Friday, December 16, 2011

Mexican Weather Forecast

Chili today, hot tamale!

In fact this morning when I started my next smoke, the weather outside was 21°, wind about 10 mph and sunny. I'm going to be smoking about 20 lb of pork butts which will be used to make tamales tomorrow. Puns all the way 'round!

Seasoning for the pork is going to be a little different. I added some Ancho chili powder because I thought it would cast it a little more toward a Mexican flavor. I used:
  • rosemary (ground in a coffee grinder)
  • coarse fresh ground black pepper
  • rubbed sage
  • about a bulb of crushed garlic
  • two dried red peppers (from my sister's market garden)
  • Ancho chile powder
  • cumin

I mixed in enough peanut oil to make a kind of slurry with the spices. I think a little oil helps to keep the meat moist. Here's the pork rubbed and ready to go on with the tamale steamer we'll be using tomorrow.

Weather conditions at 9:30 AM - 27°, sunny skied and winds light at 7 mph.

This smoke is going on to the WSM (18½ inch Weber Smoky Mountain.) I'll be using mostly mesquite lump (with a lot of fines) and some Stubbs to ignite it. Smoking woods include a little mesquite, hickory, maple (box elder, actually) and some crab apple. The larger butt - probably about 50% bigger than the smaller one - is going on the top grate. I'll put some sausages on there as well to take advantage of the extra space.

timetemp comment
Stubbs in the charcoal chimney and on the propane burner.
Lit coals on a minion lay and then assembled smoker with about a gallon of water in the bowl.
Lots of smoke coming off the smoker so I closed two bottom vents to see where it goes. I also put the remote in place. Within a minute or so it's already reading close to 200°. In a couple minutes I'll put the meat on the smoker.
9:55?/220°/?Time to put the meat on! The larger one goes on top where the temp is probably a little higher.
10:20175°/179°/41°TBS! (Thin Blue Smoke - the epitome of smoking. ;) )
11:08160°/205°/59°And it already smells good! I'm not concerned about the cold dome temp as it probably reflects the large cold piece of meat right under the probe.
11:20150°/x/xHeading on on some errands and dome temp seems to be dropping so I opened one bottom vent about half. That leaves one closed, one open and one about half.
2:02160°/224°/117°Looks like the bit of additional air was a good idea. Time to put some sausages on.
3:05205°/215°/127°Took the first batch of sausage off and put another on. A little earlier the grate temp had spiked to about 263° but it seems to have settled down again.
I stirred the fire a bit. I could hear sandhill cranes migrating overhead. That's the second flight I've seen the last week or so. It seems like they're moving a bit late this year.
4:10200°/241°/135°Second batch of Polish sausage came off. Brats now on. I really don't like opening the smoker that much, but I really like smoked sausage.
5:10240°/244°/141°Brats off the WSM.
7:00200°/?/?Threw another dozen briquettes on the fire. I'm out of lump and finished the bag of Stubbs so I used some Coshell that I had open.
8:45195°/211°/159°Threw in 15 more Coshell briquettes. the previous bunch had lit and were now about half size from when they went in. I'll probably have to add more every hour or two until the pork is ready to come off.
9:32200/214°/159°Looks like the meat is at the plateau. And I should probably throw on a few more briquettes. (12 more.) Outside temp is down to 28°
9:49245°/231°/159°The temperature difference between lid and grate has flipped. Perhaps an indication that things are moving along despite the meat seeming to be stuck at 159°
10:11?/249°/161°Temp moving again. That big butt must have started out about 12-13 lb. It's a big one.
10:35?/?/164°I was concerned that the smaller but might be ahead of the bigger one so I lifted the top one out of the way and used a hand held digital therm to check the bottom one. It was about 155° so my concern seems to be unfounded. There is no more water in the bowl.
11:10?/233°/169°Moving right along...
11:26?/217°/170°Throwing some more briquettes on. 8 more and a couple more chunks each of oak and maple. I think this is going to be the last of the wood I add. I'll open the vents a bit the next time temp drops and if needed, finish the pork in the oven.
12:27220°/247°/174°Bottom vents now open at 2.5/3.
1:00220°/237°/176°Bottom vents all open.
1:20?/215°/177°Time to bring the meat in. Now it needs to rest.

Dome temperature is the lid thermometer on the WSM. Grate is the remote reading from the Maverick ET-73 which hangs in the middle section below the grate and about 3" from the side of the smoker. It should more or less be in the heat rising from the coals. The meat temperature is the other ET-73 probe stuck in the larger butt.

This is another blog post that I'll be updating throughout the day as the smoke progresses.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Gobble-Part 2

This is my second turkey in recent days. The first was the Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving for our family celebration. This one is to take to First Friday. I got a 16 lb frozen (injected) bird and will see how that goes. Since it was already injected, I did not brine. I seasoned it by stuffing with apples and onions and some fresh rosemary packed into the neck and body cavities. I also pushed some rosemary and garlic under the skin on the breast.

Weather this afternoon is 43°, cloudy and light wind at about 5 mph. There seems to be little chance of rain before the smoke is finished.

Fire is with mesquite lump and smoking woods are oak, apple, cherry and maple (box elder.) Fire was started using the Minion method and once closed up, only one bottom vent was left open. The top vent is open of course. The water bowl is loosely lined with heavy duty foil and there is a foil drip pan under the bird (on the bottom rack.)

Stuffing has been prepared with:
  • bread dried in a warm oven
  • Three Jonathan apples
  • three mediun onions
  • some garlic
  • about 3/2 lb crisped bacon (pepper bacon.)
  • fresh rosemary
  • several stalks of celery
  • walnut pieces
  • a couple splashes of turkey stock
Onions, celery, garlic and rosemary were cooked a bit before mixing in with the rest of the stuff. Additional seasoning included thyme, sage, marjoram and oregano.

timetemp comment
3:37 PM
Bird on!
5:20x/x/xOpened a second bottom vent and poked the meat probe into the turkey.
5:40x/299°/120°Going to put the dressing under the bird.
7:10x/x/163°While taking the temp with another thermometer, the 'turkey done' thing popped up. Done! And off!

Results? The dressing tastes great! Evaluation of the turkey will happen tomorrow when it is served.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


For at least two meanings of the word. I picked up a 14 lb. free range turkey from Kaufmann Farms (AKA Hoka turkey) and will cook it on the smoker. Time may be a little tight so I don't plan to slow smoke it, but I'm sure we'll get the benefit of the oak, mesquite and cherry that I added to the charcoal.

Weather conditions: 32° with a bit of morning fog. Wind is light at about 6 mph. It should be clear with temperatures going into the 40s today. There is heavy frost and frozen rain on stuff on the patio.

Preparation: I brined the bird since yesterday afternoon in a brine of:
  • 2 qt water
  • 2 qt apple juice
  • 1 1/4 C sea salt
  • 1 1/4 C brown sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • tsp cloves
  • tsp allspice
  • medium sliced onion
  • tbsp pepper corns
  • several bay leaves (well, the recipe called for them but I forgot.)
I brined in a roasting bag in a cooler packed with ice. That's the easiest way to do this and ensure that there is good contact with all parts of the bird. This morning I removed the bird from the brine, rinsed it and seasoned it for cooking.

Seasonings consisted of fresh rosemary, fresh thyme, an apple cut up into wedges and a couple small onions sliced. These were all stuffed into the body and neck cavity to provide flavor during the cook. In addition, I also mixed some fresh thyme and rosemary with a little peanut oil and pushed it between skin and breast meat.

The stuffing was made with cubed whole grain bread that I had put in the oven to dry a bit a couple days ago. To that I added sautéed onions and celery with garlic, pepper and fresh thyme, rosemary and parsley. I also mixed in some walnut chunks and an apple sliced to about the size of the bread pieces. I moistened with a mix of turkey stock and beaten eggs. And bacon. Don't forget the fried bacon.

Smoker setup us modified minion using mesquite lump charcoal and adding oak, cherry and a little mesquite for smoking woods. I loosely foiled the water pan and placed a drip pan in the lower grate. Once the coals were starting (and the smoke smelled divine at this point!) I put the turkey on. The desire is to serve at 1:00 PM. I'm starting out with one bottom vent fully open but I'll probably open more after an hour or two to bring the temperature up.

