Know Your Smoke

The difference between clean and dirty smoke can mean the difference between awesome and horrible tasting food! Today we’re going to cover the different kinds of smoke that you can get with your smoker and how to control that.

So what do you mean by clean smoke?

Yeah, I know by definition smoke isn’t cleaning but when we’re talking clean smoke with cooking we are talking about a very light blue to almost see-through kind of smoke. This is the kind of smoke penetrates meat and gives you that awesome smoke ring that you’re looking for when you make a brisket or pork shoulder.

And what is dirty smoke?

Dirty smoke is just that if someone can look at your smoker and then feel the urge to dial 911 because they see billows of white, gray, or even black smoke coming out of your smoker then I can guarantee that whatever you’re cooking might as well go right in the trash.

So how do I control my smoke?

Smoke can be controlled in quite a few ways… firstly, make sure you are using seasoned wood and not green wood. If you are burning charcoal then you can just simply toss a small chunk or two on the coals and make sure it it not fully exposed to air. The more air you give the wood, the more likely it will burst into flames and give you that black smoke you want to avoid. If you give it air but reduce the exposure then you will get the wood to smolder and give off the right kind of smoke you are looking for.

What is “green” wood?

According to Wikipedia: Green wood is wood that has been recently cut and therefore has not had an opportunity to season (dry) by evaporation of the internal moisture. Green wood contains more moisture than seasoned wood, which has been dried through passage of time or by forced drying in kilns. Green wood is considered to have 100% moisture content relative to air-dried or seasoned wood which is considered to be 20%.”

So basically freshly cut wood that still has moisture in it. The problem with green wood is that heat is used to evaporate the moisture so the overall temperature is lower and therefore produces more creosote which means dirty smoke.

Seasoned wood is the way to go

Seasoned wood burns hotter and cleaner and can add the right flavor to your food. Once the wood has had time to dry out, it becomes easier to burn and much lighter. One good way to check if a piece of wood is ready, try hitting it with another piece of wood. If it makes a hollow knocking sound then you are good. If it makes a dense thud then the wood is still green.

Let me know in the comments what you are smoking with!