|Smoking color is correct when white smoke is present|
You smell it before you see it! The aroma of foods being cooked outdoors. When those foods involve cooking over wood – hardwood to be specific – well, it is a flavor experience that is in a league of its own.
Recently, our cartoon friends, Tom and Bert, had an exchange about what the color of smoke means.
Smoke Color Means…
Bert couldn’t be more right! Hardwoods are the woods to use for cooking but not every hardwood is ideal. That’s why they produce different colors and aroma/flavors when burnt. Don’t just pick up any old hardwood. Be sure to use only those that are know to be ideal choices when cooking: Alder, Ash, Beech, Cherry, Hickory, Pecan, Oak.
The Four Colors of Smoke
You might believe there is nothing complicated about cooking with wood. How wrong you are! As Bert mentions, the flavor is directly related to the hardwood selection as is the color of the smoke. Select a wood that is not considered ideal for smoking and you’ll likely have to throw away your meal! Let’s cover the 4 colors of smoke Bert mentions.
Bert is spot on with his description and cause of black smoke. You never want to put foods on a grill or smoker that is emitting black smoke. Black smoke means no oxygen, which means you have an airflow issue. Be sure to read up on how to achieve proper airflow here.
Gray or Brown Smoke
When unclean wood is used for cooking, Bert knows you’ll get a gray or brown colored smoke. Always be hesitant to place food over this smoke as you can be sure something isn’t clean. It may be something dripped on the wood, was a treatment applied to the wood including pesticide application, or it may not even be a hardwood. Clean out the smoker and start over!
I love how Bert recognizes that white smoke is a natural process in the stages of combustion. This tells you that any water remaining in the wood is heating up and steaming out. Once the wood is dry enough, that white smoke will disappear, and you can start to cook!
Invisible or Blue Smoke
You may have read that the goal when smoking is to have a blue tint to your smoke. That is great in theory but not usually the reality. Truth is that a clean output from your vent in the form of a nearly invisible smoke is achievable by most of us. Do not be fooled into thinking that you can simply use dry wood to get to this level faster. Compounds responsible for ideal smoke color and flavor can only be found in hardwoods with some moisture, usually around the 20% level. Wood that is too dry will only produce heat and not flavor.
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