Pork Spare Ribs & Smoked Chicken

4½ lbs of St Louis style pork spare ribs & 3lb 7oz whole chicken

Time in the Smoker: Ribs: 5½ hours. Chicken: 4¼ hours (plus a half hour blast in the oven).

Target WSM Temp: 270°F (but, again, my WSM plateaued at 250°).

Water: No water in the pan.

Heat Method: ¾ minion. Mix of Kingsford Matchlight and the remnants of the Weber coals

Wood: Applewood chips and and some hunks of hickory.

Weather: Clear and sunny. About 75° and hardly any wind.


Meat prep:

At least an hour before they hit the smoker (11:15am): Get the ribs out of the fridge.

Ribs: Trim, Slather & Rub: Light mustard rub and I used a little less salt! I did a 2:1 pepper to salt ratio and added some paprika and garlic powder. I gave it a pretty even and light coating with a little more seasoning on the fatty bits.

I had to slice my rack in half, otherwise it wouldn’t fit on the grill.

Chicken: I just kept it whole and trussed. I seasoned the inside with thyme and the same rub as the pork. I inserted some butter in the gap between the skin and flesh and lightly seasoned inside and out (and under the skin).

Smoker prep:

12:30pm: I arranged my smoker (¾ minion) and lit a half full chimney.

12:45pm: Poured the hot coals from the chimney onto the briquettes and the wood chunks in the smoker.

I actually got my chimney working first time, this time, and it worked like a dream. 15 mins to white ash, red hot coals.

Lid temp was 125° when I put the coals in. It was 260° at 12:55pm. I had one bottom vent closed. One ¼ open and one wide open. Top vent wide open.

Time to Smoke!!

1:00pm: I put the ribs on the top grill.

1:30pm: Lid temp back down to 250°.

After 10 mins, I opened all bottom vents to pump up the heat... it worked briefly, but the temp soon dropped back to 250°.

It seems it’s the default. No matter what I try, the WSM settles back to 250°. Water/No Water in the pan. Full minion/half minion. Smoking hot coals/semi-hot coals... etc. Nothing really seems to change it. It loves 250° and it ain’t gonna leave it!


One hour in (2:00pm): I gave the ribs a cider vinegar/water spritz, just around the edges on the bits that were looking a little dry.


2:30pm: I closed two of the bottom vents. Left the top wide open and one of the bottom vents wide open trying to create a flue to heat it up.

3:00pm. I took the chicken out of the fridge to come up to temp.

The vent experiment failed. Temp dropped to 200°. I opened them all back up again.

2¾ hours in (3:45pm): I gave the ribs a really good spritzing all over and gave them a coating of the sauce. Then a spritzing again on top.

I shut the lid and left them for 15 minutes so the sauce could set.

3 hours in (4:00pm): I spritzed again and flipped the ribs over. Spritzed and sauced up the bottom (bone side). Shut the lid and left for 15 minutes.

I got some foil ready (dull out, shiny in).

3¼ hours in (4:15pm): Spritzed and slopped a little sauce on the foil. I laid the ribs, presentation side down, on the foil. Spritzed again. Wrapped tightly making sure not to break the foil.

I put the ribs back in the smoker (bottom rack).

I put the chicken on the top rack and put some jalapeños around it and some bacon on the side.

I added some apple chips through the door.

Lid temp: 250°.

Chicken temp: 61°.

Now... leave everything for another couple of hours.

4:30pm: Lid temp dropped to about 225°. This may be because the colder chicken sucked a lot of the energy out of the smoker. It may take a while to make it back up to 250°.

5 hours in (6:00pm): I checked the chicken.


Temp between 135° and 145°.

Lid temp: 225°.

5½ hours in (6:30pm): The ribs felt nice and soft, so I took them off the smoker. I left them wrapped in foil and covered them with a couple of tea towels.


I spritzed the chicken and wrapped it. We’re now just waiting for it to reach 165°.

6 hours in (7:00pm): I checked the chicken. We’re looking for around 165°. Not quite there! 155° in the breast 140° in some parts of the leg. The juices not quite clear. I left it on the smoker for another half hour.


Contingency plan activated! Given the fact there wasn't enough heat left in the few remaining coals, I fired up the oven. I’ll blast this baby for the final half hour in the oven to get it up to a safe temp.


Tip: I’ll use even more charcoal next time. And I’ll use the Kingsford original.

7:30pm: I took the chicken off the smoker and I stuck it in the oven.

Lid temp had dropped to 200°.

Prep sides. This time it was coleslaw with smoked bacon and avocado chunks and some sliced peaches.

8:00pm: Dinner time!!!

VERDICT:

Ribs taste was fantastic (and not too salty) but I let them sit for too long and they were a little too soft (although, the cold ribs the next day had a perfect bite). They completely fell off the bone and I wanted a little more tooth to them. Also, they were not as "saucy" as I thought they would be. Even though they had a good sauce slop on the smoker and in the foil, the sauce was totally absorbed. I might try a 2-2-1 approach with a further hour resting wrapped and I'll use a thicker, gloppier sauce.


Chicken was damn near perfect - just needed to have more heat in the smoker to have it done properly first time. It had a really good smoke to it - which was encouraging as I wasn't sure if the hickory would be too heavy. Will work on variations (like Jerk) in the future.

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