No-Foil Spares in Gourmet Stacker - Wet/Dry Smoke Chamber Humidity: Q-View & Method

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forluvofsmoke

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Aug 27, 2008
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Hey all!

I had another chance for a smoke today (I only have one day off work again), and decided to play with smoke chamber humidity variables again today, this time with Spare Ribs.

My previous experience with no-foiled smokes has strongly indicated that there are several things we can do with smoke chamber humidity to improve our finished products, and today, I intend to demonstrate how well a wet (high humidity) smoke chamber during the smoke will allow for a good smoke reaction as normal, then, remove the added water, drastically reducing smoke chamber humidity to tighten the meat's fibers by drying the surface about mid-way through the cooking in order to improve interior moisture retention and bark development. I've used a similar method with lean trimmed pork butts, and it did improve the natural moisture of the pulled pork and also created a very well developed bark with minimal seasoning/dry rub.

On a side note, I stumbled upon a fix for grate temp variances with the stacked smoke chambers (Smoke n Grill barrel on top of Gourmet) by using the charcoal pan from the Smoke n Grill for water, instead of a water pan, for the start of the smoke with a wet chamber. The charcoal pan is larger diameter than the water pan, and the smaller gap between the barrel and the pan seems to have done the trick...less free-flowing heat rushing up towards the lowest grate (or something, not sure what the reason is yet), and in turn, the 3rd and fourth (uppermost) grates are mostly running within 10* of the lowest grate...cool to know that it can be done. It's funny how a person can accidentally stumble into a fix for a problem...I was working on this last summer and pretty much gave up on the idea that I could get even grate temps with the 4ft+ tall smoker.

I used a new variation of one our favorite "go to" rubs, Red Bell Pepper Rub, found HERE. I just published the recipe in the Wiki today, as it was conceived just for this smoke...just a simple, slightly spicy and sweet flavor profile, with a relatively light color from the red bells and chili:

4 Tbsp ground red bell pepper, from dried 3/8" diced

1 Tbsp ground garlic, from dried minced

1/2 Tbsp medium ground rosemary, from dried leaves

1 tsp medium ground thyme, from dried leaves

1 tsp medium ground oregano, from dried leaves

1 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp ground cumin

2 Tbsp freshly ground black peppercorn

1 Tbsp kosher salt

Smoke provided by a combo of hickory/cherry/pecan/apple chunks. Total smoke time was 4 hours, with water in the pan (pan elevated about 8" above the top of the coal-bed) for 3 hours, then transitioning to a dry smoke chamber for the remainder of cooking. 5-hr total cooking time, with the last 2 hours @ ~240-250*.  Also, these are not large slabs, with one weighing 4-1/3lbs and the other just under 4lbs...small spares, IMO...usually closer to 5lbs and up to 5-3/4 for me (7-hr smokes @ 225* & 5,000ft elevation).

I started with only 1 quart of water, then added just a few cups after 2 hours as it was about to run dry. This came out just about perfect for running dry after 3 hours into the smoke. Ambient temps are nearing 100*, smoker is in the sun and relative humidity is 3%...no, no, you read correctly...3% R/H. So, it should be a great opportunity for me to further investigate the dry smoke chamber's effects on hot smoked meats, while I look for that balance of smoke reaction with a wet chamber and seal the juices in with a dry chamber for the second half of cooking. Bark development should be very well, especially with dry rub I've chosen for this smoke.

I didn't take prep pics today, as the finished ribs are what I really want you to see, but here are a couple from the 2.5-hr mark for your drooling pleasure...

