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

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:

Weber 7433 Hinged Cooking Grate Weber 7433 Hinged Cooking Grate
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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!