What Does The Smoke Stack Do On A Smoker?

A BBQ smoker with a clean, burning wood fire produces the best barbecue flavor. It would be best if you had fire and oxygen to produce heat and smoke; this smoke has to travel through your smoker’s body around the food to create unique flavors. Understanding what the smoke stack does in producing airflow will help you become a better BBQer. 

The smokestack generates negative pressure inside the smoker, drawing heat and smoke from the firebox or heat source into the barbeque chamber. In addition, the volume of air that flows through the barbecue pit is affected by the smokestack’s height and diameter.

what does the smoke stack do on a smoker

Understanding how a wood fire flavors food necessitates a basic knowledge of combustion. We must also grasp how to control the airflow and temperature to cook the proteins properly. 

The smokestack plays a vital role in the smoking process, and we will look into the various aspects below.

What Does A Smoke Stack Do For A BBQ Smoker?

There are essential elements that make bbq smokers successful. First, you cannot cook without heat. Secondly, you will need air or effective airflow. Thirdly you will need a way to regulate the temperature inside the smoker.

The best smokers understand the importance of having a pathway for the smoke to flow from the heat source to the meat. 

It must circulate around the protein at a steady temperature and rate without staying there too long. The purpose of the smoke stack is to channel smoke to the meat as it travels from the smoker’s heat source to the outside air.

Combustion, the reaction that occurs when wood burns in the presence of oxygen, is necessary to understand how a wood fire imparts taste to food. 

Complete combustion of wood, in which all of the wood’s compounds can react with the fire’s oxygen and flames, would result in nothing but heat, water vapor, and carbon dioxide. 

This pure fuel combustion is the same as the fire from a propane grill since it cannot impart the woody flavored smoke from a wood fire smoker.

When you have too little airflow, the smoke lingers too long inside the smoker, creating a bitter taste in the meat. 

On the other hand, if it moves too fast, you lose most of the heat through the smoke stack, and your food will take much longer to cook.

The right size smokestack is essential for getting constant temperature and airflow. 

Do Smokestacks Make A Difference?

As mentioned, this is such a huge debate in the smoking community. Watch this video from the Mad Scientist to see what he thinks about it, then you can decide for yourself.

Open Or Closed Smoke Stack Dampers

Great BBQ has to have low heat over a long period to ensure the meat gets cooked slowly. 

One of the safest ways to guarantee adequate temperature control is using a smokestack grill. 

There is a broad range of opinions on this, and it’s a popular discussion point among barbecue communities. 

Others say to open it completely, while others will argue it should be halfway open or closed, and every variation of it.

In the end, we found that every smoker brand and model has a specific placement of the damper control to allow you to regulate the temperature. 

Experimenting with your smokestack settings will help you find the perfect arrangement. The basic premise is that the dampers restrict the airflow volume that can pass through the smoker at a specific time.

How To Create Flavor In A BBQ Smoker

Combustion within the wood firebox is what produces various wood flavor compounds, often called wood taste. 

Depending on how clean a fire burns, the types of taste, aroma, and size of the particles found in the gases that cook the food will be different.

If you close the dampers too much, you will starve the fire for oxygen and produce creosote, a bad-tasting flavor produced by substantial smoke particles that appear as thick, black billowing smoke. 

These large particles can deposit onto the food and produce the bitter smoke flavor we want to avoid. 

On the other hand, an adequately managed fire with plenty of oxygen will burn very close to complete combustion and produce excellent smoke. 

You will see the very thin and almost blue smoke from this fire. 

How High Should Your Smoke Stack Be?

Not all smokers come with a smokestack, so do your research before buying one. Many backyard BBQers will buy aftermarket smokestacks and install them for better airflow. 

Your smokestack’s size (diameter) and length also affect the airflow.

Smokers all have a straightforward design where wood or pellets get burned in a firebox. The firebox provides the heat and smoke needed to cook and flavor the food. 

The smokestack or air vents draw the smoke and heat into the cooking chamber and across the grates. It finally leaves the pit and gets expelled into the atmosphere, where everyone can enjoy the wonderful smell of great BBQ.  

We have extensively tested the height and diameter of the smokestack and found that a longer smokestack will draw in more air because of the differential pressure created between the long smokestack and the firebox. 

There is, however, a diminishing return at higher heights where the downward force of the stack will cause backdraft and mess with the whole cooking experience. 

Longer is not always better, but even a few feet of smokestack is better than none. Of course, the greater the diameter of the smokestack also influences the volume of airflow created. 

Still, you will reach downward backpressure much faster with a more significant smokestack. 

Do You Need A Smoke Stack?

Smoke stacks are the space between the cooking chamber and the smokestack of a barbecue grill or smoker. Most backyard smokers have the smokestack coming directly up from the smoker’s body. 

Commercial models have a collection area where the smoke exits the smoker and lingers in this collection chamber before it gets sucked up and out of the smoke stack.   

Do you need a smoke collector, and does it make a difference? Most of the time, hobbyists will not see a vast difference in having a smoke collector chamber, but if you plan on cooking commercially, it will make a difference. 

Having too much airflow and needing to utilize the dampers is a better problem than having too little airflow, affecting your cooking time.  

Where Should Your Smokestack Sit On The Smoker?

When you buy a smoker, one of the questions you will face is picking a model with a smokestack on the opposite side of the firebox or having one that sits on the same side as the firebox. 

These smokers are called reverse stack and offset smokers. Both have specific design elements, and each brand will promote its take on what makes the best BBQ smoker. 

For most backyard BBQers, we would say buy what you can afford and experiment until you become a great pitmaster.

Final Word

When there is insufficient airflow, smoke remains too long inside the smoker and can leave a bitter taste on the meat. On the other hand, if it moves too quickly, most heat is lost through the smoke stack, and your food will take considerably longer to cook. 

The firebox produces heat and smoke to cook and flavor the food. The chimney or air vents draw heat and smoke into the cooking chamber and across the grates. 

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