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Good Eats>What's in your smoker?
T.G 01:15 PM 03-10-2010
Originally Posted by mosesbotbol:
I can't say I have ever cooked a dry chicken on the smoker. The most difficult feat is crispy skin and too much smoke.
To me, those are the easy parts. Hitting that short window between juicy and dry is the tough one without a remote alarmed temprature probe.

Crispy skin is easy, just keep the grate temp above 325F or so and spray the chicken with a quick blast of canola oil after applying the rub. On a rig like mine, you could even go skin side down over the coals for a few minutes, then move them over to the smoker area and set them skin side up to cook.

As for too much smoke, I just cut back on the amount of wood. About the equivalent of less than one fist sized chunk of apple was used, plus one short robusto sized piece of cherry and a even less hickory. Also, at the higher heat, the meat reaches a point much faster where it wont absorb smoke anymore.
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tuxpuff 02:05 PM 03-10-2010
Originally Posted by mosesbotbol:
Do you remove the thigh bone when cooking the quarters? I do it and it makes one meaty drumbstick.
I did not...but that's a great idea! If I'm not too lazy next time I'll give it a shot. Thanks!
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mosesbotbol 03:09 PM 03-10-2010
Originally Posted by T.G:
To me, those are the easy parts.

Crispy skin is easy, just keep the grate temp above 325F or so and spray the chicken with a quick blast of canola oil after applying the rub.
You nailed it, high temps are needed for chicken which makes it not truly BBQ or smoked. When I make a rub, I mix in a touch of olive oil (to get it a touch thinner than a paste) and stuff under the skin and that's it. The residiual I rub on the skin. My rub's are 50% salt and the rest herbs and spices.

If you want to "cheat" a water pan aids in keeping things moist, but I try not to use one unless it's something cooking while I sleep or it's really hot out.

The easiest chicken to cook is a whole chicken split in half with the spine removed. The underside is a perfect shield from overcooking the skin. I never flip chicken either.

The higher temps seem to let off less smoke too.
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mosesbotbol 03:10 PM 03-10-2010
Originally Posted by tuxpuff:
I did not...but that's a great idea! If I'm not too lazy next time I'll give it a shot. Thanks!
Cut along both sides of the thigh bone (on back side of thigh) and then go under the bone to the joint. Next cut between the joint and pull the bone out. There will be a little meat on, but that's ok. I save the bones to make chicken broth.

A pairing knife works best. You won't ever cook with the thigh bone again.
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T.G 04:11 PM 03-10-2010
Originally Posted by mosesbotbol:
You nailed it, high temps are needed for chicken which makes it not truly BBQ or smoked. When I make a rub, I mix in a touch of olive oil (to get it a touch thinner than a paste) and stuff under the skin and that's it. The residiual I rub on the skin. My rub's are 50% salt and the rest herbs and spices.

If you want to "cheat" a water pan aids in keeping things moist, but I try not to use one unless it's something cooking while I sleep or it's really hot out.

The easiest chicken to cook is a whole chicken split in half with the spine removed. The underside is a perfect shield from overcooking the skin. I never flip chicken either.

The higher temps seem to let off less smoke too.
Bingo, which is why I called it " low heat indirect grilling with a lot of smoke", not BBQ. I've done BBQ'd thighs for the purpose of shredding them into pulled BBQ chicken where the skin gets tossed out, but this ain't that.

I'm not sold on the theory of water pans keeping the food moist, as all they really do is work as a heat sink to control temperature. Internal meat moisture comes primarily from the internal breakdown of connective tissue and fats, not water. If you've ever had over boiled meat that was dry (dried out corned beef for example), you'd understand that water doesn't do jack for keeping meat moist. Depending on the design of your cooker, the water pan might make a better heat sink and buffer from direct radiant heat than it might in other pit designs, example a WSM where the pan, be it empty, filled with water, sand or concrete is a shield that keeps direct radiant heat from hitting the food. In an offset, the water pan is just a heat sink since direct radiation is very limited.

I don't personally care for using olive oil with BBQs & grills. Main reasons are that some of them like EVOO has a lot of flavor that you might or might not want, it really depends on the food. The fruit compounds in the oil burn very easily and taste icky, also, olive oil goes from being a very good oil for you to being a very bad oil for you at a relatively low temperature. I like my olive oils for cold dipping sauces, dressings and soups but thats about it. I prefer the higher smoke point, more neutral flavored oils that don't burn easily, allowing for better browning, for BBQ & grilling.

