Tag Archives: awesome

Brewers Being Bros: Stone Pale Ale

Stone Brewing Company makes some solid, tasty brews, but you probably already knew that. I’ve always been a fan of Arrogant Bastard and I’ve recently come to like Go To IPA, but their flagship beer had long been the Pale Ale.

Much to my surprise, Stone announced that they intended to discontinue their Pale Ale and replace it with Pale Ale 2.0. Uproar, or maybe some mild message board chatter, followed.

So what did the amazingly-cool Stone decide to do for the Pale Ale fans that would be missing their favorite beer? They published the entire recipe for the world to use, scaled back to five gallon batches. This wasn’t some half-assed recipe – they included the exact blend of hops and yeast and malt down to the hundredths of an ounce. Simply one of the coolest moves by any brewery ever.

With that background, I grabbed a sixer of the original Pale Ale and toasted to discontinuation.

Stone Pale Ale - Soon to be a rare sight

Stone Pale Ale – Soon to be a rare sight

Great smell, smooth pour that doesn’t leave a big head. Love the aroma of the malt and hops. Gorgeous color, though the formica backsplash belies the actual beer color. Idiot photographer…

Stone Pale Ale in a glass stein, with my formica countertop and wainscoting kitchen wall.

Stone Pale Ale in a glass stein, with my formica countertop and wainscoting kitchen wall.

As my beer sampling journey has progressed from PBR to knowing one style from another, I’ve become less of a hop head. This beer is right below the “too hoppy” threshold that would keep me from buying it again. Good hop flavor – the word here is balance. Quite smooth and not too bitter.

Not a session beer at 5.4 ABV but you aren’t getting ripped on these either of you are drinking them to enjoy them. I’m sad to see this beer go and also a little bummed that I discovered it late.

Definitely Drink This Beer while you can, but if you can’t… go support Stone by buying another one of their beers. Not every brewer would do a solid for their fan base by itemizing their beer recipe online, so give them a little love at the checkout line next time you’re looking for a couple sixers. Maybe make one a Stone.

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Smoked Chicken Bacon Cheesy Fajita Wrap

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

A few weeks back, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that SugarFire Smokehouse had placed in Memphis In May for some kind of smoked chicken bacon cheesy sushi dish. I gave it a shot a couple weeks ago on vacation as an appetizer for our fajita night, and we were met with rave reviews.

The wife told me to “take it easy” and “not go crazy” on the BBQ this 4th of July, so I made fresh salsa, grilled a bunch of gourmet sausages, and made the smoked chicken bacon cheesy fajita wrap for my extended family.

Step one is the bacon weave, this time a full pound of Tyson pork bacon (since it was on an insane sale of $2.99 for a 1 lb. pack), hosting at its center a pounded-flat boneless skinless chicken breast (this one being a little over 1o ounces).

Bacon weave and flattened chicken breast

Bacon weave and flattened chicken breast

On that went a washed, seeded, and thinly sliced Anaheim pepper, and a quarter of a sweet yellow (Vidalia) onion, cut into liberal long slices.

Peppers and onions round out a fajita

Peppers and onions round out a fajita

And on top of all THAT went some pulled mozzarella string cheese (two sticks) and a couple slices of pepper jack. I didn’t want too much heat, since a variety of people would be eating this – including a couple people who aren’t down with the hot peppers.

Cheesy does it

Cheesy does it

When wrapping this contraption, I pulled the bacon edges nearest to me into the center of the cheese slices and then rolled the whole thing forward. This may allow the cheese to slide around two sides of the bacon.

I didn’t bother closing up the edges since they went so far beyond the ends of the chicken and other contents.

Wrapped and ready for smoke

Wrapped and ready for smoke

My weave / wrap went onto a Weber 22″ set up for indirect smoking with large hickory chunks.

Time to drink some beers

Time to drink some beers

While this smoked, I drank some amazing beers that I muled back from Florida. That we can buy neither Oskar Blues nor Dogfish Head in St. Louis is ridiculous.

