What you need to know about wood, smoke and combustion (2023)

Smoke is the soul of grilling. This is what sets grilling apart from other types of cooking.

Originally, all grills and roasts were made using logs as the sole fuel source. The energy of combustion cooked the meat, and the wood smoke and dripping juices imparted the distinctive, enticing aroma that is the essence of grilling. But it is difficult to control energy and taste when cooking with logs, so today few experienced pit masters equipped with special platforms cook only with logs.

Today, most grills and smokers use charcoal or gas as their power source, although some use wood pellets or electricity. They get their flavor and aroma by adding wood in the form of chips, pieces, biscuits, pellets, logs or sawdust. When they get hot, they smoke. Smoke can also come from meat juices that are loaded with fat, protein, spices, and sugar. Adventurous cooks can also make smoke from dried herbs, tea, and even hay.

But not all smoke is the same.

Smoke is a combination of tiny particles that we can see in an aerosol mixed with water vapor and a complex gas cocktail. Precise blending is crucial and can add elegant notes of vanilla and brown spices or thick bitters or even a hint of ashtray.

What you need to know about wood, smoke and combustion (1)

Stoves that generate heat from logs, coal, gas, pellets and electricity produce remarkably different flavors because each fuel produces a unique combination of combustion by-products.

Combustion, as applied to barbecues and grills, is a series of chemical reactions between oxygen and a fuel that ignites, producing a change in the chemistry of both and, with its mixture of particles, water vapor and gases, producing heat, light and smoke

This video gives a good overview of this article:

Stop thinking about what kind of wood to use

Before we talk about burning wood and the different types of smoke, let's first answer the most common question: which wood should I use? My answer: Don't worry. It's an impossible question to answer.

The flavor of the smoke is influenced more by the climate and soil and the amount of oxygen the fire receives than the type of wood. This is crucial, especially when you're stuck deciding which wood to use for flavoring. This means that the differences between walnut trees grown in Arkansas and walnut trees grown in New York can be greater than the differences between walnut trees and pecans grown side-by-side. More importantly, a hot nut that burns aggressively with lots of oxygen tastes drastically different than the same nut with no oxygen and no flame.

Your choice of wood matters most when you areUsing logs as fuel for heating and flavoring🇧🇷 No big deal when you throw some chips and bits on a charcoal pile or gas grill or even a pellet smoker.

In general, temperate (dry) hardwoods with little sap are best, especially hardwoods, fruit trees, and walnuts. They all have slightly different flavors andit is impossible to describe them🇧🇷 The internet is full of guides trying to describe the aromas of different woods. They remind me of the flowery descriptions of wine lovers. Most of them are simply copied and pasted from one site to another. I don't find these descriptions very helpful. Most of it is a bunch of nonsense. More barbecue mythology. Much more important than the type of wood is how the wood burns and determines what's in the smoke. I cannot stress this point enough.Burn control is by far the most important aspect of tobacco flavor, far more important than wood type. I'll get to that in a moment.🇧🇷 That said, when you're burning logs you want the embers to last, and some types burn longer than others. The following table provides this information.

First, there are different types of each wood. For example, there is Shagbark Walnut, Hickory Walnut, Pignut Walnut, Red Walnut and more. There is oak, white oak, black oak, live oak, oak and more. The climate in which the tree grows can make a difference. The hot-climate drought-stressed Texas oak, which grows in sand, is different from the cold-climate Michigan oak, which grows in river silt. The moisture content is crucial. Is the wood still fresh and green? Dry air? kiln dried? Do you use logs, lumps, chips or pellets? Then pour your seasoning mix and sauce into the flavor profile. Oh, I almost forgot, then there's the quality of the meat. Fresh or frozen? Common pig or traditional breed? Do you really think someone can try a smoked ribeye made with Meathead's Memphis Dust and my KC Classic sauce and tell me what wood was used? Be realistic.

worsen the situationThere is no guarantee that the wood on the bag is the wood on the label!Cafeteria,olive oil, Youfish marketsThey are regularly rocked by fraudulent labeling scandals. How do we know that the cherry bag sold at the hardware store is actually a cherry? When Home Depot calls and asks for 10,000 bags of hickory and the lumber mill only has enough for 7,000, you know how they don't say, "God, we don't have it, why don't you call someone else?" Do you think they could mix some oak to complete the order? Then there are the granules. Almost all wood pellets are at least half oak wood with the rest apple, cherry, etc. They do this to make it eat and burn easier. Some brands have even added flavorings. What if you bought a stick of butter and it was actually half margarine?

This is the best I can do based on the woods I've used. I compiled this table from my notes and those of others, particularly Bill Karu, the maker of my favorite wood smoker, theKarubecue🇧🇷 It is important that you understand that there are many variables, such as the degree of dryness of the wood and the type of wood (there are at least 100 types of wood).an oak genus, also known as oak). Remember, I've judged food and wine all over the world, I've won wine tasting championships in competitions where I've had to blindly identify wines, and I want to tell you that one particular wood has "spice tones with a background of ". mushroom." . I just can not. There are too many variables.

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I avoid mesquite even though it's very popular in Texas. I see a little strong. Hickory is pork's trusted partner, but some find it too aggressive and can taste bitter at times. Fruity woods tend to convey sweetness, but that might just be the power of suggestion because we know fruit is sweet. Then there are the exotic woods: citrus, pistachio, corn on the cob, walnut shell, coconut shell, mango and even mahogany. Who knows?

