Smoke Colors “If you’re lookin’ you’re not cookin’.”

If you have not checked out Barry “CB” Martin’s newest web venture then you need to take a quick trip over to Welcome To The Cookout.  Barry has launched a site full of great outdoor cooking information, recipes and stories. Barry was kind enough to share one of his more recent posts about smoke colors with my readers. –LG

If you are new to outdoor cooking there are some tricks you can learn to help you know what’s going on inside the cooker. If you find yourself opening the hood of your cooker when roasting or smoking, just to see what’s going on you are sabotaging your efforts! When you lift the hood you release heat and smoke and that slows down the cooking process.

Specific to smoking on a regular grill set up for using wood chunks or chips – the visual cues to recognized by the color of the smoke are:

  1. Blue-ish smoke  = good.
    • Blue smoke is an indicator the wood is smoking and releasing flavors – cooking, as it were – in the prime temperature zone. That prime zone is difficult to tell you because it is a variable according to the how well-seasoned the wood is (translation – dried after being harvested) and both the relative humidity and temperature of the weather. The type of cooker and any other fuel (gas, electric, charcoal) you are using impacts this as well.
  2. White-ish smoke = bad
    • White smoke is an indicator the wood is burning too hot and releasing undesired (burned if you will) flavors -or- it’s steam. Steam cooks but it doesn’t brown meat.
  3. Black smoke = REALLY BAD!
    • Black smoke is most often from a grease fire and/or inefficient burning. The flames are licking the meat and you’ve got both a safety problem and making the meat taste awful too!  When roasting meat to finish it’s important to cook using indirect heat. If you are roasting meat with a high fat content you can add a drip pan to collect the fat or wrap it in foil to help hold moisture. OR you may be cooking at a temperature too high and the fat is rendering out rather than flavoring the meat OR you have too much fat on the outside of the meat and fat left on the outside of a steak or roast does not flavor the inside of the meat at all.
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