Burning wood chunks

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by jishaq, Oct 28, 2009.

  1. Hey guys, newbie question.

    Any time I've ever started with wood chunks in my ECB charcoal pan and started it minion method; or, added them to hot coals halfway through cooking, they pretty much immediately catch fire and burn, usually for a while, until they are ash. As you might expect from hardwood sitting adjacent to white-hot coals.

    My question is, is this the intended application of wood chunks for smoking?

    Or is there some magical technique where they are supposed to smolder, but not burn? I ask because I've read a few opinions where wood flareups are to be avoided because they can impart a bitter taste. I've also seen it suggested to wrap wood chips in foil so they don't catch fire. So I'm a little confused here.

    Thoughts / comments appreciated! Thanks.

  2. richoso1

    richoso1 Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Wood chunks/chips will catch on fire when there is too much oxygen available. If you can bury the chunks with some charcoal, it will cut down on the amount of oxygen to it. I had the same problem with my GOSM, I had a base of charcoal with chunks on top. I now use a lump base, add a chunk, and semi cover the chunk with more lump.This works with charcoal briquettes or lump. BTWE, Santa Cruz is one pretty town, and one well known university.
  3. raceyb

    raceyb Smoking Fanatic

    Soak the wood chunks for about an hour before placing them on the coals....
  4. trig

    trig Fire Starter

    I thought this had been debunked by a guy who soaked wood chunks for days and only penetrated by like 0.250"?
  5. Yeah, I saw that just the other day:

    But you know, I have to disagree with the assessment that soaking is not practical: Regardless of the depth of water penetration into the grain (which is the argument in this video), I think that a woodchip with a suitably wet surface is less likely to catch fire than a comparable dry woodchip.

    Ever try to start a fire with wet firewood?

    My takeaway from the video is that I'll stick to soaking my wood chips for ~10 minutes in hot water prior to use, and never bother to soak overnight.

    And it sounds like the answer to my original question is that yes, it's bad if a woodchip just catches fire and burns. I guess you want it to smolder, and partially burying it underneath coals sounds like a great way of minimizing air contact and thus maximizing smolder time.

  6. beardo

    beardo Newbie

    How about soaking the chips/chunks in some thing other than water? Maybe a beer you like-wine-soda-what ever will put some extra flavor out there,you can still use foil to keep flair up from happening.But I still thing air flow is key.thats why Webber is so great you get flair up? shut the lid no flair up.
  7. raceyb

    raceyb Smoking Fanatic

    Thats a good idea as well. I love the smell of evaporating beer.
  8. mballi3011

    mballi3011 Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I have used chunks in mt Gosm propane and they work fine you just put them in the chip pans and I use chips also. I let the chips start smoking and then the chunks just keep going longer and it works out well for me.
  9. zapper

    zapper Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    Combustion air is the problem. Depending on differents folks equipment and setups, the amount of air to keep charcoal going usually is just below the amount of air to let too big of a flare up happen with the wood chunks or chips.(Sometimes really dry wood is gonna flare no matter what if it is not in a container)

    My electric for example will smolder wood just fine with the door closed and the lid on but taking the lid off or opening the door for tending the wood or food will often cause the chunks or chips to flare up.

    If you can reduce the air flow you may be able to just keep adding the chunks without flare ups, but you may also lower your operating temp or worse yet, smother your charcoal.

    Tin foil, for me, has always been kind of sketchy and once the fire minions away from the packet the smoke stops unless it is buried in the center and the minion burns in a circle around it or something. (I have also burned aluminum with my electric and I don't really like the smell and arc show that I got)

    Soaking can tend to put out the charcoal that comes into contact with the wet wood chunks for awhile if not for good. (although I sometime use about half wet chips and the other half dry depending what got left out in the rain)

    Larger chunks may be the answer, atleast I seem to have better, more consistant and longer intervals between refeedings when I use larger chunks. (Sometimes to bring the temps up a little I throw in a couple of fistfuls of dry chips as kind of a cheat with my electric)
  10. JMHO - but soaking chips/chunks just creates steam and I think creosote and those are two things you don't want, you want the hard to see thin blue smoke.
    If the chunks or chips are bursting into flames and burning up too quickly put them in foil and poke a small hole in the foil.

    Again Just My Humble Opinion
  11. cman95

    cman95 Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Same same here. Works for me.
  12. coyote-1

    coyote-1 Smoking Fanatic

    I don't soak chunks.
    I DO soak chips.

    I soak chips overnight. This drenches them sufficiently that they do not instantly burn away; it allows you to scatter them throughout your charcoal basket and they will provide a steady stream of smoke. The moisture is GOOD incidentally! It evaporates and blends into the smoke and moisturizes the meat a bit. I've never had a creosote problem from doing this, so I don't buy that argument against soaking.
  13. scarbelly

    scarbelly Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I have been soaking chips with success for years. I have not soaked any chunks.
  14. I prefer to drink the beer. ; )
  15. kid creole

    kid creole Fire Starter

    As somebody mentioned above, different setups are going to behave differently.  Once I started using chunk, I never looked back.  I do think you need to soak chips, even if it doesn't do anything except take longer to be lit on fire, that's enough to get the cover back on your coals and cut the air.  If you are going to expose the coals to oxygen to put chips on them, it's going to burn the chips.  Chips are so small, that once they start burning, they're gone.  One thing I like about chunks is that if it does set on fire, I just grab it with the tongs, pull it out, and place it back in there.  try that with chips.  :)
  16. matt welch

    matt welch Newbie

    I dont believe these cookers are designed for this. You will smoke yourself silly.

  17. jeff 1

    jeff 1 Smoke Blower

    I use a chip pan in mine,  before that I would loosely wrap in foil and poke holes in it.  That way you can burn the coals hot and not worry about fire

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