It’s TIME!! I mean that in a few different ways…. First, the weather has warmed up and we have all begun to think of summer and all that comes with it, and yes that DOES mean it’s officially BBQ season now!! Second it’s time that I finish this blog post that Todd and I decided to write a while back. In truth it seems like it was only a day or two ago the idea was hatched, but unless wordpress is toying with me, I started this post 24 days ago. SO. IT. IS. TIME.
Why exactly is it NOW time? Why this EXACT second? Well truthfully? I just finished dinner, and I’m feeling it. This entire week has been about the smoke. You see, last week I had a day off, and I thought I would be all “foody” or is that “foodie” and treat Todd to a nice dinner, since he is usually the one cooking for me. Of course, I couldn’t do anything simple. No, I wanted flavour. Not that calorie rich saucy kinda flavour, no. I wanted to make sure that I helped keep our calories in check. So, what “no cal” route did I take for flavour? Well, SMOKE of course!!! So I fired up our favourite BBQ, got some mesquite wood chunks ready and set about to impress my guy. Well. I did get some flavour, but I also overcooked the chicken breasts. Truth be told though, it was the thermometer’s fault. I was diligent. I stood at the BBQ and tended it with great care. I kept the temperature in the perfect range. I waited, and minimized the number of times I opened the grill to ensure the smoke built effectively, AND I USED A THERMOMETER, like a good guy should. Somehow though, the chicken went from 149 degrees to 149 degrees to 149 degrees to 181 degrees. While the chicken had flavour, I had overcooked it. I mean it WAS edible. Well it was edible in the way that chicken was when I was growing up… you know that dry as felt stuff you ate because you were hungry and your mother had slaved over a stove all day and “you don’t want salmonella did you?” Yeah THAT kinda edible.
Well, Todd was a sport. He ate it. He claimed that he liked it (actually he claimed that “it wasn’t “that” bad, which of course is husband speak for “we really shouldn’t waste that meat now should we?”).
Then on Monday he turned around and showed me how it shoulda really been done. He smoked a nice batch of chicken breasts which we ate for the next 3 days. They were flavourful and succulent. I thought they were amazing. My co-worker (Hey Andrea…. I know you’re reading this!!!) thought they were good. I even forced a bite on my porter friend Basil, who chewed twice, then swallowed, turned his head and said “hmmmm…. there’s some flavour there….” to which I replied “you mean smoke?” Only to get at “yeah that’s it!” as he rushed off to do something (or nothing) important somewhere else…..
Those smoked chicken breasts got sliced and eaten with vegetables for dinner, turned into smoked chicken sandwiches for lunch and even got diced up and turned into a smoked creamy cucumber chicken salad. So it’s been a theme this week! Then tonight, to show just how good he can handle this smoker/BBQ thing Todd goes and does a smoked pork tenderloin stuffed with sage, apple and ramps. Yup. Nothing like coming home after a hard day at work to find that your hubby not only loves you enough to cook for you, but to also show you up completely!!! God Damn. If only he didn’t cook soooo well I might be able to hate him a little!!!! So, that (along with a detailed conversation with my friend Andrea this week) is why I am now writing this blog post. (Seems I may spend longer explaining my motivation to write than I will in just telling you how to smoke some meat!!)
So let’s get to it. You want to smoke some meat. Great. What are you gonna need? Meat. BUY SOME MEAT!!! I honestly think that you can smoke just about any meat you would like. It’s kinda hard to go wrong. I have allowed a really great rib eye steak to feel the magic of some hickory smoke, we have smoked chicken breasts as well as whole chickens, and a pork loin is never made worse with a kiss of smokey flavour. Of course it’s also completely classic to smoke some ribs or a beef brisket as well. I think the best rule of thumb here is “Take whatever meat you would like to eat and smoke the living shit out of it!”
