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Need advice for switching to all wood smoking...

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    Need advice for switching to all wood smoking...

    I am currently using charcoal and store purchased chunks on my brinkmann trailmaster vertical offset smoker. I am wanting to switch to straight wood using a little charcoal maybe only to get the sticks burning. I didn't plan ahead on this so I don't have any or enough seasoned wood ready to go. I have been looking on Craig's List and found some stuff out there but most of the wood that is seasoned has been kiln dried.

    1. Is it better to add in pieces of wood as is or is it better to start them burning in another unit and shovel in as needed?

    2. If I decided to pre-burn the wood would it matter a) if it was fresh cut as opposed to seasoned? b) if it had bark on it?

    3. Does bark really make a difference?

    4. What fire temp is ideal for wood burning? I have read you need a hotter fire to better burn wood and get thin blue smoke. I was considering 250 range but didn't know if that was good enough?

    5. What wood choice is best? I have heard there is a variety of cherry that isn't good and I'm not sure if Red Oak is ok? I know that you can easily overpower by using all wood and I don't want to do that. Hickory and some oak seem to be the predominant wood selections around here with the occasional score of cherry and some other fruit like apple.

    6. How long does it take to properly season and can it get too dry? I have seen opinions on everything from a couple months to a couple years.

    7. Am I better off just staying with charcoal and some store purchased chunks until I get some seasoned wood?

    Thank you in advance for your help.


    #2
    Maybe Huskee can help answer your questions when he's online - it's right up his alley....

    Comment


      #3
      start here...
      http://amazingribs.com/tips_and_tech...n_of_wood.html

      Comment


        #4
        Originally posted by Nate View Post
        I am currently using charcoal and store purchased chunks on my brinkmann trailmaster vertical offset smoker. I am wanting to switch to straight wood using a little charcoal maybe only to get the sticks burning. I didn't plan ahead on this so I don't have any or enough seasoned wood ready to go. I have been looking on Craig's List and found some stuff out there but most of the wood that is seasoned has been kiln dried.

        1. Is it better to add in pieces of wood as is or is it better to start them burning in another unit and shovel in as needed?

        2. If I decided to pre-burn the wood would it matter a) if it was fresh cut as opposed to seasoned? b) if it had bark on it?

        3. Does bark really make a difference?

        4. What fire temp is ideal for wood burning? I have read you need a hotter fire to better burn wood and get thin blue smoke. I was considering 250 range but didn't know if that was good enough?

        5. What wood choice is best? I have heard there is a variety of cherry that isn't good and I'm not sure if Red Oak is ok? I know that you can easily overpower by using all wood and I don't want to do that. Hickory and some oak seem to be the predominant wood selections around here with the occasional score of cherry and some other fruit like apple.

        6. How long does it take to properly season and can it get too dry? I have seen opinions on everything from a couple months to a couple years.

        7. Am I better off just staying with charcoal and some store purchased chunks until I get some seasoned wood?

        Thank you in advance for your help.
        I’ll give my two cents – I had a Stick burner and am sure I’ll get another
        1. I always added the wood straight into firebox
        2. Fresh wood – 1. Takes longer to cacth then burns hotter vs seasoned. Seasoned wood burns at a more predictable rate
        3. Not to my knowledge
        4. Temp is personal preference – with my stick burner I got my best results at 250-275
        5. Again, personal preference I could easily get Oak here in Birmingham but would get cherry, hickory and pecan when I could
        6. Usually about 6mths to 1 year generally speaking
        7. Again personal preference – wood chunks work
        Honestly, it’s about how well you can maintain the temperature. Consistent temperature control, IMO, is a key to a good cook. Does your cooker work better with all wood or a combination? The charcoal gives a good bed of coals and you can add wood to it. I did that a lot.

        I switched to a Pellet grill because I started traveling a lot and needed my wife to help and it was just easier for her. I do plan to get another stick burner within the next year.

        Comment


        • Nate
          Nate commented
          Editing a comment
          Lynn_B, thanks for the great feedback from your experience. I have read the articles on here but sometimes it helps to get a little perspective from guys that are already doing it.

        #5
        On a small smoker you want small splits. Some get as small as pool stick size. The fat end.

        I like to smoke off the bark on the firebox, and tear it off if it is really thick.

        Temps, whatever she wants to run, within reason. I've had cooks range from 185-325+.

        All I used was red oak.
        Last edited by Jerod Broussard; May 19, 2015, 08:54 AM.

        Comment


          #6
          Originally posted by Nate View Post
          I am currently using charcoal and store purchased chunks on my brinkmann trailmaster vertical offset smoker. I am wanting to switch to straight wood using a little charcoal maybe only to get the sticks burning. I didn't plan ahead on this so I don't have any or enough seasoned wood ready to go. I have been looking on Craig's List and found some stuff out there but most of the wood that is seasoned has been kiln dried.

          1. Is it better to add in pieces of wood as is or is it better to start them burning in another unit and shovel in as needed?
          "Better" would be shoveling coals, since that's your hottest best smoke. But, that's hardly practical and requires wayyy more hands on than most backyard chefs are willing to do. I just get a big hot fire going, and good coal base, and add a piece as needed to keep the temp up where needed.
          2. If I decided to pre-burn the wood would it matter a) if it was fresh cut as opposed to seasoned? b) if it had bark on it?
          If you pre-burnt then it doesn't matter. I like to burn mine to black in the firebox while the smoker's heating up. I pull off some of the top logs as they get black and form some of the grey cracked areas. This dries the wood largely eliminating the grey smoke and steam of fresh wood and makes it light very quickly when added back to the fire.