Before you use the time/temperature notes below to estimate how long your turkey might take to cook, please be aware that when I switched meat thermometers at 10:50 I started using one that read 187° in boiling water. The original thermometer was reading correctly after all. Needless to say, I highly recommend that you check calibration of your meat thermometer before starting your Thanksgiving turkey,

Cooking log:
timetemp comment
6:40 AM
Lit coals on the smoker.
Bird on!
This is just about where I want to be right now. <checking vents on smoker> Whoops! I had only one bottom vent barely open. I opened it fully so that fire can get going.
8:31x/x/236°Temp progressing nicely. In a half hour or so I'll open another bottom vent to bring the temp up a bit more. The meat probe is sitting out on the table for one of my gas grills and now reads 38°.
9:18250°/x/248°Opened one more bottom vent for more temp. Threw a little more oak and cherry onto the coals.
Put the meat probe in the turkey by the thigh and observed.
10:33x/158°/xPut the stuffing in a large pan under the turkey where it can catch some of the drippings. Looks like the turkey has come along well! It might wind up with an extended rest time. I want to take the thigh to about 160° and the breast to about 150° before taking off.
10:50x/176°/x:( I was alarmed because the reading at the thigh was up to 165° so I used another thermometer to read the breast. I got 144° with that. I moved the remote probe to that and it now reads 176°. I think my remote probe is not reading correctly. I would not expect the bird to be done buy now.
11:30x/188°/x153° breast
148° thigh
These are using an instant read thermometer. Maverick meat probe is way high. :(
11:46x/x/281°Will be checking meat at intervals using the instant read going forward.
12:20x/x/300165° breast and thigh so the turkey is coming off. It's in a warm gas grill to rest.

(dome/meat/cooker) - Temperature is measured using the built in thermometer (dome) and a Maverick ET-73 remote reading thermometer. an 'x' means that I have not inserted the probe or have not bothered to walk outside to read the dome. ;) )

The 14 lb bird is an easy fit on an 18" Weber Smoky Mountain:

While I have the turkey on the smoker, I 'm simmering the giblets and some vegetables inside in a stock pot.

I'm using an Alton Brown recipe for this mostly because he claims that the addition of potato starch interferes with the propensity of flour based gravies to set up solid as they cool. Maybe I should try that other suggestion to puree the vegetables used to make the stock for thickening rather than add flour. I have time to think about these.

I've started my third contribution for dinner - the stuffing. I put that under the turkey on the smoker to catch drippings as it cooks. I also put the meat probe in to see where the turkey is at. I also snapped some pictures.

The setuffing came out when the bird came off. It was clearly done.

Apologies for not getting a picture of the bird when it was finished. I guess I had other priorities at that point. It looked pretty much like the picture at 10:30 (two hours before it came off) except it was a couple shades darker yet. I rested it in a gas grill (because other stuff was in the oven) which I held at 150°-200° for over an hour. There were still some other things to  prepare and then we had soup first. It was nice to know that I had hit the ready to serve point at 1:00 and the additional hold time caused no problems.

Everything came out great! The bird was flavorful and juicy though the skin was more tough than crispy. I knew that would happen as a result of smoking. The stuffing had some liquid in it when it came off, but it seemed to absorb that as it rested. It was really good as well. The gravy had a more translucent quality to it due to the starch and it did not harden as it sat. It tasted vary good as well. Overall I'm entirely pleased with the results. I had been a little concerned that this would not be enough for 7 adults but it was plenty.

Post Scriptum:

  1. Before an important cook like this, be sure to check thermometers using boiling water as a standard.
  2. Do not be so quick to condemn the Maverick. It turned out that the other quick reading thermometer was reading 20° low and caused me to overcook the bird by 20°. <growl>

As an aside, I have not been blogging all of my cooks. I have been doing some grilling and that's usually pretty quick, leaving me little time to wax eloquent... But I have a moment now so I can go back and hit some highlights.

A couple days ago I decided to grill some lamb chops that we had gotten from our kids. (They bought a couple lambs at a 4H or county fair.) I decided to do them on my new toy - a Lodge Sportsman's Grill. This is really a hibachi and has a nice cast iron grate. It also has a means to control air which works surprisingly well. Unlike the Weber grills, this one has no lid to control combustion air. I fired it up with a full load of mesquite lump and seasoned the chops with EVOO, fresh pressed garlic, fresh cracked black pepper and (not so fresh) rubbed rosemary. I grilled them at a relatively high temperature along with some thawed frozen broccoli florets which were also coated with EVOO.

The lamb came out astonishingly good! I gave it only a few minutes on eacyh side and these 1" thick chops were still very rare inside.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A little grilling

On a little grill.
My new toy is a cast iron hibachi made by Lodge. This is my second cook on it. I made some Chicken Sate yesterday. Today I roasted some peppers.

And grilled a couple burgers (beef and boca.)

I roasted a potato and toasted my buns.

It's a neat little grill. It takes about half a chimney of charcoal to load. It has a draft control that does a surprisingly good job of controlling temperature. And it gets hot.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

This weekend's big smoke

(Note - this is a work in progress. I'm going to publish as I go so at present it is not polished and certainly not finished!)

I get carried away. I was looking for something to smoke and yesterday morning I saw a corned beef brisket at a decent price at Caputos. I've been wanting to try it so I bought a small one - about 2 1/2 lb. I was really looking for some pork, but I didn't see anything there that appealed to me. (No spare ribs, no butts.)

Later in the day we went to Sam's Club. There I saw huge slabs of cryovac pork spare ribs. So I grabbed two. Later I saw big double packages of butts so I grabbed one of them and returned one of the spares to the case. (A man's got to know his limitations - along with that of his smoker.) Today my limitations are 18 lbs of butts and 14 1/2 lb spare ribs.

Weather - at 10:10 AM it is a pleasant 70° F with a south wind at about 10 mph. It will probably remain sunny with an expected high of 79°.

Beef on the mini. (Smokey Joe converted to a mini Weber Smoky Mountain.)

For the corned beef brisket I followed the the recipe I found on the Virtual Weber. The run consists of:

  • 2 tablespoon(s) Peppercorns
  • 1/2 tablespoon Coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tablespoon Onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon Thyme, dried
  • 1 teaspoon Paprika (Hot Hungarian)
  • 1 teaspoon Garlic powder

I had planned to make it yesterday until I saw that it first had to soak to leach out excess salt and then had to sit overnight with the rub. I put it in a large pot and filled with cold water which I changed several times. It probably spent several hours soaking. Then I applied the rub as described and put it in the ice chest to hold overnight. In the morning I started a fire with some remaining charcoal and some new Mesquite lump and added some Mesquite chunks for smoking wood. Ths went in the mini-WSM with some water in the water bowl. The meat went on shortly afterward on the top grate.

timetemp comment
Meat on! Bottom vent set to about 1/2 open.
9:37 175°/?

More meat on! I added the flap trimmings from the spares since there is more room in the mini at the moment. I also repositioned the cooker temp probe as it looked like it was against the side of the middle section.
10:05161°/?Still seems to be reading low. I might need to open the bottom vent more. I peeked in on the fire and it looked a bit listless so I opened the bottom vents to almost full open.
1:01311°/200Cut the bottom vent down to about half and put a different meat probe in the beef.
1:15299°/200°/193°Could the brisket really be done? I need to check more with an instant read thermometer. No. The instant read thermometer read 144°. Did I get my probes swapped?
x274°/190°/199°Meat temp still looks bogus.
3:03246°/185°/165°meat temp measured with instant read hand held.
3:55?/?/165°The probe meets with little resistance - I'm calling this done! It's off and resting.

(grate/lid) => Grate temperature using a Maverick remote reading thermometer and dome using a probe mounted in the lid.)

