Food, Wine & Just Good Living With SaucyJoe

It started with a love of food, wine & fun and blossomed into a maddening pursuit of the best recipes, techniques, grills, smokers, wines, crafted beers, rubs, marinades and sauces... We do more than play with our meat though -- we review and discuss all things cooking, drinking, reading, laughing and living at SaucyJoe's.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Saucy Joes Confessionals -- My Life As a Smoker

ed note: This essay and review is from our eldest (and perhaps sauciest) member, Dr. Dave Sullivan. Doc's BM Tonic recipe was instrumental in this month's brisket feature, and has served as a warming agent for our Relays Open golf tourney played in Des Moines each April. Here's his thoughts on the new smoker he recently added to the Iowa outdoors...

My Life As A Smoker
By Dr. Dave

I began life as a smoker last month after looking over the Tennessee Pork Loin with Whiskey, etc. recipe on the Saucy Joe's Smokin'’ page. I successfully completed the recipe using my barbeque grill and some mesquite chips, much to the surprise and accolades of my family (having unsuccessfully tried grilling pork tenderloins before). I was hooked!

After consulting with the saucy man on smoker types (see Saucy Blog “Now that you’re smoking” Nov 9th), I decided upon a Brinkman Smoky Mountain Smoker Series gas smoker. I chose gas because it seemed to be fairly maintenance free, and I am a low maintenance kind of guy (just ask my wife).

The smoker cost $149 at the local Menard'’s though I have seen it for $99 on-line. I was impressed with the amount of room for cooking. The smoker has three shelves and lots of vertical height. There is definitely room to smoke a turkey if I get truly brave!

I got the smoker home and had it together in less than an hour. Brinkman really has this assembly thing down. For each step, the hardware was separate and labeled. No more sack of assorted nuts and bolts! There were no parts left over either. I seasoned it using mesquite chips with whiskey and water in the water pan for a couple hours, and I was ready to go for it.

That first day, I successfully smoked two beer can chickens and a salmon flank. I used the Saucy Joe'’s Ultimate Rub on everything mixing it with extra virgin olive oil and brushing it on. This smoker has plenty of room to stand the chickens upright if you take one of the shelves out. I smoked the chickens for two hours, then added the salmon on the top shelf and smoked it all for another hour. It was pretty easy keeping the temperature controlled at 215°F during all of that time as long as I kept adding water to the evaporation pan.

The result was very moist and tender chickens, which was as much due to the beer can recipe as to the smoker and some exceptionally tasty salmon! The family was pretty darned impressed.

Over the next two weeks, I tried a lot of different meats in the smoker and I found out that smoking is not as easy as those first two times led me to believe. I had my sophomore slump on a pot roast. It was a 3 lb pot roast, and I only cooked it for four hours. Ignoring advice to check the interior temperature of the cooking meat, I started too late, and ran out of time for dinner. The result was a large, rare, kinda tough steak! It tasted good, but it was a little rough on the old chompers.

I also learned that one cannot just fire up the smoker, put in the wood chips, water and meat then walk away, at least with this smoker. The evaporating pan ran dry fairly frequently, and then the temperature went up to 400°F. Also, the smoker was harder to regulate above the boiling temperature of water. The evaporating pan is quite large, filling the whole width of the smoker, and much of the heat goes to evaporating water. It overwhelms the heating capacity of the whole box unless the burner is turned up a lot higher than I thought it would be.

I figured this out the next time I decided to smoke that 3 lb pot roast. I started out at 11 am and smoked the roast for 7 hours, not taking it off until the internal temperature was 160°F. I used maple wood chips which gave a nice sweet smoke, and I only added a small handful at a time. I filled the evaporation pan only half full of water at any one time, so the boiling of water wouldn'’t take as much heating capacity. This meant a trip to the smoker every 20 minutes to replenish chips and water. I'm not sure this was a bad thing, because my wife didn'’t get as mad with me sitting on my butt for hours on end watching the football games (But Honey! I'’m smoking!).

This time, the pot roast was tender, tasty and terrific!

All, in all, I'’m very happy with the Brinkman Smoky Mountain Series gas smoker. The controls are easy to use. The temperature gauge is easy to read even for those who are near sighted like me. There is mucho room for cooking mucho food. When you open that big door a lot, you get to smelling very smoky, but the interior temperature doesn'’t drop off for long due to the large gas burner.

If I were going to re-design anything, I would make the evaporation pan smaller and deeper, but I'’ve found my work around for that now.

I'm trying out some different wood chips. I like the strong smoke of mesquite for chicken and salmon and the sweet smoke of maple for beef so far. I've got some apple, hickory and cherry to try. There is still much experience to gain before I'’ll consider myself a champ, so IÂ’m keeping at it even through the frozen winter of eastern Iowa.

Some day, I may even smoke that turkey! With all this smokin'’ going on, at least it won'’t be cold turkey.


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