After 45 minutes, I rolled it over. After barely over an hour, it was fully smoked. Importantly, the digital temperature probe read well over 165 in all locations that I tested. It’s ready to rest.

OMG that looks nice

OMG that looks nice

After about 10 minutes of resting, I sliced it at an angle and rang the appetizer bell.

The middle pieces are nice, but the ends are excellent

The middle pieces are nice, but the ends are excellent

Cleaning up the scraps of smoked crispy bacon was hard work. I barely hat time to get pictures.

If you make this, here’s a tip: In addition to getting a center piece, make sure you also get one of the ends. It’s more bacony than cheesy, and it’s gluttonous.

The meats of my labor

The meats of my labor

Everyone who had it loved it, and I offer my sincere thanks to SugarFire for inspiring this slight variation on their idea. Make this – you’ll not regret it.

I hope you had a wonderful and save Independence Day, full of beers, meat, family, and fireworks.

Happy 4th from Webster Groves

Happy 4th from Webster Groves

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Stuffed Jalapeno Smoked Fatty

Spring is back in STL, which means I’m not grilling/smoking in snow or ice anymore.

On my list of BBQ dishes is the smoked fatty. Some Google searches will reveal that a fatty is a weave of bacon that’s wrapped around a meatloaf that’s stuffed with something. There are as many fatty recipes online as stars in the sky.

I like stuffed jalapenos, so…

Stuffed jalapenos

Stuffed jalapenos

… why not stick them in a fatty?

I took a 50/50 mix of pork salsiccia and ground chuck, plus an egg, totaling just under 2 lbs, and used 1/2 of it to make a boat atop my bacon weave. My stuffed peppers went into that boat.

Pork belly weave

Pork belly weave

Soon to be wrapped...

Stuffed peppers, stuffed in meat…

The boat was itself covered in the rest of the meat.

About to wrap

About to wrap

Once wrapped up, the whole thing was over three pounds. 1 lb. of pork sausage, 1 lb. of ground beef, 1 lb. of bacon, over half a brick of cream cheese (1/3 the fat!), and 5 veggies for health. This is not, uh, what’s the phrase… not good for you. But it’s hopefully yummy.

Maybe all the fat is why it's called a fatty?

Maybe all the fat is why it’s called a fatty?

 

Indirect heat in the Weber 22″ grill with a few hickory chunks.

Fatty fatty fat

Fatty fatty fat

After barely an hour, the bacon was nicely charred, so it got a 180 degree turn.

It's hard not to pick charred bacon chips off of this

It’s hard not to pick charred bacon chips off of this

After about 3 hours total, I pulled it and was ready to carve.

Fully smoked datty

Fully smoked fatty

A nice slice of fat(ty)

A nice slice of fat(ty)

I got a nice pink from the smoke and bacon, plus the meat stayed juicy from all the basting provided by the pork grease from the bacon. For my first effort, it wasn’t too bad. Probably just a little overdone, and maybe peppers and cream cheese wasn’t the best choice, but it was still pretty good. My picky son who likes some BBQ crushed it.

I’ll try another one soon… maybe mushroom and swiss? Philly cheese?

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BBQ Joint Review: Bogarts Smokehouse

Happy Fat Tuesday!

What better way to celebrate than with a lawyer buddy over some BBQ, followed by some beer. My long-overdue trip to Bogart’s Smokehouse in Soulard finally happened.

Line not out the door yet?

Line not out the door yet?

Every time I’ve been by this place, the line has been out the door. Usually it’s midday on a weekend to visit the adjacent Soulard Farmers Market, but on this chilly late STL morning, the line was only about 15-20 people deep.

This place doesn’t need hype from me. Since it opened about three years ago, it’s become regarded my many as the best BBQ in St. Louis. Friends who know I am trying to review all STL BBQ places worth reviewing cannot believe I haven’t yet been to Bogart’s.

