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Dumb Questions
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Post: #1
Dumb Questions
Okay, all you "gurus" out there... I've got a few "dumb" questions I'd like an answer to:

1) Charcoal chimneys - how do you properly light these things? I mean, I know you are suppose to crumple up newspaper, put it underneath, light it - and voila, your charcoal or lump is supposed to light... But do you crumple 1 sheet? Two sheets? Put as much as you can cram underneath there and light it? I have not ever lit my charcoal or lump with just 1 sheet - and 2 or more sometimes seems to "smother" things and even the newspaper doesn't always all light when I use more than 1 sheet... I generally find myself lighting a propane blow torch and positioning it up underneath the chimney (where the newspaper should be) and lighting things that way (takes maybe 3 minutes, but consumes propane)... Any advice/insight/"tricks" here?

2)Once you have burning coals in a chimney, do you add them on top of charcoal/lump that is already in your box? Or do you place the burning coals in first, and then add new, unlit lump/charcoal on top of the burning stuff? Or does it realy matter? (I currently place lit coals on top of unlit charcoal/lump already in my box...)

3) Once you are done smoking and the fire has completely died out and is cold, I am assuming you can "salvage" pieces of unburnt charcoal/lump (I especially see this with lump, not so often with charcoal) and use them another time - correct?

4) Chicken - I cook with the skin on for flavor and moisture retention, and will smoke at 225-250 until the internal temp hits 160... But the skin still stays kinda "rubbery" that way... How do you get it "crisper" short of setting a grate on top of the coals and "grilling" it at the end? I have heard once you hit an internal of 160, if you will raise the temp of the smoker up to 260-270, that will do it (How do you do that and relatively quickly? Add more lump? Open your vents?)... I have also seen comments where some will cook chicken in the 300+ range from start to finish and that does the skin nicely supposedly... Any insight/advice/"tricks" here as well?


Thanks!! 8)
05-01-2006 07:45 AM
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Jeff Offline
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Post: #2
 
This is how I do things (not necessarily the right way):

1) I no longer use newspaper to light my charcoal chimney because of the same things that you noted. I use Weber Starter Cubes that are a cube of parafin. They light very easily & get the chimney started really well. I have also heard of people taking cotton balls & soaking them in Vaseline. They then just light the Vaseline ball beneath the chimney to get it started. You can store extra Vaseline balls in a film canister or other container.
If you really want to use newspaper, Alton Brown on the Food Network drizzles a little bit of canola oil on the sheet of newspaper before lighting.

2) I add the lit on top of the unlit.

3) I do salvage unused lump charcoal when it is cold after a cook. I just make sure to put it back into a bag & close it tightly to keep the moisture out.

4) I have never been able to get good chicken skin at smoking temperatures. I now always use my kettle & cook chicken at high temperature to get crispy skin. I will also be interested to read others' tips for cooking chicken.
05-01-2006 08:32 AM
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Rick Offline
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Post: #3
 
2 sheets of newspaper ( seperate sheets ) is the key,( if that is what you want to use ) crumpled up and put in on top of one another kinda in a donut shape, and the "new Kingsford" should take about 20 mins. for a pit ready batch of lit coals. All the previous methods mentioned will work just as well and they will all get the desired end result. What kind of cooker u have?
Rick
05-01-2006 09:55 AM
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Post: #4
 
Hey, Rick...

I began smokin' 7-8 years ago on a Brinkman Smoke N' Pit Pro.... Leaks like a sieve, but I have learned how to turn out some pretty decent Que on it over time... But I also have a WSM and a Caldera DelFuego on their ways to me as we speak... Beginning my "collection" I suppose... Smile
05-01-2006 11:06 AM
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Rick Offline
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Post: #5
 
Let The Collection Begin! :wink: I cooked against a guy in Ireland in '98 that turned out some of the best pork butt I have ever tasted, on a Brinkman, they do an excellent job, once you have the control issues down. I have heard nothing but good on the Calderas', I'll be anxious to see one in " action " @ MIM real soon. The Bullets are everywhere and there is a reason... one of the friendliest, most rock steady units out there. Sounds like you have it all covered. 8) BTW, get the Weber Chimney, larger cap. and a great measure for the correct amount of coal to add to the bullet's charcoal ring for a consistant burn time after time. Hope this helps.
Rick
05-01-2006 12:19 PM
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phatch Offline
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Post: #6
Re: Dumb Questions
Well, I'm no guru.

