Big Bald Ribs, 3/21/2015

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Lessons Learned

  • When cooking without water in the pan, the temps of the smoker come up quick.
  • Controlling temps with only the exhaust vent showed how leaky the WSM really is
  • There is an art to drafting the cooker to get clean smoke

It was a busy week during my run-up to my  first Spring Cook. I finally got rid of an older Weber 22.5 grill. Prior to my WSM this was my primary rotisserie and smoking rig. Once I got the WSM proper, I stopped using this unit at all. It breaks my heart to see a Weber go unused. Hopefully it went to a good home and not picked up by some anonymous scrapper to turn into slag.

First day of Spring in Philly

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Thankfully there’s not much snow and ice on my smoker. Was able to clean it up the night before to get it ready for my first real smoke of the season.

You know the routine so here goes:

Mise en Place: The Rub

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The Meat:

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Putting on the mustard:

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Hary Soo

I’ve been reading alot about Harry Soo and his Competition winning team, Slap Yo Daddy BBQ. Harry is renowned for using only WSMs in his competition cooks and will beat teams with $15,000 computer controlled PIP systems. Which in turn gives me hope because all I use is a WSM in my backyard.

One thing Soo recommends is not controlling the WSM with the bottom dampers at all but to leave one open and control the cooker with the top only.  (Harry’s Article)

This goes in the face of everything you read about leaving the top wide open and using the bottom to control airflow. It sounds counter intuitive. You would think that you would be inviting bad tasting smoke to ruin your food. But the WSM un-modded is very leaky. The area around the door leaks, as does the lid and the top ring. So air is always entering and exiting the unit around these areas.

Another thing he recommends for new users is to use the WSM without filling the water pan, but foiling it twice instead.

This allows for easier clean up as there isn’t that nasty “bong water” left over after a smoke. I’ve read of some folks doing this, or filling their water pan with sand, or terra cotta plates to act as a heat sink. For me, having the water helped temper any rapid fluctuations with the temps because you have this huge amount of water absorbing any extra heat. Plus it added moisture to the smoking chamber. However now, the heat inside the smoker is dry and you need to compensate with spraying the meat once an hour to prevent it from over drying. But the bark formation is definitely more pronounced doing it without water in the pan.

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Pulling Meat at 3 hour mark for wrapping:

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After 2 hours in the foil:

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Sauced  and going back on for the last hour:

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Pulled for plating:

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Pulled Pork Shoulder

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Lessons I Learned:

  • Use a larger cut of meat (you lose10-15% weight after trimming)
  • The plateau is real! Trust your thermometer
  • Watch those temps! Continue to cook through to 190
  • Use all vents on the smoker not just the ones easily accessible

Skill Level: Intermediate

Cook Session:

I started with 2 smaller shoulders I picked up from the grocery store about 5 to 6lbs each. I saw a 10 lb shoulder and thought it was way too big. Forgot that once you trim the fat cap off you loose some weight. Otherwise the meat looked pretty decent. A nice red vs the pale pink you see of most commodity port

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Next step was the trim the hide and fat cap off each shoulder and slather each with yellow mustard to give the rub something to hold on to.

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I used the same rub as I did my spareribs during my last cook. I’ve been researching for some other rub recipes and found a really good on on amazingribs.com.

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Rub recipe

  • 1/4 cp raw sugar
  • 1/4 cp kosher salt
  • 1/4 cp Paprika
  • 1 tbsp coarse black pepper
  • 1 tbsp granulated garlic
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1.5 tsp crushed chipotle pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed Fennel seed (used mortal & pestle)

Here’s what they looked like after mustard and rub was applied. I then wrapped them and put them in the refrigerator over night.

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What will be different about this cook is that I will be trying out the Maverick 732 Remote BBQ Thermometer. This thermometer has probes for the smoker rack and the meat. You can set alarms for meat and smoker. Plus, I can check the temp from the comfort of my house or deck and not have to run to the backyard every 30 minutes. degrees. My target temp for this cook was 225 – 250 range.

