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Smoked Whole Alligator! Long Read... but Pics!

Misplaced Nebraskan

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BBQ Bucket List Item Checked Off!

Also, I apologize in advance to all y'all Cajuns if I messed this up! I come in peace :emoji_handshake:

I have always wanted to smoke a whole gator and finally got around to doing so. I have eaten my fair share of gator, mostly tail, but the allure of cooking one is something that has been in the back of my head for a long time. Details below and comments throughout.

Cook Details:

Date: 6/29/19
Meat: Whole Alligator
Price: $10.95/lb (~$200 shipped)
Initial Weight: 12.5 pounds
Rub: Pitfaced Spicy Rub in brine and stuffing
Brine: Around 24 hours
Cooker: Weber Ranch Kettle
Fuel: Kingsford Charcoal and Mesquite wood chunks
Style: Low and slow
Pit Temp: 215°F to 235°F
Meat Temp: 170°F in thickest part of tail
Spritz or Spray: Nothing
Cook Time: 6.5 hours
Rest Time: not long! haha

Pics (comment on top):

Gator mostly thawed and ready for it's bath




The Bath: Water, Sugar, White Vinegar, Salt, and Pitfaced Spicy Rub (recipe below)





24 hours in the brine





Patted dry and my Friend's dog intrigued!





Abdouille and Mirepoix for the stuffing (yes I should've went with the Cajun holy Trinity... that's my b...)





Cornbread stuffing mix added





Weber Ranch Kettle banked with coals and ready for it's first smoke session!





Gator on! Mouth propped open for the future bird.





Been looking for an excuse to open a nice bottle I've been sitting on. Why not now?!





1-1.5 Hours in iirc





Coming along nicely! Head wrapped with foil after a couple hours to protect it and apparently one back foot lol.





Added the hen





Just about done and friend added in a brisket. Space for days on the Ranch!





Another fancy pour from my friend as repayment for the GTS earlier...





Done and ready to be devoured!





Picked clean and ready to be bagged up for future meals





Rambling:

OK... Where to begin... As stated previously, I have always wanted to try this. I have consumed my fair share of gator, mostly tail. I prefer blackened over fried too :emoji_thumbsup:. But, I needed to scratch that itch and go full on for a full cook!

I ordered the Alligator from LA Best seafood. They came as highly recommended as LA Crwfish Company, and truth be told, LA Crawfish only had monster gators in stock at the time of ordering which is what swayed me. The price was around $140 for the gator and $60 for drop shipping to the airport. The Gator shipped out at around 9 am and by 3 pm I had it in hand. From research, it seemed to be a consensus that the smaller gators, <15 pounds were the ones to go for. Plus, I didn't have enough people lined up for a monster and I wanted to get my feet wet on a smaller one in case it went south.

The Gator came double bagged in very heavy duty plastic still well frozen and sealed nicely. I placed it in my garage fridge for a few days to slowly thaw it out. The day before the cook, I placed the gator in a cooler and covered in a cold brine. I went with my normal White meat / poultry brine, but went light on it as I didn't want to overpower anything.

Brine:

1 gallon of water
1 Cup Salt
1 Cup Sugar
1 Cup White Vinegar
1/2 Cup Pitfaced Spicy BBQ Rub
slightly heated to incorporate

Added about 3 more gallons of cold water total to cover the gator and ice to ensure it stayed chilled.

The gator sat in this brine for about 24 hours and survived a road trip from Austin to the DFW area where I was meeting up with a friend for the cook. I also had to take the Weber Ranch with me cause I had to use this thing! :emoji_grin: That was a fun trip with small rattles the whole way...

Once there, I sprung the cook on my friend, @bvbull200 . He knew I was in route with something, but didn't know what. We were very giddy to say the least. We had another good friend, @bigdaddy4760 come over for the shindig as well. There were a few more good friends that stopped in, but unfortunately, this cook took a lot longer than anticipated and we started a little late so the crowd was thin at the finale.

For the cook, I set up the Ranch with banked coals and a few mesquite chunks. I have never smoked on this pit so I set up three pit probes and got it dialed in around 215°F up too about 230°F. Due to all the air leaks this was achieved by all three bottom intakes "closed" (they had leakage past them due to being a little loose) and the top vent about 33% open. It held like a champ in this condition.