Bogarts sits in a typical Soulard corner store with a narrow, colorful, welcoming facade. Like its restaurant cousin, Adam’s Smokehouse, seating is at a premium at Bogart’s.  Apparently burnt ends are a premium, too… at 11:30 in the morning!

Dammit. I love burnt ends.

Dammit. I love burnt ends.

Prices are reasonable for premium BBQ. I like to go with two meat combos so I can maximize my meat sampling.

This is seriously the most difficult part of my day

This is seriously the most difficult part of my day

For my Pick 2, I of course went with the brisket and paired it with more beef – tri-tip sirloin, and selected pit beans and cole slaw as my sides, all with an iced tea.

Lots of good stuff w/ useless bread

Lots of good stuff w/ useless bread

Pardon the blurriness of this photo, but we were packed into seats like sardines. I’m literally elbow-to-elbow with both of my neighbors.

Lunch buddy Pete, who picked up the tab with the promise that he’d turn in the receipt for reimbursement from Mr. Huge STL Law Firm, also went the Pick 2 route, but got tri-tip and pork ribs, and opted for potato salad over slaw.

Good choices

Good choices

Everyone gets a packet of Heinz Horseradish Sauce. Why? There’s four BBQ sauces on the table, and the meat is amazing as a stand alone product. Why take mayo w/ horseradish puree made in a metal vat in Pennsylvania and present it as an accompaniment to handcrafted elite BBQ? Maybe it was put there ironically…

Finally some expertly-made brisket that’s actually BBQ-style brisket (and not the stuff they slung me at Wild Smoke House).

Real beef brisket

Real beef brisket

What can I say but that this was expertly tender and just generally perfect. Exact balance of smoke and spice, amazing color and smoke ring, nice little ribbon of fat, generous portion for a 1/2 serving, reasonably restrained hand at the seasoning. Try this and attempt to appreciate the heightened skill and years of experience that went into making this food.

Bottom line is this is the best brisket in town (that I’ve tried to date, taking into consideration that day-to-day meat sampling may vary, and I haven’t been everywhere yet,  etc.).

The tri-tip was also amazingly epic. I haven’t seen many places serve up BBQ tri-tip, which I’ve only managed to make very, very poorly. Adam’s Smokehouse makes an impressive tri-tip, but Bogart’s is elite. The two are 1 and 1A.

Bogart’s tri-tip was thinly sliced and loaded with ribbons and marbles of fat, nicely pink internally. It cut smoothly and each bite was velvety, buttery. Just a spectacular job on this meat. I need to reinvest myself in making this.

Pit beans were among the best beans I’ve ever had. Sensing a theme here? They were rich and thick, with a hearty spice finish. I got a few nice hunks of brisket as well as lots of little brisket shreds. You can taste the BBQ drippins in these beans. Manly legumes.

Cole slaw… meh. It was creamy but not too rich. I thought it was too sweet for me, but I’m a vinegary slaw fan. This is a personal preference thing, although I think there were cooked chilled apple slices in there? Maybe next time I’ll follow Pete’s lead and get the deviled egg potato salad.

Good Guy Pete passed me a rib. What are friends for?!

I was full... until he handed me one of these

I was full… until he handed me one of these

Perfect tenderness and bite. Excellent flavor, smoke, finishing crust & seasoning. Maybe I’ll just get these next time and really indulge myself. But this was one amazing pork rib.

A truly successful Mardi Gras lunch. How best to finish this gluttonous holiday? Maybe a lead-footed friend who wanted to pay some legal fees?

Legal fees

Legal fees

Urban Chestnut, Rogue, and PBR? I hope this guy keeps speeding all over Rock Hill! I drank a bunch of fees and fell asleep on the couch, which is why I’m posting this on Ash Wednesday and not Fat Tuesday. (And, no, I’m not giving beer or BBQ or anything for Lent.)

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BBQ Joint Review: Adam’s Smokehouse

It’s client appreciation week for my solo LLC law practice, so why not take my longest-standing client and his wife out to a nice meal? In other words, I treated my parents to lunch at a new BBQ place: Adam’s Smokehouse.

