Tuesday, February 21, 2012

First Real Smoke

I've done a few things on the grill, most recently some ABTs at our son's house warming. On our previous visit to them (Mid January) I tea smoked a couple ducks on their Performer. This will be the first low 'n slow smoke. I wanted to get a part made for my tractor (really just a bent bar for a trailer hitch, but beyond my fabrication capabilities.) I went to Peerless Fence in West Chicago and they made the part from some scrap they had on hand. they did it while I waited, and then didn't charge me. (More about them at the end of the post.) So I'm going to thank them with some pulled pork. It's going into the mini-WSM this afternoon and I plan to smoke it overnight. This will be my first overnight in the mini and I'm not sure I've ever done one one in the WSM. My goal is to have the meat ready to take to Peerless at about lunch time.

for the record, this smoke started on 2012-02-21 but I didn't finish until after midnight so that's probably when this blog entry will be dated.

Weather: 37° F and cloudy. We had some snow earlier. Wind is brisk at 20 mph. (Did I mention that I've bought material to make myself a wind shelter?) The wind is out of the WNW.

Meat - Two 5 lb bone in pork butts that were on sale at Valli for $1.69/lb.

Seasoning: I use an oily rub (mostly dry spices and herbs mixed to a slurry in peanut oil.) In the rub went:
  • Garlic - about 1/2 bulb of fresh crushed garlic.
  • Rosemary.
  • Coriander.
  • Black pepper.
  • Cumin.
  • Rubbed sage.
  • Adobo chili.
  • Ancho chili.
  • Cayenne.
That's about one tablespoon each except for the cumin, chili, and cayenne which were about half. The rub goes on the pork before I head out to prep the smoker so it gets about 45 minutes to marinate.

Fire is using good old reliable KB (Kingsford Blue) briquettes. For smoking woods I am using hickory, maple black walnut and some apple (and maybe some cherry if that is what was on my chopping block.)

I had difficulty starting the few coals I put in the chimney due to the wind. I finally resorted to using paper with a squirt of peanut oil. It finally got lit and I spread on the rest of the unlit coals and smoking wood. In about 15 minutes the top layer was lit so I loaded up the meat.

Temperature is measured with a Maverick ET-73 with the meat probe in the butt on the upper grate and the grate temp also on the upper grate. I'm not going to bother with the dome temperature until I get a better thermometer for the dome. My goal for the meat is to hit 190° F.

timetemp comment
2:12 PM
Meat on! At this time I shut the bottom vent to about ½.
2:3745°/155°Off to a good start!
3:2796°/206°Stabilizing? Wind seems to be mostly out of the southwest now. I just rolled up my Silver A with cover in front of the mini to help block the wind. Let's see if that helps.
3:50115°/197°Temp seems to be bouncing between 190° and 200°, perhaps depending on wind direction. There is still steam coming from the smoker so heat is adequate or even a little high. Time to head to the gym.
5:59158°/232°I can hear sizzling so the water must be gone from the bowl. I'll watch this for a while and at the first sign of dropping temps, I'll add more charcoal. Maybe I should think about reducing air flow as well.
6:56168°/314°Trimmed the bottom vent a bit. Ambient is now 39° and wind has dropped to 10 (but feels pretty calm.)
7:37175°/259°Trimming the bottom vent did the job. Time to load on some more briquettes now.
8:22175°/272the smoker seems to be recovering from the load of briquettes and smoking wood I added. I might need to trim the bottom vent even more. I'm also not sure I'm going to run this over night either.
8:42176°/273°Trimming the bottom vent ever so slightly. It's about ¼ open now.
9:01180°/273°Must be past the plateau.
10:37186°/246°Hmmm... Temp suddenly dropping? Maybe time for more bottom vent. Observation: Plenty of briquettes left. Looks like the bowl under the coals may be full of ash. Stir and tap to settle and allow for further air flow.
11:15193°/279°Time for the meat to come in and rest for a while.

Results are pretty good. After cooling a bit it pulled easily. There were crunchy bits that were exposed to more heat but overall it seemed pretty moist. I rate flavor as excellent! The folks at Peerless really enjoyed it too. But... My timing was awful. The boss was out of town the day I served and it was Ash Wednesday - some could not eat meat. I wound up returning to serve again on Thursday the following week.

What to do next time? I should start with less air - stop the bottom vent down even more. That would keep the temp a little lower later in the smoke when the water has boiled away and should make the fuel last longer. It might also benefit to reduce air part way through when the meat is less a heat sink.

A note about Peerless... I wanted a steel bar 2"x1/2" and about 10" long to make a mount for a ball to put in a draw bar hitch on my Wheel Horse tractor. I can attach the draw bar mount to the hydraulic lift on the tractor and to use it, I can just back up to the trailer and lift the hitch under the tongue. I think that will be pretty slick. But I need about a 45° bend in the middle of the bar and I have no way to bend a 2"x1/2" steel bar. I went to Peerless because among other things, they make wrought iron fences so I thought they would have the capability to bend something like this.

It turns out they're in a tough spot right now. Business is off due to the recession and on top of that, they have not had frozen ground to get into a lot of work sites this winter. They wait until the ground is frozen to get into athletic fields and such so that their trucks don't tear up the field. Recall that I was spading my garden a couple weeks ago. They simply have not had cold enough weather to get to these jobs and the weather is warming even more.

Anyway, their guy found a suitable piece of steel in the scrap pile and cut it to length. He asked me if I needed holes and I told him I could drill those myself. However they had a machine that could punch a 1/2" hole through 1/2" steel like it was butter! A couple seconds and I don;t have to take the time to drill holes. :D Then the guy I was working with grabbed a big oxy-acetylene torch and started heating the piece in the middle. When I could see some color in the piece I picked up a small sledge (leaving the big sledge where it sat. ;) ) and started banging away on the piece. Each hit moved it a fraction of an inch and in a few minutes I had the desired 45° bend.

I walked back to the office with the piece in hand and asked how much. The boss handed me his card and said if I knew anyone looking for a fence, please pass their name along. (That's Peerless Fence, 3n381 Powis Road, West Chicago IL 60185.) They seemed to be pretty nice people and I appreciate their help so I plan to thank them with a lunch of some pulled pork.