Monthly Archives: August 2013

Ugly Drum Smoker

By far my most visited and commented blog post is how to turn a 55 gallon drum into a smoker. I made another one.

Unsightly industrial refuse

Unsightly industrial refuse

Yes, my father again presented me with a 55 gallon steel drum. It contained non-toxic, FDA-approved blue powder pigment that was used on food packaging.

This time, though, I didn’t have a spare Weber 22″ dome cover. What I did have, though, was the original flat lid. This resulted in some design changes. Go to the original post (linked above) for the specifics (bolt sizes, hole sizes, measurements, ball valves for ventilation, etc.). This post really only emphasizes my changes from that earlier design.

First, as usual, I scrubbed the holy hell out of the inside of the drum with 409 cleanser and some CLR and a bunch of brillo pads. Then it was fired out to try and clean it further. Unlike last time, I am NOT going to paint the inside of the drum with Rustoleum High Heat, since that goes against the manufacturer instructions. Instead I am going to clean it thoroughly and cure it with a long hot burn after rubbing the entire guts with vegetable oil.

Fairly clean

Fairly clean

Before we go further, it’s disclaimer time:

If your drum contained anything hazardous or you even remotely think it may have contained anything hazardous, DON’T USE IT TO COOK FOOD. Flat out, if you get some barrel that says Chernobyl or Toxic or Rat Poison on it or it mentions any type of remote health hazard and you turn it into a smoker and get sick as hell, grow a few more ears, or your genitals become inoperable, then you are at fault. Not me. Read my general Disclaimer. Don’t be stupid.

One of the first things I did, as can be seen in the above photos, was add two chimneys to the flat lid. The drum lid had two threaded holes with plugs in them. The plugs are called bungs and the holes are bung holes.

I wanted a piece of 6″ pipe to fit into my bung hole… uh, let me rephrase that… I went to a plumber supply store to buy two 6″ long pipes, one each at 3/4″ and 2″ in diameter, to screw into the threaded holes on the smoker lid. I bought a ball valve for the 3/4″ chimney for about $5 or $6. The 2″ ball valve is a whopping $45+ and that’s with a phony plumbers’ union discount they were willing to give me! No thanks – I’ll invert an old ravioli can onto the 6″ chimney.

Once cleaned, I used the steel drum drill bit to perforate the hull of my new smoker for all the hardware I planned to bolt on, including on the lid.

Specialty tools cost $$$!

Specialty tools cost $$$!

Burrs

Burrs

The drilling left jagged steel burrs on the interior of the drum. I have big washers that I plan to bolt over these, so no need to remove them. You could get a Dremel tool and cut them off, but I didn’t bother.

Once all the holes were drilled, I painted the entire exterior with Safety Red paint from Rustoleum.

Painted!

Painted!

It took a few coats using a foam roller, but the whole thing took less than a quart of paint. Once dry (and it took a little while), I bolted on all the hardware.

A new feature this time was my fancypants bottle opener.

Practical

Practical

In hindsight, it might be dangerous to try and open a chilled bottled beer on a hot metal opener like this. I’ll keep you posted if I injure myself. It’s highly likely.

Having a flat lid meant less clearance between the grill surface and the inner portion of the grill lid. That meant lowering the grill support bolt holes several inches to allow larger meats (like a couple pork shoulders or a turkey) to be smoked.

Grill grate

Grill grate

This means the food is closer to the fire and the fire / smoke needs to be managed more carefully.

The lid received a metal handle, and I painted the chimneys (but for the ball valve).

Completed lid

Completed lid

The rest of the assembly is nearly identical to the earlier Big Blue model. The interior coal cage is pretty much the same.

Coal Cage

Coal Cage

I like the red color. It’s distinct and makes it visible to thieves in the country house where we left it. There’s nothing ugly about this Ugly Drum Smoker (UDS).

