Memorial Day Weekend Report from a Newbie (long, very)

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Matthew L. Martin

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May 28, 2002, 9:25:18 AM5/28/02
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You've been warned in the subject.

Friday: Purchase 2 ECBs for $28.88 each at Walmart along with hickory
and mesquite chunks, dial thermometer and a box of NB lump charcoal.
Assemble one ECB, modified as per the FAQ. (I'm not completely happy
with the now free standing charcoal bowl, I'm going to buy enough flat
iron stock to form a stablizing triangle at the "foot" end of it)

Saturday: Assemble second ECB, partially modified (legs on outside).
Make lighter from oversize coffee can. Insert Dial thermometer in door
of ECB 1 with probe 1/2 inch above lower grill (needed compression
washer as door is too thin, had one on hand). Remove paper from covers
and use Goo-Gone to get rid of residual adhesive. Put Polder oven
thermometer on upper grill.

Test fire: Light small fire using maple kindling in fire starter. (six
pieces, 1" in diameter, 6-8 inches long. Fill water bowl to 1" from top,
put water in pot and bring to boil. Put water bowl in ECB, fill with
boiling water from above. Place ECB with water over fire. Watch dial
indicator in cover go directly to HOT while the one in the door headed
for 500 degrees. Remove ECB and wait. Replace ECB, temperature peaks at
170. Add charcoal and soaked maple for smoke, wait. Temperature peaks at
400. Wait. Observe size of coal load when temperature drops to 300 on dial.

Calibration: Check polder, it reads 270 when dial says 300. Indicator in
cover points just below the "I" in IDEAL. Wait. Continue to note
indicator position relative to dial and polder all the way down to 190
on the polder. Rebuild fire. Swap covers. Calibrate second ECB (oddly
enough nearly identical to the first).

Experiment: I tried stacking the two ECB bodies. They stack quite well
with the rolled edges meeting quite uniformly. It appears that there is
too much heat loss for stacking to be useful for hot smoking and too
little heat loss for stacking to be useful for cold smoking. Has anyone
else tried this?

Fuel: I pick up 4 4kg bags of Natures Own lump charcoal from a local
market at $4.99 a bag.

Maintenance: Attempt, not too successfully, to keep upper grill temp at
250. It spends most of it's time at 200, peaking to 230.

Neighbors are taking us out to dinner, so no food hits the smoker on
Saturday, but I do mix up the brine recipe from the ng and start brining
a 7 lb Perdue oven stuffer. I also start soaking hickory chunks and
maple kindling.

Sunday: 11:00 start fire. put water on to boil and remove chicken from
brine. Tie wings down to body and lash legs together. 11:30 add 4 big
hickory chunks to fire, put water in ECB place chicken on upper rack.
11:40 place ECB over fire. 12:00 remove ECB from fire, remove excess
fuel (temp had hit 300), replace ECB.

Maintenance. Other than the first overheat, I was able to keep a fairly
constant, but low temperature (190-220). I checked the temp every 20-30
minutes and checked the upper grill temp every hour and noted the
indicator and dial pointer positions. There were a couple of light
showers, during which I put the second ECB cover on the working ECB as a
hat. My mother always told me to put a hat on if I was cold.

Finishing: At 6:30PM I put the polder probe in the bird. It read 150. It
took until 8:00PM to hit 165. Next time I need to keep the smoker nearer
250 to reduce the cooking time.

Start Monday's ribs: I made up two somewhat different batches of dry rub
and applied them to Beef short ribs and Pork spare ribs. Put the ribs in
the refrigerator for the next day's efforts.

Result: As good a smoked chicken as I've ever had. The meat was moist
and tender. The breast meat carved easily. The wings and legs were
especially moist. The meat didn't fall off the bones, but there was
little enough holding it on. The skin was somewhat tough, but a
beautiful deep golden brown. There was very little fat left under the skin.

If you're still here, you have a _lot_ of patience and/or a _lot_ more
spare time than you should have:-)

Monday: 12:00, take ribs out of fridge. Clean out ECB. Boil water. Wait
for thunder storm to end. 1:00, start charcoal. 1:30 put boiling water
in ECB. Put skewer through end of spareribs to form a cone, place on
lower grill. Put short ribs on upper grill with polder oven thermometer.
Place five hickory chunks on charcoal. Put ECB on fire. No overtemp problems

Maintenance. I check the fire every 20 minutes to 1/2 hour. Alternately
stirring or adding charcoal. I add more hickory at 1 hour and 2 hours
in. At 2 1/2 hours I open the lid. The grill temp is 230 and the beef
has pulled back on the bones considerably.

The spare rib cone has collapsed on itself. I remove the beef rib grill
and the skewer. I manipulate the spare ribs into a better self supporing
structure and make a mental note to buy some rib racks. I replaced the
beef grill and I place Polder probe in largest beef rib, it reads 165.

