Welcome to my RF Blog (Reverse Flow), this is a blog sharing my adventures into the wonderful world of ...
First let me introduce you to "Frank".
This is a Reverse Flow smoker made from an 80 gallon air compressor, affectionately named "Frankensmoker".
And below are some of "Franks" features.
If you are interested in the build you can click Build Blog
I also have a some information on a vertical cabinet style water smoker you can click GOSM BB Notes and check that out as well.
If you see something you like and are interested in how to make it, you can visit my blog at "SQWIB Cooks"
Seasoning the RF
I seasoned the RF using wood only, cherry wood; about three times, the last time was about four hours.
The cherry gave it a nice hardwood coating. I like to season with hardwood only, usually and will always start off with a hardwood seasoning .
On the RF, I decided to wipe it down lightly with some bacon grease, I don't believe that you get a better seasoning with the addition of oil but hey I wanted it shiny
Before my first cook I seasoned a 4th time with cherry wood and with bacon grease that I have been saving.
First cook on RF
Chopped a bunch of splits and set up the cooking area, wood, chair, table and music.
My first cook on the RF was two Boston Butts at about 6.8lbs each, “Macaroni and Cheese” and “Beef Brisket Chili”
Fired up the Reverse Flow using the preheat burner, turned off the preheat burner and added some cherry logs and fired up the “Log Lighter”, man this thing throws some heat.
The preheat burner had the RF heated up in 10 minutes from 85° (ambient temperature) to 275°.
After getting the heat up well over 500° I turned off the “Log Lighter and let the wood catch up and burn down a bit, took about an hour.
Once the RF was hot, I popped open the lid and wiped down the grates and the inside with bacon grease that I have been saving.
The RF was seasoned prior with a cherry wood about three times before adding the bacon grease.
Threw the Butts on, then the “Beef Brisket Chili” and “Macaroni and Cheese”.
You can visit my "SQWIB Cooks" blog for the recipes.
First mistake I made was leaving my probes in when I had the RF up well over 500°, I fried all 5 probes. I am told by Taylor Products, that these probes are not recommended above 390°.
Next mistake I made was leaving the new utility tubs under the smoker… hey live and learn right.
3rd mistake was having the firebox handle too close to the firebox, had to remove and rebend the handle till it was further away.
After my first test run I knew I had to make some tweaks, click on RF Tweaks to the build page.
- Added another 4-1/2” to the table width.
- Put a cast iron grate next to the firebox.
- Fixed the handle angle.
- Installed shelving a slide out buss boy tray and chaffing pans for storage.
- Reinstalled the stop for the lid (slinky), it’s too far to reach with the table being extended 4-1/2”, its not pretty but it really works well the spring absorbs the shock when you flip open the lid.
- Adding a removable turkey fryer burner for all propane cooks (pending).
- Installed a propane lantern.
- Installed several hooks for hanging cooking utensils.
- Installed a cutting board.
- Installed a paper towel holder
- Installed a Mop (Spray Bottle) Hook.
- Installed Double Baffle to even out temps
Performance and Features
The RF maintains heat very well, heat recovery is quick, temperatures around 500° is no problem.
With all valves full open and the air intakes in the rear full open, it will maintain about 350° - 375° no problem using larger splits.
Draft seem adequate, smoke doesn't hang or build up too much.
I believe that there is a fair amount of convection going on, because of "Franks" diameter being 20inches... just as long as its not too much.
The “Log Lighter” is awesome; I can get a good fire going in 10 – 15 minutes, no problem, since the “Log Lighter” does not burn very clean, I will need to make some tweaks on this as well, for the option to use the RF, propane only!
The "Preheat Burner" does a great job as well; I was able to get the RF from 85° (ambient) to 275° in 10 minutes on medium.
The nice thing about these propane pipe burners is they are removable.
The "propane pipe burner controls" are easy to reach and adjust.
The "ball valves" are nice, I have unlimited control over air flow volume and direction. The "rear air intake" is a nice option for running higher temperatures.
It seems to have good draft, no problem getting a good TBS (Thin Blue Smoke), I just need a little more practice on my “Fire Management” skills.
The "slide out utility tub" and "slide out steamer pans" shelf is awesome, I can keep everything organized in these tubs for my future cooks.
The "propane lantern" is a nice feature, its actually a keepsake from a friend who passed away and every time I look at the lantern I smile.
The steel rod holding up the lantern is from the crib my three kids were in.
In addition to the lantern is an "LED Desktop lamp" that throws some decent light, sorry no pics of the lamp.
I am installing "GFI Outlet" for running some juice to "Frank".
The "12" x 72" table" offers more than enough prep area to do various smokes.
