Since I have not set the backyard on fire yet, I think it works well. With firebox vent at half open and stack at half open my pit averages around 230F to 250F. I have had the pit for a year now. Time to grow up. Charcoal is for wimps. Real pit men use wood. Cave men use wood. I want to be a cave man.
The problem I have with wood is the wood. My firebox is limited by two support bars for grill. They are only about 13" apart. I have had little luck finding wood that will fit inside my firebox. I have managed to collect a lot of smoke wood too big for my pit. Without a chainsaw (birthday gift anyone?), I have not found a good way to cut it to size.
But wait, they have now started to sell mini logs at local groceries (H.E.B) and sporting goods stores (Academy). These babies are 8 to 10 inches long. Perfect!
They are not "seasoned" naturally so I have concerns about being too green. I found these at Academy. They are kiln dried. Good enough for me since no one has bought me a chainsaw for Christmas.
The wife bought me a guilt brisket while she took off to Galveston with her girlfriends for the entire weekend and left me with the 5 year old. It was a 6 lb trimmed brisket. Not a whole packer brisket but who am I to judge? I rubbed it with kosher salt and course ground black pepper. I have some fancy store bought rubs. I have made my own fancy rubs. When it comes to slow cooking for hours and hours. The only flavors that remain are salt and pepper. The rest are just.....fancy.
I am not interested in building a camp fire. I want the pit to heat up fast and I want the wood to catch fire fast. Therefore I used a full chimney of charcoal. I put the brisket on the pit and charcoal in the fire box. Pit temp reached 220F in 15 minutes. Once the coals started fading and temp started dropping (235F), I put the first mini log on. Temp reached 262F in 15 minutes and held for 30 minutes. I then flipped it and it flashed burned and temp hit 285 and died fast. I put another mini log on those smoldering coals and repeated for the next 9 hours. Finally the brisket hit the magic 196F and i pulled it off. Using the coals of the previous mini log to light the next mini log keptan average temp of 248F over 9 hours.
The trimmed brisket split at both ends. Weird. But hey, now I have more burnt ends!
Brisket: Very Good. 5/16 in smoke ring. Tested a little tough of tender. Did not hit that sweet spot and used a knife. Fat rendered well and was smokey good. Rub came through and added that extra zip to overall flavor. No sauce needed.
I scored Old Smokehouse 89 out of 100. This is Reserve Grand Champion Texas BBQ.
Smoke: Mesquite. A long brick pit built along the side wall of a strip center with outside firebox on one end and cinder block chimney at the other end. For their sake I hope they own the property. Even though mesquite is not my favorite, it does remind me of home back in West Texas. It requires a bit more skill to use than oak or hickory, but when done right its flavor is phenomenal. Old Smokehouse does mesquite right.
Brisket: Excellent. A 1/4 in smoke ring beneath a thick black crunchy smokey bark. First in line, i got the burnt end. I nearly swooned with first bite. I got slices from the flat and watch them crumble a little under the pressure of the knife. The slices pulled apart with ease and were moist at first but did dry out little towards the end. They pulled this brisket off the pit at the nick-of-time. No knife needed tenderness. Dominate flavor was the mesquite smoke. Full intense smoke flavor throughout meat and well rendered fat. No sauce needed for this masterpiece.
Ribs: Very Good. A meaty spare rib. They cut the tips off separate which I like. It was fall off the bone past tender. No matter, with smoke and rub seasoning I inhaled them. They were voted best rib in 2008 by San Antonio Express. No sauce needed for this local favorite.
Sausage: Good. My hopes of 5 star Grand Champion were dashed with first bite of sausage. It was course ground pork link with too bold salt flavor masking the traditional spice. Aftertaste was OK along with mild smoke. Use the sauce.
Sauce: Very Good. A thick tangy sweet sauce with a bit of spiciness. It worked well with ribs and sausage.
PS: Try the pork shoulder. Mesquite smokey goodness!
