Tag Archives: life in Alaska

This Alaskan Summer Has Been Smoky, So Why Not Smoke Some Meat?

pork bbq

Pairs well with a sour beer!

Alaska has had a dry and hot summer, and that’s a recipe for wild forest fires, which have made the air smoky for most of the summer.  So we decided, we might as well start smoking meat!  I smoked salmon in my Big Chief electric smoker this year, which keeps the temperature colder than a Texas-style BBQ, making it more suitable for fish.  Although, I suggest barbecuing some pork — it is my current favorite!  What could pair better than an ice cold brewski with a pile of delicious BBQ?

A couple of years ago I was over at my friend’s house and he had just pulled a brisket off his Traeger smoker.  I was amazed at how delicious this otherwise nearly-impossible-to-cook piece of meat was, and he told me how he slowly smoked it for over 12 hours in the pellet smoker.  Since then, I have been obsessed with real BBQ.  I can tell you what it is not: steaks, sausages, burgers, salmon, chicken, or anything else that is cooked over high heat.  That would be grilling.  A hot grill is the antitheses to BBQ.  Now there is nothing wrong with grilling, it’s a good way to cook the meat fast and produces delicious outdoor cooked treats, but it ain’t BBQ.  Grilling happens at 400 – 600 degrees and sears the meat.  BBQ needs to be done slowly and at low heat.  It involves cooking less desirable cuts of meat for several hours, which then makes them highly desirable.

The word barbecue comes from the Caribbean native people Taino’s word Barbacoa and refers to the process of burying meat in a pit oven wrapped in agave leaves.  Texas-style BBQ is a bit more complicated, and needs a specific tool to achieve the desired effect.  Whether it be a computer-controlled Traeger smoker, or a stick smoker, you need a way to produce smoky heat that can be kept at an even 200 – 250 degrees for many hours.  Ribs and roasts are normally preferable, but you can BBQ a suckling pig or larger cuts of meat.  

I have a stick smoker in McCarthy where I prepare my BBQ.  It has a lower compartment for burning the fire, and a larger chamber above where the smoke filters through and exits through a smokestack chimney.  I use oak lump charcoal to keep my fire going and I use chunks of wood to produce the smoke.  I prefer mesquite for that real authentic Texas flavor.  It takes about an hour per pound of meat, so a 3lb boneless pork shoulder takes about 6 hours to BBQ.  The smoker is big enough to handle larger cuts of meat, so you can either make two at once, or smoke for a lot longer with bigger cuts of meat like that brisket I mentioned earlier.  Since you are cooking the meat at low temperatures for a long time, that breaks down all the proteins and makes what would be a tough grilled meat a tender smoked delicacy.  The meat looks blackened and it is the black part, referred to as the bark, that is really good.  Make sure you get to try a piece with some BBQ bark — it has the most smoky flavor that is sooo good.  I like to wait an hour after pulling the meat from the heat, and I use a meat thermometer to make sure it hits 180 degrees — the perfect time to pull the meat.  I like to have some fresh buns ready to make pork sandwiches.  You will probably need some BBQ sauce.  Don’t buy the BBQ sauce with liquid smoke in it.  You only need some sweet tangy sauce to add to your already smoked meat.  Oh, and don’t forget to pair your meat with your favorite beer!  The only beer I wouldn’t use to pair with perfect BBQ is a smoked beer.  There is already enough smoke in the meat!  I would go for a tasty fruity sour ale, or a killer hoppy IPA, but there ain’t nothing wrong with a Euro or American pale lager either.  

Cheers to BBQ!  Meat and beer are really, really tasty! 

pork bbq

A pork shoulder right off the heat — resting for one hour.

Hours of chill time!

Life Changes on the First Day of Snow

~ by Maria Benner

First Day of Snow

Today is the first day of snow!  This is a very exciting day for most people, and this year it happened on a Monday, making the dreaded first day of the week a bit interesting.  We all know the first day of snow is coming, but for some reason most of us choose not to do anything about it.  But this morning we quickly realized that we’d have to add some extra chores to our list today if we want to continue with our regular daily tasks, like driving.

  1. Change tires on our vehicles to winter tires.  Preferably studded ones, which have the best performance on ice versus the ones that claim to be studd-less winter tires.  Some stores, like Costco, stopped carrying studded tires, because they cause so much road damage, but we found a place just a couple blocks from our studio that still sells them, and tomorrow we’re dropping off our truck so it can get brand new studded tires put on it.
  2. Switch to our fat bikes that also have studded tires.  We ride bikes to the studio from our condo, because the studio is only 1 mile away, and we have to pay for parking.  So today we had to air up the tires on those bad boys, and get them ridable again for the first time since last March.
  3. Put the big brushes that we use to clean the snow off our truck back into the truck.  We took them out for the summer to have more space in the back seat.
  4. Pull out winter boots, and put away summer shoes.  Same goes for winter jackets, hats, gloves, etc.  Good luck finding all that stuff after several months.
  5. We live in a condo, so we don’t have to worry about snow removal, but most people had to clear their driveways on top of all the other snow-related chores.

We still have to wash our summer bikes to make the transition to winter complete.  Right now we’re excited for winter, and all the activities we’ll get to do like ice skating, skiing, and fat biking.  Ask me again in a few months how I feel about it.

In case you’re looking for some indoor activities now that it’s cold outside, this Friday we’re hosting a First Friday Open Studio event.  Stop by and see the newest oil paintings for the first time, enjoy some complimentary refreshments (Scott always bakes fresh cookies), and meet the artist if you haven’t already.  Click here to see the event on Facebook.  If you’re not on FB, here are the deets: November 2nd, 5 – 7:30pm, Suite 4 inside the 4th Avenue Market Place on 333 W 4th Avenue.

Talkeetna Air Taxi flight over Denali

One of the newest oil paintings never seen by anyone in person yet, except the artist and his Business Manager. 36″x18″, oil on panel.