Those that have cooked a brisket or a pork butt are very familiar with the stall. The stall occurs when cooking thick cuts of meat at low temps over a long period of time such as cooking on a smoker. An example would be you are traveling in your at 70 mph on US 95 for a few hours with no problems until you reach the outskirts to Washington DC and you come to an abrupt stop due to traffic. You are stuck in this traffic for 1 to 3 hours until you get through DC where again you are on your merry way.
The stall can be alarming to the first time cook because he may not understand the reasoning behind it. The stall will commonly occur at around 160 degrees and not move from this temp for 1 to 3 hours. One belief is that the stall is due to the breakdown of collagen (connective tissue) in the muscle into a gelatin state. This doesn’t add up since collagen only accounts for 2% to 5% of the weight of the meat. There just isn’t enough mass to cause a stall. The most credible reason is evaporation. Butts and briskets are 60%-70% water. The moisture deep in the meet is coming to the surface to evaporate and in doing so it has a cooling effect on the surfaces of the meat similar to us when we sweat. Not until the heat rate exceeds the evaporation rate you will move passed the stall.
One way to get around or decrease the stall is to use the “Texas Crutch”. Here’s how it works. When the internal temperature of the meat reaches 150 to 160 degrees wrap the meat tightly in two layers of heavy duty tin foil. This method reduces the stall by controlling the evaporative effect and allowing the heat rate to increase and help reduce the stall.
So next time you should not panic when you encounter the stall. You have two choices, either deal with it or use the Texas Crutch.
Pitmasters better than most know how important it is to have that perfect smoke when barbecuing. It can make the difference between winning or losing in the contest circuit. It is as important for the novice and the backyard pro. It can mean a perfect cook and a disaster. The last thing you want to be known as is the GrillMaster whose meats taste like a pure hardwood baguette. So yes, there is good and bad smoke.
Let’s discuss what is happening with combustion and the production of smoke. All forms of combustion can produce some amount of smoke, just some are better than others. Wood, pellets, charcoal produce better combustible byproducts than gas and electric. So our discussion will concentrate on wood.
In the most technical sense wood goes through 4 stages of burning. To avoid a highly technical and boring conversation we will call it two stages. At GrillBillies we explain to customers that wood goes through two major phases. The primary and the secondary burn. The primary burn is the phase where the wood is heating up and in our case over a bed of hot charcoal. We like to start our offset reverse flow, direct flow and upright smokers with a good base layer of hot charcoal.
In the primary burn the wood is just heating up (smoldering). The same by-products nitrates, carbon monoxide, creosote that gives us that delicious smoky flavor are produced but just in a different state. When the wood is heating up it is producing the same combustible by products but in large particulates. In this state they are heavy and can “drop out” on the food resulting in a very smokey strong taste. The smoke you see in this stage is a billowing white or gray white smoke. This is the smoke to avoid when cooking low and slow.
When wood heats up to a temperature of about 575 to 600 degrees the gases in the wood are released and the wood bursts into flames. The particulates from the burning gases are smaller and that gives us the smoke which makes our barbecue so good. At this stage the smoke will be a visible blue/white.
There are 100 combustible by products from burning wood. The ones that contribute the most to the flavor of our barbecue are nitric oxide, creosote, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, guaiacol, syringol, phenols and water vapor. In a properly burning fire these by products will add just the right amount of flavor to your meat.
Now all being said there is a point during the cooking process where you may think you have returned to the primary burn. Well into the cook the meat is heating up and releasing juices that will vaporize and exit the pit giving the impression that we returned to that billowing white smoke associated with the primary burn. This water vapor and is normal. As long as your wood is lit there is no problem.
How do we achieve the perfect smoke? Start with a good bed of lit charcoal. Add properly seasoned wood. Have all vents wide open so the fire gets enough oxygen to achieve combustion and within several minutes you should see the smoke change from a billowing white to a nice blue white. Time to get the meat on!
Our Meadow creek PR 36 is more than a pig roaster. Even though it cooks delicious pigs up to 40 lbs, it is a very versatile backyard cooker. Cook any of the meats you would consider cooking on a conventional gas or charcoal grill and see the difference. This unit can roast, smoke, and grill. Its large 14″ x 35″ stainless steel grate will easily accommodate briskets, ribs, pork butts, chops, loins, turkeys, sausage, dogs, burgers etc.
This article will illustrate cooking whole chickens on this great cooker.
The PR 36 stands at a comfortable 46″. Even though it is designed for the backyard pro, it is no light weight. With a 13 gauge steel firebox, this unit weighs in at 175 lbs. It is easily moved around on its 13″ tires. It comes fully assembled.
We loaded this PR 36 with approximately 20 lbs of charcoal. It is best to start the fire with a torch or chimneys. Avoid lighter fluid.
We allowed the temperature to get up to 275 or 300 degrees before putting the chickens on. Since we had quite a bit of space after placing 4 chickens on the cooker, we added quarters and pieces. These hens were brined when we bought them and were approximately 3.5 lb each. A cajun spice is on the “red” ones and Hudson Bay Beef Spice from Savory Spice Shop in Westfield, NJ on the lighter ones. The Hudson Bay Spice was awesome, and preferred by our guests. If you look closely, you will see an aluminum tray under the grate. The PR 36 comes standard with a grilling pan for grilling things like dogs, burgers, and wings. We keep the pan in when doing an indirect cook and place an aluminum pan on the grilling pan with about 1″ of water. It helps to add some moisture to the cook.
The PR 36 comes with a commercial grade thermometer. One of the best features on the PR 36 is the ease of adjusting the temperature for the cut of meat. Vents on the firebox and the hood make this a simple process. Once set, it requires minimum fire maintenance. For this cook, we wanted to maintain about 250.
We are close to the 2 hour mark, and as can be seen, some of the chicken pieces have already come off the grill. We continued cooking about another 30 minutes until the internal temperature was 170 degrees in the thigh joint. Cooking will always vary depending on the size of the bird, atmospheric conditions, and the amount of fire.
And the finish product. Delicious, moist and tasty BBQ chicken complimented with a nice savignon blanc or chardonnay makes a meal that your guest will not forget. The GrillBillies’ way of cooking. LARD HAVE MERCY!!