Two Men, Two Pits and a Blog

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Chasing the Flame: Santa Maria Style Tri-Tip on the Gabby’s Grill

As I repair here at my desk, I’m reminiscent, of well, just yesterday. A day spent at the pit doing what I do. It was a day similar to a long stretch of other days lately, in that it was point blank beautiful outside, and a pleasure to behold.  How could I not be out there, putting meat to flame. But it was a day also different, in that I got to cook over an open fire, the venerable Tri Tip Roast. A rarefied cut of meat out here in the Midwest, of which the popularity I do believe may be trending eastwards from the coastal hollows from whence it was immortalized.  That of Santa Maria, California.

I’ve long heard stories of this enchanted hamlet, nestled somewhere in the Golden State. And I’ve heard tale of the Tri Tip festivals they hold there, and how the local meat eaters prize this particular cut of beef, and the sheer joy they take in BBQing it for others. In point fact, here is a facebook page devoted to just that.

https://www.facebook.com/Santa-Maria-BBQ-Festival-1868259653462493/

I know that some day I must pilgrimage there, for it is the call of the pit jockey and it echoes strongly over the western hills. It would surely be to my delight, if not for the lovely aromas and tastes of perfectly executed Tri Tip in their native environs, then for the classy pits from which they were so masterfully grilled there.

Raquel Welch?

santa mariaPart of the romance of the Tri Tip Festival, and a great share of the poetry there, I think, would be found in their pits. From afar, my oh my but they are pleasing to the eye. As my elder brother would say, “Like Raquel Welch in hot pants“. And up close their charm and steely appeal still holds up under good light and scrutiny. Indeed, if there was ever a beauty contest held just for BBQ grills, well the lavish pits of Santa Maria would probably win every time. I’d betroth one in a heartbeat if I could afford it.

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I’ve had cars cheaper than some of these grills. Some things in life will just have to wait, I told myself. Or would they? Maybe there was a poor man’s option out there, that would let a bloke like me experience the joys of a Santa Maria style grill. So, emboldened with a new and novel brain-thrust,  I did what any grill lusting chum of age would do in the year 2017. I googled it. And this is what I discovered.

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It’s called the Santa Maria Attachment, from Gabby’s Grills. They cost about 200 bucks, 50 of which I found out was for shipping. I read reviews and thought about it for while, you know, the usual routine people do before they crack open their wallets. And then in a moment of passion, and perhaps because it was my birthday, I snatched one up. Maybe it was an impulse buy, I’m not sure, but I haven’t regretted the purchase yet, I’ll tell you that much. The first thing I tested it on was my old chimenea out on the patio, and as you can see, it fit right in there. Thus converting the fire pit into something a wee bit more useful. But it was designed by Junior Castro, founder of Gabby’s Grills, to fit into all kinds of things, not the least of which is your Weber Kettle grill, and that’s where our story leads us next.

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So it was, after a trip to the local butcher shop, that the Pond Side Pit paid a quiet homage to the pit masters of Santa Maria, as a hardwood fire crackled underneath a succulent and dripping Tri Tip roast. Oh buddy! I cannot tell you how fun this was, nor the joy that which built up in my heart and toppled out into my soul. Almost like a mini BBQ dream come true. If you like to play with fire, and are one to flip your meat with great frequency, this may be the style of cooking meant for you. Man it was fun.

A Few Specs and Such

The Gabby’s Grill Attachment is built to last too. As soon as I took it out of the box, I knew it would likely survive the 3rd and 4th World Wars with aplomb. The ring is 3/16 inch thick, 1 1/2 inch spun angle iron.  And the grate can be cranked up and down like the big boy grills to a height of about 16 inches.  Perfect for slower cooking high above the fire, and even better for dropping it down to coal level for a world class sear.  Basically this little rig gives you most of the joys of Santa Maria style grilling at a modest man’s price. Plus, no assembly required. Just plunk it over your fire and get to cooking. Can’t beat that.

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Getting down in “Sear Mode”

 

Got Wood?

To do it authentically as they do in Santa Maria, you would also need to get you hands on some red oak. But we didn’t have any red oak, and just used hickory instead. We do ask for the forgiveness of the Santa Maria purists out there. We did what we could, and leveraged what we had.

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Zooming up a little, you’ll see we tossed a few potatoes in the there too. Easy cooking people. We rotated the spuds once during the hour they spent down there, and that was enough. Did I mention this was fun stuff!

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Cranking her up after the sear

Seasoning and Stuff

Traditional Santa Maria seasoning goes along with the” less-is-more” mantra you hear a lot of these days. Most purists put only salt, pepper and garlic on their Tri Tips. “SPG” as we call it in the business. And you really can’t go wrong with that. Also, you want a good flame when cooking Santa Maria style. Embrace the flame as if it were another tool in your shop, and let it work for you. You want it licking for the heavens unto your spoils freshly placed there. As far as we know, you want the flames to just touch your meat, not to engulf it.  

