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Franzisaurus_Rex

Advice: Braising in Smoker?

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I've had an idea flowing across my brain waves over the last few months. It's on every channel and I'm getting ready to pull the trigger. 

I'd like to try to braise a dish in my smoker. I am thinking of braising a rabbit, but the I'm not looking for guidance on the protein/ingredients, rather the technique. I turn to you, o internet, in hope you will tell me your secrets.

Has anyone ever braised in their smoker before? I've done some research, but I haven't seen much on the "how to" for the technique. Here's my plan:
- Brown the rabbits on skillet (stovetop)
- Get the aromatics/other stuffz sweated browned, etc.
- (MEANWHILE) Smoker heats up to 300-325 degrees.
- Add stock to rabbit, bring to a simmer on the stove top.
- Transfer to smoker, braise uncovered for 1-2 hours, then cover with foil to finish for as long as necessary.

I've seen folks smoke and then braise, but I haven't seen much on the idea of braising something IN the smoker. I saw something on CookingwithMe.at about doing something similar with pork belly, but that's about it.

All I know is that after using stock+drippings from a smoked turkey created this CRAZY MIND-BLOWING flavor, so I'm basing this a lot off that idea.

-Franz

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300-325 in a smoker?  I suppose it is possible, depending on your equipment, but that is way above what I would consider "smoking" temperatures.  There may be some adjustment/adaptation necessary to make this happen.

 

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I've been known to use my smoker as an extra oven when needed but not sure what, if any, benefit would be had from using it.  If you're doing a "cookout"  type event, you can certainly put your product in a disposable aluminum pan, cover it and go.  For normal dinner prep, you won't get the wonderful smell from braising throughout your house and you'll have to clean the outside of your vessle. 

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No reason it shouldn't work. But unless you just want to do it in the smoker, seems like it'd be much easier to just toss the uncovered pan in the smoker for a couple hours to get the smoke you want and then cover it and transfer it to your oven to finish. Once the item being cooked is covered, the smoker is just acting as an oven that will be less efficient than the one in your kitchen. I don't know what type of smoker you're using but mine is electric and would be hard pressed to maintain those temps. A wood, charcoal or propane smoker would be better able to hold the temps but would probably need a reload (wood or charcoal) or a lot of propane for the timespan you're talking about. But again, no reason it shouldn't work if you want to do it all in the smoker and it should do fine even if you can't maintain the higher temps you want.

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2 hours ago, Tri2Cook said:

No reason it shouldn't work. But unless you just want to do it in the smoker, seems like it'd be much easier to just toss the uncovered pan in the smoker for a couple hours to get the smoke you want and then cover it and transfer it to your oven to finish. Once the item being cooked is covered, the smoker is just acting as an oven that will be less efficient than the one in your kitchen. I don't know what type of smoker you're using but mine is electric and would be hard pressed to maintain those temps. A wood, charcoal or propane smoker would be better able to hold the temps but would probably need a reload (wood or charcoal) or a lot of propane for the timespan you're talking about. But again, no reason it shouldn't work if you want to do it all in the smoker and it should do fine even if you can't maintain the higher temps you want.

I've come to similar conclusions as this and what others have said.  You make a great point regarding transferring it to the oven once it is time for the dish to be covered.  I am thinking that 1-2 hours uncovered (monitor braising liquid and add more as needed - similar to an uncovered cassoulet)will thicken the braising liquid and give me the smoky flavor I want.  Transferring to the oven to finish off covered is a logical next step.

 

Regarding equipment, I have a charcoal smoker and I can generally get the temperature anywhere from 200-400 depending on how I set it up. 

 

Thanks for help brainstorming!


Edited by Franzisaurus_Rex (log)

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Another question comes to mind... does anyone know of a time frame for a food to reach its smoke saturation point?  I have heard reference to this concept (that food will stop absorbing smoky flavor at some point), but I haven't been able to find enough information to take advantage of this knowledge.  I'd ideally like to use this information to gauge when its good to cover the dish and transfer to the oven.

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I'd be worried about the braising liquid picking up too much fly ash and other smoke particulates. Having a braising dish or pot (or whatever) sitting on a smoker will catch a bunch of the stuff that's flying around the smoke chamber. That might be fine for an hour or so, but I think it'd start to get gross pretty quickly (depending on how much smoke you're using) and you'd want to put a lid on to prevent it from taking on more smoke flavor. And at that point, you might as well be in an oven.

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On 2/25/2017 at 0:07 PM, Franzisaurus_Rex said:

I've seen folks smoke and then braise, but I haven't seen much on the idea of braising something IN the smoker.

 

This I do but usually only in my electric smokers—it's not as easy, but doable in a charcoal smoker too.

What veg do you plan to braise with the rabbit?

I'd mildly smoke both rabbit and veg for a bit—suspended above a drip pan, at a relatively low temperature—then proceed with the braising.

