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!

Basil & Garlic Pork Tenderloins–Part I, the prep…

It is my firm opinion that every grill cook needs a supportive beverage. Preferably one with some alcohol in it. For this prep session I’ll be turning to an old favorite, Sam Adams Octoberfest.

Step 1: The Beer

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Step 2: Ingredients (Wet and Dry)

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This recipe is based upon a recipe from Adam Perry Lang’s BBQ25 cookbook. I revised it a bit using the fresh basil growing my garden in front of my house. There is nothing like using fresh herbs. Just bringing the basil in doors filled my downstairs with its smell. Here are the list of ingredients for the brine/marinade

Dry Ingredients Wet Ingredients
  • 3 tbsp kosher salt
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar (homemade)
  • 1 tsp blk pepper
  • 1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp dried crushed Aleppo Peppers (Williams-Sonoma
  • 1 bulb garlic
  • 1 bunch fresh basil
  • 6 cps cold water

Step 3: Making the Brine/Marinade

I guess this mixture is more a marinade than a straight brine. But  I guess it is functioning as a bit of both since it has kosher salt and brown sugar. Do yourself a favor and use fresh herbs and brown sugar. The payoff is worth it. After all, you will be eating this. In the picture below I’ve minced the garlic (peeled) and basil in my food processor. In the other container I’ve mixed the dry spices.

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Step 4: The tenderloins

My wife picked up this pack of pork tenderloins at our local Giant Supermarket. I was originally going to cook Bone-in Pork Loin Roasts, but these were on sale. As you can see, I was accommodating.

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Step 5 – Brining/Marinading

Here you see two tenderloins in a 1 Gallon ziploc freezer bag. I split the resultant mixture in half and poured it over the tenderloins in both bags. I plan on marinading these overnight and cooking them tomorrow. I’ll be back with the second half of this post after I cook these.

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Basil & Garlic Grill Roasted Pork Tenderloins–Part II (Cook)

Here is the follow-up to my previous post, Tenderloins Part I

Step 4: Tenderloins pulled out of the refrigerator after a soaking in brine/marinade overnight. Aroma of the fresh basil and garlic was still rich after a night’s soaking.

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Step 5: Here I’m just putting the tenderloins on. Grill surface is medium hot right now. With lid closed the temp was around 375. As you can see I have my cast-iron half moon griddle taking care of some onion burgers on the side.

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Step 6: Here are the tenderloins about halfway through at about 15 minutes. I’ve flipped the cast iron griddle over so the grill part is up top. My plan during this cook was to use the cast iron griddle as a constant heat source as the single layer of coals on the right started burning down. Underneath the griddle is a weber charcoal basket to provide a longer term source of heat. If I plan this right, the briquettes on the right side would have burned down and the griddle will be the source of indirect heat as the tenderloins finish on the right.

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Step 7: Here are the tenderloins just as I’m pulling them off the grill.  I guess for my attempt at tenderloins they came out pretty good. I was looking for a darker more carmelized outer surface. Maybe a higher temp setting using lump and briquettes might do the trick. Total cook time was 45 minutes.

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Step 8: A tenderloin sliced after resting for about 15 minutes. Oh, the fork in the shot got a good amount of use prior to this picture being taken!

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Garlic, Broccoli, and Cheddar Bratwurst

I picked up a pack of these brats from the local whole foods store. (By local I mean Jenkintown) I went to get something else completely and decided to pick these up while I was there. Complete impulse buy.

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I used a whole Weber Chimney full of Kingsford briquets. I also cooked corn, and two pork roasts so I needed all the coals. (I’ll blog about those at another time)

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I’ve raked the coals to one side as you can see. I smoke roasted these at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes. I used 1 chunk hickory and 1 chunk cherry during their cook. The picture below was taken about halfway through.

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Here are the brats as I’m pulling them off the grill. I probably could have pulled them five minutes sooner as a couple split. But all in all, a successful cook.

By the way they tasted great!

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