Tasty food awaits you inside

Tasty food awaits you inside

We learned an important lesson about eating at relatively new BBQ joints: Don’t show up for lunch the same day a glowing review appears in the local newspaper. The line was out the door by 11:30 and we waited a good 20-25 minutes to place our order.

On the west edge of The Hill, south of where Watson splits off of Hampton (5 minutes from the zoo, for the out-of-towners), Adam’s Smokehouse rests in a small south city storefront strip shared with a dive bar.

As a longtime STL resident, the decor was pretty neat. All the walls were covered in 80s-ish baseball and hockey and olympic nostalgia. All those framed posters surrounded a modest storefront BBQ restaurant with 12-15 tables and minimal seating. It’s been open for two months and ripe for an expansion already.

A diverse chalkboard menu awaited us at the head of the line:

So many choices!

So many choices!

Beef brisket is a good measure of a BBQ joint, and I’ve never eaten tri-tip commercially, so that’s what I ordered (the pick two for $12.99). Amazingly, they were sold out of brisket at 11:45, so we were a good 10 minutes late. Unbelievable. Instead, I ordered the well-reviewed (as of that morning) salami. Sides were pit beans and slaw (which I was assured was homemade), and an unsweetened iced tea.

A person ahead of us asked for french fries, and someone said proudly said that they don’t serve fries. If you want your spuds, it’s going to have to be in the form of potato salad.

Dad reliably ordered ribs (1/2 slab, big boi!) and pulled pork for good measure, as well as beans and slaw, and my mother ordered turkey breast sandwich and slaw and applesauce.

Salami and tri-tip

Salami and tri-tip, with pit beans and slaw

Shredded turkey breast with applesauce and slaw

Shredded turkey breast with applesauce and slaw

Ribs, shredded pork, pit beans, and slaw

Ribs, shredded pork, pit beans, and slaw

As I came back with drinks, my parents were already digging in. Mom tasted her applesauce and fondly said it tasted exactly like her (German) grandma used to make. Dad sampled. He said pretty much the same thing. FYI to nostalgic old tyme apple sauce lovers – come to Adam’s Smokehouse.

On to my plate. I haven’t seen a bowl of beans that appetizing in a while. What a rich, deep color. They had it all in a BBQ bean flavor profile – sweetness, smoke, salt, some molasses and brown sugar. The finish as you swallowed was spice. I could eat a tub of these.

The slaw came in a thin cream base with heartily crisp cabbage and carrots. Whoever made it had a heavy hand with the celery seed, which is fine by me. Very little garlic salt, which I’ve seen in overwhelming proportions in other places’ slaw. I thought it was a nice cool contrast to two hot meats and a hot bowl of beans. Mom didn’t care for it. (“I like creamy slaw; I just prefer Schnucks’ slaw.”)

Tri-tip and I have a strained relationship. I’ve made it twice: once at home for this blog, and another time in a BBQ competition. At home it was decent, but in the field was quite sub-par. I don’t know what they did at Adam’s but this was superb beef. Thinly sliced and lightly pink, they cooked it with a big fat cap on top. Like well-prepared beef from well-fed cows, this was very tender and tasted like butter. It was a revelation, and I wish to goodness that I knew how to make it like this.

Everyone was there for the salami, based on our visual survey of the trays on other tables as we walked in. Our cashier said that it was the star of the aforementioned BBQ review in the newspaper that day.  Having been denied my brisket, I would take this salami as a consolation prize any day.

A quick aside about hot salami. One of my all time sandwiches ever and a Top 10 You Must Eat This In STL foods is the hot salami sandwich at Gioia’s Deli in The Hill neighborhood. I first tasted it in my early 20’s when some girls I new hired me to paint their living and dining rooms in exchange for lunch and beer. Gioia’s was walking distance away and we went there on Monday. I demanded return trips as payment the rest of the week. Recently, Andrew Zimmern and his TV show, Bizarre Foods America, visited St. Louis and stopped by Gioia’s. A somewhat unfortunate behind-the-scenes video explained that the hot salami is really salami de testa… hot tubed head cheese. (There’s a reason you never want to see someone make sausage.)