Now came time to sit back, have some good whiskey, and stress out for the next 6 hours :emoji_joy:. I was honestly planning on about 4 hours but it wound up being closer to 7! That and we didn't start til like 16:30... oh well, live and learn. The day and whiskey went on!

For cooking, I was aiming for around 170°F in the thick part of the tail. Hindsight being what it is, and never dissecting a tail before I went in through the top of the tail. It's hard to describe but the tail has 4 main "tubes" of meat with fat pockets in between. Like a four leaf clover shape. and the bottom "tubes" are much thicker. I would probe in that area next time.

Crappy attempt to put that into a pic:

gator tail.png

Should've probed here ^^^


I'm also pretty sure I wound up with the probe in the fat pocket in the middle which lead to me reading the "stall" of the fat rendering which is why it took a bit longer than expected.


Final Thoughts and Tasting:

The bacon... Thick cut was not necessarily a bad choice and the weave makes it thicker obviously. Due to the low and slow nature, it absorbed a lot of smoke and flavor. Not the best flavor. I would do this at 250°F to 275°F, possibly 300°F next time to cook it faster. But, it did do it's job of protecting the meat! Since Gator is so lean, the brine and bacon were key to helping retain moisture.

At this point, there were just 3 of us up and impatiently waiting to taste this thing. Couple quick crappy photos and we dug in. We just started tearing pieces off.

The Ribs and "back straps or loins": Really good. Combo of Chicken, Frog legs, and a little briney flavor. Not from the brine but the seafoody salty brine flavor. The loin meat was a serious contender for top cut!

The Legs: Very Briney and Frog leg prominent. I think most may pass on this but it was still good eating.

The Tail: Mostly Chicken, small frog leg, and just a back end note of that briney taste. wonderful. The thick underside of the tail is the money spot to me. The last foot or so of the tail got pretty dried up but not jerky like. I tried to keep it as far from the fire as possible. Maybe that part needs trimmed off when it's done and used for snack fodder for the rest of the cook. Will hurt the end presentation... but maybe someone experienced can chime in.

All in all I think it was a very successful cook! I am happy I convinced myself to do it and I will be doing it again at some point!





TL;DR





Thanks for making it to the end! When researching this there wasn't a ton of info so I wanted to include my lessons to potentially help someone in the future. Fire away any questions, thoughts, or critiques!

Cheer's Y'all!

Zach
 

Misplaced Nebraskan

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Hell!
Freakin!
Yeah!

I applaud you sir, very nice cook.
Worthy of a Carousel ride!

I have more to say but I am in my truck right now driving so I can't.
Thanks Chili! I'll be around. Drive safe and then come on back!

What time was your friends brisket done? It looks like he threw it on there late at night?
It was for a separate shindig the next day. Just put it on there while he got his drum set up. Plus... photo op :emoji_wink:
 

Misplaced Nebraskan

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I always learn so much from this site. Thanks for that.

JC :emoji_cat:
No Problem. This site has been my go to for long before I joined. I just want to repay all the help I've gotten.

This is an awesome cook man! Props on taking it on. Was it worth the $200 price tag?
Thanks! I like the challenges of new cooks.

I think most should try it once if you have a good sized gathering planned. It is a show stopper.

I can say, that I will be doing it again. Just not next weekend :emoji_laughing:

For most, just ordering up some tail meat may be the way to go at a minimum. Such a good eat if it hasn't been tasted.
 

tallbm

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Wow great and amazing post!
Thank you so much for all of the info. If the day ever comes I know to piggy back off your lessons learned.

I love the idea of this smoke, I just think my MES40 would do the greatest job holding that gator haahaha. I'll start with a little suckling pig some day and go from there to graduate to an alligator... some day :)
 

tx smoker

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Damn Zach!! You went way over the top on this one. I agree with Chile: worthy of a carousel ride. I didn't bother to check the carousel before reading this though. It may already be there:emoji_wink: I'd have loved to been present for this one. Only had gator once, a long time ago, and it was in a stew that was absolutely delicious. Got any of that gator meat left you can bring this weekend for little ol' me to taste?? We may want to consider splitting the cost and doing something really over the top for the Cen Tex Que and Brew event coming up. I bet we could get half a hog on my smoker.....but it'd be more fun to do something totally different.

