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.

Pork Chops and Chicken – Unmodified ECB Smoker

Going back through old pictures and I'm remembering that I actually bought my digital grill thermometer before I modified the smoker.  Or, maybe it was partially modified?  Anyway, I definitely got some good results.  Once again, it was Smoked Meat Sunday at our house.  I actually went to the local Good Food Store (think Whole Foods) and got some natural and organic pork chops and a whole chicken.  I did a dry rub on both the bird and the chops and I topped the chops with apple slices.

The chicken I put on the bottom grill but I put it inside of one of these jobbies.

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I like this thing for a few reasons.  First off, you can flip it over and have your ribs standing up (so you can get more of 'em inside the grill and, therefore, inside your belly).  Second, it provides a little support for the chicken while you smoke it.  But, more importantly, if you want to transfer the chicken to your grill (to crisp up the skin) you can just grab the whole thing and set it on the grill.  That also keeps the chicken a little further away from the fire in your grill, so you are less likely to burn it.

Anyway, I put the pork chops on the top grill because I expected them to cook faster than the chicken and I wanted to easily be able to pull them off.  Another thing to consider is that the top of the ECB is definitely hotter than the grill right above the water pan.  Hotter and dryer.  So, keep that in mind when you are smoking stuff.

I pulled the pork chops at 170F and I now think that is too long for chops.  Maybe closer to 150F would be better.  Don't get me wrong, they were delicious, but I think they could have been juicier.  The chicken I pulled at 170F also.  Actually, it might have been 160F.  I'm fine with that, but I think other folks freak out, so 170 or 180F is safer.  It's a littler different in a smoker because it takes so long for poultry to get out of the "Danger Zone" of 40-140F.  So, it seems like folks lean towards letting poultry go a little bit longer just to be on the safe side.

Here's a picture of my thermometer in action.  200F grill temp is a little low, so something tells me that I was about to head outside and either shake out the ash or start a fresh batch of coals.  It looks like my chicken was close to being done, though, so I bet I opted for shaking out the ash so I didn't waste any charcoal.

Digital Thermometer

Time to shake the ash out of the charcoal pan.

Here's a picture of the finished pork chops.  I feel like the apples helped keep the chops moist and they definitely added a nice flavor.

Smoked Pork Chops

Apples count as vegetables, right?

Here is a picture of the chicken right before I pulled it out of the smoker.  You can get a good look at the rib rack in action here.

Smoked Chicken in the ECB

Jeez.. just posting this picture makes me hungry.

My First Brisket Attempt – Unmodified ECB Smoker

I decided that I should probably post articles in the order that I cooked them.  That is proving to be difficult for me because a) I want to talk about the stuff I've been doing recently and b) I didn't document it all as well as I should have.

Ah well, at least I can try to tell you what might have gone wrong on these attempts.

This was actually the first thing I cooked in my smoker so I guess I should talk about what kind of smoker I have.  Officially, it's called a Brinkmann Smoke-N-Grill, and it looks like this:

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But, people who are into BBQ call it an ECB.  That stands for El Cheapo Brinkmann.  I know what you are thinking.  "El Cheapo Brinkmann, that makes it sound like this thing is a hunk of junk."  Well, it turns out that you get quite a bit more than your $45 worth.  You can often find these on sale (heck, even at Ace Hardware in my town) near the end of the season.

Anyway, to really make decent BBQ on an ECB, you need to do some modifications.  But, we will get to that later because, when I attempted my first brisket, I didn't know anything about mods.  So, I was having to deal with the following shortcomings of the ECB.

  1. It's insanely hard to manage your temperature because this baby has no vents
  2. It's insanely hard to manage your temperature because the thermostat sucks eggs
  3. If you need to smoke something for more than 4-5 hours, you are in trouble.  Adding charcoal through the tiny door is a mess

But, I didn't know what to expect so I started my brisket around 9am or so and crossed my fingers.

You know, we should probably talk about brisket at this point.  The briskets (yes, plural) that I was attempting to smoke were actually partial briskets.  We got them at Costco and they were just the flat.  On a complete brisket, there is a flat and a point  I've come to learn that you really want to do the whole thing together.

Anyway, people were coming over to the party around 6pm so I was hoping to be done by then. NOTE: If you are wanting to smoke a complete brisket in an ECB, I would start smoking about 24 hours before you want to serve.  Yup.  A full freaking day.  About an hour before folks arrived I put some bratwurst on the top rack of my ECB and those turned out really great.  Smoked bratwurst sounded a little weird to me, but the end result is a nice snap on the casing and tons of juicy meat on the inside.  I think I smoked them until 180F internal temp.

The brisket, however, was nowhere near done.  To really do a brisket correctly (so that it's falling apart) you want it to hit 180F or 190F internal.  I was starting to realize that I was never going to be able to get to that temp with my ECB (mainly because I was going to have to start fresh with charcoal and getting to that charcoal bowl once you have the smoker loaded is a nightmare (that's actually addressed in one of the mods).

So, we smoked the briskets until they got to about 140-145F and then we just sliced them very thin, like you would a roast.  Think smoky tasting slices of beef about the size and thickness of bacon and you aren't far off.  We ate it all that night and, even though it didn't go exactly according to plan, it is still fondly remembered.  Sadly, no pictures were taken (at least, I don't think so).  So, you'll have to use your imagination.

Now, if you want to see some pictures of brisket done right (or, at least, better) then check out my follow-up post Smoked Brisket (Round 2) – Modified ECB.