Everything you Need to Know About Smoking Wood

Smoking wood guide

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Back in the day, all barbecue was cooked with wood logs as the primary source of heat and smoke.

These days we love to over-complicate things.

Take a stroll through your barbecue store and you’ll be overwhelmed by choice. You need to pick from wood chunks, chips, pellets, discs, and whole logs, and that’s before you even decide which of dozens of varieties of wood to use.

In your search for answers, you will come across plenty of conflicting information, from what woods must be matched with certain meats, to how to build a fire for smoking success, and everything in between.

In this guide to smoking wood, we will cover just about everything you need to know about using wood for smoking. We’ll even debunk a few common myths that even veteran barbecue competitors fall for.

Smoking with wood overview

While you can burn just about anything to smoke your food (In Iceland they use dried sheep dung), wood is the most commonly used material.

There are two main ways you can use wood when you barbecue.

  1. As the main fuel source – The combustion of the wood produces heat, while also imparting a smokey flavor to your meat. Building a fire with logs in an offset smoker is an example of using wood as the fuel source. Pellet smokers are another example of using wood as both the fuel and the source of smoky flavor.
  2. As the source of smoke flavor – while using another fuel source such as gas or charcoal. Examples of this include placing a wood chips in an electric smoker, or adding some chunks of wood to your lit coals.

The wood you use to add smoke flavor to your meat comes in many shapes and sizes, such as chips, chunks, pellets or sawdust. The best way to use these different forms of wood will depend on your situation.

wood chunks for the smoker

Many barbecue aficionados out there go to great lengths to match the flavor of the wood they burn to the dish they are cooking. However, knowing how and when to use wood in its different forms is a far more worthy time investment. Understanding when and how to use chips as opposed to chunks, for example, will reap far greater rewards than memorizing a list of meats that “go well with mesquite”.

A quick word on smoke

Smoke consists of around 100 compounds. Some of these compounds exist as solids, others as gases and still others exist as liquids such as oils.

The exact makeup of the smoke you make on your barbecue will depend on the wood you have used, the temperature of combustion, the amount of available oxygen and the humidity.

Two of the gases that you might like to take note of are syringol and guiacol. Syringol is the gas that is responsible for the smokey aroma, while guiacol is the gas we can thank for the distinctive smokey flavor. These gases are only present in trace amounts, but they do a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of creating that trademark barbecue smell and flavor.

Producing smoke on a weber smokey mountain

Let’s have a closer look at what is going on in the combustion process, in the hopes of understanding how and why smoke is produced. Wood goes through four stages as it combusts.

1) Dehydration – This is what is happening to the wood up to about 500°F. Dehydration takes place before the wood actually catches alight, so at this point the wood has to be exposed to heat from an external source, such as from lit kindling, or a match. By the time this stage is complete, any moisture within the log will have evaporated and the wood is left completely dry.

2) Gasification and pyrolysis – This stage takes place when the wood is between 500 and 700°F. Compounds within the wood start to change at this point. Some of these compounds become flammable gasses, so if these gases are exposed to a flame, they will ignite (at this point the wood itself is not igniting independently of these gases). So in everyday terms, this is the point at which it appears as if the wood “catches fire”.

3) Burning – Once the temperature gets to 700-1000°F, the real action takes place. The wood itself is in flames, and gases important to the barbeque cooking process are released. Once such gas is nitric oxide, the gas responsible for the formation of the smoke ring.

The best temperature range, as far as producing tasty smoke is concerned, is between 650-750°F. As the fire gets hotter, the compounds that are being broken down become bitter, and some can even be hazardous.

As gases are released from the fuel, they ignite as they combine with oxygen and are exposed to significant enough heat. If gases escape without burning, smoke is formed.

4) Charcoal Formation – Once the temperature gets above 1000°F, many organic compounds are burned off and charcoal is left behind. Not much smoke is produced while the charcoal burns.

How long should you produce smoke when cooking?

There is an idea floating around out there that meat stops taking on smoke after a certain point, and there is no reason to continue creating smoke beyond that point.

This is not the case. The meat itself will take on smoke as long as you serve smoke up to it.

What does change is the environment inside the cooker and the surface of the meat.

  • Smoke will stick to the surface of the meat readily if it is cool and moist.
  • Naturally, as the cook progresses, the surface of the meat will dry out and warm up.
  • This can be overcome by basting and spritzing throughout the cook. Just keep in mind that if you go overboard with the spritzing, you could wash off any rubs or sauces you may have applied.

