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.

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.

Outset Dual Rib / Roasting Rack Outset Dual Rib / Roasting Rack
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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.