58b351bda3485_McGeeBraisesandStews.PNG.45ba346dd6cb0bb83ef4e8cec752bc11.PNG

Source: On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen By Harold McGee, p. 163


Edited by DiggingDogFarm (log)

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When you open the smoker to braise, the smoker temperature will quickly drop to ambient temperature.

 

dcarch

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Braising in your smoker works great especially with disposable pans because of the smoke soiling the vessel as mentioned above. Mature charcoal fires generate negligible airborne ash and you can keep the smoke under control too. 

 

The food including liquid will pick up smoke flavor, so take it easy on the smoke wood. Or, if you cover the pan it's equivalent to using an oven so smoke the meat naked for a while first for maillard. 

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The quintessential smoked BBQ beans catching drippings from a nearly finished pork shoulder should be tried too. 

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1 minute ago, Dave W said:

The quintessential smoked BBQ beans catching drippings from a nearly finished pork shoulder should be tried too. 


I always do my beans that way. A pan of beans below the meat. I frequently toss a pan of mac and cheese on the shelf above the meat as well. But when the meat has been in the smoke for what I consider enough time, I always move everything to the oven to finish. I just find it easier and more efficient than keeping my electric smoker to temp for that much time. But I agree completely that doing what they original poster was asking about full term in the smoker is definitely doable.

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Well I'm no Stephen Raichlen, who I have witnessed use over a thousand dollars worth of ingredients on tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment on a single episode of his show. But I have smoked hundreds of pounds of meat, veggies and other stuff like cheese and seafood on my cheap little Brinkman Smoke'N Grill which set me back all of $40 USD.

 

I don't have it anymore, and don't know if it's available, but I do have one of the stainless steel grills it came with (in 1986) that I use on my gas grill that was converted to charcoal when it broke. The Brinkman design was a charcoal pan near the bottom of the smoker, a water pan (which could also be filled with beer, wine, stock, aromatics, or whatever) and then two stainless racks above both of these pans. Then the cover goes on the cylinder to make a sort of Artoo Detoo-looking deceptively cute, but very effective smoker. Bonus! If you want to grill instead of smoke, just raise the charcoal pan to the first of the two rack supports, and place a rack over it on the second rack support. There was a temp gauge built into the hood and it had a latched door where you could add more charcoal or wood chunks or chips without lifting the lid and releasing all your heat. The water pan mitigated temps from the fire below, and prevented most ash floating up to the food. The water kept the food moist and everything from wild Canada goose, to whole turkey, whole ham, ribs, chickens, unhusked corn, and on and on came out so very delicious. I loved this smoker. It's sort of like braising to start with, because of the steam from the water pan. I never tried it with lean meat like rabbit submersed in braising liquid, but if I were going to try it, it would be with a set up like this to keep it in a moist environment and to keep floating ash from the fire at bay.

 

One Christmas, I had already bought a whole ham and the boyfriend came home with a turkey from work unexpectedly, so I smoked both in the Brinkman. Turkey (leaner) on the lower cooking rack, with the ham above to baste everything with fat. Oh! I just love, love this design. The water pan catches drippings so the fire doesn't flare up from fat dripping in it. If you want to cook forty pounds of meat like I did over a cold and windy 24 hours, you will have to stoke your fire with more charcoal and wood chunks about every four hours, including getting up from sleeping. 

 

The Brinkman was not only cheap, but the design was poor man's perfection, a masterpiece. If I ever have another $40 to spend other than on basic survival and sanity maintenance, I am getting another one or similar design, if as I suspect, Brinkman doesn't offer this anymore.

 

Also, if you are going for max smoke permeation I would not pre-sear any meat intended to be smoked. And if the Brinkman design/method can make a mean old male Canadian goose with very lean meat edible on an open rack over the water pan, I would anticipate it would do a fine job with farmed rabbit as well without putting it in a liquid bath.

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There is a lot of good advice in this thread.  In part due to logistical necessity, I've been using my smoker for big holiday meals for the past few years.  I've also been competing in a number of KCBS events each season for a few years so I have been somewhat immersed in this stuff. 

 

With ribs, brisket and pork butts, the general rule of thumb is that they aren't going to pick up additional smoke after about 2 hours.  With chicken most competitors don't use any wood because it takes smoke very easily and thus quickly gets plenty just from the charcoal and drippings.  I am not sure where rabbit would fall on that spectrum, but I would guess it is more like chicken.  I also believe any braising liquid could easily pick up too much smoke if it isn't covered for at least most of the cook (if not all of it).

 

While I like smoke, some of my holiday guests are not nearly as enamored with it.  Even I think some of my turkeys have been too smokey so I have been working to reduce the amount of smoke they get.  What I have learned is that when cooking on a smoker or grill, not getting smoke is much harder than getting enough smoke.  I even tried cleaning out my smoker and using extruded coconut shell charcoal, which produces very little smoke (some people/brands claim none), but there was still some smokey flavor - perhaps from the remaining buildup on the surfaces in my smoker.  That is why competitors who cook those dishes typically have a cooker that is only used for the "dessert" category (it usually isn't actually a dessert category, but that is almost always what wins it).