1) Lighting a chimney. For the common chimney, 1.5 sheets of newspaper is what works best for me. I picked up the big Weber chimney this winter but haven't used it yet. 2 sheets looks good there.

2)I place unlit on top of lit charcoal

3) Correct?

4) I place the chicken on the grill to finish the skin. I prefer a higher temp for chicken than standard smoking temps as otherwise I find the texture too soft and soggy.

Phil
05-01-2006 07:02 PM
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Rick Offline
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Post: #7
 
Hey Phil, Ya know I've never really tried the unlit on top, always the other way around, not to say it wouldn't do the same thing, just never tried it. Would be interesting to do the 2 ways side by side some time, same style cookers of course just to be siemtific. :lol:
Rick
05-01-2006 07:43 PM
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phatch Offline
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Post: #8
 
My theory is fire burns up. And they should breathe better on top than underneath. But mainly, it's easier.

Of course, I lay unlit NEXT to lit with my dutch ovens and that works just fine too so it probably doesn't matter much.

Phil
05-01-2006 08:09 PM
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Gumbo Offline
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Post: #9
Re: Dumb Questions
HoochieQue>> Okay, all you "gurus" out there... I've got a few "dumb" questions I'd like an answer to:

1) Charcoal chimneys
--I'm like you here--I add usually 2-3 crumpled sheets and if it needs more, I add more.

2)Once you have burning coals in a chimney, do you add them on top of charcoal/lump that is already in your box?
--Use the Minion or the Basso Method.

Minion Method: Fill up the ring with cold charcoal or lump, then dump a chimney full of lit on top. Let the temp stabilize, adjusting vents as needed, and you'll be able to maintain a consistent burn for 20+ hours.
Search the Web for "Minion Method" and you'll get lots of hits.

Basso Method: Add a chimney or two of lump to the ring, stabilize temps, and add more lump as needed.

3) Once you are done smoking and the fire has completely died out and is cold, I am assuming you can "salvage" pieces of unburnt charcoal/lump
--When you remove the meat, close all vents. This will choke out the fire and you'll be able to reuse all unburnt charcoal.

4) Chicken - I cook with the skin on for flavor and moisture retention, and will smoke at 225-250 until the internal temp hits 160... But the skin still stays kinda "rubbery" that way... How do you get it "crisper" short of setting a grate on top of the coals and "grilling" it at the end?
--Cook your chicken hotter, like at 320. Low-and-slow is for 1) rendering fat/collagen, and 2) breaking down a tough piece of meat into tender meat. Chicken is already tender and doesn't benefit from low-and-slow. So cook it hot (turkey too).

The other key to good chicken is to brine. I hate dried out chicken/turkey, so brine first and you'll have the moistest (is that a word?) chicken you've ever had. And keep in mind that white meat is done at 165, dark at 180. so arrange them according on your grate (hot/cooler areas).

Also, if cooking multiple meats together, always put the chicken on the bottom as its fat is not ideal for basting other meats. However, pork fat is golden, so always put pork on the top racks. A pork butt over a brisket is a good thing.
05-02-2006 08:05 AM
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Post: #10
 
Some great info from all of you... Thanks!!!

I left this "dumb question" out by accident, but you touched on it, Gumbo..

What about "brining" vesus "marinating" (like in a Wishbone Italian dressing) overnight? Any "pros" or "cons" as such - one compared to the other (I generally do the Wishbone thing)?

Thanks again!! 8)
05-02-2006 09:15 AM
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phatch Offline
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Post: #11
Brining and Marinades
A marinade is classically an oil and an acid, essentially a vinaigrette (like your Wishbone) though it isn't usually emulsified. There is little flavor penetration in large cuts of meat, usually less than 1/4 inch. And long marinades with acid can denature the meat protien creating a mushy unpleasant texture. The oil is somewhat useful for small, lean cuts.

Brining is, of course, a salt water bath though other spices and flavoring are often included. You can do both, just use a no salt marinade after the brine.

