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jeffshoaf

Sous vide inspired smoking?

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I apologize for throwing a bunch of ideas out lately without having tried them myself but I don't seem to have time to try everything I think of, but here's another one...

Anytime tried a long slow cook with the temperature at or near the target meat temperature, sort of like sous vide but entirely on the KK? Or even a long cook at a temp below target meat temp followed by a relatively short time at a higher temp to get to the final target meat temp? I would assume a risk off drying out the meat but since KKs hold moisture so well it might not be an issue or could be remediated by using a water pan.

There are two things driving this question:

  1. Curiosity as to what the effect would be
  2. Meal timing - say you have a huge  hunk of meat that normally would take a 10 or 12 hour at a usual low and slow temp like 125* with a target temp of 200* or so and you want to serve it 6 pm or so. I'd normally just do an overnight cook and put it on around 8  or 9  pm, then foil and cooler it until serving time. Since I just can't bring myself to get the KK heat soaked and get the meat on at 5 am (to give time to let it rest and provide a little buffer in case of a long stall), my normal alternative would be to do a relatively hot and fast cook,  but that would still require an early morning effort.

So instead of having an extended cooler time or doing a hot and fast session, maybe do an overnight session with a KK temp between 180* and 200*,  and then crank the temp up to 225* to 250* around 2 or 3 pm until internal temp hits the desired 200*.

While this might work on a pork butt, I'm really thinking about a large beef shoulder or clod, with maybe a reverse sear at the end. A large 25+ lb hunk of meat could be painful to foil and cooler by myself, so I could see even closing off the KK vents and letting the meat rest in situ. This would also hopefully give a good buffer for things you have no experience with or with unpredictable cook times (like the turbo butt I had a few weeks ago that required me to get up at 4:30 am when it was done after 8 hours instead of the predicted 12 hours).

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I have tried it, although there is a wrinkle.  I built an electric heating element with a PID temperature controller.  It essentially turned the KK into an electric grill/smoker.  The controller gave me the ability to control the temperature with industrial accuracy - it would hold rock steady to a single tenth of a degree - not that cooking ever needs to be that precise. 

In any case, I used it to cook a variety of food, and it works really well to "air sous-vide" your food.  A couple of caveats.  I typically would use temperatures like 180 degrees, 200, or 225.  I wasn't as patient as you for overnight cooks.  I have no idea if that would have dried things out.  Roast chicken was amazingly moist and delicate.  Really worth a try.  I couldn't get crispy skin, though, as it would have taken a long time for the KK to get heat soaked at a very high temperature.  I also cooked steaks, roasts, pork butts, and more.  All fantastic. 

I really liked having this level control for certain cooks, but I mostly use the normal charcoal methods now (even without a fan controller).  Most of the time I'm just trying to get food served on time.  I also have a bit of paranoia about cooking in plastic bags.  The air sous-vide gave me some comfort on that front.  With electricity, I didn't even need to open any vents at all - so the moisture retention was top notch. 

As I documented in another thread long ago, the electric experiment was really a way for me to justify having a KK in a condo that didn't allow flammables.  I am now KK cooking with charcoal in a house.  I still think about pulling out the electric element from time to time, though!

One other thing.  Anova, the maker of the portable sous-vide circulators, now has a countertop steam oven that can do pretty much the same thing with either dry or wet heat.  This method also can be done without plastic bags and produces a nice result (I am told).  Steam ovens are amazing for heating up leftovers.  I use the Cuisinart version, and we never use the microwave anymore.

Good luck!

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8 hours ago, LK BBQ said:

I have tried it, although there is a wrinkle.  I built an electric heating element with a PID temperature controller.  It essentially turned the KK into an electric grill/smoker.  The controller gave me the ability to control the temperature with industrial accuracy - it would hold rock steady to a single tenth of a degree - not that cooking ever needs to be that precise. 

But no charcoal or smoke flavor that way! Thanks for the info though. I have a Boston butt in the freezer -- i had planned on a hot and fast cook on it to see if that helps with the issue I've had getting smoke flavor inn pulled pork but may try this instead.

