Too much charcoal smoke.

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by smokinginmn, May 29, 2011.

  1. smokinginmn

    smokinginmn Newbie

    Hello all-

    This is my first post on here.  I have read this forum for about a year, and had my mouth watering several times.  I have purchased a WSM 22.5, and jsut got done yesterday with my second smoke.  This first smoke that I did, I had a little trouble bringing the temperature up past 200, but eventually got it there and was able to make some very good ribs!!  Yesterday I had the same problem, plus many more.  I will explain with the best detail that I can....

    1. Smoking a 7.25 pork butt, I wanted to use plenty of charcoal so I did not have to mess around with adding more coals to the fire part way through the smoke.  I used 20# of Kingsford blue, with mesquite wood.  I had a "bowl" in the center of the ring for the hot coals.(I know that is to much charcoal for that smoke, but I was less worried about wasting charcoal my first couple times using it, than not having enough fuel for the smoke)

    2. I used a chimney starter and started a full chimney of hot coals.  I put these on top of the unlit coals.  At this time I had all 4 vents fully open.  I filled the water pan with hot water so I did not have to heat the water from cold.  The temperature came up once again to about the 200 mark(lid temperature) and stalled there for about 1.5 hrs.  It did not seem to matter what I did, I could not get the temperature to come up to the 250 mark(this is where my lower rack cooks at about 235 degrees with an accurate thermometer just above the lower rack)  It took close to 2.5 hrs for the temperature to get to 250.

    3.  I had a tremendous amount of charcoal smoke coming from the smoker for approx. 2 - 2.5hrs.  I could not smell any mesquite smoke, but the charcoal smoke seemed to be overpowering.  I put the pork butt on right away, and it still turned out ok, but I can taste more charcoal flavor than I can taste any mesquite flavor.

    4  The day started out in the mid 50's, and was into the mid 70's in the afternoon.  We were in a well protected area, and there was virtually no breeze to affect the smoker. 

    After the coals got going more, the charcoal smoke died down, and I was able to successfully smoke some BB's in the afternoon.  These turned out very well.  Here is what my thought is on the situation, and I am open to suggesstions, just want to know if I am on the right track.   Addressing the smoke situation first, I believe with the amount of charcoal I had in the smoker, I had enough going, and continually lighting in the smoker, that I was eventually able to bring the smoker up to temp, but the coals may not have been burning hot enough to actually burn the wood effectively.  I would be better off to use a smaller amount of coals, and make sure they are more fully lit before I place the meat on the smoker to eliminate the charcoal smoke, and be able to utilize the wood smoke.

    As for the temperature stall, I am not sure what I am doing wrong.  I am trying to eliminate getting the smoker too hot, as I dont want to deal with bringing the temp back down.  Should I get the temperature of the smoker hotter than I want it initially before I put the meat on?  I had the meat out of the fridge for about an hr, before I put it in the smoker, and still had the temp stall.  I eventually get it there, but figured it would not take so long to get the temp up.  Any thoughts and comments are appreciated.  Thanks

    Hope I remembered all the specific details!
  2. fpnmf

    fpnmf Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Try putting "WSM" in the handy dandy search tool up top!!!


    This site has tons of info.

    I would suggest you spend some time reading all the different forums and the WIKIs.

    Then use the handy dandy search tool for specific interests!!

    The free E-Course is great!!

    Have a great day!!!

  3. adiochiro3

    adiochiro3 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Could you see white billowing smoke, or a thin blue smoke when you put the butt on? The problem may have been the mesquite burn rather than the charcoal. I add fresh unlit coals to my fires regularly without any charcoal taste on the food. White smoke will give you that taste though. You want that hardwood to just smolder slowly for a perfect smoke.
  4. ecto1

    ecto1 Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    Here is what you should be seeing coming out of your smoker.  Notice you can barley see the smoke at all.  I like the term I stole from someone on this forum.  Ninja Smoke!!  Once you get temp control down in your smoker the ninja smoke will come no problem.  Are you using chunks or chips in your WSM  it does not take a very hot fire to get your wood to smolder at all.


