Neither rain, nor snow or sleet will stop you from enjoying all your favorite smoked BBQ entrees when you know how easy it is to smoke them right on your indoor stove top. The controlled environment on your gas or electric kitchen stove coupled with an inexpensive homemade or store bought stove top smoker is your ticket to dinning on some fine down home BBQ in any kind of weather. We'll explore how you can make your own smoker with readily obtainable materials. Plus, I'll teach you how to smoke a Boston butt even if you don't know how to cook. The smoker can also be used for BBQ ribs, loins or brisket. We are going to start with a Boston butt because it can be very forgiving if times and temperatures aren't adhered to more than other cuts of meat. Our finished product will be pulled and chopped pork, a favorite of BBQ lovers. But wait, there's more. As and added bonus, today only, I am going to show you another prize winning way to cook a 'butt'. This is information you won't normally hear about from those competition BBQ contest like 'Memphis in May' or 'Degaque' at the Talladega Speedway. We will also be using a Boston butt in today's lesson because they are normally an inexpensive cut of meat. Plus, I recently found them on sale for $.99 a pound and bought several of them. When shopping for your Boston butt try to purchase them with the blade bone still intact. Let's take a look now at what we will need for our all weather smoker.
Step 1: Basic Stove Top Smoker
The smoker is made up of 4 basic parts
1.) A square , rectangle or round metal pan about 2 or 3 inches deep and big enough to hold the butt. A 10 by 12 inch pan is large enough that it can span 2 of the stove eyes. This is not a requirement, but is nice support, especially for larger butts.
2.) A shallow pan a little smaller than the main pan. This pan will sit over the wood chips and be a drip pan to catch the fat juices.
3.) A metal or wire grill rack to support the meat and raise it above the fat in the drip pan.
4.) A lid. This can be as simple as a sheet of aluminum foil crimped around the edges.
In a nutshell that is all you need for the smoker. You can find stove top smokers on the internet and in restaurant supply houses. I bought a medium size one on the internet several years ago for about $25 USD. (Pictures included below) The one I purchased has a lid that works fine for ribs and tenderloins. However, for butts and most briskets I have to use aluminum foil to create a lid because the main pan is not deep enough for the lid to clear the larger cuts of meat.
For the larger main pan you can find disposable aluminum pans in most grocery stores here in the States. The turkey roasting pans will work although they are larger than you actually need. In the same area as the roasting pans you can usually find smaller pans that can be used for the drip pan as well. Racks from small gills work good for supporting the meat. I have even used the metal shelves from toaster ovens.
Step 2: Gathering the Rest of Our Stuff
Next on our list we will need plastic wrap, aluminum foil, smoking wood chips and an internal temperature probe. The plastic wrap will be used to wrap our meat in our marinating step. The aluminum foil will be needed for making our 'lid' for our smoker. The wood chips of course will provide the smoke for our meat. As for the temperature probe, this item is very handy to have but not absolutely required. Smoking without knowing the true internal temperature of the meat is more of a trial and error adventure. The internal temp of the meat provides us with vital information at different stages of cooking. Most temp probes are not that expensive. The one shown here sells for about $15 USD and comes with a transmitter so the receiver can be carried into other rooms of the house for convenience. A basic probe that can be inserted into the meat to monitor the internal temp as it slowly cooks will be sufficient for our needs.
When cooking without a temp probe it becomes even more important to know the cooking temperature of your stove or heat source. We want to slowly cook our butt at as close to the 225 to 250 degree Fahrenheit range as possible. About 1.5 hours per pound can be used as a guide for your first butt. Adjust your cooking times as needed for your next butt. Hopefully you will pick up a temp probe by that time!
Step 3: A Little About the Rub
Good smoked BBQ starts with a mixture of savory spices that are often referred to as THE RUB. The meat is given a generous coating of these dry herbs and spices to enhance the flavor of the meat, and also to build a slight crust that helps to retain the meats natural juices. The rub itself can be found in the spice section at your local grocery stores. Generally speaking this mixture of spices is not expensive. There are rubs available for pork, chicken or beef. Most rubs have a slightly sweet flavor, while others lean more to the hotter pepper flavors. Many books have been written and small wars have even been fought in backyards across the South over the best ingredients to be used for the perfect rub. Those that enter BBQ competitions are not likely to share their secret rub ingredients with you, however local backyard chefs are more inclined to share their knowledge of great recipes to try. Some excellent rub recipes can also be found on the internet. The next step will include a few basic 'get you started' rub recipes or you may choose to try a store bought variety. Where you obtain your rub from is not as important as you making the commitment to get out from in front of your computer screen and trying your hand at smoking your own butt. It's a lot more enjoyable than just looking at the pretty pictures, and it makes the house smell good too.