Pick a wood and stick with it for a while. Controlling cooking heat and temperature, meat quality, spices, meat temperature, and sauce affects the final flavor profile far more than the name on a wooden bag. Once you have everything under control, you can experiment with different woods..

Avoid soft woods.Never use soft wood such as pine, spruce, cypress, spruce, sequoia or cedar. They are high in juice and terpenes, and can make meat taste weird. Some are known to make people sick. Yes I knowCedar boards are popular for cooking salmon, but I don't know anyone who burns cedar for firewood. I've also heard that elm, eucalyptus, sassafras, and sycamore taste bad. Many woods can be irritating or toxic, including oleander, mangrove, laburnum, sassafras, tam-bootie, yew, and poison hick (but not other tree nuts). A good source for general information about forests is thewooden database.

Never use scrap wood🇧🇷 Some woods are treated with toxic chemicals. Never use varnished wood. That's one of the reasons why I don't use charcoal, by the way. You can see bits of wood in there and I wonder how careful they are to keep the treated wood out of the bag?

Never use moldy wood.Some mushrooms contain toxins.

Use dry wood.Freshly cut "green" wood has more sap, burns unevenly, and tastes different than dry wood. Air-dried wood is generally slightly wetter than kiln-dried wood. Oven drying used to be rare, but with more restaurants using wood for grilling, kiln drying has become more common as it is mandated by health authorities to kill insects, mold and bacteria. The wood is placed in a room and heated to 200 to 240°F to remove moisture. If you're buying kiln dried, ask for 15 to 22% moisture. The water provides steam that makes the droplets bigger and stickier.

To bark or not to bark?Some woods have more bark than others. Some people say you have to remove the bark. The bark has more air and is less sticky, so it burns differently than heartwood. I don't eliminate it, but I try to keep it to a minimum. I know the best cooks who cut everything. I know a chef who says that hickory bark is the only one good enough to use. A champion competitor I know says, "I feel sorry for the people who cut the bark."

what do i preferIf you were on a desert island you would want a bag of apple chunks and a bag of small apple chips or granules. I would use the chunks for a slow, steady release smoke and the chips or pellets for a fast smoke. Apple is gentle and rarely tries to be the center of attention.

where to get itThere are several specialty steakhouses across the country and there may be one near you. Most home improvement stores only sell walnut or mesquite, but some have expanded grilling accessories and a selection of woods. Look for ads in the newspaper for stores that advertise many grills. Then call her. Another option is to go to an orchard and ask if there are dead trees or branches there, but be careful, they could be laden with pesticides or other sprays. There are also several places where you can buy lumber online.Click here for contact information on online timber suppliers.

Here's my advice.Choose a single source of wood and buy a batch and keep it for a year. Then perfect your fire control, smoke quality as below, temperature control, include a good source of meat, determine the amount of salt, create a great sauce, make a super sauce. The wood is only one instrument in the orchestra. Once you have all other variables under control, play around with different sticks.

burning wood

Harthölzer,expiredTrees containing fruitwoods and walnuts have compact cell structures and are the best woods for cooking. Softwoods such as pine, spruce, spruce, sequoia, hemlock and cypress are all evergreen,NadelholzTrees, and they have more air, acrid sap, and burn fast. Not recommended for cooking. We will talk more about the different types of wood below.

Freshly cut hardwood contains a lot of water, up to 80% by weight, generates a lot of steam and unpleasant aromas when burned, and requires a lot of energy to dry it out when burned. Dead trees can still have up to 50% moisture. For this reason, most wood used for cooking is dried hardwood, also known as seasoned or tempered. It can be dried by leaving it in a pile outside or in a shed. Some are dried in a heated oven. Dry hardwood is rarely completely dry. Pit masters generally prefer air-dried wood and 25 to 30% water. Kiln dried wood can contain as little as 5% water and is more expensive. Dry wood is much lighter, has cracks and fissures, and the bark is often loose. Six months is usually sufficient. Dry wood burns more than wood with some moisture because it takes a lot of energy to boil water.

Some pit masters even buy small handheld meters to test the logs. Moisture meters measure electrical resistance because water is a good conductor and wood is not. Humidity can fluctuate somewhat in freshly cut wood, but levels out over time. A 5 pound piece of wood at 25% moisture contains half a liter of water.Here is a good moisture meter from Amazon:

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Freshly cut "green" wood takes a month to dry to ideal moisture levels. When a tree is felled, moisture comes out through the tops, just as it moves through a living tree. Breaking it up and cutting it into shorter pieces speeds up the process. Stacking in an airflow room speeds up the process. Don't bring it in, as it almost always contains bugs. If you stack them outdoors, put them under an overhang or cover them with a tarp and raise them off the ground, although they can't absorb much water from rain or snow. That is why ships are built of wood.