    Last edited: May 29, 2011
  5. smokinginmn

    smokinginmn Newbie

    The smoke was a heavy white smoke.  Once I had the coals burning better towards the end, I was able to achieve the TBS that is desired.  My thoughts on the wood is that Mesquite wood is Mesquite wood, but the only other variable that I can think of is the wood I used yesterday was significantly cheaper than the Weber brand wood that I used the first time.  I highly doubt that Weber has a better quality wood though??  The wood would turn black as charcoal, but would not actually burn and ash up. Thoughts?
  6. pgsmoker64

    pgsmoker64 Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    I have a 22.5" WSM as well and for some reason I noticed heavy white smoke when first placing the unlit coals on the pile.  I guess you are using a full chimney of lit coals because of outdoor temps?  I only use a half chimney regardless of temp and have never had problems getting the temp up where I need it.  You may need to use digital thermometers and not rely on the lid thermo.  One thing you want to make sure of is that the lit coals that you put on the pile are completely lit, if not you will get that heavy smoke for a while.  Maybe don't put the meat on until you see the TBS?

    Just curious...are you from Texas origianally?  I don't know too many folks that use misquite on pork butts, brisket yes, but the smoke flavor is so strong with the mesquite that it tends to overpower the meat. 

    Good luck with future smokes!
  7. iron

    iron Fire Starter

    Hello, I dont have much to say about your problem...but i do have something to say about the reply above from fpnmf... I have been a member here for a few years, I have donated some money to Jeffs rubs ..I do not post much anymore ( nothing actually for a long time) That doesnt mean i don't visit and read..But i could not sit by without letting this be said..Posts like yours truly turn me off to sites...when a new guy has a question, no matter how many times its been asked, it is common decency to at least answer to the best you can, if you get upset that people do not search first  then keep it to yourself, but don't make a guy feel like an idiot for asking.... some  things are either harder to find, or people do not have the time to search through countless posts...sorry for venting, but I've seen a few of these type posts here  and it just turns me does not do the forum any good to come at a person ....


    p.s.  I  here Ron P. died, sorry for the loss that was a very nice man who helped me a lot!
  8. flash

    flash Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Good smoke on right, bad smoke on left

  9. tom37

    tom37 Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    In the OP's defense, I know that when I used to search for stuff I would enter to much info and yield far to many results to even think about reading. 

    Not trying to start a flame session here just trying to point out to other posters that may be searching, try it with less words and see what happens. 

    As far as the dense smoke.

    Myself, I don't think its the charcoal totally. I have only cooked on a WSM once and it wasn't even mine.

    But after cooking on my drums I think it may be that you have a bad batch of wood. Maybe to thick on the bark, if it had bark on it. Or maybe its really old.

    I load my drum with lump now, used to use regular coals and just didn't like it.

    I fill with about 15 lbs and I just use the propane weed burner and light one side of the basket. 

    I have never tried loading the lit coals into the center of the basket but I know that several here have, and have great results.

    Now I know that I'm using lump vs reg coals but I often forget to add the wood chunks and just go with the lump only.

    I'm finding out that the smoke flavor is actually pretty decent even with just the lump.

    Maybe try just one piece of wood next time and see what happens.

    As far as the stall on the temps.

    Have you checked around to make sure you don't have large gaps anywhere letting the heat out. 

    I know its a crazy question but I figured I would ask it anyways.

    I can't remember what the bottom of the coal pan looks like but maybe you are jamming up with ash and not letting enough air to the fire. 

    I did have this same exact problem with my drums when I used reg coals.

    Good luck and pls let us know what happens with the next burn.
  10. rowdyrawhide

    rowdyrawhide Smoking Fanatic Group Lead

    First off, I could not agree with Iron more on the stupid "USE THE SEARCH ENGINE!"  BS, if it is a question you are tired of answering, then don't post if that is your only response.  There are plenty questions on this forum, with varying degrees of difficulty, from novice to advanced, use your knowledge where you think it is best served.  Sorry for the rant and I am not singling out any one person, these posts are made a lot by many different people.

