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Stick Burners and Smoke Flavor

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    Stick Burners and Smoke Flavor

    So, my last 2 cooks on my COS I have run it as a stick burner cooking only with hickory splits and getting that thin blue smoke. One was a butt and then other was 2 racks of pork spare ribs, just yesterday. In the past I have used the smoker pretty much exclusively for temperature controlled cooks with charcoal and chunks.

    For starters, I want to say that I really like the flavor of the food cooked with splits - very "clean" tasting with no hint of bitterness. That said, it strikes me that there "smoke flavor" it's much subtler. One might even say it is "lighter." I wonder, an I the only one who experiences this? An I found something wrong? Do I need to make some kind of adjustment to my smoker or the tubing plates? Or is this flavor profile just what all-wood cooking is all about?

    While I have never cooked in a pellet pooper, I read how some people feel they don't get enough smoke flavor from them and wonder if this is what they mean. I mean, are they maybe looking for "charcoal and chunks" flavor when they are already getting "stick burner" flavor?

    Can somebody help me out here?

    The “strong” flavor you get from chunks that are temp controlled by limiting air intake is from dirty smoke - creosote. It’s also what gives you an upset stomach after eating bad barbecue!

    Started running my offset as a pure stick burner probably 6 years ago and haven’t looked back. I mostly use oak, but I’ve used hickory, almond, and various fruit woods. Haven’t had an issue with smoke flavor.

    If you wrap too early you’re going to limit smoke flavor, so don’t wrap until bark color is set.


    • Dewesq55
      Dewesq55 commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks for responding. I actually understand where the difference in smoke flavor profiles come from between charcoal and chunks and splits. But I was curious if anybody else experiences it as "less" or maybe "less intense" smoke flavor from splits. As for wrapping, it just so happens that my 2 all-wood cooks recently, I didn't wrap either time. In fact, I never wrap ribs (or wibs, for that matter 😁), aside from one recent experiment with a 3-2-1 type cook this summer.

    You are spot on with your description Dewesq55 . But a stick burner can be run in many ways. Overall I think that a stick burner run properly with all wood produces the best flavor. You can produce just a bit heavier smoke if you want to, the nice thing is that this is in the hands of the pit master, so you can go light or heavy. The tell tale difference between clean burning wood vs charcoal+chunks is, like you say, the bitterness.

    Now: what have you been cooking, stick burner style, on your COS? Or rather for how long? To me, doing a 10 hour cook on an offset produces that perfect smoke balance. If I cook some kind of big ole ribeye or similar that only takes 1 hour, then of course it will be lighter in smoke flavor.


    • Dewesq55
      Dewesq55 commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks, Henrik . My 2 recent cooks were a 9+ hour pork butt cook and a 5-ish hour pork spare rib cook yesterday. I was focused, both times, on maintaining my small hot fire and keeping the thin blue smoke rolling.

    If you usually use Kingsford and cook at 225 when you use charcoal, try lump and 275 next time. I’ve noticed if I do long smokes on my WSCG at 225 I can taste at least a hint of bitterness. I know not directly what you’re asking, but I’ve only done a couple cooks on a stick burner, so never even really got the fire management down fully. I do think charcoal smoking creates a distinct profile myself, especially the more you stifle the fire and also depending on the coals themselves.


    • Dewesq55
      Dewesq55 commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks, glitchy . I don't use Kingsford for charcoal and chunks cooking, I use lump (usually royal oak) and trend to run it between 250° and 275°. But I also don't use a huge amount of wood. Just a chunk or 2 every hour or so.

    Dewesq55 I've run my offset with charcoal and chunks, or just wood, and find that it gives a much different smoke profile than the kettle+SNS combination does. Probably lighter as you say. I think that is due to the greater airflow potential in the offset, with a small hot fire. That said I enjoy both, and I don't think I've used the offset in more than a year.


      Great thread, the post, and responses and comments.
      Please stop it. MCS is contagious!
      I am happy, I think, with my pellet pooper.


      • jfmorris
        jfmorris commented
        Editing a comment
        Nope. Not gonna happen. We are here to ENCOURAGE MCS in all forms. You NEED another cooker, yes indeed!


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