Thursday, December 27, 2012

Boxing Day Ribs

And possibly the last smoke of the year. Time for some ribs. I had 6 slabs frozen from when they were on sale. I thawed them all out for a Boxing Day smoke.

Winter seems to have arrived and the temperature is 31° and it's cloudy. Occasionally we'll get some snow during the day. It's windy as well with winds reported at 18 mph out of the NNW. At 4:00 PM the wind is up to about 25 mph and can be heard occasionally howling. (gusts over 30 mph.)

I plan to do something different today. I just watched a competition on TV and every competitor wrapped their ribs part way through. I'm going to do a 3-2-1 (3 hours on the smoker, foil and hydrate for 2 hours followed by another hour unwrapped and perhaps add some sauce.

Though I trimmed the ribs a bit, I didn't do the St. Louis style trim so they wound up overlapping on the smoker. Hopefully that's not a problem. I will be moving them when I foil and again when I remove the foil for the last stage. While foiling I plan to add some apple juice and beer (but not both) to some of the ribs to see if that makes a difference.  (Probably 2 beer, 2 apple juice and 2 w/out.) I also did something else I've not done in the past - added salt and sugar to my rub. Not a lot really, but enough to perhaps make a difference. One more thing... I'll sort of stagger the removal from the oven  so that I can sauce the two top ribs and they will be beer and apple juice braised during the foiled period. That way I'll get to taste them with and without sauce. I'll try the toothpick method to mark them again.

I used a rub based on previous efforts with the primary exception that I actually added salt and sugar. Actual constituents were:
  • 1 Tbsp Thyme
  • 2 Tbsp ground Sage
  • 2 Tbsp Rosemary
  • 2 Tbsp Oregano
  • 1 Tsp Chili Chipotle powder
  • 2 Tsp ground Cumin
  • 1 Tbsp Ancho powder
  • 1 Tbsp Onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp Mustard powder
  • 1 Tbsp whole Mustard powdered
  • 2 Tbsp Garlic powder
  • 2 Tbsp Kosher Salt
  • 1/3 C Brown Sugar
I mixed in enough peanut oil in to make a slurry. 

The ribs were on the small size - likely a grower harvesting his herd a little early due to the drought problems. They all had a bit of the sternum attached so I cut that off and then trimmed about 3 more ribs from that end of each rack. It is interesting to note that all of the ribs came from the same side of the pig. I wonder what they do with the ribs from the other side of the pig.

The main rack pieces will go into the 18" WSM which has been equipped with a third grate positioned between the other two. That will put two racks on each grate. The trimmed pieces are going into the mini (converted WSM from a Smokey Joe.) The breast bone pieces are on the botton stacked like Lincoln logs three across in two layers. ;)

I'm using a Maverick ET-73 to measure the smoker temperature in both smokers. The meat probe is in the mini and the regular cooker probe is in the WSM. With ribs I really don't need to measure meat temperature.

Ribs in the WSM
timetemp comment
11:15 AM
Meat on!
12:11 PM181°Time to add more air I think. Went from one bottom vent to two bottom vents wide open.
12:55261°nice recovery.
1:10288°Closed one of the bottom vents to half.
2:45250°Ribs foiled and put in a 250° oven for 2 hours. (Empty cooker is at 255°. closing down to one vent part open.) There was still plenty of water in the pan.
4:00197°Will open up and stoke the fire before putting ribs back on this smoker.
Lifted the middle section off to add more charcoal and smoking wood.
4:33128°I'm going to lift the middle section to allow the fire to rekindle a bit more.
Meat back on the smoker. Some of it was pretty much done already. It cooked a lot while in the foil. Closed bottom vents to one full open.
5:36204°Meat off!

Rib trimmings in the miniWSM
timetemp comment
Meat on!
12:11 PM192°While opening bottom vents on the WSM I straightened the middle of the mini. That seems to have resulted in dropping temps. 
12:40150°Opened the bottom vent almost full.
2:35 149°
2:45143°Added some more smoking wood and more lump.
4:00196°Moving along just fine.
Rearranged the riblets on the top grate for better exposure. They look nearly done (meat pulling back on the bones.)
One of the packages in the oven is leaking and smoking the place up so oven off - time to unwrap these and put them on the fire. (Reassemble the WSM now)
Meat off!

Foiling the ribs almost overcooked them. They all produced liquid - even the ones that had no liquid added when foiling. The liquid washed away some of the smoke flavor. Here is what the tips looked like when ready to come off the mini.

Here is a comparison of the tips and a slab that was foiled.

  1. Don't foil every blasted slab. Try one or two slabs.
  2. Cool foiled ribs at 225° (not 250°)
  3. Foil ribs meat side up to reduce leaching of the smoke and rub flavors.

Friday, December 7, 2012

First Friday Turkey

This is another turkey - I'm grilling it (with some smoke) for First Friday. I started with an injected Butterball(tm) turkey so I don't need to brine it. I plan to roast using Alton Brown's suggestion to roast at 500° F for half an hour, tent the breast with foil and lower temp to 350° and continue until the breast reads 161° F. In the past I've smoked these but the skin comes out rubbery and I don;t think the bird really benefits. I suppose I should give smoking another shot after grilling/roasting a couple.

We're at 41° F under cloudy skies and with light (10 mph) winds. Rain could start before the cook is done.

As noted this bird comes pre-brined. I simply thawed it and stuffed some sliced apples, onions and celery in the cavity. I added some fresh sage and rosemary form the garden to that. Inside I have the neck and giblets in hot water to make some gravy.

