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The Renowned Mr. Brown

July 23, 2006

I mentioned buying a couple of toys in an earlier post, and described our first cook on the Weber grill. The other toy was a Weber bullet smoker, or as Weber calls it, the Smokey Mountain Cooker Smoker. I broke it in on July 1st by barbecuing three chickens, then did four chickens and two racks of ribs on July 4th. SWMBO and I decided we would do some more chickens this past weekend, so I was going to buy eight chickens and do four on each level of the rack. We were going to eat one Saturday night, and the extras would be seal-a-mealed and frozen for future use. The photo to the right (clickable for a larger version, as are all the photos in this post) is of the chickens. When you look, you’ll immediately notice the eight chickens strangely resemble two rubbed pork butts. There’s a locally owned small grocery store that, being a locally owned small-business kind of place, has a reputation of working with you on meats. With my new-found barbecue and grilling passion, I decided to try it out. They were out of whole chickens, as was apologetically explained, and they told me when they’d have them. I think this will be a good place to get meats like I want for grilling or barbecuing, but for that Friday I was as out of luck as they were chickens — but, wait; they did have a real nice cryovac package consisting of two pork butts with a combined weight of 16 pounds. On the spur of the moment, I decided to cook butts instead of chickens. That decision, like so many of my spur of the moment decisions, became more than I bargained for.

Chickens take about four hours. Standing in the grocery, my memory told me butts take about seven or eight hours. My memory was bad. Turns out, butts take about three-and-a-half weeks — or so it began to seem late Saturday night. When I got back from the store Friday and read a bit on it, I realized it would take fifteen or sixteen hours. If I wanted to be finished by ten o’clock of the PM Saturday, I’d have to have them in the smoker by six or seven am. Six or seven in the morning isn’t my normal Saturday rise-n-shine time. Nineish, maybe, when I then lie in bed sipping coffee and watching people on TV do lawn work, but certainly I’m normally still sleeping at six on Saturday mornings. Ah, well.

I prepared the butts Friday night per the Renowned Mr. Brown recipe from the book titledSmoke and Spice, and the rubbed butts (wonder will that phrase draw more traffic to my site?) were in the picture at the start of this post. They were supposed to marinate for eight hours, but I didn’t get them in until something like midnight, so they ended up with a six-and-a-half hour marinating time. I was actually up and at ’em, in a stumbling sort of way, at ten after six Saturday morning. I lit half a chimney of Kingsford charcoal, and while waiting for it to come up to speed I poured the Weber smoker’s charcoal ring full to near-overflowing with charcoal. I first filled it half full and added some soaked Jack Daniels wood chips, then filled it the rest of the way up with charcoal and added some more soaked JD wood chips. The chimney didn’t take long to get ready, so after I poured the lit coals on top of the unlit ones and assembled the smoker, the meat went on about 6:45am. The two pictures show the chimney fired up, and then the bed of coals after the chimney has been poured over the top.

Here’s where I think I made a bit of a mistake. For whatever reason, I set the vents to 25% open each. The Virtual Weber Bullet website has a nice write-up on doing the Renowned Mr. Brown recipe (click the preceding and you shall see) and Chris, the guy who manages the site, even mentioned that he should have started out at 100% open on the vents. I think I added some time to the cooking by starting at 25%. I was at 225 by 7:40am, and except for one thirty minute period I kept it over 225 the entire cooking time, but next time (and there will be a next time) I think I’ll leave it at 100% until I hit 240, then start closing the vents off. The worry then, of course, is overshooting the temperature; barbecuing is low and slow.

By the way, if interested in a Weber smoker, you can’t find better information than at theVirtual Weber Bullet website — and that includes the Weber instruction manual. If you buy a Weber smoker, while reading the manual is useful, more useful is theVirtual Weber Bullet website, including for original assembly; he has photos as well as directions. The picture here is of my bullet smoking the butts yesterday.

After ten hours, at 4:45pm, the lid was lifted for the first time. It was already looking good by this time, as you can see. With SWMBO’s help, I basted the two butts in the Southern Sop mop liquid (from the recipe in the afore mentioned Smoke and Spice, swapped the meat between the top and bottom racks, and flipped the butts over. I also inserted a digital probe into the meat on the top rack: 161 degrees. I’m looking for 190 degrees, so there’s a bit of time to go.

How much time? Total cooking time: eighteen hours. The meat went on at 6:37am, and came off eighteen hours nearly to the minute. I checked temperatures every fifteen minutes, and at 12:30 Sunday morning I finally hit 190. By the time I grabbed a pan from the kitchen, tested both butts in a few to make sure I had 190 degrees, it was probably pretty near the exact eighteen hour mark of 12:37am. The picture at the right is of the two butts just prior to going into a cooler for a forty-five minute rest (yeah, it ain’t over yet).

I finally got the meat pulled and cool enough to put in the refrigerator at a little after two, and while SWMBO snoozed a couple of hours on the patio swing and snoozed for the forty-five minute butt-resting time, she was there to help every step of the way. The final weight of the pulled meat was seven pounds, eight ounces. Not that much hit the ‘frige, though; pulling requires sampling.

Was it worth it? Darn right. It was fantastic eating when we munched while pulling the meat, and it was great on buns today for lunch. SWMBO made a vinegar-based sauce (from Smoke & Spice) that she and I used and we also had a tomato based sauce I had made earlier (not from scratch; five parts KC to 1 part honey, as outlined in the BRITU recipe) that Number One Son and Number One Daughter used. After lunch today, three pounds of the meat went into the freezer, and it’s planned for dinner here in about half an hour.

We will be doing this again, but the next time I’ll change a couple of things. One is that I’ll make it an overnighter, and the other is that I’ll do four butts, not two. When you take that much time, you might as well max the cooker out. I’d rather have put up ten 1-pound bags instead of the three we did freeze.


Shane (mississip) said…

Gosh, the ideas for a comment here are endless:

So when you couldn’t buy chicken, you got your butts out of that store!

How did you keep your butts up for so long?!

I am glad you didn’t burn your butts.

So you rested your butt while your butts rested?

Why didn’t you invite me over for some hot, juicy butt?

I could go on and on………


From → Cooking

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