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Smoke and Charcoal Question for WSM

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  • Anton32828
    Club Member
    • Jun 2018
    • 137
    • Weber 22 inch kettle grill
      Slow-N-Sear
      Maverick ET-732 thermometer

    Smoke and Charcoal Question for WSM

    I've been reading a lot about the need to have "blue smoke" for a low-n-slow cook (225ish Fahrenheit). I don't believe I've ever hit this point on purpose, so it seems like I have something to learn. Is there a FAQ somewhere? I couldn't find one.

    I started smoking pork to make tasso, which packs a lot of flavor from the spices. Tasso isn't subtle, so as long as it tastes smokey I'm happy. But I want to try ribs, so getting the smoke right is important.

    My charcoal is Kingsford, lit using a chimney starter. Sometimes it's ordinary Kingsford, sometimes "Pro," depending on what's on sale.

    1) For grilling, the advice (and my technique) is to let coals ash over before you start cooking. But for the WSM, we're dumping lit coals into unlit charcoal. This produces a stream of white smoke, even without wood. Is it even possible to get to the blue-smoke stage using Minion, Soo's Donut, etc?

    2) Wood chunks: I assumed well-seasoned dry wood was good, but I've read some posts that recommend fresher wood chunks. Right now I'm using big-box hardware store bags of pecan wood and apple wood. This produces white smoke when they ignite. I assumed this is normal --- but should I be looking for blue smoke here as well?

    Thanks in advance for any help / advice!
  • klflowers
    Club Member
    • Sep 2015
    • 3671
    • Tennessee

    #2
    I have always used the minion method and seasoned wood. I have some hickory and mesquite from the big box stores, and I also have some cherry, apple and peach from Fruitawood: https://fruitawoodchunks.com/. I fill the charcoal ring about 2/3rds full, bury some chunks (dry, not soaked or anything), and pour a full chimney of coals that have ashed over on top of the unlit coals. I set the vents and wait for it to get up to temp before I put the meat on. By the time the wsm gets up to temp, the smoke is usually under control. I haven't had any problems with bitter tastes or anything. I usually use Kingsford Blue, but I may try some lump in the near future.

    I am sure some people that know way more than me about this stuff will chime in soon.

    Comment

    • Anton32828
      Club Member
      • Jun 2018
      • 137
      • Weber 22 inch kettle grill
        Slow-N-Sear
        Maverick ET-732 thermometer

      #3
      Thanks. What does it look like when the smoke is under control?

      Comment

      • MBMorgan
        Club Member
        • Sep 2015
        • 6517
        • Colorado
        • > Weber Genesis EP-330
          > Grilla Grills Original Grilla (OG) pellet smoker
          > Pit Barrel Cooker (gone to a new home)
          > WeberQ 2000 (on "loan" to a relative)
          > Old Smokey Electric (for chickens mostly - when it's too nasty out
          to fiddle with a more capable cooker)
          > Luhr Jensen Little Chief Electric - Top Loader circa 1990 (smoked fish & jerky)
          > Thermoworks Smoke
          > 3 Thermoworks Chef Alarms
          > Thermoworks Thermapen
          > Thermoworks IR-GUN-S
          > Anova sous vide circulator
          > Searzall torch
          > BBQ Guru Rib Ring

        #4
        The answer can be found in this article by Meathead : https://amazingribs.com/more-techniq...wood-smoke-and

        The specific discussion of "blue smoke" is about a third of the way down.

        Comment


        • Anton32828
          Anton32828 commented
          Editing a comment
          Thanks! Lots of good info there. I have some practicing to do....
      • klflowers
        Club Member
        • Sep 2015
        • 3671
        • Tennessee

        #5
        Thanks, MBMorgan. I know somebody would come along with a better explanation. Anton32828, I really haven't paid attention to the timing on this - I just load it up and let it go. When I say the smoke is under control, I mean it is not billowing white smoke. There is still smoke, but it is a thinner stream of smoke, and after a couple of hours it turns to a thin wisp that may be blue. I can never tell, but then again, I don't look too hard.

        Comment

        • Troutman
          Club Member
          • Aug 2017
          • 7809
          • 1521

          • OUTDOOR COOKERS

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            INDOOR COOKWARE


          #6
          If you think about it, blue smoke is really only achievable in a stick burner where the wood fire is controlled with a proper flow of oxygen to burn rate, and I suppose in the true sense on a pellet grill where there is complete combustion and very little smoke. Charcoal cookers like the WSM, the PBC, the UDS or even big vertical cabinets all rely on slow burn methods so you are constantly igniting fresh charcoal. Using KBB you do get a lot of filler so I suppose that billowing white smoke is something you just have to live with in those types of cookers when using the minion or snake method.

