Saturday, it’s a day of relaxation for me in general. My week is filled with alarms, stress, and company time. Saturday, is –my- time. So I began planning my Saturday, on Sunday. I went to the local market, and picked up a pair of pork loins, a rack of porkies (pork spare ribs) and for grins, a 2lb brisket. In addition, I ordered two remote meat thermometers, the new Maverick TE 732 and a Remote Accurite 19 dollar special from academy.
My initial impressions of the Accurite weren’t grand, it didn’t have a readout on the receiver, it wasn’t backlit… but hey, 19 bucks! I must say one thing for it though, unlike the Maverick, it allows you to adjust temperature up and down. Another annoyance, which I’ll retouch on again, was the audible alarm is loud enough to shake the dead. I almost needed a change of shorts when the alarm sounded during my tests the night before. Well, the show must go on…
I decided early on, that I wasn’t going to brine my brisket or ribs this time around. I was going to do it as naked as possible! I picked up two rub’s which I generally like. Meyers Smokehouse Rub (Local smokehouse here, and one of the top places in TX) and Rudy’s Rub (Another local smokehouse that is starting to branch out). I also had some of my own rub left over from the last smoke, so planned on trying all three rubs. I did a quick taste test of all three rubs, and here are my notes;
Lots of salt, not very sweet, and quite light on paprika/chili powder, very heavy in black pepper
LOTS of cayenne pepper, the after bite was a bit more than I was expecting
Practically NO sugar, but the sugar it does contain is listed as turbinado.
Not very salty
The aroma of coriander is definitely there, which I love the smell of.
Must have some kind of tenderizer in it, as the meat I tested it with became quite soft and pliable before hitting the rack
Well let’s face it I’m biased, but to be honest, I wasn’t impressed with it as much as I had hoped. When I use it, I can’t get the bark I’m looking for, it’s always mushy, sticky, and to my tastes, too sweet. Not blackened and yummy as I see around most smoke shops.
I gave all the meat a quick semi generous shake down of rubs. I then gave them the general pat down and wrapped them in plastic. I tossed them into the fridge for the night, and began working on a few other things. I had found a few aluminum project boxes that were pretty nice. I decided to turn them into smoker chip boxes.
I chose my woods with a 2:1 ratio of Pecan and Hickory. The chips are also Pecan/Hickory with a few random pieces of cherry tossed in there as well.
I prepped one of my firecakes for the morning. Tossed it into the freezer, and went to bed.
For those of you who don’t know what a firecake is ;
Take a cupcake holder (the paper cup things), some sawdust or small smoker chips and 1 table spoon of vegetable shortening cold. Mix the wood and the shortening up well, but leaving some chunks clumped together. Spoon it into a cupcake holder, and pat it down firm (you may want to insert a wick of some kind at this point). Toss it in the microwave for a few seconds, when the shortening begins to melt a little bit, you can stop. At this point you’re done, but if you want to simplify lighting, you can twist a small piece of paper towel into your firecake. Be warned, melted shortening will burn you! Be cautious! I then toss them into the freezer to harden for about 20 minutes, or overnight.. Keep it cold till you need it!
Woke up this morning, rolled my ECB out to the yard and started the fire up with my firecake. You get about 20 good burning minutes out of one firecake. I used a combination of preheated wood (oven) and lump coal to get the fire going. It starts small like a match, but then blazes right up once the shortening melts. Believe it or not, it doesn’t give off a lot of bad smells at this point. And because you’re only using a very small square of paper as a wick and starting agent, less ash from paper.
I let the fire climb to about 200 before sealing the lid gaps with foil. I’ve discovered this is the best way to regulate air flow in the SNG. Rather than force the temp up really high, and battle it to get it back down, then back up, repeat. I felt it’d be easier to slow the ramping effect down a bit by cutting air at 200. I made multiple 10in sections of foil ‘roping’ to mash into the vents. Lifting the foil a bit increases the airflow only slightly, but I’ve noticed the pit is very responsive to it. Mashing it back down all but cuts the air flow out of the smoker. Some still weeps out, but no biggie.
I also used one of my older probes to monitor the temperature at the top of the smoker, which I fed through the vent. The temperature climbed to about 220 and sat there a bit, I brought the temp down by sealing the top vent a bit and let it hang at about 210-220. I was going for the long smoke. (I set the probes alarm to 300 degrees, just in case…. )
At this point I realized I’d neglected to take any pictures of the meat hitting the racks. Ah well, there’s always the first misting for that.
Well at just about 1 hour, I was tinkering with the seal on my pit and somehow dropped the water pan into the fire. I had to reignite it with a fan and some smoking chip and was able to get her back to 235 pretty quickly.
