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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 01-15-2009, 06:45 PM   #1
Hachie Qer
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Question Creosote?

Okay, I've been reading and learning about 2 weeks now and I see creosote mentioned from time to time. So, my questions are:
What are the main causes? Too much lit fuel/shut down intakes?
Which smoker types are most prone to the problem?
How do you know if you are producing creosote? (smoke color?)
Basically I want to know all about what causes it and how to avoid it especially in a NBBD or similar offset horizontal.

TIA
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Unread 01-15-2009, 06:52 PM   #2
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In my limited experience it has always been caused by poor exhaust airflow. Trying to cook by controling the exhaust instead of controlling the intake air. Caused the smoke to build up inside the smoker and get stale before it could exhaust out.
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Unread 01-15-2009, 06:57 PM   #3
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I dont know, I only use my wsm for charcoal now,,,,,unclean fires? I always shoot for a white smoke, even with my long ago gave away offsets,,,,
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Unread 01-15-2009, 07:07 PM   #4
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Hachie q,
Are you from Texas?
And you admit you don't know know how to q...that's a first...:)

I can give you some tips on how to make cresote...
1 put food on pit before you start the fire.
2 leave food on pit while you drink a case of beer (time guidelines, chicken 6hrs, pork or beef 2 days....
3 soak firewood for 2 days in rain barrel, put in pit wet, if it doesnt drip apply more water with hose.
4 disregard advice above. practice with your pit and read everything you can on this site. someone said practice,eat,practice,eat,practice,eat.....
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Unread 01-15-2009, 07:17 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jonboy View Post
Hachie q,
Are you from Texas?
And you admit you don't know know how to q...that's a first...:)

I can give you some tips on how to make cresote...
1 put food on pit before you start the fire.
2 leave food on pit while you drink a case of beer (time guidelines, chicken 6hrs, pork or beef 2 days....
3 soak firewood for 2 days in rain barrel, put in pit wet, if it doesnt drip apply more water with hose.
4 disregard advice above. practice with your pit and read everything you can on this site. someone said practice,eat,practice,eat,practice,eat.....
jon
That is very funny,,, that is what I did at first (no. 1) not knowing anything (more smoke= better right)!!!

I love the rest!!
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Unread 01-15-2009, 07:28 PM   #6
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Any smoker can cause this. The key thing to know is that a wood fire is a chemical reaction caused by heat+air+wood. It is not an actual thing itself, but is a chemical process of converting these three things into new things.

When wood is heated to a sufficient temperature in the presence of oxygen, it will break down. Notice I did not say "burn" burn is more of a laymans term for what is happening. What is really happening is the wood itself is being broken down into different compounds.

These compounds are ultimately solid or gaseous, and the gaseous compounds float away. What you call "fire" or "flames" is actually some of these gasses being released from the wood, which is not how most people envision them. These gasses just so happen to be combustible, and if there is enough air and heat present these gasses ignite causing the glowing flame you see. If there is not enough heat or air, then you may not see flames at all but instead just see "smoke" which is really just all of the unburnt gases and small particulates being carried away.

So, the first thing to know is, that a fire that is not burning well due to lack or air and/or heat is that it will make a thick smoke, and inside that smoke is a whole lot of chemicals (gases, particulates). A clean burning fire produces very little smoke, and therefore has fewer chemicals.

Wood fires produce hundreds of different chemicals, a great many of them hazardous to your health. Pretty much all of these bad chemicals can be burnt off though in a clean burning fire. So the way to think of this is, a clean burning fire producing a thin smoke is literally burning away the bad chemicals before they get to your food. A dirty fire, one producing thick smoke is going to put all that nasty stuff all over your food.