They do get combined now and then, for example, in fried chicken. It is quite common to use a salted & spiced buttermilk to brine/marinade at the same time. Buttermilk is acidic and has a low fat content, but it's by nature more marinade than brine until you add the salt.

The salt and sugars in brines are readily diffusible and create osmotic pressure in the cells of the meat. They technically draw moisture out of the meat cells through osmosis, not into the cells. This concentrates the flavors of the meat, but adds a salty flavor too, maybe too much for some people.

However, there is also plenty of interstitial space where the flavored liquid collects. This is where the weight gain--usually about 10%--of a brined meat comes from. Same for 'injected/pumped' chicken and pork at the market, but there, you're paying meat prices for water. Done at home, it's cheap and you're in control of what gets added.

Further, salts and sugars, denature protien somewhat creating tangles that hold back the exit of the liquid after the brining.

If you want the nitty gritty details, read Harold McGee's book, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. It's not a cookbook, it's a science book, but easily readable for the layman. It's also used as a textbook at the Culinary Institute of America where it's known as "The Bible".

That said, Harold McGee doesn't like brined food in general. He feels it masks what the food really is, and that is a culinary violation. He does accept ham and such classics though.
For short reading on his opinion see <!-- m --><a class="postlink" href="http://www.cheftalk.com/forums/showthread.php?t=15744">http://www.cheftalk.com/forums/showthread.php?t=15744</a><!-- m -->
and
<!-- m --><a class="postlink" href="http://www.cheftalk.com/forums/showthread.php?t=15717">http://www.cheftalk.com/forums/showthread.php?t=15717</a><!-- m -->
05-02-2006 09:47 AM
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Post: #12
 
Gumbo, Phil, Rick & Jeff -

Thanks so kindly for your very insightful posts/answers to my questions here... Man, this is really good stuff here IMHO that almost everyone in here can truly benefit from...

I don't know if I am the only one feeling this way - but I am rather "blown away" with some of the knowledge/experience some of the members of the UBBQA and this forum appear to have... And I can't thank each of you enough for taking the time to share some of this with all of the rest of us!! 8)
05-02-2006 08:31 PM
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Gumbo Offline
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Post: #13
 
What Phatch said on brining vs marinating. But to comment on Chef Magee's opinion, I can see his logic. However, a good brine is the shortest path to the best turkey/chicken most home cooks will ever produce. Plus, we're subjecting these birds to a pretty harsh, dry cooking environment in our pits. Then take into the account that white meat is done at 165, dark at 180. And don't forget the common mistakes we home chefs always make.

A brine buffers against all those negatives and turns out the best, most moist smoked turkey you've ever had (and I'm not talking like the 'hammy' store-bought birds you can buy at the supermarket).

Now if I'm going to fry the turkey then I'll just inject. But for baking or smoking or grilling, brining is a great way to improve your end result.
05-03-2006 07:31 AM
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phatch Offline
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Post: #14
 
I brine too occassionally even though I'm on a restricted sodium diet.

I mentioned McGee's opinion to show there are always tradeoffs in any technique.

Phil
05-03-2006 09:28 AM
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Gene Offline
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Post: #15
Dumb question
Mike,
I have always been told the only "dumb question" is an unasked one.
Back in the day when I used charcoal on the 'ol dutch ovens I cussed the length of time them chimneys took to get a pile of Kingsford going. There was a fella here in Logan that had a dutch oven table cooking system that was the 9's. 10 is probably a better description of it. It was a "c" channel that had removable legs that stored inside the table when not in use. It came in 40 and 60 inch lengths and also an outfitter version that telescoped inside itself that extended to 24" if I remember right. The neat thing about this rig was the propane gas burner that had a charcoal basket that would hold 10# or so of Kingsford and be lit in 4-5 minutes instead of 20 with a chimney. Larsen Dutch Oven equipment was the mfg. Darwin passed away a year ago Easter and I don't know what's become of the business. I haven't d.o.'d much lately. Then I found a propane weed burner in my Dads garage. Wanna talk about getting charcoal lit in a hurry, that does.
Good Q to you.
Coalbucket
05-03-2006 12:35 PM
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Botch Offline
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Post: #16
 
