Pork Steaks

 

Pork steak. It's what's for dinner.
Pork steak. It’s what’s for dinner.

Growing up in St. Louis,  I was exposed to some unique foods to the region: gooey butter cake, toasted ravioli, provel cheese, and pork steaks. It wasn’t until I moved out West that I realized these things were not commonplace everywhere else. Being the BBQ nut that I’ve quickly become, I’ve craved the mighty pork steak and while not many folks know about this out West, I am thankful I can find them at my local grocery store. I get the feeling they keep stocking them because I keep buying them up. The pork steak comes from the pork shoulder (Boston butt), so you know it is good.  To learn more about this cut of meat, the folks at Grillin Fools made an excellent post about it’s history and the many ways it can be prepped. To quote them, they say, “A pork steak can be prepared in a multitude of ways. It can be marinated, rubbed, brined, sauced, or left naked.  Once on the grill it can be smoked, indirected or grilled directly. It can be made spicy or sweet or salty or any combination thereof.”

I’ve made them both savory and sweet and since my local store sells them in two packs, I sometimes do one of each. The recipe is quite simple:


PORK STEAKS

INGREDIENTS

-2 pork steaks

-1 Tablespoon olive oil

 -2 teaspoons rub/seasoning of your choice

SMOKE

-250 degrees

-your choice of fruit wood

-internal temp: 110 degrees, then reverse sear to 145 degrees


The way that I prep this is by doing a reverse sear. Simply put, you slow cook before you sear. Since this is a BBQ blog, we will be smoking them before they hit the high heat. You can brine the pork steaks beforehand if you wish, although it isn’t necessary. When I have done it, I’ve done a dry brine, meaning that I skip the water and simply use salt and a little rub. I’ve dry brined these for a couple of hours to let the salts penetrate the meat and bring out more flavor.

Pork steaks getting their dry brine on.
Pork steaks getting their dry brine on.

Once this portion is done, then start your smoker and get it up to the desired 250 degree range and use your fruit wood of choice. I’ve done apple, apricot, peach, and cherry. I like them all and each gives a little distinct flavor, so feel free to experiment and find out which one suits you best. If you haven’t brined, then use this time to prep the meat. Simply put on the rub/seasoning of your choice and let it rest so it can both penetrate into the meat and bring the meat to a little warmer of a temp so you don’t have to smoke as long.

Once that is done, then throw them in the smoker and let them go for at least an hour. You will notice the smoke from the indirect heat starting to cook the meat and make it sweat some.

Beginning portion of the reverse sear: smoking the meat for about an hour.
Beginning portion of the reverse sear: smoking the meat for about an hour.

I usually check the meat after an hour and it seems to get to internal temps in the 110-120 degree range. This is when I remove it and put in on the high heat of the grill to get the sear action going. When I sear, I usually only flip it once. Once the internal temp hits between 140-145 degrees, I remove and let them rest for about 10 minutes. Resting the meat afterward is beneficial because it helps the meat be juicier to the taste.

The finishing part of the reverse sear: the actual sear itself.
The finishing part of the reverse sear: the actual sear itself.

You may notice in the picture above that the juices start to pool on top of the meat. I make sure to leave it facing that side up so I don’t lose that extra flavor. Slicing meat against the grain makes it more tender to the taste, so I recommend cutting it up that way. You just might be surprised at how much flavor is packed into these cuts of meat, especially for the low price compared to most other cuts of steak. Give it a try and let me know how it goes by either commenting on this post or reaching out to me on Instagram at @learningtosmoke or Twitter using the same name. Good luck and enjoy!

Smoked Kalua Pork

Kalua pork has sweet and savory flavors.
Kalua pork has sweet and savory flavors.

I have been BBQ’ing for a full year now and during these 12 months, I have smoked dozens of pork shoulders. I was doing them the same way for a while in order to get myself more confident with the process. In fact, you can find the recipe I used repeatedly here. Now that my comfort level is to the point that I no longer need to refer to a recipe, I’ve decided to experiment a little more with the Boston butts. The warmer time of year gets me thinking about tropical vacations and the fun meals that come along with them. One of my many sisters-in-law (I married into a family of eight siblings) has been wanting to get family together and have a backyard luau with kalua pork. I summoned the powers of cyberspace and looked up recipes I could use in the smoker and came across one from Harry Soo at www.slapyodaddybbq.com. I used the kalua pork recipe from his site and added some personal touches of my own.

