Hello SMF members,
This is my first post, but I've been lurking, reading and learning since last November. This forum is an incredible resource, and I'd like to thank the guys (and girls?) than run it and regularly post. You've all contributed to my new addiction
I'm 43 years old. I've lived my whole life in in and around Dallas, Texas, so BBQ is in my blood. Well, eating it has been...my introduction to running a pit happened just recently, and was pretty much just a happy accident that I'll be forever thankful for.
Back in October, my father-in-law was celebrating his 60th b-day. He's from Wisconsin, and one of his favorite meals is ribs (yes, I have a cool father-in-law). We knew that over 100 people would be in attendance at his big backyard party, so it was arranged to bring in a great big trailer smoker to smoke the ribs on. The only problem? None of us had ever used a smoker before (sad, I know).
Well, my brothers-in-law and I did a crash course on YouTube to try to get a clue of how to do use this thing. I mean, over 100 people are expected to show up at this party, and we all had a certain level of panic that can only come from the pressure of not screwing up an important meal for that many people. Had I not had so much to drink the night before with all the family that was in town, I'm not sure I would've slept.
So the day of the party arrives and I walk into the backyard to see this incredible looking smoker. Alll I could think was, "I sure hope those guys on YouTube knew what they were talking about." Needless to say, the early learning curve was steep. Getting the smoker up to temp was not easy. Early on we played it conservatively with the charcoal and wood, but finally decided just to get a big fire going in the firebox (again, we're all noobs).
At that point the temp started to go up and we got the ribs on. With a smoker that heavy and firebox that thick, it was easy to hold temp (especially now that I'm smoking on something WAY cheaper...more about that in minute). We kept dialed in at 225 for five hours. When the ribs came off, I dare say they were near perfect. Literally every person at the party said they were some of--if not the--best ribs they'd ever had. It was a huge success, and one of the most fun days a man could ever have. All I could think to myself when I went home that night was, "I MUST have one of those!"
My wife had no qualms about it, but unfortunately right around that time, our old trusty propane grill finally bit the dust. So knowing I needed a new grill to do quick stuff on, and a smoker to explore this amazing new world with, I decided to go with the Oklahoma Joe's Wood/Propane Longhorn Combo. It was on sale at Lowe's the week of Black Friday, so I picked one up. Because of doing a ton of homework (a lot of it on these forums), I knew I was getting a smoker with some major limitations, However, I wanted to make sure that I'd love smoking meats as much as I thought I would, and I knew we had to have a new gas grill as well. The OK Joe Longhorn Combo checked all those boxes.
I used it for the first time the day after Thanksgiving, and cooked 4 racks of spare ribs. Needless to say, I had to forget a lot of what I thought I knew after using the big competition level smoker from the birthday party. The biggest problem I have with my smoker is the small size of the cooking chamber. Temps can get out of control REALLY fast if you're not paying attention, and on the other hand your flame can die very quickly as well. Those ribs turned out kind of meh. They were by no means bad, but they weren't awesome either.
I was determined to do better, and I'm happy to say I have.
Again, getting so much great advice from these forums has been beyond helpful. I modded my smoker with all the easy stuff - sealed the doors, lowered the stack, placed a water pan in front of the firebox...I knew that smoker wasn't great, but I was determined to make it the best it could be.
The next time I did ribs a couple of days later, and incorporating the Texas Crutch into the mix, the ribs blew everyone away at a holiday party. I did excellent ribs one more time, followed by a pork butt that was fantastic, and then decided it was time to attempt to live up to my true Texas roots and do my first brisket, which ended up being an 11 pound packer.
That was done on New Year's Eve. I basically went with a lot of advice from guys on here, and really leaned heavily on every video I could find with Aaron Franklin. It paid off. For a first time brisket, I'm not sure I could have done any better. There were a ton of learnings along the way, but overall the brisket was a solid B+. Since then they've only gotten better.
One thing I'll mention that has been incredibly helpful is that I've kept a smoking journal since my very first day doing the ribs. I've only used the smoker 10 times total, but everything I've learned in that short time is documented and learned from. It's an awesome way to figure out what works, what doesn't and remember it down the road. Every rub, spritz, temp, time, weather condition, final result and more is all documented. I've started making my own rub for brisket that's out of this world, and the recipe was originated, tweaked and finalized, all in my journal. It's now the Bible for my BBQ journey, and I highly recommend that all newbies like me keep one for themselves.
Well, that turned into a long post...making up for lost time I guess. I'll be smoking a brisket this Saturday to be shared with my family and friends while watching the Superbowl on Sunday. I'll let everyone know it goes. And if you have any good advice for the best way to cook a brisket and keep it as fresh as possible for 12 hour or so, I'd appreciate it. I wish I could smoke it closer to game time, but I have other commitments that will prevent that from happening.