This cook is (again) being done with the 26" kettle. I have a drip pan under the bird that is surrounded with two chimneys of lit lump. I tucked in a couple pieces of apple and cherry in between the drip pan and coals. After a few minutes I recalled that I wanted to use some mesquite also and dropped them in top of the lit coals along the edge (by the grate handles.) I'm measuring cooker and breast temperature using a remote reading Maverick ET-73. The ET-73 cooker temperature only reads up to 410° F so I have to guess if I'm hitting my desired 500° F for the first half hour.

timetemp comment
Turkey on the grill
3:25 HHHWithin a few minutes the cooker temp on the ET-73 is over scale so I removed it. I need a higher reading thermometer for high heat cooks! And this is with the lid on and both vents wide open.
Opened the lid to add mesquite chunks and put the cooker probe back in. Quickly reads HHH again so I pulled it again. I measure surface temps up to 425° using an IR thermometer.
Time to bring down cooker temperature. Tented the turkey breast, closed bottom vent to about 1/2 and closed the top vent a little. I also threw in a couple more pieces of apple and cherry. Temp is dropping slowly so I closed the bottom a bit more. It's hard to tell since the closure for the bottom vents does not seem to fit very well. I closed the top vent to about 1/2 as well. Lid temp was over 340° so I don't think that the cooker temperature is down to 350°.
Closed the bottom vent to a sliver and the top a little more as well. Need to watch to avoid overshooting and losing too much fire. 
4:1295°/348°Opened the top vent fully and the bottom about half. Temp started climbing again so I closed things down a bit more.
4:33117°/387°Closed the bottom vent a wee bit more. Need to watch for falling temps which means it is time to light more charcoal.
5:30156°/345°Added another chimney of charcoal. Probably not needed but once lit it must be used. Closed the bottom vent a bit to compensate for the extra heat.
5:38161°/359°Turkey off!

Here is the bird after a half hour prior to tenting and cutting the temperature.

And after resting a bit after it came off the grill.

The bird was very good. It got compliments all around and one of the party goers claimed repeatedly that it was the best turkey she ever had. One of the things I did was an extended rest since I needed to transport. To maintain maximum heat, I

  • preheated the roasting pan.
  • held in a warm oven until ready to leave (about 1/2 hour) 
  • prewarmed the cooler using hot water.
The result is that the breast temperature after holding for 1/2 hour in a warm oven followed by an hour in a picnic cooler was 170°. That's almost too much. 

One thing I need to watch is the ET-73 temperature probe during the hottest part of the cook. The heat is high enough to damage it. As far as the bird goes, I have no regrets.

Thanksgiving 2012

Note: This was cooked the day after thanksgiving but I procrastinated publishing...

Turkey again this year. Got a 19 pounder from Ho-Ka Farms via Valli Produce. It seems big but I guess it will be fine. This year I plan to roast it in the big grill instead of the smoker. That should allow some what higher initial temperature ala Alton Brown's recommendation for 500° for the first half hour. I can still throw some wood chunks on the coals for some additional smoke flavor.

Weather conditions for the cook are truly awful. I suppose hard rain would be worse. Temperature at the time of meat on is 29° F and wind is howling out of the Northwest at 25 mph with gusts to 35. I set up in front of the garage to get a little wind shelter. The sky is mostly cloudy

I'm brining the turkey with:

  • 1 gallon apple cider (recipe called for vegetable broth but I substituted.)
  • 1 cup pickling salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper corns
  • 1/2 tablespoon whole allspice
  • 1/2 tablespoon powdered ginger (recipe called for candied ginger but we had none)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 stick of cinnamon.
I boiled the brine and allowed to cool. Before adding to the bird, I added about 1/2 gallon of ice cubes.  The brining is taking place in a Reynold's roasting bag in a 5 gallon bucket. Turkey goes into the brine at 1:00 PM the day before. (We're serving our Thanksgiving dinner on Friday this year because that's when everyone can make it.) Bird is out of the brine at about 10:30 AM and I microwaved an orange, apple and a couple small onions to stick inside the cavity along with sprigs of sage, rosemary and thyme.

The cook will be on the 26 this year. I'll put a double drip pan under the bird to see if that keeps the drippings from burning up so I can save them for stuffing and gravy. For fire I'll use Grove Lump and cherry and apple for smoking woods. (Maybe a little mesquite as well.) I started with two full chimneys of lump and put them around a doubled drip pan.

timetemp comment
11:15 AM°Bird on! Within 15 minutes the dome temperature is reading 410° with the lid cracked about 1/2". A few minutes it is readint HHH which is over scale. I'll remove the probe.
Set the cover in place - this is expected to drop the temperature and the probe is back in the dome. Within a couple minutes temps were reading close to 390° so I closed the bottom vent down to about 2/3 to cut that back. Goal is 350°
12:15308°/?Time to light more charcoal!
12:45377° Temp recovering nicely after adding another chimney of lit lump.
1:27 PM341°/143°Meat probe in the breast now. Moving right aling (need to tent w/foil.)
1:52291°/158°Turkey nearly done - lighting another chimney for the root vegetables.
2:15?/162°Turkey off the fire and resting.

Turkey was good. The wings were a little crispy  since they were sticking out over the fire but I like that anyway. Breast not too bad but could still have been juicier.

Next time I might not stick the wings out but instead tie them up.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Fishing Food

Our annual trip to Redwing Minnesota to stalk the wily walleye on the Mississippi river is only days away. I'm responsible for food and I need to smoke! We'll have pulled pork and beef brisket as a portion of our menu. In addition I bought a bunch-O-chicken thighs to grill. One of the things I also plan to make is buffalo chicken mac & cheese. I can make that with either the grilled chicken or pulled pork. Both came out pretty good. maybe I'll do a split recipe and make some of each. I also bought a ham that I'll smoke to enhance the flavor. I plan to use both the ham and chicken for lunch as well.

That's 14 lb of beef and 14 lb of pork. I didn't pick them that way. I just chose packages that looked like what I wanted.

Temperature is 41° at 10:30 and wind is very light at under 5 mph. the sky is cloudy. (Good weather conditions for a smoke!) By evening the temperature dropped to freezing.

For the I'm using Raichlen's coffee rub which you can see at Raichlen's Primal Grill web site. For the pork, I went with:
  • 1 Tbsp black Pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Rosemary
  • 1/2 Tbsp Coriander
  • 1 Tbsp Hungarian Paprika.
  • 1 Tbsp Ancho powder
  • 1 Tsp Cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 Tbsp Cumin
  • 2 Tbsp Garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp Onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp Mustard powder
This is going on the WSM where I'm using Grove lump (from Woodmans') and for smoking wood: mesquite, hickory, apple, black walnut, oak and box elder. During the cook I threw a couple pieces of cherry in that I had sitting around. I started with about a gallon of hot tap water in the bowl. The meat probe of the ET-72 is in the thickest part of the brisket on the lower grate.

Using the Maverick ET-73 for temperature measurement with the meat probe in the thickest portion of the brisket. The brisket itself had to be cut into two pieces to fit on the lower rack. I can monitor the butts using a instant reading thermometer but I expect the brisket to be done first.