For your reference, the term “kalua” means “cook in an underground oven.” Not to be confused with Kahlua, the sweet, coffee-flavored alcoholic beverage from Mexico. I’m sure you could incorporate Kahlua into your kalua, but I chose Worcestershire Sauce instead because I don’t like to party.


SMOKED KALUA PORK

Ingredients:

1 pork shoulder (Boston butt), about 7 lbs.

2 teaspoons Hawaiian red sea salt

2 Tablespoons chicken bullion

1/4 Cup of your favorite BBQ rub

1-2 banana leaf/leaves

Mopping Sauce:

1 13 oz. can crushed pineapple

1/4 Cup (or half stick) butter, melted

1/4 Cup brown sugar

3 Tablespoons apple juice

1 Tablespoon Teriyaki sauce

Wood: hickory, peach

Smoker temp: 275°F

Meat temp: 195-203°F

Time: nine hours (five unwrapped, four wrapped)


To begin, I started the night before to let the ingredients flavor up the shoulders a bit (note: don’t forget to rinse and pat dry the pork shoulders prior to seasoning). You can do this at least an hour before smoking, but I didn’t want to wake up earlier than I needed to I chose to do it this way. First, I like to apply the Worcestershire sauce to help the other ingredients stick. The Hawaiian red sea salt, chicken buillon, and your favorite rub can be mixed together and applied, but I put them on one at a time. Regarding these ingredients, Hawaiian red sea salt can be tough to find locally. That is, unless you live in the Aloha State. I was able to find this at an Asian market, as well as the banana leaf to be used later. If you have no luck finding it near you, there’s always Amazon. If you’re like me and don’t purchase chicken bullion much, if at all, then here’s a tip for you I learned from this experience: bullion doesn’t always come in cubes. You can buy it already in the powder form. If you buy it in cubes, then you have to beat it down into powder, which I did by placing in a plastic bag and pounding with a rolling pin. For the rub, I tried the Bacon BBQ rub from Meat Church. It was my first time using it and I loved the flavor when I sampled it at my local BBQ shop.

The pre-seasoning ingredients.
The pre-seasoning ingredients.

After seasoning, I placed both pork shoulders into a large bowl and let rest overnight (FYI- the recipe I am posting is for one pork shoulder).

These two pork shoulders were seasoned and left in the fridge overnight.
These two pork shoulders were seasoned and left in the fridge overnight.

I got my smoker going the next morning and got the temperature of 275°F. Some do it at a lower temp and have it cook longer, but I like the 275°F temp and keep it in there for about 5 hours for this first step. Usually with Kalua pork recipes, they call for mesquite wood to smoke with. Since I had no mesquite wood on me, I used hickory and then I also wanted to put some Peach wood in there for a little bit of a sweeter flavor. I let that go for five hours, spritzing with a mixture of apple juice and apple cider vinegar once an hour.

Measuring temp on the pork shoulder with the Chef Alarm from Thermoworks.
Measuring temp on the pork shoulder with the Chef Alarm from Thermoworks.

After five hours and the internal temperature at about 150°F, I removed from the smoker. Leading up to this, I lay down two layers of heavy duty foil first, then a banana leaf. The banana leaf is usually a difficult one to find, but I found mine locally at an Asian market, just like the Hawaiian red sea salt. Rinse the banana leaf put it down on the foil, and then get the pork shoulder and place it on the banana leaf for wrapping, but don’t wrap yet.

Pulled from the smoker after five hours and placed directly on the banana leaves.
Pulled from the smoker after five hours and placed directly on the banana leaves.

Now you want to get your mopping sauce (hopefully you thought ahead unlike me and have already put it together) and spread it all over the pork shoulder. If you forgot what the ingredients were, then check the picture below:

Ingredients for the mopping sauce.
Ingredients for the mopping sauce.

