Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Dons' Smokers

This past spring the Pit crawlers visited a local farmer who designs and builds smokers. Our purpose was, to cook, eat, rate and review his product. This would be our first such evaluation. In fact our first review of anything other than food alone. Don supplied the smokers and we brought the food, charcoal and wood. Our fuel mixture consisted of Cowboy Oak Hardwood Lump Charcoal and wild cherry wood. The coals were only used in the beginning of the smoking process and from that point on we solely used wild cherry wood. There were no real scientific reasons for this other than it’s what we had at our disposal. We didn’t want to get real serious or food snobby about this gig. We just wanted to have fun and when we were done write down what we thought. The foods we chose to cook were six slabs of babybacks, four pounds of homemade sausage and two Boston pork butts. Oh ya. I forgot we also smoked about ten pounds of chicken wings for lunch that day. We got their early in the morning and ate that night. In between was the real adventure. All four Pit crawlers were present myself (Cary), Dennis, Brett and Robert. At the time two of our crew (Brett and Robert) were both fairly new to the world of cue and very new as members of the Pit crawlers. However no one member ran the show and everyone got their hand in the pits.   

The type of cookers those hand got dirty in were classic offset firebox smokers. The reason this style is a classic and so popular is because it works. The offset firebox smoker is easy to use but it’s not a set it and forget it type machine. There will be work involved. Like all units of this type it could also double as a charcoal grill and his are made with thicker steel than many. In fact if you give him a design of your own there’s a good chance he will make whatever custom idea you come up with.

The first thing we did was get our cookers going. While they were building up a nice layer of coals and getting up to heat we rinsed or two Boston butts off with cold water and patted them dry. We then used a mustard paste and dry rub created from the box of spices we brought with us. When we applied the rub we didn’t go light and we also injected the meat with an apple juice based injection. We covered the pork shoulder and set it aside to check or cookers. The temperature we wanted to keep was 250 degrees, which is about 20 degrees hotter than most usually smoke at. However we were under time restraints and were hoping this would help. We took our pork and placed it on the larger cooker figuring at the higher temp it would cook at 1 to 1 ¼ hours per pound.

While the pork shoulder was getting going we prepped the ribs. We removed the membrane from the ribs and put the mustard paste on three slabs the other three were left alone. On the ribs we used the Smokin Guns BBQ rub that we purchased when the pit crawl traveled there. We then set these aside for about an hour. While the baby backs were soaking up flavor from the rub we checked on our cookers. The large cooker was getting too hot at times and we did have to adjust the air flow to correct the temp. The smaller smoker with nothing in it however was sitting pretty. Because of the time crunch we didn’t give the larger cooker much time to get a really solid bed of coals down before the pork shoulder was put in place. This could account for the temp flashing hot at first, but once the meat was cooking for a couple of hours it leveled off and ran steady. After all loose ends were tied up we placed three slabs of ribs on the large smoker and three slabs on the smaller smoker. This brings us to the sausage. For this we stared with four pounds of ground pork, an onion, some garlic, three or four peppers (all from Dons’ farm) and a few seasonings from the box of goodies we brought. This all got mixed together and rolled into four one pound logs. These logs were then rolled in LC'S BBQ rub purchased when we went there. We sprayed foil with nonstick oil and rolled the logs of sausage in the foil and set them aside.

Buy this time we were moping both the pork shoulder and ribs regularly with a mop we created from apple juice, oil and spices. Once everything was tended to we placed the sausage on the smaller of the two cookers and began to pick up our mess. After a bit of clean up with regular mopping here and there we can fast forward to the end result.

The ribs were over done for sure, however that had to do with the cooks leaving them on for an hour to long and nothing to do with the equipment. We got caught up in just hanging out and lost track of time. The sausage was among some of the best any of us has had. The chicken wings were great as well although Don won’t tell us what was in the sauce. And the pork shoulder was moist and tender with the right amount of sweet smoky flavor and an awesome bark.

