Help with Drying my Wood

Discussion in 'Woods for Smoking' started by tlhiv, Sep 10, 2009.

  1. tlhiv

    tlhiv Smoke Blower

    Since I began smoking several months ago, I have experimented with several wood supplies. The majority of my smokes have been with commercially sold bags of wood chunks from retail stores like Home Depot, Lowe's, and even Wal-Mart. An advantage to using these wood chunks is that they appear to be quite dry, and as a consequence they burn very well. The primary disadvantage (at least for me) for using these is that my wood is by far the greatest expense for each smoke.

    My father has plenty of pecan and red oak logs available (as many limbs have fallen over the past few years), and I have cut these limbs into chunks and used them several times. This wood has been drying for quite some time, but neither seem to burn up as quickly as the commercial woods. Now, I know that the faster the wood burns, I get more instantaneous heat but at the same time I do not get to keep this heat for as long a period of time.

    Frankly, I have watched my "homemade" (if you will) chunks in my firebox, and they don't seem to "catch fire" but instead just smoke and gradually burn down. While this is desired sometimes, I would also like to have some wood that I can count on to catch fire and bring my heat up in a hurry.

    I would appreciate any advise on how to solve this problem. I have attached a picture of 3 of my typical pecan chunks so that a size and geometry can be visualized.

    Thanks in advance!
  2. beer-b-q

    beer-b-q Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    What kind of Firebox do you have and is the airflow adjustable?
    • More Air = More Flames
    • Less Air = Smoldering Coals
    Also I feel that larger pieces of wood burn better and longer than small chunks. I like to keep the wood pieces about 2" - 3" shorter than the firebox on my stickburner...

    That is just my opinion from my experiences...

    Some Animals Perished During These Tasty Experiments...[​IMG]
  3. tlhiv

    tlhiv Smoke Blower

    Thanks for the reply Beer-B-Q. I have a homemade classic offset smoker (see attached pics) and I usually keep the firebox damper almost completely closed as I seem to get enough oxygen feeding back through from the smoke stack. I do allow a little air to enter through the firebox damper though. However, the contrasting between the commercial woods and my own wood is a "fair" comparison in that my "homemade" chunks are cut to be about the same size and shape as the commercial ones and all other things are virtually equal. In particular, among other things, my airflow habits are basically the same between both woods.

    Note: the attached pics are of my smoker immediately before painting.
  4. alx

    alx Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I cut and season most of my wood.This is how i dry in 3x2 inch chunks.I cut some red oak in november that fell.It really took chunks8 months to dry perfectly.Would have been quicker if tree fell in spring and was subjected to warmer weather....

    As far as your smoker-unfamiliar.The oak would not smoke well after 4 months.It is now oak is on third rack...
  5. bman62526

    bman62526 Smoking Fanatic


    I think I have your answer. When you are starting your smoke, I assume you fill the firebox with hot coals that you started in a chimney - either lump or charcoal - and then after you dump in the hot coals, you want to start burning wood, right?

    I have a good size offset and I burn the same way...

    What you want to do, is right after you dump in your first load of hot coals - set in a few of your wood chunks to pre-heat. This works best if you have a charcoal or fuel basket INSIDE the firebox, as you can set the wood chunks up top - on the corners.

    If you don't have a charcoal basket - just push ALL of your hot coals towards the left in your case (towards the cooking chamber) and keep the wood chunks way over to the right (towards the air intake or firebox door)

    After about 20-30 min. - those wood chunks will be so well preheated, that once you toss them on the flame they will catch fire instantly.

    Also, if this doesn't work - then your wood isn't seasoned well enough. Seasoned wood can't sit in a firebox for 20 - 30 min. and NOT catch fire once you throw it on the coals! Good luck...
  6. tlhiv

    tlhiv Smoke Blower


    Thanks for the tip. I will try this Saturday during my smoke. Also, I assume that once you open your firebox to put the heated wood in the coal pile, you place more wood in there to preheat. Right?
  7. beer-b-q

    beer-b-q Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    From your original post I am assuming you are wanting to use the wood for both the heat and smoke (Like Burning wood in a Wood Stove)and are not using any charcoal is that correct?[​IMG]
  8. tlhiv

    tlhiv Smoke Blower

    I actually use charcoal and wood, but I have found myself using less and less charcoal during my smokes when I have good dry wood. That is, when I use the commercial wood chunks, I seem to use a chimney full of lump to get started, and then I mostly use the wood chunks throughout the rest of the smoke. I may occasionally have to start a small amount of lump to keep the temps up, but several of my long smokes recently have required < 1 bag of lump.

    I really would like to get to this point with my "homemade" wood chunks. If I can do this, this would considerably cut down on my fuel costs.
  9. zopi

    zopi Smoke Blower

    yeah...wet wood gives you creosote...

    split your wood down to kindling size, stack it radially on a pallett or something similar..keep it up off the get some of that annoying shrink wrap that every shipping company in the universe uses...wrap the entire this someplace sunny...make sure no water can get in.

    Basically this makes a solar should be able to measure temps around a 100-120 degrees on a sunny day. it should dry right down to 2-3% moisture content in a month or month and a half. Unless you live in seattle. <GRIN>

    Or...if you really want to go to speak.
  10. taterdavid

    taterdavid Smoke Blower

    heres a couple ideas. go buy a face cord of a mix of different wood from a wood seller, way cheaper than comercial bags of chunks. then go find some wood, its everywhere, look on craigslist, family,friends, neighbors even people ya don't know have trees laying in there yard they may be to old or lazy to remove.

    as for using in your offset try using spits instead of chunks and add alittle more air. i can do a whole smoke without charcoal but it takes alot of time and babysitting but i enjoy it
  11. rickw

    rickw Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    This is what you're looking for. I use this same exact method (thanks Bman62526) on my Horizon offset and it works great. One thing to look for if you think your wood is not seasoned enough and that is; moisture coming out of the ends of you splits. It will make a hissing sound that once you notice it you never forget and be able to tell when the wood is wet.
  12. tlhiv

    tlhiv Smoke Blower


    I want to say another "thank you" for the idea of putting the coals on one side of my firebox and the wood on the other side to heat the wood before putting them on the coals. I tried this technique this morning, and the same wood that I previously had trouble getting "started" now flamed right up when I put them on the coals. This technique will SIGNIFICANTLY reduce my smoking costs as I have a great pecan and oak supply.

    Thanks again!

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