I have logged thousands of hours on smokers. Smokers ranging from my old Kamado, to steel drums and oil tanks converted to smokers, to even being the head chef for a competition BBQ team for a number of years.
Still, every smoker has its own idiosyncrasies. The goal in smoking is to keep the meat cooking in a range of 210F-225F. Even though this smoker has a general temperature gauge, the level of heat on the grill top varies depending on how close the meat is to the firebox. The purpose behind the chicken was to determine the optimum location on the grill top to smoke meat.
Besides, who doesn't like an edible experiment?
Armed with the results from Saturday night, I hit the backyard with a marinated beef brisket and a marinated slab of pork spare ribs in hand yesterday at noon.
You'll notice I cut the ribs up into sections. I do that for three reasons.
1.) It makes them fit into a one gallon Ziploc bag for marinating.
2.) It allows the marinade to better penetrate the meat.
3.) It allows the smoke to better penetrate the ribs.
In case you missed it yesterday, here's the recipe for my marinade:
- 2/3 cup dry red wine (I use an inexpensive Chianti or Merlot)
- 1/3 cup low sodium soy (green cap Kikkoman)
- 2 tspn dried thyme leaves
- 1 tspn rubbed sage
- 1 tspn ground Summer savory
- 1 tspn black pepper
- 1 tspn garlic granules
- 1/2 tspn ground cayenne pepper (1 tspn if you want it hotter)
- 4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
Marinate the meat in the refrigerator overnight, turning the bag over occasionally.
I started with lump natural charcoal cover with wet chunks of hickory. I like using lump natural charcoal. It catches faster than regular charcoal briquettes, burns hotter, and has no chemical binding agents.
Now here's my technique for doing anything on the smoker.
I make extra marinade and put it in the soy sauce bottle. Because the marinade in the bags becomes contaminated with raw beef/poultry/pork, I toss the bags and used marinade in the trash. As the smoke wanes from the first round of wet hardwood, I raise the top, sprinkle the meats with the fresh marinade, turn the meat over, and sprinkle more marinade on the first smoked side. Close the lid, go to the firebox, and put some more wet hardwood over the hot embers.
Back to smoking.
Now I don't really like my beef brisket cooked to shreds. I like it cooked more like a steak. As such, it takes less time than pork spare ribs.
I took the brisket off at 3:00 pm.
I left the ribs on until 4:30 pm.
How well did the smoker do?
If you click on the pictures of the beef and the rib you'll see a rink of pink just below the surface of each. That's what's called the "smoke ring". The "smoke ring" shows just how far the smoke penetrated the meat.
Now the most important thing, especially on ribs, is how tender they are. The meat on spare ribs is really tough. That's why slow, low cooking is key to making tender ribs.
The meat on a well smoked rack of ribs should come right off the bone.
Like I said folks, this ain't my first rodeo.
The other thing about having BBQ for dinner is having some nice side dishes. I baked some small Russet potatoes in the oven. With greens still being in season, I opted to cook some fresh Spinach.
Three strips of bacon, fat rendered out. Drain the excess fat off. I covered the bacon with 1.5 quarts of cold water and added one container of Knorr's Homestyle concentrated stock. The stock comes in a four pack of approximately 1 ounce containers. If you can't find them, just use a quart of chicken stock and 1/2 quart of cold water.
Bring the water/stock/bacon strip mixture to a rolling boil.
Add two pounds of fresh, washed spinach.
Bring pot back to a rolling boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 30 minutes. Add 1/2 tspn black pepper, 1 tblspn red wine vinegar and 2 tblspn brown sugar. Cook for an additional 5 minutes.
This recipe works well with any other greens such as turnip greens, mustard greens, collard greens, and kale. The only exception when cooking collard greens and kale is the cooking time. Both are hardier greens. They require an hour cooking time.
Now that I have a feel for the smoker, it's on to two of my other favorites: Boneless skinless turkey breast and whole pork shoulder.
The nice thing about the turkey breast is that it doesn't take very long.
I also have an incredible smoked turkey breast sandwich recipe that I'll share with y'all when I cook it.
The nice thing about whole pork shoulder is that it takes a very long time. It also makes a lot of pulled pork for BBQ pork sandwiches.
Wait until you see my take on a BBQ pulled pork sandwich.
You'll never look at an Italian hoagie roll the same ever again.
Today, some fine leftovers from yesterday's dinner.
Until the next time, all y'all take care of yourselves.
Air Traffic Mike, ret.