Step 4: Making Your Own Rub From Scratch
Here is a very basic dry rub recipe that requires very few ingredients. Hopefully you already have them on hand. Also, don't be afraid to add any ingredient that you think might add to the flavor. This isn't rocket science but do try adding new ingredients in moderation at first so the flavor isn't over powering. Simply stir the ingredients together in a bowl and your done.
- 1/3 cup paprika
- 1/4 cup black pepper
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 2 teaspoons dry mustard
- 2 teaspoons cayenne
Should you desire a slightly sweeter flavor, here is a rub that is popular in Carolina BBQ circles.
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 cup paprika
Garlic lovers may find this one more to their liking.
- 8 cloves garlic, minced (or replace with 2 tablespoon garlic powder)
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon salt (coarse salt works best)
When using the fresh garlic you will need to crush the other ingredients into the minced garlic with the bottom of a spoon or other like instrument. Now that we have our rub let's check out the meat.
Step 5: Finally We Get to the Meat
First you need to rinse your butt off in cool water and allow it to drain. OK, before we go any farther let's get all the butt jokes out of our system, shall we. Now, spread a layer of plastic wrap out on your work area or cutting board. The extra rub that falls of the meat will collect on the wrap making the area clean up easier and will also be wrapped up for extra marinate. Your goal here is to completely cover all exposed areas of the meat with as heavy of a layer of the rub ingredients as you possibly can. Do not worry about over doing it during this step. You will find that any water that was left from rinsing your meat off will help the dry powder to stick. The instructions in all the cook books tell you that after you spread a large amount of your spice recipe on your meat you RUB IT IN and you should continue this process as you turn the meat on all sides so the mixture is distributed over the entire meat surface.
So the question here is, how long do you need to rub the meat? Do you knead the meat like you would a sore shoulder muscle? Have you ever been to a web site run by someone that is involved in competition BBQ events hoping that you might get lucky enough to learn this secret? Have you ever seen any recipe explain the actual rub procedure in any detail ? I didn't think so. That's why, for only the cost of admission to today's program, I am going to share this elusive BBQ secret with you in our next step.
Step 6: Have You Ever Been on a Snipe Hunt?
You may have come close if you have been trying to rub your butt and you are finding that it is more like finger painting. To bust the myth, I am sad to say that the rub is more of a term than an actual physical activity. As you have probably noticed your efforts to "rub" the meat only makes a mess and pushes the ingredients around and not leaving the meat coated very well. To reach your goal of coating your meat thoroughly it is best done with moisture on the meat catching the falling dry ingredients and some gentle pressure from your fingers to help apply the powder to the moist areas. Another secret to the RUB is mustard. That's right, plain old mustard. You can apply mustard quite liberally to the meat as it will adhere to the meat and provide a moist base for your rub ingredients. Not to worry, during the cooking process the mustard cooks off & blends in quite nicely. You will not be able to taste it at all. The mustard, in a small way will also help build the layer of crust that you desire.
Step 7: Marinate and Prepare the Smoker
Wrap the meat in plastic wrap, starting with the wrap we have been using under the meat. Use enough wrap to seal the meat so the air is trapped inside and place in the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours at least. You can go ahead and use the meat in cases where your schedule doesn't allow for over night marinating, but please allow at least a minimum of one hour. Marinating can also safely be done for up to 72 hours, at least in the refrigerator.
Using plastic wrap for the marinating process is only a suggestion. Other choices include plastic bowls with seal able lids or storage/freezer bags.
Step 8: Preparing to Smoke the Butt
While we have our meat marinating we need to turn our attention to the preparation of our smoker. We need to soak our wood chips for at least an hour in water to retard the burning process when we cook our butt. Wood chips used on charcoal grills need to be soaked for a longer period to prevent them from burning up. But that's not us. So a moment here about your choice of wood chips. Wood chips for smoking on grills or smokers can be found at most grocery stores and also local department stores. Almost any variety of wood chip can be used, but may be limited by what is available in your local market. Apple, Hickory, Peach. Pear, Alder Wood, Pecan & Maple are some popular choices. Mesquite is another popular wood, however it's strong flavor is best used when grilling.
By the way, grilling is cooking at high temperatures (think steak) and smoking is cooking at very low temperatures (think Boston butt). Ribs fall in between (think in between) .
Indoor smokers are slightly different from there outdoor counter parts in the size of the wood chip used. The smaller chips work better in the indoor smoker. However they are harder to find and cost more. On the internet you will also find very fine wood available (think sawdust) of the most popular woods at a rather steep price tag for packages that are just a little bit larger than a small box of matches. Along with my first stove top smoker I received a couple sample boxes of this sawdust with an order form to purchase more. I recommend passing on the saw dust . I do suggest that you purchase the regular bags of wood chips available in your area. Once purchased, dump the chips out on the table and throw the larger chunks back in the bag and save for outdoor use on the grill. The smaller wood pieces that you will find in the bottom of the bag are great for your stove topper.
