Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Pulled Pork, Neckbones, Shenanigans Ensue.

This weekend I smoked a shoulder for some pulled pork sandwiches, and while Murphy's law held true as it usually does when I cook, they came out very tasty, smokey, and with a few fun side dishes, one of which was particularly non-traditional but may be  my new appetizer of choice when I entertain.


I picked up a 9 pound shoulder from Corrado's this week, gave it a coat of mustard, and applied some rub the night before. I used the leftover brisket rub from two blogs ago with some brown sugar mixed in, thinking the whole brown sugar thing may add some interesting characteristics as I had never tried it before.

I readied two chimneys full of Royal Oak American hardwood lump coal. More on that later.

While I was in Bermuda a couple of weeks ago I picked up this box of maple chips. Funny thing, that I had to go to Bermuda to find chips from California, and that I had never seen them in NJ, but go figure. One last part of my prep was a drip pan full of two of my failed homebrew bottles. Not sure what I'll do when I run out of that. Ribs vapor basted in Old English, anybody?

The actual cook:

Things went off to a decent enough start. My smoker (detailed in the last episode) quickly came to 225, only for it to go down to around 200 when I put the food on. I wrestled with it for a while and after some effort got the temperature to stay up at times. I didn't want to do this but with the dampers wide open at 200 degrees I didn't have much choice than to add some leftover mesquite chunks I had to spike the temperature up. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to get a good sense of the maple chips but the chunks did not hurt the flavor in any noticeable way.

My aftermarket therm mounted at grill level. This is with a full basket of lump charcoal after an hour being fired up with the dampers wide open.

Since I had to play with it so much to keep the temp up anyway, I opted to do some basting with apple cider vinegar.
If someone ever offers a beer and it comes out looking like this, that's when you say 'Oh, thanks but I was just leaving.'

I had hoped to use this cook to test out my new temperature gauge. I saw it was in the clearance section of Chef Central's website, but thought it must be ok as it was made by Maverick. I was way wrong on that one. I popped in a battery, inserted the probe in the meat (no completely clean way of saying that), and it gave me a 'low' reading, not even registering a temperature at all. I swapped that probe out for a spare one I had around, and it read a temp above 200, which I knew could not be right. The above picture is it reading a temp of 161 with the probe in the open air. Will be returning this one and insisting on store credit.

While I had this going on, the surprise hit of the day was my rubbed, maple-smoked, sauced pork neck bones. My wife had some around for some reason and I snagged a few to smoke when she wasn't looking. The result was some moist, snack-size pieces of meat that had a handy bone handle, that you could eat and walk around a party in a fashion similar to a lamp chop.

Paired with my wife's basil lemonade they made a nice appetizer.

Here is a video review of the neckbones:

It's always something with that lady. That was her appetizer. Here is mine:

Anyway, now for today's finished product:
After six hours of smoking we had some good pulled pork today. There were some dry areas outside but not many, and the interior meat was very nice, moist, with a refreshingly subtle maple flavor. It was sweet but not overpoweringly so.

The sugar made no real noticeable difference from other smokes, so the jury is still out on that one.

I am sad to say this because I had high hopes, but I think I am done with lump charcoal in my Char-Griller. I am having continuing problems getting my smoker to stay at 225 with the vents open. I heard a lot on the forums about how great this stuff was, and it does make great flavor, but if it is going to extend cook times the way is has for the last couple times, I will have to go back to the briqs. Royal Oak is the brand people swear by, and if that doesn't cut it I don't know what will.

Overall, this is still a learning experience. Having found this as a hobby, it gives me an outlet to experiment which my wife prefers to me experimenting on ill-planned home improvement projects. It's also a good excuse to spend an afternoon in the yard with a beer or three with the added plus of making some kick-ass dinner. You will hear more from me as I tweak my methods. Happy smoking

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A tour of my pit

By the way, to help put things in perspective I thought it would be good if I let everyone know what I cook on. Here in NJ it's not so common to have a welder in the family, so what I'm inclined to do is pick up something at the store and then do some of my own customizations to it. I have a Char-Griller Super-Pro with a side fire box and several sloppy mods that produce excellent pork. The light color on the SFB is from when I did my mod in there, the raised heat source burned off the paint and it rusted a little. I picked up some spray grill paint, and didn't realize it wasn't black until it was on. I very much like my two-tone smoker.

A pair of spare lawnmower wheel make it easier to get around the yard. I fab'ed the axle from a piece of rod, found some brass flanges to make it roll smoother, all held together with cotter pins.

I have a 3 inch aluminum tube to extend the chimney downward to ensure even smoke-flow throughout the main chamber. This picture is when it was a new mod.

This is a little more recent.

My charcoal tray. Those of you familiar with the Char-Grillers will be familiar with these. I think the heat from some occasional direct grilling is making these bars pull apart. If enough of them go I may order a new one, for now I'm finding creative ways to hold it together. For now when I smoke things this tray holds drip pans and pans full of beer.

At one point my wife noticed she kept getting burned pieces of rib, I concluded that high heat was coming through the SFB, and made this heat shield so it would not blast directly on our food. So far, so good with it.

This is my newest mod. I made my charcoal box (next pics) a while ago, and used them for a long time on top of the SFB grates. I recently pulled those out and bolted in these pieces of plumbers strap to lower the box a couple inches. Now those grates will go camping with me.

This is the charcoal box, made of expanded metal and sheet metal pieces, bolted together. Again if I ever learn to weld I may make something better but this is serving me well for now.

A grate-level thermometer

So that is the grand tour. I think these mods are all pretty standard for the Char-Griller line. If anyone out there has there own method about getting optimal, even heat, please comment as I always like to try new things. More news soon!  Cheers-

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Here's one for the ladies -Some quick lamb chops, copper river salmon, and eggplant before the vacation.

Going out of town for a week but before I go here are some quick grilling pics from the other night.  My wife and mom enjoyed copper river salmon and grilled eggplant. My dad and I had some very nice thick lamb chops, that came out nice and rare. We used the Corrado's Argentine lump charcoal that worked great, got very hot, and stayed that way for hours, maybe I should give smoking another shot with it. Here are some quick pics. 

I'll check in in a week, If I see any good barbecue while I'm away I'll try to snap some photos.


I wonder how you rotate pictures on blogspot? I'll figure it out next week.

Here is one of the local panhandlers

Looks good

Rare meat turns me into a caveman, eating with my paws.
See you next week-