TIP: Pour a little bit of your manly beverage over the meat as it cooks, letting it drip down into the coals to create a billowing pillar of smoke for to rise unto your plunder. It’s good entertainment, and adds a wee smokier taste to this already wood fired way of cooking.

The End Game

I suppose you should take your Tri Tip to 145 internal, maybe removing it a little before that and wrapping it in foil to rest. The internal temp, like most big cuts of meat will continue to rise a little after it’s removed from the pit. I say, I suppose, because it’s all personal you see. Tri Tips are like big steaks, so cook it like you like your steaks and you’ll be just fine. And remember to always slice it across the grain for a proper and tender chew. Just like you would a brisket. Just like they do out way of Santa Maria, where the red oak smoke also rises. Amen.

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Santa Maria Style Tri Tip Roast, grilled over the open fire. Succulent, smokey goodness! If there is a more fun way of watching meat cook, we haven’t heard of it yet!

If you want to hook your Weber up with this Santa Maria attachment, you can find it courtesy of the good people over at Gabby’s Grills

Check them out!

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A Study in Flame: Solo Stove Titan Review and Giveaway!

*To the readership. This is a rare event on PotP. Don’t miss your chance to enter to win a free Solo Stove Titan in our first ever giveaway. All you need to do is leave a comment below, then go to this link, Titan Giveaway – Patrons of the Pit, and it will guide you from there. Another way you can enter the giveaway is to like our Facebook page, and again, just go through the link above, and it will direct you to Facebook from there. If you can’t do either of those, an Email address will enter you into the contest also.  Regardless, use the link if you want to participate in the giveaway. Think of the link as a conduit for getting things done. The widget needs the attention so it can keep track of who has entered the giveaway. Oh, and if you have previously liked our Facebook page, sorry, those likes do not count in this giveaway. Anyways, now let’s get on with this review already!

img_1281Not too long ago, last week in point of fact, I was backpacking through the hinter regions of northern Minnesota. Was on one of my usual haunts there, afoot with a pack on my back, enjoying some of the swiftly vanishing perks of wilderness travel. Solitude. Clean rushing rivers. Pure air in which to breathe, ushered on a breeze that which murmurs like poetry through the long-standing pines. It was October, and the tamarack along the way were turning golden there, kissed in an autumnal sunbeam. It was just plain lovely. So much so and in fact, it rather demanded a spot of tea.

Solo Stove Titan – Larger Version of Original Solo Stove. Lightweight Wood Burning Stove. Compact Kit for Backpacking, Camping, Survival. Burns Twigs – No Batteries or Liquid Fuel Canisters Needed.

Enter The Titan

solo_titan_nocookingring__69207-1445351399-95-95I had along a new piece of gear this hike, one sponsored to us by the kindly folks at Solo Stove. It’s a backpacking stove, good for car camping too, that runs completely off wood, or what ever other forest debris, or bio fuel, you might find laying about. It’s pretty slick. And I don’t think I have ever had a more poetic, scientifically satisfying, trail-side cup of tea in my life, than I had with this ingeniously designed cooker. The Solo Stove Titan. The glory is in the flame. So grab yourself a cup of tea likewise, and let’s disect this thing, shall we.

Natural Convection Inverted Down Gas Gasifer

What???

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solo_titan_top__35990-1445351431-95-95Here’s how it works. You build your fire on the nichrome wire grate down in the stove. Air comes in through the holes at the bottom of the stove, feeding oxygen to the fire there. With me so far? Simple enough. Here is where it gets interesting tho. The stove is double walled, and so warm air also travels upwards, heating up as it goes, between in the inner wall and the outer one. Once it reaches the top of the stove, it is expelled through another set of slightly smaller holes there. The oxygen coming out these holes, as mentioned, has been preheated in its ascent, and when it dumps back into the firebox, a literal secondary combustion occurs. And that, my friends, is the magic of the Solo Stove.

So What Does It Mean?

What it means is efficiency. This additional act of combustion assists the fire in burning more complete, they say. In point of fact, when the fire is going at full tilt, there is very little smoke produced at all, because it is so efficient. In theory, the stove will cook the smoke right out of the wood. Least wise that’s what the flame wizards at Solo Stove say. The efficient burn also means you will use less wood to cook with, when compared to cooking over an open camp fire. Not only that, when the fuel burns out, there is nothing but a fine, powdery ash remaining. No glowing embers to deal with, courtesy of that efficient burn. Needless to say, I was intrigued. So let’s get after that cup of tea, shall we.

img_1275It comes with a nicely crafted pot support, that nests inside the stove for travel. Anyways, I had a fire quickly kindled in its steel bosom, and set my old, blackened kettle on to boil. Enough for two cups of tea, I should wager. I sat back and watched the river gurgle by and admired this piece of cooking technology before me. Occasionally I fed it a small twig or stick to keep it happy. As the fire established, I must say, I was smitten by the results.