Put enough presoaked wood chips to cover most of the pans bottom surface area. Add about 1/2 to 2/3 cups of water to the bottom of the pan along with you wood chips. Put your drip pan in place. Next comes the rack to support your meat. And finally your ready for your meat.
PLEASE NOTE: DO NOT USE CHARCOAL WOOD CHIPS
Charcoal products that give off a simulated wood smoke or flavor are not meant to be used in any home smoking application. Only use these products outdoors in a well ventilated area.
Step 9: It's Smoke Time
OK, it's time to get our smoke on. Unwrap your meat and place it on the rack. Push the meat probe into the central area of the meat, making sure not to touch the bone with the probe. Next use the aluminum foil to make a tent structure over the meat. Ideally you want to have a dome or raised area with the foil over the meat in such a manner that the foil is not touching the meat. As you crimp the edges of the foil around the lip of your pan, gently push the foil down in such a manner that the moisture that accumulates on the inside of the foil lid will drip back down into the pan before it has a chance to reach the edge of the foil. This will prevent the liquid from leaking out of the pan onto the stove during the constant condensation process that will be going on inside your aluminum dome.
Turn your heat source up to 225 degrees Fahreneit. Over the next several hours do not try to peek under the foil to check on the meat. It will be fine. Next we will learn how temperature plays a part in our finished product.
Step 10: How Temperature Affects the End Result
As you monitor the internal temp of your butt while it is smoking, do not be alarmed if the temperature stops rising once it reaches the 160 to 170 degree range. Sometimes the temperature may even drop a little. Do not be alarmed and do not raise the heat to your meat. The meat reaches a plateau at this time when the fats and collagens in the meat are broken down. This is where the magic happens for the pulled pork later.
As promised earlier, here is a little bonus often over looked with a Boston butt. You can remove the meat from the heat when it reaches an internal temperature of between 175 and 185 degrees Fahreneit. This is known as a pork roast. The pork roast can be sliced and is ready to serve at this point. A smoked pork roast is a rare dish coming from a backyard or in this case stove top smoker. Should you find yourself unable to wait for the pulled pork you might want to try the sliced pork roast. However I must point out that pork removed from the heat at these temperatures (175 to 185) can not be pulled apart as one would think of pulled pork. Pork at this temperature is made for slicing. Pulled pork needs to reach the 195 to 205 temperature range, and it needs to do so in a slow manner.
Step 11: Your Pulled Pork When It Reaches 205 Degrees
When your butt reaches 205 degrees turn off the heat and let the meat rest for 30 minutes to an hour before cutting or disturbing it. This allows the natural juices to redistribute themselves throughout the meat. This will keep the meat from being dry.
At this point you can chose to pull the pork apart with 2 forks or with your hands. You may even want to chop the meat in small portions with a cleaver. Either way, the first thing you need to do next is to remove the large portion of fat that is on one side of the meat. The meat will be so tender that it will easily separate in your hands at the slightest touch. The areas that the meat will tend to want to separate from itself or as some people describe it, fall apart in your hands, are where the muscles meet. Any other fat deposits that are left will be in the area where the meat is most susceptible to coming apart. Removing this fat with your hands should be your next course of action. Now you are ready to pull or chop YOUR PORK BUTT.
Step 12: Chopped Meat Can Also Be Yours
Although very moist and tender, pulled meat is by nature what might best be described as stringy. Folks that aren't fans of pulled meat like theirs chopped. Chopping the meat is accomplished by rocking a cleaver back and forth over the meat creating small cubes of meat. Pictures of using a meat cleaver to actually chop the meat couldn't be farther from the truth. The meat being so tender, chopping is not really an option.
Step 13: Pork Fat Rules
As we come to the end of this journey, I can truthfully say that I have enjoyed this way more than you can ever imagine my new found friend. While you have faithfully been following along on the information highway, reading my words of wisdom, and enjoying my suttle Southern humor, I my friend have been eating an enormous amount of pork in my home test kitchen.
I hope you have enjoyed my first instructable as much as I have. Smoke House Willie is looking forward to a lot more of these that include the use of my home test kitchen. By the way, for those of you that didn't take my advice in step #3, here are a few pictures just for you.
Wait, don't leave yet. I have one more stop action photo i didn't use earlier and I don't have anywhere else that I can use it . So if you will, take a look at my last photo before you leave.
Smoke House Willie