Smoking meat, barbecue and fireworks just sort of go together and with this holiday being one of the biggest cooking times of the year with Memorial day and Thanksgiving as close seconds, I want to cover a few tips on all of the most common items that we like to eat this time of year.
In this write-up, I will point out some quick tips on Brisket, Ribs, Brats, Pork butt and chicken. I will also draw your attention to some newsletters that I have sent out in the past that will be helpful as well.
The holiday is this coming Thursday and right now is when you need to be planning what you will do and getting all of your supplies together. You'll also have a better chance at finding what you want if you get to the store a little early before that last minute rush happens later in the week.
Important Smoking Tips
- Purchase a whole packer brisket for best flavor in the 9-11 pound range.
- Trim fat to about 1/4 inch then score the fat horizontally, vertically and diagonally at 1″ intervals to allow the seasoning and the smoke to get to the meat a lot easier.
- Use mustard or cooking oil to moisten the surface of the brisket before adding rub as this will help the seasoning to stick to the meat.
- Use about 1-2 cups of my original rub recipe on the brisket for amazing flavor and crust.
- Place the brisket fat side up directly on the grate for a nice bark and to allow the fat to melt and baste the brisket.
- Keep the smoker at about 225°F to keep the rub from burning and to end up with a great tasting brisket
- If you are using a charcoal, electric or gas smoker, keep the smoke flowing for at least 4-6 hours for a nice smoky flavor.
- I recommend hickory, mesquite and pecan or a mix of these for a great flavor.
- Cook the brisket in a foil pan for super juicy brisket. The downside is that the bark or outside of the brisket stays soft instead of forming a crust. Fat side up x 2 hrs, fat side down x 2 hrs then back to fat side up until it's done.
- Brisket is NOT done and will NOT be tender enough until it gets to about 200°F internally. Be patient and use a digital probe meat thermometer to let you know when it's done.
- Brisket is usually figured at about 1.5 hours per pound however, let the temperature rather than the time determine when the brisket is done.
- Let it rest for at least 20-30 minutes once it's done before slicing it to retain the tasty juices.
- Slice across the grain to accentuate the tenderness of the meat.
- If it doesn't seem juicy enough, mix a couple tablespoons of my rub recipe with a cup of beef broth and pour over the slices just before serving. NO more dry brisket.
Smoking Pork Butt
- Buy the bone-in butt or Boston butt instead of the picnic for best flavor. (my opinion)
- Apply a light coat of yellow hotdog mustard to help the rub/seasoning to stick real good. (don't worry, your pulled pork will not taste like mustard when it gets done).
- Pour on about 1 cup of my original rub recipe and massage it in real good. Make sure to get the rub into every nook and cranny.
- If you are using a charcoal, gas or electric smoker be sure to keep the smoke flowing for about 6 hours to get that nice smoky flavor all the way through this thick piece of meat.
- Keep the smoker at about 225°F to keep the rub from burning and to slowly prod the pork to it's full tender potential.
- Pulled pork is perfect when it's cooked to an internal temperature of 205°F. It will almost fall apart on it's own and you probably won't need bear claws to get the job done.
- Estimate time for pork at about 1.5 hours per pound however let the temperature tell you when it's done rather than the time.
- If you like, you can wrap the pork butt in foil once it reaches 160 degrees and let it finish out it's time with just heat. This will speed things up a little usually and helps to hold in the moisture.
- To make foiling the pork butts really easy, place the meat down in a foil pan with a large piece of heavy duty foil in the bottom and hanging over the side. When it's time to foil, you can just pull the foil up and over the top of the butt to wrap it.
- Pull/shred the pork while it is still hot even if you are going to save the pulled pork for later.
- Brats are super easy and require very little effort, furthermore, they are always great when friends are over.
- Smoke at 225°F or whatever temperature your smoker happens to be at for other items.
- Do not overcook these.. they are done in about 2 hours. Much longer and they will be tough and overcooked.