Pork on the big smoker (18 1/2" Weber Smoky Mountain)

For the  pork I went with a slight modification of a previous recipe:
  • 2 Tbsp black Pepper
  • 2 Tbsp Rosemary
  • 1 Tbsp Coriander
  • 1 Tbsp Ground dried Ancho chili.
  • 2 Tbsp ground Sage
  • 1/2 Tbsp Cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Cumin
  • Almost a full garlic bulb (crushed.)
(Note the use of Ancho instead of paprika.) To this I added sufficient peanut oil to make a pourable slurry. I then heated the rub in a microwave to get it hot and release the flavors before I rubbed it on the butts. It turned out that this quantity was just enough for the butts. I made a second batch, cutting the cayenne and cumin in half for the ribs. I applied the rubs and went about making the fire for the beef and pork. This meant that the pork had about an hour to marinate with the rub before it went on the fire.

I built the fire in the WSM using some left over charcoal and smoking wood along with fresh Mesquite lump. I added hickory, maple (Box Elder) and oak for smoking woods. The water bowl started with about 1/2 gallon of hot water.

timetemp comment
Lit coals on the fire.
9:42?/220°Closed two of three bottom vent. Time to put the meat on.
Meat on! And it was quite a job. Ideally the spares fit one slab/level on 18 1/2" grates. I needed to fit 1 1/2 slab on each level so I cut a little off the end of each of two and the third was split in half. I arranged as best as I could and still allow some space around the edge for smoke passage. There is some overlap so I will need to open the smoker to rearrange at about 2 hours. Spares went on the bottom two grates and butts on the top. This is one full smoker!
12:11?/225°With the south wind, the aroma from the meat is wafting inside and smells great!
Meat has been rearranged. Ribs still have a long way to go. Butts even longer. The cook seems to be getting off to a bit of a slow start, but that's the way I like it. :D That's a big load of meat.
2:20?/200°Flipped the ribs back. They are just starting to pull back on the bones. I would guess at least another hour before they're done. As the fire is starting to want, I also stirred the coals a bit too.
6:22289°/?/153°I thought I'd be taking the ribs off already but they looked still not done. The skinny tips that I had trimmed off earlier were ready, but not the rest and so they remain. I also added some more charcoal as what was there seemed to be burning down a bit much. (Meat probe now in the Maverick.)
8:24256°/?/156°Ribs off. They never pulled much back but I'm pretty sure they're done. One rack almost broke in half when picked up.
9:35208°/?/159°Need to stir the coals some more. Add some too.
12:40261°/?/178°Took the smaller butt off to rest.
1:30238°/?/185°Bringing bigger butt in to rest.

(Update December 16.)

I must have gotten tired and never finished this write up. Overall, there was too much meat in the smoker. I think it made for less than even cooking. Some parts of the ribs were a bit uneven. I think that three slabs of spares would fit well on three racks. And I cold do either four smaller butts or two larger ones. Too bad that the ones in the Sam's package are not size matched. But overall we enjoyed the ribs. I think the spares are meatier than back or baby back ribs. I can have one rib for lunch and that's plenty. Two is good but really too much, though that doesn't always stop me.

The butts pulled well. They were falling apart as I lifted them off the grate. I truly love the flavor of pulled pork when I'm pulling it. Right now I have a 20 lb package of butts on the weber and they've been on nearly 13 hours. We're at 165° and I'll probably pull them to rest at 185°.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Some like it HOT!

Not all cooking is about BBQ or even a gas or charcoal fired grill. I'm fooling around with some Habañero recipes. Mostly I'm posting just to show off their incredible colors.

The red peppers in particular look great but the orange Habañeros are no slouch either when it comes to intensity of color.

The first recipe I tried was a simple recipe from Rick Bayless which included carrots, onions and some garlic in addition to the Habañeros. It really packs a punch. I had some on reheated beef and chicken Fajitas for lunch and it was pretty good. (One change - I used shallots instead of onion as that's what I had on hand.

For the next recipe I wanted to try something that would be good with chips. For that I went with a fruity concoction called Aunt Lindy's Habsolutely Mango. It uses a lot less Habañero for the volume of salsa. It has a nice fruity flavor and the heat doesn't gob-smack you when you first taste it. Instead the heat builds as the fruit flavor fades. It eventually gets fairly hot but not unbearably so.

I've got some canned peaches so tomorrow I'll have a go at some Habanero Peach salsa. And with all of the tomatoes that are ripening I might make some of that. I might even add some Jalapeños to the mix. I have one Jalapeño plant that suddenly decided to set a couple dozen fruit. I guess the weather a couple weeks ago was conducive to Jalapeño fruit set.

The red peppers above? Those are for drying. They're Red Rockets and I've strung them on some string and they're hanging in a warm oven to dry.

Update:  I figured I better do something with the remaining Habañeros. I split them in half, seeded them, boiled them for about 15 minutes and pureed them. Wow! Just seeding them I had to open a window as the fumes were making me cough and sneeze and my nose was running!  The particular variety of capsaicin found in Habañeros is subtle but potent. When I boiled them I had to turn on the exhaust fan or I couldn't stay in the room. It makes me wonder what kind of protection they use in plants where they process these commercially.

I also made some peach salsa. I used:
  • 1 15.5 oz can of peaches (drained)
  • 2 medium tomatoes peeled and seeded. (*)
  • about 1/4 C sautéed onion.
  • 2 Tbsp frozen orange juice concentrate.
  • 1 Tbsp white vinegar.
  • a small amount of the following spices:
  • cinnamon
  • allspice
  • cumin
  • powdered ginger
  • 1 Tbsp of the pureed Habañeros. That's probably between one and two Habañeros.
That was plenty of heat for something that I didn't want to be particularly hot. Again, it starts with the fruity flavor and the heat comes on slowly and builds to a nice hot crescendo.  (That's on the initial tasting. The flavors may change as the spices meld.) Now I wonder if I should have put some vinegar in the salsa. I'll have to try some with a little vinegar added. ... Yes! About 1 Tbsp white vinegar and 2 Tbsp frozen orange juice concentrate brighten this up nicely. I'd consider adding lime or lemon juice, but the peach flavor is subtle and I don't want to overpower it totally. I'm going to call this salsa done. Now I guess I need to run out and get some more chips.

I've got two cups of pureed  Habañeros on 4 oz. containers in addition to the hot sauce and two fruit salsas I've already prepared. I think think I have plenty of "hot stuff" to last me a while.

(*) I dropped the tomatoes into boiling water for a minute or so to loosen the skin. I also stroked them with the back of a knife to further loosen the skin and they peel easily.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

ABTs for a party.

I decided to bring some ABTs (Atomic Buffalo Turds) to a party as a side dish. I started by going to a local Mexican grocery to buy a dozen jalapeños. I figured that if I went there, I'd be most likely to get some hot (picoso) ones. Some that I've gotten at regular groceries have been disappointingly mild.

I followed pretty much the recipe I used previously including the spicy sausage. this time I chopped the sausage and mixed it in rather than quartering them and pressing them into the cheese mix. I sprinkled with a little Ancho chile powder.

Outside conditions are 61°, sunny and wind at about 10 mph.

I'm cooking in the mini using briquettes left over from a previous smoke to which I added some lit lump I used to roast some red peppers for another recipe. I used some Mesquite chips and a couple chunks of Hickory for smoking wood. The ABTs are going on the top grate with no water pan. This is a kind of indirect cooking due to the distance from fire to grate. Temperature was measured with a Maverick probe just below the grate.

timetemp comment
ABTs on. I closed the bottom vents to about 1/3 and left the top vent full open.
3:01321°Should peek in soon.
3:14325°And they're done. Probably could have taken them off sooner, but I do like the bacon a bit crisp.

They seemed to be well received by the party goers. I put them in a large cast iron skillet and reheated them on a stove top. They weren't as good as when they came off the grill, but none were left and I did get compliments on them. They varied in heat from pretty mild to hot.

For the benefit of anyone not familiar with the mini-WSM, (Weber Smoky Mountain) this is a Smoky Joe to which a middle section has been added using a Tamale steaming pot with the bottom removed. It's a very convenient size for cooks like this.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Beef today

Today's primary project is to make some  Gaucho Beef ribs for family. Before I got those on however I started with some beef heart. I was going to braise it (w/out flour) in the small Dutch oven but once I started, I decided to put it on the smoker for a bit. This is a tough piece of beef that is going to take a lot of cooking before it is ready to eat. I'll smoke it for a while and then bring it inside and simmer it in the Dutch oven until tender. Prep was simple. I cut it into cubes approximately 1.5" across. Pieces vary in thickness up to about 1" thick. I added no seasoning as there will be plenty of time to do that during the simmer. Eventually I'll either make soup or chili with the meat.

