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.



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