Smoke Wood -- How Much? When? - BBQ Central

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Old 08-09-2011, 12:28 PM   #1
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Smoke Wood -- How Much? When?

Small fireboxes aren't very forgiving when it comes to any of wood's imperfections. And after a meat has reached a certain surface temperature it, more smoke doesn't seem to add much flavor -- at least not in the good way. My experience is that after a certain point, whether too long a smoke and/or bunk wood, the smoke flavor goes to acrid from sweet in a hurry.

Obviously, the rule doesn't apply to fireboxes big enough to qualify as stick burners; and there's a load of other exceptions. Let's not quibble.

As you know, I've given away my small offset in favor of a Backwoods Fatboy with a medium sized fire chamber. And for the first time since getting the pit, will be using good, sweet wood instead of the crap pecan chunks I had lying around since last year and some new crap hickory chunks which came in a plastic bag bought at Bev-Mo (the chunks AND the bag) a couple of weeks ago.

Up til now, the Fatboy seems to have been fairly forgiving of the woods' flaws, but it's hard to say with very dry wood. At any rate, let's just say both the fire box size and the quality of the wood are new territory.

Today I'll smoke a couple of racks of spares, and a 5# chicken.

The fire base is quality mesquite chunk. The fire will be started by dumping a small chimney's worth of smaller hunk into a space cleared for it in front of the firebox.

The Guru will be set to 240, and the fire started at noon.

Once the fire's going pretty well -- about 170F -- the same time hot water goes into the pan -- I'm figuring on adding a 6" split of peach and another of oak where the hot coals meet the new ones. Putting the ribs in the cooker when the smoke runs clean or the temp hits 225 -- whichever comes first-- around 12:45. Wrapping the ribs, and adding two more splits to the fire at 3:30. Adding the chicken at 4. Unwrap the ribs at 5:15. Everything should out and resting at a skosh after 6.

I'm not asking about the time table. The estimates are close enough for government work. Besides it doesn't matter. It takes as long as it takes and comes out when it's right.

What I am asking for is your take regarding the smoke wood amount and the timing for adding it to the fire.

BDL

PS. Apologies for cross posting this in the Backwoods Forum
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Old 08-09-2011, 05:00 PM   #2
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Re: Smoke Wood -- How Much? When?

Should work best with a charcoal base and a little wood for flavor. Thats how everybody I know who owns one feeds the beastes. Steady smoke is good during the entire unwrapped cooking phase due to what is known as the Maillard Effect/Reaction. Involves a little science of which I am unawares. Lot of info floating around in cyberspace about it.

http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-the-mai ... action.htm
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Old 08-10-2011, 09:54 AM   #3
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Re: Smoke Wood -- How Much? When?

Thanks for the advice.

I followed my own time table fairly closely and it worked out pretty well. I added some fresh wood before wrapping to time the chicken and ribs to more or less the same pull time. Consequently, the ribs got some extra smoke -- a fair part of it white while the splits settled down. They may have been very slightly over-smoked but not by much. The chicken was perfect.

It seems you can over-smoke in a Backwoods. Whether that's purely a function of time in smoke or the quality of smoke (white vs blue) is still in question. My guess, based on more than thirty years of smoking, is it's a product of both, and more the second than the first.

FYI, the interaction between the potassium and nitrogen dioxides in smoke and the oxymethyglobins in the meat produces nitrosaminoglobulins and causes a color change to pink. I forget offhand what's that called but it's not the Maillard reaction.

At any rate, I think that's what you meant when you referred to the Maillard. Actually it's something else. The Maillard reaction is the chemical process by which proteins "brown" or caramelize when they're heated and has nothing to do with smoke.

Sorry if that seems picky. Just an FYI.

BDL
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Old 08-10-2011, 02:54 PM   #4
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Re: Smoke Wood -- How Much? When?

Well thanks for the input. We had a big discussion on this topic on Rick Thead's old bbq list quite a few years back and it was generally agreed the Malliard reaction was smoke dependent as least as regards meat. Maybe everybody was drunk. Who knows? For serious cooking I have a po boy set up similar in function to a BWS. I've learned the hard way as you mentioned in a tightly regulated environment such as of which we speak, it is very easy to get over smoked thus the desirability of a charcoal based fire as opposed to raw wood..especially when you start throttling back on the air intake to try to get some fuel economy and long burn times out of it. Straight wood is very hard to keep from going into a smolder in that situation then you go to creosote city. The type of wood used is also critical. Become best with Oak, Apple, Peach and Plum. Make sure it has bark and dont use much of it. Pee Can..Hickory..Mesquite and other strong flavored woods will get a person in trouble quickly.
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Old 08-10-2011, 05:13 PM   #5
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Re: Smoke Wood -- How Much? When?

Drunk or not, the Maillard is NOT smoke dependent. Neither, for that matter, is a smoke ring, which is why judges supposedly aren't supposed to use one as a criterion.

Your list of woods is pretty good. I was using a mix of peach and oak for the last smoke. Oak, peach, maple, pecan and citrus are my go to smoke woods.

I like mesquite lump charcoal for heat, and as long as it's of reasonable quality (no Best of the West, for instance), have seldom had any problem with it in terms of taste. Other qualities -- like too many small pieces, too many contaminants, etc. -- yes. But as I said, taste, usually not.

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Old 08-10-2011, 05:36 PM   #6
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Re: Smoke Wood -- How Much? When?

Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze

... It seems you can over-smoke in a Backwoods. Whether that's purely a function of time in smoke or the quality of smoke (white vs blue) is still in question. My guess, based on more than thirty years of smoking, is it's a product of both, and more the second than the first...

BDL
BDL,

You can over smoke with 'most any cooker if you don't do things correctly.

As a stick burner I will tell you it is the quality of the smoke - not the time in smoke. IMO, cooking with charcoal *is* time in smoke - just *good* smoke and not much of it.
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Old 08-10-2011, 06:13 PM   #7
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Re: Smoke Wood -- How Much? When?

Well sure wished some of we'uns old pal Jim Ace Prather Astrophysical Injuneer had not went off to that big Slide Rule Factory in the sky..he would have loved to jump in here and start posting arithmetic equations etc. Mesquite lump is my fuel of choice for BWS type cooking too. I like to get it from the Wholesale grocery companies in the 40 lb bags. Seems like it was branded as Chef's Choice or something similar last I bought. It comes from the rape and pillage of the Sonoran High Desert area of Mejico. Can be a little sooty for chickens.
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Old 08-14-2011, 09:07 AM   #8
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Re: Smoke Wood -- How Much? When?

Quote:
Originally Posted by 1MoreFord
Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze

... It seems you can over-smoke in a Backwoods. Whether that's purely a function of time in smoke or the quality of smoke (white vs blue) is still in question. My guess, based on more than thirty years of smoking, is it's a product of both, and more the second than the first...

BDL
BDL,

You can over smoke with 'most any cooker if you don't do things correctly.

As a stick burner I will tell you it is the quality of the smoke - not the time in smoke. IMO, cooking with charcoal *is* time in smoke - just *good* smoke and not much of it.
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Old 08-14-2011, 01:31 PM   #9
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Re: Smoke Wood -- How Much? When?

amen
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