Smoking feast with friends! July 04 2015

Hi Folks!

We've been mighty busy of late preparing for the new BBQ season, but finally found some time for food and fun last weekend while my friend was in from out of town. He's been hearing about all of our activities and the great food for about two years now and decided to come see what it was all about.

He got an early taste after arrival because I still had some ribs and fish from a smoke just days before, but I wanted him to get the best experience, which everyone knows is fresh out of the smoker! To that end, we lined up a beautiful layout of: One whole chicken, three racks of St. Louis style pork ribs, 3.5 lbs. of bratwurst, 1-2 lbs. of breakfast links, and about 4 lbs. of russet potatoes. I brought home 5 lbs. each of apple and pear wood from the shop, invited the partners and a local friend up to the house, and away we went.

Starting the Apple wood

I was working hard to make sure everything came in on schedule and according to plan, with sausages to munch along the way at different times, and then the ribs, chicken, and potatoes together as a sit down meal in the early evening. Knowing the whole chicken would be the longest smoke, it went in early with a nice bunch of our apple wood and I ran a bit higher temp than normal (~190deg F) to help it come in on time for dinner. As some of you already know, I take "Low and Slow" a bit to the extreme, as I usually run a smoker temp of approximately 170-180 degs F. I like my smoked food SMOKED, you might say!

Before it was all said and done, the chicken got about 6-7 hours of full smoke. Not only did it look amazing, but it was juicy and tender, with good flavor throughout. As always, I cooked it breast side down in my foiled roaster rack to help keep juices contained and draining into the water pan through the hole created in the center of the foil for that purpose. It builds up in the foil, which helps keep the chicken moist, but eventually drains down. My smoker gets coated in enough juices without having the chicken leaking in every direction! I also put the chicken in the very bottom so that it would get the benefit of the drips from the other food above. No lack of flavor in this chicken...

Chicken started in the smoker

I started the breakfast links next to provide some munchies for the arriving guests, and started adding pear wood to the unit when I put them on the racks. I used pear wood from here until the brats were done.

The St Louis Style ribs were great in this case due to the fact they tend to cook more evenly and a little quicker than baby-backs, which was useful for my socialized smoking event. It's harder to pay proper attention to the cooking when engaged in conversation with friends and a scotch on the rocks in one hand! I was still doing pear wood when I put these in with the chicken, and added more at the same time.

As always the pear smoked bratwurst were amazing, with the newly experienced exclaiming about how sweet they were etc. If you haven't tried our pear wood for smoking brats yet, you are truly missing out! Part of the fun of our business is access to so much smoking wood that we experiment with random things and occasionally stumble over great combinations of this sort. Smoking is a fun learning process for me every time, and what's not to like about sampling new smoked food combinations?

The smoked potatoes were a new adventure for me this go 'round, so I did some research on the the Interwebs for ideas and to set expectations on results from differing approaches. Most obvious from reading reports from the front line on smoking potatoes was that getting them tender/fully cooked was the primary challenge. Lots of folks were apparently par-cooking them before smoking, and others were finishing them by other means. Saw many recommendations to slice them into slabs of about 1/2" for faster and more even cooking, which seemed pretty reasonable to me.

In the end, I decided to try whole and sliced at the same time so I could see the differing results in one shot. I used basil-garlic olive oil, fresh ground sea salt and pepper, with some garlic powder for a little extra punch. I put them in the smoker on foil trays to contain the oils, but was more than a bit generous in the amount I prepared.

I ended up tossing some of them in with the chicken, just to get them in the unit. That actually got some cheers from the audience when they saw the taters landing in the juices collected in the foiled rack!

I was prepared for the potatoes to be the holdout at the end, and they didn't let me down. I ended up finishing them in the oven so we could eat somewhat on time. That's the way of it sometimes, and no one complained anyway with the spread that got laid out when the time came to sit down and eat. Next time I'll start them earlier in the smoke and not make (quite) so many. I had plenty leftover, and I'm going to try dicing them up and making them into country style fried potatoes. I'll let you know how that turns out!

 Last but not least, a quick picture of the feast in progress :-) We even had (some) vegetables!

Happy Fourth of July Everyone!
Be safe and have fun!

Bob C.