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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 10-25-2009, 10:03 AM   #1
prodano
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Default blue smoke and smoking in the cold

Well, I thought I was better than this, but I guess I need to come face to face with reality... I have been having a difficult time getting blue smoke. Typically, I put a chimney starter of unlit charcoal in the fire ring, then I light half of a chimney starter and spread on top of the unlit coals. I wait until the lit charcoal ashes over and spread them in an even layer. I generally soak wood chunks for about 20 minutes, then add them on top of the charcoal. Anyways, all I seem to get is white smoke billowing out of the exhaust. Any suggestions?

Also, last night I smoked 3 racks of spare ribs. It usually takes me about 6 hours or so to smoke them; last night it took 7.5 hours and they still weren't done to my liking. 225 degrees was maintained throughout the entire cook. I can only think of two variables that may have affected the cooking time, and was wondering if anybody else noticed this or has any other ideas. First, it was in the upper 40's here. Shouldn't matter since the thermometer was reading 225 the entire cook. Second, I used a rib rack for the first time. Does a rib rack typically increase cooking times? I used it for the first 5 hours, then took it out for the last 2.5 hours. Thanks for any tips/suggestions/ideas!
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Unread 10-25-2009, 10:11 AM   #2
Bob E Que
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From my experience.
don't soak the wood.
mix the wood with the unlit charcoal if using chips. use chunks if you can.
burn longer in the chimney before adding to unlit.
put the lit coals on the unlit and let temp build up. don't need to spread out.

unless you add extra racks of ribs when using it, a rib-rack shouldn't be a heat sponge.
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Last edited by Bob E Que; 10-25-2009 at 10:17 AM.. Reason: completion of thoughts
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Unread 10-25-2009, 10:16 AM   #3
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Make sure thermo is accurate to where the meat is. If possible take it out and put in some boiling water to confirm accuracy. No need to soak the wood either.
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Unread 10-25-2009, 10:36 AM   #4
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So do you guys think that by not soaking the wood and not spreading the lit charcoal on top of the unlit, the white smoke will decrease and the blue smoke will increase?

Also, the thermometer is a spicewine, but I will check it anyways. Seems pretty good. I do have it stuck in the exhaust of the WSM since I don't want to drill any holes into the side of the smoker. Maybe there is a temperature difference between the top of the lid and the grate level.

Is the quality of the ribs pretty much the same with or without a rib rack? Thanks
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Unread 10-25-2009, 10:36 AM   #5
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What Bob E Que said. By soaking the chips you are probably seeing a lot of steam burning off. Use chunks and dont soak. Once the fire is stable and they smolder they will produce blue smoke.
Only other thing I can think of is drippings from previous cooks on the charcoal if you are re using. I have had experiences where this has to burn off before "sweet blue" is obtained.

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Unread 10-25-2009, 10:37 AM   #6
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Wet wood = white smoke. Check your thermo.
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Unread 10-25-2009, 10:45 AM   #7
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Also, yes, there is a difference between the temp at the top of the dome vs. the temp at the top grate. For 225 at the top grate you probably want 240 at the dome.
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Unread 10-25-2009, 10:48 AM   #8
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To help you spend your money, I'd buy a digital thermometer, put the wand, and cable through the exhaust, have piece of wood to hold the thermometer right at grill level.
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Unread 10-25-2009, 10:52 AM   #9
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That's great feedback, thanks everybody for the responses
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Unread 10-25-2009, 10:56 AM   #10
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So my lack of blue smoke problem is mostly due to soaking the wood chunks. Use dry wood and I will get more blue smoke, less white.

My long cooking time is probably due to temperature differences between the dome and the cooking grate. Dome was 225, top grate was less.

Also, should I get a digital thermometer like the maverick? any other recommendations for types? I have read some reviews and it seems like they have a lot of problems, so I would rather get a decent one right away.
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Unread 10-25-2009, 11:06 AM   #11
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Dropping the dial thermo in one of the four exhaust holes means you reduced the air flow 25%. That may also contribute to your problem.
I like higher temps than that,more like 240-250 at the meat- it will give you much better turn around times on spares.

You could do a practice fire when you are not cooking so you can just work on your firetending skills and don't need to worry about the food.
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Unread 10-25-2009, 11:32 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by prodano View Post
So my lack of blue smoke problem is mostly due to soaking the wood chunks. Use dry wood and I will get more blue smoke, less white.

My long cooking time is probably due to temperature differences between the dome and the cooking grate. Dome was 225, top grate was less.

Also, should I get a digital thermometer like the maverick? any other recommendations for types? I have read some reviews and it seems like they have a lot of problems, so I would rather get a decent one right away.
Yes

Top grate was probably 205 - 210. My first smoker was a gasser, and I started out believing the temp in the front and had a couple of butts go about 20 hours.The was the last time I trusted any side mounted thermos. I now only use remote thermos placed in the middle of the grate next to the food.
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Unread 10-25-2009, 11:59 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by prodano View Post
So my lack of blue smoke problem is mostly due to soaking the wood chunks. Use dry wood and I will get more blue smoke, less white.

My long cooking time is probably due to temperature differences between the dome and the cooking grate. Dome was 225, top grate was less.

Also, should I get a digital thermometer like the maverick? any other recommendations for types? I have read some reviews and it seems like they have a lot of problems, so I would rather get a decent one right away.
Never soak my chunks - and the Maverick ET-73 dual probe ( food probe and smoker chamber probe ) is great - Been using mine for over a year without problems
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Unread 10-25-2009, 01:42 PM   #14
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I have an off brand digital remote thermo that I use in the meat, and use an inexpensive turkey fryer thermometer that I use just below the grate in my UDS.

The business end of each of them (as well as my dial type insta-read) goes into boiling water before every cook to make sure everything is reading right.

I have 2 lids, (flat top, 8 holes and a Weber lid) and when I cook at 225 grate temp, I have to look really closely to see the blue smoke, or any smoke for that matter. But I'm getting great smoke penetration and flavor in the finished product.

If your temps are good and smoke wood is dry, don't get too concerned if you're not seeing a lot of smoke from the top. Let you taste buds be the final judge.

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Unread 10-26-2009, 08:42 AM   #15
prodano
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Has anybody used the maverick et-7 with success? It has two probes, but it doesn't have one that is supposed to specifically measure the ambient temperature of the smoker. Both are intended to go into the meat, not read the air temperature. I'm debating between getting this model, or getting a thermapen. Different purposes, but I see the thermapen's have been reduced to $74.
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