They came trucking up through the green grass as if they owned the place. And maybe they do. For let it be said, they were here long before we ever showed up. When we first moved in, they were the first to greet us. And when if we move from here, they’ll probably be standing there beside the driveway, the last to wave us good-bye. I speak of course, of the resident Mallards of the Pond Side Pit. And boy are they cute these days. Spring is just wrapping up here on the 45th parallel, and all the many ducks are closely followed by a feathery amoeba of miniature ducks, just like them – their little hairy faces, alive, and bright-eyed to a new, and outstanding world. Seems every time I light up the pit out back, they are there, investigating…Or maybe it is they’re just checking in that it is not their kin folk they smell cooking under my lid.
Fear not little ducks, for it is only a wee rack of pork ribs smoking under our lid today. With gentle plumes of pecan and apple wood, seasoned in Kits K.C. BBQ Rub from the good folks at Miners Mix. I’m telling you this, there are a precious few better ways to while away a beautiful afternoon, than to tarry long in your BBQ chair, with a cold beverage in hand, feet propped up as per proper pit master posture, wowwy, and a cool breeze washing fresh over you the day long. Indeed, bringing pork ribs to a succulent, and tasty end game is our heady privilege. A Pit Jockey’s delight.
5 Reasons Why Ribs Are The Perfect Thing To Smoke
Ribs are perhaps the perfect thing to smoke, and I’ll tell you why. First off, ribs are meat candy to a man. Let’s just be clear about that. We lust for them. Next to bacon, I suppose, nothing gets our slobbers running more than the heady prospect of a good rack of ribs.Carnal, but true. We just had to clear the air on that matter.
It’s About Time
Secondly, ribs take just the right amount of time to cook. Look, if you at all enjoy the many facets of the Smokey Arts, and aspire yourself a patron of the pit, then you know in your soul, just as surely as you know anything, just how fun smoking meat is. Burgers and bratwurst are good and all, but the show is over too quick with those. Your coals still burn for something more. You crave a longer campaign pit-side. Something that takes you deep into the game. Pork butts and brisket are fantastic, we’re talking out-of-the-ball park home runs, but you seldom have the available clock for them. In point of fact, you might as well rip a whole day off the calendar for those big meats. That’s how long they tend to take. But ribs, ah ribs, well they saddle up just right. They are the perfect afternoon smoking project. You can fire up the pit at noon, and have your ribs done by supper. That’s just enough time to make you feel like you’ve done something proper-like in the Smokey Arts. Just enough time to rejoice in the ways of the pit master, such as napping pit-side, or watching a ball game with your shoes off. Just enough time to flex your patience a little, and log some quality pit time under blue-bird skies.
In a world ripe with haste, ribs take precisely the right amount of time.
Another reason why ribs are the perfect thing to smoke, is that success is not always a given. There does seem to me anyways, a certain smokey-scented, serendipity, to cooking ribs in charcoal fueled pit. I know this because I always marvel when they turn out good. Now if I knew it was in the bank all along, then why would I marvel? I don’t know. But know this, ribs are satisfying to get right. Not just to your belly, but to your personal growth as an accomplished meat maestro. All your research and experimentation into technique and method, culminating in a few short hours under, long, smokey columns of goodness. In many ways, ribs are a sort of litmus test of your pit skills. You can divine a great deal about a pit keeper’s craft from his ribs.Ribs keep us learning.
Picasso in Pork
Next, ribs are the perfect blank pork canvas in which to paint your BBQ Picasso. You can season them up so many ways, from just salt and pepper to intricately conceived rubs snatched from only your brain pan alone. To sauce or not to sauce, well, leave it to your pit master instincts. Smoke woods, oh where to start! Every rack is a different journey into the smokey realm. Every rack its own entity. It’s own dance with fire and smoke. Ribs are your personal expression in meat art. Your Picasso in Pork. So wield your brush, people, with all due enthusiam.
