Double the Brisket, Double the Stress (err.. I mean Fun)

So here's the setup.  It's the weekend of Miscon (that's like Comicon, but much smaller and located only in Missoula, MT) and it also happens to be the weekend that we were celebrating my lovely wife's birthday.  As usual, we invited wayyy to many people.  But, I still wanted to smoke some brisket so I knew that I was going to need more than one brisket to feed them all.  Now, in the past, with my ECB water smoker, brisket was a 22 hour operation.  That's what I was preparing myself for, but I still wanted to hit up the convention a little bit.

I managed to pop into the con in time to get George Martin to sign my copy of Tuf Voyaging and then I got frustrated by my apparent inability to find anyone playing Dominion or any other board game that I'd be into.

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So, full of nerd failure, I headed back home to get the coals started for the brisket.  Oh, wait, I guess I should talk about the rubs that I put on the brisket?  Here's a picture of them both.

brisket rubs

Brisket rubs

I should have taken better notes but I'm fairly certain that one of these rubs was sort of off-the-cuff and the other one was the following recipe:

  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin

I actually made the rubs and rubbed the brisket the day before my nerd failure and I actually had more success at the convention.  Here, check out my foxy wife on the Iron Throne!

Foxy wife on the Iron Throne

Foxy wife on the Iron Throne

Here's two other sexy pictures..... of meat. 😉

Rubbed brisket #1

Rubbed brisket #1

Rubbed brisket #2

Rubbed brisket #2

Now, I believe we told folks that the party started at 3pm.  So, my plan was to get the meat in the smoker 24 hours in advance.  This turned out to be folly, however.  Brisket cooks much, much quicker in the UDS.  Also, since I had to do two at once, I had to create a lower second grill in my drum to hold another grill.  Turns out that the brisket on this lower grill was close enough to the basket that it got a little bit burned on one side.

I didn't realize this until I woke up in a panic at 3am and I looked over at my remote temperature receiver to see that the bottom brisket was already at 200F?!?!  Crap!  So, I pulled that brisket out of the smoker and wrapped it up in aluminum foil.  Then I put it in the oven at 195F and crossed my fingers.  The other brisket was only at 170F so I left it in there.

Well, at 7am, this second brisket was already at 190F.  So, the party was in 7 hours and the brisket was already done.  Yikes!  In case you find yourself in a similar scenario, don't worry, you have options.  Especially with brisket.

What you need to do is pull the brisket out of the smoker and wrap it tightly in heavy duty aluminum foil (shiny side facing the brisket to reflect heat back at it).  Then line the bottom of a cooler with a big fat towel.  Now wrap the brisket with another big towel and lay it in the cooler.  Fill any empty space with more towels and seal up the cooler.  DO NOT open it until you are ready to serve the brisket.  It sounds crazy, but it will stay up to temp for 6-7 hours like this.

When I pulled the brisket out of the cooler when the first guests arrived, the brisket was still at 142F which is safe even if the health department is your dinner guest.

Here's some  pictures of the tastiness and success!

UDS Smoked Brisket

UDS Smoked Brisket

You might be asking yourself what all that goodness is on top of the brisket?  That's all the onions from the brisket mop I used.  Here's that recipe:

  • Bottle of beer
  • 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of paprika
  • 1 tablespoon of Frank's hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • 1 medium diced onion
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil

Here's a picture of me carving up that bad boy.

carving up the brisket

Carving up the brisket

I was pretty nervous that I had ruined at least one of these briskets, but around midnight it was obvious that the masses were satisfied.  You see, it was at that time that I witnessed several party guests picking over the big bowl of fat looking for tasty brisket morsels.  That's all that was left of 39lbs of brisket.  Huzzah!

Smoked Veggies? (well, if you absolutely have to)

Let's face it, not everyone digs on meat.  Just because I don't understand it doesn't make it wrong.  Case in point, my rad sister-in-law very rarely eats meat of any kind (although, I consider it a total success when she can't resist some pulled pork or brisket that I just pulled out of the smoker).  Even though she doesn't usually eat meat, she's often at our house on "Smoked Meat Sundays" so I wanted to do something that she could get into instead of offering her a veggie burger while everyone else fills up on tasty smoked goodness.

So off I went to the local organic grocery store to get some potatoes, onions and eggplant.  Frankly, I wasn't sure what to even attempt in the smoker.  I don't think I'd ever tried to smoke anything besides meat before.  But potatoes made sense because baked potatoes are awesome, right?  So, how could smoked potatoes not be awesome?

