Trust the Gene Genie

Monday, March 05, 2007


I smoked four pounds of pork this weekend. To middling success. This is news to no one, but I love meat, especially smoked meat. The obsession reached its nadir when my parents were mission president and wife in Independence, Mo. We went to Arthur Bryant's in Kansas City for lunch and I've never tasted anything better in my life. Anway, I recently read an article in the New York Times about smoking food stuffs at home inside. Smoking food inside, you say? That's just crazy. No, no it's not and I'm living proof that it can be done and and done well.

All you need is a big metal roaster -- the kind you'd cook a Sunday roast in -- a meat rack, tin foil and hickory (or whatever) wood shavings. I had the roaster, fashioned a meat rack from an inversted pie tin to fit inside and went on the hunt Saturday for wood shavings. These are different from wood chips. You need the shavings because, to smoke indoors, you're placing the wood at the bottom of your roaster and basically smoldering them on your stovetop.

So how hard is it to find wood shavings in Redding? Surprisingly hard. That may simply be becuase I've never smoked food before so I don't know where to get the proper supplies, but after calling around, the only place I found that had shaving was Kent's Meat Market halfway between Redding and Anderson. And they had shavings because they smoke their own meat there. And as a result they buy the shavings in 90- and 300-pound bags. But the guy I talked to said to come on by and he'd pull a little out for me. So, address in hand, I set out to Kent's. I show up, they take me back behind the butcher's counter and the guy with whom I spoke on the phone, pulls out a brown paper grocery bag full of wood shavings. I only need a handful. The man explained he usually smoked 350- to 400-pounds of meat in one session. Holding up the bag, he said that's about how much wood it took. I explained I had four pounds of pork I was smoking. He smiled and said I could keep the rest in the garage for when I was smoking something else. Indeed.

So I took it home and tried it out. It was surprisingly simple. I placed the handful of shavings in the bottom of my roaster, set a drip pan on top of it and then placed my hand-fashioned meat rack and finally the roast itself. I covered the top with the tin foil, making sure it fit tightly on top so as not to let the smoke escape, set the whole thing on the stovetop and turned the heat to medium. For the next 30 minutes the apartment filled with the wonderful aroma of hickory smoke. And no smoke actually escaped my set-up. So far, so good. After about 35 minutes I turned off the heat and got ready to finish cooking the roast in the oven.

That's where it went downhill. The directions were vague when it came to the question of covering the roast or not. I opted to cover it lightly. It then said to cook the meat 40 minutes per pound or until a meat thermometer read 190 degrees. I cooked it for the requisite time but my meat thermometer only read 160 degrees. It was already getting late, so I decided my thermometer was probably wrong, the roast had cooked the specified time and thus, must be done. Looking back now, I think that was a mistake.

After pulling the roast out, you shred it with a couple forks or your fingers. This proved next to impossible. The meat just would not come apart. My thumbs are still sore from pulling the pork apart. It was amazingly tough. Which was disappointing because it tasted so good. And it wasn't tough to chew. So I keep going. I start to prepare the sauce listed in the recipe. It's a North Carolina-style barbecue sauce, which I mistakenly thought would be a close relative to the Carolina Honey sauce you get with a certain type of ribs at Tony Roma's. Yes, I'm an idiot.

And no, this sauce was nothing like the stuff from Tony Roma's. It was, in essence, two cups of vinegar and a half cup of ketchup, with some pepper and crushed red pepper thrown in for good measure. I like tang, I love vinegar, but when it comes to barbecue, I'm more a fan of the smokey than the tangy. But I soldier on, thinking it will be surprisingly good. And it wasn't bad. It was surprisingly hot and had a strong tang. But after a while, it got to be overwhelming. And by the end, it just wasn't what I had wanted it to be. Eating some more of it for lunch today, the meat was rubbery and difficult to chew, reafirming to me that I probably should have cooked it longer. There's also a question of whether or not I bought the right cut of meat.

Regardless, I've showed myself I can smoke food at home and in my kitchen. Rather easily. So I'm doing it again and and next time I smoke a pork roast, I'm going to cook it longer, we're going to ditch the Carolina sauce and use my mom's barbecue sauce which is the perfect mix of smokey and tangy. And the next time we cook up my mom's brisket, we're going to smoke it first. And if anyone else wants to try it, just give me a call. I've got plenty of wood shavings.

And now I'm salivating.


steph said...

I remember going to that restaurant in Independence and I wasn't impressed. I just remember thinking that it wasn't very sanitary. I think that's because I took a trip to the bathroom. BIG MISTAKE! I guess I'm just not a fan of pulled pork. Trav may be interested though.

ThomG said...

Long's Drugs has all sorts of wood shavings. Apple, cherry, hickory, oak. I have a Lil; Chief electric smoker. I likes the smoky goodness of meats and fish.

ThomG said...

The other thing you need, as I read closer, is a house and a Webber Kettle grill. I slow cook/smoke a lot of stuff on teh Webber. And never forget to put cole slaw on the pulled pork, in a sammich. That's the way they do it in Memphis.

Urpy said...

Oooo, that sounds so good to me! Thom, do you have a good cole slaw recipe?

ThomG said...

1/2 bell pepper, shredded
1 green onion, shredded
1/2 large carrot, shredded
1/8 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
small bag shredded cabbage
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon Lawry's seasoning salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning
1 tablespoon white vinegar
combine all the shredded stuff and mix up the dressing. Toss the veggies with the dressing and chill for at least an hour.

Diana said...

So that is just cool. Itotally want to do the pork and the coleslaw.
Steph it could also be that none of the workers wore gloves as the slapped your meat on a bun for you. Sore hope they dont run out of soap back there.
I'm calling for the recipe...

Diana said...

I did swiss steak yesterday. I'm still feeling proud as i eat the leftovers

Brent E. said...

Ahhh, smoked meats. No zigzags-- just straight to the lips, into the oral cavity proper, through the gullet and into the stomach via the esophagus, with every cell encountered receiving a healthy slathering of rich, tangy barbecue sauce diffusing across cell walls and creating BBQ euphoria. Delightful, delectable, delicious.

Rob, you may try slow cooking the roast in a crockpot for several hours (6-8) after the smoke treatment. That should allow the pulling to be a bit more efficient (i.e., less work, more shred). Did you dry rub the pork roast first? Everyone enjoys a little shoulder rub, even little piggies!

V. Daniel said...

Steph -- you don't go to Authur Bryants for the restroom or the decor or the ambiance. You go for the smoke.

Rob -- impressive. the next time we visit, the menu will have to include "Robs Pulled Pork" home smoked, French Silk Pie, home made and quacamole for an appetizer.


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