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Ogopogo

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  1. This bugged me until I decided not to worry about it. Rings mostly come from NO fixing the myoglobin in meat. You don't get much NO from a weak fire or charcoal, and the Akorn by my reckoning burns fuel around 1/3 to 1/2 as fast as a same sized ceramic, so it really works against smoke rings. I think the smoke flavor profile I get out of the Akorn is fine, so I'll give up thick smoke rings for nearly zero fuel costs. I still think offsets are much better smokers overall, but I'm done babysitting fireboxes and I don't think I can set up a wok for 800F frying on an offset.
  2. Akorn user for over 3 years with some limited experience on BGE and KJ ceramics. They're different and have different strengths. The Akorn is much more fuel efficient, lighter, won't crack, and is cheaper. On the other hand it's a pain in the ### to hold smoking temperatures, it rusts, it doesn't combust enough to produce a smoke ring at all some of the time, and it's far more likely to take off just from opening the lid and spritzing once in a while. Mine improved at holding low temps after I burned out two top gasket O-rings and just RTV sealed the top in place; I can hold 205 or so indefinitely, though it took a lot more practice than to achieve the same thing on any other smoker I've used. Before sealing it would hold 260 without too many problems. The real advantage of ceramics IMO, aside from the rust, is the thermal mass acts as a heat regulator so things don't go sideways as badly when a mass of cold meat gets added, or when the lid opens for two seconds to spritz, or when a breeze blows on the lower vent, or when a butterfly flaps its wings in Macau. Same as heat soaking a tandoor or an iron pan. Metal kamados are reflective and more temperamental because of that. Still, I'm fine putting up with my Akorn with all its quirks and would get another if I had to instead of a ceramic I'm sure I couldn't even move to my back porch. If I'm going to spend the kind of money I'd need to for a quality ceramic I'd probably be looting at a heavy walled steel offset with a top-opening firebox I can cook on and a cord of wood.
  3. Do you not like smoked food from restaurants? Is it smoked food in general or just the things you make? Quality lump will help. Cheap lump is far more likely to contain incompletely converted wood which will generate smoke flavors. Preheat the kamado (hold temperature) until the exhaust is clear or thin blue. Honestly everyone should be doing this but if you're using good lump and no wood you'll be getting the least amount of smoke flavor. If you aren't doing this now it might explain why you don't like your food; putting meat on too early results in bitter creosote flavors. Avoid low temperature cooks. You can achieve much cleaner smoke over 400F than you can under 300F. Some ideas for using a Kamado without smoke include high temperature steaks, burgers, sausages, etc. You may want to use a drip pan (empty) to prevent grease from dripping into the firebox if you don't like fat smoke either, which is very different in taste than wood smoke. I like to leave the top open and get the fire raging hot to use as a wok burner around 800F. High temp pizzas are also a strength of a Kamado with no smoke flavor due to the super high temps required.
  4. Tonkotsu broth is made primarily by simmering the crap out of pork leg bones and trotters until they mostly dissolve, yielding a rich creamy whitish broth. I've never made it at home since it takes a very long time and (like most stock recipes) can get smelly, but I have family in the region where it originated so I've eaten a lot of it. I think I've seen recipes for Tonkotsu that take about 30 mins to first boil, drain and rinse, then about an hour more to simmering and skimming, then maybe 6-8 hours of simmering to get a finished product. In a restaurant you would do this for about 2 days. If you like Shoyu Chashu ramen you can make a decent stock in a few hours from beef marrow bones and chicken feet.