A Ticket to Relax
And at last, and subtly under-toned along the way, every rack is your ticket to an afternoon off, to loiter pit-side, with a manly beverage in hand, and declare to yourself and those who come upon you, that you are in no hurry today. That you have, by choice, raised your foot clear of the accelerator pedal of life, and for a few short smokey hours, and maybe even longer than that, all your world is right. You’re not grilling hot dogs today. Nay, you’re smoking ribs. And that my friends, is a very a good day indeed. Amen.
Five hours, low and slow, people. Pecan/Apple Amoked BBQ ribs. Son! And my ducks were Okay with this.
By the softened light of a gray, December afternoon, two humble venison shoulders sizzled amid a cloud of hickory smoke in the old Weber Smokey Mountain. I sidled out the patio door to see the smoke in curl, and several black capped chickadees swoop off into the thickets yonder. Smiling, I tilted the lid up on the pit, and took a gander under there. The venison was taking on some color now, and smelling point blank, out-of-this-world. But we were only an hour into it, and had four more hours to go. So I shut the lid, content to wait. Because I knew in the back of my mind, back in those quiet places where men know such things, that these were the days you reach for, by and far, as a BBQ junkie. The sort of day where the wood smoke puffs away in marathon fashion, hour after hour, and you have nothing else in the world to do save for to tarry quietly in it’s gentle presence. That being said, I took a seat in the patio chair, left leg crossed over right, and further mused to myself. Need more time in a day? Then smoke yourself some meat. And do it slowly. Oh how the hours drag ever onward in a slow parade of salivating moments, with umpteen pleasant memories forged pit-side, under beautiful skies, and tinted in smokey goodness.
Our spice rub today is a keeper, leastwise for wild meats. Copy and paste it in your archives and thank us later!
Field & Stream’s Ultimate Wild Game Rub
¼ cup kosher salt
¼ cup ground black pepper
¼ cup sweet paprika
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon juniper berries, crushed and minced
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Yeah, we had no juniper berries either. What can you do. Anyways, after three hours on the pit, the meat has received all the smoke it needs. In point of fact, it looked edible enough to eat right there iffin you had a mind to. But we didn’t. We sought the hallowed shores of succulence instead. We wanted this ornery cut of meat dropping off the bone like your mama’s pot roast. To accomplish such high bidding, we wrapped each leg/shoulder gently in foil, along with a half-cup of apple juice for to service as a steaming agent. Put it all back on the pit for two more hours, at 240 degrees, to wallow there in an apple scented steam bath. Oh man! And that was all it took. The bones came out as clean as hammer handles, and the meat pulled like a pork butt.
There is a great privilege in taking the better things in this life, slowly. From a date with your sweetheart, to Christmas morning with family, to simply preparing supper, if that’s what you love to do. If not for anything else, but to just extend the moment for the moment’s sake, and then to revel in it. So do it well, then, and with a heart of thanksgiving, and by all means, take your time with it, and enjoy the journey. For life sweeps by fast enough as it is, seems like. And every day is another reason, it stands to reason, for taking it slowly. Amen.
5-Hour Low and Slow, Hickory Smoked Pulled Venison Shoulder, Patron to the Pit. Yum people!
The winds of November felt more like September, this weekend last. And tho the leaves have all descended now, and the song birds have parted ways for yonder lands far to the south, and the earth is on hold now, seems like, waiting for winter; the weather that which remains this side of a setting sun, at the time of this draft anyways, has been nothing short of paradisaical. Shirt sleeve temperatures, leastwise for a Minnesotan it is. Blue skies, no humidity, and no bugs. I rather like it. And so does Gus.
Gus is my rabbit, don’t you know. He’s been hanging out at the pit with me a lot lately, often occupying the same corner of the yard, meticulously nosing through the lawn there whilst I putter on the patio. He’s a good rabbit, by and far. Never a cross word. Keeps out of trouble. And no, I’m not at all positive he’s a he. Nor does Gus cotton much towards my curiosity to check on these matters. So I let him be, under the plausible notion that it probably doesn’t matter anyways, and the two of us, man and rabbit, manage to co-exist together no how, where the wood smoke gently curls.
