/chunked wood from a firewood/cooker wood place near me. They're not quite logs, not quite splits. First time I used them.

And I love pecan wood...I've got a load of apple too, but I really love the pecan.
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Unread 12-09-2013, 06:05 PM   #15
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My first attempt at all wood years ago was a complete disaster, so much smoke that the food was inedible. I had been burning all charcoal with small amounts of wood since acquiring my "new" offset last year. Never could get the temperature past 225-250. Gave wood a second chance after all of the advice from the fine folks here and glad I did.
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