Introducing a New Contributor – Johnny Bravo

Some time ago, during my musings on the Twitters, I became acquainted with a fellow Yellow Jacket who goes by the handle of Johnny Bravo, or @gt24880a. Besides our common love for the Ramblin Wreck and hatred for the dwags, we soon found a common bond in the nurturing and consumption of smoked meats.

In fact, I will confess here, that it was his photo of his CharGriller Pro that led me to choose my own.

Johnny's Smoker

I am happy to say that I have met Johnny (honestly, in these days of Twitter, something I cannot say about many of those I follow), and sampled his home smoked bacon, and it is all I had hope it would be. Wonderful.

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Then, a few weeks back, a phenomenon took the interwebz by storm – Swineapple. Like most things from the social media world, I tried to ignore it, thinking it would soon end up on Snopes.

That is, until Johnny Bravo took it, and I saw that it, indeed, was A Thing.

So, I have invited Johnny to post about it here, and he graciously agreed, and I think you will agree the results make me want to give Swineapple a try.

Further, I invite him to share as he wishes on these pages in the future.

Welcome, Johnny!

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Categories: Admin, Pork | Leave a comment

My Humble Bourbon Beginnings

Jack Daniels

There was a time when the only whiskey I drank was Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7. I first started on Jack when in college, and continued through the years. I did add a couple of scotches to my cabinet (another blog post altogether) but for the most part, my glass was filled with Jack.

But recently I became aware of the growing tide of new bourbons. I began to consider trying something new, but I hesitated on deciding which one.

Then, on Twitter, and about a year ago I saw this:

Alton loves Woodford

Well, despite his choice of colleges, I find his temperament and pastimes to be in line with my own . . .

alton-brown-gun

. . .  so I gave Woodford Reserve a try. (After all, I cannot afford Pappy Van Winkle, even if I could find some.)

And that has led me to here:

 

Woodford

and here

Knob Creek

and here

Bulleit

and here

Ancient

and here

Old Crow Reserve

and, most recently, to here.

Buffalo Trace

 

As you can see, I have tried to cover a wide spectrum of bourbons, and I have sampled enough now, and compared enough, to announce that I will be publishing reviews of these bourbons in the coming weeks.

 

A note on one thing I insist on, that you may notice from the photos:

Few things annoy me more than a food review or drink review from someone, based on only one sample of the thing being reviewed. So know this: I won’t publish my review until I have visited an establishment at least twice, or until I have finished a whole bottle of the beverage.

More to come . . .

 

Categories: Bourbon, Review | Leave a comment

Giving Thanks – Part 2

Turkey smoking

Thanksgiving Day here in Georgia turned out to be a little breezy with temperatures that eventually climbed into the low 40’s F. Fortunately I have a water heater insulating blanket that I was able to use, that helped keep the Smoke Wagon at temperature.

The menu included a whole smoked turkey, and some smoked chicken breasts.

As this was my first whole turkey to smoke, I ended up going a simple route: 24 hours in a fairly simple brine of salt, sugar, and peppercorns; towel dry the bird and let it rest; cover with a light coat of olive oil. Next, smoke with oak at a chamber temperature of 250 to 275, to an internal temperature of 175 in the thickest part of the breast. After that it rested a good half hour before I cut it for serving.

Turkey smoking 2

You may note a couple of pans under the grating. One, on the left, was under the chicken breasts, and contained hot tap water, to keep the atmosphere in the cooking chamber humidified. The one under the turkey was originally empty, to catch the drippings, mostly to keep them out of the bottom of the grill, but also to provide drippings for a gravy.

Some observations:

  • The olive oil was used to help to keep the skin from getting mushy, which was a problem some have noted. From what I can tell this worked.
  • As this was my first smoked turkey, I will note that carving the bird was much different that carving an oven-roasted bird. Almost like brisket, I found that the turkey almost fell apart. This was not a bad thing at all, once I got used to it and switched to a smaller knife.
  • The wood I used, from the fallen branch, while not green per se,  wasn’t dried or seasoned by any means, either. In my observation it burned a little hotter with less smoke than the seasoned wood I have used previously.
  • The insulating blanket was a life saver, and based on reactions I got when posting on Twitter and Facebook, not an option that many had considered previously. I imagine this will change.
  • Everyone in my home thought the turkey and chicken were awesome.
Categories: Turkey | 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

The Barbecue Deck

I’ve written off and on about my plans to build a deck at the back of my house as a home for the new grill the Smoke Wagon. I am happy to report that Phase 1 of the deck is complete, and the results are great!

