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Unread 01-10-2012, 06:54 PM   #1
Nate4e
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Default Much to tell but even more to learn...

I bought my first smoker a couple months ago. It was a used smoker so I the first thing I did was got nice hot fire going to clean it out and to just learn how the smoker operates. During this time (a few hours) I went through two bags of lump. The thought of spending more money on fuel than on meat is absurd to me so I decided I would start burning red oak for heat (I have access to a hundred plus acres suffering from oak wilt). So now I have my nice dry red oak, no bark, and a bountiful supply of smoking wood that I bought in stores and online (apple, hickory, maple, cherry…). After doing some reading on this site I knew the first thing I had to put in my smoker was what yall refer to as a “fatty” which turned out amazing! So then I decided I would smoke something new, like RIBS! (and of course another fatty or two!!), both were excellent, so good in fact that I did the same thing for my third time smoking and again, good results.
After that I figured it’s time to move up, so I had this years venison scraps in the freezer and decided to make some snack sticks. I tried to cook them per the instructions I found online but half way through everything went wrong:
· I discovered my thermometer was not reading accurately (about 30 degrees off)
· I couldn’t keep the temperature down in the smoker without the fire going out.
· I looked like half the snack sticks in the smoker were burned (turns out later that they weren’t)
In short, I panicked and pulled it all out, shortly thereafter I realized they were still raw so I finished them in the oven. They finished cooking but they are horrible! The smoke flavor is extremely strong and bitter, they were so bad that about 10 pounds went into the garbage and the rest will be dog treats.

After a little research I know what was wrong, trying to keep a large fire choked down which created billowing white smoke. Finding the problem was easy but finding a solution raises many questions. Up to now I have been making my small fire with nice dry oak (warmed on the fire box) and I’ve been placing my wood for smoking off to the side of the fire where they smoke and smolder and do not catch fire, this is how I though you get your smoke.

Here's what I've been doing


Now, after doing some research, I’ve learned that you need a nice thin blue stream of smoke which is the product of an efficient-clean burning fire. So here are the questions I have…

1) Generally when my fire is clean burning I do not see any smoke coming out of the smoker, just heat, but regardless, is my oak fire for heat actually smoking my meat? The fire should be producing thin blue smoke, correct?

2) If I want to smoke poultry, should I not use oak for heat? People say that poultry will take a lot of smoke flavor and that oak is very strong , so is it a bad idea—should I use apple, maple or a milder wood for my fire then?

3) When people use oak or hickory for heat and want an apple smoke flavor, are the chunks thrown in the fire to burn or do you want them to smolder?

I should also note that I'm using a bandera-style smoker
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Unread 01-10-2012, 07:20 PM   #2
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Nate this is located in Q-Talk.

http://www.bbq-brethren.com/forum/sh...ad.php?t=42718

Read through this document and posts, this is expert advice from some of our valued members.
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Unread 01-10-2012, 07:26 PM   #3
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You are getting all the smoke you need from the oak. IMO, you don't want/need the chunks off to the side smoldering. I cook almost exclusively with oak and it is not extremely strong, but it can get that way if you don't manage your fire properly. My cooker is running perfectly when all I can see coming out of the stack is either nothing or just a very faint smoke, which is what we call thin blue.
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Unread 01-10-2012, 08:08 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nate4e View Post
After a little research I know what was wrong, trying to keep a large fire choked down which created billowing white smoke....Generally when my fire is clean burning I do not see any smoke coming out of the smoker, just heat, but regardless, is my oak fire for heat actually smoking my meat? The fire should be producing thin blue smoke, correct?
Aren't they precious at this age? And then they grow up so FAST!

Even when you don't see smoke, there is smoke, and it is smoking your meat.

Great post Nate. I'm not gonna venture into answering your other questions 'cause we use our offsets differently. Read through the link Bull posted. There is some excellent Bandera info in there.