The onion I cut to make a sort of onion blossom and then I topped it with salt, pepper, balsamic, butter and (whoops!) bacon!  As you can see from the picture, though.  I left one of them sans bacon for Sarah.  For some reason I took no pictures of the eggplant.  Ah well, I might try it again anyway to make baba ganoush.

bacon onions and potatoes for the smoker

Bacon onions and potatoes for the smoker

Just in case you didn't get enough of an eyeful of amish butter and bacon on top of the onion, here's a pretty sexy close-up.

bacon and butter topped onion

Bacon and butter topped onion

I know it's wrong, but I wanted to take a bite of that thing before I even cooked it.  Heh.  Anyway, here's some pics of the end result.

smoked bacon onion

Smoked bacon onion

smoked potatoes

Smoked potatoes

UDS Crispy Skin Chicken (take 2)

I was bound and determined to make some smoked chicken with crispy skin without resorting to the grill.  I knew it had to be possible with the Ugly Drum Smoker so I gave it another go.

I think I was so obsessed with this ideal because I once heard that it's one of the requirements for award-winning smoked chicken in BBQ competitions.  Basically, the judges have to be able to take a bit and pull back and the skin needs to be nice and crispy but also stay on the piece of chicken.  That always sounded like black magic to me, but I think I got the formula figured out.

Keeping all the intakes wide open and popping the firebasket into the smoker when it is still nice and hot, I was able to keep temperatures closer to 350F.  I also flipped the chicken halfway through the smoke so I could crisp it up on both sides.  I don't think it too more than 1 1/2-2 hours, probably closer to 1 1/2.

Here's some pictures of the end result.

UDS smoked chicken with crispy skin

UDS smoked chicken with crispy skin

smoked chicken thigh with crispy skin

Finally, smoked chicken thigh with crispy skin!

ugly drum smoker crispy chicken

Ugly Drum Smoker = Crispy Chicken

Chicken Thighs in the Ugly Drum Smoker

I'm starting to realize that the month of March (when Steve helped me realize my dream of a completely assembled UDS) was a month that was heavy on smoked meat.  Sure, part of that was because smoked meat is delicious but I also wanted to really figure out how to get the best use out of my UDS and how to maintain different temperatures.

For example, if you have ever tried to smoke chicken or turkey in an ECB or other water smoker then you know how tricky it is to get crispy skin.  Usually you have to end up tossing it on the grill at the end to crisp up the skin.  Well, with my new UDS I knew that crispy skin chicken was a possibility.  I should be able to get consistent temps around 350F and that outta crisp up the chicken nicely.  So, I put on my lab coat and started experimenting.

As you can see from this picture, it was a little chilly outside, so that was already going to be a challenge.

Smoking Meat, in Montana, in March

Smoking Meat, in Montana, in March

I opened up all of the intakes on the bottom of my UDS and left the tops off of both bungholes (tee hee) and here's a picture of my results.  That handsome fella to the right of my remote grill temp receiver is an Eddy Out.  That's a real tasty beer made by our local Kettlehouse brewery, in case you aren't familiar with Montana micro-brews.

Hotter temps in the UDS

Hotter temps in the UDS

On this particular day, I wasn't able to get it much hotter than 291F.  But, I think that's due to two factors.  1) It was pretty chilly outside and 2) I think I capped the smoker a little bit too early and I effectively cutoff the air supply.  So, it never really got roaring in there.

But, the chicken thighs came out great.  They could have been a little crispier, but I've since been able to achieve that.  Don't worry, I'll post pictures of that as well.

Smoked chicken thighs in the UDS

Smoked chicken thighs in the UDS


Pork Shoulder in the UDS (Ugly Drum Smoker)

As you might have read in the previous post, "Time to Build a UDS (Ugly Drum Smoker)", I had just built myself a drum smoker (with loads of help from my rad in-laws!).  Well, this baby hadn't been in my hands 12 hours when Steve and I decided that meat needed to go inside it immediately!

So, I headed off to the local butcher and purchased two 8lb pork shoulder roasts.  Here they are all fancied up with their rub.

Rubbed Pork Shoulder

Rubbed Pork Shoulder

I don't exactly recall which rub we used here, but here's one that I've really been into on other pork shoulders:

  • 1/4 cup of paprika (Yup, you read that right)
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne

I topped off the loaded fire basket (which had stopped giving off the thick bluish smoke and was ready to use) with some soaked hickory chips.

