An early anniversary gift! It’s the grill of my dreams, a Weber Genesis E320. 50,000 BTU of pure cooking awesomeness. Tammy’s weblog has a better story, but I promise I’ll post more cooking stories. I’m stopping by our local butcher shop to get some aged steaks to cook tonight. I’m thinking a ribeye for me and a filet for Tammy. Other ideas?
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!
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.
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.
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](http://kerner.net) 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.
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](http://kerner.net) going over some of the nuances of running the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker. Combined with the wisdom of the [Virtual Weber Bullet](http://virtualweberbullet.com), 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](http://www.penzeys.com/cgi-bin/penzeys/p-penzeysgalena.html) 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).
So I came up with an idea (amplified by Matt) to open a barbecue stand on the sidewalks of downtown Springfield. It would be open during lunches and during weekend nights, selling smoked spareribs like it was fair food.
Imagine in my best carney barker voice:
“2 for 3! 4 for 6! Bucket O’ Ribs!”
I’m pushing a cart with a smoker on the front and a warmer/cooler on the back. Matt says it should be shaped like a pig but I’m not sure I could push that around and keep a straight face.
Here’s the plan:
Smoke racks of pork ribs. Cut the ribs into single pieces with the bone like a stick on a corn dog. Sell 2 ribs for $3.00 and 4 ribs for $6.00 tax included, cash only. Partner up with Hickok’s Steakhouse to get the ribs and have a backup smoker. If you figure 14 ribs per rack and smoke 8 racks at once, that gives you 132 ribs–maybe 125 after “waste” or such.
Money? A rack of ribs might be $15 each, $4 in charcoal for each batch and maybe $2 a batch in spices. A full load would be $125. That means my cost is a buck a rib. Can you make any money when you get 50 cents a rib? So a full load of smoked ribs might net $62.50 in profit for say 5 hours of real work selling and tending the ribs.
A weeks worth of lunch–$50 x 5 lunch days = $250 + 2 nights (Fri, Sat) at $65 each so $300 net profit each week. Seems like a lot of work for very little gain.
Pump up the profit with soda? Maybe. You could make 50 cents a soda just like the profit on each rib with a lot less work.
More about this later. Time to think it through more.
Pictures can say so much. Here’s one of tonight’s pork roast. The “stripe” across the top is due to tong operator error. Otherwise, it had a good crust and simple flavor. We will be using this for sandwiches all this week and a cut off the end confirms it. I think I’m ready to try a pork shoulder.
The smoke went well but I got lucky with the heat. This time it *still* maintained 225˚F for two hours with the vents mostly closed for the first hour and all of the way open for the second hour. When you consider how much food was in the smoker, I think I did OK.
Tammy and I fired up the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker (WSM) this afternoon. I’ve got a variety of meat, all bought on the cheap:
* a 2 pound center cut pork loin roast
* 2 think center cut pork chops
* 2 whole chickens, quartered.
The chicken has only salt and pepper since we are going to use it on a variety of food later. The other meat has the Penzey’s Bicentenial Rub and Northwoods — both good for pork.
Also, I’m firing with half charcoal and half maple wood branches from the yard, hoping for a great “outdoors” flavor. Let’s hope I get two and a half hours of heat out of the fuel because I realized too late I’m out of charcoal.