Too Much Fuel and Creosote in WSM


 

BruceS

New member
When smoking ribs using WSM, Is there a such as thing as too much fuel (charcoal) in the WSM using the minion method? I get a numb sensation when eating
ribs and I am thinking it is because of creosote? I leave the lid damper 100% open close down the bottom 3 dampers to about 1/4 open position. Has anyone experienced this and if so, what was the resolution? Also, could the issue be with smoldering wood chunks buried in the charcoal instead on top of the charcoal?
 

Ed L

TVWBB Member
I think the wood chunks buried underneath could be the problem.

Another question would also be how seasoned and dry is the wood you are using?

What kind of build up do you have on the lid?
 

BFletcher

TVWBB Wizard
Hi Bruce. I don't bury my chunks but I think there are a number of well-experienced folks here whom do. Are you familiar with this area, which contains a wealth of detail relating to WSM's and related topics: https://www.virtualweberbullet.com/

Within the link above, there's a section in the menu labeled "Operating Tips & Mods." Then, within Operating Tips there's a section "Firing Up Your Weber Bullet (https://www.virtualweberbullet.com/firing-up-weber-bullet-1/).

When reading that section, you will come across this excerpt, which indicates you are not alone in your experience:

1609804157134.png
In no way do I offer this to contradict the method that Chris outlines but some folks also wait a span of time after assembling their WSM before adding their food. Some wait until the exhaust looks somewhat clean, and a thin blue smoke is sometimes the indicator. I'm guessing when I say it could take ~ 30 minutes.

Perhaps the brand of charcoal could also have an impact on your palate. I think I remember reading where @LMichaels, for instance, hates KBB (Kingsford Blue Bag) because he experiences a bad taste from it.

Hopefully you get this sorted out quickly so you can enjoy your food!
 

timothy

TVWBB Olympian
Good advice from above.

Usually bad creosote is from a poorly combusted fire ( grey, dark smoke instead of white)
Or if you use lump which is not fully carbonized. That's more brown then black and burns with a nasty smell.
 

Lynn Dollar

TVWBB Wizard
I grilled some burgers on the Kettle last night. Fired up a chimney of KBB. While igniting , it smoked up the whole patio. Mrs Dollar said it looked like the house was on fire. But of course, after it ashed over, the smoke lessened.

I've been cooking on a WSM for 18 years. I still do not understand why we're not getting that same smoke using the Minion method. I've not read one explanation that provides me the ' Ahhh Hah " moment.

Same thing with charcoal/chunk cooking. Why is the smoke from smoldering wood chunks different from the smoldering smoke from splits in my stick burner when I cut off the air supply, the smoke I work hard to avoid ? I've been looking for a " scientist " to answer that question for a long time. I would think Meathead would put his PHD guy to work on that , but I think Meathead is too busy selling grills to want to answer that question.

And yeah yeah, Harry Soo .......... winning barbecue comps .............. OK , right. My opinion of comp barbecue .......... they put so much marinade, injection, rub, sauce on the meats that it hides any smoke flavor, good or bad. To quote barbecue joint owner, pit builder, and former Aaron Franklin partner John Lewis who tried some comps " comps are all about what they put on the meat 10 seconds before turn in " .

Then ya really want to muck up this discussion, why do pellet grills not produce smoke flavor ? Its almost universal consensus among owners of pellet grills that the pellets don't smoke the meat. Could it be that people who've smoked for years with charcoal/chunk buy a pellet grill and say their meats don't have smoke flavor, but is that because what they're missing is the charcoal/chunk flavor ?
 

Russ in CFL

New member
I grilled some burgers on the Kettle last night. Fired up a chimney of KBB. While igniting , it smoked up the whole patio. Mrs Dollar said it looked like the house was on fire. But of course, after it ashed over, the smoke lessened.

I've been cooking on a WSM for 18 years. I still do not understand why we're not getting that same smoke using the Minion method. I've not read one explanation that provides me the ' Ahhh Hah " moment.

I've been using my WSM for years but just bought a kettle and have been wondering this exact thing! I light my WSM using a method similar to the minion but with my loof lighter and never had a nasty smoke, even at the beginning of ignition. For the kettle I started the charcoal using a chimney and the smoke that comes out of it for the first 10-15 minutes is some of the nastiest smoke I've ever seen. Of course it goes away but I would definitely like to know what happens differently to cause that nasty smoke.
 

Bill Thompson

TVWBB Member
I have had the creosote taste/ feel in some of my cooks when I started. I found that they were coming from when my temps would get to high and i would shut down the bottom vents and then the top vent to bring temps down. The shutting of the top vent was causing it for me. I currently use the minion method with half my chunks buried and half showing on top. I haven't had any problems since I quit shutting my top vent.
 

