My smoker is becoming so versatile, it's crazy.
It's really a great tool.
It cooks without burning.
It makes awesome bacon without the mess of doing it in the house.
And it seems like I keep thinking of new things to try.
So last night, I had hamburgers - probably about 1/4 pound size, and was going to throw them on the grill when I thought about the smoker. Oh yea. The smoker!
The more I use the smoker, the quicker it I seem to be able to get it set up.
I love the advice of using an aluminum pan for water - I bought an 8 - pack from Home depot that were really inexpensive.
Chuck a couple handfuls of wood chips into the cast iron frying pan (another great modification), and
FIRE IT UP!!!
Ok, I know. I know. Take it easy, Wayne. It's just a smoker.
My wife, and probably others too, doesn't realize the revelation of doing the same grilling on the same type of propane grill for 40 years and then finding this new option. I love it.
I love the way the food comes out of the smoker, the smell, the taste, even the texture is different.
Also, I could be wrong, but it seems to me that the meat is somehow better for you because the fat is liquefied at the lower temperatures and drips off, rather than being cooked into the meat like I think the grill tends to do. (maybe I'm wrong, but it makes me feel better).
So here's the 'Old Way' that I would have done dinner last night.
We pulled fresh green beans out of the garden.
We also bought a couple of Banana Pepper plants to try this year and they are exploding with peppers - I've never stuffed them although we buy them whenever we go to the Buffalo NY 'Italian Festival' and we both love them.
I had both the 4 hamburgers and 6 strips of bacon from our local butcher.
The old way?
Throw the hamburgers on the grill.
Flip them, extinguishing the flare-ups with a splash from my can of beer.
Put the cheese on top and put the 'hockey pucks' on a plate.
I thought about trying the stuffed peppers in the oven and I'm sure it would have been fine - but they wouldn't have been SMOKED!
And the bacon?
Here's a funny story. I'm at our son's house a couple months ago grilling outside. We have hamburgers on the grill, and we put the bacon on the grill to cook. First time I ever tried to cook bacon on the grill. So everything's going fine. The bacon's looking awesome, and pull off a half of piece to taste - just to make sure it's edible for the wives, of course!.
"Hey dad", I want to show you what I added to the shooting range out back. Ok, grab a beer, let's go take a look!
We check out the newest 'Gong' setup (If you don't shoot guns, it's nothing more than a round piece of 1/4" steel plate that hangs from a couple of chains. If you're target practicing with handguns, it's a little different experience than just shooting paper targets. Mind you, because we were drinking, we were not shooting, just looking at the target range.)
We go back to the grill to check the progress.
What the heck? Where's the bacon?
Huh! I guess mom took it off.
"Hey Karen, did you take the bacon off the grill?"
"No! And quit goofing off at the target range, we want to eat!".
Upon closer inspection, we see the tiniest, little piece of bacon on the far corner of the grill.
Holy Sh_t, the bacon vaporized! It's gone!
It must have dripped fat on the burner, started on fire, and literally burned up.
Oh well, we had the hockey pucks with cheese without bacon.
Back to my story from yesterday.
So yea. In the old days (3 months ago), burgers on the grill, bacon on the stove in the house, peppers in the oven.
But, my friends, this is not the 'old days'. These are the new days. The Smoke'in Days.
I start lighting the smoker and my wife (the lovely Karen) yells over - "Are you using that smoker again???"
My response was quick and precise.
Then, the comment I dreaded. The same comment I heard when I told her I was making Spatchcock smoked chicken a few weeks ago.
I waited in silence, and then I heard it - over the drone of the central air conditioning unit that some genius contractor put right outside our house on the edge of the patio. Great location.
I couldn't resist. I said 'Just like the Spatchcock chicken?'.
As most of you know, my spatchcock chicken was the most moist, flavorful chicken I've ever cooked.
It was 91 degrees last night at 6:00 when I was cooking, so I got her a beer.
All was well.
I decided to get myself another beer too, for medicinal purposes so I didn't pass out from heat stroke. You understand.
So here we go. And, I took pictures.
First? The Banana Peppers.
They came out fantastic in the smoker.
Here's the simple recipe I kind of invented.
I took the peppers and sliced open the top third, took all the seeds out, rinsed in cold water, and kept the top piece to use as a 'cap' or cover.
For the filling, I mixed the following:
- 1/2 pound of mild Italian sausage. The butcher had some that wasn't made into links, but you could take a link apart easy enough.
- Italian bread crumbs - you'll figure out how much by just mixing it all till it seems right.
- Mexican, shredded taco cheese
- I don't know the name, but I bought a jar of sauce that had tomatoes, peppers, onions, salt, sugar, and vinegar all mixed together in big chunks. I just mixed a little of this in.
I took a little and rolled it into a small tube shape and gently pressed it into the pepper.
Drizzled a little garlic olive oil on the peppers and meat.
Then put the top pepper 'cap' back on and a little more oil on top.
I didn't know exactly how to cook them, so I decided to put the stuffed peppers in a perforated aluminum pan - uncovered, and just let the smoke and heat go all over.