Fire basket loaded with hickory and charcoal

Fire basket loaded with hickory and charcoal

Then it was just a matter of lowering the fire basket (using a long metal hook that came with our backyard firepit) into the UDS, inserting the temperature probes and closing it up nice and tight.

UDS - full of pork shoulder

UDS - full of pork shoulder

As you can see in the picture.  There are two bungholes (tee hee) on the lid of this drum.  A little one and a big one.  I've experimented with different combinations and it seems like the best method for me to maintain consistent temperature is to keep the little hole uncovered and cover the big hole halfway with that flat piece of metal you see there.  I keep both of the nipple caps off of those intakes and use the ball valve to fine tune it.  I can usually keep 225F for a long time using this method.

16 some-odd hours later, these little beauties emerged from the UDS.

Pork shoulder contestant #1

Pork shoulder contestant #1

Pork shoulder contestant #2

Pork shoulder contestant #2

Now, don't panic.  I know it looks burnt.  But, that's just all the awesomness from your rub.  The meat inside is moist and amazing.  See, check it out.

Pulled Pork, Huzzah!

Pulled Pork, Huzzah!

Now, just grab some forks (or bearclaws) and start shredding.  You can use your hands if you don't feel pain or have really nice gloves.  But, believe me, it's hot inside these babies.  Also, I should note that you want to shred the pork pretty much right before you serve it.  So, plan accordingly.

Here's how much meat we got out of those two 8lb shoulders.

UDS Pulled Pork Success!

UDS Pulled Pork Success!


Great.  Now I'm drooling.

Time to Build a UDS (Ugly Drum Smoker)

This post has been a looong time coming.  After reading and hearing about Ugly Drum Smokers, I knew that it was the next step in my smoking evolution.  I had even considered buying one of those pellet smokers they sell at Costco.  Here, take a peak.

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I'm sure these things are amazing, but I couldn't justify spending the money.  Then I read a thread about UDS and it was on.  [Note: Here's a link to that UDS thread.]  Now I was on a mission to score a 55 gallon drum.

Now, you would think that would be easy.  But, not so much in Missoula, Montana.  We don't really have any food processing plants or anything like that.  But, I lucked out because a friend of mine was involved with the local food co-op and they happened to have picked up a 55 gallon drum that once held olive oil.  Score!

I got the drum in my garage and there was a little wrinkle in my plan.  You see, there are different types of drums and some of them have sealed lids whereas others have lids you can screw off.  This was the former.  So, I did some more research.

It turns out that the lid of these sealed drums is actually folded around the lip of the top of the drum.  What that means is that you should be able to grind along the outside of the top edge and then pry the top off.  If you do it right, you can keep the lid and continue to use it seal your UDS.  Now, something you need to know about me is that I'm a complete doofus with tools.  Thankfully, by brother-in-law is wizard with tools (and a fireman to boot, in case things went sideways).  Also, he's the guy who originally got me into smoking meat in the first place with his rad gift of my first ECB smoker.

He and his family arrived in town and he was on a mission to help me build this smoker.  Here he is grinding away the top edge of the drum.  You might wonder why I wasn't in the picture.  Well... I was guarding the cooler.  It was chock-full of Steve's favorite light beer that I was helping him enjoy.

Grinding the sealed drum for the UDS

Grinding the sealed drum for the UDS

You can see in the next picture what we were trying to do.  You see those three layers of metal?  Well, the top and bottom layers are actually the lid.  The middle layer is actually the top edge of the drum itself.  That's what I mean when I say that it's rolled around the top lip.  So, if you take some sort of chisel or prying tool, you can pry between the top two layers and WHAMMO!, the lid comes right off.

The layers of a sealed drum

The layers of a sealed drum

See, check this out.  Also, take note how gorgeous the interior of the drum was.  It would never look this nice again.

Grinding the top off of a sealed 55 gallon drum

Grinding the top off of a sealed 55 gallon drum

It was during this point of the build that we got hungry.  We had run out of patience and we knew there was definitely some welding work to come and we wanted smoked meat NOW!  So, we started up the ECB and popped a brisket on there.  As you can see in the picture, I sort of folded the brisket in half this time.  My thinking was that the fat cap would be protecting both sides of the brisket during the smoke.  Also, this way I could keep the entire brisket on the top shelf where it's a little hotter and dryer.

Brisket on a modified ECB

Brisket on a modified ECB

We let this baby smoke the rest of the afternoon and evening and ended up pulling it around 2pm the next day.  I think we could have let it go longer but we had company and they were hungry.  Here's a picture of the finished product.

