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View Full Version : How does food get "too much smoke"?


snyper77
09-13-2011, 05:33 PM
I am learning about different types of wood that can be used for smoking. Several sites say "too much hickory smoke will make food taste bitter". I also read that about maple wood.

What if you have dry, seasoned wood that doesn't smoke as much as non-seasoned wood? Or is it pretty safe to use these woods 100% through the cook, but foil the meat at the recommended temps?

I always here people bragging on "the smoke ring" and how much it penetrated the meat. I've always thought a "thick" smoke ring is a good thing.

TBS-BBQ
09-13-2011, 05:35 PM
The closest I've been to "too much smoke" is when my fire is not burning efficiently and I get "soot" on the meat. As long as the fire has plenty of oxygen to burn clean, I don't have that problem. Hope this helps.

PimpSmoke
09-13-2011, 05:35 PM
Yes, baby backs taste hammy to me with too much smoke.

There is a difference between over smoking something and getting creosote from a dirty burn or green wood at too low of a temp. Smaller cuts can take too much smoke and it will be the dominant flavor, overpowering the rest of the flavor profile.

Hoss
09-13-2011, 05:40 PM
Poultry is VERY easy to oversmoke.

K-Barbecue
09-13-2011, 05:40 PM
When I first started out smoking about 10 years ago with a Klose stick burner I ruined a lot of meat with too much smoke. Smoke should be just another flavor enhancer, just like your rub, sauce or injections. Too much smoke will overpower. Different woods blend better with certain types of meat and some woods like hickory are "stronger" than milder woods like oak. Just my 2 cents :-D

caseydog
09-13-2011, 05:44 PM
I agree that your greatest risk of bad smoke flavor is from wood that isn't burning hot enough to burn completely. That's why you look for the thin bluish smoke, and not the dense white billowy smoke.

You can often actually smell it, too, when the smoke isn't right -- at least I can. It is hard to explain, but when the fire is right, the smoke just smells right.

CD

K-Barbecue
09-13-2011, 05:44 PM
Like mentioned above, poultry can easily be oversmoked. It soaks it up like a sponge whereas brisket can take a lot of smoke. You have to adjust the amount of smoke and the type of wood for what you're cooking.

aquablue22
09-13-2011, 05:44 PM
You'll usually get a heavy smoke flavor using hard wood, citrus and fruit wood impart a lighter flavor. Plus you'll find that different meats will accept smoke and taste different. We like heavy smoke flavor but not to the point of bitterness. I have a friends that smokes with only hickory and his stuff is always bitter to us.. I use a lot of fruit and citrus woods and use it during the entire cook on everything i smoke. just keep trying different woods and you'll find one that makes you palate happy! and then you'll want something different!

gtr
09-13-2011, 05:45 PM
A non-cleaning fire will give you a bitter taste. "Too smoky" is kind of subjective, but there is a point where most people agree food is too smoky. Hardwoods such as hickory and oak have a strong flavor, fruit woods a lighter flavor. Mesquite is really strong and you have to be judicious with it - at least for my taste.

I usually use hickory, but if I've had a big cut in the cooker for a long time, I may switch over to apple if I'm still cooking chicken or smaller stuff. If there's nothing else I wanna smoke, I'll just go to lump.

Dry, seasoned wood is a great way to go - especially at lower temps. I've heard you can use "wetter" woods at higher temps but I haven't done that myself.

***on edit***

Caseydog brings up a good point - it the smoke smells bad, the food will most likely taste bad and if it smells good, yer grub will taste good too.

QueNivorous
09-13-2011, 05:50 PM
You can usually tell by looking at both the smoke and the color of the meat. The smoke should be very minimal and blueish in color. White, brown or any dense smoke is not good. The meat should look redish brown. If it starts to just look brown or worse yet black it's over smoked. The type pit you have has a lot to do with it. It just takes time to get use to it.

twinsfan
09-13-2011, 06:03 PM
I actually dislike more then a hint of smoke... and I'm a backyard pitmaster :rolleyes:

I think anything besides shoulder and brisket can be oversmoked.

snyper77
09-13-2011, 06:03 PM
I think I've "smelled" the smell some of you speak of. It's kinda sour/pungent/chemical type smell???

btcg
09-13-2011, 06:21 PM
IMHO: use 8 to 12 oz (1/2 lb to 3/4 lb) which is about 1.5 - 2 hr worth of burn time. After 2 hours, your smoke should have penetrated.

PimpSmoke
09-13-2011, 06:24 PM
I think I've "smelled" the smell some of you speak of. It's kinda sour/pungent/chemical type smell???

Yes, very "astringent" is all I can think of. I have had cherry too green that wasn't burning hot enough. It smelled very floral and perfumy instead of sweet and burned my nose when I got a whiff.

Kernscookin
09-13-2011, 06:44 PM
You can get a good smoke ring even if you only use charcoal. Smoke only penetrates the meat up to 2 hours or so, after that you can wrap your meat to limit the smoke intake. I have a stick burner and can't seem to find fruit woods to burn that I can buy alot of.

ZILLA
09-13-2011, 06:45 PM
It doesn't it gets bad smoke!

Cook
09-13-2011, 07:12 PM
You can get a good smoke ring even if you only use charcoal. Smoke only penetrates the meat up to 2 hours or so, after that you can wrap your meat to limit the smoke intake.

Smoke doesn't give you the smoke ring at all. That is a fallacy.

Just trying to help.

PimpSmoke
09-13-2011, 07:17 PM
Smoke doesn't give you the smoke ring at all. That is a fallacy.

Just trying to help.

Interesting, please continue.

1MoreFord
09-13-2011, 07:50 PM
I agree that your greatest risk of bad smoke flavor is from wood that isn't burning hot enough to burn completely. That's why you look for the thin bluish smoke, and not the dense white billowy smoke.

You can often actually smell it, too, when the smoke isn't right -- at least I can. It is hard to explain, but when the fire is right, the smoke just smells right.

CD:clap2:

Agree 100% and the right smell usually occurs when you can't see any smoke w/o getting the sun at the proper angle to the stack. What you'll see from the other 355 Degrees 'round the stack is heat waves.

ETA: IMO it is far easier and Better!! to cook at a higher temp with a clean burning fire for a shorter length of time than it is to cook the tradionally advocated low and slow if you can't maintain a truly clean burning fire - aka nuthin but good lump charcoal.

1MoreFord
09-13-2011, 08:17 PM
I am learning about different types of wood that can be used for smoking. Several sites say "too much hickory smoke will make food taste bitter". I also read that about maple wood.

What if you have dry, seasoned wood that doesn't smoke as much as non-seasoned wood? Or is it pretty safe to use these woods 100% through the cook, but foil the meat at the recommended temps?

I always here people bragging on "the smoke ring" and how much it penetrated the meat. I've always thought a "thick" smoke ring is a good thing.

I forgot to answer your question. BBQ gets over smoked when you cook with an overly smokey "dirty" fire for too long a time. Either too green/wet wood or too low a cook temp.

Lake Dogs
09-13-2011, 08:28 PM
I use hickory or a mixture of hickory and oak. Agreed that baby backs, poultry, etc. can become oversmoked quickly where you're tasting only smoke and no meat. I also am of the opinion that you can oversmoke the larger cuts too. I foil at the 4.25 to 4.5 hour mark of briskets, shoulders, butts, picnics, etc. For me this is the point where I've maxed out the smoke influence and the color is of a reddish/brown hue vs. towards black. I certainly foil for more reasons than smoke, but by foiling it helps prevent additional smoke from either penetrating the meat or from accumulating on the exterior of the meat. Even sweet blue gets overpowering when it's oak/hickory, IMHO. Even foiling at that point we have a NICE well-defined smoke ring. Ribs I foil at the 1.25 hour mark; same thing. I actually have a smoke ring vs. all pink over-smoked (IMHO).

Yes, a lot of what people are talking about when they mention over-smoking is creosote caused by wet or green wood and/or a fire that isn't hot enough. That aside, I'm of the personal opinion that even with sweet blue you can over-smoke meat. Like said above, to the point where it no longer enhances the flavor and begins to be the flavor.

El Ropo
09-13-2011, 08:48 PM
Interesting, please continue.

A piece of meat will continue soaking up the smoke flavor all the way through the cook. The smoke ring will theoretically stop forming around 140-145.

It's a point of confusion among folks new to this hobby. The curse of the internet, there is both good and bad info to be learned.

I totally agree about the amount of visible smoke coming off the cooker. If it's completely invisible, with a wonderful aroma, you're golden. If the exhaust looks like you just tossed on an old telephone pole, you're gonna have some nasty q. Less visible smoke is better.

PimpSmoke
09-13-2011, 08:52 PM
A piece of meat will continue soaking up the smoke flavor all the way through the cook. The smoke ring will theoretically stop forming around 140-145.