Another thing to keep in mind is that coals will not produce as much smoke as wood, so if you want more smoke later on in the cook, you will need to add more wood to the fire.

Keep in mind, however, that just because meat can keep on taking smoke doesn’t mean it should. You don’t want your meat to taste like a lump of coal. There is such a thing as meat that tastes “too smokey”.

How to use the main types of smoke wood

This chart explains the different types and sizes of wood that’s typically used for smoking.

Guide to using different types of wood

How to add wood to your smoker

Generally speaking, a small, hot fire burning at a steady rate will produce the best smoke. Avoid the temptation to build something resembling a bonfire in your smoker. Lighting up all your fuel in one go will not yield good results.

How much wood you should add to the fire, and when you should throw it on will also depend on the type of smoker you are using, and whether wood is your primary heat source or not.

If you smoke on a Weber Smoker Mountain, for instance, wood is not the primary heat source. In this case 2-4 fist sized chunks of wood should be enough to create the right amount of smoke.

If you are using an offset smoker, wood is the primary heat source. We cover what type of wood to use in an offset smoker further on in this guide.

Building a fire in an offset is a topic for another day. This helpful video from T-Roy Cooks to give you a good overview.

Offset Smoker Fire Management - How To Video

If wood is not the primary heat source, many pitmasters find that adding the wood chunks to the coals once they are hot, and the meat and thermometers are all set up, is the easiest way to start producing smoke. To ensure that you start getting good smoke right away, make sure the wood is touching the hot coals.

Some pitmasters bury the wood chunks in the unlit coals, whereas others layer coals and wood chips and then light the coals using the minion method.

Matching wood ‘flavor profile’ with what you’re cooking

Judging by the number of guides and charts out there which outline the flavor profiles of different wood types and what meat it should be matched with, you would be forgiven for thinking that this kind of knowledge is imperative to pulling off a successful barbecue.

What if I told you that the evidence points to the shocking fact that this obsession with wood flavors may actually be a little over the top.

In actual fact, where the tree grew is more likely to impact the flavor profile of the smoke than the type of tree it is. Meathead Goldwyn of Amazingribs.com refers to data from the Forest Encyclopedia Network when he makes this interesting statement:


Meathead Goldwyn, What You Need to Know About Wood, Smoke, And Combustion

“Smoke flavor is influenced more by the climate and soil in which they are grown than the species of wood.

This is very important to note, especially when you are caught up in the game of deciding which wood to use for flavor.

This means that the differences between hickory grown in Arkansas and hickory grown in New York may be greater than the differences between hickory and pecan grown side by side.”

Indeed, many budding pitmasters obsess over what type of wood they are smoking with rather than the more important factor of where it was grown. Steven Raichlen in his book “Project Smoke” reminds us of yet another important point to keep in mind that may be overlooked at times.

“The wood variety matters less than how you burn it. And while each wood variety produces smoke with a slightly different color and flavor, if your new to smoking, the major hardwoods (hickory, oak, apple, cherry and maple) all work equally well.”

Believing that certain types of wood can impart different flavors is mostly wishful thinking. The tables and graphics look nice, but it’s mostly companies copying the same information off each other to create nice looking graphics for marketing.

The bottom line is, learning the techniques behind creating good smoke is going to pay higher dividends than tirelessly matching specific woods with specific meats.

Which types of wood are best to smoke with

Your choice of wood is slightly more important if you use an ‘old school’ style wood burning smoker.

Most pitmasters these days use charcoal, electric or gas as their primary heat source and simply add wood chunks or chips for the flavor.

In this video, Aaron Franklin runs through what wood characteristics he looks for for an ‘optimal smoke’.

BBQ with Franklin: The Wood

The main points you need to consider:

  • If the wood has been left to dry out for around 6 months, it is just right for using on your barbecue. This is because there is still enough moisture in the wood to create smoke, without being too sappy.
  • Store bought woods are likely kiln dried, which means they will burn hot and fast. This may prove challenging when trying to control the temperature and length of your cook.
  • Another advantage of using wood with some moisture remaining in it is that the wood will burn slower at a lower heat. Clearly, this is good news if you aim to cook ‘low and slow’.

Even though most evidence says that the belief different types of wood produce different flavors is mostly barbecue myth, there are some general rules of thumb that seem to hold true.

