In this story we're cooking armadillo eggs, smoked mac and cheese, and a brisket on the Meadow Creek BX25 Box Smoker. Let me step back to make way for the star of the show...
If you've never eaten armadillo eggs or smoked mac and cheese, you'll want to keep reading... trust me!
My Meadow Creek BX25 Box Smoker
To fire the BX25, I like to use a couple of fire starter matches in the bottom of the charcoal basket. I'll leave enough room in the top of the basket for a split of smoking wood. It will take a while for the charcoal to light, and at first the smoke will be thick white. Wait until the smoker comes up to temp and the smoke thins out to put the meat on.
This brisket was on the small side (around 9 pounds) and labeled as certified Angus beef. I simply trimmed and seasoned it just before cooking it.
I used John Henry’s Texas Brisket Rub for the brisket.
The smoke is thin now and the smoker is up to temp.
I caught the drippings from the brisket in a half pan directly under the brisket. This is about an hour into the cook.
I'm sure you're familiar with jalapeno poppers. They are a staple when it comes to barbecue appetizers. An armadillo egg is at least two notches above a popper because instead of a thin wrapping of bacon, you get a thick, irresistible layer of sausage with each slice. Mmm...
Here are the steps I used to make my armadillo eggs:
- Slice off the top of each pepper and carefully remove the membrane and seeds with a paring knife.
- Stuff each one with a mix of cream cheese and shredded cheddar cheese. The amount of cheese depends on the size of the peppers, but I used 1/2 box of cream cheese and a handful of shredded cheddar and it was way too much. Just guess for your amount of peppers and make sure you don't contaminate it with raw meat, so that if you have extra cheese you can eat it with pretzels or crackers while you're cooking.
- Wrap each pepper in sausage. I used 2 pounds of Jimmy Dean sausage for five of these. The amount is not critical.
- Dust them on all sides with your favorite pork rub, such as Butcher BBQ Grilling Addiction.
- Cook them in the smoker until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 180 degrees F (minimum of 145 degrees). Mine took about 2.5 hours, but yours might be done sooner if you keep the smoker closed. My target smoker temperature was 275-300 degrees F.
Mac and Cheese
Sometimes, I'm not sure about the craze to smoke everything under the sun, but then I try it myself and finally understand what the fuss is about. For example, smoked mac and cheese...
I adapted the ingredients for my smoked mac and cheese from Malcom Reed's recipe over at howtobbqright.com.
- 12 ounces elbow macaroni
- 12 ounces bacon
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 cups heavy cream or milk
- 1 pound extra sharp cheddar, shredded
- 1/2 pound Colby jack cheese, shredded
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1 cup sour cream
- 2 tablespoons barbecue rub, such as John Henry’s Texas Chicken Tickler or Butcher BBQ Grilling Addiction
Here are the steps I used to cook my mac and cheese:
- Cook the macaronis in a kettle according to the instructions on the box
- Cook the bacon in the oven at 400 degrees. Arrange it single layer in a pizza pan. Drain the bacon and crumble it in a food processor.
- Drain the pasta and add the rest of the ingredients (except for the bacon) in a pot big enough to hold it all. Let the cheese melt and mix it well.
- Pour this mix into an aluminum half pan and sprinkle the bacon bits in an even layer on top.
- Cook it in the smoker for several hours. I was running the smoker at about 275-300 degrees and had it in for 3.5 hours. The time is not critical but look for bubbly, crispy cheese on the top.
As you can tell, this is a high calorie dish, but oh, so delicious! There is a lot of room for adapting the recipe to your preferences. Some people add bread crumbs, but I didn't have any handy and wasn't sure if they would get crispy when cooking with steam in the BX25.
I found this dish is much better the next day after the smoke has some time to mellow and blend with the pasta. When I first tasted it hot out of the pan, I didn't really care for it, but man, the next day it was amazing. My wife is a big mac and cheese lover, and she claims it was definitely the best mac and cheese she ever had.
I set the mac and cheese on the top grate to avoid catching any meat drippings.
Oh, how tasty!
My faithful BX25.
I set the brisket into an aluminum half pan covered with foil 4.5 hours into the cook. Notice how the sausage drippings messed up the bark a bit.
The brisket is back on the smoker. I cooked it covered for about 1.5 hours.
Sliced armadillo eggs They were in the smoker for around 2.5 hours.
After the brisket reached 200+ degrees, I set it in an empty cooler for a hour or so.
Here is the finished product with slices from the flat portion. I saved and separated the drippings for serving with the slices later. I guess I need to figure out how to get a better bark in a water smoker... these slices are not much to look at.
I cubed the point, doused it with Kosmos Sweet Smoke Sauce in a pan, and set it back in the smoker for 1.5 hours. Burnt ends are the candy of meat!
I love the BX25 for several reasons:
- It's handsome... its vertical, compact design and positive locking latches and hand-crafted workmanship are nice to look at.
- It's fuel-efficient. For this cook it ran for 7-8 hours and my target temperature was 275-300 degrees, so I had to add more fuel once or twice, but that's not bad considering I was running it hotter and had the door open a lot for photos and video. If you leave the door closed and use 100% hardwood charcoal briquettes cooking at 225 degrees, you should get at least five hours out of it before you have to add more fuel.
- Compared with a TS250 offset smoker (my all-time favorite smoker), this one is tiny, yet perfect for the backyarder who doesn't want to cook for a big crowd or have a dozen+ bags of leftovers for the freezer.
A note of caution: I've found that if I cram all the racks full of meat, the air does not circulate very well and whatever is sitting along the back on the bottom grate will overcook unless you rotate it. This is because there is no bracket in the back to keep the racks from sliding all the way against the back of the smoker, so the user can easily block the airflow. If you keep the meat away from the edges a little to give the air room to flow around it, it will cook more consistently.
If you're looking for a solid, hand-made smoker that runs on charcoal and wood, and with or without water/steam, the BX series is an excellent choice.
Time to eat!
Beautiful, isn't it?