Such was the case last Saturday afternoon. I had me a beautiful skirt steak sizzling away over a good bed of coals, jazz music playing, and the afternoon long to while away here at the pit. Whilst Gus milled about in the grass, I tinkered with a new technique on my Weber Smokey Mountain. How to convert the classic smoker into a grilling machine. It’s elementary really, but I’ll tell you about it anyway, because that’s what we do around here.
The technique here is to use the lower rack in the smoker to hold your fire. I told you it was simple. And it works too! Those of you not familiar with the Weber Smokey Mountain could probably give a barn owl’s dropping about this, but to a WSM owner, a beautiful new world has just opened to thee. You take the charcoal ring from the fire bowl below, and place it, centered, on the lower cooking rack of the WSM, and thus kindle your blaze accordingly there. This not only ushers a hotter fire closer to your spoils, proper for the likes of steaks and burgers, but also expands the versatility of the WSM. Another method is to place a cooking grate directly over a good fire in the fire bowl itself, and do your grilling there. But I kind of like this method just as well, as it lets you stand up to do your cooking. Say what you will, but we do like to be civilized at the pit.
Anyways, about this skirt steak. Hark, if you could have smelled it here, I do believe you would have shed a tear, or at least had a man moment, patron to the pit. Man it smelled good! Even Gus flared a nostril. We marinated the beef for 6 hours in a 30 minute marinade. Now like most red-blooded American males, we figured if a little is enough, then too much is just right. Not sure if we were allowed to perpetrate such behavior, but we did. The marinade was Lawry’s Steak and Chop Marinade, and wow, did it pack some flavor into that skirt steak. Maybe 30 minutes would have been plenty after all. Even so, good is good. After the steak was almost, but not quite done, we converted the Weber Smokey Mountain yet again, this time into a giant frying pan!
Glory be but for the endless virtues of restaurant grade, hot-rolled steel, placed steadfastly over a beautiful bed of coals. By now you know of our love affair with the venerable, Mojoe Griddle. It’s no secret. And that’s good because we’re not ashamed to show it! Nay, we cannot help but to revel in it’s capabilities, and now coupled with the 22.5 WSM, set up in grilling mode, well, let’s just say that the culinary world is ours! From smoking, to grilling, to elaborate frying over the nearly nonstick Mojoe surface. This is high living, folks. Made in America. And made to last.
Whilst the Black Capped Chickadees lit atop the pit-side spruce, we tossed the vegetables onto the lightly oiled griddle and got to work. I suppose I ought to tell you, now that I think of it, what we’re cooking today. It goes like this. One of my favorite places to eat is the Chipotle Mexican Grill. And my favorite thing to eat there is the burrito bowl. Well, Chipotle has been in the news lately, as you may know. Apparently Escherichia coli is on the menu too there, and people don’t much care for it. I’m not sure what E coli does to a chap, but I just as soon steer clear of a dinner date with the Big E! Thus, and today, we do the only sensible thing a man can when he craves a Chipotle burrito bowl and can’t have one – we re-create it at home! Turns out its real easy to do too!
Onions and bell peppers chopped to suit, and tossed on the griddle. My they sizzle liked a love song there. We got some black beans heating up there too. Some corn also, dusted in Wholly Chipotle Rub from the good folks at Miners Mix. A pot of brown rice simmers off to the side on the pit stove. Can you smell it yet! The aromas which curled and ebbed about the pit, the onions and marinated smokey beef and peppers, man, well lets just say it was enough to draw the drool from the lip pit of anyone with an fair to adequate pulse! What a pleasure to escort these spoils about, spatula in one hand, lovey beverage in the other. Turning them, folding them, working them together unto a higher calling suitable to thee. My inner Mexican rejoiced, and for a moment, all the world was right.
It was time. I bid Gus a hearty adieu, who was still prospecting through the grass yonder. Then I plated up some spoils, and topped it fresh with some shredded cheese and of course, the token dollop of sour cream.Yum! Needless to say, but we will, it was aptly devoured in kind. And Amen.
Home made burrito fajita bowl, or how ever you wanna say it. Indeed, good is good, patron to the pit.
