What is being said....

"I need dessert for my blood sugar."

Mallory, 7 yrs.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Well....At Least The Brisket Was Good

The route to the Super Bowl (dinner) was going to be low and slow.  I had 3 briskets to cook that I had put on a rub and marinated for 24 hours.  Two were 2lbs each (all the way from a butcher in IA who was hard of hearing) and the 3rd was 11lbs from Sams' Club (no disability with the butcher that I know of). The plan was to cook the large brisket at 225* for about 15 hours.  I would pull the smaller briskets after about 4 hours, turn them into burnt ends, and then put them back on the smoker for the final two hours of the cook so everything was done at once.  One thing I've learned in my short month-long academy is that time means nothing in BBQ.  If a piece of meat is *supposed* to take 10 hours to cook, it can take anywhere from 6 to 16 hours.  It makes it difficult to plan to have a meal done and ready to serve at a specific time.  That is why many people BBQ the day prior to the meal and then re-heat it if they can.  They are not rushed, stressed, smell like hickory (like that is a bad thing) or tired for the big meal.

In my *perfect* world, I was going to start the cook at 11:00 pm on Saturday and have everything ready by 3:00 Sunday afternoon (remember, time means nothing in BBQ world).  We could snack on the burnt ends during the first half and the brisket could rest for a couple of hours before dinner.  I go out to pre-heat the smoker and it's snowing!  Nobody told me about this.  I know that it's tough to keep the smoker at a steady temp with a cold wind blowing across it.  Plus the cold temps can really impact cooking time (good thing time means nothing).  I move my smoker down under our covered porch and put one of Bergen's walls that he uses for CQB (Close Quarters Battle) up as a shelter.  It wasn't pretty, but it would help.  I put on a combination of mesquite and pecan wood and soon the smoke is wafting (actually blowing across the yard at 40 mph) in the air.

I get the meat on right about 11:00 pm.  With the cold temps/wind and 15lbs of cold meat in it, the smoker takes nearly an hour to get back up to 225*.  I monitor the temp for about two hours, making adjustments and finally getting it to settle in where I want it. I have a remote thermometer and have the alarm set if the temps get too high or low.  The temps have been holding steady and I decide to get some rest at 2:00.  At 2:30 the alarm starts going off (Augh!).  The temp in the box is dropping.  I go out and adjust it, but it won't raise in temp.  Before long, I've got the smoker on high and it's maintaining a temp right around 220*.  I didn't realize I was going to have to fight against the cold so much.  I try to rest again around 3:30 and the alarm goes of at 4:30.  The meat temp on the small briskets was showing 185*, but my alarm was set for 195*, something wasn't right. I turn off the alarm and try to sleep for another hour when Jynelle will be up for church.  Up at 5:30 with Jynelle to check the meat, 193*, just about there.  The smaller ones are finally done at 5:50 am.  Now, I didn't think of this earlier, but these small briskets had been cooking for nearly 7 hours.  They should have been done closer to 3-4 hours.  Of course time doesn't mean anything, but in this case it did.  I got the small briskets out and checked the temps with another thermometer - 270*....WAAAAYYYY over done.  Something was off with my thermometer and I'm not sure what, but that would explain why the meat took so long and why the smoker had to be on high to maintain 220*.  Crud, I wondered about the larger piece of meat.  I probed it with a thermometer and it's temp was about 170*.  Not yet done, but a lot further along than I had planned on.  I wrap all of the briskets in foil, let the smaller ones rest and put the larger back in our oven to finish cooking.  I didn't want to risk ruining the brisket and the meat had taken as much smoke as it was going to take.  Another 3 hours and the large brisket is done. 6 hours earlier than planned (see, time means nothing). I turn off the oven and let it rest until after church.  I may have said a prayer or two about how the meat was all going to turn out.  After resting for 3 hours, it's time to see what the damage is.  The brisket looks very good actually.  I touch it to check tenderness and it's like sticking my finger on a Jell-O mold (picture a red Jell-O ring, not the green kind with carrots and olives in it).  Just like it is supposed to be.  I start my slicing across the grain and my oh my.  The juices start seeping and the meat is near perfect!

The meat is tender and juicy and oh so good (I had to taste it to make sure).  The bark is outstanding.  I thought since I put it in foil the bark might not come out well, but apparently it had set enough in the smoker that putting it in foil didn't impact it. Remember, that black outer coating is not burnt.  It is BBQ heaven.

