Welcome to the annual Labor Day edition of the smoking meat newsletter. This is sort of the last “big outdoor party” for most folks marking the end of summer and the beginning of much cooler temperatures. Don’t start thinking that I put my smoker away though.. I am a full time, year round smoker and no snow nor rain nor wind or cold will stop the smoke at my house. Those of you who have used a torch or lighter to melt the ice off the door handle so you can open your smoker will understand the passion and obsession behind what we do here.
In this edition, I am going to give you some good solid tips for being successful in your smoking endeavors even if it’s your first time using a smoker. I am also going to draw your attention to several of my favorite articles that I have written in the past and if you see something that interests you just click on it and it will take you to the article complete with pictures and instructions.
I hope all of you have a wonderfully long weekend with family and friends and lots of tasty smoked food.
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This allows the chicken to cook faster, more evenly and it ends up being a more tender and juicy bird even if you choose to not brine the bird.
I have also included a video of the process to show you how it’s done.
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Labor Day Favorites
These are some of my favorite things to cook almost anytime and especially on holidays like Labor Day. Click on any of the pictures or links to go directly to an article or newsletter that will show you how to cook that item on your smoker.
3-2-1 Pork Ribs
Bacon Wrapped Chicken Breasts
Whole Smoked Chicken
Cream Cheese Stuffed Jalapenos Wrapped in Bacon (ABT’s)
Smoked Jalapeno Stuffed Meatloaf
Pulled Pork Hot dogs
Bacon Explosion (fatty)
Smoked Burgers & Hot dogs
Smoked Corn, Cabbage and Potatoes
Smoked Chicken Wings
Smoking Tips for Labor Day
Here are some of the questions that I get asked the most often and my answers to those questions.
Starting the Charcoal:
I recommend that you use a charcoal chimney starter if you have one. If not, you can pick one up at Lowes, Home Depot, Ace Hardware and even Walmart for around $15. You can also order them from Amazon.com but that won’t help you much for Memorial Day this year.
Stuff a piece of newsprint in the bottom then fill the top with charcoal briquettes or lump charcoal. Set the prepared chimney starter on a hard, fireproof surface and light the paper. In about 10-15 minutes you’ll have a batch of prelit charcoal ready to pour into your smoker or grill. No lighter fluid, gasoline, or any other fire starter needed;-)
Tip 1: Drizzle a little vegetable oil on the newsprint to help it to burn better
Tip 2: If you have a grill with a side burner you can omit the paper. Fill the chimney starter with charcoal and set it on the lit burner to get the charcoal started. Once the charcoal is burning good, you can turn the burner off.
Charcoal Briquettes Vs. Lump Charcoal
Briquettes are made from wood and several other additives and chemicals to help the pieces to hold their shape, burn better, etc. while lump charcoal is simply pieces of hardwood that have been pre-burned in a low oxygen environment.
Briquettes burn more evenly, are less expensive and are easier to use for some due to their uniform shape and size.
Lump is more expensive, burns hotter but is very non-uniform in size and shape making them sometimes more difficult to use especially in certain situations.
I prefer lump for most of my cooking but I do use briquettes on occasion if I am needing a more consistent burn.
What is the Difference Between Gas, Electric, Charcoal And Wood Smokers?
Smoking in it’s most basic terms is simply a combination of heat + smoke. It really does not matter what you use as a fuel whether electricity, propane, lump charcoal or splits of wood, as long as you can maintain low temperature and provide smoke. When you have heat + smoke, the smoking process is happening.
In wood smokers, this works slightly different in that the wood is the fuel as well as the source of smoke. For this reason, wood smokers tend to produce the most flavorful smoked food. The meat is also usually more smoky tasting since the smoke is flowing from start to finish whereas in a gas, electric or charcoal smoker, you may choose to stop adding wood for smoke at a certain point.
The recipes that I provide in these newsletters can be prepared using any kind of smoker by using the following guidelines:
- Maintain the recommended temperature
- Use the water pan if you have one
- Add smoke for at least half of the estimated cook time
- Use the internal temperature of the meat rather than time to tell you when the meat is done.
Smoking Times for One Piece vs. Multiple Pieces
For some reason, this confuses people. I get asked all the time if the smoking time is doubled when you double the amount of meat in the smoker. The answer is no in the same way that (2) cakes would not take twice as long to bake as (1) cake. The heat is working on both at the same time and they both get done in about the same amount of time.
The amount of time that meat takes to reach it’s finished stage is based on the geometry/size of the piece of meat. Many times we use formulas of x amount of hours per pound of meat but in actuality it is the thickness of the meat that is most relevant in determining how long it will take to get done.
Unfortunately, unless you are going to break out the calipers and measure the thickness of the meat and do some pretty crazy math, this isn’t going to be easy to figure. For this reason, we assume that the weight is usually proportional to the thickness and is relevant enough for estimating how long it will take to cook a certain weight of meat.
Regardless of how much time you estimate, you must use the internal temperature of the meat rather than time to determine when the meat is finished cooking.
For example, we often estimate brisket and pork shoulders at 1.5 hours per pound. Using this formula, an 8 lb pork shoulder is estimated to require around 12 hours. It could, in fact, take only 10 hours or it could take 14-16 hours in rare circumstances but usually the formula gets us pretty close so it’s a reasonable way to estimate the time.
I like to figure the time using the method then add about 2 hours for padding. I can always keep the meat warm if it gets done early but there’s nothing I can do to hold back the angry natives if dinner is 2 hours late.