Links To Stuff We Used Today:
As I repair here in my den, with a bit of stereophonic music in play, and a hot cup of tea at hand, I listen also to the rain which drums with great exuberance over the brown-shingled roof above. The rain. A cold, autumn kind of rain. The sort that callously knocks the last of the colored leaves from their mama trees to the cold, dampened earth below. Leaves that which cling only by tender stems, quaking in the autumn wind, where their inherent will to hold on, and their remaining chlorophyll count, rank about as equal, I should say. Yup, it’s a tough day as days go, to be a leaf in Minnesota. Indeed, it’s the kind of all day rain that renders a chap a distinct chill in his bones, and moves a body hence for his or her patented grandma-knitted afghan. To curl up on the Davenport, with a good narrative, fire-place crackling, and while away the hours there, whilst the rain drops collect hither on the window pane.
I might just do that. But before I do, let me tell you about another sort of day. One just a few sunrises ago, in point of fact. One of blue skies, and darting tweeting birds, and gently curling plumes of hickory smoke. One of heightened leisure, and good eating. It’s about a turkey, don’t you know, and his day off, patron to the pit.
It started early on with this brine, you see. The day prior, to be exact. We’ve been on a brine kick here lately at the pit, and for this turkey, a good, cider-based brine seemed like the logical road to wander down. And so we did. Amid the morning sunbeams off the pond, so golden and resplendent, we stirred up a good pot of it over the pit stove, bringing it to a gentle boil, letting the flavors all meld together there in a harmonious liquid opus suitable for the fairest of fowl. Our brine consisted roughly of the following kitchen tatter:
Apple Cider Turkey Brine
1/2 Gallon apple cider
1 Cup Kosher Salt
1 Cup Brown Sugar
2 Oranges, quartered and squeezed
1 Lemon quartered and squeezed
6 Cloves Garlic
6 Slices of Ginger Root
Splash or two of apple cider vinegar
A few dashes of Miners Mix Poultry Perfection Rub
*Pretty much the same brine we used in our wild duck post last time around.
So we let the bird wallow in the brine for about twenty and fours hours, that, and give or take an episode of the Andy Griffith Show. Rinsed it thoroughly under cold tap water, to get as much salt off as we could, then transferred it to the Weber Smokey Mountain, which off-hand, was already up and running at 225 degrees. We were very efficient here at the pit today. We had a couple of fist-sized pieces of hickory wood on the coals too, the smokey plumes of which had already taken on that light-blue tint that every good pit jockey aspires for. Things were in place, and the day spun as it ought to. Nothing to do now save for to draw a lovely beverage and make the speedy acquaintanceship of your favorite lawn chair. And by golly, we certainly did that!
With my old reliable, the ET-73 Maverick Redi Chek digital probe at my side, well lets just say that such technology at the pit grants a man the boyish freedom to dally about his fancies with relative impunity towards over-cooking his meat. Because every schmuck knows, or ought to know anyways, never to over cook a turkey. Thus the Redi Chek, if properly set, will bleep and belch at you when your target temperature is reached. We set it to croak at 163 internal, because it was a small bird, half a bird really, weighing only 7 pounds. So 163 internal, I wagered, would garner enough thermal inertia to coast up to the 165 finish line even after the bird is removed from the heat, and tented in tinfoil to rest. Oh yes, we were on our game here at the pit today. In the zone you might say.
So it was, with an undeniable pleasure that I kicked my feet up on some low flying patio furniture, tipped my hat just so, and placed my chin on my chest, thus assuming the proper pit master posture for a quiet spot of turkey smoking. Oh how I do revel in these moments. These pit-side sorties by myself. They are like a mini vacation to me, by and by. The manly equivalent of a trip to the spa. For to tarry there in the good light of an afternoon sun, whilst the clouds idle against a blue sky, and the chickadees cavort in the spruce, hark, ’tis medicine for a haggard soul. It is. To feel the sun, warm still against my flannel, knowing full well that the first snow fall of the season is maybe only weeks away, well a man learns to take pause in his day to days, and to loiter long on such occasions, where the wood smoke also rises.
