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I have no idea how to cook with smoke


ChrisTaylor
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So. Yeah. Australian idea of BBQ != American idea of BBQ. This was discussed in a thread I posted a while back. Well, now I have a large, cabinet-style smoker BBQ. I want to start cooking animals in there. Only ... I have not the slightest idea what I'm doing. A lot of BBQ threads assume you know what you're doing to some degree. This, however, is a foreign cooking method for me and, indeed, most Australians. At some point I'll order, say, the Adam Perry Lang books I was recommended, but for now I'm looking for some very basic information.

* How long/low should I be cooking, say, beef and pork ribs (whether a rack of 'back' ribs or some spare ribs) to end up with something that's tender? Do I cook them for a while in the smoker and then transfer them to a grill or do I eat them straight from the smoker?

* Which is superior--rubs or marinades--for producing moist meat? I don't want some complex marinade that tastes of whatever--the idea is that I'd be sticking to flavours that emhpasise or support the pork/beef (i.e. salt, pepper, maybe a hint of chipotle).

* What sort of cuts can I cook in there? I can see ribs, lamb/pork shoulder working and brisket, too, but am I limited to cuts with a lot of fat/connective tissue? Will any such cuts do? i.e. chuck, beef shin, even lamb shanks, trotters?

* Can I cook very lean cuts/species such as rabbit or kangaroo or turkey?

* Vegetables? I know it's possible, but what's worthwhile?

* Other things--say, bread?

Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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So. Yeah. Australian idea of BBQ != American idea of BBQ. This was discussed in a thread I posted a while back. Well, now I have a large, cabinet-style smoker BBQ. I want to start cooking animals in there. Only ... I have not the slightest idea what I'm doing. A lot of BBQ threads assume you know what you're doing to some degree. This, however, is a foreign cooking method for me and, indeed, most Australians. At some point I'll order, say, the Adam Perry Lang books I was recommended, but for now I'm looking for some very basic information.

* How long/low should I be cooking, say, beef and pork ribs (whether a rack of 'back' ribs or some spare ribs) to end up with something that's tender? Do I cook them for a while in the smoker and then transfer them to a grill or do I eat them straight from the smoker?

* Which is superior--rubs or marinades--for producing moist meat? I don't want some complex marinade that tastes of whatever--the idea is that I'd be sticking to flavours that emhpasise or support the pork/beef (i.e. salt, pepper, maybe a hint of chipotle).

* What sort of cuts can I cook in there? I can see ribs, lamb/pork shoulder working and brisket, too, but am I limited to cuts with a lot of fat/connective tissue? Will any such cuts do? i.e. chuck, beef shin, even lamb shanks, trotters?

* Can I cook very lean cuts/species such as rabbit or kangaroo or turkey?

* Vegetables? I know it's possible, but what's worthwhile?

* Other things--say, bread?

I will try to help as much as I can. I have been smoking meat for 25+ years. First you want some smoke. Use dry hard wood. Apple it best in my opinion but hickory is good too. If you have a charcoal burner, use chunks of dry wood. Don't use water soaked wood chips. Wet chips give you white smoke which is just steam. Moisture is good but it isn't smoke and you want smoke. Put the wood to the side so it smolders. You know you have got good smoke if it is blue or even if you can just smell smoke. Gray smoke is bad.

Regulate the heat by using the air vents. More air means more heat. Never close the vents all the way. You want to keep the heat under 300º F. This means slow cooking for a long time, not fast cooking. Fast hot heat is what competition BBQers call grilling, not BBQ. It is best for steaks, hamburger and sausages. For BBQ, everyone I know uses rubs, not marinade and don't slather it with sauce until it is almost done, then just enough to cook it in, not to make a messy end product. Watch the meat with the sauce closely so it does not burn.

Beef and Pork ribs generally take 4 or 5 hours. Pork shoulder roasts aka Boston Butt, around 5 to 6 hours and beef brisket can take 8 to 12 hours and sometimes even more depending on how big is the chunk of meat. Don'lt know about kangaroo. Rabbit can be cooked either on the grill or in the BBQ. It partly depends on how old the rabbit was. Turkey is not something you should try right away. Get some experience with beef and pork first. Bread can be baked in a charcoal or gas oven over indirect at about 400º. It is very tasty. Using quarry tiles or a baking stone is a good idea, just be sure the stone is heated slowly and evenly. Pizza is good on the grill too. I usually wrap vegetables in foil and cook for a few minutes over direct heat.

