Captain Caper Enters the Smokehouse [General]

2008 Jun 28
Considering the weather this weekned, my first go at using my buddies smoker has been postponed to Tuesday July 1st, Canada Day.

The smoker is an original Bradley (BT1S1) with a auto 'Bisquette' feeder and electric temperature control with a thermometer mounted in the door.

I have a seperate meat thermometer to use as well.

A Bisquette is a small puck of compressed wood chips. I have oak and hickory on hand.

I plan on smoking 5 pork butts (shoulders) to serve Pull Pork Sandwiches and some sausages to fill up the rest of the smoker. I'll use a standard rub (cure) and let the pork sit in the rub overnight in the fridge. The pork will then be brought from the fridge a few hours before smoking to bring them up to room temp.

From an earlier posting from Ron Citizen gave me these tips:

//If you choose a pork roast, I'd suggest a pulled-pork butt (really, it's a shoulder, of about 5 to 7 pounds, WITH THE THICK SKIN ON -- BONE IN. Otherwise, as I suggest, ribs are far easier.
Let me know, and I'll walk you thru it.
Regards, and good luck //

I do have a few questions (usually brought on by conficting 'How to Smoke' information I have be researching)

1) Why does one 'finish' the meat in the oven ? To cook it through ? If so, can't one just leave it in the smoker longer with no additional wood applied ?

2) Is important to have the tick fat left on the pork shoulder ? One web spot tells me to trim the pork first. And how important is it to have the fat side up ?

3) The Bradley Smoker recipe for pork roast suggests smoking till the internal meat temperature is 140F and oven (set at 350F) finish till int. temp. reaches 160F.

Another source says to not to continuously smoke, but apply smoke for 20 minutes every hour.

And another source says to apply smoke for the first 3 hours and not the last two.

And from Bradley's online FAQ:

//How long should I smoke my food for?
Smoke your food for half the time it will take to cook it. Ex: If you are cooking for 6 hours, smoke for the first 3 hours.//

So I'm a little confused about using continuous smoke. Can any one help here?

4)Again from the Bradley online FAQ:

//How can I control the moisture inside my smoker?

You can control the moisture in you smoker by the vent in the top. The more closed it is, the moisture will be kept in. The more open it is, the less moisture. Please keep in mind not to close the vent in the top all the way when smoke is running. Ex. When doing beef jerky your want to dry the meat so keep the vent all the way open the whole time.//

So.... how should I have the vent set ? Towards a drier setting (open) or more towards a moister setting (closed) ?

Only three sleeps left to the Big Smoke Day !!

2008 Jun 28
1) maybe with your temp controlled unit you can do that, but with my vertical smoker if you let it cook fully on the smoker it will be damned super-smokey and dark, dark, dark

2) I find if you trim too much fat you can end up with really dry meat at the end of the smoking. This is why you do it fat side up so the fat makes its way down through the meat. You may even want to poke some vertical holes down through the top - a dozen or so just with a skewer

3) only your experience will tell you. try something and keep good notes. I find a 2-3 hour continuous smoke provides very generous smoke flavour, then I finish on the grill or in the oven

2008 Jun 28
further to (3) you won't likely screw it up. it will be good and will be food :-) just keep good notes on whatever you decide on. you'll have some ideas for tweaking for next time, and after 3 or 4 times you should already have a system that works out according to your own taste buds

2008 Jun 28
Absolutely keep the fat on - some of it might get a lot of colour - no worries though, this is necessary for flavour & moisture as Zym pointed out. Plus, supercooked pigskin & fat = yummo. I've seen some methods where, as Zym has suggested, you poke holes in the fat into the meat - except they used a huge syringe full of marinating liquid (!) and gave the meat several shots of "flavour". I never tried it, but it sure looked tasty...

2008 Jun 28
Oh yeah, speaking of the syringe, if you can, brine your meat beforehand. I like it way better than the syringe method. It makes a pretty huge difference. I'll dig out my recipe for my brining solution. You basically mix up the solution and put it in the fridge for 24 to 48 hours beforehand. We're having a big Canada Day party as well, and we have a few difference people dropping over tomorrow to drop off their meat for 48 hours of brining before it goes onto the smoker.

Of course having 2 beer fridges helps. My brining bucket is a 20 litre rona bucket, and not many people have room for one of those in their fridge :-)

2008 Jun 28
Brining Solution :

- 2 litres water
- 3/4 cup non-iodized salt (not regular table salt - kosher or pickling)
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 tsp ground pepper
- spices

Mix up as much of this as you need. Most people I know use brown sugar, but I generally use honey for 2 reasons (1) it's better, and (2) I have a friend (and daughter) who are hypoglycemic and they cannot eat anything with sugar

For spices you just use what you like. I generally put 5 or 6 good sized sprigs (8" long or so) of rosemary into the bucket. Dill is really nice. If you like it spicey toss in some hot peppers. Do what you like, and keep good notes.

