Smoking Day (October 2016)
You are cordially invited to spend smoking day with me. This is the day when I stoke the smoker and perform the centuries old ritual of combining meat and fire. Grab a cup of coffee and a doughnut and lets get started
I smoke and prepare all of my BBQ meats weeks sometimes months in advance. Being fatty; brisket and pork freeze well and I can get this large amount of work out of the way at my convenience. Today is such a day. Cool temps have set in here in New Mexico with a little cloud cover. Perfect BBQ weather.
Looking East from the layout. Sunrise at 6:30. It is almost as if God were willing me to cook BBQ…. hey who am I to argue with the Almighty?
Today I am smoking a 6Lbs brisket, two racks of pork ribs and a salmon fillet. The first thing I need to do is get the charcoal going. I only use charwood chunks, never briquets which are about 1/3 clay and sawdust filler. They often contain petroleum distillates to help with lighting. Never use these or lighter fluid in your smoker. They will make your food taste like motor oil.
This is the best brand I have found here. It is by Royal Oak and comes in 8.8 lbs bags. I will probably use the whole thing. For smoke I have Western brand Hickory chunks. They make blocks and chips in Hickory, Mesquite, Maple, Cherry and Apple. The last three are best suited for pork or chicken. The chunks get soaked in water to help produce more smoke and slow the burn rate. Two hours of soak time is optimal.
I light the charcoal with a shotgun chimney starter. This gets a hot quart of coals going quickly. These are poured on top of a bed of charcoal hardwood. If I was grilling and wanted a hot fire I would put the coals down first and dump the unlit over the top but since this is slow smoking I want a cooler fire. Putting the coals on top makes them burn down at a slower rate. With the fire laid I add the hickory blocks on top. For chicken or white fish I would use the chips and place them in a foil packet with a few punctures in it.
Back with the meat in a bit. Hmm I think this coffee needs some Baileys in it. Guess the meat isn’t the only thing that will get smoked today!!!!
First in the starting line up is brisket. Beef brisket is cut from the forelock just above the leg. A full brisket contains both the larger muscle of the pectoral and the more fatty plate section. These are known as the Point and Flat respectively. Today I am doing the flat. This rear piece is generally more tender and is better suited for chopped brisket, while the pectoral point is a heavier connective tissue which works well for sliced brisket.
Most Texas style BBQ smokehouses use only salt and pepper on the meat but I prefer a spicy rub. I chose this one from Stubb’s for the brisket, and Famous Dave’s for the ribs. I also like this one from Rudy’s. The salmon will get only ground black pepper and season salt.
Brisket should be cooked with the fat side up (called the fat cap). This will let the caramelized fats sink through the meat giving it a juicy moist flavor. I coat the lean side first and take it to the smoker. Once there I place the brisket in the center of the rack. It needs to be laid with the large fatty end toward the fire but as far back as possible to prevent over cooking of the leading edge. For these smaller briskets I keep it forward of the chimney so that the smoke circulates around the entire cut. With the fat side exposed on top I put the rub on it now. Some people will adjust the meat turning or flipping it like a giant hamburger. Resist the urge people. I adhere to the concept of not opening the smoke box until I am ready to remove the meat. Opening the door lets out heat and smoke. If you are looking you are not cooking.
I am using a horizontal smoker by Binks. To help keep an even heat and lengthen the life of the smoker I lined the bottom of both the fire box and smoke box with 1″ thick fireplace brick. The side by side design is well suited to doing beef and ribs as the smoke and heat travel over the meat in temperature bands that remain fairly constant. Hotter air travels across the top and helps draw smoke around the food. The dual compartments allow me to tend the fire without opening the smoke box. Vertical smokers are well suited to lower temperatures needed for poultry or bacon. Watch them though. If left unattended they can turn into blast furnaces charring your meat and ruining the end results.
Take note of the position of the smoker on the patio. I can view trains on the layout while tending to the food. Such efficiency is critical to getting the most out of your leisure time.
I have a temperature gauge on my smoker just ahead of the vent. For smoking I will try to hold the temp between 225 and 250. If I was doing bacon I would drop that to 150 to 175. For the salmon I will wait to the end of the smoking cycle and let it fall to 200.
Nothing to do now but wait. I will add some wet hickory blocks every hour and check the temp every 20 minutes.
I actually got this on about 9:00 am local time. If I wanted a traditional Texas style brisket (full) I would tend it for the next 6-8 hours. I favor the flat cuts so they cook best by smoking the meat open for 1-2 hours before wrapping it tightly in foil (some people prefer parchment paper) and moving it to the oven. Known as a Texas crutch and helps avoid a situation called stalling. This is where the melting of the fat cap and steaming of the water in the meat cools it down keeping the internal temperature below 165. This can be frustrating if you don’t know what is happening and lead to over cooking. Using the oven and tightly wrapped foil prevents the formation of steam rendering a tender juicy brisket.
