Wood

The Swineapple

The Swineapple.   It seems that social media is covered with pictures of boneless pork ribs stuffed inside a pineapple and smoked over indirect heat.   Barbeque aficionados grasped the concept; it seems relatively simple.  Purchase boneless pork ribs and a large pineapple. The actual process to meld the pineapple and pork is far more involved than one might think.

On Memorial Day 2015, my wife and I took on the Swineapple challenge and came out with a satisfying meal.  As background, I am an engineer and she is a designer. We took copious notes on the process from beginning to end.  Photographs and techniques were posted during the day on Twitter.  With a bit of luck, @fillyerhands noticed our efforts and asked for our thoughts. In this article, we’ll cover the preparation of the pineapple, ribs, grill, cedar planks and  charcoal.

Planks

We used standard cedar planks available from Lowe’s Home Improvement. The planks were soaked for several hours in a mixture of apple juice and water.  Soaking the cedar planks serves two purposes; the planks should not catch fire during the smoking process and the apple juice soaked cedar planks add flavor and juiciness to the Swineapple.
1 Soaking Cedar Planks
Charcoal

Living in South Carolina, we are bound by state law to barbecue, grill, or smoke every meal, weather permitting, twelve months of the year.  While grilling, we save larger chunks of lump wood charcoal for the times when we need a longer stained heat which briquette charcoal cannot provide.  Cowboy Charcoal and Royal Oak lump wood charcoal are better for salmon, steaks, chicken, and burgers. The house lump wood charcoal from Publix or Fresh Market provides larger pieces of coal for turkey, ribs or a Swineapple.  For this test subject, we used Western Real Wood lump charcoal and Royal Oak lump wood for the firebox.  During the last hour, we added chunks of Jack Daniels Whiskey Barrels for flavor.

Grill

We have a Chargriller with an offset firebox for smoking.  The primary ash pan of the grill was emptied of any old debris.  The grill grates were scrubbed with a stainless steel brush.  The secondary firebox was emptied of old ashes and the pan was lined with aluminum foil.  The top vent and side vent were both opened to allow maximum air flow over and around the meat while it is cooking.

8 Grill

Pineapple

Now we’re getting to the core of the project (no pun intended).  The pineapple selected should be the largest one available in your market.  Take a sharp knife and remove the outer layer. Remove the stem. Leave the top and bottom covered by the scaly exterior.  Placing the pineapple on its side, slice the pineapple parallel with the core.  I cut our first one with a 90/10 ratio.  The second one was 85/15 ratio. Don’t throw away the lid. You’ll need it shortly.

Using a serrated knife, gently cut the core from inside,removing the top and bottom. The pineapple flesh between the edges will be relatively simple to remove. The flesh along the core, as well as the between the core and the bottom of the pineapple, is a bit more difficult to remove.  Remember that to maximize the available space for the pork ribs; cut as aggressively as possible while retaining the structural integrity of the pineapple.
3 Hollow Pineapple
Ribs

I purchased seven pounds of boneless country cut St. Louis style pork ribs from Publix. I could only fit five pounds into two pineapples.  I used my standard Pulled Pork rub; the mix was too salty for this technique. Rather than post a mixture I will not use again, I’ve adjusted the ratio for what we will use in the future.  The ribs can be coated in the following mixture:

1 tbs kosher salt
1 tsp black ground pepper
4 tsp paprika
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbs brown sugar

The eight spices were blended together and then liberally applied to the ribs.

2 Boneless Pork Ribs

4 spice mix

5 Ribs with spice rub

I was able to fit between 32-40 oz of ribs into each pineapple.  The side of the pineapple was placed over the boneless ribs and secured with kitchen twine.  I recommend soaking the twine in water before smoking so that it does not catch fire during the process.
6 Ribs in Pineapple7 Ribs with lid
We covered the outside of each pineapple with thick sliced honey bourbon bacon.
9 Pineapple on Grill10 Bacon on Pineapple
The planks were placed perpendicular to the grill grates next to the firebox vent. The Swineapple was placed parallel to the fire, to allow for the most even exposure to the heat possible.

We closed the lid at 3pm and checked the firebox every 45 minutes, adding chunks as needed. The temperature remained between 225-250 degrees.

Two hours in the process, we used wooden spatulas with a large surface space to rotate the Swineapple,  The pineapple was soft and fragile; metal tongs were a mistake.

A meat thermometer was used four hours into the process; once the meat reached 160 degrees, we removed them from the heat.

Following standard grilling procedure, the meat was placed on a wooden cutting board and covered with aluminum foil, allowing the pork to rest.

11 After12 Finished Product
Final notes:

This was our first attempt at Swineapple and we will do it again.  That said, the procedure takes almost as long as smoking a turkey or racks of ribs.

We found that the citrus enzymes marinated the pork nicely.

Coring the pineapple and then removing the outer layer of pineapple might allow for more flavor infusion instead of a horizontal cut and scooped out the pineapple.  Another thought is to cut the pineapple down the middle and place the boneless pork ribs in either half, then tying the halves together before placing them on the grill.  Lastly, we would add the bacon much later in the smoking cycle.

I used too many Jack Daniels chunks in the firebox at once; the fire spread rapidly to the cedar planks, hence the blackened planks in the photographs.

We did not add barbecue sauce to the Swineapple. We used traditional offset heat, smoke, and a rib rub for flavor.

Good luck!
@gt24880a

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Categories: BBQ Pr0n, Deck, Pork, Prep, Ribs, Smoker, Wood | Leave a comment

Giving Thanks – Part 1

Turkey wood 2This year I plan to put my new smoker to good use by smoking a turkey for the family Thanksgiving. But my reasons to give thanks came early, last Sunday, in the midst of some welcome but torrential rain. While I was off at TopGolf with some friends, the good Lord laid at least two, maybe three smoking sessions worth of oak into my yard. I am very thankful.

Second item to be thankful for is that it missed the new deck!

I spent this afternoon making it useful. Turns out there were also enough limbs to feed to fire pit for me and my brother in law as we tend the smoker and the bourbon.

Turkey wood

 

More to come as we make preparations . . .

Categories: Wood | 3 Comments

New Territory

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.

SAMSUNG

And here is the new one, a CharGriller Pro, complete with the offset smoke box, which they also sell as a stand-alone grill

Chargriller

 

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.

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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.

 

Rub

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.

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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.

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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 . . .

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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.

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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.

Passing of Time

 

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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.
Categories: Pork, Smoker, Wood | Leave a comment

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