10:10 AM
Lit coals on smoker and closed up. All bottom vents wide open.
Meat on! (grate and lid temp about 220°) Closed two vents fully and one vent to about 1/2.
Looking good. Cold meat is dragging the temps down but that's OK. I'm not in a hurry.
11:4287°/180°/185°Open the 1/2 open bottom vent a little bit - to about 3/4.
1:09 PM133°/175°/175°Stirred the coals a bit.87°/180°/185°
1:30134°/170°/170°Temp still falling off so I threw a bit more coal in and blew some air in the bed to fire it up and opened another bottom vent.
5:00170°/207°/210°Stirred the coals a bit and threw some cherry and box elder in.
5:47166°/222°/?Meat temp is a puzzlement.
6:34164°/189°/190°Threw in a couple more hands full of lump and pumped some air to get it fired up.
8:05174°/314°/250°Closed down to one bottom vent full open. Water bowl empty? Peeked in and pork looks like it's coming along.
8:59190°/253°/210°Peeked in and checked pork - butts are at 167°, 168°
9:40192°/?/?Beef off and meat probe switched to a butt. (now at 169°)
9:55168°/206°/175°More lump, more air.
12:29 AM180°/272°/230°
1:10182°/242°/?Pork taken out, wrapped in foil and put in a cooler to rest overnight.

Beef - seems a bit firm but tastes terrific! Pork is mouth watering and pulls apart easily.

I don't understand why the fire required so much tending. Maybe I should switch back to briquettes rather than lump. Or mix the two. Other than that, I don't think I would do anything differently.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Roadside Chicken - Mexican Style

Got a couple small chickens on sale ($0.88/lb) and weighed 7 lb between the two of them. And that's with no 'inclusions' as we typically get with whole birds. (IOW these are gutless birds.) I planned to make them on the little gas grill using the rotisserie and using the Roadside Chicken recipe. However when I looked it up I ran across this recipe for Mexican Roadside Chicken plagiarized from Rick Bayless. I [pretty much followed the recipe except that I used fresh oregano and added some fresh rosemary. I mixed the marinade and poured it over the birds in one gallon resealable plastic bags. I turned them over several times during the approximate 1 hour marinating time to distribute the marinade.

Weather was nice and sunny with a high of about 68°. Wind was light at about 8 mph.

I used my Weber Silver A with rotisserie to cook these. I put some apple, cherry and mesquite in a foil pack over the igniter (should be a hot spot) and also put a piece of hickory and mesquite on the flavorizer bars hoping they would smolder there rather than burn (which they did.)

I lit the grill and set the burner controls to medium. that proved to be too much heat so I turned them both to low and that held a decent temperature for the remainder of the cook. Maybe at the end I should crank it up again to crisp the skin.

Meat on the rotisserie. Both burners at medium.
16:30400°Cut both burners back to low. Wood in foil pack and directly on the flavorizer bars seems to be smoldering nicely.
16:50340°Both burners on low seem to do a decent job of holding temps at this level.
17:35320°Temp seems to be drifting down a bit. I probed the meat with an instant read thermometer and it was just below 160° on both birds.
17:57°Crank the heat up to crisp the skin!
18:02580°Chicken off!

Chicken came out pretty good. There was a definite smoky flavor and Southwest flavor. And the chicken was really juicy. Only downside was that the skin was not crispy. Oh,well. Maybe bringing the heat up a little sooner is required for that.

Liver pâté and some pork neck bones.

I saw pork neck bones real cheap at the store so I bought some. I also thawed out several pounds of chicken livers with the plan to smoke both in the mini. I'll use the chicken livers for pâté and not sure what I'll do with the neck bones. (Probably make some kind of stock.)

Weather is pleasant at 67°, sunny and with light wind at about 8 mph.

I made a rub for the pork using the recipe for the previous rub except that I remembered the mustard, used fresh Rosemary and only made about 1/3 as much. Those will go on the bottom rack.

For the livers, I sliced a couple small onions and several cloves of garlic and added some fresh Thyme. (Oops, I was supposed to add some Bay leaf. I'll toss in a couple now.) The liver was smoked in a medium cast iron pan.

This is smoked on the mini-WSM using Grove lump. I selected some small chunks of hickory and mesquite for smoking wood. I also poured about half a gallon of hot tap water into the water bowl. The bottom vent was about 1/3 open and I left it there the whole time, not being overly concerned about temperature control.

Meat on!

13:05245°/122°/?Turned the livers over a bit for better smoke exposure. Temp spiked to 310° a few minutes after that.
14:00299°/155°/150°Stirred the livers again. They don't look done yet. (Time to add the Bay leaves. ;)
Lifted the middle section and stirred the coals a bit.
16:30217°/163°/160°Liver looks done - time to bring it in.
17:40210°/NA/?Time to take the neck bones off.

The pâté came out good. I put nearly a stick of butter in as I blended it. That seems like a lot but Pepin recommends a stick and a half for 1/2 lb. chicken livers and I had about 4 lb chicken livers. (This produced about 5 cups of pâté.) I like the flavor but I'm not sure I can pick out the smoke flavor. Against the liver it may be pretty subtle.

The neck bones weren't really done the way I'd want ribs or pulled pork done, but I planned on further cooking anyway. These were pretty bony so I covered them with water and simmered until the meat was falling off the bone. I'm going to use this stock to make lentils.

What to do differently next time.The only thing to do differently would involve the size of the pan I used for the livers. I didn't want something deep but a relatively small cast iron pan was all that would fit in the mini-WSM. Ideally I'd have a 12" cast iron pan with no handle. I used a pyrex casserole last time and the smoke left a relatively durable film on the outside which took a lot of scrubbing to remove.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Spare ribs for the corn roast.

Spare Ribs went on sale at Ultra for $1.76/lb. That helped me to make my decision for what to smoke for the corn roast. I purchased 6 individually cryovaced racks. The racks ran a little on the small size. I'm guessing that some hog farmers may be liquidating their herds doe to the continued drought. the smaller size would work to my advantage when fitting these in the smoker anyway. In addition to that, I trimmed them up a bit, more or less Saint Louis style. (I didn't slavishly go for straight racks, I just trimmed the brisket off mostly. The flap had already been mostly trimmed and I only needed to trim additionally on one of six racks. I also trimmed off what I believe to be the sternum portion of the ribs.

