005 Rod Duggan – Fuels

In Episode Five of the Comp Ready series of The Smoking Hot Confessions Podcast, I chat with Rod Duggan from the Ministry of Smoke. Please be sure to Subscribe to the Podcast and leave a Review to spread the love.

Rod has been cooking over wood fires since the 1960’s and has literally decades of experience to share. In this interview Rod shares heaps of information about different types of fuels, especially hard woods, where to find them, how to season them, how to best manage your fires and so much more!

Want more? Be sure to pick up your free ebook: 27 Lessons Learned from Competition BBQ

Thanks and appreciation go to Coastline Barbeques and Heating for sponsoring the first series of the Smoking Hot Confessions podcast. Check out their website for more!

Show Notes
  • Rod’s first experience with BBQ was working on a cattle station in the Outback of Australia in the 1960’s.
  • Later he worked in the oil industry and used to cook up BBQs for the head of Shell at major functions.
  • The best cornbread he ever had used crackle that had been powdered and added to the flour mix.
  • He came up with the name ‘Ministry of Smoke’ while watching ‘Ministry of Sound’ on TV.
  • The denser the hard wood, the better the iron bark.
    • The worse the soil, the better the iron bark
    • Climate needs to be cold and dry so the trees grow more slowly. This makes the iron bark more dense.
    • Rod doesn’t like She-Oak coz of the sap ring.
    • Rod won’t actually use any wood that’s come from the coast as it’s grown too fast and isn’t dense enough.
    • A white sap ring is a give-away that the wood has come from the coast.
  • He got into wood coz he didn’t want to see people using bad wood.
  • Rod got a one-on-one with Tuffy Stone in 2015 where he got to talk woods.
    • He keeps it in log form until he needs it and cuts it as he needs it as it ages more evenly.
    • Moisture content needs to be below ten. The lower the better.
    • Tuffy carries a moisture metre in his pocket and tests each piece of wood before he puts it in his fire.
  • The best rib he ever ate was from Double Barrel BBQ
  • While Gidgee Lump Charcoal is great for building a fire, Gidgee wood is awful to use as a smoking wood. The flavour is terrible.
  • Rod reckons iron bark is the best smelling and tasting wood to use for smoking.
  • If the smoke burns your eyes or tickles your throat then it’s too green.
  • Rod doesn’t like pellet cookers as he doesn’t think they are real BBQ. He doesn’t like them as there is no fire management involved in using them.
  • He also doesn’t like blower systems in competition BBQ but concedes there is a place for them if it lets people get some sleep.
  • The best thing you can do if you haven’t had a sleep at a competition is to have a shower and a change of clothes at dawn.
  • Fuels in comps can be wood, charcoal, briquettes or pellets.
  • Easiest type of fuel to manage for learners is briquettes. Once comfortable, then move to charcoal. If using an offset, go straight to iron bark. Keep the wood in 2 – 3 inch pieces. Don’t use logs.
    • Logs will burn too hot and you’ll be fighting to keep the temperature down.
  • In an offset smoker, iron bark will give you your best burn for buck.
  • Briquettes are good for people starting out. They are very cost effective.
    • Burn them down in a chimney until they are nice and white, put them in your BBQ and then use smoking wood.
    • Some briquettes can give a bad taste depending on what been used in them. Especially the Easy-Light ones.
    • Never use Easy-Lights for a snake.
  • When doing a snake, get some small chips and lace them in between each briquette rather than just putting chunks on top.
  • The better season the wood, the cleaner the burn.
  • Oak will burn hot and clean. Rod’s oak has been seasoned so well it break apart if he drops a log on the ground.
  • If you need to use a block splitter on a log, then just use it in a heater, not in a smoker.
  • The best way to season wood is to have it off the ground and covered. In a shed is best.
    • Iron bark is an exception and can be left on the ground as it is a hard wood and doesn’t absorb as much moisture out of the ground. Rod still keeps his iron bark up off the ground though.
  • If you’re out foraging and you see a tree that you think might be ready, look for hollow trees as you know that it’s dead. If it’s still got bark on it, don’t use it. Once dry the bark will fall off and so you know it’s ready.
  • When it comes to pairings, Rod likes apple and pecan but ultimately uses whatever he’s got.
    • He does like cherry with pork ribs or chicken.
    • Peach gives a really nice smell to the smoke.
    • Plum gives a really dense plum-coloured smoke ring.
    • Cherry will make the meat a little sweeter.
    • Hickory is a very strong tasting smoke. Don’t use more than two pieces.
    • Hickory and pecan are from the same family.
    • Mesquite is too strong.
    • Rod always advises people to look at amazingribs.com for more on this topic.
  • Red gum and Lemmon gum have become really hard to find.
  • Soaking chunks and chips
    • Soak bigger chips if you have the time.
    • If using sawdust, wet it and press it into a patty.
    • The water in the wood will help the smoke stick to the meat.
    • If you’ve got a water pan, you don’t need to worry about it.
    • The water will go brown when soaking if chemicals have been added to the wood. Particularly if they’ve been imported.
      • Most of it’s kiln dried and then gassed before it comes into Australia.
      • If you’re concerned, check it out with a spectograph
  • Rod will keep his wood in log form and hold it for at least a year and then split it just as it’s needed.
  • Rod has shipped up to 5 tonne of wood at a time.
  • If wood is too dry, it will crumble into chips. Pick up the chips to use as kindling or smoking chips.
  • Rod will even use Macadamia shells to smoke with, or light his fire. Calls them the ‘Texas Match’.