Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Smoked Whole Chicken With An Oriental Twist

Many of my ideas recently have been from finding a bargain on some cut of meat, then thinking of ways to prepare it. Such was the case when I found two whole young chickens marked down 50% at the grocery recently. I wanted to brine them, then smoke them, then decided to jazz up the brine with a few extra goodies.

Here is the brine that I concocted, I totally winged this and made it up on the fly:

1 gallon of water
1 cup canning salt
1 cup soy sauce
1 Tablespoon powdered ginger
1 Tablespoon powdered lemon peel
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tablespoon onion powder

I mixed all of this together well in a plastic tub and placed the whole chickens into all of this.

To keep the chicken submerged in the brine I placed a plate on top of the chickens, then put the lid on

The tub went into the refrigerator for almost 24 hours. After that I drained the chicken well and patted it dry. Next I put it on my smoker, I had to use both racks to keep the chicken spaced well apart to get a good smoke on all of it.

This is what they looked like after 4 hours of smoking

Next I wrapped them in heavy-duty aluminum foil with a little water, and placed them in a 350 degree oven to bring them up to a safe temperature of 160 degrees.

Here is one of them when it was all done.

This may have been the best chicken I have ever tasted. However, the spices weren't as pronounced as much as I had wanted. The next time I do this (probably soon!) I will increase the amount of soy sauce, ginger and lemon. This was really good though!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Smoked Beef Ribs

This is one of those things that turned out so good I wanted to serve it up to the whole neighborhood just to show it off! I saw some beef ribs at the store and thought that my babyback/sparerib recipe would be just the ticket for them. Luckily they turned out just the way my pork ribs do; juicy, tender, full of flavor.

The secret to great ribs

You probably know people that boil their pork ribs for tenderness. Yes, they are tender, but they might as well be unflavored pudding since all of the flavor is cooked out of them. About 7 or 8 years ago I got the idea of pressure cooking them, thinking that I can get the same tenderness without losing the flavor, and not having to slow smoke them all day. Then I follow that up with a few hours of smoking. It works great! And as you will see, it works great for beef ribs too.

First, into my pressure canner at 15 lbs for 20 minutes

As soon as the pressure is down to zero and it is safe to remove them, they go on the smoker for 4 hours

Here they are after being smoked

Now for a good sauce. I usually just 'wing-it' when I make bbq sauce and it always comes out the same (very well, if I may say so myself) but this time I actually wrote down the ingredients and measurements.

Marty's Kansas City Style Rib Sauce

3 cups catsup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup prepared mustard, any mustard that you like, I used a plain yellow mustard this time
2 Tablespoons molasses
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder

Heat all this up in a pan on low to medium heat for about 15 minutes or so, to blend the flavors well. This is my quick sauce, when I have more time and ambition I sautee finely chopped onions and add some other things like lemon juice. The next time I make a really good sauce I will post that.

The pressure cooking makes these so juicy and tender, and the smoker gives them the best rib flavor you ever had.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hamming it up

I wanted to make a ham and smoke it, but didn't want to work with a whole pork leg. Knowing that you can make 'ham' from a lot of different pork cuts, I looked for a sale on a good, large cut of pork. There was an 8 lb. package of 'pork sirloin' that looked like it would make a good ham and bought it for 1/2 off because it was nearing the expiration date (again, I LOVE the 'Manager's Specials' at Kroger!)

Ham making is almost identical to making Canadian bacon that I wrote about earlier. It's just a larger cut of meat than the pork loins that I use for the Canadian bacon, and I won't be rubbing the outside of the meat with spices as I do with the bacon.

This will have to cure in a brine for about 4 days. Some articles call for 4-5, some 5-7, depending on the amount of saltiness that you want. I messed up a batch of Canadian Bacon once, making it way too salty, so I will start on the low side for this first-time batch.


For every gallon of water:
1 cup of pickling salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup Instacure (Prague Powder, Pink Salt)
1 Tablespoon of Pickling Spice
1/2 teaspoon of Cloves

Mix all of the ingredients into the water well. You can use warm water so that it all dissolves easier, but you have to cool it to 40 degrees or below before adding the meat. I just used cold water, stirred a LOT, and then cooled it to 40 degrees.
Then place it into your container. I used my new plastic container I am using for meat curing and rubbing.

