By Kevin Bevington
When learning to cook barbecue, the one thing that everyone seems to learn quickly is to use wood, such as wood chips or wood chunks, or wood pellets, to give your barbecue a smoky flavor. What is not learned quickly enough is how much to use and most use too much, creating an over smoked, bitter piece of meat that is not very pleasant to eat.
Wood flavoring has to be considered similarly to a spice.
If you put salt on something, you are careful to add small amounts and taste, until you come up with just the right amount. The same thing applies to smoke flavor, start with a small amount of wood chips, or a wood chunk, and work your way up. You will find out real quick that people have much different opinions to yours, on how much smoke flavor should be there, so starting with a small amount is the best advice to give.
RED CHILE PUREE
1-2 cups water 8-10 dried red New Mexico chile pods
(Hot) – (get Hatch Valley if you can)
Tear tops off of chile pods and use knife or finger (use plastic food preparation gloves to protect your fingers as they will start to sting a bit — do not touch your eyes with your fingers until you’ve washed them) to clean out seeds and veins inside of each one. Place pods in medium sized pot and cover with water. Heat to boiling on high heat. Boil several minutes until pods are soft stirring occasionally to make sure they boil evenly. Place drained pods (save liquid) in blender container, then pour 1/2 of liquid into blender (keep the rest in the pot and add more water for the next batch) and blend until smooth, add 1-2 cloves garlic if desired. Add more water if needed, but keep in mind this is a puree, thicker than sauce or juice. When pureed, pour into a large stock pot. Sometimes you might need to pour thru a mesh sieve to remove any skins that did not blend up in the blender. NOTE: You will want to make several batches of puree.
CHILE COLORADO (Basic Red Chile Sauce)
2 T. butter
2 T. flour
2 C. red chile puree (see below)
2 C. chicken broth
3/4 t. salt
1/2 t. garlic powder
Dash oregano (use Mexican oregano if you can get it)
Heat butter in medium-size saucepan on medium heat. Stir in flour and cook for 1minute. Add red chile puree and cook for about another minute. Gradually add broth and stir, making sure there are no lumps, a whisk works best. Add seasoning to sauce and simmer at low heat for 10-15 minutes.
THE MARINATED PORK:
4 cloves garlic
1 T. salt
1 T. oregano
2 recipes or more of the Red Chile Puree (above)
3-5 lbs. (approx.) pork tenderloin roast
Add garlic, salt and oregano to chile puree. Cut pork loin into four large pieces (slice in half once horizontally and once vertically) and put them in a large, glass baking dish (even better, a stainless steel stock pot) and pour chile puree over to cover — turn meat to cover completely. Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 24 hours (36-72 hours or more is even better — I like to marinate mine for a week). It is a good idea to stir it around once a day or so to make sure that every part of the pork soaks in the marinade.
FINAL ASSEMBLY AND COOKING:
Place marinated pork pieces in smoker or barbeque and cook using the indirect method to keep the marinade from burning(for best results, use some pecan wood chunks or chips for smoke flavor — pecan smoke is incredible with this dish but be careful not to over smoke) and cook until internal temp reaches around 150 (use a meat thermometer).
Remove pork from smoker and cut into cubes ½” to 1″ square and put into baking pan/dish about 3″-4″ deep. Pour chili colorado over pork cubes (the pork should be “swimming in it”) and put baking pan/dish into smoker – crank up the temp to around 325 (you can do this part in the oven inside if you want) and let it simmer (for best results, seal tightly with foil so the sauce doesn’t boil off and get too thick) for at least an hour – 2 or even 3 hours would be even better (if you simmer longer than an hour you must seal with foil or the sauce will boil off).
About 5 minutes before removing from smoker, remove the foil and layer on top (fairly thickly) a good amount of pre-shredded Kraft Mexican blend cheese. When the cheese melts (about 5 minutes) remove from smoker, let it cool for 5 minutes or so and serve with rice and beans and warmed flour tortillas.
NOTE: This recipe can be cooked in a regular oven (use a baking pan) instead of a smoker – you lose the pecan wood flavor but it is still incredibly delicious.
I was looking through some old papers today and came across some notes I had taken in 2002 while talking to a restaurant consultant from Texas who claimed to have been in the bbq business for the past 10-years.