The wood I used for the table also has sentimental value, its wood from my fathers workshop in his shed, I have a lot of fond memories of working in that shed, I held on to it for years swearing that I would use it for something. I believe it is mahogany and I am told it came from the old Schmidt's Brewery, all you older Philadelphians would remember the brewery.
The "RVQ gas grill" on the side is nice to throw on a few quick burgers or hot dogs, I think I will be installing a needle valve on the grill, the flame is either low or high can't seem to find that perfect setting.
The "cutting board" is nice to have permanently mounted.
"Wood storage" is adequate.
The 2" "Ball Valve Drain" is a breeze to use.
The five "Probe access" holes are more than enough and easy to use.
I like the "utensil hooks".
Installed a "Mop Bottle hook".
Recently added a "paper towel holder"
The only thing that I would like to change is the 40° – 50° temperature difference.
I noticed the difference in temps increased halfway through my first cook and although it may be somewhat of a design issue, I think it can be controlled by fire placement in the firebox.
What I am thinking is that when I started my first cook, the fire was slightly off center to the left and as the cook progressed, I started stacking the wood all the way to the left, so the fire was directly under the portion of the firebox that was in the RF.
Before I do any modifications I will do a test cook building the fire in the center then moving to the right so the fire is not directly under the section of the firebox in the smoker
If that fails I will be making a sloped baffle inside the firebox or use the temperature difference to my advantage.
Well I tried moving the fire and still is a problem, had a difference at one point of 90 degrees, I believe the top of the firebox is getting extremely hot inside the smoke chamber causing some serious convection resulting in an increase of the temps on that side, I will most likely install some firebrick inside the firebox to see if that helps.
I was a bit unhappy with the most recent cook, I was getting an average of 70 degree difference from left to right. I did not realize the difference was so great until my cook last weekend.
I tried Fire management and that had no effect.
The top of the firebox is getting hammered with heat and 6" of the firebox is inside the smoke chamber.
There is definitely a lot of convection going on.
Here is how I fixed the problem.
CLICK ON THE ABOVE DRAWING FOR THE TEMPERATURE TEST RESULTS
Now I am getting an average 23 degree difference.
Cleanup is fairly easy:
• Drain grease drippings with ball valve into a container.
• Preheat RF and wipe out (scrape) baffle.
• Remove grids and wash with soapy water.
• Wipe table with Clorox cleanup
• Vacuum out ashes from firebox.
• Place utensils and cooking supplies in slide out buss boy tray and slide closed.
• Spray inside and outside firebox lightly with cooking oil.
One thing I have learned over the years is to be prepared and organized.
So before I went into my first cook on he RF, I made sure I had everything, Wood splits, Propane, Thermometers, Gloves etc...
Same goes with the Ingredients to a recipe, get everything out before you start, you just may realize your missing an important ingredient that the neighbor most likely will not have.
For a long time now I wanted to try a side by side comparison of an injected Butt vs. a non injected Butt.
Went to Sams and picked up a few decent Boston Butts, total weight was 13.62lbs., bone in.
I figured about a 50 percent yield.
The night before, I prepped the Butts, removing as much fat as possible to promote more bark formation.
One Boston Butt was injected with a marinade mix, equal parts of Apple Cider Vinegar, Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum and Apple Cider.
The other was not injected. The marinade was also used as a mop (sprits). Rubbed both Butts, wrapped in plastic wrap and placed in the refrigerator.
I used Cherry wood splits, because that’s all I had at the time. The Butts were spritsed simultaneously about eight times during cook The Butts were done sooner than I was used to.
At approximately 6.8 lbs each, bone in, it only took about 8 hours (72 minutes per/lb.)
I was surprised at how quickly they cooked, I was worried that since this was my first cook with the RF and the fact that I was a newbie at fire management, that I might have ruined the Butts.
The Butt temps were about 195° but I was leery removing them so soon, because it had only been eight hours…I never had a Butt cook this quick, I kept moving the probe all over and kept thinking to myself, what’s this Butt all fat, then I remembered a quote I had read from a blog or forum, can’t remember which, “To check for doneness insert a probe, it should slide in very easily like butter”, well this was definitely like butter.
After this little experience I think I am going to ask for one of these for my next birthday, who would of ever though that I would be asking for a thermometer for a birthday gift.
The Butts came off the RF about a half hour apart, wrapped them tightly in foil and towels then placed them in the cooler to rest for about 90 minutes or so.
After the rest I handed my wife two forks and one of the Butts in the pan and smiled. The Butts pulled beautifully and yes the bone was clean The Bark formation and smoke ring was perfect and the bark was not burnt.