Without water, wood consists of 40% cellulose, about 40% hemicelluloses, 19% lignin and 1% minerals. Actual numbers will vary based on wood species, subspecies, age, soil and climate. Cellulose and hemicelluloses are large molecules made up of carbohydrates and sugars. Cellulose has no flavor when burned. All the flavor comes from the lignin. Lignin is another complex compound that gives wood strength and is found primarily in cell walls. Wood minerals include potassium, sulfur, sodium, chlorine, carbon and heavy metals. Although only traces are present, these minerals can significantly affect the aroma and flavor of your smoke. Wood also contains the gases oxygen, nitrogen, and hydrogen, making it a good insulator that can ignite one end of a stick and sustain the other end.

When fully combusted in the lab, wood produces about 8,600 BTUs of heat per pound, converting about half the mass to carbon dioxide and about half to water vapor. In the real world of a grill or smoker, wood never fully combusts, so there are many other by-products. And we like some of them.

The four stages of wood burning

Wood combustion goes through four phases. In a typical block pit, all four phases can occur simultaneously.

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Stage 1 - Dehydration (up to about 500°F).At this stage, the wood must be heated by an external source such as a match, kindling, rolled-up newspaper, or (horror) lighter fluid. A lot of energy is consumed in the evaporation of water. Until the wood is dry, it must not exceed 212°F. Vapor and some gases such as carbon dioxide are released, but no flame or heat is generated.

Stage 2: Decomposition, gasification and pyrolysis (500 to 700°F).Cellulose and lignin break down and boil like water in a gaseous cornucopia of volatile organic compounds and particulates. The gases will burn if an ignition source such as a flame or spark is present, but they will not spontaneously ignite.

Stage 3 - Combustion (700 to 1,000°F).The escaping gases burst into flames. You can see this on a log in a fireplace as the gases shoot through the cracks and ignite and burn orange. Prof. Blonder calls this the “burning bush” phase. Other gases are formed, including nitric oxide (NO), when there is enough oxygen. Nitric oxide is essential for the formation ofRauchringin meat At the sweet spot of around 250-250°C, the best flavoring compounds are released for cooking, including guaiacol and syringol, which are mainly responsible for the flavors we like in the smoke. Some are ethereal and dissipate so grilling doesn't taste the same after reheating. When the temperature rises above 750°F, pungent, bitter, and potentially dangerous compounds are formed.

Stage 4: Carbon Formation (above 1000°F).Most of the organic compounds have been burned, leaving pure carbon or charcoal that burns like red coals with little smoke, odor and taste.Click here to learn more about the science of charcoal and the different types of charcoal and their uses.

what is smoke

Bill Karau Designer of IncredibleKarubecueHe told me: “Smoke is equal and equal unpleasant. Look closely at the smoke rising from a crack in a log in a chimney. You will see a thick, yellowish column of gas. Dip a spoon in this gas for two seconds, let it cool for a few seconds, and then lick it off. They will test it two hours later. Disgusting. The key to great grilling is what happens to the smoke after it's released. Like crude oil, cane smoke can be refined by burning it with a flame. And that takes a lot of oxygen. You don't get this refinement if the wood is deprived of oxygen and burns. With a lack of oxygen you have a bad taste.”

Smoke contains up to 100 compoundsin the form of microscopysolidincluding charcoal, creosote, ash and phenols as wellcombustion gasesincluding carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and syringolliquidssuch as water vapor and syringol, aPetroleum.

Small amounts of syringol are responsible for much of the smoky flavor we love, and small amounts of guaiacol are responsible for much of the smoky flavor.🇧🇷 The composition of the smoke depends heavily on the composition of the wood, the combustion temperature, the humidity and the amount of oxygen available.

If the wood doesn't get enough oxygen, it can still be pyrolyzed and gasified, but not burned. It will not burst into flames, it will burn slowly and the smoldering wood will produce lots of smoke and a different flavor than burnt wood. Why wasn't he getting enough oxygen? When the ventilation slots and chimney are not open wide enough.Click here for more information on ventilation and chimney control🇧🇷 Getting enough air can be a problem with Kamado-type smokers, which are so well insulated and retain so much heat that we often have to stop the airflow to keep it from getting too hot.

Wood also plays a role in meat color and the formation of the meat crust, also calleddial🇧🇷 Next, two slices of prime rib with the same seasoning but no sauce. The one on the left was cooked in a charcoal smoker and the one on the right was cooked in a gas smoker. You can see and taste the difference. Both were excellent but different. The one on the right had a faint bacon or ham tinge, typical of gas smokers.

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Blue smoke for long cooking

Smoke from wood or charcoal for cooking can vary from blue, white, gray, yellow, brown, and even black.The most desirable smoke is almost invisible with a light blue tint. You can see below.Blue smoke is the holy grail for short slow pitmasters, especially long cooks.

Prof. Blonder explains that the color depends on the size of the particles and how light is scattered and reflected back to our eyes. Light blue smoke particles are the smallest, less than a micron in size, about the wavelength of light. Just because you can't see it doesn't mean it's not there. Pure white smoke consists of larger particles, only a few microns in size, that scatter all wavelengths in all directions. Gray and black smoke contain particles large enough to absorb some of the light and color.

Black and gray smoke is produced when a fire lacks oxygen and can make bitter, sooty foods taste like an ashtray. White smoke is common when a fire is just starting and when the fuel needs a lot of oxygen as it goes through stages 1 (drying out) and 2 (gasification). If this is insufficient and the fuel does not emit gas for stage 3 (burning bush burning), the fuel will burn and produce white smoke. For quick cooking of thin meats you may want the heavier, more intense white smoke and we'll discuss that below. Here are some tips on how to get blue smoke for long cook times.

