The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke
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Fourth of July Fun - Pt. 2

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Saturday July 5th was one of my favorite kind of day: both the grill and the smoker were up and running. It started off early: I headed out to light the CG at 6:00 AM. I was going to be cooking a 6 pound (2.75 Kg) Boston Butt for use on Sunday. The earlier I placed it on the smoker this morning, the earlier it would be done this evening. I was hoping it would come off around 8:00 or 9:00 PM. Then it would be a 2 hour rest in foil before pulling and saucing it. Saturday’s meal on the grill was to be beef and lamb kebabs.

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Its always a great day when the grill and the smoker are both in use.

While the charcoals were heating in the chimney, I got the pork out of the fridge. It had been in the fridge since Friday morning after a dry rub had been applied. I put the roast in a roast rack which was set in a cast iron drip pan. I put it on the roast rack with the fat cap up, so the fat could baste the meat as it melts. Lastly I inserted two temperature probes for my remote read thermometers. This way I could tend to other things and keep an eye on the roast’s progress from the Kitchen.

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The BBQ sauce ingredients for the Firefly’s pulled pork.

When the coals were ready I added the pork shoulder roast to the main chamber of the smoker and poured the heated coals into the side fire box. I often put roast on when I add the hot coals to the smoker. I like giving the roast that extra bit of smoke time while the grill comes up to cooking temperature. The temperatures began to quickly rise in the main chamber. Where I would be attending to other things today, I was hoping for a low key (low maintenance) smoke. My biggest fear was I didn’t want the roast to finish or the smoker to need my attention during supper. My parents would be coming over for kebabs around 4:00. I was hoping the smoker wouldn’t demand my attention while I was making or eating the kebabs.

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4 simple ingredient served to make a glazing sauce.

Since I was up anyway, it was time to make the BBQ sauce to use with the pulled pork. I was making Firefly’s Pulled Pork which has a BBQ sauce with a lot of wet and dry ingredients. The most unusual of which are Coca-Cola and semi-sweet dark chocolate. The charcoal had taken a little longer to heat up in the chimney than expected, but the CG hit 200 degrees (93 C) in nearly record time: 25 minutes. I have found the trick with the DuraFlame on my CG is to try to make sure it is at 225 degrees (110 C) one hour or so after the smoker reaches cooking temperature. Whatever temperature it is at one hour in, is the temp it wants to stay at. I closed down the SFB vent down to 1/2 when the temps hit 210 (99 C). The temperature continued to rise quickly to 216 (102 C) but then leveled off rising slowly. While the BBQ sauce simmered I cleaned the Kitchen. When the temps hit 220 (104 C), I closed the SFB down to 1/4 open and the temps settled in within a few degrees plus or minus of 225 (110 C). This is where they pretty much stayed the whole day.

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The finished glazing sauce

I got far more than I could have hoped for out of the CG that day. I had very stable temps all day. I had to make no further adjustments to the CG until it was time to add more coals. About 4 hours along, I raked the coals forward and poured some fresh coals into the back. The Duraflame charcoal can be amazingly steady. They will hold their temps right up to the time where the coals have shrunken down to tiny lumps that will disintegrate if you shake the baskets. Since you need some of the old coals to get the new ones going, this isn’t a good thing. So I make a point of checking on the coals at about the 4 hour mark and usually just do the swap then. I added some more coals again while I was out cooking my kebabs and that took me till 9:30PM when the pork was up to 195 degrees (91 C). My cook took 14 hours and I had 3 charcoal swaps and had to tweak the vents twice. Can’t ask for more than that.

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The raw ingredients are assembled: 4 varieties of bell peppers, vidallia onions, gold potatoes, beef & lamb steaks.

I started the prep for the kebabs around 1:30. Originally I was planning on starting at 2:00, but I have this habit of underestimating the time things will take. The first item on my list was to make a simple 4 ingredient sauce used to during the cook. It adds a little flavor and forms a glaze on the surface of the meat. Next it was time to cut up the green, red, yellow and orange peppers. I cut the pieces a little smaller than normal because my meat chunks would be smaller than I normally used too. I wanted to keep everything the same relative size. After I cut up the peppers I used a small paring knife to cut slits in the pepper chunks to make them easier to slide on the skewers.

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The lambs steaks were a bit on the small side, so I had to buy more and use smaller chunks of lamb.

Next it was time to cut up the onion. I based it on a method suggested in Cooks Illustrated magazine. You cut the top and bottom stem off the onion and then peel it. Once the onion is peeled it is quartered. The middles are removed leaving only the outer three layers. These slimmed down quarter sections were cut in half forming 1/8 chunks. These pieces were then cut in half crosswise. Once again I used a paring knife to cut the slit for the skewer. This speeds the process of filling the skewers.

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The beef steaks were narrower than I would have liked so the resulting meat chunks were smaller than usual.

The potatoes were next. Normally, I would have used these small gold potatoes whole. but the meat chunks were smaller, so I cut the potatoes in half. The potatoes are tossed with a little garlic flavored EVOO and precooked in the microwave in a sealed bowl. Without this pre cook the potatoes would not soften up enough during their short time on the grill. Since I would be making both beef and lamb kebabs, I pre-cooked the potatoes in two batches in two separate bowls. The potatoes are softened enough at this point that is not necessary to slit them for the skewer.

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Half the potatoes used with the lamb, half with the beef.

