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Wade last won the day on February 19

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About Wade

  • Birthday 10/10/1957

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  1. The Feldon is one that is widely referenced in the US forums and was the one I referenced when I was building my offset (or more precisely - having it built). It is a bit of an all-round calculator and having looked at the calulators in the link from @Diggerg I think these are more aimed at specific parts of the build. If these were used in conjunction with each other I think that you would not go far wrong. A darn site better than the guesswork that people usually use 🙂
  2. Wade

    Bacon for beginners

    It is difficult to say exactly what has happened without a closer look at the bacon itself. The bags are obscuring the view of the meat. From what I can see the colour does not look bad and from your notebook you have used the correct amounts of cure/salt etc. Just to make sure - you were using Cure #1 for this (6.26% Nitrite in Salt). I would not worry too much about the amount (lack) of moisture released. I find it varies greatly between pieces of meat. Some I get a lot of brine produced and others I get virtually nothing. When you put the pork in the bag with the cure did you try to get as much air out of the bag as possible and wrap the bag around the meat to keep it in close contact while it was in the fridge. You want to minimise the amount of air that is in contact with the meat during the cure period. When you say the meat "did not smell good" what did it smell like? Did it still not smell good after you had taken the meat from the bag and rinsed it off?
  3. The Uuni burns through pellets like they are going out of fashion. Don't buy expensive pellets as the high heat that they burn at they do not actually impart any distinct wood flavours.
  4. Hi Martin It isn't the final residual amount of salt that is important - more the amount of moisture removed. If you start out with, say, a 50:50 mix of salt and sugar sprinked onto the fish surface the salt concentration will be sufficient to inhibit the surface bacteria after a relatively short period of time. If you then rinse off the surface salt/sugar after, say, 3 hours relatively little will have penetrated into the fish flesh - but relatively little moisture will have been removed too. You will therefore need to smoke for longer to get the moisture content down. Smoke at ~20-24 C for 24 hours and then check the weight. It needs to lose between 15-18% of its weight in moisture loss If you use a mix that has less salt/sugar than 50:50 then you will probably need to add more of it. I would stick with the 50:50 mix and only leave it to initially cure for 3-4 hours and then rinse well under running water before smoking.
  5. Wade