  • Oak – Burns slow and even, has a mild flavor, and is generally a good wood for smoking.
  • Hickory – Also good for smoking, with a stronger flavor than oak.
  • Pecan – With a stronger, smoky and sweet flavor, this wood is better for shorter smokes. If used for longer smokes, the flavor can become overpowering.
  • Mesquite – Strong flavored wood, which burns hot and fast, and produces a lot of smoke. Best used for grilling, or to burn down as coals.
  • Fruit woods – Mild in flavor, and can be used green.

We have a more detailed guide to the best wood for smoking you can check out, plus some meat-specific guides like pork ribs, brisket, and turkey.

Types of wood you should never smoke with

There are also some types of wood you should definitely not smoke with which we have listed below.

CedarOsage OrangeLamburnun
ElderberryRedwood (Conifer)Yew
ElmSprucePoisonous Walnut (other walnut wood is fine)
EucalyptusSweet GumFir
  • You should never use wood that has been painted, stained or treated in any way. You also should not use lumbar scraps, or bits of wood from old pellets, as there is no way of knowing what type of wood it is, or what chemicals it has been exposed to.
  • You can use cedar for flavoring your food like with cedar plank salmon, but I wouldn’t recommend using it as a primary smoke wood. We have a guide on the best woods for smoking salmon.
  • Avoid old wood that is covered in mold or fungus. Molds and fungi can contain toxins that, when released in the smoke and coated on your food, could make you or your guests ill.
  • Avoid softwoods. You may have deduced this when reading through our list of woods not to use. Softwoods are not a good idea because they are sappy, and contain terpenes. These can leave your meat tasting odd. Worse still, some people feel ill after eating meat smoked using these kinds of wood.

Tips to help generate a ‘smoke ring’

The smoke ring is caused when smoke from burning fuel hits your meat and reacts with the myoglobin to fix the ping / red color. While it doesn’t change the flavor, it’s still highly desirable and a sign of an expert pit master.

side view of cooked and sliced individual rib
Check out that beautiful pink smoke ring
  • Use cold meat to start with, and keep the meat moist throughout the cook. You can accomplish this by spritzing (using plain old H2O is fine) and keeping the atmosphere humid by putting a water pan in your cooker. This will help the smoke stick to the surface of your meat.
  • Use a spice rub. Not only will it add to the flavor of your meat, but it will encourage more smoke to stick.
  • Add your wood early, when the meat is still cool. This is when meat takes up most smoke flavor without you having to intervene. One word of caution, while you want to get the wood on as early as possible, wait until the fire is hot and the coals have stopped smoking before you add the wood.

Wood controversies people love to obsess about

Soaking wood

Conventional wisdom tells us that wood should be soaked before smoking it. The idea is that soaking the wood will slow down the burn, and provide more consistent heat. We’ve even seen people suggest soaking wood chips in beer, wine or fruit juice to add “more complexity”.

We found this suggestion from the LA times especially laughable.

“The liquid will infuse the chips with flavour as they soak, giving the food more depth and dimension as it smokes. Try adding a little apple juice for light and fruity notes, perhaps a little red wine to add some spice notes. A touch of rum added to the soaking liquid can lend a nice hint of caramel when smoking something delicate.”

Let’s put this idea to bed for good. When in doubt I like to consult the experts, and if they all agree then there tends to be a good reason.


Malcom Reed, Dry Wood vs Soaked Wood

“People argue with me that “Soaked wood burns longer”, this statement may be true, but the smoke produced is not clean. The high moisture content keeps the combustion level of the wood down and the steam carries impurities of the wood with it.

So even though you might be increasing your burn times, your actually killing the taste of your ‘que because those impurities your steaming your meat with build-up on the outside and can give it a creosote taste”

Soaking your wood could adversely affect the quality of the smoke that is produced. The smoke you want is thin and blue. Soaked wood produces white, billowy smoke.

If you’re still not convinced, Meathead Goldwyn of Amazingribs.com conducted an experiment to see how much water actually gets absorbed by the wood.


Meathead Goldwyn, Myth: Soak Your Wood First

“I began by weighing two handsful of wood chips, and two handsful of wood chunks on a digital scale. Both bags were labeled “apple”.

Then I soaked them in room temp water for 12 hours, took them out, shook off much of the surface water, patted the exterior lightly with paper towels and weighed them to see just how much was actually absorbed.

Large chunks gained about 3% by weight and small chips about 6%. That’s not much.”