There is a lot more to it but I hope that is enough to get you started.

Edited by Norm Matthews (log)
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I do not have a cabinet smoker, or have I used one. I do make BBQ, as far as I know how. So take my comments with a grain of salt.

Always cook to temperature, not time. At best, a recipe that says "Cook X pounds of meat at Y temperature for Z time," is just offering an approximation. Most meats used for BBQ have lots of fat and connective tissue. Depending on the cut, an internal temperature of 190F - 205F will ensure that the fat has mostly rendered out, the collagen has turned to gel, and there will still be enough moisture in the tissue to make the food pleasant to eat. For BBQ, I cook at 250F, but other people go as high as 350.

If your smoker will raise the temperature of the meat to 190 - 205, the food will be quite edible. But the surface of the meat may not have become warm enough for the browning that makes for the best flavor. Try cooking something to the above temperatures. If its tender but bland, toss the next batch over a hot fire briefly.

Marinades often tenderize (pre-cook) meats because of the acidic component. They are better used with less fatty meats than those usually used for BBQ. Haven't ever had any kangaroo, but rabbit is helped from a marinade.

I'm not much of a baker, but I cook my breadstuffs at 350F or higher. Baking in the presence of smoke can add a nice flavor, but breads need higher heat than BBQ

Vegetables? I usually roast or grill veggies. I've never tried lower temperatures.

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Most of the time, I cook my BBQ at 250f/120c. That's my sweet spot. I usually cook meats to an internal temp of 190-200f/88-95c -- cut a piece off and taste it. It's done when it tastes done.

I smoke with hardwood -- usually fruit wood culled from my mother in law's orchard. I like cooking over applewood, peachwood, cherrywood, etc. I never soak my wood. But sometimes I'll smoke with "green" wood. I dislike hickory and mesquite.

Getting the amount of smoke right is the hardest part in my opinion. It's not hard to learn to keep a smoker at the right temp. But it's harder to have enough smoke to flavor the meat, but not so much that it tastes like an ashtray. My first forays into BBQ were "ashtray." (Too much smoke. Too hot a smoke.) The smoke should have a bluish tint. Like a burning cigar. And while there should be a constant amount of smoke, it shouldn't be billowing out like a locomotive.

My advice? Buy cheap, tough cuts of meat -- whatever is cheap at your market. Take it home and smoke it. After a few sessions, you'll get the hang of it.

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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Chris, have you read this thread from the eGCI on smoking meat? I agree that getting started on barbecuing is intimidating; I certainly was intimidated when I was getting started, but Klink's guidance is really good and a lot of your questions are answered there.

Bear in mind that this:

Always cook to temperature, not time. At best, a recipe that says "Cook X pounds of meat at Y temperature for Z time," is just offering an approximation.

is the single most important thing to remember when it comes to BBQ. Really, everything else is commentary.

Oh, and you most definitely can smoke vegetables- fruits, too! I often toss an eggplant into the smoker, for outrageously good baba ganoush. Or red peppers. I've also smoked sliced apples (think smoked apple pie) and pineapple.

Have fun! And be sure to post about the reactions of your antipodean friends and neighbors when they try (American-style) barbecue.

Edited by Andrew Fenton (log)
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adam perry langs cookbook serious bbq would be a great place to start but you don't have to wait to use some of his recipes . There are quite a few of them on his website. adamperrylang.com

He gives recipes for more than just low and slow , there are some good grilling ideas there too. The artichokes with anchovy butter is awesome.

"Why is the rum always gone?"

Captain Jack Sparrow

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How long--roughly (temperature not time, I know, I know, but I want at least a vague idea)--would you cook a vension steak for (say, ~150-250g worth of meat)?

Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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Isn't venison a really lean meat? Unless you're trying to make leather, I wouldn't smoke it at all.

