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Q&A -- Smoking Meat At home

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Cool. Was the temp pretty easy to maintain? It sounds like it was. As far as a closed system goes, maybe you could fill the gaps with foil?

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I just picked up Robb Walsh's Legends of Texas Barbecue, and it is very good. Warning: it is very difficult to read if you don't have access to good TX 'cue. In particular, the various brisket recipes will interest readers of this thread. There is also a recipe for smoked cabbage, among other oddities.

He also has a sensible introduction discussing how to make barbecue with the various kinds of home smokers. At least, it sounds sensible to me, based on what I learned from you, Klink.

Now I just have to find an excuse to do a pork shoulder before Christmas.

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Ah yes, I have that book. You don't have access to good Texas 'que if you can do it at home!

There's a recipe for smoked cabbage I've been wanting to try but I keep forgetting. Core a cabbage and put it a stick of butter. Wrap the entire thing in tinfoil and smoke for 4 hours. Sounds really good or utterly disgusting. I'm betting closer to good than bad.

What I enjoyed more than the recipes however was the history of bbq in Texas, especially finding out why the best 'que joints serve only on butcher paper and likewise don't serve any sauce except for mustard or hot sauce.

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There's a recipe for smoked cabbage I've been wanting to try but I keep forgetting. Core a cabbage and put it a stick of butter. Wrap the entire thing in tinfoil and smoke for 4 hours. Sounds really good or utterly disgusting. I'm betting closer to good than bad.

That's the one.

What I enjoyed more than the recipes however was the history of bbq in Texas, especially finding out why the best 'que joints serve only on butcher paper and likewise don't serve any sauce except for mustard or hot sauce.

Yes, the research was impressive, particularly on the relationship between the Czech-German meat markets and migrant cotton pickers. I wonder what our Texans thought of it.

I will never forget the first real brisket I had, at the Salt Lick outside of Austin. My mouth waters every time I think about it.

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The history was fascinating, especially since it was migrant workers that established Texas BBQ. Today whites just love the BBQ but it was because of white racism that the migrant workers were forced to eat at the markets on the back porch with only butcher paper to eat on and now that's the only way to eat truly great Texas BBQ. The irony is delicious.

Not that the Salt Lick isn't great, but it isn't traditional Texas BBQ since they use a sauce, albeit a great one as well as being my favorite BBQ sauce.

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As a special treat, I'm thinking of throwing several duck breasts into by bullet while the turkey is going on Thanksgiving. Any specific tips for duck breasts? How long do you think they'd take on the middle rack?

Thanks for your help.

P.S. I would think cranberry sauce would go pretty well with smoked duck. Any other ideas that don't require too much work would be appreciated.


"These pretzels are making me thirsty." --Kramer

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Are they skinless? Because smoked duck skin is pretty rubbery. If I were you, I'd smoke the breasts for half an hour and then finish in a pan to crisp up the skin. But that may be more work than what you're looking for on a t-day. If you do it all on the smoker the meat will still be really good but the skin will be a little rubbery. Make sure not to let the temp get above 145 otherwise it's overdone.

If they are skinless, I'd just do it all in the smoker.

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The irony is delicious.

It is certainly delicious, but how ironic is it?

Not that the Salt Lick isn't great, but it isn't traditional Texas BBQ since they use a sauce, albeit a great one as well as being my favorite BBQ sauce.

This is why I thought the book was so good: Walsh explains the history of a number of different TX barbecues, so that I now know that although the Salt Lick's (truly excellent, as you said) sauce is not authentic in terms of the Hill Country German-Czech meat market tradition, there is nothing essentially inauthentic about sauced 'cue in Texas. Because they do it, and always have, in east Texas.

I'm going to Lockhart/Luling for Christmas. I can't stop thinking about it.

Are there comparable books on the history of other regional barbecues? I'm particularly interested in the Carolinas.

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Because they do it, and always have, in east Texas.
Yeah, but East Texas isn't real BBQ. :raz:
I'm going to Lockhart/Luling for Christmas. I can't stop thinking about it.
I'm jealous! Please have a slice of smoked prime rib for me. :wub:
Are there comparable books on the history of other regional barbecues? I'm particularly interested in the Carolinas.
I'm sure they are a myriad of books on the subject but I'm not aware of any. Anyone else know of any good ones?

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So I stopped at the supermarket tonight, hoping to pick up a couple of pork shoulders for Sunday but there weren't any left.

I did buy isstead two corned beefs (points) and was looking for some insight as to how best to smoke them.

Questions:

Do you brine?

If yes, for how long?

How long should they take to smoke?

Thanks!