          Comment

          • Larry Grover
            Club Member
            • Mar 2017
            • 334

            #7
            I don't have a WSM but I recall Harry Soo talking about how he likes to bury his wood chunks deep so they slow-smolder. He also said at competitions he can spot the rookies by how much smoke is billowing out - while his WSM is smoke free.

            My experience is like KlFlowers...once you have everything setup don't put the meat on until the white smoke is clear. If you dont like the flavor profile then perhaps try hardwood briq's like Weber.

            By the way, Harry Soo did a long interview with Meathead on this site, good info there.

            Comment


            • Razor
              Razor commented
              Editing a comment
              I recently saw a video where he said to put the wood on the bottom. I tried it on some jerky and ribs and was very happy with the results.
          • fzxdoc
            Founding Member
            • Jul 2014
            • 5396
            • My toys:
              Weber Summit Charcoal Grilling Center (WSCGC) aka Mr. Fancypants
              Pit Barrel Cooker (which rocks), named Pretty Baby
              Weber Summit S650 Gas Grill, named Hot 'n Fast (used mostly for searing and griddling)
              Weber Kettle Premium 22" named Kettle Kid, eager to horn in with more cooks in the future
              Camp Chef Somerset IV 4-burner outdoor gas range named AfterBurner due to its 30kBTU burners


              Adrenaline BBQ Company Gear:
              SnS, DnG, andLarge Charcoal Basket, for WSCGC
              SnS for 22" Kettle
              Elevated SS Rack for WSCGC
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              Thermapen MK5 (pink)
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              BBQ Dragon and Dragon Chimney

              Shun Classic Series:
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              Gokujo Boning and Fillet Knife
              3 1/2 inch Paring Knife

            #8
            FWIW I only get billowing white smoke on my WSCGC in kamado mode and with my PBC at the beginning of the cook. I seldom get it on the PBC after the last 10 minutes of my usual 15-10-10 lighting procedure--if I do, it doesn't last very long.

            With the WSCGC in kamado mode, once the temp at the grate gets above 200°F or so, the white smoke vanishes and a wispy-ish blue-ish (almost invisible) smoke results. At least I tell myself it's blue . For long cooks, I'll see a bit of white smoke now and again--never very much.

            I burn wood chunks in both smokers along with charcoal.

            I often add the meat near the end of the white smoke phase. Meathead says a little white smoke is good for the cook, as I recall from his discussion about short cooks, and I roll with that suggestion, especially if I'm eager to load the meat on.


            Kathryn
            Last edited by fzxdoc; May 20, 2019, 03:24 PM.

            Comment


            • Anton32828
              Anton32828 commented
              Editing a comment
              Thanks. It’s clear I have to run a few tests before I tackle ribs. I have probably been putting the wood on too early. Good to hear your experience!
          • smokin fool
            Club Member
            • Apr 2019
            • 2249
            • Mississauga, Ont

            #9
            Extremely interesting topic, like fzxdoc I'm eager to get the meat on the grill and usually add it during the white smoke stage.
            Going to start practicing a little more patience and let the fire/coals mature longer before getting the meat on the grill.
            Thanx for starting this thread, I learned something useful today.

            Comment

            • JeffJ
              Charter Member
              • Feb 2015
              • 2458
              • Michigan
              • Jeff

              #10
              In my experiences with the WSM, airflow is a little wild when first setting it up. If you have the patience and are using minion (I use Soo's Donut in my 14.5 WSM) wait at least a half hour before putting the meat in. For low/slow I always put some water in the bowl. It serves as a heat sink which allows me to begin the cook with my top vent wide open and the bottom vents 3/4 open. You want that airflow so the wood gets good and hot. Good smoke comes from the wood burning clean which requires it to be hot. It needs to breathe to be hot. But, as the others have said, as long as it's not billowing you're fine. Charcoal smoke is always white and it's fine as long as it's under control.

              I recommend going to Youtube or watching the Harry Soo interview at the Pit. Good information. He wins BBQ competitions with the WSM and has gotten his technique down. He's a great source of information and he shares it freely.

