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Author Topic: Tailgate and other Recipes.... rescued from damnation- a project for all of us.  (Read 9350 times)

Online FearlessF

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one slice at a time
"Courage; Generosity; Fairness; Honor; In these are the true awards of manly sport."

Online Drew4UTk

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I learned a lesson... the kind that only comes with experience and dabbling instead of academic... I'll share it with y'all, but I don't expect it to be accepted until you've experienced it for yourselves. 

so... smoked a whole sirloin last weekend.  It turned out better than anything I've ever smoked.  The bark was perfection and the ring was apparent and uniform and to a depth of perhaps an eighth of an inch.  The wood used was an oak/maple mix of my own blend.  The sirloin was rubbed well with coarse salt and black pepper, and some of that montreal steak seasoning.  nothing special.  i took the 11# cut up to 112* internal, and then wrapped it in foil, then a towel, and then a cooler for another hour.  The smoker rendered a medium rare masterpiece of 'sweet' smoked heaven.  not a bit bitter. it's the first time i've ever successfully smoked without a hint of 'bitter'... here is the lesson learned.  

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BLUF (bottom line up front) : It's ALL about the fuel.  Without getting into the chemistry specifics which i have little grasp of understanding, wood is chock full of naturally occurring chemicals.  These impart the bitter taste, and they often cause wafts of thick white to light gray smoke.  This is bad.  Many counter this by smoking 'full smoke' only partial cook time, and attempt to bypass the smoke during later phases. Many 'soak' wood chips to smoke.  This is wrong.  The way to dispense with the bitter flavors is simple: only burn natural wood fires that have been rendered to charcoal.  there is little smoke, there is zero need to 'soak' chips, and the chemicals that impart the bitterness are long gone before you even drop the match at cook time. 

my set up is a wood fired ecoque gen2 smoker/pizza oven.  It's made everything from brisket to applewood smoked bacon, to breads and homemade pizzas.  it works great and i am happy with the purchase.  there is no gas involved, and there is no 'briquettes' to be used.... you only want to use clean and natural fuels, and always as dried out (seasoned) as possible fuel... and that's what i've been doing.  no matter how seasoned, though, the smoke stack never lies- the smoke coming out of that thing can be described, at times, as clouds- white, pillow like, thick and consistent.  this is a bad thing.  

I was reading a study offered up by aTm (if you can believe it) about how 'types of woods aren't as important as origin of woods'... i found this interesting to say the least.  the basic premise is "Oak from one location geographically may be better suited than Hickory from another or vice versa, and it may be better than apple or any of the fruit woods depending on it's geographic origin."... they went as far as to say "hickory from some places properly seasoned imparts a sweeter flavor than, say, cherry from another"... here is the key though, and it was strongly stressed: "It really doesn't matter what wood- so long as it is a hardwood- as people talk a lot about the subject the truth of the matter is they can't truly distinguish one way or the other what wood was used, but they can absolutely tell if that wood wasn't properly prepared prior to being used in the smoker".   

for this evolution planned for the Sirloin described above, the plan was to use solely charcoaled lump with only spits of 'fresh' silver maple the size of pencils or so, and to NOT add any more 'fresh' wood after the start.  the smoke was not apparent at all throughout the cooking process- it could be smelled, but even ten feet away from the stack it was barely visible.  Opening the chamber a few times during cooking usually results in vision clouding breath holding efforts to 'wait it out' before you can inspect progress- but not this time.  there was certainly trapped smoke, but it was there and gone as soon as the chamber was accessed.  ... I had my doubts about this based on what i was seeing, but i figured it prudent to not change gears mid race. 

as mentioned, the results are perhaps the best smoked red meat i've ever had from any location at any time... I'm not trying to brag, as all i really do is observe the process anyway, i'm just saying straight up that patience and using the right material makes all the difference in the world.  not a little difference.  a massive huge gigantic difference.  one that makes you think it's time to hang that 'smoke master' sign above your pit.  that, of course, won't happen- but there was much fanfare over that sirloin and people not only familiar with smoked meats but my efforts in the arena that were as stunned as i was over how good it turned out.  Lump charcoal only. next time, I even think i'm going to abandon the sprigs of silver maple, to be honest.   

the irreplaceable keys to all of this: 


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Don't trust store purchased lump charcoal.  Don't expect to find something near as natural and prepared as what you can do for yourself. 