Now I know what some of you might be thinking…What did we use for rub? Well we didn’t. Don’t much recommend it either, where this brine is concerned. For there are plenty enough potent flavors to keep a taste bud busy here. Just the brine and the smoke itself, are fully capable of doing all the talking here, kind of like that one couple at a dinner party who never shut up. If you do want to season the turkey with something, go lightly, and by all means stay clear of using something salty. It doesn’t need any help in that department, courtesy of the brine.
Three days later…and back in the Den
Well, the sun has set, and the night scatters through-out the land. The rain it seems has let up a tad now, tho my music still plays softly. The tea is mostly gone too, save for that cold, amber-colored puddle residing at the bottom of the enameled cup. And you might be keen to know, that for a while at least, I don’t know, but a few minutes to be sure, the rains tapered to the first snow flurries of the season here in Minnesota. And it was beautiful. I rushed outside like a school boy. Tiny white flakes descending on a cold breeze from an ashen gray sky, melting against my face whilst I grinned into the tempest. Lovely. The first snow flurry also stirs something elemental in both critter and man alike. Our chilly queue perhaps, albeit sans subtle, that a shift in season is upon us on the 45th parallel. Indeed, winter’s first tendrils grapple for purchase. And I cannot help but to reminisce fondly because of it now, to just a few days ago, pit side, with wood smoke in curl, and how good it felt just to tarry there, and sit stalwart in the sun. Amen.
24 hour apple cider brined, hickory smoked turkey breast, moist as turkey can get, sided with homemade dressing and REAL garlic mashed potatoes. Man! Who can wait for Thanksgiving anyways!
Pit Date: Easter Morning
Pit Weather: Cool. Light breeze out of the northwest.
Two cute Chickadees lit on the feeder outside the patio door, chirping their song for the morning at large. Yapping it up, like tweety birds do, and poised to flirt, if not for the nearest shrubbery, then with each other. Classic signs of spring time in Minnesota. You see it everywhere. Squirrels, ducks, bar tenders, you name it. The males of the species putting on a bit of a show, or a rather over-the-top exhibition, if you will. On my morning commute last week, in point of fact, I came upon two wild turkeys, strutting up the sidewalk. One of them, the male I presume, was proudly puffed up, it’s tail fanned out, bold and beautiful, as it did a little disco dance right there along side the road. Stomping around, flaunting his tail feathers and such. Goofy creatures I thought, as I drove past with an air of smugness and superiority and general awe. I was sure glad that my species at least, had come far enough along in life to not have to resort to such humbling, petty measures. Well, leastwise, not all of us males would do such things. Certainly not this male. That is until I smoked the Easter ham. Indeed, I may have had a small relapse then, to my more primitive side. I digress.
You see, I was milling about the house Easter morn, getting the Weber Smokey Mountain ready for the day’s culinary sortie, and I was coming in from the garage with a brand new bag of charcoal perched on my shoulder, when I caught sight of myself in the mirror.
“Shoot” I bellowed, “Now there’s a ruddy looking bloke!”
Ruddy. In my words, it means manly, and rather pleasant on the eyes. A condition usually spawned from a life out-of-doors.
I paused momentarily, to fully grasp the sight. I sported a light-weight red flannel smoking jacket, clashing with a pair of blue and green flannel pajama bottoms, brown leather boots with tongues that which hung forth like the fleshy namesakes of two over-heated bull dogs, and an old black ball cap that has seen the sweat of a thousand days. Not exactly a Sears and Roebuck model, but if flannel had a poster child this day, well, it was me!
The sound of my bride coming down the stairs snapped my attention clear of my evident self lust, but not enough so, turns out, to resist striking a manly pose for her, just the same. As her foot steps grew closer, I adjusted the 20 pound bag of charcoal on my shoulder, so she could better glimpse my bulging biceps, and taut mid section. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, but listen, it’s my blog, and if I want a taut mid section, well then so be it. Anyways, my chiseled Norwegian jaw line took rather well in the morning light, and my gray steely eyes were trained on the metaphoric mountain tops whence she made her landing at the foot of the stairs.