    As to the OP's question, I have a WSM 18 and use it all the time, I have a couple ideas that mostly coincide with what was already said:

    1.  I hardly ever have to run more than one vent open, I use a variation of the "Minion" method, which sounds basically like what you started with, a ring of coals with the center hollowed out to dump the started coals in, I also use a chimney starter.  After I have the chimney going really good, I dump it in the middle, then if I am going to smoke more than 5 or 6 hrs, I will dump more Lump on the top, sort of creating a second layer on top, but just before I do that I will throw four or five good chunks of wood (roughly 2X2X6) on top of the hot coals, and then two or three more on top of the "second" layer.  I too error on the side of not have reloading the smoker any more than I have to since it is a PIA most of the time, but if I am smoking more than ten hours I will have to reload on my 18", yours may be different.

    2.  I too started out using charcoal, I now use Lump Charcoal--- starts easier, burns hotter, and burns longer, IMO that pretty much sums up any arguments.  Right now I use Royal Oak Lump Charcoal, I can find it here at Walmart, it is in a red bag with yellow writing, there are others out there too.

    3.  I used mesquite for a brisket smoke and had a bad outcome as well, I think I used too much wood--that was one of my very first smokes.  Long story short, I haven't used it since, I think mesquite is not as forgiving as other woods, especially fruit woods, right now my favorite wood is Cherry.  I would not have a problem trying mesquite again now, but I really like Cherry on everything from brisket to ribs to pork shoulder.  Also sounds like you had either some old wood or some green wood, possibly just speculating here.  

    So to sum up my suggestions, I would recommend using Lump Charcaol, I would use a fruit wood of some sort for Pork Shoulder, I would also try to get your smoker to temp before throwing on your meat. You will probably have some white smoke until it settles down, I alsop think if you use the lump, it will help with the temp problems
  11. smokinginmn

    smokinginmn Newbie

    First off, I didn't take any offense to the search engine post, as I have seen it used plenty of times before.  I also have done enough reading on here to know that there would be some other folks that were willing to give their advice.  Anyways - I have never lived in Texas before, and was really surprised I was only questioned by one of you why we were using mesquite.  The friends that we were cooking for/with have lived in Texas, and it is what they have become partial to for flavor.  I myself have yet to find a wood that I prefer over mesquite at this point.  I was really turned off by hickory having used it on a cookshack before.  I found it was really easy to oversmoke with that smoker.  So my plan will be to start to incorporate hickory and apple into my smoking.  I think I may try using lump instead of briquettes. One more question-  How long in advance do most of you start your smoker before you intend on putting the meat on?  Thanks for all the advice and thoughts so far. 
  12. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Most guys let the smoker get to temp before putting the meat on, depending on your smoker it could be 30-45 min. I prefer to put the meat on when I start it up, that way it gets cold smoked and will absorb a little more smoke while the smoker is heating up. I also use cold water in the water pan.
  13. pgsmoker64

    pgsmoker64 Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    I start heating things up about an hour before putting the meat on, normally.  Sometimes it just depends on the weather and what I'm smoking.  I wait on the temperature though, sometimes it gets where I want it quickly and sometimes it takes a little longer.  As for wood, you will need to play with that until you find out what you like best.  If you like a nice light smoke flavor I recommend pecan.  I especially like pecan for brisket.  I like hickory and apple for pork butts, cherry and one little piece of hickory for ribs (sometimes all cherry) though sometimes apple.  One wood that I never use is oak.  No particular reason other than we have a local BBQ restaurant that uses strictly oak and the meat just has no flavor in my opinion.  As I said though, wood preferences are personal preferences you just need to play with it until you find your favorite.

    Happy Smoking[​IMG]

    As for our dissenters, take it easy!  We are all friends here and some people impart information differently than others.  Have a great Memorial Day everyone!

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