This has been a good summer for my patio. A friend gave me an old smoker – one of those stand up models with a water/drip pan. But hey, I never smoked a piece of meat in my life. I have smoked other things, but they could easily fit in my shirt pocket. So I began my summer of experimenting with smoking pork, turkey, and chicken.
I read the Barbecue Bible, by Steven Raichlen. The book is well done, has many fine recipes, and examples of outdoor cooking from around the world. He faltered when he professed that Kansas City, Kansas, is renowned for Barbecue. The renown for barbecue is from Kansas City, Missouri, on the Missouri River, not the Kansas River – all of that aside, the book is worthy of consideration.
The problem with Raichlen’s work is that he assumes one knows how to use the equipment.
The first experiment found me overenthusiastic. I bought fourteen pounds of ribs and attempted to smoke the whole thing in one whack. That would have been OK if I had any idea about how to keep the coals lit when placed in the wrong place in the grill. I put the coals under the drip pan – only later to realize that the air vents were higher than the coals – no air circulation, no fire, no heat, no smoking. Rats! I adjusted the process through the day and the ribs were finally done about 9 o’clock that evening. But we are talking about some really good ribs. We ate smoked ribs for a week.
My second attempt was with a turkey, about fifteen pounds. My son called about noon and asked if I was smoking a turkey – I had one thawed out for that purpose. “Come on over,” I said, “I’ll put the turkey on.” This time I placed the coals around the outside of the drip pan. It worked better – but still the coals did not burn well. The turkey was great – but I served supper late that evening. The grandkids were tired and cranky but the turkey was great.
I took the smoker out to my garage for some engineering changes. Four small hole drilled in the bottom should allow for better air circulation. This attempt called for about six pounds of ribs, coals outside of the drip pan, and air provided from the bottom. The coals are still struggling to sufficiently heat the chamber of the smoker. It took a little longer than planed – but again – excellent ribs.
Today finds me at the patio smoke again. This time I am cooking a five pound pork butt, anticipating pulled pork sandwiches for supper. My smoker has a center grill, which I have not figured out how to use. So today I moved the center grill. I laid it directly on the drip pan, and put the hot coals around the outside – on top of the center grill. It has been cooking for about two hours now (I have more coals heating up in a portable chimney). There is good heat; the pork butt already has that nice reddish color of smoked pork. My hopes are rising.
The mesquite chips are soaking in water as I write. When I put the next batch of coals on the grill I will also add the mesquite chips – that extra flavor rounds out the deal.
I will serve the pulled pork on onion buns, with sides of pickles, onions, mustard, and barbecue sauce. I have to think about some side dishes that will compliment pulled pork sandwiches.