I love to loiter, it’s true. On my patio, next to the faithful Weber kettle, smoke curling serenely from its old damper. It soothes me. Leaning back in the grilling chair, with a manly beverage in hand, what a pleasure it is to watch the world gently spin there, circling about thee. Oh I could do other, more productive things I suppose, but I don’t want to. Not today. Right now as the Spruce rise blackened against a pale western sky, with this beautiful bed of coals residing pit-side, well, this is all that I need. This and a few moments more patron to the pit. Moments where the Canadian geese engage in their dutiful and seemingly daily fly by, with those large, magnificent wings slicing through the cool, autumn air. And then there is the poetic turn of foliage, of once green and hardy leaves, now tinted with orange and yellow and red. Now fluttering to the earth in a showy submission to the likes of gravity and sweet time.
I fasten another button on my smoking jacket, and turn up the collar as I poke at the coals in the fading light. I find myself lingering there, staring into the fire. Loitering. Absorbing the ambiance of waning daylight, and relative warmth, and the sight still of green grass. For we northern patrons of the pit, we are quietly keen to the slow-ebbing path of the sun. We know it’s plotted course, its time to shine and when it goes dark. We are acquainted indeed with the diurnal rhythms at hand. And we see it coming now, just around the cosmic bend. The day we will be grilling supper in the dark again. The day we usher our BBQ pits over to the dark side of the moon. A campaign that up in these parts can last almost half a year. Say what you will, but this is why I loiter now. This is why I tarry in the tapered light.
On the pit tonight, mesquite smoked chicken breasts. It’s easy to do, and oh so very tasty. Join us won’t you, and we’ll tell you more about it, and how it came to be.
Simple. That was the motto tonight. I didn’t want anything too complex you see, that it would interfere with my prospect of loitering. So what we did was take two portly chicken breasts, with the bone-in of course, and oiled them up a tad to promote a more crispy skin come the end game. You’ll never regret choosing bone-in meat, people, if you have the choice that is. There is a wonderful and undeniable flavor with meat on the bone, courtesy to the marrows and other things residing with that perfect marriage in protein. Yum! It’s how man was always meant to ingest meat! On the bone, with juices running down your fore arm. Anyways, the seasoning also was pert near as simple as it gets – a sprinkle of garlic salt, and an equal dash of onion salt. Many a time I have enjoyed this simple combo with more enthusiasm than some elaborate spice rub I have concocted in the kitchen laboratory. As one of our heroes, the late, great Dick Proenneke said, “I eat simple food seasoned with hunger“. And that’s about how we rolled tonight. Simple. And hungry.
Thus atop a beautiful bed of orange-glowing coals, we tossed on one small chunk of mesquite wood, no bigger than a golf ball, to christen this meat benefactor of the smokey realm. We laid the breasts carefully over direct heat, intensely searing them there, this to get the skin good and crispy, and maybe a little charred. Flipping the meat at your pit master instincts, give the other side some time over the direct heat too. It only takes a minute or two if your fire is good and hot. Once the skin was crisp and tight, we escorted the chicken back to the cooler side of the pit, indirect as they say, opposite the hot coals. This then is where we put the lid on, top damper over the meat, where the draft catches and the wood smoke began to curl.
Glory, but these are moments a pit jockey craves, aside his faithful cooker, aromas of meaty plunder dancing in the air, mingled in mesquite. For a moment at least, and maybe even longer than that, we are exactly where we wish to be, doing precisely that which is well with our soul. And may the clouds idle by then, and the sun hold still in a gorgeous sky, it’s warm rays cast upon our shoulders, and through the dappled leaves. The simple pleasures, people, and good times patron to the pit. So when you see your favorite pit boy loitering by a good bed of coals, remember there is probably more going on there than just meat and flame. There is joy also. And this is usually the case. Amen.
Mesquite grilled chicken breasts with a crispy skin, sided with hot buttered corn, dashed in pepper, and touched in salt. Simple food seasoned with hunger. Man!
We’ll go ahead and admit it then, here at the pond-side pit, we are Weber junkies to the core. Like most of the grilling populous, we started out on the humble Weber kettle, cutting our teeth on the venerable grill, which straddled its ash pan stalwart through the ages. A grill by and far in which we still use heavily to this day. Eventually however, if you delve far enough into the BBQ arts, you will want to acquire yourself a good smoker. A rig designed to run low and slow for hours on end, demand very little baby sitting, and at the end of the day turn out some exceedingly good Q every time. The Weber Smokey Mountain 22.5 is what we have used for years now. It is your classic water or bullet smoker in design, reminiscent of a space droid blowing smoke out its head. And it is by far and away the best bang for the buck we have spent in the hobby of smoking meat. Here then is a more in-depth look at the WSM 22.5, in case you find yourself in the market, or if you just have a passing curiosity about the cooker. Because every once in while, we do occasionally need to do something useful around here.
Weighing in at a shipping weight of 76 pounds of glorious porcelain-enameled steel , it comes in one giant box, the cardboard of which is thick enough to flip out on the back stoop and serve as a guest room for visiting relatives.
Some assembly is required here, such as: screwing on the legs, the grate mounts, and one of the handles, the other being welded in place already at the top of the dome.
When erected, the beast stands roughly at 23 by 23 by 48 inches tall, and is guaranteed by the folks at Weber to last 10 years.
Included with the Cooker:
- 2 nickel-plated 22-1/2-inch-wide cooking grates
- 1 Steel charcoal grate
- 1 Three-Gallon porcelain enameled water pan and fire chamber
- Built in thermometer
- Aluminum fuel door
- 3 Aluminum legs
- 3 dampers on the bottom / one up top
- 2 Glass Reinforced Nylon Handles
- 1 Cover and owners guide included
- All hardware is included
All of this equals 726 square inches of premium smoking satisfaction.
To give you an idea of what that looks like in your world, think six racks of St. Louis cut ribs, or six 15 lbs pork butts. Or if you’d rather, you could do the thanksgiving turkey and a ham all simultaneously, with room to spare. Its big, people. Plenty big.
A Closer Look
The fire bowl is comprised of the bottom enameled steel bowl, a steel fire grate, an inner enameled fire ring(fire chamber) three aluminum legs and three dampers. The general procedure here, as shown in the photo, is to fill the fire ring with charcoal. How much charcoal can the WSM 22 1/2 hold you ask? Well let’s just say, if you were so inclined, you could empty an entire 20 lbs bag of charcoal into the belly of this beast with ease. And we have. Set up with the minion method, as seen in the photo, the cooker will run at around 250 degrees for ten hours easily. We have heard of folks getting longer burn times than that even. Reminiscent of the big old American trucks with the 40 gallon tanks, that could go half way across the country before needing a fuel stop.
The nickel-plated cooking grates are your standard Weber affair. 22 1/2 inches in diameter and functional I guess. Nothing very exciting save for that there are two of them. The other one residing about a holiday ham distance below the top one. And this is what gives the cooker its large capacity. Three racks of ribs up top, and a couple of pork shoulders down below, dang, you’re ready to party!
The dome is gigantic feeling too. But then everything about this smoker is. Just lifting the lid is somewhat of an event. The dome is big enough to easily cover the largest turkey you’ll ever want to smoke. In fact, people have been known to somehow fit a young suckling pig in the 22.5. It comes with the standard Weber thermometer you see on most of their products, and we have found it to be reasonably accurate. But keep in mind it only registers the temperature at the top of the dome, and not at grate level, where most pit masters are interested. For grate level readings, you’ll need to use other devices, such as this probe, that we reviewed a while back. But for general smoker temps, it does just fine. The dome also comes with two nylon handles, one on the top, and the other at the perimeter, just below the thermometer. The 4-hole damper vent is just opposite the thermometer.
Just below the two cooking grates you will find the 3 Gallon enameled water pan. It hangs on four strategically placed, multi-purpose brackets, just above the fire bowl. The water pan does two things for this smoker. Firstly, it promotes a moist environment within the cooker, this operating on the plausible theory that such an environment will also help keep your meat moist. While this is of debatable value to some pit maestros, the other thing the water pan absolutely does is act as a heat sink. It absorbs a commendable mass of heat from the fires below, and in turn greatly assists the pit in operating at lower temperatures, whilst at the same time creating a lovely indirect heat that which envelopes your tasty spoils. In point of fact, when the water pan is full, the Weber Smokey Mountain has always seemed to us to be happiest running around 225- 250 degrees F. This is good, because that is also the ideal temperature range in which to tarry, if you want to engage in low and slow smoking activities. Which you certainly do, other wise you wouldn’t be reading this. Fire door opening is roughly 12 inches wide and 14 inches tall.
The Bottom Line
Tho there are better smokers out there, in which the ceramic eggs and custom jobs come to mind, but if you cannot justify thousands of dollars to smoke your weenie on one of them, then the WSM is the next best thing. They are simply adept at doing what they do. Pit masters have won competitions with them, Slap Yo Daddy, Harry Soo for example. These pits just work. Once you dial in the temperature it stays there, no baby sitting, freeing you to go about the important business of loitering belly-up in your man chair, with a lovely beverage in hand. The 22.5 Inch WSM is $400. There are two other sizes out there as well. The 18.5 inch goes for $300. And the 14.5 inch you can find around $200. The porcelain enameled coating keeps these rigs looking sharp for years it seems. If you’re just getting into smoking meat, or want to dabble in competitive BBQ even, these pits fill the bill and your tummy alike. We absolutely love the Weber Smokey Mountain. We think it’s a dang good pit, and it’s our privilege to let you know. Mission accomplished.
Check them out sometime via our amazon affiliate link! Help put some meat on our grill, people!
- Line water pan with aluminum foil, inside and out for easier clean up
- Start with all dampers fully open and gradually feather the lower ones until pit is running at desired temperature
- In place of water, you can also use ceramic briquettes or play sand in the water pan, which will do the same job of a heat sink
- Spray the cooking grates down with grease before hand to prevent sticking later on
- Brand new WSM cookers tend to run a little on the hot side at first, until a good layer of smokey grime is established on the inner walls
- The Minon Method is highly recommended when using this cooker for sustained low temps for long periods of time
- When adding more fuel, simply toss a chimney full of unlit coals through the aluminum fire door, doing so a half hour before you think you need to
- Fill the water pan with hottest water your tap can produce to get the cooker up to temp faster
- When the lid is off, avoid setting it on the concrete to prevent chipping the enameled coating
- Close all the vents when cook is done to snuff out the remaining coals and reuse them next time
*We are an Amazon Affiliate for this product and others, so when you go to amazon through our link, if you buy, we will receive a small commission. It’s a fantastic pit, and we’re proud to endorse it here at PotP.
Above the pastels of a western sky, tarries a toe nail moon, slender and bright, whilst an autumn breeze mingles serenely amid the fallen leaves. I shift a bit in the BBQ chair, left leg crossed over right, a hot beverage in hand, and watch how the wood smoke gently curls from the old Weber kettle. Mesquite, aromatic tendrils of it, ascend into the tapering light, and a squadron of Canadian geese honk over head, their feathery wings paddling through the thin air. And yonder, the colors turn on the old cottonwood tree down by the pond, waxing yellow and brown – all gussied up for their imminent rendezvous with the earthen soils below. I take a sip off my beverage, relaxed and content with the day. Another day further into the season that is Autumn. A most privileged time of year indeed, to be a patron of the pit.
Gone now are the heady days of sweat, where a simple sojourn to the mail box would render you an unruly tatter, returning to the house in a glistening sheen of your own rank juices. Hark, your stench not much better off than the neighbor’s pit bull, or for that matter, the neighbor I suppose. No more, and I’m OK with this. With the cooler weather, I shall bring forth out of semi-retirement my beloved smoking jacket, its woolen fibers still tinted with the scented memories of a thousand and one past cook outs. Of feasts procured fireside, under starry nights, where the cosmos never ended. Most folk think they are under law to put their smokers and BBQ grills away this time of year, but to we avid pit junkies, and keepers of the flame, well sometimes I think the really good grilling season is just beginning. When the temperature drops to jacket clad levels, and darkness descends in mid-cook, here then you will discover a noticeable and very tangibly increased appreciation found in the fellowship of the coals. Your cooker is not just an instrument of gastronomic science anymore, but rather it is your companion. Your comrade in the trench. Your hickory scented infatuation. You sort of nestle up to the pit, and revel in the heat radiating forth from its steely bosom. And glory long in its soft, flickering light, tinted with the pungency of smoldering wood. I love it.
I also love, bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches. And there is not a better place or way to make them, than over a well-managed hardwood fire, out-of-doors, and under magnificent skies. Here then is how we did this classic sandwich. And how it went and came to be.
Firstly, you must understand that what is good about bacon is only amplified when cooked proper on the grill. There is no better aroma in all the land than bacon sizzling over hot cast iron. Like wise, there is no more comforting and pungent a parlay than said bacon sizzling over a hardwood fire. The melding of bacon smell and wood smoke is enough to send man or woman alike into a rapturous state of euphoria and well-being. Grown men will babble unintelligible phrases whence under the spell of bacon sizzling over an open fire. This aromatic combo of the gods, of bacon and wood smoke, tugs on tender strings to stuff residing deep in our souls. There is no explaining it. No justifying it. All we can do is appreciate it, and let it be at that. With our bacon tonight, we did it sans charcoal, completely, with a 100% cherry wood fire, the embers and coals of which, raked to one side of the pit for the option of indirect cooking.