Depends on how you smoke it: I've had cold-smoked venison, and one taste makes it clear that it's worth the trouble; it has a very supple, silky texture. Should be properly inspected and approved, to ensure that it's clear of parasites.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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First and foremost (if you haven't done it yet), get to know your smoker. By that I mean forget about everything else until you know how to get consistent temperature (~225F) for extended periods of time. The amount of fuel (don't know if you're just using charcoal or wood as your heat source), how you set your vents....how you have to modify it to get consistent results no matter the weather conditions.

As you learn about your smoker, practice on cheap and easy meats....start with chicken and country style ribs (very thick sliced pork butt/shoulder) for shorter 2-5hr cooks, and a nice sized pork butt for longer, 12-14hr cooks. It will help you get to know how much smoke is too much, how much fuel you need to add and when, and you'll be able to spend time playing around with rubs, marinades and sauces to figure out your personal preference...try them all.

Sounds kind of boring and elementary, but until you have your heat and timing down, you're not going to have a solid data set from which to work on various, trickier cuts of meat....like whole brisket. It's as much art as science.

Jerry

Kansas City, Mo.

Unsaved Loved Ones

My eG Food Blog- 2011

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I've decided, for now, to just buy a whole lot of beef and pork ribs. I do feel the need to experiment, tho'. I was trying to figure a way to keep, say, a rabbit nice and noise. And then I remembered that hey, I have a recipe or three for confit rabbit kicking around: essentially rabbit pieces immersed in a pool of olive oil (along with maybe some garlic or herbs) and slowly (and lowly) cooked for 2-3 hours. This could be a disaster. It could taste like shit. However ...

  • smoked olive oil is awesome
  • rabbit is awesome
  • confit rabbit, any other day of the week, works just fine

We'll see. Bugs could either make a trip to the bin or enter the canon of my favourite rabbit recipes.

Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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* Vegetables? I know it's possible, but what's worthwhile?

Usually when you are smoking meat, there is room for a few odds and ends - sausage, vegetables, etc. Toss 'em on and see what happens.

Smoked sweet potatoes are lovely. I also love to smoke mushrooms, dry-fry them over high heat until they squeak, and then finish the mushrooms with a little oil, garlic, soy sauce, etc.

Smoke & Spice by the Jamisons has lots of good recipes, including many for vegetables and sides. I have the original, so I will be interested to hear about the revised edition.

The Virtual Weber Bullet site has lots of good information, even though you have a different kind of smoker.

Have fun, and do post your results!

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All good information so far. Since I didn't see it mentioned or missed it if it was I would like to comment on the "stall". As you monitor the internal temperature of your meat there will be a point around 140-150*F where the internal temperature just stalls. This can last for a couple of hours or more as you watch the meat slowly inch up a degree or two. Once pass 170 or so it will pick back up and move quickly to your finishing temp. The stall is often attributed to the breakdown of connective tissue but newer evidence suggest it's from moisture evaporation. With this information you can beat the stall not by raising your temp but by foiling the meat to reduce the moisture evaporation. Usually by this point you are done giving the meat smoke and you can continue to cook the meat in your smoker or move to an indoor oven to finish cooking.

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Smoke & Spice by the Jamisons has lots of good recipes, including many for vegetables and sides. I have the original, so I will be interested to hear about the revised edition.

I bought this recently as an ebook. It is great. Totally recommend it for learning how to do this form of cooking.

Edited by nickrey (log)

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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The ribs were okay in terms of flavour (I followed one of Adam Perry Lang's recipes but used a commercia BBQ sauce instead of a homemade one) but not so much in terms of texture. I kept the smoker temperature low enough, I'm pretty sure, but I think they could've done with more time in there. Another hour maybe. They were edible but nothing worth writing home about. Still, we didn't have to dial for pizza.

The rabbit was interesting and showed a lot of potential. I portioned it then rubbed it with a basic spice mix: salt, pepper, chipotle, onion, garlic. Cooked it in the olive oil (the saucepan went directly into the smoker) for a hour then gave it another 90 minutes or so in the oven. I guess I could've given it another 30 minutes, maybe. I reheated it on the grill. The meat was nice and soft but the connective tissue, especially around the legs, didn't break down as well as I hoped it would. I might maybe marinade it in something acidic next time. Maybe that'll make a difference.

