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RonnieQ

Confusion and conflicting info on wood chunk placement and airflow

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OK I am still relatively new to the world of Kamado cooking. I got my classic II in December and it's become an obsession.

 

I've done a handful of smokes on the KJ so far and none of them have been bad, but I'm sort of on this perpetual quest to just try and perfect it as much as I can. I have been scouring youtube, forums, IG and books for the "optimal" way to set up a kamado in regards to wood placement and airflow. I have found that there's about a dozen or more different ways, and everyone has their own idea of what is best. 

 

Some people say just toss a couple on the top of the lump pile before your deflectors go on. Harry Soo in one of his "brisket fundamentals" videos where he cooks on a kamado cooker, specifically says "always put wood chunks on the bottom under your coals, no matter what you read on the internet, because the wood needs to smolder (Others say wood should never smolder and thats what causes poor combustion). He also goes on in another video to talk about how wood needs to combust at a lower temp range in order to properly vaporize lignin or some sciency word I already forgot for proper flavors. Chef Eric @ KJ told me to put the wood in the hottest part of the coals because you want good combustion. Chris Grove and others say that they spread the wood around in layers throughout the coal.  

 

Then airflow.. I understsand that you obviously want good airflow which means not obstructing your holes with small pieces or ash, and keeping your grill clean. But then I think about how some people talk about the idea of using a smaller fire that is taking up less volume in the fire box, and would seemingly give you better air flow (but maybe not last as long on a super long cook?).  Then you have others that say you should ALWAYS fill the fire box up all the way for a long cook ( I feel like this would inherently give you worse airflow?).

 

So yeah basically I feel like I have read every various opinion under the sun so far and I'm just curious for all of you guys that have been doing this for years, what you have personally found with trying these different results, if one has yielded noticeable improvements over another, if there are methods that should absolutely be avoided, etc. I also realize that there are other cookers out there that are going to do a better job with smoking than a Kamado, but for me its more of a quest to turn out the best possible product with what I have.

 

Thanks!

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Welcome, glad to have you and your Joe with us. Kamado Cooking is a lot like "Meat Loaf", in that the number of recipes you find is always equal to the number Nanas and Grammas you talk to. Everyone after learning how a kamado works, goes on to develop a personnel style . A good source of basic information can be had from reading the "Kamado Book of Knowledge" by John Setzler the guy who started this forum.  Personally, I find a lot of back yard BBQ to be oversmoked, and have taken a less is more approach. For example, instead of using several wood chunks on something like ribs, I take only one or two chunks, wrap them tightly in foil and poke just 2 holes one on either side. The result is a smaller amount of smoke but a consistent burn over a much longer time period. I usually put smoking wood on the bottom in the center of the pile. I light my fire directly over the wood but at the top of the pile. Works for me. Happy cooking. 

 

 

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That book is a great source of info. Once you learn about using the Kamado you will naturally start doing things " your way". I always fill the fire box each time i use the smoker. If i'm grilling i might just use what's in the fire bowl. The air flow in the grill is effected by a few things the vents and charcoal size and maybe brand. If you use a lot of small pieces (i've had a bag or 2 like that) this will restrict the airflow somewhat, larger pieces have more larger air gaps hence better air flow. The size of your fire will draw more air then a smaller one and create more airflow. We manage the airflow with the vents to control the size of the fire and temp. Placement of the wood is what ever works for you I used to wrap the wood chunks when i used my gas smoker and have thought about trying it for the Kamado. But the main thing is to enjoy the Classic it's a good obsession.

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