    Bacon for beginners

    Hi Hywel and welcome to the forum Thank you for your kind words above. To help people like yourself to become confident in their curing is one of the major reasons we set up the forum. A few bits of basic background information and advice... There are strict UK/EU/UDSA regulations on the use of cures in commercially produced bacon and, as you would expect, these have safety margins built in to them. Over the last few years we have seen the amount of permitted cure almost half - from ~270 mg/kg (ppm) to 150 mg/kg (ppm). Even though this is the case, the EU and UK still allow higher levels of cure in "traditional" cured meat products. On the forum here we only recommend the use of the standard commercial cure levels and so you can feel safe using the calculations you see. Unfortunately there are no legal cure limits when producing home made bacon and many of the widely available cures (like Supracure), when used at the recommended rate, can result in cure levels being double the permitted commercial levels. Should you avoid these home cure mixes? No, not necessarily. Once you become comfortable calculating the cure you are using (which you should ALWAYS do - even if it just for your own peace of mind) you can often adapt their usage rate to bring them back into line. Supracure for instance, when used at 50% of their recommended rate (e.g. 2.5% instead of 5%) results in salt levels of 2.5% and Nitrite levels of 150 mg/kg - a good result all round. The good news is that many of the newer cure mixes that are coming onto the home market do conform to the maximum commercial UK/EU cure limits. If the cure that you are thinking of buying does not tell you exactly what is in it, first contact the supplier and ask them to tell you the contents in writing. If they cannot/will not tell you then don't buy it. If you are making bacon then make sure that the cure you buy contains only NitrIte and does not contain any NitrAte as well. Of the two it is the Nitrite that is the active component and for relatively short shelf life products (like bacon) is the one that you need. The Nitrate is only required in the longer shelf life products (like salamis and other air dried sausages, or air dried meats like "Parma" ham, bresaola or pancetta). Here the Nitrate acts as a Nitrite reserve - over time it slowly breaks down to Nitrite to keep the Nitrite levels topped up. Using curing salts that include both Nitrite and Nitrite in something like bacon only means that you are using up to twice as much curing salt that you think you are. Limiting the Nitrite/Nitrate in your bacon is not really about making the bacon "safe" but more about helping to reduce the overall amount of Nitrate/Nitrite that we eat in our overall diet. When you eat your bacon steak with a good helping of cabbage, carrots and maybe some braised celery, it is likely that each of the vegetable portions could contain as much (or maybe even more) Nitrate/Nitrite than the bacon itself. The more accurately you can weigh the cure the better however we can sometimes get over paranoid over accuracy. We need to remember that meat is biological tissue and so each joint/belly will actually absorb different amounts of the cure. When calculating the levels we are measuring the amount of cure we are applying to the meat ("ingoing") and not the final final amount in it ("residual") and that you are eating. It all works on averages and so the residual amount in the end bacon will vary. Official testing over the years has shown that the use of the published maximum "ingoing" amounts will result in the "residual" cure being within the effective protective range. For a 1 Kg slab of pork belly you would need 2.4 g of Cure #1 (6.25% Nitrite in Salt) to give you 150 mg/kg ingoing Nitrite. However if you only has scales that measured to the nearest gram then providing you weighed out more than 2 g but less than 3 g of the cure you would end up with Nitrite levels somewhere between 125-188 mg/kg - and these are well within the upper and lower safety margins. The closer you can get to weighing the 2.4 g of cure the better though. Regarding the curing container... As we are carefully calculating the amounts of salt and cure (to provide a consistent quality of bacon) we need to ensure that the salt/cure/brine remains in close contact with the surfaces of the meat. The Pyrex dish approach would work for the techniques where we simply relying on an excess of salt for the curing process, however it is not recommended for techniques where we are using curing salts (e.g. Nitrite). This is due to the uncertainty of the amount of the cure that will be absorbed. To minimise the use of plastic you can use the ziplock food bags and remove as much air from the bag as you can while curing. After use the bags can then be washed out and re-used for your next batch. Not a complete avoidance of plastic but it will minimise its use over time. The use of bags like this keeps the fridge clean and allow you to cure multiple joints in stacks - one joint per bag. The length of time you need to cure depends on the thickness of the meat. For most belly joints 6-7 days is usually sufficient however loin joints (back bacon) will usually require 10-14 days. Within reason you cannot "over cure" so if you leave either types of joint curing for 14 days (which is what I do) then you are fine. If you want to only cure the belly for 7 days then that is fine too. The curing time is not dependant on the salt content. The calculated 5% or 2.5% salt is the estimated residual salt that has diffused into the bacon during the curing period. When you first apply the salt/cure to the meat the surface salt concentration will be 100% - this will kill most of the bacteria on the surface of the meat and give even the most resilient bacteria a very very bad day. At that point the