Ribs and Salmon

Time to try some ribs!  I’ll use this recipe with the Memphis Dust dry rub I used on the pork butts.  Also – we’re out of Salmon.  I’m going to do a double batch of the usual.  I’ll just do 6 pounds for four hours, then do 6 more for 4 more hours.

The inside of the smoker before starting.

I bought what I thought were 3 racks of ribs – 3 large vacuum-packed things of ribs from Costco.  About 30 lbs total.  What I didn’t realize is that each vacuum packed bag contains 3 racks of ribs…  So I’m going to do 9 racks of ribs.  This is stupid and I almost certainly don’t have enough room in the smoker, but it’ll all work out :-)

Nine racks of ribs on cutting boards.

1900, 5 May 2018: Started the smoker at 225℉ and started washing, salting and dry-rubbing the ribs.  I used 1/2 tsp salt per pound, although didn’t get it as evenly-distributed as I’d like.  I wish I had salted these earlier, but we don’t have the fridge space or the time.  I used up all the remaining dry rub from the earlier pork butts.

1950: Prep of the ribs is done, and they’re on the smoker.  The smoker is ridiculously full.  The ribs are leaning on each other.  This is silly…

2000: Beginning prep of salmon.

2040: Prep done, went and checked the ribs.  The smoker says the temperature is only 165℉…  That seems very unusual to me.  Typically, the smoker takes only a short time to return to temperature.  I tried to slide the racks away from the back wall, thinking that maybe something was in contact with the thermometer for the smoker.  I don’t believe that was the case.  I believe that the meat is restricting the flow of air too much.  I moved meat out from the back wall and opened the vent fully.  The smoker feels like it isn’t very hot…  The meat at the bottom though is quite warm.  There are two temperature probes in place.  One registers a meat temp of 120℉, and the other 75℉.  I think the former is in contact with bone, but it’s also likely that it’s the lower probe and the meat is actually hotter than the other meat.  This is going to cause a problem for me.  I don’t want some ribs to be much more done than the others.  I don’t want them to be cooked quickly.  I want slow cooked…  Hopefully the smoker airflow will work better and temperature will equalize, permitting the smoker element to turn off.  We’ll see.

2100: I opened the door again and used the other temperature probe on the meats.  The other probe, placed in meat on each level, registered between 133℉ and 140℉.  The probes in the meat registered 150℉ and 105℉.  I’m going to assume that the actual meat temp is 133℉ to 140℉, and that the probes are in parts of the meat that isn’t very representative of the correct temperature.  Most importantly – the meat is cooking at a somewhat consistent temperature throughout the smoker.

2200: I removed the bottom half of all the ribs – they were past the temperature I’d hoped to achieve, the smoker still hadn’t reached temperature, the lowest ribs looked like they were starting to burn.  Burn!  In a smoker.  Craziness.  I thought that by removing the bottom half I’d allow more smoke to circulate and bring the temperature up.  I tasted these ribs that were removed.  The ribs closest to the burner, and hottest, were tender and good.  They were almost what I’d hoped for.  The ribs slightly further away were tougher.  Still good, but not quite what I’d wanted.  I left the remaining half on for another hour, despite the other half already being at the desired temperature.

2300: I removed the other half of the ribs.  This second half seems to be as consistently tender as the hottest ribs in the bottom half.  This is what I’d hoped to achieve.  I’m happy, even if this did not go anywhere near plan.

0710, 6 May 2018: First 6 lbs of fish went into drying.

1126: Fish went on the smoker.  I didn’t clean the smoker at all – I dumped the water pan and refilled it.  This may impart some pork seasoning to the fish.  We’ll see.  I doubt it’ll be bad though.

1136: Second half of fish is drying now.  The smoker is definitely burning up some of that pork fat that was in there.  Hopefully that doesn’t impart a bad flavor to the fish.

1226: A lot less smoking from the pork remains, at this point.  I basted the fish – it’s clear that they cooked pretty hot for the first hour.  There is much more albumin than expected on them right now.  I’m not too worried though, it’s not too far off that second time I smoked salmon.  They might be done a little early.

1326: Turned temp up and basted.  Normal amount of albumin.