Bradley Mack

TVWBB Member
After watching a few of the T-Roy Cooks on YouTube, I’d have to say that I agree with never closing the top vent when cooking with the WSM. Sort of makes me think of trying to cap your chimney while you have a log burning on the fireplace.
 

Fred BW

TVWBB Fan
I bury the wood chunks because I WANT them to smolder. When you throw them on top and they burn,the amount of smoke is kind of in question. Because burning wood doesn't put out near as much smoke as smoldering wood. So you are less certain of just how much smoke you are getting out of the wood you use.
Bruce didn't say what kind of wood he used or how much. But he describes "numb sensation when eating". Which kind of reminds me of my Brinkman smoker days,when I first started doing this. Overdoing it on Hickory,Mesquite,or any other strong flavored wood will give you a numb sensation when eating.
I would suggest cutting back on wood,and use mild wood like Apple,or Pecan,and see if the sensation goes away.
Apple is pretty much my "go to" wood because it's easy to find and most forgiving. I use stronger woods sparingly.
 

Lynn Dollar

TVWBB Wizard
I bury the wood chunks because I WANT them to smolder. When you throw them on top and they burn,the amount of smoke is kind of in question. Because burning wood doesn't put out near as much smoke as smoldering wood. So you are less certain of just how much smoke you are getting out of the wood you use.

Chunks are never in flame, they are always smoldering whether on top or buried.

There's not enough air flow in a WSM to ignite the chunks to flame. And if that were possible, the temps would be very high and uncontrollable.
 

Lynn Dollar

TVWBB Wizard
Well, I'm gonna dig deeper into the questions about the smoke produced by charcoal/chunk. Yesterday, I found a bargain at WalMart using Brickseek. I bought a Masterbuilt MB 560 gravity feed smoker for $250, MSRP of $500.

And I've always wondered why a gravity feed smoker was just not a big Weber chimney. I'm gonna play around with this thing and see what kind of smoke it produces. I figure it won't cost too much.

But among the competition cooks, gravity feed smokers are popular. There's a fellow from Georgia that was on BBQ Pitmasters who makes GF's, Stump smokers, that aren't cheap, last I looked they were in the $4,000 range. He says " superheated air cleans the smoke of impurities " .

I got this smoker assembled yesterday, today I will be burning it in. I'm not putting any wood in the hopper, its gonna be pure KBB. So I'll get my first look at the smoke.

BTW, there's a barbecue joint in Tulsa, Burn Co, that cooks on Hasty Bake smokers. They use charcoal/chunk. They even use bags of hickory like we buy at the big box stores. Their food is very popular. Steven Raichlen appeared there a few years ago and did part of a show. Here's the vid Raichlen posted to Facebook and it shows a lot of white puffy smoke coming from the Hasty Bakes ....

I've tried to embed this FB vid, but it won't allow it , here's the link, its just a couple minutes long

https://fb.watch/2ZkBMmaqX-/
 

Bruno

TVWBB Wizard
When I first bought my WSM I had a lot of creosote issues, I agree with others it was from using the top vents to retry and bring the temp down.
I used lava rock gaskets and it changed the whole way the WSM cooks. It will go 235-240 without any issues.
 

Jim C in Denver

TVWBB Super Fan
I've been cooking on a WSM for 18 years. I still do not understand why we're not getting that same smoke using the Minion method. I've not read one explanation that provides me the ' Ahhh Hah " moment.

I've heard the following surmises, none of which seems to be up at the ah-hah level:

1. Amount of coals. You get plumes of smoke out of the chimney because you are lighting up 50-100 coals simultaneously. When minioning, the coals are lighting up gradually in smaller amounts over time. So the difference between stomping on the gas to go 0-60 mph, versus nudging the car up from 55 to 60.

2. Cold/warm coals. When minioning, the coals sit inside a hot cooker for hours before they start to light up. Warm coals catch fire more clean/easy than cold coals.

3. It is the chimney. By design, a chimney starter intensifies and focuses the air flow of the start up process. Which produces a lot of smoke. There's a reason they call it the chimney effect.
 

Jim C in Denver

TVWBB Super Fan
Here's the vid Raichlen posted to Facebook and it shows a lot of white puffy smoke coming from the Hasty Bakes ....

FWIW, T Roy says that "thin blue smoke" is really an offset stick burner thing.

T Roy maintains that TBS really isn't a worry or the goal when using a WSM. So long as it isn't constant mega-plumes, a decent smoke voulme coming out of a WSM is fine. My guess is that the same thing applies to Hasty Bakes.

