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Q&A -- Smoking Meat At home

210 posts in this topic

I think I've heard that smoking with oak is more traditional for brisket, even though I've had good results with hickory.  This is my first shot at oak.  I'm going to put a turkey breast on at some time with oak too - the hickory seemed harsh to me last time I tried smoking turkey. 

So, on one hand oak is less assertive than hickory, and on the other hand brisket mops up smoke more than say, a pork shoulder would.  And then on your third hand, or on your feet or head or whatever, I'll be using logs instead of chips, which put out more smoke than a few chips/chunks would.  Finally, you put this in a kettle, in closer proximity with additional heat, assumably.  Hmm.

Should be a good 4th of July weekend.  I'm smoking some bacon from the ruhlman/polcyn charcuterie cookbook as well. I'm gonna have to find some apple wood for that...

Central Texans swear by "post oak" for their brisket and I can easily say I agree with them. For pit smoking (where you use embers instead of a fire) mequite and hickory are good but for smoking in a Weber or side firebox it can be too much. That's when I prefer maple or oak. Fruit trees tend to be less smokey.

Lately, I've been using ash and although I love the way it burns, it does't have the best taste. I've even used small logs of it on my Weber kettle -- they're about 1 1/2" to 2" in diameter and not more than 14" long. I'll just throw a log on my coals (lump) and I'm good to go. Basically if it's a hardwood and it won't put out your coals, you can use it.

Chips you have to replace more often than chunks and likewise you have to replace chunks more often than a log. But building a log only fire in your Weber might be a pain in the tukhes and more difficult to control the temp. For smoking brisket you want a slow, even heat source and I'm not sure if a kettle has enough air flow to keep the oak lit. Besides, you'd probably have to put too much oak in to the point that the temperature would be too high (anything over 250F is too high).

If I were you ian, I'd go with a mixture of coals and oak. You can keep your oak large, but I'd cut up the oak into pieces that allow the coals to continue to burn, i.e. do not cover all of the coals with a single piece of oak.

Do you have an axe? It's a helluvalot easier to split oak than saw it.

No axe. I have to say that this is the first time I've had need for one here in Chicago. At least for benevolent purposes.

OK - I'll go with a mixture. I'll saw my log in half, or perhaps put perpendicular to the coals and see how that goes.

Thanks,

Ian

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I have an electric Cookshack on my deck which I love. It does a marvelous and relatively fuss-free job smoking. The company, located in Oklahoma (someone from there told me Oklahomans smoke everything including potatoes!) sells boxes of large-ish apple and hickory chunks suitable for the Cookshack. I've had it for several years and love the results. I've smoked lamb (rack, loin, and leg flattened and rolled with olives), chicken, brisket. I attach my Polder thermometer through the top hole, to tell me when the meat is done, and often use recipes from Smoke and Spice by the Jamiesons --although for butterflied chicken, any good marinated recipes (e.g. Marcella Hazan's Deviled Chicken, marinated for a day or two in lemon juice, olive oil, and lots of roughly-ground pepper) gives delicious results. The skin is too smoky, but the rest of the chicken is mouth-wateringly good.

The Cookshack comes with a book of excellent recipes.

Baby back ribs with the Jamieson's Texas Rub are divine! I prefer them dry, Memphis style, but they give some sauce-y Kansas City-type recipes as well. (The Jamiesons give a recipe for Buttermilk potato salad in the back of their book -- I use yogurt, instead - and mash the potatoes adding the dressing to them when they're hot, rather than chunking them, to give a result similar to one I had in a friend's home in Birmingham. It's what I think of as Real Southern Potato Salad.)

One caveat, you've got to wrap the Cookshack results in foil, or the smoky flavor evaporates. They're fine made ahead, though, and reheated in the foil.

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I

So, on one hand oak is less assertive than hickory, and on the other hand brisket mops up smoke more than say, a pork shoulder would.  And then on your third hand, or on your feet or head or whatever, I'll be using logs instead of chips, which put out more smoke than a few chips/chunks would.  Finally, you put this in a kettle, in closer proximity with additional heat, assumably.  Hmm.

If I were you ian, I'd go with a mixture of coals and oak. You can keep your oak large, but I'd cut up the oak into pieces that allow the coals to continue to burn, i.e. do not cover all of the coals with a single piece of oak.

OK - I'll go with a mixture. I'll saw my log in half, or perhaps put perpendicular to the coals and see how that goes.