Cooking is on the mini-WSM, top grate with water in the bowl. It's fired with Stubbs briquettes (and some Kingsford Blue left over from a previous smoke.) Smoking wood is a couple pieces of Mesquite.

Weather at present is a very pleasant 61° and sunny with winds at 7 knotts. Temperature is expected to get up to 70° this afternoon.

Beef heart is about 3-4 lb that was frozen and thawed in the refrigerator.

Temperature is measured with a probe inserted through the lid and a Maverick ET-73 probe at the grate. The Maverick provides a remote readout. I'm not sure there is any benefit to the lid temp. The probe is short and I don't think it reflects smoker temp in any meaningful way.

timetemp comment
10:17 AM
Beef Heart on

11:19272°/170°Grate had been holding pretty steady at ~240° F and seems to have jumped. I put another thermometer in the lid vent to project about 4" into the cooker to see if I can get a better reading. I'm about ready to start the beef back ribs and want to use the Maverick to monitor temperature in the Platinum.
11:30284°Removed the Maverick probe to move to the Platinum for the ribs.
12:50250°/275°Meat off. Temp measured in the lid using two thermometers which read 250° and 275° (longer one.) The meat is in the Dutch oven and back on the stove to continue to cook.
The chunks of beef are still simmering in the small Dutch oven and are still pretty firm. They're going to take a bit longer to finish! Perhaps adding some tomato sauce will help things along. The acid in the tomatoes may help to soften the meat.
Added a 28 oz can of diced tomatoes to the meat in the Dutch oven.

After simmering for about half a day I gave up on the beef heart. It was still pretty firm and didn't even taste good. I pitched it.

Today's main event is going to be beef back ribs prepared Gaucho style. Those will be cooked using indirect method in my Platinum (which has the sort of standard 22 1/2" kettle.) I'll be fioring that with some lump (Steakhouse and Mesquiite) and using Mesquite and oak as smoking woods.

timetemp comment
Lump in the basket and grate in place. Bottom vent about 1/2 open. Almost within seconds the temp shot up to 400°. I closed the vent to 1/4 while I prep the ribs.
11:45395°Ribs on! I also threw some oak and mesquite chips on the coals. Temp dropped to about 290° with the lid closed but looks like it's climbing back up.
12:50300°Ribs look well along. They're just starting to pull back on the bone. I think I'll turn them now. I also closed the bottom vent to a bit less than 1/4.
1:30268°Turned the ribs back up. They're pretty much done and I'll just leave them on a bit longer to color up part of one that was covered due to overlap.
1:45270°Ribs off to rest. While they do, I'll spread out the coals and roast some spuds.

Note to self: Remember to use a drip pan with these ribs. Otherwise when the coals are spread for direct roasting, the grease ignites and must be left to burn off before anything else can be cooked.

The ribs were a bit of a disappointment meat wise. They had been trimmed a bit too diligently by the processor. In fact, there were complete gaps between some of the bones. Flavor was otherwise very good.

The ribs and roasted potatoes were served with a tossed salad which rounded them out very well.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Chicken Liver => Smoked Liver Pâté (plus ABTs)

I got several pounds of frozen chicken livers so I decided to try some smoked chicken liver pâté. I put some on the counter for a bit and then in the fridge overnight to thaw. Unfortunately in the morning I found that I had thawed some chicken hearts. :( I grabbed a bag (2 lb?) of frozen chicken livers and put them in warm water to quick thaw. By this time I had already started my fire so I was in a bit of a bind. Eventually I decided to put the partially frozen livers in a Corning Ware casserole in the smoker at as low a temperature as I could muster. After they were thawed and separated, I could raise the temperature.

Seasonings included a fairly large thinly sliced shallot. I forgot the garlic, but I think the shallot may be all I need. I also added three bay leaves and a sprinkle of dried thyme. Inspiration for this recipe came from Jacques Pépin. I modified it of course, using the chicken livers on hand, not so expensive brandy and not nearly so much butter.

Smoking will be done in the mini-WSM using briquettes and some hickory and a little mesquite. I figured the liver was strong flavored and should stand up to a strong smoke flavor.

Weather is a very pleasant 66° and sunny. Wind is light at 10 mph.

Fire started using the Minion method and left to burn about 10 minutes before putting the meat on. At that time I closed the bottom vent about 3/4. Temperature is monitored via a lid thermometer and the Maverick remote.

timetemp comment
meat on!
4:45215°/155°Tried to separate the meat. Still frozen so I put it in a larger casserole.
5:17222°/155°Separating again. All livers are thawed.
5:45262°/155°Stirred the livers up a bit to expose more to the smoke. There's a fair bit of liquid in there now which I'll leave there. It's bloody now but should look like cooked liver when the liver is done. Grate temp seems to be coming up nicely w/out any adjustment necessary.
6:09302°/180°Starting to look more done. Not cooking so evenly so I stirred them about a bit to even things out. I also note that the water in the bowl is gone but that's no big surprise since the temperature is climbing. (Water helps to keep the temperature down.)
6:25331°/190°Stirred again - almost done.
7:06328°/190°Looks done - I'm taking the liver off.

Next food on...

I pureed the livers with some brandy and butter and a little water until smooth. I'm sure I didn't use nearly as much butter as Pepin recommends, but that's too much for me anyway. I got nearly 4 C of pâté out of the process and it tastes good!

While I've got the smoker fired up, I'm going to make another batch of ABTs. I picked up some Jalapeños at a Mexican grocery (Rosita's? La Rosati's? Across from Menards in Bloomingdale at North Avenue and Bloomingdale Road.) I hope that this way I'll get hot jalapeños and not really mild ones like at Meijer in Owosso, MI. I'll use the Neufchâtel cheese that's been in the refrigerator for months? Years? Still tastes OK or I'd use the no-fat cream cheese I bought today. Again I'll mix in some shredded sharp cheddar and honey. Instead of onion flakes, I'll use chopped shallot. (Yes, I have extra shallots left over from making Salsa Verde over the weekend.) This time I have some Chile Ancho powder that I'll use to dust on the ABTs before cooking. I also have some pulled pork to chop and mix in the cheese spread. I did come up 4 ABTs short of having enough bacon to wrap all so those got some bacon bits (TVP) instead. The ABTs will go on the smoker when the liver is done.

7:10330°/190°ABTs on!
7:59302°/190°ABTs coming along nicely. maybe another half hour or so.
8:35310°/190°ABTs off!
ABTs came out good again. They're a little on the sweet side but that's not really a bad thing. The jalopies are hot and a little sprinkle of ancho chili is nice. The ones with the bacon bits were good too.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


That stands for Best Ribs In The Universe. Not modest, are they? ;) I got the recipe from The Virtual Weber Bullet. It's a little different for me since I usually don't put salt or much sugar in my rubs, but I thought it was worth a try.

RANT - I hate recipes that specify chili powder. That's mostly because I do not have any on the shelf. It's easy enough to make with paprika, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, oregano ... Why not just list those ingredients instead? Is there something magical about letting some spice packager mix it? They probably add the magic salt. IMO it's like listing "cake mix" as an ingredient for a cake recipe. /RANT

Also I'm not slavishly following the recipe as so many have recommended. I skipped the MSG in the rub. I guess I should call my variation  NRBITU (Next Best Ribs ...) I'm also not going to run out to buy KC Masterpiece sauce when I've got perfectly good Sweet Baby Ray's on the shelf.

I got two cryovac packages (3 racks each) of baby backs from Caputos for a total of 15¾ lb of baby backs. I will add a third grate to my WSM so I can lay them all flat. I've also cut the racks of ribs in half to make them easier to arrange on the round grates. It's nice to put a whole rack on a platter to serve, but I'm making these as a 'bring along' to a corn roast so they'll be sliced down to individual bones once I'm done. It turned out that 6 racks fit well on three grates with four half racks on each grate.