  5. There's been a trend recently of folks using tallow, smoked tallow, or smoked Wagyu tallow in the wrapping and resting phases. I think it's overblown but I did like the idea of rendering trimmings instead of tossing them, so I took about 3 lbs of fat from a 19lb packer and rendered it down in a slow cooker before starting my cook. I originally intended to just use it for steaks or seasoning my cast iron. Well, my overnight smoke went a little hotter than expected, and my wireless probe thermometer turned itself off, so when I woke up after 8.5 hours my chamber was around 300 degrees and the meat was already at 199. I checked, and it didn't look ruined, but the bark was way harder and more jerky-like than I wanted. So in a bid to soften the bark down I wetted the entire brisket in tallow, wrapped it, and let it sit on the smoker for about 10 minutes (it got up to around 205) before taking it off, waiting for it to get down to around 175, then foiling/toweling and putting in a cooler for 12 hours. When I cut into it, the bark was thicker than I like but it was still soft enough and had the proper tacky texture I like. Moisture was better than expected. I think in the future I might try applying tallow in the wrapping and resting phases with the idea that tallow is used just like butter on a crusted steak to spread flavor when finishing and coating while resting. I still think the recent craze of tallow as "the secret to Franklin barbecue" is way overblown, and if you use it specifically to decrease the gas permeability of paper to increase the steaming effect (which some people have theorized) you might as well use foil, but I'm starting to like the effect of soft tallow on bark. Sorry no pics but I didn't think of it at the time. Wound up sharing a few pounds with my neighbors and still working on what I kept before making chili with the remainder.
  6. Been happily using a wireless Thermpro for a few years but it's starting to break down. I'm looking for a WiFi (not Bluetooth) probe thermometer with solid customer service backing, good weather resistance, and 4 probe capabilities. I think most people use the Inkbird but the Tappecue also looks interesting to me. I don't use an electronic vent controller so that's not required out of the box. Thanks for any suggestions.
  7. I tried a chimney recently for high heat cooks but found it didn't heat anything up any faster than one or two 91% alcohol cotton balls and created more ash/sparks depending on what tinder I use. Also seems to waste more fuel on the way to getting up to temp. The only thing I might try with it is searing steaks a la Guga Foods.
  8. I've been trying to nail jerk chicken for a couple months but could never get the flavor I remembered from Jamaican places in NYC. After a few less-than-inspiring attempts with homemade jerk I asked some Jamaican folks and they all said, "Go get some Walkerswood. It's what we do." Walkerswood by itself was pretty good but still lacking in pop and acidity. Then I saw this video and started working on a blend, which I finally have at a place where I'd serve it to another human being without feeling embarassed. Unfortunately I don't measure a lot so this is how it goes from memory. CHICKEN PREP I started with 8 thighs from Costco, which is two of the 6 little bags you get when you buy a pack of chicken thighs at $1/lb. I wound up slashing the thighs on the skin side perpendicular to the bone instead of jaccarding. Normally I always brine but not this time as there's a long marinade ahead. MARINADE Start with about two heaping tablespoons of Walkerswood hot. Get the paste, not the thin marinade. They sell this at my local supermarket (kinda hidden though; not a lot of Jamaicans in Minnesota I guess) but you can always get it from Amazon if you absolutely must. This goes into a blender or food processor. Add about 4 cloves of peeled/crushed garlic, a roughly equivalent amount of fresh ginger, 2 or 3 chopped sprigs of fresh thyme or whatever the equivalent in dry thyme is, 1/2 to 1 Scotch Bonnet pepper (leave out if you really can't take heat but want to eat jerk for some reason), and 3-4 chopped scallions. Chop/blend. Add about 1/4c orange juice, 2 tbsp key lime or regular lime juice (I just had some key lime juice and like the acidity), and 2 tbsp soy sauce. Blend again. Pour this over your chicken, working into the cuts, and marinate overnight. I do this in a 1 gal freezer bag but whatever you like is fine. FIRE PREP I'm shooting for an indirect temp around 350F, which usually starts a bit low and climbs to around 375 by the end, which gets me a nice skin. Wait until the smoke clears, etc., you know the drill. I use a heat deflector and an empty pan to catch chicken fat. For wood I like apple. If you want you can make fake pimento smoke by soaking a bunch of bay leaves and allspice berries and putting them in a smoker box/foil packet so they don't just burn right away. It yields a nice fragrant camphor-y smoke similar to pimento but I don't think it adds too much to the product. Actual pimento wood is insanely expensive in the continental US. COOK AND END SAUCING I put the chicken on skin down once the pit is 350-375 and the smoke is blue, pouring the leftover marinade on them. This usually results in a temp drop to about 280 or so so I keep an eye on the temp and fiddle with the vents if needed. This cook isn't super long so you won't go crazy chasing temps like this. I flip the chicken to skin up when I think the skin side is dried out a bit, maybe around 120 internal. I may try just putting it on skin up and not thinking about it next time. Meantime I get a small bowl and mix 1 tsp Walkerswood with about 3 tbsp key lime juice (or regular). You can use something else like Red Stripe if you like but I just think the chicken really pops with some extra acidity. Note: I take my chicken higher than most people, probably because I'm terrified of salmonella, so you may adjust these temps to your liking. At about 180 I spoon/brush the lime jerk sauce over the chicken, then close it again and take it to 195 internal. Then I take it off and let it rest for a bit. The color should be golden brown with some blackening, but not like cajun blackening. The skin should be bite-through, and the slashing I find helps it not all peel off on first contact. For further refinement I may try not flipping the chicken at all during the cook as mentioned. I may try getting some regular fresh limes and adding the zest for a little extra pop instead of bottled key lime juice.