As I recall it, the gentleman and his wife opened a 30-seat restaurant in a portable building in a town of 7,000 people. He explained that he had an electric smoker that used wood chips for smoke generation/flavor, a couple of steam tables and a soda fountain. The business was basically a two person operation with a drive-thru window and consisted largely of carry-out orders from working families on their way home from work in a larger community nearby.
He said that the bbq restaurant generated gross revenues of $100,000+ per year and a 70% profit margin. I am guessing that he owned the land previously or at least wasn’t paying much rent for the land, although he did not clarify that point.
As a part of his services, he would offer bbq consulting in starting a restaurant for anyone willing to enter into a consulting agreement with him in return for $25,000. The $25,000 purchased three weeks of on-site start-up consulting and 12-months of telephone consultation.
I did not take him up on the offer, but I often wished I lived a little closer to Texas so that I could visit his restaurant and check it out. It sounds like a barbecuer’s “dream” situation.
The cynic in me though, wonders if this story is true or not. Funny thing…I wasn’t willing to risk $25,000 to find out.
I am one of the guys who loves my gas grill, and I really do not care what others say.
I like the ease of use, predicable performance, easy of cleaning, and all of that. But, it took me awhile to learn how to get “real wood smoke flavor” from my gasser.
When using my smoker, I have learned to love certain smoke flavors with certain types of meat. For example, I like fruit woods such as Cherry, Apple, and Peach on poultry and pork. For beef (primarily Brisket Burgers on the gasser), I like a touch of Mesquite.
I have also played with specialty chips such as the Jack Daniels barrel chips and such with mixed results. To get the smoke flavor, I use a “Smoke Bomb” loaded with chips or pellets of the desired flavor.
A Smoke Bomb is basically a closed container with only a couple of air holes to allow smoke to escape.
A Smoke Bomb can be made that lasts a long time, even to an hour or more if needed. It works so well because it restricts the oxygen to the chips or pellets, producing a longer and smoldering burn that reduces flare ups and quick burning.
I started with the most simple of Smoke Bombs, just heavy duty aluminum foil. I made a double layer big enough to resemble a small grapefruit with chips or pellets inside. Sealed it up good and poked one or two tiny holes in the top with a tooth pick or my trusty Thermopen. Place it on a burner and when smoke starts emitting from the holes, it is time to cook.
The next step up for me was one of those stamped and bent sheet metal boxes sold by Home Depot with “smoking chips” in them Viagra 100mg. They Viagra Online are about 5-6 inches long, 3 inches wide, and an inch deep. The first thing is to throw away the “smoking chips” unless you really know what they are. If you try to use these open boxes with chips, you will need to soak them first or they will just ignite and last a minute or two. Not even long enough to do a smoked hot dog. So, I wrapped the box with good ole HD aluminum foil and poked a couple of small holes in the top to restrict combustion air. Worked like a charm. Biggest benefit was that the box gave some form to the Smoke Bomb when compared to HD foil only. Worked well.
My final evolutionary step was a cast iron skillet to hold the chips and pellets. I found an old 7 Inch skillet at a garage sale for $2. I cover it with HD foil with a couple of teeny -tiny holes again. One quarter to one half a cup of pellets or chips produces plenty of smoke for a good steak cook. Because of it’s mass, I put the skillet on my side burner to get the heat up and start the smoke. Then, the skillet fits perfectly on the two left hand burners on my five burner gas grill.
I defy anyone to tell that my steak cooked with a Mesquite Smoke Bomb came off a gasser! Outstanding wood smoke flavor, and that is what BBQ is all about.
Chips a pellets are available at many places, including WalMart if you watch the BBQ area closely. Small quantities of pellets are available on-line in many flavors. I tequires so few pellets or chips per cook that they are really cost effective when used only for flavor.
My name is Dan Colmerauer – aka “Big Dan.” You may know me from my booklet on how to modify a “backyard” offset smoker to make it perform better. The majority of my articles will deal with what goes into building proper fire in your smoker and related topics – but I will diverge from that from time to time. By the way, I will accept questions and comments via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com – I try to reply to any and all e-mails but I do not use my computer on weekends and sometimes it may take a day or two before I have time to reply so please be patient.
I am a backyard cooker only — I don’t do catering or cook-offs, etc. I have, however, been barbequing in one form or another for almost 35 years. Originally from Buffalo, New York I was often seen barbequing and grilling even in middle of the biggest snow storms. I now live in Phoenix, Arizona where some days in the summer I swear all you need to do is put the meat in your smoker and wheel the smoker out into the sun. I have a Hondo offset smoker, a Weber Smoky Mountain, a Weber “kettle” grill, and a barrel smoker and I use them all.
