Sunday, January 20, 2008

Smoking in Cold Weather

I told you that I would be smoking a couple pork butts last Thursday, so I thought I'd tell you about them. I did three things last week that I have never done before:

  1. Cooked in 10 degree weather
  2. Foiled pork butts, and
  3. Finished pork butts off on the gas grill
I got home from work last Thursday and, as you can see in the pic above, had to shovel some snow to be able to cook. It was about 19 degrees when I started to cook and quickly fell to the low teens after dark. I burned through about 90 lbs of charcoal in about 4 and a half hours. I was pushing the ol' Chargriller pretty hard at 300-325 degrees (I didn't want to be up all night....some guys gotta work, you know). The key in this kind of weather is to keep a good bed of extremely hot coals.

Make sure you give you fire a lot of air and don't worry about how much charcoal/ wood you use. I used up about half a bag of hickory chunks (giving off the flames in the pic) in addition to the charcoal. That's what happens in cold weather, I guess. To give you an idea of how cold 10 degrees is, take a good look at my out of place grease trap (i.e. the coffee can).

The coffee can got knocked over and you can see where the pork fat running out of the smoker is solidifying right as it hits the can.

When the butts got to about 150 degrees I wrapped them and put them on the gas grill over indirect heat to finish them off to 195 degrees or so. I couldn't get the far end of the grill up to 300 deg, so I had to drape a quilted moving blanket over it to hold the heat in. I didn't think about it at the time, but I should have just wrapped the butts and put them in the oven. I just don't think "oven" when I'm cooking BBQ.....but, I don't really think "grill" either. It was 10:30 or so now and I went in for a catnap while Mrs. Hog kept an eye on the butts (she gets to sleep later than I do and these were for her party). She woke me up about 12:30 and I took the butts off the grill. We let them rest for 20 minutes or so and Mrs. Hog and I pulled the butts at 1:00 AM Friday morning. Six o'clock came might early for me.

So, I did the butts in a little over 6 hours, which is by far the fasted I've cooked one. I forgot to mention that these were good sized (9 and 10 pounds) butts, too. It was definitely a successful cook, despite the unorthodox (for me) cooking style. The butts didn't have quite the smoky flavor that I usually get. The smoke ring was normal, though, so I'm thinking that the juices that collected in the foil kinda "washed" the smoke off the butts...maybe. The bark was also compromised by the the foiling. It wasn't as flavorful and the consistency was way off compared to what I'm used to. Anyway, I'm calling it a win due to the time constraints and the extreme conditions....not to mention that they tasted great. Mrs. Hog and I got a lot of nice compliments at the party we took them to. I think I'll pick a day closer to freezing for my next cook, though.

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