Certainly not enough of a difference to warrant calling off your barbecue plans because you forgot to soak your chunks.

While some pitmasters still claim soaking chips is worth it, most agree that soaking chunks isn’t. Ultimately, you may need to experiment yourself to make a call on this one. But don’t lose any sleep over it.

Should you use green or seasoned wood

Many will advise you to use wood that has been dried, arguing that too much sap will produce pungent smoke and can burn irregularly. Also, the flavors that excessively sappy wood produces can be unexpected, and not in a good way.

On the other hand, some moisture in the wood can help the wood burn slower, which can make temperature control a little easier. And if you are after a stronger smokey flavor, the extra smoke that comes off the moisture in the wood isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It really comes down to what taste you are after.

Should you leave the bark on or bark off

Many pitmasters take the bark off the wood, claiming it will affect the flavor and the way the wood burns. Others leave it on and report no ill effects. Of course, each piece of wood will have differing amounts of bark, so sometimes this decision needs to be made on a case by case basis.

Blending woods to create unique flavor combinations

People get hung up on what type of wood they use to smoke, so you can imagine the angst that ensues when the suggestion of mixing woods is brought up.

To keep things simple when you are starting out, it might be a good idea to stick with on type of wood and get a feel for the flavor each type of wood exhibits. Once you have an idea of what to expect from each variety, mix it up. Enjoy experimenting, and you might just come up with something that really works well for you.

Where to buy wood

Of course, in an ideal world, we would all have a supply of free, perfectly aged wood at our disposal. But for most of us, this isn’t the case and we will have to purchase our wood.

BBQ stores: Your local BBQ store is a good place to start. Wood is likely to be sold by weight or volume in pre-packed bags. If your local BBQ store sources wood locally, you might even be able to save on shipping costs. While hickory and mesquite can be purchased at most hardware stores, specialty BBQ stores are also likely to stock alder, apple, cherry, oak, and pecan as well.

Amazon: You will find a wide variety of smoking wood chunks and chips on Amazon, which will come pre packaged, much like you would get from a BBQ store. There is likely to be a minimum weight you will have to purchase. Make sure you have enough room to store the amount of wood you purchase. Just keep an eye on shipping costs before you buy, as shipping can often cost as much as the wood itself.

If you don’t go through a lot of wood then the wood chunks by Weber are a decent option. You can get a 3.5lb bag of apple, cherry, hickory, mesquite or pecan.

It’s worth shopping around though, especially if you want to stock up. This 10lb bag is a good option if you want a good sppply.

Wood suppliers: Aside from wood suppliers you may already know of in your local area (search “wood supplier + your area in Google), you can find suppliers using this list If you find a good supplier, you should be able to access more specific wood types, and the supplier may even be able to give you more information about how old the wood is and where it comes from.

Forage for it: If you’ve got the time and live outside the city, then going out and collecting your own wood could be an option. Turan from Coldsmoking Cookery School suggests going out foraging after fall or spring winds.

You will need to have a keen eye for different types of wood though, as you don’t want to accidentally smoke with some elm or pine.

If you need to use the wood straight away your best option is to harvest during the winter when the sap content is lower.

11 Tips for smoking with wood

The following tips should give you a good quick guide to using wood on your barbecue. Our suggestions have been thoroughly tested and backed up by experts, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t experiment.

If you want to try soaking your wood chips in craft beer first, by all means go ahead. Part of the fun of learning about barbecue is experimenting with all the different methods.