 

I also find that a dish might not seem too smokey to me after tending the smoker all day, but it comes though clearly when I get to the leftovers a day or two later -- and even after pulling them out of the freezer months later.

 

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2 hours ago, rustwood said:

 

 

With ribs, brisket and pork butts, the general rule of thumb is that they aren't going to pick up additional smoke after about 2 hours.  

 

 

Excuse me for nitpicking but this isn't accurate. Smoke particles will continue to adsorb to the surface of the meat so long as both are present. 

 

The chemical reaction that creates a pink smoke ring ceases above ~140F, so smoke ring formation stops after a couple hours but smoke flavor will continue to build. 

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I have only once in my life had meat I thought was too smokey; that, oddly enough, was in a bar in Philadelphia, and it was brisket.

 

I know when we used to cook pork shoulders on a pit, the traditional West Tennessee method of barbecuing, we'd cook them for 18 hours, over hardwood coals. Max temperature 275. The meat was moist, tender, and pulled like a dream, and the taste was to die for.

 

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46 minutes ago, Dave W said:

Excuse me for nitpicking but this isn't accurate. Smoke particles will continue to adsorb to the surface of the meat so long as both are present. 

 

The chemical reaction that creates a pink smoke ring ceases above ~140F, so smoke ring formation stops after a couple hours but smoke flavor will continue to build. 

 

I am not going to disagree with that and I understand why you called me on it.  I think it would be more accurate to say that many believe that it doesn't need more smoke after about 2 hours.  In addition, I think there is also a widely held belief (which may or may not be accurate) that compared to the first 2 hours, relatively little smokiness is added later in the cook.  In my experience (which is surely not authoritative) those who are cooking with charcoal (as opposed to stick burners) rarely add wood for smoke after 2 hours.  Often they add enough at the beginning of the cook to last a couple of hours and don't add more during the cook. 

 

About the only thing that everyone can agree on in BBQ is that there is no one true way.  People do all sorts of things with BBQ.  Some things are rooted in regional differences, some in personal/family traditions and preferences.  Certainly science has made inroads, but I personally doubt it is going to significantly change how the "art" of BBQ is typically practiced.

 

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58 minutes ago, kayb said:

 

I know when we used to cook pork shoulders on a pit, the traditional West Tennessee method of barbecuing, we'd cook them for 18 hours, over hardwood coals. Max temperature 275. The meat was moist, tender, and pulled like a dream, and the taste was to die for.

 

 

I may never manage to build/dig/cook over a pit, but I can dream. Where was the temperature measured: at the meat height, or just above the coals?

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3 hours ago, kayb said:

I have only once in my life had meat I thought was too smokey; that, oddly enough, was in a bar in Philadelphia, and it was brisket.

-----------------------

 

 

Liquid Smoke?

 

dcarch


Edited by dcarch (log)

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7 hours ago, Smithy said:

 

I may never manage to build/dig/cook over a pit, but I can dream. Where was the temperature measured: at the meat height, or just above the coals?

 

My father, who was a welder, built the "pit" out of galvanized steel; a box with no bottom, a grate, and a lid about six inches deep to set down over the whole thing. The temp gauge was in the lid. He would start at 175, and gradually build up, turning and basting hourly with a vinegar-based sauce, and finish off at 275. It involved shifts of staying with the pit during the night. 

 

The pit belongs to me now, although it's hanging on the wall of the barn up home. Next time I'm up, I plan to bring it home with me.

 

 

5 hours ago, dcarch said:

 

Liquid Smoke?

 

dcarch

 

Probably was. It was excessive enough as to be completely unpleasant.

 

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It is possible that a wood burning pit can impart an unpleasant smokey flavor. I don't want to go into a lot of detail but flaming wood can overdo the smoke flavor. Also possible cause of an unpleasant smoke flavor can come from inadequate venting which can let the smoke go 'stale'. 


Edited by Norm Matthews (log)

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19 hours ago, kayb said:

 

My father, who was a welder, built the "pit" out of galvanized steel; ----------------------

 

Just a quick clarification.

I don't think he used galvanized steel. A welder will not use that for making heated cooking appliance.

 

dcarch

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6 hours ago, dcarch said:

Just a quick clarification.

I don't think he used galvanized steel. A welder will not use that for making heated cooking appliance.

 

 galvanized steel and cooking is a bad combination And welding galvanized steel is a health hazord

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On 2/27/2017 at 2:36 PM, kayb said:

The pit belongs to me now, although it's hanging on the wall of the barn up home. Next time I'm up, I plan to bring it home with me.

 

Please post pictures of it when you get it.  I know of other people who have homemade pits...it should be possible, with the right inspiration and place to dig a hole, for us to make something.

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20 hours ago, dcarch said:

Just a quick clarification.

I don't think he used galvanized steel. A welder will not use that for making heated cooking appliance.

 

dcarch

You and @Paul Fink may well be right; it may simply be sheet steel. I was trying to remember as I typed that. I will look, and take a picture, next time I'm up there.

 

Although Daddy could weld anything, up to and including glass.

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