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In Reply to: Newbie question wood chunks and WSM posted by Rich S on July 25, 2011 at 19:52:18:
Looks like you've been studying and no doubt you probably ran into one of my posts advising to use wood UNDER the charcoal briquettes in the WSM fuel basket. I think I know where you may have strayed a little bit with your method...there are many ways to skin a cat, but here's how I'd modify your process (your last cook was chunks under, and chunks on top of your fuel pile)...maybe this 'critique' of your process will help.
First, when I use wood under my briquettes in my WSM, I consider an ideal piece of wood to be approximately the same size and shape as a small frisbee...a disk. One disc. (I have a chain saw, so I can cut my own disks)
The disc is placed on the bottom of the fuel pile and the briquette pile is placed on top of the disc.
Knowing that most people don't have access to disks and occaisonally when I only have chunks available, I do the following with chunks...
Take however many chunks you wish to use and put them on the bottom of your fuel pile similar to how you would tile a floor or as if to make a mosaic...that is place all the chunks together in such a way that there are very few (or minimal) gaps between all the chunks. If there are some gaps, I try to plug those gaps with smaller chips and chunks. Essentially I am trying to make one solid piece of wood from many pieces (or chunks). I've sometimes tightly tiled the entire fuel basket floor with chunks taking special care to eliminate gaps...sometimes I even will lay a matchbook sized chip over a gap to cover the gap...the intent of eliminating gaps between chunks is to eliminate airflow between the chunks which in turn will discourage the wood from catching fire, and give you a smolder.
I do not stack my chunks, but keep the chunks only one layer deep.
Once you have your chunks tight packed (as many or as few as you wish) then you can put briquettes over the tightpack of chunks.
DO NOT put any chunks on top of the briquettes.! None/nada/zippo!
Essentially you are using your chunks to create ONE (ONE!!!) solid piece of wood and here's why...did you ever see a lone/single piece of wood sustain a fiery burn in a camp fire? (answer of course is 'no') So flare-ups are minimized.
If per chance, the wood below does light,
A. The temperature in the very localized area of the flare-up will increase.
B. The briquettes above that localized are will light.
C. The briquettes in that localized area will turn to ash.
D. The ash will fall down onto the localized area of burnt wood.
E. The ash from the briquettes will extinguish the localized flareup of the wood underneath.
Chunks added randomly to the top of a fuel pile are susceptible to catching fire and are unable to benefit from being able ot be extinguished by ash falling on the wood from above.
Adding chunks to the top of your fuel pile defeats the intent of creating ONE solid piece of wood. Don't add any wood to the top of your fuel pile.
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