low and slow smoking

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by the grill lady, May 2, 2013.

  1. the grill lady

    the grill lady

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    I keep watching a lot barbecue and smoking shows a lot of cooks and chefs say that they leave the meat over night to cook low and slow? who's watching the store? how can they leave something to smoke all night ?
     
  2. j20832

    j20832

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    BBQ meats like brisket and pork shoulder absorb most of its smoke in the first few hours or so of smoking and very little toward the end, so it is very feasible to use an electric or gas fueled smoker, start it with some chips for the first few hours and then just let the equipment cook it through overnight.  I do this at home with an electric smoker.  Using automated temperature probes makes this pretty simple, the automation turns off the heat whent he product reaches the desired temperature, then it is held/resting until ready for slicing/processing.

    If you were to use a wood-fueled smoker, it would need to be tended to about once an hour give or take depending on the efficiency/insulation of the smoker unit.  Some coal-fueled smokers can be set up to go all night without tending to.
     
  3. allanmcpherson

    allanmcpherson

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    I do all of my long smokes overnight. Our rig fires on cord wood, and the resulting coal bed. If you build your fire mindfully there is no problem with it burning out over night. Mind you our smoker is made for,this sort of work. Airflow to the fire box is regulated, so it wont burn out of control.

    Al
     
  4. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

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    For smoking, checkout this website to see what I use for smoking and hot smoking meats and pork belly (bacon) and I'm NOT a rep, either:

    http://virtualweberbullet.com/
     
  5. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    A great deal of "low and slow" smoking requires you to be there.  Commercial establishments have night crews.  Competition pit-bosses stay up all night, drowsing by their rigs.  Home barbecue cooks who don't have the sort of cooker that j20832 does, set their alarms to check. 

    In addition, there are ways to use electronically driven fans hooked up to thermostats to keep the temperatures steady in charcoal and wood (stick) burning pits which also have alarms rigged to go off if the temperature varies too much. 

    A reality of these types of pits is that someone has to regularly check them after awhile to make sure that there's enough fuel, the food is cooking evenly, etc.,  How often depends on the type of pit. 

    Checking can be an art-form in itself.  Fresh, cool air is the enemy.  Cooking with a small or medium sized pit, a good pit master opens the pit's doors as seldom as possible.  The first rule of barbecuing is NO PEEKING!   Big pits -- "big" like a restaurant big -- are more forgiving in that respect.

    People who cook as j20832 describes, seldom go for the really slow cooks.  Well, some do I suppose; but there's not much need.  Good electric pits do as well cooking at 250F - 275F precisely because they are so tight and the temps are so consistent.  That consistency also means they also cook faster at a given temp than any charcoal or wood burner. 

    The Amerique is an excellent electric; and does everything j describes beautifully:  


    There are several electrics in the same class, and several gas fired units.  They make a lot of sense.

    Gas and electric do as good a job as the traditional fuels.  Most types of competition do not allow gas fired barbecues, and none -- as far as I know -- allow electrics.  But there really aren't that many competitors.  In my opinion, people who cook at home and have no plans to compete choose wood, charcoal/wood, and pellet fired pits as much for the romance as for any other reason.  That describes me. 

    But no matter what sort of cooker you use, the reality is that low and slow takes time.  If you're cooking a 12lb brisket at 225F, and plan to pull it at 4PM, you'd better put it in at around 2AM.  And, that at least, requires someone to be there.  

    And if you're cooking commercially or competitively, if food is in your rig, you're there

    My own setup is on the high-end side.  It's better than "typical," but far from "as much money as you can spend."  

    I use a Backwoods Fatboy:


    It's controlled by a BBQ Guru. 


    That box you see controls a fan (that you can't see), which supplies air to the fire.  

    I usually (okay always) use water in a large pan (not shown in the picture) which is set between the charcoal pan and the lowest rack, and which drains from the brass valve you see on the right side of the pic.  In addition to providing moisture during the cook, the water helps moderate the temperatures.  