Knowing how to build and maintain a fire is the most important part of barbequing. You can have the greatest recipe in the world – buy the best quality meat you can find – yet if you can’t build and maintain a long, steady fire, your final product will suffer.
Today, I’d like to discuss fuel. There are three basic fuels for barbeque: wood, lump charcoal and briquettes.
Typical briquettes are made from powdered charcoal mixed with binders and fillers such as coal dust. Their biggest advantage is an easily controlled, steady fire with very little temperature fluctuation. Their biggest drawback is the large volume of ash produced when burning briquettes. In an offset style smoker the ash will actually build up and snuff out your fire in about 4 hours – not enough time to barbeque much of anything. Plus, there are too many additives that can alter the flavor of the final product for my taste. But, they are inexpensive, readily available, easy to use and certainly can turn out a fairly decent final product.
There are briquettes available (but very hard to find) that are made out of 100% hardwood charcoal and all natural binders. No additives – no strange fillers – just pure 100% hardwood charcoal. I have used Rancher 100% hardwood briquettes and Royal Oak 100% hardwood briquettes and was pleasantly surprised – both at the flavor and the performance. While producing much more ash than lump charcoal, I was still able to maintain a steady 220 for over six hours. And the flavor was a huge improvement over regular briquettes. In an upright “water smoker” such at the Weber Smoky Mountain these are probably the best fuel you can use. I ran mine for over 22 hours with the Rancher briquettes without refueling and still had briquettes left in the smoker to burn. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find either Rancher or Royal Oak 100% hardwood briquettes in over a year.
Natural lump charcoal (sometimes called www jesextender JesExtender “charwood”) is my fuel of choice. Lump charcoal is made by burning hardwood in the absence of oxygen. The process burns off all the impurities (creosote, etc.) leaving a final product that is free of all the bad stuff that can ruin the flavor of the meat. It burns hotter than briquettes and a quality lump charcoal will leave very little ash – which means you will achieve a long, steady burning fire which will impart a wonderful “woodsy” flavor to the meat with a nice touch of smoke. There are a large number of brands of lump available – some not much better than briquettes and others darned near the “holy grail” of barbeque fuel. Hopefully, you will have a good brand available in your area.
The ability to use wood as a fuel is seen by many as the hallmark of the true pitmaster. I don’t necessarily agree.
The single most important factor in whether you can successfully use only wood as your fuel source is your smoker. The typical backyard smoker is simply too small to use wood as fuel unless you burn it down to coals first. In fact, many commercial pitmasters (especially in the barbeque belt) will burn the wood down to coals first no matter what type of smoker they have. The reason for this is simple – you want to burn off the impurities before exposing the meat to the smoke.
So — I tried this once. I used over $50 worth of wood – spent six straight hours burning wood and shoveling coals and the ribs came out tasting exactly like they did with lump charcoal. Some Internet research revealed what has since become my mantra: a glowing lump of hardwood charcoal is IDENTICAL to a glowing coal/ember burned down from logs. The only difference is how it got there.
Interestingly enough – at the more recent bbq cook-offs I’ve attended (I do love to eat good ‘que) I’ve noticed that most of the competitors were using lump charcoal in even the biggest of smokers because —- a glowing lump of hardwood charcoal is IDENTICAL to a glowing coal/ember burned down from logs.
Now, what about wood chunks or chips for added smoke flavor. They work, but you have to be very careful because there is a very fine line between a little extra smoke flavor and over-smoked, creosote-coated meat. Cross that line and you’ve ruined a nice hunk of meat (unless, of course, you like the flavor of creosote). This is more of a problem in the offset smokers than with the uprights. The man in Phoenix who sells cooking wood to all the local restaurants taught me a neat trick if you like to use chunks or chips for a stronger smoke flavor. Simply take a piece of heavy duty foil and gently place it on top of the meat – don’t “tent” it and don’t “wrap” it – just gently lay it on top. The foil will catch most of the bad stuff before it settles on the meat leaving the meat exposed to the remaining flavorful part of the smoke.
Next time I’ll discuss exactly how to build a fire using the Minion method for a long, steady fire.
Keep on cookin’!