Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hanging spares for fishing

My dear fishing buddy asked for something from the smoker. Already got pulled pork and pepper stout beef but it is hard to beat ribs so I thawed a cryovac pack of three racks of spares. I'll have two cookers going since I did nuts in the mini earlier and have followed that with thick slices of butternut squash.

Weather conditions have deteriorated since I started this morning. It's raining. Not hard but more than a drizzle. The little cooker is holding its own against the rain and hopefully so will the big cooker. Temperature is still mild at 61°F and wind just a bit over 10 mph.

This is a lazy cook. I just cracked open a bottle of Slap Yo' Daddy rub and sprinkled that on the ribs. I didn't even pull the membrane off rationalizing that it was best to keep on for hanging ribs. I did hang the ribs from the end with the biggest bones (front of the pig? I should swap one around to put the thicker end close to the fire. I'll do that now.

This was done on the 18 WSM (Weber Smokey Mountain) with no grates or water bowl. Instead I used the rack I made from 3/8 rebar. The fire was made using Cowboy lump with hickory, apple and some black walnut for smoking wood. Fire was started using the Minion method and the cooker closed soon after the hot coals were dumped on the fire lay.

Ribs hanging in the 18.5 WSM
The quantity of smoke in the picture probably results from meat juices and rain dripping on the coals compounded by very high humidity.

timetemp comment
1:35 PM
Fire on the coals and close up smoker. Temperature is coming up quickly (empty smoker...) so I went to one bottom vent open.
Meat on!
2:00181°/180°(remote/lid)Opened one more bottom vent (two open now.)
2:15264°/230°Opened the cooker to flip one rack thin end up.
5:10280°/260°Rain stopped - Ribs look done! Closing down smoker and getting ribs off in a minute.
Ribs off and resting!

Ribs were good. The first thing I tried was one that hung front end (thick end) up. The lower end was predictably dry - kind of like jerky - though it still tasted good. The other end seemed like it was verging on being dry though it was not actually dry. I wonder if spares made this way would be a good candidate for wrapping before they finish. They also seem a tad bit oversmoked.

Off the smoker and ready to rest!

I think that I'll either go back to doing spares on the grate with water in the pan or perhaps try wrapping them before they are done. When hung, I'll hang the skinny end up.

Soup to nuts

No soup today, but the saying has me thinking... I wonder how butternut squash soup would taste if the butternut was smoked first.

Today is nuts. This is the first recipe in Weber Smoke (I think - can't find my copy right now.) Mix:
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp olive oil (I used peanut oil this time.)
Toss this with 2C salted mixed nuts and put in a foil pan to put on the smoker. Smoke until done, typically about 20 minutes or so depending on level of smoke desired and the temperature of the smoker.

Mixed nuts smoking on the 14.5 WSM.

Before the cook was complete, I decided to smoke a butternut squash. I peeled and seeded it and cut it into thick slices - about 1". After the nuts were done, I put the squash on and it remained on until smoker temperature began to drop off, about 2 1/2 hours. It was still pretty firm but was done enough to freeze. We had one slice for dinner and I plan to freeze the rest to be used for other recipes (such as soup.)

After the nuts were finished the squash went on to pick up some smoky flavor.

Weather is kind of crappy today with a light drizzle. We might have gotten as much as 3" of rain over night. Maybe more. Temperature is mild at 61°F. Wind is moderate at about 10 mph.

Today I'm doing a double recipe using two foil pans in the 14.5 WSM (Weber Smokey Mountain.) I'm firing with Cowboy lump and have stuck a few small pieces of hickory, apple, black walnut and mesquite in there. Once the mini-chimney was lit I dumped it over the rest and assembled the smoker with one bottom vent of three open. Water pan is w/out water and foiled. In about ten minutes the temperature was approaching 200°F and I put the nuts on.

timetemp comment
9:32195° (lid)Nuts on!
9:52215°Opened up to stir the nuts. Getting of to a slow start but no problem.
10:23260°Coming along nicely - could come off in a couple minutes. Make another batch? Yes!
10:35275°Nuts off!

Nuts on! (second batch) This was about 50% more - 6 C of mixed nuts.
Added more smoking wood and stirred the coals.
11:21260°Time to stir again.
Time to stir again.
12:30255°Nuts off. Rain has picked up a little but seems not to be affecting the smoker too much.

Squash on! OK, I changed my mind and as long as the smoker is still going, I'll do some smoked butternut squash.
2:15230°Raining - not drizzling. No surprise that temperature is holding. Squash looks like it is coming along too.
2:49175°Opened two bottom vents (all three now open) to see if I can get one more kick. maybe the fuel is all burned out.
3:00180°Squash off - stirred what remains of the coal and smoking wood to see if there is any more heat to be gained.
4:19175°Last gasp of heat is done.