What to Do If the Meat Gets Done Early
Simply wrap the meat in heavy duty foil then in a heavy bath towel and place it in an empty ice cooler. Fill in any remaining space with pillows, towels, blankets, etc. and close the lid tightly. The meat will usually stay well above 140 degrees for 3-4 hours using this method.
Help! My Chicken Skin is Always Tough and Chewy
This is due to the low heat that is typical of smoking and the only methods that I have found that help to lessen this phenomenon is to either raise the temperature of the smoker to 275 degrees or more or to smoke the chicken as normal until it is about 80% done then finish it off on a very hot grill.
I prefer to smoke cook the chicken at around 240 degrees to give the smoke plenty of time to flavor the meat then place the chicken on a very hot grill until it is finished cooking. For me, this yields the best results.
Having said that, the flavor of smoked chicken is unrivaled by any other method but I have not found a way to to get the same level of crispy skin using this method that you see on fried, baked or grilled chicken.
Bark or No Bark (on your smoking wood)?
If the bark is moldy, mildewed, rotten or bug infested then remove it. Otherwise, I have not found any taste difference between using wood with bark or without. For this reason, I don’t worry about it unless I have to.
Will Smoking Fish in My Smoker Make Everything Taste Fishy?
I have not found this to be a problem as some have suggested. I regularly smoke fish in the same smoker that I use to cook many other types of meat and there is no distinguishable crossover of flavors.
Soaking the Smoking Wood
Many people soak their smoking chips and chunks before placing them in the smoker and while I am not sure where this got started, I have never understood the need to do this. I get my best smoke from dry chips wrapped in foil or in a metal box or dry chunks laid right on top of the charcoal or near the heat.
It is my opinion that wet wood gives off steam until it begins to dry and then starts to produce some smoke. Why not just skip the soaking process and let it start smoking immediately?
I have tried both ways and can only report what works best for me. If you soak your wood and find that it works well then there’s no reason to stop but if you are just doing it because that’s what you thought you were supposed to do, I recommend that you try it both ways to see what works best for you.
Bitter Taste or the Meat is Too Smoky
Many people report that the meat has too much smoke flavor and/or it has a bitter flavor. This is usually due to not having the correct amount of air flow into and out of the smoker. It is imperative for air to flow into the smoker and out of the smoker to create a draft. This draft is what pulls the smoke across the meat and out of the smoker so that is flavors the food correctly without making it taste like charcoal.
Many of the more inexpensive smokers are designed to not seal very tight for this very reason i.e. the Brinkmann charcoal water smoker. If you look carefully there is at least a 1/4 inch gap all the way around the lid to ensure that the smoke can exit properly.
This is most important with charcoal and wood smokers. Gas and electric smokers need to draft as well but this is usually accomplished with a lot less fuss in these types of smokers.
If your smoker has vents at the firebox and/or at the top or far end of the smoke chamber, I recommend to never close them all the way while there is food in the smoker. Leave them open at least 25% to allow for proper airflow and I think you will find that the food will be perfectly smoke flavored.
How to Smoke Brats and Boudin
Smoke brats for no more than 2 hours at 225 degrees. Any more than this and they will get tough. Boudin does best at about 2.5 to 3 hours at 225 degrees.
Whether it is fish, ribs, brisket, pork shoulder, turkey or even ham, chicken or chops, every time I use my rub and sauce I am blown away by the flavor all over AGAIN!
I always think to myself, “I sure hope everyone can try this.. it is too good to go through life never having experienced this!”
I am not being dramatic.. just try it and you will join the ranks of those who know if I’m lying then I’m dying! This stuff is Fan-flavor-tastic and you need it in a bad-bad way;-)
Here is a few recent testimonies from other folks who decided to go for it and are glad that they did. Be sure to send my your testimony once you try it and realize that you have just tasted of HEAVEN.
Did a Ham and using your rub it was as my wife and friends said the best tasting ham they have ever had. We are into our late years so that’s saying a lot .Thanks for sharing ~ Jack
Wow! wow! wow! The best rub and sauce I have ever had. Also did the turkey for thanksgiving and it was the best turkey I ever had. I usually only eat dark meat and this turkey was so good I ate only white meat ~ Andy
I purchased the rub and sauce and I have to say that I love it and so has everyone that has tried it, just like you and others said they would. ~ Matt
Jeff I have to tell you that your rub and sauce recipes are the best. I had never smoked a rib or anything until last weekend and by fallowing your directions on your site I was the RIB KING for a day. Thanks a bunch pal, ~ Harold
Let me say that I’ve been using your Rib Rub for a couple years now. I use it on ribs (obviously), but I also use it on steak, ham, chicken, and everything else I smoke. My family and I absolutely LOVE it! It rocks! ~ Trapper
Jeff, I did a smoked pork roast yesterday and used your recipe both for the pork and for your Smoky Barbecue Sauce. Everyone loved it. My wife said the sauce was the best she had ever tasted and I have to agree. Fantastic. ~ Barry
You deserve the very best and is is completely within your grasp! Only $18.95 and worth every penny. Not only do you get the best rub recipe and sauce recipe available, you are supporting this website and helping to make sure the bills get paid so we can keep on doing what we do to teach thousands and thousands of people across the world the art of smoking meat.
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What to Expect Once you Order
My system is automated which means you should get a download email within mere MINUTES of ordering.. check your spam/junk folder first then, if you can’t find them, contact me to get the recipes sent to you as an attachment. The download email will allow you to log in and save a copy of my recipe file to the hard drive of your computer. This recipe file is a PDF and contains my very own rub recipe and sauce recipe. Please let me know if you have other questions about these recipes.