    I use a Maverick thermometer as well.  


    It can be set up with two probes to either monitor the temp of two pieces of meat, or of one piece of meat and the pit temperature.  The Maverick is "remote read."  The little unit on the left -- the one which has the probes -- stays with the pit, and sends all the information by radio to the larger unit pictured on the right. 

    Unfortunately the radio range does not include my home-office, but fortunately it does include the hot tub. 

    Burning a combination of lump mesquite charcoal and fruit wood splits, a fully loaded tray of fuel in the Fatboy will keep a steady 225 for 8 hours, a steady 275 for 6, and 300 - 325 for 5.  A full water tray lasts about four hours before requiring replenishing. 

    I prefer to cook pork at around 250; just about everything else at 275; and whole birds at 300 or a little above, i.e., as hot as I can keep my pit without the wood splits bursting into flame.  At those temps, a really long cook -- say a whole pork shoulder -- runs about 10 hours; a big, packer-cut brisket takes about 8, and a large turkey, between 3 and 4. 

    I carry my remote thermometer everywhere I go but still have to stay within range.  Like many cooks, I drift between obsession and amnesia.  I try to check temps at least every hour, but no more often than every 15 minutes.  I try not to open the fire or cook-chamber doors more often than every two hours, and to shut them as soon as possible thereafter.     

    We have some very comfortable patio furniture, as well as SoCal good weather all year long, so drowsing by the pit through the small hours is more pleasure than problem.  

    BDL
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2013
  6. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

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    While BDL mentions EXCELLENT smokers, the advantage of the Weber Smokey Mountain is that I can micromanage the temps to be around 145-175, sufficient for making beef jerky and for a longer smoke for bellies (bacon). 
     
  7. j20832

    j20832

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    The Weber Smokey Mountain can also be setup with coal and wood chunks to achieve a long cook time with very little tending to.  There are a lot of toys out there for BBQ enthusiasts to allow for as little or much involvement in the cooking process as you want.  Sometime it is nice to hang out around a wood-fired offset and check temps, add logs, enjoy a beverage and stay up all night.  Other times it is better to get some sleep!  The gadgets described by BDL are very popular in the world of competition BBQ as they help keep the final product very consistent since the cooking temperature is very closely regulated and they allow cooks to get a few winks.
     
  8. maryb

    maryb

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    Traeger pellet pits are another style. Looks like a gas grill, plug it in and set the temp, once it heats up it holds that temp until it runs out of fuel.
     
  9. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    Yes, the WSM is not only a very good smoker, but downright amazing considering it's affordable price and versatility.  And I did mention pellet burners.  Traeger makes very good pellet smokers, but not the only very good pellet smokers -- Cookshack, MAK, Memphis, Rek-Tek, Yoder, to name a few. 

    But, I wasn't endorsing any type or brand of smoker.  No, not even mine.  I apologize if it seemed I was.  Each type of smoker has a distinct personality; and that's quite often true for different brands or even different models by the same maker of any given type.  The finer points of smoking can be very equipment dependent; and one of the more entertaining aspects of the game is learning your rig well enough to tweak your techniques to get the best results.  

    Now with that out of the way...

    Thread's take their own direction, but the thrust of the OP's question concerned whether the pit-master's presence was required during the long hours of a slow smoke.  J did an excellent job describing the joys of a high-tech, "set it and forget it" home unit; so I tried to give some examples of other types of rigs, and other situations, along with some discussion about what could be done to make their care and feeding less demanding. 

    BDL
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2013
  10. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

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    It's ALLL  GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
     
  11. dcarch

    dcarch

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    I enjoy smoking year round, summer and winter.

    I enjoy cold smoked salmon (lox), smoked cheese, smoked butter, etc.

    I smoke my meat very low and very slow.

    Because my 4.5 cubic feet smoker can maintain temperature to within one degree (PID control) from 32F to 212F.  which makes it possible to do the above.