I was a bit skeptical so I had 6 family members pick at each one, getting input from each person. Everyone liked the pork 5 out of 6 preferred the non injected Butt and out of the 6 one like the bark on the injected one better, as far as the bark I think that was a fluke I can’t see how injecting could change the flavor of the bark.
The 5 out of the 6 said although they preferred the non injected Butt better, couldn’t really explain why.
I did not try any of the pork until everyone was done, I didn’t want to my tasting to interfere with the test.
The Bark formation and smoke ring was perfect, just a hint of smoke and the bark was not burnt but was nice and chewy, not hard and crusty.
The next day my wife tried both and said this one seems mushy…BINGO, that’s what I was looking for, it seems the injected one was a bit mushier probably mostly from the vinegar breaking down the meat, but both were just as flavorful as each other and I believe the reason everyone preferred the non injected Butt was due to the texture not the flavor.
Ok so now its day 3 of eating pulled pork and it’s still moist.
My conclusion is that if I were to inject again, which I doubt, it would only be with apple cider/Juice.
I can honestly say, without any doubt in my mind, that this was my best Pulled pork to date, I don’t know if that is because of the RF or maybe the temperatures were slightly higher, maybe a better choice of meat, but make no mistake… there will be much more testing.
I believe that there is a fair amount of convection going on, because of "Franks" diameter being 20 inches... just as long as its not too much.
We had some company Saturday and we were going to throw on some dogs and burgers, I figured I would try it on the RF. I asked my better half to pick up a couple of whole chickens as well. We decided on Beer can chicken.
"Beer Can Chicken"
Smoked with Cherry Wood
Remember food safety especially with chicken, do not "cross contaminate" and keep a bleach based cleaner on hand to wipe everything down each step of the way.
When working with chicken get everything ready and mixed before ever handling the chicken.
Preheat RF to 350°.
Mix some sweet basil with butter to rub up underneath the skin in the breast area.
Prepare your beer can and pour out half the beer, take a can opener and remove the top of the beer can.
Remove chicken from refrigerator, remove the gizzard goodie bag, rinse chicken and set aside.
Add the giblets neck and liver from the bag and a teaspoon of rosemary to the beer can.
If you want to make gravy, you can add salt and other spices such as garlic and onion powder and when you remove the can from the chicken, place in a pot and dress up a bit, get creative here.
Some people do not like the taste of liver, so you may not want to add the liver to the beer can if making gravy.
I have noticed that spices such as Rosemary and Thyme added in the can really impart flavor into the chicken.
Place the Beer can on a cookie sheet. Rub chicken with olive oil and add your favorite rub or spices. Place chicken on the beer can.
Heat the RF up to about 350°, remove the “Beer Can Chickens” from the cookie sheet and place directly on the grates.
Cook about 80 minutes, I did 90 minutes last time and it came out pretty good. The chicken makes for an incredible chicken salad the next day.
Just make sure to get some butter up under the skin at the breast area, because the breast can dry out before the chicken is done.
Remove the chicken from the grill, place in a clean steamer pan and rest for about 15 minutes before carving.
If you are making gravy, do so while the chicken is resting.
Remove the skin and place on the still hot grates, if there's a hot spot on your smoker place the skin fat side down on the hot spot, carve the chicken and after the all the carving is done remove the skin from the smoker and cut into strips to serve alongside the meat.
As you can see by the first photo, I did not rub these with olive oil or place any butter underneath the skin, however it still came out pretty good.
Decided to hang out and do some smoking
I had a couple chunks of pork loin thawing in the refrigerator, I was going to crock pot them for a pulled pork but was firing up the smoker to do some "Philly Chili" so I went with smoking.
Rubbed the pork loins and smoked till 165 internal then placed them in a steamer pan setup with the lid on till they reached 200 degrees, then shredded them in the pan with some Sweet Baby Rays.
Threw on my "Philly Chili" had some jerky that wasn't that good that I threw in the chili.
Threw in my 3rd test batch of Mac N' Cheese that was a total success, the first 2 were Fails.
And tried my luck at some Moink Balls, my Brother Jim came over so he seemed interested enough to make the Moink balls. We used JD sausage and some were stuffed with cheddar and some with poppers, rolled in bacon then some rub.
Everything turned out well, I was extremely satisfied with each dish and the Moink balls were a nice treat, we kept picking at them during the cook.
Made a little platter for a friend
Jim, Stephen and myself chilling with some Killians, no Stephen didnt have any beer, although he looks toasted.
Laura and Jim chillin.
Every time I "Q" I always give the dog a treat, well Reds and Speedy must have found out, they were hanging by the smoker all day! They sure do like the rib bits.