              Comment


              • Anton32828
                Anton32828 commented
                Editing a comment
                Thanks Jeff!
            • Macktechie
              Club Member
              • Sep 2018
              • 197

              #11
              I use the Soo method and wood configuration. I get smoke ring with almost clear smoke from cooker.

              Comment

              • Mudkat
                Club Member
                • Feb 2017
                • 2088
                • At a river near me, MD
                • Weber Smokey Mountain 14.5"
                  Weber 22" Kettel
                  Weber Smokey Joe (2)
                  One Grill 45" Rotisserie
                  Lodge 5 qt. Dutch Oven
                  Lodge 10.5" Double Loop Skillet
                  Cast Iron 9" Skillet
                  Cast Iron 12" Skillet
                  Weber 22 Grill Grates
                  Home Built 55 Gallon Ugly Drum Smoker - "MUDS"

                #12
                Preheat, preheat, preheat. I think. 🙂

                Comment


                • Anton32828
                  Anton32828 commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Yeah, I have come to that conclusion. Good advice from everyone. Thanks!
              • Beefchop
                Charter Member
                • Oct 2014
                • 480
                • Lafayette, LA
                • XL Big Green Egg, Shirley Fabrication 24"x42" Patio Cooker

                #13
                I get some white smoke when I first dump my coals in my WSM, but it evens out after 15 - 30 min. I use the minion method with chunks of the wood (the kind you find at the big box store) buried throughout my unlit charcoal pile. You can preheat your wood chunks if you want. I typically don't preheat all my wood chunks, just bury them in the unlit pile of charcoal (always Kingsford Blue), but I will throw one or two chunks of wood into my starter fire and let them burn over before I dump the coals so I have some clean burning fruit wood smoke at the start of my cook. Good luck!
                Last edited by Beefchop; May 22, 2019, 10:31 AM. Reason: fix typos

                Comment


                • Mudkat
                  Mudkat commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Good idea on adding chunks to starter fire.

                • Anton32828
                  Anton32828 commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Thanks Beefchop, I like that idea. I'll give it a try this weekend!

                • JeffJ
                  JeffJ commented
                  Editing a comment
                  I've begun to do this too. It works.
              • MaxximMax
                Club Member
                • Dec 2020
                • 4

                #14
                Originally posted by Troutman View Post
                If you think about it, blue smoke is really only achievable in a stick burner where the wood fire is controlled with a proper flow of oxygen to burn rate, and I suppose in the true sense on a pellet grill where there is complete combustion and very little smoke. Charcoal cookers like the WSM, the PBC, the UDS or even big vertical cabinets all rely on slow burn methods so you are constantly igniting fresh charcoal. Using KBB you do get a lot of filler so I suppose that billowing white smoke is something you just have to live with in those types of cookers when using the minion or snake method.
                I know this is somewhat old thread but I decided to add my question here since it belong to the same topic (rather than creating a new thread). Although I don't have WSM yet, I believe that Troutman provided a good comment about the vertical style charcoal smokers (WSM, PBC, UDS). The slow burn of the charcoal in this type of smokers will keep igniting fresh charcoal and consequently will introduce new white smoke. However, I assume the white smoke that comes out from this slow ignites is not noticeable in the food. Anyone here can please confirm.

                Comment


                • Troutman
                  Troutman commented
                  Editing a comment
                  All I know is there is a distinct taste to a charcoal cooked protein. Why exactly that is I'll leave up to someone a lot smarter than me. To me it's not a problem but the filler and binders are probably part of the answer. That's why lump burners cleaner and may be a better solution if charcoal isn't to your liking.

                • ecowper
                  ecowper commented
                  Editing a comment
                  I happen to enjoy the stuff I cook low and slow on both my Hasty-Bake and WSM. I have not noticed a horribly distinct or off putting flavor to them. Once the initial charcoal is burning hot, the ignition of additional charcoal is not producing what I would consider "billowing white smoke" .... there is definitely smoke production, but not bad. And my food doesn't taste sooty, acrid, burnt, etc

                • Porkies
                  Porkies commented
                  Editing a comment
                  I have little experience compared to the others on these forums, but I use the donut to burn my charcoal (with wood chunks here and there), and by the time I get the temp dialed in for the WSM the white smoke has cleared and I don't see much after that unless I open the lid for too long a time (pics and stuff ). Any resulting whitish smoke is minor and clears up quickly.

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