I didn’t use all of the sauce, but plenty enough. The melted butter, brown sugar, and crushed pineapple together made me want to eat this mixture by the spoonful, but I exercised restraint and added the other two ingredients for mixing. I improvised with the teriyaki sauce. It just seemed fitting that a Hawaiian dish but have some sort of Teriyaki flavoring to it.

The mopping sauce.
The mopping sauce.

I apply the sauce and the pork shoulder looks like a mess. That’s okay, because it’s supposed to happen. Now wrap up in the banana leaf. The pack I bought had some pretty long leaves and I used one to wrap it up. It didn’t cover the pork shoulder completely, but the foil will help keep things in place.

The pork gets sauced.
The pork gets sauced.

I’m still unsure how relevant the banana leaf is to the flavor. I do know it is tradition to have it in the recipe for wrapping purposes because the leaf can hold the heat and juices in. When I find out for sure, I’ll update this post with that info.

Wrap upon wrap.
Wrap upon wrap.

Now that the banana leaf has wrapped around the pork shoulder, I wrap the foil around it and then throw it in the oven at 275°F for four hours *GASP!* Yep, in the oven because 1) I don’t wanna mess with regulating the heat in my smoker for four hours and 2) the meat had already absorbed five hours of smoke and won’t be able to take in much more than that.

There's something tasty cooking under that leaf.
There’s something tasty cooking under that leaf.

After four hours wrapped in the oven, the shoulder reaches 195°F, which is where pulling the pork gets to the point of easy shredding.  I unwrap and let it sit for about 20 minutes so the juices build up.

Kalua pork has sweet and savory flavors.
Kalua pork has sweet and savory flavors.

Between 195-203°F, the internal temp of the pork becomes easier too shred, thus meaning less time it takes to do that and the sooner you can your guests can dig in!

Ah, a savory sea of swine.
Ah, a savory sea of swine.

Enjoy!

Bacon-wrapped Pineapple with Pulled Pork

Pineapple gets an upgrade.
Pineapple gets an upgrade.

When browsing Instagram, I like to find things that inspire me. I usually repost them on my account (@learningtosmoke) and sometimes I end up trying them myself. I found a magical fusion of sweet and savory, reposted it, and then made it myself. These bacon-wrapped pineapple chunks with pulled pork were worth a try in my mind. Here’s what I did:

BACON-WRAPPED PINEAPPLE WITH PULLED PORK 

Ingredients: 

1 pineapple, cut into chunks

12 slices of bacon, halved

4 oz. pulled pork (usually from leftovers…when that actually happens)

1/2 cup brown sugar

Rub, as much as you wish

Maple syrup, enough to drizzle at the end

Wood: apple

Smoker Temp.: 240°F

Time: 75 minutes, grill/broil afterward to crisp the bacon

Pineapple. Pulled pork. Bacon. Come together...right now...
Pineapple. Pulled pork. Bacon. Come together…right now…

When looking for a pineapple, there are various ways to find a ripe one. I like to lightly tug at one of the leaves on the crown on top. If the leaf pulls with little resistance, then buy it because that bad boy is ripe! Other methods, such as smelling a sweet scent on the bottom or some yellow coloring on the skin, are good indicators.

When slicing the pineapple, start by cutting off the crown and the bottom. Next, slice the rough, outer skin off because ain’t nobody got time for eating that. Once that is done, you are ready to slice off some pineapple chunks. I start at the top and cut down in an X-formation, making four quarter portions. I get rid of the core by carving it off the inside of each portion. Now I put the freshly carved side down and make two evenly-spaced slices long ways and then start cutting them horizontally, cubed into chunks. Once I got my chunks made, I sprinkle brown sugar on them to sweeten it up and let it sit so it can blend with the juices from the pineapple. Now that I’ve made you read all of this, here’s a video on what I’m trying to describe… and more: How to choose and slice a pineapple.

Next is the bacon. I used regular-sliced bacon because I think it wraps better. I apply rub to the individual slices and then cut them in half, slicing across the grain.

Rubbed and sliced...well, some of it at least.
Rubbed and sliced…well, some of it at least.