You can see from the pics below how off my dome temperature was from the grill grate. The delta was anywhere from 25 to 50

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Once the grill hit 225, I added both shoulders to the top rack and went back to minding the temps. The Thermometer really helped me gauge and get a feel for the temp profile a little better. I had no problems staying within my range. The WSM with a water pan, is excellent at staying in the 250 – 275 range.

At about the 6 hour mark, the shoulders hit 165 and plateaued. I’d read about this before, on various sites. It is caused by the moisture coming off the meat and evaporating thus cooling off the meat. The meat stayed their for over 2 hours. I had to force myself not to look or mess with it. This is necessary to break down the collagen and connective tissue to make the shoulder tender. I had to literally tell myself that I was cooking to tenderness not doneness.

Once the pork hit 190, about 9 hours total cooking time, I wrapped them and let them rest for 30 minutes.

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Once they were rested I pulled out my Bear Paws pulling tools and went to work. The big bones pulled straight out with no effort at all. Look at that smoke ring! I must have stood in the kitchen for 5 minutes just pulling and snacking before telling any body else it was ready.

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My family loved it!

Cherry Smoked 3-2-1 RIBS!!!

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I figured for my first real cook in my smoker I had to go with ribs. I used my favorite method, 3-2-1. Three hours cooking unwrapped, 2 hours wrapped, then 1 hour unwrapped. This is the usual method I would do when trying to cook ribs on my 22.5” Weber One Touch Gold. Overall they came out pretty good

Lessons learned:

  • Start out with slightly more fuel (after 6 hours smoker was at 200 versus 250)
  • Use deeper cutting board to handle the juices better when unwrapping the ribs

Meat and Material

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I went with three racks of spares from my local grocer. I trimmed them St. Louis Style and kept the ends and tips to smoke on the middle grate. I used a Cinnamon Cumin rub recipe from virtualweberbullet.com

Cinnamon/Cumin Rub Recipe:


1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons garlic salt
2 Tablespoons celery salt
2 Tablespoons paprika
1-1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1-1/2 teaspoons black pepper, freshly ground
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

Lighting up

Judging the amount of charcoal is a bit art and science. I still had some leftover unspent coals from the inaugural session with thighs and brats. I probably could have used a bit more “full” coals as I’m sure those didn’t last long once the coals burned down. Used 3 fist sized chunks of Cherry wood

Rackin’ up

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I managed to get 3 racks of spares on the top grate by curving them inside of my rib rack. I had to search in my garage to find the thing as it’s been so long since I’ve used it. In theory I could probably smoke 6 spares at a time on my WSM. You gotta make sure there is some room for the air/smoke to hit both sides of the racks. Remember to leave space.

Spraying ‘em up

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Every hour I spray the ribs with apple juice. For this session I just used some generic store bought apple juice. Maybe next time I’ll go with some premium juice. Still trying to break in my smoker. I bought the sprayer at a local restaurant store.

1 – 3 hours

1 hour mark
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2 hour mark
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Spraying ‘em at 3 hours
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Dusting/drizzling with brown sugar and honey
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Wrapping ‘em up
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Going back on for hours 4-5
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Here’s how they looked each hour of the cook. My little “helper” came outside to see what Daddy was up to. After spraying them I pulled them and gave them a sprinkling of brown sugar and drizzled honey. Then they got wrapped with aluminum foil and then placed on the smoker for 2 hours.

After 5 hours/ (Unwrapping)

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Here’s what they looked like unwrapping. They are almost ready. In retrospect, I should probably trim about 30 mins off each of the stages. But as I get to know my WSM I’m sure I’ll be able to dial it in. My poor cutting board was swimming in juices! Might mock up a cutting board with a drain hole to collect these.

Pulling and Plating them up

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Here’s what they looked like after 30 minutes of being kissed by smoke. Since they were so tender, I only left them uncovered for 30 minutes instead of 1 hour. Not too bad of a smoke ring on the board. Half a rack never even made it into the house! Sacrificed for BBQ Science!

