Time for a new twist, along with an old familiar favorite. I just had to give this one a whirl. If you have a slow connection, be patient for loading...it will be worth your wait.
I've been wanting to try something completely new for a spinner session, and while at the store yesterday I spied some acorn squash...hmm...HMM. We don't use squash very often at all...a couple times per year, if that (don't ask me why, because we really like those we've tried). Shooting from the hip and knowing nothing about the background of the acorn, I decided to grab one based solely on their uniformity of size (more even cooking on a spit-rod...always looking ahead), and I selected one with mostly green color (turns out those with uniform, dark green coloring are the best according to online info)...weight was 1.73lb. The size and shape alone looked appealing as a spit-rod candidate...I just couldn't pass up the opportunity for another experiment...and the rest is history.
This morning I searched info online and discovered that the acorn should be a fantastic choice for rotisserie cooking due it's hard skin, which should allow it to hold together throughout cooking far better than the softer-skinned varieties. It did bring up a question in my mind: how come no body is doing it, or at least, not posting (that I could find) online about rotisserie cooking their acorns? Well, if you know me, I wouldn't let having to be the scapegoat scare me off...let's play!!!
A couple of responses to a question that was posted online stated that the texture of the acorn is somewhat gritty/mealy, like the texture of a pear...time will tell. Also noted was that this is a very wet/watery squash compared to a butternut, buttercup and several other drier varieties, and also has less starchy components.
Here's today's victim:
Initially, I thought of coring it by cutting just an opening from the top/stem as you would with a pumpkin when making a Jack-o-Lantern to scoop out the seeds, and just holding that end in place with the spit-rod tines for cooking, while the second pair of tines are used to hold the bird against the acorn squash (I currently only have one pair of tines to fit this rod). Then I realized, why not just use the KISS method? So, I decided to open the ends with a knife and stab through it end-to-end. Thought about piercing it in a dozen or so places with a small blade (paring knife) to relieve steam pressure, just in case the spit-rod and tine punctures are too snug of a fit to release pressure, but my prep made for a slightly loose fit on the spit rod (I don't want an exploding squash in a charcoal cooking chamber to ruin all of my dinner with air-born ash, not to mention what would become of the squash). Sure, I could scrape the ashes away and right-off the chicken skin as a total loss, but why risk it?
I know there would be bird drippings escaping onto the squash, being they would be in contact with each other, and contact may also reduce uniformity in cooking of the acorn as well as the bird...that's where a second pair of spit-rod tines will be beneficial in keeping things separated, as well as keep the bird and squash more stable on the spit-rod...huh, if only I had...hey, wait a minute...I had to go look, and just happen to have an old stash of my outdoor cooking gear and which contained another pair that fits my current spit-rod...wish I would have checked for these when I spun 2 birds a while back......but, now that I have found them...AWESOME!!!
I think I have everything I could wish for to get this started, so, let the adventure begin!
The acorn ends are cored-out and ready for the spit-rod:
Bird in bondage...tied-up nice and snug:
Oh, be sure to hold the tines in the desired alignment position when you stab the squash, as they will try to expand and orient themselves pointing outwards, away from the squash, depending on the type of point. Mine are clipped at an angle instead of being a beveled, round spear-point. It was a bit of a chore, especially with how tough the acorn's skin is...thought I might break the handle on my spit rod while I balanced the whole chicken and squash while attempting to apply a steady force and stick the acorn with four tines all at once...patience, patience. I could have punctured the acorn and tried to line up the times with those holes, but that would have complicated things even more...wait, push the tines against the squash to mark it, then puncture with a semi-blunt object prior to insertion...sure, that would be just the ticket. Now, if only I would have thought of that about 7 hours ago...well, at least now YOU know. Moving forward...
Ready to rub the bird and give it a spin:
I loaded the spit-rod with the breast towards the outside (handle-end of spit-rod) so the dark meat catches more heat than the breast in hopes that the breast will be around 165* and the dark meat a bit hotter when I yank it out to rest. Carry-over should easily bring it up another 5-8* with such a hot cook chamber. I have a strong dislike for over-cooked breast meat...fingers crossed. I also loaded the acorn with the slightly smaller end towards the outside. BTW, chicken loaded first is best, so you can quickly and easily remove the squash before the chicken if the squash is done cooking first...SPOILER: that happened today for me:
So, for a 325* oven, I recall seeing a 90-120 minute cooking time, which is not very far from what a 4.5-5lb whole bird should take, so I'll load them both together and let it roll. The plan is to melt butter onto the cut sections and apply a savory seasoning blend prior to serving.
Bird is rubbed, fire is lit and the smoke is settling-down a bit, so let's get rolling:
Temps averaged around 380* on the off-side of the fire for a couple hours, measured about 3" under the lid vent...probably around 450-475* on the hot side (single charcoal basket is lit, on far side, and left side in additional pics):
Right side basket is loaded (not lit), just to block the draft and keep it flowing to the fire. I vented from the right side only with the lid (no lid rotations).
My Roti-Rig...pre-2010 Weber 18.5" One Touch Gold (OTG)...(this model was dropped from production several years back...and they're such a sweet little kettle...)...and my nearly new generic Roti-Kit...along with my 2014 26.75" OTG in the left-background, and hiding behind it is my 18.5" WSM...I sure would love to have a Roti-Kit for that 26" beast, especially now that I brought it back to life with a front leg-support repair (drilled and pop-riveted the tabs to the fire-bowl):
Heat and smoke provided by Ambers Charcoal Briquettes in a single Weber charcoal basket, along with hickory and apple wood chunks.
The whole chicken is seasoned with a Garlic & Lemon/Herb blend...low sodium and moderate black pepper.
OMG!!! 2.25 hours in...157* in the breast, and mid-160s in the thighs...I'll be damned!!! My placement method worked!!! Thighs and legs will be slightly over-cooked, but they a far more forgiving than the breast meat...I'd rather have mid-170s in the dark meat, anyway.
Ya gotta LOVE IT!!!
I let the fire die-down as it was reaching close to finished temp...dropped too low at around 230*, and dropping fast. I built it back up with 1/4 chimney of hot coals for another push. It should create a lower carry-over temp-factor for the bird as a result, but in essence, I created ripe conditions for an unintentional forced-stall in the bird...and so it goes. Probably added another hour to reach finished temps. Last checks, the breast was 168* @ 3.25hrs, then dropped to the lower 160s @ 3.75hrs. I got distracted with a visitor and wasn't paying attention to the time, or I would have kept the fire up better. And, I know that the baskets don't hold enough coals to run more than 3 hours with only 1 burning instead of both and choking the draft down to maintain temps. The acorn squash was probably mash-able texture @ 3hrs, so I did a quick pull, released the tine set-screws and got it out after 4 hours. The yard bird can finish without totally obliterating the squash beyond recognition.
I think it's done...in-board tines fell out before I got it completely onto the resting rack and tray:
It did hold onto it's shape pretty well...I'm pleased, thus far:
I've never eaten or cooked acorn squash before, but I think I'll be able to detect the caramelized flavor produced from the high-heat cooking, and definitely smoke flavor, providing it was able to penetrate through that tough skin. But, with it resting before serving while waiting on the bird, at least some smoke should soak through.
I've realized at this point that I'm still rusty with the rotisserie (used it about 6-8 times), and I've never used it with just one fire before...so, a few lessons along the way that I hope I can remember....if not, I can refer to this thread...other than sharing the experience with everyone else here, that's another reason why I drop in so many notes along the way...cuz I might forget...OK, I WILL forget, eventually...