Home

Home

Once completed, I lubed the entire inside as well as the coal cage and grill grates with vegetable oil and lit a hot fire to cure the whole thing. I’m probably cooking something on it this weekend. The next UDS will be a little different… something my kid’s been asking me about for a while. Stay tuned.

Tagged , , , , ,

Fire Safety Tip

Oh the horrible things you find in a dusty college photo album.

I have no memory of this

I have no memory of this

That’s definitely me and it was about 15 years ago that I apparently started a massive BBQ fire on the front porch of a very old rental house in a sketchy neighborhood adjacent to Rockhurst University. Who can spot the safety / BBQ fails here?

1. Squirting shitloads of fluid onto the coals. I guess I didn’t know about coal chimneys. At least it wasn’t lit.

2. BBQ on a narrow (maybe 6′ deep) porch… with a rotted wooden porch roof above it. Super not safe.

3. BBQ directly adjacent to an old outside couch? That couch is certainly dried out and full of mice nests and spilled hard liquor. Extreme fire hazard.

4. Looks like I’m treating a smoker as if it was meant to be a 500 degrees inferno. That’s probably good for killing the germs on our cheap-o unsafe discount meat for college age idiots that are drinking beers… but not so good in hindsight.

5. You can’t see it, but I was probably drinking really bad beer

Tagged , , ,

Texas Beer Review: Real Ale Brewing Company

No longer just the state of origin for “steers and queers”, Texas has been producing some quality craft beers. These beers, boastfully mailed to me gratis by my college friend and fraternity brother Andy, are mine for the sampling and reviewing. Today’s burden: Real Ale Brewing Company.

Remember these?

Remember these?

Among my bounty were two Real Ale beers: 15th Anniversary Russian Imperial Stout and Brewer’s Cut Imperial Red Ale.

15th Anniversary Russian Imperial Stout

After opening and while pouring the beer, I get strong malted chocolate aromas. It’s a particularly smooth pour that requires aggressive down-the-center pouring to get any head. The head, once acquired, is dense and firm like a well-made root beer float. I’m excited to sample.

If this is what they drink in Russia, can really be so bad?

If this is what they drink in Russia, can really be so bad?

The color is unmistakeably black, but not black and fizzy like a Guiness stout. This is a traps-all-light stout. A black hole that bends space time, and hopefully my BAC.

Like the aroma, it has a strong roast flavor with a mellow cocoa finish. It’s got a subtle smokiness that adds another layer of flavor. You take a big drink and enjoy it… then wait a little while for another one. A solidly delicious stout with an impressive 9.8 ABV. Take your time and savor the flavors and experience here. Damn good beer.

Brewer’s Cut Imperial Red Ale

Imperial this, Imperial that. What’s going on here?

My bias against red ales meets yet another obstacle – a really good red ale from a keen craft brewer.

Hard to hate on a really good beer

Hard to hate on a really good beer

Since I drank this one after knocking back it’s 9.8% ABV brother, it probably tasted extra yummy.

Nice amber color with strong reddish hues, typical ale head and aroma but without any noticeable hop aroma. I smelled the bottle after opening, and then the beer in the glass once poured and struggled to get any bitter hop notes. But, yes, after taking some sips you do get the elusive hop flavors. It’s particularly palpable in the post-swallow aftertaste and tongue sensation. A smooth drinking experience, the beer gives a typical red ale flavor (a good one… not the ones I dislike) and finishes with a more-than-subtle hop profile.

Good balance of flavors and bitterness, despite the lack of floweriness or fruitiness in the hops. I sense knowing restraint in the hands of the brewmaster with this beer. Hop flavors tempered by malt. Yet another good beer from this brewery. I wish Andy had sent me more of these. Instead, I will have to seek out this brewer at my local beer shop.

Two solid beers that I didn’t pay for? Damn straight. Recommendation for Real Ale Brewing Company: Drink These Beers

Tagged , ,

BBQ Joint Review: Sugarfire Smokehouse

When the STL Post-Dispatch published a list of the 5 new BBQ joints that need visiting, I treated that as a checklist. I’ve selflessly hit up and reviewed Hendrick’s and took an off-the-list detour to PM BBQ. The third BBQ Joint on my agenda is Sugarfire Smokehouse.