We have a hot day today. At 1:00 PM we're at 89° and should go a bit higher. Wind is breezy reported at 15 mph but much lighter on the patio. The sky is clear and the sun hot.

I'm using a rub modified form the Mother's Day rub. I had meant to add some mustard powder but I forgot. <sigh>. Next time.

  • 3 Tbsp. Coarse grind black pepper. (**)
  • 4 Tbsp. ground Sage
  • 2 Tbsp. Coriander (**)
  • Chopped fresh Rosemary - about 2 Tbsp.
  • 2 Tbsp ground dried Oregano flakes. (**)
  • 1 Tbsp. ground Chili Ancho
  • 1 Tsp. ground Chili Chipotle
  • 1 Tsp. Cumin
  • 2 Tbsp. garlic powder (not enough fresh.)
  • Enough peanut oil to make this mixture a slurry.
I ran out of rub before I rubbed the tips so I mixed up a dry rub similar to above except I used dry Rosemary and about 1 Tsp. Kosher salt and 1 Tbsp. packed brown sugar.

This is going to be a double cook. The racks of ribs go in the WSM (equipped with an extra cooking rack) and the trimmings will go in the mini-WSM. I'm using lump charcoal and hickory, walnut, maple and apple (WSM) or pecan, apple, maple and a little cherry (mini-WSM.)  One gallon of hot water was added to the bowl in the WSM and about half that much in the mini.  The WSM was started with a Minion lay and was buttoned up with one bottom vent open half. The mini was nearly full from a previous smoke so I put all of the charcoal in the chimney to light and added the smoking wood to the fire ring and then poured lit coals onto the wood arranged around the outside edge inside the fire ring.

The smokers weren't given more than about 5 minutes to get going before loading the meat.

Racks of ribs in the WSM:


Started out with pone bottom vent half open.
12:50 PM
Meat on!
1:51172°/170° (grate, lid)
6:50246°/210°Water gone?
7:30245°/205°Tips are done but the ring still have more to go.
9:17213°/195°Meat just barely starting to pull back on bones. Stirred the fire a bit and threw in a couple more chunks of apple. Seems to be plenty of charcoal left and it seems to be well lit. Opened the one bottom vent a little bit.
10:10228°/190°Not pulling back on the bones much yet but the ribs on the bottom rack were starting to. Since there will be opportunity for further cooking when reheating, I'll take them off now. They do seem pretty flexible when picked up by hand. Meat off!

Grate measured using a Maverick ET-73 and lid using the built in Weber thermometer.

Rib trimmings in the mini:


Started with bottom vent half open and (Doh!) top vent closed. At about half an hour stupidity realized and top vent opened. Coals still lit!
1:25 PM
Meat on!
2:40200°(lid)Nice recovery
3:35185°Opened the bottom vent a little to about 2/3 open.
Meat off! Time for some rib tip trimmings for dinner.

Some of the rib tips were served as soon as they came off. they were a little dry but still very tasty. The racks that came off the main smoker went into a covered turkey roasting pan to rest a bit and chill before they were put in the cooler.

Friday, August 17, 2012

And yet another butt over brisket

The previous smoke was for the purpose of convincing my neighbor to go with something off the smoker for their after race party. No convincing was needed after she had some of my ribs. She said "Yes, brisket and pulled pork would be fine." So I got another 10 pound brisket and a pair of butts to smoke. My pan is to smoke overnight, starting about 10:00 PM. That should pretty much have the meat done by noon (provided I drop the temps a little bit.) Then I'll foil and put in a cooler to hold the meat until I need to prepare it for serving. that should duplicate the results I had with the previous smoke. I'll hold the meat in Dutch ovens and serve in a Sterno fueled chafing dish.

Outside temperature is about 66°, sky is dark and wind is pretty flat (reported at 3 mph.)

See previous post. I'm using the same rubs. The only difference is I have the rub son by 10:00 PM so they have a couple hours to marinate before they go in the smoker.

Again, I'll be duplicating the smoker setup and smoking woods I used last time. Hot coals on the Minion lay at 9:35 and the cooker closed up. Top vent full open and one bottom vent full open. I'm going to let it settle a bit before putting meat in. OK, by 9:40 the grate temp reads 261° and I think that's settled enough! Brisket will go on the bottom with the meat probe and butts will go on the upper rack.

timetemp comment
9:45 PM261°/205°/?
(grate, dome, meat)
Meat on the smoker.
10:00264°/200°/56°Close the single open bottom vent to about half.
10:43266°/220°/95°Closing a little more.
11:28269°/220°/128°Closing a little more - barely open now.
5:25 AM155°/150°/150°Need more fire! Open one bottom vent full and fan the coals a bit.
8:00194°/?/153°Added some charcoal.
10:22240°/?/167°Repeated charcoal additions are finally having the desired effect.
11:19271°/240°/177°One bottom vent back to half open.
Pork feels done - off to rest!
2:15278°/°/190°Beef coming off now.

It worked well again. The entire smoke was consumed at the party and I had to dip into my reserves for a few more pound of beef and pork.

What to do differently next time - don't let the temperature drop as much overnight. Of course the drop was better than a runaway smoker.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Another butt over brisket

Just because. We've finished our brisket before vacation and have no more pulled pork left. We do have some back loin ribs, a little more than one rack left. That's all the reason I need. OK, there's another reason. My neighbor runs the Winfield Criterium which is coming up this weekend. I gave her some of the back loin ribs (it was her husband who watched our house while we were out of town.) Last year I cooked for their after party (for everyone who helped put it on) and made - by their request - fajitas. They bought onions, peppers and beef brisket. Oy! I almost panicked when I saw that but quickly researched marinades and settled on one that included lemon juice and vinegar (IIRC) with the hope that it would tenderize the beef a bit. I also sliced the brisket up for maximum exposure. It marinated overnight and was good but still a bit on the rangy side. I think that's just not the right cut of beef for fajitas. This year I'm hoping to convince them that something off the smoker would be better. I hope some brisket and pulled pork talks for me. ;)

I picked out the biggest brisket at Sam's which was just shy of 10 lb. The brisket is a two pack that ran about 16 3/4 lb.

