From this view you can see some of the thought Chuck put into his design. When each drawer is opened the back of the drawer seals off the heat chamber of the smoker. According to Chuck when the drawer is opened for any length of time the overall temperature of the pit drops less than five degrees.
The stainless steel cooking grates are all removable. The flexible high heat drawer gaskets allow for some adjustment of the seal to insure you always have a proper fit. The pits are made in Memphis by hand. Each piece of steel is laser cut to insure a proper fit.
It’s quite obvious from the design of his Stacker Smoker that Chuck is a thinker. And not only has he thought up a great smoker, but he’s thought up an interesting and somewhat revolutionary way of smoking ribs. Chuck was kind enough to send me an article he is planning to publish on his website that explains how to turn out some great ribs.
How many times have you seen ribs that had a dark, or even black appearance and had good taste and tenderness, but lacked some smoke flavor?
Most of that is caused by the sugars in the rub and not always because they were overcooked and appeared burned. I experimented a few years ago and made a really interesting discovery. I loaded a case of baby-backs into one of our Stacker drawer smokers without “any” rub on them. Yes, even I thought it was crazy. My theory was that if our pores open up when we sweat, then, why wouldn’t it be the same with the ribs? I discovered that by applying a healthy amount of rub to the meat prior to cooking that it would cause the sugar to caramelize, as it’s expected to do. Then, with more cooking time, the sugars turned the meat an unappetizing dark to black color. Yes, I know over-saturation of smoke can cause this, too.
I’ve seen many cooks panic while thinking the ribs were burned and pulled them off and swear they would “never buy ribs from that place again” because they were so tough. After all, it stands to reason that we are planning to “smoke” the ribs and that the smoke might possibly be blocked by the caramelized sugar, much like using a sunscreen, which in turn would not allow adequate smoke penetration and the desired smoke ring. My thoughts were the same for applying mustard, also.
So, I smoked them without any rub applied before cooking to try to get maximum smoke penetration and flavor. The result was indeed a much better smoke penetration and improved smoke flavor and tenderness. I’ve judged many contests and eaten a lot of meat that was cooked properly with great tenderness, but, had very little or no smoke flavor whatsoever. Then, the outside was beautifully covered with a sauce or glaze and just seemed to be lacking the smoke flavor.
I knew there had to be some balance somewhere in between so I later began applying a small amount of rub to the meat prior to cooking and rubbed it in, then, covered it with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature until the smoker heated up. Then, put the ribs on around 225 degrees. As the meat temperature began to rise and the fat rendered nicely into the water pan, the pores opened up and allowed much deeper smoke penetration, all the way to the bone.
Since the Stacker smoker can cook baby backs in 3 1/2 to 4 hours without wrapping in foil, I opened a drawer around the 3 hour mark and pulled out the entire grate with 3 to 5 slabs on it, set it on the table and performed the cosmetic work to the ribs by using what I call the “Spray, Sprinkle, Spray” method. The spray is 3/4 apple juice (or apple cider) and 1/4 grenadine. Yes, it does taste very sweet, but, it’s only used to help the rub stick that I’m about to apply. The grenadine adds additional fruit flavor and gives the meat a really nice mahogany color. Next, I spray one slab at a time. Then, sprinkle a healthy portion of our Smackers BBQ Seasoning, and respray again to help draw it into the open pores of the meat. It’s usually best to turn all the ribs over and do the bottoms and sides first (between the bones since some judges will pull them apart first to look for smoke and tenderness). Then, flip them back over and Spray, Sprinkle, Spray the tops. (Checkout some of the photos below).
Next, I put all the ribs back into the smoker and let them carmelize and watch the color develop as it all melts into the meat for another 30 minutes to an hour. I check the tenderness using the “little fingernail” technique. When the meat has pulled back from the ends of the bones about the length of your little fingernail, they are ready. Then, I remove them again and paint on the finish glaze for even more flavor and appearance. It’s best to let them rest some before eating or turn-in time.
I’ve demonstrated the effectiveness of this technique with Red Todd and several other very experienced champion BBQ teams that were all surprised how well it worked. I even did it on chicken thighs that I cooked for the KCBS judges class held at the 2010 NBBQA trade show in Memphis. Making great BBQ is a process of many steps and techniques. I know BBQ cooking techniques are very subjective and that some people might be skeptical, but, once you try this, you might be surprised, too.
You can read more about Stackers and Smackers on www.smackersbbq.com.