          3. Does bark really make a difference? I used to scrape bark off in the early days. I haven't done that in years (unless it's spongey punky bark, then absolutely yes) bark makes such an indecipherable difference I don't worry about it. At least with the woods I use. Some species may have strong bark, I don't know.

          4. What fire temp is ideal for wood burning? I have read you need a hotter fire to better burn wood and get thin blue smoke. I was considering 250 range but didn't know if that was good enough? Many folk will say 250-275 is a good wood burning temp. Meathead's article on usign a stickburner discusses this, and if I remember right Aaron Franklin mentions something similar. You can still attain 225 however, it's harder, you just build a smaller fire with smaller shorter splits. It does take practice, lots of practice and frustration, just like learning a musical instrument if you've ever done that.

          5. What wood choice is best? I have heard there is a variety of cherry that isn't good and I'm not sure if Red Oak is ok? I know that you can easily overpower by using all wood and I don't want to do that. Hickory and some oak seem to be the predominant wood selections around here with the occasional score of cherry and some other fruit like apple. Wood smoke is a seasoning just like pepper and garlic. Apple is your best bet to start out with since it's very versatile and typically wont overpower things. But really the choice isn't something we can answer for you. However, I can tell you what I like for each variety:
          Apple- everything. Ribs to chicken to beef to salmon.
          Oak- beef. (Red oak is great, whiskey barrel staves great, white oak I've heard is strong but never used it. Aaron Franklin uses only post oak on his stuff) didn't care for it on chicken
          Pecan- beef including burgers, turkey burgers; didn't care for it on chicken
          Apricot and/or peach- ribs;
          Ash- pork & chicken;
          Grapevine- still experimenting, great on pork & chicken so far;
          Maple- still experimenting, great on pork & chicken so far, have a feeling would be great on salmon;
          Hickory- it's like a slightly stronger pecan, I don't use it but most folks like it on all the normal meats;
          Mesquite- never used it. I regularly read that it's very strong and only a few have a taste for it. i wll try it evcentually just haven't yet.

          Cooking with all logs wont overpower your meat if you have vents set properly. Stickburners, to get a good fire, have massive airflow. Much different that using a lot of wood on a kettle grill with minimal airflow.



          6. How long does it take to properly season and can it get too dry? You can use your smoker to season the very wood you'll use in your smoker, I have done this. 'Cook' your wood at 225 (like they're a bunch of ribs) for as long as you can, it will do wonders. It would theoertically take about 30hrs @200 to get it from ~50% moisture (green wood) to 20% moisture (ideal), but I have done it for maybe 12 hrs and it helped alot. Then, setting those pieces in a stack to season the rest of the way gave them a huge jump. I have seen opinions on everything from a couple months to a couple years. Here is a very interesting article on seasoning oak. It discusses the humidity levels, times, etc. Very informative.

          7. Am I better off just staying with charcoal and some store purchased chunks until I get some seasoned wood? Up to you, you can do it yourself as described above, or you can preburn a pile to use through your cook. I will occasionally toss in a chimney of well-lit charcoal if I need to boost the temp quickly. I usually use 3/4 chimney or so to start the fire initially. Using mostly charcoal and wood chunks will cost you an arm & a leg in charcoal use. More cost-effective to use firewood if you can.

          Here's my post on starting a fire in a stickburner. It may not be magazine article quality, but it should help you see the process in pics.


          Thank you in advance for your help.
          Nate my answers are above in red. This is largely my opinions and my ways, not to be confused with the only way or the best way. Hope this helps.

          Comment


          • Nate
            Nate commented
            Editing a comment
            Huskee, THANK YOU for that. I have read the articles on here and done some research but it is good to hear some first hand experiences and from people who are actually doing it. My biggest concern has been for this year not having any real good seasoned wood and wondering the best way to overcome that. Your recommendations will help. Oddly enough I did come across some air seasoned Pecan that was cut down about 10 months ago but hasn't been split. I am going to get it split and let it continue to dry. My goal is... if my smoker will let me... is to go to straight wood. I am going to have to do smaller splits obviously because of the limited size firebox but I feel like that is the way to go! Again thanks!

          #7
          Very welcome Nate! Glad to help a member out, that's what The Pit is for.

          I know eugenek has the same smoker and has experimented with preburning wood and sealing the smoker and so forth. Maybe when he gets time he can jump in here and add his $2 (he'll have way more to say than $0.02) and his recommendations for all-wood smoking on it. I use a Yoder Loaded Wichita which may be a little easier to run than the Brinkmann so he may have some tips for you that I wouldn't.

          Comment


            #8
            I don't have much to add other than to say that wood is much more difficult to master in my limited and humble experience. There's more planning and time involved, as well as more active management of the fuel source. I preburned a little with my Weber kettle but I felt like it was too much management. I'm trying to go with more frequent loading of smaller splits directly into the fire.

            Huskee and DWCowles and others, what size splits are you guys using to keep the smoke minimal? How often are you loading?

            Comment


            • Huskee
              Huskee commented
              Editing a comment
              My average home-cut splits are what I'd consider "normal" firewood sized pieces. Probably 16" long, split either in 1/2s or 1/4s, depending on the diameter of the original logs. When I use wood ordered from FruitaWoodChunks.com, they offer 12" splits, well seasoned. When I use ash, I tend to add a piece about every half hour. Oak will give me a longer burn.

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