I'll agree that a whole butterflied chicken is an easy & tasty thing to cook. I tried once with some foil wrapped bricks to hold to flat open on the grill as described by Steven Raichlen in one of his recipes, but didn't really care for the results. I have since collected a stack of various sized cooking grates salvaged from discarded ovens and toaster ovens, everything from small up to large enough for a 40lb-ish hog, butterfly the sucker out, rub it with spices, drop it on one of the grates, put another grate on top and wire the grates together with uncoated bailing wire. Holds the meat in this wide open flat state for more even cooking.

Although if you give me a whole chicken and a few hours to cook it, screw butterflying it, that sucker is getting beer-canned.
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T.G 04:30 PM 03-10-2010
Apologies, on a re-read, that second paragraph sounds rather harsh. Not meant to be harsh, just rushing and made a few poor word choices on my part.
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kydsid 06:04 PM 03-10-2010
Two words: Beer Can Chicken.
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mosesbotbol 07:56 PM 03-10-2010
Originally Posted by T.G:
Apologies, on a re-read, that second paragraph sounds rather harsh. Not meant to be harsh, just rushing and made a few poor word choices on my part.
No worries about that. I use the water pan just because it will baffle the heat and keep the temp stable while I am asleep. In the summer, the water is kind of needed or I have to choke it down so much it may not stay light. I've put big rocks in the pan and that works too.

I use olive oil just because that is old world and the style of food I cook is often Middle Eastern or North African influenced. I don't think it flashes or becomes rancid in the stuff I do (we're talking 250 max). I use canola oil in Indian dishes, mixed with a hint of mustard oil.

I agree the water does not keep it moist, but regulates the temp enough to keep it steady. I love using the WSM in the winter as almost full blast is still in the smoking range without water. For sure without water the end product is better, but for pulled pork I don't think it is very dramatic at all.

The beer can method makes almost too moist. As I stated earlier, I have never cooked a dry chicken and don't understand how people end up with one. I think they pull it off too cooked perhaps.

Have you done lamb shoulder in the smoker?
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T.G 10:57 PM 03-10-2010
I hear you, the water pan is good for long cooks to stabilize the temperature.

I'd rather have a Stoker instead though: :-)

I tend to agree with you that OO should be fine at 250F a few hours. For a long cook it will probably run off or convert before it goes rancid. I don't know about EVOO or VOO though. For the high temperature chicken that we were originally discussing cooking at 325F-350F, this is very close to the smoke point of EVOO (365F-400F depending on a few factors IIRC) so I might be concerned. Now, looking at all of this realistically, we're talking about less than a teaspoon of oil in a cooker filled with carcinogens from the smoke, so really, on that level it's irrelevant so long as it doesn't change the flavor for worse, which was my primary reason for abandoning it's use in this method of cooking.

I can think of a number of reasons people end up with dry chicken; a combination of both too high a cooking temp and leaving it on too long, it's a small piece of meat, the internal temperature can climb 10 degrees in just mere minutes, it seems fine one moment, give it another few minutes and it's too cooked, use of the highly inaccurate "juices run clear" test, and the fact that the USDA has revised their internal temperatures, it used to be 180F for chicken, now it's 165F. I have a pocket dial probe thermometer that is still printed on the sleeve with "Chicken 180F". I don't know if they are still being printed with those numbers, but if they are, and since they are available in every supermarket in the US, anyone who follows that number is going to have dried out food. Assuming that they even know how to use the thermometer properly.

As for beer can chicken, I can see how it could be considered extremely moist or even too moist depending on your tastes. What I love about it is the flavors that the meat absorbs when you've packed the beer cans with half a bulb of chopped garlic, four or five chopped habeneros, some chopped serrano peppers, and cilantro - now all these flavors are being infused into the bird during the cook.

I've also done cornish game hens on small V8 and tomato paste cans. This is nice for picnics and gatherings - everyone gets their own whole game hen.

As for lamb shoulder - no, never done one on the smoker. Done various cuts various ways on the grill, bit never on the smoker. No real reason, just never did. Something to put on my list for this summer.
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mosesbotbol 04:49 AM 03-11-2010
Originally Posted by T.G:
I hear you, the water pan is good for long cooks to stabilize the temperature.

