Okay. I’ll admit that I may have been a bit too forcefully tight-lipped about the small device taking shape from bits of hardware store fodder on my balcony. I think having worked in an operational chemistry lab for so many years makes me skittish about revealing that I have a off-spec MacGyver-style contraption running in my purview of operation. Believe me, I knocked together some humdingers during grad school, stuff that I think if the New Haven fire chief ever saw he’d make me turn over my clamps and duct tape once and for all. For legal purposes, I am obligated to write at this point that I am entirely joking…
Long story short, I made a slightly scaled-down model of Alton Brown’s ceramic smoker from the epic Good Eats episode “Q” (youtube1, youtube2).* The end goal? A 12-hour barbecue smoke of a pork shoulder, but I need to work my way up to it. The last thing I wanted to was to create a chimney on my fourth-floor patio, so I felt the need to establish a baseline, how hot is too hot, does a distracting/dangerous amount of smoke escape from the pot, etc etc etc. What better gateway meat is there to be smoked? Why chicken wings, of course. Dinosaur Barbecue-style.
To this end, I did something I would normally never do: buy a bottled sauce. Dinosaur Barbecue sauce, but a bottled sauce nonetheless. Next time, I’ll use one of my own recipes, but I thought taking baby steps here was warranted. Besides, this isn’t about sauce- it’s about smoke. I left the wings in the ceramic for a few hours on low-ish power, not wanting to over-cook or smoke us out of house and home. I chose to finish them in the oven, as is perfectly acceptable in such matters. I added the sauce before the oven and brought them up to temperature at 450 F.
While I wouldn’t recommend routinely serving a side of paranoia with your weekend eats, it is at times necessary to proceed with caution as you advance your skills into a new area of thermal manipulation. I had/have similar trepidation whenever I do a large oil fry on the gas range as then potential for fire is present, albeit not great. Vigilance, friends, is the price of great meals. Cook on!
*I did not now, nor at any time complete, attempt or even consider constructing that or any other device based on hot plate or other electric heater technology on my patio. This article is for entertainment purposes only. Also, my 2010 taxes have been paid in full. I have receipts.