Howdy from our Nation’s Capital! I’m Andrew, and as my wife and I live in an apartment with no real outdoor space, outdoor cooking of any kind is limited to occasional excursions. Every year or so, I get together with a few buddies for a camping, drinking and eating trip. This gives the opportunity to do some grilling, but without a proper smoker, our attempts at real bbq have thus far been pretty dismal. Last year we constructed an “igloo” made of heavy duty aluminum foil and put it over the campfire ring with 2 racks of ribs on a cooking grate. Built a small charcoal fire on one side of the pit, and added a piece of firewood for smoke. The results, though edible and not too offensive to the palate, were far from optimal.
The plan for this years trip originally included a new and improved version of the igloo (dubbed the Alumismoke Version 2.0) with a chicken wire skeleton and separate smoke box. We were all very excited about it until we really thought about it, and decided that maybe an inexpensive actual smoker would be the way to go. We’ve decided to split the cost and the 2 guys who actually have space to store it can flip a coin to see who keeps it. So, without further adieu, there is the plan.
The Smoker : We’ve decided on the Brinkmann vertical charcoal smoker. The split door model, I believe it’s called. This one looks pretty compact and I believe with a few modifications, will be up to the task of smoking just about every meal for 5 guys for 4 days.
1: The included coal pan, as has been pointed out ad nauseum on this forum, is woefully flawed. This will be replaced with a basket made of a double layer of hardware cloth (like a heavy duty welded chicken wire). The plan is to make the basket larger than the original pan to allow for longer smokes. Ash management may foil this part of the plan, we’ll just have to see once I’m actually in possession of the smoker.
2: From what I’ve read, the sealing on the Brinkmann leaves a bit to be desired. This will hopefully be solved with a fiberglass rope gasket around both doors. High heat aluminum tape will be used around any gaps in the smoker itself, such as where the panels are joined. The goal is to have a completely airtight box so the vents are the only ingress/egress points for air. With the mesh coal pan, I’m guessing this will be extremely important, as ANY additional oxygen in the smoker will have no trouble finding its way to the fire.
3: The Pitmaster IQ. Is this totally necessary? Absolutely not. But, with the inexpensive smoker and potentially windy conditions (we’ll be right on the beach in Cape Hatteras) any little advantage is sure to help. Besides, it’s a gadget and I’m a guy.
4: The Maverick Dual probe thermometer. Judging by the glowing praise here, this is the one to have. Will be nice to have a temp alarm for an overnight smoke.
The Menu: Day 1: Spareribs. We'll be arriving around 2pm at the campsite. It’ll probably take us an hour to get set up, so figure the smoker will be lit at 3 or 3:30. There will be only 3 of us for the first night, so I’m thinking 2 full racks. I’ll shoot for 220˚ in the smoker, and do a 4 hour (ish) straight smoke. I really like firmer ribs, so the 3-2-1 method probably isn’t for me. I’ve seen the method used at my favorite BBQ joint, and will do my best to replicate that. It involves a light rub, hourly basting and a liberal application of honey at the 3 hour point. I might try molasses instead, but that might be too heavy. Side items are likely to be coleslaw and baked beans warmed for the last hour in the smoker. Dutch oven cornbread will accompany the meal, as well as plenty of malty beverages.
Day 2: Pulled Pork. An 8-10 pound butt will be put in a brine the day before we leave, then drained, rubbed, partially frozen and packed in ice for the 6 hour trip. I’ll pull it out of the cooler around 10:30 pm on day 1. At 11, having cleaned out the ash from the smoking of the ribs, I’ll pack the coal pan full of charcoal and several hardwood chunks (haven’t decided what kind of wood yet, suggestions?) and dump a half full chimney of hot coals on top. While it’s coming to temp, I’ll smear a mixture of Dijon mustard and molasses on the meat, followed by a liberal application of rub. Once it hits around 275˚, in goes the meat and we shoot to stabilize at 220˚. Hopefully that’ll coast along happily all night. Will likely baste by spraying apple juice via a garden sprayer though the exhaust vents on the smoker, but with the brine and the mustard/molasses rub, it won’t really need it. Sides will be probably more beans, slaw and maybe some collard greens. Sauce will be a Carolina vinegar style, applied sparingly while pulling, then a variety on the table. Probably make a sweet, a hot and a mustard based in addition to the vinegar based. I usually use whatever rub I put on the meat as the base for the sauce, as the spices obviously will complement each other.
Day 3: Brisket, sausage and more ribs. This will be the “final project” so to speak. I’ve never successfully smoked a brisket before, so I’m gonna have to do a lot more reading on this one. As for sausages, I’m thinking a variety tossed on the smoker for the last hour. Maybe Bratwurst, Weisswurst, Italian sausage and Kielbasa. As we’re having several things, a, small brisket will be more than enough. I’ll try to get one small enough that it might cook in 5-6 hours, maybe 3-4 pounds? Like I said, I need to do some more reading.
So there you go. We’ve got about a month to prepare. I’ll be getting the smoker this week so I can get all the mods taken care of. Hopefully next weekend I can take it over to a friend’s house for curing and maybe an inaugural batch of ribs. I’m really glad I found this forum. It seems to be a great resource t those of us who have been struggling with smoking meats, as well as a fun gathering place!