“Wow, you’re wearing a lot of flannel!” She croaked, looking right at me, “Have you started the ham yet?”
“Well, yes, I’m getting there in due time“, I said, whilst nonchalantly adjusting my pose . “Must not rush the pit processes you know.”
“Excellent“, she said, as she began to sort through the morning paper.
I waited a few moments for a comment on my ruddiness… Nothing. I strutted past her with my bag of charcoal aloft, considering something relevant from the disco era to engage in, but I couldn’t think of anything, and soon gave up and headed for the patio. She was right tho, I best get the ham started, I guess. And I reckoned not even a turkey gets it right the first time. Anyway, here is how I lit up the pit.
Known in the BBQ sciences as the Minion Method. It is the choicest of techniques for operating the Weber Smoke Mountain. It’s simple to do too. Simply dump a chimney of fiery hot coals into a donut of unlit coals. Done. The hot coals will slowly light the unlit coals next to them. And those coals in turn will light up the coals next to them. And so on. We did an article a long while back that goes more in-depth on this technique, The Long Burn: The Method of Jim Minion, and if you ever want to delve deeper into the smokey arts, it would be a good read for you. Anyways, once the pit was up to speed, 225 degrees, with a few chunks of pecan wood smoldering away, and after we scored the ham for better smoke penetration, we slathered the it in our finest cheap mustard first, then hit it over with a homemade ham rub consisting roughly of the following:
Home Made Patron Ham Rub
- 1/4 cup Brown Sugar
- 1/4 cup Turbinado Sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon Ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon Paprika
Now here is where the pit does its magic. And where a pit master proper is to simply stay out-of-the-way. And that’s what I did. Doing such in a semi-reclined Roman banquet sort-of-way on the couch, which just barely allowed me to consume thy lovely beverage without the hassle of sitting up straight. But this tactic soon faltered, of course, and with the shrewd hands of gravity, I soon found my self “belly up”, with not a care in the world. Eye lids growing heavy, something educational played on the television, tho I couldn’t tell you what. I didn’t care. I was smoking meat, and for a while at least, that was all the entertainment I needed. I was exactly where I wanted to be, doing precisely that which was well with my soul. And I may or may not have dozed off during the high rigors of BBQ here, whilst those wonderful, pecan-scented tendrils of wood smoke pillared into beautiful, April sky.
Long about 135 degrees internal temp, about 4 hours, I stirred up enough motivation to concoct a simple maple honey glaze for the ham, and varnished it on in turn. Here is the recipe we used for the glaze. It weren’t too bad!
Honey Maple Glaze
- 1/4 cup Honey
- 1/4 cup Maple Syrup
- 2 tablespoons Butter
At this point, we opened all the vents on the smoker to full throttle. The hotter it gets, the better things caramelize. But it turns out the smoker was low on fuel, and didn’t want to go much higher than it already was. But we muddled through it anyways, glaze and all, for poetic reasons alone. It is not shameful to use the oven tho, not to worry. Do what you gotta do. I just felt like ending the cook where it started- on the pit. Like I said, for the poetry. But keep an eye on it during the glazing process, less your sugars conspire against thee in a siege of burnt tidings upon your dear ham. It’s too late in the game to lose it all now. When your ham reaches 145 degrees internal, it’s ready for your people. Go any higher than that, and you risk drying it out.
And that is how a turkey smokes a ham on Easter day. Amen.
Smoke Date: November 28, 2014
Location: Pond-Side Pit
Outside Temp: 23 Degrees F/Pit Temp: 251 Degrees F
About two miles away, there is a store. A big store, as stores go, and today they offer the very best deals for to sooth the mass consumerism that which has spawned upon it’s very flanks. And shoulder-to-shoulder the covenant die-hard will dutifully tread to and fro amid the fields of commerce. Racing head long to get their paws on that which they easily lived without just yesterday. Today is different, however. Today is Black Friday. The herds are on the move again. And we here at this blog know just how to handle such nauseum. We are well schooled, you see, in the art of crowd avoidance techniques. Indeed, how to and with great effect, lay low from the masses. Thus, it is time to head out to the pit, of course, and smoke our Annual Black Friday Ham!