Once that is done, it’s time to take some of your leftover pulled pork and a pineapple chunk and wrap them in the bacon. You will want to wrap it a little tight so the pulled pork doesn’t come loose and fall out. I put them on a skewer, three at a time. You can also use toothpicks to keep them together if you wish.

Wrapping and stabbing.
Wrapping and stabbing.

Hopefully, you thought ahead and got your smoker ramping up to the proper heat temp. I used apple wood with this one, but feel free to use whichever wood you like with pork (personally, I want to try pecan wood next). Now that the smoker is up to 240-250°F, put the food on. You’ll want to keep them on for about an hour to let them absorb the smoke-flavored goodness.

Pineapple gets an upgrade.
This picture looks familiar…

Once that is done, remove from smoker and put them on high heat for a few minutes to crisp the bacon. You can do this on the grill, in the broiler, or on the stove in a pan. However you cook those strips of meat candy should work. When the bacon looks good enough for you, then it’s time to pull them off, drizzle the maple syrup, and enjoy!

Sweet. Savory. Juicy.
Sweet. Savory. Juicy.

Give them a shot and met me know what you think!

Honey Glazed Teriyaki St. Louis Style Ribs

These honey glazed teriyaki BBQ ribs will rock your world!

When it comes to ribs, 99 percent of the time I buy St. Louis style ribs. I do this for two reasons: 1) I love the flavor of meat and fat that this part of the rib provides and 2) I’m originally from St. Louis, so I feel it’s my obligation as a native St. Louisan to eat them. So it’s no surprise that these are honey glazed teriyaki St. Louis style ribs!

Inspiration for the recipe

If you look at my recipe for Simple St. Louis Style Ribs, I would either finish the ribs off with BBQ sauce in the last 30-45 minutes of the cook or just serve them dry rub only. I like them both ways, but I wanted some flavor to wow me. I had been using some rub that was a little spicy and since my family are a bunch of wusses doesn’t take too well to spicy things, I wanted to tone down the zip my St. Louis style ribs had. I have come to learn that honey is a good way to lessen the heat.

But instead of making them only sweeter, I wanted to throw something else in for more savory flavor. I don’t know what made me think of mixing honey and Teriyaki, but I would like to think the BBQ gods looked down upon me and told me to do it. That or dumb luck. Either way, the honey glazed teriyaki St. Louis style ribs were born (although I do lean toward the dumb luck)!

Remove the membrane?

For this recipe, I used St. Louis-style spareribs because, well, I’m from St. Louis and these type of ribs make sense to me. I went to the store and bought a few racks of ribs because they tend to disappear quickly. Once you remove the St. Louis style ribs from the packaging, rinse them off and dab dry with a paper towel.

Ribs rinsed and patted dry.
Ribs rinsed and patted dry.

Now that the ribs are rinsed and dried, you can choose to either strip the membrane off of the back or leave it on. Some people are passionate on both sides of the topic, but I prefer to remove it. Refer to my Simple St. Louis style ribs recipe for a video on how to remove the membrane in one quick pull.

Seasoning the St. Louis style ribs

Now that this is done, I squeeze the bottle of spicy brown mustard til I have enough to spread over the rack.

Mustard on the ribs.
Mustard on the ribs.

Now that I’ve done this, I apply rub generously on both sides of the rack.

Giving them the Honey Hog treatment.
Giving them the Honey Hog treatment.

I love the color the ribs have with this rub, as well as the flavor. I totally recommend it!

I leave the ribs out for a bit  because the rub starts to seep into the meat more as the meat starts to “sweat” a little bit.

Rubbed, rested, and ready.
Rubbed, rested, and ready.

Smoking the St. Louis style ribs

While this process is going on, I get the smoker up to 250°F and once the temp is right, I put the St. Louis style ribs on. I do the 3-2-1 method for this one, meaning three hours in the smoker uncovered, two hours wrapped in foil, and then one hour uncovered to finish it off. During the first three hours, I like to spray the ribs with apple juice once to help keep the ribs from drying out during the smoking process.

Racks on!
Racks on!

Then when I wrap in foil, I spray them again so the juice helps retain the moisture wetness of the ribs. This also helps get the meat past “the stall”, which is the point when the internal temp of the meat stays around 155°F for a while. Wrapping in foil helps accelerate this process.

