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Clean smoke vs dirty smoke?

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I'm quite new to the Kamado Joe grilling and still learning a lot of things. I read some things today about offset smokers and pellet grills that caught my attention - namely that these produce a more clean smoke. There is a discussion going on here about the pellet Joe and also one on the Egghead forum about offset smokers with some good reasoning behind it. In comparision with a Kamado we choke off the oxygen and that would more likely produce dirty smoke.

 

Using a Kamado I have learned to look for the thin blue smoke and thought of that as the holy grail of smoke. But now reading about offset and pellet smokers I learn that there is even more to it.

 

So, my question is, how do I produce the cleanest smoke possible with a Kamado Joe? Will a digital temperature controller affect the smoke in a negative way? For example, the iKamand v2 is more or less choking the oxygen supply completely at times in order to control the temperature. Any special considerations regarding the placement of the wood chunks? I usually place the wood chunks on top of the charchoal and then let the grill come up to temperature for 1-2 houes before cooking. I also use the less is more principle when adding wood chunks.

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There are a few articles on the forum about smoke quality. 

 

There's another piece by CeramicChef somewhere specifically about using a smoke pot like a retort to force the wood smoke directly into the coal bed.

 

I personally like putting my wood chunks on the bottom of a volcano/Minion fire lay. I find this helps air intake consistency and also forces the wood smoke up through an ignited coal bed. I haven't been able to prove it (except anecdotally) but putting smoldering chunks beneath a coal bed forces the smoke through the charcoal surface heat zone which kills the heavier smoke components that I don't like while leaving the lighter ones I do as it rises. That's how an offset produces vast quantities of quality smoke: with a small, hot fire that gets fed all night when you'd rather be sleeping and burns clean at a higher temperature. I still miss the smoke profile of an offset, but not the babysitting.

 

I'm interested in a Tip Top Temp, but I'm also leery of it for just what you mention. I absolutely hate the smoke produced by a smothered fire. I'd think an iKamand or similar bellows mechanism wouldn't be as bad since there's always a little air leak at the bottom intake.

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After using my Keg for many years, this is the process I have come to use and works perfectly every time.  The keg is extremely finicky as it is too well insulated and hard to get a perfect smoke going.

 

When I want low/slow smoke for ribs, brisket etc, I place 5-6 wood chunks, roughly the size of golf balls, spaced out and spread around, but on the very BOTTOM of the pit.  I then stack up the lump all over top of the wood chunks, making sure the bury them well.  As mentioned, this seems to make any smoke they produce to have to rise up through the lump and get a secondary burn.

 

I then start a VERY small fire in the middle of the lump using a torch, and let the Keg come up to temp over a VERY long time (over an hour), keeping the oxygen level very low the entire time, and then reducing the vents to my "coast" setting when I hit the desired temp.  The fire "creeps" down towards the oxygen source (where the wood chunks are) over time and then starts to spread, which gives me hours of nice clean smoke.

 

 

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I think smoke is too often just over analyzed.

 

I have experimented at LENGTH with producing the best smoke possible in a Kamado.  One of the things I have found that not very many people will even consider is that lump charcoal itself is typically enough smoke for a Kamado cook.  I like to add some additional smoke when I cook a butt, brisket, or ribs, but beyond that, I don't often add any smoking wood at all.  When I watch new owners show photos of what they are doing, I see way too much smoking wood added.  When I DO add smoking wood, I will typically take a fist sized chunk of wood and break it into 3 or 4 pieces with a hatchet and that is all I will use.  I set those around the outer edge of where my fire is started so they won't start smoking immediately.  

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2 hours ago, John Setzler said:

... One of the things I have found that not very many people will even consider is that lump charcoal itself is typically enough smoke for a Kamado cook....

I definitely find this to be true. Of course everyone has an opinion on how much smoke is enough, or too much, or too little, but I almost never add any smoking wood at all to any cook except for a butt or ribs. Even then, the most I'll put in is a chunk about the size of a tennis ball. Maybe not even that big. When I got my kamado and retired my offset, I had two new large bags of wood chunks, one cherry and one hickory. Here we are about 4 years later and neither bag is even half empty.

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