It's a point of confusion among folks new to this hobby. The curse of the internet, there is both good and bad info to be learned.

I know that. I want to know how smoke doesn't give you a smoke ring.

Boshizzle
09-13-2011, 08:53 PM
Using an old tire in your smoker can result in too much smoke. Otherwise, follow the advice above. Personally, I like the smoke from my cooks to be clear vapor. But, humidity, the quality of the fuel, outside temp, and several other factors can impact the fire resulting in heavy, bitter smoke and that's usually what causes problems.

btcg
09-13-2011, 08:58 PM
Using an old tire in your smoker can result in too much smoke. Otherwise, follow the advice above. Personally, I like the smoke from my cooks to be clear vapor. But, humidity, the quality of the fuel, outside temp, and several other factors can impact the fire resulting in heavy, bitter smoke and that's usually what causes problems.

Only if it's a car tire. A bicycle tire should be okay. As Tom Petty would say, smoking is a "long, long road" :becky:

Quemaster
09-13-2011, 09:21 PM
I like to use blends of fruit woods ( apple & cherry) and sometimes Hickory. Learn how your smoker responds to different sizes wood chunks or logs. I get best results by adding 2-3 tennis ball sized chunks per hour. These small chunks allows the wood to burn clean at a controlled rate that takes 45 min to 1 hour to burn down in my smoker ( Stumps Stretch). I could use 4-6 per hour with my old Stick burner.

I will add smoke slowly for 4-5 hours on 8 lb butts & and 12 lb briskets cooking at 240 deg. I'll add wood & smoke ribs for first half of cook 2.5 to 3 hrs and chicken for 1 to 1.5 hrs.

Practice with less wood at first and use more on following cooks if needed. Also, be cautious with stronger woods. I usually never exceed 1 chunk of hickory for every 2 fruit wood chunks. This works for me but you might prefer all hickory.

Practice, go slow at first looking for clean smoke.

Good luck.

Cook
09-13-2011, 10:27 PM
I know that. I want to know how smoke doesn't give you a smoke ring.


The ring is formed by gasses and/or a chemical reaction. You do not need wood or smoke to form a ring...and you can heavily smoke meat w/o a ring.

I'm not technical enough to explain it much further.

El Ropo
09-13-2011, 11:03 PM
I know that. I want to know how smoke doesn't give you a smoke ring.

Now I'm really confused. The best smoke rings I've done, were cooked on a smoker that was putting out little to no smoke. No smoke equals good smoke was my point all along. It's all about a clean burning fire.

There was zero to TBS during this whole cook and the ring is deep:

http://i826.photobucket.com/albums/zz189/ElRopo/April1stRips002.jpg

I guess the answer is a clean burning fire will work a lot better than a poofy white fire.

MG_NorCal
09-14-2011, 01:47 AM
I know that. I want to know how smoke doesn't give you a smoke ring.

More accurately stated, smoke is not necessary for a smoke ring.
Smoke rings come from NO2.
NO2 can be formed from any high heat combustion in air; wood is not needed.

Zippylip
09-14-2011, 06:59 AM
Smoke is on the tongue of the beholder.

My wife will classify certain cooks as too smoky thus inedible where I taste the same as perfectly smoked, & eat extra :becky:

Lake Dogs
09-14-2011, 12:28 PM
> Smoke is on the tongue of the beholder.

A B S O L U T E L Y

Some people despise any smoke flavor at all, and can tell if you're using a little paprika or smoked paprika.

Others love a little meat with their smoke.

Most of us are some degree towards the middle.

qnbiker
09-14-2011, 02:13 PM
Depends on the food. In my opinion, it's hard to oversmoke butts and briskets, but not ribs or poultry. Especially if you use a strong smoke wood like hickory.

El Ropo
09-14-2011, 02:56 PM
That's why I use a base of pecan, with apple or cherry, or both for a smoke profile.

IowaWildHogsBbq
09-14-2011, 03:18 PM
I use lump charcoal and apple wood and never have oversmoked with that combo.

PimpSmoke
09-14-2011, 03:31 PM
A comment was made that "smoke doesn't give you a smoke ring at all", which is incorrect.

Had the comment said "The presence of thick visible smoke does not promote the creation of a smoke ring" I would agree.

Nitric oxide is a product of combustion. You cannot have combustion of any material without the by product of that combustion, which is commonly referred to as smoke.