    For heat, it uses a 500 watt halogen light bulb. To maintain low temperature in the summer, it has a refrigeration compressor. To maintain humidity, it has an ultrasonic humidifier. To generate smoke, it has a external pellet cold smoke generator.

    What makes it nice is that the smoker smokes indoors without setting the smoke alarm off. It makes no difference if it is blizzard outside, or 110F Death Valley outside.

    dcarch
     
  12. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

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    show us a photo of your smoker!
     
  13. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

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    I truly lust for a 500W round job!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   ...or was that a spherical job!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2013
  14. dcarch

    dcarch

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    OK, 

    Let me go "click, click"

    dcarch  :)
     
  15. dcarch

    dcarch

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    It is a $2.00 typical 500W halogen bulb.

    Actually, it is dimmed by a voltage controller to be around 400 Watts. The smoker is a highly insulated converted refrigerator. The 400w bulb only goes on 1/3 of the time to maintain set temperature.

    dcarch
     
  16. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

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    Photo, please, with your smoked salmon setup.
     
  17. dcarch

    dcarch

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    Here is the picture of the smoker, operating indoors.

    dcarch


    Ultrasonic humidity generator



    First mockup version of cold smoke generator. Final version is the stainless steel tube you see in the picture.

     
    Last edited: May 3, 2013
  18. raibeaux

    raibeaux

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    From Allan...

    "I do all of my long smokes overnight. Our rig fires on cord wood, and the resulting coal bed. If you build your fire mindfully there is no problem with it burning out over night. Mind you our smoker is made for,this sort of work. Airflow to the fire box is regulated, so it wont burn out of control."

    Allan, I get red oak cut 24"x4"x4" at a local small sawmill.  Sometimes I use regular-cut red oak firewood.  I can get probably seven sticks into my firepit, but that's a bunch of wood.

    The pit is a 12-rack 700-lb. capacity rotisserie type, that holds temp great.  Been using it for 21 years, and so far it keeps on ticking.

    Now my question...what do you mean "if you build your fire mindfully there is no problem with it burning out overnight?  What's "mindfully"?  We load around 7 pm and I have to go reload around 1:30 am. to get it to last until we get to the store in the morning around 10:30.  In fact, I'll be making a pit trip about 3 1/2 hours from now.

    How do you set your logs for longer overnight burning?????  Particularly in the winter.  Is your pit inside or outside (mine's outside).

     
     
  19. zydrus

    zydrus

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    I have a Big Green Egg.  They are very good at holding temp when doing low and slow type cooking.  I love it because of the versatility.   I can do the low and slow or crank it up to insanely hot for steaks and everything in between.   However if you are looking for strait smoking options these others that have been listed are great choices. 
     
  20. allanmcpherson

    allanmcpherson

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    Raibeau,

    Funny, we mainly run on red oak too. Maple and apple are what you would expect from our part of the world but oak is the most consistant. When I say consistant, I mean variety, not cut. It sounds like you get much better, consistant, control of your fuel. We kind of get what we can. Coming from Atlantic Canada there is absolutely no Q tradition built into our culture. We are importing and improvising our own.

    Anyway,the smoker we are using at our flagship location is similar capacity to yours, but has no rotisory. When I say mindful preparation of the pit, I mean building up a decent coal bed and strategicly layering logs on top of that bed in layers, tetrus style, so that the wood is spaced to burn out increments, replenishing the coal bed gradully, while always having fresh fuel to draw on. We having been running this unattended in the overnights for six monthes now. Mind you, tears were shed in the ramp up phase of opening, so I dont want to soundl like it is an obvious or easy thing to do. You have been rocking this xoft of thing for two generations more than I so I would be inclined to defer to you at any rate.
    The long and short of it is that we smoke butts and briskets unattended for twelve hours at time, nightly. We have the gear to do it, and I tnink that is key. I will snap some pictures of our smoker to orrow if I get the chance

    This is kind of a weird thread, we seem to be cross listed in both the pro and general forums. I am speaking to the fact that in a restaurent environment that you can very easily smoke overnight u attended