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Unhappy With Charcoal Flavor


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Some of my best results in the Kamado come with just hardwood lump and no smoking wood at all.

@Collin   I've did another 2 cooks since I last posted and I believe our problem is not letting the fire mature. A few other members mentioned this in previous posts and I let the lump go fo

@Collin   You have to dial back the amount of smoking wood you use SIGNIFICANTLY in a Kamado if you are used to a stick burner smoke profile.  Stick burners are high airflow low efficiency f

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My final suggestion has nothing to do with cooking. It's the aftermath.

 

Please do not run down your own cooking to your family, friends and guests. You can't make comments like- tastes dirty, doesn't it? Smells like a campfire, don't you think? Not as good as XYZ BBQ, right? You are telling them it's not good and probably changing their opinion and telling them what to think regarding your cooking.

 

I never bet, but I would bet that their comments were reflections of what they had been told by the expert- the cook.

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1 hour ago, CentralTexBBQ said:

My final suggestion has nothing to do with cooking. It's the aftermath.

 

Please do not run down your own cooking to your family, friends and guests. You can't make comments like- tastes dirty, doesn't it? Smells like a campfire, don't you think? Not as good as XYZ BBQ, right? You are telling them it's not good and probably changing their opinion and telling them what to think regarding your cooking.

 

I never bet, but I would bet that their comments were reflections of what they had been told by the expert- the cook.

I am absolutely my own worst critic, making excuses for perceived shortfalls in a cook. Only ever had a complaint from sooty sides from (possibly) a bad bag of RO. 

I continue to use RO but will make a more conscious effort to await judgment without predisposing influencing others opinions. 

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I'll probably experiment with higher temperatures next and let you guys know how it goes. I'll also lower my expectations from offset-style smoke to something more achievable on a kamado - but I do think, if you could taste the food I'm getting, you'd agree that something's off.

 

@John Setzler any chance of a video (or at least tips) for a wood-only burn? I'd really like to try it out.

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20 minutes ago, Collin said:

I'll probably experiment with higher temperatures next and let you guys know how it goes. I'll also lower my expectations from offset-style smoke to something more achievable on a kamado - but I do think, if you could taste the food I'm getting, you'd agree that something's off.

 

@John Setzler any chance of a video (or at least tips) for a wood-only burn? I'd really like to try it out.

 

No.  I don't see that as a viable option in a Kamado.

 

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I agree with inarngr i did have a bad experience with Ro last year i had 2 bags that only had 50 cent sized pieces in it these 2 bags gave a bad smoke taste . They also produced more smoke from the burning then normal. They were ok for grilling at a higher temp, but not at my 225 smoke temp. Different charcoal wil have a different smoke profile, My wife doesn't care for chicken on a RO fire but likes it on a Rockwood fire. And we both like a 700 degree pizza on Ro fire it gives a more wood fire flavor . If Collin has done 25 long smokes it's safe to assume he used more that one bag of charcoal. If he uses the same brand he my want to try a different brand, how are you starting the Kamado? What are your normal vent settings, is there any goop dripping from the top vent? 

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3 hours ago, lnarngr said:

I am absolutely my own worst critic, making excuses for perceived shortfalls in a cook. Only ever had a complaint from sooty sides from (possibly) a bad bag of RO. 

I continue to use RO but will make a more conscious effort to await judgment without predisposing influencing others opinions. 

 

Most cooks I know are. But more accurate and honest opinions come when I shut up and do not telegraph my displeasure.

 

There honestly have been times I've been dissatisfied with the smell of a cook only to realize that I needed to grab some tissue and clean my nose. It wasn't the food. It was the smoke from light up to shut down. :-D

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2 hours ago, Collin said:

I'll probably experiment with higher temperatures next and let you guys know how it goes. I'll also lower my expectations from offset-style smoke to something more achievable on a kamado - but I do think, if you could taste the food I'm getting, you'd agree that something's off.

 

@John Setzler any chance of a video (or at least tips) for a wood-only burn? I'd really like to try it out.

 

If you could take pictures or videos of the process you are using regularly, it'd be easier for people to pinpoint what's going wrong. 'Cause I really see no reason for it to happen.

What are you using to fire up your charcoal?

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We have all made food that turned out marginally edible. Kudos for not giving up! In my case, I let smoking wood burn with a visible flame, and got a sooty-tasting result. I don't see this being your issue. 

 

The most common problem is cooking before the fire matures, the dreaded white smoke. I use a chimney starter now and I never see the dreaded white smoke. I think you addressed this too. 

 

Then we're down the the most basic thing. Charcoal matters. Spring for a bag of KJ Big Block, since many of us use it, and see what you think, cooking with nothing else in the firebox. Can you get a clean taste? That becomes your starting point for adding flavored smoking wood, or not!

 

I would avoid any charcoal based on MESQUITE. Mesquite smoking wood is popular, my favorite, but it's a strong smoke flavor. I use mesquite charcoal, and its flavor comes through even on a 4 minute, 850F pizza cook. 

