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Smoke equals flavor

By Staff | Jun 19, 2009

Ron Lutz, who keeps his smoker on his patio, checks the temperature on this whole chicken.

WEST DES MOINES – Though his career has taken him around the globe, allowing him to sample the world’s cuisine, ag journalist Ron Lutz developed a taste for barbecue when he had the chance to learn the secrets of the great Southern pitmasters in Texas and Oklahoma.

“I ate a lot of barbecue in the small towns there and picked the brains of the great, old-time barbecue cooks,” said Lutz, a charter member of the Iowa Barbeque Society who grew up on a farm near Lone Tree and now lives in West Des Moines. “I’d even break off a limb of mesquite when I was down there and would bring it home so I could smoke turkeys.”

Through years of practice, Lutz perfected his techniques. In 2001, the certified barbecue judge compiled his best tips and recipes in the 100-page book, “Whatcha Need to Know to Barbecue Like a Pro.”

For newbies, Lutz recommends starting with a chicken or a pork butt. “They are relatively affordable and easy to cook,” said Lutz, a grandfather of two, who notes that Iowa is known for having some of the best competitive barbecue teams in the nation.

While great barbecue takes some time and some know-how, it doesn’t have to be expensive. Lutz, a self-proclaimed “cheapskate,” finds many of his supplies at Menards and buys much of his meat from Fareway and Sam’s Club.

Beer can chicken is a simple recipe for cooks who are relatively new to barbecuing and want to sharpen their skills.

“Barbecue never gets old,” Lutz said, “and I always enjoy cooking for people.”

Smoked pork loin

(Brining is the key to a great pork loin, said Ron Lutz.)

Whole boneless pork loin (don’t use a branded pork product enhanced with a salt solution)

Cider vinegar

Ron Lutz, author of "Whatcha Need to Know to Barbeque Like a Pro," slices into a smoked pork loin.

1 cup kosher salt

1 cup dark brown sugar

1 heaping tablespoon allspice

1 pint of water

Ron’s spice rub (see recipe below)

Take the loin out of the package and immediately swab it with a good-quality paper towel soaked in a 50-50 solution of water and cider vinegar to remove any bacteria on the surface. Cut the loin into two equal pieces, and place the meat in a non-reactive container such as a large glass bowl or plastic container.

Make a brining solution from kosher salt, dark brown sugar, allspice and water. Simmer in a sauce pan for a few minutes so the salt and sugar are dissolved. Add a few ice cubes to cool it down. Then add the solution to about a gallon of cold water and stir. Pour the brining solution into the container holding the meat to a depth that covers the meat by at least half an inch. Cover and put the container in the refrigerator for a minimum of 36 hours – preferably 48 hours.

At the end of the brining period, rinse the meat with cold water and put a spice rub on the meat. Refrigerate the rubbed meat for at least two hours – preferably overnight – then remove the meat and let it reach room temperature before putting it in the smoker.

Cook at 225 to 250 degrees over charcoal and flavoring wood (a mix of apple and hickory works well) for approximately two hours. Using a probe thermometer, start checking the internal temperature of the meat at 90 minutes.

Remove the meat when it reaches an internal temperature of no more than 148 degrees. Tent the meat loosely with foil and let the meat rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Smoked pork butt

1 8- to 10-pound Boston butt

Prepared yellow mustard

Ron’s Mopping Sauce (see recipe below)*

Cleanse the Boston butt with one cup of a 50/50 vinegar-and-water solution. Wipe meat dry with a paper towel and apply a very thin layer of prepared yellow mustard. Immediate pat on a dry spice rub over the entire surface of the meat.

Wrap the rubbed meat in plastic wrap and refrigerate over night. Take meat from refrigerator, unwrap and allow to come to near room temperature (no longer than 60 minutes).

Heat a charcoal-fired smoker to 250 degrees at the grate. Add four to six chunks of flavoring wood. (Ron uses a cherry and hickory combination.) Smoke the meat until the internal temperature is at least 170 degrees. This may take six hours or more. If the meat is to be pulled rather than sliced, allow it to reach 190 degrees.

* Although “mopping” is optional, Ron likes to mop every 30 minutes for the final two hours a pork butt is in the smoker.

Ron’s spice rub

1 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup paprika

2 tablespoons kosher salt

2 tablespoons granulated garlic

2 tablespoons lemonade powder (not sugar-free)

1 tablespoon onion powder

2 tablespoons black pepper

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon ground thyme

Mix all ingredients together and pat over surface of meat.

Ron’s mopping sauce

2 cups apple cider vinegar

1 cup apple juice

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup prepared mustard

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon granulated garlic

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon black pepper

1 tablespoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients.

Beer can chicken

1 whole chicken

Dry rub mix of your choice

1 can frozen apple juice concentrate

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

Apply dry rub to the chicken. (You can put the rub under the skin, if you like.) Mix the apple juice concentrate with 2 cups of water rather than the suggested 3 cups to get a stronger mix.

Fill an empty pop or beer can about three-fourths full with the apple juice, garlic powder and onion powder. Place chicken on the can and place in the smoker. Spray the chicken a few times during the cooking process with apple juice to keep the meat moist and add a nice, golden color. Cook chicken to 168 to 170 degrees.

Velda’s potato salad

(Ron Lutz’s mother, Velda Lutz, often made this favored recipe for family gatherings.)

8 to 9 medium, unpeeled potatoes, boiled and cooled

10 to 12 hard-cooked eggs, cooled

1 1/2 cups chopped celery

1/2 cup green onion

2 teaspoons salt (can use seasoning salt)

1/2 teaspoon dill

1 12-ounce can of Carnation milk

1 1/4 cup Miracle Whip

Mayo dressing:

2/3 cup vinegar

1 tablespoon butter

1/4 cup sugar


2 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

2 eggs (beaten)

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon salt

For best results, cook the unpeeled potatoes in salted water far enough in advance that they can be cooled and chilled in the refrigerator before they are peeled and diced into small pieces. Hard-cooked eggs should also be chilled before they are diced.

Combine the vinegar, butter and sugar for the mayo dressing. Put in a pan and bring to a boil. Add the sugar, flour, dry mustard, eggs, turmeric and salt to the boiling vinegar mixture. Cook until thick. Take off heat and cool.

Add one 12-ounce can of Carnation milk and 1 1/4 cup Miracle Whip. Refrigerate.

Combine the celery, green onion, salt and dill. Stir the chilled dressing into the potato, egg and vegetable mixture.

Contact Darcy Dougherty Maulsby by e-mail at yettergirl@yahoo.com.

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