Since I got an advance copy of the new Weber cookbook "Charcoal Grilling - The Art of Cooking with Live Fire", I've tried a few recipes and gotten ideas for a number more. But one part of the book deals primarily with the smoking of meats - ribs, roasts, brisket, etc.
I've always wanted to smoke a brisket, but have never done so. One of the recipes in the "Charcoal Grilling" book is from a guy from the state of Washington, Jim Minion, who was profiled in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He's famous for the "Minion Method" of smoking because you can cook the food up to 20 hours using the same briquettes you started out with. Jim's recipe is "Jim's All-Night Brisket". His cooking method allows you to start a brisket at night, go to bed and let it cook overnight, and be ready to serve it the next afternoon.
Throughout the pork and beef parts of the "Charcoal Grilling" book, there's references to Weber's Smokey Mountain Smoker Cooker. The Weber smoker has a porcelain coating over heavy duty grade steel. It has two 18 1/2" diameter racks so you can cook two different items in the smoker. There's a one gallon water bowl that sits just below the racks and a cooking bin for the charcoal in the bottom. Weber smoker enthusiasts affectionately call it "The Bullet" because of it's cylindrical shape.
I did some homework on smokers to see what else was out there. I checked some web sites including a web site called the Virtual Weber Bullet, the best site on the internet for all things connected to the Weber Smokey Mountain Smoker Cooker. All in all, I read enough to convince myself that I really needed a Smokey Mountain smoker.
Now, I've had a smoker before. My dad won what was called a "7 in 1" smoker one time years ago, and he gave it to me because he never used it. But it was a gas smoker and a pain in the ass to work with. It wasn't built very well and I was never happy with the results.
My good friend, Dave Haack, offered to get me a smoker for a housewarming gift when we moved in our current house, but I turned him down. I told him that I could do a lot of the same things on a regular Weber grill that I could with a smoker.
Well, I can and I can't. The key thing with a smoker is that you get the direct smoke and steam from the water reservoir going directly into the meat. Cooking indirectly on a Weber Grill allows you to add moisture while cooking, but it doesn't have the same effect as a smoker would.
The next thing was finding a Smokey Mountain smoker, aka the "Bullet". When I looked them up on the internet I was blown away to see these things retailed for $249.00! Holy shit! They're proud of these damn things! I was expecting them to be about $79 bucks or so.
Somehow, I found a web site called "Webergrillschicago". They had a special going on for the "Bullet" and were selling them for $199. It just so happened that I had to go into Chicago the next day with a rental van to pick up a pair of speakers and an audio rack from a couple of dealers, so I thought I'd call up the place and see if they still had the smokers.
It turned out the web site is run by a company called Waring Industrial Tools. That's right, it's a tool company in the Lincoln Square area on the north side of Chicago (see map). I called the place up and I asked the guy if he had any left at that price. He said he did, but only a couple. I asked him if he'd hold one for me and offered to give him a credit card number to do so. He said, "Just give me your name and tell me about what time you'll be in and I'll hold it for you."
So I gave him my name and told him I'd be in around 2 p.m. the next day.
I walked into the place just before 2 and the guy behind the counter said, "You're Will from the Quad Cities, right?"
I sort of stopped, looked around the place, then looked back at him. I said, "Yeah, how did you know?"
He said, "I'm a good guesser. Actually, you said you would be driving a van and be here around 2 o'clock."
As he was writing up the ticket, I asked him how a tool dealership became a Weber Grill dealer. He said, "Oh, just something extra to do."
I asked him why they had such a great price on the Weber smokers. He said they got a special price on them from Weber and decided to pass it along to the customers. I asked him if they sold a lot of Weber grills. "Oh, yeah. We don't sell many this time of year, but come the season, we're shippin' 'em all over the place."
Because the weather was so crappy for a couple weeks, I left the smoker in the box after I got it home. Finally, it looked like the weather was going to get nicer a couple weekends ago, so Cindy went out and got some country-style pork ribs. I put the smoker together in about 20 minutes (very easy to do), and we got things set up to do our first meal on the smoker.
I did a rub for the ribs and got the smoker fired up. I put them on around 3 p.m. and threw some hickory chips on the fire. Everything was going well, until I realized 4 hours later that the water had literally boiled out long before the ribs were done. I forgot to keep putting water in the pan. The ribs turned out too dry. Close to the bone where there was still moisture, they were great. On the ends, tough and dry.
Last Sunday, Cindy's dad, his lady friend and Cindy's son came down from Cedar Rapids for the day. I went out and got a 5 lb. pork roast fully intending to smoke it in the "Bullet" that afternoon. I prepped the roast with a rub of garlic, black pepper, kosher salt and Italian herbs and spices.
This time, I made double damned sure I had water in the pan the whole time. I smoked it for about 5 hours at around 225 to 250 degrees F using hickory chips. I'm glad I didn't cook it any longer - the meat was tender, moist and had that great pink smoke ring around the outside and on the ends. It was - in a word - outrageous.
My next goal is to do a brisket. I don't know if I want to do the "all-night brisket" as I'm still sort of feeling my way with the nuances of this smoker. There's some things I really like about the smoker and some things that I'm puzzled they didn't include (like a thermometer - I had to go out and get my own). I think I need to smoke a few other things on it so I can make sure the brisket comes out perfect the first time I try to smoke one on the "Bullet".