The last item was the meat. I was not able to buy lambs steaks or beef steaks as large as I would have hoped. That is what I get for going right before closing time the night before a major grilling holiday. As a result, I had to settle for an equivalent weight of smaller cuts. I trimmed the the perimeter fat off the beef steak and then cubed the meat. I pre-slit the meat and added the chunks to the two bowls. One was lamb and half the potatoes, the other the beef and the other potatoes. I added more garlic flavored EVOO and some Montreal Steak sauce and then tossed the meat and potatoes. This serves to flavor and marinade the meat. I’ve done this before and you need to get the meat on the skewers and cooking pretty quickly or the marinade will soften the meat into a near jello-like state. Don’t ask me how I know this.

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The beef chunks and the partially pre-cooked potatoes tossed with garlic flavored EVOO & Montreal Steak seasoning.

It was time to start populating the skewers. This is when I made my first mistake. I should have sprayed the skewers with some PAM for Grilling. The high heat of grilling fused a few of the chunks of meat to the skewers, making their removal tough. I was able to get 3 rounds of meat, potato, 4 types of peppers, and onions per skewer. I made sure that I left a small space between the items to allow them to cook all over their exterior surfaces. If you jamb them together the ends don’t cook. I soon filled 4 skewers with beef and veggies and 4 with lamb and veggies. I found that for this much meat I could have used more peppers. I had some leftover meat and onions which I put on a 9th overflow skewer. It was time to head out to the grill.

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A tray with 4 skewers of beef kebabs, plus an overflow skewer on the left and another tray with 4 skewers of lamb kebabs on the right.

The backyard smelled great when I walked out. The smell of roasting pork and hickory smoke were soon joined by the smell of beef, lamb and veggies. The grill had been preheated to Medium-High. I could hold my hand over the flame for at most a two count. The new stainless steel skewers were a perfect fit for my grill. With the tips touching the back wall of the grill the handles rested on the raised front shelf, but the cover could still be closed. I cooked the first side for 6 minutes and turned the skewers. The flat sides of the handles made turning the skewers 4 ways easy. The heavy gauge metal skewers got very hot. In fact if you held on to the skewers too long you could burn your fingers even through BBQ gloves. Once again, don’t ask how I know this. While the first side took longer than I expected, the subsequent sides took a little less time. In fact each side took about a minute less than the one before.

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I need to get a metal bar to raise the skewers up in the back to match the height of the front lip of my grill.

Next time I do this I need to get a piece of metal bar to raise the tip end of the skewers higher. This will match the height of the raised front ledge and serve to level off the skewers. There was a difference in height so the pieces near the tips were a little more well done than the pieces near the handle. Fortunately the marinade served to keep the pieces that were a little more well done tender. I also had people that actually searched these more well done pieces out.

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A sea of colors and a great smell to match.

When the kebabs were done it was back to the Kitchen to pull the food off the skewers and serve. This is when I discovered I should have used PAM. Several pieces of meat had fused themselves to the skewers, making removal of the meat and later cleanup of the skewers difficult. The beef and lamb kebabs were served in two bowls, along with some kous kous and garlic bread. Kous kous is made from semolina. I ended up getting both garlic and herb flavored rice pilaf and kous kous. The rice pilaf took 20 minutes to cook, while the kous kous only took 5. The kous kous turned out to be smaller sized pieces, which were more moist but seemed to have less taste than rice pilaf. Me I liked rice pilaf better, but I seemed to be in the minority. The kebabs were very well received and there was almost zero leftovers. The other sign was I was asked to make them again the next weekend.

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The finished kebabs. Remember to use a different tray for bringing the raw food out to the grill and the cooked kebabs back inside.

The pulled pork was very well behaved. After adding more coals while I was grilling the kebabs, it was maintenance free until it came off at 9:30. Not quite true actually I did have to run out and add some hickory chunks every hour or so. The pork hit 195 at 9:30 and I wrapped it in foil then a towel and put it in a cooler stuffed with newspaper for 2 hours. When I unwrapped it I decided I would chop it with a clever and not hand pull it. hand pulling takes me 45 minutes and chopping takes about 20. The pieces of pork aren’t as pretty as the long strands you get hand pulling it, but it was 11:30 and I was beginning to have enough fun for one day. After the pork was all chopped I added the sauce and divided it into 3 large portions and one smaller portion and put them in FoodSaver bags. While I was serving the pulled pork in only 12 hours and could have just stored it in a large tupperware bowl, I have found using the FoodSaver bags serves to be a super marinader. It drives the sauce deep into the pieces of pork and infuses them with flavor.

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Beef & lamb kebabs. The sides were garlic & herb kous kous & garlic bread.

On Sunday I reserved the small bag with 2 servings and brought the rest to my parents. There I got to have the pleasure of seeing how fast people could make this big bowl of pulled pork disappear. This was perhaps my best pulled pork yet. The improvement I noticed was the more intense smoke flavor from the hickory. I usually use apple or cherry for pulled pork. Knowing hickory is a stronger flavor I had used less of it. Even so this was a smokier version of my pulled pork and I felt it was all the better for it. The quick work everyone made of it tells me the others didn’t disagree.

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Lamb, green, red, yellow & orange peppers, onion & potato plus garlic & herb kous kous & garlic bread

So all in all it was a great 4th of July weekend. Three days and three meals coming off the grill or the smoker-can’t ask for better than that.

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SOME RELATED ENTRIES:
  FIREFLY’S PULLED PORK Pork Picture Entry
  BEEF & LAMB KEBOBS Kebobs Picture Entry
  FOURTH OF JULY FUN - PT. 1 Blog Entry


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