As I reported earlier I got a new offset smoker, and I am now learning how to cook on it.
Here, of course, is the old smoker, a vertical Brinkman charcoal unit that has served me well for about 8 years.
And here is the new one, a CharGriller Pro, complete with the offset smoke box, which they also sell as a stand-alone grill
In the course of researching how to run an offset smoker, I also decided to try my hand at chunk wood cooking, rather than the old method of putting wood shavings onto charcoal.
All this came about because I discovered some really neat videos on YouTube, by Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue in Austin. Here is the video that convinced me to give wood cooking a try:
Note that Aaron uses oak at Franklin Barbecue, and I figured if it was good enough for him, why not? Since a lot of my home firewood is made up of old tree limbs that had fallen in the yard, I looked, and lo and behold, it turns out I have a ton of oak. In fact, while I cooked, I spent some time cutting up a bunch of the wood, and based on my use this time, I have about 3 cooks worth of wood ready to go. On top of that, the wood pile in the backyard has enough seasoned oak to last me easily all summer.
Of course, if I use the oak for barbecue, I will have to find something to burn in the fireplace next winter. Ah, First World problems.
In any case, at first I wanted to make a brisket, but it’s been two years since I made one, and a trip to the store stopped that idea cold. A whole brisket was almost $50, and while I don’t think that’s a waste of money by any means, I wasn’t willing to bet that much that I could make the new rig cook right the first try.
So, I fell back on a Boston butt, which still cost about 75 percent more than last year.
I went with the usual butt treatment:
1. Soak the butt overnight in a cooler of water, to which was been added a cup of salt, half a bottle of black strap molasses, and a bag of ice.
2. Two hours before cooking, remove the butt, pat it dry, and let sit for a half hour at room temperature.
3. Then, rub with Alton Brown’s 8:3:1+1 rub:
- 8 parts dark brown sugar
- 3 parts kosher salt
- 1 part chili powder
- 1 part whatever else you want – in this case the Plus 1 part was cayenne pepper, garlic powder, basil, and paprika.
4. Let that sit for at least an hour before cooking. As always, the longer, the better.
Bonus Life Hack: the lid from a bottle of Parmesan cheese is a standard size, and fits on top of most glass jars. When you open a new bottle of Parmesan cheese, take the new lid off and keep it to use. Then put the old lid on the new cheese. You can then make any Mason jar into a nifty shaker bottle, in this case for Rub.
I started the grill with a 6 or 7 pound load of charcoal, and let that get hot, and then added wood, and closed the smoke box lid to let the grill come to temperature, which it did in about a half hour. I added the butt, over a pan of water, about halfway in the grill body.
While I was at it, I also put a couple of pounds of raw kielbasa on. No sense in wasting smoke.
The rest of the cook was pretty much the same as with the Brinkman – hurry up and wait.
Of course, there were some differences. First, it was easier on the whole to stoke the smoke box than the Brinkman, since I didn’t have to kneel and fit charcoal through a 8 inch by 8 inch slot.
On the other hand, adding a lot of material to the smoke box proved daunting, because the smoke then can go right in my face and eyes. Not pleasant at all.
Until I remembered a relic of my chemical engineering days – a full face respirator in storage in the garage, complete with unused, clean filters. I even remembered all the safety checks (check the rubber seal, press on my face, cover the hole, suck – yep, tight). This made stoking very easy. Now, to find some replacement cartridges at Harbor Freight . . .
All in all, I cooked the sausage about 3 hours and the butt about 10. It came out perfect.
Perfect? Can you use that word with barbecue? It implies there is imperfect. Hmmm.
Looking at photos I took of the cook (morning on top, afternoon on bottom), I noticed something. There are two ways to see how long real barbecue takes.
The obvious is the movement of the sun.
The other – the wood pile disappeared.
Post vorem assessment:
- I like the new grill. It has plenty of area to cook, and it’s easy to maintain temperature. I found that the mid range of air opening worked, and adding wood kept it right.
- Having said that, there are places that leak smoke – a couple on the smoke pot, and I will order some high temperature gasket material and RTV and fix that.
- Cooking with wood is a new feature that I will certainly learn more as I go.
- When your property is filled with oak trees, downed tree limbs take on a new meaning.