It’s a small world and it continues to get smaller all of the time. As it turns out, two of the baristas (Hannah & Nick) that had initially trained Lauren and I (at what was once known as MBS) are now married and in a post-rock band. They had just so happened to be playing a show at Be Here Now and were looking for a place to crash after their show. They knew we were from the area and got in touch. We were happy to welcome the band into our home and catch up on all that has transpired since the years separating our last face-to-face encounter. Oh, and what sort of hosts would we be if we didn’t fire up the smoker and treat the whole band to some top notch BBQ!? So that’s just what we did. Being that there wasn’t a ton of time to prep, I opted for chicken wings and spare ribs. There’s nothing better than good food, music, friends, and conversation. We stayed up wayyyyyy too late catching up. I hadn’t been up until 4:30AM in a long time.
The wings were seasoned with a South African Piri Piri Pepper rub and the ribs were done in my traditional salt, black pepper, brown sugar, paprika, and chipotle rub. Both came out phenomenal as I’m pretty comfortable and confident with these cooks.
Look at this amazing smoked turkey! Absolutely delicious! I know this is going to sound crazy, but I still prefer a roasted turkey over a smoked turkey when done right. I am able to get so many flavor dynamics out of a roasted bird than I am a smoked one. Alas, they are both fabulous and I’m extremely pleased with how this one came out. I smoked this bird ahead of the holiday so I could decide whether or not I wanted to smoke the turkey for Thanksgiving. I decided to roast the bird for the family, but this delicious beast will be come lunch for days!
I smoke a lot of different things, BUT my wife’s absolute favorite smoked protein is Salmon. In fact, I’ve dedicated years of salmon preparation experimentation trying to perfect her favorite food. I mean, she likes salmon in a lot of different ways, but if she had to choose one, it would be smoked salmon. I’m not talking about the cured bullshit that you get in a pouch at the grocery store. I’m talking about fresh bbq salmon with crispy skin that’s dripping in healthy fats. So yeah, that’s what you see above. I also stuffed some giant portabella mushroom caps with onions and garlic for good measure.
Normally, I’m a fan of spare ribs, but my butcher had a damn good deal on some baby backs that I couldn’t pass up. So, I gave them a shot on John W. Smokes and they came out phenomenal. Not too shabby for a quick 4-hour cook.
Third time’s a charm, right? At least that’s what I hear. Apparently this saying applies to smoking pork shoulders, because this third attempt turned out phenomenal.Yesterday I attempted my third pork shoulder on the DIY Reverse Flow Cinder Block Smoker. A personal best.
Weather was pretty decent, but it started raining around 3 or 4 in the morning. I’m not exactly sure what the time actually was, as I was half asleep and checking on the smoker in my pajamas. You know, because I’m a professional. ha
Anyway, here’s a look at the delicious results.
Oh, and I finally got around to naming it! From here on out, it will be known formally as John E. Smoke(s). It’s a nice little tribute to one of my favorite Butthole Surfers tracks.
My second cook started much later in the day than I would have liked, but I work a lot and sometimes I just have to make due. Owning a coffee shop is no easy task and since I typically do most of my administrative work in the early morning, there isn’t much room in my schedule for late nights. For convenience reasons, I have been trying to schedule cooks on Saturday nights because the shop is closed on Sundays and I don’t have to start my day as early.
These long cooks which can run between 8-15 hours, require me to get up and stoke the fire every hour through the night. If I’m lucky, I might be able to buy myself two hours if I utilize a clever wood stacking technique, but I have to be careful. If the wood is stacked improperly, the fire will catch everything and the fire will burn too hot. Ideally, if stacked right, the logs will fall and replace the wood below without everything burning up at once. At least, that’s what my sleep deprived brain has come up with.
As I was saying earlier before I went off on a tangent… This cook started late. When I got home from work, it was raining and for a split second, I thought about cancelling the cook. The weather was absolutely terrible for smoking, but I was determined to make it happen. I waited until there was a break in the rain and I went out and got a fire started. The rain held off just long enough that I was able to build up a coal bed and load it into the burn chamber. I already knew this cook would be challenging because of all the excess moisture in the air, not to mention the majority of my wood was damp. Sometimes you just have to roll with the punches and make the most out of what you’ve got. I had a 2″ coal bed, a pile of soggy ash, and a 11-pound pork shoulder. Game on. Oh, and I also want to note that I opted to use a water pan this time around. You know… because I obviously need more moisture </sarcasm>.
Despite the fact that the weather was terrible and that I had to slosh in it every hour through the night, the pork shoulder came out pretty decent. This was a complete uphill battle from beginning to end. Most fare-weather BBQ enthusiasts would have made other plans. Not me. I’m a glutton for punishment. That, and I have a bunch of other cooks planned. Either way, it was pretty obvious from the start that this cook wasn’t going to be about attaining a personal best. No. This cook was about overcoming obstacles. I’m not always going to have the perfect conditions to turn out amazing BBQ, but I want to be able to deliver above average eats even in less than ideal scenarios. Determined, I stoked the fire one last time around 6AM and decided that I was going to let shoulder rest in the cooker for an hour after the fire died out. I set my alarm for 9AM and crawled into bed to catch some shuteye.
When my alarm went off, I expected to walk out to more rain and a questionable pork shoulder, but to my surprise, the sun was out. I wiped the sleep from my eyes and squished my way through the back yard to check on the smoker. I knew I had done my best to keep the fire steady through an entire night of rain, but I was still worried that when I opened up the lid, I would find a sad and pathetic looking pork shoulder with little-to-no development. I wonder if experienced pit masters have that little bit of fear each time they do their final inspection (especially if there’s some sort of deadline)? I mean, there’s no turning back at this point. What’s done is done.
Once I popped the lid, I was shocked to see how well the shoulder had turned out. There was decent bark development, and excellent fat rendering. All-in-all this was still one of the better pork shoulders I’ve had. Overall I was fairly pleased with this cook. As much as I’d love to make a list of things I could improve for the next shoulder, this cook was just about overcoming obstacles. There were plenty of things I would have liked to have done differently, but I didn’t have the options. Put simply, I kept a fire going all night in the rain and turned out a delicious pork shoulder. Mission accomplished… Oh, and just for fun, check out the bbq food porn below!