I'm starting this late afternoon so it looks like it will be a long night or an early morning. Plus it will have to go for several hours on its own while we head off to hot dog night.

Weather is hot at 90° and sunny. There is a light of wind reported at about 5 mph but feels like a bit more. Temperature down to 67° by the time the meat came off in the wee hours.

I'm using pretty much the same recipe as last time I did butt over brisket with some modifications as listed below. (I have fresh rosemary but forgot to buy garlic.) The Coffee rub recipe is not worth repeating. You can see it at Raichlen's Primal Grill web site. For the pork, I went with:

  • 1 Tbsp black Pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Rosemary
  • 1/2 Tbsp Coriander
  • 1 Tbsp Hungarian Paprika.
  • 1 Tbsp Adobo seasoning
  • 1 Tsp Cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 Tbsp Cumin
  • 2 Tbsp powdered garlic
This is going on the WSM where I'm using Royal Oak lump and for smoking wood, mesquite, hickory, apple, black walnut and box elder. I started with about a gallon of hot tap water in the bowl. The meat probe of the ET-72 is in the thickest part of the brisket on the lower grate.

timetemp comment
3:15 PM
Lit coals on, meat on and buttoned up with one bottom vent half open as seems to work well for me..
Temps spiked a bit due to a well lit fire but is settling down a bit after closing up the smoker.
5:16263°/250°/136°closed the vent a little bit - hardly at all.
10:19219°/215°/172°That's pretty good for 5 hours of inattention. I'll open a bottom vent a little bit more and stir the coals. Whoops! I fond that one of the bottom vents which I thought had been closed was actually open about half way, so to this point 
12:54220°/215?/185°Threw in some more lump. Pork is at about 172°.
2:30230°/225°/195°Beef off and meat probe switched to pork (now 184°.)
Decided to take the pork off s well. It looks done.

I wrapped all pieces of meat in foil and put in a cooler for an extended rest (til morning) prior to slicing and pulling. They both turned out to be the tenderest pieces of meat I have ever smoked. The pork was almost too tender. I think that the extended rest was the reason for this. The beef was also very juicy.

The only thing I might do differently is double check which vents are open to keep the fire better controlled. I would have liked a slightly lower smoke temperature but the results were great!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Back Ribs with some rub tests

I owe some friends and these are things I cannot pay back with money. I chose back loin ribs from Sams. (Based on the size, I think they qualify as baby back ribs, but I'm no expert.) I'm also going to perform some rub experiments. I cut off three end ribs so the racks fit better. I'm going to try a variety of other rubs on those micro-racks. But since I made larger quantities of two popular rubs (BRITU, Raichlen's Memphis rub) I'm going to do a rack of each of those too.

Temperature is presently at 79°, sunny and wind is very light (reported at 10 mph but I'm skeptical.)

Most of the ribs will be rubbed with the rub I used for Mother's Day with some changes. I used fresh rosemary form the garden and powdered garlic since we were out of bulbs. I also mixed up some other rubs to try for the sake of comparison:
  1. Plain with oil
  2. Salt and black pepper with oil
  3. Salt, black pepper, garlic powder and Adobo with oil
  4. BRITU (Best Ribs in the Universe)
  5. Raichlen's Memphis Rub (From his Barbecue Bible book, but I'm not going to mop.)
  6. Salt, brown sugar, black pepper and Adobo with oil
I'm using toothpicks broken in half and stuck into the edge of the ribs (between bones) to provide identification. I hope they don't fall out otherwise I'll be guessing which is which.

This smoke is on my 18 1/2" WSM (Weber Smokey Mountain.) I'll be using water in the bowl and the third grate so I can lay two racks of ribs on each grate. For the fire I'm using Royal Oak lump charcoal with chunks of hickory, box elder (maple) and crab apple for smoking wood.

timetemp comment
10:45 AM
All rubs have been applied.
Lit charcoal chimney on propane (Yay Performer!) and set on a Minion lay.
Lit chimney dumped on unlit coals. One gallon of hot tap water in bowl and smoker closed up. Top vent is wide open (as always) and one bottom vent left 1/2 open (other two bottom vents closed.)
Meat on!
1:05194°/200°Progress is good!

Hmmm... What was that reading and what time was it? Anyway, at that point I stirred the fire a bit and threw in some more hickory and apple.
4:53189°/195°I stirred the coals a bit more and opened another bottom vent to 1/2. the ribs still look good but they're a ways away.
5:10177°/195°Gave it a shot of air to fire up the coals a bit. Temp seems to be recovering.
5:45200°/195°Opened one bottom vent full (two at 1/2 and one at full open.) Almost time for dinner!
6:10233°/215°Took samples 1 & 2 off for dinner - Hungry!
6:20250°/Closed one vent - the full open one.
Meat off!

This is about an hour into the smoke.

About 5 hours

Ready to come off

That's a nice pile of ribs!

Here's an evaluation of the various rubs.
  1. Plain with oil - Surprisingly good! It goes to show that the primary flavor is from the pork and the smoke and the rub just adds additional layers of flavor.
  2. Salt and black pepper with oil - Again very good with the improvement of the salt and pepper which provides minimal heat.
  3. Salt, black pepper, garlic powder and Adobo with oil - Also good with the addition of some heat from the Adobo seasoning.
  4. BRITU (Best Ribs in the Universe) This is good, but IMO not the best in the universe. But it is produce juicy ribs.
  5. Raichlen's Memphis Rub (From his Barbecue Bible book, but I'm not going to mop.) At present, my favorite. I think the mustard gives it a nice tang and the cayenne gives it some heat. and it is juicy.
  6. Salt, brown sugar, black pepper and Adobo with oil - Pretty good flavor for a simple rub. I little dryer but nice and spicy.
My rub - Not as good as Raichlen's. I should cut back a bit on the rosemary and the heat. I could add some mustard as well. An open question remains salt and sugar. Particularly with sugar, I'm just not sure it adds much. I'll have to taste test again tomorrow and re-evaluate, checking for moistness as well as flavor.

One thing seems clear. It is not necessary to add a lot of flavor. Hickory, apple and maple do that just fine. Subtle flavors and a little heat are all that is really needed.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Brisket for the 4th of July

I actually did this on the 3rd of July when we were expecting family (kids and grandkid!) Power was out so I could not blog but fortunately I could smoke. Here is an account of the brisket.

