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Weekend of Meat, Redux

November 28, 2006

Via The MAKE blog, a sweet write-up on a DHCP enabled smoker. I highly covet that Stoker BBQ controller and Big Green Egg (and the fact that the guy harvested his own turkey), although I’ll need to do a lot more smoking to justify the cost and space investment of his smoker setup. Perhaps fully automating the lengthy smoking process is justification enough- forced downtime is great and all, but when you’re looking at 10+ hours for a boston butt, I’d rather not be a slave to the smoker.

During this Thanksgiving break, I gave smoking babyback ribs another shot, this time more along the lines of the Alton Brown salmon smoker episode- a la a cardboard box. A friend gave me a sweet remote smoker dual probe thermometer for a birthday gift a while back, it was just aching to be used. A $10 investment at Walgreens for a hotplate was all that was needed- the rest was salvaged from stuff I had lying around (as evidenced by the ghetto-ness): a cast iron skillet, a perforated pie pan, some wire clothes hangars, and some double walled carboard for extra insulation:

Although the ribs had a great flavor, the texture left much to be desired. 4 hours at 210F wasn’t sufficient to have it readily release from the bone. Maybe a longer cook time is in order?

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From → Misc

2 Comments
  1. Nice setup!
    Cost really isn’t a critical variable in all this.
    My friend & neighbor built himself a nice little cooker/smoker using some ceramic pots. Can be coal fired or electric fired. He has done some amazing rosemary smoked chicken that had a smoke ring over 1/4″ deep. Juicy, too!
    The BGE + Stoker is an amazing setup and adds considerable versatility and, certainly, durability. I consider myself very lucky, but don’t for a moment think that it enables me to do better than a good cook armed with cardboard or a couple of flower pots.
    As you state, you need quite a bit more than 4 hours to really release the meat from the bone. Completely freaked me out the first time I did ribs as I was previously of the “get the meat to the minimum correct internal temp and immediately pull it” mind set. Wrote up my first cook here:
    http://www.friday.com/bbum/2006/05/29/smoked-ribs/
    The connective tissue in pork breaks down around 165-185 degrees. And it takes a while. Keeping the internal temp at that level for a few hours will lead to fall-off-the-bone but at the risk of dryness.
    The challenge is two fold — maintain the right temperature for long enough and keep the things moist. I’m not 100% convinced the humidity in the cooker is the key to moistness as much as keeping the environment relatively sealed. You don’t want airflow, it seems (and it looks like your setup is relatively tight).
    I did my first pork shoulder last week. 17 hours at 210 degrees (because of the Stoker, I slept through a good chunk of it). The meat with connective tissue was awesome. The large slabs of muscle were a bit dry. I need to write it up and try again.
    Brining might be key as the salt in the outside layer tends to seal in moisture.
    (I can cook, but apparently I can’t add. Jeez.)

  2. bbum- thanks for the comments. I too have been afraid- especially of pork- to hold the temps for any amount of length over 140F. By your statement: “The connective tissue in pork breaks down around 165-185 degrees”, do you mean to say that no length of time at lower temps will suffice? I’d love to see your Stoker graphs from a ribs session… BTW, I also plan on doing a pork butt in my box-o-smoke, and was tempted to have the butcher rip the thing in half to shorten cook time and increase surface area for increased smokiness. Could that lead to overly dry meat?

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