Friday, June 29, 2012

Brick Barbecue Pit Ready for Summer

Sorry I haven't posted in a while. Been very busy teaching summer classes. But speaking of summer, last week was the solstice, and it sure feels like it! We've been getting over 100 for the last several days. My dear husband, Daniel, managed to get the brick barbecue pit in working order just in time for outdoor cooking weather. It came with our house, but was in a state of disrepair. The grill grate and firebox door were extremely rusted, and some of the mortar was cracking, with bricks coming loose.

Here it is now all fixed up! Daniel cleaned it all out, got some mortar to fix all the cracks, put the loose bricks back into place, and  replaced the door and grate.

We got the new grate at Academy Sports. They have a good section of outdoor cooking equipment, including a replacement grate that fit perfectly.

Here is the replacement door Daniel made. He really outdid himself with this! It's made of a piece of sheet metal he cut to size, and then added hinges, a handle, a latch, and even adjustable air vents made of metal disks (now that I think of it, I'm not sure what those were originally supposed to be, but he'd know!) that swivel over holes he drilled in the sheet metal. The whole thing is painted with heatproof grill paint (he later painted the big door on top with the same paint after scraping the rust off).

He even drilled a hole through the mortar so I can slip in a thermometer to read the internal temperature. It's actually a deep frying thermometer with a long probe, but it seems to work fine for getting at least an estimate of the temperature. The end of the probe sticks out right next to where the meat goes.

Here I'm getting it fired up for its first use after being repaired! So far I've been using a mixture of wood and charcoal. I let it burn a bit to preheat the smoker and wait until the flames die down a bit before adding the meat.

Here's the first thing we cooked in it, two whole chickens. I brined them overnight, and then rubbed them with Penzey's BBQ 3000.

And here they are when done! Don't they look great? I inserted my probe thermometer into the middle of the breast of the largest chicken, and set it to 155 degrees. Using the other thermometer sticking through the bricks, I kept the temperature in the smoker around 300 - 350 degrees, and they took about 2 1/2 hours to cook, with another 20 minutes or so resting time. Cooking this way isn't very exact. The important thing is to get the meat up to the right temperature so that it's done but not overcooked, but the time this takes can vary depending on the size of the meat, the temperature in the smoker, and probably lots of other variables. That's why you can't really go by time, you have to go by the internal temperature of the meat, which is why having a probe thermometer is so handy.

The chickens ended up cooked all the way through, but still moist and juicy and not dried out at all, with great smoky flavor. I'm really looking forward to cooking all kinds of things in here in the future, maybe some barbecue brisket or pork shoulder or ribs, or even Thanksgiving turkey or Christmas ham. I bet I could even throw some ripe jalapeno peppers from my garden in there to make chipotles.

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