Smoking color is correct when white smoke is present

Smoking color is correct when white smoke is present

In Grilling the smoke means everything! Click To Tweet

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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.

Smoking Color Means…

Chef Bert and Neighbor Tom are grilling buddies

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.

Smoking Color- The Four Colors of Smoke

Chef Bert discussing color of smoke and what it does to BBQ

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.

Black Smoke Black smoke is a sign of impurities and is not good for cooking

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 Gray smoke is a sign of dirty wood

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!

White Smoke White smoke is a sign that mositure is leaving the woood

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 Blue smoke is ideal for cooking over

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.

Have you achieved the perfect smoke color for maximum flavor? Leave us a comment and subscribe to get our latest tips, techniques, recipes and the science behind the fire and smoke, for all live fire cooking methods. That’s SmokinLicious®!

SmokinLicious® Products:

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

Wood Chips- Grande Sapore®

More Related reading on smoking color and why it is important to food taste

More Related reading on smoking color and why it is important to food taste

Related Reading:




Dr. Smoke- we provide the wood chip moisture readings on all our packages as guidance for the chef to gauge the amount of smoke output to their tasting needs.

Dr. Smoke-Smoking color is the simple BBQ hack to know for great results!