If the fire is good and hot, place your bacon indirect, and put the lid on, top damper open of course. Most bacon will come smoked already, but we went and double smoked it again, just because. Bathing the beautiful strips of pork belly in continuous wafts of cherry wood smoke, until the bacon was cooked to suit thee. We’ve said it before, cooking your bacon in the kitchen is good, because bacon is good. Bacon will always be good. But cooking your bacon on the grill, over a real fire, is point-blank out of this world amazing. The higher quality the bacon, of course, the more proportionate this effect is. Your inner caveman will weep.
Lastly, a toast is order. A toasting of the bread that is. No grill smith worth his patented silver tongs should make a BLT on the grill and not toast the bread. I mean if you’re going to do it, then go all the way, right. And we did. Lightly buttering up some left over ciabatta bread, and roasting it quickly over the fire, for to usher in that crispness of texture to match the cold lettuce to come. And the tomato, well that was to be plucked ultra fresh of course, from our garden folds, which proudly holds on still, remnants of summer season now ebbed and gone.
Inside, we thus assembled the hallowed BLT, and with a nod to those who bring us bacon, and the new season upon us, we duly devoured. Amen.
Fire Roasted BLT’s over a Cherry Wood Blaze. Oh man!! If you haven’t tried this classic sandwich off the pit yet, well, then in the immortal words of the BBQ Pit Boys, you’re missing something out of your life!
Part One: The Day Off
There comes a time in a man’s day-to-day, when all the world seems to conspire around him. Where one social posture leads into the next, and for a while at least, he cannot seem to get his feet on solid ground. Nary can he find a hidden moment even, to catch his breath, and enjoy his inalienable right to watch the clouds slowly idle by. Such was the case here recently, as it sometimes is when one lives a busy life. Drawn henceforth from duty to duty, event to event, it’s easy for a pit jockey to get restless for his craft when he cannot do it. When the ever-whirling cog of society sweeps you under the rug of life, and you are mired there, like a dull, gray moth trembling in a spider’s web.
This weekend last, as the tweety birds cavorted in the morning dew, and the sun came up over the pond, for the first time in a string of many weeks, I found myself the proud owner of an entire day. A day in which, if I so fancied, I could do anything I pleased. No schedules to uphold. No duties to meet. Just sweet time at my disposal. Naturally, then, and without much fore thought, I did first what any red-blooded man would do. I grabbed a wood working magazine and headed for the little pit boys room. There I amused myself with cutting edge articles of mortise and tendon joinery, whilst casually forming my itinerary for the day. The goals at hand today would be lengthy, I concluded, but doable. Whilst still perched on my white throne, in the classic fist-on-chin-elbow-on-leg position suitable to the great thinkers of our time, I nonchalantly chucked my magazine aside, and with steely eyes trained on the far wall, tabulated the plan of attack for my day off. I would, I reasoned, under blue skies and warm breezes, smoke a brisket point low and slow, and by golly if I could help it any, refrain from doing anything else. It was mission statement I was up for I think, nay, born for some might say. In point of fact, I already had the pit coming up to speed. Lets head out there now and check out the Weber Smokey Mountain.
Here in the fire bowl, we have what is known in the smokey arts as the Minion Method. A technique developed by its name sake, one Jim Minion, of high BBQ immortality. If you are going to delve far into the low and slow philosophies, or just want a long-sustained fire in your pit, with minimal babysitting, then this is the way to go. It really works slick. To learn more about the Minion method, check out our write-up, The Long Burn: The Method of Jim Minion
Now, Onward to the Beef!
As an aside, and in a show of flat-up beggery, if any of our lovely readership would ever feel the urge to send us a Wagyu Brisket for a slobber-tugging and thoughtful review, or just to be nice to a couple of pit boys, we are dutifully and irrefutably here for you! We like Wagyu. It’s just that we can’t afford it!
In a quaint haze of mesquite smoke wafting up out of the pit, I plunked on the gastronomic center piece of the day , – a modest, Wagyuless, 5 pound brisket point, or in fancy talk, a deckle. What ever you wish to call it, suffice to say, it’s an ornery slab of beef that which requires much love, and much pampering. And as the laws of conventional BBQ would have it, about 7 or 8 hours of quintessential pit time, aside curling plumes of wood smoke, and soft, tapered sun beams. Perfect. Just what I was looking for. It went on fat side up, for to harvest the natural basting effects of rendering fat and gravity. We also filled the water pan below with about two gallons of water for to promote a moist smoking environment, but more than that, to act as a heat sink from the raging fires just below.
Of Seasonings & Such
The home-made seasoning today was a simple affair to be sure. An ode to the Texan way of doing things, one part kosher salt, and one part black pepper. That’s all a good brisket needs is salt and pepper, thus letting the wonderful beef do the talking. Especially if you’re smoking for a mass variety of palates, going simple is the surest way to please the majority at least. But for kicks we mixed in a little garlic powder and a shot of cayenne pepper, just because, and to bring a wee more heat to our end game. There was a dash of paprika in there too. Here is the simple rub recipe we concocted.
- 1/2 Cup Kosher Salt
- 1.2 Cup Fresh Ground Black Pepper
- 1 Table Spoon Garlic Powder
- 1 Tablespoon Paprika
- 1 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
Before we carry on to Part Two, we would be remiss if we didn’t tell you about the book of books concerning brisket. Aaron Franklin makes the best brisket in the country! How do we know? Well, just read the reviews on his book. You’ll see. We humbly bow to his expertise. Anyways, back to our story.
The Campaign For Nothing
Big black enameled lid in place, and we were off. The aromatic issue of smoldering mesquite soon took aloft, and before I knew it, I was ensconced in my patio man chair, settling in for the day. Left leg crossed over right, lovely beverage in hand, I was ready, doing what I do best – nothing! And that is the secret to brisket. Patience. You gotta wait for it. Let your smoker do all the work. And you my friend, your biggest duty is just to kick up your feet and keep yourself hydrated hydrated. Just do nothing.
It didn’t take long tho, for temptations to rear. The tomatoes in the garden, for example, looked a wee bit thirsty. Why it wouldn’t take me but two minutes to give them a drink, I thought. But then that would go against my moral code of the day, which was to do nothing. So I resisted, and the tomatoes went thirsty. I kicked my feet up instead, and trimmed my hat towards the sun, eyes drawn shut whilst enjoying the aromas of curling wood smoke and the gentle clatter of the cottonwood leaves yonder. It was a fine day indeed, to smoke a brisket.
A few hours into it, I had amassed a commendable tally of tasks that I was able bodied enough to avoid doing. Temptations to productivity that I thus refused. And I was getting pretty good at it too. I resisted, for example, the re-occurring, yet compelling urge to wash my truck. Which turned out, wasn’t really that hard to resist after all. Likewise to scrub out the shower stall, which stood in long need, again wasn’t that tough! Napping however, was allowed I figured, for that is the veritable incarnate essence of doing nothing. Indeed I should aspire, I thought, for as many naps as I could. So when the urge to do something was strong, I just laid down until the feeling passed. I was developing a system that I could have gotten used to, or would have, had it not been for the ribs.
I love ribs. A cannot deny, they flutter about in my dreams, and court my very salivary glands to no end. I long to be in their presence, and admire their mahogany complexion post bathed in sweet hickory. Let me as soon as I can muckle onto a rack and henceforth make it my own. And the thing was, I had a rack in the refrigerator, and it was calling my name. Well I had to respond in kind, if but for the efficiency of the smoker alone. Would be a pity, I reasoned, to run that big old pit with just a wee little brisket on board. What a waste of fuel. It needed company. So before I knew it, the “do nothing treaty” was broken, and a rack of pork ribs lay prostrate on the pit. Tendrils of mesquite rose silent into the air. I settled back into the man chair, content with my biddings and resumed with the heady business of doing nothing.
That’s the great difficulty, I discovered, with doing nothing. You can’t stop to rest! It is very challenging and awkward at best. But it can be done, I’ve concluded, if but in short, well-calculated bursts. You kind of have to work up to it. After a fashion, a few hours at least, you do slip into a beautiful rhythm. A magical span of clock where the hours while away in a wondrous melody patron to the scenic path. You find you do not fight it any more, the urge to rush from one thing to another. That sort of hasty lifestyle is the rhythm of anxious city folk, and not fit for a pit keeper proper. Good BBQ should never be rushed. Instead there is an almost honest embrace taking place, for the leisure at hand. Like a prized trophy wrought from the battlefields of haste. What once was a struggle to sit still, is now your privilege. What great fun it is to lean back in your chair, in no hurry for once, and just let the world spin headlong with you. Letting up on the accelerator pedal of our lives for to bask at the end of warm sunbeams, where the wood smoke also rises.
Take the point to 195-205 internal temperature
We took the brisket to around 200 degrees internal. A brisket is usually tender between 195 to 205. That’s your window of victory. If the thermal probe slides in with little resistance, you probably got it right. We never wrapped it in foil either, tho some do. It didn’t need to be wrapped no how. The beefy juices fairly oozed forth, and the bark came out a robust, peppery ensemble of flavor. Man! We went about chopping up the brisket next, for to fashion a BBQ sandwich to match any man’s dream and meatiest ideal. And we declared it good. A good day indeed to smoke a brisket, and for a while at least, do very little else. Amen.
Slow Mesquite Smoked Brisket Sandwiches on a toasted Ciabatta Roll with a touch of tangy Sweet Baby Rays. Yum! Top it with slaw Carolina style if you please.
Postscript: When smoking the big meats like this, it is imperative to watch the internal temperature. If you miss that window of 195 to 205, you’ll probably screw up your supper. There are lots of gadgets for monitoring the temperature. The one we’ve been using for years now is the Maverick RediChek ET-73. A decent performer for a fair price. To see our review of it, click here. Or check it out on Amazon. We are an affiliate for this product, so a small commission will be sent our way ,eventually, if you go through our link. We do appreciate it.
The cooker we used, Weber Smokey Mountain 22.5, was a fantastic performer as usual. Always a pleasure. Check it out also on amazon!
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They were cute once, iffin you didn’t already know it. My beloved tweety birds which dart about the pond-side pit here, happy-go-lucky, flirtatious, and like I say, cute. But this morning as I stepped out on the patio, beverage in hand, I find a gaggle of them floundering fancy in the ash pan residing beneath the old kettle grill. Flopping about there, doing their best wildebeest impressions, antics oft reserved for the dusty plains of Botswana. Their little feathers cloaked in ashen debris, kicking up little gray clouds of it, which scattered in the morning breeze. What a bunch of goof balls, I thunk. Rolling around like pigs in the mud. Like puppies in the grass. Like grown men in the ball pit at the Burger King. They were having a good time at it too, and I nary could convince them otherwise. But then again, I wasn’t trying to.
I’ve long admired blokes, you see, who make the best of things. When your bird bath is as dry and filthy as a Weber ash pan, and you look like a bird who has just endured a volcanic blast, yet you still frolic with great and unbridled enthusiasm, well my hat is off to you little bird. Not conformed by conventional thinking or naysay, but emboldened perhaps, by the cliché cup of lemonade that awaits you – you made the best of things, and you did so with the least of things. You did it with a pile charcoal ash. I guess they were just washing themselves, or something akin. Tweety birdologists could enlighten us, I suppose. But I say if their goal was to get out the other side of this activity cleaner than they began, well, they failed miserably at it. I had me some dirty birds at the pit today. Some very dirty birds indeed.
Anyways, lunch was a trifle cleaner you might say, and probably better tasting too, than tweety birds rolled in ash. We henceforth evicted them of their little health spa, and fired up a chimney of coals. And whilst those coals matured, we sprinkled some of this Cajun Blast Seasoning over two portly patties of 80-20 ground beef. We were burger hungry at the pit today, I cannot deny. But then if you asked us most days what we would fancy, a good hamburger is usually at the top of the list, and rightly so. For they are a rather filling affair of meat and bun. Easy to do. And quick too, if that is how you like to bend. But above all that, burgers are just plain good, and nothing more needs to be said about that.
You all know how to grill a hamburger, so we shan’t prolong here the intricacies of it. A hamburger is personal anyways, as every pit keeper embellishes his or her own unique touch on it. Like a finger print, perhaps, no two burgers are the same. A burger proper is but a reflection of your mood that day. Some days you’re feeling spicy, other days just plain. Some days you’ll hanker for the works, plucking everything and anything out of the refrigerator door. While still other days, you’ll just stick a fork in your burger and eat it like meat Popsicle. It’s all good in Burgerville, and that is precisely what makes them so wonderful.
