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.

Tailgating Report – Week 1

I’m a little behind on my posting, with the long weekend, and all the other stuff going on. As I’m sure you’ve all guessed, we had a great time tailgating for the season opener of Syracuse Football.

Our group of tailgaters has grown this year. Bruno, Jim, Lauren, and Steve are still there, and we’ve added Jon and Cristina to this year’s group. A larger group means increased logistics. How do we get everyone there, in the same place and relatively on time? I have to say that for the first week of the tailgating season, we managed to do pretty well.

Lauren claims that he was the first one to make it to Bruno’s house – our first rally point. Never mind the fact that he wasn’t there when I got there, but we’ll let him take the honors. He wasn’t on time once last year.

We had a pretty extensive list of items to bring for the party for the first day.

  1. Beer
  2. Beer
  3. Other kind of beer
  4. Fruity drinks – mostly for Bruno
  5. Sort of healthy chicken wings
  6. Very delicious brats
  7. Snacks
  8. More snacks
  9. Chairs
  10. Grill
  11. Footballs, nerf and pseudo-leather

Our plan was to head for the SU Hill around 9 a.m., so we would have plenty of time to prepare for the first Syracuse Orange Football, which just happened to be the same day.

We executed that plan flawlessly, and managed to get both vehicles to the right place, at the same time! Unfortunately, our normal party parking lot was already full. Not to mention that the price for parking was $20. W. T. F. We’re all trying to remember, but we’re pretty sure that parking, while expensive, wasn’t $20 at any point last year. Again; W. T. F.

As a point of reference, we’re only paying $100 for 8 home game tickets.

With our normal lot full, we headed out for parts unknown. We found some on street, free, parking right next to a sweet grass median along fraternity row. We got everyone parked and setup our camp – without having to pay $40 in parking!

After one, or two cold ones, we broke out the grill and feasted on some very tasty food. Bruno’s better half, Sara and their daughter Marissa were even there for a while to help celebrate.

The tailgating got us all in the right frame of mind for SU Football. We made our way to the Dome along with about 40,000 others. The only other time we’ve seen that many people for a game was last year when the entire population of Pennsylvania invaded the dome to see Penn State crush the Orange.

After fighting our way into the dome, we found a few more adult beverages and made our way to our seats. We were treated to a 7 – 0 score – with more than 12 minutes to go in the first quarter. Ugh. Shades of the GRob era. Amazingly, the team made a strong showing in the first half, and lead going into halftime.

Unfortunately for the “48,000” fans in the Dome, the team looked a lot like last year’s team. There was a strong de-motivation speech during halftime. The Orange failed to make adjustments and Minnesota dominated the play in the second half. The game ended tied at 20 and we were forced to watch overtime.

Thank God that we were in the right frame of mind for the game. The Dome, also known as the Carrier Dome, was freaking hot. Yes, Carrier, the air conditioner makers. Too bad they don’t have any in the Dome.

I’ll give credit to the fans… A vast majority stayed to see the whole show. That’s very different from last year when the stadium was nearly empty by the end of the third.

Anyway, on to OT Action! Syracuse gets the ball, does a lot of stuff that hadn’t been working for the entire second half and fails to score. Paulus did try to make a heck of a play, but threw an interception, which basically sealed the teams fate.

Minnesota moved the ball about 15 yards, centered it and kicked a field goal to win the game. The whole crowed seemed to feel like it had been sucker punched.

Oh well… There’s always the 19th of September – that’s Week 2 of tailgating, in case you’re wondering. 7 p.m. game, no telling when the party will start.