"These pretzels are making me thirsty." --Kramer

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Sammy

A corned brisket is brined so need to repeat the process. the lenght of the cook is dependent on size and pit temp, as an average 1 1/2 hours per pound. If these points are small (3 to 5 pounds) then time is not a good gauge. A flat I test to see if there done two ways, internal temp (188 to 205º) and how it feels when I slide a probe into the meat, it should have very little resistance.

Jim

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Exactly what jminion said. In my experience, points take at least 4 hours but usually take 6 or even 8. But if it doesn't pass the probe test, don't pull it off -- keep smoking it. You shouldn't have to worry about over smoking a point, there should be more than enough fat to keep it juicy.

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Well, I had my first smoking casualty yesterday. Smoked 2 corned beefs (points, about 4 lbs each) and while the beef was tender and juicy, it was salty to the extent it was inedible and I had to toss them both. Good thing I made way too much food and had 4 racks of ribs and a couple of duck breasts to keep my friends happy.

I didn't brine the beef plus I significantly reduced the amount of salt I put in my rub.

What did I do wrong?


Edited by sammy (log)

"These pretzels are making me thirsty." --Kramer

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Ack! You threw them out? :shock:

Actually, I apologize for not mentioning that it's possible for commerically corned brisket to be too salty if you try it right off of the smoker. That is what happened the first time I smoked corned beef brisket. I was looking for regular brisket but all I could find was corned brisket so I picked one up, smoked it and when I tasted it, it was far too salty just like yours except I didn't throw it out -- I threw it in the fridge. The next day I tried it cold and it made for some spectacular sandwiches and straight up munchin.

But that doesn't help you if you want to eat your corned brisket right off the smoker. Either you have to find a different brand that doesn't salt as heavily or you have to corn it yourself and through trial and error, you'll figure it out. Of course that can be awlfully expensive and time consuming (as well as artery clogging unless you can give it away). For tips on corning your own beef, check out Chef Fowke's thread on making pastrami.

As for the lack of brining and your own rub, you don't have to. Corning is a more intensive form of brining and can be done in a dry fashion or a wet fashion but the latter can take up to three weeks. Keep in mind that intensive flavors have already been added to these commercial brisket points and your rub will have a hard time competing with all of the herbs and spices that it's been sitting in for at least a number of weeks (and who knows how long it could have been frozen). Although I recommend a dry rub with regular brisket, I don't with a corned beef brisket unless you're corning it yourself a la Chef Fowke above. Dry rubbing a commercially corned brisket is just throwing money away.

Even if you're smoking up a regular brisket, I wouldn't recommend brining it. Brisket is fatty and if you don't cut the fat off of the flat, you'll have juicy and tender brisket without brining.

When I was living in Seattle, I found a great store called Cash and Carry which is owned by Smart and Final (www.smartandfinal.com). They sell a whole, untrimmed and corned beef brisket that wasn't too heavily salted which smoked up quite beautifully and was utterly delicious. The name of the brand is First Street Deli and make sure it's uncooked corned beef because they also have cooked as well. They have stores in Arizona, Mexico, Nevada, Florida, California with C&C stores in California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. Click here for store locations.

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Did you brine the venison shoulder you smoked at Thanksgiving?


Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

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Hell no! That would destroy all of that beautiful gaminess of the meat. And with a fawn, there's even less gaminess than a full grown deer.

I don't brine red meat. The closest I come to brining is corning. And with this fawn buck shoulder all I did was salt and pepper the exterior before smoking it.

Well, that's not completely true. I saw it get shot, field dressed, skinned, quartered and I help butcher it myself. Since it was shot two weeks before Thanksgiving, I didn't feel safe leaving it in the fridge so I vacuum sealed it and froze it.

I thought I slightly overcooked it because I didn't pull it off until 140 but it came out a beautiful medium rare and really, really tasty. My hunting buddy said not to rinse with water, but I just have a weird feeling about not rinsing game meat off.

This fawn shoulder was easily the best venison I've ever had. It was tender and succulent with a nice hint of gaminess like you'd find in a good lamb or goat roast. In retrospect the only thing I'm unhappy with is that I made a gravy for the venison instead of a nice pan sauce. Of course I didn't have a pan for the venison, but you get the idea. I did however use some rendered venison fat for the gravy and it was the most distinct character of the gravy.

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May I suggest that when smoking a corned brisket that you soak in fresh water for a day or two (changing the water two or three times a day. That will help cutdown on the saltiness. Use a low salt rub as The Col suggested.

Jim

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I did my first pork shoulder on the Weber last weekend. Thanks for the inspiration, Klink. Sorry I didn't get pictures.

details:

about 5 lbs. of shoulder I had in the freezer (left over from my cassoulet) defrosted, then a S&P only rub overnight.

smoked for about 6 hours, until I got too hungry to go on (170 F internal).

