2 Chuckies...Simple Beginnings, Dry Smoke Chamber- Cherry/Balsamic Finishing Sauce: Q-View

Discussion in 'Beef' started by forluvofsmoke, Sep 21, 2012.

  1. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Hey Everyone!

    I had some time for a smoke today with a couple of beautifully marbled Angus beef chucks, and while I didn't want to spend a lot of time for prep (get ta smokin'), I did take some extra time to make a nice finishing sauce from something made with ingredients we've enjoyed in the past as a wet rub or marinade...so, today, it's beef and smoke up front, and flavor enhancements to finish it up at the end (I've never used a true finishing sauce before, btw, not even for pulled pork), while I introduce you to yet another recipe: Cherry/Balsamic Finishing Sauce for Beef.

    Come on along for another ride!

    I mentioned a simple start because it was just that...no dry rub, not even salt or pepper...straight beef. The shoulder cuts of meats have a stronger flavor, especially with a good marbling throughout the muscles, so I banking on a good natural flavor combination from the meat and smoke, with enhancements added at the finish. I'm smoking @ 210-215* @ ~5,000 ft elevation in the Smoke Vault 24 with mostly pecan and a bit of cherry...dry smoke chamber all the way with pea gravel filled water pan and a large baking pan over the water pan for a drippings catch. R/H of 22% and ambient temps of 69* at start-up...5.83lbs total weight, just into the smoke:

    While the chuckies were getting happy, I grabbed the goods to start the finishing sauce early so it could meld together for a few hours at low heat in a covered pot. I started as follows::


    1/4 Cup ground tart cherries

    3/8 Cup Balsamic Vinegar (aged 15-yrs)

    2 Cups water

    3 Tbls Red Bell Pepper, freshly ground from dried, chopped

    1 Tbsp black peppercorn, freshly ground

    1 Tbsp Garlic, freshly ground from dried minced

    2 Tbsp Onion powder

    2 tsp Thyme, freshly ground

    1.5 tsp Rosemary, freshly ground

    1 tsp Oregano, freshly ground

    1 tsp smoked Paprika

    1/4 tsp Cinnamon, ground

    2 tsp salt

    Mix all ingredients together in a saucepan, cover and heat on low. Allow to slowly heat for at least 1 hour, stirring occasionally. If simmering occurs, reduce heat slightly.

    Drizzle hot finishing sauce over freshly pulled beef and toss to finish.

    Just getting warmed up:

    Note: I started this batch 2 hours after the smoke started, so it sat for hours and hours getting a smooth and well balanced flavor.

    Chuckies @ 3.25 hours in, just probed for internals...120 and 127*, left/right..if this seems a bit long for these temps, it is...these still had some frost, as they weren't completely thawed before the smoke...probably started their journey @ 26-28*...also, @ ~215* start-up temps and 5,000 elevation, these both slow things down as well:

    I bumped chamber temps to ~230-235* @ 3.75 hours in after repositioning the probes once to be sure on temps...came up about 8-10* in 30 minutes...chuggin' along waiting for the stall and a 190+ internal to probe for tenderness. Then pan, cover and rest for a bit before pulling (I hope). I might just toss on a elevated grate in a pan and cover with a towel if I decide I really want to see some fantastic bark on these chuckies, but these smaller cuts may cool too quickly to redistribute the natural juices if I don't keep the heat in more. I may be shredding these, but we'll see later. It's been a while since I smoked a chuck or two, and never with a dry smoke chamber, but so far, dry smoke chamber has proven very beneficial to retention of interior moisture, and knowing that, I think we'll see some nice pulled beef when the smoke clears. I'm anxiously awaiting the results, but with confidence.

    I know that you may be thinking: but wait, you're not going to foil these chucks @ 160-180* to get them tender? Nope. Open grate all the way...that's when the dry smoke chamber comes through with shining colors. If you foil, you begin to steam the meat and open up the surface fibers...this is what dries it out at higher finished temps. It should also have a killer natural bark, just as it does with pork butts...can't wait to experience that with beef!

    I let the smoke fizzle out at about 4 hours with average internal temps of 149* and let it ride from there...should be enough smoke for these smaller cuts of beef. Ambient temp of 78* and R/H of 18% @ 4hrs in...dry, dry, dry...perfect for a dry smoke chamber experiment. Chamber temps are now running 235* and bit higher at times when the wind calms down for a few minutes...afternoon winds have been relatively light and variable, but are messing with temp control a little.

