Looking for That Thin Blue Smoke? (5 Tips for a Clean Smoke Every time)

Quick question. How much smoke is too much when it comes to smoking food?

If you think that you need to cook with a lot of smoke, then you’re wrong.

Smoke should be treated as a seasoning that adds a smoky flavor to your meals.

And that is why you might be in a little trouble if the hot coals in your smoker are producing billows of smoke.

So how do you get it just right?

What type of smoke should you be looking out for?

Don’t worry! If you’re unsure of whether you’re using the correct smoke, then just keep reading further.

I’ll show you how to how to master your smoker and get the perfect thin blue smoke!

thin blue smke from my offset smoker in the backyard
Got a good clean smoke, ready to put in my pork butt

What is Thin Blue Smoke or Clean Smoke?

Instead of thick black smoke, you’re going to want your smoker to produce blue-grey smoke.

This type of smoke is also commonly known as ‘clean smoke’. This clean smoke indicates that there’s a proper balance of heat levels, amount of fuel, and flow of oxygen.

The color of smoke is very important. You don’t want dense smoke that’s white or black.

Thick White Smoke or Dirty Smoke

If the smoke color is white, it could indicate that there’s something wrong with the combustion process.

This process heavily relies on the proper amount of airflow and fuel. Too little airflow, or an excess of fuel, can result in something known as ‘incomplete combustion.

In contrast, complete combustion will give you that clean smoke.
This type of smoke is needed for that distinctive flavor that smoked food has.

On the other end of the spectrum, if the combustion of wood in your smoker isn’t right, then it can result in creosote. This is what produces the black color components that cause black smoke to come out of your smoker.

There’s a good reason why these two types of ‘dirty smoke’ should be avoided. ‘Dirty smoke’ will give your food a bitter taste, plus it isn’t healthy to consume food cooked heavily in this.

It’s also another good reason as to why you should avoid this thick black smoke. The amount of carbon it produces can make it difficult for you to clean up your smoker after your cooking session.

Meathead advises to keep your unit clean.
The grease build on your grates can be a culprit of the black smoke. That black smoke can drip into your food

Meathead

meat goldwyn

5 Steps to Get The Perfect Thin Blue Smoke Each Time
(Plus The Importance of Managing Your Fire Correctly)

So, we’ve established that thin blue smoke or ‘clean smoke’ is what you should always strive for when smoking.

Now, let’s quickly get into how you can achieve thin blue smoke during your cook.

We’ll dive into the five tips that will help you avoid having too much creosote in your smoke. And we’ll tell you exactly what causes that white billowy smoke to come out of your smoker.

1. Work on Your Air Flow

Airflow is extremely important. It’s just like how trapping a candle under a glass cover will kill its flame.

If the fire in your smoker doesn’t have access to enough oxygen, it won’t produce the kind of smoke that you’re looking for.

All you need to produce the ideal thin blue smoke is to get the airflow just right.

Proper airflow ensures that the combustion process is progressing as it should be. And it’ll also make it easier for you to control your smoker’s temperature.

To achieve this balance, you’ll have to make sure that your fire isn’t receiving too much airflow, nor too little. Too much will cause the fire to burn too fast and too much. It’s also the perfect way to produce that dreaded white smoke that’ll ruin the taste of your food.

2. Keep Your Smoker Clean

Another way to ensure that your smoke is coming out right is to maintain the cleanliness of your smoker.

The dirt and creosote from previous smokes can affect your current cook.

This is because some of the creosote, old grease, and ash can cook off and make your smoke ‘dirty’.

If this happens, you can say ‘good-bye’ to achieving that ‘clean smoke’ for your cook. 

3. Build a Good Fire

Of course, one of the most important factors for a good smoke includes the actual heat source — the fire.

If you’re using a charcoal smoker or an offset smoker (where you have to build up the fire yourself) then you’ll have to know how to do it right.

Here are some points that you should keep in mind:

  • It’s always best to use a charcoal chimney starter to ensure that all of the coals are evenly lit. You want them to burn well and burn hot at the start of the cook.
  • To produce great smoke, add in the wood when you’re satisfied with the heat levels. The wood isn’t meant to fuel the fire, it’s to promote the smoke.
  • Don’t use too much wood. This can affect the fire and ruin the combustion process — producing white smoke. You can keep an eye on your pace by only replenishing the wood once the existing ones have burnt out.

Here’s a great video that we recommend you check out — Offset Smoker Basics – How To Start A Fire.

4. Use The Right Type of Wood or Chips

We all know that it’s not healthy to use lighter fluid when you’re trying to get your BBQ fire going. But did you know that you should stay away from using any type of wood that’s been treated or have a lot of tree resin? A few common types that you should avoid include:

  • cedarwood
  • evergreen wood
  • Coniferous wood
  • pinewood
  • Douglas fir wood
  • plywood

There is a longer list, so make sure you do your research before burning any type of wood you can get your hands on.

Believe it or not, the specific wood you use can and will affect the taste of the smoke.

For this reason, many people choose to use fruity kinds that contribute a sweet flavor. Here’s a list of the types of wood we recommend:

  • Apple
  • Alder
  • Cherry
  • Oak
  • Hickory
  • Maple
  • Mesquite
  • Pecan

It’s best to try the different options out there to find which one tastes the best to you.

5. Know Your Smoker

Get to know your smoker. Not all smokers are built the same.

This means that they don’t all operate the same either. You have to work out which routine and method works best with your specific smoker model.

However, the general rule is to minimize the amount of wood you add to the fire until your fire is at the right temperature.

Here’s the best advice that we can give you:

  • Do your research on your specific smoker
  • Read through and follow the instructions outlined in your smoker’s manual

Wrapping it Up

The lead-up to learning and adjusting to get that thin blue smoke may be tricky, but the results are worth it. We hope that our advice has helped you understand a little more about achieving that ‘clean smoke’.

Happy “clean” smoking

Justin!

Author: Justin Carrtington
Hi I’m Justin, I am one of the taste testers (hard job I know) here at Simply Meat Smoking! I have been grilling, smoking and cooking up a storm since I was young. I like use all types of fuel from charcoal to gas, wood and even electric!

When I not trying to perfect my ribs or brisket I am hanging out with my friends,mainly acting like a big kid.

You can read more on our About Us page.

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