The spice really comes through in 48 hours vs 24. 24 is enough to get the meat good and moist from the brine, but you really need 48 for the flavour of the spices to come through.

You'll really improve your smoking if you brine your meat first. Hands down.

2008 Jun 28
Oh, if you don't have room for a big brining bucket in your fridge, you can use a cooler. Find a good sized bucket that will fit in your cooler, and just keep the cooler packed with ice around it. Most people can do this without much problem. A normal cooler will stay chilled for at least 24 hours with 2 bags of ice, so it should not cost much in ice to do it.

2008 Jun 28
I was going to just dry rub them with a salt/sugar/spice mix ...

But after my successful experience with brining turkeys at Xmas time and recommendations from Zym and others ....

A brining I'll ago,
A brining I'll ago,
Hy ho the dairy-oh,
A brining I'll ago

and 48 hours, ta boot !!

Now who's got pork butts on sale this week ?

2008 Jun 28
w.r.t. cheap pork, i was just at Loblaw's / Carlingwood and got a nice sized chunk at $4.39 / kg. They aren't on styrofoam - wrapped in the thicker plastic and have a "Canadian Pork" (or something like that) sticker on them with a maple leaf

2008 Jun 28
Try Produce Depot on Carling Ave near the Beer Store & S&G Fries - they always have a shoulder cut of pork with skin on & bone in.

2008 Jun 29
CC, I would recomend Not brining for tradition pulled pork. Brining it is only gona take away from the taste of the pork and give you a sausage like taste. And if you insist on trying a brine, dont brine it for more than a 6-8 hours and make sure it is absoulutly dry before it enters the smoker. A simple dry rub is all your gona need. Deffinetly only smoke for half the time it takes to cook. Over smoking can be a horrible disaster. Sausage smokes quick. A 6 pound pork but will need about 3 hours smoking and another 3-4 regular cooking. I recomend after the 3 hours of smoking, either wrappin the whole thing in foil or placing it in a roasting pan and wrapping the top to finish the cooking. (this will determine your success for a newbie pulled porker) Let me know if you want a rub recipe CC, id be happy to help you out. Ive cooked 1000 of pounds of pork butt and have had lots of success and few mishaps(another topic all together) Hope this helps....

2008 Jun 29
Captain C - I hear you when it comes to conflicting info, I've only just started to do my research on Low & Slow and I've already come across several schools of thought on the smoking part. No one seems to have a definitive answer, or else they don't want to give away their True Southern BBQ Secrets!

Back in the Chicken & Ribs Fest topic I posted a point for more info on smoking on a gas grill, because you had said you been doing it for several years. I was hoping that you might share some tips.

I have copied that post here:

///Captain C - Curious about the wood chips on the Bar-B, I have been thinking about trying this method out. Do you smoke at the same time as you grill, or do you smoke before you grill? What has your experience been... successes and otherwise. I want to try some low & slow cooking this summer and have a few good resources at hand "Weber's Real Grilling" and "Dinosaur BarBQue Cookbook", but could use some input from others like yourself who have ventured down this road.

BTW, My two reference books have a lot of great recipes for Rubs, Marinades and Sauces... I'd be willing to share them.///

Captain C, your Smokehouse Adventure sounds great (not to mention fun), do keep us posted and tell us how it all turns out in the end.

2008 Jun 29
F&T - there are about as many schools of thought as there are people doing it. I've only done pulled pork once - just recently. Before doing it I polled the lads on the brewers' list since I know a lot of them do this sort of thing. Sure enough 7 or 8 replied - with 7 or 8 different ways of doing it! And you see the same here already in this thread.

This is why I encourage the Captain to just use his judgment the first time out and keep good notes. There is no "right" way to do it per-se. But after 3 or 4 times he'll find what is right for his own taste buds.

Me, I'm definitely sticking to the 48 hour brining for my taste buds. Definitely don't notice any "sausage-like" flavours :-) But everyone's taste buds are different so I'm sure that might be something some people experience.

2008 Jun 29
Zym - Afraid I'm still back at Step One in the process, (not even close to a full blown smoker unit, such as yourself... you guys are out of my league for now). I was however hoping that Captain C might share his previous notes from the "chips on the BarB Method" that he has been doing for many years.

