We all have them. Yes we do, even me. Specifically today it involves food. Terry recalled several years ago the fun and tastiness of delicious smoked food. All those carcinogens! Yay! Anyway, way back when I had this cheap barrel smoker. $50, a bag of charcoal and some chunks of pear wood from a tree that was blown over in a hurricane resulted in culinary miracles. Smoked boston butt, a dark rich turkey, juicy and tender. Beef jerky, chops, chicken…all elaborately, laboriously and loving prepared in that cheap barrel smoker that eventually rusted out. Terry thought he’d do one better and since financials had improved by then so he got a bigger smoker, one with a side box and room for all sorts of things like draped sausages and huge meaty things all at the same time. The thing to do was put the sausages at the top so the fats drip down on whatever (usually a big chunk like that boston butt or maybe a tasty brisket) and baste it. Only, it never worked as well as the cheap old barrel smoker.
Eventually we moved here and smoking kind of fell by the wayside. Only, a couple of weeks ago Terry got to hankering it again. I made noises about prefering a cheap little barrel smoker to a big fancy one. Last week one morning he said “let’s go to Lowe’s!” and he loaded up a buggy with a barrel smoker, some bags of hardwood lump charcoal (seriously, if you’re going to bother with doing something like this, get the good stuff. Even Kingsford will give the meat a petrochemical flavor.) a bag of mesquite chunks and a chimney starter (also important, so you don’t use starter fluid, because that petrochemical flavor will linger) and I immediately got to cranking. First up, a cheap chuck roast, to see if I could remember how to do it. It was lovely…a good ol’ smoke ring, tender because of the fatty roast. Today, pork chops and a whole chicken. Coming soon, a 22 pound turkey for Thanksgiving, then some beef jerky to go in Christmas boxes.
No, it’s not the cheapest way to fix a piece of meat. Nor is it the easiest. I mean, it takes all day long, you have to baby along the fire, making sure it doesn’t get too hot or to cool. The right kind of wood for specific flavors are important (fruit wood for a sweeter smoke, nut wood for a more savory bent, oak or mesquite for a neutral smoke). But it’s satisfying. It’s different from the usual chunk of beef baked in an oven. I reckon you could even call it “manly”. It’s not “The Cowboy Way” like some people say- it’s too labor intensive and cowboys were moving around all the time. It’s just the…hm…The Way.
Now I wish I could figure out how to cold smoke…for cheese and such.