1426: Went out to turn the temperature up and baste the fish, and checked their temperatures on a lark.  The fish was done!  It was at the mid-high range of its intended temperature.  I brought it all in without basting it again.  I suspected that the smoker had been running a bit hot the entire time – especially at the beginning.  I think that beginning heat supercharged everything and the fish finished faster.  It tastes good…

1440: The rest of the fish is on.

1540: Lots of albumin again, it was probably burning hot again…

1740: Once again – right before I crank the heat to the top value, the fish is done.  Temperature is perfect, I pulled it off.  Tastes good.

Lessons Learned:

  1. It is possible to overfill a smoker.
  2. Clean some of the fat out of the smoker between goes so it doesn’t burn so hot.
  3. Sarah doesn’t like as smokey as the chicken got last time – this salmon may be too smokey for her, too.  Hopefully not.  Love that woman.

Brisket and Salmon

It’s a Saturday and I don’t have a ton of stuff to do, and we’re out of Salmon!  A terrible problem with one clear solution.  It’s time to smoke more meat.  We’ve eaten almost all of the chicken and pork now, so I can feel good doing another brisket.

Actually, I’ve been excited for the last two weeks to do another brisket.  Ok, I’ve been excited since the last time I did one, but in the last two weeks the excitement has come to a head.  It’s time to make more brisket sandwiches, more brisket dinners.  More brisket snacks.  Brisket in eggs.

It was really good last time and I’m looking forward to trying some small changes.  First, I got some in-meat temperature probes.  I ran their cables through the smoke hole.  Second, I have peach butcher paper now.  That should be an improvement over the foil stuck to the meat.  Third, I plan to trim off more fat than last time.

I got a 20.34 lbs whole brisket from Costco, at $3.49 per lb.  I got two beautiful salmon fillets, totaling about 5.5 lbs.  Cutting open the brisket I noticed a faint sulfur smell, which doesn’t make me feel great.  The internet thinks that cryovac meat smells like that sometimes, but that the smell should dissipate.  It did, so I’m rolling with it.

I’m using the same system and recipe as the previous times.

1213, 24 Mar: I set the smoke holes halfway, started the smoker at 225℉, and began trimming the brisket.

1300: Trimming done, unfortunately I cut myself a little. The pile of fat feels like about 4 lbs.  I’ve really eliminated a lot of the fat cap, and cut more fat out of the flat/point joining area, too.  It’s very clear how the flat and point join now, which is cool.

I covered the brisket with 5 1/3 Tbsp salt, 5 1/3 Tbsp pepper, and 3 Tbsp garlic powder.  This is a similar ratio to last time, scaled up for meat size.

1320: I started the brisket smoking.

1345: Fish brine started.  1/3 cup salt, 1 cup brown sugar, filled the rest of a quart bottle with cool water.  Sliced a filet into 6 pieces and dropped them into one bag with half the quart bottle.  Did the same with the other filet.  Then put them in the fridge in a glass calling dish in case of spills.

1355: Meat temps were 79℉ and 56℉.  Hopefully these will level out.

I need to smoke this until 165℉, then wrap them, then keep smoking until 202℉.  I should start the fish drying after at least 8 hours, maybe when I wrap the brisket.

1640: Meat temps 155℉ and 145℉.  145℉ is the one I believe, I suspect the other one is in a chunk of fat or something.

1830: Meat was 158℉ and 157℉.  Amazing that the temps caught up.

1930: Meat was 159℉ and 159℉.

2130: Meat was 158℉ and 158℉.

2230: Meat was 157℉ and 157℉.  Yeah, it has gone down 2 degrees.

0030, 25 Mar: Meat was 177℉ and 167℉.  I wrapped it, then started the fish drying.  Using paper towel as heat resistant gloves worked very well.

0100: Fish is drying. I should be good to sleep tonight 0600.

0600: Meat was 191℉ and 187℉.

0800: Meat was 196℉ and 190℉.

1100: Meat was 198℉ and 193℉.  I’m starting to think I should have wrapped it more tightly.  I’m not going to open the smoker and do it now, we’ll see how this turns out.

1300: Meat was 198℉ and 194℉.  Stall 2.0.  I cannot wait past 1500 to start the fish, so brisket is coming off at 1500, regardless of the temp it hits.