I'd rather have a Stoker instead though: :-)
Wow, that Stoker is cool. Never seen that one. :-)

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Smokin Gator 08:39 AM 03-11-2010
I've used a Stoker for several years now and love it. It really does make cooking, especially overnighters, so much less stressful.

BTW... here is my take on cooking with a water pan. It is really only a heat sink that is only getting to 212 degrees. You are using a lot of your cooking energy to try and bring it higher than that as the surrounding air temp is higher.

If you want to try an experiment... do a cook with a water pan and measure the amount of fuel (charcoal or wood) that you use. The do another cook, preferably with about the same temp and humidity conditions, but this time fill the pan with sand. I think you will find you use MUCH less fuel. Also, IMO, the environment is plenty moist just from the moisture released from the meat. You shouldn't need to add any more.
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mosesbotbol 09:11 AM 03-11-2010
I want to start using sand. I always forget to take home a bucket of sand when visit my parents on the Cape. I find a couple of basebell size rocks works pretty well, but the sand would be really awesome.
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Smokin Gator 09:15 AM 03-11-2010
Originally Posted by mosesbotbol:
I want to start using sand. I always forget to take home a bucket of sand when visit my parents on the Cape. I find a couple of basebell size rocks works pretty well, but the sand would be really awesome.
You can get a bag of nice clean sand at Walmart for just a couple of bucks. I used it in my WSM for a long time. I would cover the sand with foil to keep it clean. When I was done with the cook I would take the foil off and was done with cleanup!!
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Steve 09:43 AM 03-11-2010
Originally Posted by Smokin Gator:
If you want to try an experiment... do a cook with a water pan and measure the amount of fuel (charcoal or wood) that you use. The do another cook, preferably with about the same temp and humidity conditions, but this time fill the pan with sand. I think you will find you use MUCH less fuel. Also, IMO, the environment is plenty moist just from the moisture released from the meat. You shouldn't need to add any more.
When I was using my ECB, I always used playground sand. In my small offset, I have placed a couple of fire bricks beneath the cooking grates. This adds thermal mass, which in turn helps even out the cooking temperatures.
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T.G 09:59 AM 03-11-2010
Originally Posted by steve:
When I was using my ECB, I always used playground sand. In my small offset, I have placed a couple of fire bricks beneath the cooking grates. This adds thermal mass, which in turn helps even out the cooking temperatures.
I use a pair of 2" thick firebricks to create the divider wall from the fuel area to the cooking area in 22"OT that I turned into a smoker. Works great.

Later this year I'm going to try a terracotta round (flower pot base) as the lower baffle/heatsink in my ECB (it's actually a Char-Broil, but same exact design as the ECB) that I use for smoking chipotles.
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T.G 11:52 AM 03-11-2010
Smoked up some pastrami yesterday afternoon w/ apple and plum wood, sliced it up this morning.

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Washed, coated w/ ground pepper, corriander and mustard seeds. About to go in the smoker.

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All done, into foil and a cooler to contemplate life for a few hours, then straight to the refrigerator overnight.

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First slices... Love the smoke ring.

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Sliced - fat cap gets trimmed off as I use the slices.

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Breakfast. Yum.
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Steve 12:01 PM 03-11-2010
Very Nice!
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mosesbotbol 02:08 PM 03-11-2010
Originally Posted by Smokin Gator:
You can get a bag of nice clean sand at Walmart for just a couple of bucks.
What about the seaweed, trash, and salt? I want all my food to taste like a clam bake. Nothing like sand from Old Silver Beach.
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mosesbotbol 02:12 PM 03-11-2010
Originally Posted by T.G:
Smoked up some pastrami yesterday afternoon w/ apple and plum wood, sliced it up this morning.

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First slices... Love the smoke ring.
How many pounds was that and how long did you cook it? It looks like the outside did not get that black. Do you foil it at some point while cooking?

It looks amazing! Better than my breakfast of yogurt and fresh blueberries... I make Montreal smoked meat which is similar, but it's steamed then put on the smoker to finish it. Similar blend of spices too.
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T.G 02:23 PM 03-11-2010
Thanks. Your breakfast was healthier though.

It wasn't a big cut, right around 2.5lbs. Took about 3hours. No foil.


I'll have to look up Montreal Smoked meat. sounds interesting.
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