5/24/14 11:39am - I am a big fan of Hungry Farmer. I love their Crosstimbers location so naturally I wanted to sample their S Postoak restaurant. I like the whole vibe of Hungry Farmer. Lets start with the clever name that is a play on the idiom "Eat like a farmer". The name has a cartoon sound to it and fun to say out loud. It makes me smile. The decor is late 1970's urban cowboy/truck stop/hunting lodge. The biggest kick are the horrible pictures of the food and plate dinners. These drab yellowish pictures look like something out of a 1970's cookbook your grandmother owns. The pictures are as appetizing as a school lunch. They are wretched. How Hungry Farmer has escaped becoming a Houston landmark baffles me. They have been around since 1973 serving great BBQ in some of the worst locations. So much better than the other Houston BBQ grandpas.
I scored the S. Postoak Hungry Farmer an 84 out 100. Reserve Grand Champion BBQ. Not as good as the Crosstimbers location. See my earlier post.
Smoke: Hickory. There is a large smoke stack in the back and a large stack of wood. They use wood fired Olyers at the original, I assume they have the same here.
Brisket: Good. A sad slice compared to Crosstimbers. A 1/8in smoke ring beneath a thin bark. They got the tenderness nearly perfect. Flavor was just beef and mild smoke. Use the sauce.
Ribs: Very Good. A big meaty Memphis style spare rib. Smoked slow and then thrown on a hot grill. A nice red smoke ring beneath a bronze bark with grill marks. The smokey porky rib meat was moist and tender. No sauce needed for these babies.
Sausage: Excellent. A medium ground pork link with bold traditional spice and nice peppery aftertaste. It was moist and a little greasy and had a mild smoke flavor. No sauce needed.
Sauce: Fair. Wow this was bad. A dark brown stew thick tangy spicy sauce. It was bitter and the sauce developed a skin, eweh! It made everything taste worse. Skip all together.
(see the skin below?)
I scored Son-of-a-Brisket a 76 out 100. Regional Texas BBQ.
Smoke: Oak/Red Oak. Another Southern Pride gasser. A brand new shiny gasser behind French doors. At least you know what your getting.
Brisket: Fair. A dark standard 1/8in smoke ring beneath paper thin bark. Tested tough of tender. Slices pulled apart with no resistance. Slightly overcooked and on the dry side. Smoke flavor was good. Not much else. Use the sauce.
Ribs: Very Good. Baby Backs were near perfect tender and moist. Nice pink smoke ring beneath bronze bark. They had a good rub seasoning and smoke flavor. A porky good rib. No sauce needed.
Sausage: Very Good. At first bite, I knew this was hand made. Website indicates this is family recipe dating back to 1800's. Is was a 3/4in medium ground pork link with mild traditional spice. Packed very tight inside a snappy casing. Aftertaste and smoke were very mild. However, it was very fresh and delicious. No sauce needed.
Sauce: Excellent. This sauce had the "Wow" factor at first taste. It was a thick dark brown sweet and tangy sauce. It was good by the spoonful but very overpowering on the meats. A little goes a long way.
They also served a yellow mustard base sauce. They called it a North Carolina style sauce. It looked like yellow mustard and tasted like yellow mustard. Save this stuff for the 99 cent hot dogs next door.
I have decided to abandon the meat thermometer and just monitor the smoker temperature. A meat thermometer is pointless. A slab has thick and thin areas and the bones heat up different than the meat. A meat thermometer is not reliable to determine when they are done. Instead I am using time and technique to decide when to pull off some super tender juicy ribs.
After 5 hours i will start checking for tenderness by using the bend test. When I lift the thick end of the rack i will see if the skin splits and meat cracks. I am looking for a 1/4in or larger crack as a sign to pull the ribs off the pit.
Also, I will no longer do the wet seasoning on the pit. What's the point. I wrap the ribs in foil for an hour and braise them in fruit juices. I can easily do this in the oven. Benefit, it provides a perfect intermission to clean the built up ashes out of the fire box.
