Thursday, February 21, 2013

Hang in there, Baby

There has been a lot of discussion of the Pit Barrel Cooker (PBC) on BBQ-Brethren lately. It's a medium size UDS (Ugly Drum Smoker) whose chief feature seems to be that the meat is normally hung above the bed of coals. Those who have cooked on both WSM and PBC have claimed that they prefer meat smoked on the PBC. I suspected that the chief difference is exposure to the coals in the PBC whereas that is blocked by the water bowl in the WSM. It may be that the conditions can be duplicated in the WSM simply by leaving the water bowl out. I decided to go a step further ang provide a means to support the hanging meat in the WSM. I bent some 3/8" rebar so it would fit under the lid and cut slots in the end that would engage the tabs that normally support the upper grate. The rebar was bent such that it was sprung against the tabs for some additional stability. I plan to make two pieces like this and notch them in the middle so they engage each other and provide some additional support. This apparatus provides about 7" of additional head space above the grate and is about 24" above the charcoal ring.

Today I stopped at Sam's and there were some baby baby backs nearing their sell by date marked down to $2.39/lb. I picked up a package to use to try out hanging ribs.

Weather was a typical late winter day with afternoon temperature about 27°F. Wind was reported above 15 mph but it felt more like a light breeze. The sky is cloudy with snow in the forecast.

I prepared a rub consisting of
  • 1/2 Tbsp Thyme (*)
  • 1 Tbsp Rosemary (*)
  • 1 Tbsp Oregano (*)
  • 1/2 Tsp Chili Chipotle powder
  • 1 Tsp ground Cumin
  • 1/2 Tbsp Ancho powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp Onion powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp whole Mustard (*)
  • 1 Tbsp Garlic granules (*)
  • 1 Tbsp Kosher Salt (*)
  • 1/4 C Brown Sugar (*)
(*) These went into the grinder. Maybe because I put the salt in there (quite by mistake) the mix came out pretty fine. I mixed with the remaining powdered ingredients and put directly on the meat.

The cook was in the 18.5 WSM and sans grates or water bowl. I used some stainless steel hooks to hang the ribs, inserting the hook between the 3rd and 4th rib at the slim end of the rack. I used KB briquettes (with some lump left from a previous smoke) and added pecan and apple for smoking wood. I lit about 3/4 chimney of charcoal rather than the few I would ordinarily use for the Minion method.

timetemp comment
5:00 PM
Lit coals on the fire and closed up Two bottom vents open. Within minutes the remote reads 275°. Going to one bottom vent open.
5:08293°/250°Meat on!
5:49289°/285°Moving along at a decent pace.
7:22313°/260°Meat is pulling back on the bones. Need to check them in a little bit. When I checked, I found that one rack had separated, dropping about 2/3 of the rack onto the fire. I took that off to rest. The remainder of the racks did not pass the bend test.
8:22282°/260°Meat off! (except for the one that fell into the fire and which I put back on.)
8:40 291°/260°
Removed the last portion of a rack.

The ribs look good as they come off and prepare to rest.

They have a more roasted surface than what I have come to expect from the WSM. After resting there was moisture perling on the upper surface and the cut surfaces were very moist.

Flavor was really good. It did seem to lose the rub. I suppose it washes off with the fat and moisture that is rendered off the ribs as they cook. Based on this result, I will finish the apparatus (making a cross piece) and continue to try cooking without the water pan as appropriate. I may even try to fashion a similar support for my 22.5 WSM. Even the partial rack that fell into the fire came out surprisingly good.

Next time I need to provide backup support for the ribs so they don;t fall into the fire! I'm not sure what else I would do differently with the rub. I suppose I could try a coarser grind that might adhere better.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Sausage 'n Eggs

In the vernacular, I'm smoking a couple naked fatties. It started with 8 hard boiled eggs so I can make Raichlen's Smoked Egg Salad. Not wanting to fire up the smoker - even the mini - for only four eggs, I'm doubling the recipe. And besides, SWMBO likes HB eggs so I think she'll like this. Even eight eggs leaves plenty of room on the cooker so I ran out to the store and got a couple of tubes of breakfast sausage to smoke as well.

Weather is chilly at 26° F with wind moderate, reported at 15 mph (but not really noticeable.) The sky has a light overcast. Overall, not a bad day to smoke (once I get the smoker thawed out. ;) )

I boiled the eggs last night using Alton Brown's strategy (start in cold water, bring to boil, cover for 15 minutes and then chill to stop cooking.) They peeled fairly easily. The fatties took no more prep than removing the plastic packaging.

I'm cooking this in the mini on the top grate only. I'm using a new stainless water bowl for the first time. The old one developed some holes again. I bought one listed as "heavy duty" on the Amazon web site. We'll see how it lasts. I'm using briquettes left over form a previous smoke (an undocumented smoke of some moinks.) I used some apple wood for smoke wood. I stuck the meat probe from the ET-732 in a fattie and I'll use it to monitor cooker temp as well. Eggs will come out based on color,

timetemp comment
11:00 AN
Sausage and eggs on!
Eggs golden - they're off!
12:18160°/214°/?Ready to come off? No! bleeding all over the plate so I put them back on.
12:50156°/219°/?Meat still recovering from coming off the grill for a couple minutes.
1:09169°/225°/This time meat is not bleeding as it rests.

The eggs had a nice tan color that permeated about 1/8" into the egg. The egg salad was really simple and the smoky flavor cane through nicely. It was not subtle nor was it overbearing. Apple is the wood to use for hard boiled eggs!

Sausage took on a nice color and had a good smoke ring.

They did not seem to shrink as much as I would have expected. I suppose they still have most of their fat. Flavor was very good with a nice smoke flavor. Apple was good but almost too subtle for the highly seasoned sausage. So far I've only tasted one (likely the sage) but I'm sure the other will be just as good.

The only thing to consider doing differently might be to add some hickory for the pork. I'm not sure I'd like to do that for the eggs.