First off, ladies, don’t get all excited that we’re actually going to clean our pits with the likes of soap and water or anything. No pit master worth his tongs would perpetrate such foolery as that. Because its basic pit fact that the greasier and grimier our pits are, the better the food tastes. Whence that nasty grunge has conspired on the inner walls of our beloved grills, a little more seasoned they have become. We patrons of the pit wear our grimy muck like badges of honor. But we do on occasion however need to dispose of the ashes. Because built up ashes restrict the airflow our pits were engineered for. And restricted air flow is like losing the temperature knob on you’re stove top or oven. So the ashes have got to go. Here is a great way to do that.
Every pit should come with its own built-in Shop Vac we think. For there were times I’d wheel over the garbage can and just invert my grills and ash pans over it. The result naturally resembled something akin to loitering on the flanks of Mount St Helens after a modest eruption. Whence I emerged from the cloud of ash, hacking and wheezing, I always figured there had to be a better way than this. My bride hoped for that too, every time I’d come inside, and want to sit on the couch. Then one day, I started sucking my pits out with the Shop Vac, and man, that made life amid the ashes at once a manly pleasure worthy of the pits of which I have soiled. A utopia of grandiose suckage devoid of ashen clouds. Sucking them out like this is especially the way to go if you’re a big green egg user, or any of the other heavy ceramic pits, where upon ashes reside deep in the bottom caverns, where no man was ever really intended to go. Like wise with other awkward pits or ash pans. A mere swipe or two of your Shop Vac hose, and your pits are at once refreshed, and the proper air flow returns. Line your vacuum with a plastic bag for even easier clean up. An elementary slam dunk in the grilling games, and could hardly be more fun.
So, if you haven’t sucked your pit yet, well, your missing out on one of BBQ’s simpler victories. Something difficult to appreciate I know, from the vantage patron to a gray cloud of settling ash…
Be good to your pits people!
*Make sure all your coals are completely cold, of course, before engaging in this activity.
Before I go on to explain the “beast”, I will hang my head low and admit that the one I was wrestling with was only 3 pounds. It was my humble first smoke of that cut of meat and I walk away with more knowledge on smoking a brisket. I don’t know what go into me. My father-in-law was heading over for dinner and I wanted to impress him, as all son-in-laws do. You see, I know I can cook a good rack of ribs with sweet and tangy sauce dripping from your chin and elbows while working your way to the bone. I’m confident that my smoked chicken will flake apart at the press of a fork and my burgers come out oozing with a savory smoky flavor. I know that on Saturday I was not confident in smoking a brisket and I probably pulled out all the rookie moves. So, I’m writing this to share with you what not to do if like me, you are a rookie at the brisket.
My first mistake… When I was at the local hardware store a few months ago I needed to stock up on my coal supply. It was around the same time I installed the offset firebox on my smoker. Being it was around the Christmas season I was holding tight on my wallet privileges and so I decided to go with Lump Coal instead of my usual brand Kingsford. I have nothing against Lump coal, but I know that I can get my Kingsford coals to heat up and hit a steady temperature for a good 3 hours in the winter. As I filled my firebox with lump coal, it quickly heated up my smoker. It hit the trusty worthy temperature of 250 degrees and kept going. So I adjust my vents accordingly to bring down the temp. Again it hit 250 and kept going down. So, I repeated the process until I was able to zero on where I needed it. One thing I also noticed with the lump coal was that the slightest breeze, I’m talking a sneeze from one of my annoying hibernating pocket gophers would cause the smoker to raise a good 20 degree and then back down 20 and then teeter off in the middle somewhere. I almost didn’t need the wireless thermometer. I was outside enough to look at the gauge itself.
My second mistake…Never take two different theories on how to smoke a successful brisket and put them together (unless you really know what you are doing). I started off with throwing the brisket on the grate and leaving it there. My brisket was going just fine and then I had to open up my BBQ bible by Steven Raichlen. I read an excerpt from Steven’s book that tells me to wrap the brisket in tin foil a good 3/4 th of the way through, and so i did. As much as I respect Steven Raichlen’s knowledge of the grill and his years of cooking over a flame, I also have learned that some of his techniques are not always the only way. He has tv shows and books, but there are other ways of doing it. Wrapping your brisket in tinfoil wasn’t the rookie move. No, the rookie move was the I changed up my method right in the middle of a smoke. If something is going fine, leave it.