There are two more grates under the top one.

At about 9:30 AM I got the rub on the ribs just as the storm moved in. Weather is not really with me today. We might even get a tornado. I'm going to situate the cooker in front of the garage and maybe pull it under the overhang for some rain protection. I have two hours to get the smoker ready and the fire lit. The rain should last longer than that.

Weather at the time the meat went on: 71° (From the meat probe on the Maverick.) Light rain tapering off and wind light at 10 mph.

timetemp comment
12:45 PM
Coals on a Minion lay using some BK Blue, some lump and some Stubbs Briquettes. Poured about a gallon of hot water into the bowl.
Temp hit 210° on the remote so I put the meat on and closed two of three bottom vents.
1:21214°/185°Temperature had recovered higher about 15 minutes ago and seems to be dropping so I opened another bottom vent about half way.
1:47242°/205°Climbing slowly.
2:31236°/???Temps seem to be wandering up and down. Ambient reads 86° F. Must be in the sun.
2:51267°/215°Temps jumped as a new storm cell starts passing through. Probably a reaction to the wind providing extra air for combustion. I'll leave it be for now as the rain will likely cool the smoker.
3:00209°Heaviest rain  yet has taken cooker temps down.  Radar shows us about the middle of the storm cell.
3:15212°Rain has stopped and temps are recovering after dipping below 200°.
3:58227°/215°First peek - ribs look good and there is no pulling back on the bone as of yet.  As per directions, all bottom vents open full for rest of cook. Temp is already climbing.
4:35303°/215°Quick peak -
4:50267°/215°Temp drooping a bit - stirred coals and threw in a couple more pieces of wood.
5:06276°Temp starting to recover a bit. And it sure smells good!
6:28228°/245°Need to peek! Surprisingly the ribs in the top rack were not done. They didn't flex that much when picked up. They resisted a bamboo skewer poke. And they measured about 155° between the bones. But they are fairly meaty ribs. So I closed the smoker back up, stirred the coals and left it to continue the smoke.
7:43256°/245°Meat off! As I took the ribs off, I sauced them with 4:1 Sweet Baby Ray's and honey.

"(grate/dome)" refers to the Maverick ET-73 remote reading vs. the Weber thermometer in the lid.

Comments on Quantities:
  • 6 racks of ribs fit well on three grates when cut in half.
  • I doubled the recipe for the rub and that was just right.
  • I made 2½ C BBQ sauce and that was about triple what I needed, but I bottled the rest in a squeeze bottle to be used as a condiment when they are served.
Initial taste impressions: These are good. They don't seem too hot but they leave a hot sensation in your mouth. Maybe I should lighten up on the cayenne if I use this rub again. Overall, I'm not sure this is much better than the rub I usually use which has no salt or sugar and includes rosemary, fresh garlic and oil. (And no chili powder!) Overall, this seems to be a more conventional recipe.

Having three grates in the WSM worked well. They're spaced almost 4" apart and that seems to be good spacing for ribs.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Pork Butt and Beef Brisket

They both looked so good in the meat case at Sam's. :D
I got a 17 ¼ lb package consisting of two trimmed butts. Add to that a 6 1/3 lb brisket (flat cut) and a 5 lb package of raw Usinger brats to fill any empty space on the grate.
Brisket on the coffee rub at 4:30 PM the day before the smoke .I use the coffee rub described by Steven Raichlen.
The ingredients he lists include
  • 3 tablespoons ground coffee
  • 1 tablespoon coarse (kosher) salt
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder
I did not lay any strips of bacon on the brisket since it has a pretty thick fat cap. For paprika, I used Hungarian Paprika.

I'm also using his mop recipe minus the beer. I haven't bought any beer since we got back from vacation. One of these days... It's certainly beer weather.

Seasonings for the pork are:
  • 1 Tbsp black Pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Rosemary
  • 1/2 Tbsp Coriander
  • 1 Tbsp Hungarian Paprika.
  • 1 Tbsp ground Sage
  • 1/2 Tbsp Cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 Tbsp Cumin
  • Almost a full garlic bulb (crushed.)

Fire on the big smoker is mostly left over lump and briquettes from previous smokes. Included in them is some chunks of smoking wood. I added some briquettes and some Hickory, Cherry and Box Elder to round things out.
Weather conditions at 10:00 AM: 84° F, sunny and wind light at about 7 mph.
timetemp comment
10:00 AM
Lit coals on fire lay.
10:20220°/200° (grate/dome)Meat on! It all seems to fit on the big smoker, though the two pieces of pork barely made it. Corners are almost touching the middle section but they'll pull back as the cook proceeds. I added some brats around the brisket.

At this time I also closed two of three bottom vents.
10:35194°Noticed that I forgot the meat probe in the beef so I opened the smoker to insert it in the brisket. It looks to be getting off to a nice slow start.
10:55215°/180°/71° (grate/dome/meat)
Coming along nice and slow.
First mop of the brisket. Swapped in a bunch of raw brats. The brats that came off measured from 120°-145° internally so they will need more cooking (probably when they are reheated.) I suspected they were not done by the limited amount of shrinkage. I'll leave the next batch for 2 hours.
Fast recovery probably due to opening the smoker twice for mopping and brats. If it doesn't drop off, I may close the bottom vent a tiny bit. But let's not be hasty!
12:16243°/215°/137°Nice progress. No adjustment required. (and I just had a brat with onion and Dijon mustard on whole wheat - Yum!)
1:00250°/225°/152°Ambient temp is now 90°. Mopped brisket again, turned the brats - almost done, and closed the remaining open bottom vent to about 1/2 from full open. Will need to monitor in case that's too much.
1:16252°/?/155°Looks OK.
1:30248°/235°/158Going to pull the brats and put more on.
1:42240°/?/160°Temps came up a bit (255°+) and then began to settle once again. If I see it drop below 220° I'll intervene.
1:58233°/?/161°Temp bottomed at 229° and now begins a slow recovery. Looks like no adjustment needed.
2:29241°/?/165°Time to mop and turn the brats.
3:20241°/210°/167°Time to pull the remaining brats off the fire. Outside temp is 91° F, wind freshened a bit to 7 mph and still full sun.
3:57234°/?/168°That's 5 hours on the brisket. What temp should I shoot for?
4:19228°/215°/169°Time to open the bottom vent a wee bit.
4:49223°/?/170°I think I need to stir the coals a bit. maybe not - temp just popped up to 226°.
5:09222°/?/170°Heading out to stir the coals.
5:35274°/225°/172°Seems like stirring the coals had the desired effect and I just closed the bottom vent a little bit. I'd like to keep the grate below 250°.
6:09240°/?/176°And all seems well.
7:35207°/180°/167°Sheesh! Go for a little bicycle ride and temp drops off... Stirred coals and opened one bottom vent full. Looks like temp is recovering. I wonder if I should just take the brisket off and rest it.
7:58199°/170°/165°Doesn't look like recovery is going to happen w/out more coals so I'm bringing the brisket in to rest. I'll swap the meat probe to the pork to see where it is.
8:06172°/?/162°Probe in the bigger butt. I need to add some more lit charcoal.
Added about 1/2 chimney partially lit briquettes. Went back to one bottom vent about half open. Let's see where she goes. (I love using a charcoal chimney on my old Coleman propane side burner.)
9:07233°/225°/161°Recovery is slow but there is no hurry.
Check that. Thunder storms are on the horizon and I can see lightening. Heavy rain can have a big cooling effect on the smoker and if that happens, I may finish the butts foiled in the oven.
9:25235°/230°/163°First drops of rain starting. I opened all bottom vents full to try to offset the cooling effect from the rain. Ambient is reported as 86° right now.
9:32246°/?/164°Heavy wind driven rain just started.
9:47189°/?/165°Still raining, but radar shows a single line of storms that will hopefully pass so I can continue my smoke.
9:54204°/?/166°Rain letting up. Still smoking! Ambient now reported as 75°.
10:14228°/?/168°Looks like meat's back on the menu boys!

(Closing down one bottom vent, leaving 2 of three wide open.)
11:53228°/?/179°Perhaps I should stir the coals again...
12:08 AM245°/?/181°Looks like stirring helped.