Deck complete

This all started as an extension of the landing for the stairs down from the back porch, which was sorely in need of repair, and eventually, replacement. The stairs lead down into an area surrounded by a chain link fence, where our dog lives in the warmer months.

Step Zero: Design

So, how big to make this deck? Without taking the fence down, after rebuilding the landing I would have about 14 feet from the current 4-foot wide landing out to the fence.

One thing to consider, of course, was whether I needed to have a building permit, or have the work inspected. As it turns out, in Cobb County, GA, I do not need a permit or inspection if

  • The deck is 144 square feet or smaller
  • The deck is not connected to the house
  • The deck is less than 30 inches off the ground
  • The deck does not have electrical power run to it

So, I decided to build the deck 12 feet by 12 feet, with the deck boards laid perpendicular to the house.

Of course, then the thing to consider was how to support the deck. Living in the South, I have the advantage of no ground movement to speak of, and that is made doubly sure by the nature of the Georgia red clay. So, I really didn’t have to dig any support footers, or pour any concrete, unless I wanted to. I did not.

So some on-line research led me to a really neat product, concrete deck blocks. There is even a web site that will design the deck, and give you the amount of materials needed. So, with the design web site open, and the local home center web site open in another tab, I copied and pasted materials, placed an order, and went to work on the ground while my order was being readied for pickup.

Here’s the tally:

  • (18) Deck blocks
  • (8) 2×10 joists
  • (30) 2×6 floor boards (yes, 2×6, not 5/4 x 2. These are stronger and allow longer joist spans, saving in joists and deck blocks)
  • (4) precut stair stringers
  • (4) joist hangers for the stairs

All told, probably $700 in materials.

STEP 1: Clear the site

Deck Before 1

My first work was to remove the old grill site, made of concrete blocks, and use a string trimmer to knock all the grass down to nothing. It’s not really necessary to strp the whole area, since it will soon be in the dark, and nature will take care of that.

Once I had it clear, I got an email from the home center, and went off to the store to pick up all the materials.

 

STEP 2: Set the corners

Deck corner stone

I first set the cornerstone of the deck, and made sure it was where the plans said it should be.

Deck second pier

 

 

Next came the second corner, which is leveled with the first. There are 2 ways to level the corners, either with 4×4 support up to the joist, or by digging the high corner in, which I chose to do here.

Deck thrid pier

The third corner is then added from the second. As you can see, in this case I used the 4×4 method.

The fourth corner is added the same way, leveled from the first corner.

STEP 3: Set the joists

Deck all joists

Once all 4 corners were set and the joists leveled, I added the two end boards, then all the intermediate joists. Since my deck is 12 feet by 12 feet, using 12 foot boards meant no cutting, and no fitting. Thank you to the mill personnel who keep 12 foot boards exactly 12 feet long – you made my job easier!

STEP 4: Set the remaining deck blocks and level the joists

Deck all piers

 

Next, the rest of the deck blocks were set in place, and 4×4 supports were cut to bring them all up to the joists, so all the joists were level in both directions. Once they were in place I could start on the easy part, laying the decking, using 2-1/2 inch self drilling deck screws.

STEP 5: Add the decking

Deck decking 1

It went pretty easily from there, except for 4 days of rain in between.

Dek decking 2

Finally, one board remained.

Deck decking 3

STEP 6: Enjoy

Deck complete

Finally, with all the deck boards in place, out came the Smoke Wagon and supporting equipment. Then came the true test on Father’s Day:

Deck fire in the hole

 

Deck cooking

 

All in all, a successful project.

