So I have had this odd shaped steel vessel in my back yard for a month or so and have used it once to cook some ribs back in February but really wanted to give it a test run on a long cook. I have been looking at a lot of info on how to run the cooker, methods and techniques to get good results. The site is where I got my main source of info is virturalbullet.com and is dedicated specifically to the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker. It is so in depth you can even toss the manual that comes with your cooker. This site alone is one of the main reasons I decided to go with the Weber and not an Egg (other than price). Everything is there and in easy to read formats. Its organized into a few diffrent sections…..operation, maintenance, start up and a forum section. If you have seen the show Pitmasters on TLC….Harry from Slap Yo Daddy BBQ is a regular in the forum area as are others on the BBQ circut….so lots of good info here.
On Saturday it was cold and crappy in St. Louis and we decided to pack Sam up and go to the store for a few things. I recently bought a new cookbook on line and its loaded with items all focused around grilling. last weekend we grilled some shrimp and small fillets and it turned out excellent… so shrimp was on the menu this weekend as well. We picked up some things for Cajun Po Boys and I on a whim decided that I wanted to try a pork shoulder and give it a try…The rule of thumb for cooking at low temps is roughly 2 hours per pound so I would need do an overnight to make this happen. The cut of meat I bought was roughly 7 lbs and after trimming the fat cap and it was somewhere in the neighborhood of 6.5 or so. This means i had no option but to start it late on Saturday Night in order to have it ready for Sunday lunch or dinner. If you have ever smoked anything in a kettle for a long period of time you will know that it seems that you need to monitor and adjust air into the cooker on a constant basis to keep the temp low. This is where things get normally sketchy…..you need to plan your day out around the approximate time of it takes to fully cook the product and with anything but a dedicated smoker. This means either getting up extra early or staying up late. Or you can get up every few hours though the night to “feed” the fire. Its almost like a newborn…..I didn’t care for the 2 hour feedings with Sam early on so this option was clearly off the table.
Around 8 pm we started prepping the meat….trimming and applying the rub. The standard rub I have been using I found on a website called amazingribs.com and is a take on Charlie Virgo’s famous blend. Its probably not the best for pulled pork and really is better suited for ribs but its all I had at the time. Here is the recipe:
Ingredients8 tablespoons paprika
4 tablespoons powdered garlic
4 tablespoons mild chili powder
3 tablespoons ground black pepper
3 tablespoons kosher salt
4 teaspoons whole yellow mustard seed
1 tablespoon crushed celery seed
1 tablespoon whole celery seed
1 tablespoon dried crushed oregano
1 tablespoon dried crushed thyme
1 tablespoon whole allspice seeds
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon whole coriander seed
1 teaspoon ground coriander
It also calls for Accent but if you read the ingredient list on the package it is just MSG. Leave it out…you wont notice.
I fired up the WSM using the Minion Method….A good write up on it is found here:
This is a good way to ensure there is enough fuel for at least a 12+ hour cook and is contrary to the Weber guide. The Minion brings the temp up and then you begin dampening air to maintain rather than fight it down from 350F to get to the correct temp as in the Weber guide.
A bit of a tangent about charcoal…..I primarily use Kinsford for both the kettle and smoker. Costco has been where I historically buy but they have recently began to only carry the Competition briquettes. If you pay close attention to the packaging you will notice that you get less in terms of volume with the Comp. vs the standard blue bag. Also, it does burn hotter…and faster. This is not desirable in a smoker. Most write ups for running a WSM you find out there base most if not all the info on the standard blue bag. I have been using lump hardwood Charcoal lately in the kettle for things that require lots of heat such as steaks….anything you need to get a good sear on really. I won’t go into that as it is two different animals.
Anyway….I loaded the chamber up with about 13lbs of Kingsord Blue and started roughly 30 coals and threw them on. Then Assemble the cooker, water pan and added the meat. I also Foil the water pan FYI…this allows for easier clean up. Let the unit run up to 250 or so and then damper the bottom vents to about 25% I even went as far as drawing a simple spreadsheet on our Ipad to track vent locations…cooker temp and meat temp. (Again with the Engineering Background)
I monitored the temp for about 2 hours and finally felt it was to the point that could go to bed. At that time it was a constant 220-235. This was about midnight and I really didn’t know what to expect in the morning. For some reason I woke up around 5:30 and went out to check. I was certain that I would find that the fire went out and all would be lost but to my surprise a rock steady 225 was indicated on the dial. Checked the fire box and plenty left so I went back to bed! Fast forward until 10am or so and the meat finally reached 190 (perfect temp for pulling..well beyond the recommended 160 for pork)
It was stupendous…..if I may say so myself. Just a note….I only used the rub above….no brine or baste. Nor did I touch the meat until at least 8 am. Keep the lid on….every time you open the lid you add about 15min to the cook time. I cant say enough about the WSM and look forward to whats to come in the next few months.