Category Archives: Cooking

Home cooking

I’m home at a decent time and trying to come up with a dinner idea. The spice cabinet is usually the savior from boring so I’m mentally flipping through a checklist: savory blends, salt-based rubs and smoky pepper themes. None of them sound particularly inviting so I’ll go with am old standby: Northwoods.

We usually eat chicken or pork pairs with mostly plain potato plus broccoli florettes. It sounds boring but you’d be amazed by the varities that a decent blend of spices can add.

Wait, today us Tuesday. Was I supposed I pick up Matt and Sarah’s farmshare? Eeek!

Tonight's Menu: Fish!

A couple of weeks ago, I got up the courage to try the fish monger in Nixa, a suburb of Springfield. I was skeptical that a land-locked “Tier 3” city like Springfield could have good seafood. I was wrong.

The shop is called [Crab Shack Seafood Market]( and Mike and Stephen know their stuff. I walked away that first trip with sockeye salmon and fresh tilapia, both of superior quality but at a price typical of a supermarket. The salmon and tilapa were grilled (different nights) with only simple Penzey’s spice mixes like Northwoods for the salmon. The sockeye salmon was rich and what most people dream of when they taste good salmon. The tilapia was first-rate and makes for an easy replacement for chicken in our diet.

Tonight, we’re doing sockeye salmon again and I also got a half pound of sushi-grade white tuna that I’m slicing for sashimi. Look for a follow-up post tomorrow, but I can tell you the taste I snuck today was great.

Weekend Smoke: Pork and Salmon

We’ve got friends coming over tonight so it’s time to trot out the smoker. I’ve got it up to 240˚F and the vents at the bottom set at 50% closed, placing half a loaf pan of beans and 4 butterfly pork cops on the racks. The pan is 1/2 full and absorbing a fair amount of heat, but I jammed more of the pre-fired charcoal on top of the unlit briquets, trying to compensate for the drizzle/sprinkles and the 51˚F outside temp.

The goal is to cook the chops low and slow, ideally about an hour and a half at 240˚F and then add the salmon near the end to let it go for an hour.

Wish me luck!

Labor Day Smoke (Part 2 of 4)

We’re in the home stretch. The brisket is finishing in the oven and is almost 205˚F. The house smells incredible! I puled the 1 pound “tip” of the tip from the smoker and chunked it up. It was too moist and tender for true burnt ends, but I placed added some barbecue sauce to a bowl and into the oven it went to braise.

The salmon is on–standard Northwoods seasoning from Penzey’s–and that means it will be ready around 6:45. I tried to cut the pieces into more even sized filets and ended up with a very thin piece from near the bottom of the fish. I doused it in Jerk seasoning and moved it to a cooler place on the top grate. The cooker is cruising along at 275˚F at this point and should make quick work of the fish.

What about the pork? It came off around 2PM and tasted delicious. I trimmed the fat from those cuts and put it and the juice (after they rested) into the baked beans.


Labor Day Smoke (Part 1 of 4)

Here’s some quick notes on the Labor Day smoke I’m running:

* 5 pound brisket with the very tip cut off (1 pound) for burnt ends. It was placed on the smoker at 10AM straight from the refrigerator with all vents open on the cooker, trying to get the temp of the cooker to 240˚F.
* I used the Wet Rub for Brisket from the Virtual Weber Bullet site. The rub went on at 8PM last night to marinate.
* I’ll cook this for 6 to 8 hours and during that time I’ll add thick cut pork chops, baked beans and even salmon to this run.
* I’m using the Minion method of charcoal firing with small wood chips scattered throughout the charcoal. I’d use chunk, but I don’t have any.

Weekend Smoke (Post 3) — Pork Roast — Summary

It’s the morning after the smoke and I thought I’d share some things I learned, good and bad:

* I controlled the temp just fine. The Minion Method is perfect for using just the right amount of charcoal. This was a short cook (4 hours) and the Minion Method worked well since the internal temp of the cooker was over 110˚F before lighting. I could see a situation when the slow temp climb wouldn’t work in my favor, but it’s darn near foolproof for keeping the temp low and controlled.

* Large meat cuts need to sit out for an hour or more. I pulled the meat from the refrigerator and it sat on the counter for only 30 minutes before heading inside the smoker. The internal temp was 42˚F and that meant the smoker had to work harder to bring things up to serving temperature. At the four hour point, the temp had risen to 149˚F which I wouldn’t call idea for safety. Before serving, I reheated the 1/2 inch thick pieces I’d sliced in the microwave to 160˚F to ensure food safety. Oddly, this particular roast was very juicy but lacked flavor. That brings me to…

* Not enough barbecue/smoke flavor. I used maple wood from the yard (gasp!) and got a very small smoke ring. I think I’m a hickory person or even pecan like [Matt]( uses.

* I’m ready to try the big three: ribs, brisket and pork shoulder.

* Always put the charcoal away in case it rains unexpectedly overnight.

Weekend Smoke (Part 1) — Pork Roast

Tammy and I are having people over tonight and that means it’s time to fire up the smoker. Last weekend, while Tammy was out of town, I spent about 5 hours with [Matt Kerner]( going over some of the nuances of running the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker. Combined with the wisdom of the [Virtual Weber Bullet](, I’m running a successful smoke right now.

The meat of choice is pork roast from Sam’s about 4 pounds in size. It’s two end pieces of the sirloin (I think) that are tied together with butcher’s twine in to a neat bundle that makes for even cooking. I rolled it in some [Galena Street Rub]( from Penzey’s and let it sit uncovered in the refrigerator while I prepped the smoker.

I used a half full ring of charcoal that was left over from the last smoke, knocking the ash off of the briquets and dumping the excess. I then took five small pieces of maple and arranged them to form a rough square with one piece of the wood in the middle. Next, I lit 20 briquets in a chimney starter then pulled the cooking grates and water pan out of the center cooking section. I cleaned the two grates and pan, reassembled them in the center cooking section and filled the pan with water. Back inside, Tammy had already pulled the pork out of the fridge to give it a chance to come close to room temperature. I inserted a probe thermometer, taking care to avoid air gaps where the two pieces of meat are tied together.

It takes about 20 minutes for the charcoal to get done in the starter, so when it was mostly grey, I pulled the briquets out one by one and place them on top of the charcoal in the ring inside the “square” of wood I constructed before. My guess was that I would get good smoke from the center piece of wood initially and more smoke from the rest of the pieces as the other charcoal became lit.

At this point, it was time to assemble the cooker with the goodies. On the bottom rack went the pork roast and the top rack I put five ears of corn (stripped of all husk but the last layer). I assembled the cooker and put a standard thermometer in the top vent to monitor smoker temperature. I know that the smoker tends to run hot at the lid, so I’m shooting for 250˚F. At 3:00PM CST time of assembly, the thermometer read 180˚F. Only 15 minutes later, the temps creeping past 200˚F which is a good sign and also time to shut the bottom vents to the 25% open mark. Previous smokes of mine started too hot and cooked the food too fast but this looks like it’s “on track”. A check at 3:45PM shows a temp of 228˚F which means a solid increase in temp and good fire control even with the vents nearly closed at the bottom. Finally, a 4:00PM check shows a steady 245˚F–perfect for barbecue.

Next stops: check the corn at 5:00PM (2 hour point), add the salmon at 6:30PM (1 hour before dinner time).