Dark Lord Day Survival Guide – 2017 Edition

With less than one week to go until this year’s Dark Lord Day I thought I would re-write my survival guide to include some things that I learned last year.

First, remember how I said you should hydrate the week of Dark Lord Day? Well, that might be a bit much. While I do think that you should watch your alcohol, caffeine, and water levels the week of the event my body got so used to using water to flush my system that by the time I got corralled into the cattle pens I had to pee so bad I thought my bladder might actually rip open. So I’d say try not to overdue anything the week of and depending on how early you arrive increase your water intake once you are IN the festival.

Continue to do everything in your power to not get sick. Take Emergen-C, work from home every day this week, don’t go to the doctor, do not get sick. And if you do get sick DO NOT take anything for it on Dark Lord Day. You have no idea how the medicine you take is going to interact with alcohol. That’s probably the part that will fuck you up more than just being sick that day.

I stand by what I said about the Friday night bottle shares. Partake at your own risk. Do you really want to get so messed up on Friday that you miss your Group B call time? And on top of that possibly be so sick that you don’t drink anything on Saturday?

I think the Camelbak bladder thing is a real good idea. Mine broke before things even got started last year. Luckily, I had backup water bottles. Definitely bring one or the other. I haven’t bought a replacement bladder yet, I might just go with plenty of bottles.

As far as food goes I say skip the festival food. Bring Cliff bars with you. They will get you what you need to keep you going as soon as you need it. The worst thing would be waiting in line for food while still bottle sharing and now you’re drunk because you were drinking on an empty stomach.

I’m just going to quote myself about tasting glasses from last year: “Don’t bring a tasting glass larger than 5oz. I know. It sounds crazy, right? But you will be drinking high octane beers for upwards of 12 hours. Take a 3oz taste, move on to the next thing. By the time you hit beer number 15 your taste buds are going to be shot anyways. You aren’t going to remember half of what you drank so why take giant pours that will only end up with you being very sad the next day.

Taking an hour break in the middle of the day is still really good advice. If the weather is actually decent this year you’ll be able to walk around the festival grounds. See a band, buy some merch, soak it up. You’re at Dark Lord Day!

And finally, stop drinking. When it looks like the people you are with are ready to head out stop taking pours. Put your glass away and pat yourself on the back. You survived Dark Lord Day!

Thoughts on the Wicked Weed Acquisition

 

This morning, I opened Twitter and at the same time as everyone else I learned that Wicked Weed Brewing had been acquired by Anheuser-Busch. My social media feed was flooded with posts about Wicked Weed and ABInBev. My first thought was “wow, my social media is going to be a shit show today”. And it still is.

I wish Wicked Weed all the best.

However, if anyone brings Wicked Weed to a bottle share I attend from this moment forward I will have to say something. Probably something hilarious like “we better drink this before it turns into Bud Light” or “didn’t Anheuser Busch already make sour stouts in 2015” a very funny zing referring to the infected bottles of Bourbon County Stout.

Anheuser Busch wants to destroy craft beer. When they bought Goose Island in 2012 you couldn’t buy craft beer in Chicago any more. I’ve switched to spiked seltzers.

I wish everyone at Wicked Weed the best and I know they will continue to make great beers. It’s too bad they made beer so good that a lot of people want to drink it.

Sincerely,
Jim Plachy

The Best Pork Shoulder I’ve Smoked (So Far)

Last Sunday even with the threat of rain I decided to crank out another pork shoulder. This time I rubbed it with mustard and managed to find time to brine it for about 16 hours. This is how it looked after it came out of the brine. I love seeing the molasses adhere itself to the fat cap.

At 4:45am the shoulder was on the smoker and this time I changed the way I handled the wood. I hid hickory and apple chips throughout the charcoal while setting up the bowl for the minion method. Then when I put the shoulder on I added a large chunk of hickory. I then alternated apple and hickory chunks every hour until the shoulder hit 160 degrees. I was planning on wrapping the shoulder but I was getting such good heat out of the smoker that I skipped it.