I watch as the temp goes up to 172 and then down to 169 as a shower
cools the ECB. when I notice that they have hit 182, I remove them to a
170 degree oven for holding. I put the probe into the top of the spare
ribs. It reads 160. I continue to cook them for another hour and the
temperature hits 175. When I go in to get a platter, a thunder storm
lets loose. It proceeds to rain 3/4 inches in 20 minutes with pea sized
hail. When it lets up a bit, I retrieve the somewhat cooled ribs.

Eating: The consistency of the meat on the beef ribs is good. the meat
is tender to soft. The rub was too much. Too much salt, too much pepper,
not enough sugar, cayenne or paprika. The spare ribs (which got a short
reheat in the microwave) had a nice brown crust on outside, while the
bone side (which was closed to the smoke for quite some time) was pale.
The outer 1/16 inch of meat was dry, but below that it was tender and
moist. It pulled away from the bone easily, without falling off. The
bone joints came apart with a slight pull. Again, the rub was too much.

To my way of thinking, my first attempt at real barbecue was a qualified
success. Next time out, I'll tame the rubs and use less of them on the
meat. I'll also try mopping or spritzing to see if I can keep the
outside (skin or meat) moist. Now that I know that I can maintain a
suitable temperature, I'll add a bit more fuel to try to ratchet it up
closer to 230-250 than 200-220.

If I can cook it as well as I did this time, it should be good enough
for company.

Matthew

--
"... Mr. (Gregory) LaCava, a producer-director who could be called a
genius except for the fact that Orson Welles has debased the term ...",
H. Allen Smith, "Lost in the Horse Latitudes"
Copy username over me to respond.

bob...@nospamemt-p.org

unread,
May 28, 2002, 9:56:33 AM5/28/02
to
On Tue, 28 May 2002 09:25:18 -0400, "Matthew L. Martin"
<mlma...@me.com> wrote:

>You've been warned in the subject.

Yep... ;-)

<snip prep work, phase 1>


>Experiment: I tried stacking the two ECB bodies. They stack quite well
>with the rolled edges meeting quite uniformly. It appears that there is
>too much heat loss for stacking to be useful for hot smoking and too
>little heat loss for stacking to be useful for cold smoking. Has anyone
>else tried this?

Don't know...but I wonder, how much heat loss did you have? My first
thought is perhaps a much smaller fire, or at the reasonable cost,
perhaps a 3rd ECB would do the trick...If it does work, I might have
to go out and pick some up...

>
>Fuel: I pick up 4 4kg bags of Natures Own lump charcoal from a local
>market at $4.99 a bag.
>
>Maintenance: Attempt, not too successfully, to keep upper grill temp at
>250. It spends most of it's time at 200, peaking to 230.

Therein lies one of the true artistic parts of Q. I've been working on
Q pretty steady for 2 years (this is my 3rd summer). Despite MN
winters, I tend to cook/smoke/Q year-round. An added trick is learning
the art of fire maintenance when it's 0 with a -25F windchill (about
the time I do my smoked salmon for Christmas). Still, it's one of
those things that I think takes the longest. A little trial and error
and you can come up with good rubs/brines/marinades (depending on what
you're doing) over the course of a year. Ones that will be your
standards that work with all the things you usually make. Anything
else is just experimenting to see if there's something better out
there. Firemanship, OTOH, much like those artists on the old steam
locomotives, is an art form that can only come about with the
experience. Your experiments are an excellent way to start (IMHO).
Over time, you'll learn just how much you need to tend the fire, how
much fuel you'll need for various items, etc.


>
>Neighbors are taking us out to dinner, so no food hits the smoker on
>Saturday, but I do mix up the brine recipe from the ng and start brining
>a 7 lb Perdue oven stuffer. I also start soaking hickory chunks and
>maple kindling.

There's been some discussion on the soaking of wood on the NG. Most of
the experienced folks seem to dismiss the idea for a couple reasons.
1) because it burns poorly, it's giving off much more creosote than
just that smoky flavor. 2) those that approve of soaking still suggest
that anything over 30 minutes is too long.

In my experience (briefly on the weber before I bought my horizontal
smoker), soaking smaller chips makes sense if you're using just a
little, and there's a risk of too-high heat. Otherwise, just use the
chunks without soaking...remember that they'll burn hotter (since
they'll actually burn some), so plan accordingly to adjust
temperature.
>
<snip>


>
>Result: As good a smoked chicken as I've ever had. The meat was moist
>and tender. The breast meat carved easily. The wings and legs were
>especially moist. The meat didn't fall off the bones, but there was
>little enough holding it on. The skin was somewhat tough, but a
>beautiful deep golden brown. There was very little fat left under the skin.

Leathery/rubbery skin is the downside to _truly_ smoked birds. One of
the tricks some of the folks on here have suggested (and I've had luck
with) is increasing the temp to about 375 or so for the last 30
minutes. Tends to crisp up the skin.


>
>If you're still here, you have a _lot_ of patience and/or a _lot_ more
>spare time than you should have:-)
>

I'm on vacation ;-)


>To my way of thinking, my first attempt at real barbecue was a qualified
>success.

Sounds excellent. Congratulations. Soon you'll be hooked for good...

Bob


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