I get the smaller briskets cut up into bite sized cubes to make burnt ends.  The meat is much tougher, but they are going to be covered in more rub and BBQ sauce and smoked for another two hours.  Maybe the heat and moisture will soften them up.  After two hours in a pan on the smoker, the burnt ends come out much better than expected.  They are tender and juicy. The re-heating and BBQ sauce did the trick, I'm ready to load it all up and take it over to my in-laws for the Super Bowl meal.

Now for whatever reason, I didn't get pictures of the burnt ends or my sauce carrier filled up with sauce (see previous post).  I didn't have time to make my own sauce, but purchased some Nordy's KC and Texas styles, a Dr. Pepper BBQ sauce, and we still had some Famous Dave's Rich and Sassy.  The brisket was a big hit.  The burnt ends were a little heavy on the rub, but still tasted good.  Everyone enjoyed their fill and we had plenty left over to eat throughout the week for lunch.
Overall it was a great afternoon.  We ate and snacked. Played cards (Doug won again) and watched the game.  The game was one of the best we'd seen (especially after last year) and it was fun to watch up until the last 20 seconds.  Unlike BBQ, time does matter in football and the Seahawks ran out of it (or more likely, threw out of it). Oh well, here's to next year.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Hamburgers, Hot Dogs and ABTs....Oh My!

Last weekend was Mallory's 12th birthday.  12th birthday, 12th Man, Seahawks in Super Bowl...coincidence?  I think not.  Anyway, one of Mallory's favorite meals is hamburgers and she asked if I could smoke some for her party.  I thought sure, how hard could it be meat + fire = good eats (sorry AB). So I started doing my usual research days in advance.  I found all different types of responses to hamburgers cooked in a smoker.  Some said they were rubbery, others said dry, some said overdone, others said they were just "meh". Yet many people said they were the best burgers they have ever had and would never grill them again.  What to believe?  Nothing to do but try it myself and see how they come out.

The consensus with everyone seemed to be to use more fatty meat to help retain moisture.  So I started with 7lbs of 80/20 ground chuck.  I didn't want to experiment with putting a rub on burgers with 16 people coming over (I thought it might be a bit over powering) so I went conservative and added some Weber Gourmet Burger Seasoning to the meat for flavor.  Once mixed in I made average sized patties.  Reviews said that since the meat is cooked so slow, there is little shrinkage (I was in the pool!).  Now just in case these were a total flop, what could I do to put the odds in my favor of people enjoying them?  Add bacon!  Even if they were rubbery, the bacon would at least make them taste good.  Plus the drippings would help keep the meat moist.  Here is what they looked like before going in:

Since burgers only take about 1.5 to 2.0 hours to cook, I figured I would make some more ABTs as appetizers since there were several people coming over that didn't get any last week.  I made a full batch this week (12 jalapenos) and used the same ingredients as last time.  One problem.  My smoker only has 3 racks and I needed at least 5 to get everything on.  What to do?  If I only had another smoker....  Got it!  I tested the temps on my Weber grill to see if i could keep it low enough and if so, I would turn that into a smoker.  Lo and behold, with only the back burner on low, the Weber maintained a temp of 221* exactly.  Fantastic!  I started two racks of ABTs on the smoker at 225* using hickory wood this time.  I let them go two hours while I get the Weber ready to fire up.  I put a pack of wood chips in a foil packet over the back burner (under the grate) and let the grill settle in and start to smoke.  After two hours on the smoker, I move the ABTs to the Weber for another hour.  Man, they smell fantastic and look just as good.  Look at that fine smoke coming off the wood:

After I get the ABTs moved over, I load up the smoker with my hamburgers and throw in some hot dogs for good measure.  Two hours later, they were done and the guests arrived.  I was so excited to show the loaded smoker to my folks when they arrived, I forgot to get a picture of how awesome all of the food looked.  Here's a shot of them on the counter though:

Man, were these burgers good!  The combination of bacon and hickory with the beef and a little BBQ sauce.  Oh....my...goodness.  If I was the type of person to say things like "they were 'da bomb" or "they were off the hook", I would use those words.  The burger was a little more firm than how they are normally cooked on the grill....I wouldn't say rubbery, but they were definitely more firm, but not in a bad way.  They were also a little greasy from the bacon sitting on top.  Maybe put the bacon around the burger held with a toothpick next time.  Another thing I was concerned with is the burgers being medium-well done.  It turned out some were more done than others, but for the most part, they were nice and medium and even had that nice smoke ring in them:

The hot dogs were good, but after all, they are just hot dogs and how good can a hot dog be?  The ABTs?.....what can I say that hasn't already been said.  Doug, my father-in-law, doesn't like spicy food (black pepper is too hot) and he even enjoyed one.  Soaking the jalapenos for several hours is definitely the key.

