by Chris Engelbrecht

How to Escape Holiday Your Guests for 4 hours

Want the ultimate cheat for your holiday dinner? Go out back to you...
How to Escape Holiday Your Guests for 4 hours

Remember that "Everybody loves Raymond" episode where Raymond finds out his dad is a church usher so that he doesn't have to participate in church, but "technically" he is, however, he uses his time in the back of the church to watch football? And yes, I just dated myself. But it was a good show 24 years ago. 

The point to that was, and I should be honest, to me, bbq and smoking is a lot like that. I mean yes "technically" I've been working 14 hours to cook pork butts for a fundraiser or big event. But the reality was I lit a fire, then seasoned everything, put it on the racks, maintained a fire, then at the end pull the butts off and shredded them. That's it. But then walk into whatever the big event is and everyone is like "omg that was so great, thank you for working so hard at it." Which in reality it was me and a couple buddies smoking cigars while watching football all day with maybe a solid two hours of work.            

And there's different degrees of this. Ribs have a little longer prep time. If you're grinding and making sausage, that can get fairly labor intensive. But pulled pork is the gravy train which is why I always recommend it for large events. And when I talk to the people running the events they're always concerned about the shredding part. Then I explain I have a stainless steel bucket, I made stainless shredders that go on a cordless drill. Put a butt in the bucket. Run the drill, pull the bone out, then pour into your serving container. Done. 

But what is absolutely cheating and the synopsis to this blog; ham and pastrami. All you have to do is know how to maintain your heat and smoke. The hardest part is if you're going to make the mustard sauce. You could make it sweet, but that's gross, I'm not a fan of sweet meat. But it's a free country, if you want to make a sugar glaze, you go right ahead. 

But to cook the ham. And yes, I use the cheap, not sliced, precooked whole ham. Make a fire. I use the side firebox. You could also make an offset fire. I keep the temp low for a few hours. 180-200ish Fahrenheit. Helps get the smoke deep in the meat. You could go lower. But the objective I'm after is a little rendering of the fat. End result is a drier ham, but I like the crispness to the bark and that 180-200 gets into the rendering part easier and is a good balance for smoke penetration. And I'm after the slight white smoke. Not grey, grey/blue, heavy white or clean. That slight white gets a good not overpowering smoke. And I use hickory, which is my go to flavor. On top of some lump charcoal for heat.

Grilling side box

Ham on grill

The length of time cooking is up to you. Three hours is good. I like to at least get the internal temperature to 150. To me that's all about the rendering part. But at the end I like to turn the heat up. Say 350 until the outside gets crisp. Then pull it off, let it sit a little bit and slice. Done. And so easy. 

Well, that's my advice. If you need to escape for a little bit this season and act like you're putting in effort but not really, just go smoke a ham. 



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