This is what the shoulder looked like towards the end of the cook. The bark was super dark and crunchy which is how I like it but I am very interested in doing a wrap one of these days. I was going to do a shoulder this weekend but my schedule didn’t allow for it.

After 12 hours the shoulder came off the smoker and after a 45 minute rest I pulled it. I mixed it up with additional rub and the spice and moisture level was perfect. Doling out the smoke every hour worked great. The meat had a perfect smokey aroma and it didn’t dominate the flavor of the pork. I also think the brining is a must. It adds so much moisture to the finished product. After finishing this shoulder I feel like I’m getting closer and closer to finally doing that brisket. Maybe Memorial Day weekend? Stay tuned!

COOK LOG

43 degrees
225 degrees

 

77 degrees
240 degrees

 

112 degrees
240 degrees

 

7:45am (Water pan refill)
135 degrees
238 degrees

 

152 degrees
218 degrees

 

160 degrees
227 degrees

 

10:45am (changed coal, water pan refill)
165 degrees
225 degrees

 

166 degrees
233 degrees

 

12:45pm (water pan refill)
171 degrees
258 degrees

 

178 degrees
240 degrees

 

184 degrees
243 degrees

 

190 degrees
232 degrees

 

195 degrees
247 degrees

Cooking a Huge Pork Shoulder Slowly and a Tri-Tip Quickly

Last weekend it looked like the weather was going to hold out for a good long smoke, so for the first time ever I went to the butcher to get a pork shoulder and decided to get a tri-tip for good measure. I’ve always bought my pork shoulders at a big grocery store. I find that Meijer actually has real good butchered in house pork shoulders. The other guys have cryovac packed Hormel shoulders which are fine because lets face it the original point of barbecue was to take the cheapest cuts of meat and smoke them until they are tender and delicious. That’s been one of the great things about this hobby and what can make it so “relaxing”. Even if you screw up you still have great food at the end of the cook. It might not be what you wanted but it’s edible. The butcher sold me a whole bone-in shoulder that came fresh out of the shrink wrap. He trimmed it up a bit but unlike the stuff I buy at the grocery store I had to do further trimming once I got home. This is what it looked like when I unpacked it.

I trimmed off some of that raised fat. I did an ok job but what I didn’t know is that I would be doing even more fat trimming later in the day. Even with the trimming this shoulder was over 10lbs the biggest shoulder I’ve ever tried to cook. My goal was to get it done as close to 5:00pm as possible so I started the fire at 3:45am. I knew it was going to be a cold morning and that the temp wouldn’t start to rise until almost 9:00am so I had to get things going early. While the fire got going I rubbed the pork. I used olive oil instead of my usual mustard because I had done it two weeks prior and I thought it helped with moisture. I don’t think it did so I’ll be going back to the mustard. For a rub I used this recipe from the Virtual Weber Bullet website.

By 4:30am I had the shoulder on the cooker. I used a 75/25 mix of Apple and Hickory wood. I usually brine my shoulders two days before I cook them. Unfortunately I didn’t have the shoulder in time for this cook so I decided I was going to spray the shoulder with a 75/25 mix of apple juice and apple cider vinegar. I did this every hour for 3 hours starting at 10:30am. This is what the shoulder looked like when I lifted the lid for the first time at the 6 hour mark.

At this point things started getting hectic for me. The fuel in the cooker was starting to run out, the water pan was empty, and I decided it was time to get the tri-tip ready for lunch. When I took the tri-tip out of the fridge and unwrapped it I found out that the butcher had left the fat cap on one side. I definitely didn’t want or need that much fat so I had some trimming to do. It took me a few minutes but I can’t believe what a great job I did.

I didn’t have any made for beef rubs so I found my original tri-tip recipe someone sent me when I started smoking last year. That recipe had a rub in it and something didn’t feel right when I was making it but I was pressed for time and I threw it together and rubbed it on.

I decided to run my Mini Smokey Mountain for the tri-tip since I had the pork shoulder on the bottom rack of the full size smoker and I wanted this guy to come up to temp quickly.  Here’s a picture of me running both my smokers simultaneously for the first time ever.