No one ever implied that only wood smoke or visible smoke created a smoke ring. Nitrosohemochrome can also be formed by the forced absorbtion of nitrates (curing salts, tender quick) either alone or coupled with combustion gasses. Environment humidity and temperature of myoglobin play a huge part in formation of smoke ring.

I was forced to learn this after a fake looking smoke ring debacle at my first comp.

snakyjake
09-20-2011, 01:15 AM
For me, no such thing as too much smoke. I love smoke!

Dave Russell
09-20-2011, 09:53 AM
For me, no such thing as too much smoke. I love smoke!

Seriously? Well, I'm serious. If you are serious, here's a great test and an opportunity to learn something. Wish I wouldn't have learned it the hard way, with my inlaws over for supper:

This was a great lesson for me several years ago, despite the fact that the spares were practically inedible. Take a COS (cheap offset) and a bunch of splits small enough to fit in the firebox. Any wood will get the results I'm speaking (warning) of, even seasoned apple or cherry. Get everything going, but shut the air down so you keep that beloved 225* without putting the fire out. Put one small slab of cheap spares on and baste with a thick tomatoey baste every half hour or so til the ribs are done, allowing lots of smoke absorption between bastes and never switching to charcoal or wrapping; never worrying about what the smoke looks like. Taste, spit, and order pizza if you haven't already.

Like others have already stated, there's good smoke and bad smoke, and then there's simply over-smoking for lots of folks tastes. You might not have ever found anything that seemed to be over-smoked, but the above test will teach you what BAD smoke can do, no matter what kind of wood used. Actually, you want to just take my word for the test so you don't get a bunch of creosote build-up in your smoker.

Ole Man Dan
09-20-2011, 11:09 AM
I generally smoke Chicken and Pork with Pecan wood.
I like Hickory for Beef.

I no longer soak wood before smoking.
I get a cleaner burn with more oxygen and dry wood.

(Royal Oak Lump Charcoal is my favorite)

snakyjake
09-21-2011, 09:36 AM
I smoke butts in a WSM for about 20 hours using hickory charcoal and hickory chunks. I add more charcoal and chunks around 12 hours or anytime I notice a lack of smoke.

The meat comes out great for my liking. Love the smoke ring.

Perhaps since I'm using charcoal instead of wood and a water pan, I'm getting cleaner smoke than an offset or USD.


Seriously? Well, I'm serious. If you are serious, here's a great test and an opportunity to learn something. Wish I wouldn't have learned it the hard way, with my inlaws over for supper:

This was a great lesson for me several years ago, despite the fact that the spares were practically inedible. Take a COS (cheap offset) and a bunch of splits small enough to fit in the firebox. Any wood will get the results I'm speaking (warning) of, even seasoned apple or cherry. Get everything going, but shut the air down so you keep that beloved 225* without putting the fire out. Put one small slab of cheap spares on and baste with a thick tomatoey baste every half hour or so til the ribs are done, allowing lots of smoke absorption between bastes and never switching to charcoal or wrapping; never worrying about what the smoke looks like. Taste, spit, and order pizza if you haven't already.

Like others have already stated, there's good smoke and bad smoke, and then there's simply over-smoking for lots of folks tastes. You might not have ever found anything that seemed to be over-smoked, but the above test will teach you what BAD smoke can do, no matter what kind of wood used. Actually, you want to just take my word for the test so you don't get a bunch of creosote build-up in your smoker.

Dave Russell
09-21-2011, 11:14 AM
I smoke butts in a WSM for about 20 hours using hickory charcoal and hickory chunks. I add more charcoal and chunks around 12 hours or anytime I notice a lack of smoke.

The meat comes out great for my liking. Love the smoke ring.

Perhaps since I'm using charcoal instead of wood and a water pan, I'm getting cleaner smoke than an offset or USD.

Apples and oranges if you're talking about any similiarities with my "over-smoking experiment" on an offset. You can't duplicate the experiment I was talking about with a wsm, but that sure explains your position on oversmoked meat. Charcoal smokers are one thing but try an offset and THEN you'll find out what all the fuss is about. As for your wsm smoke being cleaner than an offset, the smoke off a stickburner is all dependent on the skills of the guy feeding it. Not bragging, but I bet I can smoke ribs on an offset with nothing BUT wood and have them still end up with as good a flavor or probably better than if I cooked on my wsm with only three chunks of wood. The reason is that I know how to maintain a small clean-burning fire and get thin blue smoke on an offset. It's not hard either, although you might need to abandon the sacred cow temp of 225* and feed the fire smaller bites more often.