 

I'm cooking a brisket tonight. Planning a 20-24 hr. cook. If I had mesquite charcoal open, I'd use it. I have bags of RO and KJ XL open, so I'll add a log of mesquite smoking wood at the grate, under all the fuel. Block KJ for the bed of fuel, light it with the RO coal in the chimney, and add a little more smoking wood on top for intense smoke early on. My first hour is more of a cold smoke as the grill warms up, because I know the fire is mature. 

 

Stay well,

Frank

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@len440 @endou_kenji @fbov 

 

Here’s the exact process I’ve been using lately:

  1. Fill the firebox with enough KJ Big Block to last the whole cook. For small roasts it might only be a few handfuls, for brisket almost a full firebox. Tumbleweed fire starter goes right in the middle, nestled down a bit.
  2. Place one fist-sized chunk of wood (hickory, oak, pecan or apple) in the middle, right next to the fire starter. This ensures the wood lights at the very beginning.
  3. Light the tumbleweed. Bottom vent open, leave lid open about 5 mins for charcoal to get going.
  4. Once it’s lit, close the lid and open top vent to first mark. Reduce bottom vent to about 2” until smoker comes up to temperature. At this point we usually have lots of billowing white smoke from the hardwood.
  5. Once grill reaches 225, reduce bottom vent to about 1/2”. Adjust if needed to keep stable temp.
  6. Leave smoker alone until the white smoke has cleared completely. With one wood chunk, this usually takes 30-45 mins from initial light. I suspect that by this point, the wood has been practically consumed.
  7. When smoke has cleared, put meat on grill.
  8. Close lid, leave it alone until finished cooking. Sometimes I wrap, sometimes not.

That's pretty much it! I've tried lots of variations, but this seems to follow most advice I've seen.

 

Some other notes:

  • Moving from RO to KJ Big Block was a slight improvement I think. Similar flavor profile, but not quite as strong.
  • I can never really pick out the hardwood smell in the finished food. Whether it's hickory, oak, apple, etc. - it all smells mostly the same - like campfire.
  • Not all cooks are at 225. I did a tri tip closer to 275, with similar results.

I'm pretty stumped - would love some advice!

 

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I know back when I used starter cubes it took longer to get a clean fire than it does now using a torch but other people use cubes and tumble weeds with no issue so that’s probably not it.  I think you could be closing the dome too soon and your starter hasn’t completely burned up yet.  Also try leaving your vents wide open once you shut the dome.  Start dampening down once you get within 50-75° of target temp and make final adjustments shortly there after.  Last but not least smell your smoke before you put the protein on.  Just hold your hand above the exhaust vent and then smell your hand.  If it smells like a campfire your not burning clean yet regardless of what color smoke you are seeing.    
 

I had the same smoke problem when I first started cooking on a Kamado grill.  I went with a more neutral lump than the RO I was using. I’ve been using Rockwood ever since.  You’ll just have to keep trying different lumps and methods until you find what works for you.  Good Luck.   

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On 5/15/2020 at 6:00 PM, Collin said:

@len440 @endou_kenji @fbov 

 

Here’s the exact process I’ve been using lately:

  1. Fill the firebox with enough KJ Big Block to last the whole cook. For small roasts it might only be a few handfuls, for brisket almost a full firebox. Tumbleweed fire starter goes right in the middle, nestled down a bit.
  2. Place one fist-sized chunk of wood (hickory, oak, pecan or apple) in the middle, right next to the fire starter. This ensures the wood lights at the very beginning.
  3. Light the tumbleweed. Bottom vent open, leave lid open about 5 mins for charcoal to get going.
  4. Once it’s lit, close the lid and open top vent to first mark. Reduce bottom vent to about 2” until smoker comes up to temperature. At this point we usually have lots of billowing white smoke from the hardwood.
  5. Once grill reaches 225, reduce bottom vent to about 1/2”. Adjust if needed to keep stable temp.
  6. Leave smoker alone until the white smoke has cleared completely. With one wood chunk, this usually takes 30-45 mins from initial light. I suspect that by this point, the wood has been practically consumed.
  7. When smoke has cleared, put meat on grill.
  8. Close lid, leave it alone until finished cooking. Sometimes I wrap, sometimes not.

That's pretty much it! I've tried lots of variations, but this seems to follow most advice I've seen.

 

Some other notes:

  • Moving from RO to KJ Big Block was a slight improvement I think. Similar flavor profile, but not quite as strong.
  • I can never really pick out the hardwood smell in the finished food. Whether it's hickory, oak, apple, etc. - it all smells mostly the same - like campfire.
  • Not all cooks are at 225. I did a tri tip closer to 275, with similar results.

I'm pretty stumped - would love some advice!

 

Place the wood far enough from the starter so that the coals around the starter have reached full burn before the wood starts to burn.

The higher the heat the cleaner the smoke will be.

 

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1 hour ago, Mattman3969 said:

I had the same smoke problem when I first started cooking on a Kamado grill.  I went with a more neutral lump than the RO I was using. I’ve been using Rockwood ever since.

 

Have you been happy with the Rockwood flavor?

 

I switched to KJ big block because everyone seems to rave about it. But now I'm seeing info that it's made from South American hardwoods... I wonder if that's the flavor I'm detecting, compared to the North American hardwood I'm used to? Then again, people with better palates than mine seem to be fine with it, so who knows.

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