Now, I have to figure out how to lay everything out in the smoker.
I've got the Masterbuilt with 4 vertical racks in it.
Well, let me think.
I put the bacon strips on the top rack, thinking they will drip down on everything below and that's got to be good. (so much for my argument of how healthy smoked meat is).
Next, I put the hamburgers below the bacon, then the pan of peppers below the hamburgers, off to the side a little.
I start it up, and - using my new-found knowledge of vent settings, I open all of them all the way. (Thanks again for that).
Man is it hot out here, I mumble.
"What? I can't hear you over the air conditioner!" Karen says.
"I SAID, MAN IS IT HOT OUT HERE!!!"
My wife loves the sun, the heat, and I'm pretty sure she loves it when I make dinner. :)
Me? I love making dinner, but the heat and sun? Not so much. I'm a shade guy.
So, what else can I do? I'm standing in the sun, the smoker's stoked and everything's progressing nicely.
"Want another beer?"
Now, if anyone thinks I'm drinking too much while I'm smoking, just let me remind you of the safety aspect of always having a beer in your hand. Smoking can be dangerous, as I found out. Open flame, grease, BACON.
I walked over to check the smoker temperature. Hmmm, that's nice. 300 degrees and rising.
Those guys on the forum were right. Opening the vents all the way really helps to get the temperature higher.
I better check to see how the burgers are coming along.
I open the door, and the bottom of the smoker is in flames!!!
No problem. A quick flick of the beer can, and the flame is out and we're smoking again.
I figure it must have been the bacon.
So now I'm thinking maybe the better way to smoke bacon is to put it directly over the water pan, on the lowest rack. I think that way, the bacon grease will drop into the water, instead of next to the burner.
Back to the story. An hour in, I take the burgers out. You know, the ones that are going to be dry (by my wife's prediction).
She walks by as I'm transferring them to the grill, just to basically melt the cheese on them.
"Check these out" I say. "Look at the nice color. I break off a small piece and offer it to her.
And her next comment, is one of the reasons that all of us enjoy this craft as much as we do.
She puts the piece in her mouth, her eyes open wider and she says "go get me another beer.".
No, I'm just kidding. She actually says "Oh my god, is that good! I can really taste the smoke! Good job!".
Ok, I lied. She didn't say 'good job', but she did say it was really good.
That's what I like to hear.
As much as I love the flavor and the results of cooking, it's so much better when other people are enjoying it too. Right?
And if Karen's happy, well guys, let's just say, everyone's happy.
Finishing up, burgers are done, cheese is melted.
Bacon is unbelievable. I always make extra because I have to taste test a piece, and give a little to 'Penny' (the wonder dog).
I put the green beans in a pan, on the side burner of the grill and slow cook them with some chicken broth that evaporates during the cooking process.
And finally, the peppers. I didn't cover them in aluminum foil, I just let them cook for a good hour or so in the smoker.
The pepper itself was tender and moist.
The stuffing mixture of meat, cheese, sauce, was fantastic.
I finished them up by sprinkling a little more mexican taco cheese on top of them to melt.
It really was the highlight of the meal.
As everything's coming together, I ask "Do you want one more beer?"
She always asks the same question: 'Do we have time'?
Karen, there's always time for a beer. I can put everything on low heat, and we've got all the time in the world.
If it didn't show in the message, I really love my wife and she loves me too.
We're moving into that new part of the relationship where the kids are all gone, and we've got to figure out how to put up with each other without all the distractions of raising 3 kids. We're in the middle spot - kids are gone but no grandkids yet.
But it's all good.
We go in the house, had another great, great meal - and I've got another recipe to lock in my head.
Wow, were they good.
Thanks for reading.
If this long-winded babble is too much for the forum, let me know - but I hope you enjoy reading it.
Here's the photos:
I had too much sausage mixture so we got a few more pepper out of the garden and I tried the other way, just cut them in half and filled each half. Either way worked perfect.
Note the pieces of green, red, and white in the mix. That's that sauce jar I bought that had red and green sweet peppers and onions in it. If anyone wants to know what it is, I'll take a photo of the jar when I get home tonight.
Finished product. I think the meat is 'redder' than if you cooked it in a frying pan because it's smoked, and because of the cheese mixed in. I did check with my $10 Thermo-pen and it is definitely cooked.
Also, the photo for some reason didn't capture the real color of the peppers. They looked much better in person than the photo shows.
Hot off the smoker/grill - smoked bacon (crispy), and cheeseburgers.
I poured some BBQ sauce on the plate first, then placed the hamburgers on top of it.
I cut up the bacon, we didn't use rolls, actually, we didn't have any. But it was really good to eat without the bread.
Tomatoes lightly salted from our garden, and the green beans.
Actually, I don't know if we grew the wrong variety of green beans because they were really stringy, and not very good.
I'll have to check and see what we purchased.
Maybe we left them on the plants too long.
Obviously, I love this forum. And I love sharing this with you.