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First Big Cook on Bronco w/Mistakes

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    First Big Cook on Bronco w/Mistakes

    New member here, I was lurking during my first-month trial. Thanks for all the great info, Meathead, crew, and contributors!

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    Long-winded, please grab a favorite beverage.

    Note- all temps recorded with a digital probe.

    I already have a fully capable Weber kettle. So to justify purchasing the Bronco, I told my wife that I would cook for our son’s birthday party. What could go wrong?

    Six weeks out, I picked up a Bronco at Loews at a nice discount. Once seasoned, I started cooking. First cook, butt. Ten hours no problems. The barrel worked as advertised. The pork pulled like pulling feathers from a ripped pillow. The next few cooks were birds, just to get the hang of the hang and control of the baffles. On other cooks, I set the Bronco up as a grill and did some kabobs and fish. I love grilling on the Bronco with the no-hassle lid.

    Fast forward to this past Saturday. With 24 guests expected, I figured I would cook ribs, chicken, and salmon:
    7 racks, 3 chickens quartered, and 3.5 pounds of salmon, beans, slaw, rice, and kale salad. The night before, I salted and dusted the ribs. Due to a food allergy, one of the racks only got salt and pepper -more on this later. I cut and dry-brined the chicken pieces and prepped the other dishes. It was a late night, and the plan was to get the ribs on by 7 am my first mistake. I could have used an extra hour. Next time….

    I started my fire at 6 am, and for the ribs, I added some hickory and cherry. With no heat shield in the barrel, I decided not to completely fill the coal basket. This gave me an extra inch or two for the ribs to hang away from the fire. Once all was set and the ribs hung, I closed the lid. The first hour was a fight to keep a 225º temperature. At first, it spiked, then it dropped. I had both baffles wide open at one point to keep temps above 220º. I realize now that the air circulation in the cooker was different from my first cooks due to the many racks of ribs, no heat shield, and the drippings. It was a mistake not trying to cook a rib rack beforehand. This was my first attempt cooking ribs on the Bronco, and damn, there were seven racks.

    After the first hour, the fire stabilized and kept near 225º with only minor changes. I spritzed the ribs with a mix of apple cider, not vinegar, and beer. First spritz on the hour, and then every 30 minutes. Two possible mistakes here: One, I should have trusted the process and let the ribs be. Opening the lid added more cooking time than I had planned for. Second, my mop may have given a slightly bitter aftertaste. Although, once the ribs were sauced, the aftertaste was gone. Should spritzing be a time to add flavor, or should its use be to keep moisture? I may have answered this question. Your thoughts?

    At three hours and 20, I started wrapping the ribs to finish in the oven so I could cook the chicken. I noticed that on a few of the racks the bark was almost set but needed more time. Next mistake, I pushed forward instead of keeping them in the smoke. The reason for this was to get the chicken cooked on time for when the guests arrived. This is all circling back to my first mistake.

    During the cook, I did move the ribs around to avoid char. One rib rack got a charred end. It had spent most of its time cooking directly under the smokestack. This surprised me because I expected more to be charred. The char would not look good on a plate, but it sure made for a nice appetizer.
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    Off to the oven with the ribs- in with the chicken.

    I patted the chicken pieces dry, rubbed them with olive oil, and dusted them with a favorite recipe that included ginger and turmeric. I added a few more briquettes to the fire, although I probably did not need to, and once my fire was going again dropped on a few pieces of mesquite. I added the heat shield.

    I set the Bronco up with two grates. One is an 18-inch Weber grate which is actually 17 dot something inches. Not 18 inches. This caused a problem later. The Weber grate is slightly too small and can shift when used, so keep this in mind if you intend to use or buy a Weber grate for your Bronco. Click image for larger version  Name:	trozzo_211016_120-Edit-2.jpg Views:	59 Size:	618.5 KB ID:	1112984

    On the bottom grate, the Weber grate, I placed the leg and thigh quarters. On the top grate, I cooked the breasts and wings. In my prior cooks, I found that the bottom grate can be hotter by as much as 20º. The Bronco’s temps got just above 300º. I wanted to cook hotter but learned not to fight the temps from earlier. The chicken still reached 165º faster than I thought it would. The leg quarters were done first. As I pulled them off the grill, the Weber grate shifted. One quarter tried to get away. Despite valiant efforts, it ended up between the ash pan and the side of the barrel. Stuck like a turtle in its shell. I had to pull the heat shield and coal pan to rescue the precious meat. I pulled some skin off of it and... another appetizer for me.

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    Since I had the Bronco apart, I finished cooking the breasts on my Weber kettle that was hot from cooking beans. The breasts only needed a few more minutes. All the chicken took a little over an hour to cook.

    I put the Bronco back together as a grill to cook the fish. Placing the heat shield upside down and charcoal pan on top, the grill was set.

    The salmon was dusted with lemon pepper and McCormick Smokehouse Maple seasoning. -Yes, you should try that sometime.
    With six to ten minutes of cooking on each side, the fish was at 125º. Dinner was ready!

    So, in the end: The fish and chicken were fantastic. As I cut the chicken for dinner, I handed out nibbles. Juices ran from the breast meat. The guests lucky enough to be nearby could not believe how moist it was. The salmon was perfect. I would not do anything different except maybe cook more next time.

    With a few exceptions, the ribs did not meet Last Meal standards. They were tasty, but four of the seven racks could have used more time cooking. The leftovers were better the next day when I could heat them slowly in the oven for another hour. The three racks that were done were super, tender, juicy, and meaty. No complaints.