I started with a 6 3/4 lb brisket from Sams. I found it to be reasonably well trimmed (not a 1/2" fat cap like some previous purchases.) I again went with the coffee rub describd by Steve Raichlen and aso made up a lbatch of Red Eye BBQ sauce. Some day I may try something different, but for now these work well for me. I applied the rub about 8:00 AM. On the smoker I tried something a little different this time. I smoked the meat fat cap down with a couple strips of bacon on the top of each piece of meat.

Weather was hot - 80° in the morning and mid nineties in the afternoon. Sun was hot and wind was calm to very light breezes. It was not a good day to play outside but was an excellent day to smoke.

This cook will go on the mini-WSM and the brisket was cut in half into two approximately triangular shaped pieces to fit the 14 1/2" grates. Fire was using lump along with some mesquite, oak, box elder and apple for smoking woods. I lit some lump on a charcoal chimney and put that on a Minion lay at 8:45. At 8:55 I closed up the smoker and set the bottom vent to about 1/3 open. I'm also trying a new lid thermometer which projects a little further into the cooker than the last one. It should provide better readings. Grate and meat temperatures are using a Maverick ET-73. The stainless water bowl is about half full of warm water.

timetemp comment
9:05 AM158°/?/? grate/lid/meatMeat on! Shortly after putting the meat on temp spiked at 325° but a recheck indicated that the grate probe had slipped down and was just above the space between water bowl and cooker, just above the fire. Dome temp at that time was about 150°.
9:48244°/180°/102°Looks good.
10:14194°/170°/132°Dropping a bit too much, open bottom vent to about 1/2.
10:50206°/185°/154°Looking a little better.
11:54200°/?/170°Time to stir the pot fire. Added some more oak and 
1:02200°/170°/172°Open bottom vent full.
3:10280°/200°/185°Looks like the fire recovered and perhaps the water boiled out of the pan as well. Anyway, probed the meat and it seemed tender enough so I took it off.

Results: Everyone liked it. It seemed neither drier nor more moist than previous smokes. Putting the fat cap down probably matters more when there is no water bowl between the meat and the fire. It also could have been more tender, but slicing across the grain means that makes little difference.

What to do differently next time: Make more Red Eye sauce! Cindy used it up already. Need a double or triple batch I guess. I should try taking the meat to a higher temperature. Actually, since I had two pieces of meat, I could have taken one off and left the other on a little longer.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Summer Spares

While on vacation I had some BBQ. It was OK, but I really thought "I need to fire up my smoker!" We're back and I had some spares in the freezer which I took out last night. Today I smeared them with my usual mix except that I used Rosemary, Sage, Oregano and Garlic from the garden. I also added some Thyme based on Alton Brown's recipe. It will be marinating for a bit (45 minutes?) while I prep the smoker.

Weather is 83°, hot and sunny with practically no wind.

This is going to be smoked in the 18 1/2" WSM with some remaing Grove lump and some Stubbs briquettes. I grabbed a handful of wood chunks consisting of some maple, walnut, apple and possibly some cherry to which I added some hickory for smoking woods. This will be a somewhat unattended cook to a large extent. At about 6:00 PM we need to head out. I plan to have things stabilized by then at a somewhat lower temp and then will allow that it will droop as the evening proceeds. Hopefully they won't overcook by the time we get home.

4:20 PM
Set partially lit chimney on the fire lay.
Fire was roaring! Amazing how fast it goes on a hot day. I put about 3 quarts of hot water in the bowl and buttoned the smoker up. I closed two bottom vents fully and left one about 1/2 open. Within about a minute the grate probe is reading 281°. And the meat probe sitting on the table for my Platinum is reading 125°. 
4:40285°/?(grate/lid) Meat on!
4:46288°/230°Went to about 1/3 open on the remaining open bottom vent.
4:56233°/?Dropping faster than I would like. Did I close off too much? I may need to adjust up more.
5:38215°Opening the bottom vent up a bit.
5:56238°Looks good temperature wise.
6:10244°heading out.
11:00195°Meat off! Temperature drooped as expected. The meat really hadn't pulled back on the bone and when lifted in the middle, the ribs flexed a little. It could probably smoke a little longer to make more tender ribs but I like mine a bit toothsome and deemed them done.

Flavor - Good! I haven't decided if I took them off prematurely or they were done. The meat is tender 

I'm not sure I would do anything different.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mother's Day back loin ribs

That's what Mom (*) wants and we're having company so I got two cryovac packs of three racks each from Sam's club. They had no spare ribs so I went with loin back ribs. (SWMBO had requested back ribs but my original plan was to do some of each.) Target serving time is 3:00 PM. I should have these on the fire by about 8:00 AM (based on previous cooks) but that's not critical since I can easily bump it up with additional heat.

Weather is going to be beautiful today. We're at 57° right now and the temperature is climbing fast with full sun and practically no wind at about 5 mph.

I'm using my typical wet rub (dry ingredients + peanut oil + lots of crushed garlic.) In the rub went:

  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. Coarse grind black pepper.
  • 2 Tbsp. ground Sage
  • 1 Tbsp. Coriander (**)
  • 2 Tbsp ground Rosemary (**)
  • 1 Tbsp ground dried Oregano flakes. (**)
  • 1 Tbsp. ground Chili Ancho
  • 1 Tsp. ground Chili Chipotle
  • 1 Tsp. Cumin
  • 1 1/2 bulb crushed garlic (not clove, bulb.)
  • Enough peanut oil to make this mixture a slurry.

(**) These herbs and spices were ground in the Krupps whirling blade coffee grinder that has been repurposed as a spice grinder.

These are going into the regular WSM of course. I'll be using the third rack since I like to smoke ribs flat. This is going to be a big load for the smoker. I'm firing with Grove lump from Woodman's (very nice mix of sizes with very little fines.) For smoking wood I'm using Hickory, Box Elder, Black Walnut, Apple and one piece of Cherry. The 22" WSM would be ideal for this size cook but I can get by with the 18". I just cut the last three ribs off each rack and then I can fit two racks and the extra pieces on each rack.

Later on I'll fire up something else to roast some red peppers and then bake some foiled potatoes. Maybe time to use the 18 1/2 which hasn't been fired up in years.

