Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Mini WSM Build : The Perfect Tailgate Smoker

I am a sports junkie and love my Michigan teams. I can't get enough of my Detroit Lions, Tigers, Red Wings and Michigan Wolverines. I even enjoy watching a game with SPARTY every now and then. One weekend, while tailgating with some friends, we ran across a smoker covered in sports stickers.  I can't begin to tell you how horrible this thing looked due to the stickers burning up on the side of a hot  piece of metal. Go Figure. It got me thinking about tailgating and showing my team spirit. I started "googling" smokers and tailgating and came across a several sites that featured this Mini WSM build. I had to give it a try. The sites I am referring to are Steve's and, run by Chris Allingham. Both are great sites and full of great recipes, tips and overall BBQ greatness. Give them a look.

WSM stands for Weber Smokey Mountain and is a great overall smoker. I love this Mini WSM for a few reasons.  First, is the ease of operation. It's easy to transport and set up. It's perfect for tailgating. Just throw it in your trunk and head to the game. Secondly, it cooks great food. This little thing keeps it's temps like the big boys and holds a surprising amount of meat. (Or those veggie things, if your into that) I have cooked 50 stuffed jalapeƱos in the mini along with a Tri-Tip roast. I can also get 6 racks of Baby Backs (Rolled) inside. 12 lb Pork butt, also, not a problem. Thirdly, this smoker does not eat up a bag of charcoal like my big boys. Dare I say, it's the Prius of smokers. I can go 10 hours with this smoker on less than half a bag of charcoal and keep the temps in the 250 range.  Simply awesome.  Lastly, the team colors and logo make tailgating even more fun.  Everyone wants one.

Here is what you will need. Get ready to have some fun!



Below is the Vasconia 32 qt steamer pot (After I drilled into it). This is the best fitting pot for the Mini WSM.  It is very hard to find these days, so the IMUSA POT is a great replacement. It fits perfectly into the Weber Smokey Joe grill and comes complete with plastic handles to help with the heat. I have purchased a few other pots, but nothing comes close to the Vasconia.

The Weber Smoker Joe Gold is my favorite for this build. I have seen others use the Weber Smokey Joe Silver, but I do not recommend it. Sure, it saves you $5, but the air intake is on the bottom and gets clogged with the ashes. Go with the GOLD!

A cheap set of tin snips are needed to cut out the bottom of the steamer pot.  The bottom is very thin and very easy to cut.  It will only take you about 2 minutes to remove the bottom of the pot.

I placed a plate in the center of the pot and traced a line around the edge, leaving a 1-2 inch lip. The lip is needed to help add support.  Some guys prefer to drill dozens of holes in the bottom, but it's easier to remove it altogether. Trust me, remove the bottom. 

Once you have traced the line, you will need a starter hole.  Drill a small hole or 2 in the bottom of the pot. Just enough to get your tin snips into and start cutting. Be careful with the sharp edges.

Once you are done, you will have some rough edges that will need to be hammered down. If you want to go back at it with the tin snips, feel free.  

I decided to take out some aggression with my hammer. Have fun with this step. Hammer away!

Once you have the bottom removed, its time to decide where to put the grates.  You can place one grate directly on top of the heat diffuser. The other can go about half way up.  It's up to you.  I've added a 3rd grate, but this is not mandatory.  The pot is approximately 43.5 inches around, so you will drill a 1/4 inch hole every 14.5 inches.  A string cut to 43.5 inches comes in handy when measuring the distance between holes. The top set of holes should be drilled about 3-4 inches below the lip. If you are planning on painting your smoker and adding a design, be careful where you drill the holes. You probably do not want the bolts in the middle of your team logo.  Mark your 3 spots with a sharpie and drill away.  The should be evenly spaced and the exact same distance from the top lip. You want to make sure the grate is even. 

Place the washers and nuts on the inside of the smoker. These add a nice little shelf for the grate to sit on. Once you have them all assembled, it's time for the bottom bolts.  Drill 3 holes in the lower section (In alignment with the top bolts). You will want them in the middle of the lower section, exactly between the little ridge around the pot and the bottom. If you place them too low, the pot will not sit all the way down, inside the grill, as it should. Once these are drilled, you will add the longer 4-5 inch bolts along with the washers and nuts.   

These will hold your heat diffuser (Pie Pan) above the bottom opening. The heat diffuser is very important to ensure even heat and to keep your foods from burning. A 10-12 inch pie pan works great as a diffuser.  Wrap in foil each use for easy clean up.

As you can see below, the holes and bolts are lined up evenly.

Time to add the grates. I forgot the picture with the heat diffuser inserted, but you can imagine it down there. Place the bottom grate directly on top of the heat diffuser. You can also add water to the pie pan for some extra moisture.  

We have one final hole to drill.  This is for the thermometer or the grommets. I went with the grommets so that I can insert my wireless probes into the smoker and the meat. Either way works great. I love the Cajun Bandit Grommets as they are very reliable and large enough to hold several probes. Pictured below. 

If you go with a thermometer gauge, you can find some good ones on Amazon.  I used this one in another build and have had no complaints. 

After you have added the thermometer or grommets, you are ready to cook.  If you would like to add a handle to the top air valve, drill away. Take a 1/4" bit and drill your hole.  Insert a 4-5 inch bolt along with a wooden knob on the end and you are all set. I found the wooden knob at Hobby Lobby for .99c and drilled a small hole and added some super glue. Viola!!!

You are now done with Mini WSM and ready to light it up. See, that wasn't so hard. Now the real fun begins.  If you would like to add some team colors and make your tailgate crowd jealous, read on.  

Remove the bolts/washers/nuts along with the grates and set aside.  Tape the top lip of the steamer pot so that it looks like this. Leave some sticky edge so that we can add a garbage bag inside.