The cooks that test for Cook's Illustrated turned me on to brining a few years ago. The last couple of roast chicken articles they did had the additional step of, once the bird is brined, they then leave it uncovered in the fridge for 24 hours, so that the skin dries out. Apparently this doesn't cost the meat too much moisture, but really reduced the flabby skin, it crisped up very nicely. Although those articles were written for oven-roasting chicken, I'm guessing it'll have the same effect on barbequed chicken too.
09-25-2006 03:16 PM
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Pegleg Offline
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Post: #17
 
1. When I light the chimney I roll the newspaper up and put it under the chimney in a donut, two layers fit nicely. I also will drizzle a light coat of vegetable oil on the paper before I light it. The newspaper doesn't burn until the oil burns away; I got this idea from virtualweberbullet.com and it works quite well. I have also gotten a case of fireplace logs from Home Depot. The logs are compressed vegetable boxes, the ones that are loaded with wax. I slice them up on my miter saw, they work great in starting my fireplace and one broke in half works great on the chimney. I found it's cheaper than buying the small starting cubes.

2. I always use the minion method, however, a friend uses a variation of that which he likes to use. He puts a gallon can with both ends cut out in the middle of his WSM. He pours the unlit charcoal around the can and dumps the lit charcoal inside the can and then pulls it out with a pair of pliers. The charcoal then burns from the inside out.

3. To me, brining a turkey is the only way to go, the whol bird is moist and has a great flavor through the whole thing. I inject it then let it sit for a couple of days in the brine as well, rolling the bucket every morning. The brine recipie I use is Dan Gills Turkey Brine that I got from the FAQ'S from Bbqsearch.com, it has a real good flavor. I always add a few tablespoon of Tender Quick to the brine as well. <!-- m --><a class="postlink" href="Http://www.eaglequest.com/~bbq/faq2/10-7.html#10.5.4">Http://www.eaglequest.com/~bbq/faq2/10-7.html#10.5.4</a><!-- m -->

Lyle Earl
KCBS Certified Judge
Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the Ark ---- professionals built the Titanic.
09-26-2006 10:30 AM
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Post: #18
 
Hoochie - Your post back in May indicated that you had bought a Caldera Del Fuego. Did you get it, or did you switch to your BDS's instead? I am curious because I am toying with the idea of buying a Caldera Tallboy.

Any information you have is truly appreciated.

Thanks,
John
09-26-2006 10:22 PM
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Post: #19
 
A tip I picked up from Alton Brown's show is to put vegetable or olive oil on the paper before you burn it. The paper will burn longer. I used to have a tough time lighting a chimney until I started doing this.
09-27-2006 12:47 PM
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Post: #20
 
Hey, Daddio!!...

Sorry for my slow response... Am "eyeball deep" in a remodel/expansion at my dental office right now... Painters, electricians, plumbers, and phone/computer/dental equip folks running around everywhere - on top of a full load of patients to boot!! Life be quite hectic right now for ol' Hoochie Sad

I did indeed place an order for a Del Fuego last spring, but they were having a tough time with production at the time... And my completion and delivery date kept getting pushed back, with no real "definite" from them as to when they might have it finished - so I eventually cancelled the order and went with the BDS instead...

Shotgun Fred and the guys there at BBQ Guru are a great bunch of folks none the less - and Fred called and fell all over himself in apologizing when I cancelled the order... I think it was just a matter of "bad timing" for them and me... I needed to get going with a smoker, and they were short on parts (actually it was a "log jam" with the powder coating they were running into at the time)... I would think they probably worked through that by now, and getting product from them in a timely manner should not be a big problem at this time...

I wish I could tell you more about just how well the Tallboy or Del Feugo do in terms of cooking/performance, John... T says he has a few friends around the country who have been quite happy with them... You might call him to get a little more info... And/or maybe he will see this post and respond here on the board...

I am actually seriously looking at a Diamond Plate "Fat 50" right now to add to my "collection" (why is it that we smokeheads seem to collect smokers?! LOL!!)... Will keep you posted on that...

Here's hoping I get this office expansion mess behind me in the next week or so - so I can get back to Q'ing!!! (I am actually in a charity "Chili Cook-Off" this next weekend up here in PC... But I would prefer to be smokin'!!)
09-28-2006 08:25 AM
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Post: #21
 
Mike - Good luck with the remodel and thanks for the information.

Be good,
John
09-28-2006 08:58 AM
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