Labor Day 2015

Every now and then a couple of linked questions come up on the various barbecue forums:
Do you trim your own meat?
What do you do with the trimmings?
Yes we do, and the answer to the second question varies depending on my mood. With a 3 day weekend I decided it was time to empty some of the trimmings from the freezer.

Nearly 50 pounds of rib, pork butt, and brisket trimmings from this summer

Nearly 50 pounds of rib, pork butt, and brisket trimmings from this summer

This was most, but not all, of what we had in the freezer from just this years competitions. It was mostly pork but there was about 15 pounds of brisket trimmings, so I developed a plan of attack. First on the agenda was breakfast sausage. The first step was to get it ground and ready for seasoning. I had struggled for a few years with Kristi’s Kitchen Aid mixer with a grinder attachment before getting serious. After just one use of this Cabela’s grinder I was wishing I had bought one long ago.

Cabela's 1/2 horse commercial grade grinder

Cabela’s 1/2 horse commercial grade grinder

We tried this before the Burlington contest using the Hi-Mountain Prairie Sage blend and took 6th place in the sausage category. Kristi made some for breakfast a few days later and added some Bash Brothers Ribs & Pork Rub which gave it a really nice, yet mild, heat. After grinding the seasonings were added;

Pork ground and seasoned for breakfast sausage

Pork ground and seasoned for breakfast sausage

Before packaging, one should always do a taste test. So I fried a patty to make sure the flavor was where I wanted it, which it was.

The test patty had a nice flavor with a mild heat.

The test patty had a nice flavor with a mild heat.

Savory with a nice heat at the end. Just that one patty made me longing for some biscuits and sausage gravy. One day, one day soon.

Filled and sealed in one pound bags and put them in the freezer.

Prairie Sage breakfast sausage in the freezer

Prairie Sage breakfast sausage in the freezer

Kristi was at work and had volunteered me to help with a pot luck cookout for the hospital staff that were working. I took the Weber Ranch Kettle in and grilled some hamburgers and hot dogs.

Hamburgers and hot dogs on the Weber Ranch Kettle

Hamburgers and hot dogs on the Weber Ranch Kettle

I didn’t get a picture of the rest of the food, but we really had a nice variety and some really good food. We repeated the performance around midnight that night for the night shift crew. It was a late night but worthwhile showing the staff how much they are appreciated.

When I got back home after lunch it was time to move on to phase II: Brisket. Once again the brisket was ground and seasoned, but the beef was made into Cracked Pepper & Garlic snack sticks, again using the Hi-Mountain seasonings. Like the grinder, I had struggled with trying to make do with the grinder for stuffing but picked this up on sale at Gander Mountain. A dedicated stuffer is well worth the investment, even if you don’t use it often.

Making snack sticks

Making snack sticks

And into the Cookshack FEC100 for smoke:

Beef snack sticks in the FEC100

Beef snack sticks in the FEC100

The good folks at Cookshack had recently replaced our IQ4 controller with the new IQ5 controller;

Cookshack's IQ5 controller

Cookshack’s IQ5 controller

The IQ5 has a 3 stage cooking capability which was perfect for the snack sticks, starting at 130° for an hour, then the temp went up to 170° for an hour, then to 200° until internal temp reached 165. All three steps were done at first startup and I didn’t have to touch anything until it was time to shut it down. This coming weekend I’m going to program in a competition preset so all we have to do is turn it on, select the preset, and let it do it’s thing all night and into the next day. There are a total of 8 presets that can be customized to the user’s preference.  The old IQ4 had a low end temperature of 140° but the IQ5 goes down to 130° which is the lowest I’ve seen. That could come in very handy for cold smoking cheeses, fish, jerky and lots of other stuff. Another change is that the IQ4 changed in 5 degree and 5 minute increments but the IQ5 can be adjusted down to 1 degree and 1 minute for more accuracy. The IQ5 still has a port for a food probe although it’s not the same as my old IQ4 probe. Another addition is a USB port in the lower left hand corner of the panel. When you’re finished with your cook you can plug in a flash drive and download the cook data. You then plug the flash drive into your computer and it reads out as an Excel spreadsheet. This is a graph I made from the information collected while smoking the snack sticks

Graph of the FEC100 temperature while smoking the snack sticks.

Graph of the FEC100 temperature while smoking the snack sticks.

The sudden drops were from me opening the door to check the food temperature. It will be interesting to see what it does on a long cook, which will be coming up this weekend. You can watch a video from Cookshack’s CEO Stuart Powell on the IQ5 controller here.

While the snack sticks were smoking we moved on to the last phase, brats. Again the meat was ground and seasoned, then stuffed;

11 pounds of brats

11 pounds of brats

and vacuum sealed.

Vacuum sealing the brats

Vacuum sealing the brats

By the time we finished the brats, the snack sticks were ready to come out. They went straight into the Tru commercial refrigerator so we could get them cooled quickly.

After being smoked, the snack sticks went back into the fridge to cool and hopefully absorb a little humidity.

After being smoked, the snack sticks went back into the fridge to cool and hopefully absorb a little humidity.

I took some to work and they were certainly a hit! The had a good flavor although I would have liked a little more heat, and the FEC100 put on a perfect amount of smoke. We haven’t tried the brats yet but the breakfast sausage and snack sticks will be enjoyed for sure.

You might have noticed that I have a lot of Cabela’s equipment, that’s just because we have one fairly close to us. The lesson to be learned in that is to buy the best equipment you can afford. I tried to “get by” for years and always ended up frustrated and disappointed. Having the right equipment for the job makes it go much smoother and more enjoyable, from the grinder, to the stuffer, all the way up to the Cookshack FEC100 smoker. Cookshack also has several electric smokers as well as pellet grills so they will have a model to fit your needs. Check out the link to see them all.

We have a competition coming up this weekend so I’ll be back real soon.