pork will be fine throughout the curing period so long as it is kept refrigerated. After the cure the slab of cured bacon will then be fine for about 6 weeks so long as it is kept refrigerated. The salt does most of the preserving work however the Nitrite has some very important roles too - it gives bacon its "bacon" flavour, it inhibits the growth of botulinum and it prevents the meat fats from becoming rancid. My advice is to keep the levels of salt in your bacon low. 2.5% is a level that suits most peoples tastes. This level still makes good lardons - and if they are not salty enough for your recipe then just adjust the seasoning accordingly. The two end slices of the bacon will be more salty than the inner slices so you could save these specifically for lardons. Avoid any recipe that involves using curing salts that tells you to add more salt each day and pour away any brine. The results from this method will be so unpredictable it is, at best, a black art - and almost verges on alchemy. This method would be fine though if you are only using salt to cure, without the use of any curing salts. I hope this helps to reassure you.
  6. Great looking bread. Many people do not realise just how easy it is to bake bread on most BBQS - so long as you avoid direct bottom heat. On my courses I recommend putting a roasting tray on the grill grate and place the bread tray on top of a cake cooling rack above that.
  7. The vac packing makes it a lot cleaner and easier to manage multiple batches
  8. I can thoroughly recommend it
  9. For chipotle chillies it is best to dry them in the smoker as the smoke plays an important role in the flavour. If you split them they will dry faster - and that is what I do for my smoked chillies. They are best dried/smoked at 60-70 C as this drives off the moisture without roasting the chilly. They can take up to 24 hours (or more) to dry - depending on air flow through the smoker. If you want to speed the process up then cut each of the chillies in half (leaving in the seeds) and cold smoke them for 4-5 hours as close to 60-70 C as you can using some fairly heavy smoke. Then place them in your kitchen oven to finish drying. You will need to leave the oven door slightly open (just a few millimetres) to allow moisture to escape. This will give the whole house a lovely aroma 🙂
  10. Don't forget to take photos - we like photos on here
  11. This weekend why not use the opportunity to get to know how your smoker works as it is and how it can be controlled. Visit your local garden centre and get a bag of briquettes and see if you can find some oak off cuts from somewhere - or a bag of wood chunks. From the supermarket see if they have a small piece of topside or silverside on special offer and a couple of packs of good quality sausages (*** yes i did say sausages 🙂 ***). rub some salt, pepper and garlic over the meat and leave for 4 hours (or overnight) in the fridge. Over the weekend fire up the smoker as it is using the Minion method and practice trying to manage the temperature using the firebox air vent. The beef and sausages will be quite happy cooking at between 140-180 C and they will only take a couple of hours. Cook the sausages until they are 74 C internally and the beef until it is ~60 C (dependant on your preference for doneness). This will give you a baseline for using the smoker against which you can measure how effective your modifications are. A hint... Cooking the meat on top of a cake cooling rack placed over a roasting tray will save you a lot of mess from dripping fat inside your smoker.
  12. The photo was for illustrative purposes just to show that you can use either. I use a lot of pellets (usually Hickory) as this is what is used in my commercial smoker - but the most convenient for you will probably be wood chunks. Chunks are smaller than logs and so are usually easier to use. Logs will work too but they can be a bit on the large side and are usually used when the wood is providing the cooking heat as well. The aim is to cook using what is known as "Thin Blue Smoke", which is almost invisible. Thick billowing smoke over a long cooking period can result in the meat tasting rather over smoked and tarry. The more wood you use the more smoke you will get as the wood impurities burn off. The amount of smoke is easier to regulate in a small smoker with chunks rather than larger logs.
  13. Not exactly but a chimney starter will help. The Minion method is to use a combination of lit and unlit coals to provide finer temperature control. You load your firebox with unlit coals closest to the cooking chamber and then add a dozen or so fully lit coals at the air vent end. You restrict the air flow over the coals so that they only burn slowly (which is why having a good air seal on the firebox lid is important) and you can then increase or decrease the heat of the coals (and therefore the cooking chamber) by opening and closing the air vent. Remember that quite small changes to the air vent position will have significant effect on the temperature and that it is easier to increase the temperature than it is to bring it back down again. Also ensure that there is a good amount of space underneath the coals for ash to drop and for air to reach the burn. Here is a photo of a minion setup - though the firebox is a little fuller than I would use. You would place your wood chunks over the top of the unburned coals so that new smoke is created over time as the burn progresses. Here is a blog post that shows several different Minion methods in different types of smoker - some more complex than others. Here is a photo from one of my training courses showing the Minion method in a bullet smoker with both wood chunks and wood pellets in place
  14. Have you heard of the Minion Method for burning charcoal?
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