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Memorial Day Weekend BBQ Walkthrough With Pics.

redarmy

Starter
5 Year Member
I bought a smoker last memorial day weekend and over the last year of studying, practicing and lots of cooks, I am churning out pretty amazing BBQ and yesterdays cook might have been my best to date. I thought it would be fun and helpful to do a walkthrough for those of you who are either new to bbq or thinking about getting a pit. Enjoy.
 

redarmy

Starter
5 Year Member
Meat Selection



Meat selection is so important. Just like steaks, the end product can only be so good if the cut of meat is average at best. I am cooking a 12lb Choice grade brisket that I picked up from Costco. I am cooking (2) 8.25 lbs pork shoulders (butts) I got at Sam's and I smoking a 3lb turkey breast I picked up at my local grocery store.

Brisket - I personally like to work with 10lb to 12lb range of meat. This size allows me to finish my cook within 12 to 14 hours. The bigger cuts can take up to 16 to 18 hours so I try to avoid those. I like Choice grade over Select. Costco usually has the Choice grade meat at near or same price as Sam's select grade so it's a no brainer to me. The Choice grade cuts are more tender and come out more juicy and tender IMO. I will usually trim the brisket of the excess fat. Some say to take it down to a 1/4 inch on the fat cap but I don't get too anal about it. I just trim the excess fat off until it seems appropriate. You can leave it on but it just makes more of a mess to work with at carving time. There is no way you are going to render all of the fat off in a cook so trimming will help.

Port Shoulders - I usually opt for the butt over the picnic cut but I have done picnics many times as well. They require more trimming so I usually just go Butt instead. I don't trim any of the fat off the butts. If cooked perfect, you can render all of the fat off the butts. Again, I like to stay around the 7.5 to 8lb range. The bigger butts just take too long to cook for me. I can do the 8lb butt in 12 to 14 hrs so I stay in that range.
 

redarmy

Starter
5 Year Member
Meat Prep



I make my own rubs. There are plenty of pre made rubs that are fantastic but I enjoy experimenting with making my own. I use the same rubs for both pork and beef but I add more sugar after the rub is applied to the pork and I add more black pepper to the beef after the rub is applied. I usually start my cooks around midnight to 3 am so I will apply my rubs around 8 or 9 pm and then store them in turkey bags in the fridge.

Brisket - I like to coat the meat with lots of rub. this helps create a great flavored bark at the end of the cook. I don't use a lot of sugar in my base rub and I like lots of black pepper and sea salt. (The sea salt is helps with providing the smoke ring on the meat).

Pork - I used to brine my pork in molasses and salt water but I got lazy and I am a firm believer that if you are not brining the meat for 24 hrs, its a waste of time. My pulled pork turns out so good without brining that I don't bother anymore. I coat my pork in molasses before I apply the rub. Once my base rub is on, I coat the shoulders with turbinado sugar. Turbinado sugar doesn't burn at temps under 300 degrees and it really starts to caramelizes at the end of the cook for and incredible bark finish.

Side note, I have never spritzed my meat ever. It seems like a big waste of time and energy. I will not open my lid to my pit until the 9 or 10 hour mark. I have never had anything but juicy tender meat so I don't bother with basting or spraying my meat.

 
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redarmy

Starter
5 Year Member
Wood Selection



Being born and raise in Texas, I find it odd that I don't like Mesquite wood flavored meat. I actually avoid all strong wood flavors, Mesquite, Hickory, Red Oak. I personally prefer a subtle smoke flavor to my meat so I use Pecan predominately. I will mix in some white oak in very small amounts and I will use apple wood for my pork when beef is not on the menu. When using the stronger wood flavors, I would start with smaller amounts and expose the meat to those types of smoke for less time to avoid ruining expensive meat.

Wood Size

I use a stick burner pit and its not huge so I try to use chunks the size of soda cans and pieces the size of my fist, the pieces in the picture are longer than I usually like to work with but they ended up working fine.

I personally debark all of my wood in fear of putting off bitter flavors on the meat.

If your using a weber smokey mountain type smoker, I would try to use wood chunks fist size and half of that.
 

redarmy

Starter
5 Year Member
Fire Control

Nothing is more crucial to producing great bbq than establishing and maintaining a clean fire. I have put more time in effort learning and mastering this process than anything else when it comes to bbq. Each pit is different so there is no set formula of do this or that and it will work. I will share some simple principals that will help you with creating and maintaining a great fire and great smoke as a result.

There are 2 schools of smoking meat one is called low and slow (185 degrees - 225 degrees) and Hot and Fast (300 degrees to 350 degrees). Neither is better than the other, just different. Many of the competition cooks have adopted the hot and fast method (mostly due to time constraints). I have done both and I have settled in the middle. I smoke all of my meat at between 250 degrees and 270 degrees. I shoot for 250 as a general rule of thumb.