  9. It's Western Post Oak chunks. Not sure how long it will take during a pandemic but it was by far the most cost-effective option for me. https://www.acehardware.com/departments/outdoor-living/grills-and-smokers/smoking-chips-and-chunks/8395881
  10. Apple and hickory chunks I can find almost anywhere. Oak I order at my local Ace, pick up at the store to save on shipping.
  11. You may be putting in the cooler too hot. If you, for instance, paper-wrap and pull around 200 and immediately foil, towel, and cooler, it's going to keep cooking due to carryover. If you leave it on the counter for say 10 minutes, or however long it takes to drop to around 180 or so, you'll stop the cooking process. Commercial warmers keep meat at 140 for extended periods which really helps juice redistribution. FWIW I've never had to use a water pan or similar on a kamado with primes; all it does it mess up my bark. I don't know what else it could be. You could try cooking around 275 instead of 225250 maybe but I don't think that would cause that much of a difference.
  12. Safety wise you're fine. The danger zone for meats is 40-140F. I had a brisket dip to 180 overnight once and the worst thing about it was that 180 is below boiling so there was a lot of water on the surface. I got a lot of steam once I opened it up to 275 but I saved the bark.
  13. Costco around here normally does prime packers at 3.29-3.99/lb. It's the only reason I still have a Costco membership. The only options I've found around me have been member shops like Costco/Sam's.Restaurant Depot (these have been my best bet), specialty butchers (way expensive), or Asian markets (gotten some real shoe leather-toughness meat sometimes). I'd strongly practicing up before jumping in with a packer. A brisket was my first "big" kamado cook but I would have utterly failed had I not done a lot of practice burns and a lot of short cooks first.
  14. I've seen this video before and like it. Yeah, brining is for simple seasoning and preserving moisture. Marinating changes the character of what you get from the maillard reaction. There's a lot of crap about marinating not doing anything because it doesn't magically transport pieces of onion and sage directly into the center of a 2" steak. I think anyone who doesn't think marinating does anything should be forced to take a class in jerk cooking.
  15. I'm not saying this cook is any good, but I'm happy something like this exists and was aired on TV.
  16. FWIW it's not necessary to do briskets at 225; actually, lots of posters on here prefer 275, which is just before you get into hot & fast. I like to shoot for 250, with the idea that I don't care about temp changes from 225-275. On the Akorn in particular, it's harder to hold 225 without some modification just because it's much more efficient than most kamados and so the tiny fire required for 225 has a tendency to die out. The counterbalance to this is that you'll use way less charcoal. My last brisket took about 16 hours to finish, started with a full box of Kamado Joe XL Big Block, and I guesstimate I used maybe 15-20% of it.
  17. I haven't done a pork butt yet on my Akorn (just seem to prefer brisket these past few years) but I used to rub as heavily as possible, sometimes marinating the butt pre-rub in fruit juice, and cook it the whole time in a pan with a wire rack to keep it out of the liquid. After pulling, I sat the butt to rest/cool and separated the fat out of the pan liquid to discard. Then I put the butt back into the pan without the rack and pulled it there, added any extra rub I might have left over, then put it back on the smoker covered tight in foil to steam in the jus for 30m or so, like a burnt ends process. IIRC the skimmed jus in the pan and a little extra rub was enough without adding sauce at this point, but I have to admit not liking sugared rubs or sauces so I tend not to use sauce when finishing.