I decided not to pull the ribs until after close to 4 hours, due to the massive drop in temperature during the first hour.
At this point I’m getting a bit impatient, as my brisket was supposed to be my snack before the ribs, and yet the brisket is taking its sweet time to get past its 140 degree plateau. I had saved the scraps from the ribs and gave them a good rub. Fortunately, I was able to fend off starvation by feasting on rib trash! Yum!
I pulled the brisket, ribs, and loins and brought them upstairs. I gave them a quick mop with apple cider, and a double wrapped in foil, and back onto the smoker they went.
I had the opportunity, so I tossed in a mod idea I had while viewing the forums. Using grill sheets, I created an airflow channel, and split my coals between the two sides of the channel. Now I have maximum air flow between the coals, and ashes can’t spill and clog my vents. I’m back up to 236 quickly, even after having the lid off for an extended time. I moved one of my temp sensors onto the lower rack. Upon doing this I noticed the temperature on my lower rack is much lower than the upper. I’m assuming due to the water pan, which I’d just refilled.
Well we’re at hour 6, and it’s time for the ribs to come off the smoker, unfoiled, and back onto the smoker to firm up for about 30/40 minutes. I’m trying not to overdry them.
We’re now at hour number 7, and the ribs are now off the smoker, and resting. I also pulled the pork loins off, as they were just hitting 203. I’m hoping for extra tasty pulled pork sandwiches for lunch tomorrow. I am salivating all over at the moment, as the house is filled with the aromas of ribs and pork loin. I”ve cracked open a celebratory Firemans #4 out of my favorite brewery, the Blanco Brewery, and am now watching The Big Bang Theory while the meat rests. I cant say enough good things about the new Maverick TE-732. It’s saved me a ton of running back and forth to the grill. Also the vented channels in the fire pit helped tremendously. For a long term solution, I may look at making one from diamond grill. I’ve been sitting at 240 for over two hours now, and the brisket is sitting at 197! J ALMOST THERE! This little 2lb brisket hit a 140 degree plateau for over two hours. Never have I seen such a stubborn brisket. Here’s to hoping the meat is tender.
Ok… so, instead of an update. I passed out on the couch for an hour after munching on some ribs. I woke up in a panic because the brisket should have been to temp, and I didn’t hear the alarm… uh oh.. I ran downstairs, and low and behold, the little booger dropped down to 192! I was puzzled at first, but then remembered throwing an extra link of sausage on at the last fire check. I must have placed the sausage too close to the brisket and caused it to cool down a bit. Oh well. I re-stoked the fire to 230 degrees ( I had let it ramp down to 200/210) and watched the temperature begin its slow steady climb. Ran upstairs, and remembered… oops! I hadn’t tasted the pork loins yet. At this point, the pork loins had been in a cooler wrapped in towels for about two hours. So I figured what the heck… I’ll try a piece..
The ribs were fantastic. They were a fine mix between fall–off-the-bone and extra moist, with lots of rendered juices for au jus later. The different flavors of pepper and the sweet oaky taste of the coriander really came to life. The smoke ring was the majority of the meat coloration, running quite deep into and around the bone. I polished off a plate, which put me into an immediate pork coma. Then again, maybe that was the 6 pack of Fireman #4? *shrug*
The pork loin started as a chip off the edge to taste flavor, and ended in a pulled pork sandwich with some Sweet Baby Rays to dress it up. Currently I’m fighting yet another pork coma, waiting for the brisket to finish. I’m up to 240 degrees again after a minor flame out due to mistakenly closing the vents and not opening them again. Oh well, que sera sera….
A friend brought me some home-smoked/made venison and bison sausage. I smoked these last as they were to cook much faster. They were delicious! Non gamey, not dry, very VERY moist!
And then there was the brisket. It was perfect. Very moist, and flaky. I yanked it at 203, let it rest for an hour and it was marvelous. As you can see in the picture, the fat cap wasn’t trimmed evenly. But it worked out great, as the meat remained quite moist through the entire smoke. At this point I was ready to burst so I only at what you see sliced off in the picture. Not sure if anyone else has tried this, but I used an electric blanket to keep the heat up inside the cooler. I placed a towel along the bottom to shield from direct heat, and then the blanket on top. I ran the cord through the water valve by unscrewing the valve, feeding the cord, and then stuffing the hole with rags. I’m contemplating making a permanent brisket/meat cooler, by doing the same thing with another cooler, but using silicone or insulating foam to insulate the hole the valve was in.
This weekend I’m thinking of making a few chuckies and some chicken. I may throw another small brisket into the mix or a rack of spares. Suggestions? J