Folded brisket in modified ECB smoker

Folded brisket in modified ECB smoker

Alright, now back to work on the UDS!  Probably the most difficult part of building a Ugly Drum Smoker is the fire basket.  Especially if you don't have some sort of welding device.  Luckily, my sister-in-law's father is a real whiz with welding.  So, we popped over to his house and he did us a real favor.  Our intention was to buy him some beers but we forgot to pick them up and we ended up drinking his beer.  D'oh!  I swear it wasn't intentional and it's reminded me that I need to bring him some fine hooch.  Anyway, here's a picture of me holding the fire basked while he welds it up.  You can't tell from the picture, but I was a little concerned.  I was fairly certain that either electrocution or 3rd degree burns were in my immediate future.


Welding the fire basket for the UDS

Welding the fire basket for the UDS - Thanks Jim!

Here's a look at the finished product, about to get loaded up with some coals.

UDS Fire Basket

UDS Fire Basket

As to what went into the creation of the fire basket (besides my nervous sweat and Jim's hard work).  Here's the list:

  • Weber Smoky Joe replacement grill
  • Expanded steel (from the hardware store)
  • 2" bolts (to use as feet)
  • A 1/4" steel bar (so you can grab it with a hook of some sort)

Here's the grill that made up the bottom of the basket.

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As you can see in this next picture.  To finish up the drum we basically just drilled some holes so that those bolts could hold up the grill we placed inside the UDS.  Also, if you look at the bottom of the drum, you see one of the three air intakes we created.  Two of these I can close with nipple caps and the other one has a ball valve on it.  If you read the UDS forum post they do a better job of describing what you need.

Inside the UDS

Inside the UDS

The grill I used for my UDS is the following:

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The parts that lift up are pretty nice because you can add more wood without having to pull the grill out of the smoker.  Score!

Now, as to how to use this lil' baby.  First, I start up some coals in the chimney starter.  Remember, you never want to use lighter fluid with a smoker.  You'll regret it.  After the coals have stopped making the dense bluish smoke, I pop them in the fire basket and then top it off with charcoal.  This basket easily holds and entire bag of charcoal, which is great because it lasts a LONG time.  (Easily 12 hours, probably more like 15).

Loaded fire basket for UDS

Loaded fire basket for UDS

In the next post, I'll show you what was the first thing we smoked in this baby!

Smoked Steelhead in Modified ECB Smoker

Well, my original plan was to smoke some salmon.  You can't really cold smoke anything in an ECB (or, if you can, you are a better man than I) but it sure seemed like I ought to be able to do a better job with salmon in the smoker than on the grill.  So, I headed to the grocery store.  Well, as it turned out, the local natural and organic grocery store didn't have any salmon.  Harumph.  However, they did have steelhead trout!  Huzzah!

This was my first attempt cooking steelhead and I'm definitely going back for more.  The advantage of steelhead over salmon is that it's much, much cheaper.  Or, at least it is here in Montana where you can just pull the lil' buggers out of the water if you know what you are doing (I don't).

The downside is that there are a lot more pin bones.  So, you can either spend some time with pliers and pull them all out beforehand or just warn folks when they are eating that there are going to be bones.  Other than that, though, it's all WIN with steelhead.

If I recall, I brined these fillets in a combination of salt water and dill.  Then I took them out of the brine and let them sit at room temperature for an hour or so.  Typically you do this so you get a little bit of a salty crust on the outside of the fish.  I then got my smoker maintaining around 200 degrees and smoked the trout until it hit 145F internal temperature.

I don't have any pictures of the bratwurst that I had on the top rack of the smoker, but they really helped out the trout.  Dripping fatty goodness and some of the really spicy rub that I put on the bratwurst.  Yum.  Anyway, check out the picture.

Smoked Steelhead Trout


If I can dig up the bratwurst pictures, I'll post them here at a later date.  Now, get out there and get smoking.... or, at least eating. 😉

Smoked Brisket (Round 2) – Modified ECB

This was my second attempt at brisket.  The first attempt, My First Brisket Attempt – Unmodified ECB Smoker, was decent enough but it was more like a roast than anything else.  I wanted the meat to be falling apart.  So, I gave it another go.

