Monday, July 2, 2012
Smoking My Sausage
I have made no secret of my love for smokey meats. After years of consuming 3rd party smokey meats and begging friends to use their smokers for my projects, I decided to invest in my own smoking rig.
After a bit of research I purchased the Bradley Electric smoker. This is actually the smoker that Ruhlman recommends in his Charcuterie book (which I am not absolutely in love with, but own and have used). The Bradley product is an electric smoker that utilizes little proprietary hockeypuck looking things to generate smoke. Each puck provides somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 minutes of smoke and are a bit expensive but I appreciate the convenience.
Bradley offers "digital" models that supposedly give you accurate readings on the internal temperature of the smoker. I have heard their accuracy is dubious at best so I forwent the additional expense of the digital model and sunk my money into an Auber Instruments Dual Probe Temperature controller.
This beautiful little apparatus (I am in love with the thing) has one probe that goes into the smoker and controls the temperature (by shutting the heating element on and off) within 1 degree of accuracy. The second probe is for the meat and is likewise-ly accurate. The thing has six programmable steps by time or internal temp, i.e. you can do something like -- Step 1: hold at 120 degrees for four hours, Step 2: hold at 165 degrees until the internal temperature of the meat is 152. You can set the thing and walk away. You need not do any of the obsessive hovering that is necessary with more traditional smoking methods.
Auber Instruments also sells a similar unit that can control a jury rigged sous-vide rig and I am pretty sure it is this unit with a couple different probes. I think I might attempt to repurpose my model for this task in the future, we shall see if I get to that as I am getting increasingly busy (lazy) in my old age.
Also, the little box that the temperature controller is sitting on is a piece of the Bradley cold smoke adapter which I also purchased (my wife would hit me so hard if she knew how much all of this cost). As the heating element that creates the smoke makes it difficult to keep this smoker under 130-140 in warm weather, the cold smoke adapter moves the heating element out of the main box so you can do fish, cheese, stuff you are going to dry-cure, etc...
In my opinion, the rig I have assembled (electric smoker, cold smoke adapter, temperature controller) is pretty much the pinnacle of what a home smoking enthusiast (who is not a millionaire) can create for modest household production of smokey meats. I have had great success with this set up and would recommend it to anyone interested in the smokey arts.
At this moment I am waiting for 3 big chubs of all beef summer sausage to come up to temp. I am using an old recipe I found in an "Upstate New York" cookbook I found (published by a women's church group I think). It advises a final internal temp of 140 which is much less then the current 152-156 you see in most modern recipes. But humbug, I am going with it. We have become a bunch of sissies and worry-warts these days. I trust our grandmas. I will let you know how it turns out.