We tossed some cherry wood into the coals for to smoke there, and brought the burgers to a state of well done, just before of course, toasting the buns. We almost always toast our buns, if but to add that extra texture so lovely in a hamburger. Then melted some medium cheddar cheese as a matter of course, added a slice of tomato from the garden folds, and lastly, and totally fueled by impulse here, squirted a shot of Thousand Island-like salad dressing on the bottom bun. Man!
As I plated up, sunbeams swept across the green lawn. Clouds the shape of pork chops and wiener dogs idled overhead, and a gentle breeze with subtle kisses of autumn mingled through the fluttering tree tops. Tomatoes ripening before thine eyes. Bean plants sprawling. Honey bees buzzing. The ninth inning of summer was going strong. And yet another span of moments pit-side, sealed in that smokey vault of memories. Satisfied, my plated spoils in hand, I stepped into the house, sliding the screen door shut behind me. And just then, and rather out the woodwork, three little tweety birds fluttered up on my six, and with a cheerful chirp, lit again into their hallowed ash pile- floundering around there in little gray clouds stretched by the wind. I smiled quietly. What can you do. I had some dirty birds on my hands today, and that’s all there is about it. But they were cute once, I tell you, they really were. Come to think of it, they still are I guess. And burgers are always good. Amen.
What can be said, really, if for the shafts of warm light that which still fell from above. We’ll take it. And the quietude only pierced by the sound of my paddle blades dipping rhythmically into the still, glassy waters, stained amber from a waning sun. We’ll take that too. And I suppose also, the charming banter of barn owls, perched up their oaken stays; glory be but what a hoot-fest at hand, echoing through the musty, forest glade, and the tender places deep in my soul. Indeed, what can be said, but thank you, and we’ll take it. For it was one of those vintage, long summer days you see, that which the likes of you wish would never cease. With memories of winters past, so cold and so stiff, I guess a bloke knows when he’s onto something good. Something exquisite, with a gently arcing sun. And long may it tarry there, we pray, hovering over the western shore, sizzling, the illumination of a daily bookend, for those of us lucky enough to linger in but one of its golden rays. Indeed, we’ll take it if you please.
We’ll take it because we keepers of the pit notice these things. We spy yonder the tweety birds acting differently. Formations of geese overhead, as if in a dress rehearsal for the banquet that is fall. The subtle turn of a Cottonwood leaf. The tell-tale nip in the morning air. And of course, the swifter days, ebbing into longer nights. And whilst it still feels like summer, and looks like summer, we know in the back of our minds that these days are numbered. Thus, the DNA reflex to seize them now, vigorously whilst we can, in this, life’s heady game of memories, and the acquisitions there of.
On the pit tonight, a little a salute then, to summer’s good tidings – roasted red potatoes, and green beans harvested from the pit-side garden. And yes a little steak tossed in there too for to please the men folk. Cause steak is good and we mustn’t fight these things!
Red potatoes over direct heat
First on the pit, the red potatoes. We love roasting these little starchy spheres on the kettle grill. It works so good, every time. No foil needed. They were sufficiently cleaned I should wager, leastwise good enough for this pit boy, and then pointedly rolled about in a smattering of olive oil. This to act as an adhering agent if you will, for the seasoning. We used some more of that Grill Happy Seasoning we’ve been using lately. You can read more about that in our previous post if you wish, or just click here. Anyhow, the spuds were placed over direct heat the entire cook. Flipping once or twice at your discretion. About twenty minutes, or until soft. They’re real easy to do too. The end product of yum should be crispy on the outside, and fluffy on the inside. Like many of us.
Foiled green beans on the grill
Next we tossed on some green beans plucked fresh from the garden’s green bosom, which were wrapped up in some foil along with a dollop or two of butter, and a splash of olive oil, and some home-grown scallions, just because we can. Salt and pepper to taste. These can be placed over medium or indirect heat for 15 minutes or so. Flipping once at your pit master instinct. Of which we did not soon after plopping on a hunk of cow, the cut of which I couldn’t rightly tell you. It was one of those pleasant finds I had discovered rummaging through the freezer, a left over that I had tucked away there from a previous cook out. I believe it was some form of sirloin or the like. But the truth is it doesn’t even matter, I guess. We are men you see. And we eat meat. It doesn’t matter if it has a proper name or not for to make the acquaintanceship of our bellies!
A rather swift cooking meal, this shouldn’t take more than a half hour if your fire is good and hot. Long about the half hour mark, the steak was done, nay, everything was done, and we pulled the beans off and took a peak inside. Steam bellowed from the sparkling folds of foil to the green harvest residing within. Very nice. Nothing is quite so delightful to the soul, it seems, than feasting on what you have grown. I suspect it is how we were always designed to live. Closer to the garden than a card board box. So plant what is wise, logic suggests. Not just in the garden, but in the very soils of our life. Plant what is good and right and decent in this world, the things worth growing, and watch then how the sunbeams fall over the fields of green, shadows cast, and rainbows stick to the sky, in these, the long days of summer, by and by. Amen.
Grilled steak, roasted red potatoes lightly seasoned, and hot, buttery green beans, fresh from garden to grill, and all patron to the pit. So next time you’re looking for something tasty on the BBQ, swing by the garden first and see what’s growing there.
It was rather warm in Minnesota today, as day’s go I suppose. Ninety and one degrees they said, with the customary humidity to match. And I know, you folk way of Texas or the like, will do your finest to shed a single tear down your collective cheeks, post rolling your eyes towards the heavens. But hey, we’re bred for polar vortex’s up here, sub-zero wind chills, and days so bitterly cold, icicles form on the tip of our noses, amongst other things. That’s what we’re used to. So pardon thee if we sweat a little here, amid the thick green foliage, and steamy environs of a Minnesota summer.
It’s not all bad tho. There are some redeeming qualities, turns out, to living in a sauna. Such as an increased joy factor in root beer floats and ice-cold watermelons. Man that stuff is good! Also, we do not have to scrape ice off our wind shields in the morning, which is nice. Nor observe the humbling sights of small children with their tongues fused to subzero wrought iron railings. It happens folks. It happens more than you’d care to admit. And then there are the tomatoes. How I fancy taking a seat out at the pit-side garden and watching things grow there, and especially so the tomatoes. Who doesn’t like to gently rattle those plants from time to time, and smell that delightfully earthy, chlorophyll-tinted fragrance of a thriving tomato plant. Few aromas in this world lend more brilliantly to summer’s bliss, than this. It soothes thee amid soft summer breezes. It makes me happy.
Anyways, whilst I was inhaling my produce, the smoker was slowly coming up to the operating temperature of 225 degrees. Which strikingly was only 85 degrees removed from where it sat, “cold” as it were. We super genius types like to put our smokers out in the sun like that, to capitalize on solar manipulations. You Texas folk do that too, I heard, baking cookies in the cab of your truck. Nice. A gesture towards sanity, perhaps. Indeed, this is how you roll with the prevailing weather patterns, or stubborn dance partners if you will, who must always lead.
On the pit today, every smoke wizard’s prize – pork ribs! A pit master’s litmus test. They’re pretty easy to do too. So grab something cold, and pull up seat, and we’ll tell you all about it, and how it went and came to be, patron to the pit.
After a surgical removal of the membrane (read how to do it here), we dusted the rack over heavily in Famous Dave’s Rib Rub, and placed it bone-side down on the pit. For smoke wood today, we used a blend of hickory and cherry wood. Apple works great with pork ribs too, but we didn’t have any of that on hand. If you want to learn more about smoke woods, and what goes with what, don’t forget to check out our smoke wood page we created just for you, at the top of this site. Or just click here.
Once the heavy black dome of the Weber Smokey Mountain was put in place, and the top damper tweaked, I went ahead and assumed the proper BBQ posture – in the man chair, feet propped up, and a cold beverage in hand, thus to while away the enchanted hours there. No sense, after all, putting these important matters off. This is our time! And as you delve into the BBQ arts, you will begin to concur that good BBQ indeed takes a requisite amount of time. It just does. Time in which the pit jockey proper will have to partition off from an otherwise overly, and no doubt busy schedule, for the heady business of watching smoke curl. And mind you, a good rack of ribs can take between 4 to 6 hours at 225 degrees. If you are a hurried soul, BBQ may not be the thing for you. Consult your nearest microwave.
Some where along the line, I forget exactly when, we tossed on a few chicken thighs as a matter of course, to keep the pig company in there. After about three hours on the pit, at 225 degrees, the rib meat had a nice mahogany color to it, and had pulled back on the bones some, poised suitable now for step 2: The foil.
Also known as the Texas Crutch, we foiled up the ribs with a hearty splash of apple juice to act as a steaming agent. This is where the magic happens, folks. This steaming process really loosens up that toughened meat, rendering the collagen, and escorts your unruly pork by the hand, down the aisle and unto its promising marriage with all that is good and right and savory. Oh yes!
After an hour and a half or so in the foil, I sliced off and sauced a small portion in which to partake in that long-standing custom better known as the pit master privilege. Our moment before the opus, as benefactors of the meat, away form the eyes and mouths of onlookers and meat thieves alike, to bask momentarily, yet with great effect, in the succulent climax of our smokey spoils. It is good, nay it’s the suitable thing to do, to secure the choicest morsel for the pit master. You deserve it after all, what with napping in your chair and such, whilst the warm sunbeams pendulum across a pastel sky. And the breeze which flutters through the Aspen leaves, only to stir your soul, like the tweety birds which sing and flirt in the dapples of the dogwoods. Not to mention the Mallards yonder, and handsome Drakes that which chortle on the pond. Ah summer. These the ambient cast patron to the pit, where the wood smoke rises, and the tomatoes so gently grow. Amen.
It’s that time of the year again. Late summer. The blooms have bloomed. The garden is thick. Football is on TV again. And the Minnesota State Fair is underway. I guess I could take or leave the fair, massing up with a million and a half of my closest friends, shoulder-to-shoulder in a sauna with the state’s largest pig, but I digress. One of the high privileges of the fair, of course, is the food there. The bigger the fair, the more choices of wonderful food you’ll find. The Minnesota State Fair is about as big a fair as there is. So we go there hungry, needless to say, and primed for fat on a stick!
There are many things to try at the fair, from: deep-fried pickles, to bull bites (hmmm), deep-fried snickers bars, to the venerable funnel cake or elephant ear. We try to spread our calories with equal opportunity, with no gastronomic discrimination or bias, but the one place I must never miss, is Peterson’s Pork Chops. Man they’re good! Now the fair is a big place, vast acres of it in fact, but you can always find Peterson’s Pork Chops by following the smoke. The aroma trail from which the nose shall navigate unto a savory victory. And there you will find, and the terminus of a smokey rainbow, the spoils that which you have sought. Grilled to perfection. Juicy. Smokey. And without question, served on a stick. It’s a fair thing. We usually like to stroll the campus with our pork chops in hand, like meat lolly pops, and wander into the pig exhibit there, just because. I know.
That’s all well and fine, POTP, you say, tell us all about your state fair’s marvelous pork chops, but what’s in it for us! We poor schmucks who can’t make it to Minnesota right now, just for a pork chop on a stick. Well, we’re glad you mentioned that! Turns out Peterson’s Pork Chops have the very same seasoning they use at the fair, for sale also. And why not, I reckon. When you stand in line twenty and some minutes for a pork chop, they must be doing something right. So I picked up a bottle of it not too long ago, just because. Just in case my belly ever acquires the urge to reminisce with what is good and right about the fair. And such was the case tonight, under muggy, gray skies, and darting tweety birds. I wasn’t able to go to the fair, so this was the next best thing. So grab a lovely beverage and join us at the pit, and we’ll show you how it was and came to be, the premiere state fair pork chop, patron to the pit.
First on the pit, a little side order of red potatoes, rolled about in olive oil, and sprinkled with seasoning. The seasoning we used tonight, is Grill Happy Seasoning, from Peterson’s. Yes, the same seasoning we’ll use a little later for the chops. It says right on the bottle you can use it on vegetables too, so we did. Good is good, after all. Places the spuds over direct heat, flipping occasionally at your pit master instincts. If you do them right, they will have a delightful crispness to the outer skin, and be fluffy hot inside, cordial to a pat of butter if you please.
Then the cold chops hit the hot iron grill, sizzling there like good meat does, whilst we dusted them over with Grill Happy Seasoning. The first dribbles of drool accumulated in my left lip pit. The smoke began to curl. And the cook was on. We did the chops opposite the hot coals the entire time, pampering them as good pork ought to be. Flipping once or twice for even cooking. I could not help nurturing the urge to impale a stick into these lovely chops, but alas, I resisted. Let’s not get ridiculous, after all.
An ode to the Peterson Pork Chop, courtesy of Grill Happy Seasoning, and patron to the pit. Succulent and savory, dripping with flavor, sided with a lovely bouquet of roasted red potatoes and lightly peppered corn. Man! So if you can’t make it to the Minnesota State Fair either, but would fancy a taste, this is how it’s done. Oh yes!