    5 hours in, one is has been stalled @ 158* for over 30 minutes, so we'll get that out of the way at least. The other is @ 147* and still climbing, but probably not far away from a stall, either. I did rotate positions from left to right @ 4 hours to balance out the internal temps a bit, but it doesn't always work. With the baking pan over the water pan to catch drippings, it may have changed my grate temp variances a little, so I'm trying to compensate for that possibility.

    Gotta love this color...it may very well give a deeper color before they're finished...color change may stop before much longer, but I sense there's still time for more change to an even darker mahogany...time will tell:

    Hate to push your drool-buttons and leave ya hangin' (feels kinda like a hit & run, when you're supposed to be playing no-contact foot ball...LOL!!!), but not much else to report up to this point. Chucks are gettin' happier by the minute and so is the finishing sauce. Just wanted to get this up and running...threads get buried rather quickly around here lately, so I wanted those who are interested to not miss out on the fun and experience.

    Back with the finish later this evening!

    Last edited: Jun 2, 2013
  2. s2k9k

    s2k9k AMNPS Test Group

    Thanks for the link to this Eric! Yes I am very interested. They are looking Great, I love that color! Another Great write-up in progress, I can't wait to read the finish. Sometimes I'm not sure if I like looking at the pictures or reading your well documented write-ups better! 

    I wish I could get humidity that low so I could try some true Dry Chamber Smokes, but it hardly ever drops below 50% around here and this time of year it runs in the 90's.

    I'll be patiently waiting on this one![​IMG][​IMG]
  3. jwbtulsa

    jwbtulsa Meat Mopper

    Hey S2K9k, if you want, you are welcome to bring a bunch of meat to Tulsa and school me on some good technique! I got an offset and a Hasty Bake ready to go. It's currently 88F and 23%RH, light winds and blue skies.
  4. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    8.5 hours in, and counting...update.
    You're welcome, Dave. I was pretty sure you wouldn't want this one to slip by you. Yeah, your R/H in the deep south and south/east is wicked...my home-town up north is also a bit high, being it's lower elevation. I like the dryness here...it's almost like a high-desert climate.
    That's funny! You can cruise around here on the forum and learn lots, too, though. I like to pay it forward for the first year or so I spent here when I thought I knew what I was doing...and I'm still learning a few things here and there, like with this smoke, though this is a bit experimental, I expect somewhat of a learning curve here.

    OK, here's another reason to foil chucks...unless you just want to go for the gold...I'm 8.5 hours in with internals of 176* and 167* (still in the rotated position from the 4-hr mark)...they've been 9* apart for the past several hours, with the 9* lead held now being the closest they've been all day...it was a 17* spread earlier, so my position rotation may have helped somewhat. No-foil smokes always take longer, and I didn't really think it would add that much time to a 2.75-3lb piece of beef, but hey, no-foil is no-foil, no matter the weight of the meat. So, the finish is in sight, but a few hours 'til they come out to rest.

    I did have a 244* chamber temp when I last checked the smoke (winds died down to still air, and it's dark out now), so I popped the door open after dialing temps back just a crack on the burner control dial and grabbed these...much deeper color away from where the meat has been sweating...not a bad color at all...I'm liking this no prep/rub chuckie smoke so far:

    My wife was sitting here watching me preview these pics before uploading and said: looks done to me, I'm hungry! I think it was the third pic that got to her the most...LOL!!!

    Hang in there! You're not the only ones waiting for this to finish-up...ah, the long smokes...that's what I get for pushing the envelope with no foiling, I guess...but it will be worth the extra time. Hmm, this is 6.5 hours for the finishing sauce on the heat already...flavors should be smooth as glass by now, and definitely....chuga-chuga---chuga-chuga...come on chuckie-train!!!

    Just checked it out again...9 hours now...172* and 165*...think I'm on the home-stretch now, being they both took a 4/2* temp drop...another higher-temp stall, so they should be heading for the finish line soon after.

    Finished pics soon, I hope...

    Last edited: Sep 21, 2012
  5. Looking good.
  6. s2k9k

    s2k9k AMNPS Test Group

    Very Very interesting colors going on there! Looking very tasty!
  7. s2k9k

    s2k9k AMNPS Test Group

    Maybe we could get Jeff to join in for some real expertise!
  8. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    WOW!!! Did I ever hit a curve-ball tonight! Who has ever heard of a 4+hr/lb chuckie? Not me, and I wouldn't believe it if I didn't see it first-hand. Anyway, at the 12.25-hr mark, I had 187* and 191*...probed for tenderness...not bad...time to loose the probes and get these babies out for resting. And, juices were slowly weeping from the probe hole (I only re-adjusted the angle/depth from the same hole), so I know I have lots of natural juices in the meat...very good sign.