Get your wood smoke.Don't worry if your wood bursts into flames. Many beginners are concerned about wood burning and want it to smoke and smoke. You'll waste more wood if you let it burn and you'll have to do a little work to keep the temperature under control, but you'll get better flavor.

Charcoal gives off a flamboyant white smoke when lit. You should not add meat until the coals are fully ignited and at the hottest point when you have a white ash coating. Then add firewood at the beginning of cooking. Remember that charcoal is for heating, not flavoring. If the temperature rises a bit at the beginning of cooking, it's not a big problem. The meat is cold and can take a bit more heat. Then, as the wood burns, stabilize the temperature.

Keep your kitchen clean.Sticky grease on cooking grates can create black smoke and drip onto food. Fatty smoke is not a good smoke. Click here tomore about cleaning kitchen racks🇧🇷 The black stuff on the walls probably contains a lot of condensed creosote. A thin layer of neutral carbon is harmless, but black goo is not. Many competition pitchmasters wash vigorously after a cook-off. Click here to get more informationKitchen cleaning and maintenance.

Let the air flow.Make sure the charcoal and wood have enough oxygen. When the fuel suffocates from lack of oxygen, it burns incompletely and can give off foul-tasting gases and even coat food with gray soot. In this case, remove the meat, wash it, turn on the heat and turn it on again. Don't let your embers settle in the ash that could suffocate them. Store them on a rack above the bottom of the oven. From time to time, remove the ashes and remove them if necessary. But don't be afraid of the air. Don't be tempted to control the temperature by blocking off the driveway or chimney. Fuel only consumes as much yar as it needs. It won't burn again if it gets the air it needs. The way to control the temperature and quality of the smoke is through the amount of fuel, not the oxygen.

Don't wet your wood.First, it cannot absorb water, and the water on the surface only cools the fire.Read my article on soaking wood🇧🇷 And don't use freshly cut "green" wood. Boiling excess water requires a lot of energy.

Size matters.Golfball- or baseball-sized pieces of wood work best for long charcoal cooking. For short cookers like steak, chicken or fish, small chips and especially pellets work best as they produce more smoke in a short burst. If he just burns logs, Bill Karau is brilliantKarubecue, indicates that shorter trunks are easier to care for in the warm zone.

Light a small warm fire.They want to see the flame. Fires burning at hot spots in the 650 to 750 °F range burn off impurities that can result from incomplete secondary combustion. That means you need a lot of oxygen, so you want the exhaust port wide open. The hot air rising through the chimney sucks the air through the intake opening. You'll probably want it wide open or close to it. Smoldering wood produces dirty smoke.

That's why quality offset smokers are so popular with experienced pitmasters. But there's a big difference between cheap hardware store offsets and reputable drill holes made for competition teams and suppliers. Inexpensive offset smokers (COS) include the Brinkmann Pitmaster, the Brinkmann Smoke'N Pit Professional, the Char-Broil Silver Smoker, the Char-Broil American Gourmet and, most importantly, the Char-Griller Smokin Pro. They're nothing but headaches. The doors don't fit properly so you can't control the incoming oxygen, the walls are thin so they don't trap heat or rust. Expensive displacement wells (EOS) include Horizon, Jambo, Klose, Lang, Meadow Creek, Peoria, Pitmaker and Yoder to name a few. They are excellent kitchen helpers. The image below is in Darren Warth's Jambo Oven. His team, Smokey D's from Iowa, is one of the most successful chefs on the circuit. Note that most of this is embers and a log burned almost to embers, and on top of a small block of wood for flavor.Access our device ratings database for ratings and reviews..

This is also an issue with Kamados and Eggs. They are so well insulated and so efficient with the heat just below the meat that they usually burn small cold fires and smoke.

Start with charcoal and logs on the side.Start your logs or charcoal on the side and only add hot coals. I use a chimney on a wheelbarrow. Keep in mind that charcoal doesn't produce much smoke when burned properly.

Let the fire start rolling and let the pit get hot.Light the fire well before preparing food. Heat the walls of the pan. If a recipe says to "preheat" your pan, do it. Adjust airflow and stabilize temperature, fire and smoke. Watch out for the weather. It is more difficult to get blue smoke in cold, rainy or windy weather.

Indirect kitchen.If the meat drips into the fire, the water can quench the embers and the fat can burn, producing putrid smoke. These drips can create flavor, especially with short, rapid cooks, but they can cause problems with long, slow cooks.

use your sensesIt's hard to tell the color of the smoke at night, but the smell should be sweet, with meat and spice scents dominating. Smoke flavors should be faint and enticing, maybe like vanilla, not like campfire smells.

Use good thermometers.Cooking is all about temperature control. You need good thermometers in your kitchen and in your meat. Enter the digital age andGet a digital thermometer🇧🇷 Take one for the meat and one for the kitchen. And while we're on the subject of climate control, let's dispel another myth or two. There is no magic temperature, but in general low temperatures are better for smoking than high ones. Better smoke retention and less shrinkage and therefore less moisture loss. I recommend 225°F for most meats and 325°F for poultry (higher temperature for crispy skin) because I want you to master temperature control and it's easier to master two temperatures. It's often said that you shouldn't let the temperature fluctuate, but temperature fluctuations aren't a big deal with meat. Keep in mind that meat is around 75% water and therefore doesn't change much as the air temperature rises, especially thick cuts like pork breast or loin. What is more important is why the temperature fluctuates. With poor fire management, the smoke quality can shift into the bitter range.

exercise.Perform dry runs without food until you can predict when more fuel will be needed, how to adjust airflow, and how to react when the smoke begins to clear.