Score 28.25: Very Good. Beneath a soft jerky candy bark was rosy juicy tender rib meat. I nailed it on tenderness (finally). So much flavor! First the bark was sweet, salty and smokey. It had a soft jerky texture. The rub was in full force adding flavor to every bite. Pork flavor was excellent. Takeaways: cut back on salt in rub. Maybe remove the brown sugar from rub and apply at end. Cut back on smoke to bring out the wet seasoning flavor. Also will help in the bark color. I am looking for bronze not black.
I scored Taste Wood's a 90 out 100. Grand Champion Texas BBQ
Smoke: The pile in the back had pecan, mesquite, and oak. Your guess is as good as mine. A steel barrel pit in the side garage does the day to day cooking. A trailer mounted pit handles the catering demands.
Brisket: Very Good. A dark red 1/8in smoke ring beneath a thick black bark. Meat is brown in color (injection?). Near perfect tender with one push to separate with fork. A thick slice starts out moist but drys a little before you finish. Full smoke flavor in every bite. A nice rub adds a little seasoning and salt. Fat is a nice smokey treat. No sauce needed.
Ribs: Very Good. A bronze crust over tan interior (brine?). Near perfect tender with clean bite and clean bone. Like the beef starts out moist but drys a bit after sliced. Full smoke enhances the great pork flavor. A nice rub adds to the experience. No sauce needed.
Sausage: Good. A course ground beef and pork link with mild traditional spice. A faint after taste and faint smoke. Use the sauce.
Sauce: Excellent. This sauce was unique and exciting. I have never had anything like it. It was a thin very sweet sauce with honey brown sugar and drippings flavors. It was thin enough to penetrate everything you dipped in it. It transformed every bite into smokey BBQ candy. A benchmark sauce for this meathead.
4/22/14 12:00pm – There is a serious lack of love for this meat market. Guy’s has been running a thriving meat market with a lunch counter since 1938 right here in Houston of all places! The BBQ smoked hamburger is nationally known for over 20 years. They have been selling their own rub seasoning since 1952 (Guys Seasoning). The meat counter is no slouch either with specialty items like boudin stuff pork chops and homemade sausages. The only time Guy’s entered the HLSR barbecue cook-off, they won it! (1975). Allright, the BBQ today is ok but so what. This is a Houston landmark if there ever was one. Guy’s can’t even get an honorable mention in Texas Monthly. In my library of BBQ books, not one mention of Guy’s. What do the blogs right about? Hamburgers. I guess if you’re a successful 76 year old meat market located within Houston city limits and your last name is Dickens instead Dinceks or Dreuz; you get no love!
I scored Guy’s a 79 out of 100. Regional Texas BBQ.
Smoke: Hickory. I was encouraged by the smoke stack, serious bark and intense smoke flavor but they use a Southern Pride gasser. If they would switch to an Oyler maybe they could get some much-deserved respect. (JR Manufacturing 972-285-4855 hint hint)
Brisket: Good. A beautiful slice with 1/4in smoke ring beneath a big black bark. Alas, it tested tough of tender and a knife was needed (sigh). Smoke flavor was intense and the 62-year-old rub recipe was still working its magic. Its good with out the sauce but you will need it before you finish to offset the dryness.
Ribs: Good. The medium size spare ribs were a little tough. Again the rub seasoning came through along with full smoke flavor. A little dry but very good. No sauce needed.
Sausage: Excellent. A homemade large 1 1/4in thick course ground pork link with bold spice and with a little red peppery heat. After taste is long lasting. A good amount of smoke flavor and you will fall in love. No sauce needed.
Sauce: Excellent. A thin tomato base sauce that is not too sweet or too tangy. Taste good by the spoon full and the flavor is not overwhelming. A nice little dipping sauce for your three-meat plate. Get it on the side.
History: Brad "Guy" Dickens opened the original Guy's Meat Market on Almeda in 1938. In 1958 he moved to the current location on OST. When Guy retired in 1970, his son, Brad Dickens took over the store. Brad started the smoked hamburger in 1988.