If smoke is coming from the chimney of your smoker, you are wrong and your barbecue is ruined


There is this idea that smoke should be constantly coming out of your smoker’s chimney. Bad.

Black smoke usually signals a grease fire that will ruin your meat, giving it a bitter, foul taste if it escapes from combustion. You shouldn’t see anything more than waves of heat emitted from that exhaust pipe if you do everything right, and correctly means clean wood from fruit or nut trees started on a bed of hot charcoal that doesn’t. haven’t touched a drop of fluid that’s lighter and has plenty of good airflow.

If you see smoke, there is a problem, and you can tell what it is by the color of the smoke. Here is a guide to the problems indicated by the different colors of smoke and what to do about them.

If your smoke looks that dark, your meat is ruined. You need to clean your pit and work to get better air circulation.

Stefan Bettschen/EyeEm/Getty Images

Black smoke

Why do you see it: You are dirty. It’s as bad as it gets, and when you see it, you probably have a grease fire in your pit and the meat is probably wasted.

Grease fires arise from a neglected pit when grease drippings from old cooks fall into the firebox, and they are extremely difficult to put out. One of the biggest barbecue myths is that blackened mud attached to the grates adds flavor and character. This is not the case, and this only increases the risk of fire.

“I’ve probably seen this happen five or six times, and once that grease ignites, there’s really no turning back,” said Darwin Hoel, a longtime barbecue cook. “Your only option is to mix (the meat).”

The fix: Make a habit of minimizing the buildup of these juices by placing a pan under the meat to catch as much fat as possible. Also make sure your pit is level with the firebox or angled so that it is slightly below. This way any grease that may escape will drain away from the firebox.

And be sure to wipe that gap between cooks or at least between all the other cooks.

A gray smoke like this will overpower the meat.

A gray smoke like this will overpower the meat.

Sidney Langhammer/EyeEm, Contributor/Getty Images/EyeEm

Gray smoke

Why do you see it: While it’s not as bad as black smoke, it’s not good either. It will overpower your food with a strong smoky flavor that you will still taste hours after eating.

Gray smoke is produced when your wood doesn’t get enough oxygen and it smolders instead of really burning. This can happen for a variety of reasons, from damp wood to an overloaded fireplace with too many logs thrown at it.

“Oxygen and airflow are essential for every cook, and that gray smoke is a sign you’re not getting that,” Lone Star BBQ Pro Shop owner Bryan Crawford told Helotes. “A lot of people think you have to keep that box loaded, when in reality you get better results with one or two logs.”

The fix: Make sure your logs are dry, have good air circulation, and you can see the flames around the wood. It’s also a good idea to remove the bark, which is a tree’s natural defense against forest fires. The bark retains moisture and tends to burn.

This is a great example of clean, white smoke.  If you are going to see smoke, this is the color to look for.

This is a great example of clean, white smoke. If you are going to see smoke, this is the color to look for.

Marvin Pfeiffer, staff photographer

Blue or white smoke

Why do you see it: Blue or white smoke means your fire is getting good airflow, and that’s the goal of many pros. You’ll often see competitive barbecue teams incorporate “blue smoke” into their names as a badge of honor.

“It’s a very narrow margin between blue and white,” Crawford said. “I think if you see it, there’s not much to worry about, and you can produce really good meat.”

The fix: Not much is needed apart from the fact that you could probably burn a little hotter in your fireplace. Any signs of visible smoke will result in a slightly smoldering fire, but no one will complain about what comes out of your pit.

The key to a good, clean fire that delivers a seemingly blue or invisible smoke flavor is to start with clean, barkless logs that sit on hot coals.

The key to a good, clean fire that delivers a seemingly blue or invisible smoke flavor is to start with clean, barkless logs that sit on hot coals.

Chuck Blount/Stick

no smoke

Why do you see it: Well, you don’t, outside of those nice rolling heat waves. That’s because your pit burns optimally with adequate air circulation, clean, bark-free wood, and a heat bed that remains consistent throughout the cooking process. To achieve this optimal scenario, start with a good bed of charcoal and burn it until it takes on an orange glow of high heat before adding the wood logs. Hoel prefers to burn two at a time, nothing more, nothing less.

“That bed of charcoal is going to be the base of your whole cook,” Hoel said. “Once you establish that, you add your wood and it should ignite quickly as long as you have that good airflow. And with your extra logs, place them on the fire pit and heat them up, and they’ll light in about 30 seconds and keep burning clean.

And while you won’t see the smoke, you should be able to smell it. Hickory and oak are the easiest to use for a clean burn, and they’ll give off a sweet scent that’s the exact opposite of any campfire.

The fix: Nothing, because you have attained Jedi flame mastery. The formula shown above isn’t rocket science, but your food will taste better and will slightly separate you from the crowd of blue smoke and everyone else.

cblount@express-news.net | Twitter: @chuck_blount | Instagram: @bbqdiver


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