I think I was pretty conservative on the temp. -- closer to 200 than 250 for most of the time. opened it up a little bit towards the end. I was getting at least a 50 degree difference between the temp at the grate and at the vent.

Used kingsford briquets with the Jack Daniels oak barrel chips -- the only kind I could find that didn't look like they had some kind of perfume or something in them. Stopped with the chips after about 3 hours, because it was getting pretty dark and I was afraid of oversmoking.

No mop, but I was worried about drying it out, so I butterflied a nice chunk of pork belly (also left over from the cassoulet) into a "larding blanket". This seemed to work pretty well (the ends were much more dried out than the part that had been covered by the "blanket"). plus, I ended up with a huge sheet of smoked cracklin, which I ate while "carving" -- i.e., tearing it to shreds with my bare hands. another hour would have made it more perfectly "pullable", but it was pretty good.

The smoke ring was about 1/8", and solid around the perimeter.

I also threw on another chunk of (uncured/unbrined) pork belly to see what it would do. Interesting, but not bacon.

My only question is, do I really have to flip it/refuel every half-hour? It seemed like every hour would be enough.

EDIT: PS, my new pig avatar is from a drawing my girlfriend made a couple years ago. In the original, the pig is standing on a weber.


Edited by badthings (log)

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Congrats on your first shoulder!

My only question is, do I really have to flip it/refuel every half-hour? It seemed like every hour would be enough.

You only have to put more chips on when it stops smoking, but that's only if you like your meat smokey. If you were satisfied with how smokey your pork was, or thought it was too smokey by all means, throw less chips on. As for flipping/rotating, every hour would probably be fine after a couple of hours but for the first hour or two every half hour it is better as the meat raises in temperature more quickly at that stage. It's possible that one side could deform or burn at the early stages, especially if your fire is too hot.

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Any expertise here on smoking in cold temps on a Webber Kettle? We've got a fresh foot of snow on the ground, cold Candian air moving in rapidly, so I don't see the snow leaving and warmer temps any time soon. Requests are fast and furious for the Xmas/New Year's Eve festivities.


Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

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Weber kettles are great at keeping heat in, even in cold temperatures. You'll probably have to throw some more coals on, but you shouldn't have too many problems. I'd just put it in a spot where there's at least a little bit of shelter from the wind.

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In the recent issue of Food Arts, one of the recipes called for Smoking liquid, or liquid smoke. What is it?


Ya-Roo Yang aka "Bond Girl"

The Adventures of Bond Girl

I don't ask for much, but whatever you do give me, make it of the highest quality.

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one of the recipes called for Smoking liquid, or liquid smoke. What is it?

What it is.... is disgusting and a woefully inadequate substitute for real smoking. It's a liquid concentrate in a bottle that can be added to recipes needing a "smoky" flavor. Some commercial BBQ sauces contain it and there are some restaurants that will use it to achieve that flavor in their baked/boiled/grilled ribs.

I would describe its relationship to the flavor profile achieved by real smoking as being akin to the difference between a cup of broth made from a bouillion cube and a cup of real chicken stock simmered for hours with bouquet garni.

I'm probably being overly harsh in my assessment and it seems conceivable that in some recipes a tiny dash of it might be beneficial but I'm skeptical of such shortcuts (true confessions: if it works well enough I readily adopt such techniques at home - I'm a true believer in the "Better Than Boullion" products and alwasy keep their beef and chicken concentrates on hand in my fridge).

The manufacturers of the better products (e.g. Colgin's) claim that it's made of real woodsmoke that's been captured and liquified, then bottled in a binder (vinegar, molasses, water etc) for your discerning use. It strikes me as being a bit like using bottled jerk sauce for making jerk - real jerk is a combination of spices and smoking - the bottled sauce only enables one to simulate it by coating the surface of the meat.

That said.... I think the next hot products are

Smoky Lotion

and

Liquid Smoke Cologne

These innovative products are targeted at folks who wish to "smell like the bar before they leave the house" but in NY state that now has an entirely new cachet...

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Question, Klink. With the warm day today, that rack of ribs (pork, spareribs, not babybacks) looked mighty appealing today. With weather forcast what it is down here, I will smoke them either tomorrow or Friday. When should I brine them? If I stick them in brine and can't smoke them tomorrow, should I take them out or just leave them in?


Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

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Spare ribs only need about an hour or two in the standard brine. If you want to brine ahead of time, you certainly can do that. If you do it a day in advance you can also dry rub them which is what I like to do.

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