Would I do burgers in the smoker every time now?  No, but I'll do them in the smoker when the occasion calls for it. I still like a burger medum rare on the grill, and if you only have a short time to cook, the grill is definitely the way to go.  I can get a little smoke going on the Weber, but with just 10 minutes of high heat cooking, it won't be anything like a 2 hour low and slow smoke bath. 

I saw a fun verse this week that another BBQ'er is using as a tag line:

Exodus 12:9 - Do not eat the meat raw or boiled in water, but roast it over a fire....

Well, I took the day off of work to prepare for cooking a brisket on Sunday, so I'd better get to it.

Go Seahawks!

Monday, January 26, 2015

This Is Getting Serious....

 My parents got me this wonderful gift for my bar-b-que adventure.  It's a homemade sauce holder.  Their friend Jerry Brown is quite the Craftsman.  He makes baby furniture and other items out of wood. They approached him about making a holder for sauce bottles   That's a lot of pressure - 12 slots for sauce!  My brother David brews his own beer and they had Jerry make him a beer holder.  BBQ.....Beer.....I'm sensing something, but I can't quite put my finger on it.....

Thanks Mom & Dad.  And thanks Jerry Brown!


Saturday, January 24, 2015


I read about these appetisers a couple of weeks ago and finally had an opportunity to make them last weekend.  ABTs, otherwise known as Atomic Buffalo Turds, are souped up jalapeno poppers.  These things are so good, they'll be the hit of the party (better than RingDings and Pepsi).  The nice thing about ABTs is you can fill them with whatever you are in the mood for, or for whatever the theme of the party is (if you go to those fancy type of parties)

Start with whole jalapeno peppers and cut them in half, top to bottom.  Rinse out all of the ribs and seeds to keep the heat down.  Pro Tip: wear food safe latex gloves or be prepared to face the consequences.

Next, soak the peppers in Sprite or similar soda for several hours to soak out more of the heat.  I used Clear Cherry Limeade water for 3.5 hours, but you can even soak them overnight if you want.

Make your filling.  Start with one block of softened Cream or Neufchatel Cheese (right next to the Cream Cheese in the dairy case).  Brown one pound of breakfast sausage, drain.  Add about 3/4 of the sausage to the cheese (or add it all if your Cardiologist says it's ok).  Finally add about 1 cup of Colby Jack cheese and mix together.

Fill each jalapeno pepper half with as much filling as it can hold.

Finally, take one pound of cheap/thin bacon and cut it in half.  Wrap each pepper with half a slice of bacon.  The bacon should stick to itself and make a nice little wrapper.

Into the smoker directly on the rack at 225* for 2.5 to 3 hours.  I used cherry wood since I used cherry limeade water.   The result:

I put them in a pre-warmed 9x13 and covered in foil.  I transported them in a cooler filled w/ a blanket and they stayed warm for a couple of hours until we ate them.  They were a big hit by all that had them.  Even the kids enjoyed them, which is saying something because Mallory is so particular about her food.  Nobody complained of any spicyness.

Obviously you can change these up to however you like. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

13 Hours to Graceland

The day had finally arrived.  After all the planning, research and shopping, it was finally time to have the rubber meet the road.  I was just hoping my meat didn't turn out like rubber, or taste like road.  I ended up changing my original plan and decided to cook on a higher temperature of 270*.  This would hopefully reduce my cooking time to 12 hours and not require me to be up all night babysitting the smoker.  I got up at 0300 and got started.  Time to preheat the smoker, soak the wood and unwrap my stinky butt.  Oh, I also decided to modify my wood for the smoke.  I read that cherry wood is mild and is best when mixed with other woods.  So I did a 50/50 mix of cherry and hickory.  Here is the picture of the butts before going into the smoker.  I put one directly on a rack and the other in a pan. The butt on the rack would be on top and it's juices would drip down onto the other in the pan.    You can also see the wood chips and wireless thermometer (life saver!).