After 45 minutes on the smoker I was getting 118 degrees in the thickest part of the meat. So I took it off and placed it on my smoking hot Weber Q. I did 3 minutes on each side and after letting it rest a few minutes it looked fantastic.

But what happened when I cut into it I can’t even describe. I’ve been trying to make beef that looks like this my entire adult life.

So, how did it taste? Well, that’s the problem. The rub I applied to the beef was heavy on salt and cayenne so it was a bit salty and a lot spicy. I wrapped up the leftovers for people to try later and it had mellowed out a little bit but I’m currently searching for a better tri-tip rub.

The pork shoulder cooked on the smoker for about 12 hours total. At the bottom of this post I’ll put the hourly temps so you can see how it progressed. I was pretty happy with how the smoker held temp. I only had to change the coals completely once probably due to the very low temps in the morning.

When I went to go take the shoulder out of the cooker it was so tender that the whole thing fell apart while transferring it to the pan. Here’s a pic, sorry its so bad. I’ll work on my camera techniques.

And then about 45 minutes later I pulled it all by hand….well, hand and shredders. This is the finished product.

A couple of quick notes about the finished shoulder. I forgot to sprinkle additional rub into the meat as I pulled and mixed it and I DID NOT use enough wood for a 10lbs pork shoulder. As with all barbecue it tasted fine and everyone was happy to eat it but I can definitely say this was one of my worst shoulders. I went out and bought a Hormel for this weekend. I’ll definitely have time to brine it and its a little smaller at 8.7lbs. I’m also going to work on smoke management a bit more. Making sure there’s wood smoke until the shoulder hits about 160.  I’ll be sure to do my best to document the cook. Thanks for taking the time to read all this!

COOK LOG

4:30am
38 degrees
225 degrees
5:30am
54 degrees
238 degrees
6:30am
85 degrees
236 degrees
7:30am
112 degrees
239 degrees
temperature dropped to 30 degrees, wind held steady
8:30am
132 degrees
236 degrees
9:30am
148 degrees
226 degrees
Temperature up to 39 degrees but wind picked up
10:30am
159 degrees
207 degrees
11:30am
164 degrees
208 degrees
12:30pm
167 degrees
247 degrees
1:30pm
171 degrees
258 degrees
2:30pm
181 degrees
245 degrees
3:30pm
189 degrees
252 degrees
4:00pm
195 degrees
Pulled off smoker

I Hope You Like Barbecue

To say that craft beer is my hobby would be a massive understatement. Craft beer is in every fiber of my being. I think about it constantly. I drink it often. I’m always buying beer or wishing I was somewhere buying a beer. My social media accounts are dominated by craft beer. I’ve made friends……on Untappd.

Over the course of the last 18 months I’ve been very slowly dipping my toe into the world of barbecue. Lets get this straight. Barbecue as in slow smoked meat. I don’t mean grilling, I don’t mean sauces, I mean slowly cooking meat over wood and charcoal. After spending all of last year barbecuing on a Weber smokey joe that used a tamale pot as a chamber(seriously, its a thing)I decided to buy a real Weber Smokey Mountain cooker. Luckily, the weekend I bought it we had amazing weather(it was February in Chicago….there should have been snow, it was 65 degrees). I’ve already cooked two pork shoulders, and 3 whole chickens on it. My goal is to spend the whole season cooking a wide variety of things all leading up to the mother of all barbecue…brisket. That’s right, I want to do a brisket. I bought the 14.5″ WSM so I’ll probably have to stick to either doing the flat or separating the point from the flat. I think I’m going to start by just doing a 5-6lbs flat.

What I’m getting at is that barbecue has become my hobby and its a fun one to document. So prepare for me to start writing posts about my barbecue cooks. The first one is coming by the end of this weekend. I hope that you enjoy these posts. I would love feedback. And hopefully writing about cooking will get me writing some more stuff about beer and music. I’d love to be more active on this blog.