  18. The actual Akorn gaskets are great, probably the best thing on them from a design standpoint. Pinch them around to puff them up a bit and look for spots where the metal pins might have come out of the housing, causing a leak. I never had to do any actual mods on my Akorn for leaking until I burnt out the top O-ring a couple of times and just sealed it up with RTV. Mostly the Akorn is just a bitch to control compared to ceramics. You'll definitely learn a lot about laying a proper fire and fine vent setting. Meantime for initial sealing, my favorite mod is to cook a whole lot of greasy burgers.
  19. So I picked up some cheap ($2.99/lb) corned points at the supermarket, figuring I'd like to try to turn it into pastrami. I know the last stage at a lot of great delis I used to frequent is steaming. Now I know the kamado is a moist environment and I never use water in my drip pan for regular briskets as it just mushes up the bark, but what's the best way to finish a pastrami? Foil wrap after the crust sets? Add water to the pan to turn the chamber into a steamer? Some combination? Or is it totally unnecessary? FWIW my plan is to desalinate the point (they're only around 3 lbs each so shouldn't take long), trim fat cap if necessary, rub with mostly pepper and coriander, smoke with apple around 250 until the bark sets, and then... well, whatever seems right to finish up. Thanks.
  20. I don't know, but a similar thing happens at the end of cooks. My only guess is that as the meat gets hot and the exhaust heats, it's tricking the TTT into thinking the ambient temp is hotter as well so it opens up to maintain a temp difference. Maybe it's the amount of steam in the exhaust since the stall started about when the alarm went off. I can't answer for sure since I don't have the gear to measure enough points during a test run.
  21. Started another cook last night. This time I had a 17 lb brisket, but I trimmed a LOT of fat away so it's about the same size as the last one. I was thinking of bringing the cooker up to temp before adding the TTT, but the plate hanger is a little finicky and I didn't want to wrestle with it on a hot cooker. Tip: the plate hanger legs get bent out quite easily with normal use, and can require some bending inwards to catch the lip of the vent again. Laid out fire as normal, brought cooker up to about 270 and stabilized without meat. Added meat, dropped the grate temp/TTT stable temp to about 210 so I manually adjusted back to around 250. Things went okay. I got woken up 5 hours later by my grate temp alarm exceeding 285 so I readjusted and went back to sleep. It's still cooking now, in the stall at 154-157 for (as far as I can tell) the past 5-6 hours. I opened up the bottom vent another mm and adjusted the top a bit and it's holding at 252 now. Not ready for wrapping quite yet. I'm finding the device is REALLY good at readjusting the Akorn back down to a set temp after opening the lid, which is another big problem with the Akorn. I'm still having to chase temps a little bit, but less than I normally do.
  22. I've seen pictures of those lines. I'm not interested in standing in a line right next to a bunch of strangers coughing on each other right now. Good on them for letting the seniors in early though.
  23. Not using a PID (currently figuring out the TTT) but I ran my Akorn for a couple of years with zero mods. Recently had to seal the top since I kept melting O-rings, so I used some RTV and noticed a serious difference in stability and low temp holding without fire snuffing. It seems any sealing mods seem to accomplish improved stability and flow control. I find that as long as the middle/bottom of the fire is laid with big chunks of charcoal and wood with a central channel and the little bits are scattered out to the sides they don't seem to matter; heck most of the time they won't even catch unless I'm high-temp wokking or something. If all the charcoal you have is gravel then it might be a problem.
  24. Kinda wish I had a Restaurant Depot membership now to see if they're better stocked, especially with restaurants being hit pretty hard right now.
  25. Picked up another brisket today; stores may be out of TP and canned soup but plenty of stuff you need to cook, which is a sad commentary in itself. Will work on it this week and see if I can duplicate the problem or if it was a one-off. Also cleaned off a fair bit of gunk from the TTT in detergent and water so there shouldn't be any risk of sticking.
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