Smoked Jalapeño Sausage

My wife asked if I had ever had hot links before and if I could smoke them. Well, no, I never had them before (gasp!) but after she explained to me that they’re a type of sausage with a little bit of spice and then smoked I figured “how hard could this be?” and figured I’d give it a shot. I love spicy food, and combined with smoke, how could it not be good?

So off I went to Sam’s Club and Walmart to look for some sausage. The challenge in finding the right kind of sausage to use is that my wife suffers from Celiac disease so I have to be very careful when picking out packaged meats. Most prepackaged meats have fillers which contain gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley) and she won’t be able to eat it! Not good, not good!! Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find anything that I felt comfortable enough to serve her. She knows how to read the labels way better than I do, and the last thing that I want to do is cause her to have a problem with something I cooked!

Frustrated, I went to a local butcher shop to see what was available, thinking surely they have to have fresh cuts of meat, and maybe they have something I can use that’s gluten free. There’s a place in town that’s been here for over a year now, and I have always heard great things about the place, and have even sampled some items that some friends have brought over to throw on the grill that was incredible, but I had never experienced the place on my own. Let me just say I wish I had went in sooner!!!

If you’re lucky enough to have a local butcher then you know what it’s like! G’s Meats ‘N More reminds me of the old style butcher shops from way back when, and the customer service is top-notch! I walked in, on a Friday afternoon, looking for something to make hot links out of. When I talked to the owner George and explained to him what I was trying to accomplish, he mentioned that he had some fresh ground jalapeño sausage in the back that he would be happy to put in the casing for me. I asked for two pounds and away I went!

I was already in the process of smoking two pork shoulders and decided to throw on the sausage as an appetizer. The only preparation I did to the sausage was sprinkling a little bit of chili powder on it. After that, on to the grate it went!

Look at those diced jalapeño peppers!

2 hours later, we sliced it up, and the reaction that my wife had made all of the searching I had done the day before worth it!! It was so good that she made me take a piece back to George, and I didn’t even hesitate because he had to know how good that stuff was! Thank you G’s Meats for making me look like a rock star!! You will definitely be getting more of my business, especially when we want some more smoked jalapeño sausage!

Smoked Chicken Breasts

We love chicken in our house! It’s so versatile and flavorful that there really isn’t a bad way to cook it! I’ve smoked whole chickens that have tasted amazing, but I wanted to try some chicken breasts because they’re so much easier to prep and eat. Plus, I was thinking that if I cook enough of them, we can eat them throughout the week.

Keeping it simple!

So what I did was I started with about 6lbs of boneless, skinless chicken breasts that I coated pretty heavily with Lawry’s Chicken & Poultry Rub, then I sprinkled on some onion powder and finished them off with a heavy sprinkle of minced onions.

I prepped my smoker with enough charcoal to give me about 3 to 4 hours worth of heat, soaked some apple wood chunks, and got it up to a consistent 250 degrees. I threw on some wood chunks just before placing the chicken breasts on the grates and closed the lid.Chicken Breasts On The Smoker

2 1/2 hours later, I checked the internal temperature and the breasts all read 165 degrees. I took them off the smoker and cut into one because they smelled absolutely amazing! I couldn’t resist, I had to try a bite, and they tasted even better than they smelled!!

So if you’re ever looking for a quick, easy recipe for smoked chicken, here it is! My whole family loves it, even my 9 month old Grandson!! My wife loves to cut them into strips for salads, and they taste great if you ever wanted a sandwich.

2 1/2 hours of smoke!

First Smoked Brisket

My confidence was getting better with my smoker, and I knew that I had to try the “holy grail” of smoked meat, a beef brisket! I’ve always believed that any BBQ joint or backyard pitmaster can do a fantastic job on chicken and pulled pork, but the real test is their brisket because it’s so difficult to get consistently right. I’ve had brisket at places that was phenomenal on one visit only to go back and find it dry and not very flavorful the next, so the pressure was on (in my mind) to make something amazing!

I started out with just a flat, the part of the brisket without the point (this site has a good description of what the parts of the brisket, the flat, the point or deckle, are) and gave it a heavy coating of dry rub, wrapped it in plastic wrap and kept it in the refrigerator overnight.

Smoked Brisket

The next morning, after I got my smoker fired up and leveled off to 225 degrees, I added some hickory chunks and placed the brisket, fat-side up, on the grate. And then waited… this is the hardest part in my opinion! At the 4 hour mark, I added some water to the water pan because it was almost out, only about an inch left. I also added some more chunks of wood to keep the smoke flowing.

After learning about the stall and how to power through it the day before with the pork shoulder, I thought that I didn’t want to take that kind of chance with a piece of meat I’ve never smoked before. I checked the internal temperate of the brisket and sure enough, it was just at 160 degrees! So I wrapped it in heavy duty aluminum foil and placed it back on the grate, this time with fat side down.

The wind had started to pick up and I was having a problem maintaining the heat within the smoker above 210 degrees. At the 7 hour mark, I checked the internal temp, and I was only up to 185, and while I was hoping for 195 or better, it was still a good sign that I had made it past the stall. So I added a few more pieces of charcoal to the smoker, on the outer edges so that the heat would rise up easier, and waited.

Sliced Brisket

Finally, after 9 hours total, the internal temperature had climbed up to 205 degrees! I took the meat inside and let it rest in the foil for 15 minutes. I carefully unwrapped it and placed it on a cookie pan, grabbed a knife, then panicked! I had never cut one of these things before! So I asked my wife if she’d like to give it a try. And she did, and the pieces looked amazing. She was, however, upset that she cut it the wrong way. That’s OK, we learned from it and we’ll cut it the correct way next time! Regardless, it was amazing!! I can’t believe how well it turned out!!! And soon we’re going to smoke another brisket, and maybe we’ll smoke the whole thing!

