Smoked Candied Pecan Pie

Smoked candied pecan pie will rock your taste buds!

If you’re a fan of watching reruns of the show Parks and Recreation like I am, you may recall an episode in which Andy Dwyer (played by Chris Pratt) was giving advice to Tom by saying, “‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.’ I read that one on a can of lemonade.  I like to think that it applies to life.”  While I’m not going to go that deep in thought on you, I like to think when life gives you pecans, you make pecan pie.

The Best Way to Eat Pecans

As you may recall, I have a recipe for smoked candied pecans here on the website. It’s my second favorite way to eat pecans. My #1 favorite way is to take those smoked candied pecans and make a pecan pie!

I have a not-so-top secret recipe I like to use that involves things like sugar, more sugar, corn syrup, salt, and butter. But don’t worry, there’s also a touch of orange zest in there, so you got your fruit category covered. Seriously, pecan pie isn’t known for being healthy, but it is known for being delicious and now you can see why.

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 Cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon corn starch
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 Cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup butter (aka- 1 stick), melted
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 Cups smoked candied pecans
  • 1 pie crust

Directions

  1. Take a medium mixing bowl and put in brown sugar, granulated sugar, vanilla, corn starch, orange zest, salt, light corn syrup, melted butter, and three eggs. Stir ingredients together.
  2. Lightly grease a pie tin (or pie pan, pie plate, or whatever you prefer to call it)and put your rolled out pie crust in. Make sure pie crust conforms to the pie tin (or pie pan, pie plate…you get the deal here).
  3. Take half of your pecans and scatter them on the pie crust.
  4. Pour ingredients from mixing bowl into the pie crust.
  5. Take remaining pecans and place on top, making sure to spread them around.
  6. Cover pie in foil and put on your grill with the heat at 350°F for 30 minutes, using pecan wood chunks (or pellets of using a pellet grill) for flavor. NOTE: you can always bake this in your oven as an alternative, but keep in mind you won’t get that extra pecan smoke flavor infused.
  7. After 30 minutes, remove foil from pie. Bake uncovered for another 20-25 minutes.
  8. Let rest until pie is at room temperature.
  9. Dive right in!
Great tasting pie doesn’t need your fancy plates!

Notes

  • When zesting the orange, start at one spot and zest lightly on the surface, spiraling around the orange. The reason for this is you get the best zest from the outmost part of the peel. Going further into the peel in one spot makes the zest more tart.
  • Corn startch helps thicken the pie’s consistency.
  • When baking the pie, you can tell it is done by giving the side of the pie tin a tap and watching how it moves. If it sloshes around, it needs more time. If it jiggles just a little bit, then it’s done.

I hope you enjoy this pie recipe and serve it up for holidays, parties, family gatherings, Tuesdays, etc.!

Smoked Chicken Wings

 

Smoked chicken wings...and drumsticks!
Smoked chicken wings…and drumsticks!

I’ve been looking for an excuse to smoke chicken wings because my family isn’t big on eating them. Wings always remind me of watching sports with friends and family and I figured the best time to make these is when we gather for a big game. But it’s March and being a baseball and college football fan, neither of my favorite sports are in season.  Fortunately, the NCAA basketball tournament came to the rescue! Since most of us who fill out brackets pay little attention to college hoops and suddenly think we’re experts and tune in once March Madness begins, this would be a great time to have people over and cook up some wings. I had those intentions, but life’s been a little crazy ever since my wife and I welcomed our newborn twins into this world earlier this month. After a little bit of effort, I convinced the Mrs. to let me do a food experiment with them. I’m sure it had nothing to do with her being exhausted at all. I followed a chicken wing recipe of Jeff Phillips at www.smoking-meat.com and deviated just a little from it.

Meat: 3.5 lbs. Chicken wings (and drumsticks)

Ingredients (marinade): 1/3 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup rub

Ingredients (glaze): 1/2 cup BBQ sauce, 1/2 cup ginger ale, 2 Tablespoons of honey

Wood: Pecan

Smoke Temp.: 240°F/115.6°C

Time: 2 hours

Broiler (optional): 2-3 minutes each side

Finish Temp.: 170°F/76.6°C

When looking for chicken wings, I just went to my local grocery store and picked up a package of Tyson brand, although any brand should do. I like the meat on drumsticks and they are easier for me to eat, so I picked up a pack of those, as well. All in all, I have about 3.5 pounds of meat.