White smoke for quick cooking (and if you have a new pope)

White smoke often has incomplete combustion compounds and prolonged exposure to white smoke is not ideal, it can still be a good meal. When cooking hot and fast, white smoke is a great way to quickly add a smoky flavor to your food. White smoke is best for short cooks like hamburgers or steaks.

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The best way to create white smoke is to deliberately deprive the wood of oxygen and burn it. Experiment with containers for wood. Here you can see a foil pack with holes in it and a small corrugated aluminum box shape to restrict airflow. For short cookers like steak, chicken or fish, small chips and especially pellets work best as they produce more smoke in a short burst.

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In recent years, a dozen new products have appeared on the market to store firewood and add white smoke to your kitchen. I've played around with several of these and what impresses me the most is their clever design, especially for use on gas grills. CalledMo's smoking bagWhat you need to know about wood, smoke and combustion (9).

It is a fine-mesh stainless steel bag that contains wood chips or pellets. The air gaps in the mesh are small enough to limit the amount of air entering, so the wood smolders and never catches fire. Produces a lot of white smoke, usually within minutes. Best of all, it smokes simply by placing it on the cooking grate, or you can stand it on an edge and slide it between the grates and the back of the grate. You don't have to squeeze it through the burners, although you might if you need space above the grates. It works out. It has enough wood for about 15 minutes for short cooks, but you'll need to refill it or buy a second bag for long cooks like pork shoulder and brisket. Reloading can be difficult as the steel heats up and stays hot for a while. If you havegood gloves, No problem.


One of the compounds in smoke, creosote is the Jekyll and Hyde of cooking with smoke. At the side of Dr. Jekyll, creosote positively contributes to the flavor and color of smoked foods and acts as a preservative, one of the reasons smoked meats were used for preservation prior to refrigeration. The doctor. Blonder says, “Creosote is always present in charcoal or wood smoke, and some components of creosote (guaiacol, syringol, and phenols) contribute most to the flavor of the smoke. No creosote, and the meat might as well have been cooked. On Hyde's side: "When the balance of the hundreds of chemicals in creosote changes, it can taste bitter instead of smoky."

Commercial creosote is made by distilling tar primarily from beech wood or bituminous charcoal (not coal). Careful control of combustion temperature, oxygen flow and pressure produces a wide range of aromatic oils and tars. Coal tar creosote is the black stuff used to preserve telephone poles and railroad ties. Coal tar creosote is classified as a possible carcinogen. Anyone who has a wood-burning fireplace knows that the creosote from the log can stick to the chimneys, clog them and even catch fire and set the house on fire.

These industrial chemicals give the creosote found in barbecue smoke a bad name. I can't find any research that involves small amounts of creosote in grilling with any health risks.

According to Blonder: "When you smoke slow and slow at temperatures like 225°F, many smokers demand that you control the fire by stifling the oxygen supply, which moves it below the optimal combustion zone, creating black smoke, soot and more creosote." . . Unfortunately, this is often the case with kamado and egg smokers. The best smokers burn at a high temperature to create the ideal flavor profile and direct a small portion of the smoke onto the meat.

To control creosote, practice good fire management techniques and practice, practice, practice.

smoke and food

In a smokehouse or grill, smoke rises after combustion and flows from the combustion area to the cooking area. Most go up the chimney and very little comes into contact with food. Blonder explains why: “Around every object there is a halo of still air called the boundary layer. Depending on airflow, surface roughness, etc., the layer of stagnant air around a piece of meat can be one to two millimeters thick. When smoke particles come close to the meat surface, they follow this boundary layer around the food. Small country. We all curse one form of this part of the physics of driving: mosquitoes follow the wind across the windshield, while larger bugs leave sticky green streaks at the point of impact."

So using a spice blend not only adds flavor but also helps break down the barrier.

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To show how smoke sticks to food, we ran some experiments.

Blonder hung three cotton pads in a smoker at 225°F for 30 minutes. One disc was dry, one soaked in oil, and one soaked in water. The results were pretty dramatic. The atmosphere in a smoker is as thick as London fog, but there is no visible smoke clinging to dry cotton. Some smoke clung to the oiled surface and much more to the wet surface.

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Why does the wet pad collect so much more smoke? Blonder explains that the smoke hitting the dry pad just bounces back because there's nothing holding it back. But oily and wet pads are stickier. But why does the wet pad attract more smoke than the oily pad? The answer isThermophorese, depending on body type.

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Thermophoresis is a force that moves particles from a hot surface to a cold surface.🇧🇷 Check out the three beer cans here. First we paint them white. The left one was filled with ice water and placed in the smoker. The middle one was left empty and placed in the smoker with the can of ice water. The right one was left blank and placed on my desk as a control. You can see how much smoke the cold can pull. In fact, you can even see where the condensation ran down the sides of the can.