Upper grate position in the Gourmet barrel with 3/4 slab...looking in through the Smoke n Grill's side access door:

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A bit higher angle here so you can see down into the barrel at the water pan...the shadow from the flash is from the lowest grate in the Smoke n Grill barrel:

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Lowest Smoke n Grill grate with 3/4 slab..this is where the water pan would be resting with the lowest grate directly on top if in stock configuration:

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And lastly, the top grate of the Smoke n Grill with the small rib ends and flap meat trimmed off of the 2 full slabs...this gives the best mid-smoke representation of the dry rub:

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4.25 hours in, I checked pull-back and did a bend test through the door opening on both slabs with 18" stainless tongs, then checked the top grate...lowest grate here:

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This slab on the 2nd grate has less pull-back than the lowest one, so he got rotated to the lowest grate where it's a bit warmer, and the one from there went to the middle...quick swap:

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HEY!!! Where's that other piece of flap meat?!?!?!? OK, so I had some samples, but I did share with everyone else hanging around the pool cooling off...it is freakin' hot today, pushing triple digits...well, it has been in the upper 90's for several days, and no relief in sight for several more days:

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At 5.5 hours, I was happy with the look and feel, everyone was readying the patio tables and chairs, sides were done, so I commenced with slicing. I took pics from different angles, with forced-flash and no flash, as I was dealing with changing light conditions due to intermittent high clouds, and I just didn't want to miss anything here, so enjoy!

These were loaded with natural juices, and are by far better than any no-foiled pork ribs I've ever smoked. The smoke ring shows a deep, long reaction time, so the wet smoke chamber start-up kept things on track for the smoke. With my no-foil ribs in the past, I kept a wet smoke chamber for the duration and did not get nearly this good of results, with all but the heaviest sections of the rib rack starting to dry out significantly more than these did today.

Bark wasn't quite as prominent as I expected on the heavier portions, but then with spares, you have some fat layering which may inhibit the bark to some degree. The smaller ribs did have a more defined bark. The bark could easily be kicked-up a bit more with specific dry rub ingredients and careful formulations so as to avoid scorching of added sugars.

Straight out of the Gourmet Stacker to a new poly board, just so you can see all the juices after slicing:

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The 2 slabs are stacked on the left:

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The 1 remaining flap and small rib trimmings on the right:

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I cut the thinner end of a slab first to see how the lighter cross-section took the smoke and chamber humidity levels. Oh, and I used a serrated knife instead of a straight blade, as I suspected the bark would be too hard to cut easily...as it turned out, it would have been just that:

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The board juices have some rendered fat, but also contains some meat juices as you can see by the transparency of some droplets...very good interior moisture:

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Here's a thicker portion of the slab...can't argue with that smoke ring...:

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I can't say that I've ever had everything that I wanted from a smoke come through perfectly, but this one came really, really close to my ultimate no-foiled pork spare rib. Smoke flavor was moderate, with a slight bite from the hickory, a good depth from the cherry, a pungent aroma and smoothness from the pecan, with the apple bringing in a bit sweeter profile (nearly perfect for my liking).

The dry rub was nice, but we are partial to the red bell pepper blends I've been concocting for a couple years now. If you haven't used sweet red bells for adding to dry rubs yet, you really owe it to yourself to look into this, as they can really broaden the flavor profiles of your smoked or grilled meats and vegetables.

Overall, the method for smoking today using a wet chamber humidity for smoke, and then changing to a dry chamber has yet again shown me that it is very useful and effective at achieving good smoke reaction time for the meat, while allowing for better natural moisture retention in the meat when it has fully cooked. I'm by no means finished with this...it has quickly become my standard smoking process for most every hot smoked meat I cook. I'll post more about it in my future smokes as I expand this method into different cuts of pork and beef, and will continue to refine the wet to dry smoke chamber time ratios for my smoker, water pan proximity to the heat source, and my semi-arid climate as I go along.

With a little luck, I may have an opportunity to take a second run at spares with the wet/dry chamber method very soon, but with so many meats to try this on, I won't make any promises! LOL!!!

It's been fun, and now I'm done!

Great smokes to all!

Eric

EDIT: Wiki Article: http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/a/wet-to-dry-no-foil-smoke-chamber-method-for-smoking-meats
 
Last edited:

chef jimmyj

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Looks like you nailed it!...JJ
 

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