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Adventurous Smoke of 3 STLs on the Bronco

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    Adventurous Smoke of 3 STLs on the Bronco

    We had a 3-pack of STLs from Costco that needed to be smoked, so we invited some friends over last night. Typically when we have company I play it safe and avoid "firsts", go with MMD, etc. But no... I guess my overconfidence required a big ol' reality check to put me back in my place. To boot:
    • I've only cooked STLs once before since my wife & kid greatly prefer BBs. But I was at Costco and STLs were what they had.
    • I've yet to cook ribs on the Bronco. Did them several times on the PBC, both hung and on the grate, and frankly went back to my kettle w/ SNS because we all thought they tasted better. But, figuring I could control the temp on the Bronco and shoot for 225 - 250F I thought I'd give it a try.
    • I've yet to use Weber briquettes in the Bronco. I typically reserve them for longer cooks in the SNS, but we do like the flavor better. So what the heck - I wanted to see if I thought I could get closer to that 10 hour cook time OKJ talks about.
    • I used two rubs I'd never used before.
    See where this is going? All the best laid plans...

    I was excited to experiment with the flavors on the 3 racks. At 7:30am I prepped them, from top to bottom in the pic:
    • Rack #1 - SWMBO loves dry ribs, and I had a new bottle of Let It Ride rub from Sauced BBQ Co. that is winning rib comps out here, so I was pumped to try that one dry.
    • Rack #2 - the family we invited over has 2 little girls, and mine loves sweet sticky pork ribs! So this rack I went with Kosmo Q Honey Killer Bee rub and had some Blue's Hog Original for it.
    • Rack #3 - had some fun with this one with a new jar of Meat Church Honey Hog Hot and had some Blue's Hog Raspberry Chipotle for that one.
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    While those sat in the fridge, I prepped the Bronco. Filled the charcoal basket full with Weber briquettes, put a fire starter in the middle, and used the dregs of a bag of apple wood spread thru out.

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    I lit that at 10am with both vents wide open and the lid up and let it go for 30 min (this is becoming standard lighting procedure for me, and I use two fire starters if I want a hotter cook). Then I put the heat diffuser in place, put the hanging rods in place, hung my fireboard probe, and let it start to preheat. And at 11am I was putting the ribs on.

    Well, sort of... I love the heat diffuser, it really fixes hot spot issues I had with the PBC. But there's nowhere near enough room for it if you're hanging full racks. I figured this was the case, but being stubborn I had to try it and see for myself - confirmed. Took out the heat diffuser and hung the 3 racks. Now, I mentioned I typically cook BBs... I didn't measure these STLs, but one rack was just brushing the top of the charcoal basket. "Hell with it - its one sacrificial rib" I thought. On with the show!

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    Just under an hour into the cook, I took the dog out back to play with her for a bit. But... didn't like the smell coming off the Bronco. Not that sweet smell I'm used to when I'm using Weber briquettes & apple wood. First thought was that darn sacrificial rib, and I was concerned I'd give everything an acrid smoke flavor if I didn't take action. So... I ended up taking all 3 racks out and cutting them in half and rehanging everything. I thought I'd take advantage and put the heat diffuser back in place, but it won't go in (handles get in the way) with the configuration of the rods I had going. And I didn't feel like messing with it any more so I skipped that.

    25 min later, I can't get the temp of over 193F. Weird.. I've adjusted the vents twice. OH! Duh - probe issue. Opened it up and sure enough after rehanging the half racks the pit probe was touching meat. Ugh, fixed it, and the fireboard was registering like 275F. I knew better, should've checked the first time. Closed the vents down to what I had previously and got her back around 240F where she held steady.

    One other thing bothered me this cook... I never got blue smoke. I'm 99.9% sure its my fault because of 1) the sacrificial rib, and 2) because I spread the end of that bag of apple wood across the charcoal basket, I had constant ignition happening. *pffft* Again, I knew better. Not my day, here's what I had coming out of the Bronco all day. I did try at one point closing the intake vent a little more and opening the outtake more (relatively). No change.

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    Ah well, as the bottle of rub said - just gonna "let it ride". Everyone says STLs take about an hour longer than BBs and at 225F ~6 hours. I checked them at 4pm (5 hours in) and they were farther along than I expected. I took Racks #2 & 3 out and sauced them and rehung. Let it go 30 more minutes. Took them off, and as I hooked the first half rack to lift it out - I heard the "thud". You kidding me? Par for the course today. Thankfully I had my gloves on and quickly reached down and lifted out that half rack - clearly is was tender and somehow had almost no ash on it. I guess the BBQ Gods were done toying with me for the day...