Time for the honey and teriyaki!

After the two hours, it is time to unwrap the ribs and put them back on for one last hour of exposure to the smoke. I like the flavor apple wood gives to pork, so another hour of that sweet smell makes it better. During this last hour (about 15 minutes in), I open the grill and apply the Teriyaki sauce first by sprinkling the 1/2 Tablespoon all over each rack, then get a brush and apply the honey. As you brush, the teriyaki sauce and honey both spread together. Or you can mix them in a bowl beforehand. Either way, the honey glazed teriyaki combo is happening!

The glaze ingredients. Simple.
The glaze ingredients. Simple.

After that is done they go back in so they can cook more into the meat. I give it about another 30-45 minutes.

When is it done?

I like my ribs to be done between 180-190°F.
I like my ribs to be done between 180-190°F.

As far as temperature of the meat, there’s two different sets of temps you can finish them at. I prefer my ribs to have a clean bite through to them, meaning the bite you take makes a perfect indentation in the meat. To get this clean bite through, you will want temps between 180-190°F. This is the same type of bite that competition barbecue judges look for. Using a Thermoworks digital thermometer, such as the ThermoPop featured in my image above, is my go-to every time.

While I prefer this, others prefer a fall-off-the-bone style. The temps you will be looking for with this style are between 195-205°F. You will definitely get more meat off of the bone this way. I don’t mind them this way either, especially if I leave the ribs in too long past the clean bite stage.

Example of a clean bite through.
Example of a clean bite through.

Once the ribs have reached your desired temperature, pull them from the smoker and let them rest for about 15 minutes before you start to cut and serve. Resting the meat lets the juices come out and bring more flavor. Once this is done, then proceed to slice and serve. Right before serving, I like to give my ribs another coating of honey for the look and flavor of it.

Sliced and ready to serve.
Sliced and ready to serve.

A sign of a good smoke is the coveted smoke ring. The smoke ring is apparent when you see a consistent pink coloring around the outside edge of the meat when you cut into it. It is okay if you don’t get this because you can still have good flavor without it. But it might mean the wood you used to smoke it with may not have been able to penetrate into the meat as well.

Smoked Honey Glazed Teriyaki Ribs
Smoked Honey Glazed Teriyaki Ribs

Smoking ribs is a fun and highly rewarding process. I hope you feel that sense of pride in what you’ve accomplished when you and your guests sink your teeth into the meaty goodness that these honey glazed teriyaki St. Louis style ribs provide. Best of luck to you!

The recipe!

Honey Glazed Teryaki St. Louis Style Ribs

Honey Glazed Teryaki St. Louis Style Ribs

Add some unique flavor to your St. Louis style ribs (or baby backs if you wish) and add some honey and teriyaki flavors!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 6 hours
Total Time 6 hours 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 full rack of St. Louis style ribs
  • 5 Tablespoons spicy brown mustard
  • 4 Tablespoons rub
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 Tablespoon teriyaki sauce

Instructions

  1. Preheat grill/smoker to 250 degrees. While waiting, remove St. Louis style ribs from packaging, rinse and pat dry. Remove membrane from the back of the ribs (optional, but preferred)
  2. Apply spicy brown mustard on both sides of the ribs, getting the edges covered, too. Sprinkle on rub and pat both sides and cover the edges, as well.
  3. Place rack(s) on grill for three hours, spritzing occasionally with apple juice. Remove and wrap in foil. Put back on for two more hours.
  4. In a small bowl, combine honey and teriyaki sauce. Unwrap foil from ribs, use basting brush to apply to ribs on the grill. Cook uncovered for 30-45 minutes.
  5. Remove from grill, rest for 15 minutes, then slice and serve.

Notes

Spritzing is something I recommend during the cook. With these ribs, I go simple with apple juice.

Regarding smoking woods, I use apple wood for these. However, feel free to use the smoking wood of your choice.