Ole Man Dan
09-21-2011, 11:25 AM
That's why I use a base of pecan, with apple or cherry, or both for a smoke profile.

There are lots of Pecan trees in my area. I've had a steady supply of wood that I dry for a couple of months. Lots of folks in our area use Pecan. I like the flavor in Ribs and Chicken.

I used to soak mine, but thanks to the guys on this forum,
I've graduated to TBS and mostly use dry wood. (Taste better too)

It may just be my UDS, but I get a cleaner burn at 240-250 Degrees
without having to keep adjusting the air.
(I may use too much charcoal to start my fire. I've been using a little more than 1/2 a chimney full of
Royal Oak Lump and cooking with Royal Oak.
It seems to burn hotter than Kingsford. )

Bottom Line: I can live with my 'low and slow' being closer to 240-250 Degrees.
It just smokes a little faster...

tmehlhorn
09-21-2011, 02:35 PM
All good comments on smoke, well said, so i will only comment on the foil. If you choose to foil you need to get the foil tight, in which case your smoke will not get any more smoke flavor and there is no need to use anymore smoke wood. However i will not harm anything if you still have smoke going

Oldschoolbbq
09-21-2011, 03:34 PM
I do a lot of pre-burning of wood,(I know,how I afford the wood-I beg),can only get told "NO".
When it turns to 'embers',I place it in my FB.The only smoke I get is Bluish,sometimes you have to really look or smell to know. My temps. stay around 225*f(because of a small , hot fire) in my cooking spot-yes I have a hot spot right next to the FB, but plenty of other space to cook on.
Once my FB is buzzing alnog(about an hour into my smoke, after the heat-up),I add a stick about the size of my forearm, which I have pre-heated on the top of the FB. The wood usually starts to burn immediately,no white smoke.
It takes patience (and calibrated Threms.)and some more patience, I have the privilage of having the time to do this, as I am Disabled:hand:.
White Smoke is Bad JuJu.:mad: Just sayin'.............

http://i1204.photobucket.com/albums/bb404/oldschoolbbq/Things%20I%20cook/Betty014.jpg

garyk1398
09-21-2011, 03:52 PM
snyper77, you ask alot of great questions! The first one in your title is easy to answer...."How does food get "too much smoke"?

For me its too much wood for the amount of meat I'm smoking.

Hub
09-22-2011, 07:14 AM
The two most common problems I see in the meat that comes to the judging table in a contest are (1) over-smoking, and (2) over-saucing. Too much of a good thing can quickly turn into a bad thing.

There's been lots of good input in this thread, so I'm sure you can make adjustments as necessary to perfect your cook.

prudog
09-22-2011, 01:21 PM
I too believe that adding wood chunks to charcoal cooker (i.e. WSM, Stumps, etc.) is different ballpark not to oversmoke compared to large offset. When using an offset, I burn mostly hickory because of availability and it is common flavor in Alabama. To specifically answer your question, I offer the following things I have observed.

1. We often tend to start cooking too quickly before the fire has settled in with a nice, hot, properly sized bed of coals. Plan for at least an hour, but depends on wood and fire starting method. I sometimes get the smoker really hot to clean it (350*F) and then wait until it settles back down and wood is added again before starting. A few use Oldschoolbbq mod to preburn wood, especially in simple cinder block pit with whole hog.

2. Like Dave Russell said, there is no substitute for proper fire management in offset. Add wood too soon and it is too hot. Add too late and it will smolder until going again. Wood should be properly sized and moisture content for your feed rate (2 sticks per 45-60 minutes is common for me)

3. Wood moisture is not discussed often, but I find that wood can become hard to cook with after several years when it gets really dry. Think paper... it just burns quick and hot and fewer coals. Maybe most folks don't have wood around that long, but I used to cut wood a few times a year to maintain different lots. I keep it under shed and off the ground and split anything over about 5-6 inches. Since I bought my Stumps, I don't manage my wood actively to maintain that perfect moisture content.

4. You need to control the fire by controlling the draft through the intake vent while leaving the exhaust open. This means never overloading the fire with wood. It is convenient to use the exhaust damper to choke the fire (you see results almost immediate), but you are paying with thick smoke from a smothered fire. Cook on a windy, rainy day and don't be surprised to lose control of the smoker draft, temps, and smoke flavor.

My first cook was with my brother and we used week old, fresh-cut hickory. I think you already know how dumb that is. I still laugh about it. I will try to set you up with an experiment soon!