Apple Roasted Honey Drumsticks

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After the less than stellar outcome with the Butterflied Turkey I wanted to do something easy with this cook. So I figured I would go back to a basic, drumsticks. I recently bought a new grill cookbook, Myron Mixon’s Everyday Barbeque and was dying to try the brine recipe in it.

Lessons Learned:

  1. These could have been fine smoke roasted in the 325-350 range. They didn’t need to have the slow and low treatment that a roast would need.
  2. A continuous supply of Apple chips was the perfect amount of smoke.

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Brine: I used Myron Mixon’s apple juice brine, and brined the drumsticks overnight.

Brine Recipe: (enough for 2 1 gallon freezer bags)
  • 6 cups apple juice
  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 1.5 cups kosher salt

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Drumsticks fresh out of the brine and being toweled off…

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My favorite part, applying the rub…

Rub Recipe:
  • 1 cp. light brown sugar (packed)
  • 2 tbsp. chili powder
  • 2 tbsp. mustard powder
  • 2 tbsp. onion powder
  • 2 tbsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 tbsp. Kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp. black pepper

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Drumsticks all rubbed up and resting. My kids, who don’t like anything with spice or flavor, actually requested some “blank” drumsticks. No rub, just smoke and sauce!

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For this cook I went for a slow and low setup with about 3 hours of fuel. I have a continuous ring of Apple chips on top of the coals. This should get me a nice steady stream of smoke but not too much to overpower the meat with a sooty taste.

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For the sauce I went with a straight 2:1 mixture of Sweet Baby Ray’s and Raw Honey. Heated and mixed together. I mixed this about 2 hours before using.

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This is what the Chicken looked at the 2 hour mark. You can see that the ring of coals and chips have burned through half of the fuel. The grill was in the solid 225-250 range. A bit lower than necessary for chicken. But since this was going to be a long smoke I had plenty of time and fuel.

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I went ahead and added some sauce on the drumsticks. And left them on for about 30 minutes more. I ended up not having to go the entire 3 hours at all. Temps on the drumsticks at saucing were at 160.

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Close up after applying sauce:

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I pulled the chicken off, gave another coating of sauce, and covered with foil and let sit for 30 minutes. These were so good, and fall off the bone soft! A couple didn’t even make it to the photo shoot. Sacrificed to Cook’s Privilege! The apple wood left a mild taste, more subtle than cherry. It was a great compliment to the brine!

“Slab o Meat” aka Beef Round Top London Broil

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I’ve been itchin’ to cook something this whole week. I originally was going to make some pulled pork. However, I never got to the butcher shop so I went shopping in my deep freezer.

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I found a “slab o meat” that my wife bought on sale at the supermarket. I guess the technical name is Round Top London Broil. All that I learned after researching this cut of meat is; it is lean, tough, and usually not worth the few dollars it costs. So I figured I’d throw this on the grill slow and low, and see what happens.

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I used my standard rub:

Classic BBQ Spice Rub:
  • 4 tbsp Kosher Salt
    2 tbsp brown sugar
    2 tbsp garlic powder
    2 tbsp paprika
    1 tbsp celery seed
    1 tbsp ground cumin
    1 tbsp black pepper

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Liberally season with the rub…

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While the meat is resting after being rubbed, I set up my grill the in the “Ring of Fire” formation. Two single rows of briquettes in a circle, with a single row on top. This configuration should give me 250 degrees for at least six hours. I placed small Mesquite chips around the ring so there would be light smoke continuously throughout the cook.

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Putting on the slabs…

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1 Hour in, a solid 250 degrees…

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5 hours later, and the temp is just starting to dip a bit from 250…

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This is what the meat looked like when I opened the grill. I took a “Chef’s Privilege” piece from the piece on the right. Man was it good!