8:00 AM°Lit coals on the Minion lay. closed bottom vents to (0, 0, 1/2) (The numbers indicate the approximate fraction that each of the three bottom vents is open. 0 => closed, 1 => wide open)
Meat on! 

9:25180°/190°I'm happy with this start. I can bump the temp later if necessary to hit my target time.
10:03178°/190°Opened the bottom vent a bit to (0,0,3/4)
10:30176°/185°Need to bump this up a bit - stirred the fire and went to (0,1,1) on the vents.
11:09192°/220°Bump working - back to (0,0,1)
11:58192°/230°Threw some Box Elder, Apple and Walnut on the fire. Higher lid temp than smoker temp is a puzzlement. But the smoke is progressing. I peeked in and the meat is starting to darken a bit but there is no hint of pulling back off the bones. When the spuds are finished, I'll see if I can add those coals to the smoker to give it a little bump.
2:45242°/200°Flipped the ribs over. They are starting to pull back on the bone but did not pass the "break when you pick them up" test. They should be done soon but I miss the 3:00 target. 
Meat off!
(grate/lid) Temperatures are recorded using the built in lit thermometer and the smoker temperature probe of a Maverick ET-73 hanging near the edge of the top rack.

I didn't get pix of the final results as it was time to eat and other food to get served. But part way through they looked like this.

Everyone liked the ribs. They were pretty moist and had good smoky flavor, but I felt the spice mix left a bit to be desired. I dunno... I just felt they could have been better.

While the ribs were smoking I fired up some more lump in the 18 and fire roasted some red peppers and then closed things up to bake some foil wrapped spuds. Temp reading I'm getting with a thermometer inserted through a vent is about 425° Peppers were done in minutes on a very hot and open grill and the spuds were started around the edge. Once the peppers were done about 11:30 the spuds were spread over the coals, one bottom vent was closed (1,1,0) and the lid put on.

Once the peppers are roasted, the skins slip off easily and I slice them into strips and dress with white wine vinegar and lemon juice.

Next time I do this many ribs, I should take the three-rib mini-racks and experiment on them with different rubs and perhaps smoking conditions. I could do them in the mini while the almost full racks smoke in the WSM.

(*) Not my mom but the mother of our children. When they were young I had started to call her 'mom.' She pointed out that I was not her mother and I was directed to call her Cindy. I did so and soon our sons were calling her Cindy as well. She sighed and said "OK, call me mom."

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Not another rotisserie chicken

I picked up a couple chickens a couple days ago with the thought that I'd put them on the rotisserie again. That works well, but I decided that I wanted to be a little more adventurous and use charcoal. Unfortunately I have nothing that burns charcoal and on which I can  mount a rotating spit. I recall some recipes on Primal Grill that involved a bird split in half so I decided to go that way. It seems like the perfect task for my big Weber. I settled on the recipe for Java Chicken with cafe latte BBQ sauce. It sounded pretty good to me, particularly since I like the coffee rub on brisket (what we had for lunch today) and this started out as coffee rub for chicken. I'll take advantage of the extra space on the grate to grill some zucchini to go along with the chicken.

Weather today has included rain and thunder showers but that may be behind us for the rest of the day - I hope! Temperature is about 63° F right now and wind is light at about 6 mph. The sky remains cloudy and I can hear thunder in the distance.

I mixed the rub per the recipe making a double batch and then split the chicken, saving the back bone, breastbone, giblets and fat and skin trimmings for stock. Then about 3:30 PM I rubbed the chicken and returned it to the refrigerator to marinate a bit while I prepared the kettle.

I'm using lump charcoal and an aluminum drip pan in the middle. I'll use my Maverick ET-73 to monitor cooker temperature so I can shoot for about 350° F. I think I'll use oak and mesquite for smoking woods for this one.  The charcoal chimney goes on the propane burner about 4:15 PM and put on the charcoal grate at 4:18. At 4:30 I dumped the coals onto either side of the fire grate and put the meat on. Before closing up the cooker I put some oak and mesquite on each side of the indirect fire lay. Within minutes the temp is up to 360° so I closed the bottom vent to about 3/4 open.

While the chicken was getting started I set about making the Mocha Mop Sauce and the Cafe Latte Barbecue Sauce. Joke's on me! Care Latte is identical to the Redeye recipe Raichlen provides for beef brisket and I just made some a couple days ago. I'll use that for the chicken then. I'm not a huge fan of mops but this one has both beer and coffee in addition to chocolate so it seems worth a try. As far as the mop goes, it was Dark Magic coffee and Ranger India Pale Ale for the brew.

Here's the chicken ready for the second mop.

4:35 PMMeat on! Starting with top and bottom vents wide open.
5:00350°Temperature measurement was spot on! Woops... It just dropped to 329°. I guess I'll open the bottom vent wide open again.
5:14302°All vents open and temp still dropping. :( Time to open up and mop and see what's going on! Fire looked robust on one side and not so robust on the other. I added more oak and a few Stubbs briquettes on the not so robust side to see what happens. Chicken looks OK but not moving too fast.
5:30310°Mop again.
5:46310°Mop again. Flipped the birds and mopped the bottom too. I also added about a half dozen lit briquettes to the laggard side of the fire.
6:00273°This time it looks like the robust side of the fire had nearly exhausted the fuel. I added some lump to both sides. I also flipped the birds back up and mopped again.
6:45327°Mopped again, mop sauce almost gone. I poked the birds a bit and they were between 155° and 160°. I'm going to take the zucchini out and grill it over the coals with some green onions. Next I slather on a bit of redeye sauce and set it over the coals for 2 minutes.
Chicken off.

Chicken was still a little bloody at the joints which was to be expected, I suppose. Skin did not crisp due to the extended cooking time. However the white meat was very moist and the chicken was delicious.

When cooking something on the big grill that's going to take over an hour, I need to start with more than a full chimney or charcoal. I can probably light one chimney and pour it out on to some unlit coal. If I need instant high heat, then it's going to take to be two chimneys.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Jonesing for brisket

I've been jonesing for brisket recently so when SWMBO asked if she could pick up anything from Sam's Club I asked her to get a brisket. She came up with this:

Weather is 66° with wind light at about 10 mph. The sky is partly cloudy but we could have almost anything as the day progresses.

Once again I'm using Raichlen's coffee rub with not a lot of marinate time. I guess I should have done that last night, but I'm not sure it matters much for this.