Interestingly enough, not only can you tell a good clean burning fire by the simple observation of thinner smoke, but the color is different too. A clean fire is a thin blue smoke, and dirty fire is a thick white smoke (or even yellow if really dirty). Here is a picture to demonstrate.
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File Type: jpg Smoke.jpg (56.9 KB, 1032 views)
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Unread 01-15-2009, 07:31 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jonboy View Post
Hachie q,
Are you from Texas?
And you admit you don't know know how to q...that's a first...:)

I can give you some tips on how to make cresote...
1 put food on pit before you start the fire.
2 leave food on pit while you drink a case of beer (time guidelines, chicken 6hrs, pork or beef 2 days....
3 soak firewood for 2 days in rain barrel, put in pit wet, if it doesnt drip apply more water with hose.
4 disregard advice above. practice with your pit and read everything you can on this site. someone said practice,eat,practice,eat,practice,eat.....
jon
Where did I say I don't know how to Que??? I've done my share of queing for 20+ years and NEVER had a creosote problem!!! I was just wondering how you DO IT!!!!!!
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Unread 01-15-2009, 07:41 PM   #8
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Bigabyte's picture showing one pit with white dirty smoke along side of another pit with blue smoke should be a sticky.
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Unread 01-15-2009, 07:43 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigabyte View Post
Interestingly enough, not only can you tell a good clean burning fire by the simple observation of thinner smoke, but the color is different too. A clean fire is a thin blue smoke, and dirty fire is a thick white smoke (or even yellow if really dirty). Here is a picture to demonstrate.
Thanks Bigabyte. That's the kind of answer I was looking for with all the technical details. I am a science buff, so I knew all that about the reaction, I just didn't know exactly what the evidence of a bad reaction should look like. It does seem counter intuitive that to add good smoke flavor to meat would require a fire that produces LESS visible smoke.
What are the common mistakes that lead to the wrong conditions?
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Unread 01-15-2009, 07:45 PM   #10
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I never thought the mad scientist thing was meant to be taken literally. WOW!!
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Unread 01-15-2009, 07:46 PM   #11
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I don't know all, I do not think it is creosote. I think it is a Carbon build up. Comments?
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Unread 01-15-2009, 07:46 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HeSmellsLikeSmoke View Post
Bigabyte's picture showing one pit with white dirty smoke along side of another pit with blue smoke should be a sticky.
Agreed! His entire post is excellent with the explanation of what is really going on in there.
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Unread 01-15-2009, 07:55 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pork Smoker View Post
I don't know all, I do not think it is creosote. I think it is a Carbon build up. Comments?
I was about to agree with you, but I googled it an sure enough there are different kinds of creosote, one of them being wood creosote produced by choking off the oxygen to a wood fire.
http://hearth.com/econtent/index.php..._and_solutions

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creosote
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Unread 01-15-2009, 08:04 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hachie Qer View Post
What are the common mistakes that lead to the wrong conditions?

Buying any pit that does not run on pellets!
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Unread 01-15-2009, 08:05 PM   #15
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The most common mistake, especially in offsets, is adding too much fuel and suffocating what may have been a clean burning fire. The heat in the firebox is greatly reduced as the energy is transferred into the unlit fuel. Also, if there is too much fuel you can restrict airflow in your firebox. An offset firebox should have a small clean burning fire in it. It is basically impossible to have a full firebox burn clean because there is not enough airflow able to come in to burn the fuel and the released gases at the same time (remember to account for the volume the gasses require to burn).

Another mistake some people make is closing down the exhaust. The exhaust should always be wide open. The gases released need to escape, you don't want them building up inside your cooker or else you will get thick deposits on your cooker walls and meat. I have never owned a cooker that I could not leave the exhaust wide open for any cooking session. If a smoker exists that does require this, then I would suggest it is a bad smoker design.

Another mistake you can make is at the beginning of the cooking session when you add lit coals to unlit fuel for the Minion method. If you add too much lit fuel at the beginning, more than the intakes/airflow can support, then the fire will slowly suffocate down to the level where it does get the proper airflow for it to burn. This results in an extended period of heavier smoke.

Any time your fire gets too hot and you reduce the air intake is going to cause heavier smoke because you are suffocating the fire to reduce it. The trick is to cook with the fire you create, and to create a clean burning fire that runs at the temp you want, and refuel appropriately to maintain it.
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