How Do I Reduce Excessive Wood Use and Soot or Creosote?

thanks for taking time to reply with the gasket info… i’ve been struggling with a soot problem. built everything to spec. I have the mattone barlie grande. I tried to solve by extending the vent. helped a little I think. I use pecan, almond, and oak wood. Now after reading your post I am thinking I might try a the gasket. do you think the gasket will help. also I seem to be using a lot of wood per back. spending $25 per bake on wood.

Hi Larrie, and great to see you back!

First, burning unprocessed wood is going to generate a certain amount of soot, no matter what you do. Soot is uncombusted carbon, and it will be present during the start-up phase of your fire. There’s also creosote, which is the deposits that you are seeing on your oven, most likely across the face of the arch near the top.

[EDIT: I just want to add that soot and creosote escaping through the mouth of the oven (past the chimney) is a very common condition. Almost all of us do what we can to control it, but it’s unrealistic to expect zero deposits on the face of the arch. Read on…]

A door gasket won’t really help that issue, in my opinion, because your fire startup needs a lot of oxygen as you progress from kindling and first embers (remember, “low and slow”) to a blazing hot fire. Your door should not be on the oven during startup because it would act like a giant damper keeping out the needed oxygen. In situations where you would use the door, the fire is more likely to be burning cleanly.

I’m a little distressed to hear you’re needing to use that much wood (I agree that $25 would be a lot, presuming you are purchasing your wood in bulk, and depending on where you are located). If you are sure of your supplier, and that you have clean, dry wood to work with, I’d suggest going back to basics:

  • Build your next fire by starting out “low and slow”—use kindling first to build a bed of coals, spread them out, then start adding your logs one or two pieces at a time. Once you are confident you have a fully-engaged fire, push the bed of coals back a bit and add two more logs. Finally, get the fire all the way to the back of your oven and add three more logs. The goal is to heat up the entire oven cavity and allow the firebrick to soak up all that heat and start refracting it back into your oven. Any logs you add once the oven is engaged should simply catch fire and burn cleanly.
  • If the mouth of your oven is not closed off a bit, and what you’re seeing is creosote near the top of the face, you might consider the supplementary project of adding a face closure (described in the instructions for your oven). This is definitely a building project, but it is not as involved nor will it take as long as your original build. Also, you already have the skills you need! The creosote markings will show you about how much the top of the barrel needs to be closed off; if you’re closing it for just this reason (and not to conserve heat well into the next day for the purpose of baking breads and so on) it won’t be much, and you can plan that the lower lip of the closure will be a bit above the existing creosote marks. The goal is to interrupt the flow of heated air and smoke so that it goes up the chimney instead of rushing past it.

One fix is easy, the other more involved. The door gasket might be good for other reasons, but I don’t think it will help you either with the creosote issue or with reducing your wood consumption.

Let us know how it’s going, Larrie, and we’re here if you need to bounce more ideas off us!

1 Like

thanks so much. I think I may be going too fast. low and slow will be my next approach. that makes sense. I also think I am getting my oven too hot. the laser thermal temp goes over 1000. I will try the low and slow strategies. will look at the supplementary project of adding a face closure, which makes total sense. I do feel I need some more control on the door design but I may hold off until I try a low and slow and supplementary project of adding a face closure. as far as wood, I have researched that enough and I’m getting the best in my area which is phoenix az. BTW, I have a small power sprayer with cleans up the grill soot asap… Sunday night is pizza every week with the family. almost mastering the dough but still learning… I love my grill and so does everyone.

also I used about 10 to 12 good size logs. of pecan, oak, and almond… last cook was all pecan

1 Like

That’s definitely hot—not totally crazy hot, but it would take a lot of sustained flame to get there. If you’re measuring that on the floor of the oven, you’ve probably got too much heat going, though it’s going to cook up a pizza fast. :slight_smile: 750°F–850°F on the floor is about the right range, with flames licking overhead. That way you’ll get an even bake top and bottom.

Again, that’s not a crazy amount of wood, but maybe a little more than necessary. It sounds like your local wood market runs a little pricier than it does in New England, where we truly have more trees (and water) than we know what to do with a lot of the time.

Here’s a thought: you might consider getting a supply of lesser quality wood (but still clean, and still hardwood-only). Use that to start and build up your fire, and save those delicious-smelling nut-woods for the last burn before you start cooking. What you want from those woods is the aroma in their smoke to permeate your food and add a smoked flavor to it.

To my knowledge all woods will do that, but softwoods will add a terrible flavor, some hardwoods seem to be neutral, and nut-woods and fruitwoods (like apple and peach) or maple will impart distinctive flavors.

No sense wasting that flavor in the initial stages of your fire.

1 Like

thanks so much… but also thanks for this resource… so valuable

1 Like