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Stick Burning in WSM

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    Stick Burning in WSM

    I was gifted Project Smoke by Steven Raichlen for Christmas. If you own it, you will find the attached pictures on pg 25 and 26 of the book. This is clearly showing Steve (he doesn't know we're on a first name basis yet) using just wood in a teepee and log cabin method in the WSM.

    The logs have been split pretty thin, at least compared to how I normally buy them.

    Has anyone tried this? Does it result is better flavor? Huge caveat... I'm not afraid of the "extra work". I very much so enjoy the process of smoking almost as much as I enjoy the results.

    Thanks in advance for the feedback.
    Attached Files

    I have never tried stick burning in my WSM. I would be very concerned about temp control, I think. Also fire management and tending the fire. One of the things I value about the WSM is how stable the fire and temp is once I've got it set up and burning.


      While I love Steven Raichlen's books and videos, my experiences with burning wood in a custom offset with a firebox that is smaller than it should be for stick burning lead me to have a few concerns about this in the WSM. While I am sure "Steve" pulled it off quite well for a show, I think:

      1. Flames like shown in the photo won't bode well for food above them, so you will have to run a good bit of wood through until it burns down to a bed of nice coals, to generate heat without huge flames.

      2. If you don't burn down to a bed of coals, then feed the fire with limited wood, the flames hitting the water pan above will generate soot. That is what happens if I put too much wood in the undersized firebox on my offset - the flames hitting the top of the firebox and shooting into the cooking chamber tend to turn "sooty" and generate bad black smoke.

      3. You will need to run with all vents WIDE open, maybe the door too, to burn cleanly. Otherwise - black sooty smoke will start to form. With my offset, is the fire is too big, it will only burn clean with the top of the firebox open (no end door on this one, just a top door).

      My thoughts are this won't be a LOT different in the long run from starting with a nice bed of coals from a lit chimney, then feeding your sticks of wood to the fire through the side door of the WSM continuously throughout the cook.

      And to further the thoughts started by ecowper - you will be sacrificing temp control. You will have to manage the temp by how much wood you feed the fire, and not by vent settings, much like many offsets. I think it is going to run much HOTTER than you are used to as well.

      I am not saying this technique won't work - just my observations on it in a WSM, and pitfalls to look out for. Why don't you split some wood down to size, try it, and let us know what happens?

      EDIT: I think that the WSM with a wood fire like this, no pan, and just the cooking grates would be a GREAT approximation of a Santa Maria Grill! I.e. grill over a live fire, but don't smoke with it.
      Last edited by jfmorris; January 5, 2021, 09:09 AM.


      • smokin fool
        smokin fool commented
        Editing a comment
        I have no experience with a WSM but your point 1 is spot on.
        Soft woods are going to disappear while most hardwoods are going to take precious time to become coals.
        I received this book as a gift last year, apart from the cursory thumb thru haven't read it yet.
        Will have plenty of time as of Friday.
        Last edited by smokin fool; January 5, 2021, 08:22 PM.

      Can/will it work? Sure!!!

      I have 3 18.5" WSMs, have never tried straight up sticks in em...

      I, too, enjoy th process...(I have multiple stickburners)

      As pointed out previously, it will take a LOT of hard-learned fire management to even begin to approach stability...

      Will it taste better? Wail, Hail Yeah it will: it's wood fired.

      Are ya seekin to up yer smoke flavour profile, or practice fire management? I gots words fer either one, leave us know what yer goal(s) is, an we can git ya tuned up.


        I won't knock it, since I've never tried it. But I don't think I'll be trying it.


          Originally posted by Mr. Bones View Post

          Are ya seekin to up yer smoke flavour profile, or practice fire management? I gots words fer either one, leave us know what yer goal(s) is, an we can git ya tuned up.
          I guess end goal has a few factors:
          - I really like the idea of spending the time to cut logs to size, carefully split them thin enough, and then create some delicious food with it. I think all that extra work and extra attention shows up in the food.
          - I remember when smoking a big piece of meat was really hard and intimidating and maybe I'm looking for the experience/challenge again.
          - One time I had the fire pit out while smoking a pork butt. I got the idea of shoveling in the oak coals instead of adding more charcoal to the fire. I recorded some spikes in temperature each time I added more coals (I think I was adding too much each time). Biggest one was up to 325 from 250 with a full shovel. My notes said that smoke flavor was good, but the bark was excellent.

          I think I'm going to give it a whirl and post my results. Stay tuned!!


          • Richard Chrz
            Richard Chrz commented
            Editing a comment
            One thing I do to help, when I do all sticks in my wsm, I use my 22 kettle as a fire pit, and work my wood there, and then transfer it into the wsm as I go. Better fire management and a second cooker to
            play with at same time. I think a good bed of charcoal to start out is easier as well. Either way, you’ll enjoy learning.
            Last edited by Richard Chrz; January 5, 2021, 03:25 PM.

          Looking at the pics but not able to see all of the print it looks to me as if he is explaining how to build a fire for live fire grilling. What you see above is something I do in my kettle (not a weber) often. Get the wood burning let it burn down and you have a bed of coals for grilling. I may be mistaken but that seems the most logical assessment I can make of the pics. I don't see that setup working for anything else.


            Yea I've had some experience with doing this. First of all, I was trying to make a poor man's Santa Maria style cooker in my 18" WSM by taking out the water pan, building a stick fire in the bottom and grilling the meat on either the lower or upper grates. It actually worked surprisingly well. Here's a write up about doing it with some Picanha;

            Went to my friendly butcher's shop in search of a sirloin tip, was in the mood. He said he was fresh out but he had a small Picanha steak instead. I grabbed that

            I eventually bought a Gabby's Grill accessory for my 22" kettle so I haven't used my WSM method since. Let's face it, any cooking vessel can be made to do a variety of cooking methods if you're just a little bit creative. Honestly it sounds like you just need to go buy a small stick burner and go that route instead. You'd get a lot more real estate to work with and much cleaner blue smoke with an offset design.


            • Richard Chrz
              Richard Chrz commented
              Editing a comment
              Looking at these photos, I am infatuated by the cleanliness of your wsm. I try so hard to keep it there, but, mine is a leaker.. I have no need to worry about better smoke control, mine is like a crooked pool cue, once you get it, it is good. But, I’d like to have one that is better looking for less effort. Tell me about door upgrades and gaskets.
              Last edited by Richard Chrz; January 26, 2021, 10:20 PM.

            • Troutman
              Troutman commented
              Editing a comment
              Richard Chrz I get most of my modded parts from Cajun Bandit. Their stainless doors are a must IMO. For a fan I use and will stay with a Pit Viper. Had good luck with them.

            • ecowper
              ecowper commented
              Editing a comment
              The Cajun Bandit door and the lid hinge are must haves, for sure.

            I went down this path this last summer, I’m a sticker burner in all of my Weber’s now. Love it in the wsm. I can only say it is more fun, when I have the time. But, I’m kind of a kid when it comes to imagining what can all be done on a kettle or wsm. Steaks over wood fire in my kettle.

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            Last edited by Richard Chrz; January 5, 2021, 01:55 PM.



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