Thursday, November 30, 2006

PLAY by PLAY: The Journey of a Boston Butt, a Rack of Ribs & A Beef Brisket

“Its tad brisk for BBQ”, I thought to myself as I pulled almost 27 pounds of meat from our basement refrigerator. I must really love BBQ and the Patriots to be up a 5am on a Saturday, so my buddies can have pulled pork, ribs and brisket for Sunday’s tailgate at Gillette. Last night Anthony and I injected a 9 pound Boston Butt with apple cider, a splash of Jack Daniel’s and a shot of apple cider vinegar. We dry marinated a magnificant14 pound beef brisket (that my favorite butcher talked me into) and three rakes of St. Louis style pork ribs with our secret backyard barbecue rub. Anyway, enough talk, let me get to the point. I figured since I am up early and planning an all day cook I’d keep a log of the day’s BBQ. The majority of searches that end up at Eat Ugly are looking for details on how to cook a Boston Butt. Well, below is a journal of the temperatures, times and headaches that surround my BBQ pit. Hope it helps…

November 3, 2006
6:00 PM

  • Apply my secret rub to beef brisket and pork ribs (Yes, I often use the same rub for beef, pork and poultry).
  • Inject Boston Butt with a mix if apple cider, Jack Daniel’s whiskey and apple cider vinegar.
  • Decide that I am too lazy to go outside and prepare Weber Smokey Mountain water smoker...a decision I regret in the morning.

November 4, 2006
5:00 AM

  • Pull my lazy butt out of bed, make a full pot of coffee and pull the meat out of the fridge.
  • Search for Anthony’s gloves and hat because it is 30˚ outside and he is awake and ready to help.
  • Remove the cover from my smoker only to find that the inside is coated with something I don’t recognize. Clean, scrape and disinfect smoker. I have three different smokers, but I really like using the WSM when it is cold outside. It seems to hold its temperature better than the others.

6:00 AM [yes it took me an hour to clean the smoker…I told I would regret last evenings laziness]

  • Finally, add two full unlit chimneys of Wicked Good Charcoal’s Competition Blend to the coal pan of my WSM. Light ¾ full chimney of Wicked Good Charcoal’s Weekend Warrior Blend to use as my starter.
  • Soak about a ¼ bag of apple wood chips, realize this in not enough and plan to head to the hardware store after I get the meat on the pit.

6:22 AM

  • Add starter lump charcoal to coal pan and begin to preheat smoker.
  • Head inside to prep today’s menu and find something to put in my water pan other than water.
  • Rinse thoroughly and apply rub to the Boston Butt. I decided to use a The Hog’s Tuxedo Rub, because it has great balance of sweat and heat and I want my friends to taste it.
  • Add 4 Harpoon UFO Raspberry beers (not my favorite brew which makes it ideal for the water pan) and ½ a bottle of apply juice to water pan—I topped it off with water.

7:06 AM

  • BBQ pit temperature 220˚ and ready to go
  • Add brisket to the bottom cooking great, directly over the water pan
  • Arrange Boston Butt and ribs on top grate
  • Add all of my Apple wood chips
  • Replace lid and hope temperature comes back up quickly

7:22 AM

  • Temperature is back to 220˚ and is rising
  • Adjust bottom air vents—I closed the two side vents about ½ way and the and left the front damper open full.
  • My goal is to keep the temperature under 220˚, but this is easier said that done.

This is a good time to explain how I run my smoker. I leave the air vent on the lid open full and fill one of the holes with my BBQ pit thermometer. I make sure that one of the bottom vents is positioned directly under the access door and refer to this as the front vent.

7:31 AM

  • Temperature spiked to 260˚
  • Close front vent completely
  • Close side vents ¾ (open ¼)

7:45 AM

  • Temperature 240˚
  • Close a second vent entirely (there is slight breezed coming in from the right. I that vent open to let the fire breath.)

7:58 AM

  • Temperature 230˚
  • Out of wood head to store

Poor planning left me with little choice and I had to settle for hickory wood chips. I prefer to use apple, alder, cherry or peach woods; especially when I barbecue brisket. The only good thing was that all the BBQ stuff was on sale, because very few New Englander’s BBQ year round.

8:35 AM

  • Return home to find temperature @ 190˚
  • Open all three bottom vents to ½
  • Give the coals a turn
  • Soak hickory chips

8:54 AM

  • Temperature 210˚
  • Add one handful of wood chips

9:36 AM [still have not checked the meat]

  • Temperature 220˚
  • Add on handful of wood chips

Brisket tends to really soak in the smoke. Pork is more forgiving and can handle more smoke and retain their integrity. I am always cautious with hickory smoke. Too much smoke will make the meat bitter. Just a personal note, I never use mesquite.

10:005 AM

  • Temperature 210˚
  • Add water to pan
  • Mix coal
  • Check meat for 1st time
    • Ribs look good
    • Boston Butt moist
    • Brisket moist

It will take at least 5 more hours for the internal temperature of the Boston Butt and brisket to even be near 200˚. I just want to make sure nothing is drying out and everything is getting enough smoke.