In the first experiment with cotton swabs, in addition to the stickiness of the water, the wet cotton pad was cooled by the evaporation of moisture from the cotton pad, at a temperature significantly lower than the temperature of the other cotton pads. That's another reason why it was smokier.

The same thing happens with meat when you put it in the smoker. Regardless of the air temperature in your smoker, the interior of the meat, which is 75% water, never gets hotter than 212°F, the boiling temperature of water. It starts at around 38°F, fridge temp, and goes up to maybe 205°F. In theory, the surface could dry out completely and form a very hard layer.dialand it can get hotter than 212°F, but that's rarely the case. As the internal temperature rises to around 200°F, it can get even hotter than the surface, which is still cooling from evaporation. So if you cook at 225F or higher, as I recommend, the meat will always be cooler than air.

To see thermophoresis in action, try this experiment: Empty two beer cans as usual. Fill one with cold water and leave the other empty. Place them in your smoker for 30 minutes. See which one is covered in smoke condensate.

The smoky flavor is mostly on the surface of the food.

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As we can see, smoke particles and gases stick to the surface of food. There they can dissolve and go a little below the surface, but not very far. Rarely more than 1/8″. This is the same phenomenon withThe marinade🇧🇷 Meat in particular is difficult to penetrate. You do not believe me? Here's how you can try it yourself. Get a 4-pound piece of pork loin (not a sirloin). Cut in half. Do not use a half rub and smoke at 225°F until you have an internal temperature of around 180°F. Use as much smoke as you like. Bake the other half in the indoor oven at 225°F without scrubbing until the core temperature is about 180°F. Allow to cool slightly and then cut off a piece in the middle. Now take a core sample of each as in the image below. Make sure the center meat doesn't roll in the surface juices off the cutting board in case there are juices in this lean cut. Ask a friend to serve the medium portions with your eyes closed. Do not smoke!

Also, it takes time to create enough smoke to produce flavor. There is much less smoky flavor in a thin flank steak for fajitas than in a 1 1/2″ thick sirloin steak cooked raw, at about 130°F, a chicken breast of the same thickness because the chicken needs to cook longer, at 165°F. And a turkey breast tastes smokier than anything because it's even fatter.

Stop Smoking Meat?

There is a common myth that meat eventually stops smoking. I'm sorry, but meat doesn't have doors that close at some point during cooking. There's a lot of smoke going through the cooking cavity, although sometimes it's not very visible. When the surface is cold or wet, it sticks more. Usually towards the end of cooking, the crust is quite hot and dry, and at this point the embers aren't producing much smoke. Smoke bounces off hot, dry surfaces, leading us to believe the flesh is somehow saturated with smoke. Throw in a log and drizzle it over the meat and it starts smoking again. Just don't spray often enough to wash away the smoke and rubbing.

Less is more and that's enough

One of the biggest mistakes we make is using too much smoke. Too much smoke can make meat bitter or taste like an ashtray. I can't give an exact amount as every kitchen is different and the amount of wood to get the right flavor will depend on your cavity volume, airflow, leaks, how often you check, the type of wood you use and the spray. , humidity, climate and of course your preferences. You'll have to experiment, but a good rule of thumb is to experiment with about two ounces of wood, regardless of cut or weight. For thick, dense cuts of meat like pulled pork loin or brisket, you can double or triple the amount of smoke. If the results aren't smoky enough, you can add more wood the next time you cook.

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In any case, it is best to weigh the amount of wood used so that you can increase or decrease it as you wish in future cooking.Kitchen scales are very useful tools, especially for flour and pickling salts. my favorite is thatOXO Good Grips stainless steel food scale with detachable displayWhat you need to know about wood, smoke and combustion (15)🇧🇷 It can weigh up to 11 pounds and fractions of an ounce accurately. You press a button and convert to metric. Place the bowl on the scale and press a button and it will reset to zero so the weight of the bowl is not included. Top removable for easy cleaning.

This is where you should start your experiments: For charcoal, start with no more than 8 ounces of wood by weight for pork and beef. Use no more than 4 ounces for turkey and chicken. Add to dose. Add about 60ml when you put the meat in and add another 60ml when you can't see the smoke anymore. For gas grills, double the amount as they have plenty of ventilation. Write down. If you desire more smoke after tasting the meat, add 2 to 4 ounces at a time in subsequent cooks.Record your experiments in a cooking log.

Unless your kitchen is designed for it and you are very experienced, don't try to cook with firewood for warmth and flavor. It is very difficult to control the temperature and the amount of smoke. If you become an expert, you can only cook with firewood, but use charcoal or gas first.If you're ready to give it a try, read this article on smoking wood first..

burn disc

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Staggered pits, the most popular "bar burners" like the 48-inch long model shown here, produce excellent meat when handled properly. They consist of two main components, the firebox (right) and the baking chamber (left). I know you want one, but word of warning: they require skill and practice. For example: to get a good fire that isn't too hot and produces blue smoke, you don't want to throw a bunch of wood, light it up, and put the meat on it. The results will likely be covered in creosote and taste awful. You have to burn logs for a while until they turn into embers. Then add one record at a time. You want to control temperature by controlling the amount of wood and resist the temptation to restrict oxygen. So the log needs to be the right size and this can vary from day to day depending on the weather. I use small pieces, about 8-10 inches long and add more on cold days. I keep my fire the size of a shoe box.