Starting with a metal barrel, preferably a metal trash can no bigger than 20 gallons or so (you can use a drum, but where has that drum been and what was it used to store?) remove the lid and cut six or so 3" holes around the perimeter- revolver style.  Place a couple fire bricks under either side of the barrel in the fire pit  (not the smoke pit- a bonfire type pit) to keep it a foot or so off the ground, and build a stack of limbs of whatever sort, split wood, whatever all around and under the barrel/can.  fill the can with your smoking wood cut in no longer/thicker than 6" chunks, and fill the can 3/4 full.  secure lid.  ignite the fire pit.  keep it fed and burning strong.  at around 700* the wood in that can will start to off gas flammable gas- and this is fun: ignite it- it will burn like a torch until it's gone long gone.  Let the fire roar with the torch looking fire burning atop the can until it dies completely- which is at least 24 hours...
after the fire is absolutely dead, pull your can out and dump the contents into a bin for storage.  you now have absolutely clean and prepared all natural charcoal lump to cook with.  
it's easy to ignite in the smoke pit's cooker (you'd think it infused like a briquette it's so easy to light) and it burns exceptionally clean.  It will burn hotter and not for as long- but since it's natural and free of any type of chemical, but you can always add more to the fire as it will burn without any ill impacts... 
it doesn't matter so much the type of wood you use- oak, hickory, maple, apple, cherry, mesquite- as we've been told for years and years.  what matters is the origin of the wood (if you subscribe to aTm's study) and CERTAINLY the 'state' (condition) it's in when you fire it.   for the love of all that's holy, you've gotta try this. 
note on wood chips popularly sold in bags: the common thought is to soak these.  this is wrong.  you don't want anything to do with what's in that smoke when it comes to food... it is a certain way to get that bitter flavor.  you also don't want to burn them dry- because it is rarely seasoned to the proper expectation.  it will burn with clouds of white smoke.  you don't want to set them on indirect heat with intent to 'cook' the flavors out of them... that's another way to get those chemicals on your food that render bitter.  you can either stay completely away from them, or run a mini-kiln out of them making them charcoal just like described above.  otherwise, these are basically a waste of money and/or effort. 

I'll never smoke another way, and I can't wait to use this method on a massive brisket i've got staged right now, and on a piggy i'm getting as soon as the farmer down the road harvest them (should be a few weeks) as I'm looking forward to that sweet smoky flavor recently discovered on a pork belly turned into bacon goodness. 
i hope this is at least tried by someone here, so you can experience it for yourselves.  it is the only way to do it, i'm thinking.  i'm also thinking after you've done it you'll agree... 

Online utee94

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That's a lot of words, but I certainly agree with the concept, you don't want bad white smoke.  But there's no need to use strictly charcoal to get there.

I always start my fire with lump charcoal, and surround with split logs.  There will be zero charcoal left by the time I put the meat on 45 minutes later, only the logs burning to coals.  The next series of split logs that will be going in, sit on top of the firebox to warm up.  When I'm ready for more fuel, the splits from on top of the firebox go into the fire, and they ignite quickly and burn clean, so no bad white smoke.  Continue that rotation until the cook is done.  Pre-heating the splits is the key to clean fires.  Well, and obviously having properly seasoned/dried wood.

30+ years of doing it essentially this way, since I was a teen learning at my dad's BBQ restaurant, no white smoke, no bitter.  

One place I'll disagree is that the type of wood DOES matter-- most especially, mesquite.  It burns hotter and quicker than other woods, and tends to impart a much stronger flavor.  Consequently I typically only use if for grilling,  but I'll also occasionally use it to smoke something that is only going to spend a short amount of time on the cooker, like pork tenderloin or whole chickens.

Good info though,thanks drew!
« Last Edit: January 09, 2019, 11:25:35 AM by utee94 »

Online bwarbiany

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@utee94 You're working with an offset smoker, right? 

@Drew4UTk I agree with utee. It's not *necessarily* the wood. The key is that wood contains ALL those volatile organic compounds [VOC] that generate the billowy white smoke, and you do NOT want those on your food. Charcoal has already burned off those VOCs, so charcoal can burn much more "cleanly". But it's not like hardwood can't burn cleanly, you just need to be running at much higher temperatures. 

Think back to when you make a campfire. When you first light it, you're throwing off HUGE amounts of that billowy white smoke. But once you get a good bed of coals, the fire is hot enough to combust all those VOCs, and the smoke is no longer white and billowy. And once the fire is hot enough, throwing another fresh log on the fire doesn't result in the billowy white smoke, because it's not a matter of the wood, it's a matter of the heat.

That's why utee is correct for his smoker, because IIRC, he's using an offset smoker. An offset smoker isn't strongly insulated (although most of the bigger ones is 1/4" steel, so they are somewhat efficient), but more importantly the firebox is offset to where the food is. With the firebox not being underneath the food, you can run a hot fire in your firebox [hot enough to burn off the VOCs] and still keep a cooking chamber at a much lower temp. And because the fire is hotter, when you're adding fuel, you can throw your splits in there without pre-burning them. Offset smokers tend to end up, then, with much more smoke flavor than insulated smokers, because they're able to use wood rather than charcoal as a heat source. But they don't have that nasty bitter flavor, because the VOCs are being combusted rather than desposited on the food.