I get the meat into the smoker at 0340 which has been preheated to 317*.  This is as high as it would go with an outside air temp of 25* (thank you Jynelle for the wireless thermometer!).  Once the door was closed I waited for the box temperature to even out and finally got it to settle at 270*.  Well, it's time to lay on the couch and rest for a bit.  I figure I'll be up in a couple of hours and check the temperature of the box and refill the wood chips.  I ended up waking almost 4 hours later (comfy couch) and I expected to see the box temp way high or low (I didn't set the alarm on the thermometer).  Well, it was right on 270* just as I had left it. The meat was already at 154* and there was still some smoke billowing out of the vent.  Outstanding! Smoking meat while sleeping and doing it like a Boss! I soak some more wood chips in preparation of replenishing the box and tenting my meat once it hits 160*.  The meat hits 160* a short time later.  I change my mind about tenting as the meat only has 40* to go and I still have 6 hours before I want to pull it out to rest.  Looking and smelling fantastic!

Added more wood at 1300 but just cherry chips this time.  There were still quite a bit of hickory chunks smoldering.  I may have over-packed the smoking box. The temp on the box keeps wanting to rise above 270*.  I chalk it up to the outside air temp going up, but discover I had forgotten to refill the water pan. It was bone dry.  (the water pan is used to maintain a consistent temp in the box and prevents large temp changes when the door is opened)  While I was filling the water pan, I checked the temp of the lower butt (the thermometer was in the top one).  I discovered that this butt is 11* cooler than the top one.  I tent the pan in hopes it will catch up with the other one.  I also find another thermometer and put it in that butt so I have two going now and can monitor the progress more closely.

I prepare a Finishing Sauce which is made up of Apple Cider Vinegar, brown sugar, Cajun seasoning, red pepper flakes and black pepper.  This is supposed to be drizzled over the pork once it's pulled and can be added to taste by those wanting more.

After almost 13 hours (12:57 exactly), the top butt is at 199* and the lower one is at 202*.  Both are in range (195*-205*) and ready to be pulled out and rest for 1-2 hours.  Here they are:

They're burnt you say, but you'd be wrong!  That outer layer is called the bark and is not close to being burnt.  It is crisp and flavorful (so I'm told.  I haven't tasted it yet) and it is what true BBQ'ers shoot for (that is why some don't like to tent the meat as it can prevent the bark from forming).  I wrap the pan in foil and place it in a cooler with a blanket to take up the extra room.  They can rest like this for 3-4 hours and still be warm (safe) to eat.

We head over the river and through the woods to grandma's house and it's ready to be pulled.  Jynelle got me these great heavy duty silicone gloves to be able to get meat on/off the rack or to pull meat.  Did I bring them?  No.  We (Jynelle wanted in on this) used latex gloves and burnt the crud out of our fingers.  (won't make that mistake again).  The good news is if I'm ever arrested, they won't get any good finger prints off of me.

This is the first pull and you can see the smoke ring about the first 3/8" around the edge (darker pink). Outside of the bark, this is the other "tell" that true BBQ'ers shoot for.  It is supposed to indicate you've smoked your meat long enough.

And finally the full pan of pulled pork.  I have to say, the meat was fantastic!

I drizzle just a little Finishing Sauce over all of the meat, but don't want to overdo it.  I worry it may be too spicy which would ruin it for some people. I did add some more Finishing Sauce on my own sandwich and I have to tell you, I wasn't that impressed.  It was good, but not the best pulled pork I've ever had.  Everyone else was very complementary of it and said it was good.  I didn't know if they were just being nice or if they actually liked it.  Later after thinking back on my day, I realized I didn't add any BBQ sauce to my sandwich! Now the meat by itself is good.  With the Finishing Sauce it's not bad - a little tangy.  But with the BBQ sauce on it (not a lot mind you) that meat is out of this world! And the fact that I worked all day on it made it the Best Pulled Pork I had ever had (and am still having for lunch!).

Now I'm trying to decide what to do next.  The brisket is still out there and I told Jynelle that I would do one for the Super Bowl if the Broncos or Seahawks made it there.  Well, I don't have to worry about doing one for the Broncos, but there's a shot I'll be doing one for the Seahawks.  Mallory has also said she'd like smoked hamburgers for her birthday........

One final note.  Friday before I got going, my friend Dale send me a verse to meditate on.  He didn't know I was getting ready to BBQ on Saturday, but I think he had a little Help in his selection: Philippians 4:6-7 - Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.