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Combustion of propane and natural gas

A gas grill has a venturi, a valve that mixes gas and oxygen like a carburetor. If there is too little oxygen, part of the fuel does not burn and becomes sooty. The soot glows yellow and orange, like embers. When mixed properly, all the fuel is completely burned and the flame turns almost blue. Click here to learn more about itGasgrillsjsmokerand how they work.

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When propane or natural gas combines with oxygen and ignites, it produces water vapor, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and not much else. Wood and gravy are needed for flavor.

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burning coal

Charcoal is almost pure carbon made from pre-burned wood in a kiln with very little oxygen. When burned in a grill or smoker, charcoal, like wood, burns hotter than wood and produces many combustion by-products, although less than wood. For a detailed explanation of how this is done and how it works, check out my articlecoal science.


Electric cooktops use a shiny metal coil for heating, so there is no flame or combustion gas. Even if you put wood chips in an electric coil, the smoke tastes very different and very tasty, inferior to most food as it lacks the complexity created by the combustion gases of wood or coal. Although propane or natural gas doesn't produce much combustion, it burns at a higher temperature and produces better smoke.Read my article on electric smokers.

let the wood do the work

Here's how you can use this information.

Use cold meat.As discussed above, smoke is attracted to cold meat. Do not allow the meat to reach room temperature. Aside from that,Meat takes forever to reach room temperature🇧🇷 Another myth.

Use a spice blend.surface roughness witha spice massage🇧🇷 A layer of spices and herbs helps thin the boundary layer to allow more smoke to cling.

keeps the meat moist🇧🇷 You can do this by spraying the meat with a spray bottle that you can buy at a pharmacy. A mop or brush can wash away the spice mixture. You can use apple juice if you like, but it adds very little to the flavor compared to the sauce and gravy. You can use blueberries or pomegranates for coloring. But really, all you need is water. and don't worryOpening the pan to add water every 30 minutes won't noticeably slow down the cooking process🇧🇷 Another myth.

add moisturein the atmosphere with awater bowlnon-smoker ANDdon't bother putting juice or beer in it🇧🇷 Use water bowls on your smoker. You add water to the atmosphere, but more importantly, the water slows evaporation and keeps the surface of the meat moist.

Add the wood early, but only when the fire is hot.Meat absorbs more wood flavor early in cooking, and the colder the meat, the more smoke it absorbs. But don't put meat on a charcoal pot that isn't fully lit and steaming.

The different forms of wood.

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Records.Most grill wood is cut from hardwoods, fruit trees, and walnuts, but never pine and softwoods, which are rich in terpenes and sap. The trunks must be dried. Here is a small section of the kilometer-wide oak stackcross markete Lockhart. Texas.

Some cooks throw entire logs into their pits, but you need to have the right pit and the right skills to do this. Done wrong, this can easily ruin your meat.

Traditionally, "stick burners" pre-burn the logs and reduce them to embers before cooking them. Typically, smoke logs should be made at a higher temperature, perhaps 275°F instead of 225°F, because the fire needs to be hot to produce clean smoke.Click here for more information on cooking with logs.

What you need to know about wood, smoke and combustion (21)

Squogs.In 2018, Ole introduced Hickory Pits Squogs, hickory logs ground like lumber into uniform 3.5 x 3.5 x 12″ blocks. They are designed to burn kindling as they do. They have some real benefits. There is no bark, so they are of consistent quality, stacked neatly on pallets, and the bark is often dirty, flaking, and hiding insects. Very smart.

hunk.Pieces of wood, ranging from a golf ball to the size of a fist, are easy to find at hardware stores. Chunks burn slower than potato chips, and usually one or two egg-sized chunks, weighing 2 to 4 ounces, is enough for a load of food. Because they are slow and steady sources of smoke, they are the most desirable in many ways. Using chunks allows you to add a chunk or two early in the cooking cycle and not have to constantly open the unit and upset the balance in the cooking cavity atmosphere.

French fries.Regarding the size of coins, tokens are also common and easy to find. They burn quickly and you may need to add them more than once during the cooking cycle. French fries are good for short cooks, but chunks are better for long cooks.

Pellets.Pellets are made by compressing wet sawdust and extruding it into long, thick sticks. They break into small pieces about 1/2″ long. The food-safe pellets are free of binders, glues and adhesives and immediately turn into sawdust when wet. Some smokers use pellets as their primary fuel, both for flavor and heat, and pellet stoves do very well in the competition. Since they can be brought into the fire in a very controlled manner, usually with a snail, pellet stoves can be regulated with a thermostat and are therefore easy to control. They burn very hot and clean.

Food-grade pellets can be a good source of smoky flavor in short-cooking grills and smokers, and a handful or two is usually all that's needed for poultry.

The pellets used as fuel to light pellet grills are primarily oak, a stable burning wood. When they say they're nuts, they're usually less than half a nut, a fact not always stated on the label. They usually come in 10 to 40 pound bags.

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grill deliciousproduces a dozen flavors of small 1/10 pound or 1 pound bagged pellets made from 100% flavored wood including alder, apple, cherry, hickory, orange, pecan and others. Jack Daniel's Pellets are a blend of oak and charcoal from oak whiskey casks, and Savory Herb is oak with herbs in the blend. I love using these products because they are easy to measure and control. They only burn for about 20 minutes at 225°F, so you'll need to pickle the meat before the firewood.

