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The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke

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If At First You Don’t Succeed-Pt. 2

First Image
Success can be fun, but we can often learn more from our failures. This entry marks my revisiting the that I made with mixed results during my so-called “Grill Camp” week. While the pot roast was very tasty, it was also tough and dry. There were two factors I felt contributed to this and I was anxious to try it again. As it turns out, a third factor may have also been part of the mix.

This recipe from
Smoke & Spice did not call for an end temperature. It gave a time of 4 hours in the smoker, followed by wrapping it in foil and returning it to the smoker for another 3 hours to finish. Several problems here for me. One thing I’ve learned in the short time I’ve been smoking is: No two pieces of meat are the same. I’ve had a Boston Butt take as little as 12 hours and as many as 20 for the same sized piece of meat. So even if my piece was the same 3 pounds, like the one in the recipe, it could have taken a different amount of time. To make matters worse my Bottom Round roast was 4.25 pounds (2 Kg). As a result, I went in search of a recipe or message board post to find a recommended ending temperature. After searching three message boards I found one solitary post that seemed to indicate an end temperature of 180 degrees (82 C). Many people make it to slice, but the posts didn’t mention the end temp. I also found many more people take this cut to 205 (96 C) to get a pulled or shredded beef, so 180 (82 C) seemed reasonable for slicing.


Second Image “Third
The first Bottom Round Roast. Note the squarish brick-like shape.

The second thing I learned in my message board travels was that people rested their roast in foil before serving it. This seemed to make sense as it worked well for beef brisket. I was happy to see this since it gave me some flexibility as far as serving time. My other question was the temperature or time where I should pull the roast from the smoker and foil it for the last part of the smoke. I extrapolated that my sized roast would probably need 5 hours not 4. You know 3 lbs. (1.3 Kg) is to 4 hours as 4.25 lbs (2 Kg). is to X hours-solve for X. Now if they told you in school you would also use math in your adult hobbies, maybe you’d pay more attention in school. Moving along though, the answer was just under 5 hours. I was also thinking it should reach around 140 degrees (60 C). This is the temperature where the meat stops absorbing any smoke you throw at it. Armed with this information I was ready to start.

The first Bottom Round roast I smoked was a donation from my mother. She had one in the freezer that she bought and was unable to use one weekend. I think I was to blame. It was because one of her sons invited her over for ribs. The roast was taken out of the freezer on Monday night and put in my refrigerator. Wednesday night when I pulled it out to insert the garlic and jalapeno slivers in the skin, it was still frozen. I defrosted it in a series of cold water baths in a large lobster pot. I made sure to keep replacing the cold water every 20 minutes or so. After 90 minute it was defrosted. I prepped it and placed it in the fridge overnight.


A“Fourth “Fifth B
The first roast (A) had already begun to shrink quite a bit compared to the second roast (B) when they were being foiled

The next day the smoke went about as planned. I threw the meat on at 7:00 and about 5 hours later, near noon, it had hit 140 (60 C). I pulled it, added some whole peeled tomatoes and their juice, plus a little mop sauce and foiled it. Up until that point I was feeling like a genius. Bad Sign! When I returned it to the grill it behaved strangely for the first hour. The temps actually went down. They dropped almost 10 degrees (5.5 C) before climbing back again. When they started going up it was fast steady rise that told me the roast would finish closer to 3:00 not the 5:00 I was shooting for. With the foil rest in a cooler figured into the mix I was not worried. You can usually hold meat this way for up to 4 hours. Then my dinner time changed a bit so it was 6:00, or 3 hours in the foil, before the roast was carved.

When I opened the foil there was a little juice in the bottom, but less than I expected. The roast also had shrunken in a strange manner. It appeared to have lost far more in depth than height. Before going into the foil it had a square shaped profile when viewed from the end. Coming out of the foil it was now a tall rectangle. When I cut into it I knew I might have problems. My electric knife did not glide through it as I expected. It did not even slice through it easily. It was about as much work as I could remember having with the electric knife. When we started eating the meat everyone loved the flavor of the spicy rub, but the roast was fairly dry and somewhat tough. Not shoe leather, but certainly not as tender as the pot roast you get doing a boiled dinner. I was quite disappointed, more so than the others. Perhaps that comes from smelling it cooking all day and expecting something this certainly was not. From my reaction everyone was afraid I wouldn’t ever want to do this again, but the opposite was true. It was tasty enough that I wanted to do it again and again until I got it right. On a Saturday about 10 days later I got my chance.


“Sixth
The Maverick ET-73 Remote Smoking Thermometer is Waterproof which definitely comes in handy on days like this.

