Where there’s smoke …

I thought I should also add a funny story from the Memorial Day BBQ preparations.

I put the smoker together on Saturday, after returning from Bass Pro. It was a great day, so I sat outside, enjoying an adult beverage while I constructed the smoker. The instructions for the smoker indicated that you need to do a dry run, without and food in it before the first usage with food.

I neglected to pick up any charcoal on Saturday, so I left that task for Sunday. As it turns out, I also forgot to purchase lighter fluid to accompany the charcoal, and I kept putting that task off on Sunday. When I finally got everything ready to go, it was around 7 PM on Sunday evening.

I setup the smoker, lit the charcoal, filled the water basin, tossed in some wet wood for the “burn in” session.

I let the smoker go, mostly unattended, all night. By mostly unattended, I mean, I checked on it at 10:30 PM, and it looked fine, so I went to bed.

Monday morning, I was up early to get started. I knew that I would need to get things on track pretty quickly, in order to have everything done around noon.

I took the smoker apart, pulled out the nearly empty water basin and removed the charcoal pan. There was a bucket in the back yard with some weeds in it, waiting to go in the large paper bag that our community requires in order to pick up that sort of thing.

I figured that the charcoal dust and few remaining coals wouldn’t hurt anything, so I tossed them in the bucket with all the weeds and went about the other tasks required.

About an hour later, I needed something from the garage, and had to walk past the small bucket that I had dumped the charcoal in. That bucket in fully engulfed in flames and there was a lot of smoke coming of it as well.

Thankfully, the hose was right near by, so I was able to drench the flaming weeds and bucket without further incident. I grabbed a pair of gloves and walked the now soaking wet weeds and charcoal remmenants to the tree / weed line where I have a small hole for dog waste.

I proceeded to dump everything in there and it started to smolder again. I had to get a fairly large bucket of water to make sure the charcoal was completely done.

It certainly made the morning more interesting!

As I recounted the story to my wife, all she had to say was “Aww… you melted my weed bucket!”

Thanks dear. I’m fine. Really.

Memorial Day BBQ

Recently, I’ve been reading about how to make your own smoker, for slow cooking meat with indirect heat and smoke for extra flavor.

One of my favorite articles was about the Trash Can Smoker, which is a pretty simple DIY project with an awesome outcome. A few days prior to Memorial Day 2010, I started to shop around, to find all the parts I would need to make my own.

Not related to the parts search, I ended up at my “local” Bass Pro Shop and I found this smoker, in a box, ready to be assembled for $45. I figured that the trash can smoker was going to run me about $55, so here was a pre-made smoker all ready to go!

Easy to assemble smoker - in action!

As you can see from the picture above, I picked up the smoker, and got it all put together. With that out of the way, I had to decide what I wanted to cook for the Memorial Day Party.

After talking with Sandra, I decided on a sweet slab of brisket. BJ’s was kind enough to have a pretty good price on brisket, so all I had to do was trim the fat and add some seasoning. For some reason, I invited people over for a party around noon, which meant the meat had to get a pretty early start.

Brisket - rubbed and ready!

To save myself some time in the morning, I got everything ready the night before. I made a mop sauce for the late stages of the smoking. I don’t have that recipe handy, but I’ll try to add it later on. For the rub, I used some paprika, pepper, cumin, and chili powder.

We have smoke!

As you can see by the times in the lower corner of each picture, I got a pretty early start on Monday. That’s 05:53 AM on Monday… At least it was light out! As you can see, there’s smoke in the smoker, which is a good sign. I soaked a combination of mesquite and apple wood overnight, so I’d have plenty of wood to char for the smoke.

That's the sun rising through the smoke!

Side note: I’m not sure what’s up with the grid that is visible in the top half of the sunrise picture. I took the photo with my new Droid Incredible… I guess the lighting was odd enough that you can see the focusing grid for the camera.

Ginger - my trusty "helper"

Ginger, our 4 month old chocolate lab was outside to “help” with the preparations and the smoking. Her idea of helping out was to chew on just about everything I needed to use. However, she has shown signs of liking to chew on weeds too… I may try to train her to pull those for me.

Looking to the South West

I took this photo shortly after the sunrise photo. As you can see, Memorial Day was a beautiful day in Central NY!

Still smokin'

Here’s another action shot… I wish I had smell-o-vision for you to enjoy the wonderful odors that were coming out of the smoker. I wanted to cook the brisket about 5 hours, so I had to prepare some additional charcoal. That’s what the stainless steel bowl on the brick is for. In fact, I had to add charcoal twice during the cooking process to keep the temperature in the “good” range on the gauge.

About three hours in, I moved the brisket from the bottom rack to the top and flipped it over. I added in a couple racks of ribs that had a dry rub on them. I used a pre-made rub for the ribs. They were kind of an afterthought, so I didn’t go all crazy with those.

During the last 90 minutes of cooking the brisket, I was brushing on the mop sauce about every 15 minutes. I made sure to turn the brisket each time as well. I could tell by the look and feel of the meat that it was nearly done.

The finished product!

Here’s a shot of the finished product. I think I left the brisket in about 45 minutes too long. It wasn’t as juicy as I would have liked. It cooked for nearly 6 hours, which I think was too long. Five hours would have been plenty, with the mop sauce being applied liberally for the last hour.

Brisket & Ribs - come 'n git it!

Another finished product shot to show off the ribs too… The ribs were perfect. They cooked about three hours total and were very moist and had a wonderful taste!

All in all, it was a great way to spend the morning. When everyone arrived, there was a good bit of smoke in the house, thanks to some wind that was whipping the by-product of the cooking process right in the sliding glass door. I suppose I could have closed the door, but it smelled so good!

I also created a wonderful BBQ sauce to go with it. I found the base recipe, Zesty BBQ Sauce, in a grilling magazine that Sandra had picked up for me. It was the perfect accompaniment for the brisket.