Quite a bit of hype to live up to under this sign

Quite a bit of hype to live up to under this sign

Apparently this place is owned by the same people who own Cyrano’s, the site (when on Big Bend near Clayton) of many many high school dates and more recently the site (now in Webster Groves) of many many after hours drinks with my wife.

I’ve come by here with my father a couple times to see a line out the door and nowhere to park, so we would just go across the street to Chevy’s. Not today! I’ve brought with me two very discerning and distinct palates: Mike, a zealot for Texas BBQ who has been unimpressed with STL BBQ to date, and Randy, a Reform Jewish guy who keeps fairly kosher.

We got to the front door and didn’t move much further. The sign says 15 minute wait from here.

Looks like a bunch of happy customers

Looks like a bunch of happy customers

iPhone in hand, I followed the Sugarfire Twitter accounts…

... and you can follow me at @dtsjr

… and you can follow me at @dtsjr

On the way to our cafeteria-style BBQ line, I noticed the soda fountain is stocked only with Excel Bottling beverages, including the southern Illinois treat Ski.

Made with pure can sugar

Made with pure can sugar

I’m an unsweetened tea man, myself, so I passed on this pure cane sugar goodness. Apparently Ski and bourbon is a specialty drink in SW IL.

Just past the ice cold sodies? Beer.

More frosty beverages... too bad this is a business-y lunch

More frosty beverages… too bad this is a business-y lunch

Maybe it’s all the time I spent there in law school instead of studying (hence my shitty grades), but Morgan Street Brewery has a special place in my heart. And now they can beer. YES.

On to the cafeteria line of meaty godliness.

I got the stink eye from a line server as I clicked away

I got the stink eye from a line server as I clicked away

More truly uninteresting photos

More truly uninteresting photos

I realize now that these photos add nothing to this blog post. Oh well. It’s cafeteria style. You get your drinks, then walk up and tell the guy what meat you want, then the next guy your sides. Pretty simple. Pickled peppers, pickles, onions, etc. is waiting at the end of the line. Sauce on the table.

More beers!

More beers!

Hey, they serve cans of Stag?! More win from this place. Everyone’s grandpa or great grandpa drank Stag, but no one you know drinks it today. I’ve bought it for a fishing trip, but that’s about it.

On to the actual food.

What is this a picture of, exactly?

What is this a picture of, exactly?

This primo blurtastic picture of brisket was intended to reveal that the fat cap is left on the beef while smoked and cooked, and you would see a nice modest smoke ring. My kosher friend LOVED the brisket, and he’s been raised on Kohn’s brisket. He added the only non-cheezy non-pork sides of fries and green beans. He was quite satisfied.

My other dining companion got something called the Big Muddy:

The Big Muddy

The Big Muddy

This testament to gluttony comprised smoked brisket and sausage piled high on a bun with slaw and sauce. He added some fried artichokes as an appetizer. As a Texas resident for 10+ years, he said that Sugarfire was finally a BBQ place worthy of his admiration, and he said is was far better than Hendricks. Woah… that’s quite the assessment. He phoned his wife soon thereafter to plan a family trip back to Sugarfire, and he lives in Wildwood!

I kept it simple. Half slab baby back ribs, beans, slaw, iced tea… something called crack pie.

Amazeballs

Amazeballs

The 1/2 slab comes with two sides and a fountain drink for $14. I decided to spring for the crack pie (we’ll get to that later) for a whopping $5. Better be worth it.

Smoked goodness

Smoked goodness

Ribs: These are fairly lean-looking for babyback ribs, but looks can be deceiving. They are just as succulent as baby backs are supposed to be. As hoped, they are tender but with a nice bite. I’d say slightly less tender than Hendrick’s (having just eaten there last week, I can say that with some certainty), but they come cleanly off the bone as eaten. You get the nice bite mark and pull when you gnash into a good hunk of rib meat.

