View Full Version : Flavor From Stick Burner?

07-05-2011, 11:49 AM
I just got done watching the BBQ Pit Masters marathon. I have a pellet cooker and a WSM. The WSM gives me a lot of smoke flavor...in fact, I can easily get too much smokey flavor by burning too much wood.
I don't have a clue as to how a stick burner works other than it burns a lot more wood than I would in my little WSM. So I can't help wondering how you control the smoke flavor in a stick burner? Is there such a thing as too much smoke flavor in those competitions?

07-05-2011, 12:06 PM
The best way, I've found, is to use mostly charcoal with some wood chunks thrown in. Add and remove to hit the mark.

Lake Dogs
07-05-2011, 12:19 PM
^^^ what Arlin said. Plus timely use of foil helps. Some folks actually have a separate wood burning pit where they take the coals and put those in vs. charcoal and split logs...

BBQ Bandit
07-05-2011, 12:29 PM
There are also alternatives to separate woods; Kingsford has charcoal with added wood shavings pressed into the briquettes; hichory and mesquite.

(Just did a 6 lb London Broil using their Mesquite version... quite a difference from the typical.)

07-05-2011, 12:29 PM
I hardly ever have a problem with over smoking using just wood. When cooking with only wood, the wood isn't used to 'smoke' but rather used to fuel the cooker. The smoke flavor is an added benefit of using wood as a fuel source. When using wood, you burn down the wood to coals before you add your meat and thus controlling the amount of smoke and smoke flavor. The smoke flavor from using a stick burner is a more subtle, more natural wood flavor. The only way to go IMO. :wink:

07-05-2011, 12:36 PM
I agree with ksmoker, the other factor is fire management thin blue smoke is the key, any other color, or thick smoke will definately get on the meat and will leave a not so pleasant flavor... Stickburner all the way:thumb:

07-05-2011, 12:37 PM
I don't have a stick burner but always thought that wood was used primarily as a heat source after burning down with the added benefit of smoke.

07-05-2011, 12:50 PM
I think there is also a big difference in size of smoker, most of those competition guys using offsets are using trailer mounted units, there is a different character to how they smoke versus a WSM. IMO, a small cooker (kettle, WSM, COS) will need less smoke to achieve a given smoke profile, a trailer mounted unit uses more, a smoke cabinet or brick pit uses a lot more.

When I have smoked using just wood on a kettle, it requires a very different technique to control the smoke, I have to burn down a whole kettle of wood to get a starting fire, then add coals, not wood, to keep it rolling. I would think a WSM would be the same, and wholly inconvenient as well.

07-05-2011, 12:59 PM
Once I learned about maintaining a clean burning fire, airflow, preheating wood, etc. problems with excessive smoke flavor went away - including when I use nothing but splits. I learned most of that here, btw. :thumb:

07-05-2011, 01:08 PM
It's all about fire management. It's very easy to over-smoke food and it's very possible to under-smoke on a stick burner also. When i first made my stick burner i had no idea how to run it and after some research and questions i kept getting a redundant "don't over-smoke the food" and "small and hot fires" routine over and over, which made total sense at the time. After a lot of trial an error on my part, i learned that you can built "too good" of a fire so that not much smoke flavor gets absorbed. My first couple briskets were ok and noticed a lack of smoke flavor. I was so concerned with over-smoking that i turned out a product without enough smoke. Now after fine-tuning my pit and knowing what i'm doing, i think i found a nice balance.

First you need to know your smoker. you also need to know the wood you're using, how seasoned it is and how it'll burn in your particular smoker. I can guarantee you if i try to cook the same way in a Lang the food wont come out as good as my own smoker. You also need to realize what your cooking plays a big part in how you cook. Hot and fast briskets are in the smoker without foil for about 3-4 hours so you can lay the smoke on pretty good. But if your doing a low and slow brisket for 10-12 hours, you can easily over-smoke it. You don't need much smoke for chicken or ribs though. I also have 2 WSM's and i have to adjust how i'm cooking depending on what i'm cooking on.

In addition, straight wood has a more mellow flavor over charcoal briquettes, lump or burnt down wood is different also. I've never burnt my wood down to coals and cooked with just coals, don't see the point at all. Maybe that's what some people do and if that works for them then great but i toss my wood right in the firebox as a stick/log. No complaints as of yet so i must be doing something right.

07-05-2011, 01:50 PM
You really can't compare the two...WSM/UDS vs. stick burner. They heat and smoke completely different from one another.

With a stick burner you're keeping an educated fire burning. Having a small hot fire actually gives off little smoke.

With WSM/UDS type cookers you're generally trying to smother the fire the entire time. You don't want it to burn. Therefore any wood you add to the fuel is being smothered so that it will smoke but not completely burst into flame. That is what gives you smoke in barrel/bullet smokers.

Maybe I didn't confuse the matter...much.

07-05-2011, 02:27 PM
So, in my WSM, am I looking to create that thin wisp of smoke or the smoldering type of more apparent smoke that the Method creates? Which would give me that obvious, but mellow smoke flavor? If it's the thin wisp, how do I get it in a WSM?

Lake Dogs
07-05-2011, 02:32 PM
ahhhh, sweet blue. there's the question; how to sweet blue in a WSM? I can tell you about offsets and stick burners; WSM's ain't my thang...

07-05-2011, 02:47 PM
Yeah! That's the question. How do I get that sweet blue smoke out of a WSM?

07-05-2011, 03:58 PM
darita, I'm pretty new to the WSM world, but just completed my 4th cook on it yesterday and I'm getting it figured out. I'm using Kingsford Blue most of the time, along with hickory or mesquite chunks that I've gotten in 5 lb. bags at Walmart. I'm sure you're already familiar with the Minion method, but that's what I've been going with. I try to gauge how much charcoal I'm going to need and load the WSM up, adding wood chunks in as I see fit. I've already figured out that I don't want wood chunks touching the lit charcoal right when I put it in, so I put them farther to the outside of the charcoal basket. What I've found is that, so far at least, I need to start with my vents only just cracked open. It takes a good hour for my WSM to come up to temp that way, but it also goes from thick smoke to thin faster. I have a feeling that I'll be adjusting my starting method as my WSM 22 gets more and more cooks on it, but that's working for me right now.

07-05-2011, 04:45 PM
Like said above, you want to fire up your WSM a good hour plus ahead of putting the meat on. Let it stabilize in temperature until you have a good clean fire going. I'll usually stick my nose next to the top vent and if it smells acrid and burns your eyes it's not time yet to put the meat on.

El Ropo
07-05-2011, 06:01 PM
After a lot of trial an error on my part, i learned that you can built "too good" of a fire so that not much smoke flavor gets absorbed

Wow, I'm finding that out with my UDS since I added a terra cotta diffuser pan. The fire burns so clean, the smoke flavor is muted. Can't hardly see any smoke, just heat waves coming off the exhaust.

Same thing with my weber OTS, when I get a clean fire going, the smoke flavor in the meat is not quite there, still tastes fantastic, and is moist and tender, just not what I've become accustomed to with my earlier "dirtier" cooks.