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I wrapped the 2 in foil and left them on for one more hour. In hindsight I probably should have moved the whole wrapping back an hour. But whatever, it’s “Slabbo meat!”, as my six year old calls it.

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Finally pulled off the grill… I let them rest in the foil a bit before unwrapping. About 15 minutes.

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Unwrapping the meat… I swear every fly in NE Philadelphia started slamming into my screen door once I unwrapped these bad boys! They filled my kitchen with the smell of beef and mesquite.

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Slicing her up on my favorite cutting board…

Lessons learned: If my wife buys “Slabbo” meat again, I may try an overnight marinade and maybe spray it throughout the cook session. But overall, not too bad.

Hong Kong Chicken

I picked this recipe from Weber’s Charcoal Grilling: The Art of Cooking with Live Fire last week, because I wanted something on the grill, but didn’t feel like going out to the store to pick anything up. So I defrosted some chicken legs the night before and set to preparing this. This is a relatively quick recipe to prepare for. Total time from unwrapping thawed legs to plate was about 5.5 hours. The majority of that time (4 hours) was the brine time for the chicken legs.

Let’s move on to the cook!

Dry Ingredients Wet Ingredients

Seasoning Blend:

2 tsp. Kosher salt

1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper

Brine:
2 qts water
1/2 cp. Kosher salt
1/2 cp. sugar

Grill Sauce:
2 tbsp. Hoisin Sauce
2 tbsp. Cider Vinegar
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. Soy sauce
2 tsp. grape seed oil
1/4 tsp. fresh ground black pepper

This cook, is brought to you by Bacardi White

Step 1: Brine the chicken for 4 hours in the brine mixture and place in the fridge.

Step 2: Remove chicken from brine, rinse off, and pat dry with paper towels. Then liberally season with seasoning blend.

Step 3:

Set up a medium heat grill. I used 3/4 of a Weber chimney full of Kingsford coals. I filled one Weber basket with lit coals, and then poured the rest to cover half the charcoal grate. (see below)

Step 4: Place chicken directly over coals for a 5 minute char to get the drumsticks started. (2.5 minutes on one side, then 2.5 minutes on the other)

Step 6: Move to cool side of grill

Step 7: After 20 minutes

Step 8: After 40 minutes

Step 9: At 40 minutes, apply sauce to chicken and put the lid to cook for an additional 20 minutes

Step 10: Last 20 minutes

Step 11: Pull and let rest for 15 minutes. I made some sautéed vegetables and brown rice with a Moscow Mule. Excellent! Chicken had a bit of heat to it, a little too much for the kids, but me and the wife loved it!

Grilled Corn with Chimi-churri

I originally came across this recipe on Pinterest from the chubbyvegetarian blog. As soon as I saw it I had to give it try. I did and it came out wonderful and my family loved it!

Recipe and instructions:

Chimi Churri Sauce

  • 2 cups flat-leaf parsley (loosely packed)
  • 1 tsp. sherry vinegar
  • zest of one lime
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 jalapeno (seeds removed)
  • pinch of sea salt
  • cracked black pepper
  • pinch of cane sugar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

This cook was sponsored by: (You have to have some good music on as well!)

Step 1: Place all ingredients in food processor.

 

Step 2: Run food processor until everything is blended fine. Slowly add oil while food processor is running until the mixture is smooth.

 

Step 3: Shuck your corn and remove as much of the silk as possible. Sometimes running under cold water while pulling can help get rid of the most stubborn strands.

 

Step 4: Start a medium hot fire on your grill. 1 chimney’s worth of charcoal should be fine. After coals are ashed over, spread into a layer 1 coal thick. Place corn directly above the coals.

 

Step 5: Grill the corn directly over the hot coals for approx 5 – 10 minutes per side. When the kernels start to lightly brown it’s time to turn and rotate the corn. Make sure you don’t burn it.

 

Step 6: Once corn is nicely grilled all over, liberally brush on the Chimi Churri sauce. Goes perfect with a cold beer!