There are some days in the human condition when a man proper needs to catch his own protein. A time required when he simply, and to an end, needs to fish. To stalk environs still wild, and pluck from them that which lurks and swims in the murky underwaters. To hoist thy plunder proudly into the air, dripping there, sunbeams glinting of scaly flanks of slime, and declare that dinner is henceforth secured from this barren and trying land. And somewhere deep down, just past that soulish area where it ought to, it feels good. Indeed, it feels right. Such was the case recently, whilst afloat a lovely Wisconsin fishery that shall go nameless here, naturally, to throw off any would-be angling gumshoes, that my elder brother and I came into the good fortune of tight lines and nicely hooping rods. Pulling in assorted pan fish and frisky crappies, which when escorted by hook and line, floundered over the water’s surface with an acoustic DNA like that of the final slurps of a draining laundry tub. And we drained a few tubs indeed. We were men you see. Fishing men!
Speaking of, when we first fired up this blog, almost two years ago now, one of the first genuine interactions we made in the vastness of the blogosphere, was with another fisherman, one by the name of TJ Stallings. A kindred soul. A man who has made his living for decades, in the business of fishing. A feat any bloke who has ever wetted a line and declared it good, has just got to admire. And I do. If you fish much, you’ve probably heard of his company, Road Runner by Blakemore. And to this day, I enjoy perusing through his blog, to learn new things, and see what old TJ has been up to concerning fish craft. It’s a good resource, and if you’re into angling at all, as we are, you may wish to check it out some time at TJ STallings Fishing Blog.
Anyways, TJ must have grown a liking for the weekly drool which accumulated on his keyboard after reading our BBQ posts, and one day sent us a box of tackle, just because. That’s just how TJ is I guess. I thanked him accordingly, but it never felt like enough. So, TJ, this is another, albeit humble attempt of ours, thanking you for your kindness, and your generosity. And for just being plain cool. This is our fish dinner, you see, and it’s in your honor. This one is for you! Here then is how it went, and came to be.
So back at the lake, I tied on one of these 1/8th oz jig spinners, Reality Shad by Road Runner, and that was all it took. The games were on, you might say, and the fish were agreeable on Wisconsin waters. Rod tips pulsing towards China, blue gills and crappie on the run, 6 pound test line as tight as guitar strings, slicing through a quiet lake, whilst the summer breezes gently murmured through an oaken shoreline. Say what you will, but this is living!
And before I knew it, I had stringer well enough along for a decent supper. TJ would have caught them bigger, I know, but golly, I think I had just as much fun. So we loaded the boat, saddled up in the truck, and made our way homeward, over the border, and through the spanning countryside, winding roadways, and one well-placed Dairy Queen stop, all the while conjuring the glorious meal yet to come.
At POTP Head Quarters, first on the pit, and being the proper order of things, were the tin foil potatoes. They take about twenty minutes or so, over direct heat, flipping once for good measure. We like to season them with a dash of salt and pepper of course, and a few pats of butter to keep things sporty. We also tossed some frozen peas in there too, cause I heard once potatoes are not a real vegetable. What ever.
Meanwhile, and after the fish had been filleted out, they were dunked in a milk/egg mixture, and then shook about in a semi rhythmic fashion amid a plastic bag containing flour, salt, and pepper, until each morsel of fish meat was suitably dusted over.
Tossing some peach wood onto the coals, we preheated the griddle accessory of our craycort grate, added a little vegetable oil, and man oh man, what sweet pleasures then ensued when that cold fish hit the hot iron. The aroma and the sizzle, wafting into a beautiful, summer’s sky, whilst the tweety birds and men did rejoice. Man! And yes, that is a steak you see there towards the back of the pit, lightly seasoned in onion and garlic, and grilled to perfection. What can I say, I should have kept more fish! So surf and turf, of course, was the only viable course of action here. One of which I was prepared to endure. Oh yes. A pit keeper proper does what he must!
The fish cooked very fast, like most fish do. Just a few minutes per side, until they flaked easily with a fork. And tho the cook was fairly swift, the day was still delightfully long and tapering. A morning on a tranquil, Wisconsin lake, plying our craft of rod and reel. Then a drive through the rolling countryside, windows down, bass boat in tow – our shadows flickering through picket fences in the pastels of a long, evening light. And rounded off with a quiet spot of grilling at day’s end, at ease in the patio man chair, and an ice-cold beverage in hand. There are far worse ways to spend a day, people. I leaned back, tipped up the brim of my hat, legs crossed like a gentleman of leisure, and further mused over the day at hand. How the sunlight dappled through the fluttering cottonwood leaves, and the clouds yonder, drift lazy but with purpose over head, where the wood smoke so gently rises. That too, and memories of fish and of men, for be it also the essence this day, impressed gently on the emulsion of the soul.
I am content, and highly blessed. And well fed. Amen.
Thanks again, TJ. Blessings!
Grilled tin foil potatoes, juicy steak seared and brought to medium, and a pile of freshly procured fish, fried over a peach wood fire, and all, every ounce of it, patron to the pit. Man! Are you hungry yet!
The Ring Of Fire
The lightning bolts shot jaggedly through the early morning sky, and the thunder boomed with a deafening authority, whilst our fellow patron stirred restlessly in his bed. It was 5:30 in the blessed morning, the hour of the butts, as it were, and time then to light the fires three. Three pits and 55 pounds of marinated pork shoulder. An estimated 15 hours of cooking lay ahead. A day of smoking bordering pert near biblical – a life event and utopia in meat. But the rain storms which parlayed through the night, and lingered into the morning, did not dampen the resolve of our faithful patron, and caretaker of the Track-Side Pit.
“Hark“, he belched, “I am a patron of the pit, I won’t let a little rain and lightening keep me from my appointed rounds! ”
Thus tarps were strung, and wind breaks sought, as he trimmed his pits towards the tempest. A pit keeper always finds a way, you see. And soon, the rains dissolved, as if in submission to a warm, blue sky and passionately curling plumes of hickory smoke. The fires hath ignited, people, and the games were on.
It seems our fellow patron was throwing a party for 200 of his closest friends. So like any man would, he bought a bunch of meat. Pork shoulder to be exact. Fifty five pounds of it. Glory be! This turned out to be a fair share and quantitative mass to exceed the capacity of his off-set smoker. And so about two days ago, naturally, he came knocking at my door. A patron has got to back another patron’s play, don’t you know, so I let him drive off with my beloved 22.5 WSM. I told him to treat it as if he were dating my offspring. He obliged heartily, and made off in a cloud of gravel dust.
The meat load exceeded the capacity limits of his off-set, and the WSM too, which I didn’t think was even possible, so somewhere along the way, he managed to scrounged up yet another smoker. A wee little electric model from the MECO company. A pit keeper proper will find a way people. Every time.
Turned out three pits were just right. Three smoking vessels set up for business, wrapping in a picturesque, smokey arc about his man chair, forming the hallowed BBQ dwelling and smoke camp our fellow patron lovingly coined, “The Ring Of Fire“. And the Triple Pit Smoke Out of 2014 was thus official. And by high noon, a total of 7 pork butts with adorning drip trays were already 5 hours into what would be a 17 hour marathon smoke. A hickory scented campaign of which would ply and test the very fabric of patience that which loosely clings to a tender soul. Smoking butts is a time-rich indulgence, and lest your butt be of the wee sort, it will extract some considerable clock out of your day. It will. The scope of common sense would harken it not even worth the trouble. But to an old-time pit jockey, this is what we live for. This is what we do! And what did here, you might say, was a whole lot of nothing. I digress.
That’s the nature of good BBQ. That is, at heart of the matter you will find a soul on the scenic path. For there are quicker ways to cook dinner in this world. Those of us who do it over wood and coals, and low and slow, quite frankly are in no hurry. Nay, we cherish the rising tendrils of blue-tinted smoke, and the longer the cook endures, well, the more we revel in its hearty spoils. The more we savor the journey. The process. It is our privilege to take that which we love, in this case, BBQ, and extend the moment for the moment’s sake. To hold the sun by the tail, and try to pause it there, hemorrhaging in a pastel sky. Ho hurries. That’s how we roll. Anyways, long about five in the afternoon, ten hours total thus far into this smokey campaign, the internal temperatures of the butts were hovering in around the 165 degree range, and you know what that means. Or maybe you don’t. If you are not familiar with the art and science of smoking the big meats, what happens around 165 is what meat maestros affectionately refer to as “The Stall“. And it’s always an interesting time.
At around 160 – 165, basically what happens is your meat forms a union and it goes on strike. It refuses, most times, to rise in internal temperature. The thermal doldrums of conventional BBQ. And it tries a man. What happens, they say, is the water in the pork is cooked out at that point, and the collagen begins to render. And tough begins to turn tender. It’s where the “magic happens”, pit keepers like to say. And for a while, sometimes even a greater while, the internal temperature gets stuck. And it appears on the surface of things as tho no progress is being made, even tho it is. Eventually tho, and reluctantly at that, the temp starts climbing again, and finally exits the stall, some times hours later. If you’d like to know more about the science of what is going on here, and it is some very interesting stuff indeed, we’d refer you to this article by one, Meathead, who explains it very nicely. Anyways, I went to pay our fellow patron a visit during the stall. To offer support during this trying time, and to partake in some of his smokey ambiance he had going on at the Track Side Pit.
He was hard at work when I got there, sitting in his folding man chair, considering the curvature of his belly button or something. I knew he was probably concerned for his plunder tho, not to mention a bit weary from ten hours loitering in the ring of fire, so I did what any good patron would do, I brought him a Dilly Bar. Ah yes, the venerable Dairy Queen stand-by. The ice cream swirl on a stick and dipped in chocolate gastronomic wonder, one of which brought a large smile to us both, as we sat back and watched the smoke curl together. It was clear, he enjoyed some company no less than the Dilly Bar. And understandably so. A man, you see, is particularly receptive to the good things in life when his meat has stalled. Any little victory he will take.
“I’ve been out here since 7 AM“, he croaked.
“Oh yeah“, I said, quizzically
“Yeah“, he continued, “I would have started earlier if it weren’t for the lightning storm this morning”
He slurped a big chunk off his ice cream, and added, “But I had to man up and get it done. The heck with the storms, I’m a Patron of the Pit!”
I finished off my dilly bar, and looked at all the pits puffing serenely into the muggy, Minnesota sky. The rains long gone now. It was a beautiful sight indeed. A train loaded with heavy coal suddenly rumbled by, rattling the earth like a waking volcano, rhythmic and pounding, yet some how soothing and therapeutic. It rumbled for a couple of minutes until it finally tapered into the distance and silence flooded back to the track side pit.
I tossed my ice cream stick into the trash, and yammered, “You know, you can go inside once in a while if you want to. These pits can baby sit themselves for a while.”
“Oh, I can’t do that“, he countered, “The wife thinks I’m working hard out here!”
“Crikies“, I croaked, “Yes, you mustn’t mess with that illusion! Good move old boy!”
This is one of the greater acts of deviance in the BBQ condition. The oft held high esteem for the pit master as being some sort of wizard that which requires long and protracted hours of manning the pit. If you value the quality of your supper, you’ll leave the pit keeper alone to do his duties, you see. This notion that he should be left alone out there is maybe only one half-engendered by circumstance and myth perhaps, but more importantly, it is widely accepted as truth by the significant other. Thus releasing a man for the duration of his smoke-out to do what ever he bloody well feels like. And this might explain, when you think about it, the occasional need for a pit keeper to smoke a 17 hour pork butt. Savvy?
Pit Hijinks and The Final Pull
We enjoyed some mutual agreement and insight there on the patio, and I lingered a bit more, I must say, legs crossed like a gentleman of leisure, watching our fellow patron’s acute talent for pit craft. He did something of which I don’t reckon I’d ever seen the likes of before in backyard BBQ. Lifting the lid to the little electric smoker, tongs in hand, he sought to manipulate the pork shoulder residing in there. Plumes of hickory smoke bellow out as he attempts to muckle on to the meat. And most of it he does, except for piece that prematurely pulled, you might say, and shot head long into the sky. And there it went, a good-sized chunk of smokey pork, a sandwich’s worth at least, launching skyward like a hickory scented meat missile. Up up up it went, until it too stalled at the hand of gravity, rotated slightly there against a lovely, Minnesota sky, crickets chirping, and made henceforth its return trip to earth. Now here is where it gets interesting. That glob of dripping pork landed smack dab in the middle of a piece of tin foil, one that our fellow patron had rolled out on a side table there just prior. It plopped to foil with a metallic thud, followed by a wiping of the patron’s brow, and I think a couple of hallelujahs were uttered too, just cause.
“Nice show!” I belched, “You could take this act on the road!”
Anyways, we lamented a spell more about the mysteries of stalling meat, and then I bid the man farewell. I had places to go, and things to do. OK, not really, but the bugs were coming out, and it was getting late. He understood, and thanked me kindly for the visit and the ice cream. And I left him to his own devises , there amid the curling smoke, sizzling pork, and another choo choo train building in the distance.
The Smoke De Force endured into darkness. With great resolve, numerous lovely beverages in hand, and an I-Pad on his lap, our fellow patron stayed the course. The smell of slow-smoked pork mingled with the earthy aromas of a summer’s night, and the sound of a pit keeper slapping his forehead for the carbide-tipped mosquitoes which prospected there. At one o’clock in the morning, 17 glorious hours later, he pulled the last butt off the pit and retired to bed. It had been a long day indeed. But a good day, as day’s go, where the wood smoke also rises. Amen.