Looking for the "like" button,
Robert
 

chilerelleno

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Al'right, finally read the whole post, and, Wow, what good one it is.
Nicely written and pictured.
Great job on that rascally reptile!
Like!
Such a classic gator cook, done proper from snout to tail and a beautiful presentation.

It's a cook where the price has always thrown me off, that and people balking at eating gator.

And that Weber Ranch... Nice.
One heck of a big kettle!
I've coveted one for a long time.
 
Last edited:

Misplaced Nebraskan

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Wow great and amazing post!
Thank you so much for all of the info. If the day ever comes I know to piggy back off your lessons learned.

I love the idea of this smoke, I just think my MES40 would do the greatest job holding that gator haahaha. I'll start with a little suckling pig some day and go from there to graduate to an alligator... some day :)
Thank you! Glad the info is found to be helpful. The MES might get a little crowded but I think you could hang one in there! and the pig is a great idea. I did one of them too! was actually more $$ than the gator!

Damn Zach!! You went way over the top on this one. I agree with Chile: worthy of a carousel ride. I didn't bother to check the carousel before reading this though. It may already be there:emoji_wink: I'd have loved to been present for this one. Only had gator once, a long time ago, and it was in a stew that was absolutely delicious. Got any of that gator meat left you can bring this weekend for little ol' me to taste?? We may want to consider splitting the cost and doing something really over the top for the Cen Tex Que and Brew event coming up. I bet we could get half a hog on my smoker.....but it'd be more fun to do something totally different.

Looking for the "like" button,
Robert
I got a bag of gator with your name on it! and I agree, we need some over the top item for the shindig! we'll have to brainstorm this weekend. Appreciate the words.
 

Misplaced Nebraskan

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Al'right, finally read the whole post, and, Wow, what good one it is.
Nicely written and pictured.
Great job on that rascally reptile!
Like!
Such a classic gator cook, done proper from snout to tail and a beautiful presentation.

It's a cook where the price has always thrown me off of, that and people balking at eating gator.

And that Weber Ranch... Nice.
One heck of a big kettle!
I've coveted one for a long time.
Thank you again sir! I finally had to take the plunge and do one up. As for the Ranch kettle, I swung at a few on Craigslist but was always late or tried to go to low of offer. When a friend sent me this link I jumped fast! so glad I did. Will be in the rotation frequently!
 

Bearcarver

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Oh My!!
This is one of the best Threads I've seen, and also an Outstanding Step by Step!!
I love it, Zach.
I'm so glad I didn't miss this one!!
Like

Bear
 

checkdude

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Great write up! Thank you. I do love to try new foods and can't even emagine what that must taste like. Living up in the middle of Canada the only alligator I seen was on tv.lol
what does it compare to if any?
 

Misplaced Nebraskan

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Oh My!!
This is one of the best Threads I've seen, and also an Outstanding Step by Step!!
I love it, Zach.
I'm so glad I didn't miss this one!!
Like

Bear
now that is a humbling comment! Thank you bear! Not sure how much traffic the wild game section gets but some of the usual suspects found it here.

Means a lot sir. Thank you. Goal is to help anyone that will attempt this in the future with some details.

Great write up! Thank you. I do love to try new foods and can't even emagine what that must taste like. Living up in the middle of Canada the only alligator I seen was on tv.lol
what does it compare to if any?
Thanks! Best description is Chicken and frog legs. Has the texture of chicken to an extent. Really depends on where you get the meat.

Tail is chicken predominant with a frog leg mix and a very slight back end seafood brine I guess you could call it.

Ribs and backs were about 50/50 chicken/frog leg. very great sections.

Legs are very, well, frog leg like and heavy ish on that briney taste.

It's close to chicken but you know you're not eating chicken if that makes sense.
 

xray

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Wow, what a great read and nice pictures. I only had fried gator bites once at a seafood restaurant, they were good. It kind of reminded me of a cross between chicken and scallops.

Out of curiosity, when you saved the meat, why did you save the head? Is anything edible on it?

Or can you take it to work and put it in the employee fridge...It probably works better than writing your name on the bag! Nobody is stealing that lunch!!
 

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