Solo Stove Titan – Larger Version of Original Solo Stove. Lightweight Wood Burning Stove. Compact Kit for Backpacking, Camping, Survival. Burns Twigs – No Batteries or Liquid Fuel Canisters Needed.

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It didn’t take the fire long at all to stabilize, and the initial plumes of smoke on start-up, to dissolve into distant memories. There is an opening on the pot support, or cooking ring, as you can see, in which to further feed the fire as needed. We had to do a little of that. I’d wager the amount of wood used for two cups of water was something like two large handful’s of sticks broken into finger length pieces. Thicker hardwoods, of course, burn better and longer than the soft balsam fir sticks that I used, but I had about one million square acres of forest and wood to play with, so it didn’t really matter. That’s another joy of a wood burning backpacking stove, I discovered. You will never run out of fuel. Leastwise in the north woods of Minnesota, you sure won’t.

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After a fashion, I also noticed the secondary combustion thing kicking in. It actually worked! Of course I failed to capture it in a photo for you, but if you were to peer down into the fire chamber a little more, you would see the fire seemingly coming out of that higher set of holes that we talked about earlier. Indeed, the main fire down on the grate was blazing away, but it was also shooting out of the holes up near the top. And the smoke was curiously absent, just like they said. I gotta say, I was impressed. Even my wife, who is not often impressed by scientific stuff, was suitably awed. We were sipping tea in no time, enjoying the warmth of a hot mug in our hands, and further admiring this little stove .

Later on in camp, we fired it up again.

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The inner pyromaniac in me couldn’t get enough play time with this stove. I discovered its engineering went other ways too. Subtle ways. For example, I discovered that even when the stove is fiercely hot, that I could still move it around if I had to by gripping it below the lowest set of holes. It wasn’t exactly cool down there, but not hot enough either that you couldn’t hang onto it for a while if you had to move it for some reason. The reason that impressed us was because if it’s not hot down there, then that means you could set it on a picnic table, perhaps, and not have to worry about burning a nice 5.1 inch circle into your table top. Always a nice thing.

Here are some specs on the Solo Stove Titan, if you’re curious

Specs for the Sole Stove Titan

Packed size: Height 5.6 inches, Width 5.1 inches
Assembled size: Height 7.9 inches, Width 5.1 inches
Weight: 16.5 oz
Materials: 304 stainless steel, nichrome wire
Fuel: sticks, twigs, pine cones and other biomass
Boil time: 4-6 mins (32 fl oz of water)
To read more on the Solo Stove Titan, do check out their website at:

Bonus Thoughts

It’s a lovely piece of kit. Just holding it in your hand, you’ll notice the quality and the craftsmanship are very nice. No moving parts, simple, and robust. The thing is built to last, and more over, do what it was designed to do. Burn wood. As old bush master, Horace Kephart once said, “A sourdough is known by the fitness and simplicity of his equipment“. Well, we think the solo stove passes the grade in that respect. It’s also rather nice to romp through the woodlands on a multi-day trip afield, and know that you can’t run out of fuel for your stove. That if you should get stuck out in the hinter lands for a few extra days, that at least you will have a way to boil water for as long as you need to. Say what you will, but there is a certain comfort in that.
But I hate camping! Roughing it to me is when my furnace dips below 70 degrees!“, some of you might croak. Well first of all, you’re kind of a wimp then, but even so, we still love you, and such a stove in your supplies could still prove useful someday. It is always well to be prepared, say, for power outages, off-grid work, natural disasters, or the inevitable zombie invasion. You never know. As long as you can find yourself a small pile of sticks, and you possess the primitive “know-how” to light a fire, well, then you can cook on this stove. I suppose you could even light up a few charcoal briquettes, if you had to, toss them into the stove, and manage to cook over it. The beauty tho is burning things you have lying around. We highly recommend starting with the political section.
What are the short comings of the stove?
Well, the biggest one is probably soot. Your cooking pot will no doubt get caked in the stuff after a couple of cooks. But this is how it is, and how it always has been when you cook over real fire. Your stuff gets sooty. It just does. If you can’t accept that, then I guess cooking over fire just isn’t for you. You can try the old bush trick of wiping your pots down in soap before each cook, if you want. That’s supposed to help. But I find it’s much simpler to just dedicate an old sack or bag for your cook pot, thus containing the soot at least to its own little quarantine of funk when in travel mode. The technique works fine, and of course, it’s simple. We adore simple.
We also found the Titan to be a little large for the backpacking we like to do. Now mind you, this isn’t the stove’s fault. It was designed to be able to cook for 2 to 4 people, and not necessarily be the size of the petite solo gas stoves I normally pack. But I wanted to try it backpacking anyhow, you know how it goes. Considering the savings in fuel bulk and weight, well, it sort of makes the size of the stove acceptable. If you’re a car camper, or a canoe camper or something along those lines, then the size of the Titan is of no issue at all. Off-hand, Solo Stove solved this problem anyways, as they have other sizes of stoves in their line up. The Solo Stove Lite, for example, is a good deal smaller than the Titan, and is designed with the backpacker in mind. Judging from how much fun I’ve been having with the Titan, I might have to put the smaller Solo Stove on my Christmas list.
The last knock we could give it is it’s kind of pricey at $90.00. Boy there are cheaper ways to fry your bacon. But again, from what we can tell of it, it looks like something that will last a long time. And best of all,  when you consider you’ll never need to buy fuel for the stove, like ever, well, then it’s only a matter of time before the Titan should pay for itself. And in the long run, be cheaper to operate than cheaper gas camping stoves which must always be refilled. The more you use it, the more affordable it gets! (Price doesn’t matter anyways if you win our free giveaway!)
Final Thoughts
Anyways, and in closing, we really enjoyed field testing this one. Not exactly a BBQ thing, but if you’ve been in our readership for long, you’ll know we do tend to take to the hither lands with some frequency, and further more, love to cook there. It all falls under the flag of outdoor cooking, a particular joy of which resides at the heart of this blog. So we were excited to do this review. Privileged in fact.  Anyways, if you’re in the market for a new camping stove, you may want to consider this wood burning alternative. Just come up with a system to deal with the soot and you’re good to go!
A kindly thanks also to the good people at Solo Stove for setting us up. Great folks. Wonderful gear. And lots of clever ideas circulating around over there. Do check them out some time if you’re into this sort of thing.
Or check them out on amazon.

