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

Mini Grill Camp - Day 3

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Day 3 of my Mini grill Camp was to start off busy and run about 8 hours longer than expected. This once again proved that although there are formulas to guestimate how long your meat should take, it ultimately takes what it takes. And boy did it ever.

The day started at 5:45 when I fired up 30 coals in my charcoal chimney. Fifteen minutes later they were on the smoker along with some Pear wood chunks. The plan was to start the pork shoulder first. It would take about 14 hours and-16 hours and come off at 8-10 PM. At 9:00 I would put on the chicken wings for their 2 hour smoke. When they came off at 11:00 I would start the brisket. The brisket was expected to take 8-10 hours and would also come off around 7-9:00 PM. Or at least that is what it said on paper.

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The smoker is heating up and the pork shoulder is ready to go

I was going to start with Pear wood for the first part of the pork shoulder and through the chicken wings. when the chicken wings came off I would switch to a mix of Pear and Hickory. The CG heated up fast again and the meat was on by 6:30 AM. The temps in the CG ran sightly low by maybe 5 degrees (3 C) at first but once I got the grill to temperature it was rock steady all day. At 9:00 the wings went on and I pulled the brisket out, rubbed it and put it back in the fridge. Just before 11:00 I tossed some fries and onion rings in the oven to have an early lunch when the wings came off. BTW another great use for the FoodSaver is to seal partially used bags of frozen foods. They don’t get freezer burn this way. I find in regular zip lock bags the moisture gets in and there is frost all over the food when you pull it out. This is never the case with the FoodSaver bags.

The pork shoulder is getting a nice bark & the chicken wings are done

I was still scrambling around a bit trying to finish the final prep for the brisket so I decided I would eat while the food was hot and put the brisket on when I was done. The mop sauce for the brisket was also to be used for the injector sauce. Strangely the recipe had called for granulated garlic which doesn’t fit very well through the holes in an injector syringe. This was why I decided to hold up on trying to add the brisket right when I took off the wings. So for the portion I was to use as an injector sauce, I ran it through a strainer to grab the large chunks of granulated garlic. This is the first time I injected a brisket and it was interesting to say the least. It is so shallow you need to be careful not to shoot right out the other side. You also need to be careful not to have the holes in the needle close to the surface or the injector sauce under pressure will shoot out everywhere. Don’t ask how I know this. So you needed to insert the needle at a very shallow angle. This made things difficult as the needle wanted to deflect off the surface of the brisket. The final solution was to insert the needle straight on, penetrate the skin and then lay the needle down at a flat shallow angle once it was inside the brisket. By the way safe food handling dictates that even if I didn’t have to strain some of this sauce you still would want to separate the sauce into two portions. One to inject the raw meat and one for mopping the meat as it cooks.

The chicken wings are done

When I headed out the door to collect the wings the smell in the backyard was amazing. The wings looked wonderful, they smelled great and they even tasted good. There was only one fly in the ointment: the skin was rather rubbery. In a way this didn’t surprise me, but where this recipe was out of a smoking cookbook I figured let’s try it. I always like to try a recipe the first time exactly as written. This establishes a benchmark for future tinkering. With the soy, Teriyaki and brown sugar marinade, these wings had a decidedly asian flavor which I liked, but the rubbery skin was a disappointment. As an experiment later that day I put one of the wings in the broiler for two minutes a side to see if that helped. It did crisp them up quite a bit, but I need to research some other methods of smoking wings.

The chicken come off, the brisket goes on

So around noon I threw on the brisket. It’s new finishing time would be 8-10:00 PM. I was looking forward to not having to stay up all night baby sitting the smoker. I also added some new charcoal to the side fire box. Lately I have moved to a new method of “in flight refueling”. I used to have a second set of baskets I would swap out with the current set. I would use gloves and tongs to pull the basket with the spent coals and dump them into a foil pan. I would add in the baskets with the fresh coals and then dump the lit coals back in. This method made for a relatively quick swap, but was also rather dangerous. You had to handle hot baskets and coals, often in the dark. Now what I do is rake the remaining coals to the front part of the basket nearest the main smoker. Then I pour on more coals to the rear of the basket. So it is like the minion method in reverse. You add the unlit coals to the lit coals. The only trick is you must make sure to rake the lit coals as close to the front as you can. If you leave them spread out along the bottom of the basket they will light the entire pile of unlit coals and run too hot. If this happens you can try pouring some unlit coals on top to smother the lit ones somewhat. Bottom line here though is this is a safer way to refuel. You must be careful to get all the lit coals to the front of the basket and you must refuel a little more often as you can’t fit in as many coals on the refill. But you also aren’t taking hot coals in and out of the side fire box.

