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Category Archives: basics

Better Know a Smoker Part 3: So You’re a Yuppie…

Since it has been a while, you might want to catch up on Part 1 and Part 2 before starting with this one.  This is my final piece of advice for someone looking to buy their perfect summer BBQ; and that advice is not to buy pellet and electric smokers, they are not real smokers.

The Pellet Smoker

Pellet%20BBQ%20smoker%20grill

This piece of [worthless] equipment does all the work for you….sounds like a BBQers dream come true, just set it and forget it.  Of course not everything that is easy is better.  Case and point fast food.  Enough said.  Many pellet smokers have built-in temperature control, keeping the smoker between 225 and 250 which is really a problem if you want to cook anything besides pork.  We like to smoke our famous briskets around 300 to break down the connective tissue and trust me we have tried cooking brisket low and slow…it ended up like shoe leather.  Smoked salmon or jerky on the other hand needs to be around 175 so having the ability to control the temperature yourself is imperative.

Also, check out any BBQ message board and you’ll see that people tend to complain about the lack of smoke flavor from these compressed processed pellets.  In fact, even if you have a pellet smoker that you can crank the heat up with, the higher the temps cooking with these pellets, the less smoke flavor you get because they burn very cleanly.

M008085---Smoker-pellets-5l

Just like a big mac is not food…this is not wood!

And don’t forget, since pellet smokers are automatic, they have parts that can break, like a motor and electronics systems.

Even the man himself, Myron Mixon said at a pitmaster competition, “Man I know I got this thing won when I see the other team fire up a pellet smoker.”

The Electric Smoker

electric-smoker-open

Is that a mini-fridge? Nope, that is the saddest excuse for a smoker that you can possible waste your money on.  Sure, they do have a place in resturaunts, since the people cooking can’t maintain the temps on dozens of racks of ribs at a time…unless of course you are in the south, we still cook over open flame pits down here. However, these have no place in your backyard.  In fact, if you own one of these get off my blog, close out this window immediately, you are not allowed to use any of my recipes.

The flavor on these is inferior to even the pellet smoker, and don’t ever expect to get that beautiful bark or crispy chicken skin on one of these machines.  Hell, most competitions wont even allow electric smokers.  Enough said…just dont do it.

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Posted by on April 25, 2013 in Barbeque, basics

 

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Better Know A Smoker Part One: Our First Baby

Our Weber 18.5 inch bullet smoker is and will always be our first love.  Fondly refered to as R2D2 in our house, this baby is the best investment for a beginner interested in smoking.  Seriously, I know the big offset box smokers look really badass, but this one is much better suited for the average person, both in ease of use and size.  Trust me, when they smell those wonderful clouds of smoke and the aroma of BBQ pork coming off this baby, you wont care that you didn’t get the one that makes you look cool.

trooper-bbq-2mko

The inside of the smoker features two levels for maximum meat cooking and a water pan below.  A water pan is great for the novice because it keep the meat moist, and also helps R2D2 maintain a stable temperature.

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The exterior breaks down into three parts for easy access to all levels, and there is a door on the front for adding more charcoal or running the cords for your probe thermometers.  The Weber brand uses better metal than many other bullet smokers, which will help you keep your temp up on those windy days.

large-egg-nest-mates-assembled

Also similar in looks to this the ceramic Big Green Egg cooker. This thing is the Le Creuset of smokers, with a price tag to match.  Amazingly high quality if you are prepared to pay for it.  People that own them swear by them, in the same way that we will always recommend a Weber.

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There is our baby, proudly displayed in the back yard as a monument to our first adventure in to BBQ! If you are considering an investment in a smoker, I can not suggest anything other than an 18.5 in Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker.

 
6 Comments

Posted by on January 11, 2013 in Barbeque, basics, Random

 

Barbeque Basics Part Four: Give it a Rest Already

The secret to cooking perfect meat isn’t actually about the cooking at all, it is about the art of patience.  Perfect meat is created by two processes; tempering and resting, both of which require you to just leave your food alone.

I’m letting my meat rest for a bit!

Tempering is letting your meat come to room temperature before cooking.  If you have ever eaten a thick steak that looked done on the outside but was raw in the middle you know why tempering is important.  Warmer meat  needs less of a rise in temperature to reach your desired level of doneness, which means less cooking time.  You would think that all these extra steps make your time spent slaving over hot charcoal longer, but it can actually cut your cooking time down by several minutes.  Less cooking time means less time for the delicious meat juice to evaporate as well.  The second reason why this is important is even cooking.  You will not end up burning your roast on the outside while waiting for it to come to temp..   Think about it, it is much more efficient to cook 70 degree meat to 130 than it is to cook 40 degree meat!