Solo Stove Titan Giveaway!

 Sorry, you missed it!
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And finally, the part you’ve been waiting for. As mentioned, Solo Stove has offered to do a giveaway for one lucky subscriber of Patrons of the Pit. We’ve never done a giveaway before, but you guys deserve it, and well, it might be fun. As mentioned at the beginning of this post, there are three ways to enter.

Three Ways to Enter!

1. Leave us a comment below, then click on the Titan Giveaway link to finish the formalities.
Or
2. Click on the Titan Giveaway link and like our Facebook page from there.
Or
3.Click on the Titan Giveaway link and enter an Email address
Think of the link as a conduit to make things happen. The Giveaway lasts for 14 days from the time this post goes live. Then a program called Gleam will randomly select the winner, and Solo Stove themselves will ship the stove to your doorstep. Now you can’t beat that! And it really is an amazing little stove. You will like it! Good luck, people!!
 Blessings,
-PotP

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It’s In The Sauce: Joe Joe’s Hog Shack BBQ Sauces

Every once in a while, we here at the pit like to sample the wares of our readership, and then if you don’t mind, tell you about it. You might call it a review, but we just call it spreading the word. It’s a highly tasty thing we get to do, so we don’t mind none doing it. I mean, golly, we get to eat BBQ, and help out some others along the way. Why  wouldn’t we! So this won’t be our normal sort of post that you’re accustomed to. But rather a thank you to some good folks who sent us some of their spoils! Today’s culinary brain thrust comes to us all the way from the lovely folds of Maryland, courtesy of Joe Joe’s Hog Shack.

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Joe, the man behind the curtain over there, has come up with three pretty darn impressive sauces: Blackberry, Sweet “N” Tangy, and a Carolina Sauce, the latter of which, is the final incarnation of his first sauce, Joe Joe’s Hog Sauce. But before we tell you about his sauces, we wanted to first tell you a little more about the man, because I think we rather fancy him. And you might too.

Joe is a traveling man. An outdoors man. Leastwise, that’s what we’ve gathered. And that right there ranks him decidedly high in our book. A bit of a gypsy’s soul, apparently he can oft-times be found gunk holing up and down the east coast tarmac in his recreational vehicle. Gunk holing. It’s a sailing term. Honest. Not sure how it applies here, but I just like the word, I guess. Anyways, back to Joe. You might also spot him dug in at a campsite somewhere, aside beautiful rivers and fluttering trees. Routine weekends at the hunting lodge are not uncommon with Joe either. Yeah, we like this guy! Anyways, Joe started to develop BBQ sauces to take with him on his many trips afield. Something for to please the palate of his travel mates. And what at its genesis was just a hobby, morphed into something far greater. A passion. And a business.  These three sauces are the culmination of much kitchen tinkering. Much work. And much love. Let’s dig in, shall we, and learn a little more about them!

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Seek the Meat!