First though, I forgot to mention this, but somewhere before I did this brisket I did try to smoke a pork butt.  It didn't go so well.  I didn't realize how long it actually takes to smoke a big fatty piece of meat like a pork butt.  Basically, things go smoothly until your internal temperature hits somewhere around 160F.  Then as the fat starts to render, the temperature plateaus and you can sit at the 160F mark for hours.  This particular pork butt was started at 8am and it only broke out of the plateau around midnight.  But, at that point I was ready for bed and I didn't want to change the coals again.  So, we put it in the crockpot and the end result wasn't awesome.

What does that have to do with brisket, you might ask?  Well, you see, this was my first major setback with smoking meat and I was a little gunshy of doing big pieces of meat.  But, on a whim I headed into our local butcher to see if they had any brisket.  Not only did they have some, but I was amazed for two reasons:

  1. A complete brisket is a massive thing, I had only seen brisket "flats" in the past and this isn't really the whole deal
  2. Brisket is pretty freaking cheap.  I think mine as like $2.79/lb. and it was something like 20 pounds.

I got the brisket home and then realized that I was going to have a hard time fitting the whole thing in my little ECB smoker.  I mean, look at this beast.

Rubbed Brisket

The bottle of BBQ sauce in the background gives you a sense of scale.

As I said previously, often when you get Brisket at the grocery store or Costco or whathaveyou, you just get the "flat".  In the above picture.  The flat is the part of the brisket on the right hand side.  The "point" is the big hunk of meat on the left hand side.  So, how was I going to do this?  I did some reading and it seemed like I didn't want to cut the brisket before I smoked it.  Sure, it'll smoke faster, but I think you risk it drying out.  Although, I think one day I might separate the point from the flat and brine the flat for corned beef and smoke just the point.  I say that because the point is much fattier than the flat and I think it would fall apart really nicely in a smoker.

But, I didn't want to leave anything to chance and I didn't want to ruin a $45 piece of meat.  So, I just applied a dry rub the the whole brisket and then went to look at my smoker to see if I could figure out how I was going to do this.

I should mention that for this brisket I used all store-bought rubs and sauces.  In fact it was all Stubbs.  I was feeling a little lazy and overwhelmed and I also didn't want to make any mistakes with homemade sauces and whatnot.  I think that the next time I do a brisket, though, I'm making my own marinade and rub and sauce at least.

So, once I was outside with my McGuyver hat on, I figured out a way to get the whole brisket in my smoker.  Basically, my plan was to angle the second grill vertically into the bottom grill.  That is hard to explain with words but I'm hoping this picture gives you a better idea of what I'm trying to say.

Angled Grills in the ECB

Not fitting the brisket in the smoker was not an option.

In a previous post, I described the Minion Method that some folks use with water smokers.  Here are pictures of the process.  Basically, fill up the charcoal pan and leave a little room in the center.

Charcoal Pan in the ECB for Minion Method

You want as many coals as possible in there, with just room enough for the hot coals to come.

Now you can add your red hot coals to the top.  I get these going in a chimney starter and I use about 15-20 coals is all.  If you have a vent on the bottom of your charcoal pan, you want it wide open.

Hot coals in the middle

Woo hoo. It's like magic!

Now I was ready to place my meat on my tilted grill arrangement.  I think I made an error here, but it didn't hurt me too much.  When I do this again, I'm definitely going to have the "point" of the brisket be on the sloped part of the grill.  But, I didn't do that.  I think this will help for a few reasons:

  1. It's hotter up at the top and the point is the biggest section of the brisket.  It also has the most fat to render down.
  2. All of that melting fat is going to roll downhill and I think that will help to keep my brisket flat nice and moist during the smoke
  3. The brisket flat will be closer to water and this should keep it juicier and keep it from getting too hot and drying out during the smoke
  4. The weight of the point should keep the brisket compressing during the smoke.  I kept reading about people saying to push the brisket together as you smoke it.  You just don't want it to stretch out because then it will get dry.

But, as you can see in the picture, I had the point resting on the bottom grill.  Don't worry, it was still freaking amazing.

Brisket on the Angled ECB Grill

It's like The Flintstones, right?

Oh yeah, I should mention that I had the fat cap of the brisket facing down.  I just read to do it that way, although I'd like to try it both ways and see how much of a difference it makes.

Anyway, I think I got the smoker all buttoned up around 8pm on Saturday night.  From this point forward it was just making sure to keep the temp as close to 225F as possible.  Also I had bowl full of the Stubbs Marinade and I was brushing it on every few hours.  As you can imagine, what followed was the worst night of "sleep" I ever had.  It was all airport sleep.  You know, when you know you have to get up at 5am to catch a plane?  Ugh.  I also had to change coals in the middle of the night and, since my deck was covered with ice and snow, I nearly slipped and dumped hot coals all over myself.  Thankfully, I lived.