This time around things would be different. I would start with an unfrozen roast and would keep it in foil for only 15 minutes after removing it from the smoker. I wanted to get a piece from the same store and with the same shape and weight. I got 2 out of 3. When it came to the shape there were no squarish shaped roasts. They were all about twice as wide as they were deep and high. In looking over all of these roasts, I realized that the grain was running in the opposite direction from what I would have guessed. This made me realize I most likely cut the first roast WITH the grain instead of against it. When the roast proved to be frozen it put me behind schedule to get it prepped and I really never did look at the grain direction before applying the rub. This is something I always do because once the meat is rubbed it is often impossible to read the grain. I know with brisket this makes a HUGE difference. Don’t ask how I know this. I guessed it probably played a part in making the first Bottom Round roast seem tough.


“Seventh
You can cook in almost any weather if you set your mind to it. BTW before I get fire safety tips: The gas can was EMPTY. The rain flooded the backyard for a while & the empty can floated to where you see it.

Saturday rolled around and the weather was not good to say the least. The forecasts got worse the closer it got to Saturday. Rain was to start around midnight and continue all day. The remnants of a tropical storm were headed our way. The winds to start would be 18-25 MPH (29-40 kph) with gusts up to 40 MPH (96 kph). In the afternoon the winds would pick up even more with gusts in the 40 to 60 MPH (64-96 kph) range. Hardly ideal weather for smoking. I didn’t dare use the EZ-Up shelter I’d just bought, as it would simply blow away. My biggest fear was whether I could light my charcoal chimney in the rain. I’d never done this before and searching various message boards I came up empty handed. Luckily the rain was steady but not heavy when I lit the chimney. I filled the chimney in the basement and added the newspaper to the bottom before bringing it outside. I was glad to have a lighter to do this because it took the newspapers a while to catch. They finally lit and other than making more sparks than normal (from the rain hitting the lit coals) the charcoal was ready in 15 minutes.

The conditions were fun to say the least. It never got as bad as what they predicted, but it was still about the worst weather I have smoked in. A year of familiarity with the smoker allowed me to keep the temps in range most of the time. The biggest problem I had was when there was quick change in the conditions. Several times it went from drizzle to a deluge at the drop of a hat. Usually I try to keep my smoker within 5 degrees (2.7 C) of my desired temp. To avoid being camped out in the backyard I was prepared to allow a 15 degree (8.3 C) swing, but I never let it get beyond 10 degrees (5.5 C) plus or minus. The winds were bad and several times came close to making me lose my balance. I pointed the CG so the SFB grate was away from the main wind direction. I also lucked out in that there was never a monsoon happening when it was time to mop. So other than making some extra trips out to the smoker and getting soaked even with a rubber raincoat on, things went much better than expected temperature wish.


“Eight
The second roast after being sliced lengthwise. This was done to avoid huge slices. Note the juices on the cutting board. This roast was much more moist than the first

This roast hit 140 (60 C) about 45 minutes later than the other one. Now this could be that the temps tended to be on the lower side of 225 (110 C) this day and higher on the first cook. But we are only talking a swing of 10 degrees (5.5 C). I’m a big advocate of keeping a cooking log (see previous blog entry: Keeping a Cooking Log) and I could see this roast was on target to finish quite a bit later.than the first roast. The strange thing was this roast did NOT have a 10 degree (5.5 C) temperature drop like the last one. I thought at first this might actually gain back the 45 minutes I was behind. The other thing I learned from the first roast was after it went in the foil and the temps started rising, it was a very linear process. My calculations showed a finish time of around 5:15 which was close to what I thought the first roast might do. At 5:30 it was done and I put it in the cooler to bring over to my parent’s house.


A “Ninth “Tenth B
The first roast (A) had less juice remaining in the foil but the whole tomatoes remained intact. The second roast (B) had much more juice and the tomatoes were gone - I’m guessing they contributed to the juice

My parent’s house is about 10 minutes away, so this roast had a 15 minute total rest in foil vs. 3 hours for the first roast. When I opened the foil two things were vastly different. This roast had not shrunken and changed shape like the other one and there was around an inch of juice in the bottom of the foil. I was very glad that I unwrapped this one carefully after seeing that. We saved the juices, but after tasting them they really didn’t seem to have the beginnings of a good gravy in them. Where this roast was twice as wide as it was long, I decided to cut the roast in half lengthwise. This would give me slices the same size as the first roast. This time the slicing was somewhat easier too.


C “Eleventh “Twelfth B
Although the first roast (A) & second roast (B) look the same on paper their was a huge difference.

This roast was vastly different than the first. The only thing they had in common was the spicy outer bark which was great both times. This roast was more tender, although still not what I’d call melt in your mouth tender. The big difference was moistness. This roast was very moist. It was not quite as moist as a boiled dinner pot roast, but then again I always use gravy on the boiled dinner so that may be what makes that more moist for me.

Bottom line: I was very happy. I plan to put this roast in regular rotation. The cook time is just short enough you don’t have to do it overnight if you can wait till suppertime for it. I may try to look around some more for some other people’s end temperature recommendations and I may try taking one to 170 (77 C) and another to 190 (88 C) just to see if it makes the roast more tender. I’ll try the 190 (88 C) first and I’ll have some sandwich rolls around in case I venture into shredded beef territory.


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