  1. Get your smoke from wood – This may seem obvious. However, if your charcoal is smoking, don’t assume that the smoke coming from it is just as good as smoke from wood. Remember that tasty smoke comes from wood. And don’t worry if your smoking wood catches alight. The thin, clean smoke from burning wood is better than fluffy white smoke from incomplete combustion.
  2. Store your logs outside – In order for your wood to dry out a little, outside is the ideal place for it to be stored. Keep in mind that you should store your wood up off the ground. This will stop your wood from becoming damp, getting moldy or rotting out completely.
  3. Consider the size of your chunks – The longer you want to cook, the bigger your wood chunks should be. For short cooks such as chicken or fish, wood chips or pellets are ideal. For a longer cook, wood chunks anywhere between the size of a golf ball and a baseball will produce consistent smoke for longer.
  4. Don’t use wood that smells bad – If your wood smells musty, don’t assume that the smell will burn off. It won’t, and the flavor of your cook will be affected. Remember that moldy wood is also not safe to burn due to the toxins that certain molds release.
  5. Learn to control the oxygen – A layer of gray soot all over your meat is not the result of good smoke, but rather the result of burning coals with insufficient oxygen. The good news is that this soot can be washed off your meat, and you can try again. Before putting the meat back in the cooker, make sure you have got your oxygen flow right. Another tip is to get rid of ash in the fire, as this can smother the coals and lead to a sooty outcome.
  6. Practice makes perfect – If you are new to this, don’t underestimate the wisdom of a couple of “dry runs” without food. This way you will learn to control the temperature of your barbecue, how to light it and when to add more wood to get the smoke you are after.
  7. Invest in good thermometers – If you read the section on how smoke is formed, you likely picked up that the temperature has a lot to do with the type of smoke you are getting, let alone knowing where your meat is up to as far as the cooking goes. This is not something you can guess. A good digital thermometer will tell you exactly what is going on in there, and armed with this knowledge you will be able to react accordingly.
  8. Keep your cooker clean – Black, sticky residue will not add a good taste to your barbecue. In fact, the smoke that billows off this substance will most likely be full of creosote. Also, grease that drips off dirty grates into the fire will make some nasty smoke.
  9. Trust your senses – Your barbecue should smell good, and by that I don’t mean like a burnoff. The smell of the meat and the spices you have used should be distinctive, and the smell of the smoke should be sweet.
  10. Cook indirectly for longer cooks – Cooking indirectly means the heat source is in a chamber separate to where your food sits, like in an offset cooker. If you cook indirectly there is no chance of the moisture or fat from the meat dripping onto the fire. For shorter cooks, this isn’t such an issue. But when cooking low and slow, cooking indirectly is best.
  11. Drain and dry unused soaked chips – If you decide that soaking your chips is worth the effort, then make sure you drain off and dry out any soaked chips that you do not use. Otherwise you will soak the flavor right out of the chips before you get a chance to smoke them.

Get the gear

Particularly if you plan on using wood as your primary fuel source, you will need a bit of gear to make your life easier. Here are a few products we recommend.

Firewood rack – It’s a good idea to store you wood off the ground it from rotting. Check out our article on wood racks if you would like a complete run down on the benefits of using a wood rack. We really like the Woodhaven range, as they are sturdy, and come with a lifetime structural warranty.

Another great feature of Woodhaven racks is that they come with a cover to protect your wood from the elements. The clever design also means that the cover moves down as your pile becomes smaller.

We recommend the smaller 3 foot rack if you’re not turning out a lot of barbecue. It will hold ⅛ cord of wood and is about half the price of the larger Woodhaven rack.

Axe – A reliable axe and a great swing are important if you plan on buying larger logs and then splitting them into chunks. Friskars have a range of axes. For taller people, the 36 inch axe is designed for maximum efficiency. Weighing 5.85 pounds, this axe comes with a lifetime warranty.

If you have split wood before, you likely understand the frustration of getting the blade stuck in the wood. Friskars have designed an axe head that is shaped to avoid this from happening so much, as well as adding power and efficiency to the blow.

Metal scoop – Cleaning out the ash in your smoker is very important to keep your oxygen flow healthy, and your smoke sweet. A metal scoop will help you get the job done.

The Grabbin Ash Pan is an example of a quality metal scoop. Made in the USA out of heavy grade steel, this scoop will be around for a while. It has an ergonomically designed handle, which will make a task that could become tedious a little more comfortable.

The scoop itself is large, meaning you can get the job done quicker, and the closed sides mean you don’t lose half of the debris you just collected over the scoop’s edges.

The curved bottom works particularly well for cylindrical shaped cookers. While this item is not an absolute necessity, cleaning out the ash from your cooker is. A sturdy, well designed scoop is going to make this job a lot more enjoyable than if you use a scrap of cardboard you reclaimed from your trash.

Leather work gloves – It is easy to forget how much grief a simple blister can cause. It’s easy to avoid if you don a pair of gloves. Besides, when it is cold out, a thick pair of gloves will keep your hands warm too.

Gloves don’t need to be fancy, just well sewn and sturdy. These leather work gloves are perfect for the job. These gloves are made from 100% cowhide, have a reinforced palm area and a handy drawstring so you can pull them in at the wrist to fit.

Keep in mind that if leather gloves seem a little stiff at first, wear them in for a while and they will soften up.