Rummaging through the freezer for a test meat is always fun. My bride is a highly organized individual with an acute need for tidiness.  This is reflective in all her areas of the house. Color coded and alphabetized. Even our movie collection is organized into Genre. And of course alphabetized from there.  But my freezer at once, is the opposite of this. I’m talking about the freezer out in the garage, now. Man space, as it were. To open the top lid of that freezer is to view chaos in its most distilled, and paralyzed form.  There is everything in there from ham bones, to pheasant, to liver, to fish guts wrapped up in plastic bags and stashed and forgotten there to keep them from smelling up the trash can. And somewhere down in the icy crags of the freezer, shoulder deep,  I found the perfect test meat for our sauces today. Chicken legs. Plain, old, boring chicken legs. If anything would bandy well with a flavorful sauce, these would be it.

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So I got to work at once with a little searing over direct heat, to crisp up the skin, and then tucked them back over indirect heat, opposite the hot coals, for the rest of the cook. We applied the sauces at the end of the cook, during the final few minutes.


Meanwhile, over at the Track Side Pit, our fellow patron/co-founder, was doing some testing himself. He had a much better portion of the yard bird too. Thighs! Man, we love them thighs! And here is a shot of them in full maturity, heavily glazed in Joe Joe’s Blackberry Sauce. Man, get your bibs on people!

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Chicken Thighs Glazed in Joe Joe’s Hog Shack Blackberry Sauce.Wow!

Blackberry Sauce

The Blackberry Sauce was at once a delight on the tongue. It’s a thin sauce. There is no spicy after-kick, and was highly favored by our food critics, also known as, our wives. Mother In-law approved too.  It sported a very pleasant blackberry flavor, not over-powering, but just pleasantly there, sweet, yet mildly complex, and because of its high sugar content, be sure to use this stuff only at the end of the cook. It would make a great glaze, we wagered, be it on your pork ribs, or beef ribs, chops, even the Easter ham! It also is supposed to do well with vegetables, we read, and of which we had to agree. When our corn on the cob wandered by happenstance into the sauce, it almost felt like a marriage had just transpired on my plate. It was amazing. Out of the three sauces, the Blackberry was my personal favorite, and the favorite also of most of the people we ran it by. You just wanted to eat with a spoon right out of the jar! It’s a very, very fine sauce.

Carolina Sauce

Our fellow patron, however, thought the Carolina Sauce smothered on his apple wood smoked pork chops, was, and I quote, “A death row kind of meal“. And whilst I don’t care to thoroughly test his thesis on that, I shan’t argue too hard against it either.  For through some rather exhaustive field studies of my own, forced to smoke up a rack of spare ribs the other day, I varnished said ribs with a good deal of this Carolina Sauce, and what henceforth transpired in my mouth can only be summarized as, “meant to be“. Man that was good! Authentic BBQ flavor. We both thought all these sauces were very good on chicken, but we both agreed they were outstanding on pork. Especially this vinegar-based, peppery, Carolina Sauce.

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Pulled Pork Slider with Joe Joe’s Hog Shack Carolina Sauce

We were also pretty much in accord that the ultimate end game for this Carolina Sauce, in our opinion anyways, has got to be a good pulled pork sandwich. Something of which we were glad to verify. The thinner viscosity of this vinegar-based sauce oozed with great effect into the succulent hollows of the pulled pork, it was quite tasty, people,  and no doubt would satisfy any man or woman in kind. Even, perhaps, those unfortunate enough to be residing in the cold,  incarcerated flanks, of death row.

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Sweet “N” Tangy

Now back to the legs, where we’ll finish things off today. The last sauce we tried was Sweet “N” Tangy, of which we liberally slopped on a couple of the chicken legs. Now here was a tomato-based sauce that as soon as you popped the lid off the jar and took a sniff, you just knew that Mr Joe, of Joe Joe’s Hog Shack was a gifted man. And you become relatively certain also, that his family is probably well-fed! A tint of smokey goodness, it is a thicker sauce with a very impressive peppery kick at the end. Not enough to make your nose run or anything, but enough to let you know you’ve lived a good life today. It’s a very good sauce, as good as any you’ll buy in any store somewhere. Maybe even better, because Joe made it.

Joe, you’ve done good, good sir. Your sauces are worthy. Adept. And well thought out. Thank you for your expertise, your time, and simply giving the sauce business a go, so that we all can share in your spoils. The world is a little better tasting now, because of you. Thank you!

On another note, and about the only thing we can knock on the sauces, is the glass jars they come in. We love glass over plastic, but they were rather prone to cracking during shipment. Not a big deal, because when we contacted them, they promptly sent us a replacement. Very quick customer service over there. And good people, too.

So if you’re looking for a new sauce to try out, give our friends at Joe Joe’s Hog Shack a try.

