Soaking wood is a NO NO

Discussion in 'Woods for Smoking' started by cwalk, Jul 10, 2010.

  1. dale5351

    dale5351 Smoking Fanatic

    Sometimes when I soak the wood chips overnight, I notice that the water looks like weak tea.   I wonder if that is good flavor leeched out, or creosote making things leached out.
  2. richoso1

    richoso1 Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Several years ago when I used chips, I would try soaking and not soaking. I never noticed any difference in the smoke flavor when the Q was done.I even tried using the water I used for soaking, in the water pan. No difference to my palette.

    Regarding creosote, maybe this will clearify things.

    Creosote or pitch oil is the name used for a variety of products that include wood creosote and coal tar creosote. The word is also used to describe the black oily accretion that builds up inside of chimney flues as a result of incomplete burning of wood or coal. Commercially, wood creosote is created by high temperature treatment of beech and other woods, or from the resin of the creosote bush.
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2010
  3. flash

    flash Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    It does dry out, ya know. [​IMG]
  4. ryanhoelzer

    ryanhoelzer Smoking Fanatic

    The reason for soaking is to keep the wood from flaring up and the heat spiking.  If you're using a stick burner it's designed to burn and keep the right temp range.  In many smaller smokers a flame will raise the temp 30*.  The MES has a chip tray and part of the design is to keep the chips from actually flaming.  In my CharBroil offset I put chunks above the charcoal and if the charcoal is hot enough and the vents are open dry chunks will flare up.

    I would think you lose flavor by soaking too long, most things I've seen said 30 minutes.

    Bottom line, it's not cut and dry, there are alot of things that determine whether you need to soak or not.
  5. I have used both soaked and non-soaked wood for smoking. My personal opinion is that wood chips are the best candidate for soaking.

    The best results I've had infusing (wood chunks) with moisture is using a crock pot. I'll fold a sheet of tin foil and lay it into the bottom forming a shelf with about an inch wall.  I put about half inch or so water in the bottom. Then, I lay the wood chunks into the foil "dish" and turn it on low for four or five hours with just a little bit of water with them. I think you can loose some flavor (using this method) if the wood is laying in too much water. With a little bit of experimenting I've got it down to where there is no water left surrounding the chunks and the steam penetrates better than the soaking methods I've tried.

    Some believe that soaking is benefitial while others don't believe it necessary at all. Foiling chunks is a good option but when doing that it seems to work better if they are somewhat loosely wraped with a considerable amount of holes punched and feeding your smoke at least a couple of times with wood.  When I've soaked I haven't noticed less flavor except once and I'm not sure why. It may just have been that particular wood batch not sure.    
  6. fourthwind

    fourthwind Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Ok my take on this is that it is a personal choice, and it depends on your smoker, and your methods.   I have played around with multiple style's keeping the meat, and other variables as consistant as I can.   Flavor wise it would be very difficult to tell the difference, I did however find there to be a slight difference in apprearance.  I consistantly get a better looking smoke ring, and better looking bark off of soaked wood chunks.   This mind you is on the Klose pit, and I wouldnt even bother unless I need the appearance points at a comp.   When running the masterbuilt I used a combo of dry and soaked to get a prolonged TBS.  When running a GOSM, I used all soaked to keep from getting flare ups.   So different smokers had different reasons behind whether I soaked or not.  In the latter two it's not for appearance, and in any of the cases not for flavor.  Don't let folks sell you on one way or another.  I don't care what his name is.  His method works for his smoker, his methods, and his taste buds.   Experiment and see what works for you.

    As for creasote, that is created by wood that is not truly burning, but smoldering.  This is why you must be very careful about how much wood and smoke you are using in the electrics and gassers.
  7. I soak mine for two or three hours, sometimes over nite. My bud soaks his for three days, i've gotten flareup on dry but to each there owe'n ! Smoke on!!!!!!!!!!!
  8. I soak the chips, cause they last longer, but there's no need to soak chunks. So far as I can tell, that is.
  9. I find that I get better results soaking if I am using wood/charcoal, but with propane, I don't soak. I don't know why, I think it may be because that the propane has a more centralised heat source, and constant "hot spots", whereas wood/charcoal heat is distributed over a larger area. That is just my theory. I have also found that, when using propane, I get a longer smoke time if I fill the smokebox like a campfire i/e little twigs/sawdust at the bottom of the box, medium chips on top of them, with chunks on top of aint no amns, but doing that makes smoke for about 6-8 hours...
  10. geerock

    geerock Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Soaking only delays the smoking process.  Very little water is absorbed by wood.  Thats why they make boats out of it.  If you don't believe it, soak a chunk for a couple of days and then split it.  You will see very little water layer on the outside that will be cooked out in just a few minutes when it hits the heat.
  11. If you have a vacuum sealer (e.g.Foodsaver) with a mason jar attachment, you can put your wood chips or chunks in a jar with water and vacuum seal it.  You can actually watch the air coming out of the chunks as the water displaces it.  Speeds up the process dramatically.
  12. steve k

    steve k Fire Starter

    I agree completely. Also,  since dry smoking starts instantaneously, you start getting the meat to take the smoke right away, a key to getting the nice red smoke ring and the great color to sausages.  Meat will take smoke when it reaches about 90 degrees and stop taking it at 140 or so.  If you have wet chips, they won't start smoking until the water is gone.  Smoke is produced by burning wood.  Wet wood doesn't burn, ask any boy scout.  The key is to get the wood to produce smoke without flame.  All the people who are depriving their chips of the oxygen to burn quickly are on the right track.  You basically want the wood to "distill."  This releases the aromatic gasses without the carbon.  The carbon stays in the pan or the foil.  I think this method makes the best flavor and makes the food look more pleasing.  I enjoy a char broiled steak as much as anyone, but I'm not really looking for a char broiled flavor from smoking, and that's what you get when the chips are allowed to burn in the open air. 
    csparker likes this.
  13. sprky

    sprky Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Interesting. I also do not soak my chips or chunks. I have tried it but saw no difference except longer to start getting smoke. 
  14. I'm new here and this happened to be the first thread that I checked out. So I figured I post something. I have tried both, soaking works GREAT for me. The one time I used dried wood the wood caught fire and shot my temp up way high. So no more dry wood.
  15. frizzlefry

    frizzlefry Smoke Blower

    I have some wood that I've been soaking in rum for a week.  I'll dry it out and see if it gives a different flavor for smoking.
  16. geerock

    geerock Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member


    Back to what Steve K says.......... you are allowing too much oxygen to get to the fire.  Cut down the air intake (and oxygen) and they can't catch fire.  Kinda reminds me of my ex wife who used to cut into cucumbers and rub the ends together to "get the gas out".  Not a lick of practicality to it except she was convinced it worked.  And thats all that matters when it comes down to it.  If someone is convinced it gives them better smokes..............soak on!!
  17. steve k

    steve k Fire Starter

    Careful, there.  Alcohol fumes are flammable.  I used some Jack Daniels whiskey barrel chips once and had a big "poof!" when I opened the door and let O2 in.  I didn't like that, and thought it bordered on dangerous. 
  18. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

     Soaking Wood in Rum sounds like a waste of Rum...I think I would mix up a Cuba Libre in a Sports Bottle, take a big gulp then squirt the Meat or hot metal, should get the flavor to the meat and leave more for your enjoyment...JJ
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2012
  19. Hi,

        I use Cherry and Apple ,the stuff almost like sawdust.I soak it about 2 hrs before I start Smoking and just keep it soaking until I'm done.I add chips every 4 hrs until I'm Done.Some of my fish takes 32 hrs at 150 deg.

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