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.

Pig Roast

I was asked to do a pig roast for my brother-inlaw’s birthday being that I never cooked a whole pig before I said no problem!!!   I started out by making about 5lbs of my special rub and a couple of gallons of BBQ sauce.  We picked up the pig & the roaster and the following day  my buddy Kurt & I went to work.  Once we had the pig on I started my mopping sauce and we mopped the pig every hour until it was done.  It was a lot of work but it was so much fun!!!  If you’ve never cooked a whole pig try it & let us know how it went!!!

Here’s a couple of side notes:

When ordering the pig figure on a pound per person remember there’s a lot of waste and you do want some leftovers for later.  This is a 2 person job so get your friends to help.  Keep in mind the pig should take about an hour per 10 lbs to cook.  Have the roaster temp about 250 degrees for the first 2 hrs  then bring it up to about 300 to 325 degrees until finished.  I had our roaster a little to high in temp & it made the skin a little dark but it sealed in the juices which worked for us.  Just add some foil to the skin if you want to keep it from burning.  Internal temp for the pig should be 160 to 165 degrees and let it rest before the picking starts.  We used gloves because the even after 45 minutes of resting it was still hot.  Kurt & I picked it apart while my uncle & cousin had 2 cutting stations so all in all it took about 45 minutes to pick a part.

 

Low & slow baby backs

Remove the membrane on the backside.  Coat the ribs with mustard as the binder add your BBQ rub.  If you have the time let them sit overnight if not set up your grill for indirect cooking let the grill get to 225 degrees place ribs on the rack and slow cook.  I make a moppin sauce and mop every 2 hrs.  After 4 hours place ribs in a foil pan with some moppin sauce and cover with foil.  Check after an hour you may want them to go a little longer until fork tender.  Take the ribs out of the pan and char them on the grill add your BBQ sauce or add the moppin sauce and BBQ rub place on the grill if you want Memphis style dry ribs.

Boneless Pork Loin

When the pork has reached the internal temp of 150 degrees take it off the grill place on cutting board and tent with foil.  The temp will go up a few degrees while resting.

Boneless Pork Loin

Boneless Pork Loin

Slow roast the pork loin until internal temp reaches 150 degrees.

Boneless Pork Loin

Brine: 1 QT water, 1/4 cup of kosher salt, 1/4 cup of brown sugar, 4 bay leaves, 1TBL fennel seed, 1TBL cracked coriander seed, 1TBL cracked black peppercorns, 1TBL cracked mustard seed.  Bring to a boil in a large sauce pan for 10 min than simmer for 30 min.  Let cool to at least 40 degrees.  Place pork in plastic bag and cover with the brine for 8 hrs.  If you have brine left over save another meal like chicken.   After 8 hours rinse off the brine with water and dry.  Marinade pork with a Greek salad dressing with feta for 8 hrs.  Sear the pork on all sides.

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