They looked like meteorites swaddled in tin foil, and smelled nothing short of ridiculously wonderful. Each butt marinated over night and seasoned in raspberry chipotle rub, from the Wayzata Bay Spice Company, before the smoke. It was enough to make a hungry bloke mist over, it smelled so good. Later it was pulled to perfection, and set forth unto our people, with no less than three home-made BBQ sauces, of course, representing each end of the heat spectrum, and a little honey mustard sauce some where right in the middle, for those who just can’t make up their mind. Rounded off with a dollop of cool home-made slaw, Carolina style. Man! And the masses of people were thus pacified.
17 Hour slow smoked pulled pork topped Carolina style with homemade coleslaw and touch of sauce. Man oh man! This is what BBQ is all about, people. It don’t get no better.
Every once in a while, a pit jockey develops a hankering to cook something big. Something epic. A festering itch not particularly, nor suitably scratched via anything you’ll find in the simple realm of hamburgers or hot dogs. Nay, it is a bit more involved than that. It usually requires big, obscene chunks of pig, and it usually takes protracted quantities of precious time. And such was the case today, under gorgeous, blue, Minnesota skies, and darting tweety birds, that we would mark off an entire day from the calendar for the simple pleasure of slow smoking some meat, and then of course, ingesting it at day’s end. It would be a long and taxing day, and would test my wares of loitermanship, beverage reservoirs, and patience with the pork. I was motivated, tho, you see. I had the itch to go big. We’re talking slow-smoked pulled pork here, and BBQ pork ribs. Its everything we get into BBQ for in the first place. The real thing. And it’s what we’re called to do! Let’s get after it shall we.
So it was, I arose on my day off at the most ghastly hour of 5:30 in the blessed morning in which to ply my craft afield. Still in my man pajamas, and whilst the morning sun caught the dew off the freshly hewn lawn, I stoically gathered my coals in one accord, taking flame to the political section that which made residence up the rusty arse of the old, charcoal chimney. Smoke signals soon spiraled aloft, declaring the day’s journey in meat thus embarked. And speaking of bark, lets head inside and rub the butt down again.
First on the pit is the eight pound bone-in pork shoulder, often called the “butt“. I know. What can you do. Anyways, the evening previous, the shoulder/butt was slathered in a cheap mustard, and hit with a commendable mass of Grill Mates, Sweet and Smokey Rub. Then we wrapped it in plastic, and left it alone in the fridge to marry over night with its new flavors. And here this morning, it’s time to hit it up with additional rub yet again. The rub is one of the most significant contributions you can make to the flavor profile of the pork, so do it up good. Ye need not hold back here. For the more liberal the rub, the better your bark tends to be later on down the road. And most pit keepers worth their tongs, always aspire for a robust bark.
The fire bowl of the Weber Smokey Mountain was set up accordingly. A chimney full of fiery coals dumped right smack in the middle of a ring of unlit coals. For you newbies, and budding pit masters alike, this is what we call the Minion Method. And it is an extremely effective technique for long, sustained smokes. To learn more about this method, and you really should if you plan on delving far into the BBQ arts, do read our write-up, The Long Burn: The Method of Jim Minion, to get the low down on this classic technique.
Anyways, the butt was gently placed on the lower grate of the WSM, fat side up. Tossed some hickory and apple wood chunks on to the coals, put the lid on, and then did the only sensible thing I could think of at the moment – I went back to sleep!
About five hours later, two of which were spent belly-up counting little pigs jumping over white picket fences, I gradually came to, stretching like a lazy house cat in my soft, easy chair. Ah the rigors of BBQ. I scratched my belly and glanced out to the patio, gazed momentarily, and smiled. Nothing is quite so fine as waking up in your man chair to see your pit stoically puffing away in the afternoon sun. It calms a man, and settles well in his soul. It really does. Morale is always at a high, when wood smoke gently curls for the sky. Anyways, time to get up again. For there are pork ribs to prep. And here is how we did it.
The first order of business, naturally, is to remove that ornery membrane. That thing is on there tighter than a tick on a hound dog, but you can do it. The reasoning to remove it is two-fold. One, because chewing on it is rather like gnawing on the important end of an old, plastic fly swatter, and two, removing the membrane will promote better penetration by your rub and wood smoke. Say what you will, but this thing should be pulled off. The trick most folk do is slip a butter knife in on top of a bone, but underneath the membrane, wiggle it on in there, and pry it upwards. Then, and with a paper towel to assist in grip, thus peel the membrane down the length of the ribs. Mission accomplished. You might not get it at first, but after a few times, and a smattering of patience, you will wax of an old pit maestro, adept in your craft.
Once the membranes were peeled, we dusted over the racks accordingly. One in a fair amount of Famous Daves Rib Rub, and the other rack we made a bit more of a production of. Firstly, sprinkling on a light layer of brown sugar, then a layer of Grill Mates Sweet and Smokey rub, then yet another layer of brown sugar, to seal it all in. Mercy! At around five hours into the pork shoulder, we put these ribs gently on the top rack of the Weber smokey Mountain, and added a couple more chunks of hickory wood. Things were chugging along nicely now, and precisely as they should. Time for a lovely beverage and yet another pit-side repair.
Here is where most smoke wizards are at their very best. Down time. Frankly, it’s half the reason we BBQ in the first place. That hallowed slot of clock in which our feet thus prop like a gentleman of leisure, and all the world seems to spin fairly about thee. It is a time where a man proper can spend exorbitant and considerable amounts of it, doing seemingly nothing at all. It’s a case-in-point example, where as my elder brother would say, “doing nothing sure feels like something“. And it does. Just watching the smoke curl from the pit, with a cold beverage in hand, we are at once and assuredly at ease. Head master of our own protein-rich kingdom. For a while at least, and maybe more than that, we want for nothing else. Say what ever you will, but that is no small thing. And the cloud shadows quietly parade over the house tops and the thick green grasses below.
After fashion, about two and one-half hours I should wager, we wrapped the beautiful, mahogany-colored ribs in foil, along with a hearty splash of apple juice for a steaming agent. This simple trick will take your unruly pork by the hand, and escort it unto the savory realms every time. Reminiscent of taking them to the spa, if you will, and pampering every last muscle there. And an hour and half of this treatment is about all you need. Use your pit master instincts. Remove from foil, and place them back on the pit to tighten up a bit. Only during the final half hour did we lather on the Sweet Baby Ray’s Hickory and Brown Sugar sauce. Man! And yes, that’s chicken thighs you see there on the pit. Hey, we like meat!
Oh buddy! You must excuse us here whilst we make the acquaintanceship of this smokey pork rib. It’s for quality control reasons you see, and a pit master’s privilege.
Now this is what you call a most suitable bark on your butt. Mercy! To the uninitiated eye, it will parlay thoughts of great remorse in your behalf. Onlookers may even want to buy you supper, they feel so sorry for your mass of blackened rubble there before them. But this is how it should be. Ten hours of low and slow therapy, people, gently curling wood smoke, two naps, tweety birds, slanting sunbeams, and a good share of manly beverage, equals sublime smokey pork satisfaction. Or something like that. You know what I mean. The shoulder/butt was brought to 197 internal, until the bone came out clean. Mission accomplished. And amen.
*Let the meat rest a while before you pull it, to redistribute its delicious juices.
Chlorophyll. It’s a fancy word, which to a Minnesota-bound, Patron of the Pit, means “easy grilling! ” You’ll know you are in the presence of good chlorophyll by the tell-tale beads of sweat adorning the outside tin of your man drink, not to mention your brow. You’ll know it also by the length of clock in which you can span pit-side with out in turn your feet going numb, and your eye brows frosting over. Chlorophyll is a wondrous pigment that not only tarries the summer long in tree and bush and long, steely, blades of grass, but it is also a gesture in green, to milder times and a warm, setting sun. For there was a time, not too long ago in fact, where it felt like summer would never show. Entrenched we were, in four feet of snow, icicles clinging to our homes, and the smart people of the world all rolled their BBQ grills into the garage for the winter. But not us. Not we die hards of pit and flame. Nay, for better or for worse, we stood vigil at our posts, whilst the Alberta Clippers descended across the land. A swath of wind so cold you got the ice cream head ache thing going on, save for the benefit of the ice cream part. Not fair.
Summer time is easy grilling. I like earning my ice cream head aches the proper way, with a hot fudge malt in front of my face, with my feet up, and an old fishing hat shading my eyes. A summer time repair, if you will. To think about how far things have come along. Like how I fancy the green leaves of the Cottonwood tree, which look so lovely, down by the pond. I like how they tremble and clack in the gentle, summer breeze. I know those leaves are hard at work, doing photosynthesis and other scientific things, along with all the other chlorophyll clad inhabitants, working together in one-accord to bring life-sustaining mojo to this fair land. I appreciate that a lot. And my does it make for some rather fine grilling. What sheer pleasure it is to repair pit-side on long summer days like these, base ball game on the radio, cool beverage in hand, warm sunbeams melting through the tree tops, and a breeze so gentle and so sweet, ’tis like a kiss blown from angels on high. It is well for a year-around pit maestro to revel in such things, nay it’s our privilege. For we have seen winter’s tempest, felt her keen sting, and have fired up the barbie on the dark side of the moon. Today shall we say, is easier than that.
On the pit today, nothing too special or elaborate. Just the steak and potatoes thing every man hankers for. And a couple other odds and ends you’ll probably like too. So grab a lovely beverage for yourself, and meet us out by the grill, and we’ll tell you more about it, and how it went and came to be.
It started out humble enough, with a few potatoes dice into manageable and equal sized chunks. Some people call them hobo potatoes, other folk call them tinfoil potatoes. What they really are is… Good! Diced, a couple pats of butter, seasoned with salt and pepper, wrapped in foil and placed over direct heat for the duration of the cook. About 20 minutes or so. Good eating! See our previous write up , tin foil potatoes, if you want to learn more. Next on the pit were a nice set of rib eyes, maybe our most favorite steak. Seared over direct heat a couple of minutes per side, and then tucked back indirect, lightly seasoned in garlic and onion salt. This was going to be it, a nice smattering of meat and potatoes. Everything a man needs to set him straight again. But then my bride brought home some asparagus and some corn on the cob, just in the nick of time to hit the pit. And thus it did. The little grill was filling up!
Nothing is quite so fine as some quality outdoor cooking, under lovely skies, and soft breezes. Oh we could cook all of this indoors, over the expensive, thermostatically controlled kitchen range – but why! It would be a pity to miss out on those warm, golden sunbeams that which took a winter in the making to appreciate. Likewise the blooms of the wild Iris’s, and the playful melodies of bird song in the Spruce. Of cloud shadows sweeping past, and hard-working honey bees pollinating the radishes and the pole beans which daily reach for the sky. Nay, we don’t want to miss out on these things. These wondrous and endearing gifts, and easy grilling, all-in-one, and patron to the pit. Amen.
Grilled rib eyes, tin foil potatoes, asparagus spears and corn on the cob. Oh yes! It won’t get too much better than this folks. Nor be nearly so much fun.
The rainy season continues to pummel our fair land that is Minnesota. Flash floods are common place. As are the seemingly daily thunder storms. Likewise the unruly uprooting of fallen trees, courtesy of the soften soils and stiff gales. It has been a decidedly sporty locale, here in the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes – most of them now, and in a word, satiated. The pit-side pond has also swollen to say the least, and between the tempests, I slipped into my water proof boots, and took a stroll down there. Slowly ambling alongside the tall grasses and flooded banks. My boots sucking into wet earth reminiscent of my bog romping days of youth, where if I was lucky, my ecology professor told me, I might find the rare and highly esteemed, Trailing Arbutus. A plant so rare, I was told, that it would have put a normal man of means into serious debt should he pick it and bring it home. Should the department of natural resources catch wind that is.
What I found along the pond’s edge was something not so rare, but beautiful to behold, and equally as unidentifiable to me. I’m guessing an Iris. That’s what my botanical gut says. I wish I knew wildflowers better. It is a gaping fissure in my knowledge I’d like to fill some day. I’d rather know wildflowers than know a second language, I think. This one was of a delicate nature, like all flowers are, yet charming, and independent in the same breath. About 15 inches in stalk I should wager, and violet flavored blooms the rough stature of overly soggy potato chips. A resident token of beauty and an act of small rebellion in a land wrought by the storms. It stood ever so proudly, doing what seemed like nothing at all other than looking lovely for the benefit of photographers. Anyways, I liked seeing it there at the water’s edge. It belonged. And if one of you might know it’s true identity, and I suspect you do, do let me know.
Now onto something I do know – cheeseburgers!
Six robust patties sizzled in one accord over a beautiful bed of coals. Light plumes of cherry wood smoke curled through the cast iron grate. And sunbeams washed over the lawn in a glorious golden light. Yes, the rains had ebbed long enough for that precious glowing orb of light to burn aloft in an endless blue sky. A reprieve well-earned, snatched from soddened battlefields, and for the evening at least, all the world was right again. And dry.