 

First Try At Smoked Pork Shoulders

After having seasoned my smoker and following the suggestion of a good friend to smoke a whole chicken first (I wish I would have taken pictures of that bird! It looked amazing and tasted even better!) to get the flavor cooked in to the WSM, I decided to try my hand at cooking a pork shoulder. Not one to do anything at half-speed, I decided that “hey! I got room, why not cook two?!” and so this smoke started taking shape.

It started on Friday night (once again, my wife’s wise recommendation!), when I prepped the WSM with the necessary amount of charcoal in order to get 8 to 10 hours of heat which turned out to be about 12lbs. For the pork shoulders, I coated them with a light coat of honey mustard then gave them a generous coating of dry rub that I found in a cookbook. Man, that rub is amazing, but more on that later! I then wrapped them in plastic wrap and placed them in the fridge.

1st Ever Pork Shoulder

I got out of bed at 4:00 AM and started the fire in the chimney. it was cold outside, around 30 degrees, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me. After learning from my previous attempts to let the charcoal in the WSM burn a little more, I waited 10 minutes after pouring my burning chimney full of briquettes before I assembled the smoker. I filled the water pan with enough hot water until it was about an inch below the edge, placed the grates in place, and covered it with the lid.

After 30 to 45 minutes the thermometer was holding steady at 240 degrees. How accurate is that thing anyway? Probably not very good, but at least it gives me something to go by. I then put in some hickory chips that I had been soaking in water since I started the chimney. Smoke slowly started to escape from the top vent, and it was marvelous! Inside, I unwrapped the shoulders and placed them on the grates fat side up, placed the lid on the smoker, and joined my wife for morning coffee.

After about 3 hours I had to add some water to the pan and some more chips to the fire. The lack of water was causing the temperature to rise to around the 275 degree mark, and I was worried that the meat might dry out. It stabilized to around 225 and the smoke continued.

At the 7 hour mark curiosity was driving me crazy! I wanted to take a peak to see what the shoulders looked like, but to paraphrase what I’ve heard many, many times “if you’re looking, you’re not cooking!” so I resisted. I did notice that the temp had dropped to around 200 degrees due to the wind picking up and the coals burning out. So I added two handfuls of briquettes and closed the door.

Many pitmasters, pros and amateurs, will tell you that meat will top out at a certain temperature before being fully cooked, or as many call it, the stall, and they all have their own techniques for getting past it. I, however, hadn’t heard that, or at least I hadn’t paid much attention to it or forgot about it, but in any event, after the 9 hour mark the internal temp still wasn’t where it should be, it was only sitting at 165 degrees. I checked again an hour later, still it hadn’t climbed above 170 degrees. I closed the lid, added some more charcoal, and came back in two hours.

As luck would have it, when I checked it at 12 hours, it was 200 degrees! Perfect!! I pulled them off the grates, took them into the house and let them set for 15 minutes. Then I began pulling one of them apart (our plan was to freeze the other for a later date) and the meat just fell apart on its own! It was so moist and juicy and the smell was incredible!! Who could resist trying a couple of bites? Not us!! And was it ever delicious!!

Look at that smoke ring!

As our family and guests all were gathered around the dinner table, my wife, who’s tried pulled pork from all over said “Honey, this is the best pulled pork I’ve ever had!” Mission accomplished!!! Even the second shoulder tasted amazing after being frozen and then thawed! With those kinds of result I’m anxious to smoke more pork shoulders!

Seasoning My Smoker

After receiving my Weber Smokey Mountain cooker for Christmas, I finally got a decent break in the weather to do my seasoning. I had read around on the Internet, albeit not enough, and talked to a few people who have smokers on what was the best way to season my WSM, and after taking all of that into consideration I made the decision to put a full 14lb bag of charcoal in it and get it as hot as I could for as long as I could to burn off any residue that was inside from the manufacturing process.

Seasoning Ole SmokeyIt was an overcast day in January, mid-to-high 40 degrees, light breeze, typical weather for middle Tennessee. Around 12:00 PM I filled up a chimney about 3/4 of the way full, lit the paper underneath and waited for the the coals to catch. I then dumped the rest of the bag of charcoal in the bottom and opened up all of the vents. Once the chimney was burning (which took about 10 minutes) I dumped the hot coals on the briquettes. I then assembled the smoker and purposely didn’t add any water to the water pan. I then went inside.

An hour later I check the thermometer. I was only up to 250 degrees. Hmmm…. I was thinking that it should be warmer than that, but I waited it out.

Another hour passes and I checked the thermometer again. 375 degrees! Now that’s more like it! The breeze was starting to pick up so I knew that it would affect the temp and I didn’t anticipate the heat staying that high much longer.

I checked the thermometer at the 3 hour mark and it was holding at 325. Smoke from the charcoal was billowing out of the top vent, and I felt a sense of accomplishment. It stayed at that temp for another 2 hours at which time the charcoal gave all it could and the temp started to fall.

At the 5 hour mark the thermometer was showing 230 degrees, and fortunately, it stayed there for another hour. The end results were a 6 hour burn-in with a peak of 375 degrees. It may have been warmer, but that’s all that I saw.

Afterwards, feeling like I’m ready to smoke any piece of meat out there, I found through more research on the Internet and talking with even more people that I should have put some fruit wood chunks in to get a good heavy coat of smoke on the inside. It was even suggested that I coat the entire contents of the smoker with either cooking spray or olive oil to give the smoke something to adhere to. Had I only known about that when I “seasoned” it!

Oh well, lesson learned, and I’ll probably use some of those tricks on my next smoker!