Click here for more information on pellet smokers.how they work and get a link to our reviews of over a dozen of these new devices.

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Brick.Another form of pellets is brick, the most notable being that ofMojo-Stein(Right). It's wood chips and sawdust from the factories, compacted until they stick together. They come in many flavors. I've had very good luck with them in a variety of smokers.

Bisquetas.Cookies are another twist on the compressed sawdust idea for thefumante bradley🇧🇷 They look like little brown hockey pucks.

Sawdust.Sawdust can also be used for flavoring, but it burns quickly and is rarely used. There are even some smokers like thatCameron'swho use steaming sawdust. It can be used effectively on thin and quick-cooking foods such as fish fillets.

For gas grills

Smoking on gas grills is sometimes difficult. You have to experiment. On your grill, you might prefer the taste of smoked chunks or quick-burning fries. Taste is a matter of taste. Here are some things you can try.

Take a portion of charcoal.Sometimes wood just doesn't burn. One reader, Nei Ng, came up with a solution: “First you have to wrap the wood in aluminum foil like bags of wood chips. Make a small pile of charcoal on top of the flavor bars [or heat spreaders]. You light, but the pile isn't hot enough to really change the overall temperature, and the wood should be lighted when the grill reaches 225°F. Place the wood on the coals and it should start smoking in a few minutes.

The aluminum bag for potato chips.Put wood chips in an aluminum bag or make oneRauchbombe(elsewhere on this page). For a bag, use heavy-duty aluminum foil or two- or three-ply or regular aluminum foil. Drill holes in the top to allow smoke to escape. Place the bag as close to the heat as possible. Reader Jeff Hale has this piece of advice: "Make some bags ahead of time. If one burns out...add another". You'll know when to add a new pouch when the smoke stops. Another option is to use a small aluminum tray with holes in the bottom.

If you are having trouble getting the logs into a smoker bag, turn the burner to high before adding the meat, place the foil bag on top and wait for the potatoes to start smoking. Then turn the burner down so you can get the oven up to 225°F. Or try Nei Ng's charcoal technique (above).

Try putting the wood in a small cast-iron skillet or shallow steel can.

When the wood burns.Wood can catch fire and not burn. No worries! Remember that small hot fires produce the tastiest smoke. You'll use more wood than if you let it burn, but you might like the taste more.

Smoking indoors with sawdust

If you have a good exhaust system, sawdust fumigation works well. If you have a weak fan, don't even think about it.

The best source of sawdust is to take a handful of wood pellets, wet them and let them air dry, or dry them in a pan over low heat. You can get good quality hardwood sawdust from a local woodworker or lumber dealer, but it's usually mixed with pine and other hardwoods.

Take a stainless steel casserole dish, line the bottom with durable aluminum foil. Sprinkle sawdust on top and lay a layer of foil on top, but not to the edge. This prevents drips from suffocating the smoldering log and allows smoke to escape around the edges. Place a frame such as B. a cake cooling rack over the sawdust sandwich. The food comes on the shelf and then covers the whole Schützenfest. You can create a cover in many ways.

  • Place a second identical baking sheet upside down and secure with wooden or metal tongs.
  • Place a baking sheet on top of the baking sheet and weigh it down with a pan or brick.
  • You can make a lid out of foil, just wrap it around the edges. Aluminum foil is a good method when you need to insert a food thermometer or when the food is high.

Place the entire draw match on the stove burners and up through the exhaust. When the smoke stops, you can check the temperature of the meat. If not done, place in the oven at about 325°F.

Meatheads Rauchbomben

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This method is ideal for gas and charcoal stoves when you are cooking for long periods and it is difficult to get under the grill, e.g. B. when a full chest is on board.

Get two disposable aluminum loaf pans. Add dry wood to both. Pour in enough water to cover the wood. The dry pan will quickly begin to smoke. About 15 minutes after it's all gone, the other pot has dried up and started smoking.

Getting the right amounts of wood and water might take perfect cooks, but you'll find out. I can say a lot about you.

smoke with herbs

We have a lovely herb garden and at the end of the season there are always a few bushes of oregano, basil and other unpicked herbs. I cut it off above the root and put it in paper bags to dry. Then I shred them up and throw them on the grill after the meat is done. They burn fast, give off a lot of smoke that smells like you're doing something illegal, and add an exotic flavor to your food. I use them mostly on my gas seafood grill, which cooks quickly and doesn't have time to soak up the steaming wood.

smoke tea

Chinese cuisine often requires smoking tea. Form an aluminum bag from these ingredients and place under the meat.

1/4 cup tea leaves
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 Suitcases Travel
zest of 1 orange
6 whole star anise pods
2 Zimtstangen (3 cm lang)
1 tablespoon ground ginger

In summary

Sterling Ball is a champion pitmaster whose trophies include the Kansas City Royal Invitational and also owns a guitar string shop. He describes the art of making flavorful smoke, similar to tuning a guitar. “You must control your instruments, the pit, the fuel, the oxygen, the fire and the heat. And you have to practice."

Click here to viewthe original raw data from Blonder's experiments.


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