A light, but abiding sleet taps rapidly over the black enameled lid of the smoker. It’s almost up to speed now. Cherry smoke is stabilizing. A cold, November breeze swirls over the snow-encrusted pond, and mingles through the naked branches of the old Cottonwood tree. And the Chickadees flirt about, perch-to-perch, frolicking, or doing what ever it is that Chickadees do. I nary question their motives anymore. They are perhaps the hardiest little birds I know, spending the winter long living out-of-doors, seemingly giddy to be alive. Always fluffy. And always active. Our stalwart mascot of the winter pit! Anyways, let’s head inside shall we and get to that ham.
We prepared two things to get this ham started. A liquid base and/or baste. And a simple, sweet rub. Here is the recipes for both
Honey Ham Baste
- 1/3 Cup Apple Juice
- 1/3 Cup Orange Juice
- 1/3 Cup Pineapple Juice
- 1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
- 1/2 Cup Honey
Bring these ingredients henceforth to a nice simmer, for to marry the flavors appropriately.
Patron Ham Rub
- 1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
- 1/4 Turbinado Sugar
- 1/2 Teaspoon Nutmeg
- 1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon
- 1/2 Teaspoon Ginger
- 1/2 Teaspoon Paprika
First order is to score the ham a good 1/2 inch deep. This humble act will allow further penetration of both spice and smoke. Say what ever you want, but this is a good thing, people! So we scored the ham in an semi-attractive checker board pattern, and then lavished it with liberal brush strokes of the honey baste. Whilst wet, we then gave it a good coating of the ham rub too. And that’s that, folks. Take it at once out to the pit, and commence with what you do best!
This truly is where most pit junkies are at their finest. Or at least at their happiest. Whence the wood smoke begins to curl, there is a special, contented sort of mojo that which transpires across a pit keeper’s soul. Something about the curling plumes, and the aroma of meat on the low and slow, that sets a fellow at ease. We can at once draw a manly beverage, and prop our feet by the fire, and for a while at least, require very little else in this life. Indeed, we are privileged this way, to revel in the simple order patron to the pit. So I moseyed inside, and lit the fireplace there. Turned the man chair towards the heat, whilst maintaining a good line of sight out to the pit, which puffed serenely just past the frosty patio door. And as I leaned back, feeling the first waves of a nap slosh the shores of consciousness, I couldn’t help but to think of those mass herds of shopping folk, elbowing their way in and out of lines, chasing the ultimate bargain. Filling mini vans. Thinning wallets. Bringing home bountiful piles of stuff, for to add to their already mountainous piles of other stuff. Mercy. I nudged my feet a little closer to the fireplace, pulled a blanket over me, and did the only sensible thing I could divine at the time…
When I awoke, the ham was pretty far along. I gave it another baste, and dusted it over with another smattering of rub. The goal is to take its internal temperature up to 145 F. Higher than that tends to dry a ham out. Since most hams are already cooked, how hot you wish to make it is left to your discretion, of course. But 145 F seems to be a happy temp for most folks. This ham needed more time, a duty of which was my pleasure to ensure. And so I put the lid back on, and sidled through the door, returning from whence I came to my man chair still warm, for a few minutes more under a soft blanket, beside the crackling fire. Rigorous work indeed, this pit keeping. It is not for wimps, nor the faint of heart. You gotta work up to it, people! Thus, I nuzzled back into my nest, feet propped up just right, whilst the chickadees zipped past the window pane.
I repeated this process hourly, two more times in point of fact, before the ham was hot all the way through. A routine you should know, that you may become quite accustomed to. A most beautiful, intoxicating rhythm indeed, when Black Friday rolls around, or any day really, when you feel the re-occurring need to lay low. Amen.
Sweet and Smokey: Cherry-Smoked Honey Ham, fresh off the pit, sided with a heaping spoonful of homemade scallop potatoes, and a vegetable medley for to please the lady folks. Yum! You can do more popular things on Black Friday, I suppose, but why!!
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.
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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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.