Gioia’s salami and Adam’s salami have a lot in common, though I’ve only ever had Gioia’s as part of a sandwich. I felt like the Adam’s salami was a little more densely packed, and slightly greasier (maybe they’re the same and the Gioia’s Italian white loaf soaks it up), but it definitely had more complex flavor. You could eat it slice-by-slice, and I must have gotten at least 10 generous slices. I was pretty unprepared for this salami, and anyone who eats it will see why the STL P-D author went nuts for it.

And I stole a couple ribs from Pop.

That's a pretty deep smoke ring

That’s a pretty deep smoke ring

What an impressive smoke ring on those ribs. Deep pink color on both sides. So deep it actually meets at the thin ends of the babybacks. They had a very light bite that pulled the meat in front of your teeth off the rib, but it was smoked well-enough that the remainder of the meat stayed on the bone. I’d consider these perfectly tender, though BBQ competition judges might say they’re just a tad too tender. Whatever. I cleaned those bones and loved every second of it. Get these ribs. I know I will next time.

Our sauce choices weren’t exactly legion like over at Sugarfire, but the three that we had on the table were all really nice and totally distinct from one another.

Tasty triumvirate

Tasty triumvirate

Carolina Vinegar is no lie. It was very thin, a cider vinegar base. It had a great peppery finish and a nice sweet/salt taste. I doused some of my tri-tip and otherwise worthless bread with it and went to town.  Cranberry Cayenne was a thick sauce that balanced sweetness with spice, but I didn’t pick up on any tartness that you might get with cranberries. Nonetheless, it was a nice sauce outside of the mainstream. Sweet Jane Sauce was more like what you’d expect at a local BBQ joint. Nice balance of sweet and spice, with a traditional sauce texture and consistency. My personal bias was towards Carolina Vinegar, but the bottom line of the sauces is that anyone will be happy with at least one of these… or none at all since frankly none of this meat needed sauce.

All that was left was refuse and a sundry half bun. My meal made me quite full, but adding those two ribs got me up to nearly uncomfortably full. I needed a nap badly about 1/2 hour after leaving.

BBQ wreckage

BBQ wreckage

I liked that they served the food, by the way, in a plastic basket lined with a high gauge white Kraft paper instead of butcher paper or something else that either soaks up BBQ meat grease and/or cuts under the serration of my plastic cutlery. A nice touch that enhances the dining experience.

Overall this was a very pleasant BBQ joint experience, and they’ve only been open two months. They need to buy the place next door and knock down a wall for new seating, because it seems like demand is high enough for it. Of course I recommend eating here. I’ll be back soon.

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BBQ Joint Review Follow Up: Sugarfire Smokehouse

Fifteen years ago today I was a college sophomore, and my roommate and I (and two other guys) were initiated into our social fraternity. He and I live in STL and try to get together for lunch / dinner / beer / etc. every November 20th. Today it was a return to SugarFire Smokehouse.

Well-written menu

Well-written menu

Bright red posterboard grabbed my attention. The food description kept it.

One side? My ass. I’ll be having the Firewalker, plus the brisket chili (oh my god) AND an order of the polenta cakes with pork belly and cheddar (oh my flippin god).

Lunch

Lunch. EPIC lunch.

Brisket Chili – Wonder of wonders. I need to make this. Peppers, onions, huge chunks and shreds of brisket, thin sauce, chickpeas(?), a bunch of other great stuff.

Polenta Cakes – With cheddar and pork belly. Oodles of pork belly chunks, and well-mingled cheesiness. I love polenta, and this was awesome.