I placed the lid on the tub and put the tub in the bottom of my refrigerator. After 5 days it was time to smoke it. First I dumped the water out of the tub and replaced it with fresh cold water. I let that sit for an hour, then replaced it again. This is done to remove excess salt.

After draining the water again and patting the meat dry, I placed it on the smoker for about 4 hours to get a good smoke flavor on the meat.

After smoking I bring it up to the safe-pork temperature of 160 degrees in my oven. I place the meat in aluminum foil, add a little water, close it up and place it in a 300 degree oven until it reaches 160 degrees, measured with a probe thermometer in several places of the meat.

I wanted to slice about half of it for sandwich slices, so I cooled it in the refrigerator, still in the foil. That took a couple of hours, then brought out my new handy-dandy meat slicer.

Now I have a couple of pounds of sliced ham, plus a couple of 2-3 pound chunks for other purposes.

The flavor was excellent, the meat was SLIGHTLY on the dry side. The next time I will make sure the smoker's temp stays low, with plenty of smoke. This could have been from the cut of pork also; more experimenting is in order. All in all, it's some pretty good ham!

* Jan 16 2012 added note:  I got a half pig and had the butcher keep the ham intact, raw, uncured and unsmoked.  I am in the process of curing the whole thing.  I will post the results and process in a future blog!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Smoked Pork Butt

I've been accused of being a pig's butt, however that is not what we are talking about today. The butt is the butt-end of the pork shoulder, thus pork 'butt'. Pork shoulder is the Lord's way of telling smokers and grillers that he loves us, died for us, and that He is full of grace.

I found a good deal on a pork butt that was about 5 lbs or so. I swear the thing was calling my name from the meat case at Kroger. It is a well marbled piece of pork, and fat is something that is missing from most of today's store-bought pork. SOME fat is a good thing.

I also went to 'The Container Store' and guess what I bought? A container! I finally bought a dedicated plastic container for brining, curing and rubbing meats. It fits in the bottom of my fridge perfectly, and can stack them if needed. I can fit a pork belly cut in half, a couple of pork loins, and probably could have fit two of these pork butts in one of the containers.

I decided to brine the butt ahead of time. I have had great success in brining different meats so far and thought this would be a good experiment.
For the brine I used:

A gallon of water
3 cups of canning salt
a cup or so of dark corn syrup
- a couple of brine recipes called for molasses, but I was out of molasses. I could have used brown sugar, or nothing, but got the wild idea of adding the corn syrup. I guess we will find out how it worked. I am typing this while the butt is on the smoker.

If I had two pork butts I would have needed less liquid, the important thing is to cover the meat with the liquid. After mixing the brine, I put the lid on and refrigerated it for about 18 hours. I wanted to brine it for 24 hours but my impatience kicked in every time I opened the refrigerator and the meat was staring at me.

The next day I drained the brine and replaced it with cold fresh water,and let it sit for about a half hour in the water. After draining the water again, I patted the meat DRY.

I put the butt back into my new fancy-schmancy container and mixed a rub. This is what I use for a rub when I want a standard Kansas City style rub.

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup paprika
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon cayenne/jalapeno/Anaheim powder I used my homemade jalapeno powder.

You can get creative however, and use whatever ingredients you want. I have 'winged-it' many times and have come up with some good mixes.

I used GENEROUS amounts of the rub. And I RUB my rub into the meat well. Many articles on rubs and meats state that it isn't necessary to rub the rubs into meat, I say 'meadow-muffins.' It's called a rub for a reason, and I want the rub to stick and get as deep into the meat as possible. -stepping down off soapbox-

I placed the butt on the smoker, using hickory chunks, but use whatever wood you want. I plan on smoking this for about 10-12 hours, but will monitor it as the day progresses. Here's what it looks like, the picture was taken soon after placing the butt on the smoker.

- "Later that day" -

Here is what it looked like after about 10 hours of smoking

It wasn't quite up to the FDA's safe temp of 160 degrees for pork (Rytek Kutas, THE man of smoked meats, states 152 is the safe temp for pork, but let's go with 160.) I placed it in heavy duty aluminum foil, added a small (1/4 cup?) of water, closed it up and placed in a 250 degree oven. I ended up cooking it this way for another 5-6 hours.

I took a fork and started to pull it, but most of the time I only needed my fingers, it was that tender.

Now to cook up a good sauce!