As long as they're not expired, any brand of wings will do.
As long as they’re not expired, any brand of wings will do.

I brought these home and tossed them in a gallon-sized ziploc bag, which fit all the meat with room to spare. Next, I tossed about 1/3 C olive oil and 1/2 C of rub, which I did a mix of both Plowboys Yardbird Rub and Loot N’ Booty Gold Star Chicken Rub because…well, because I can. I zipped up the bag and put it in the fridge overnight.

These wings are in the bag.
These wings are in the bag.

Next, I went out to the smoker, heated up some coals, threw on some pecan wood, got it to about 240°F, and put the wings in.

Ain't no thing but a chicken wing.
Ain’t no thing but a chicken wing.

At about the 90-minute mark, I made a glaze that was a simple mix of BBQ sauce, honey, and ginger ale.

Here are the three amigos I used for the glaze.
Here are the three amigos I used for the glaze.

Thirty minutes later (two hours total), and moving them a little closer to the firebox, the wings got to the temp I was looking for, which is between 170-180°F. This is a little warmer than the 165°F that poultry is considered done at, but heating it up to the 170-180°F range gives it more of a fall-off-the-bone chew to it. Even though these are now technically done, I pull them off the smoker and put them in the broiler to get more of a crispy skin that wings usually have.

On the tanning bed ready to get a little crispy.
On the tanning bed ready to get a little crispy.

I put them in for a couple of minutes on each side to get more crisp. However, it didn’t seem to do much. I’ve come to learn that smoked wings won’t get the same crisp that good old-fashioned wings do, but the flavor of your favorite wood infused into your chicken will more than make up for it. I chose pecan because I love that mild, tasty flavor it brings. Feel free to use your favorite, but I do recommend at least trying the pecan.

Smoked chicken wings...and drumsticks!
The finished product tasted just as good as it looked!

Give it a shot and feel free to share what you think!

Smoked Turkey

Note: this smoke originally took place on 11/26/2015 

Smoked Turkeys.
Smoked Turkeys.

I’ve only been smoking for a few months, but foolishly decided to tell my mother-in-law that I will take on making the turkey for Thanksgiving this year. No pressure, just smoke something you’ve never tried for the main dish of the biggest meal of the year. A lot of people have turkey for Christmas as well, so this recipe isn’t just for one day a year. Here’s the recipe I used:

Meat: Two Turkeys  (8.5 lbs. and 14 lbs., respectively)

Brine: 3.5 gallons of water, 2 C kosher salt, 2 C sugar, 2 C apple juice, 1 Jonagold apple (sliced), 2 T rub, 1 T lemon juice; brined in cooler for 24 hours

Wood: Pecan, with a little apple mixed in

Smoke: 260° F for five hours, then had to put in oven at 325° F for 60-90 minutes to reach right internal temp of 165° F.

Since I had never made a turkey before, I learned some things in the prep that you all who are also new to this should know:

1: When shopping for a turkey, look for one with a label that says, “minimally processed” and/or “low solution added”. When talking about low solution, the rule of thumb that experts look for is 8% or less. You get a better quality turkey this way, which means better meat to flavor. If you can’t obtain one of these types of turkeys, it’s not the end of the world. I used one without these labels and it still tasted pretty dang good.

2: The turkey will come frozen from the store, unless you found a fresh one somehow. These things can take a couple of days to thaw out in the fridge (24 hours for each 4-5 lbs.) so be prepared. If you are impatient pressed for time like me, put it in a bucket or sink full of cold water breast side down. Average thawing time is 30 min. per lb. Note: make sure turkey is still in the package while doing this.

3: When opening the package, you may want to do so over a kitchen sink. That way, all the juices/solution/blood don’t end up all over your counter/floor/self.

4: There’s more to the turkey than meets the eye. It’s what’s on the inside. They shoved the turkey neck and a gravy packet up its butt, so you’ll need to get up in there and pull it out. Also, you will want to get into the north end and find the skin flap that opens to a cavity. Dig your hand in there and you’ll find a hidden packet full of giblets, which is a fancy way of saying liver, heart, and other “edible” innards. Don’t worry, you don’t need these and can throw the packet away. That is, unless, you desire these things. We don’t judge here on this website, so do your thing.