    Now, looking through these pics, seeing the very dark coloring of the meat juices that sweated out compared to earlier, it kind of makes sense why it took so long to reach the ~190 mark. With the dry smoke chamber tightening and sealing the surface of the meat, the juices basically had no where to go, and stretched out the cooking time exorbitantly...then, no foiling to finish stretched things along even longer, of course. I could have poked around inside them more to break open membranes, but the, I would have risked loosing mor eof these precious fluids in the process. So, I let it ride, and ride some more, until I just was about exhausted with the wait. Was it worth taking double the normal time? I'm sure it will be, judging by the interior moisture they have at this point in time, not to mention the bark, which is an added bonus. Well, you be the judge...

    Just about to get yanked to rest:

    First out, into a stainless steam-table pan:

    Time to buddy-up:

    OK, a couple things are against me tonight on this smoke: it took about 6 hours more than I planned for @ 2 hrs/lb (took 4), I'm tired, and it's quickly coming up on 1:00 am. So, I'm only allowing for about a 60-minute rest, but I gotta get this pulled while it's still fairly hot, so here goes:

    The meat itself, by simplicity alone, was really quite good. No enhancement with dry rub for flavor or bark development, and, IMHO, it's not really needed for either purpose...dry chamber has a lot to do with the bark here. Smoky bark, which has a crispy texture, and without the bark there was just a good solid and strong flavor from the shoulder cut, as expected. Moisture was very good, and I was certain it would be. Chew wasn't super tender, but a longer rest and a bit higher finished temps would have come through with a bit more tenderness, so it's a valid smoke for pulled chuck in my books...I would do it again any time, given the opportunity.

    The very light smoke ring is the product of a dry smoke chamber...tighten the meat fibers early to retain moisture and you also reduce the smoke reaction time...it's a minor drawback for pulled beef like this.

    And now, for the finishing sauce...I used about 1/2 of the total batch, did another couple taste tests, made a small sandwich just to be sure I was on the mark, and I was extremely happy with the results, so the remainder of the sauce is heading to the freezer. I am glad I tried the easy way today, instead of dry rub alone. I can add just the right amount of flavor at the end, instead of wondering, or more precisely, estimating how much will be lost in the smoker, and how much dry rub to apply to begin with.

    The flavors of the finishing sauce melded and smoothed out so nicely with that long ride on the stove-top while it waited for it's moment of glory...and man, what a moment. I added just enough sauce to bring out a touch of the tanginess of the Balsamic Vinegar, and, the balance of everything else in the sauce seemed to hit on the smoke and beef really well. A light coating was all it took...just enough to mostly cover all the surfaces. It gave just a hint of something wild and different right up front...enough to make me want another bite...and another...mmm, I'm heading back to the kitchen as soon as I submit this for another sandwich (I'd be eating one right now, but I wouldn't get anything done on the keyboard!!! LOL!!!). My only regret is that I didn't have 4 chuckies to smoke today...OK, make that 8...this would have been a great way to load up the freezer with pulled beef!

    I took another ton of pics...(well, OK, maybe just a half-ton...LOL!!!), and they all looked worthy of sharing, so I won't hold back...sauced, tossed and ready for savoring:

    And that, my good friends, was probably my finest eating pulled beef chuck to date. I'll wait for the verdict from the wife and kids tomorrow, but I think they will agree. I'm my own worst critic...well, I'm getting better on that lately, so, at least I keep an open mind about my cooking nowadays. Good stuff...and to think it's this easy? And, why didn't I try this a long time ago? Well, because I just didn't know any better...that's my story, and I'm sticking to it!

    Uh, the wife just woke up...said: something smells pretty good, what are doing? I told her the goods were ready and asked her if she wanted samples. I uncovered the pan and when she smelled it, she said: did you put something on that? Finishing sauce, I said...the stuff I made earlier on the stove (she smelled it about 6 hours ago, and was, to say the least, a bit skeptical about it, but I explained to her what it should do for the smoked, pulled beef chuck). She eagerly grabbed what I offered...she says it's pretty darn good. I'll take that as a home run. Well, a couple kids get to taste it tomorrow, and maybe a couple friends, if I have enough left.

    Hope you enjoyed this enough to want to give it all a try. I won't stop with this run...give me another couple of chuckies and just watch to see what I do with them!

    Ah man, time for eyelid inspections again (almost 2:30 am)...you can stick a fork in me...I think I'm done now. Great smokes to all, and to all a good night!

    Hah-hah! I just floored the wife...she just said: I need another piece...no, better make it two...then, said OMG, this really is good! So, I have her full approval...OK, so I guess if I make it this way again, I'll be her hero! Maybe I am already? All right, nite all!


