Event 8 - Barbecue in February

by Dave MichelFebruary 26, 2015

This posting is for the "Barbecue, In Minnesota, IN FEBRUARY?" event.

Thursday, February 26, circa 7:00 AM (the day before the event)

This blog entry will be more or less in real time. Yesterday I smoked a test rack of ribs. Today, I got up early and got the first of the pork butts in the Weber - the second one will go in this afternoon. Later today I'll be making coleslaw and potato salad for the event tomorrow. The pulled pork will be finished off in the oven tomorrow while the ribs are smoked and after I've baked pies. Oh, yeah - I still have to get pie plates.

By the way, pork butt is sometimes referred to as pork shoulder, which is actually a bit more descriptive a term. "Butt" is the name of the barrels that the pork shoulders were shipped in, and became synonymous with the cut of meat. Most butchers still call it "butt" (maybe because it's fun to say).

Thursday, February 26, 9:40 AM

There have been a couple of cancellations, I've been updating the web site, managing email and setting up this blog (I took some pictures that will be coming soon to a blog near you), But I'm still in my PJs, and I gots to get a move on if I will gets done whats I need done today.

Thursday, February 26, 12:38 PM

All cancellations have been filled again. Free food is still popular Wink But I'm behind schedule after visiting Text Study with Don Luther, Chuck Lutz and Jeff Barber (amongst others) and running out to buy pie plates. I've got to at least get the second pork butt in the Weber and finish the potato salad and biscuits today.

Thursday, February 26, 7:20 PM

I got both pork butts smoked today, and am 90% done with the potato salad, but that's all so far. A haircut and a retirement party (no, not mine) took up a chunk of the afternoon. I'll finish the potato salad tonight, and possibly the buttermilk biscuits, but the coleslaw is going to wait until tomorrow, along with ribs, pies, cleanup, setup and errands. Can I do it? Maybe. Probably. But for now, I'm beat.

Friday, February 27, 5:51 AM

Woke up with clarity this morning that the oven is today's resource constraint, since I need to do biscuits, pies and pulled pork so they're done by 5 PM. But before I get going on that, I thought I'd post about the way I've been smoking in a standard Weber kettle. This is all inspired by Alton Brown's use of a PitmasterIQ temperature control unit that I saw on his Good Eats show on Netflix. It seemed so obvious, practical and, well, geeky, that I had to try it. It really works, and is one of the highlights of my whole sabbatical.

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I took a bunch of photos yesterday as I was setting up for smoking the pulled pork. When I started, it was 0 degrees outside (the temp on the right). Outside temperature seems to make no difference to the smoking process.

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This is about five or six hours' worth of charcoal. The hickory chunks are for flavor. The white block on the right is a parafin starter. No lighter fluid in the kettle, please. I found during testing that it is supremely important to light the minimum number of coals, otherwise the kettle can go into thermal runaway (getting hot enough that air is drawn in through leaks in the kettle and the control unit can't stop it). This happened to me yesterday with the second butt, when I added more charcoal to the already hot embers. I needed to douse about 2/3 of the fuel with water to get back to manageable temperatures (i.e., cool enough that the PitmasterIQ could regulate).

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Here's the main unit - a PitmasterIQ 110. The temperature probe clips to the grill inside the kettle (I cut a small slit in the lip of the kettle for probe leads). The box contains the electronics as well as a fan that pumps air through the tube to a silver manifold that covers one of the grill vents. All other vents are closed or blocked with metal duct tape. The unit regulates temperature by adjusting the flow of air to the inside of the grill. Basically, it turns your kettle grill into a quite accurate oven. In fact, the temperature inside the grill is more stable and accurate than our nice Jenn-Air (no knock on the Jenn-Air, which is a really great oven).

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Since barbeque is all about managing temperature over time, I've got a wireless dual sensor thermometer that gives me the temp of both the air in the grill and the food. I just twist-tie the transmitter to the PitmasterIQ.

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Lit and ready to go. Three temperature sensors: the thermometer has the sensor in the food and the sensor to the right that measures air temperature in the kettle, and the PitmasterIQ has the sensor closest to you clipped to the grill.

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The haze of smokey goodness. This will be done smoking when the food probe reads 150 degrees, about five and a half hours. I finish it off in the oven the day of the event.

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I can monitor the temperature of the food and the smoker in the comfort of a warm home. This thermometer allows you to set temperature alarms - I've got the food alarm set to 150 degrees.

Friday, February 27, 9:19 AM

Biscuits done. Pies in the oven. Gonna start on ribs. After they're in the smoker, make coleslaw. Pork butts go in the oven a bit before noon. Looking OK so far.

Saturday, February 28, 8:19 AM - Aftermath

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Sorry for the radio silence - got stuck in the moment there (for about 24 hours). So much for this being a real time blog posting. The event went really well. Both pork butt and ribs finished right on time (Friday at 5 PM). I was guesstimating on both, since I've never finished a pork butt in the oven the next day after smoking and refrigeration, and I've not done five racks of ribs simultaneously. Cole slaw and pecan pie were hits, and the meats turned out really well. Plenty of food for leftovers and gifts (even after the party crashers Tongue Out).

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Once again, a really fun mix of people, with Lutheran clergy strongly represented. There were some beer connoisseurs in attendance, with Bob Wertz bringing in a large bottle of sour beer. I'm not a beer drinker myself, but my first reaction on tasting it was, "I could cook with this". It had a nice vinegary timbre to it.

This is probably the event I've looked forward to the most food-wise, just because of (recent) prior success smoking in the winter. True to form, most of the salmon, pork butt and ribs I've smoked this month were done in single digit weather. Barbecue in February really works. Who knew?

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Tags:

Cooking | Sabbatical

Comments (3) -

Gus
GusUnited States
2/27/2015 3:46:16 PM #

Yum. In advance.

Kris Tostengard Michel
Kris Tostengard MichelUnited States
3/2/2015 10:47:27 AM #

Great video! And yes, the smoker is awesome. Best discovery of the sabbatical! And there were delicious discoveries!

Kris Tostengard Michel
Kris Tostengard MichelUnited States
3/2/2015 10:48:54 AM #

(make that 'MANY delicious discoveries')

About the author

Dave

Dave is a recording engineer, musician and software developer in Minneapolis. He's found that a cooking sabbatical is more work than normal life.

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