Overnight Pork Butt With Auber Instruments Pit Controller

Pork Butt

     Last week, we decided that it had been too long since we have done a pork butt. It just seems like we have been too busy lately to do an overnight cook. Either we’re out of town, or I’m working a weekend or something else comes up. As much as we like to do them, it just hasn’t fit in with our schedules. This past weekend, or I should say Thursday night as I had Friday off, was the perfect time.

     Not sure how much this butt weighed. Quite frequently, you will find two butt together in a cryovacced package. You might not notice there are two unless you look closely. Together, these two weighed about 19.5lbs. One went into the freezer, either for sausage down the road or pulled pork at a later date. The other one got slathered with mustard and rubbed down with Dizzy Pig Dizzy Dust (Coarse).

Pork Butt going on the Egg

     One thing I was really excited about was that this was going to be my first time to try out my Auber Instruments Pit Controller on an overnight cook. If you aren’t familiar with pit controllers, they have a temperature sensor that you place near the meat in your smoker. The pit controller then monitors the temperature inside. If it begins to fall below your programmed temperature, it turns a fan on that blows air over the coals in your smoker, thereby raising the temperature. As it nears the desired temperature, the fan begins to cycle between on and off. Once the temperature has been reached, the fan turns off. It’s a little more complicated than that, but that’s the easy, condensed version that I can understand.

     For this butt, I ran the Egg at 250F, placesetter legs up (wrapped in aluminum foil for easy clean up later), no drip pan, and used a few pecan chunks and some hickory chips.  One problem I have had since getting my Egg, is that long cooks (like butts and briskets) just don’t seem to get the smoke and the black, meteorite-like bark that I used to get with my old offset. So I tried something a little different this time. For the first 4 hours, on the hour, I would lift up the placesetter and throw a couple more pecan chunks and a handfull of hickory chips on top of the coals.

3 hours in

     After about 4 hours in (around 2 am), I decided to call it a night. As this butt didn’t need to be ready until dinner Friday night, I turned down my pit controller to 225 and hit the sack with nary a worry in my head about the fire going out or spiking in the middle of the night.

8 AM, 10 hours later

     Friday morning, I woke up a lil before 8 and went to check on the butt and the above picture is what I saw. The temperature of the Egg was at 223 F….2 degree difference from what I set it at after being left alone for 6 hours. Not too shabby!!

2:30 PM, 16.5 hours later

     Around 2:30 Pm, 16.5 hours after I had started, it was finally done. I know what some of you maybe thinking. “You burnt the hell out of it!”

Another view

     And some are thinking “16.5 hours!! I can do that in less time in my crokcpott!”  Uh-huh…I’m sure you can.

Bone slid out clean

     One way to tell when your butt is done is if the bone slides out clean with no resistance. Or you can just shoot for around a temp of 200. Once this butt was done, it was wrapped in aluminum foil and placed in a small cooler filled with towels to await Mrs. G’s return home from work. At this point, your butt can safely rest for around 4 hours without any worries. After 4 hours, the meat will still be piping hot and will hurt your hands to pull it by hand.

     And for those who can do their pork butt in a crockpott in less time….does it come out looking as good as this?

Hand-shreddable porky goodness!!

After 4 hours resting in a cooler, this butt was still almost too hot to pull with gloves on, but I persevered!!

All pulled

     To go along with the pulled pork, I made a North Carolina-style Vinegar Sauce and some coleslaw from a recipe in Steve Raichlen’s BBQ USA. I’m not claiming this is authentic for that region, so don’t get all up in arms against me if its wrong. I’m just a good ole Texas boy who’s more familiar with brisket than butts. I was just going along with a recipe I found that tastes pretty good to me.

Chow Time!

     This was some smokey porky goodness!! Maybe one of the best butts I have ever done. Adding chunks and chips throughout the beginning of the cook, while a bit of a pain, really helped me to achieve that bark that I had been shooting for. And having the pit controller really eased my mind and allowed me to get some needed shut eye after having an 11 day straight run at work. Was it needed? Probably not, but boys and their toys. It was nice to just kick back and let it do all the work for me.

    9 lbs of pulled pork is a lot of food for just two people. What the hell are we going to do with all those leftovers?

