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.