    EDIT: Wiki Article: http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/a/wet-to-dry-no-foil-smoke-chamber-method-for-smoking-meats
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2013
  9. jarjarchef

    jarjarchef Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    LOL!!!!!! Your wife sounds like mine. Usually a bit sceptical until she tastes what I have made. She is polite and will eat it even if it was a bomb, but when I hit the mark. Oh then she will really let you know. The best feedback I get is from my teenage kids. They don't hold back!!!!!

    I love the details to your documentation..... I get long winded, so I usually hold back a bit.. Ok a lot... I may have to let go a bit.......

    I will have to try your sauce. I love balsamic, especially aged balsamic. It brings a nice tart, but sweetness to any dish. Near where my parents live there is a store called From Olives and Grapes. It sells imported EVOO and aged balsamics. They have the normal stuff, but they also have infused 18yr balsamics that are amazing. I took my oldest daughter there and she got to taste a bunch of them and we had to buy a few bottles. There web site is www.fromoilvesandgrapes.com , they do ship for free if you buy a case.

    Great job! Keep it going.
  10. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    1) Yeah, my spouse had me a little on edge when she voiced her first perception of the sauce, before it landed on the meat. So, I was very diligent to not over-use it when I finally got it all together. I figured if I add what looked like a light, but even coating, then taste and add more if I thought it was weak, would be the safest route...turns out, that was exactly how it should have been done all along. Use it like a final seasoning, to taste, which is really what the sauce is intended for, after all. I knew I could please everyone's taste here with it as long as I didn't go over-board with the sauce. Some may like to use it quite heavy, but that would defeat the whole purpose, as it would cover-up the natural smoke and beef flavors.

    2) Thanks, hey, believe me, I get long-winded a lot myself...I probably did hold back a few things here. Probably because this isn't my first chuckie smoke, or my first dry smoke chamber run. The finishing sauce was another of my spur-of-the-moment creations...while the chucks were on their first hour in and the smoke was running smooth, I sat here at my desk and began to ponder the possibilities of how to make this simple, currently non-enhanced smoked beef into something more...something above the average pulled beef...deliciously tempting, yet simple in form...something I would want to make again and again. Well, the finishing sauce recipe took me about 10 minutes to put together, with the cherry and balsamic first on the list. I still don't even know for sure what prompted the whole idea...maybe just the basic thought that I needed a way to make the flavors stay with the meat and not pull natural moisture from it after it's pulled. And, never having used a finishing sauce before, but knowing that many do, for pulled pork especially, I guess I entertained the idea that it must be worth a shot. While I was grinding it all up (cherries took the longest), I kept thinking about what goes good with beef and smoke. I added the onion powder (fresh ground, btw) and cinnamon last, using both to give a subtle sweetness in the background. With a quick taste of the dry ingredients after smelling it, I knew it would be good with the balsamic and tart cherries. Anyway, this is how I really like to roll with cooking...sort of stumbling into ideas that I just can't resist the urge to try and make it all come together. Unfortunately, I rarely have repeats when I cook..just too many things come up that I want to try, even if it's just a twist from something I did a while back to make it a little better than before...that's the experimenter in me...usually I'm on a quest of some sort, but it's always a good experience...and with few exceptions, very good eating.

    3) Judging by your experience and knowledge, I'd be interested in your take on this sauce after you try it. Let me know what you think. I know already that it's going to be a taste sensation around here, partly because it's something new to us, but it does have that unique character which is quite interesting to experience, and IMHO, very well-balanced flavor for the shoulder cuts of beef.

    EDIT: Thanks for the link...for some strange reason, my browser won't go to it directly...I get some dialog with something about an address error from my ISP, and it brings up a list from a search of possible sites. I'll try a few and see if I can be sure which one is correct. Sounds like a great online source. I buy my balsamic and oils from anyplace I can find them, but choices are very limited.

    I'm sitting here now, wondering where my recipe path would have led if I had tried this method for flavor enhancement, say, two years ago. My whole outlook for smoking meats could have been far different than it is now, focusing much less attention to dry rubs and actual methods for cooking, like using a dry smoke chamber. This could have prevented me from discovering what I have learned about recipe builds to this point in time...it could have been a double-edged sword, so to speak. I guess I can be thankful that things went the direction they have so far, or I may not have enjoyed all those experiences with new recipes. Man, I never really thought about it quite like this until this very moment, but, cooking can actually be a life-changing experience, literally. Hmm, I guess I'm getting to be more well-rounded, or diverse, as a cook, every time I step into my kitchen and create something different than I've made before.