Nuts are good! Only thing to do differently with those would be to divide them more evenly (instead of 1/3, 2/3 at a time.) The squash took on a smoky flavor and while not particularly tasty, I will defer final judgement until it is used in some other recipe.

Overall the performance of the small WSM seems to be good when burning lump. It holds a steady temperature for an extended time with little to no fiddling.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

UDR maiden Voyage

Having painted the outside of my rotisserie ring yesterday I an eager to put it to use. The ring is made from a 55 gallon drum, hence the UDR (Ugly Drum Rotisserie) moniker. Perdue Oven Stuffers were on sale for $.99/lb so I picked two up as they are near ideal for rotisserie cooking. They are about 7 lb each (and only have 3% retained water, whatever that is. At least I think they are not injected.)

Winter must be fast approaching with temperatures in early afternoon at 42°F and wind moderate at a little over 10 mph. The sky is mostly cloudy (with a few patches of blue peeing through.)

I plan to use a Roadside Chicken recipe. I mostly went with this one from Epicurious and some additions from Rick Bayless I went a little light on vinegar and squeezed two limes into a double batch of the marinade. I also added a couple tablespoons of ancho powder and a half teaspoon of cayenne. I managed to get the two 7 lb birds into gallon ziploc bags and poured the marinade on them about 2:00 PM. They came out about two hours later to be spitted and trussed prior to going on the rotisserie.

The cook was done on my SS Performer using lump charcoal. (This was mostly Cowboy lump with a little of the Sam's stuff mixed in. No more Sam's. It doesn't burn well.) I threw a couple chunks of mesquite on the coals when the birds went on.

Two birds on the spit.
Closed up and cooking.

Birds nearly done.

timetemp comment
4:20 PM425°Meat on! Closed bottom and top vents to about half.
5:21250Opened top vent full, add some more lump
6:25300One indicator popped, the other not. Probed by thigh and got 161, 165.
6:45300Meat done already!
Add caption
Temperature is via the lid thermometer which may read a little low in this configuration.

Results were good. Temps were right where I wanted them. Near the end I added some more lump but that's not really a problem. For lower temps I would either have to limit fuel additions or provide better sealing. Maybe just closing the bottom vent would do as temperature dropped quite a bit when I closed up the cooker with ring in place. It did not put the fire out so I removed the ring to do that.

Next time I will bias the food more toward the tip of the spit. I had clearance problems getting it into the ring with food closer to the handle. The other thing I need to do is get some foil wrapped spuds on the charcoal or perhaps some other foil pouch veggies. I could even put the grate on the cooker and grill some veggies on it though access would be a little difficult.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Double Your Pleasure!

Two new cookers alongside my Performer (for lighting charcoal and providing a work surface.)

I have recently added two new Weber cookers to the stable. One, the 14.5" Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM), I used for the previous cook. The other, a brand new 26.75 One Touch Gold (OTG) I traded for my '85 flat top 26.75 OTS is being used for the first time. I cast about for what I could do first on the 26 and decided that rather than do something spectacularly big, I would just make a lot of food, taking advantage of the real estate. I recently saw a variation of Hasselback potatoes done in a cast iron pan and selected that for one vegetable. Last night on Primal Grill, Raichlen roasted Brussels sprouts in a cast iron pan over charcoal. When we spotted Brussels sprouts at Sam's, grabbing them was a no brainer. I might grill some yellow squash too. The vegetables will accompany a couple ribeyes and some shrimp that will go on the grill when the veggies are nearly done.

Veggies on the 26.75 kettle.

While at Sam's, I pointed to some chuck roast and mentioned that that's what I use to make Pepper Stout Beef. SWMBO made me get that as well, reminding me that she still needs to eat while I'm out of town on an upcoming fishing trip. I will smoke the chuck roast (two 2" thick pieces) on the little WSM while I prepare dinner on the kettle.

Two chuckies on the little WSM
Add caption

We finally made it to 60°F under somewhat cloudy skies and with winds light at about 10 mph.

The potatoes are sliced about 1/4" thick (somewhat tapered to fit better in a circle) and stood on edge around the edge of a #7 Griswold frying pan. Every few slices, I inserted a slice of red or yellow onion. Before adding a liberal amount of EVOO, I garnished with some garlic and fresh sprigs of rosemary and thyme. The sprouts went into the lid of my CI Dutch oven. The recipe called for chunks of bacon which I didn't have so I used 1/4-1/2" chunks of ham and some lard rendered from smoked pork butt fat.

