I started this blog post in end August– let’s pretend I posted it in September…
I haven’t done an Alton blog post for a while and this fact, combined with a week off and a MASSIVE desire to smoke my own food brings me to the Good Eats episode “Right on Q” – Alton’s foray into the, often confusing world of Barbeque science and recipes. In this episode (check YouTube if you are not in the US), Alton demonstrates the best way to use a gas or charcoal grill as a smoker but best of all shows us how to build a proper smoke box using, in his case, a wood reinforced cardboard box, some oven racks and an electric hob.
Oft have I watched this episode with the imagined senses of authentic smoky ribs and infused turkey playfully dancing in my head – you seriously have no idea what goes on inside there….
This week saw Lidl selling a double electric hob for €30. I picked this up when I saw it and set about to getting the rest of the equipment together. The racks were “recycled” from an oven being dumped at our local recycling centre. A night in a bag with a bottle of oven cleaner and they were as good as new. A cast iron pan was called for to hold and burn the wood chips so I went to a local kitchen / restaurant supply shop. Cast iron pans, as it turns out are not cheap but lady luck smiles occasionally and I picked up a cast iron fajita dish which was (very) slightly damaged and without its base for €5. The wood cost €15 from the local builder’s merchant. Total cost under €60. So with drill in hand and a sparkle in the eye (should have worn goggles) I set about the fulfilment of a long held dream to make my own smoker…
Now there was no particular plan to this project – Carpentry is unfortunately not my forte so the mission was to make a box large enough to hold the electric hob and high enough to ensure the meat is not too close to the heaters to burn.
Once the box was completed I drilled a hole in the bottom of the front door and three holes in the top back. These can be blocked off with corks to increase or restrict airflow as required.
I installed a thermometer through the front door to monitor the air temperature (220of) and the meat can be monitored via a remote meat thermometer put through one of the holes in the top of the box. There is a small removable section at the rear of the box to allow access to the second hob control
Onwards then, stout yeoman, to the testing of the Pandora’s Box of smoking magic. First we need to soak about 3 cups of woodchips for at least an hour. Thankfully I had already thought of this and the pecan wood chips were already in the water. On to the meat – I didn’t have time to get ribs so a quick trip to our local butcher procured a quarter of a Turkey breast. No time for a brine, so a basic rub will do (see Dr. Pepper Pork Chops - I had some left over..). While the Turkey is sitting in the fridge, I cranked up the main burner to full and the secondary burner to the mid-point and set the cast iron dish on the main burner. After five minutes or so, I added the woodchips to the pan and placed the turkey on the rack with the meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat. The woodchips need to be changed about once an hour.
I closed the door and 5 minutes later there was smoke – proper smoke – like on the telly…
In goes the turkey for three hours. Ok, so here’s the deal. I realise that most people don’t get excited about barbeque and smokers like I do but this was the longest three hours I can remember. When the thermometers binged we opened the door to exactly what we wanted to see – a perfectly smoked tender and juicy piece of turkey perfection. A 15 minute rest and some homemade bread (bottle of Crabbies optional). The crackle of the crusty bread, the juice of the turkey, the tear in my eye… excuse me, I might need just a moment..*sniff*