Firewalker – Pepper jack gravy is a new thing for me. So are flaming hot cheetos onion rings. All together, mushed with bread and hot sauce and, oh yeah, a load of pulled pork. It was as messy and gluttonous and epic as you might think. Not healthy. Worth every calorie.

Well played, SugarFire.

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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.

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Mark Randazza: Super Cool Attorney

Imagine you are John Q. Assholeplaintiff. You have some hurt feelings about a blog post or article that someone wrote about you wherein the author made some negative but opinionated statements about you. You’re pissed off. You file suit in federal court for defamation: Assholeplaintiff v. Author. That’ll teach ’em, right? Eventually, you get an Answer and Entry of Appearance from a Mr. Marc Randazza, on behalf of his client, Author. Bad news… a big hurt is coming. Just ask Righthaven, Rakofsky, or Glenn Beck.

I have been a fan of Marc Randazza for quite a while, though I have never actually had the pleasure meeting him. His blog is a great read, until you get to the Terms and Conditions. I’m terrified just reading this document. What happens when you deep link from my blog? Nothing. When you deep link from his blog? You get whomped with a douchebag fee of $500. Do I blacklist anyone? Not really. Randazza has a parade of horribles banned from reading his blog. I probably violated about 10 elements of his T&C without even knowing it.

A cease and desist letter signed by him, addressed to me… pants promptly soiled.

I find him particularly admirable because he doesn’t just practice First Amendment law, but he “gets” it. The First Amendment protects the most despicable, crappiest, loathsome speech out there. If that awful speech starts to get eroded, then eventually our everyday speech will get eroded. I am speaking, of course, of the deplorable speech by the feculant asshat loser supreme Rush Limbaugh (who I am loathe to admit is not only from Missouri but is also one of our most notable citizens). Marc Randazza wrote a brilliant opinion piece for CNN that fought against the grain of populist opinion and so eloquently stated that the shittiest of speech, that which Mr. Limbaugh spews on a daily basis from the mighty KMOX, is protected under the First Amendment.

In Mr. Randazza’s own words:

“The speech that tests our commitment to free speech – that’s the really good stuff. That’s the stuff that we need to affix shields, sharpen swords, and stand next to our brothers and sisters in arms to protect.”

I hereby make the following offer to Mr. Randazza: If you ever find yourself in the St. Louis Metropolitan area, I will do my darndest to meet you at a fine local drinking establishment and buy you several beers of your choice in an attempt to compensate you for the education and enjoyment that your blog has brought me. (I extend this same offer to Ken and/or Patrick of Popehat.) To redeem, simply go to the link at the bottom of the blog to my day job, where you can find my phone number.

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Making a 55 Gallon Steel Drum into a BBQ Smoker

So, you’ve been blessed with a big 55 gallon steel drum? You happen to be somewhat handy? You like BBQ? Me, too! Here’s what I did to turn this unsightly industrial refuse into a BBQ smoker, cheerfully named Big Blue.

UPDATE (May 21, 2013) – I discuss using and did use RustOleum High Heat paint on the inside of the drum. A Commenter very helpfully pointed out today that the paint is not intended for use inside BBQ pits, per the RustOleum website’s FAQ section. The technical data sheet says it has a heat resistance of 1000 degrees Fahrenheit and mine has never gotten half that hot, but they still say that’s not the product’s intended purpose.  So, obviously don’t do that with your smoker. I’m considering making a new one and literally discarding the old hull after removing the hardware. I will post another update as needed. For now, perhaps just cleaning the heck out of the inside and curing it with food-grade oil and smoke is the best route for you.

UPDATE #2 (August 29, 2013) – I made another one.

Quick disclaimer: 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 Three Mile Island 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, you are at fault. Not me. Read my general Disclaimer. Don’t be stupid.

On to Big Blue:

Unsightly industrial refuse

I made some loose plans for turning this thing into a functional smoker. Plenty of online research into what other people have done went into my planning. No sense re-inventing the wheel, or smoker.

