It takes longer to smoke meat than it does to grill meat. Beef brisket, for example, may require five or more hours of smoking. We've even spent 12 hours smoking a single pork butt. As a result, you need to ensure your smoking chunks do not burn too quickly. If your smoking chunks quickly burn to ash , they will not be able to provide much flavor to your meat because there will be no smoke for the meat to absorb. Thankfully, however, there are several ways to prevent smoking chunks from burning too quickly.
It starts with the quality of your chunks
Like most things in life, quality makes a difference. When you use wood chunks for smoking like the ones Cutting Edge Firewood provides, they will last longer than other brands. This is true for a couple different reasons:
- The size of the chunks are larger: The bigger the piece of wood, the longer it will burn for and the more smoke it can provide.
- The wood is more dense: When wood sits outside and seasons for a long period of time, it begins to decompose. This reduces the density, which means there is less of it to burn. Many kiln dried providers will allow their wood to season for a few months before placing it in the kiln, but not Cutting Edge. Our firewood goes into the kiln within a few days of being cut down. You know it will be the most dense wood you can get, which means the wood will burn for a consistently longer amount of time.
- Nothing but the wood: Seasoned firewood can contain mold, fungus, bugs, and moisture. When you place this wood into a smoker, the fire needs to spend time burning these things off as well. Instead of a consistently clean and flavorful smoke, you will get a mixture of unclean smoke and bitter flavor.
Consider the species of your wood chunks
Not all species of firewood are created equal - some burn much more slowly than others. If you're struggling to prevent your smoking chunks from burning too quickly, consider using a different variety. Hickory smoking chunks, for instance, burn the longest. Pecan and oak smoking chunks also offer a long burn time, though they not quite as long as hickory smoking chunks. When in doubt, stick with hickory or oak smoking chunks. Both varieties burn longer than most other types of smoking chunks.
If you're attempting to use soft woods like cedar or pine, then stop. They burn too quickly and pine tastes terrible!
Place the chunks in the smoker right before the food
We get a lot of questions about when you're supposed to add the smoking chunks. Do they go on when you light the charcoal? When the food goes on? After the food goes on?
We recommend you place the cooking chunks into a preheated grill/smoker, and do so immediately before placing your food into the smoker. Quality cooking chunks will ignite quickly and burn slowly, providing smoky flavor from the start and lasting throughout the length of your cook.
If you place the chunks on too early, you'll lose 20-30 minutes of their smoking time! So wait until everything is heated correctly, add your chunks and then immediately add your food.
Place Smoking Chunks Next to Charcoal
One practical way to extend the life of your chunks is to not place them directly over burning the charcoal. Instead, place your smoking chunks next to the charcoal. Charcoal burns very hot, so as soon as you place the chunks on the burning charcoal they will start to burn.
That being said, you do want some of your wood to start burning right away. The smoke flavor starts getting absorbed into your cook very early in the process. If you want to provide smoke throughout the whole process, then you can simply place one chunk over the flames and another one or two away from the flame. As the charcoal around the grill slowly ignites, your cooking chunks will ignite throughout the cook and provide smoke for a longer amount of time.
Use a Cast Iron Smoker Box
You can also use a smoker box to prevent your smoking chunks from burning too quickly. A smoker box is a rectangular-shaped metal container that's used to store smoking chunks. They typically have a lid that you can open and close. To use a smoker box, open the lid, fill it to the top with smoking chunks and close the lid. You can then place the wood-filled smoker box next to the charcoal inside your smoker.
Rather than using a stainless steel or aluminum smoker box, consider investing in a cast iron smoker box. Cast iron smoker boxes cost more than their stainless steel and aluminum counterparts, so they are naturally better insulated. And with greater insulation, a cast iron smoker box will reduce the amount of heat to which your smoking chunks are exposed, allowing them to burn more slowly.
Adjust the Dampers
You can adjust the dampers on your smoker to control the speed at which your smoking chunks burn. Most smokers have two dampers that you can open or close to control airflow. When the dampers are open, more air is able to flow into your smoker, resulting in a higher temperature. You'll need to keep the dampers at least partially open, but you shouldn't pull them completely open. By closing the dampers partially, your smoking chunks will smolder at a lower temperature.
The hotter the fire, the quicker the burn!
Will Soaking Smoking Chunks in Water Make Them Burn Slower?
Conventional wisdom may lead you to believe that soaking your smoking chunks in water will make them burn slower, but this is not the case. Research has shown that wood absorbs very little moisture, even when soaked for hours.
And don't assume that soaking your smoking chunks in water will make them produce more flavorful smoke. You may notice what appears to be thick smoking rising from your pre-soaked smoking chunks, but this is actually just steam. As the wet smoking chunks burn, the water will evaporate as steam. Soaking your smoking chunks in water won't necessarily hurt, but don't assume that it will make them burn slower.
While there are a few steps you can take to make smoking chunks last longer, it ultimately comes down to quality and size. Fortunately, Cutting Edge Firewood only offers the best quality smoking chunks and they are very large! Not only that, but we offer complimentary shipping nationwide on all chunks!
Shop all our cooking wood products by visiting our online store today. Cutting Edge Firewood offers a variety of high-quality smoking chunks, cooking splits, and cooking sticks in species like white oak, hickory, cherry, pecan and whiskey, all of which will allow you to smoke delicious meat. Alternatively, you can shop our most popular chunks below: