Big Foamy Head: Big Foamy Head
By admin, 12 years and 1 month ago

Feeding The Masses

I'm the one who hosts the family gatherings. I don't know if it's because of the size of my house, the fact that I cook, or simply because I'm gullible, but now it's assumed that everyone comes to my house on the 4th of July. (I also blow up a lot of fireworks, so that may have a bit to do with it as well.)

Regardless, I went bigtime with the food this year. A test cook to try out my rub, and four days of preparation and planning resulted in some pretty spectacular barbecue, all thoroughly documented with photos and audio.

I started my preparation on July 1st. A trip to the local grocery store, and a lot of cash later, and I was armed with meat, spices and charcoal. I've documented my cooking in the Gallery, and you can hear what occurred as well in the Podcasts section. It's quite extensive, and lots of good information about the trials and tribulations of cooking and feeding 20 to 30 people.

Below is a short overview of what all I did and when, along with some recipes. For the whole gory details and running commentary on what happened, check the podcast section for show(s) detailing what occurred. I've also posted a lot of pictures in the gallery section to show step-by-step action.

Friday, July 1
Prep day! I bought ingredients, set up my cooking area, cleaned my equipment, and mixed up a rub. Rubs are used for a couple of reasons: to season the meat, to seal and protect during cooking, and to assist in retaining moisture. Of these reasons, seasoning is foremost. There are as many rubs as there are snowflakes, some hot, some sweet, and everything in between. Here's the recipe for my rub. Note that this makes about 3 cups of finished rub, far more than you'll need for a small cook, but it's a good base and should keep well if sealed.

Basic Rub

1/4 cup Coarse Ground Black Pepper
1/4 cup Onion Powder
1/4 cup Garlic Powder
1/4 cup Dark Chili Powder
1/4 cup Kosher Salt
1/2 cup Turbinado Sugar
3/4 cup Paprika
1/4 cup Cumin
1/8 cup Cayenne Pepper (more or less to suit - this proportion gives a lot of heat.

Mix together in a bowl and you've got a good base for your own take on the rub. Adjust the cayenne to your tastes. This rub starts off with a smokey taste, courtesy of the dark chili powder and builds to a good heat. You want to avoid adding more sugar than called for as it will carmelize and burn if you are too sugary. Adjust with spices rather than sugar - now is the time to make this recipe your own. Try adding other spices such as cinammon, oregano, basil, or other leftover rub mixtures or chili powders.

I also tossed in some older spices that I had laying about, but in small amounts not worth mentioning. I ended up making this recipe two more times to get enough rub for all my meat.

Saturday, July 2

I did a test cook of beer can chicken and riblets to try out my rub. It turned out great! Photos are in the gallery section. Beer can chicken is a way of cooking chicken that keeps it moist and flavorful. Chicken can potentially dry out, despite your water pan, when smoked for long periods of time. Below is a recipe for cooking chicken that will turn out great and be enjoyed immensely by your family.

Beer Can Smoked Chicken

1 whole fryer chicken
1 can beer (the cheap fizzy yellow stuff)
Mustard
Basic Rub

Wash and pat dry the chicken. Remove the neck, gizzard, livers and any other viscera from the chicken cavity. Smear the mustard liberally on the chicken to coat. Don't worry about a mustard flavor, it is used to keep the skin moistened and to retain the chicken's own juices. It does add a bit of spice, but doesn't taste like you smeared mustard on the chicken. Sprinkle all over with rub. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate, the longer the better. During my test cook I didn't let it sit for more than 15 minutes and it came out great, but marinating overnight would have been even better.

Remove the chicken from refrigerator, unwrap and sprinkle with more rub if desired. Pop the top on the can of beer and take a few swallows to calm your nerves, leaving an inch or two of space in the beer can. Pick up the chicken and lower it onto the beer can, inserting can in chicken's cavity. (Reports of chickens singing show tunes have been heard.)

Place your chicken in a smoker, or using indirect heat on your grill, when temperature is around 200 - 250 degrees. Cook chicken approximately 3-4 hours. You'll know it's done when, using an instant read thermometer or meat thermometer inserted into thickest part of chicken not touching bone, it measures 180 degrees. Be careful when removing from smoker or grill, as beer can may still have hot beer in it. Discard beer and can. Enjoy!

Later that afternoon, I put rubs all over my two pork butts, wrapped them in plastic wrap and stuck them into the refrigerator to marinate.

Sunday, July 3
A big day for cooking. I stoked my fire and got to temperature early, around 11:00 a.m. and put my pork butts on around 1:00 p.m. I cooked them, occasionally basting them with a vinegar/mustard mop when I had to open the door to add charcoal and wood chips to keep fire going.

That afternoon I seasoned my ribs with rub and refrigerated. I did not use mustard as the ribs were large enough and had enough fat on them to keep them well moistened.

Monday, July 4

D-Day! I took the pork butts off the fire at 3 a.m. Yes, you read that right. I cooked the two 7.5 pound pork butts for 13 hours. My fire had gotten a bit low, so I stoked it back up around midnight and kept cooking until I got an internal meat temperature of 200 degrees. I pulled them off the fire and dropped them into my large aluminum pan. The meat practically pulled itself, it was so tender!

Then I slept for a while, and got at it again around 11:30. I put the ribs on around 1:00 and basted and stoked throughout the day. I stuck the pulled pork into the stove around 4:00, covered tightly with foil. By 6:30 it was time to eat. The ribs came off the fire, the pork came out of the oven and at 6:45 the family is enjoying the fruit of my labors.

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