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Old 06-18-2007, 05:44 PM   #1
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Confused about fuels

Ok, I am going to try to clear this up...

When BBQing there a number of combinations of fuel that can be used.

#1) Charcoal (lump or briquette) along with wood (chunks or chips) that can be soaked or wrapped in foil and added to the coals without burning for flavor.

This method seems like the most straight forward... and the most common.

#2) Hot hardwood coals from a separate fire, along with wood for flavoring as described in #1.

Ok, a little more work.. not sure if there are any benefits to this other than not having to pay for lump charcoal? Is the flavor superior? burn time longer?

#3) A number of posters here (AllenOK being one that comes to mind) are log burners.

How exactly does this work? It seems like if I have hot coals and drop a log on it I get fire and not hot coals. I can see the benefit of using wood, mostly in terms of burn time and cost! But I was under the impression that wood fire is bad for cooking... imparts a bitter flavor? I am intrigued buy this method because I have a furniture manufacturer nearby that sells scraps of various light colored hardwood. I have no idea how to determine variety... cooking might be a little like culinary Russian roulette.

#4) Pellets

Let's not even go here. If I could afford a pellet cooker on a grad students salary I would never leave school :)

I think that just about covers it. I am really most confused about #3.


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Old 06-18-2007, 06:28 PM   #2
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Swinchen, I just pulled the turkey legs out of the smoker. Once I'm done stuffing my happy mouth, I'll make a long, complex post that will answer many of your questions.
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Old 06-19-2007, 03:52 PM   #3
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I don't know much about the the other fuel methods but I am a stick burner. I was taught that method so I don't know much else. But with stick burning on and offset you don't get a whole lot of flame if you control the air. It pretty much smolders and produces smoke that way. I get my fire started with a chimney of lump charcoal and a few sticks of hickory or oak. After about an hour I add more wood, usually a fruit wood like Pear or Apple and cut the damper almost closed on my fire box. Thats when I lay on the meat. I only open the fire box briefly to add wood, not long enought to cause a lot of flame. I only open the smoke chamber long enought to baste the meat with apple juice and take temp probes.Most everyone I cook for loves it the way I cook. So do I. But everybody has their own way, this is just mine. Hope this helps.
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Old 06-20-2007, 08:17 AM   #4
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Your research into heat sources for BBQ is obvious. Being a graduate student you are no doubt familiar with the need for the search for facts. Heat sources for BBQing is a subject that has fueled many heated debates, and produced enough hot air to fill a couple of hot air balloons for a cross country journey. As your primary question relates to wood as a fuel source I will limit my brief comments to that subject with the hope that you will continue your search for the truth!

“Ratroclus did as his comrade bade him; he set the chopping block in front of the fire and on it he laid the loin of a sheep, the loin of also of a goat and the chine of a fat hog. Automedon held the meat while Achilles chopped it; he sliced the pieces and put them on spits while the son of Monoetius made the fire burn high. When the flame had died down, he spread the embers, and laid the spits on top of them, lifting them up and setting them upon the spit racks; he sprinkled them with salt. When the meat was roasted, he set it on platters and handed bread round the table in fair baskets, while Achilles dealt them their portions” Book IX, Lines 205-224. The Iliad, Homer. (6th or 7th century BC)

You will notice that thousands of years ago competent cooks had learned to let wood fires burn down to embers (coals) before placing their meat on the fire. With the introduction of gas and electricity as heat sources in the early 20th Century modern man, has to some extent, lost sight of this truth; That foods (meat) cooked in a smoke stream of flaming or smoldering wood gets tarnished with phenols, and cresols etc, resulting in the obvious truth that over smoked meat just does not taste good! Not only is the meat distasteful, but these two substances (cresols, phenols) are hazardous chemicals and suspected carcinogens. One by product of cresols (creosote) has been banned by the EPA. It once was used as a wood preservative, and as a pesticide of sorts for farm animals. Phenols were once used (maybe still) as an active ingredient in Lysol, an excellent bathroom, kitchen etc.disinfectant.

That being said, meat cooked with hot coals produced from hardwood fires (coals is the key word) can produce some of the best bbq. However, as you have noted, this method done properly, can result in hard work. Some would argue it is worth it. I would not totally disagree. Since one of the elements of backyard BBQing is to, have fun!! I would suggest that for the majority of us the use of the best quality charcoal briquettes or lump charcoals that our pocket book can withstand would be wisest choice for a heat source. Leaving wood (smoke) as a flavoring agent, much like salt with the unavoidable truth, “a little goes a long way”

Have Fun and Enjoy!!
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Old 06-21-2007, 08:45 AM   #5
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I think I will take my truthless self into lurker mode,but I will respond to PMs on any stick buring questions folks may have. I will not respond to guestions on the forum. I will continue to post pics of my cooks but leave off the details as to how I achieved my results.Y'all have fun.
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Old 06-21-2007, 10:38 AM   #6
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Hey Swinchen, pretty good summary of methods/fuels folks use to Q. I've used all of those but primarily cook on a WSM. You don't have to have a pellet cooker to use pellets. I use them in foil pouches for smoke and find them available in a large variety of woods. Also, a wood fire is not bad for cooking and imparts a bad flavor only if you misuse it.

I use stick-burners for event cooking or any time I'm cooking for a large crowd. The key is maintaining steady temperatures and a mostly-clear stack (not a dense smokey environment). Folks achieve these results in different ways and experience is necessary, whether you apprentice yourself to a seasoned cooker or learn it the hard way. Some pre-heat seasoned logs, others pre-burn the seasoned wood, others build small, clean-burning fires while others use a mixture of charcoal and wood and throtlle inlet vents. Offsets using wood are a lot of fun but require tending the fire frequently which is why I sold mine and bought a WSM.
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Old 06-24-2007, 01:00 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Uncle Bob

the obvious truth that over smoked meat just does not taste good!
Have Fun and Enjoy!!
To second this: just the other day I cooked some scallops on the BGE but unfortunately, the wood chunk I had in there hadn't burnt down enough - somewhere behind that icky acrid smoke taste I could tell that there was a delicious scallop in there...my wife couldn't
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