Struggling with Wood

Discussion in 'For New Members' started by shawnwatson, Jul 29, 2016.

  1. Hello fellas!  New member with a question here:

    I'm using wood sourced from my local Albertson's and it's made me smoking experience extremely frustrating, to say the least.  The brand is "Barbeque Wood Flavors- Grillwood Mini Logs".

    It doesn't seem to matter where the dampers are, the stuff won't stay lit for nothing!  It'll fire off on an open damper and within 30 seconds of closing the lid on the fire box, it's gone out.  Over and over and over.  By this time I've got tears rolling down both cheeks from blowing into the coals to get it relit and the thing will catch and go nuclear and I spend the next 15 minutes with the lid open to keep it under 300*.

    Once in awhile, I'll get a piece that catches from the flame of the others and will respond predictably to damper changes but 90% of the time, I nearly exhaust my lungs blowing on coals and it's sucked all the enjoyment out of running a smoker.  I bought a little hatchet and have tried all sizes and I get the same results.  This junk either won't light or goes plum crazy and when it goes nuclear, I slowly start closing the damper and it just goes out and we start all over.

    I live in a little town with few resources but there's got to be a better outlet for wood.  What say you?  Online source, maybe?  We have a Lowe's but they carry the same stuff as Albertson's.  I called the local feed stores and they say they don't have anything.

    It's just an el-cheapo, horizontal smoker but it should have plenty of damper.  At least I would think...

  2. pit 4 brains

    pit 4 brains Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Welcome to the SMF!

    Although you explained it well, I can't put a finger on your problem.

    How many times have you used this smoker? Any of them successful? The reason I ask that is because I knew someone who added a firebox to a Chargriller and didn't remove the knockout plate. It didn't work well.

    I personally try to keep the orange flames to a minimum when I'm smoking or else the temps spike really high. I've made a habit of pre-heating my wood on top of the firebox before adding it. This allows it to get to combusting temp a little quicker without smoking real bad.

    Are you in a real humid environment?

    Can you post up some pics of your rig and maybe even a fire?
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2016
  3. For online wood, you might want to check Craigslist or eBay. I know I've seen ads selling boxed up splits and chunks. Might be a bit pricey for shipping but if you can get it for the right price it could balance out.

    An example:
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2016
  4. joe black

    joe black Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I'm not familiar with that wood and you didn't say where you're located. Locally cut wood from fireplace suppliers or from tree cutters is a good start, if you have a source. Sometimes the wood you get in packages at the grocery or a big box store is so dry that it's of little use. Also, good flavor wood can be gotten from orchards.

    I like to start a good fire of Royal Oak lump to get a really good bed of coals and when they are fully involved, I add a couple of pre-heated splits and close the CC doors. When the CC is up to cooking temp or a little higher, I put my meat on, add another couple of splits and a few chunks of flavor wood. An offset cooker works within a range of temps and not at a specific temp. My smoker likes to run at 250-275*, so when the temp is down to about 250, I add a couple of pre-heated splits. As they catch good the temp will go up to 275-280* and then settle back to the cooking range.

    Always per-heat your splits on top of the FB. This insures that they will ignite very rapidly and not allow a significant heat drop. Also, the quick ignition will keep the wood from smoldering, and not causing excess smoke which creates creosote in the CC and bitter meat results.

    Good luck with this. There are also some very good fire/heat management videos on you tube.

    Keep smoking. Good fire management is the result of much practice. Joe
    smokenmyeyes likes this.
  5. smokeymose

    smokeymose Master of the Pit

    Definitely a head scratcher, Shawn. Do you have your stack wide open? No Albertsons around here and I don't know what that is. Like Joe said, the wood in those bundles may be a little dry but that wouldn't make them go out. I use them for heat once you have the meat foiled, but I cut them into two or three pieces. Maybe the splits are too big? Is there a door on your fire box you can just open instead of just the intake adjuster?
  6. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Hi Shawn,

    Your Profile doesn't say where you live, but aren't there any Fruit Tree Orchards anywhere around your town?

    They trim every year & often either give the trimmings away or sell cheap.

  7. Have you been using this smoker for a while? I started on an el cheapo, and I had do do quite a bit of modding to get it to run right ash builds up so quick in those, and they are practically impossible to keep running without the mods. Just do a youTube search for "brinkman smoke n grill modifications" to get some ideas. I used several mods from different videos, and I got mine to run like a champ. If you wanna know the ones I did, just ask. More than happy to share.
  8. pit 4 brains

    pit 4 brains Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I stopped by our Albertson's on the way home from work to pick up a chuckle. I looked down that isle and my store here does not carry that particular wood, or any wood for that matter, just charcoal and pressed fire logs, etc.

    I looked at the website and it said that the wood is kiln dried so I can that once it goes, it goes!

    My wood is kiln dried also but it's done by the Arizona sun.

