Hello friends and welcome to the February '09 edition of the smoking meat newsletter. It has been an awesome year so far but extremely busy. That happens to be how I like it but it does keep me out of breath most of the time;-)
This month I have spent some time picking out some really good questions and have answered them for all to see.
I do want to say that if you have additional questions, please consider asking them over at the forum where we have hundreds of members who are ready and waiting to answer and thousands of others just like yourself reading and asking questions every day so they can become more proficient at this great art.
We are undergoing some changes at the forum and are still moving our huge database to the new server that we acquired a month or so ago. Good things to come!!
Now for this months question and answer session:
Questions and Answers
Brinkmann Water Smoker Setup
Q: I have a smoker that is like a tube cannister. It has two trays. One for water and one for charcoal & chips. The bottom has a spot where you can place one bowl on top of the legs inside. However, I need to know where to put the other bowl as there is no place for it. Does is go between the legs on the ground underneath and the water on top of the legs? It has two grills in it. Curious.
A: What you are describing is without a doubt the Brinkmann water smoker and believe it or not, does a pretty good job with a few modifications.
The larger bowl is your charcoal pan and as you noted, sits atop the legs.
The slightly smaller bowl is the water pan and actually sits in the notched area of the lower support brackets.
one of the round grates sits on top of the water pan and the other grate sits on the upper support brackets.
Just a small tip: I like to install the legs on the outside of the barrel instead of the inside. I then stack up 3 or 4 12" round paver stones for the charcoal pan to sit on.
This allows me to lift the smoker up and off of the charcoal pan during long cooks so I can dump the charcoal and/or add more to it very easily.
P.S. Here is the link to the online manual: http://www.brinkmann.net/Docs/Pdf/810-5302-S.pdf
Smoked Chicken Skin is Rubbery
Q: I love smoking chicken, but I am unhappy with the rubbery skin. seems like I need to take that off and toss it. Have you tried broiling or putting in oven at high temp or something????
A: To start with.. you can smoke it a little hotter than you would other meats. 250-275 is perfectly acceptable since it does very well in the hotter temperatures and does not benefit from lower temps as other meats do.
If you prefer to smoke it at the lower temps then you can remove the chicken from the smoker and place it on the grill, in the broiler or a 375 degree F oven for about 10 minutes to crisp the skin just before serving.
If you choose this 2nd method, then make sure to use a meat thermometer and remove the chicken from the smoker just as soon as it reaches 160 degrees to reduce the chance of drying the meat out due to overcooking.
How to Smoke Venison
Q: Do you have any suggestions for smoking venison, like maybe a shorter cooking time since it seems to be more lean? I have a hindquarter from a small young doe I would like to smoke whole.
A: I do have a process that I have proven when it comes to smoking lean meats. If the meat you are cooking does not have enough fat on it's own to keep the meat moist then you will need to add fat from another source.
I like to use fatty bacon for most things but have been known to borrow fat from a brisket or some other fatty piece of beef or pork as well.
You can attach the bacon or other fat to the meat with toothpicks or even some twine to keep it in place. Just don't have it covered so well that the smoke can't access the meat you are trying to smoke/cook.
This process works extremely well on rabbit and venison alike.
Be sure to use a meat thermometer so you can remove the meat from the smoker immediately once it hits your target temperature.
The Purpose of Dampers on a Smoker
Q: I have a Centro digital smoker and am going to use it for the first time. What is the purpose of the air damper control on top? Doesn't the thermostat control the temperature?
A: I am not familiar with your particular smoker however almost all smokers will have a damper on top even if they are electric or propane and there is a very good reason for this.
You heat is controlled by electric and/or propane however, regardless of what your heat source is, the smoke must not sit idle in the smoker. It needs to move over the meat and then out of the smoker at a fairly steady pace to prevent bad taste from creosote and such.
You should have a way for air to get into the smoker and a way for the air/smoke to escape in order for a smoker to work the way it is meant to work.
I recommend keeping the damper about 1/4 open on your smoker for best results. You may find that you want more or less smoke flavor and can adjust from there depending on what you like.
Smoking With Mahogany
Q: Last year when we were hunting I came across some mahogany, which is a very dense hard wood. Have you ever tried it for smoking or know of anyone else who has and has had good results?
A: I cannot find record of anyone using mahogany as a smoking wood. I have to assume that it would be fine but without proving that, it is simply a theory. Additionally, I can't find anything that would make me believe it would be bad in any way.
If you get in the mood to do some experimentation and you are willing to take a small risk, get a chicken (they're relatively cheap) and smoke the chicken with the mahogany. Keep the smoke very thin where you can barely see it coming out of the stack.
Taste the meat and let me know what you think.
You can also burn a little of the wood with a lighter and catch some wiffs of the smoke to see what it smells like. Generally, if it smells good it will also taste good in meat.
Disclaimer: I am not responsible for anything that happens if you try this experiment (there you go lawyers! I said it;-)
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