The burgers today were seasoned with one envelope of Lipton Onion Soup Mix, cobbled through-out the ground beef, then lightly dusted over with a bit of Famous Dave’s Steak and Burger Seasoning. We placed them opposite the hot coals, or in-direct for you technical grill-smiths, put the lid on, dampers tweaked, and let the pit do it’s thing. In good time, flip thy meat according to your pit master instincts. You know how it works.
There is something very authentic that happens when the wood smoke curls. Every grill jockey knows it. Every pit keeper longs for it. An infallible sense of well-being and contentment seems to rise with those aromatic, wispy tendrils of smoke. It’s enough to move a man, or even a gaggle of women, to draw a lovely beverage and just sit. Legs crossed like ambassadors of high leisure, ice clinking in our glass, let us at once let up on the accelerator pedal of life, and just be. Like that showy flower down by the pond’s edge, may we revel in what is still. And just be. In a world detached with haste, rushing from one posture to another, oh what sweet respite we garner in the simple act of watching smoke taper into a blue, pastel sky. And for a while at least, it is all that we need. Amen.
Cherry Smoked Cheddar Cheese Burgers with all the fixings. Yum! Because when the sky stops falling we all need to eat. Nay we need to live.
As you delve further into the BBQ arts, eventually you’ll wish to smoke something. It’s just the natural course of things. You need not fight it. Where to start, you ask? Well, as a general rule of thumb, if it grows fruit or nuts, it is probably a legitimate candidate for a smoke wood. Use common sense tho. Make sure it is seasoned, (not green) and not growing some sort of unruly fungus or anything. And please people, no smoking with green treated one by sixes off your back deck. That’s very bad!
Now one of the most common mistakes made by newbie smokers is over-smoking. The assumption that more is better is wrong. Don’t do it. Such antics can impart a bitter taste on your meat. If you see your pit puffing like a choo choo train, tweak the dampers, lift the lid, or wait it out. Wait for the smoke to taper into thinner, almost blue-tinted tendrils. That’s just right. And there is really no need to keep tossing on smoke wood through-out the cook. After about two hours, most meat has gotten all the smoke exposure it needs. Remember the old BBQ adage, smoke is a seasoning, not an ingredient.
Not counting the realm of pellet smokers, the smoke woods you will find come in either chips or chunks. Both work fine, but there is nothing like a good chunk! Two or three apple-sized chunks of smoke wood placed directly on the coals will give you all the smoke you need, many times generating wispy tendrils of it for a couple of hours. Many a pit keeper soak their chips, and even chunks in water or a variety of interesting brews, this to elongate the burn time and to add a bit more flavor. In point of fact, if you boil your wood in water, it will open the fibers and absorb even more water, and thus the wood will smoke longer. But let it be said, because its true, you need not bother with such heady antics, for at the end of the day a good chunk of smoke wood speaks for itself. Just place it on the coals, close the lid on your pit, ensure a good draft, and observe the magic that which gently transpires.
With these things in mind, here then is a little list of choice smoke woods to get you started, or experiment with. All good choices, and good, smokey fun! And many of them can be found at your local hardware or big box store. You may even have some laying in your back yard.
For your smoking convenience, a copy of this list was also placed up on the page index at the top of the site. Now lets smoke something!
- ALDER – A light smokey flavor. Excellent with the likes of fish, pork, and poultry.
- ALMOND – A sweeter tint of smokey flavor. Suitable with all meats.
- APPLE* – Very subtle, slightly sweet. Excellent with poultry and pork. This is one of our favorite smoke woods.
- ASH – A rather subtle but articulate flavor. Another fine choice for fish.
- BIRCH – Another subtlety sweet smoke. Good with pork and poultry.
- CHERRY – Lightly tinted of sweet. Does really well with red meat and pork.
- HICKORY* – Moderate to strong smokey flavor. Good for a variety of meats. If we could only pick one smoke wood, this would be it.
- MAPLE – Easy going and subtlety sweet. A light smokey taste. Good with pork, poultry. Great wood for planking.
- MESQUITE – Maybe the most robust of the smoke woods. Strong smokey flavor. Good with beef, chicken, and pork.
- MULBERRY – Reminiscent of apple wood, just harder to find.
- OAK* – Moderate to strong smokey flavor. Readily available, and a fine all around choice. Excellent for red meat. Does well with pork and fish. We would put this one in the smoke wood hall of fame.
- ORANGE- Mild and slightly sweet. Good with fish and pork and chicken and beef.
- PEACH -Another mild one. Slightly tinted in sweet. Great with beef, pork, fish and poultry.
- PEAR -Light smokey flavor.Great with chicken and pork and fish.
- PECAN* – Mild to moderate smokey flavor. Slight hint of nut. Good with all meats, especially poultry. Pecan is right up there with our very favorite smoke woods.
- WALNUT -Robust smokey flavor. Best with red meats.
*Patrons of the Pit Favorites
If not, amazon carries several species all available with a click of the mouse button. Here are a couple links to get you started.
Smoke on my cronies!
Patrons of the Pit is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com
It has been a soggy few days in paradise. I know the monsoon season has never even heard of Minnesota, but here lately I tell you, you would have been hard pressed to enlighten me otherwise. Flash floods, and torrents of falling water. Gales like Joshua’s trumpets. Lightening bolts the shape of Idaho. Thunder so loud you swear mother earth had just split at the seam. Everybody, even the resident ducks, were to take cover from the tempest, huddled in our respective shelters, listening to the rain drum over the roof like pitch forks and hammer handles. Magnificent weather, to say the least. You cannot deny. But a might challenging, shall we say, in which to go outside and light the BBQ. What’s a pit jockey to do! Eventually tho, and mercifully, all the flags suddenly went limp, and a golden shaft of light pierced down from a gray sky. Water gently dribbled off the roof, and the tweety birds burped back to life. We all emerged from our holes, every living thing, scratching our collective heads, and admiring a world so fresh and anew. So wet and green and clean. And countless pools of standing water where water ought not stand.
It wasn’t over yet, however. A glimpse at the Doppler radar revealed the bitter truth. That yet another green blob was advancing fiercely from the West. The short of it was we had but two, possibly three precious hours of semi-damp respite in which to frolic accordingly before the first, fat, rain drops spattered on the ground again. One hundred and twenty minutes or so, give or take. Well, under those circumstance, that was just long enough I figured, for a Patron of the Pit. Just long enough indeed, for a smoked meatloaf sandwich hot off the grill. Here is how to do it effectively!
Truth be told this started out as a simple round of hamburgers, but after mashing about the ground beef a bit, you might say inspiration struck. I quickly cracked an egg over the meat, and added about a cup of bread crumbs. Squirted some ketchup in there, then some garlic and onion. An envelope of Lipton Onion Soup Mix. And maybe a few other things. You all have your own kinks for your meat loaf I’m sure. Do henceforth what moves thee. Anyways, I shaped the obscene looking meat muck into the relative dimensions resembling that of a wayward bun I had sitting about. I had an orphaned hoagie roll you see, one that I didn’t know what to do with. It was all alone, and frankly wasn’t reaching its potential. So why not match the meat to fit the bun, its common sense really. I ended up with an oblong loaf of meat about an inch thick, of which I dusted over in some Cajun seasoning just because. This was carefully placed on tin foil and put opposite the hot coals to tighten up there.
After the meat has tightened up enough to safely pick the loaf up without destroying it, go ahead and get that tin foil out of there. You might be able to forego the tin foil stage altogether if your loaf is sturdy enough, but that is up to your pit master instincts to decide. Anyways, the sooner you get the foil out of there, the sooner then you can commence with the infusion of smokey goodness. The smoke, after all, is what will set this meatloaf sandwich apart from any other. With eyes on the skies, we smoked this hunk of meat for a good hour in a continuous parade of curling oak wood smoke. And it was glorious. An entire hour in which to sit by the pit and do nothing at all. As usual, I was up for the task. Up for the undeniable attributes of not cooking in the rain. Like not wondering where the next lightening bolt may strike, or fighting a stormy gale. The way of course to grill in a monsoon is not to fight it, but to patiently hold your charcoal, biding your time. Like a adventure climbers who bandy together on the flanks of Everest, waiting on a small window of weather in which to assault the summit. And so it is today, and between the tempest, that we strike!
Checking in on the plunder is OK. You may wish to turn the meatloaf from time to time, for even cooking. But always keep it tucked back, opposite the hot coals. When in doubt, go indirect people. Ten minutes from the end of the cook, we plunked on a naked corn on the cob, and roasted it over direct heat. Rotating it often with the tongs. A little butter and salt, man, is there anything better! And lastly we toasted up the orphaned hoagie roll, to add that extra touch to a meal well executed. And whilst we dressed the bun in mayonnaise and ketchup, we put a few globs of every one’s favorite ghetto cheese on the meat to melt. Mercy!
Oak Smoked Meatloaf Sandwiches on a toasted hoagie roll. Oh buddy! It don’t get more comfort food than this! Just the ticket for what ails you, between the storms, and under fair skies.
As I repair here at the pond-side pit, lovely beverage at hand, I muse over the delightful breeze skirting the dogwoods yonder, and the cool blades of steely, green grass which grow up to my patio front. I like how the Chickadees flirt to and fro the suet I had set out for them here, and how the late even sunlight slants through the Spruce bows as if on golden arms from above. Like-wise how the stately Spruce sports its new growth this time of year, in dollops of soft, green needles, lighter in appearance, but softer to the touch. I like that for some reason. Also with the resident Mallards which cavort out on the pond, and the handsome Cardinals that banter from the old cottonwood tree, this, and the chorus of a thousand and one song birds trilling at once, whilst the apple wood smoke rises from the grill damper, in soft, aromatic tendrils which dissolve into a pastel sky. What a fabulous evening to be a pit keeper in Minnesota.
On the pit tonight, a simple affair. Juicy, apple-smoked chicken thighs and grilled asparagus. Good eating, and simple to do. Let’s get after it.
First order of business was to hit the thighs liberally in some Grill Happy Seasoning. If you haven’t had occasion, Grill Happy Seasonings is the best thing since Colonel Sanders to a dead a chicken. I first discovered this seasoning many years ago, at the Minnesota State Fair. Being a patron of the pit, and general meat enthusiast, I always make the rounds of the various grilled food there. And one thing I make sure to never miss is the pork chop on a stick. For the longest time I loved those pork chops and didn’t know why exactly. And then one day I figured it out – the seasoning. Turns out you can buy the very same seasoning they use right there at the fair for their world-famous pork chops. Also turns out, go figure, it goes great on chicken too. And that’s what were up to tonight. Grill Happy chicken thighs! So buckle up and tie your bibs on, people, cause here we go!
After seasoning the chicken, and oiling down the cast iron grate, go ahead and place the meat over direct heat, and sear up the thighs to your pit master standards. We like a crispy skin on our thighs, so we let them sear there over the hot coals for a couple of minutes probably. Monitoring them frequently with tongs in one hand, and manly beverage in the other. It’s a lovely dance between man and meat that you will soon get the hang of, iffin you’re not a master of it already. Once seared and crispy, especially upon that notoriously floppy flap of skin which is the bane and burden of most chicken thighs, do slide them over, opposite the hot coals, for the remained of their thermal journey. We added some apple wood to the coal bed, our smoke wood of choice today, plunked the old enameled lid on, and then got about the heady business of doing what we do best – loitering!
Nothing is quite so fine, nor nourishing to the soul, than taking up a quiet residence in your man chair, aside wafting plumes of apple wood smoke. To kick your feet up there, and consider the day. How the heavens sing of a deep blue, and the air is as soft and pleasant as a new baby’s face. Note how the leaves of the cottonwood tremble in form, clacking gently, like a million-and-one credit cards in the wind. And the hearty banter of bird song fill the smokey tinted air with poetry and grace. I sink a little lower in my BBQ chair, slouching in posture, and completely at ease. My eye lids draw shut like a New York City shop keep pulling his shades down at day’s end. The nasal pleasing ideal of apple wood smoke and grill happy seasoning mingle on the scene. My head bobs to and fro, loose at the neck, until my chin comes to rest upon my flannel clad chest. A Black Capped Chickadee chirps at the feeder. I am out. I am, as the Italians like to say, “fuori dalla griglia” , or, off the grid.
OK, I don’t know if Italians really say that or not, but I’d like to think they do. It’s how it should be at the pit. When those coals are lit, and the smoke is curling, our world and our cares are at once reduced, or simplified in the moment. And it is our job as pit keepers to simply savor that moment, for the moment’s sake. And let the world spin head long with out us for a while. Let the cog of society chew on its own spore and not on you! This is our time to kick back. To relish the supreme ambiance and endearing joys patron to the pit. Amen.
Ten minutes from the end of the cook, we tossed on some marinated asparagus, indirect, to add a bit of green to the end game, and to gain marks with the lady folk. If we men were left to our own devices, we’d probably eat a plate just straight up with meat. And it would be fine! Anyways, the asparagus was good. Really good. Marinated for a couple of hours first in a solution of: olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sea salt and fresh cracked pepper. It adds a rather robust, yet abiding and lovely taste to the vegetable. Give it a try some day.