Homemade Hot Italian Sausage Subs

Hot Italian Sausage Sandwich with Side Salad

Hot Italian Sausage Sandwich. Heroe. Hoagie. Sub. Call it what you want, I call it good. I don’t know why it goes by four different names (maybe there’s more). Maybe it goes by different names depending on what part of the country you live in. I guess that makes sense to me. Would probably clear up why there are so many different ways for you to top them. Me? I’m not Italian. I’m no expert and I’m not going to debate the proper way to make one.

If you have been following along, you may recall that back on April 2, we made some Texas Hot Links. In that post, I mentioned that we had also made some Hot Italian Sausage and that I would be following up on it at a later date….well, that date is finally here. Lucky you, huh?

Hot Italian Sausage

As always, when undergoing a new food, I try to look at as many recipes as I can, comparing them, trying to figure out if its authentic (or close), how the ingredients might work together, that kind of stuff. The recipe I ended up going with was from TheSpicySausage.com, and was suggested by Dyal_SC over on The Barbecue Bible. The thing I liked about it was that it seemed simple in the different amount of ingredients, but each would add a nice flavor.

Host of Characters (starting at top with salt going clockwise. Fresh parsley not included in pic)

Hot Italian Sausage

5-lbs pork
1-cup cold red wine
1-cup chopped fresh parsley
5-tsp salt
1-tbsp garlic powder or-4 to 5 garlic cloves, minced
1-tbsp fresh ground pepper
3-tsp cayenne
5-tbsp fennel seed (the one change I made was reducing it to 4 and then grinding in a spice grinder)
2-tsp crushed chili peppers
5-tbsp paprika

Combine all, mix well & stuff into hog casing

Stuffed and ready to be linked

You maybe thinking to yourself, “I don’t have a stuffer.” Or, “I don’t want to bother with stuffing Italian sausage links.” That is ok. We actually made a double batch of this recipe. Half of it got stuffed into hog casings. The other half was placed into bags and frozen as is to use in other recipes like spaghetti or lasagna where you might want to use uncased sausage.

Onto the Egg with some peppers and onions

I was originally planning on using the sausage first with spaghetti and a marinara sauce. Mrs. G suggested subs. I took it into consideration, but was going to ignore her, but after the day I had yesterday and still needing to go to the store for ingredients, I figured she was right (as usual) and my plans have been shelved until I have more time to implement them.

Further talk on how to top the subs also led to disagreement. Mrs. G wanted to go with peppers and onions. Me? I’m not a big pepper fan, at least when it comes to bell peppers. Can’t stand green and have just started to learn to like red, orange and yellow. Her idea, while a classic, just wasn’t appealing to me. I was thinking more along the lines of marinara and some cheese. How can you go wrong with that?

Halfway done

I set up the Egg at 400F with a raised grate to cook the sausage. If you are using gas or charcoal, I would suggest going with a medium heat and leaving part of the grill with no heat so you can move your sausage back and forth to prevent burning or the casing from splitting and losing all that juice. I also used a cast iron pan to saute the bell peppers and onions. For the sausage, you are going to want to shoot for an internal temp of 160F (which should carry over to 165F, the safe point for sausage). How long will depend on your grill and the temp you are cooking. Mine took about 15-20 minutes. Make sure to keep a close eye on it to prevent the casing from splitting. When the sausage is done, throw your buns on to warm them if you like.

Buns warming

Depending on how you roll (no pun intended), you may opt to skip the toppings.

Naked

Or you may go the route I chose and top with marinara sauce and some cheese.

If you do, take a picture before sticking it into the microwave to melt the cheese. That didn't really lend to an appetizing picture.

Or you may agree with Mrs. G that peppers and onions are the way to go.

Hot Italian Sub with Peppers and Onions

Whichever way you choose, you can’t go wrong. The sausage had a wonderful flavor. The garlic, fennel and parsley flavors really stood out. The heat came through nicely from the cayenne, red chili flakes and pepper, but did not overwhelm or overpower the other flavors. I want to say I even detected a hint of the wine, but I may have been imagining it. And the juice! This sausage came out so juicy it exploded into your mouth when you took a bite! I must say that this might just be the best sausage we have done so far. I can’t wait to try some of it in some spaghetti and am really looking forward to using the uncased sausage in something or other. If you are on the fence about making your own sausage, I highly encourage you to take the leap. This is so much better than the pre-made stuff you buy at the store.

