The Old Wood Smokehouse – North Texas e-News
Writing a weekly column about the outdoors is an endeavor I’ve enjoyed for the past 36 years, but sometimes I find it difficult to come up with a topic that I hope will be interesting and maybe even informative. Oh, those weeks when I’m busy catching fish or hunting new places, the words just seem to pop up on my computer screen. But in real life, I don’t always catch big stripers or chase; there are those weeks when I stay close to home and that’s when I have to “wait” for a subject to come to me!
This week’s topic was a little late in coming! I love to make delicious barbecues not only with game meat, but also with pork, chicken and beef. I was doing a bit of shopping in the morning when I noticed some pork “country ribs” were on sale. Why not buy a few books and fire up my old wood smoker that I haven’t used in several years?
We have adult “kids” who love smoked barbecue as much as I love making it. I usually use my Smokin Tex electric smoker for slow cooking meats, just set the dial and let it cook while I’m busy with other things, but these lean country ribs would lend themselves well to a warm pecan wood fire in my old smoker setting under the trees behind my little cabin near the house. Also, the weather last weekend was almost autumnal and I was ready to smell some wood smoke!
With some big “family packs” of ribs in the basket I started to wonder if my old quirky wood smoker was ready to do some work, after all there were holes where the bottom of the box to fire had rusted. Last time I looked, there were remnants of wasp nests from last year inside the lid! I’ve been trying to remember the last time I used my old stick burner and to the best of my recollection it’s been at least 10 years! As I left the store, I mentally accepted the challenge of turning my cheap meats into tasty barbecue using a smoker that was new 25 years ago! This old outdoor cook was “excited” and I couldn’t wait to get home and do a quick survey of my former smoker.
I started by splitting six inch pieces of pecan wood into “cooking wood” size sticks. I then found a piece of tin which I roughly bent to fit the bottom of the firebox. These holes were bigger than I remembered and needed a little reinforcement! I removed the rusty old cooking grates and gave them a good clean while a fire of hot pecan wood warmed the inside of the old smoker. The smell of wood smoke wafting through the fireplace brought back fond memories of many outdoor barbecues of years past. A look at the weathered but still functional thermostat showed a temperature of nearly 500 degrees, plenty of heat to completely sterilize the smoker’s interior.
When the fire went out, and with a temperature of about 325 degrees, I added about 12 pounds of country ribs, seasoned well with plenty of black pepper, garlic powder, and salt. I gave the ribs about thirty minutes, then flipped them, adding a few sticks of pecans to maintain the temperature. No slow smoking on this BBQ, the domestic pork was tender unlike the wild pork. I often smoke slowly in my electric smoker and within hours the pork had a nice smoke ring and was fork tender. A generous amount of great BBQ sauce and the centerpiece of my meal was ready to eat!
I often write about how I enjoy many different aspects of outdoor living. As the old saying goes, “Variety is the spice of life”. I like to hunt with a variety of weapons. Oh, there were those years when I hunted big game exclusively with my bows, but later found out that I was limiting my enjoyment. I really enjoyed learning about large caliber air rifles, muzzleloading rifles, handguns, etc. Same with my way of fishing. I like to cast a noisy surface plug for largemouth bass or use cheese baits for catfish or vertical lead slabs for stripers! There’s just too much to narrow down to one species or style of fishing, at least that’s how I see it.
I have a few friends who insist on hunting only one species in a particular way. I know a guy who likes to hunt hogs using ARs topped with thermal goggles. To my knowledge, this is the only way he hunts. He’s not interested in trying to harvest a wild hog with a bow from a tree or using a center fire to hunt deer in the fall. I was “that guy” in my youth when I hunted strictly with my bow. But when I started learning about muzzleloaders and later crossbows and large caliber air rifles, I found the challenge of learning new weapons to be almost as much fun as to hunt with them.
These days I spend time shooting and hunting with all of the aforementioned methods and enjoy fishing for everything from northern pike to bluegill sunfish. My heart still skips a beat when I find myself in a tree within bow reach of a deer I want to harvest or when I aim the sights of my thermal Rattler scope mounted on my little Mossberg .223 rifle on a meat hog the night. If you need a challenge to reinvigorate your fishing and hunting or, for that matter, outdoor cooking methods, consider trying something new, broaden your horizons. I really believe you will have more fun.
These thoughts are brought to you by my former wood smoker!
Email outdoor writer Luke Clayton through his website www.catfishradio.org