I didn't get around to trying any vegetables or fruits (a friend wanted to smoke apples) in it. Or bake bread. Next weekend, perhaps.

Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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  • 3 weeks later...

I just built a smoker out of terracotta planters. I smoked some chicken wings for the first time today. Overall it was a success, but I have a few questions. BTW, my smoker consist of a hot plate in the bottom of an 18" terracotta planter, a pan on the hot plate, and wood chips in the pan, A grate sits on the top and an inverted terracotta bowl sits on top. The hot plate is controlled with my PID controller that I use for sous vide.

Now:

For the first time out I used wood chips. The started smoking quickly, but after about 30 to 40 minutes they were black. Still smoking though. So I added a handful of soaked chips and that reduced the smoke and took it much longer to climb up to temp. It was a cold day, around 0 C, and it took around an hour and a half to reach 85 C. Would I have better results with wood chunks? Should I soak or not soak?

After I was finished smoking, the ambient temp was around 85 C. I took the lid off and removed the chicken. When I came back outside the chips had caught fire. I'm sure this is due to the fact that I removed the lid and let the chips get more oxygen. Is this ok? They never caught fire during smoking. Only once I removed the lid, Is this a common thing?

I'm making venison sausage tomorrow and I plan to let them spend a couple of hours on the smoker.

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Soaking or not soaking is controversial. Some say yes, I say no. Soaked chips make white smoke. That is steam, not real smoke. When you throw them in the water and steam lower the temperature. The black chips are actually smoldering and making smoke to flavor the meat. If the smoke is a faint blue or even if you can smell smoke but not see it, it is doing what it is supposed to do. Gray smoke is burning wood and that isn't good either. Also the temp. problem may be additionally caused by your arrangement not being vented and insulated to maximum.

Edited by Norm Matthews (log)
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For the first time out I used wood chips. The started smoking quickly, but after about 30 to 40 minutes they were black. Still smoking though. So I added a handful of soaked chips and that reduced the smoke and took it much longer to climb up to temp. It was a cold day, around 0 C, and it took around an hour and a half to reach 85 C. Would I have better results with wood chunks? Should I soak or not soak?

After I was finished smoking, the ambient temp was around 85 C. I took the lid off and removed the chicken. When I came back outside the chips had caught fire. I'm sure this is due to the fact that I removed the lid and let the chips get more oxygen. Is this ok? They never caught fire during smoking. Only once I removed the lid, Is this a common thing?

"Smoking" actually is kind of misleading. As pointed out, there is "steam" smoke, and wood smoke. Neither are what you want. What you want is an almost invisible vapor that is the product of the wood's lignin breaking down.

Soaking the chips helps if the chips are exposed to high heat, and would burst into flame. At lower temperatures, the wet wood will just make water vapor and maybe some compounds that will combine with the water vapor to coat the food with creosote. Yuk. Because you are just using a hot plate, the chips should not need soaking.

Before the lignin breaks down, lots of more volatile compounds are released, and they don't give the flavor you want. My guess is that you should have put your food in the smoker when the chips were black, not before. Really old fashioned 'Q was often made with wood burnt down to partially white ash coal, that didn't offer much smoke at all.

That the chips burst into flame is a sign your cooker does control air flow enough that you won't have an open fire. I'd suggest waiting till a heap of chips turned black, into "charcoal," and then put in your sausage. The sausage will cook, and the partially burnt wood should offer the flavor you want.

Actually, before messing with smoking, just use your cooker to cook some food, and see how that works.

Good luck. I used to cook from a hole in the ground, and the food was acceptable. The best brisket I ever had was from a trench dug in a backyard. You should have good results with a PID set-up. It does take practice. A good nose helps.

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What about chips vs chunks?

I used chunks (not soaked) and smoked the sausages for about an hour. I plan on smoking a brisket for pastrami a few hours in a couple of weeks. Right now its about 40 - 50 F outside. Should I wait for the smoker to come all the way up to temp before I add my food? It took about 45 minutes today to reach 140 F. It would have taken at least another 30 to reach 200 F, maybe longer.

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