Ok, so you got some meat. Next on the list is a device to smoke it with. Here’s where things can take a few different paths. The defining factors will be just how much money, time and effort you want to put into smoking your meat. Making these decisions will depend largely on how often you will want to have delicately smoked deliciousness, the space you have available to work in, and also just how well you can control the urge to spend money!!! LOL. I have no control…. None. Really. We have THREE BBQs. One is charcoal, one is a regular propane BBQ (which now days I ONLY ever use to light charcoal for the “real” BBQ) AND a nice “flat top” BBQ which I love to sit around with friends pretending that we are at a Korean BBQ restaurant. Of course, we COULD smoke with 2 out of 3 of these BBQs (sorry flat top…. you couldn’t hold in the smoke if your life depended on it!!!). BUT in all honesty, we will ALWAYS head to the charcoal BBQ to smoke. I don’t know if it’s the fact that I know that it is meant for it, or if I like the fact that it requires care and attention to detail to manage the temperature and keep the smoke just right, or if it’s just that fact that we spent money on it and have to use it!!! But it’s just the first place I go when I have smoking on my mind. What I’m trying to say here though is that if you don’t have a lot of space to have several outdoor cooking devices, that’s fine. If you don’t want to invest the money in several outdoor cooking devices because you will only want to smoke something once or twice a year, (or whatever reason) that’s fine too. Or if you just aren’t sure if you will put in the effort, so you want to start out using what out already have at hand, it’s all good. Let me help you figure this out.
I promise that I will tell you how Todd manages to produce a wonderful smoked pork loin. But before I do, let me tell you how you can achieve similar results with the basic propane BBQ that you already have sitting on your patio. Just go to Lowes (yes Home Depot will work too….) and buy a “smoker box.” Here’s where you have a choice. a single use disposable aluminum foil variety (for $4.99) or a reusable stainless steel one (for $9.99). I’m sure you logically understand that you should spend $9.99 right? Because you won’t do this “just once” after you taste the end product. Anyhow, here’s a link so you know what I mean. http://www.lowes.ca/products/compare.aspx I didn’t want to leave HomeDepot out, so here’s their product as well. They are more expensive and they also don’t seem to sell the disposable ones…. Also, HomeDepot, could you possibly find shorter URL? FOR GOD’s SAKE!!!! http://www.homedepot.ca/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductCompareView?storeId=10051&catalogId=10051&langId=-15&N=0&Ntx=mode+matchany&Dx=mode+matchany&Ntk=P_PartNumber&Ntt=407761%20859053%20undefined%20undefined%20undefined%20&D=407761%20859053%20undefined%20undefined%20undefined%20&sourcePage=ProductCompareView&compareType=item&compare=407761%20859053%20undefined%20undefined%20undefined%20&searchTermForCompare=null&searchLevel=level1&prod1=407761&prod2=859053&prod3=undefined&prod4=undefined&prod5=undefined
(that just pissed me off….. maybe I just don’t know the internet, maybe Home Depot is stupid….doesn’t matter….I have to move on. Gotta deal with this meat thing ok?)
You will also need some good wood chips for smoking…. I’m gonna post a link here again. BUT GOD HELP ME HOMEDEPOT IT WON’T BE YOURS OK?? YOUR WEBSITE IS DRUNK!!!! YOU HEAR THAT?? YOU ARE BANNED FROM MY BLOG UNTIL YOU GET SOME SENSE!!!!!!
http://www.lowes.ca/products/compare.aspx (Lowes should teach HomeDepot how to code!) Ok! OK! I promise I’ll stop now!!! Anyhow. You can buy your smoking chips anywhere you damn please. Sometimes I buy mine at Lowes. But guess what? SOMETIMES I buy them at HomeSense too. It all depends on the availability and the price. Hell. If you just chopped down a cherry tree (or maybe if your neighbour has a hickory tree that keeps hanging over the fence into your yard….. NO I DID NOT JUST SAY THAT!!!! Buy your freaking wood chips ok? It’s not worth WAR with your neighbour…. Oh, wait…. we were talking smoked pork loin weren’t we….YES! YES it IS worth war with your neighbour!) Really though, in all honestly…they are cheap as shit. Go buy some. And if cheap is your thing? Just skip the $9.99 smoker box altogether and buy some heavy aluminum foil… I’ll explain how to use it later…..