Wrapping it up

We have covered a lot in this article! While wood is integral to barbecue, it need not be something that intimidates a new (or not so new) pitmaster. After grasping some of the basics about how wood burns, the role of smoke, and what types of wood are out there, all that is left to do is practice and have fun!

Do you have any more questions that we have not covered in this post? Or do you have any further tips and tricks that you would like to share with us? Please be sure to comment below. And if you found this article helpful, please be sure to share!

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  1. Buying my first smoker. Debating between wood or pellit. Is there a meat flavor difference between the two fuels?


    1. joseph.clements12@gmail.com says:

      There’s a small flavor difference. I personally prefer food cooked where wood or charcoal are the primary heat source. That said, the majority of people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. It’s more something people like to fight about on the internet.

      I wouldn’t worry so much about flavor, and instead think about how involved you want to be. A wood burner will be a lot of “work” than a pellet grill, but for a lot of us that extra “work” is half the fun.

  2. william j russo says:

    how do you feel about wrapping a brisket or other meats in paper?

    1. joseph.clements12@gmail.com says:

      This is something I’ve been meaning to do a whole post on. I don’t normally bother wrapping, unless I’ve been smoking a long time and I want the meat to stop taking on more smoke. I find you get a better bark when you don’t wrap. There’s a good video where you can see unwrapped vs foil vs paper here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3rYtR5MPZc4

  3. Andrew L Richardson says:

    So I am making a smoker for wood that will also act as a firepit the whole thing will be about 6.5 ft tall can I use a mix of hardwood charcoal and wood ?

    1. joseph.clements12@gmail.com says:

      I would probably start off using wood only, and then starting trying different combinations to see what works best for your individual setup.

  4. Finally bought my husband a smoker. First smoke was ribs of course! Well after reading a bunch of tips etc, he cooked at about 225 to 250 for about 8 to 9 hours. Two major problems: #1 the taste was so over bearing of smoke flavor it was awful! 2) they were not done!! I had to put in oven to finish cooking. He has a chargriller Competition Pro 8125. He used charcoal and mesquite wood chunks. As I type, he is smoking a brisket with same heat sources. Watched the video on maintaining heat and am concerned of too much smoke flavor again because it has constant white fluffy smoke out of stack. Help us newbies! 🙂

    1. joseph.clements12@gmail.com says:

      Hey Patti,

      Thanks for your question. Definitely sounds like something isn’t right. I assume you mean pork ribs, which definitely shouldn’t take 8 or 9 hours (more like 4-6). Different story if you are talking about beef short ribs.

      A smoker like the Competition Pro wouldn’t be my first choice for a beginner, because with a smoker like that there’s a lot more work managing the fire. That said, not all hope is lost, it just might take a bit more practice. I would suggest this video as a great place to start to learn more about fire management.
      Also I would stick to cooking things like pork butt until you’ve got the technique nailed. It’s cheap so won’t hurt as much if you need to throw it in the trash, but also because there’s so much fat it’s a lot more forgiving if the temp gets too hot.

      Hope that helps.

      1. One thing not addressed to Patti regarding the overbearing smoke could have been the choice of wood used. Mesquite burns longer and hotter so fire control is key. Also, it imparts a very strong smoke flavor so it should be used sparingly, if at all. For ribs, probably better served using a milder wood such as apple, with maybe a handful of hickory thrown in for good measure. Regarding doneness, there can be many things at play, such as outside temperature, heat source(s), wind, etc. Also, if you are constantly opening the lid you are letting out heat which can extend your cook time (the old adage holds true, “If you are lookin you ain’t cookin”). Lastly, using hours smoked for a baseline is fine, but ultimately temperature is king; invest in an instant read thermometer. Best of luck!

  5. Eric James says:

    I recently bought a Oklahoma Joe Offset. I smoked a Pork Butt on it and it took me 15 hours to complete. I had 2 aluminum pans in the smoker with apple juice and water. The temp was kept at 275. It would have went longer if I didnt have took the pork butt and finished it on the oven. It came out tasteful but the time was a kicker.

    Any suggestions on what went wrong possibly?

    1. joseph.clements12@gmail.com says:

      That time does seem on the long side, although sometimes certain cuts just take longer. You didn’t say what temperature you took it off at either.

      The most likely issue is the thermometer you are reading the temp on is inaccurate, and the actual temp was lower. I’d try again and if you keep having that same issue let me know.

    2. I’ve got an Oklahoma joe smoker also. The thermostat on it is reading the heat at the top of the cooker. You need to get a digital thermometer and just lie it down on the grate at the back under the smoke stack, or that area. Then you’ll get an accurate temperature reading for the grate level which is where your product is that your smoking.Then take two of the skinny grates and put them in the smoke box on the ledge so they are halfway up off the bottom. You’ll be able to control your heat much better and for longer periods. The oxygen flow is much better and you won’t have to scoop out the ashes until you’re done . Hope this has been helpful.

  6. You mentioned keeping your cooker clean. I have an electric smoker and it is black on the inside. What should it ideally look like and how should I clean it?
    Also do you have more advice on how much wood to use? Should it be based on the weight of the meat? I tend to use a small amount and often the meat taste very smokey and bitter.

    1. It’s normal for the inside surface to turn black after a few uses. So long as you clean your grates often you shouldn’t need to do much else if you use the smoker often. Make sure everything is dry before you cover it for storage.

      If the inside surfaces have got nasty, you could try placing a pan of hot water in thte smoker and cranking the heat as high as it will go so that it steams.

      I normally use 2 fit sized chunks of smoke wood like Apple, but with an electric you’re going to be using wood chips. The answer is different for everyone and you need to use trial and error to see what you like. 2 hands full of wood chips could be a good starting point. Less is more, and you want to avoid too much white billowing smoke.

    2. I have an electric smoker I’ve used for years. I clean the grates before and after every use (I place them on the grate of my propane grill oh high and wire brush them clean). I’d say twice a year I use take a brass brush to the inside of the smoker. If I have the power washer out, I blast it with that as well.
      My smoker comes apart easily so I can do the above. Yours may not.
      Just my two cents worth.
      I’ve made a lot of tasty BBQ and my neighbors love it! They usually start coming by with cold beer four hours into the process!

  7. Chounlang says:

    What is the difference between aging trees and not?

  8. Larry Goodwin says:

    How do I avoid termites in wood pile?

    1. The best solution would be to store the wood a few inches off the ground. You could use a piece of sheet metal as a base, and then stack the firewood on that.

  9. Mark Clodfelter says:

    I found a cheap offset smoker by the side of the road and took it home. It appeared to be in pretty good shape, so I cleaned it up and used it. The first time was an experiment, so I smoked a couple of port butts. After several hours, I took them off and they had not cooked at all. The problem was that the opening through which the smoke and heat entered the cooking box was too big, and was almost up the level of the food grates, allowing all the smoke and heat to go to the top of the cooking box and out the flue. So I added some steel baffles to keep the smoke and heat along the bottom of the cooking box below the food grates, and now it works great! I even found better cart parts by the road and incorporated the good parts as replacements for the bad parts, and repainted the whole thing with black exhaust manifold paint. Been using it for about 5 yrs now.

  10. Mike Rackley says:

    Do wood chunks have a shelf life? I bought a bunch several years ago and haven’t used them nearly as fast as I thought I would. They’ve been stored in large plastic buckets indoors, so they’ve been kept dry. Are they still good?

  11. Hi, we have several dozen high bush blueberry bushes and have generated a sizeable pile of wood while pruning them. Two questions. First, is blueberry wood good for smoking? Second, do people ever use a garden wood chipper to make wood chips for smoking? This is enough wood that I don’t relish the idea of chopping it all with an axe. Thanks

  12. A wood you can add to the list of woods that should never be used is chinaberry. This stuff grows into small trees here in Texas and it smells like burning plastic.

  13. dale Rincon says:

    Does wood that has been sitting in a garage for years go bad. For smoking purposes that is. I is real dry here in SoCal, so, there is no mold. What do you think?

  14. robert cobb says:

    ive been grilling and smoking for over 20 years and osage orange is the best wood ive ever used some people may not like it but it is my go to wood any time i can get it and all the people i feed seem to like it as well.

    1. Mike Kelley says:

      I also like Osage orange. I’m an arborist and I’m curious to know why it was put on DO NOT USE list. It’s same family as mulberry which isn’t listed and is also a good flavor. Bradford Pear is a nice option city people can forage. They fall apart every time there is even a mild storm. Clean up your neighbors storm damage and profit.

  15. I have a Question? Here in the North East we have a Varity of Chesnut called the Horse Chesnut you can not eat it because it is poisonous will the wood be safe to smoke with or no?

    1. I’m not 100% sure, but I did some Googling and the general consensus is not to smoke with horse chestnut.

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