BBQ Chicken

I’ve been grilling for a while.  Years.  Have I ever taken it seriously?  Yes – well, seriously enough to find that steak recipe I like…  Seriously enough to find that grilled whole chicken recipe I like…  Seriously enough to switch to a charcoal chimney…  All-in-all, maybe more serious than the casual griller, but not much more serious than that.

This memorial day, it’s time to BBQ a whole chicken.  I mean – grill a chicken and use BBQ sauce.  I specify that because there seems to be some dispute over what folks mean when they say BBQ.

My method for grilling a whole chicken comes from the Serious Eats blog.  That article describes the author’s quest to find the best way to grill chicken, and I have found that it produces a wonderfully grilled roaster chicken in about 1.5 hours – a long time to wait, but just don’t plan to make this recipe in a hurry.

The gist is this:

  1. Start the grill with all the coals over on one side.  This will let you create a two-zone fire.
  2. Butterfly the chicken.  Stick metal skewers through it to hold it flat later.  I like roaster-sized chickens for this, because there’s lots left-over.
  3. Cook the chicken over the cool side of the grill, skin facing up, legs facing the hotter side of the grill.
  4. When the chicken breasts hit at least 120℉ and the legs are at least 145℉, flip the chicken over, skin-side down, onto the hot side of the grill.
  5. Cook until the breasts are 145℉ to 150℉, the rest should be 165℉.  This only takes about 10 minutes.
  6. Take it off and rest covered 10 minutes.
  7. Cut ’em up.

Ok – so how will BBQ sauce make this different?  I’m going to base this on another post from Serious Eats.  Some things that’ll be different from what they recommend there: I’m only flipping the chicken once, and I’m doing a whole chicken.  First, I’ll apply 1/2 tsp salt per pound, then let the chicken sit in the fridge uncovered 2 hours.  Then, I’ll butterfly and use a dry rub, and put it on the grill.  Then, after maybe an hour grilling, and well before the breasts hit 120℉ and I have to move to the hot-side, I’ll brush BBQ sauce on the skin side, maybe every 10-20 minutes.  Then after I flip it to the hot side I’ll brush BBQ sauce on the bottom once – it’ll come off shortly after.

Time to go to the store and get a roaster…  I plan to use the Meathead Memphis Dust dry rub – it’s good on ribs and pulled pork, so let’s try it here.

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.

Early Virus Total Catch

When you aren’t quite first into Virus Total, but not far off, and the malware author who hard-coded an IP address is still using that IP :-)

Virus Total says:
First Submission  2018-04-03 00:00:53
Last Submission  2018-04-03 22:07:38
Last Analysis  2018-04-03 22:07:38
Hopefully the IP address owner got a dozen emails already, they’re a cloud provider.

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.