Finishing temps for ribs vary. For a clean bite through, finish between 180-190 degrees. For fall-off-the-bone style, aim for 190-205 degrees.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

3 ribs

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 400 Total Fat: 29g Saturated Fat: 9g Trans Fat: 0g Cholesterol: 101mg Sodium: 500mg Carbohydrates: 13g Sugar: 12g Protein: 20g

Pulled Pork

IMG_20160214_092111

One of my favorite meats to smoke is pork shoulder. I like it because it is a very forgiving meat, meaning that you can screw up (to an extent) and have it still turn out pretty good. While I’m still new to the true form of BBQ, I have smoked over a dozen pork shoulders during this short time. It is the meat I have the most experience with thus far. I have researched and experimented with different approaches to this and have come to make this one my own.

Meat: pork shoulder (aka- pork butt, Boston butt)

Ingredients: spicy brown mustard, rub(s), apple juice or apple cider vinegar

Wood: apple

Smoke: 275°F/135°C

Time: about 8 hours

Finish Temp.: between 195-205°F/90.5°-96°C

Rest: 45-60 minutes

20160218_090105-1

Once you pull the pork shoulder out of the fridge, take it out of the package and pat the meat dry from the juices in the packaging. Once that is done, I spread the spicy brown mustard all around the meat. This not only adds a little flavor, but also helps the rub stick better. I have found I like my pork with a little sweet and spice, so I go with a mix of Plowboys Yardbird Rub and Obie-Cue’s Sweet N’ Heat spicy brown sugar rub. Since I don’t like too much spicy heat, I do two parts Yardbird and one part Sweet N’ Heat. But if you dig the heat, then reverse the rub application.

Rubbed, rested, and ready.
Rubbed, rested, and ready.

Something else I’ve learned is that you’ll want to let the meat rest before putting it in the smoker. That way, the rub penetrates a little more and the meat cooks a little better at the start.

Once the smoker is up to 275°F, it is time to put the shoulders in. I keep them in the smoker for about six hours. However, I do on occasion (twice, but swiftly) lift the lid and spray apple juice or apple cider vinegar on it to help keep the meat juicy and from drying out. I also recommend putting a water pan inside the main chamber to help with that, as well. After the meat has been in the smoker for 6 hours, it can’t absorb much more smoky flavor after that point. So what I do to help accelerate the process is I pull the meat off the smoker and I double wrap it in heavy duty foil and put them back in at the same temperature for another 2 hours. I use my Thermopop digital food thermometer from Thermoworks for a quick, accurate reading to make sure it hits the zone for pulling/shredding/chopping, which is between 195°-205°F (or 95.5°-96°C for those who prefer Celcius). Note: pork is well-cooked and ready to eat when it hits an internal temp of 145°F, but if you want to reach that point in which it easily pulls/shreds/chops then it should be at the internal temps previously mentioned.

This pork shoulder is ready to be taken out and rest.
This pork shoulder is ready to be taken out and rest.

Now that it has reached the desired temperature and you’ve removed it from the smoker, it will smell and look SO delicious. You will be tempted to start pulling it apart immediately. For the sake of all that is holy in BBQ I urge you NOT to do this. The meat should sit out for at least 30 minutes before you start to pull it. That is because meat is muscle and when the meat is in the smoker, it is contracting on the inside while sweating out juices. Once the meat is done cooking, then the muscle starts to relax and let more of the juices absorb. I give it about 45 minutes of resting before I start to pull it apart.

The end result: a disappearing act come mealtime.
The end result: a disappearing act come mealtime.

Pulled pork makes a lot, so either show off to share with others or keep it for yourself and throw the leftovers in the freezer (Note: pulled pork freezes quite well, meaning it still tastes true to the original when you thaw and reheat it).

If you have any tips or tricks of your own, feel free to share in the comments.

Holiday Ham

Ham finished

Since I have smoked a total of four turkeys for Thanksgiving and a Christmas party with my church congregation in the span of nine days, I decided that I was turkey’d out. Since ham is a common main dish on Christmas Day, I opted for that. I found an awesome smoked ham recipe from the folks at howtobbqright.com with simple ingredients and easy step-by-step instructions to ensure I wouldn’t screw this up. The recipe is in the hyperlink to their website, but here’s the summary for you in case you’re too lazy mesmerized by this post thus far:

Meat: Ham (8.8 lbs)

Ingredients: 2 C brown sugar,  4 oz. pineapple juice, 6 oz. spicy brown mustard, 2 T pork rub

Wood: Cherry

Smoke:  225° F (about 107° C)

Finish Temperature: 145° F (about 62° C)

The ingredients for the ham glaze.
The ingredients for the ham glaze.