5: Brine the turkey, for goodness sake. I’m not fully sure why, but everywhere I’ve read online and folks I’ve talked to with experience say to do it.

A simple, effective brine is made up of 1 gallon of water, 1 cup of kosher salt, and 1 cup of sugar. In hopes to give it more of an apple flavor, I decided to improvise a little and added apple juice, a sliced Jonagold apple, some lemon juice, and some rub I planned on putting on the turkey afterward.

Brine ingredients (sans lemon juice)
Brine ingredients (sans lemon juice)

 Since I didn’t have room in my fridge, nor do I own a second one with extra space, I went the cooler route for the brining. This meant that I needed to add more water to make sure the birds were fully submerged, which also meant that I needed to add more of the ingredients. To keep the water temp cool, I threw in a bunch of ice cubes and put it outside in the cooler weather (which varied from low 40s to upper 20s over the course of 24 hours). The ice cubes stayed frozen and the water didn’t freeze, which I was happy about.

Time to brine.
Time to brine.

After taking the birds out of the brine, I patted them dry with a paper towel. I poured some olive oil on the turkeys and then generously applied Loot N’ Booty BBQ brand Gold Star Chicken Rub. I let them rest for around 30-45 minutes before putting them in the smoker.

Resting birds about 30-45 minutes before smoking.
Resting birds for 30-45 minutes before smoking.

You can tell it’s cold outside when the temperature gauge on the smoker has a little ice on it, even though it was under a tarp the night before.

Frosty smoker.
Frosty smoker.

After adding a bunch of coals, pecan wood, and apple wood, the smoker reached my desired temperature of 260° F and I placed the turkeys inside, breast side up, and left them untouched for the first two hours. Turkey, like most meats, can dry out during the smoking process. You will want to put a bowl of water inside the smoker to help retain the moisture inside the chamber (you will want to find a small, metal bowl that can withstand the higher temperatures). Since white meat can especially get dry, I put a mixture of apple juice and apple cider vinegar in a spray bottle and spray the birds about once an hour for the next three hours. Otherwise, you will want to keep the lid closed as much as possible.

After five hours, my turkeys hadn’t reached the desired internal temp of  165° F. In fact, they were down around 120° F. Most recipes I’ve seen show it to be almost done by this time. Maybe my temperature gauge on the smoker is lying to me, maybe it’s the 5,000 ft. elevation I’m at, or maybe a little of both. To get the turkeys to their necessary temperature quicker, I took them off the smoker, placed them in a foil pan, double wrapped with heavy duty aluminum foil, and put them in my oven at 325° F. This isn’t what I had originally planned, but desperate times call for desperate temperatures measures.

In the process of wrapping the poultry, I cut up a couple of pounds of butter and distributed one pound over each of the turkeys. I witnessed Aaron Franklin do this in a YouTube video and he explained that since turkey can be bland, adding butter helps keep it juicy and flavorful.

Butter, baby!
Butter, baby!
Now THAT is what I call a butter ball turkey!
Now THAT is what I call a butter ball turkey!
In baseball terms, my oven is "the closer" when it comes to finishing smoking some of the bigger meats. A Mariano Rivera, if you will.
In baseball terms, my oven is “the closer” when it comes to finishing smoking some of the bigger meats. A Mariano Rivera, if you will.

After spending just over an hour in the oven at 325° F, the birds finally reach the internal temperature of 165° F. I unwrapped it, let it rest for about 30 minutes, and then start carving away! I have come to learn that I love cutting the white meat way more than the dark meat. Dark meat has is very sinuous and full of bones and can be difficult to cut and pull the meat off of. Whereas the white meat cuts very well and you don’t have to worry about those extra surprises inside. I think I’d much rather eat the turkey legs and wings off the bone itself instead of having to carve them.

The turkeys were a huge hit and I received tons of compliments from the family members who showed up to devour it! Keep the leftovers (if any remain), because it also makes for a very good chicken noodle soup, substituting smoked turkey for the chicken, of course.

I am welcome to any questions or feedback you may have on this, so feel free to post something in the comments!