Looking into the topic of having and maintaining the correct smoke in my 14.

Figuring using minion method, starter on top of unlit charcoal.

Do charcoal briquettes give off creosote? if so when? Same q for lump.
How about when you add dry smoke wood chunks, it must give off creosote, I'm taking it's not enough to be of concern?

Lynn Dollar

TVWBB All-Star
You've arrived at the primary issues between smokers. real wood vrs pellet poopers vrs charcoal/chunk .

When I first bought my WSM in 2002, I was told that charcoal created creosote, especially the Minion Method. And that creosote would flavor my food. Since then that WSM has produced a lot of good flavored smoked meats.

But yes, charcoal/chunk does produce what's considered ' bad smoke ", which is white puffy smoke that contains gases that put an off flavor on meats.

Common advise is to only use charcoal that's ashed over, all white. After that it won't produce any white smoke. But that's really not practical for long cooks. And one would think with the Minion Method that the burn would produce a constant stream of bad smoke, but that's not what happens. There's white smoke at the start of a cook that later becomes clear.

Wood chunks can smolder and produce white puffy smoke. But like charcoal, the smoke eventually turns clear. Getting good clean combustion with wood means wood that is aflame. If we got that on a WSM, our temps would be way too high.

So yes, on a WSM we are getting what is considered " bad smoke " for the early parts of the cook. You can lessen that by cooking at higher temps, like 275 , rather than the true low and slow range of 225 to 235. The lower the temp, the more the chunks smolder.

If ya can't tell, I'm kinda torn on this and there's a lot of conflicting info. There's many successful competition teams who cook with charcoal / chunk. They use gravity feed charcoal pits.

What many consider one of the top barbecue joints here in Oklahoma smokes with charcoal/chunk, Burn Co barbecue in Tulsa. They use about 20 Hasty Bake smokers. Steven Raichlen has visited the joint and did a show on their food.

There's many people who prefer the charcoal/chunk flavor profile.


Thanks Lynn, good write-up.

One of the issues I'm encountering is with the small capacity of the 14, for longer cooks I have to add a good deal of new coals to the fire as time goes on. When I do I get the thick white smoke for 15 minutes or so, same as when I first put the minion starters on. The early heavy smoke is easy to avoid, just don't put the meat on till it's gone, the mid cook is unavoidable without removing the meat, which isn't practical.

I'm really asking if that heavy smoke at startup or mid cook has a negative effect, health or taste wise.

Lynn Dollar

TVWBB All-Star
Well, the concise version of what I was trying to say, is each individual will have to determine that for themselves.

Pellet poopers burn really clean but owners complain that there's no smoke. So they get one of these tube devices to create more smoke, which is white puffy dirty smoke.

There is no definitive answer.


TVWBB Hall of Fame
I think Lynn got you covered, but I would just add that not all white smoke is dirty. Some of that is steam from charcoal, wood or water if you use it.
I think of dirty smoke as black or grey and that's usually a sign of poor combustion or using punky wood and that can give you bad creosote.
Choice of ones charcoal is one that comes into play when you question what is good white smoke compared to bad.
I never had a bad creosote tasting meal on my WSM's and I always load the meat right away.
I read that creosote food tastes like your sticking your tongue on a 12 volt battery, metallic, tinny.


Lynn Dollar

TVWBB All-Star
Well, just when I'm convinced that I can't let splits smolder in my stick burner, cuz its puts out gawd awful amount of white smoke ................ here's Steven Raichlen at Burn Co in a room of white smoke. This joint is extremely popular. I've got to make a trip to Tulsa to try this.

I'm using Mrs Dollar's Facebook page for this vid, so I'm not sure what ya gonna get when ya click on the link. I don't do Facebook and dont know anything about it. It won't let me just post the vid , something about privacy settings.

But this is charcoal and hickory chunk


TVWBB Wizard
Well, just when I'm convinced that I can't let splits smolder in my stick burner, cuz its puts out gawd awful amount of white smoke ................
This is why I'm usually gun shy about offering advice or sharing input; the older I get and the more I see the more I realize how little I know, lol.

The vid played on my side... thanks for sharing.