Inside The Smoker

Hey, folks…

Seems that there are many people and “people-like lifeforms” that are highly interested in what the gang here at Sparks and Smoke BBQ Takeout actually do… The smoker we use, what woods we like, what mistakes we’ve made and avoided ( LOTS of mistakes, mis-steps, miscalculations, cuts, burns, wasted food, etc… after doing it for 45 years I think I know what I’m doing but I’m still learning ).

I mean, I make stupid mistakes all the time…besides loading some poor guy’s take-out bag with candy he, evidently, despises… (note to self: order one (1) Metric Ton of Banana Laffy Taffy, I heard he’s coming back…)

In all seriousness, there is a huge amount of time, money and food wasted because people have “discovered” the Internet is a pretty good source of information and yet they often listen to the wrong people. I hope to help with that. Not that I’m the “right” guy, just that I kinda know what I’m doing…

In a bunch of, hopefully, not so random posts, I am going to try and explain the how’s, what’s and why’s of home brew ‘Q.

Lesson Number 1:

Just because some idiot (like me) decides to call barbecue “Q” or “que” or any variation along those lines, don’t assume that they know what their talking about. Honestly, the proof is always in the taste and texture.

Just because I don’t have any “Major Awards” doesn’t mean I’m not a good Pit Master, it just means I am not the competition type… I AM jealous of those who can and do win at various competitions, but since a “Rib Champion” may (and I am not saying “all” or “most” of even “some”, nor am I casting doubt or slinging old Pork Rub, here) cook 12-20 racks of ribs to find the 3 bones he turns in to the Judges to be scored…I don’t have the drive to do that… I’d rather make food that the average folk want to take over to the park, sit under a tree and enjoy with some sweet tea as they watch the world go by. I am a pretty simple guy with a pretty simple mission: make food people will pay for…which is better than making food people will actually pay not to have to eat.

So when you’re out and about, looking for good BBQ, whether it be a sit down restaurant or a takeout shack that looks like a stiff breeze will knock it down into it’s own basement or a neighbor’s backyard shindig, always remember:

Taste and texture, people, taste and texture.

Very rarely will you see a highly trained “Culinary Expert” do really good BBQ. Good ‘Q is usually messy, juicy, covered in mysterious goo and should be eaten in copious amounts – complete with burping and scratching… Like, really, I could give 2 shits and a damn if the plate has artistically placed gravy dots and garnishes no one eats anyway. If you leave my place hungry, that’s your fault, not mine. If you want to pay $300 for a “mulled wine grannache” covered pork rib, why the hell are you reading this?

(Wow, I’m feeling testy this morning….must be a lack of sleep…)

By the way, if “they” aren’t proud enough to offer a SMALL free sample, walk away. You should be able to tell in a small bite if it’s “worthy” of your money. That being said, most places are on a pretty thin margin so don’t abuse their hospitality by “COSTCO-ing” them – (making the samples a quick snack, washing it down with a “sample” of sweet tea, then bailing out). If it’s good enough to swallow, order something. If not, well, swing on by our place – I carry bottles of Tums and antibiotics for a reason…

In this series, I’m not going to get into the whole difference between a Texas Brisket vs a Carolina Whole Hog, but I am going to tell you why people screw up and how not to follow in their footsteps. I mean, most people don’t have the time or inclination to waste an entire weekend smoking a piece of meat only to serve up shoe leather…Some are lucky or have a mentor to get them started and they just get it “right” from the get go…I was never that lucky. So I’m gonna start slow and make things as fool proof as I can so you can actually eat what you cook…

We’ll start with some basic stuff and work our way up to the point where friends and family will slowly drive by your place with the windows down, in a blizzard, just to try and smell if you are cooking so they can invite themselves in.

Believe me, it happens… Far more often than I like to think about.

So. Here we go… We’re gonna start REAL BASIC.

If you have an apartment with no place to setup a BBQ rig, you can still do some great BBQ-like food, you just have to get more creative. Although it IS blasphemy, a GOOD Crockpot can do some pretty wonderful stuff. How?

OK, here’s the “money shot” you poor people have been waiting for, an actual recipe !!! It’s not “real” BBQ since we are just giving a primer here for folks and it’s a starting point for those who don’t have/can’t have a BBQ rig available. We’re not dealing with smoke (if you do it right, that is) and no open flames, but it should help you along the road to understanding that low and slow heat can really work wonders for a relatively “inexpensive” cut of meat.

If you have a decent size (5 quart size or larger) Crockpot you are halfway there. Go to your favorite meat seller. pick up a plain pork loin (not the marinaded kind). While you’re there pick up a box of Crockpot liners (usually by the turkey baking bags), a can of Ocean Spray jellied cranberry sauce and a box of Lipton Onion Soup mix. Go over to the deli area and look for the King’s Hawaiian Bread – buns or rolls, doesn’t matter to me, you’re the one eating it…

Take your pork loin out of the wrapper and rinse it in cold water. Put it in the lined Crockpot. Open the can of cranberry sauce and, with a fork, break it all up into a goo and pour over the pork loin. add the contents of ONE envelope of the onion soup mix over the top of everything. Put the lid on and set the thing to low and then walk away for 8-10 hours…

When your are ready to eat, open your King’s Hawaiian bread, slice some open to make a sandwich, fork the pork loin while it’s still in the crock pot to resemble shredded (pulled) pork, (careful, don’t get crazy and pierce the liner) add to bread and grab a beverage.

No, it’s not “real” BBQ… But it IS simple and tasty. AND it shows that “low and slow” cooking doesn’t have to be a pain in the butt. Admit it, even making a stew would be more work that this. There are definite variations on the theme where you can use a BBQ sauce, to liven it up, but many (most?) have such a high sugar content you can risk scorching the sauce which pretty much ruins everything. This is a tried and true way to make sure it’s edible. Want to liven it up? Put your favorite BBQ sauce in a cup, throw it in the microwave for 20-30 seconds and use that as a dipping sauce…

One of the other nice things is that this will refrigerate well. As long as you keep it in a sealed container and cold, it should hold for a few days. Reheat it in a pan or the microwave, slam it on King’s Hawaiian Bread and enjoy. Being single for quite a while, it was my comfort “go-to”  food when I lived in a small closet and couldn’t do real BBQ.

Yeah, I know, it’s not REAL BBQ or even close to it, BUT, would you rather be jumping out of a perfectly good airplane with just some kind of fabric strapped to your body that a guy on Craig’s list sold you or go to some kind of parachute school and LEARN how not to be on the local news at 5? I can’t teach you everything I know in a few thousand words or a few you-tube videos. It’s gonna take a while and I would like to see everyone have something edible rather than shoe leather or a blackened mass of meat that tastes like you’re eating charcoal briquettes.