The finish, at last...~172* in the breast and ~177* in the thigh...that's nearly perfect, IMHO:
Sliced end-to-end and ready to scoop out the seeds:
Almost dinner time:
I took a breast-quarter and separated the wing...sided with spinach and this lovely acorn squash. I laid the acorn cut-side down and peeled the skin off, buttered and gave it a 20-second hit in the nuke-box to melt the butter, then tossed on some table-grind black pepper and enjoyed!!! There was no need to mash...my fork literally fell through it like a hot knife through butter, only easier...maybe like a hot knife through warm butter? Texture of the breast was firm, moist, yet would pull apart with a fork...nice...skin wasn't exactly the way I'd like, but I can discard some tougher/chewier spots. I just can't get the results of rotisserie chicken with any other cooking method, so in recent months, this is my go-to for birds. No more beer-can birds for me, and indirect open-grate smoked? Naw...that still doesn't get it done for me. I only know two things for sure: it's been too long since my last rotisserie bird, and, never have I done a more surprisingly good side for a bird, all on the same spinner:
That was worth the effort, and the wait. I'm nearly convinced that you would have to severely abuse the acorn squash to destroy it in a cooker (I thought I was REALLY pushing the envelope here)...well, that is unless you boiled or braised it...that would just be SO WRONG. This squash was so tender it was nearly falling off of the spit-rod/tines, even with that tough hide it has when raw...and they are tough all the way through the flesh. That said, I think I'd have to look long and hard to find another variety of squash capable of handling rotisserie cooking...it needs to have a heavy, tough skin to hold up to rotation for a couple of hours (+) and not fall apart and drop into the drip pan or flip onto the fire. Would I recommend this for anyone to try for their first rotisserie squash? Absolutely. I can't see where you could really mess it up...it's pretty fool-proof and easy...you just saw the evidence.
I did taste some caramelized flavors from the high-temp cooking, as I expected, and the smoke was right there up front. The acorn itself has a sweeter profile, which was a nice change and good addition to the moist and delicious chicken (we love a proper rotisserie bird). In my limited experience with squashes, they seem to be one of three flavor profiles: sweet, bitter-sweet/savory (with slight variations), or bland (with varied degrees, from nearly flavor-less to slightly bitter-sweet)...the acorn seems to be the sweeter type with somewhat of a richness, as well...not from the butter...maybe they have some natural fats/oils that provide this added deeper flavor. And, maybe with the high-temp cooking it brought out even more of these flavors...quite possibly so. I really enjoyed it...wife wasn't big on it, but I think she just wasn't expecting it to be sweet. There is something to be said for high-temp cooking and how it can transform the natural flavors of foods into something even more pleasing to the palate. There is no substitute for the flavor of caramelized foods...certain meat preparations, fats, as well as starches and vegetables can benefit from this process.
Oh, and that gritty/mealy texture of the acorn that I mentioned was written about in some answers on another cooking/blog site? Non-existent...period...slightly, and I do mean very slightly fibrous, but nothing off-putting about it, and absolutely no grainy/gritty feel in the mouth. I did cook the daylights out of it (over-cooked pulled pork or beef brisket can turn mealy from over-cooking and you can't reverse it), but hey, if over-cooking this acorn squash destroyed what others described as being an off-texture, well, then I'll just have to do it again...the same way...and enjoy it just as much as this first time around...
Smoke flavor of the chicken was fairly light for a smoke-lover such as myself, but that's to be expected, especially with high-temp cooking, and, the skin/fat left intact. It's a whole new story if you go naked and low & slow. Smoke flavor of the acorn was great...if I could do it all over again, which I probably will, soon, I'd like to spin-smoke the squash ahead of time, remove the seeds, bag it and let it age for a couple days in the fridge to let the smoke equalize with all of the flesh in the squash (with the skin-on)...similar to what we do with our smoked cheese, but much shorter aging, of course. Maybe do a 2-3 acorn rotisserie batch...hmm...OK, maybe if I freeze the extras. For dining an hour out of the smoker it was still a very good smoke flavor, and I had a pretty heavy smoke going for the first hour or so. The hickory/apple combination seemed like a great match, overall, between the squash and bird alike. Somewhat sweet from both the apple and hickory, but with a sharper, faster onset of flavor, from the hickory...not overwhelming at all.
Overall, a couple obstacles to overcome today, although nothing serious. The acorn squash is one I'll be doing again, for sure...and keep practicing my spins so I can eventually do whatever I'd like, within reason, on a spit...oh, wait, I CAN do that, right now...LOL!!!
I started the spin @ 3:30 and had dinner ready @ 8:00...um, I think. Took forever to upload pics today for some strange reason which I'm not aware of (4:00-10:00, with some delays/distractions along the way), but, that's what I do...I don't get discouraged easily, and I hate to give up!!! Oh, my...it's time for eyelid inspections already.
Great smokes (and spins) to all, and to all a good night!!!
Edited by forluvofsmoke - 7/15/16 at 11:16pm