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You don't want to cook meat too slow in air.  The rule of thumb is 40 to 140 in 4 hours.  When you are using Sous-vide, it is possible to just use a ziploc and get your meat underwater in the bag - like for a steak or something that is only a couple of hours, sometimes I do this.  but - it is not recommended to do long cooks without a vacuum seal.  The vacuum seal helps with not allowing too much bacteria to grow.  Over the course of several hours you basically pasteurize the meat.  I would not cook with any apparatus that makes meat cook in air significantly slower than 40 to 140 in 4 hours.   

On the smoke problem -- This is just a hunch @jeffshoaf- I just got my KK today - haven't even uncrated it but - hearing your comments about smoke - I'm going to go with the cooking method I know best with other kamados (I'm a green egger) - and my first low and slow cook will have wood directly added to the firebox.  No foil pouches.  No smoke pot.  If it ends up being "bad" smoke and I don't like the way my food tastes, then I will go to doing foil pouches or smoke pots, but I'm starting with the method that I know generates lots of smoke and then backing off from there.

 

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1 hour ago, LK BBQ said:

I just put a few wood chunks hear the heating element and it generated plenty of smoke.  There was probably no charcoal impact to the taste.  

Yep I bet it was great.  I think it's really cool that you retro-lectrically fitted your KK.  And I agree with your temps.  180, 200, 225 - 180 might be a bit low for huge pieces of meat but - you would probably still be close enough with most things to get 40 to 140 in 4 hrs or close enough not to be seriously risky.

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3 hours ago, johnnymnemonic said:

You don't want to cook meat too slow in air.  The rule of thumb is 40 to 140 in 4 hours.  When you are using Sous-vide, it is possible to just use a ziploc and get your meat underwater in the bag - like for a steak or something that is only a couple of hours, sometimes I do this.  but - it is not recommended to do long cooks without a vacuum seal.  The vacuum seal helps with not allowing too much bacteria to grow.  Over the course of several hours you basically pasteurize the meat.  I would not cook with any apparatus that makes meat cook in air significantly slower than 40 to 140 in 4 hours.   

I went back and looked at the Meater graph from my last butt cook;  this one was an oddity since it didn't stall. With the pit temp in the 240* -255* range, it hit 140* in about 2.5  hours. My previous butt took 4:20  to hit 140* with a pit temp around 230*.  Earlier butt cooks monitored with the CyberQ all had a more normal stall and the butt show hitting 140* around 4 hours with pit temps at 200* and above. Of course, all of these are measuring the internal butt temperature so it's safe to assume the surface temp was higher. I think I'd be safe at 200* and up, maybe as low as 180*;  probably ought to do more research for lower temps. As we all know, 225* is pretty much the standard pit temp for "hot" smoking pork.

I did do a lot of reading when I first messed with sous vide but I was thinking the concern was cooking at lower than 140* and saw charts showing the required time to achieve pasteurization at lower temps. A quick Google indicates that the pasteurization time at 160* for meat is 0  seconds and 26  seconds for poultry. Of course, even if you kill botulism, it can leave behind toxic stuff but the risk of harmful bacteria is greater in a low oxygen environment like sous vide.

When pork is smoked for preservation, I don't think it hits 160*; of course, it's also depending on salt to help preserve. When my dad raised hogs (a long, long time ago but not in a galaxy far away), we sugar cured hams and shoulders without smoking at all, with salt as the primary cure. Since salt features heavily on most rubs, I wonder if it helps with keeping bacteria growth down?

Regardless, thanks for the input -- I now have something to research and keep myself busy for several days! 

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3 hours ago, johnnymnemonic said:

On the smoke problem -- This is just a hunch @jeffshoaf- I just got my KK today - haven't even uncrated it but - hearing your comments about smoke - I'm going to go with the cooking method I know best with other kamados (I'm a green egger) - and my first low and slow cook will have wood directly added to the firebox.  No foil pouches.  No smoke pot.  If it ends up being "bad" smoke and I don't like the way my food tastes, then I will go to doing foil pouches or smoke pots, but I'm starting with the method that I know generates lots of smoke and then backing off from there.

Actually, I've had the issue with pork butts for as long as I've had the Kk (7 years?), most of which was done with just adding wood chunks to the charcoal. I've had poor weak smoke flavor more often than not;  that's what led me to the smoke pot and then the cold smoker now that I'm retired and have more time to spend on stuff like this.

