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I am about to start my BBQ adventure. I intend to buy a Weber charcoal grill. I am going to use it for grilling and smoking. I was listening to a podcast where the desired smoke color was discussed. They claimed thick white smoke to be undesirable, but a clear blue smoke to be preferable.

Why is that? What texture/color is optimal and why? What is going on in the combustion process?

  • How did you ever have the patience to sit through that long enough to hear anything substantive about actual cooking, and not his self-indulgent blather about the show itself? – SAJ14SAJ Apr 15 '14 at 3:50
  • Just skip that stuff until he starts talking to Meathead – l3win Apr 15 '14 at 4:01
  • @l3win I've changed the link to at least point to the start of when the first guest shows up, don't really have time to listen; if you want to be helpful you could change it to point to the actual part of it that you're interested in. – Cascabel Jul 17 '14 at 20:40
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I don't usually pay attention to the color of the smoke. Just don't put anything on the grill/smoker until the charcoal has turned white or gray. This allows them to reach proper temperature as well as burn off and chemicals used to start the fire. If smoking, soak the wood chips or chunks first. They will burn slower and give off smoke longer, which is a good thing for consistent flavoring. A thick white smoke will be given off after first putting on the wood, then slow as the wood burns off. I prefer to keep the smoke less and cook at lower temps for longer periods, as the smoke gets deeper into the meat as opposed to thick on the outside.

  • It turns out the soaking thing is a myth; it just means the chips have to dry out before they start to smoke. Otherwise, there is no effective change. – SAJ14SAJ Apr 17 '14 at 15:22
  • @SAJ14SAJ I don't doubt you, but I'd be interested in hearing more about this. Do you have a source? – Ray Apr 17 '14 at 16:50
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You want thin blue smoke. While I don't have any good explanation on the chemical differences between 'blue' smoke and white smoke, there's certainly some advantage in taste. Blue smoke is a slightly cooler smolder from the wood, rather than an almost-burning-state.

Use chunks of smoke-wood (roughly fist-sized chunks, rather than the coin-sized chips of wood) for long-smoked BBQ. Put the smoke-wood on first, put the cover on and let the smoke-wood get down to a smolder before you put your meat on.

However - it is a fairly minor difference. I've made plenty of good BBQ with the wrong-kind of smoke when the food when on. If you're just starting-out, don't freak-out too much that your smoke isn't perfect. You'll have your hands full trying to keep it within your target cooking temperatures, which is more important!

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