One my goals for the process was seeing bark on the brisket. However, I was informed later that my absence of bark was because I had wrapped the brisket in tinfoil. By wrapping it in foil, I allowed too much moisture to collect and therefore, no bark. I know, a rookie mistake I have made. I shouldn’t change methods in mid-cook and I humbly lay my head low because of it.
In the end, my result was a fully cooked brisket. I achieved the tenderness I wanted. In fact, it was so tender you could cut it with a fork which I believe is the goal from what I hear. The smoky flavor had a great impact with every bite taken. I was complimented greatly from my father-in-law, little did he know of the rookie mistakes I made.
I think I’ll wait until I enter the ring with another brisket. I will then throw it on and leave it. No foil, just intense smoke and a solid 250 degrees.
I don’t like looking back. I’m always constantly looking forward. I’m not the one to sort of sit and cry over spilt milk. I’m too busy looking for the next cow. ~ Gordon Ramsay
Dunking your brand new white mop into a fresh batch of homemade sauce goes against everything mother had taught you. OK all rules ascend out the window when you begin to baste a half-done smoky rack of ribs. The aromatic mix of spice, vinegar, and smoke waft into the air, and you can’t help but to apply more.
I’d like to share a recipe I found online and tweaked a little for my taste. It’s a Chocolate Infused BBQ Sauce. I know what you’re thinking, “What is he thinking?” Chocolate and BBQ? Chocolate and Smoke? Don’t get me wrong, it sounds weird, but tastes very good. Here’s how it’s done!
- 2 cups ketchup
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
- 3 tablespoons molasses
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper – See Note Below
- 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped – See Note Below
- Combine ketchup and next 9 ingredients (through pepper) in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring with a whisk. Reduce heat; simmer 8 minutes or until thick, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; add chocolate, stirring until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth.
I decided to make a few notes for the interested reader.
- If you’re going to use Chocolate, go big! OK, I didn’t look too hard at the grocery store. I went with what cost more than Hershey’s or Nestle. I decided to go with Guittard’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips. I felt the flavor stood out more when I have baked with them in the past.
- Also, when a recipe calls for freshly ground pepper, then ground your pepper freshly! I have a mortar and pestle. I love going with a rainbow mix of Peppercorn.
- For those of you who have ever tasted chili infused chocolate, go ahead and throw in some chili powder to taste. The sweet of the chocolate and brown sugar really compliment the kick of pepper and chili powder.
Though the snow may be cold
And the wind chills the air
Associates gather to bend their wit
These two logs have held the cheeks
Of Patrons of the Pit
Conversations of brisket cuts
And ribs that drip with flavor
To watch your cronies eat with joy
And sacrifice dietary behavior
The culinary dares may bet and fly
To see who alters the plan
The recipe changes from bloke to bloke
Yet still fill the greasy drip pan
Though our pits don’t always look the same
The outcome still comes together
To give your smoke some bragging rights
Because you have smoked in astringent weather…
Many a pit well-used tends to produces a commendable quantity of ash, mountains to rival a miniature Matterhorn, in due respect. And should the winds press stiffly upon thy ash pan, surely a face full of it you will have. Ever changing. Ever eroding piles of the past. Ash. It is common deed among those not yet bonded with their pits to frown upon the ashes there. To scorn it, and moan it’s very name in vain. It is ugly they presume, and simply a chore amid the process of BBQ they must endure. Forgive them. For we were all green yet in these ways, before our pits were seasoned, and our hearts re-written, to the simple pleasures of grilling.
Indeed as our pits and cookers season, smoke after smoke, so do we. We change in part, along with the fires kindled, and our joys thus ascend with the curling smoke, and in time, even the mounting ashes left below. For these ashes, dry and gray, are really a monument to our grilling past. The higher they lean, the better for it we are. Proof positive that we have been out there, doing that which is well with our souls. And that is no small thing.
Ashen trophies; a dish to be held high, and wagered of great esteem. Thus sport it proudly and with great affection, for it is a pit master’s receipt if you will, this pile of ashes which scatter in the wind. And blessed is the man of whom’s ash pan over flows in this way. Amen.