Well, I went with the mixture of coals and an oak log and it was a bit problematic. In its ideal form it worked great. One smallish log with coals nestled underneath provided the perfect amount of smoke and heat. But then one side of the log would char or shrink away from the coals and not smoke, or it would fire up too much and cause too much heat. Ultimately, with the meat on top of the grate and the log underneath, it was a bitch to keep the kettle and meat cooking properly given the loss of heat, etc. Most of the smoke ended up coming from hickory chips in the end. Chunks instead of logs in the future, methinks -- I'll leave logs to those with equipment that's better suited for it.

Still, smoking is smoking, and the brisket turned out OK in the end, if much behind schedule. In 5-6 years I'll have this thing down pat. Thanks for the help.

Ian

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Thanks for this course. I just finished my first ever session of meat smoking after many months of just reading along. I did 2 4 lb pork shoulders and 3 lbs of chicken thighs on my parents' Weber kettle. (Can't have a grill at my apartment, so I figured I'd put theirs to use. Worked like a charm, even with my poor sense of how to control the temperature.) I pulled the pork at 205 degrees, a little over 6 hours. Pulled the brined thighs after 2 hours. Thanks to you guys, I was able to produce some impressive smoked meat on my first attempt. Next time I'll do more thighs - they disappeared the fastest.

Bonus - I smell strongly of hickory and mesquite, and my SO keeps sniffing me as he walks by. :smile: I can't wait to do some more next weekend.


"Nothing you could cook will ever be as good as the $2.99 all-you-can-eat pizza buffet." - my EX (wonder why he's an ex?)

My eGfoodblog: My corner of the Midwest

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Thanks for this course.  I just finished my first ever session of meat smoking after many months of just reading along.  I did 2 4 lb pork shoulders and 3 lbs of chicken thighs on my parents' Weber kettle.  (Can't have a grill at my apartment, so I figured I'd put theirs to use.  Worked like a charm, even with my poor sense of how to control the temperature.)  I pulled the pork at 205 degrees, a little over 6 hours.  Pulled the brined thighs after 2 hours.  Thanks to you guys, I was able to produce some impressive smoked meat on my first attempt.  Next time I'll do more thighs - they disappeared the fastest. 

Bonus - I smell strongly of hickory and  mesquite, and my SO keeps sniffing me as he walks by.  :smile:  I can't wait to do some more next weekend.

I love hearing that someone has had fun and success smoking meat on the Weber Kettle (some says it's near impossible, I say it's easy). If you haven't already done so, be sure and visit the Behold My Butt and Smokin' Brisket topics. Brisket would be a nice one to try next! There's also a topic on smoking Ribs (acutally not just about smoking them), but I find ribs to be more challenging than butts or brisket.

Start looking for a whole brisket, or at least the point (with all of the fat; avoid the flat).

And, if you have any questions about smoking on the Kettle, please let me know. Some call me the Kettle Queen.

BTW, in my house, we call leftover smoked butt Pantry Gold.


Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

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I have a Brinkmann electric smoker that cost me all of $60 at Lowe's, and it has produced great chicken, pork shoulder, and this weekend, the best brisket I ever tasted (thanks Col K for the EGCI smoking course and rub recipe). The electric smoker keeps a steady 225-250. BJ's always has the whole brisket, between 10-13 lb. in cryovac.

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Not sure if this is the correct place for my question, but it seems like my best bet!

I just moved into an apartment complex with a small balcony (!), so the grill I now have is a charcoal Weber Go-Anywhere. This is the only size grill I can comfortably fit. I was wondering, since I've never smoked anything before at home, if this was too small a grill to even attempt smoking some type of meat on it? Temps will be too high/hard to regulate? Some meat might work others won't?

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I have a primitive but effective cold smoker.

 

I put a $10 hotplate in my gas grill and set it to low-medium.

 

Dry fruitwood sticks are wrapped tightly in foil with maybe 1 small hole for smoke to escape. Each packet lasts about 20 minutes.

 

Temp stays close to the ambient.

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there must have been a discussion here somewhere on the merits of

 

Dry (fruit)wood vs wet (fruit)wood

 

clearly the air intake / smoke output holes are key to preventing 'flare-up'  i.e. a normal fire.

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I strongly favor dry wood. A steamy smoke is acrid.

 

I don't get all of the BBQ mavens who rec soaking chips. 

 

Simply excluding air will keep sticks smoking even if bone dry...hence the foil that I use.

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