Time to bring the meat in. I'll foil it and put it in a cooler to rest/cool overnight and then pull it in the AM. Some of the meat fell off on the bottom where it stuck to the grate. That may just be the best tasting part of the entire butt!

The brisket was still firm but juicy. Perhaps it would be more tender if brought to a higher temperature, but I'd risk drying. I'm pretty satisfied with it in it's present state. It tastes really good. I also made a batch of the Red Eye Sauce and it goes with this really well. (I substituted non-fat sour cream for the heavy cream. Last time I used skim milk + butter. That other batch came out more red color while this one is sort of tan color.)

The butt was on about 14 /2 hours which seems about right. It took a bit of fiddling to keep the fire going and I had to deal with a rain storm, but all's well that ends well and from the few little tastes I had of the but, it's going to end well.

Atomic Buffalo Turds

Basically Jalapeños stuffed with cheese and meat and smoked

Recipe from The Virtual Weber forum.

About 2lb. fresh Jalapinos
2 8oz blocks cream cheese(room temp)
1C shredded sharp cheddar
1 heaping tblsp dry onion
1tblsp. granulated garlic
1/2 c or more Pulled pork or fine chopped little smokies
1 or 2 tblsp. Honey. (secret ingridient)
bbq rub
2 lb bacon thinner the better

Cut peppers in half lenth wise scoop out seeds and membrain set aside. Set bacon out and let come to room temp. Mix all remaining ingridients except bbq rub throughly. Fill peppers with mixture. Cut bacon in half. Wrap half slice around each pepper. (I do not use tooth picks to hold together. The bacon holds together well if it is at room temp.)Sprinkle with bbq rub. I like to refridgerate overnight. Cook at about 225 - 250 untill bacon is done about 1 hour.

I made about half a batch with 8 oz of no-fat cream cheese and about 6 oz. sharp cheddar which I shredded. For sausage I got some spicy smoked sausage and cut them in thirds and the resulting pieces lengthwise in quarters. After cleaning and stuffing the pepper halves with the cheese mix I put one sausage piece on each and wrapped with half a slice of bacon.

7:45 Coals in the mini with some chunks of hickory.
7:55Turds on! I lit all of the charcoal in a chimney so the smoker shot up to temp. 300° F before I cut the bottom vent from the initial 1/2 to about 1/4.
8:06249°/275° (grate/dome)Off to a good start.
8:23242°Quick peak and they look good!

They came out pretty good.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Smoking Wood Test: Hickory

Hickory is one of the most popular smoking woods and a mainstay of my pulled pork. I've fooled around testing other woods and now it's time to see what Hickory does.

As with other tests, I'm smoking Salmon, Tilapia, pork, chicken, beef and a potato. This time I have a sort of Yukon Gold potato, but I think it is actually a generic equivalent. I've also resupplied the pork (country ribs), Salmon and beef patties. We've had Salmon a couple times recently, just before we headed out for vacation and again on our return, but I grilled it those times (with blackening seasoning mix.) But I digress.

Weather this afternoon is 86° F with full sun and light wind at about 6 mph.

I'm using briquettes for the fire (Kingsford Blue) since the bag is open.

5:30 lit coals on a modified minion lay with several chunks of Hickory interspersed. Both bottom and top vents are full open and there is about a quart of water in the bowl.
5:35Water in the bowl and meat on!
5:55198°,230° (*)Coming along nicely, closed the bottom vent to about 1/2
6:25191°, 225°Fish and patties are coming off. They're done.
6:45226°, 245°Closed the bottom vent just a bit more a few minutes ago.
7:15234°I thought the pork and chicken would be done by now but apparently they are not.
7:35299°, 340°Opening the smoker to check doneness of the chicken and pork really got the fire fired up! I've almost completely closed the bottom vent.
7:50287°, 300°Chicken and pork off!

(*) Maverick, Dome temperatures measured with the Maverick probe hanging through the top vent and a thermometer probe inserted in a hole in the cover.

Fish and beef came off first.

And later the pork and chicken.

Here's an initial impression of the flavor added by Hickory:
  • Chicken legs - Good smoky flavor.
  • Pork country rib - Good smoky flavor.
  • Tilapia fillet - This had that sort of typical muddy taste with a nice smoke flavor blended in.
  • Beef patties - Nice mild Hickory smoke flavor.
  • Salmon fillet - Nice Hickory smoke flavor.
  • White potato, halved - Even the spuds seemed to benefit from Hickory with a nice mild smoky flavor.
Initial impression: Hickory is quite good on both fish and meat. I can see why it is so popular.  It's a bit tangy but seems to work well with both meat and fish. Later in the evening, I took a little taste of the chicken and pork and they were good too. It is a somewhat stronger flavor than some of the other smoking woods, but it seems pretty mellow and seems to blend well various foods.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

More Beef Back Ribs

They were on sale again (or still?) So I bought 3 packages that looked like they had the most meat on the bone. Once again meat is seasoned only with coarse (Kosher) salt and pepper.

These are going on the kettle again. That worked well last time. I'm going to try to hold a little tighter temperature control though and perhaps cook them a little longer than last time. I'll aim for 250°-275° F or thereabouts. (All temps are Fahrenheit.) Fire prep is with lump (some Mesquite and some Royal Oak Steak House.) This time I remembered to put the drip pan in the middle of the grill to help enforce the indirect aspect of mounding the coals on either side. I also threw a couple hands full of oak, apple and a few hickory chips on the lit coals for some smoke.

Weather is 90°, light wind (10 mph.) and full sun. ( I should get a lot of mileage out of my lump today!

I'm also using my Maverick remote reading thermometer dropped in the top vent for a second temperature reading. It spiked early to 290°  while the lid thermo went just above 250°. I cut back on the bottom vent a bit more and the Maverick is now reading 283° and dropping slowly. I'll probably open it up just a bit. I don't want to extinguish the charcoal.

I can work on my latest CL find while I keep an eye on the meat. I got a 2001 Weber Genesis Silver B gasser for free. :D Better yet, it included a set of stainless steel grates and flavorizer bars. These are normal wear items on a Weber gasser but the SS variants should last just about forever. It included a tank and a cover. (The cover was for a smaller gasser like my Genesis Silver A.) This is pretty cool as I now have a sport of matched pair of Weber gassers.

4:00 PM meat on!
4:12290°/250° (grate/lid)Cut back on bottom vent a little bit.
4:30272°/255°Added a tiny bit on the bottom vent to stabilize temperature which is slowly dropping.
4:48278°/Looks good!
5:05272°/230°("Looks good" in the previous comment was euphemistic. I didn't look at the meat.) This time I did look at the meat and ... Looks good! :D With better temperature control the meat is not pulling back from the ends of the ribs yet. I flipped them (concave side now up.) and will leave them upside down for a bit before I flip them back.
5:30276°(Was 282° a few minutes ago.)
6:00268°Flipped the ribs back (convex side up) and stirred the coals a bit. They are starting to pull back on the bone. Also opened the bottom vent just a bit.
7:00300°Meat off! Now to let it rest while I grill up some spuds on my new gasser!

They look pretty good when they came of.

Spuds on the new gasser.

Grill marks, baby!

One rib is enough for a meal!

They taste as good as before. The one I had seemed to be a little gristly. I had difficulty pulling the membrane off the back and that may be why. I do think they left a bit more fat in the drip pan than before.

(grate/lid) temperature refers to the Maverick probe dangled in the lid vent vs. the lid temperature indicated by the thermometer built into the lid handle. (The lid thermometer has been calibrated using boiling water and is accurate.)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Rotisserie Chicken

I scored a rotisserie for my little Weber gasser (Weber Genesis Silver A.) I was really hoping for a rotisserie for a 22 1/2" Kettle because I prefer charcoal for cooking meat. But this came up on Craigslist for $5 and was for sale in the next town over. I pounced on it - didn't even negotiate price! It turned out to be brand new. It had been taken out of the original carton, but the various parts had not been removed from their bags. It's pretty much brand new. And it has grooves in the spit for a 32" span so I plan to investigate making a ring that will allow me to use it with my 22 1/2" kettle. A 55 gallon drum is about the right size.

