This Blog contains recipes, thoughts, whats cooking at home and mostly things related to Bar-B-Que. Come on in, look around & read up on my
"Bar-B-Que Adventures"

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Mini - Smoker Build

Here is a project that i`m sure almost anyone with the slightest bit of "handy man" in them can handle. As you have read in previous posts about the cookers i have and use, the 18 1/2 inch Weber Smokey Mountain smoker is my cooker of choice. I also read & post messages on a few of the bar-b-que forums on the internet. While surfing these forums i came across a topic about making a mini smoker out of a Weber Smokey Joe charcoal grill. I just had to have a mini so i went out & bought a WSJ grill and commenced to build me one of these cute little smokers.
First off... if you don`t have a WSJ get ya one & assemble it according to the manufacturers directions.

The next thing i did was to make a charcoal basket out of the original charcoal grate. This however is not completely necessary if you do not have a welder or any welding skills, just skip to the next step. I had a piece of leftover expanded metal from another project so i cut a strip 3 inches tall by 34 inches long & bent it into a ring and tack welded it to the grate. What this basket does is gather up the charcoal a bit to allow a slower more controlled burn.

Next step was to go to the hardware store (Lowe`s, Menard's etc.) and purchase the bolts to hang the grates and a heat sink/defuser which is 11x4 inch deep dog dish. The bolts & nuts for the top grate are 6-32 x 1/2 inch. These bolts do not have to be very long to support the 14 inch grate that came with the grill. The bolts for the second grate are 10-24 x 2 inch which are longer to support the bowl and grate. The second grate was also purchased at the hardware store. It is a 13 1/2 inch replacement charcoal grate for a 18 1/2 inch Weber grill.
For the center section or body of the smoke i purchased a IMUSA 32 Qt. Tamale & Seafood Steamer pot from good ole walmart. This pot can also be ordered on-line.

First you will need to cut out the bottom of the pot. Measure 3/4 inch in from the side of the pot and mark a circle around the bottom on the outside of the pot. I cut the hole with a common jig saw with a metal cutting blade installed. The steamer pot is made from heavy gauge aluminum, but cut`s very easy being careful to not damage the pot while cutting.

Next step. Drill the holes and install the bolts. The longer ones first. Measure down from the top of the pot and mark it at 9 inches down. Three spots evenly spaced around the body. Drill the holes so as the bolts just fit. Add washers on both sides of the pot for added strength. Next measure down 3 1/2 inch from the top of the pot mark & drill those holes. Install the bolts, washers and nuts, tighten all six.

After cutting the bottom out & installing the bolts about all that is left is to install the grates. The next set of pictures show`s how to assemble the bowl & grates.

If using the Dog Dish raise & mark the bottom grate 2 inches higher or do what i did & get a 12 inch Terracotta pot saucer or base & use that in place of the dog dish, then you do not have to make any other modification to this build. Current dimension did not allow for enough space for the dog dish to clear the coals. Also if cooking larger cut`s of meat keep an eye out for the amount of grease in the saucer so it does not spill over and catch fire. For cooking chicken, ribs or appetizers such as the ABT`s i do not see any other problems with this cooker build.

Place the water bowl on the longer bolts, add the 13 1/2 inch replacement grate directly on the bowl that rests on the long bolts. Place the larger 14 inch grate on the shorter top bolts. Set the body on the bottom section of the grill, top it off with the lid and you have yourself an Mini Weber Smokey Mountain smoker that operates as easy & burns as clean as its bigger brother.

One other thing i did was to install a 4 inch long bolt attached to the bottom grill vent to make adjusting the air flow a little easier. Those of you who have or have used a small grill like this one will know that the bottom vent does get a little hot while cooking so the long bolt will save you from a nasty burn to the finger tips.