Side by side comparison. And yes, Mom, I had a salad with mine, too. 🙂

Cheese Burgers Made With Home Ground Beef

Who doesn't like a good burger?

     While trying to figure out what to cook Friday, I was inspired by Kristi’s Bacon and Gruyere Burger on her blog Necessary Indulgences. The whole drive home, I was thinking of different kinds of cheeses I could use. Maybe a blue cheese? I could always do Swiss, but that sounded boring. American? Too plain. Colby jack, Monterey jack and pepper jack all came to mind, but were dismissed. Cotija? Wonder how that would work. Havarti? For some reason that one kept coming to mind.

     After letting the boys out to take care of their business (and by boys I mean Olie, our German Shepherd, and Bodi, our Yorkie. Weird combo, huh?), I gave Mrs. G a quick phone call to see if there was anything we needed at the store. She informed me we needed buns and meat and maybe some wine. I quickly added onions to the list (as I remember hearing her say the other night when she was cooking that we were out. See? Sometimes us guys listen) and ketchup and off to the store I went.

     I could have just picked up some ground beef at the store, but lately with all the stories in the news about pink slime, I steered clear of it. Not to mention you have no idea what kind of meat is going into it. Plus, what fun is buying ground meat when you can do it yourself? Last time we ground meat (HERE) I used about a 3:1 ratio of chuck to skirt steak. Why skirt steak, I really have no idea. While it was good, I didn’t want to do that again. I found a nice chuck roast that weighed about 3 lbs. That would be the base of my burger, but what else could I use? Looking through the meat section, I came across some beef short ribs. I thought these would add some nice fat to burger, keeping it nice and juicy, and would give it an extra beefy flavor. So the chuck was joined by a little over 1 lb of short ribs. Once again, this would give me a 3:1 ratio.

Grinding the beef

     I won’t go into much detail about grinding the beef. I covered that in my first attempt at grinding burgers, as well as in the sausage making. I will restate that heat is your enemy and to keep you meat and the metal parts of your grinder chilled. For this batch of ground beef, I used a medium grind plate (3/8″) and ground the meat twice. After removing the bones from the beef ribs and grinding the meat, we were left with 3lbs 6 ozs meat. Not wanting to do any more math, I just separated it into 3 batches and called it done. Two batches were sealed and placed in the freezer for a later date, leaving us with a little over a pound to make burgers with.

     We like to make our patties about 1/3lb. We’ve found that 1/4lb just isn’t enough for us and 1/2 would be way to big. 1/3 pound is just about right. This time, Mrs. G she insisted that I finally learn how to do it make hamburger patties.  Turned out to not be that difficult, just something she’s always done. Kind of odd that I never really learned how to do it by now. We kept the seasoning of the burgers simple so we could judge the taste of the meat. Just some salt and pepper on the outside.

Burgers going on the grill

We cooked the burgers on the Egg at 500F for about 3 minutes and gave them a flip.

Halfway

     A couple more minutes and my trusty Thermapen showed that we were approaching our desired temp of 145F (when you grind your own meat, and you know that everything is clean and sterile, you don’t have to worry as much about cooking to a higher temp to kill off any germs or bacteria). Now it was time to toast the buns and melt the cheese. Remember the cheese? All those great ideas I had for wonderful, flavorful cheeses? Well, cheese never made it onto the shopping list!! So we were reduced to digging through the cheese and meat bin of our fridge to see what we had on hand.

Toast the buns and melt the cheese

Mrs. G decided on some American cheese (really the only reason we have this cheese in the house is so I can make grilled cheese sandwiches) and I went with some some grated medium cheddar that was leftover from something or other. That other burger? The one with no cheese? That would be for my lunch the next day.

Served up with some curly fries.

This just may have been the best burger we have made yet! That first bite was like a beef explosion in my mouth. And I just smiled as juices dripped out of the burger and ran down my hands. Pure bliss. If a good burger can’t get you smiling, then there just might be something wrong with you.

Course you can't have a good burger without a nice cold beverage.

