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.