Here where things get simple. Take wood chips. Soak in hot water for 20-30 minutes or if like me and it’s already an hour later than when you really wanted to eat, just throw those things in dry, (I wouldn’t try that in a propane BBQ, but it does work in a charcoal grill… just saying….). Drain the chips and place them in your newly bought smoker box. All of you cheapos who though I was serious about the tin foil? Wrap your chips in a couple layers of foil and pierce it with a fork a bunch of times so the smoke can escape. Now go to your BBQ. This is where it can get a little confusing, but try and bear with me. Choose ONLY ONE BURNER of the BBQ (and make sure it is either the extreme left or the extreme right burner), place your smoker box (tin foil packet) on it. Then ignite the burner. Let your BBQ heat up and start to smoke. The goal temperature here is 225 degrees fahrenheit (I just had to get Siri to spell that for me…. I’m such a nob!). As long as you are over 200 (to be able to make smoke) and under 300 (so that you don’t just quickly over cook and dry out your meat) all should be good. I think it’s safe to say that when using a propane grill it should be relatively simple to keep the temperature constant, just play with your controls a little until you get it right. If you need to you can ignite a second burner (I doubt that it should ever be necessary). You will then place your meat on the grill at THE OPPOSITE SIDE OF YOUR BBQ. Indirect heat is the key here. The goal is to let the meat cook slowly while smoking so that it remains tender and MOIST. (I don’t even know why I keep using this word on my blog, it’s not like Josh even reads this to know I’m using it…..). Now close the lid. Here’s the important thing. KEEP THE LID CLOSED AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE!!! Only open it after 15-20 minutes to quickly turn your meat. Then again in another 20 minutes to check your meat. Every time you open the lid you lose flavour. Now let your chosen meat cook slowly until it reaches the appropriate temperature… for beef roasts (medium rare) 125-130… (don’t you dare ruin it by cooking it more…..) chicken? 165. Pork? 150. there you go. Every degree MORE is not only a waste of time and effort, it ruins the texture of the meat. STOP OVERCOOKING IT OK? Please don’t be disappointed when you find that at these temperatures your meat is still juicy inside. These temperatures are safe. I promise, Neither Todd or I have gotten sick, and the health department will not come banging on your door. (just remember these temperatures are for whole cuts of meat…anything “ground” is a completely different story ok?).
For a charcoal grill, like a “big green egg” (or our “knock off” Komodo grill) it gets a little tricker at first. Start by lighting your charcoal (I use a chimney on the side burner of my propane BBQ). Put the hot coals in the bottom of the grill, add a few more lumps of charcoal, and allow them to get evenly lit, and hot. The BBQ will heat to more than 225 degrees but do not worry, we are just ensuring that the charcoal is well ignited and the BBQ warmed. Once the coals have all ignited it is time to shut the grill’s dampers. Yes, SHUT them. You may open the lid of the grill for a brief period to allow all the hot air to escape, then close the lid, shut the dampers and wait. It will take a little time. I occasionally find I have to open the UPPER damper to allow some heat to escape while keeping the lower damper firmly shut to prevent an air draft from fanning the coals. Once you get the temp in to the 225-275 range, spread your moistened wood chips evenly over the top of the coals, place the meat you are smoking on THE UPPER RACK and firmly close the lid. Now the goal is exactly the same as above. Keep the lid closed as much as you can. Do not over cook. Enjoy nice moist smokey goodness when done.
One last mention here. There is also one other way to accomplish this whole smoking thing. You can buy a smoker box that sits over the side burner of a propane BBQ as well. It looks like a mini fridge. You use the side burner to heat and smoulder the wood chips and do the required cooking. We have owned one, and it can do a serviceable job… But truth be told? if you already have a propane BBQ, a $10 smoker box is every bit as effective and a hell of a lot cheaper.
Alright. Here’s what Todd’s smoked pork tenderloin looked like. It’s every bit as simple as it sounds. Tenderloin, split and stuffed with fresh apple, ramps and sage. Seasoned well, then tied back together with butcher’s twine. Placed on the BBQ and (in this case) smoked for aprox. 60 minutes until internal temp reached 145. Allow to rest for 10 minutes, then slice and enjoy!!!
Oh. I almost forgot. We promised calorie counts for the foods we posted right? Very well. Here are the numbers you need……
Look at that would ya?? A full dinner for only 295 calories! (Yes I hit 500 when I added wine! 😳)
If you’ve made it to this point, I will say once again, Thank you for following our blog and reading our posts.
Duane and Todd