Was it the perfect burger? Hard to say, but you can be sure we’ll continue experimenting and trying out new things in that quest to find the perfect burger. I’ve already got some other ideas in mind. I wonder how brisket would work in a burger…..

Jamaican Jerk Chicken Wings

Jamaican Jerk Chicken Wings

I like LOVE wings! Love, love, love ’em. Can’t ever seem to get enough of ’em. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…wings just might be my 5 food group….OK, OK I didn’t say that, but that’s what my wife says about me. I’ve made Buffalo wings, Sriracha wings, Piri-piri wings, lemon pepper, parmesan garlic wings and who knows what others. But when I stumbled upon Cheryl and Adam’s Jamaican Jerk Chicken Wings on Picture-Perfect Meals, I knew these would be the next ones I make. (BTW they own a studio specializing in food photography and recipe development so you know their site is amazing. Adam even offers photography tips with each post. How cool are they?)

Love me some wings!

Many, many years ago, I went to Jamaica. Such a beautiful island filled with such laid back, friendly people. And their jerk chicken…..words cannot even begin to explain it. The hint of allspice and cinnamon with a touch of heat and the smokey goodness (is that a word?) of the pimento wood it is cooked over. I can still taste it. Which is a problem. I’ve had plenty of horrible concoctions claiming to be jerk that fell way short of the mark. But reading their recipe, I had high hopes.

Can you taste it yet?

Let’s get on with it, shall we?

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon red cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 6 dashes hot sauce, preferably Frank’s
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • about 2 pounds of chicken wings (cut into drums and flats if you prefer)

 

Start with about 2 lbs of chicken wings

1. In a 1 gallon zip-lock bag, combine all the dry ingredients, seal the bag and give a little shake to mix well. Next add in the wet ingredients, seal bag and mix until you have a smooth paste. Now add the chicken and make sure each piece is coated thoroughly. Seal the bag and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 24, turning occasionally. (originally I did mine in a casserole dish, but realized that a zip-lock bag would work better and make clean up that much easier.

Adding the marinade

2. Preheat your grill to 400F (for oven directions, refer to Picture-Perfect’s Site). If you have pimento wood handy (and if you do, please let me know where you got it), that would be ideal for the smoke. (If not, a light fruit wood would compliment the jerk. I used cherry wood chips.) Add your wood chips once the grill had come up to temp.

Chicken going on the Egg

3. If using and Egg or Kamado style grill, set it up with a raised grate. For other charcoal grills, set it up with for an indirect grill and place wings away from coals. For gas grills, light one side of the grill and place chicken over unlit burners. Chicken should cook for about 25-30 minutes flipping occasionally to prevent burning (but make sure to cook to temp, not time. You are aiming for 165 here minimum). For charcoal or gas grills, you may want to move the chicken over the fire for the last 5-10 minutes to get a nice char on the wings. Keep a close eye on them so they don’t burn.

Getting close

Ideally, you would want to serve this up with an ice cold Red Stripe (did you know they have Red Stripe Light now? It’s pretty good, but I have a hard time finding it) or a rum punch, along with some rice and peas, some fried plantains and fresh fruit. We didn’t have any of those, so I opted for curly fries. Hey….fries go with wings! I don’t care how they are seasoned.

Jamaican Jerk Chicken Wings

I have to say, Cheryl and Adam nailed this one! It is the closest to authentic Jerk Chicken I have had since Jamaica (at least as far as I can remember). Just the right amount of cinnamon, allspice and cloves. When I prepared mine, I adjusted the heat by adding a bit more cayenne and Frank’s (I did not adjust the recipe listed above, though), and I still think it had a nice level of heat. Just a bit to let you know it was there, but not overpower and overwhelm the other spices. The cherry wood complimented it nicely. It gave a nice smoke flavor, but did not overpower it like mesquite, hickory or other hard woods might.

And if you aren’t a fan of wings, this recipe would also work on other chicken parts, pork, shrimp or fish (but for shrimp or fish I would cut the marinade time back to 1 to 2 hours). This one is definitely going into our rotation. Now if only I could get my hands on some pimento wood.