And tell Joe he done good! Because he did…

http://www.joejoeshogshack.com/

 

 


Made in Montana: Smokin-O’s BBQ Smoke Rings

Deep in the Bitterroot Range of the Rocky Mountains, amid the pristine, pine-scented forests and tumbling glacial rivers which flank the Trapper2-e1424135597267 (1)gorgeous contours of Darby, Montana, reside the good folks at R&R Conner Inc and Real Wood. Here beneath gently rising plumes of wood smoke which taper into a high Montana sky, you will find the skilled practitioners of the Smokin-O Smoke Rings, or the “ring masters”, as they’re affectionately coined in these parts. Fifth generation forest stewards who, like us, have a deep seeded love for putting meat to flame and declaring it good. And through a rather nifty process where hardwoods and spices are ground up, mixed together, and then extruded under high temperature and pressure, where upon the natural lignins found in the cellular make-up of the trees at once “glue” themselves together, well, the Smokin-O Smoke Ring thus is born. No binders. No chemicals. Just pure smoking satisfaction wrought from the mountain hollows of Darby, Montana.

Smokin-O’s BBQ Smoke Rings – Wood-fire Taste for Gas Grills, Original

SO-pkg-1-980x1040Now a word about these smoke rings.  They were designed for gas grills. When they contacted us to see if we might want to try their product,  we had to decline. For let it be said, we already know what great smokey flavor is because all we cook with is charcoal and wood. It’s what we do. Smokey flavor is part of the package. We have many pits, but nary a single gas grill between the lot of us. Not wanting one either. But then I remembered there is still a small portion of our readership who remain stubborn to their gassy ways. Stalwart souls who shall not budge from their token propane grill for all the cheese in Ireland. You know who you are. You also know you’re missing out on the whole reason to be grilling in the first place – that assurance of smokey goodness patron to the pit. But there is no converting you, and we understand this. Here then is where these smoke rings gather some favor for flavor. Where they make a stand in a world gone to gas.

How to Light Smokin-O’s

They couldn’t be simpler to use. To light them, just place them over the flames of your grill. Run it up to 400 degrees and shut the lid. In 5 tosmokino1 10 minutes, the ring should be lit and smoking rather profusely. They say when it’s properly lit, about 15% of it should be cloaked in white ash and sport a nice, glowing-red edge. So that’s how you’re supposed to light it, but of course, we had to do it like a man, and put the blow torch to it. This technique is proven amid charcoal champions and pyromaniacs alike, and lo, works just fine with Smokin’O’s too. That ring lit right up like an Irishman on Saint Patty’s day, and then smoldered for a good long time. Now you may be asking, what did we smoke, and how did it go? That’s a good question.

Cold Smoking with Smokin’-O’s?

Now being that we don’t have a gas grill, and after studying the unique properties of these smoke rings, a brain thrust naturally sprang to mind. We patrons of the pit get brain thrusts you see.  We get them routinely, for better or for worse. IMG_6235Anyways, I thought, well what about a cold smoke? Perhaps these little compressed rings of wood and spice might prostitute themselves as a right fine cold smoking apparatus. Turns out they do! For the most part anyways. Cold smoking is basically smoke without much heat. Useful for such meltables such as cheese or even chocolate. Or for things you just want to add smokey flavor too, but not necessarily cook yet, like bacon or nuts, or spices such as paprika or salt. These smoke rings emit a little heat, but not much, and when placed opposite what ever you want to cold smoke, such as some cheddar cheese as shown in the photo below, the cheese did not melt. However, when the smoldering ring was placed directly below the cheese, well then the cheese melted like a depleting cheese glacier, and it was very sad. But that was a pit keeper error, and easily rectified. Just place the smoke ring well away from your spoils, and let the smoke do it’s job. Yum! The effect is only improved in the winter months. FullSizeRender (4) The strength of the Smokin-O tho, is in meat. So we felt we ought to at least use it in some traditional grilling efforts, to see it in its full glory. Tho designed for gas grills, we used it anyways on the Weber kettle grill as if it were a piece of smoke wood, and were not disappointed. We tossed it directly onto the coals, like we would with any piece of wood. Soon enough it was puffing away with a contented pillar of amazing smelling smoke. Indeed, it smelled wonderful. Not sure what hardwoods and spices it’s comprised of, but hark, we found the aromas there of most agreeable with our nasal pathways. We put the old black enameled lid back on the pit, and the draft thus engaged – convincingly. These rings have no trouble producing smoke. And will do so, they say, for about a half hour, depending on their location in the pit. The cooler the area you place them, the longer they last. When we tried them with cold smoking earlier, they lasted so long that we gave up altogether waiting to see them burn out, and just went fishing instead. In the end tho, the smoke duration seems more than adequate for most of our needs. And if you need the smoke to last longer, they suggest stacking one on top of the other, kind of like a mini minion method.

