Hey all! We planned a little family gathering today (I finally have the whole weekend off work......), and I decided a few days back to thaw a triple-pack of Loin Backs (aka: baby-backs) for the occasion. When word got out that I was smoking ribs, and especially LBRs, beans & Idaho taters, the party size just about doubled overnight, so I had to run to the local store this morning for a couple more slabs. So, 9.2lbs LBRs turned into 16-1/4lbs, with 5 slabs, total.
I wanted to fire up the charcoal gourmet, but even with the stacker mod and 4 grates, I'd have had quite a challenge to make a go of it with 5 slabs of LBRs, even on rib racks, plus a dozen big taters and all the beans, so the Smoke Vault 24 was my weapon of choice.
I'm hooked on the wet to dry smoke chamber method lately, though today, I'm running with the water pan full of pea gravel and a dry aluminum baking pan over the water pan just to catch drippings and keep my gravel clean. Instead of using a wet to dry smoke method, I opted for straight dry chamber today with the ribs, as they will take on plenty of smoke flavor even with a dry chamber, and I'm smoking straight open-grate as well, with the smoke rolling for at least 3.5 hours...should do the trick just fine. If I were smoking really heavy slabs of spares (5.5-5.75lb), or any heavy cuts of beef or pork, I'd likely run wet to dry, so the smoke would have more time to react with the meat during the wet stage of smoking, but with the lower sectional density and overall smoke time for the LBRs, I see no need for that.
In a way, I'm testing the dry smoke chamber for potatoes during this smoke, as well as getting additional repeatability for the ribs using a dry smoke chamber. I've used wet to dry and dry only smoke chamber for pork and beef ribs before, and either way, I get tender and juicy ribs, so I gotta keep moving forward with this...it's works too well to just walk away without staying with what works for me. This works great for pork butts, too, btw.
Dry rub is my RBP Pork Rib Rub (found HERE, towards the bottom of the article). We really like this rub...I was going to do my Apple RBP Rib Rub, but wouldn't you know it, I was out of apple chips to grind...gotta order some more, very soon. Smoke was provided by apple, pecan and cherry chunks.
Taters went in about 20 minutes before the ribs @ ~275* with a good smoke coming on, then, I dropped all 5 slabs in and backed chamber temps off to 225* for some nice slow rendering out of the fat in the ribs. Bright, full sun today, so pics, even with a forced-flash, are quite shadowy...you get the idea, though...beans will go in about 2 hours into the smoke in stainless steel half-size steam table pans on the 4th level, and taters & ribs below, with some grate rotations to compensate for heat baffling (full grate with 3 slabs, now the lower grate) and repositioning of the ribs and taters to accommodate for the beans:
Soon to be a nearly full smoker, and we all know that a full smoker is a happy smoker...
A spin-off of Dutch's Wicked Beans (found in the side items forum)...without ketchup, brown sugar and Jalapeno' and few additional twists...but the idea really is credited to Dutch...we just have a bit different taste...
7lb, 5oz Bush's regular...pretty decent beans by themselves, but we can make them better...after all, it's just beans, tomato base, brown sugar, some simple spices and a chunk or two of pork:
1lb hickory smoked bacon, sliced into small pieces:
1 - 14.5oz can of store-brand diced & peeled tomatoes with chilies...I usually use Rotel diced Chilies and Tomatoes, but I decided to take it easy on the guests today, as Rotels have quite a bit more chilies in the mix:
1 - 20oz can pineapple tidbits, drained...yield is approx 16oz...save the pineapple juice for a beverage, or, as a base for a glaze, sauce, or foiling liquid, if you like:
Fold it all together, pan it up and toss it into the smoker...this is as easy as it gets:
4th grate position in the Vault, leaving a head-space for the pans...total weight for the beans is now approx 10lbs...time to get happy:
Ribs after 2.5 hours and a couple grate position rotations...not much pull-back just yet, but it is starting to show:
Taters have a slight softness to the touch after 2 hours...moving along nice and slow...temp bump at the end may be in order...time will tell:
All set to go for the duration...nothing to do now but rotate the rib grates a few more times for even cooking...shooting for 5.5-6 hour smoke on the ribs, almost 6.5 for the Idahoes, and 3-3.5 for the beans to slowly heat through and meld all those great flavors together. Note: I put the beans on top (instead of catching those wonderful ribs drippings) so that humidity from the beans as they get heated up should flow right out the vent without effecting my dry smoke chamber for the ribs and taters:
Past experience with potatoes has told me they often need a good push towards the end to bring them to a tender state, but I'll wait and see if they need it today or not. I generally only allow 4+ hours for taters to smoke low & slow, then bump temps to 400* or so when everything else is out and resting for a few minutes. 6.5 hours may or may not be enough time at lower temps.