    Wish I could help more, but I need more info..
  9. thebig1

    thebig1 Smoking Fanatic

    Shawn, I too am new to smoking, only having gotten into it in the past 3 months or so.  I have an offset smoker and use wood also.  I have ran into the same problems as you.  Light it up, it starts ripping, damper everything down and my temp begins to fall and it smokes itself out.  I've found that I need to leave my side door open instead of closing it.  Anywhere from an inch to fully open is how I adjust it.  That's my damper.

    Maybe give this a try and see how it works.

  10. smokeymose

    smokeymose Master of the Pit

    I've been smoking for a while now (electric to gas and now wood) and I'll have to admit that stick burning is a whole different animal. Everything from types of wood to outside temps and wind can change things a lot. I've had to leave the firebox door open and I've had to close the damper almost closed. Is it a hot sunny day or cloudy? Makes a difference. That's why we camp out by the smoker. I got a wireless remote Maverick so I could walk away and still mind the temps. You'll learn the quirks of your smoker. It's all part of the game.
    Don't give up, and smoke on :grilling_smilie:

  11. I have a off set smoker as well and have found that if I use charcoal for the start and then add the wood once the charcoal is going good the temp stays pretty stable I get the hickory dunks from wall Mart, apple, and peach from the local orchard
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2016
  12. cliffcarter

    cliffcarter Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    First part of the problem is that most of the wood that you have is not seasoned enough to burn in a minimum airflow environment. What you need to do is keep the air intakes open so the wood will burn, if this means that your pit temps are 300° or better so be it. There is nothing that says that BBQ has to be at 225° or any other temperature for that matter. I routinely cook at temps of 300°-350° in my CharGriller, just realize that unless your pit is well modded to regulate temps across the cooking area you will have varying temps along the cook chamber with the hottest being on the firebox side and cooler temps on the exhaust stack side. I use these zones to my advantage and cook ribs on the stack side, poultry in the middle and sausage, wings' ABTs and so forth on the hot side.

    Joe Black's comment about heating the splits on top of the fire box prior to putting them in the fire box to burn is a good practice. I take it a step further and heat mine inside the fire box-

    IMHO the bottom line is if this is your only wood source, for now, then you will have to keep the air intake damper on the fire box open and live with the temp spikes, IMHO it's not a deal breaker but a learning opportunity.

    Good Luck.
  13. joe black

    joe black Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Yes...a good bed of coals is criticle to keeping a good, clean fire.
  14. smokeymose

    smokeymose Master of the Pit

    I think cliff may have a point. I have a CharGriller 6125 and it seems happiest at 260 to 280 and will run hotter if I let it. Maybe you're trying to keep too low a temp when you don't really need to.
  15. hardcookin

    hardcookin Master of the Pit

    I think sometimes you have to let the smoker run where it's comfortable. Instead of fighting for a certain temp.
    My offset runs comfortable between 260 - 275. So that's where I let it run.
    Could I run at 225 sure but it would be more work maintaining that temp.
  16. Mine likes to run around 230 -260 I just keep the wood and an eye on it. For the bigger stuff it takes longer but just adds to the flavor
  17. thebig1

    thebig1 Smoking Fanatic

    Thank you fellas, perhaps that's where I'm making my mistakes.  As a new guy to smoking maybe I shouldn't be so concerned about cooking exactly at a certain temperature.  I'll tell you, it is nerve racking and isn't the most fun.  I camp out right next to the smoker and watch my temps constantly.  Maybe I should just feed it to keep it going and allow it to cook, even if it is over the temp.  Maybe that'll lessen my stress of trying to be absolutely perfect.

  18. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    That's right:

    In all of my Step by Steps, I tell what temp I used. That doesn't mean it has to be that temp. It just is used as a reference.

    If you would use a smoker temp that's higher, it would take a shorter amount of time. Lower temp---Longer Time.

    With some things you should not go too much higher or lower, like sausage (much higher could be bad).

    And large items, like Butts or Briskets (Lower could be bad).

  19. thebig1

    thebig1 Smoking Fanatic

    Thanks Bear, this is one major aspect that gets my stress fired up while smoking and makes it less fun and more of a chore.  Of course I wouldn't fire the box full but I do sit there and go back and forth with the draft to cool it down when it's too hot.  But then I find that it cooled too much so I add another stick, but now it's too hot again, and so on and so forth.

    See when you're a new guy trying to figure this out you follow the directions put forth by such artisans of the smoker such as yourself and others.  You don't deviate but now I'm realizing that it's ok to begin to break out of my shell.  I think that I'm going to do something this weekend so we'll see how that turns out. 

    So even if it's higher in temp, example 20-30 degrees higher, just smoke for internal temperature and that's it.  This smoking thing just got easier.

  20. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Your learning curve may be higher with your smoker than with my Electric Smoker, but you'll get it in no time.

    And Yes---Most of the time Internal temp is the target, and you can get there in different ways.

    That's with a few exceptions, like using too high a Temp on sausage, because you could cook the fat out.

    So keep on Smoking, and learning---And take some notes for future references-----You'll be Fine!!


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