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The boneless chicken breasts we smoked up were spot on in the smokey goodness we’re used to around here. Very tasty, and more over, not over powering in smokey flavor. Many a newbie to the smokey arts tend to get a wee bit carried away when adding smoke to their grilled cuisine. These rings seem to give you just the right amount of smoke to balance well with your protein of the day, and the various flavor profiles you might be after. An all-around, good, smokey flavor. No complaints.

Final Thoughts

So if you’re set on gas grills, and vow never to waver, but wish you could still enjoy some of the flavor benefits of a good wood fired grill, then I cannot divine why you would not want to stock up on these Smokin-O’s. Easy to use, affordable, and point-blank effective in what they do – generate smoke. We also found them quite the versatile product, capable of some fairly decent cold smoking, something of which they are not advertised to do, but do, according to our tests. We also liked that they were all natural, of course, not held together by goofy chemicals you cannot pronounce, or harmful binders. And of course, they were made in Montana, one of our very favorite locales, where the ramparts rise high, and rivers run cold through the resplendent valleys below.

Check out their site if you’re at all curious for more, http://www.smokin-os.com/

Or just head straight to amazon and get yourself some! Here’s the link.

Smokin-O’s BBQ Smoke Rings – Wood-fire Taste for Gas Grills, Original


This site 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.


 


Review: Weber Smokey Mountain 22 1/2 Inch Cooker

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, afterfocus_1366310800546cutting 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.


The Specifics

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 gratesweber smokey mountain
  • 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.

Weber 731001 Smokey Mountain Cooker 22-Inch Charcoal Smoker, Black


A Closer Look

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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.

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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!

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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 water panbowl. 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!

Weber 731001 Smokey Mountain Cooker 22-Inch Charcoal Smoker, Black


Operating Tips 

  • 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.


 

Primal Grill with Steven Raichlen, Volume One


A-Maze-N Products LLC Cold Smoke Generators

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Stemming from a long-family lineage of engineers, I have come to adopt the motto over the years “Simple is the best design“.  The less moving parts in a device the better, for it cannot break if it isn’t there in the first place. Something that will stand the test of time, is often simple in design. Enter A-MAZE-N cold smoke generators. As simple as they get, and oh so very effective at doing what they do. Generating smoke.

A-MAZE-N Pellet Smoker

Many of the new pellet grills out there, have attachments for generating smoke, for to engage in cold smoking endeavors and what not.AMNPS5X8-2T But you will shell out a commendable wallet for such extravagances. On another plane, many a backwoods BBQ bloke has contrived his own cold smoke generator out of various odds and ends left about the house. And the contraption usually looks like something the police should maybe swing by and ask you about. But they work I guess. The simple gadgets from A-MAZE-N Products however, pretty much cut all that goofiness out, and just give you something elegantly simple, and easy to use. A product that will last a very long time. These generators really are kind of cool, and has something to do with cigars actually, and a bright idea from a guy named Todd Johnson.

Todd Johnson, a spare-time-meat smoking enthusiast and a fellow Minnesotan, was once upon a time in the construction business. A few years ago, he was working at a house around here of a retired police officer, who among other things, fancied to smoke the big, stinky cigars. Well one day Todd as looking at said cigars on the job site, how they glowed at the end when properly puffed, and how they burned right along kind of like a fuse. And then by chance,  he noticed a pile of saw dust residing on the floor near there. Something then clicked in the man’s mind, kind of like epiphanies sometimes do. We all should be so lucky to have such moments in life, and Todd I guess had his there in the officers house. And thus from stinky cigars and sawdust, the humble A-MAZE-N Cold Smoke Generator was conceived. Turned out to be a pretty good idea too. So good in point of fact, folks of high BBQ immortality, such as Steve Raichlen, said it was the 4th best BBQ gift idea of the year in 2012. Now if Steve Raichlen, the Obe Wan Kenobi of BBQ says this to be so, well, there is no need for us to elaborate any more here. But we will.

AMNTS-1We contacted A-MAZE-N Products to see about maybe reviewing some of their toys, and none other than the big man himself got back to us. Todd was very cordial, and prompt, and attentive, and frankly a hoot to talk to. Minnesotans are generally a friendly lot you see, and Todd is no exception. And quicker than we could smoke a brisket flat, that man had us a box of gadgets delivered to our door step. Check one star at least, for phenomenal customer service. We couldn’t have asked for better service, really. Them dudes were on top of it for sure.

Anyways, we will be looking at two A-MAZE-N products: The AMNPS 5 x 8 and the 12″ Tube Smoker, as seen aboveWhich ever one you go with, the first order of business is to bake the thing in the grill or oven for a half hour or so, to burn off the factory oils and what not.  After that, its ready to use. And using it is about as easy as lighting your grill.