This brisket is just about 14" tip to tip so I plan to put it on the upper rack of the mini. I plan to use some left over charcoal and smoking wood augmented with some lump and mesquite smoking wood. I placed couple handfuls of barely lit coals in the chimney on top of the fire lay about 10:00. This has the effect of starting the coals and wood below it while the coals in the chimney continue to start. At about 10:20 I dumped the coals from the chimney on the fire lay, poured a quart of hot water in the bowl and assembled the mini-WSM. I started out with the bottom vent about 1/3 open and the top fully open. Within about ten minutes the cooker temperature is approaching 200° F so I put the meat on.

It barely fits but should pull back a bit as it starts to cook. Had it been any bigger, I would have cut it in half and divided it between the upper and lower grate. Today - just the upper grate.

10:28 AM?/200°Meat on!
10:5788°/235°Too much heat - need to trim the bottom vent back a bit. (I don;t want to boil away all of the water too soon.)
11:15120°/244°still hotter than I want - trimming a wee bit more.
11:43147°/221°That's better.
11:58153°/217°Overshoot - trim slightly open now.
1:51166°/221°Back from grocery shopping - nice!
2:58165°/241°Stalled! Cooker temp has crept up from previous reading. I'll speculate that the water in the pan is now gone. I'll let the temp drift up a bit to drive the brisket toward being done.
3:23164°/247°WTF! What's going on?
4:04167°/217°OK, meat is moving up again and now the smoker temp is dropping. Time to open it and look at the coals. Stirred the coals and refilled the basket with lump left over from last night's grilling.
4:28164°/282°Restabilizing after opening the cooker and adding fuel. Need to cut back on the bottom air vent a bit.
5:12189°/265°Need to poke it I think. Still firm. Good time to drop a couple foiled spuds on the coals.
5:50197°/219°Still a little firm, just flipped the spuds. They need more time. I'm almost ready to take the brisket off to let it rest. But I haven't made any redeye sauce yet.
6:05198°/257°Time to rest the brisket.

Here it is ready to come off the smoker.

I took it to a little higher temperature this time and consequently it seems a little more tender. It's also on the verge of being dry (at least at the thinner end.) It has a thin smoke ring and once again, it is delicious!

The result of refueling was that plenty plenty of fuel was left over. I dumped it in my Platinum and used it to grill some Chorizo Quesadillas following Weber's recipe of the week.

They're appearance on the grill does not do justice to how good they tasted. They were a bit overstuffed. I didn't follow the recipe exactly but I don;t think this is the kind of recipe where proportions are that important. I used a mix of pepper jack and sharp cheddar cheese. I should have drained the chorizo on paper toweling rather than drain in the pan as it was still giving up grease when served.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

More pulled pork

I have the privilege to prepare pulled pork for a club event - new member get together. I set aside about half of the pulled pork I smoked a couple days ago for a backup supply and I picked up a 21 lb double pack today. I could be feeding up to 40 people. There will probably be fewer but just in case... This is going to be my first overnight smoke. Serving time is 5:00 PM tomorrow and my plan is to finish this late enough so that I can pull the pork and keep it hot to serve. I'll serve this on rolls with store bought cole slaw and Sweet Baby Ray's sauce as well as home made Big Daddy's Carolina Sauce.

Weather is mild with temps at 55°. Wind is reported at about 10 mph but it feels calm outside. It's not supposed to get much colder through the night.

I used the same wet rub that I used a couple days ago. Why mess with success? It went on the butts about 9:30 PM and I went about choosing smoking woods - hickory, box elder, oak, cherry and apple - and setting and ighting the fire.

Lit coals went on the Minion lay at about 10:20. for charcoal I'm using mostly Stubbs briquettes and the ends of a bag of Mesquite lump (mostly fines.) Fire seems to be getting off to a slow start with temperature holding at 157°. Maybe I need to check the batteries in my remote. Doh! Maybe I need to open the lid vent! I had forgotten to do that when I buttoned up the cooker.

10:20PMpig/grate/lidclosed up cooker with coals starting to light.
10:4542°/197°/?Temp approaching 200° so meat on! closed two bottom vents and left one a little less than half open.
11:5657°/206°/190°I'm still not happy with temps so I stirred the coals a bit. Wind has picked up outside - gusts to 20 mph. And it feels like there is the slightest drizzle.
12:1266°/202°/185°Stirred coals some more and went full open on one bottom vent.
1:46104°/217°/195°Closing the single open bottom vent to about half to see what happens.
2:00108°/209°/195°OK! Opened that bottom vent back up.
7:28157°/202°/190°Stirred coals and added more smoking wood. Seems to be plenty of charcoal.
8:05160°/219°/?°After the previous check I opened a second bottom vent and temp is once again heading where I want it.
8:42162°/225°/210°Put 6 brats on to smoke. I had forgotten about those until I was asked why I bought them.
9:45167°/228°/220°Brats at about 160° and off, next batch on (total of 20 brats to smoke.)
Swapped in the next batch of brats. (Temps holding.)
11:00172°/228°/?°Ned to watch for temperature droop due to fuel exhaustion, but that doesn't seem to be happening yet.
11:45174°/246°/225°Last batch of brats off and now to wait for the butts to finish. Temp is climbing (recovery to over 260° after removing brats) and that should help moving the butts past the stall.
12:55177°/240°/220°Threw some more lump on and opened the third bottom vent about half.
2:30185°/?/?Meat off when it hit 185°.

While I smoked the butt, I took advantage of some of the extra space on the grate to smoke some brats. They take about an hour and were done in three turns.

The butts came out pretty good. The smaller one which I had put on the lower grate was done a little more. This is about the most I would want them done, otherwise I'm afraid they would lose too much texture. I served them with both Carolina mustard sauce (Bit Daddy's recipe) and Sweet Baby Ray's. Some had the pork with mo sauce at all.

What to do differently next time? First, make sure the lid vent is fully open when the cooker is buttoned up. Next... Think twice about using charcoal fines in the fire. I tried to finish off a bag of mesquite lump charcoal which had a lot of fines remaining. I hobbled the fire to start with the closed vent and recovery might have been hampered by the fines preventing good airflow through the charcoal bed. But overall, the temperature profile was good and I hit my target finish time after 16 hours of smoking.

What to do differently next time.