So, I wanted to get the brisket to 175F internal and then my plan was to pull the brisket and wrap it up in some heavy duty foil, then a thick towel and then close it up in a cooler in my kitchen.  I read that this is a good way to get it up to 185F without drying it out.  I never did take the temperature again after I unwrapped it (and hour later) but I was happy with the results.  Here, check out the pictures.

Smoked Brisket in an ECB

Brisket sandwich anyone?

I know what you are thinking.  "Hay, how come these pictures are so amazing?"  Yeah, my wife took these and she has an actual camera, instead of a phone and she knows what she's doing.  Don't worry, I'm going to see if she won't take all the pictures from now on.

More Brisket Pr0n Pictures

Best Smoked Meat Sunday Ever!

Last picture of the BBQ Brisket

I was ready to propose to the brisket at this point.

It's funny.  We actually took these pictures before anyone had even tasted the brisket.  I was terrified of any possible result of the tasting and here is why.  If the brisket was dry and tasted terrible then I just wasted 20 hours of my life.  If the brisket was amazing then I knew what it took to get it there again and it meant many sleepless nights in my future.  They need to invent a magical pill or potion that lets you sleep like a baby for exactly 4 hours.  Then I could check the brisket regularly but still be a somewhat functioning human the next day.  Oh well, if that's the price you gotta pay, I'll gladly pay it.

After everyone ate their full of brisket, this is how much we had left.

Smoked Brisket Leftovers

And there was much rejoicing!


Smoked Steak and Roast – Modified ECB Smoker

Ok.  I know what you are thinking.  Smoked steak?!  Why would you do that?  Well, hear me out.  You like the flavor of smoked meat, right?  Sure you do.  But, you want your steak to have grill makes and a nicely seared exterior, right?  Hay, can't you have both?

The answer is a triumphant YES!  Here's what you do.  When you put your steaks on the smoker, start up your grill and get it nice and hot.  Then when your steaks hit 110F, pull them out of the smoker and pop them onto the grill.  All you are doing here is just putting marks on the steaks, so don't leave them for more than a minute.  The end result is amazing awesomeness in your mouth.

On this particular day, we also smoked a Beef Roast.  I forget what the exact cut was, but we basically did the same thing we did for the steaks.  That is to say, we smoked the roast until it hit 110F internally and then popped it into an already hot oven (like 475F) and then roast it until you hit the desired temp.  I think I did these to 145F because that's where I like my red meat.  Here's some pictures of the finished results.

Smoked Steak

Delicious smokey taste plus grill marks!

Smoked Beef Roast (finished in the oven)

Inside it's smokey goodness, outside it's roasted texture.

Chicken and Steelhead Trout (?!) – Modified ECB Smoker

Some of my in-laws were visiting and we wanted to make something more on the healthy side.  And, by that I mean, I didn't want to stay up all night making a pork butt.  So, the original idea was smoked salmon and chicken.  I had never actually smoked fish before and I was eager to do so.  Also, I wanted to try and smoke a chicken at "normal" temp (225F) and then finish it on the grill to see if I could get the skin as crispy as I wanted it.

Well, the Good Food Store didn't have any salmon, if you can believe that.  However, what they did have was Steelhead Trout.  The good news with that is that Steelhead is a fraction of the cost of Salmon.  At least here in Montana it is.  The bad news is that it has quite a few more bones so you have to either a) remove all the pin bones with pliers or b) tell folks to chew carefully.  I did a little from column A and a little from column B.

I made a brine for my Steelhead and let it soak overnight.  I've since done some reading and I think really only 1-2 hours is necessary.  Then you should let it dry out for at least an hour.  This helps it to develop a sort of tougher outer layer.

Now, I would love to cold smoke some fish at 90F but that just isn't possible in an ECB.  (Although, if you've figured it out, please let me know.  I've tried to do cheese at low temps before and it ends up just tasting like black charcoal.)  So, I smoked at my normal temp of 225F and I pulled the fish when it was done.  I don't remember what internal temp that was, but I bet if you google "salmon temperature" (yeah, I know this is Steelhead) you will find out when you should pull it.

I pulled the chicken at 150F and then I moved it inside of the rib rack to my grill where I crisped up the skin.  Here's the photos.

Smoked Chicken (finished on the grill)

Finally got the skin nice and crispy!

Smoked Steelhead Trout

Pretty much like Salmon, only at half the cost.