My girlfriend’s family gave me their old, offset vertical Brinkmann Trailmaster smoker in December. They usually cook for a decent sized group and they moved off to a horizontal smoker where more can fit without having to cut and separate (like a big beef brisket). I appreciate that they were/are so generous, because I can’t get enough of the flavor of smoked food. Here’s what I smoked in December: a 5 and a half pound Boston Butt (pork shoulder), an itty bitty brisket (just to try) that was about a pound, smoked bacon wrapped cheese stuffed jalapeno peppers and chicken drumsticks. Also, not pictured, but I smoked a chuck roast for my family a couple days after Christmas along with some potatoes. Here’s some pictures from the first batch:
Update (February 15, 2020): Looking back at this post almost three years later (since the cook that I posted in the featured photos above; it has been just a touch under three years since I posted this), I was a complete and total barbecuing newbie, fresh to the game of grilling and smoking meats outdoors. Now, with some time under my belt, I want to take a moment to reflect.
I did not own a meat thermometer back then. Well, that isn’t totally accurate. I bought a non-digital cooking thermometer from Wal-Mart back in December 2016, and it wasn’t top notch at all. It failed to accurately read the temperatures of meat and it was slow. In June 2017, I picked up a Thermapen Mk4 digital thermometer from Thermoworks, and it is hands down the best meat thermometer I’ve ever used, with its quick and accurate readings.
The first ever pork butt that I smoked, all by myself and without assistance, I got lucky in regards to hitting the proper ‘doneness’ temperature of 200-202 degrees. When the bark fully set in, I placed the pork butt onto an aluminum foil pan and popped it into the oven at 400 degrees for a little over an hour. Nowadays, I always try to avoid using electricity by finishing my meats on the pit. When I pulled the pork butt out of the oven, it was ready to shred and I felt incredibly accomplished because of that feat, at the time.
The second time I smoked a pork butt, shortly afterwards, the results were less than thrilling because of my lack of attention to detail. The first one was around 6-7 lbs. while the second one was a few lbs. bigger. I used the same method of trying to finish it off in the oven due to having a house full of hungry guests, and it didn’t shred. Now, it was done in terms of safe cooking temperatures, but it didn’t reach the point to where the collagen in the meat is supposed to give way to tenderness. Everyone still enjoyed it, but I was frustrated over my failure. That was the last time I butchered a pork butt, because I was embarrassed over serving it to my guests when I ‘advertised’ pulled pork to them only to deliver, uh, sliced pork. Thankfully they still enjoyed it due to all the almost-quiet lip smacking that commenced.
Barbecue is a journey. We all have our own ways, techniques and efforts when we put the work into creating the magical, smokey grub that we love and enjoy. The only way to make great barbecue, when you are a beginner, is to do your due diligence — as far as literary research is concerned — and go through the painful endeavors of trial and error as you do the actual work of trying it out yourself. Practice makes perfect.