    OK, as I mentioned, and you have now read, I too, get long-winded...hah-hah!

    Holy crap! I just noticed that you are now a fellow OTBS member! When were you inducted??? I missed it somehow...CONGRATS!!!

    Oh, and last but not least, it does mean a great deal to me seeing that you are interest in this, being an experienced and educated chef...Thank You!

    I'm exercising a great deal of self-control and discipline while waiting for lunch or dinner, to introduce this recipe to the kids today...one was already going stir-crazy this morning wanting to taste it, and begging for a meal with it, and he doesn't even know what I did...he only knows it's something I never made before...my kids go nuts over smoked & grilled food, especially if it's cured meats or sausages, btw. I'm already thinking about changing my 2013 annual family reunion menu to include a pulled beef using this sauce (started initial planning just a month ago)...oh, there are so many things I want to make for my extended family, and now the list of perspective items is growing larger with every visit to my menu planning. I can't possibly make everything on my list in only 2 days, so, decisions, decisions (sigh).

    I will patiently wait for my next taste of this pulled beef...the kids will just have to suck it up for a bit...LOL!!!

    Last edited: Sep 22, 2012
  11. ohm

    ohm StickBurners SMF Premier Member

    That is some good looking pull! Great Job on the dry smoke!
  12. jarjarchef

    jarjarchef Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I will start to gather the ingredients to make this. I should have most.nthink I am only missing the cherries and pulled beef.....

    I too love the playing with my food part of cooking.....

    The hardest thing for me and this forum is the recipes. I am sooo much a seat of my pants type of Chef at home. It drives my kids nuts when they ask me what and how I made something..

    Thank you for the congrats. I was in the last class that was put in a couple weeks ago..
  13. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Man, so close...I can't help with the pulled beef...you know what to do there, but, for the cherries, you could get some fresh, pit them out, mince and mash 'em up good and pack them into a measuring cup. A bit messy, but it will work in a pinch. Just use approx. 3 times the volume of the dried/ground measure, and remove the difference from the water volume, as you now have hydrated instead of dried cherries. If you have a dehydrator and the time, you could dry your own, but it really isn't a must with a wet mix like it is with a dry rub blend. Oh, NWDave was working on drying cherries and red bells quite a while back for some other recipes I posted back in 2010/2011...he could help you with some tips on drying if you want to go that route...he was fighting with high humidity and clumping during/after grinding, etc...vac-sealed his ground stuff in jars to reduce post-grind moisture issues, and I think he did a few other things to take the edge away from mother nature and tip the scales in his favor. For me, high humidity is rarely ever an issue, so I didn't have to deal with the problems he had to overcome.

    When heating the mixture with fresh cherries, give it plenty of time for the cherries to break-down so the particle size is smaller...maybe heat them separately first, then mash them through a strainer...should work like a snap. Not sure if you can get fresh tart cherries or not. If you have a sweet cherry, just add some other form of tartness...maybe citric acid or concentrated lemon juice...never tried it, just a thought. We love lemon on most any meat, poultry or fish, though it will change the flavor profile a bit. I'm betting you have a few tricks up your sleeve to pull something like this together.

    Sounds like you and I are a lot alike when it comes to home cooking. I shoot from the hip quite a bit...it's actually more fun for me to start something with a clean scratch-pad...no plan, no recipe...just ingredients, some time, a little inspiration and a cooker. Sometimes I'll get half-way through a dry rub blend and realize I haven't written anything down yet...I can put the pieces together pretty quickly though. I do pretty basic stuff with ingredients found in most home pantries, but if it helps someone get their feet wet with making spice blends at home, then it's all worth it. The dried tart cherries and dried chopped red bell peppers are probably the closest thing to anything exotic that I've ever cooked with...KISS method works for me.

    Have fun with it, brother!
    Thanks! That was a wicked-long smoke for a couple little chuckies, but man, was it ever worth it!

  14. Thanks for all the great info on the dry smoking. Those look soooooooooo good. I can't wait to get a propane smoker so I can give all these delicious dishes a try. Thanks for the finishing sauce as well and I'm gonna give it a try too. [​IMG]
  15. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Hi Alesia! You're most welcome for the info and recipe...always happy to share my experiences and especially any new taste sensations I conjur up.

    Let me know if you have any questions on this...it's pretty simple and down to earth, though...have fun!

  16. funkyboy

    funkyboy Fire Starter


    What temperature did you do the chuckie...It look great.. Thanks
  17. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I had 187* in one and 191* in the other...both pulled pretty nicely after a rest, and not mushy or grainy in texture.


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