So last Friday, I smoked my first piece of meat. I have a side fire box that I've been itching to use and if you want details on what I had, I think I introduced myself and plans in the newbie forum. Anyways, a quick summary of what I was using:
- Chargriller with newly installed side fire box (seasoned 2 weeks ago)
- Apple wood chunks from the Home Depot
- $10 chimney from the Home Depot
- Lizzari mesquite charcoal
- Cuisinart wood chips box (lined with foil)
- Country Pork Ribs
- Digital Thermometer from Amazon.com
Anyways, I started it about noon here in Sacramento and the weather had been pretty warm lately. Started with a charcoal chimney (first time using one). It was pretty easy and I was really surprised on how well it worked. Three pieces of newspaper wrapped in the shape of rings, chimney completely full of charcoal. Light it on fire and a whole lot of smoke for the first couple of minutes, and eventually a nice hot fire. I let it burn for a little bit until I can see some ash on the top. Afterwards, I put it in the side fire box.
I put a grate above the charcoal and waited for the temperature to rise. I was using the built-in temperature gauge, so I knew it was going to be slightly off, but it was close enough. Temperature went up to 210 and then I put some pieces of wood to get them started. I thought it was a little too hot because the wood caught on fire pretty quickly and started to burn. They were chunks of wood, so I was worried that I would burn through my whole bag quickly. Low and slow, right? So I improvised. I moved the charcoal to the right-most side of the side fire box, moved the grate that was holding the wood to the left most side to separate them. It actually worked! The wood was lit on fire and burning, but they weren't really burning fast because of the heat. Had a lot of smoke coming out of the chimney in the main smoker.
Afterwards, got my water tray, which again, improvised to fill with a mixture of half water and half apple juice. Put that in the main smoker about an inch away from the right-most wall that connected to the side fire box. Ready to rock n roll!
I grabbed the meat that was already marinated. I didn't follow any recipes, as this was the first time I was smoking something. I didn't want to spend all of this time preparing the meat, as I wasn't confident that it would come out good. I read a lot online about having to "learn" my equipment and it would be trial and error. So I cheated. Bought some premade dry rub marinade from the store and added to the pork ribs the previous night. I threw on some worcesterchire sauce for some good measure. Haven't met a piece of meat that couldn't benefit from that stuff. I laid down on the 3 pieces of meat (about 2 lbs total) and connected my digital thermometer to the middle piece and set it to begin timing. I've read that 2 hours is about the right time to begin checking the meat, as it may not absorb any more smoke after that time, so I wanted to know when 2 hours had gone by. Time to do some yardwork.
I checked on and off, making sure the temperature was about 210 and made sure there was enough charcoal and apple wood in the side fire box. Probably checked about every 30 minutes. Added some wood to keep the smoke coming. Added some charcoal to keep the heat consistent. I resisted the temptation to check the meat. Time to resist! Watched the temperature go up on the digital gauge and it got stuck at about 150 degrees. I wanted it to get to 170, so I started to panic a little. I added more heat to raise the smoker to about 220 and the meat still stayed stuck. Well it was about 2 hours, so time to open and see what I did.
Meat looked really good! Checked the water pan and about 70% of the liquid had disappeared. The sides of the meat that were closer to the side fire box were darker than the other side, so I decided to flip the meats around and reposition the thermometer. In my panic, I did a Google search and one website said to try that, which might raise the temperature of the meat. I also added a wet rub that was some store bought BBQ sauce (shame on me, I know!). Time to close the lid. Temperature came up to about 164, but that had taken an additional 40 minutes. Family was coming.
I turned on the grill side to warm it up and decided to grill it for a couple of minutes. Removed the temperature gauge. This was mostly to do two things: cook the meat so the internal temperature went up and it was safe to consume, and two, I liked adding the BBQ sauce and having it condense on the outside to create a nice color and flavor. After a couple of minutes of cooking each side, I put the meat in a glass dish, topped with foil, and waited until the family came home.
I sliced the meat and it tasted awesome! Family loved the smoked pork and couldn't wait to do it again. The meat on the outside was dark, you can see the pink ring from the smoke, and the inside was juicy and tender. The meat didn't fall apart, as I was able to slice it up into small slices for the family. So the day afterwards, I bought a pork loin from Costco.
I think it was a pretty good outing. The one thing I did learn was that buying "country" style pork ribs is not the way to go. The bone is odd shaped and it was hard to slice it, as my sharp knife would cut right through the bone sometimes depending on how think it was. This is why I went with the pork loin next time around. The pork is waiting for me patiently in the freezer.
Thanks for letting me share and sorry for being so verbose! Any feedback would be greatly appreciated!