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IN SUMMARY

The deck took longer than I thought, cost more than I thought, was harder to do (mostly because of lifting everything over the dadgum chain  link fence), but I am very pleased with it all. Looking forward to Phase 2, the stairs (already bought) and Phase 3, the landing.

Categories: Deck | Leave a comment

Random Thoughts

ButtsCharcoal. I don’t think I will go back to gas, except as an auxiliary fuel, to fire side burners. I recently rebuilt my old gas grill to give to my sister, and then I christened it at her house. No offense, but I wanted so much to go back to charcoal.

Since gas fairly sucks compared to charcoal, why is it that all the major outlets (Lowe’s, Home Depot mostly) have a big choice of $400 gas grills, and maybe a couple of good charcoal rigs? Academy Sports seemed to do a little better, with a better charcoal selection, but they still have the expensive gas rigs. I don’t get it.

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Beef. Pork. Chicken. Sausage. Fish. Turkey. Bring it on.

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I think I’m going to do a pit roast this year. What meat? Maybe a small hog? Lord knows I have the land. Time to use it.

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By far the most impressive barbecue I’ve ever witnessed was at a rodeo in Pampa, Texas, up in the panhandle, many years ago. Everyone who attended opening night of the rodeo, Thursday, got free, all you can eat barbecue. So, at the advice of some co-workers, I went to the rodeo grounds on Wednesday to watch the preparations.

First they dug a large hole with a backhoe, then lit a very large oak fire, and laid in a mass of mesquite on top, quite plentiful in the area.

(You don’t know how much mesquite I had to leave behind when I moved, because the moving company wouldn’t take it, and our car was full of baby stuff. But I digress.)

Then, once all the wood had burned to coals, they laid in a couple of whole dressed steers, and covered them up with the backhoe.

On Thursday afternoon they pulled the steers from the ground hosed them off, and commenced to carving. Some of the best beef I’ve ever had.

And, I kid you not, a tanker truck of iced tea.

Categories: Beef, Gas Grill, Smoker | Leave a comment

Friday Barbecue Pr0n

Tying up the week:

I was out and about in Marietta, Georgia, and came up a back alley way, behind a well known barbecue joint. This was the sight. They are glad I was not in my pickup. (Which is why I redacted the photo – I don’t trust yall either.)

Wood 2

 

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Look who is adding on:

Franklin plans

 

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Speaking of which, someone who lives in the apartment building across the street from Franklin’s has a Twitter account and website that will soon sport a live web cam.

Because, ‘Merica.

Franklin BBQ Line

 

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Finally:

I cannot lie:

 

Butts

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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

Friday Meat Pr0n

Here is a sampling of the meat pictures featured by some of the wonderful Twitter accounts I follow . . . which suggests a new post, coming Monday.

Enjoy

Curlys tweet

 

Curlys

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Two 3-meat plates from laBarbecue in Austin, via @BrisketMan.

Top – Chicken, pulled pork, sliced brisket.

Bottom – Beef rib, pork ribs, sausage.

la Barbecue from Brisketman

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The pit at Franklin’s Barbecue in Austin. I am not worthy.

Franklin pit

The fruit of that pit: The Meat Plate at Frankin’s:

Franklin meat

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Brisket from Snow’s Barbecue, courtesy of Robert Lerma. I think I am going to frame this and put it up as a guide.

Snows brisket

Categories: BBQ Pr0n | Leave a comment

Skin That Smoke Wagon

This blog began in September 2011, as Bacon And Boomsticks, a way to show the cowards who attacked the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Flight 93 ten years before, that America was not defeated, that we could still wave our pork and our guns.

Some time after that, I decided to convert it to a barbecue blog. But in the time since, I’ve always had to explain the name, and honestly, as a barbecue blog, it didn’t make much sense to me, either.

So, I decided to change the name, but to what?

Then it occurred to me – just as my shooting blog, Fill Yer Hands, is a homage to a great line from a great movie, I could find another great line from a great movie . . .

And my next favorite Western came to mind, and my favorite line.

 

 

Considering all the barbecue joints named Smoke Wagon, this is a no-brainer.

So, welcome to the new look, Skin That Smoke Wagon.

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