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Setting up a makeshift home smoker is a lot easier than you may think. Simply take two disposable aluminum roasting pans and place the open ends facing one another.
Cut a hole in the center of the top pan the size of a silver dollar to let the smoke escape, and voila, you’ve just created a smoker.
The technique is simple, too: Place wood chips on the bottom of your smoker, then a roasting rack to keep the meat off its bottom. Lay your choice of meat on the rack and then cover with the roasting pan lid with the hole. You can seal the edges if you want with aluminum foil. Place the pan on the burner of your gas stove. (You can also use your outdoor grill for this step.) The wood chips will ignite and begin to smoke. (Make sure you have some form of ventilation fan that takes smoke directly out of doors.) Turn off the flame and the chips will continue to smolder, smoking the meat, for a prescribed amount of time, at which point you’ll move your smoker into your oven until the meat reaches the desired temperature.
Also, it’s almost impossible to cook barbecue properly without a digital probe thermometer. Your other option would be to constantly disturb the meat while cooking, which is not a great idea since barbecue likes constant temperatures. A remote thermometer with a probe attached to a long wire is best, since the wire can run outside the oven and read the temperature without opening the oven door.
Making a brine
Before smoking, all meats should be soaked in a brine which shortens the cooking time and increases the tenderness and moisture in the meat. Most brines are made of salt, water, sugar and some sort of acid, a fruit juice or vinegar. You also can add aromatics— different herbs and garlic— the sky’s the limit. Start by placing the meat in a non-corrosive container and entirely cover with plain water. Remove the meat and measure the remaining water to determine the amount of brine you’ll need to make.
Here’s a simple brine recipe to get you started:
1 quart cool water
1/2 cup kosher Salt
1/2 cup sugar
Mix in your non-reactive container until dissolved. Make 1 quart of brine for each pound of meat. Keep the brine and the meat refrigerated until ready to use.
Whole pork butts with the bone in are best. Without the blade bone they tend to dry out when cooked. Brine the meat, submerged, for 24 hours or inject the meat with brine using a syringe. A pork butt will take about 2 cups of injection. Wrap it up in plastic wrap and let sit for at least 2 hours. Remove and using a rub specifically for pork, generously rub down the meat and place on the rack in your makeshift smoker. Use hickory or try other woods and smoke on your stove for at least 1 hour— that would be 4 good handfuls of wood chips. Transfer the butt to a 225-degree oven and let cook for 9 to 12 hours or until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 200 degrees. Remove meat and let rest for a half-hour.