Greetings from Drexel Hill, PA. It's been a while, but I'd like to post about my smoking experience today.
I haven't been on the forums much... I probably joined them a year or so ago. I have twin 3 y/o girls, and life is hectic. Living in the location I do (City Slicker, Yankee), and rarely having a free hour, let alone 4 or 12...I just don't have time to put a smoker to good use. Well, today was an exception. I decided, because the temps here have been nice lately (mid 60's), that I would take a stab at some ribs. I don't have a lot of experience, but you gotta start somewhere. I figured ribs would be an easy goal.
Recently, I came into possession of some tuning plates. I have been waiting a long time... looking for someone to make them. I wanted to buy them, but couldn't find a mod dealer that fit my model (Brinkmann Trail-Master Limited Edition). Lucky for me, after surprising a iron worker from Jersey with how much whiskey I could put down, he volunteered to get me some tuning plates. Once completed, I had a few 1/4 inch steel tuning plates and a curved baffle at my disposal.
Today, I set up my smoker and had the plates in place. Mind you, I have not had the chance to dry run my smoker with the plates and baffle. So i had no idea how the heat would gather.
I fired up the smoker at about 130 - 2 pm. One of my mistakes was throwing the meat on before getting a good fire going. A rookie mistake... but hey, I'm a rookie. Temps near the baffle and the middle of the smoke chamber were about 50°-60° difference, once I got it to temp. Baffle was ~250°... mid-chamber was about 200°. As soon as I added the meat, (three slabs of dry-rubbed baby back ribs.) I lost my core temp. and it took me an hour to get it back up. Two things that may have been my down-fall: 1. Choked fire-box. 2. Un-tuned... tuning plates. Remember, I didn't dry run my plate spacing.
After an hour of being depressed about it, I decided to man-up and save my q. I threw open the chamber door, pried up the grilling surface, ribs and all, and separated the plates a little more in the middle and by the stack. I started running round the clock charcoal brickettes and lump coal burns to keep hot fuel ready. As the fire-box started acting more like a furnace, the chamber heat became a little more easier to manipulate and less disparate between the middle and the fire-box. At this point I was more concerned about keeping a steady temp, than I was actually keeping the meat at the temp it needed to be at (250). I was easily keeping the chamber by the box at about 265 and the middle-end by the stack at about 225-230. I put my ribs' smaller ends at the cooler end.
Once I was able to keep a steady temp, thanks to the tuning plates and my last ditch attempt to save dinner, I could sit back and have a beer in confidence. I wasn't worried about keeping the smaller end at a lower temp; I'm just glad it was stable, and I was convinced I probably needed to keep it on for another hour, anyway. Full recipe called for 4 hr smoke with a 20 min BBQ mop glaze.
So, I would say that between 230 and 630, I had a good smoke. I put bbq sauce on two racks and left the 3rd dry. After 20 mins for the sauce to glaze, I had a pretty bad-ass trio of baby back ribs. Everyone was in awe, even myself, and it was a great end to my day. Considering I have very little experience with smoking, I'd say I came out on top.
The meat was tender and pulled right off the bone. The outer bark was red about a 1/4" in and the center was a mild brown. Exactly what one would expect from a good, smoked rack or ribs. Nobody even sat down to eat. Once everyone grabbed their share, they just stood in place, and ate. Haha!
I used a recipe from Big Bob Gibson's BBQ book for St. Louis style Ribs (News flash... didn't use St. Louis Style. Just regular baby back). I doubled the rub ingredients and used Kraft BBQ sauce for the 20 min glaze. I got the ribs on sale at Acme for a "Buy One Get Two Free" deal. Cant beat that!!!
I put myself on a pedestal with the family, and it's going to be hard to recreate what I did today... but for today, I felt like I won the lottery.