Go on. Go grow up!
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Unread 01-11-2012, 08:38 AM   #5
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I've read through the bandera 101 doc a few times getting started and it is loaded with tons of excellent info but doesn't have all the answers. Just looking for some wisdom from the experts out there.
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Unread 01-11-2012, 09:10 AM   #6
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I'm certainly no expert, but one thing I've learned on this forum is - in most cases - to keep your exhaust more than 50% open to avoid the "stale/bitter" smoke taste that you seem to have found in abundance in the bad experience you write of. Of course, this means controlling your fire and not having to choke it down too much, or at all. Regulate the air going in much more than the air going out. Start small and bring your smoker UP to temp, not down. Now, I can't address the wood questions because I use charcoal and add wood chunks to it, but I do just throw them on top or mix them in with the charcoal, which seems to be the case across the board. Seems to me you would build heat with the oak at the start of the cook, and then add your aromatic woods when you added your meats, and then add more oak only when necessary to maintain temps? Yeah, I'm basically thinking out loud, so I'll shut up now. I hope some of this helped! And welcome, brother!
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Unread 01-11-2012, 11:17 AM   #7
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If it is the same Red Oak that we get from the central coast of California that's good stuff!

I gave up using my Char-Griller as a smoker, and from what I read the Bandera is why the UDS was invented! My CG used lots of wood and took constant attention, I would run out of beer before the food was done!

Poor air control (Intake air controls temp, box sealing / insulation keep it in) and a bad design plague the Char Griller, but I still use it as a charcoal grill.

I now do Ribs, Butts, Tri-Tip... Turkey, Prime Rib on my UDS... 'jus sayin
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Unread 01-11-2012, 11:54 AM   #8
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Hey Nate ~ welcome to the wonderful world of stick burning. Give this link a once over
http://www.bbq-brethren.com/forum/sh...ad.php?t=95974 and if you still have questions, let us know.

This is what works for me:

Using oak splits, I make a 3-sided box in my firebox. I fire up a full chimney of charcoal and pour it in the 3-sided wood box. Once my stick burner comes up to temp, I alternate adding splits depending on what I'm cooking but I always use oak in the mix. Oak is my heat and the other wood I have is for flavor. I keep the intake wide open; I use the amount of fuel to control my temp. I also warm my sticks on the firebox even though my wood is very seasoned.

Once I learned what my cooker wanted, I can dial in sweet blue with no effort. I hope this helps.

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Unread 01-11-2012, 12:03 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by speers90 View Post
You are getting all the smoke you need from the oak. IMO, you don't want/need the chunks off to the side smoldering. I cook almost exclusively with oak and it is not extremely strong, but it can get that way if you don't manage your fire properly. My cooker is running perfectly when all I can see coming out of the stack is either nothing or just a very faint smoke, which is what we call thin blue.

^^^ yep. You dont/wont need any additional, as you say it, "smoking wood" as oak IS smoking wood. The smoke should be thin, allllllmost unnoticable and it will have a blueish hue, ala. "thin blue".

As others show above, keep the wood tight, together, and plenty of air. Let the fire burn clean and hot. Know that you're still in the learning fire and temperature control stage. This is the very beginning.

Welcome, and GOOD LUCK.
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Unread 01-11-2012, 12:15 PM   #10
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For me I start similar to Posey. I line my box with three red oak splits (upside down U) and then add a chimney of lump in the middle. Once the pit warms up and the splits are well in to their burn, I lay a split across the two side splits (like an H). That middle split must catch fire quickly and must remain on fire until it becomes part of the coal bed. If it goes out, then I get white smoke. If I see white smoke then I will adjust air or turn the split so that it catches again. Once it burns down pretty good, I add it to the coal bed and add another split. I always keep splits on top of the firebox so they are warm and will ignite more quickly. When I add a split, I wait for it to catch before I close the firebox door.

I found a picture of my upside down U with lump in the middle. This pic was taken immediately after adding the lump. I usually wait close to an hour at this point before I start using my pit and adding the first split. During this time, I am doing other stuff to get ready for the cook.

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Unread 01-11-2012, 01:45 PM   #11
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Great information everyone. Thank you. I know all this info is scattered throughout the site but it is hard to track it all down and piece it together. Hopefully this will be a good starting point for other new people as well.
I can't wait to try some of you guys' techniques. Keep the info coming!
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