As for as how the smokers handled, well I would say as good as any and better than many. However we did have a bit of trouble keeping temp on the larger cooker for the first two hours as I indicated above. Also keep in mind these aren’t small cookers so you’ll be using logs of wood, not chunks or chips. But they're priced right and they do the job well. The only thing I would like to see added to these cookers would maybe be wheels on one side with a handle on the other so you could more easily move them around. Other than that I would say if you are out looking for a smoker these cookers should be something you at least stop and take a look at.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011


If you a picky about the atmosphere of your BBQ places, you might want to wear blinders when you go to LC’s BBQ , but you should go.  Maybe you will want to buy your food to go like a slew of people did while the Pit Crawlers were there, but either way you should go.  It is some of the best barbeque our group has eaten since we started our tours and reviews. 

You could say that consensus was easier to achieve on LC’s because our original group of five aficionados’ had dwindled to three by the time of our visit.  We lost one to a career move to Boston, and one to graduate school in Pennsylvania.  We were about to lose a third to the Navy, so we decided to visit LC’s before we were only two.  Hence we launched Pit Crawl No. 3 with an itinerary of only one establishment.

We really wanted to work in LC’s because we had heard many good things about it, and we were not disappointed. 

LC’s is not fancy.  It is a smallish place, with the smoker and its delicious looking contents right inside the dining room where you get to glimpse the cornucopia of meats when they open the door to fetch out your choices.  Tables are functional if a bit wobbly, the table service is paper and plastic.  Floors are actually a bit slick under foot from the cooking that goes on in the same room where you order and eat.   The main wall is lined with the owner’s trophy fish, mounted and hung.  (If you’re a fisherman, you will be impressed with this lot, and one behemoth catfish in particular that was lying atop the drink cooler.)  Everything is pretty much squeezed into a space that doesn’t look like it was ever meant to be a restaurant.

The most important thing that is squeezed into this mix is some really good food.  We ordered a variety of items, which we then split among ourselves.  Our choices were:

·         Ribs

·         Burn ends

·         Sausage

·         Brisket

·         Pulled pork

The last review I wrote for the Pit Crawlers was not very favorable to that establishment, so it is a pleasure to be able to rave about the delicious fare at LC’s. 

We all had our personal favorites, of course, but we were able to pretty well agree that the pulled pork, the burnt ends, and the sausage were all excellent.  These were the best of the best.  I was particularly impressed with the burnt ends.  Two of our group thought they were perhaps a little fatty, but I thought they were flavorful and perfect, and I’m a guy for whom burnt ends are not normally on the list of preferred barbecue items. 

Another item we all liked, but which particularly impressed me was the sausage.  It was served without a casing and it was smoky and flavorful.  When I go back to LC’s, I plan to order a pound of this delicious stuff just for me.  We liked it well enough that since our LC’s visit we have tried to perfect a similar sausage of our own.

I named the pulled pork as top of our “best of the best” list because we were all very impressed with it.  Excellent tenderness, moisture, and smoky flavor are the descriptors that come promptly to mind.   

We only tried two sides.  One was the fries, and the other was the fried green beans.  Both were OK, but neither one was remarkable.  I like the stir-fried green beans you get at some Asian restaurants, so I was hopeful that the green beans at LC’s would be similar.  With all the excellent meats available at LC’s, I would not bother with sides again unless I wanted to try the baked beans.  We did not because after ordering the main items, we had so much food already!

Although LC’s had some delicious, tangy sauces to complement their meats, everything was tasty enough on its own to be eaten without that extra touch.  We ended up using the French fries mostly as a means to taste and compare these sauces.  However, if barbeque is not barbeque to you without the sauce, LC’s will not disappoint you.

Did I mention we had a lot of food?  We had a lot of food, so there was some to take away with us.  When we got back to our home base I gave some of the ribs to a young lady who said she had never had any barbeque she liked.  The best testimony I can give about LC’s is that when she bit into that tasty rib, her face lit up.  We think yours will light up too, if you give LC’s a try.

Dennis Constance on behalf of The Pit Crawlers