I just did my first smoke with the Brinkmann Smoke N Grill. I did a 7.25 lb pork picnic, skin on, bone in. I ran my fire for 10 hours, 5:30am to 3:30pm. Here's what I found along the way:
I got the picnic at a local supermarket. I covered it with yellow mustard then rubbed with a basic Kosher salt, black pepper, garlic powder mix. I cut the skin back to get rub in under it, then folded it back into place. I wanted to keep this part simple and not overpower the flavor of the meat itself. I let it sit in this mixture overnight. No injection, no saucing, no spritzing, just a real basic, no frills flavor profile.
-I swapped the legs to the outside of the barrel, to allow me easy lift-off access to the fire. I set 3 bricks in the driveway and put my charcoal pan on top of them. Then I put the 2nd grate (not top grate) from the unit on top of the charcoal pan, and built my charcoal and chip/chunk fire on the grate. This allowed the ash to fall away and not clog or choke my fire out over the 10 hours of cooking. I highly recommend this approach for the ease it brings to tending the fire. Just pull the whole barrel straight up and off, set it aside, tend the fire and wood/smoke production and put the whole unit back on. No fiddling with that little door or taking the lid off.
-I filled my water pan with whatever I could grab around the garage. This included hose water, Dr. Pepper and a lot of leftover Bud Lites from the Independence Day cookout. I think the water pan really helps moderate any temp spikes, plus the steam was beneficial.
-I put an aftermarket thermo in the lid in place of the cheesy one it comes with. But I did put the cheesy one on the grate inside just to see what it read along the way. When I stayed in the 225-250 sweet spot, it read straight up the middle of "IDEAL", which was reassuring.
-I didn't make any other mods, as I wanted to establish a baseline with this cook, so that if I did pursue the standard list of mods, I'd have an idea of their effectiveness based on real firsthand experience.
-I stuck to 8-10 lit coals at a time, loosely following the Minion Method.
I got my fire going and heated up to 250 quickly around 0530. Meat went on at 0615. I tended the fire hourly to stay in my temp range, adding a mix of wet chips (hickory and cherry wood) and larger hickory chunks. My smoke stayed mostly thin and blue, but got a little white for small periods.
I got to 145F internal temp in about 4.5 hours, skin side up with a decent bark forming, then I hit the stall at 155F and it took the remaining 4 hours to get past it and surging upward towards the finish. About midway through I flipped it to skin side down to protect the meat from too much smoke exposure and ensure an even bark. I pulled it off and foiled it to rest at the 192F temp, and carved into it about 30 minutes later. I wanted to rest longer but we were hungry!
I got a pretty killer smoke ring and the smoke flavor was there in spades. I didn't inject or sauce while cooking, and I kept my rub very simple so that I could get an idea of how the smoke affects the flavor. I'm glad I went with that approach - this tasted like delicious tender pork with a hint of black pepper kick and a great hickory smoke flavor. The bark was excellent too. My dad and I ate about 2/3 of the picnic in one sitting and killed the leftovers the next day, served with baked beans, slaw, tater salad and some Jack Miller's sauce (Cajun favorite).
FOR NEXT TIME:
-I'd like to get my charcoal tending technique/Minion Method a little more dialed in so I don't have to replenish the fire so frequently. I can't complain about doing it hourly, but I'd love to stretch that out to a couple hours if possible. I know that may be asking too much of this little cheap unit, but I feel like I may have room to improve on fire-tending.
-I'm eager to try foiling when the stall sets in next time. The amount of fat drippings in my water pan was a dramatic difference comparing pre-stall to post-stall. As I understand the science, the stall is when the collagen is converted/the fat renders. Visually the picnic looked totally different pre-stall and post stall too, as a result of all that liquid fat oozing out. I think I lost a lot of potential flavor and tenderness to the water pan during this stage. On the plus side, I got a killer bark, but I would like to try the other side of the coin and sacrifice the bark for potentially more tender and flavorful meat by foiling through the stall and locking all that fat in. Along those same lines, I'll try spritzing and maybe basting with a little butter for the foil braise.
All in all, I love this little unit and feel like maybe I got lucky this first time. The temp control was a walk in the park and everything went on time and according to plan. I have a ton of experience cooking (and cooking BBQ low and slow, just not smoking) so I think maybe that helped too. I am dying to fire that puppy up and toss on another picnic, a brisket, a rack of ribs....this is going to be one tough hobby to limit in frequency.