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First let’s look at the AMNPS 5×8.   Or, A-MAZE-N Pellet Smoker as seen on amazon. Designed to use both with saw dust or proprietary smoking pellets. I filled the 5×8 maze with Pit Masters Choice pellets, almost, but not quite to the top, and lit off both ends of the maze with some hearty flame action. That’s the fun part of these gadgets. Getting to play with your blow torch. For a match or lighter just won’t cut it. But a business end of an ignited propane welder’s torch sure does the trick. Some folk have even used a can of sterno to light the pellets. It’s up to you, I suppose, and your pyromaniac instincts. We lit off both ends of the pellet fuse, one to double the smoke out put, and two,  because these things will burn for umpteen hours if you only light one end, and we didn’t have the time to wait up for it to be done.

The working principle of these devises reminds us a good deal of the Minion Method, a technique now employed by manycigar top-notch BBQ competitors. In the minion method, you get sort of a fuse deal going on too, where the lit coals gradually light off the unlit coals sitting up next to them. And those coals light the coals sitting next to them. And so on. Same principle seems to be at work with these smoke generators too, and go figure, big cigars.

After we got the 5 x 8 lit and puffing away, which only took about 45 seconds at each end of the fuse, we put it in the bottom of the big 22 inch Weber Smokey Mountain. The thing fairly bellowed with smoke. A tight blend of aroma quite pleasant, not to mention abiding, to a long time meat smoker. Placed a block of medium cheddar on the grate, and put on the lid. Cold smoking was underway. And it don’t get no easier.

Amazen Pellet Tube Smoker 12″

afterfocus_1374958814292_edit0Meanwhile, at his pit, our patron co-host worked the 12 inch tube smoker. First burning off the factory oils, then lighting one end of it, not unlike that there cigar again I guess. Tho he had a propane torch at the ready, he decided to try to light the tube with a chunk of smoldering ember plucked from his camp fire he had going.  The creative sciences we’re upon the lad, and the idea worked brilliantly he said, after a wee bit of nurturing and blowing. After the pellets were suitably ignited, and smoldering as they ought, he tucked the tube in main chamber of his offset pit. The pit temperature only raised a few degrees higher than the outside ambient , and the smoke did it’s thing with a sweeping and convincing ease. He did up some salt, cheese, and everybody’s meat-love – bacon!

We both found the burn time of these smokers to be impressive. They just kept smoldering away. Never going out, nor varying in their output of smoke, until all the pellets were expired. Solid performance, hour after hour. The 5×8, lit at both ends, looked like it would last about 4 hours. So, stands to reason if you just want to light only one end, you might get a solid 7 – 8 hours of premium smoking satisfaction. Not bad. The 12 inch tube smoker gave a good 4 hours of burn time, which is exactly that which they were rated to do. It also came pre-filled with oak pellets. A nice touch, we thought.

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The pellets for these smokers come in a rather distinguished variety. About every flavor you can think of, from: hickory and mesquite of course, and apple and peach, to more unique and exotic flavors such as sassafras, mulberry and savory herb! They sell saw dust too, which you can use in AMNPS 5 x 8, in all the usual smoke woods you can think of, but also in flavors you might not think of, such as: bourbon barrel, grapevine, and nectarine. Pretty cool. They certainly have no shortage of smokey goodness to select from. Check out their entire pellet menu here if your interested in seeing more.

The pellets we used were what they called, Pit Masters Choice, a blend of hickory, cherry, and maple.  Tho we both found those pellets to smell great during the smoking process, we also thought the smokey flavor imparted on the cheese was a wee bit too strong for our taste buds. However, on bacon it was outstanding. In retrospect, if we were to do cheese with these pellets again, we would definitely smoke them only half as much. (Two hours) Or only light one end of the AMNPS 5 x 8. At the end of the day tho, it’s purely a taste preference you’ll have to make for yourself, via some cold smoking experimentation. All of which is good times.

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These gadgets can also be used in traditional hot smoking. Just light them up, and tuck them down in a corner of your grill or smoker,  and they will act as your smoke source, giving you the illusion of a fancy pellet grill, at a mere fraction of the price. Just be sure they are receiving adequate air flow where ever you place them in your pit, less they starve for oxygen.

In conclusion, the smoke generators from A-Maze-N Products LLC are about as simple and effective as you can get. No moving parts, these will stand the test of time we believe, and are delightfully simple to use. The pellet and dust flavors are as prolific as they are diverse. And the customer service is on par with the best we’ve experienced in any business.  And all that for about 40 bucks. Not too bad if you want to get into cold smoking with out blowing the bank. It is very difficult to find anything negative to say here. I guess if we had to come up with something, it would be we both favor the smoke imparted from real wood over man-made pellets. We’re just purists like that. Even so, these really are fun gadgets to play with, and when cold smoking is your goal, we are hard pressed to find a better bang for the buck.

Two Patron Thumbs Up!

-POTP


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