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BalconySmoken

Experimenting with timber/lumber

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I’ve been in isolation - forgive me for the lack of content!

with isolation brings boredom which brings experimentation. I was getting pretty tired of buying 4kg boxes of charcoal, so thought I would find a wholesaler. I achieved that but they had a minimum order - I had to spend 100 bucks for delivery (80 USD, 500000000 AU pesos). So I made the order up with some timber I wanted to try: oak, Apple wood, and lychee.

With all this wood, I decided to cook with just wood! The risk is obviously way too much smoke - but I miss the bbq from Austin and they do it in timber so worth a shot.

my first try is Apple wood and ribs. The guy has cut the timber too Long for the 23” - so I decided to only put in three pieces. There was a bit of left over charcoal from the last bbq so I lit that up and a bit of the timber with my brazing torcch.

ribs have an Aussie made run on them, can’t remember the brand but it is chipotle flavoured.

about 4 hours later at 225 they are ready to take off. The girls like bbq sauce on them so I cranked the temp up to 400 and put the ribs back on lathered in sauce.

i got a little distracted by the dog to be honest - the sauce was “over caramelised” or “Moroccan” in patches. Aside from that the ribs were bloody good.

is wood the answer - fucked if I know but it is fun trying. I’m going to do Peking duck with lychee in a few weeks - if I can get that sorted it is going to be amazing

stay healthy every one - and throw another steak on the barby to be sure!

 

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My wood experiments long ago were too much for me, but they lead me to briefly making my own charcoal, then devising the smoke pot.

It is worth studying how one traditionally makes charcoal. Wood is enclosed in a barrel over a small fire. As the wood heats, it starts off-gassing flammable volatiles through holes in the bottom, facing the fire. They ignite, and the fire is no longer needed. When these flames go out and the barrel cools, one has charcoal inside the barrel.

In contrast, it is very hard to avoid nasty flavors while burning wood in the open. One ideally has two fires, one to prepare logs by initial burning, the second to burn "mature" logs for the actual barbecue. A truly advanced technique is to also use green wood in the barbecue pit itself, but that requires the correct equipment and experience.

I have often wondered about creating chambers heated by natural gas, whose purpose was to heat wood until it off-gases these flammable volatiles. Now pipe this "wood gas" into a conventional oven with conventional controls. For example, Danny Meyers spent a small fortune outfitting the NYC barbecue restaurant Blue Smoke; the approach I'm suggesting would be well within his budget. It could perhaps even save money, as handling the smoke is a tricky part of getting permits for such a restaurant in a major city.

The smoke pot is a more subtle, refined smoke but a definite flavor enhancement. Smoke becomes a spice to balance in harmony with other flavors. Once I showed my wife this choice, it was always barbecue this way or sleep on the couch! I believe that what I propose would work well in a restaurant.

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I would be concerned, too, with that much raw wood, that you'd get a fair amount of creosote and other off-flavors. But, your experience didn't indicate that. Maybe you had enough charcoal going to burn off the volatiles??

I was an early convert to Syz's smoker pot. 

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I shared your concerns of way too much smoke and ruining the cook - but I thought it was worth a try. Maybe it was blind luck but it wasn’t too smoky or bitter. It was quite interesting to watch - as the smoker was warming up, I certainly cleared all the mosquitos away with a lot of smoke. Then when it got to about 180ish the smoke went back a bit. It was still a lot of smoke but I was no longer worried about the neighbours calling the firies.

I’ll have a look at the smoke pot concept and continue my experiments. Although, I am a little worried that the meat will taste great but I am then at risk of sleeping in the kennel if I don’t use the pot. I like the idea of a series of chambers to get rid of the volatiles - I built a cold smoker that sort of worked like that years ago (the chambers also got rid of the heat thought and my neighbour certainly did not like the smoke - maybe a week was too long running it?)

more work to be done clearly. Luckily I have nowhere to go so can mess about with the grill. If all else fails; I now own enough wood to add smoke to charcoal for ever! 

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I can’t believe SYZies got away with drilling holes in the bottom of a pot! This may be the biggest hurdle to do this - if my wife asks, Asian termite like cast iron

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They're wee tiny holes (3/32") and only 3 of them. Buy the cheapest 2 Qt CI Dutch oven that you can find. I paid $36 (including shipping) for mine and I've had it now for 7 years. Pretty good investment, if you ask me. 

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On 5/23/2020 at 1:56 PM, tony b said:

They're wee tiny holes (3/32") and only 3 of them. Buy the cheapest 2 Qt CI Dutch oven that you can find.

Yup. There's some flexibility here. Why did I go with three 1/8" holes on the first smoke pot? Too many holes, and more air gets in, the wood starts burning normally which we're trying to avoid. On the other hand, a single hole could get blocked by an unlucky arrangement of the wood chunks inside; the pressure would then lift the lid, and we'd again have the wood burning normally. Three holes is like NASA flying with redundant systems. It seemed a good balance, and it's worked out for many of us over the years.

I seal my lid with flour paste. Much easier than it looks, and of debatable necessity. I did have other versions of lids come loose (stainless steel containers) ruining my cook. So I'm being cautious. And the flour paste has the romance of the Fez Medina; that's how they improve seals in Morocco.

Above 275 F or 300 F the smoke pot can get out of hand. I have a picture somewhere of a six inch stream of flames coming out the bottom, from the gases igniting. This isn't our goal for normal cooks.

Edited by Syzygies
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4 minutes ago, Syzygies said:

I seal my lid with flour paste.

Now there's a use for leftover sourdough starter. :grin: :smt096

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3 hours ago, MacKenzie said:

Now there's a use for leftover sourdough starter. :grin: :smt096

Wow. Particularly as I've settled on a 3:4 ratio closer to my dough hydration, for a different flavor profile and easier mixing. That would be perfect for sealing smoke pot lids!!!!!

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While I don't plan to be making any sour dough starter in the near future (baking is just not my thing!), I do use the flour paste on my smoker pot to seal up the lid. Beginning to get worried about the flour shortage in the stores. I only have maybe a half pound of AP left. Ain't going to spend the $$ on King Arthur to make flour paste with! Need the cheap stuff (I think this last 2# bag ran me less than $1 on sale - doubt that I'll see that again anytime soon!)

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Agreed, but I have several clay pots already and seriously don't need more! 

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Plus, 2 Tagines and 2 cazeulas. I don't even count the 2 crock pots. 

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