Everybody wait, it hasn’t come to room temp yet!

 

Resting is the same thing as tempering, letting the meat sit on the counter, except this time it is done after cooking.  When you heat up a piece of meat the fibers compress, changing the distribution of liquids inside.  Imagine the meat as a sponge, if you squeeze it on one side water will come leaking out the other.  The process of heating and flipping your meat will cause the juices to redistribute all willy-nilly, and like a sponge, it cannot hold all the extra liquid in one spot without some of it running out.  A bad analogy perhaps, but it is what happens when you cut into a steak that hasn’t been rested, the fibers stuffed with juices will release them causing a dry and less flavorful dinner.  When you let it rest for a few minutes the fibers will relax a bit and let the juices redistribute evenly in the meat .  Neat huh?

The next important reason to rest your meat is that it also cuts down on your cooking time since the meat will continue to cook while it is resting.  I typically take my meat off 5-10 degrees before it is done and let it come to temp under a little tin-foil tent.  It is like my meat is waiting for the release of the new iPhone and must camp out for days.

There must be a mastodon roast resting under this tent

 

Ok, so we are going to sum this all up with your mission, should you choose to accept it; leave your delicious dinner on the counter.  To temper let the meat rest for an hour or more depending on the thickness and size of the meat.  For an average one inch thick steak I recommend about an hour, less for burgers, more for roasts, use common sense, but an hour is always a good amount of time.  Obviously you do not want to temper your uncovered meat outside in the hot sun for an hour, but any safe place in your house will do.

I am going to totally go lick your tempering steak right after licking my butt

 

Rest your meat by removing it from the heat or hot pan and placing it on a cutting board or plate.  For steaks, roasts, tenderloins, whole chickens, or other large hunks of meatiness, make the little tinfoil tent.  You do not actually need to get little skewers and build a little North Face hut for your food, just cover it loosely to keep heat and steam from evaporating.  The length of the rest also depends on the meat; 5-10 minutes for burgers, small pieces of boneless pork or boneless chicken, 10-20 minutes for steak, thick pork chops, or bone-in chicken, 20 minutes for large roasts, pork shoulder, whole birds, ect.  This gives you plenty of time to do some dishes, prep your sides, or make a nice pan sauce!

 

Like this

 

If you still don’t believe me, the folks over at Serious Eats have studied this extensively.

 

This picture shows steaks cut into at 2.5 minute intervals, with the first one not resting at all, all the way up to 12.5 minutes of rest prior to cutting.  I think I should just delete my whole explanation and leave you with this picture instead, because it says everything.

Last bonus is that you wont burn your tounge from putting meat that just came off of a 400 degree grill directly in your mouth  Hooray!

 
4 Comments

Posted by on September 27, 2012 in basics, Technique, Uncategorized

 

How To Get a Perfect Butt: A Really Long Guest Post

I am Derek, the other half of The Primal Smoke, but unlike my wife, I prefer more traditional BBQ.  As great as her cooking is, she is actually such a control freak in the kitchen she gave me an outline for how she wanted this written up.  If you are a beginner there is no better cut of meat to get your confidence up and impress your neighbors than Boston butt, it is very forgiving and doesn’t take a lot of skill, although I totally have skills.

That pink hue is the delicious smoke ring from the hickory

The cut of pork I used for this post was a nine and a half pound, bone-in, Boston butt. Boston butt is a cut from the pig’s shoulder and has nothing to do with the pig’s actual butt.  Pork shoulder is best cooked slow over low heat.  On average plan about an hour to an hour and a half per pound of meat at 225-250 degrees.

My wife calls him R2D2

We use a Weber 18.5” Smoky Mountain Cooker for all our long, slow cooks (ribs, pulled pork, brisket…etc.).  Weber offers a great smoker for an affordable price(I sound like a commercial, huh?).  There are tons of different quality ceramic cookers and offset smokers, but for the price and convenience of storage nothing beats the Weber.  On a side note, the 18.5” cooker is easier to keep the temperature stable than the 22.5” cooker.

Preparing the pork shoulder is easy.  One side will have a layer of fat about 1/2” to 1 ½”.   Start by trimming this fat off.  Leave a little fat on the bottom, but not much.

Post-mortem liposuction!

Next, apply your rub.  Rub your meat real good, heh.   There are some people who like to apply their rub the night before.  I don’t think this is necessary, but it won’t hurt either.  Let the cut of meat sit out for about an hour.  It should be close to room temperature when you put it on, just do it, don’t ask me why.  That is a whole other post entirely.  My rub was:

  • 1/2 cup paprika
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup garlic powder
  • 2 TB ground ginger
  • 2 TB onion powder
  • 2TB cayenne
  • 2 TB black pepper

While you let you pork shoulder warm up, it is time to prep you smoker.  I like using hickory smoke for pulled pork.  Place a couple chunks of hickory (already soaked in water) in your cooker with some coals, light your charcoal chimney in a separate grill and dump it over top, and if you’re using a water smoker (like the Weber) fill up your water pan.  Make sure you line your water pan with aluminum foil or else you’ll have a pretty messy clean up.  Ready for a sh*t-ton of pictures?