- Most other sausages including boudin are great on the smoker and can be smoked in the same manner as brats.
- Remove the skirt or flap of meat that runs down the center of the meaty side of the spare ribs. Just cut it off even with the top of the slab.
- Save the flap/skirt meat and cook it along with the ribs for some tasty treats. Be sure to add some rub to them. They will take about an hour or two to get tender depending on how thick they are.
- Remove the membrane by prying up this thick piece of skin at one corner of the bone side of the ribs and pulling it clean off. Use a paper towel or some catfish pliers for a better grip.
- Apply a light coat of yellow hotdog mustard or a little cooking oil to moisten the outside of the ribs.
- Sprinkle my rub recipe onto the top and bottom of the ribs thick enough that you can no longer see the meat. This is perfectly seasoned.
- Spare ribs need at least 6-7 hours in the smoker at 225°F. Baby backs will need 5-6 hours depending on how meaty they are.
- I like to apply smoke the entire time the ribs are cooking even if I am using a charcoal, electric or gas smoker. Be sure to apply at least 2-3 hours of smoke for a nice smoky flavor.
- It is almost impossible to check the temperature of ribs with a thermometer so it is best to just check for tenderness. When they get tender enough, they are done.
- To test for tenderness, hold them at one end with a pair of tongs and when they bend almost 90 degrees, they are probably about right for eating.
- If you like ribs that are “falling off the bone” then you need to use the 3-2-1 method as described below:
- If you like “wet” ribs then apply some of my original barbecue sauce recipe a couple of times beginning about 30 minutes before the ribs are done and then again about 10 minutes before they are finished.
3-2-1 Ribs (Spares)
- Place the spare ribs directly on the grate, bone side down for 3 hours.
- Wrap the ribs in foil. Splash on about 1/4 cup of apple juice just before closing them up and place the wrapped ribs on the grate for 2 hours.
- Remove the ribs from the foil and place them back on the grate, bone side down for a final hour.
Note: Baby backs can be done this way as well except that it is more of a 2-2-1 method with 2 hours on the grate, 2 hours wrapped then a final hour unwrapped and on the grate to finish up.
As with anything, these are estimates, I recommend that you do them exactly to the plan the first time, then adjust to your liking for future rib smokes. The longer they stay in the foil, the more tender they will be. You may prefer them a little less tender and that might call for a 3-1.5-1.5 or similar.
Smoking Chicken Quarters/Pieces
- I recommend chicken quarters or chicken pieces instead of whole chickens for easier serving, better portioning and faster cooking.
- If you have time, I highly recommend brining the chicken for a juicier finish. Read more on brining here.
- The best way to season chicken is to place it down in a large zip-loc bag, pour about 1/4 cup of cooking oil then about 1/2 cup of my rub recipe per 6-8 pieces of chicken. Close the bag and shake/roll to coat the chicken. This method gets the seasoning under the skin as well as on the skin and is perfectly seasoned.
- Smoke chicken at 250-275°F for crispier skin.
- Apply smoke the entire time the chicken is cooking, the chicken cooks fast and you need as much time as possible for the smoke to flavor the meat.
- Use a digital probe meat thermometer to make sure the meat is 165°F at it's thickest part before serving.
- Chicken pieces such as thighs/legs will take about 1.5 to 2 hours depending on how hot you run the smoker. Chicken quarters will take 3-4 hours.
- If you want to sauce the chicken, apply my original barbecue sauce recipe liberally to the chicken about 30 minutes before it is finished smoking/cooking.
Some other Interesting Information
- Stuffed Smoked Burgers
- Spiral Sliced Smoked Hotdogs
- Country Style Ribs
- Smoked Steaks
- Cranberry Brined Turkey
- Smoked Pork Steaks
- Bacon Wrapped Chicken Breasts
- Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Sausage Fatty
- Smoked Chicken Wings
- How to Cold Smoke Cheese
- Smoking Times and Temperatures