In order, I pick up salt then pepper then sugar. There is a deep smoke ring, much further into the meat cross-section than other places I’ve tried recently. That adds to the very rich smoky flavor.

Literally, these are finger-licking ribs. There’s a sticky but not moist rub on the exterior of the ribs. It’s fairly salty but has a nice spicy finish and really adds a nice unique profile to the meat. It’s a bold move for sure – you are adding intense flavors to smoked meat that took lots of time and energy and skill to produce, but it works well. Watch out beard and mustache owners (like me). This will hang around your facial hair.

Beans: Mild spice, good tenderness. Great rich sauce with a good pepper flavor instead of pepper heat. They were restrained on the onion. I didn’t see any pork bits, so these are stand alone beans worthy of another order in the future.

Slaw: Very rich sauce but not thick. Good creaminess, but there’s nothing distinct about it besides the richness of the sauce and the crispiness of the veggies. No salt or pepper or celery seed, at least not in appreciable levels. Still quite delicious, but not wildly distinctive. A good accompaniment to the ribs.

Sauce: Didn’t even touch it. The labels said Coffee, Black Cherry, TX47 (wtf?), and other notations, but these ribs needed zero sauce. That would have been an abomination to put sauce on them. Solid ribs.

Crack Pie: Though Tyrone Biggums might have been disappointed with what he got after placing his order, but he would have liked this pie. Imagine a gooey butter pie made with molasses and a thick crumbly crust. I found it to be a little too sweet for me, and not worth the $5, but it was still pretty doggone good. The Texas BBQ lover messily devoured his with zeal.

This was a very successful business lunch. I’m going to deduct my bill, and I finally managed to sample this BBQ. Absolutely worth a return trip, and the ribs were outstanding. I’d venture to say that these might be the best ribs in town, but I need to return to Pappy’s soon to confirm. I strongly recommend you get to Sugarfire Smokehouse.

Tagged , , , ,

Drink This Beer: 4 Hands Prussia Berliner Style Weiss

So you’ve missed the 4:30 autogyro to the Prussian consulate in Siam? Too bad. Drown your sorrows in 4 Hands Prussia Berliner Style Weiss.

Coming in at a whopping 3.5% ABV?! That’s not a typo. If I’m drinking fizzy non-soda <4% ABV beverages, I’m either at a church bingo night or somewhere in Kansas. Between near beer and session beer, that’s where Prussia Berliner Style Weiss resides. It had better kick ass on taste and drinking experience, because one of these bottles won’t get me to the altered state I’m often in during a favorable beer review.

Somebody's fizzy as all hell!

Somebody’s fizzy as all hell!

A delicate pour still results in tons of head. Great if you’re 17 and on a date. Not so great if you want to sip some beer.

With a little patience, things calmed down and I was able to get  a nice looking glass of beer incrementally poured.

That's more like it

That’s more like it

Nicely cloudy and yellow, and I’d later see that it leaves a liquipaste residue at the base of the glass. Smells sweet and fruity, and oh yes it’s bubbly as all hell.

Citrus-y wheat ale flavors, with a distinct bite that’s somewhere between tart and sour. It’s not a sour beer, but it  has a bite for sure. Certainly crisp and pleasant. Worth the empty calories that I’m not pairing with any ethanol. It’s been reviewed as good to very good, and I have to agree with that range. Tasty, refreshing, nice flavor and sensation.

Maybe you’re the designated driver and you still want to knock back a couple tasty craft brews. This is the beer for you. I enjoyed drinking it, but I like a little more kick in my brew. My recommendation for another darn good beer from 4 Hands: Drink This Beer

Tagged ,

Drink This Beer (At Your Own Peril): Big Hurt Beer

Having grown up a fan of baseball in the 80s/90s, I know Frank Thomas a/k/a The Big Hurt. Who knew he got into beer?