Well there ya have it, a nice little smoker you built yourself from a bunch of common products one can find at the hardware store. They tell me that its possible to get a long burn time of at least 7 hours without refueling. That means it can smoke/cook a rack or two of ribs cut to fit, a pork loin, whole chickens & pieces... the list goes on. Although you can not cook for a large crowd but you can feed up to or maybe more than 7 - 10 hungry bar-b-que nuts like myself.
Well lets add up the cost of this build if you bought all the parts;
Grill- $29.95
Steamer pot- $24.97
Terracotta saucer- $3.00
Replacement grate- $8.99
Misc bolts and nuts- $2.67
For a grand total of $69.58 you can build a nice little smoker that takes up very little space in the yard & travels very well also. Take it apart & pack it in the trunk or back of your pick-up truck or RV. It measures approximately 28 inches tall by 18 inches wide at the steamer pot handles. If you are smoking a larger cut of meat like a Boston butt pork roast for southern style pulled pork you will have to refuel it at least once but this is super easy to do, just pick up the center section by the handles with glove covered hands & add some more charcoal & continue cooking. This has to be the neatest thing i have found yet! Super stoked! Look for my next post... if the weather permits i will fire-up this little bad boy and cook some bar-b-que!
Have fun with it & make your neighbors jealous! Ya know there watching!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Todays Menu: RIB-LETS

Today i finally had a chance to fire up one of my Weber Smokey Mountain smokers. The weather was in the high 30`s, cloudy and misty all afternoon. Good cooking weather for ducks. A few days ago i went to the grocery store and purchased 10 pounds of Farmland Rib-lets for $11.90 a box. Thawed in the fridge for 3 days at a chilly 35 degrees.

Once thawed, Friday evening i mixed up a simple brine of 1/2 cup of Kosher salt, 1/2 cup of Sugar, to one gallon of water. In went the rib-lets for a swim in the fridge for 8 hours. Place the riblets in a non reactive container, cover with enough brine to submerge the riblets and your set.

Saturday morning i removed them from the fridge, rinsed with cold water to remove the brine, pan dry and gave them a good dusting with my pork dry rub. Bagged them up and back in the fridge for a few hours.

Once i had the WSM fired up and temps at 250 degrees at the grate level. I loaded up half the riblets for today and tomorrow i will cook the rest. All brined, seasoned and ready to cook. I added six small chunks of apple wood when i filled the charcoal ring on the WSM so it will give me a consistence whiff of thin blue smoke for the entire cook time.

After 2 1/2 hours at 250 i gave the riblets their first layer of my homemade Bar-B-Que Sauce. Its a fairly thin Tomato & Vinegar based sauce. Sweet, tangy, light on the heat. I originally came up with this sauce for pulled pork liked it so much i modified it for ribs by making it sweeter.

I brushed on the sauce two different times about 15-20 minutes apart. Nice layer of sauce but not a drippy mess. My style of Bar-B-Que consists of layers of flavor. Lightly seasoned & sauced... i want to be able to tell i`m eating meat not just dry rub & sauce. The worst thing one can do is to over sauce your bar-b-que. Old time pit masters will tell ya not to hide the flavor with a thick layer of sauce, i feel the same is true today. Check out the beautiful color on these riblets. This is what you want in a rib of any type. Nice color that looks as good as it tastes.

Fire up those smokers & grills spring is just around the corner!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Shameless Plug

Well folks with the catering & concession season approaching fast i think its about time to share my dry rub knowledge with ya all, as limited as it my be.
A dry rub is a spice mix used to season or marinate beef, pork, poultry or even vegetables & in my case for the smoker or grill. In my opinion a rub for the smoker should contain a mix in the ratio of 8 parts sugars, 3 parts salts, 1 part color; such as paprika or chili powder and 1 part "other stuff".
OK... now your wondering whats the "other stuff". That`s where the "secret recipe" part comes in. The last remaining 1 part of ingredients can be what ever spices you like such as; cayenne pepper, black pepper, onion &/or garlic powder, cumin, oregano, thyme, coriander... you get the picture.
With foods of the South, a dry rub is often used on grilled or barbqued meats. Dry rubbed ribs, pulled pork, brisket and chicken are also given flavor through a spice rub. The most typical Southern style spice rubs include chili and cayenne pepper, garlic and onion powder, salt and black pepper, paprika and dry mustard. Although the quantities of hot ingredients can be adjusted, this is an extremely spicy mix and adds a powerful kick to meat.
I like to use a dry rub that has a sweetness level a bit higher than your typical southern rub. The use of brown sugar or raw sugars will caramelize over a period of time. When the right amount of smoke/heat is applied a bark or crust will form on the meat that is extremely flavorful.
If you ever happen to be in Norfolk Nebraska during the spring through the fall of the year, stop by our Saturday Farmers Market held at the Sunset Plaza Mall park lot between the hours of 10am - 12am. Purchase a bottle or three of my spice rubs. Purchase price is $5.00 a bottle. Purdy dang good stuff if i must say so myself.