Weather today is 85° F with full sun and light wind (6-10 mph.)

Back to the chicken. I picked up a couple 4 ¾ lb. fryers and I'll try two different recipes for them. The first is a rather generic "Roadside Chicken" recipe I found on the  Virtual Weber Bulletin Board. I tried to follow it faithfully but I'm afraid that a little bit of Hungarian Paprika fell into the mix. <shrug> I guess that will serve to add a bit of zing to the final result. Starting at 9:30 one of the birds is marinating in the mix (sans oil.)

The other recipe is a reprint of a Steven Raichlen recipe for Spit-Roasted Honey LIme Huli Huli Chicken (FLCL chicken? :p ) I'll cook both fairly slow and put some Apple wood chips in a smoke box for some smoke flavor.

I wound up taking the grates off the grill for extra clearance. I also had to tie the birds some more to keep them under control as they rotated. I hope that's enough. I spitted them more or less through the body cavity and that allows the birds to flop back and forth a bit even though I have the forks at the body cavity end.

Birds went on the grill at 11:00 AM and I set it to medium on the front burner. No need to cremate them! After letting this running for about half an hour (and opening several times to baste the Roadside Chicken) It seems to stabilize at about 275° F. That seems a little low as recipes I'm looking up on lie recommend 375°. I'm also not convinced that the thermometer at the end of the cooker accurately reflects the temperature the chicken sees. I think I had best aim for something in the low 300s.

Woah! A nudge on the burner control can have a HUGE result. I need to watch this a little more carefully. I found the temperature reading over 400° and smoke pouring form the cooker. I opened it up and the RS bird had blackened skin that was splitting. Surprisingly the other bird looked more normal. I basted it again and cut temperature back to where I had it before. I'm going to put my Maverick in there so I can monitor temps a little more closely. (Time: 12:05 PM)

12:20 - Maverick reads 305° and the thermometer 310°. Seems like pretty good agreement. I basted the RS chicken again, brushing on lots of marinade to try to wash some of the soot off. :( I'm supposed to baste the Huli Huli chicken with the glaze 10 minutes prior to finishing. I wonder how long that will be. I should probably get a meat temperature measurement.

12:25 - RS chicken - 150°, HH Chicken, 140°. (Note that during the overtemp excursion, the string burned off the RS chicken allowing the legs to splay. I should tie them again I guess.

12:55 - temp back up to 390°. Time to baste, measure and take temperatures.

1:00 - RS - 170°, HH - 162°. Basted both and they'll come off in 10 minutes.

1:11 - Meat off! I'll let it rest while I watch today's TDF finish (DVR delay.) They don't look quite so bad as they did when nearly engulfed in flames!

Despite the difficulties, the chicken came out pretty good. The skin was a little crispier on the Roadside variant (on the left in the picture above.) Both were very tasty.

Things to do better next time:
  • Fasten birds to spit better so they don't flop.
  • Monitor temperature better!
  • Work on mount for counterweight. It didn't hold and was pretty useless.

Monday, July 4, 2011

More Ribs

We're still enjoying the backs and spares I smoked up a few days ago but I wanted to try something different for the July 4th holiday. Inspired by Steve Raichlen's beef back ribs Gaucho style, I got some beef back ribs from Wheaton Meats. My next stop was Valli Produce and they had been back ribs as well, and on sale. So I got some more. The rack from WM was the whole one and weighed in at 4 ¼ lb and the ones from Valli at 1 ¾ lb.

These will not be smoked. Raichlen roasted them spitted next to an open ground fire Fogo de Chao style. Instead, I will use a large kettle and cook using indirect heat. I'm firing my weber with Mesquite lump and will throw some Apple and Hickory chips on for some smoke. I'm starting out with all vents wide open. Seasoning for the beef is coarse salt and fresh cracked black pepper. (One of the few times I'm cooking meat with no garlic!)

Before I put the meat on, I roasted three peppers right on the coals to make a Middle East inspired roasted pepper dip.

Meat went on the grill about 4:15 PM. by 4:30 the temp had stabilized at about 270° F. I'm happy with that. I could go a bit higher, but the thermometer is directly above the meat so it's probably reading just a bit on the low side.

45 minutes and the meat was pulling back on the bone, but I saw some blood when I turned them so I guess they're OK. Better hurry with the veggies! At one hour temp had dropped off about 10° which was just fine. Temperature continued to slowly drift down and at 6:00 PM it was down to about 250° when I took the meat off.

As good as these look, man does not live by meat alone. My most recent addition to my Weber collection is a small gasser that's great for grilling vegetables without heating up the house.

I have a pretty decent cast iron grate for it that has a flat upper surface and bars about 3/4" top to bottom. With a little preheating it puts great grill marks on the food.

The result was a delicious dinner. I toasted some whole wheat pita on the gasser (brushed with some EVOO and sesame seed) and we had that with the fire roasted red pepper dip while the ribs rested. I did manage to eat two of the ribs, but should have stopped at one. After all, each rib is over half a pound. Yukon Gold potatoes brushed with some EVOO and sprinkled with slat and black pepper made a great complement to the ribs.

I should add a couple of notes about the roasted red pepper dip. I tried to copy one of Steve Raichlen's preparations from hus BBQ U series. It starts with peppers roasted directly on the coals. That way they peel easily once cool. I used:

4 red peppers
1 can garbanzos (chickpeas)
7 oz Feta cheese
2 cloves garlic
(Blend these and add)
juice from one lemon
1/4 C EVOO
black pepper

We served the dip on whole wheat pita toasted with a bit of EVOO and sesame seeds. The dip was very tasty but a bit runny. Next time maybe drain and rinse the garbanzos. I just drained them this time.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Time to do some pork ribs.

Ribs and Weber and I go way back. We received an 18 1/2" Weber kettle for a wedding present (which we still have, in fact.) I'm sorry to say that I didn't try it for a year or two. I was young and ignorant. Finally one day I bought some ribs and charcoal and fired the Weber up and slow cooked the ribs. They were one of the best things I ever tasted! I immediately regretted not trying the Weber sooner and used it more or less for the nearly four decades since.

I've had the Weber smoker for almost two years and I've never made ribs on it. I always backed off due to the cost of ribs vs. the cost of a butt (or more often the rib tip trimmings I get at Woodman's.) But there's something special about gnawing meat off the bone. And ever since that first time I made ribs on the kettle they've held a special place in my heart (or at least on my palate. ;) )

With what I've learned about grilling, BBQing and smoking in the decades since, I should be able to make them that much better. Maybe my fear is that they won't live up to my expectations. Anyway, I pulled the trigger today with 1 lb spare ribs and 8 ¾ lb back ribs. I'll pass on the baby backs this time, but I will get a chance to compare and contrast the spares with the backs.

There are schemes for foiling the ribs part way through and then finishing with a sauce to make them fall-off-the-bone tender. That's not my preference. I'm going to go with a dry rub and smoke them as slowly as I possibly can.

Weather - 79°, sunny and light wind (10 mph.)

I seasoned the meat with Jeff's dry rub (*)  with some modifications:
  • Hungarian Paprika and cut amount to 1/4.
  • No chili powder. I use Cumin and Cayenne instead.
  • Added some ground coriander as well.
  • Added Rosemary because it goes so well with pork.
They look like this when ready to go on.

For the fire I'm going to go with Mesquite lump from Sam's and for smoking wood I'll add Hickory, pear, Mesquite, Box Elder and Cherry. That should provide a nice mix for pork.

