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Getting strong smoky flavor into BBQ (split from Ontario)

You know what? I thought of this too and then the obvious dawned on me.

A common, current trend amongst southern cuers, pit-masters (call em whatever you like) is to smoke with whole logs as oppose to chunks or chips. Aside from being a whole other technique to master, burning whole logs gives the meat a real heavy smoke flavor (again, technique dependent). I personally like this as oppose to a light smoke and have been doing it myself for 2.5 years now.

However, I've noticed that this trend hasn't really taken off here with as much popularity and it could be that a lot of these cue spots in the GTA are still using conservative amounts of chips.

I'd really like for Buster Rhino to weigh in on this because this could be an explanation why so many cue joints lack that "smokey" punch that we all look for.

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  1. I guess it may depend on the type of wood, but burning down whole logs in my trial and error, oak or maple, has made the meat too smoky with that flavour i best describe as twingy, sharp...maybe someone can help with the term...is a result when i used too much smoke and it really took over the meat...but I have done that as a starter to a long 'cue to save money on charcoal, I have burned down 4-6 logs with gas assistance for an hour to hour and a half to get a base of coals going and built from there....but I guess the other method would be burning down logs in separate pit like i read they do in N.C. shovel them into the offset firebox where the meat is cooking, but wife would not go for another BBQ (got three now)

    1 Reply
    1. re: ebay3392

      Acrid is the word you're looking for.

      ETA: Oops, didn't see it below until I posted. Sorry.

    2. Hello,

      Lets start by first stating that most restaurants that are into true bbq'd meats have to make it for the vast majority of the public first. In Canada regretfully that means most bbq joints take it down to the basic light smoke the majority of the public likes and wants. It doesn't mean they can't do it, they make a choice not too. Until the vast majority of the public gets a good taste for real smoke (totally different than liquid smoke) it will be the same. Over the years though you will see a larger chunk of them move to a heavier smoke as their customers get accustomed to the flavour and start demanding more. For those of you that do low and slow in your backyard you are used to the flavour and will not be satisfied with many of the bbq joints around (but the public at large will enjoy it greatly).

      As for using logs over chips - doesn't matter. If you know what you are doing with bbq you can get the same amount of smoke from both of them. Using whole logs to BBQ with is called stick burning and really only works well in either a large commercial built smoker (down south it would be usually a brick oven built into the floor) or an offset smoker (a Klose, horizon, Oklahoma joe etc) - and yes this is a very difficult form of low and slow to master as the heavy smoke flavour can quickly overwhelm the meat - then again in the south it's the way they like it (it's also the way I like it - most people would gag at the flavour though).

      Shoveling logs into a fire pit is strictly for maintaining the heat. If you were running a big fire pit like they do in many spots down south throwing a dozen logs into the fire will temporarily cool the bbq down and once they start burning the initial blast of heat will put the bbq into a range that is unacceptable to the low and slow methods that make great southern bbq in the first place.

      ebay3392 the word I think you are looking for is acrid - it can be caused by absolutely using too much smoke. Hickory and mesquite will add what Canadians consider a very bitter acrid flavour to the meat.

      As a final note (hope above helped a little), you can absolutely never have to many BBQ's or grills. I have about 16 now and have my eye on two others that I would really like as well. Just no more room.

      10 Replies
      1. re: BusterRhino

        That's the word....yes, it happened to me once when I made ribs for friends....realized then that the amount of smoke and type of wood for a pork butt is different than the amount of smoke for ribs...that was loud and clear when half of the ribs were left by our friends....never happened again...I was using Oak and Maple, before I was able to obtain Apple and Cherry, which I have an ample supply now...wasn't pretty....Hickory I cannot buy as my local wood supplier only reserves it for commercial use.

        1. re: BusterRhino

          I think your opening statement sums it up best: it's what the market is used to that really dictates the style and perceived quality of the food. It's akin to comparing traditional (insert culture here) food that your grandma makes with different restaurants. It's going to be hit and miss.

          I've also been stick burning in my home built smoker (55 Gal Drum). It's been a lot of trial and error and also learning from some friends that live in the BBQ Belt, but I think I've got it dialed in.

          There's a couple things I've learned that I'd like to implement for my new smoker this summer (call it 2.0). I've found that having a proper flow to your design (big enough exhaust, exhaust pipe staggered on opposite side of fire box, heat baffle) really helps control the amount of smokiness.

          The second thing is maintaining a consistent and even heat for a pro-longed period of time. I don't use any electrical or propane aides so I'm constantly feeding that beast small logs of wood to burn to take her into the night. This is something I was wondering if you (or anyone else) has any tips on.

          I've found that my biggest obstacle is doing any brisket or shoulders that require more than 12hr's of smoking, I'm often faced with a heat decrease (usually overnight) when I'm unable to watch the fire. I'm thinking that there might be no other option than to get a heat aide to keep those embers warm.

