Chrome Wheels and Offset Smokers

A 1965 Chevy pickup, manual transmission, white over red. Other than our old gray Ford tractor, that is the vehicle my dad used to teach me to drive. That old pickup kind of looked like this, but without the fancy wheels.

Just like the pickup my dad used to teach me driving lessons.

Oh sure, we had another car — automatic transmission and all — he could have used for the driving lesson, but my dad’s main idea was this; if you could learn to drive a crappy old truck with a four-on-the-floor manual transmission, you could pretty much drive anything after that.

A couple of years ago, when the mere thought of trying to smoke meat scared the living bejeebers out of me, I wanted to make sure I could tackle this new pastime without ruining too much meat in the process. I know, I know, our fine farm and ranch families will produce more…but stilll. I also did not want to make a big investment in equipment, just in case smoking meat did not turn out to be my weekend calling.

So…I started out small. You have likely seen my Charcoal Chucker posts about my cheapo offset smoker($89 at Walmart).

Charbroil American Gourmet smoker, aka the cheapo offset firebox smoker.

It served me well for about three years. The price was certainly right. And it

Two pork butts on the cheapo.

Two pork butts on the cheapo.

allowed me to try my luck at the art of meat smoking without making a big investment. Well, the cheapo finally started rusting and I wanted something that could hold heat better, and something that perhaps I would not have to reload with charcoal every two or three hours.

Well, my Charcoal Chucker brothers certainly would recommend to me that I go whole hog and purchase one of the coveted Big Green Egg ceramic cookers. Truth be told, I would have loved to have been able to do this, but I am but a simple Kansas farm boy (with three kids in college to boot) and I just could not get over the mental hurdle of plunking down a stack of greenbacks for a smoker that would leave me unable to buy meat for such a nice smoker (I exaggerate).

So…in the process of scouting out a possible replacement smoker, I was checking out the stock at our local Lowe’s store. A very nice new Char Griller offset firebox smoker caught my eye in the $299 price range. Nice. Very nice. Metal was much thicker than the cheapo and the cooking area was nearly double the size.

The grill of my dreams…well, kind of.

It was almost love at first sight. Almost.

Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw a wink. I did. Off to the side sat a flirty little number that looked very much like the coveted Big Green Egg of my dreams. I strolled up nonchalantly and said in a deep manly voice. “Is your Dad an astronaut? Because someone took the stars from the sky and put them in your eyes.” I fumbled as I reached for her price tag, thinking she was very much out of my league and expecting very bad news. Then, BOOM, a cascade of fireworks. My eyes could not believe what I was seeing. $299. Holy cow. This had the earmarks of a long, lasting relationship. (OK, that’s enough of the creepy old man stuff.)

So…after a bit of research (mainly from John Setzer).  He has a number of videos and blogs devoted to the Char Griller Akorn. I also sought out other feedback, but mostly after my mind was made up. Not long after, I brought her home to meet the family.

Her maiden voyage…after a quick 400 degree heat-up to cure the grate, was two slabs of pork spare ribs and two chickens. I wasn’t sure it was all going to fit, but it did due to the warming basket, which can double as a second tier cooking basket during low-and-slow smoking.

I would have to conclude that overall, the results were very good.

The maiden voyage of the Char Griller Akorn Kooker. Chicken and pork spare ribs.

And judging by the reactions of the consumers of the first yield off the iron grate kamado, this could turn into a great decision. I am so pleased that I have exited the offset firebox highway for a turn down the road toward kamado-style cooking.  And my Charcoal Chucker brothers have led me down that path. the only difference is that I will continue to truck down the road in a triple layer steel and porcelain smoker instead of a ceramic one.  But since I learned how to drive with an offset firebox smoker, I feel like I am riding in style. But you know that if I could find a 1965 white over red, four speed Chevy pickup today, and if I could afford it, I would add some of those fancy chrome wheels to go with it.

Spring Herb Chicken Breast

My wife Laura prepared this awesome dish. Chives, Garlic, Thyme, Oregano, Parmesan, Olive oil, Salt & Pepper. The herbs came from our garden.  Mix the herbs, cheese, S & P & olive oil together in a bowl.  Pull back the skin on the chicken and apply the herb paste on meat & the skin of the chicken.  Set up your grill for indirect cooking so the temp of the grill is about 300 degrees and cook until chicken’s internal temp is 160 degrees.   Let the meat rest before you enjoy the meal.  Serve with grilled Asparagus and a salad.

Three Smokin’ Chicks

Weekends are busy around our house, so this past weekend’s smoking activity had to be squeeeeeezed in. But the old Cheapo Charbroil had room for three smokin’ chicks on a crisp late summer evening in northern Virginia. My premier entry in the BBQ blogosphere focuses on three Purdue Roasters I picked up this afternoon at the local Wally World. I like the roasters because they are meaty and moist.

Three plump chickens held down the grate of the cheapo smoker over Labor Day weekend.

I had no time to do an overnight marinade, so I simple rubbed each down with a combo of Montreal Steak Seasoning, generic Cajun salt and onion powder. I put all three of these ladies on the grill at about 4:30 p.m. Used chunk charcoal with hickory chips in the offset firebox of my cheapo smoker. Kept the temp at about 210 for most of the duration, but bumped it up to around 250 to finish them off up to an internal breast temp of 190 degrees.

My two sons were home from college for the weekend, so one was immediately ripped into…no time for resting the smoked meat at this house. The other two were wrapped in foil to rest a bit before going into the fridge for a party tomorrow afternoon.

If the first one is any indication, the two remaining birds should be the belles of the ball…moist, tender and a subtle, but not overpowering smoke finish.

The beverage pairing for the evening of bird smoking was red beer — a favorite among folks hailing from Kansas. A splash of bloody Mary mix in the bottom of the glass, followed by a pour of your favorite beer and a swift stir. All-in-all, a nice way to enjoy an extended weekend…and an evening by the smoker.

Will try to do better with pics the next time through, but I did not have much light to work with and currently shooting with the not-so-advanced optics of my Blackberry. Hope you all had as nice of a weekend as I did. Read more of this post

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