1430: Meat was 197℉ and 195℉.  I cranked the smoker to 275℉ and unwrapped the meat to let the bark develop for 30 more minutes.  We’ll see what the temp gets to at the end.

1500: Took brisket off, let it sit on the counter for about 40 minutes under some foil and a towel.

1510: After cleaning the smoker very little, dumping the agash and adding new wood, I closed the smoke holes to halfway and opened the door with the temp way up to get the wood cooking and the temp down.

1540: Fish is on now.  It needs to go 2 hours at 120℉, 1 at 140℉, then finish at 175℉ for about 1 more hour.  Final internal temp should be 130℉ to 140℉.  Baste with maple syrup every hour.

1940: Fish done!  Taste good.

For next time:

  • Wrap the brisket more tightly.  Maybe use a little masking tape to help.
  • Make sure to put the fat cap on top, just for consistency.  I have no idea whether I did that this time.  Keep track of it when wrapping, too…
  • Don’t cut so much fat off.  It was a little drier than I’d prefer, unfortunately.

Pork Butt Baby Shower

Alright!  Time to BBQ for some other people.  We’re throwing a baby shower for some friends of ours, and one of the I’m going to bust out the pork butt recipe I used last time, and do it the same.

I got a 15 lbs butt from Costco again – it looks beautiful.  There’s a bunch of dry rub from last time leftover in the cabinet.

24 Feb 2018, 1420: Began trimming the pork (took out chunks, left layers of fat about 1/8″ thick – leaving a little more fat than last time), and then salting it.  1/2 tsp per pound meat, so 2.5 Tbsp.  I cut the pork into three large pieces.

1500: Salted butts going in the fridge.

25 Feb 2019, 0200: Wake up, put 1 cup dry rub onto the meat, start smoker at 225℉.

0230: Put the butts on the smoker! Let them sit for at least 6 hours, check them before 7 hours. Check it again when you wake up :-)  Well, except that you gotta wake up after the first 1:20 to check the wood…  Try to go for an internal temp of 203℉.

0930: Butt temperature ranged from 160℉ to 165℉.  7 hours, and still a long ways to go…  Looking at the temperatures from the last time I smoked butts, oh man – we’re off.  If I’m lucky, this is due to the “stall”, and we’re getting towards the end of the stall…  If I’m not lucky this is going to take 12 more hours and everyone at the party will be hungry.  I cranked the smoker to 275℉ like last time – except, note, last time I cranked the temp after only 4.5 hours.  If we’re unlucky – I’ve cranked the temp too late to get the butts all the way to even 195℉.  We’ll see.  Next check – 2 hours from now.

1130: Butt temperature ranged from 180℉ to 185℉.  Hopefully this means we’re past the stall, and we’ll be done around 1330!  That’d be excellent, but we’ll have to wait and see.

1230: Butt temp ranged from 185℉ to 190℉.  It’ll be done in time, but maybe not the temp I wanted…

1345: Pulled the butts off the smoker – temps ranged from 197℉ to 200℉.  Almost perfect!  I’ll take it

After smoking – we shredded them, froze most of it, but dropped 5 pounds in the crock-pot on the warm (lowest) setting.  I added 1/2 cup of water, 5 Tbsp melted butter, and 1 cup Sweet Baby Ray’s in there, then stirred it all around.  It was delicious and everyone loved it.  Pretty much perfect.

For next time:

  • Remember that it takes more than 12 hours if you keep the temperature low the whole time.  Bumping the temperature during the cook cuts off time.  I’d love to keep it low and slow the whole time though, so next time budget 20 hours maybe.

Sous Vide Lamb Leg

Well, I’ve got a couple cooking projects going on today.  I’m planning to be home all day, so I’ve started up a lamb leg in the Sous Vide.  It’s a 5 lbs New Zealand lamb leg from Costco, all tied up.

