- 49 Posts. Joined 3/2013
- Location: East Tennessee
- Points: 10
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Finally get to smoke sum more...
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I always smoke my ribs meat side up, and never flip...makes for a much nicer looking presentation with no grill marks and you don't loose any rub from handling them. They'll cook just as evenly if left alone, too. The only time I move ribs in a vertical smoker is if I'm taking advantage of grate temp variances, but generally I just move the entire grate, not the ribs.
You're welcome. Oh, sounds like your first time no-foil, so a couple things to check regarding the level of doneness, in case you haven't read or heard of these methods yet:
Pull-back: when the meat pulls back from the cut-end of the rib bone...natural reaction of the meat from shrinkage as a result of cooking: more pull-back = more done. I look for about 1/4-3/8"" for a pretty firm chew with a good amount of tug on the bone, and approx 3/8-1/2" for a bit lighter chew and tug on the bone.
Bend-test: The results of this test are also caused by meat shrinkage during cooking. Lift the slab of ribs off of the grate with tongs and look for sag of the ends of the slab. More done = less sag, less done = more sag. The bend-test can be somewhat skewed from the bark formation on the surface, which can be very pronounced from all open-grate cooking depending on your dry rub ingredients and any mid-smoke treatments such as mopping or spraying (these ingredients can, have varying effects on bark also). That said, if the bend test is used, I recommend at least one other test to confirm the texture or level of doneness you're looking for.
Bone-tug/twist: You can get a manual estimated gauge of texture/tenderness by grabbing the cut-end of the bone and give it a light tug and twist. If it feels somewhat loose, you should have a fairly tender rib with a light chew on the inside. A snug bone indicates less tenderness and a heavier chew. This method is not effected by any mid-smoke treatments like the bend-test is, as the bark doesn't contact the interior meat where the bone is moving when you tug and twist, so I would say it's the most reliable source of checking texture, but of course can't be done until the pull-back appears, which makes it a back-up test to the amount of pull-back you see after a quick look. Just a couple bones will give a good indication of the rest of the slab, as long as you have reasonably close temps on the grate from one end of the slab to the other. Pull-back is the best at showing that, though.
Overall, pull-back and bone tug/twist are very reliable, and you don't need to handle the slab much to do these checks, unlike the bend-test.
Have a great smoke! Sounds like you'll be having a meal fit for a king today with hens, chops and BBs...gotta love it!
Oh, with mention of chops, let me know if you need any pointers or tips...overcooked chops aren't always very easily avoided...been there...I strongly dislike a dry chop. Can't help much on the hens, other than basic bird cooking tips, as I haven't had the pleasure of smoking them yet.
- 17,645 Posts. Joined 10/2012
- Location: Bend Oregon
- Points: 1890
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Thanks for all the info.i will use the bone tug test and yes it is my first no foil smoke. Do you sauce more frequent when using no foil? I have Ben hitting it with apple juice every harbor so. As far as the chops I figured about 1.5 hr at 220???? Never done em but gonna try.
I always sauce at the end. I don't baste and don't peak! I'll sauce about 45 minutes before they are done.
Chops don't take long, I start checking at 1 hour (145* IT is what you want.). I cook at 265* for the most part, it's where my smoker likes to run the best.
Saucing, mopping or spraying is something I haven't made a habit of doing. There are a couple of things which I consider with smoking meats, and they are smoke chamber humidity and the finished temperature of the meat. Smoke chamber humidity effects smoke reaction...the higher the humidity the more smoke the meat will attract. The down side is that this is all a result of the meat's surface porosity (bare meat in specific, no fat cap). Later on in cooking, if the humidity remains high, the meat will evaporate more interior moisture at a more rapid rate then it will if the surface becomes dry. If using a mop, sauce or spray, you are essentially keeping the meat's surface wet and porous, so in doing so, you allow more interior moisture to evaporate, but enhance smoke reaction. The practice of mopping or spraying with a pit smoker where a water pan is not normally used for added humidity can enhance the smoke flavoring, but can cause additional moisture loss in the meat if this method is used too late in the cooking process (with any type of smoker).
OK, I just looked through your profile and see you have the Masterbuilt XL, so I know your smoker a little bit. Any mid-smoke treatments you use will also add to cooking time because of heat loss from opening the cabinet door. Recovery times will vary depending on conditions, but those two factors combined can drastically increase cooking times. That said, you have a water pan, which will add humidity. For no-foil smokes, I discovered that a wet-to-dry smoke chamber humidity allows for the best smoke reaction time and sealing up or tightening the meat's surface fibers to retain more natural moisture in the meat. Now, understand that this is a commonly overlooked factor, and one which I have tested with repeatable results on various cuts of beef and pork, including ribs.
To accomplish the wet-to-dry smoke chamber in a vertical smoker is actually quite easy. Use washed sand or pea-gravel in the water pan instead of water. Fill the pan about 1/2-2/3 full, then line the pan all the way up the sides and around the lip with aluminum foil to act as a drippings catch, and also to add a smaller amount of water for added humidity during the first stage of cooking with smoke. The water will evaporate more slowly than if it were directly in the pan, so much less is needed. Allow the water to evaporate after just 2 hours or so for ribs (longer/more water for large cuts of meat)...this transitions to a dry smoke chamber for tightening up the meat's surface to aid in moisture retention. This also aids in the formation of bark on the meat.
Maybe I shouldn't have gone into all of this with you now, but if you have some sand or gravel handy, it's a quick and easy set-up.
Here's some pics of spares I smoked last summer in my Brinkamnn Gourmet charcoaler using a wet-to-dry smoke chamber, no foiling...moderately tender with a medium tug and medium/light chew, juicy, moderate bark, and so easy...just smoked 'em up and ate 'em...no fuss, no muss:
Just saying, the wet-to-dry smoke chamber has changed the way I hot smoke nearly every cut of meat since I started using it last spring...hmm a year ago, now that I think about it. It hasn't failed me yet, and the results have been nothing short of impressive.
OK, on to the chops...I look for pooled juices on the surface...that's my first indication of cooking progress, and also that they don't need much more time. Time is irrelevant, as different cookers and locations (elevation, ambient conditions) will give varied results in actual time, but 1.5-2 hours is a good baseline, also depending on thickness of the chops...probably closer for thin cut.Here's the tricky part...it's such a small cut of meat, especially if thin-cut, you have a difficult time taking internal temps with a standard probe or analog pocket thermometer...a therma-pen would do a much better job. USDA pork can be cooked to 145* finished temp and be safe, according to the USDA guidelines (used to be 160*, that changed). If you cook it until it has a slight amount of pink juices remaining, it will be very moist, and approx medium-well (160*). A gentle slit or puncture on the surface towards the center should give you a little oozing of juices for a look. Now with center-cut chops, the meat near the bone will not usually cook as quickly, so you may want to check that area as well, but keep your punctures or slits very small...only large enough to produce a weep of moisture, else you will loose more moisture when you have to continue cooking.
That's the method I've used for probably several years...maybe not recommended by many of those in the know about checking internals, but my family is squeamish about pink meat when it comes to pork, and they love my chops when I get it right. Just an slight pink hue to the juices, with little if any pink meat...if I hit that mark I know I was on target with my sights. But even the USDA makes mention of a slight pink colored juice when cooked to medium-well, so I'm pretty convinced in the method I described.
For some odd reason I can't find any pics of sliced chops I've smoked this way...gotta do a little more with chop smokes in the future, I guess.
Hope that helps!
Edited by forluvofsmoke - 4/14/13 at 9:47am