When you go to the store, you will find that just about every ham is already smoked and/or cured. To find one that has not been smoked or cured would be considered a “green ham” but since Malcolm Reed said you can use one of the aforementioned hams from the store, that is exactly what I did.

Smoking a ham like this will be just fine.
Smoking a ham like this will be just fine.

To get the ham ready, this is what I done did:

  • Open the package, toss out the glaze packet
  • Place the base (widest part) down on heavy duty foil (I used a foil pan)
  • Pat the ham with a paper towel to dry away some of the moisture wetness
Pat it dry to help make it a fresh canvas for your recipe.
Pat it dry to help make it a fresh canvas for your recipe.

1. Now that these three simple steps have been done, it’s time to apply the ingredients. For my base, I start with spicy brown mustard (which really isn’t that spicy). The original recipe called for honey Dijon mustard, but I improvised with the spicy brown because that’s the taste I prefer. When applying ingredients to meats, I prefer to put on a silicon (or whatever latex free) glove so I don’t have to get my hands messy and wash them multiple times during the preparation. Wiping the mustard around the ham with your hand will help you get an even application of the mustard, even in the harder-to-apply areas.

Applying mustard is messy, so I prefer to wear a glove.
Applying mustard is messy, so I prefer to wear a glove.

Now that the mustard is on, let’s sprinkle some brown sugar on here. At this point, we don’t want to apply too much; we will need the majority of this for later. If you want to use some of your preferred rub, now is the time to apply it. In this case, I’m using Plowboys BBQ Yardbird Rub because I love how it tastes on pulled pork and it couldn’t hurt to try it on another pork product.

Putting the brown sugar (and rub) on your hand will help you apply evenly.
Putting the brown sugar (and rub) on your hand will help you apply evenly.

Now that the mustard, brown sugar, and rub have been applied, I let the ham rest while I get the charcoal going. While most of the United States has been experiencing unusually warm weather, we’ve been hit with some much-needed snow, which means I need to shovel my way out to the smoker.

Everyday I'm shovelin', shovelin'.
Everyday I’m shovelin’, shovelin’.
Look what I uncovered!
Look what I uncovered!

2. The smoker is up to 225° F with the cherry wood and now I’m ready to put the ham in and let it smoke for two hours. One thing I’m discovering is that it is much harder to regulate heat when it is cold outside. The high was about 20ish degrees and that meant the heat in the smoker kept dropping quicker than usual. Make sure to have some extra coals ready so you are prepared for BBQ in the winter.

3. After two hours on the smoker, it is time to pull the ham off, apply some pineapple juice, wrap it in foil, and then back in the chamber for another hour. I use a spray bottle to get the pineapple juice on there as even as I can.

That doesn't look like water...
That doesn’t look like water…

4. By this point, the ham is supposed to be around 140° F. However, mine was not. I used my Thermopop to make sure the temperature was where I needed. When using a food thermometer, make sure you stick the needle in deep and away from the bone. Otherwise, you will get a reading like this…

120° near the surface
120° F near the surface

…when it is really this…

94° F deep down
94° F deep down

This is where I’m supposed to apply the final glaze, but I’m waiting until I get closer to 140°F. Now that I’m about 45 degrees behind where I need to be, I decide to put it in the oven on higher heat to make sure it climbs steady and I don’t lose heat like I have been out in the winter cold. But when I got the temp up to 140, I pulled the ham out to glaze. Since I wrapped the ham in a way that I put a foil cap on top to cover it completely, I was able to pull off the foil cap and pull open the base part of the foil to the point it makes a boat, yet keeps the juices trapped.

5. Now the time has come to glaze. 

Apply the rest of the brown sugar and completely cover the ham. Once that is done, then spray more pineapple juice on it. Doing this, combined with the heat from the smoker, will create the glaze that makes the ham awesome.