Detailed smoker plans

In essence, the drum needs to be cleaned out, have some strategically-placed holes drilled into it, be painted, and have some stuff bolted/screwed on.

To get started, I constructed the coal basket. I took two pieces of 12″ x 24″ perforated sheet metal and bolted it into a cylinder. This will rest on a Weber grill grate with four 3″ bolts to act as legs.

Coal basket (left) and base (right)

The coal base will allow two important things: the burnt ashes to fall from the active coals, and the air to surround the burning coals. This gives the fire enough oxygen fuel to burn efficiently without being snuffed out. One simply rests on the other in the center of the base of the smoker.

Ready to smoke some meat!

Now that the guts are assembled, time to get to work on the steel drum. You need a special drill bit that can cut through steel. I did some pricing and these things are incredibly expensive, to the tune of $30-$40 and up. I’m told you can get one for less than $20 at Harbor Freight Tools, but they may only withstand a few holes. Luckily, there is a handy guy in the parish who happened to have one for me to borrow.

Specialty tools cost $$$!

The cool thing about this bit is that you can drill any hole between 1/4″ and 3/4″ in increments of 1/16″.

The drum has a 6′ circumference and I want four baffles around the base, meaning the holes will be about 1.5′ apart. With the coal cage being 4″ off the ground, my baffles will be 6″ off the ground. The baffles will be ball valves with 1/2″ holes.

To make my life easy, I am using all 1/4″, full thread, hex screws. With some consistency, drilling holes, using washers & nuts, etc. is straightforward.

In addition to the baffle holes, I want four similarly equidistant 1/4″ holes near the top of the barrel so that I can run some 2″ hex screws into the barrel. These will hold my 22.5″ Weber kettle food grate. I will put these about 6″ down from the lid. This will give me a good amount of vertical space for making bigger food (like a dressed turkey!).

Finally, the 9th hole will be a 1/2″ hole below the 6″ depth of the food grate holes for my thermometer. I am putting it right below the food grate so that I can tell the temperature within the chamber right near the food.

Once all the holes are drilled, I washed the inside with some diluted CRL. Then I added some vegetable oil and lighter fluid. Fire cleans all.

FIRE BURN!!!

At this point, I’d like to take a moment to add a lawyerly disclaimer. Don’t do this, particularly after drinking beer all day. This is dangerous and the cops / fire department will not be amused.

On the plus side, the fire burned off some arm hair the pesky labels that I could not remove.

After this fiasco cools down, wipe down the inside and outside again. It’s ready to paint.

Clean, but still needs to be sealed

I am painting the inside with a quart of Rustoleum High Heat specialty paint. (Edited May 21, 2013: See UPDATE above… don’t do this!)

Ah, that’s better. First coat of fire paint applied.

The outside will get some regular Rustoleum – my son picked out Royal Blue. In an effort to avoid any Cubs loyalty confusion, I will make a Cardinals stencil out of posterboard and spray paint that design over the blue in another color.

One coat isn’t going to do it…

A second coat of paint is needed to hide the original black undercoat.

Ah, that looks better

I am planning to spray paint on some Cardinal logo decorations from my homemade stencils, or maybe some Billiken stuff in honor of an alma mater.

Once this puppy dries on the outside, it’s time to screw on all of the hardware. Having consistently bought 1/4″ hardware, this is a simple process that takes mere minutes.

Smoker guts inserted…

Thermometer bolted on… needed a washer on the inside to make it snug

Four ball valves to serve as air baffles near the base… each also needed a washer for snugness

Can’t go wrong with a Weber kettle BBQ tool rack

Drop in a hinged 22.5″ grill grate, and put on an old 22.5″ Weber kettle lid, and you’re done!

Voila! Smoker is complete; Big Blue is born. Time to get some rub paste on 11 lbs of brisket for the family gathering tomorrow. Dinner is at 3pm, so I need to get up at 7am. (Pics to follow)

I’m inspired by Ernie Hudson in Ghostbusters: “We have the tools; We have the talent!”

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