As noted, the cooks are being done on the two new cookers. The OTG is fired with two chimneys of Cowboy lump and the WSM with Cowboy lump with chunks of mesquite and oak. the 26 was operated with about 1/4 open on the bottom vent and wide open top. The 14 WSM was started with two of three bottom vents open.

You can stack chimneys.

Mini-chimney on the 14.5 WSM lighting lump, oak and mesquite.
You can gently warm a couple ribeyes for a reverse sear on the WSM.

Ribeyes and shrimp in the barbie!

Dinner is finished and the WSM is still cruising along at 265°F

Chuckie at 165°F and ready to put on the bed of veggies.

Chuckie (for Pepper Stout Beef) on the bed of onions, peppers ...

And closed up for the next part of the cook.

Kettle with veggies and later ribeye and shrimp.
timetemp comment
3:40°Veggies on!
5:35425Steaks moved from WSM to preheated CI grate on the kettle.
5:40 450Shrimp on.

WSM with chuck roast.
timetemp comment
Meat on!
5:20265°Stack steaks on the chuck in the WSM.
5:40265°Steaks at 95, moved to hot kettle.
6:16265°Chuck at 157
Meat at 161/165, put in the DO with the veggies.
8:50245°Opened the third bottom vent and stirred the coals a bit. There are still a few pieces of charcoal left. I could throw a few more pieces from the 26 into the smoker.
9:10245°Added some charcoal from the 26.
10:05???Opened the Dutch oven and found the chuck probe tender. Shredded it and left it uncovered to reduce liquid a little.
Still had some liquid in it but I took it off the cooker and brought it in.

Steak and shrimp was awesome as were the spuds and sprouts. Weber Kettles Rock!

Everything cooked on the 26 kettle save the green beans.

After a somewhat disappointing first cook on the 14.5 WSM, the second one went w/out a hitch. It seems to run much better on Cowboy lump than RO briquettes. I added some fuel near the end though I'm not sure it was needed. For four hours it cruised along at 265° with two bottom vents open.

Ready to shred.

Ready to serve in all of its warm brown goodness!

Once again I don't really see any problems to solve. At best there might be opportunities for improvement.

Monday, October 14, 2013

More Pepper Stout Beef (AKA Bell Peppers with Beef)

Had to do it again. It seemed to be a perfect first choice for the new WSM (the 14.5) that arrived late last week and was assembled last night. I picked up a kind of chuck roast this morning along with the rest of the ingredients we did not already have.

Weather is a very pleasant fall day with temp as the fires are lit at 57°F and not expected to go much higher. Early clouds seem to have cleared and wind is light at about ... The 12 mph reported does not seem to match what I feel in the back yard.

Once again I'm using the Wolfe Pit recipe for Pepper Stout Beef. I found Boston Roast on sale and bought a 4.5 lb. one. It has a nice fat cap but not a lot of marbling. Hopefully it will work well for this recipe. I picked three Jalapeños from the garden which are reliably hot so I only used two. It's easy enough to add heat at the table if desired.

The ingredients collected.

Meat rubbed with Salt & Pepper

As noted, this will be the first cook on the 14.5 WSM. The newer Dutch oven (with the pan/lid) is a perfect fit inside the cooker as long as I don't try to fit it on the top grate. It is too tall for the lid. I plan to use the lid on the bottom grate during the first phase of the cook to catch the drippings from the beef. When the beef gores on the peppers, that will be in the Dutch oven, lid on and sitting on the bottom grate. I have some Royal Oak Briquettes that I am using for fuel with some chunks of hickory and oak for smoke flavor. I'd use mesquite as well if I had any. At about 10:30 I fired up some briquettes and left over lump in the mini-chimney and once it was starting to light, set it on the WSM. No water in the bowl for this cook - foil only. I want to see what kind of temperature I'll get with various combinations of bottom vent opening.

Detail of the bottom section of the cooker with heat shield, charcoal grate and charcoal ring.

Briquettes and wood chunks ready to light.

Charcoal chimney ready to dump on the unlit briquettes.

The 14 Weber Smokey Mountain in action.

Beef as it goes in the smoker when the smoker is ready.

Beef smoked to an IT of about 150 and ready to put in the Dutch oven with peppers and onions.

