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The Mans Cave

The Mans Cave was a concept originated long before my time. The men in my family have always had their place of solitude where men could be men and there was no questioning. I now live the city life which means the man cave has been greatly reduced in size. That brought me to create an internet based man cave where all men can join in. Whether geek, gamer, jock, fitness, brewer, BBQ-er, or just looking for a place to read about manly news, you will find a home in the Man Cave

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Building Your Own Smoke Pit

For many of you out there, the ideal meal for any time of the year is BBQ.  Now we aren't talking about that fake BBQ that gets baked in the oven and then slopped with BBQ sauce.  We're talking about hardwood smoked, low and slow BBQ that just falls apart in your mouth.  Well, here at The Mans Cave, we aren't just about doing things the easy way, but we like to take it to the next level.  There are many different commercial smokers out there that do a great job of smoking BBQ.  In fact, I own something similar to the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker, and it does a great job.  My only complaint is that the surface on which I can place meat is pretty limited so if I'm having a big group over, low and slow smoked BBQ is kind of out of the question.
That being said, I did what any desperate person would do, and decided I was going all out.  I went to my local butcher and ordered an 85 pound pig and then set about constructing my own smoker.  Here are the step-by-step instructions for building a smoker that is big enough to roast a pig.  If you don't need something that big, just decrease each side of stacked bricks by one and you will have a more compact smoker.
Here are your step by step instructions along with pictures:

1.  The first thing you need to do is gather your materials.
      You will need:
               cinder blocks (48 to 50) $57 from Home Depot
               two metal fence posts (the material of these doesn't matter since they won't come into contact with the food) $20 from Home Depot
               two sheets of expanded metal 2 ft X 4 ft (stainless steel is best- make sure whatever you use is not galvanized or you will make yourself sick when eating the food)
                                                             -$60 from your local metal supplier
                                                   2 rolls of heavy duty aluminum foil
                                                             -$5 from grocery store
                                       The cost for your supplies will be about  $142 compared to almost $300 for a commercial smoker with less than half the cooking space.
                                   2.  Building the smoker

To construct the smoker, stack the bricks on the long sides 4 x 4 and then the narrow ends 2 x 4 as you see above.  It is important that after you put the first two layers of bricks down, you stop and do the aluminum foil covering as is seen in this next picture.

Make sure all the edges of the bricks are snugly tucked against each other to keep the heat loss to a minimum.

At this point, you lay both sheets of expanded metal on the ground and attach one of the posts to both sheets of metal. I know that sounds kind of confusing, but the idea is to make a cage of sorts with the expanded metal.  You can see what I mean in the picture below.
You only want one side wired/tied shut for now because you still have to put the pig in it.  I used metal gauge wire to wire them to the pole, but heavy twine would work as well.

At this point, the construction is done, and your smoker is complete! Spending less than half what a commercial smoker costs, you can now cook more than twice as much meat, if not more.

So now you need to order your pig or whatever else you feel like cooking (brisket, pork shoulder, sausage).  The quality of meat when you go to a local butcher blows away just about any supermarket I've seen, and usually the price is very reasonable as well.
Now that you have your choice of meat, you can do all sorts of things to prepare it for cooking.  In this case, I poked a couple slits in the meat of the pig (without puncturing the skin at all!!) and then covered it in Sonny's BBQ sauce.  Since then (these pictures were from a few years back) I've started brining my meat before I smoke it and haven't looked back.

Now it's time to smoke it.  Depending on what you are cooking, you're going to need between 3-6 bags of charcoal.  In these pictures I'm using regular ole briquette charcoals, but more recently have started using nothing but hardwood charcoal.  I get better flavor from it and there are no chemicals in it.  It's easiest to create a fire in the middle of the pit, and then using a shovel, spread the charcoal to the four corners.  This is key.  You want the pig to cook indirectly, and by putting it in the corners, you will make your life for the next several hours much easier.

While the fire is being lit, you want to prepare the pig in its cage.  It helps to have the butcher split the spine, but make sure the skin does not get split.
You'll want to place it in the cage, skin side down and then wire the open side of the cage shut.
Now that the fire is lit, the pig is wired in and placed on top of the cinder blocks, you need to cover the whole thing in aluminum foil and weigh the foil down.  From this point on, every 40 minutes you need to add charcoal to each corner.  A few pieces in each corner every 40 minutes will keep the temperature between 200-230.

For a pig that weighs 60-80 I like to cook them between 10-14 hours.  You'll want to flip it over after about 5-6 hours of cooking so the skin is now facing up.  It helps to have multiple people there to give you a hand.  Make sure you wear heat protective gloves cause it will be extremely hot.
After the cooking time is over, have two people hold the cage in the air while you spread an even layer of charcoal all over the bottom of the pit and then place the cage, skin side down, back on the pit.  You only need to leave it there for 10-15 minutes to crisp up the skin, and then let it sit for about 45 minutes before you dig in.  Most people like to just put the pig on a table with serving utensils and let people dig in.

Tip #1- If you use a thermometer to check for doneness, the thickest parts of the pig should register at 190 degrees F.

Tip #2- For the first 3 hours of cooking, I like to use wood chips that I have soaked in water or apple juice.  Simply drain off the liquid, and then add a handful to each corner right on top of the charcoals.

Tip #3- When adding charcoal, just remove the top 2 blocks from one of the narrow ends of the pit, and then drop or toss the charcoal into each corner.  It takes some practice, but helps keep the heat in the pit.

Tip #4- Have some wire cutters nearby once the pig comes off to help remove the binding from one side of the cage so you can get the pig out.  Also, have something big enough to place the pig on once it is done cooking!

ENJOY! If you have any questions please comment below!


Ronny Stiftel said...

now that is pretty amazing guys
i want too!

Kelli said...

Hey brewmaster...
I think you should've mentioned this was all in celebration of your awesome big sister's engagement!!! I even am sort of in a picture and I see Jason a few times.
Anyway awesome post!!
Love you!

Ryan Lyles said...

oh yeah bbq season!!

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