Apple Smoked Grill Happy Chicken Thighs and Marinated Grilled Asparagus Spears. You could eat a lot worse and not nearly have so much fun.
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We shall then henceforth, and without any acute delay, boldly sally and declare that spring, with all of its heady promises, has now descended upon our fair land that which is Minnesota. The snow is at last, and mercifully gone, and replaced now with fields of green. Say what you will, but this is no small thing, people. Lest you forget the winter of 2013/2014 that is. For the icy pangs of it still sharply laden our frontal lobes, and we still remember vividly how eternal it spread. You southern folks may have whacked your lawns eleven and one times already, and daily fire up your air conditioning units for to thwart the beads of nasty sweat which dribble down your collective foreheads. But it is not like that here. Not yet. The air is still cool, and sweet to the taste. We have yet to slap the first mosquito or pull the first weed. And the leaves and the grass and the other green things of the world, tho still in stark miniature, are no less hard at work, so much so, that you can almost hear them fiercely growing, in the silence of a sunbeam.
Spring, we do adore this time of year. Naturally one of the better things you can do in spring, is to BBQ. May is National Grilling Month after all. And to a Minnesotan, it would stand to reason that May is the very best month of the year. It’s just plain beautiful here. So on the pit today, we’re doing your basic taco really. Nothing too fancy. And I know what you’re saying. You’re saying, well why the heck doesn’t he just make his tacos on the kitchen stove then, like everybody else? The answer: I don’t want to! Let me explain.
As I repair here on the pit-side patio, legs crossed like a gentleman of leisure, enjoying the aromas of sizzling beef in a black iron pan, I try to reminisce how long it has been, by and far, that I could actually do such a thing like this: to tarry on the patio, watching supper cook, and not, when it is said and done, require medical attention for frostbite or mild hypothermia. To loiter aside the curling wood smoke in but a light flannel jacket, and muse over the green blades of grass yonder. It has been a while indeed. Too long, in point of fact. Counting backwards – April, March, February, January, December, November… Go ahead and count it. It’s six months people. Give or take the rare and freakish anomaly of a randomly placed warm day, it has been a half a year since it has been truly comfortable at the grill front. That kind of ain’t right. And this is why we patrons of the pit shall not any time soon, tend to our tacos over a thermostatically spoiled kitchen range. No no no!
After the ground beef is almost but not quite browned, we tossed onto the coals a handful of oak chips for an additional layer in the flavor profile. Oak wood is fantastic for red meat, lending a firm but friendly, mildly nutty, sort of smokey goodness to your end game. It’s very good. Anyways, we mixed in the taco seasoning with the beef, and pulled the black iron pan over indirect heat, put the lid on the pit, and let the meat smoke there for a while. Now is the time to assume your customary BBQ posture, as per the graces this kind of high leisure affords. Lovely beverage in hand, man chair under butt, and a quiet world of gently curling smoke in front of thee. This, a pit keeper comes to know, is all we need. We’re in no hurry folks. And good grilling should never be flanked by wretched tentacles of haste. Anyways, pull the lid and stir the taco meat very occasionally, this in order to circulate more beef into the path of wafting oak smoke. The smoke, after all, is what will set these tacos apart from any you’ve ever had.
Whence the meat has browned sufficient to your standards, and the smokey goodness has infused your carefully prepared meat booty, go forth and assemble thy taco as you will, with what you will. Rice, beans, peppers, cheese, tomatoes, onions, sour cream – what ever moves thee another step closer to your culinary ideal. We’re not done yet tho, nay, so hold on to your inner Mexican just a bit longer. Swaddled in a flour tortilla shell, place your spoils back on the pit, indirect, for the final step towards taco immortality. We’re looking to crisp up the shell a trifle here, and put on a few char marks, patron to the pit. This move will at once signature your taco, branding it if you will, a product of the smokey realm. And you will know it from the sound of your incisors piercing its soft, yet crispy shell, and by the flavorful, smoke-tinted spoils within.
Happy Grilling Month of May. Fire them up proudly, people, and tarry long where the wood smoke also rises. Amen.
Oak Smoked Grilled Beef Tacos. Man! Edible proof that what is good for the stove top is even better on the grill. Not to mention a whole lot more fun.
And yes, a bite was taken out of this photo op, for quality control reasons. You know how it goes.
It was a pleasant morning as morning’s go. To be adrift out on a local waterway. Sunbeams glittering over the surface. Egrets and Blue Herons milling in the shallows. And a light-green, haze, signifying a budding spring, adorning every bush and every tree. The symphonic serenade of a thousand and one bird songs, mingle with that of dipping paddles, peeling fly line, flipping bails, and 1/32 ounce jigs clad in soft plastics, plopping in the drink. I drifted slowly along the wooded shoreline, resolutely plying the waters there, fishing rod in hand, with a clear, albeit idealistic mission – to catch a fish. Running this site, and eating T-bone steaks is great, and ribs sure do hit the spot, but I’ve been getting what they call “fish hungry” lately, and I aimed to do something about it. And today I might have even, had not I been such a lousy fisherman. Seems I departed the lake this morning with my stringer in void, not to mention my stomach. I was fish-less, and still, as it were, fish hungry.
Being the problem solver that I am, however, I did what any red-blooded, fish-hungry American would do. I stopped by the grocer on the way home and I bought me a fish! Mahi-mahi, to be exact. A lovely fare that which swims the oceans yonder, that at the time, seemed more than suitable for my needs. Let’s head back to the pit, and I’ll tell you more about it, and how it went and came to be.
Mahi-mahi, according to the Hawaiian interpretation, means very strong. By the looks of it, I’d say they’re probably right on that. A surface-dwelling, ray-finned fish known to inhabit tropical, sub-tropical, and temperate waters. They average about 15 to 29 pounds, can live up to 5 years of age, are highly sought after in sport fishing, and they sure as heck don’t live in Minnesota. But you can buy the meat of the Mahi-Mahi here, in point of fact, you can buy it all over the place. And man do they go good on the grill. Here’s how to do it.
Whilst the pit heated up, we patted dry two chunks of the tender fish, rubbed them in a coat olive oil, then, feeling Cajun or something akin, dusted them liberally with a blackened spice rub. Mahi-mahi is a non-fish lover’s fish. Meaning if you don’t fancy the flavor of fish, yet want to eat fish, then this is the fish for you. Very mild in fishy flavor, irrepressibly moist, and with the ensuing spice conglomerate, a delicious fare fit for the finest dinner table. Blackened spice is a real easy blend, and extremely tasty. A fish rub worthy of your time. Here is how to make it.
Blackened Spice Rub
- 2 Tablespoons paprika
- 1 Tablespoon each, onion powder, garlic powder, dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon each dried basil and dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (increase this if you like a little burn on the lips)
- ½ tsp cumin
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper
Next step, and for artistic reasons only, we pre-heated the cast iron grate and coated it in a bit peanut oil for to secure the cosmetic beach-head of any would-be grill jockey – grill marks. Sear the fillets for a minute or so per side, just enough to get some nice grate lines. It doesn’t take long to cook these fish. They also are remarkably robust and hold together astoundingly well for this sort of grilling. Save your expensive planks for more delicate fish than this. You will be hard pressed, we wager, to dry out Mahi-mahi. Anyways, after some nice char marks were in vogue, we escorted the meat back to the cool side of the pit, opposite the hot coals, to loiter indirect there for the rest of the cook. The next item on the menu, is a little grilled asparagus, green and tender, for to please the lady folk. And it couldn’t be easier to do.
To amp up the flavor a bit, we had these asparagus spears soaking for a couple of hours in a simple marinade involving, but not limited to: Olive oil, salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar.
Roast the asparagus over direct heat for a couple of minutes, rolling them like a batch of hot dogs for even cooking, until your desired tenderness is reached, and then tuck them back opposite the hot coals, keeping the fish company for the rest of the cook. Speaking of, you’ll want to flip the fish fillets according to your pit master instincts. Do what you need to do. It’s a rather quick cooking meal, unfortunately. Maybe 15 minutes at most. Denying the pit keeper the much coveted down time for the all-important business of drawing a lovely beverage and watching the clouds idle past a pastel sky. But I guess that is what ribs are for. Anyways, when the fish flakes easily with a fork, your dinner is done. Plate up thy spoils at hand, and commence with what you do best! Amen.
Blackened Mahi-mahi sided with marinated Asparagus hot off the grill. Man! Can you taste it! So if you’re looking for something sort of fishy for your next BBQ, and lack the angling mojo to catch your own, try this one out for sure. You shan’t go wrong. Nor be fish hungry.
It was our loftiest intention to bring to you a choice morsel of grilling immortality this week, but the truth is, I ate it. Oh it was, shall we say, a beautiful T-Bone steak, bountiful in mass, and juicy, seared then grilled unto utter perfection over a hemorrhaging bed of hard wood coals. Indeed it was I guess. Lightly seasoned in onion and garlic, and not a shade less than meat utopia on a bone, and I ate it all. Prematurely launching into its savory flesh like a dingo to a bull frog. I did not possess the mental faculty to pause even, and take a picture for you. Nor to document the endeavor in due respect. The zeal ran high and the patience thin, you might say, where the wood smoke gently curled. And by the time I plated up, it was already too late. You must understand that it was a feverish, man-versus-meat scenario. Simultaneously disgusting yet wonderful. An event where instincts were to take over, and all manners cast over the flannel-clad shoulder. There was grunting, growling and belching involved. The heady sounds of incisors ripping into red meat. Bits of grizzled fat flipping headlong through the air. Long, ghastly stares from my bride. Oh it was good people. And I ate every bit of it.
Thus, I have nothing to show you this time around but a singly savaged T-bone on a bare ceramic plate, laying prostrate in its own juices. What can I say. The steak was there. I was there. It was mutual I think. Some days are like that I guess. Some days we eat our homework. Aw well.
It is with great adoration, yet reserved applause, that this Minnesotan declares the arrival of Spring. I came out of my hole the other day, and I saw my shadow, so that must mean something I figure. I have seen motorcycles too, whizzing up and down the local roadways. Golfers milling through the local foliage in search of wayward shots. The turdus americanus is also in town, hopping about the semi-green grass in search, I suppose, of a good worm or two. I have noted likewise, that the ice has dissolved off the local lakes and waterways, and people of generally good ilk are walking to their mail boxes with out the aid of down parkas or thermal underwear. Things are looking up in other words! And just below it all, quivering in the trees and bushes, in the brown fields and winding stream banks, is that once upon a time and long ago lost color that is green. Chlorophyll! Glorious galleys of green chlorophyll. And it tingles and aches, leashed by a solar clock, waiting patiently to explode.
On the pit tonight, a house favorite. Hickory smoke pork chops with a maple glaze. They’re real easy to do too, so let’s get after it.
These bone-in chops came smoked right out of the package, and I swear smelled good enough to eat right there, but like any pit keeper worth his tongs, we’re going to double smoke the chops on the old kettle grill. Oh yes! Placing them opposite a good bed of mature coals, with a few small chunks of hickory wood added to the fire, we were ready for action. We lightly sprinkled the chops in garlic and onion salt, and placed the old, black enameled lid on, tweaked the damper, and caught the draft. Soon aromatic plumes of hickory smoke mingled about the patio, signifying to thee yet another pit session in progress. I was about to assume the proper BBQ posture in the pit-side man chair, but a maple glaze needs to be made, and such things don’t make themselves you know. Here is how to do the glaze.
- 3/4 Maple Syrup
- 2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
- 2 Tablespoons Ketchup
- 2 Tablespoons Mustard
- 1 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
Stir it all together and bring to a boil. Then remove from heat.
With about ten minutes left in the cook, we varnished on the maple glaze, with greater Picasso-like brush strokes. You’ll want to stay mindful here, making sure your chops are indirect still, for the sugars in the glaze can get burned easier than a kindly old grandma in a used car lot. Be good to your chops, people, and unto your grandmas too! Keep the hickory smoke wafting, and repeatedly brush on the glaze, frequently flipping the chops. Open up the bottom damper, and get the heat up if you can, for to caramelize your spoils aside a hemorrhaging bed of coals.
I pulled the man chair up close to the pit, tongs still hand, and tarried there a spell, like pit keepers do. The aromas of smokey pork mingle with the freshened, April breeze. I leaned back, left leg crossed over right, and mused over the cottony clouds parading over head. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to do this. To loiter pit-side and watch the clouds go by, that is with out fusing my hind-end to a subzero, ice-encrusted patio chair. Outdoor leisure only operates for so long when the temperatures court that of a Popsicle factory. But today was different. No jacket needed. And the sun tarried aloft more than adequately to see to cook by. Mallards chortled out on the pond. Blue Jays darted to and fro. And the sweet aromas of perfectly executed pork wafted in the air. I smiled to myself. I could sit here all day, just watching the world spin, and I might have iffin I weren’t so hungry right now. Our supper is done. Lets plate up these chops, and commence to doing what men do best – stuffing face!