I realize that everyone has different methods, and tastes, but having not gone down this road before, I was hoping to get some feedback from a poster here vs just all the stuff I read in books. Ultimately, I too will take the info given, and probably end up with a F&T Method. LOL

EDIT - Just to add I have read enough info here now to know for example that both Da Butcher and Citizen Ron recommend working with pork. Citizen Ron recommends ribs and using a fruit wood for a beginner smoker. I just don't have the HOW TO down pat yet.

2008 Jun 29
FWIW I had a little smoker box for my propane grill and was never able to do much with it - but that's likely just me. I tried it 4 or 5 times and just gave up because I wasn't getting any degree of smokiness at all from it. That was 8 or 9 years ago now.

2008 Jun 29
Zym - Well that is good to know, as I said above (notice the EDIT too) I'm trying to garner personal experiences and then go forward from there.

2008 Jun 29
F&T: I use a couple of handfuls of wood chips (like the ones in the pic) wrapped in two layers of tinfoil. I then punch a few holes in the top side of the wood chip 'packet' with a bamboo skewer.

I DO NOT soak the chips in any way before using them.

I put them right on the ceramic briquettes of the gas BBQ when it is lit.

I also keep a glass of water handy because they will (or can) flare up into a small fire. A quick shot of water on the flaming packet will keep them smoking.

I sometimes will have the packet on a one side of my BBQ where the setting is turned low after the smoking starts and then have the rotisserie slowly turn my pork rib roast until the inserted meat thermometer says "WHEN". I could even add an additional second wood chip packet during the cooking.

Yumm Yumm Yumm ... Yes !! A Captain Caper three yumm rating.

2008 Jun 30

Make sure the internal temp of the butt reaches 190F. At this temperature, the pork will fall apart.

Be prepared for a 12 hour cook at 225-250F - real BBQ is “Low and Slow.” You can cheat by smoking it for a few hours and then foiling it and putting it in the oven. I wouldn’t bother since the Bradley holds a steady temperature.

It sounds like a great Canada Day Party as five butts is a lot of meat. At 7lbs each and with a 70% yield for boneless butt, you’re making about 98 4oz sandwiches. Can the Bradley even hold that much meat?

I prefer brining my butts at least overnight. Visit a winemaking store to purchase a brining bucket (if you have the fridge space). This way you will have a bucket that is safe for food.

Slather the pork in yellow mustard and then apply the rub. This way the rub sticks better.

Once you’ve reached 190F internal, foil and let it rest for at least 30 minutes. If it is too soon to eat, place the meat in a cooler until you are ready to pull it.

2008 Jun 30
...and in case it isn't obvious to everyone, when ed says "place the meat in a cooler" he means the insulated camping-style cooler, not a fridge. I believe the purpose of the cooler in this case is to keep the meat warm while it rests.

2008 Jun 30
Captain C - Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. At last some practical experience.

Ed - Interesting info as well, although I'm just at the beginning of this process, it is good to read other's experiences and I'm enjoying learning from this Low & Slow post in general. Thanks also for the yield numbers, that will be invaluable if I decide to go with a Butt in lieu of ribs. I knew about the mustard trick from my youth... pork roasts were a staple in my upbringing.

Fresh Foodie - Hmmmm, yes I could see where a cooler would come in handy outside in the yard during a BBQ... that is if I can find an "empty" one. LOL

2008 Jun 30
The journey has begun.

First we have the preperation of the dry rub.

I know, I know ... I was going to brine... was totally sold on it but ...

After researching true traditional Louisiana Pulled Pork .... it looks like dry rub is the way to go for authenticity.

Here is a pic of the 1 cup of Tellicherry peppercorns about to be hand ground in my trusty Thai motor and pestle.

2008 Jun 30
Next is the toasting and grinding of the ancho and pasilla peppers for the dry rub.

I did remove the seeds, but damn it, I'm leaving in the hot and tastey veins.

The pic is some of the peppers cooling down before pulverizing.

2008 Jun 30
This picture is the pork 'puppies' with their dry rub on.

There are four 'picnic' cuts and one boneless shoulder.

There doesn't look like much pork in the picture but the pan is of commercial size. I had to relocate a door shelf on my fridge to fit in.

Notice my attempt at a 'crackling' on one the puppies.

This is such an experiment for the Captain.

Like Zym has suggested... I'm keeping notes.

2008 Jun 30
Captain C - Lookin' Good Bud!

2008 Jul 1
Nice start Captain!

I'm just about to have some coffee and breakfast, then go out and do the preliminaries for my smoker. That means haul out the electric chainsaw and start cutting wood! I don't use any chain oil for obvious reasons. And I put a tarp down to catch the chips. I use the small pieces of wood for fuel, and soak the chips to tame the fire and make the smoke. I want to have mine going by 11

2008 Jul 2

Captain Caper may have entered the smokehouse with shakey knees, but he has come out triumphant.