          Also...this is open to anyone...I'm always interested in finding as many specific places to source types of wood. Anyone have any they would like to share? So far I've been fortunate enough that I've known 3 people that had their trees chopped down (1 cherry, 1 chestnut, 1 maple) so i haven't really scoured to see what's out there in terms of purchasing.

          1. re: goodcookiedrift

            Hi there, I am not sure what area of the city you are in, but Marc's Firewood in Oakville is where I have been going....Dundas and Trafalgar North East side. They have Maple, Cherry, but wont sell Hickory nor Mesquite as they reserve them for restaurants...and they have been out of Apple for a number of years.

            1. re: ebay3392

              Hey Ebay: Good to know. I'm downtown so oakville is a bit of trek. But it's to be expected when sourcing any wood.

              Applewood I find is my favorite. Been trying to get some of that for some time now.

              1. re: goodcookiedrift

                It's tough, I bought some from a REAL BBQ fellow on Craigslist back in the summer...competition guy who I think felt sorry for me that I kept posting for Apple wood but kept getting shut out...I am good for a few years but maybe try the Craigslist route.

                1. re: ebay3392

                  People up the street had five apple trees cut down back in October. Before the cleanup crew finished, I had filled up the trunk with 6" branches.
                  Table sawed them in 8" lengths and split them.
                  They are now dried ready to go.

                  Quite good fortune.

          2. re: BusterRhino

            Going through the Home Cooking board, I came across this thread (as its been moved from the Ont/TO board). I didn't see the original start to the thread and am curious; are you a restauranteur, BusterRhino? Or just a BBQ enthusiast?
            Always looking for good Q and we're in TO about 3 times a year (live near MTL). Tried Phil's last year and was severely disappointed (especially after seeing him on Restaurant Makeover, but a TO chowhounder put it into perspective).
            Just curious.

            1. re: porker

              Do a search on the name Buster Rhino's to find out more, I really am limited to what I can say on the boards about business.

              As for being a bbq enthusiast, oh hell yeah. It's my life, I live in Ontario Canada and I have family in South Carolina (3 time state champs) that competes all over the south (Smoke Shack BBQ) who taught me the love and respect it takes to create good Q.

              The only suggestion I have for you goodcookiedrift being a stick burner and all is set two alarms in your bedroom and get up when they ring to check on that fire. As mentioned above, it's part of the love and the respect you need to have towards the process in order to create those succulent mouth watering treats at home.

              1. re: BusterRhino

                Sheez,
                Last time out, we overnighted at the Holiday Inn on Bloor, Oshawa.
                Oshawa motto, "Be Prepared to be Amazed"...

                Hope to try your Q sometime.

                1. re: BusterRhino

                  I was afraid that was my only option.

                  But that said, not terribly afraid. There's something quite special waking up at 4am to the smell of sweet smoke.

            2. I have the pleasure of pretty darn good BBQ joint close to my home. Not so far from Ontario either. Its in Lewiston,NY just across the bridge from the Falls. It's on Center Street, a place called the Brick Yard. The pulled pork is what I always order, so good there, and you will taste the smoke!

              6 Replies
              1. re: TimCarroll

                Thanks a bunch....always head over the border Queenston/Lewiston...may give it a try. Prices seem to be inline for what you would expect..

                1. re: ebay3392

                  Here is an approach NOT to try: Liquid Smoke. I tried this once--in very small quantitiies it is OK in a pinch. In larger quantities it tastes like a trash fire.

                  I know this advice goes without saying to "pit-masters," but just in case a novice out there tries to improvise...

                  1. re: zamorski

                    It's true....I followed a brisket marinade recipe once including Mesquite liquid smoke, only one tbsp, with 2 cups of beef broth and a bottle of Moore's Marinade and it totally overpowered, so much I scrapped it all and started again using only a 1/2 tsp instead with the same quantity of the other liquids.

                    1. re: zamorski

                      Sometimes I'll use a pinch of liquid smoke in a cheapo, bottled BBQ sauce.

                      1. re: porker

                        or if you already are a person who knows how to use a smoker make your own the next time you have a long cook on. It's easy and doesn't cost you anything more than ice cubes.

                        **** The above is not saying it's okay to use liquid smoke, you should NEVER use liquid smoke, but since you already know how to BBQ (smoke) you should go ahead and let the hidden geek in you make liquid smoke just to impress your friends****

                        1. re: BusterRhino

                          I actually made liquid smoke in highschool - cut up popsicle sticks in an over-sized test tube set above the bunsen burner. Capture the resulting gasses, cool/condense into liquid smoke.
                          What I really learned was how to apply that experiment to making my own home still with a pressure cooker...

                          I always planned to make smoked salt whenever I BBQ, but never get around to it.