Maple Glazed Hickory Smoked Pork Chops hot off the grill. A delightful blend of sweet and smokey meat sure to take your belly straight to church! Man!
If you are from the northern tier states, and you have lately and by chance poked your nose unassumingly outward of warm environs, well it is no secret that it is butt-cold out there. In your face, nothing-you-can-do-about-it, butt-cold. The kind of cold that which penetrates the crust of a person’s finest attitude, slaps them strong across face, and can have them cowering on the ground in matter of sheer minutes. The fellow on the morning news said a given face, pretty or not, had in his estimation, about five minutes out there, before frost bite would latch on to your epidermis and ruin your day. Upon waking this morning, it was 21 below in Minneapolis. Schools statewide were canceled, the educational system’s white flag tossed onto the ring of battle, where upon it promptly froze to the ground. And the common sense sort of people in town stayed home if they could, curled up under old grandma quilts, nursing hot teas, and mused headlong about the weather out there. Others of us tho, carried on as normal, went to work, and when duties were done, came home and promptly lit the BBQ as if it were the middle of July. Yeah, it’s just what we do!
On the grill tonight, a simplistic respite from the complexities of the smokey arts, whilst also a gentle parlay towards classical american succulence – the chicken thigh. Thighs are one of our most favorite parts of the chicken to grill. High fat content keeps this dark meat moist and juicy, and if married with the right rubs or seasonings, it is a real treat. Our rub of tonight was Famous Dave’s Rib Rub. It says on the bottle to use it on every thing, not just ribs. So we did. It provides an easy but not over-powering heat, and some other spices too that just seem to work on a variety of meats. Old Dave is famous for a reason I guess. Anyways, we dusted the thighs over pretty good whilst the coals matured out on the pit. Then doffed the old woolen smoking jacket and made haste out into the deep, penetrating cold.
Banking the hot coals to the back of the pit for in-direct cooking, we placed the seasoned thighs over the cooler regions of the grill, which is real easy to do, don’t you know, when the mercury scraps the minus 20 mark. Mercy. The heat from the coals bellowed up out of the pit in stark contrast to the frozen world beyond. I tossed on a couple of chunks of apple wood, watched them quickly catch blaze as I tucked my hands into my pockets. I gazed at the fire for a moment, and enjoyed how the light felt against my face. What a pleasure it is, tho quaint in size, to be in the good company of fire and flame on a night such as this. A night where all the world bends on knee to the authority of a merciless cold. Where would we be if it were not but for the spoils of fire. Of glorious and unabridged heat. The energy that which drive our days, and caters to our nights. It would be mighty cold chicken thighs tonight indeed, with out this, a simple fire.
I put the black enameled lid atop the old kettle grill, and the draft caught soon enough, and ushered out a lovely wood smoke through the top vent. We were up and cooking, and there was contentment in the pit. I might have dallied some there, dreaming of summer BBQ’s past, of cool, green grasses and song birds serenading from atop wavering willows, but the peculiar feeling of my left eye lid fusing shut sort of snapped me back to reality. What ever! I sidled inside, unashamed, and drew a hot beverage there. I got to watching the evening news, which I seldom do, with a hot brew cradled in my hands. The weatherman said that today was a special day here in Minnesota. He said that at one point during the day, for a moment anyways, that Minnesota was colder than even the north pole. In point of fact, he added, Minnesota was colder than anywhere. He said, sort of proudly, that this was the coldest place on earth, today. And I believed him.
I smiled sharply as I gazed out at my faithful pit, puffing stoically away on the patio. It’s a good pit. A faithful stead. And it knows not the inclement of weather, nor some days do I think it even cares. Who says you have to hang up your BBQ tongs when the mercury plummets! Indeed, with but a degree of mild lunacy, the grilling season may be extended the calendar long. And rewardingly so. And if you’re really lucky, you can even claim to have grilled your chicken thighs in the coldest place on earth.
The first major snowfall of the winter hit the Twin Cities a little while ago, and it was the usual commute scene, by and far. With little cars spinning their aluminum wheels in vain, across unruly intersections, with all the get-up-and-go, it seemed, of hamster balls in peanut butter. And if they got through that, they generally were OK, until they got home that is, and found themselves at once mired at the end of the driveway. It was that kind of day. Most folk were able to make their way along well enough, slow and steady, like smoking a good brisket. Except, I suppose, those over-eager souls who stared glumly at their steering wheels from the bottom of ditches, cell phone in hand. Suffice it was a crummy day to drive around in Minnesota, but dare I say a glorious one in which to light the BBQ, and toss on a couple of steaks! That is what we did anyways. And if you have a moment, and a hot chocolate handy, I’ll tell you a little more about it.
By suppertime, the snow which had been falling all the day long, seasoning the land so beautifully, had also conveniently tapered off into a scattered few serenely falling flakes. And the usual Alberta clipper, fraught with bone-penetrating cold, and icy gales, had not yet descended from what frosty latitudes once conceived. Hence a moment of grace in the blizzard time line had presented itself, and given enough time and wit, a patron of the pit will usually muckle onto such windows of opportunity, and exploit it. Like a lab monkey to the happy button, we exploit it indeed.
Whilst the neighborhood softly bustled under a gray sky, with the sounds of snow blowers and shovels grinding over iced concrete, I placed a lovely rib eye steak over the coals, followed by a thick porterhouse. Nothing like putting meat to flame to greet the winter, meeting it halfway, as they say. A sort of gesture unto the thrones of ice, stating to yourself I suppose, that tho the wintry tiers may be advancing, long be it before you hang up your tongs. Besides, I like steak. And I liked how they sizzled in the relative hush of a snowy night, and how good the heat felt bellowing out of the pit amid a world where snowy spruce bows gently bent. I flipped the steaks, searing the other sides over the pit’s fiery bosom. Tossed on another chunk of cherry wood, then hit the beef with a little garlic and onion salt. I know we keepers of the pit are known for our fancy rubs and intricate marinades, but with a good steak people, this is about as clever as we get. There is something very satisfying, and primal, about keeping it simple where steak is concerned. And at the tail of a tempest, simple seemed the way to go.
Tucking the old cow indirect, and putting the lid on, I slipped my hands into the familiar pockets of the smoking jacket, and watched the evening transpire. I enjoyed the warm light peeking out through grill damper, and how the wood smoke accompanied it, in soft, aromatic tendrils. And tho the tweety birds were all hunkered down, a small squadron of Canadian geese honked and chortled overhead, southbound, their feathery wings stroking through the still, night air like paint brushes to canvas. I liked that. I fancied greatly the way a sound wave traveled this eve, hushed and intimate, and with great touch, the way it always does after a fresh snow fall. There is a serenity found at the end of a snow storm, whence the last flakes have waned. A golden hour of acoustic magic, and a white splendor to tug the soul. A giddy expanse of time where even a grown man will recoil into a youthful state again, and for a moment, when the neighbors aren’t so much looking, frolic as if he were ten again.
And the wood smoke gently curled.
A long time ago on a backyard patio not too far away….
It was a time of year when the heat was beating on our Pits with such strength. For one Patron was going about his summer enjoying the freedoms of his yard and his pit, when completely unexpected, he was taken back by a phone call that would change his life forever. He and his wife were asked to adopt a baby girl who hadn’t been born yet. Fast forward 4 days later, little Isabella Mae was born at 8 lbs 11 oz – about the same size as a prized brisket. Being he and his wife only had 3 days to prepare for their new blessing, their world was turn upside down.
Three months later this Patron was starting to feel very comfortable with the lifestyle of a new Daddy, as he noticed he hadn’t touched his pit once in those three months. Sharing his revelation with his wife she dared to ask a very conniving question,
“Are you sure you still know how to smoke anything?”
Insulted, yet with a cocky posture he looked at her and said,
“Honey, I am a Patron of the Pit! Smoking is in my blood. I sweat hickory! I enjoy the burn in my eyes as the hood of my pit opens and the sweet aromas of fire, wood, spice rubs and barbecue sauces bellow towards my face. There are not many of us who stand out at their pit during a Minnesota blizzard while the rest of the world curls up on their couch waiting for a microwaved dinner. I will not let three months of not lighting my pit filter this Patron’s good name!”
So with his chest out and his head high, he accepted her challenge unveiled.
With eagerness he took his challenge fervently. He stalked the aisle of the meat market looking for the cut of meat that he was going to shock the family with. And there it was, a 4 pound pork butt! He went in for the kill…even though the choice meat was dead, he paid for it and took it home like any backwoods hunter would, returning to his family with trophy in hand.
That Saturday night he mixed his marinade:
- 1 beer
- 4 tablespoons of hand crushed peppercorns,
- 1/4 cup of brown sugar.
He let the pork marinate for 12 hours in the refrigerator and the next morning the coals were lit at 10 am.
It was a nice day out at his pit. A south wind was blowing at a medium pace and the sun was hitting the cooker just right. Though it was only 15 degree’s out, he enjoyed the cold air mixed with his choice of wood for the perfect smoke. He decided to hit the pork butt with the sweet flavor of cherry wood, offering up a light smoke to taunt his neighbors with. The smoker was a steady 250 degrees as he monitored the temperature and stoked his fire-box as needed. A good 5 hour smoke went by and around 4 pm he took the pork butt off the cooker, wrapped it tightly in tin foil and let it rest for 45 minutes. Once it was done, he slowly peeled back the foil. The pork immediately fell into pieces, thus started the pulling process. With two forks he did just that. He added his favorite smokehouse maple spice rub and mixed it all back in with the juices that collected from the initial smoke.
Later that evening with a full belly, his wife turned to him and at last recognized his craft. She reassured him that he hadn’t lost his skill and stated that she wished for him to continue plying his art of the smoker. And so he sat, knowing that a successful pork butt wasn’t the real prize here. The real prize was sipping from a bottle in his arms. He smiled contentedly…
It was a good day as days go. Plumes of cherry wood smoke in a cold November breeze. Black Capped Chickadees flirting to and fro, snatching seeds from the feeder. A pond frozen over, hard now, and awaiting its impending snowfall. A gentleman of leisurely BBQ, I crossed my legs and shifted slightly in my chair, and watched the day unwind, patron to the pit. A day where many folk I know, and few hundred million I don’t, dare the frothy seas of consumerism, shoulder-to-shoulder, seeking out what ever it is they could live without any other day but this. I don’t get it people. I don’t get it because there is no question the proper thing to do on Black Friday, iffin that is you have it off. And that is to smoke a ham of course! So pull up a seat and a hot brew, and we’ll tell you a little more about the process, and how it went, this heady business of smoking a ham.
Our Black Friday Ham started innocently enough, with a humble spiral cut procured from the refrigerated aisles of a local grocer. A tip of the hat to the deli lady there, and a sampling of her chip dip, I made haste for the door, ham tucked under my wing like an NFL full back. I was off in a cloud of camel dust, you might say. Or would be I suppose, iffin I lived in the desert. And come to think of it, drove a camel there. Anyways, when I got home, the ham was lovingly rubbed down with brown sugar on each flap of meat, then hit with a little Suckle Busters Competition Rub, for an additional depth of seasoning to the flavor profile. And I took my sweet pit boy time with it, too, doing it right, making sure not a slice of precious ham went unloved.
The pit was preheated to 250, and the cherry wood smoke had thinned out some by the time I placed the ham on the top grate. I basted it down with a little apple juice, and gently placed on the huge, enameled lid of the Weber Smokey Mountain. Cherry wood smoke soon was aloft, and for the next three hours, and maybe even longer than that, the world gently twirled. The aromas of sizzling ham and cherry wood, oh what a fine and pleasant respite it was from the retail gods and the consumeristic melee thrashing about the city. And there was great novelty too, in not being a part of it.
Now you might be asking, why smoke a ham if hams come already smoked? Well, trust us when we say, by double-smoking your run-of-the-mill ham, you will aptly up the flavor of the beast by ten-fold. And nary will you encounter a finer prize. The meat can take it. Nay, it wants it. It craves smoke like a woman desires more shoes. I don’t get it either. We like to use fruit woods on ham, but hickory, or pecan, or others are just as well. And we basted the ham in its own juices from time to time too, giving it some love, and some attention. An hour before it was done, we brushed on the maple and brown sugar glaze, which ushered it by the arm to the next level of optimum hamhood.
Maple and Brown Sugar Glaze
- 1/2 Cup Maple Syrup
- 1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
- 1/2 Cup Apple Juice
- 1 TBSP Mustard
When glazing the ham, open all the vents on your pit, maximizing air flow there so to get it good and hot. This will help in the caramelization of the sugars. We will turn an eye if you need to do this part of the process in your oven. No one needs to know. Whence the ham looks right, and smells right, and samples correctly as per your pit master privilege, plate up the succulence at once, and offer it unto your loved ones. And then tarry in the wake of deeds well done, smiling faces, and the aromas of a perfectly execute ham.
Like I said, it was a good day, as days go. Amen.
Cherry Smoked Spiral Cut Ham with a delightful Maple and Brown Sugar Glaze. You can do other things on black Friday I suppose, but why…