Thursday, August 8, 2013

Smoking BBQ Without Foil: No-Wrap Tips by Malcom Reed...

Only a few more days left...  

Sting-Kill's BBQ recipe contest is winding down, but there are still a few more days for you to enter your BBQ recipe and enter to win some really cool prizes...

Just go and 
upload a picture and a BBQ recipe here >>

The grand prize winner gets 2 free tickets to Barbecue Live in January, BBQ rub and sauce and a Blackstone Pizza Oven. 

Dry Wood vs. Soaked Wood

Just like wrapping, everyone's got a method they follow.

I like to use dry wood and I explain why here >> 

How to Wet Age a Brisket 

I always try to wet age my briskets. I've got one in my fridge right now getting ready for our next contest coming up next weekend.

If you do it right, you dramatically increase the flavor and the tenderness of your beef. If you do it wrong, you can waste a perfectly good cut of meat.

I've shared my method for wet-aging my briskets here >>

Check it out and give it a try for yourself. 

New BBQ Equipment

Over the years I've found a few tools that make my BBQing life a lot easier...

I've found that a chicken rack makes it easy to move your chicken on and off the grill, and a Pork Rack makes it really easy to move butt, shoulders and ribs on a off the grill without messing them up. Or that you've got to have a couple pairs of "hand savers" to go under your latex gloves for pulling meat (or for just grabbing hot stuff).

And people are always asking me where to get these things because they can be real hard to source. So I finally added the cooking equipment I use to my store.

You can check out these new product here (scroll to the bottom to see) >>

I'm going to be adding more products over time, but I made the decision I'm only adding stuff that I use, I believe in and I stand behind. 

Cooking Without The Foil 

When I’m cooking competition bbq, you better believe I’m using aluminum foil. Call it the “Texas Crutch”, call it cheating, call it whatever you want; but I’m a wrapper.  Here’s why:

(A) It prevents the meat from absorbing too much smoke so it doesn't turn out bitter and

(B) It keeps the meat nice and moist, so it comes out really tender & juicy.

I know there are two sides of the fence when it comes to using foil. And while I always wrap my competition meat, there are plenty of times when I choose not to wrap.  It’s best to know how to use both techniques.
The key to smoking without wrapping is to understand the drawbacks you might face – and how to easily overcome them.

Butts and Briskets cooking with no wrap
                      Butts and Briskets cooking with no wrap


When I’m not going to wrap the product, I pay close attention to the internal temp and to how much smoke the meat is absorbing.

The right amount of smoke gives meat a great flavor… But let it get too much and you’ll  taste it hours later. When people say they have a “Lighter Fluid” taste from barbecue, it’s typically because it was over-smoked. 
Once meat hits around 145 internal, it won’t absorb anymore smoke. All that flavor just builds up on your bark. So what is usually the tastiest part of your barbecue ends up being dark and bitter.
But if you manage your fire properly, you can overcome this issue. It’s as simple as monitoring the internal temperature of the meat closely, so when it hits that 145 mark you know it’s time to stop adding wood. At this point you want to keep a clean fire burning so only heat is produced. Make sure that adequate air can get into the fire chamber.  It’s takes oxygen for fire to burn properly and if you don’t have the right ventilation, thick smoke will form.

In my smokers I burn charcoal briquettes for heat. A good bed of hot charcoal puts off plenty of heat for cooking, and I throw on chunks of wood for flavoring.  As the coals burn down, I add unlit charcoal to the fire.  You might think that doing it this way will put off smoke, and it would if I didn't have the right mix of oxygen in my fire chamber, but if you’re cooker is set-up right the coals will ignite without producing smoke.

Even if you’re a stick burner, you want to make sure you have a good coal bed burning.  Then as you add sticks to the fire, it will ignite instead of smoke.  
When you wrap, moisture is trapped inside the foil and the meat cooks in its own juices. So by not wrapping, you’re in a constant battle. The meat wants to push all the moisture out during the cooking process, so if you don’t want dry bbq you have to do what my buddy Birm calls, “Render and Replace”

baste butts
You can replace moisture in a couple of ways. Injecting before the meat goes on the smoker, basting or mopping as it cooks, and you can even do multiple injections during the cooking process.  When you quit adding wood and after the meat gets to 180 degrees are good times to add injection.
Also, when I know that I’m not going to wrap, I don’t get near as aggressive with the trimming because fat adds a ton of moisture.  
Cook Time:
Everyone has heard of the dreaded “stall”. It’s the point in the cooking process where big meats plateau and get stuck… sometimes for hours.
The stall usually occurs around 170 degrees, and if you’re not ready for it it’ll drive you crazy. There’s nothing worse than staring at the same temperature while the clock is running out on you. 
Unfortunately, there is no way to avoid the stall especially if you’re not wrapping. The best option is to give yourself plenty of extra cook time to deal with it. Or you can crank the temps up and push through it, but you do risk drying out your barbecue this way. (this is wear that last injection can come in handy)
Color and Appearance:
When you wrap meat, it usually comes out looking pretty ugly. And not wrapping can produce a better looking finished product. This is one big advantage for the no wrap method.

no wrap ribs getting a final baste
                              no wrap ribs getting a final baste
You’re going to get a better bark looking bark that is hard to beat.  It’s a true bark that isn't soft or mushy. 
The trick here is to not let it get too dark.

no wrap butts - finishing cooking and looking good
             no wrap butts - finishing cooking and looking good
So once again, your basting is crucial. You have to continually spritz or mop through the entire cooking process to ensure it turns out a pretty mahogany color… and not burnt-tire black. 
If it does start turning dark, you can always shield or tent the meat with foil. We’re not wrapping here, just laying a strip of foil over the meat for a little protection. 
If you know how to do it, there is no reason why the no-wrap method can’t turn out just as good of Que as wrapped. 
In fact, when I’m doing large cooks I never wrap.  There is no way I’m taking the extra time to wrap 100 or more butts because foil ain’t cheap…


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