    Rack #1 was darn near black, I think it was due to the large brown sugar crystals (you can kinda see it in the pic of the racks on the sheet). Probably darker than I wanted due to that probe issue and letting the temp creep up on me unknowingly. The other two racks looked about as I expected. It was 4:30pm and they weren't getting here until 5pm so I put them all in the oven at 170F. Company arrived just after 5, but no one was hungry yet. So I'm BS'ing with the other guy in the kitchen drinking margaritas and at 5:45 the wives and kids come storming in and want to eat... NOW! Start slicing! Whats taking so long, we're hungry!?! Thats my excuse for not taking pics. I sliced them up on the Boos board mom got me for Christmas, and put each rack on a plate with the rub & sauce used behind them so folks knew what they were getting.

    Now of course... I'm disappointed, KNOWING this is not my best effort, KNOWING I know better than to try so many "firsts", KNOWING I made mistakes I've made before, and yet... damn they were good. Probably too "fall off the bone" for most folks here, but everyone just loved them and went back for seconds (except me, cuz I know how many to get the first time ). My favorite were the raspberry chipotle, I was really happy with how the spiciness of the rub snuck up on you after a few bites but wasn't too prominent otherwise. I'm anxious to try the Let it Ride again tho and keep it Low & Slow, it was just a little too dark this time.

    I will definitely smoke ribs again on the Bronco, there's too many factors to play with to ignore it. Next time I have that many racks I'll just cut them in half from the start and use the heat diffuser and see how that works out. I'll also go back to 1 or 2 chunks of wood. If I end up cooking just one rack for us, I'll probably do it on the grate and see how that works out. One aspect of the Bronco I'd like to take advantage of is switching it into a grill and caramelizing the sauce a la Meathead over direct heat at the end. Stay tuned...

    Oh yeah, as for the burn time, I had ~ 1/3 of a charcoal basket of briquettes left after 5.5 hours, so I'm confident I could get close to 10 hours out of the Weber briquettes, particularly if I lit it on the edge instead of the center as OKJ suggests.

    Glad it all came out well! The cooks we think are going to be screwed up usually turn out pretty good!


      Some of my best cooks have come when everything seemingly goes off the rails and some of my worst are when everything goes as planned. When it all comes down to it we are cooking oddly shaped hunks of meat on an unpredictable heat source with dozens of other factors in play. Take the compliments (the best compliment is an empty plate) and start planning that next cook.


        We here are almost never satisfied with our cooks - even when things turn out great they coulda been better. Sounds like a bang up job to me.


          I'm not a briquette guy (personal choice thing), but as for the rest of the story...……………..I like it!! I did a rack o' spares on the Bronco last week without the deflector. The bottom two ribs were just over the coals (I ran the pit at 260+/-) and got darker and a bit crispier, but were moist and tender under the bark. I used MH Memphis Dust so that might partly be a sugar thing. No fall as the daisy chain hangers and bones held fine.

          I should be getting a Hunsaker vortex plate tomorrow to play with and see if it might be a good substitute for the stock OJ plate for longer hanging stuff. I'll post up in my "Notes" thread on what I learn.


            Thanks for the write up and pics. I really appreciate describing the things that did not go according to plan. I think I learn better from the described miscues than successes when pit masters post.

            I'm going to smoke 4 STL racks this weekend for a family get together on a 18” WSM with a gateway rib hanger and diffuser plate. Probably will use pecan & cherry. Two racks will be with a sweet/heat rub and sauce and the other two racks will be with a savory rub and served dry.


            • FishTalesNC
              FishTalesNC commented
              Editing a comment
              I'm the same way - I learn better from the miscues (and I have plenty of them to share). Good luck on your racks this weekend!

            If you ask nicely and bring flowers your parents might let you have that PBC back.
            Last edited by HawkerXP; March 11, 2020, 05:16 PM.


            • Uncle Bob
              Uncle Bob commented
              Editing a comment
              Ojb ojb ojb,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

            • HawkerXP
              HawkerXP commented
              Editing a comment
              I like it...…. Uncle Bob

            • FishTalesNC
              FishTalesNC commented
              Editing a comment
              Actually I think they're pretty darn set on using that thing - I have to go visit if I want to see it again!!!

            Originally posted by FishTalesNC View Post
            (except me, cuz I know how many to get the first time ).
            This made me laugh. You're Jedi ways are strong....


            • FishTalesNC
              FishTalesNC commented
              Editing a comment
              When they'd each get up to go get more I just thought "... rookies" 😂


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