It has been my experience that the lower temps are harder to maintain clean smoke than the hotter temps and I will explain why below when I discuss smoke. There are two types of fires, hot fires and cold fires. Hot fires burn hot and clean and they consume the wood clean and as a result they produce the right kind of smoke to properly flavor the meat. Cold fires burn dirty and produce something called "creosote". This often is accompanied by dark grey smoke to heavy white smoke. This kind of smoke for prolonged periods of time will turn your meat bitter and inedible. Ideally, you are looking for very little smoke visibly and when you can see the smoke, it often has a violet or blue hue to it. This is referred to as "sweet blue" in bbq circles. I always tell people to put their hand over the smoke stack and then smell it. You should be able to smell meat with a hint of smoke.

When you have a coal base and the coals are hot, the amount of fuel (wood) you add can cool the fire, it other words, if you add a piece of wood that is too large for your fire to handle, the fire will start to produce bad smoke. The key is finding the right coal base and the right size piece of wood to add to your fire that will allow you to maintain the right pit temps and maintain a clean burning fire. This is very difficult to do when using only wood. I supplement my coal base with lump charcoal to accomplish this. I pre heat my logs on top of my fire box so that they will ignite faster and not cool off my fire.

I leave my smoke chimney stack open 100% always and I control my pit temperature by opening and closing my fire box door or dampers depending on what works best with the current weather conditions.



I pulled my meat out at 2am and lit my pits. I usually allow for 45 minutes for my meat to warm (this can take 1 hour off your total cook times by no putting cold meat on your pits) while I get get my fire right. In the picture above, I start with 1 hand held weber chimney full of lump charcoal and 2 decent size logs to get started. You are going to have heavy smoke while you wait for your coal base and fire to reach optimum temps. Once my pit temp is right and my fire is clean, (usually 30 to 45 minutes) I put the meat on.



You can see the unlit lump charcoal that I have added to build back up my coal base, I will wait until my lump is lit and burning before I will add more wood if I think my fire can't handle more fuel.

Once you learn you pit and know what it takes to maintain the different temps you desire to cook at, you will learn how to keep a clean fire, it just takes some practice. If you have any questions on this and need help, P.M me.
 
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redarmy

Starter
5 Year Member


this is the meat after 4 hours.



This is the meat at 10 hrs. I always foil my briskets at this point. It just takes too long to get the brisket to 190 degrees internal temp and I can never get them tender enough without the foil without spending 16 hrs to do it. yes the foil ruins the bark for the most part but the meat is so tender and juicy that it out weighs the loss of crispy bark. I still maintain some of the bark for chopped beef but the bark on the flat is always lost.

I never ever, ever foil my pork butts. The bark is not optional. Know this, if you don't foil large chunks of meat, 7lbs and up, you will experience a stall where your internal temp on your pork butts will not rise above 165 degrees. When I am cooking pork butts only, I will usually just up my temps to 275 or even 300 to power thru the stall otherwise it can take 14 hrs to cook a 8lb butt at 250 degrees. the ones in the picture above stalled at 165 for 3 hrs.

I pull my brisket off the pit when it reaches 185 to 190 degrees but only if its butter soft with my probe.

I pull my pork butts at 195 degrees but only if the bone moves easily when I tug on it. Most of the time a pork butt pulled at 195 degrees and rested on a cutting board for half an hour will pull very easily.
 

redarmy

Starter
5 Year Member


pork butts at 14 hrs. I pulled them at 195 degrees. These both were freaking amazing.




I never get tired of seeing that beautiful smoke ring. It is the signature of a well smoked brisket. If your eating brisket and there is no smoke ring, chances are somebody cheated.



you can see the pink smoke ring on the pulled port as well.



chopped beef makes a great topper to a pulled pork sandwich. :D
 

redarmy

Starter
5 Year Member
Here is a picture of my bbq set up from this weekend. It was tough not having lil red with me. I retired him last month and replaced him with the silver and black MWSM in the right corner. All in all, it was a successful cook that started at 2am Saturday morning and ended at 5pm when I took the meat off the smoker.

 

Patently Husker Red

Scout Team
10 Year Member
Red,

We really should get together sometime and smoke. I'm up right now with my pork shoulders and brisket. Wished I would've taken pictures at the 4 hr mark for my shoulders. My brisket is just starting, so maybe I will of that.

Got my brisket at Costco and my shoulder at HEB. Should've just got both at Costco but I was only gonna do brisket and had a change of heart to do both...that and suddenly more people were coming over.
 

Big Burruss

Travel Squad
5 Year Member
Looks great. I'm planning on smoking 2 or 3 pork butts for the 4th and I think I'll steal some of your ideas (muahaha!!)
 

redarmy

Starter
5 Year Member
I am doing a 9lb Pork Butt and a 13lb brisket starting at 3 am. Is anybody out there? Anybody there?
Does anybody wonder? Anybody care?

Oh! I just gotta know
If you're really there and you really care
 

huskrthill

Crap
10 Year Member
I am doing a 9lb Pork Butt and a 13lb brisket starting at 3 am. Is anybody out there? Anybody there?
Does anybody wonder? Anybody care?

Oh! I just gotta know
If you're really there and you really care
I care. And I like Def Leppard. :D
 
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