    Oh, about that salt and pepper only rib rack. The sizzling flavor of the vaporizing drippings was really featured. Smoke flavor radiated through my tastebuds. My eyes rolled to the top of my head, my voice said "aaaw man" as I chewed and shook my head in agreement. A BBQ orgasm? Ha
    Last edited by DTro; October 21, 2021, 08:11 AM.

    #2
    ....sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you....
    The BBQ Gods work in mysterious ways, considering you cooked three meats at the same time and only part of one did not meet your expectations would be a win for most of us.
    I keep my smoking down to two meats, its just easier and less nerve wracking especially with people over waiting for your culinary masterpiece.
    My invite still hasn't arrived....

    Comment


    • bbqLuv
      bbqLuv commented
      Editing a comment
      Thank you for adding to the evidence for a Pellet Grills Rule! 😁

    • DTro
      DTro commented
      Editing a comment
      Thankfully, no bears in the immediate vicinity. I am happy how all turned out. Beginners luck. Please bring a bottle of that ice wine stuff when you swing by....

    #3
    Congrats, it sounds like you did great, and the food certainly looks great. Since you’re relatively new, I’ll ask if you’re aware that being near a lot of smoke dulls your senses? The effect is that the pit master often feels like the leftovers are better than the fresh food, while other eaters will love the food. Was it just you that thought the ribs needed more time, or others as well?

    Comment


    • DTro
      DTro commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks- I am well aware how smoke dulls your senses. I just didn't know that wood smoke does the same. Ha

    • Sid P
      Sid P commented
      Editing a comment
      DTro. That went over my head yesterday, but I’m with you now 😀.

    #4
    Wow, that sounds like it was a challenge. I think what you experienced with the guests was that even if everything didn't meet your goal, it was better than any BBQ they have had.

    Comment


    • DTro
      DTro commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks! Honestly, it was a lot of fun.

    #5
    That was a big and challenging cook! It all looked really good to me. I would like to be invited to your next party!

    Comment


    • Panhead John
      Panhead John commented
      Editing a comment
      +1

    • DTro
      DTro commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks- come on by!

    #6
    As long as the guests were happy, it was a successful cook.

    Comment


    • DTro
      DTro commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks- I only know enough to get into a lot of trouble. Happy it worked out,

    #7
    For the first time doing ribs, it sounds like things went pretty good. Thanks for the great write up.

    Comment


    • DTro
      DTro commented
      Editing a comment
      First time on Bronco and a good learning experience. Thanks for the kind words.

    #8
    Welcome to The Pit from a fellow Bronco owner. Trust me, cooking all that food, you did good! Especially for using only one cooker, for the most part. Also just an FYI here, but Oklahoma Joe sells grates separately for the Bronco, if you’re interested. I think they’re $28.
    Last edited by Panhead John; October 20, 2021, 05:09 PM.

    Comment


    • tbob4
      tbob4 commented
      Editing a comment
      I was going to tag you when I saw the post but you beat me to it.

    • bbqLuv
      bbqLuv commented
      Editing a comment
      Ford Bronco, I thought you were a Panhead Harley owner, Go figure.

    • DTro
      DTro commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks for the info! I will probably try to rig my weber grate just for fun. It it doesn't work however......

    #9
    Long winded you say? Hope this is not the end.
    Hello from NW Oregon

    Comment


    • DTro
      DTro commented
      Editing a comment
      Hello from Maryland! Thanks!

    #10
    In general I'd say you did well, particularly on a cooker you had limited experience with, while taking on some new to your experience proteins. First thought; 7 racks were probably rendering a fair amount of fat that helped quench the fire that first hour. Second; you probably would have been happier with the rib bark had you spritzed less/not at all.

    I am surprised that you went to Mesquite for chicken and salmon, but your fire was probably hot enough that you minimized the potentially bitter smoke (comparative) of mesquite. You understand salmon though with your temp reference, wise man. Some time down the road get some alder wood for smoking.............salmon loves that flavor.

    Comment


    • DTro
      DTro commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks Uncle Bob! Great info and I will definitely try alder. With the racks hung directly over the fire I was nervous to dry them out. I know better now.

    #11
    Those photos are on point.

    Comment


    • DTro
      DTro commented
      Editing a comment
      I appreciate that Attjack!

    #12
    Enjoyed the post and pictures. Left out the adult beverages? PBR, and what else?
    Last edited by bbqLuv; October 20, 2021, 05:10 PM.

    Comment


    • DTro
      DTro commented
      Editing a comment
      Thank you. In these parts just south of Baltimore, we enjoy a Natty Boh- sorry no PBR. Can't remember seeing it in the stores nearby. I'll have to check.

    #13
    Nice writeup. It felt as though we were looking over your shoulder. Good to hear that all turned out well, even the rib leftovers. You did a masterly job wrangling all that food. Congrats.

    Kathryn

    Comment


    • DTro
      DTro commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks! I appreciate the kind words. Behind every masterly job there is always two or more. In my case it was the Mrs.

    #14
    DTro Good tip on the weber grill rack - I would have thought they would be a good fit too. Did you have to refuel?
    Last edited by MtView; October 23, 2021, 03:01 PM.

    Comment


      #15
      Quite the write-up. Your words and pictures brought me right there with you. All that was missing was the flavor. Let me see if I have this right. You were using a relatively new cooker; cooked large quantities of three meats; one of those meats was new to you; came away with no complaints from guests; no allergic reactions; and a happy wife. This sounds like a super win to me. Don’t be so self-critical.

      Oh, and welcome to the Pit from not yet sunny Florida.

      Comment


      • DTro
        DTro commented
        Editing a comment
        Thanks, I appreciate your comment. And thanks for the welcome from FL. A hello from MD back at you!

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