  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter
  • 1 Tbsp (actually, a bit more) fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp pepper (or so)
  • 6 big cloves of garlic
  • 14 Kalmata olives

I put all that in the food processor and went until the garlic and rosemary were minced.  Then, I dropped the lamb and the paste into a Sous Vide bag, spread the paste over the lamb somewhat (I didn’t do a great job with this), pulled out the air, and dropped it in the Sous Vide at 140℉ for 6 hours.  Really – it should be done after 2 or 3.  I started it cooking at 1400.

When it’s done in the Sous Vide, I’ll pat it dry, cut off the twine, and brown it in a cast iron skillet for about 4 minutes.  Then we’ll see how good it is!  I’m gonna use some Trader Joe’s freezer potatoes on the side…  I’ll have to check back later with a deliciousness update.

I based this recipe on times and philosophy at J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s site, and the lamb leg from Ina Garten that we made over Christmas.

This turned out fantastic – exactly how I wanted it.  The meat was medium, and the olives were a fantastic addition.  When searing, the olive and garlic paste, with the meat juice, turned into a fantastic sauce.  Towards the very end of the sear I added all the bag juices and simmered to get that.  Some small connective tissue was still tough to cut through with a butter knife, not sure if this is something inherent, or if I can fix that, or if some other hunk of meat just wouldn’t have that.

For next time:

  1. Sarah wants lamb to be more well done. Go for medium well, for her.
  2. If adding olives, don’t add other salt.  It was not too salty, by any means, but might be just a little better with a bit less.

Smokin’ Chicken (and Salmon too)

Here’s today’s recipe!  Based on a couple things:

  1. The recipe my mom sent me called Amway Grand Plaza Grilled Chicken Midwest – in my Google Docs Recipes folder
  2. https://ohsweetbasil.com/how-to-smoke-chicken/

Other great info and ideas at these links – at some point I’d like to try the brine/minimal method:

  1. http://www.smokegrillbbq.com/brine-smoked-chicken-recipe.html
  2. https://www.traegergrills.com/recipes/poultry/whole-smoked-chicken

Anyway – here’s the plan today.  Make a marinade of the ingredients below, divide this among four butterflied (spatchcocked?  silly name) chickens in plastic bags, marinade overnight.  Then, smoke for four hours at 220℉, with the goal of getting internal temp on the breasts to 160℉-165℉.  Let the chicken rest, then carve it up.

Marinade – this is a simplified tripled version of the recipe (almost as the recipe suggests to do):

  • 3 cups apple juice
  • 3 cups oil
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrot
  • 1.5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 tsp peppercorns (I’m gonna grind black pepper here)
  • 3 dashes Worchestershire sauce
  • 1 bay leaf per chicken

I was able to find four approximately 4 lbs chickens at Costco for $.99 a pound.  While there, though, I decided to also grab the salmon…  It looked really nice, so I figured I might as well – save myself a little effort next weekend.

1820, 10 Feb: Finished prepping the chicken – they’re marinating in bags in the fridge.  I need to get better ziploc bags next time – actual ziploc ones.

1850, 10 Feb: Finished prepping the salmon, and it’s in the fridge brining.

0315, 11 Feb: Birds went on.  I added wood at 0530.

0715: Birds were 157℉.  I decided to leave them on until 0745 – then I realized that I forgot to begin the fish drying, so…

0730: Fish began drying.  I’m going to shorten the drying time by 30 min…

0750: Took the chicken off.  It had only risen to about 159℉ in that time – I really need a thermometer that stays in the meat, and is readable with the door shut.

0840: The chicken is delicious – I had a little right off the smoker and it just all comes apart easily.  In this time, I’ve cleaned the smoker a bit, and restarted it at 170℉.  The fish looks ready to go on, despite shortened dry time, so I’ll turn the temp down, open the smoke holes all the way like I thought about doing last time, and put it on at 0900, then carve up the chicken.

1300: Took the fish off.  It was at 147℉, which is hotter than desired…  Everything seems fine with it though – it stayed moist and didn’t give up much.  The flavor seems a little stronger, initially – smokier.  I like it, but time will tell if this is better.  The temperature seemed to be running a little hotter each time I checked it, this time, compared to others.

For next time:

  • Get in-meat thermometer, butcher paper, and knife sharpener.
  • If I end up liking this fish better, keep the vent holes half-open next time.  But – try to take the fish off a little earlier.

Now, I’m a little tired.