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Found some relevant info regarding stuffed turkey: https://www.smokingmeatforums.com/threads/slow-roasting-a-turkey-food-safety-haccp-test-study.237911/

 I'm still digesting this and need to look up a lot of unfamiliar terms. I've never really considered stuffed turkey;  as far as I know, I've never had turkey cooked with stuffing inside. Around here, the stuffing is called "dressing" and is baked in a dish by itself. My initial reaction is that this info supports my assumption that the amount of time spent at appropriate pasteurization temps is more critical than the time outside the "Safe Zone", but the article doesn't address botulism. So more research pending....

One of the comments in the linked thread talks about the relatively recent change in recommended minimum pork temp;  my understanding is that the change is more about trichinosis instead of bacteria.

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I think the main concern with this potential technique is botulism. All the references I've come across (so far) about smoking meat and botulism is talking about cold smoking, where botulism is a real concern - that's why the minimum temperature for preparing beef jerky is 160 degrees F (my dehydrator manufacturer specifies 170 degrees to make sure that the on-off swing of the controller keeps the temp above 160). With that in mind, I think a long cook at 180 degrees would be safe. But I'm not an expert - we can't forget this:

THE USDA FACT SHEET ON SMOKING UNCURED MEAT, RECOMMENDS SMOKING BETWEEN 225°F AND 300°F.

So... Will I try this? I don't know. I've got steak and pork chops lined up for this week so it won't be that soon.

 

 

 

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@jeffshoaf I have to say you're right about the KK.  I didn't get the smoke flavor I was expecting this weekend.  It was "good", just not what I'm used to.  If I figure something out I will let you know.  FYI one thing I thought would be better but actually wasn't is putting food on the upper rack to get it up in the dome a little more.  I thought the food I put on the main grate was actually better.  It was apples and oranges - ribs friday on main grate, briskets saturday on upper rack.  Both AWESOME on the texture and definitely has me loving my KK but I want more smoke.  I will try the cold smoker attachment next and see if I like what that does.

Edited by johnnymnemonic
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On 11/8/2021 at 8:39 AM, johnnymnemonic said:

@jeffshoaf I have to say you're right about the KK.  I didn't get the smoke flavor I was expecting this weekend.  It was "good", just not what I'm used to.  If I figure something out I will let you know.  FYI one thing I thought would be better but actually wasn't is putting food on the upper rack to get it up in the dome a little more.  I thought the food I put on the main grate was actually better.  It was apples and oranges - ribs friday on main grate, briskets saturday on upper rack.  Both AWESOME on the texture and definitely has me loving my KK but I want more smoke.  I will try the cold smoker attachment next and see if I like what that does.

I have a theory that kiln dried woods produce less smoke flavor. Be interested in your thoughts. 

Edited by Dono
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On 11/2/2021 at 3:44 PM, jeffshoaf said:

This would also hopefully give a good buffer for things you have no experience with or with unpredictable cook times (like the turbo butt I had a few weeks ago that required me to get up at 4:30 am when it was done after 8 hours instead of the predicted 12 hours).

"Turbo Butt".  😭  Definitely borrowing that! 

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12 minutes ago, remi said:

Aaron Franklin certainly thinks so- and suggests avoiding them as they burn hot, fast, and without much smoke flavour.

Thanks for that thought @remi. Makes a lot of sense. Funny…I am a Franklin fan and missed that detail. I’ll try seasoned cut wood on the next smoke. 

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3 hours ago, johnnymnemonic said:

I had chips and chunks in the firebox mixed in @Poochiebut it took the grill so long to heat soak that I think I lost a lot of my wood early on. I think next time I will put chunks on the fire when I put the food on.

Here is the advice I think others would give.  Wait until the grill is heat soaked.  Then stick in the wood chunks.  Wait a few minutes for the black smoke to pass and begin to turn lighter color.  Ideally thin blue smoke.  Then put your food on.  Cold/moist food will capture the smoke better.  

I don't know what kind of wood you were using, but hickory, mesquite, or oak will have a stronger flavor.  You want to use a reasonable size chunk - don't bother with stuff smaller than a golf ball.  

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