The pork shoulder is done way early.

At this point there was little to do until around 4:00 when I would begin mopping the brisket every half hour with the mop sauce. Using my remote read thermometers which were set up in the kitchen, it was a matter of checking the temperatures at least every half hour or so. Meanwhile I could do cleanup and start on the sauce for the pulled pork. I could have also done the sauce later but as it turned out, I was glad that I made it in the afternoon. You see it seems my pork shoulder decided not to have a plateau to speak of. It barely lost it’s head of steam as it passed through the high 150’s (66 C) to low 170’s (77 C) where the plateau normally occurs. So not only was it time to start mopping the brisket at 4:00, it was time to pull the pork shoulder off the smoker. Needless to say this was a bit of a surprise. I have had this happen before but it is the exception. I wrapped it in aluminum foil, shiny side in, followed by wrapping it in a towel. Then is went into a large cooler lined with newspapers above and below the meat.

Surprise meal of pulled pork for supper.

One thing about the pork finishing earlier than planned is I had the prospect of pulled pork sandwiches for supper. I removed the meat from the cooler after 2 hours and began to pull it. If I hand pull it takes about an hour. If I use a cleaver it takes 20 minutes. One advantage to hand pulling is you can be very choosey about the meat you pull and can strip out the fat pockets. Even when I am hand pulling it I set aside the large pieces of the outer bark for chopping with the cleaver. Once the pork was pulled, I sauced it and had a surprise supper.

Meanwhile the brisket had plateaued in the mid 160’s (71 C). It dropped down nearly 10 degrees (5.5 C) before slowly climbing again. At this pace it was a bit behind schedule looking more like a midnight finish. As it got closer to midnight it hit a second plateau in the 170’s (77 C) it went from 178 (81 C) back down to 173 (78 C). I have had meats with a double plateau before so this wasn’t totally unexpected. It finally began climbing again around 2 AM. One of the problems here was this recipe called for you to glaze the brisket with the BBQ sauce during the last 45 minutes. I couldn’t just set the alarm on my meat thermometer for a certain temperature and let it wake me up. I had to watch this brisket and observe the temperature trends to see when he last 45 minutes would be. Everything depended on whether it was a fast or slow rise at the end. The temperatures rose to 183 (84 C) before starting to fall again.


I will confess at this point I’d had just about enough fun for one evening. The temps settled back down into the mid 170’s (79 C). Besides getting tired another thing was working against me: Time. My smoker would soon be marking 24 hours of use. The ash drawer was just about full and there was no way I wanted to try to empty it in the pitch black morning. So at 4:30 I decided I would start the glaze. The brisket may not think it was done, but I was done. I had no idea what this brisket was going to be like, but it did smell wonderful as I brought it indoors. I let the brisket rest about 15 minutes and began to carve it. Despite the prolonged ups and down in temperature, this was one of the best briskets I had made. This new brisket recipe was very tasty, a wonderful mix of sweet and spicy.

At 5:30AM I discovered I had cooked one of my best briskets ever. The bad news was: Not a whole lot of people around at that time to share it

This was another lesson in “It takes what it takes” BBQ theory. The pulled pork, which should have taken more time than the brisket, took less. The brisket which should have been a short cook, took forever. Bottom line was the meats were done where they were done. There is nothing you can do about it other than try to be patient. Hopefully the effort and extra innings will be worth the wait. In my case I was rewarded with one of the best briskets I have made.

  FIREFLY’S PULLED PORK Pork Picture Entry
  SOY BROWN SUGAR WINGS Poultry Picture Entry
  BEST BBQ BEEF BRISKET Beef Picture Entry


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