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The pork chops on a sheet pan headed out to the smoker
The temps dropped to 157 degrees. I figured that would not be the end of the world, they’d come back quickly. But no, they were actually not budging too much. It was then that an error I’d made became apparent. Normally when I shoot for a temperature I use the SFB vent to coast up to it. When I start approaching the target temperature of 225 (107 C) I get within 10 or 15 degrees (5.5 - 8.33 C) of it and start closing down the vents. When I hit my target temperature the SFB vent is just about closed. Coasting up to the temperature that way allows me to add the meat and open the vents again if the temps don’t start to recover right away.
I realized I’d made a double mistake. First: I hadn’t even quite reached my desired cooking temperature when I threw on the meat. Second: I had hit this temperature with the vents wide open and therefor had no way to try to make the fire hotter. I was heading down to my basement to get some lump charcoal to toss on and try to jump start the fire, when the temps started to climb. I decided the lump might swing me out of control in the other direction so I held off. It took 15 minutes that first time to get back to 225 (107 C). I waited another five minutes on the first mop to let the temps climb a bit higher. I have learned how to mop quickly with the lid down low, so this time I only dropped to 180 (82 C).
On many of my longer cooks I’d actually avoided this problem without realizing it. Often I will put the meat on the smoker when I add the hot charcoals to the SFB. It gives me an extra 45 minutes or so of smoke exposure, and I’m not opening the lid to add the meat just when I hit my target temperature.
Rather than bore you with a blow by blow description of the rest of the cook, let me summarize. I did indeed see proof of my theory that I should have let the temps coast up to my desired cooking temp. I now know I should try to hit that temp with the SFB vent less than half open. This gives me the ability to open it to start the temps climbing faster. How do I know this? Well once the temps finally hit my target temp and were stable, they recovered quickly. I’d mop and the temps came back in under three minutes, not 10 or 15 like they did early on.
The grated ginger had the constancy of a spice paste
As if I wasn’t having enough fun for one afternoon, another little problem presented itself. Lets be positive, shall we say a situation in need of creative thinking occurred. At the end of the cook you are supposed to add fresh grated ginger to the chops and then top them with cheese. I’ve never grated ginger before, I’ve only cut it into matchstick sized slivers. I imagined it would sprinkle on like a powdered spice. When I grated the ginger, it had the consistency of an herb past. If I tried sprinkling it with my fingers it would take forever and would probably just stick to my fingers. Trying to apply it with a spatula while the chops were on the grill would take way too long. I couldn’t run the meat into the house as the temp probes would make that awkward. Plus getting the chops on and off the grill was a double temp loss.
The solution I came up with was to spread out the 8 slices of Monterey Jack cheese on a large platter and apply the ginger to the cheese. I could spread it out on the cheese out using a spatula. When it came time to add the cheese I would flip the cheese over so the ginger side of the cheese would be in contact with the pork. I used the spatula to form the ginger paste into a square and then divided it into 8 equal sized lumps of paste. When I tried spreading it with the spatula, I found it didn’t work very well. As I have found with home improvement projects: Sometimes the best way to apply things is to use your fingers. This worked well and the “Top it with cheese” phase went very smoothly.
The chops are done and ready to come off the smoker
Perhaps I’ve done enough penance to the BBQ Gods in the past, or perhaps they just pity fools. Whatever it was: I ended up with some real tasty pork chops. They even finished on time despite my heat loss. The recipe gave an “About 45 minutes on the first side” and an “About 30 on the second side till cooked to 150 degrees” (66 C). My chops were 1-1/2 inches (3.75 cm) thick and the recipe said 1-1/2 to 2” (3.75 to 5 cm) thick. The times given were probably for the 2” (5 cm) version. My heat loss made up for the faster cooking time a thinner chop would have had.
The chops were tender, moist and tasty with a great smoke flavor. I used Apple wood so as not to overwhelm the sweetness of the marinade. These chops reminded me of Thai food with the sweet and slightly hot sauce. Although I am not a huge pork chop fan, I would gladly eat these any time they are put in front of me.
The finished product