6. Put it back in the chamber for one more hour.

Since I was having issues, I put it back in my oven around 275°F and had it in for about 45 minutes until I was at an internal meat temp of 145°F. I wish I had a little more smoke flavor to this, which is likely why you put back on the smoker for another hour instead of in the oven. But dinner time was quickly approaching and I needed to make sure the ham would be done in time. I share this because I want you to know that even though the process didn’t turn out the way I hoped (as per the usual for me), you can still get the desired results.

7. Let it rest.

Resting is a key part of the BBQ process. The meat has been slowly cooking and contracts a bit in the process. Letting it rest is how the meat relaxes and the juices absorb. After 20-30 minutes, you’re done resting and it’s time to eat!

Looks like Jabba the Ham.
Looks like Jabba the Ham.

The family loved it and I sent them with a good amount of leftovers, which they devoured. If you are looking to make a ham (holidays or otherwise) I recommend this.

Bratwurst!

 

Bratwurst are a simple, yet very tasty, meat to smoke.
Bratwurst are a simple, yet very tasty, meat to smoke.

If you’re new to barbecuing like me, you may feel ambitious and want to try smoking some of the bigger meats right away. While that is a noble attempt of us padawans, it is sometimes best to don’t go chasing waterfalls, but to stick to the rivers and the lakes that we’re used to. With those wise words from TLC, a simple, yet tasty food to smoke is bratwurst. It’s as simple as throwing them on the smoker for two hours. That’s it. You can stop there. Seriously. But since this is a website dedicated to learning to smoke, I will provide you the dialogue:

Meat: Bratwurst

Wood: Apple

Smoke:  240° F (or 115.556° C for you readers outside the U.S.) for two hours

Grill: Medium-low heat for about five minutes, turning once

When going to the store to buy your brats, a beginner to the ways of smoking might look for the brats that come packaged like this:

"These aren't the brats you're looking for." -Obi-Wan Kenobi, probably
“These aren’t the brats you’re looking for.”
-Obi-Wan Kenobi, probably

These are pre-cooked. You can fire them up on the grill and still be satisfied. But since we are smoking, go for the uncooked bratwurst that come in a package like this:

These are the brats your looking for.
These are what the uncooked bratwurst will come packaged like.

Once your smoking device is at 240° F, put the brats in the smoker for two hours. As far as the wood is concerned, that is a matter of your preference. I’m a sucker for apple wood and I love to use it on pork products. Whatever your preference, knock yourself out. With that said, you may be tempted during the smoke to lift the lid to turn the brats with your tongs, but there’s no need. They will smoke evenly. Also, you don’t want any of that smoky heat to escape, for keeping the chamber door open too long will throw off the temperature and you will lose some of that trapped smoke that is flavoring your food.

Right before the two hours is up, turn on your grill/light up your BBQ pit/heat up the stovetop to a medium-low heat. My grill is right next to the smoker, so I use that. I put them on the grill for a few minutes so they can get those grill marks and cook a little more on the inside just to be safe. Be careful not to keep them on too long or the skins of the brats will break and the juices will pour out. You DO NOT want to lose these juices because this is where the they get their flavor. The purpose of smoking them in the first place is to trap the juices and let the smoke seep into the sausages. With that said, a couple of my brats started to sputter on the grill. I noticed this because the juices dripped down unto the flame and made them burn higher. If you see this, it’s not too late. Pull them off and then you are ready to serve!

In the world of smoking, the end result we all covet is the smoke ring. I’ve smoked brats on a few occasions, but I’ve never noticed a smoke ring until this time. It might be a coincidence, but these are the best bratwurst I’ve ever had!  Each bite was bursting with those flavorful juices with a hint of apple smoke. I try to keep myself to a one-brat limit, but these were too good to eat just one. (Note: the bratwurst may have a crispy outer skin to them, which is caused by the slow smoking process. The insides will be just fine, so don’t worry.)

Ah, that coveted smoke ring.
Ah, that coveted smoke ring.

I hope you try to smoke bratwurst and see how simple and rewarding it can be. This can provide a confidence boost to beginners and fuel your ambition to tackle bigger meat (I hope that last part didn’t sound weird).