With the crowd (of approx 35) cheering and throwing out kudos as they munched away on my Luisiana Pulled Pork Sandwiches (as well as a host of other offerings on the buffet table), I came to realise all the frettn' was for not.

With all those "Atta-Boys !!", my 5-HT2A receptor sites (in my brain) are still firing from the elevated levels of serotonin and the extra dopamine (also in my brain) has had me running around with a big smirk (of contentment) on my face.

Sorry about not having any pics of the smoker in action, the buffet table or delighted partiers, I forgot my camera (but did not forget the meat thermometer!).

From my Notes:

I was unsure of the 1 whole cup of cumin called for in the rub recipe, so I added about 60% of a cup and the rub tasted balanced. Looks like the taste of cumin goes down in the cooking process so all add the full cup next time.

I also pulled back on the amount of powdered ancho and pasilla chilis in the rub. I did not want the end result tasting too 'Mexican'. That worked well and maybe since I made my own powdered chills, the contribution (of the chilis) was stronger / more prevalent.

3 Hours of smoke and finishing in the oven worked well. I did have to let the puppies rest for approx 1 hour to get a good 'pull'. I'd like to try a low and slow totally in the smoker, next time.

The pork came out of the smoker a little moist (here and there) on the outside , so next time, I think I'll open up the vent, on top of the smoker, a bit more.

Finishing with such a high internal temperature (185-190 degrees) was scary. I thought I was going to dry the puppies out. But no, trusting in those websites, has payed off.

With so much meat, the recruiting of some "Pork Pullers" was a good idea. My fingers were very tired, and I know I would not be able to personally pull all that pork in one session. I just couldn't get the 'two fork pulling method' to work for me, but was able to get a good pull pull pull pace going.

All that handling of the meat 'connected' me to the pork. A zen thingy.

After the pork was all pulled, I added back some of the drippings (au jus) from the resting pan That worked REALLY Really well.

Mnay Thabks to all the Ottawa Foodies who have guided me on this experience.

All in all, a Captain Caper Three Yummm Rating.

Yummm Yummm Yummm !!!


Hey Zym : How did your day turn out ? Was it SMOKIN' ?

2008 Jul 2
Captain C - AKA Captain Courageous... CONGRATULATIONS! Sounds like a great way to spend Canada Day, and the food sounds yummy even from this side of the computer monitor. At some point (maybe after Round 2) you'll have to share your perfected Rub on the Wiki. If you've tweaked it to fit, maybe you can even dream up some cool name for your recipe. :-)

Again, Cheers & Congrats!

2008 Jul 2
BTW, when I finish the stuff off in a big dutch oven in the oven, I save all the drippings and can them up. Then I have my own home made "liquid smoke" that I can add to chili or whatever, as need be.

2008 Jul 4
Sounds great - I'm drooling and wishing I had a smoker. I'm in f&t's camp and will be trying it on the bbq one of these days.

2009 Aug 25
bumping this for Captain Caper

monty enters the smokehouse!

just pulled the trigger on a Bradley. got a great deal - the seller received it as a gift and never opened the box! the units got mixed reviews but the guys over at the Bradley forums seem really passionate about their smokers. plus my girlfriend would have murdered me if i had bought a Traeger.

pics to follow once i get this baby fired up!

2009 Aug 26
Monty - Congrats... anxiously awaiting pics, and chit-chat concerning test drive.

2009 Aug 26
Monty - Congrats! I'll need pics of the Traeger, though, since I've never heard it and would rather be told about it than have me Google it ;)

2009 Aug 26
Where'd you get mixed reviews of the Bradley, monty? The only downside I've ever seen/heard is that you are locked into those pucks. Other than that, everything I've seen is extremely positive. Seems to be a great unit

2009 Aug 26
momo - the Traegers are fueled by pellets vs the proprietary bisquettes/pucks the Bradley uses. like the Bradley, they are electric, but they double as grills and can get to higher temps (the Bradley does up to ~300 iirc). biggest difference is that it uses a convection type system and the temp is digitally controlled. much pricier than a Bradley, hence my comment re: the misses :P

zym - i guess i shouldn't say mixed reviews per se, but the Bradley has its quirks. the proprietary pucks, for one. i've read a lot on the accuracy of temperature readings as well. what sold me though is the ability to use a PID which allows you to control the temperature to within +/- 1 degree. the PID will shut on/off the element to control the heat and hold a specific temperature or programmed series of temperatures (ex - hold 180 for 2 hours, 200 for 1 hour, etc). essentially this makes it a digital smoker at a fraction of the cost!

2009 Aug 26
Additionally, I think there's a wider variety of wood pellets out there for the Traeger vs. the Bradley pucks...