Well, when it was all said and done, I had two slabs of ribs lagging behind from uneven cooking, even with grate rotations. I suspect the 3 slabs on a single grate was just too much baffling, and, I used a 12" x 18" baking pan instead of foil over the water pan for a drippings catch...probably a bit too large and had a baffling effect as well. I should have used my rib racks and put all 5 slabs on one grate...didn't want to mess with them, but a few more minutes in prep time could have made the finish a lot easier...225* chamber temps would have worked out much better that way, and I wouldn't have had to rotate grate positions at all.
Out of 12 taters, 3 were done when I pulled the first 3 slabs of ribs...they were in known hot-spots which were unavoidable, but it did give me a better idea how hot and fast works that much better with taters than low & slow. I nuked the remaining taters for about 25-30 seconds each to get them tender, as I was out of time. They did have a nice skin for a smoked Idaho potato, so using a dry smoke chamber was beneficial for them, IMHO. I like a heavy skin (not like what you get if you foil-wrap them before baking), with a bit of the potato meat stuck/cooked to the skin for a nice chew, with the tender meat inside...just me.
The first 3 slabs of ribs could have used another hour or so, as pull-back and tenderness was a bit on the shy side, but not bad overall. I was pushing the clock as it was, so I rolled the dice. We had plenty from the first 3 slabs, and the 2 slackers were more tender than the first ones when they came out. Moisture in the ribs was just what I expected it would be...nice and juicy.
8 and 11 o'clock are examples of the hot & fast smoked taters:
A better look at low & slow:
Hot & fast...skin is separating from the potato meat...blistered a bit:
Not a lot of smoke ring on this round, which I usually get a deep ring, but I did toss the ribs into a hot smoker, which I normally don't do...cold start-up with meat loaded is my norm, and this gives a bit more reaction, and with a dry smoke chamber, it takes away from reaction time, also. Smoke flavor was a very good match-up, and not overwhelming, so I can't complain. The bark was pretty decent for a light application of dry rub...mostly the meat formed the bark...had some trouble cutting the bark with a very sharp knife, so yeah, they had some bark:
Oh, no pics of the finished beans,...looked pretty much the same as when they went in, just slightly darker in color. The bacon rendered out slightly, and the pieces were small enough to be very well distributed throughout the dish, and had a soft chewy texture. The hickory smoke from the bacon added a nice finish to the overall flavor profile and aromas...nice batch of beans for a simple prep, and not starting from scratch with dry beans...I wasn't up for that today...maybe next time.
Well, a few more of my curiosities have been somewhat satisfied with this smoke, and I haven't been able to make much time for smoking lately, so, onward and forward with more wet to dry smoke chamber on a later date. I do now realize that LBRs may not come out quite as tender as spares with straight open grate smoking (no foiling), but I'm not sure on that...never really tried no-foil LBRs that much yet, but pork spares seem to handle it pretty well. It may have to do with spares having more fat layering on the top of the meat to self-baste during the smoke... for sure what the difference really is at this point.
Catch ya next time! Keep your smokers warm and happy!
Edited by forluvofsmoke - 6/2/13 at 9:18pm