Time is up and I need to go pull the brisket off and get the ribs on.
As planned the brisket looks wonderful with a good crust of smoke and spices.
I transferred it inside where it received two wraps of Reynolds heavy foil. The fat cap is still on top and it is wrapped with the seam on top as well. This will keep juice from leaking out and making a mess of the oven. I don’t want to use an oven pan as that would shield the bottom of the meat from the oven’s heat. I have the temp at 225 F. The brisket will cook like this for the next 5 hours.
With the smoker clear I can move on to the ribs. As you would expect these are cut from the side of the pig just below the pork loin area. A full rack of ribs contains different cuts. Most of what I cook are St Louis style or baby back ribs. They are trimmed closer to the bone and make for tender eating due to the fat in the area. Occasionally I make country style ribs on the grill but those are really just glorified pork chops.
Like the brisket, ribs have a point and flat. I put the bone end toward the fire and cook the ribs bone down. This lets the rib bones absorb the heat and cook the meat from the inside out. Preparation is to put the ribs on the grill meat down and sprinkle them with brown sugar, cayenne pepper powder and Famous Dave’s. I flip them over and get the other side.
I will follow the a similar method as the brisket. The ribs will cook for about an hour. I will then coat them with some sweet and tangy BBQ sauce. I prefer Sweet Baby Ray’s Spicy. It will take about thirty minutes to caramelize. After that the ribs will get wrapped in foil and moved to the oven with the brisket.
More wet hickory is piled on and once again it is time to wait. I will check these in an hour or so.
Temperature is a bit cooler than what I wanted so I added some charwood and am going to cook these a little longer.
I went ahead and added the mopping sauce. For something different I used a Heinz product that came out last fall. Kansas City Sweet and Spicy sauce.
While the ribs finish up I will get the salmon ready for it’s turn in the smoke….mmmmm doesn’t it all look so good?!!!
Its been one hour time to get those ribs. Wow they look great!
I wrap them meat side to meat side (calm down its not that kind of party Scott). This will help keep the heat coming through the bones. Once sealed they join the brisket in the oven.
In about three hours I will see what I got.
Now the fish. This is a full fillet from a North Atlantic wild caught salmon. It is the kind I prefer. The meat is firm and has plenty of oil so it does not dry out and get chewy like the coho (this is better for baking). I am using brown sugar, season salt and Mrs Dash Black Pepper and Garlic.
I rub the mixture on the fish leaving the tail and the fillet bottom bare. These areas usually get over done so most people trim them off and throw them away. Since I have three little meows to feed I will save them for the kittens. Now off to the grill.
I add the last three pieces of hickory chunks and close it up. This will slowly cool over the next six hours cooking and smoking the salmon to perfection.
See you all this evening for the results of smoking day.
….and time. Well the ribs and brisket are out of the oven and resting. This lets the meat cool and reabsorb the juices that are sitting in the foil pouches. I’ll give them about thirty minutes then open them up for slicing and chopping. Meanwhile out on the smoker, the salmon has just about finished. I usually let it coast until it is cool enough to touch. We like it cold with crackers, fruit and cheese.
The house smells wonderful, eau de BBQ restaurant!!!!! Here we go everyone, the part we have all been waiting for!!!!
Delicious chopped brisket!!!!
Savory smoked salmon!!!
Some of this will go in the freezer to be enjoyed later this winter. The fish will make its appearance as Thanksgiving and Christmas appetizers as well as some evening snacks on the patio with wine, cheese, and crackers. I need to go and pack everything up so I will be back in a bit with the final wrap up of Smoking Day.
Smoking Day began 8 years ago when my stepson shot a 27 lbs turkey while hunting with his Grandfather. We decided to try and smoke it. We had done this a couple of times with store bought turkeys with good results. Two days in a vat of season salt, apple juice and brown sugar turned out an amazingly perfect turkey. In the years that followed we smoked salmon, duck, trout, bacon and of course ribs and brisket. Eating some and saving some for winter when it would be to cold to hold an even temperature in the smoker.
Smoking Day actually occurs three to five times each year. One or two days in the spring and the rest in the fall. This way we have lots of BBQ goodness at the ready. Sometimes the kids come out and join in and we make a party of it, sometimes it is just me and the kittens. But no matter what, I am always surrounded by friends. Hope you all enjoyed your turn here today. Thanks for hanging out.
Looking west from the layout. Sundown in New Mexico at 7:30 pm. The end of another great Smoking Day….proof of God’s blessing.