My brother and some of my coworkers are total barbeque geeks. I've been listening to them yap about barbequing and smoking meats, and they were a bad influence on me.
I bought a charcoal grill/smoker. It was on sale for $19. I've been wanting to get a nice big gas grill, and still intend to do so, but finding this was part of my good shopping karma this weekend.
It's nice and small and light, but I can still fit a small turkey in there. When I'm not using it I can stash it in the garage. I like its' design better than my old round one. I'm giving the old one to a grad student.
I got some pork chops, rubbed them down with a spice rub, and then looked at the instructions. Ooops. The grill needs to be cured before the first use, to seal the finish and get rid of paint odors. I cheated and let it cure for two hours, added a few more charcoal briquets and then started cooking the pork chops. I had trouble maintain the proper temperature (250F), so I should've added more earlier. After an hour I gave up and finished off the pork chops in the oven. They smelled pretty good as they cooked. They were moist and smoky, and the rub was tasty. They were somewhere in between smoked and baked. I don't recommend cooking them this way, but it is useful to know that rub is so tasty, especially since I have a lot left over.
My brother reminded me that smoked food is best paired with something blander, so it's not so overwhelming. I used this advice as an excuse to make salt potatoes, which are new potatoes cooked in a saturated solution of salt water. They are a regional dish here, and there's even chemistry involved, so of course I wanted to try them. The salt raises the boiling point of the water and also denatures the protein in the potato, so they get really tender and creamy. They are usually served with melted butter. What's not to like?!?! (Admit it, you really want to try them) Anyway, to take away the guesswork of either preparing a saturated solution or measuring out salt, they sell bags of potatoes packaged with bags of salt. [I found it kind of funny that the potatoes were packaged in Sacramento, where the workers were probably wondering WTF about the salt.] I prepared them according to the directions. The salt/water mixture was pretty close to saturation. I ended up putting the lid on the stockpot so they wouldn't splatter salt all over my nice clean kitchen. After about 20 minutes, they were done. I'm not sure if I didn't cook them quite long enough - they were soft and starchy like baked potatoes, rather than being creamy, but after sitting in the presence of butter for a while they became creamier. As you might expect, there was no need to add more salt, but they weren't overwhelmingly salty. (Be forwarned that I like my potatoes very salty, though.] I may make them again, especially since I still have some potatoes left.
I'll post more once I successfully use the smoker.