Tuesday, August 19, 2008

We are no longer virgins.

To smoking meats, you dummies!

Before we went to Las Vegas we bought a gas smoker, and Sunday was the first time we were able to try it out.  For our first time I think it went extremely well.  We cooked a 5 pound chicken and a 2.5 pound brisket.

Our set-up:

I know there are smoking purists out there that would laugh at us for using a gas smoker, but I think it did a great job, and there seems to be a lot less baby-sitting than a traditional wood smoker.  I'm sure once we have this gas smoker down, we will probably look into a wood smoker.  But for now, this will cook all of our awesome smoked meats!

The brisket:

First Brian covered it with a light coating of mustard, so the rub would have something to stick to. Next we used one of the many BBQ rubs we have received as gifts over the years (I think people were trying to tell us to start smoking meats).  Brian also cut deep slits into the brisket to help it soak up all of the smoky flavor.  Next time we are going to try putting garlic cloves in those slits for added flavor.

The chicken:

For the chicken I rubbed a garlic/thyme/rosemary/BBQ salt/butter mixture under the skin.  It smelled awesome even before it was cooked!

We used mesquite wood chips for the flavor.  We ended up going through the whole bag you see in the picture.  I guess we will need to buy this stuff in bulk!

We put the meat into the smoker at a temperature of 225 degrees.  Let the smoking begin!

We were expecting the meat to cook for about 5 hours to reach their ideal temperatures.

In the mean time, Brian decided that cooking meats wasn't enough to do on a Sunday, so he built the base to hold our enormous umbrella on the new patio (on the deck it was actually anchored into the deck).  It took him no time to build, and it looks great and serves it's purpose.

To go with our dinner of smoked meats we made up a fruit salad, grilled corn on the cob, and invited our friends, Frank and Lynn, over to be our guinea pigs for the smoked meat.  We told them ahead of time that they needed to be brutally honest about the meat so we would know what to do better for next time, which I think they did.

The meat that we thought was going to be done around 5 P.M. ended up taking until about 7 P.M. to get up to temperature (or as close as we were going to let it get).  The chicken got up to 165 degrees and the brisket to 173 degrees.

Our finished products:

The meats were very good, but there are some things we would change for next time.  The white meat on the chicken was a little dry (the dark meat still very moist), so we think the chicken needs to come out of the smoker at about 160 degrees (it always cooks a little longer after you take it off anyways).  Otherwise the chicken was great.  We will keep doing different variations of a butter-under-the-skin rub.

The brisket was flavored very well, but we think it was a bit on the dry/tough side.  The main reason we think it was like this is because we only let it get to 173 degrees.  We also did not marinate the meat beforehand, which I think would have drawn in more moisture. From what we have read, it also needs to be at 180 degrees before the fat starts to break down and become tender.  The plan for next time is to get the brisket to 180, take it out of the smoker, wrap it in foil and set it in a cooler for and hour or two to continue to stay at 180 and keep breaking down the fat.

An overall change for next time to help keep the meat moist is to use our mop sauce more frequently.  We used a beer/herb butter mop sauce about every hour.  You want to keep the mop sauce very basic so it doesn't mask the flavor of the smoke and meat.  Next time we will do the mop sauce every 45 minutes. Finally, now that we know how long these guys take in our smoker we can do a better job with our timing (in relation to dinner time and the meats being done close to each other).

Overall I think we were successful.  It was a lot of fun doing all the prep-work, watching the meat cook and then having an awesome meal at the end.

I think this Sunday we are going to attempt pork shoulder (to make pulled pork sandwiches).  I honestly cannot wait!


  1. Did you guys have any water in the smoker? Normally I keep a bowl (something that will not melt) of water and/or a can of beer or two. That should keep everything nice and moist.

    I normally do not put any mop sauce once I put the meat on the smoker. Depending on the meat I may marinate it, submerged, for a day or two before smoking though.

  2. Our smoker actually came with a small pan to hold water, which we used the whole time. We did notice at the very end it was empty, so maybe that was part of the problem.

    I also think marinating the meat would help. I always read about brining poultry to make the best meat, so we will also have to try that next time.

  3. Dear Stephen,

    Thanks for the tips (and sorry for assuming you were going to bash me for using gas)!