On the other hand, I have a Kamado grill [similar to Big Green Egg]. With 200# of ceramic insulation, if I had a fire burning hot enough to burn off the VOCs, the cooking chamber would be running WAY too hot to actually smoke food. So I use lump charcoal to keep the fire small and clean. *HOWEVER*, that doesn't mean I don't use wood. When smoking, I will add in some hardwood chunks in the firebox. With the fire burning so small, those chunks smolder rather than ignite, which allows them to still burn cleanly enough to produce smoke flavor without big billowy white clouds of smoke. This does mean that the smoke flavor isn't typically as pronounced as a stick-burning offset smoker, but it can still be quite delicious. 

Very similar to the kamado IMHO are the insulated cabinet smokers like Stumps. These are insulated, so also run off charcoal as their primary heat source rather than hardwood, and for the same reason. 

I don't understand the way the Ecoque works, but I suspect it's a lot more similar to the insulated cabinet smoker than to an offset. As a result, it might be difficult to create a fire hot enough with wood to burn off VOCs and yet small enough to keep your cooking chamber from overheating. However, using charcoal as your primary heat source with a little bit of hardwood for flavoring would be an ideal way to smoke. 

Online MarqHusker

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I generally support utee/bwiarny on the smoke/wood talk here.  I remember when I got my Egg, I was directed a certain video, and it was most helpful for showing me when the Egg is ready for the meat.  The (brief) takeaway was to simply look at the smoke coming out the top, as has been stated, you don't want the billowy white smoke, once that smoke has turned 'blue', you're ready for smoking.    Now that's anywhere between 20-45 minutes in my experiences.

I usually get my wood chunks from a local butcher shop (buy them as needed), and they rest in the egg with the Egg lump charcoal.

Online bwarbiany

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I generally support utee/bwarbiany on the smoke/wood talk here.  
Generally?!?! 
You mean with the exception of when you're wrong? 

Online MarqHusker

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I don't have as much to say as you guys on the topic but subscribe to your general concept of wood use when cooking .  I just won't post 500 words on it.:)

Online utee94

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Yes indeed, I'm running a pretty large offset stick-burner.  Excellent points on the differences between a setup like mine, and one of the ceramic BGE style cookers.

I really love the BGE, several friends have them and they not only make very good BBQ, but they're versatile in that they can be used as pizza ovens and for other very high-heat applications.  I'll likely get one someday.

Online bwarbiany

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Yes indeed, I'm running a pretty large offset stick-burner.  Excellent points on the differences between a setup like mine, and one of the ceramic BGE style cookers.

I really love the BGE, several friends have them and they not only make very good BBQ, but they're versatile in that they can be used as pizza ovens and for other very high-heat applications.  I'll likely get one someday.
Agreed. When I got the kamado, I had a gas grill and a propane smoker. The gas grill was on its last legs, such that I knew whatever grill I got would be a replacement for it. And I wanted to consolidate away from the propane smoker, so the plan was to sell that.
So I wasn't looking for a "smoker", I was looking for a versatile grill. The kamado is that. It does everything well--perhaps not AS well as dedicated cookers for each type of cooking, but it's a better smoker than a gas grill, better at searing than a gas grill or a pellet grill, and better at "grilling" than an offset smoker. I wanted "one grill to rule them all", and the kamado was best at that. 
I'd love to have an offset smoker. But I don't often smoke in high enough quantities and frequency to justify the cost of a "big" one, and I generally don't like the build quality of the "cheap" ones relative to my kamado, so I don't see it in my near future. If I was regularly entertaining a 20+ extended family or throwing big parties--or if I lived close enough to Purdue to justify a trailer smoker for tailgates, it might make sense for me. 

Online 847badgerfan

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Charcoal/wood is not permitted at the condo building we moved to, despite the fact that my patio is 20'x50' (not a balcony, obviously). I appealed and the association denied me. So, I had to give the Weber Performer away. Maybe someday I can get back into natural cooking, but not now. The best I can probably pull off is to get a "smoker" box for my Genesis. Oh well.
U RAH RAH! WIS CON SIN!

Online bwarbiany

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Charcoal/wood is not permitted at the condo building we moved to, despite the fact that my patio is 20'x50' (not a balcony, obviously). I appealed and the association denied me. So, I had to give the Weber Performer away. Maybe someday I can get back into natural cooking, but not now. The best I can probably pull off is to get a "smoker" box for my Genesis. Oh well.
Where do they fall on the question of pellet grills? My father-in-law moved into a retirement community and they didn't allow charcoal/wood, but he managed to get them to agree that a pellet grill was different than those... (Not sure how, since it burns compressed wood pellets, but if you make the argument creatively enough, maybe you could win it.)

Online FearlessF

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somehow I'm not worried about Badge

He will preserver and continue to eat well
"Courage; Generosity; Fairness; Honor; In these are the true awards of manly sport."

 

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