Yummy yum yum (tries not to puke) Boy, you should buy this swill, I mean, malt liquor [GNU Licensed – Source : Wikipedia; User: Drdisque]

Every year in the long time fantasy football league, the people at the live draft can earn “Bad Beers”. The list of offenses is long and offensive, but any number of crimes can earn you a Bad Beer. Here’s the general list:

a. Draft 1st kicker
b. Draft 1st defense/special teams
c. Keep kicker
d. Keep defense/special teams
e. Draft/keep player on IR
f. Attempt to draft player already kept
g. Attempt to draft player already taken in draft
h. Ask if a particular player is available
i. Attempt to draft out of turn
j. Draft/keep player not on NFL team
k. Draft/keep player who is in jail or otherwise incarcerated
l. Draft/keep player who doesn’t have a draft board sticker (when draft board is used)
m. Draft first rookie

These penalty beers are easy enough to earn, and need to be downed ASAP once obtained. Past Bad Beers have been room temperature Miller High Life, Busch Ice, and Keystone Ice (barf). The host this year was feeling both creative and local (he’s in suburban Joliet), so the penalty is Big Hurt Beer.

Apparently every box has some kind of damage

Apparently every box has some kind of damage

Oh no. Bad things inside.

Oh no. Bad things inside.

Big Hurt, as in your stomach sensation after drinking one.

Let’s survey the on-hand members of the fantasy football league, each of whom earned a luke-warm Bad Beer for a draft offense…

Sean: Tastes like ball sweat. No beer should smell like cotton candy.

Josh: If I was in a desert dying of thirst… still wouldn’t drink Big Hurt.

Tony: Mix of bubblegum and testicle sweat. That pretty much describes it.

Jon: Smells like raccoon vomit. Tastes like cotton candy dipped in depression. It’s like desperation, like I’ll never get a job. I’d rather drink Blatz.

Chris D: Bubblegum and assholes.

I’m concerned that I have two friends who know what ball sweat tastes like, and that was all taken verbatim.

Topps '92, #555

Topps ’92, #555

This blog is concerned with the truth, not the drunk ramblings of bitter fantasy football drafters who made a series of unfortunate picks. I’m going to try and be objective here. A few were refrigerated to optimize tongue numbing. I’ll even pour it into a proper glass.

Horrible

Horrible

Really, seriously, this is probably the worst beer I’ve ever had in my life. The smell is sugary and vile. It’s been (shockingly!) very poorly reviewed.

The sip isn’t metallic so much as acrid. It’s like a sore suddenly festered on my tongue and spread through the buccal cavity. A fulsome beer at best, and that’s a kind way to put it.

My spine literally contorted with a shiver as I convulsed under the repugnance of this beer. People drink this? People pay money for this? There’s better ways to spend your pennies to get a 7% ABV buzz. Like chugging wood alcohol or perhaps some antifreeze?

The beer is clearer than Bud Light without actually being water, if such an atrocity was possibly. Zero effervescence, and that’s with an aggressive pour. Imagine buying a $5 bag of expired Chinese licorice on clearance at the dollar store in the irregulars bin and then leaving it out in the sun in a bog for a week…, that’s the smell. It tastes medicine-y like syrup of ipecac. Even an hour after pouring the beer smells so offensively fruity.

To give you a full idea of my impression of the beer, here is a little montage of a sampling:

I'm ashamed to be wearing a Bell's hat in these pictures

I’m ashamed to be wearing a Bell’s hat in these pictures

Bad unpleasantness. If you’re a desperate hobo, pass on this crap. I’ve had a lot of beers where I’ve said, “Wow this beer really sucks,” but this is honestly the worst beer I’ve ever had in my life. This makes Lobster Lovers Beer look like Westy XII.

You ever sprayed your kids with a high DEET bug spray? That’s the smell of Frank Thomas’ beer.

Pestilence in a can. Under no conditions, and I mean famine drought starvation dehydration should you Drink This Beer. In fact, Don’t Drink This Beer.

Tagged
%d bloggers like this: