How to properly smoke on a WSM

Andre A

TVWBB Member
I have smoked on my WSM 22 for about 5 years now and here is my dilemma. How do best control my smoke. When I you use the minion method, you only light about 10-12. My question is the white smoke which is bad for the meats comes from the wood chunks, if my wood chunks are spread through out the smoker, well in theory, I will consistently have white smoke for a significant duration of my cook. But if I place my wood chunks in one section of the wsm and place my lit charcoals on them, then should in theory give me the blue smoke sooner, but if I am doing briskets, then I may run out of smoke sooner. Am I sacrifice a good smoke ring do it this way... Any suggestions.
 

Dustin Dorsey

TVWBB Honor Circle
Your are probably overthinking it. No one gets no white smoke. You could try burying your chunks. They will burn more completely and smolder less. You just want the vast majority of your smoke to be blue. I find that waiting until the WSM is up to temp helps but even that isn't completely necessary. Try to keep good airflow. Catch your temp on the way up so you don't have to fight it down the whole cook by shutting down the vents.
 

Robert-R

TVWBB Diamond Member
Well... there is no one right or wrong way regards your question.
However... it's pretty much agreed that billowing white smoke is not good.
Myself, I bury 3 - 4 big wood chunks (lately more than that) in the charcoal (full ring) & do a MM start using 10-12 fully lit coals poured on top.
Next, assemble the cooker with all vents open. Observe billowing white smoke. That's normal.
Start closing down the bottom vents around 20* below your targeted cooking temp.
Hopefully you are using a Maverick 732 or equivalent to monitor heat at the grate level.
So.... let the cooker run until you get your targeted temp & Thin Blue Smoke. Could take an hour or a bit more.
Once there - add product.
Most likely... you will again get white smoke - however, it won't last long & you will again get TBS.
If you experience a heavy temp drop... open up the vents & catch them again around 20* below target.
Voila!!! You are on your way & things will be fine.

fwiw - the meat will not absorb much "smoke" after 2 hours or so. Cold meat will absorb more "smoke" than room temp meat.
So, don't worry if your wood chunks are gone after a few hours.
 
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TonyUK

TVWBB Wizard
Every cook I've done on the 14WSM, Tin-Can MM, is bury 6-8 golf ball size chunks in the unlit.
Once I've pulled out the can, I put another chunk directly on the lit briqs & then assemble the cooker with the meat already on.
I get billowy smoke for the first 15-20 minutes. I have not noticed any adverse tastes......ever. This is because I'm catching my temps on the way up, all bottom vents wide open along with the top vent. So there is max air flow & chimney effect. By the time I need to be throttling in the bottom vents, 1hr-ish, there is only TBS present.
My 0.02p
 

Tim K

TVWBB All-Star
I guess I'm far from the norm here....I load the ring with charcoal and place the desired amount of wood chunks in the unlit. Some wood buried, a piece or two on top. Then I light about 1/2 of a chimney. When it's glowing, I pour it on my unlit coals. At that time, while I'm assembling the smoker, I go ahead and place the meat on as well. I'm up to temp within 30 minutes max, and the white smoke has long since discsepated.
Tim
 

Larry D.

TVWBB Gold Member
I guess I'm far from the norm here....I load the ring with charcoal and place the desired amount of wood chunks in the unlit. Some wood buried, a piece or two on top. Then I light about 1/2 of a chimney. When it's glowing, I pour it on my unlit coals. At that time, while I'm assembling the smoker, I go ahead and place the meat on as well. I'm up to temp within 30 minutes max, and the white smoke has long since discsepated.
Tim
I do it this way, also, and it seems to work well for me.
 

Bob Ivey

TVWBB Emerald Member
One other thing to consider is this, when you watch a cook on any of the BBQ TV shows when they use a stick burner, you will notice that they keep unused wood on top of the firebox so it gets warm. I have read that this helps to stop some of the billowing smoke. By burying chunks in the ring, you are effectively doing the same thing.
If I am mistaken on this, please correct me. I know there are quite a few here who do use stick burners.
 

jfortson

TVWBB Fan
I use the Minion/can method with the wood chunks on top and some buried. I get a lot of smoke while heating up, but more of the thin blue smoke once the temps and smoker levels out. This is not scientific but it seems that the wood chunks smoke much more when initially igniting while still cold. After the coals are glowing and heat/temps stabilize, the wood chunks start up slowly and are pre-heated and do not put off the strong white smoke that you see during the initial start-up.

Bottom line - for whatever reason, the wood chunks do not put out excessive white smoke once the process is going.
 

Dustin Dorsey

TVWBB Honor Circle
One other thing to consider is this, when you watch a cook on any of the BBQ TV shows when they use a stick burner, you will notice that they keep unused wood on top of the firebox so it gets warm. I have read that this helps to stop some of the billowing smoke. By burying chunks in the ring, you are effectively doing the same thing.
If I am mistaken on this, please correct me. I know there are quite a few here who do use stick burners.

This is correct! Some people with really large fireboxes also sometimes preheat inside the firebox but not on the fire, especially with wet wood. I've got a cheap offset so I somtimes just open the firebox until a split gets going and the dirty smoke doesn't draft into the cooking chamber. With a hot small fire a split lights pretty quickly.
 

Kevin L (NKY)

TVWBB Wizard
I am a bit different as my wife is not a heavy smoke flavor person, so a lot of cooks i just use charcoal only as it is made from wood so i still get a lower smoke or wood flavor. She loves it that way.
 

Bob Ivey

TVWBB Emerald Member
I kind of have the same issue. My wife has no problem when I do PP, brisket, or ribs, but she wants to do the Turkey next year in the oven due to smoke. I hardly used any smoke wood this year but she is adamant. Same applies to chicken. Go figure.

I am a bit different as my wife is not a heavy smoke flavor person, so a lot of cooks i just use charcoal only as it is made from wood so i still get a lower smoke or wood flavor. She loves it that way.
 

S.Six

TVWBB All-Star
Your are probably overthinking it. No one gets no white smoke. You could try burying your chunks. They will burn more completely and smolder less. You just want the vast majority of your smoke to be blue. I find that waiting until the WSM is up to temp helps but even that isn't completely necessary. Try to keep good airflow. Catch your temp on the way up so you don't have to fight it down the whole cook by shutting down the vents.
I too am a believer in burying your wood chunks. I could never get a good ring on briskets till I started doing that, and I get good smoke too. I just put 2-3 chunks in, or one big one, and don't add any more during the cook. Try it a few times you might like it!
 

WilliamD

TVWBB Fan
I pretty much do it the way that Robert R explained...I use 4 chunks buried within the coals and about 10-14 hot ones poured on top. I don't know if it matters or not, but I strategically place them; 1 chunk towards each lower air vents and the final one in the middle. This seems to give me the 1-2 hours of smoke time (or about 140 degrees meat temp.) that is all you need for smoking. Supposedly anything past that and the smoke is not absorbed by the meat and just builds up on the outside which can lead to the taste of ......like you just walked into a burning building.
 

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