FWIW, I use pretty many chunks and put them at the bottom (like Harry does). And I start cooking immediately. To make sure the wood is going right away, I put a chunk or two in the chimney starter. Also put one big chunk in the middle uncovered, so that the lit coals go right on top of thst chunk.

TL/DR -- I really don't sweat the good smoke/bad smoke thing any more.
 

Lynn Dollar

TVWBB Wizard
I've been cooking on a WSM for 18 years. I still do not understand why we're not getting that same smoke using the Minion method. I've not read one explanation that provides me the ' Ahhh Hah " moment.

I've heard the following surmises, none of which seems to be up at the ah-hah level:

1. Amount of coals. You get plumes of smoke out of the chimney because you are lighting up 50-100 coals simultaneously. When minioning, the coals are lighting up gradually in smaller amounts over time. So the difference between stomping on the gas to go 0-60 mph, versus nudging the car up from 55 to 60.

2. Cold/warm coals. When minioning, the coals sit inside a hot cooker for hours before they start to light up. Warm coals catch fire more clean/easy than cold coals.

3. It is the chimney. By design, a chimney starter intensifies and focuses the air flow of the start up process. Which produces a lot of smoke. There's a reason they call it the chimney effect.

#1 is plausible.

But its also not just the amount of smoke , but the type of smoke. I recall something about the outer edge of briquettes contain something that makes them smoke, which is why its recommended to let them ash over.
 

Lynn Dollar

TVWBB Wizard
Here's the vid Raichlen posted to Facebook and it shows a lot of white puffy smoke coming from the Hasty Bakes ....

FWIW, T Roy says that "thin blue smoke" is really an offset stick burner thing.

T Roy maintains that TBS really isn't a worry or the goal when using a WSM. So long as it isn't constant mega-plumes, a decent smoke voulme coming out of a WSM is fine. My guess is that the same thing applies to Hasty Bakes.

FWIW, I use pretty many chunks and put them at the bottom (like Harry does). And I start cooking immediately. To make sure the wood is going right away, I put a chunk or two in the chimney starter. Also put one big chunk in the middle uncovered, so that the lit coals go right on top of thst chunk.

TL/DR -- I really don't sweat the good smoke/bad smoke thing any more.

I tried a cook last Saturday with premium lump, something like Harry Soo uses, which is Jealous Devil. I bought a bag of Fogo Super Premium. I put some baby backs on the WSM. But when I got the WSM ready on Friday afternoon, for some reason I did not open the top vent completely and never checked it Saturday and it pretty much made the whole cook FUBAR for comparison purposes.

I will do that again.

I used B&B lump a couple weeks ago and there was less puffy white smoke than KBB briquettes. I liked what it produced.
 

Mark Foreman

TVWBB Fan
I do not close the top vent and have never had a creosote problem. Same goes for my Kettle. A long time ago I had a Chargriller Outlaw w SFB. The instructions for that setup said to leave top exhaust vent open. Now that I am using Webers, I just kept doing it that way.
I just checked the Weber instructions for the kettle and WSM and neither really offer any guidance on the dampers.
 

Jim C in Denver

TVWBB Super Fan
FWIW, from the Weber website.

Most of our charcoal grills have two dampers - a top lid damper and the dampers on your bottom bowl.

We suggest leaving the bottom dampers fully open and using the top lid damper to control the temperature. Factors such as the temperature outside, how windy it is, how clean (or dirty) your grill is and even the food you are grilling can affect the temperature of your grill, but these are the top lid damper settings we suggest to achieve different temperatures on your grill:


Adjusting the top vent seems to be more of a kettle thing. Most on here say that you should keep the top WSM vent open and adjust with the bottom vents (and that's what I do). Could be that the top (kettle) and the bottom (WSM) are just the more convenient and more precise to use. Also FWIW, Harry Soo sometimes has said you have to adjust the WSM via the bottom. Other times, he's said use the top. I don't have a kamado, but I think those get controlled mostly at the top vent?

And now that I'm using an ATC, I cook (as recommended by my ATC) with the top vent only 1/8th or so open. That works well, but the cook seems a bit less smoky (more TBS like) with the ATC/mostly closed top vent. Maybe because I'm holding the same temp (and retaining more BTUs in the cooker) while moving less overall volume of air? So a more efficient airflow (like how a kamado works)? I don't have a kamado, but I think those get controlled mostly at the top vent?

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

End of the day, I suspect that the amount of air flow is what matters most. And it may not much matter from which end the air flow is adjusted. Some experiments/data would enlighten perhaps.
 
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