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Clean vs. Dirty Smoke and Drum Cookers...

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    Clean vs. Dirty Smoke and Drum Cookers...

    So, I’m still in the process of learning the basics of smoking and BBQ. One of the things that I was reading was talking about “clean” smoke. You know, that thin blue smoke that I guess everybody is chasing… apparently…

    So my question is about UDS/PBC style cookers. If blue smoke is a result of a more complete combustion, those cookers should only be making “dirty” smoke. But I hear that the cook well and make super tasty food.

    Is “clean” smoke really that important? Is it just a preference thing? Am I mistaken in thinking that you can’t get “blue” smoke out of a UDS/PBC? If a UDS/PBC makes “dirty” smoke, why is it so tasty?

    Or is this just a myth and BBQ snobbery?

    Blue smoke basically only comes when you burn wood in a very hot fire. Charcoal or propane coolers which only burn/smolder word chunks (or chips) will only get you white smoke, which is not as clean as blue smoke but gives acceptable results. Many people think white smoke gives a more pronounced smoke flavor, which is why you only use a fairly small amount of wood in those cookers. What you definitely DON'T want is hey or black smoke. That contains a large amount of insufficiently combusted byproducts wreck get deposited on your food and taste bitter or worse.


      I don't know about a UDS or PBC, but burn charcoal in my Weber Kettle or even in my offset in combination with wood. Other than the initial light, I don't see white smoke from the slow ignition of charcoal when using the SNS or a minion mode on my offset. If I don't add wood, what I see from the top of the Weber Kettle when smoking is in fact thin blue smoke. The smoke thickens up if I add wood chunks.


        When I dump a full load of lit charcoal on a pan of unlit on my wsm I get a lot of white smoke. By the time I get it stabilized at 225 to 275, my usual cooking temps, the billowing has generally settled down and I get a whispy thin white or blue smoke. I noticed that if I get in a hurry and throw meat on too soon, I sometimes get a faint bitter taste. Don't know if that helps any, since I don't have a PBC or a UDS. So why did I even type all of this??? Duh.


        • holehogg
          holehogg commented
          Editing a comment
          To remind yourself to answer to those whispers you sometimes hear in the store.

        • HawkerXP
          HawkerXP commented
          Editing a comment
          ..., ..., ...!

        Great writeup on the free side......Check it out



          It’s the heat of the flame front that matters on kamados, drums, etc.

          My experience with throwing wood chunks on a fire in a kamado: the first thing that happens is you get billowing gray smoke. Then shortly thereafter, like 2-3 minutes, you get thick white smoke for about about 10 minutes. Then you get thin blue smoke, for about an hour.

          My verdict, after years and years: don’t worry about it. The thick gray smoke is only for a couple minutes. The thick white smoke is only for about 10 minutes. Then you get a lot of the good stuff.

          I wait for the white smoke, then try to wait for the blue smoke but get impatient and put the meat on anyhow. Five minutes of white smoke isn’t going to make a difference.


          • Dadof3Illinois
            Dadof3Illinois commented
            Editing a comment
            +1 for this. Plus on my PBC I see a lot of white smoke but I believe it’s actually the liquid dripping down on the coals and flashing off and not the charcoal or wood.

          When talking about thin blue smoke we are specifically talking about the smoke that is emanating from wood. Meat drippings directly onto a fire will create white smoke but the source of that smoke is fat, not wood. Different animal altogether. Load the PBC up and the chamber will get downright foggy.


            I get plenty of clean smoke out of my PBC when it's in full swing. Wispy white or what I tell myself is blue.



              White smoke from the PBC is usually just after adding the lit coals to the unlit. This diminishes as you complete the lighting process as described in fzxdoc sticky. Normal running temperature of 270ish is certainly not choking the fire down so not sure why you would say this about these style cookers ....."If blue smoke is a result of a more complete combustion, those cookers should only be making “dirty” smoke".... Think of the charcoal basket as a different type of fuse method. Just spread out more. Like said above, Once running I'll rarely see any smoke until opening the lid, and this is the fog created by the dripping meat. I'd suggest you get a PBC and give it a try.


              • Duckman_OK
                Duckman_OK commented
                Editing a comment
                I most certainly will. I was just trying to get some info before I do.

                I've got an old tank from a CNG vehicle conversion that I think will probably get repurposed into a drum cooker. Diameter is spot on for off the shelf grates! And it's already got threaded ports on it that I can use for intake and outlet with standard 2" threaded pipe.

              I appreciate everybody chiming in. I had read the article about combustion and smoke and that's what kinda got me headed down this road.

              For posterity, I wanted to put the links up to these articles. I was able to get what I was really looking for after reading them.





                1. If you fill the PBC up with 4 briskets don't look at the barrel when they hit the stall, you'll cry if you've read too much about blue smoke.

                2. When you get blue smoke take a picture. You might not see it again in person for some time.


                • Mr. Bones
                  Mr. Bones commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Hai, Sensei, honto desu.


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