Atomic Buffalo Turds (ABTs)

Flowers in bloom at the ranch

Atomic Buffalo Turds (or ABTs from here on out as the whole name is too long to type) are always a crowd pleaser at any barbecue, tailgate or gathering. I don’t know the history of them, where they came from or how they got their name. I tried to Giggle it (yeah, I call it Giggle, not Google, so what?), but didn’t really come up with anything, just that they have been around for a while. I know I’ve been making them for over six years at least. Funny how I’ve never bothered to do a write-up on them before.

Legacy posing for the camera

One thing I will insist on…they are NOT poppers!! Poppers are battered and fried (and do not have bacon). These are not them. Go to a restaurant if you want those.

Preparing the ABTs

I’m not going to list a bunch of ingredients that you need for ABTs. Pretty much its anything your imagination can dream up. They can have bacon (or not), you can mix up your cheeses (but you should use some cream cheese otherwise it just melts out). You can slice your jalapenos in half boatwise like I did above, or just cut the end off, core out the middle, stuff and then wrap in bacon (we are not fans of this version. Don’t really like the jalapeno to stuffing ration). There aren’t really any rules. Here are the basics that you need:

  • 12 fresh jalapeno peppers
  • 12 slices of bacon
  • 24 Lil Smokeys
  • 1 package of cream cheese (room temperature)
  • bbq rub of your choice
  • toothpicks

So how do I do mine? I like to slice my jalapenos in half and then using a spoon remove the seed and veins.  Next, fill the halved jalapeno level with your cream cheese (cream cheese and other cheese mixture, if you so choose). Then, we like to place a Lil Smokey on top of the cream cheese. Wrap your jalapeno with half a slice of bacon and secure with a toothpick. Finally sprinkle your ABT with the BBQ rub of your choice. That is the original way I learned how to make them. Pretty simple, huh?

(Quick note….wear some gloves!! I usually wear nitrile gloves that I bring home from the lab. You will get capsaicin on your hands and washing your hands does not always get it off. And if you touch a sensitive area like the skin around your eyes, lips or other areas I won’t mention, it can really burn. Trust me on this.)

Assembled and ready for the BBQ rub

Now they are ready to go onto the smoker. As with the Turtle Eggs we did yesterday, I don’t believe that you need to worry too much about how you cook these. I will say that they longer you cook them, the more they mellow out. I’ve done them at a high temperature in a gas grill and they were spicy!! But if you take your time with them, the heat will not be overpowering. I generally like to smoke them in the range of 250-300F. If you are using a gas grill, light one burner and then place the ABTs over the unlit burner (this is called indirect cooking, if you did not know).  At 250-300F, they will generally take about an hour to cook. How do you know when they are done? Simple….when the bacon has become crispy. How crispy you like your bacon, I’ll leave up to you, some like it more done then others.

Onto the smoker

Now that they are on the smoker, you’ve got some time on your hands to kill. Pour yourself a drink. Sit down, relax and talk with your friends and family. And maybe if you are on a ranch, and maybe if you just picked up a used 1948 Remington 511 the week before and maybe you are just dying to shoot it….then go ahead. But that may just be me.

Nice shootin, Tex!

I generally check on the ABTs after about 30 minutes, just to see how they are doing and if they need to be rotated around to ensure an even cook.

30 minutes in

The ABTs took awhile longer than the Turtle Eggs to cook. Reason being I had a pretty hot pile of coals going in the offset chamber of my smoker and the Eggs were closer to that. But like I always say, its bbq, not rocket science. And as long as you have something for the masses to nibble on while they wait, it’s all good.

Time to eat!

As usual, once I pulled the ABTs off, everybody crowded around to get some. I believe there might have been a few burned tongues as some people just can’t wait for them to cool down before diggin in. The horde had been appeased long enough to get the rest of the dinner started.

Another angle

Once you’ve done these a few times, let your imagination run wild. Why not pulled pork or brisket mixed in instead of the Lil Smokey? Shrimp would be good. You could go another route and maybe mix in some fruit. I imagine pineapple might be a good addition. Whatever you think sounds good. The sky is the limit. One side note, it might sound like a good idea (or at least a laugh), but do not ever, ever, ever make them with Habaneros. Unless you are just a glutton for punishment or have no taste buds at all. Once again, trust me on this. I did it ONCE….ONCE and NEVER again.

One of these things is not like the other ones