And in the Dutch oven before putting the lid on and continuing the cook.

timetemp comment
10:30 AM
partially lit chimney on cooker.
Dumped fully lit chimney and closed up the cooker. Closed two bottom vents leaving one open. 
11:00???/???/245° (meat/grate/lid)Fire looks settled - meat on!
12:31 PM109°/291°/265°Cruising along nicely.
2:17144°/270°/240°Opened a second bottom vent.
2:32144°/262°/245°Stirred the coals a bit to knock off ash.
3:05147°/286°/270°Opened the third bottom vent and added miscellaneous smoking wood.
3:54153°/351°/??Tired of waiting - putting the beef in the DO now.
4:46???/253°/255°Moving the bef to a 350°F oven.
7:32???/190°/175°Broke beef up into chunks. Almost done but left covered.
Beef is shreddable and liquid is reduced despite the Dutch oven having remained closed. And it's DELICIOUS!

(meat/grate/lid) => Maverick ET-732 and the cooker lid thermometer.

Results: The cooker was a little disappointing in that I could not complete the cook on it. Perhaps when it is seasoned a little better (better sealing) or with a different fuel. The recipe is a total success. I really like Pepper Stout Beef and I can see why it gets mentioned so much on the BBQ-Brethren site.

I still think about ways to tweak the recipe but haven't done so yet. Red peppers are more visible in the final result. I'm not sure why red onions are necessary.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Bell Peppers and Beef

With a nod to Jet, I'm making Bell Peppers and Beef today (AKA Pepper Stout Beef.)

Weather is very pleasant at start with temperature at 54°F and wind light at 6 mph. The pit location is sheltered by high fences so it is really pretty calm. The sky seems a little hazy so there is not much sun.

We picked up a 4.8 lb chuck roast at the grocery along with some peppers, onions and rolls. I'll be following the Wolf Pit recipe which I found on I also got some mesquite chips

I'm cooking away from home so this will be a bit of a minimalist cook. I have at my disposal a 22.5 Weber kettle and a proper charcoal chimney. We also got some mesquite chips so I'll be using those for some additional smoke flavor. Since I have no charcoal baskets, I plan to use the snake method for charcoal fire management. That involves a triple row of briquettes aroud the edge of the charcoal grate that is then set with some lit charcoal at one end of the 'snake.' Since I'm not looking for 'low and slow' specifically, I will employ two snakes. Desired temperature is about 275°F. If it runs a little high, I can moderate with by choking off the bottom vent. I need to have this ready to serve by 2:00 PM so I have to keep it moving. The only temperature measuring device I brought with is my Maverick Weekend Warrior so that will be used to spot check the cooker as well as the meat.

Two snakes on fire in the hole! (Good threads on this technique can also be seen at and

Salt and black pepper for the rub - KISS!

Lit coals on the snakes.

I think we're ready to add meat!

Looking good at the two hour check.

The bed peppers and onions is ready for the next stage.

But I do not need all of that stout for the recipe. Hmmm... What to do with the rest. :D

Ready for the next stage!

Once it has cooked long enough the beef shreds easily.

Food stylists have no fear of me!

timetemp comment
7:48 AM
Close up the cooker
8:00382° meat(lid)Meat on! (Bottom vent to about 1/2 open.)
8:47341°Looking good - figuratively speaking. I did not open the cooker. (If you're lookin' you're not cookin'.)
10:00(143°)Opened to check progress. Good!
11:22302°(174°)Transferred meat to the cast iron pan with veggies and covered with foil. Since the cooker is cruising along I just put it back on the kettle.
11:36309°Would go full open on the bottom vents but have just been advised that I have until about 5:00 PM to finish so no need to rush!
12:20 PM245°Opened bottom vent full and threw a few more briquettes on.
12:45245°Firing up the gasser to move the cook to that.
1:20250°Temp near the middle of the gasser with two outside burners on lowest setting. I cranked them up a little.
1:40309°Cranked up a little more.
2:00(204°)Removed the cover from the meat. Parts are not yet probe tender. I tore it into chunks as best as I could and it will cook further as the liquid reduces.
Beef is shredding easier now. Once the liquid is reduced a little more it will be ready to serve.
Off the fire ad shredding easy!

meat°(lid°) => measured using a Maverick Weekend Warrior either poking in one of the vents or stuck momentarily into the meat.

This was very tasty. I used only three jalapeños vs. the five recommended and it was appropriately hot for our tastes. The meat was very tender and moist. Yum!

How could I improve this? Hard to say. My first reaction is to suggest some additional seasonings such as bay, thyme or cumin. I also thought that a tomato or two sliced into the mix would add an additional layer of flavor. There was certainly nothing wrong that I need to fix. I suppose I could use one green and one red pepper for more color.