10:30 AM

  • Temperature 190˚
  • Start ½ chimney of Weekend Warrior Blend
  • Stoke fire and open all vents

10:50 AM

  • Temperature 250˚
  • Add chimney
  • Close front vent completely and both side vents to half.
  • Check Ribs-- need about 2 more hours
  • Check meat internal temperature
    • Boston Butt 140˚ @ 4 hours
    • Brisket Butt 140˚ @ 4 hours

I figure since I had to remove the top smoker assembly entirely I may as well check the internal temperature of the meat. Truthfully, there is no real need for this; “butt” it is always nice to have a true idea as to how the meat is progressing.

11:00 AM

  • Temperature 190˚
  • Open vents to full
  • Stoke the coals
  • Add a small handful of chips. I don’t want to add too much wood; hickory has a stronger flavor than apple, maple of alder. Too much smoke makes for bitter BBQ.

I am having trouble maintaining a constant temperature. The Competition Blend is difficult to keep lit plus I think the outside temperature of 34˚ is also a factor. I also pulled out the propane torch just in case the lump needs a little more encouragement. The ribs and Boston butt also seem a bit dry so I mixed up a quick mop of equal parts Ole Ray’s Apple Cinnamon BBQ Sauce and apple cider vinegar plus a big shot of Jack Daniels.

11:19 AM

  • Temperature 215˚
  • Stoke the coals

11:40 AM

  • Temperature 220˚

12:23 PM

  • Temperature 200˚
  • Add a few more coals
  • Mop the ribs and Boston Butt—baste and pork drippings are keeping the brisket beneath them wet
  • Ribs look good and need about one more hour

1:00 PM

  • Temperature 230˚

1:30 PM

  • Temperature 240˚
  • Remove Ribs, wrap in foil, hold in cooler
  • Check Meat
    • Boston Butt 160˚
    • Brisket 160˚
  • Mop Brisket and Pork

Temperature is hotter than I like, but I don’t want to mess with it. As long as the temperature stays below 250˚ I’ll be satisfied? Patience is king when it comes to BBQ, but today’s cook is one of the most difficult I have ever had to deal with.

2:09 PM

  • Temperature 250˚
  • Close vents to ¼

3:00 PM

  • Temperature 200˚
  • Open vents to 1/2

3:40 PM

  • Temperature 230˚
  • Mop Boston Butt and Brisket

4:40 PM

  • Temperature 200˚
  • Open vents to ¾
  • Stoke coals

5:30 PM

  • Temperature 210˚
  • Check Internal Temperature
    • Pork Butt 170˚
    • Brisket 170˚’
  • Mop both

6:30 PM

  • Temperature 220˚
  • Internal temperatures both still 170˚

The internal temperature will stick at about 165˚ to 170˚ for what seems like an eternity. The temp will rise I promise. I didn’t believe it either when I first started barbecuing. Just hang I there, have a beer and wait for 200˚ or at least 195˚. I think I have managed to get the fire under control, but now that I am taking internal temperature readings every hour things are going to get tricky. One of these days I am going to smarten up and buy one of those digital meat thermometers with the cord that attaches to the outside of the smoker.

7:30 PM

  • Temperature 230˚
  • Internal temperature still around 170˚

8:30 PM

  • Temperature 220˚
  • Internal Temperature finally on the rise
    • Boston Butt 180˚
    • Brisket 185˚

9:30 PM

  • Temperature 200˚
  • Remove the meats from the smoker—it’s late and I am tired the need to be done now!
    • Boston Butt 190˚
    • Brisket 195˚
  • Wrap both in foil and place in oven.

The internal temperature will rise about 10 or 15˚ while the meat is resting. I always try to let my Butts, briskets and roasts rest wrapped in foil for an hour or two before I pull it or slice it.

It was about 10:45 when I finally pulled the pork and sliced the brisket. They both basically fell apart and the burnt ends were great late night treats. I used the remainder of my mop to sauce the pork and brisket. Since this day’s BBQ was for tomorrow night’s Patriots game against the Colts I stored both in a tin roasting pan covered tightly in foil in the refrigerator. I figure at the tailgate I will just heat the entire pan on the grill over a medium fire for about an hour or until hot. I did the same with the ribs. There were no leftovers…


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Ugly Gourmet's Newest Friend

I know I promised to be more diligent in regards to my BBQ blogging duties, but time is illusive. Anyway, this past weekend I was able to BBQ all day Saturday in preparation for Sunday night’s tailgate. And thank the BBQ gods the food was good because the Patriots weren’t. Anthony and I smoked up a 14 pound brisket, a 9 pound Boston Butt, and a few racks of St. Louis style ribs. I was not only finally able to cook a half decent brisket; I managed to take hourly notes on the entire day. I am now in the process of writing up my BBQ log which includes times, temps and details about the day’s festivities. Hopefully in it I will be able to give some insight into the world of pork butt and beef brisket. Anyway, it is going to take me a few days to get it all together. Until then I want to introduce you to our newest friend. is a wicked cool site dedicated to providing grilling tips and recipes as well as answers to grilling FAQ’s. They also sell and design great t-shirts, aprons, hats and other apparel centered on America’s addiction to cooking food over fire. So, while you wait for me to get my latest BBQ journal posted give the folks at a visit and make sure you tell them the Ugly Gourmet sent you.