    5:20 PM
    Chimney full of Mesquite lump on a side burner. (Lights fast!)
    Lit coals on the fire. Actually the fire had a pretty good start just from setting the chimney on top of the fire lay. I immediately closed two bottom vents and left the third about 1/2 open. I'll give it a few minutes to stabilize and put some meat on!
    Meat on!
    6:11 185° Waiting for temp to come back up.
    6:21 194°/190 (grate/dome)
    6:49 198°
    7:04 198°/195° Coming along just fine!
    7:46 201°/195°
    8:07 194°/195° Opened one partial bottom vent full to support increasing burn/temp.
    8:25 224°/195° closed that vent just a tad. Don't want it to run away!
    9:30 233° Took a peek inside and flipped the ribs. At this point they don't look as good as the ones on the kettle. That may be because they are not as far along as I was more successful at controlling temps on the WSM
    9:50 208°/190° Nudging the vent open just a bit. seems like a bit of a balancing act holding the right temp here.
    10:10 199°/185° Opening that bottom vent full open again.
    10:35 204°/190°
    10:45 200° Time to stir the coals a bit. Some on the side and back never lit well.
    11:30 204°/185° More stirrage of the coals and opened another bottom vent. A bit of higher heat near the end will help to brown the ribs. Temp control was so low most of the water is still left in the water bowl.
    11:40 224° That's better.
    12:30 236°
    12:45 242° Checked again and looks like they're done as well. I brought them inside to rest.

    OK, starting more coal to run on a 22 1/2" Kettle. Can't fit three slabs of spares and three slabs of back ribs on two grates in the smoker. As it was, I had to trim the ends of the ribs on the smoker to fit. (I should probably get a second bottom grate and add supports for it midway between top and bottom grates for use with flat stuff like ribs.) I used Mesquite lump again and sprinkled hickory and apple chips on them and stuck a couple cherry chunks in for good measure.

    Meat on! They overlap, but I'll handle that when turning them. I don't have the benefit of electronic temperature measurement. The dome temp (dial thermometer in the lid) was about 200° when I put the meat on.
    6:20 215° cutting back a wee bit on the bottom vent. I think thet the dome temp reads low and I prefer to keep this on the low side.
    6:49 230° Flipped them on to the meat side.
    7:04 240°
    7:46 250° Flipped again. Temp is higher than I want. I cut back on the bottom vent a bit more. The spares are starting to pull back on the bome already. That's too soon!
    8:07 225° More like it!

    220° Perfect!
    9:30 180° Added some unlit lump to bring temp back up. Will need to check in a few minutes for temp control.
    9:50 240° Closing the bottom vent a bit.
    10:10 240° Closing even more.
    10:35 225°
    11:30 225° Meat off! I tried to pick up the back rib and it broke. The spare was similarly tender. It's inside resting but I snuck a taste.

    (*) This is from Jeff sells the recipe to make a couple bucks and probably help support the site. I won't spoil that by publishing his recipe here but I will describe some of my tweaks.

    Here's what they looked like when they came off. First the ones cooked on the kettle.

    And the ones cooked a little lower and slower in the WSM.

    Initial impressions. The slabs came off the kettle first due to higher temperature. Flavor was good with a nice (not overbearing) smoky taste. Some parts of the spares which were particularly thin were overdone to the point where they were jerky-like (and that's being kind.) Between the Cayenne and Hungarian Paprika they're a bit on the hot side, but not too hot for me. Some Sweet Baby Ray's will probably offset that. The back ribs exhibited none of those dry areas because they were thicker overall.

    I'm going to taste the ones from the WSM after they rest or perhaps in the morning. I've already eaten way more than I should this time of night. ;)

    Tuesday, June 28, 2011

    Smoking Wood Test: Pecan

    Time for another smoking wood test. This time some store bought Pecan chunks.

    Once again, the mix is Salmon, Tilapia, pork, chicken, beef and a potato. There is no seasoning other than some oil to promote moistness. As usual, the test is performed in the mini-WSM (Weber Smoky Mountain) using the single smoking wood and Royal Oak lump charcoal.

    I have also installed a dome thermometer in the lid to compare readings with the Maverick remote.

    Weather is 81°, sunny and light wind (13 mph.)

    4:12 PM Meat, fish and veggies on!
    4:23235°/150° (*)
    4:28 230° Holding off on the temptation to open the bottom vent, recalling that the grate always tends to read low on the mini.
    4:40242°/270°Beef patties! Still on the counter. So I took the fish off and put the beef patties on.
    4:59 243° Just ordered LOTR-EE (BR) :D
    5:25 227°/170° Burger patties shrinking so they're off. Checking temp on the pork and it's at 160°. I'll wait for it to hit 165° to allow the chickenlegs to finish.
    5:39 245°/° Pork at 168245°/° - time to take the remaining meats off! (Chicken, pork and a split spud.)

    (*) grate/dome - Grate is measured at the top grate using the Maverick remote and dome is read from a dial thermometer installed through a hole in the cover.

    Here is what the results looked like:

    Here's an initial impression of the flavor added by Pecan:
    • Chicken legs - mild very pleasant smoky flavor.
    • Pork country rib - subtle pleasant smoky flavor.
    • Tilapia fillet - mild smoky flavor.
    • Beef patties - extremely subtle, not sure I can even taste the smoke.
    • Salmon fillet - mild smoky flavor.
    • White potato, halved - mild smoky flavor.
    Overall, Pecan reminds me a bit of cherry in that it seems to work well with fish and fowl and is relatively mild. This is a surprise as I expected something more along the lines of Hickory.

      Sunday, June 12, 2011

      A very special bird.

      I am happy. I had a very special bird to prepare and I feel like I did it justice.

      Our son and daughter in law used to raise chickens and turkeys on their 6 acres out in the country. A job promotion has resulted in the need to move and the result is no more turkeys and chickens for the foreseeable future.

      These birds were raised in chicken and turkey tractors. These are enclosures without floors that can be moved around the yard to allow the fowl to forage for whatever they can find to eat in addition to the feed they are provided. While not the same as free range, I think they come close. This 18 ½ pound turkey may be the last of these home raised birds. I think that my preparation did this excellent bird justice and I'd like to document the process here.

      I started by brining the bird. I used a combination of two brines that I had found from different sources. The first was provided by Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass. It starts with two quarts of apple juice and a cup of pickling salt to which I added garlic and onion powder. That wasn't enough brine so I made an additional 2 quarts with 1 cup salt and ¾ cup dark brown sugar. I put the turkey in a plastic cooking bag, poured in the brine and sealed it up with as little air as possible. This went into a cooler with some ice. I turned the bird periodically to expose all of it to the brine which pooled at the bottom of the bag. The bird was in the brine from 4:00 PM one day until 1:00 PM the next.

      I removed the bird from the brine and rinsed it and patted dry before applying an oil rub seasoned with crushed Garlic,  Sage, Cumin, Coriander, Marjoram, Thyme and Hungarian Paprika.

      Smoking was done in an 18 ½" Weber Smoky Mountain (WSM.) This bird was a perfect size to fit the grate and it was not necessary to stand it on its head like I had to do with the 26 pounder I did last Thanksgiving. I chose to use "Best of the West" Mesquite lump charcoal with chunks of Box Elder, Oak, Cherry and a little Black Walnut. The fire was built using the Minion method with a full chimney full of lit lump distributed on top of the rest of the lump and smoking wood. Since fowl benefits less from low 'n slow I did not use water in the bowl but instead foiled it to catch drippings. After adding the lit coals and assembling the weber with all vents wide open, it took about ten minutes for the smoker to hit 300° F. At that time I closed two of three bottom vents fully and closed the third about half way.

      Once the smoker hit 300° F I put the bird on the bottom grate and watched temperature. Ten minutes later the temperature had already recovered to 255° F. Fifteen minutes later it had  dropped to 245° F and then started climbing slowly. At three hours it was at 277° F and I adjusted air flow for the first and only time. I closed the one partially open bottom vent just a tiny bit. The result was that at four hours when the turkey hit 160° F, the smoker had dropped back to 254° F. One thing I really like about the WSM is temperature stability once you get the hang of getting it set right. When I finally opened the smoker, this is what greeted me:

      Here it is fully rested and ready to carve:

      I covered the bird with a foil tent and put it in a slightly warm oven to rest. (Just the pilot - about 110° F.) I had to run to the store for a few things so the turkey wound up resting nearly two hours before I carved it. There was certainly no harm done. That bird is delicious. I carved some breast meat and took some dark meat off one of the drumsticks and both were tender, juicy and had a wonderful smoky flavor.

      The meat just under the skin is a little salty. Perhaps I need to use a little less salt in my next brine. In all other respects it is exquisite. I'll need to set some aside for the next time we get together with our son and his bride so I can show them how much we appreciate their efforts raising such an excellent bird.