Charcoal and wood goes in here, hot coals go over top.

This thing goes on top with some water to keep the heat low

Next comes your cooking grate and the meat

Once your cooker gets to 225 degrees put your pork shoulder on.  I highly suggest using a digital thermometer to monitor the temp of the meat.  A dual prong thermometer – measuring the smoker temp/meat temp are the best….btw don’t get a Big Green Egg thermometers, they make awesome ceramic cookers but horrible thermometers….mine lasted two uses.

R2D2 already has his own thermometer

Maintain the temp of the smoker between 225 and 250 degrees, adding a handful of hickory chunks every hour or two.  Smoking is half science, half art….bottom line you’ll be the judge of how much smoke you want.  Avoid using too much though or your meat will be bitter.

Also, get your ass up early, this could take a while

When the temp of the meat hits about 150 it will “stall” for an hour or two.  This is normal, don’t be a jackass and increase the temp or worry your thermometer is broken.  Just maintain your cookers temp and you’ll be fine.  Some folks wrap their pork shoulder in foil after it hits 170, but I don’t think this is necessary (we’ll talk foil when we cook ribs and brisket). This cut of meat has enough fat in it to keep it nice and moist.  Once your shoulder approaches 190 it is time to come off.  If it still seems tough at 190 leave it on for an extra half hour.

Also, when your meat turns black on the outside it is not burning.  This is called the “bark” and is the best d*mn part! It is a combination of caramelized meat rub and spices with the smoke.

This thing barks better than DMX

This nine and half pound Boston butt took about 11 hours, but that includes a brutal summer rain/wind storm which probably effected the cooking time. Once you remove the pork shoulder let it sit for about 45 minutes to an hour or until it cools…..or you’ll end up like me with blistered fingers. Pull the pork with forks or your hands, pour your favorite BBQ sauce over it and enjoy.

juiciest pork on the planet

 
10 Comments

Posted by on September 10, 2012 in basics, Favorites, Pork

 

Barbeque Basic Part 2: The Tools

Sure every backyard BBQer knows that you need big tongs and a long-handled spatula(unless you want to burn all of the hair off of your arms), but there are also a few gadgets that you should buy if you really want to impress people with your mad skillz.

First and foremost is the charcoal chimney starter.

ta-da!

This gadget allows you to start your coals without using any lighter fluid.  There are instructions on the nerd net for making your own out of an old coffee can and wire coat hanger.  That sh*t looks dangerous, spend the 10 bucks and get a real one.  What you do is stuff newspaper in the bottom(the end with the holes) and pour your charcoal in the top.  Light the newspaper in a couple of places and leave it alone for a few minutes, it will heat up your coals on its own.  Are your coals good and hot yet?  Ok, grab the handle and carefully dump them out into your grill…which brings me to my next point oven mitts.

Get yourself a good pair of insulated BBQ gloves, they are going to take a beating.  Also, a long-handled steel BBQ brush is needed to clean off your cooking grates.  If you’re smart you will store it out of reach of big dogs, since mine thought it was a toy.

Your high-tech gadgets should include an instant read thermometer and a timer.  That’s it.  You do not need a thermometer that hooks up to an iPhone app to be successful (although they do make that, but I heard it sucks)

For cooking ribs you could also get a rib rack.  This is not a necessity, but merely a space saver, letting you multiply the amount of delicious ribs you can cook at once.  You will also need disposable foil pans.  We buy them at Costco because we use them so much.  They are used for soaking wood chunks, making a water pan, moving foods on and off the grill, and even for cooking.  Please don’t give me the whole “cooking with aluminum is bad” speech, I don’t care.

For flavoring your meat you will need a flavor injector.  These usually look like some evil Dr. Henry H. Holmes needles, but they’re great for putting your marinade directly into the meat.  This is especially important for cuts that tend to be tough like brisket.  Also, having a spray bottle on hand will help you keep your meat moist.  Usually during smoking meat is sprayed with apple cider vinegar or juice to keep it moist and tender.

That is really all you need, you can probably get all of this crap for about 75$, and of course we also had to buy a set of outdoor shelves to put it all on, because somebody was pissy about having it all lying over her patio set all the time (that would be me).

 
4 Comments

Posted by on September 6, 2012 in Barbeque, basics, Random, Technique

 

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