Stick the garbage bag inside and make sure the bag sticks to the tape all the way around.  This will keep the paint from getting inside our pot. It should look like the pic below.

Use some clear wrap to cover your rubber/plastic handles. This will keep them clean when you are painting the outside of the pot. The little sandwich bags work great. Tape it up tight.

Now, we can add our DIE CAST DECAL logo's. These will not stay on the smoker for long. We only need these to cast the design when painting. Die Cast Decals will allow paint to get inside the logo and add some really good detail. I get mine from Sean at He makes great custom decals. Tell him I sent you.

Add your decals to one or both sides.  Add them wherever you want, it's your smoker.  Once they are added, it's time to paint.  The high heat enamel paint is necessary for the high heat that your smoker will emit.  Look for a paint with a rating of 500 degrees and higher.  The higher, the better. Your local auto parts store should have plenty of colors to choose from.  Make sure and get a can of clear gloss as well.  It will help shine up your new smoker.

Once the logos are on, start painting.  Keep the can at least 8-10 inches away from your pot and move side to side in a smooth motion.  If you keep it in one spot too long, the paint will pool up and look awful.  Apply the first coat and allow 10 minutes for the paint to set a little. Give it a second coat. Once the second coat has been applied, you must remove the decals ASAP.  If the paint dries and you try to remove the logo's, the paint will stick and start to pull up around the edges.  You will lose some of the great detail you are looking for. The shiny silver below the paint looks really sharp!  Once the pot has dried, we can give it a coat of clear gloss.  This really makes it POP!!!!  Of course, you will lose some of the shine once you start cooking large hunks of meat on your new Mini.  After a few cooks, you will see the paint near the bottom start to darken. This is from the higher heat near the burning charcoal. After the paint dries, you are ready to cook. Order yourself a handle from Marty here and you have a great new BBQ toy.

Have fun with this project. It's really simple and a lot of fun! The possibilities are endless.  Here are a few mini's that I have made for friends. The Packers mini was tough for me, as they are a division rival. The others weren't so bad.  One thing is for sure. They were all a lot of fun! Thanks for stopping by. 

If you give this project a shot, send me some pics of your finished work. I love to post others successes.   Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Bacon Jam

I can officially utter the words “This is my JAM” and not get laughed at by my friends. This is my new addiction and I’ll gladly attend meetings if needed. This jam is that good. It has a little bit of everything that I like. Bacon…CHECK.  Beer…CHECK. Onions and Garlic…CHECK.  What else do we really need? Perhaps the best thing about this jam is how versatile it is. You can put it on a biscuit, eggs, waffle as well as burgers, bratwurst and chicken sandwiches. This would be fantastic on a grilled cheese. Imagine some gooey Havarti Cheese mingling with warm bacon jam.  My mouth is watering already. When you add some Stubbs BBQ seasoning along with a few sprinkles of cayenne pepper, you have the perfect combination and all is right in the BBQ world.  This can be made in a cast iron pot or on the grill. You can make things even easier and prepare the bacon in the oven. I like to make large batches and give them away to friends around the holidays. Bacon Jam under the tree? Yes please!  Bacon Jam for Valentines Day? Of course! Bacon Jam Turkey sandwich in late November? Sign me up.

  • 1.5 lbs Bacon 
  • 2 medium yellow onions (Diced)
  • 3 garlic cloves (Minced)
  • 1/3 cup Apple Cider vinegar
  • 3 TBS Maple Syrup (Use the good stuff)
  • 1/2 cup Dark Brown Sugar
  • 8 oz Dark Ale Style Beer
  • 2 TBS Stubbs BBQ Seasoning
  • Cayenne pepper (optional)


Sprinkle bacon pieces with Stubbs BBQ Seasoning. Cook in cast iron pan over medium heat until brown and nearly crisp. Remove bacon from pan and place on paper towels. Drain all but 1 TBS of bacon grease from pan and cook diced onions and minced garlic until onions are translucent. This takes approx 6-8 mins over medium low heat. While the onions are heating, chop your bacon into 1/2 inch pieces.

After 6-8 minutes, add the apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, beer, maple syrup and bring to a boil. This takes about 2 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, make sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to get any brown bits off the bottom. Add bacon pieces and stir. Cook over medium high heat until glaze thickens. (10-15 minutes)

Once the bacon jam reduces and becomes thick, remove from heat. You can pulse in a food processor (2-3 pulses) to make the jam easily spreadable or leave as is. I like mine a bit chunky, so no processor for me. Either way, you will love this on biscuits, toast, bratwurst, hamburgers, chicken, grilled cheese sandwiches or on a shoe. It's that good. 

This has sweetness, some salty goodness and a little heat that all works great together. You can store this in an airtight container (in the fridge) for up to 4 weeks. I think mine made it almost 4 hours, so a larger batch may be needed to test out that timeframe. Welcome to my BACON addiction. We will get thru this together.

Thanks again for stopping by. Feel free to pass this one along to your friends. Go Blue!!!!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Grilled Venison W/ Horseradish Cream Sauce

 I'll be the first to admit that I am no hunter. While I would spend every waking minute on the water in search of that 10 pound walleye or 40 inch northern, I leave hunting to my old college roomies. They shoot it and I cook it is our agreement. After a few failed attempts with venison in recent years (and I do mean FAILED with a capital F), I decided to take a cooking class put on by the parks and wildlife association. Money well spent!!! I can now hold my head high and say that venison backstrap no longer intimidate me. Thanks to my buddy Doug for providing the venison.

  • Venison backstrap (Trimmed of silver skin)
  • Kosher Salt and freshly ground pepper or Stubbs Steak Rub
  • 3 TBS chopped herbs. (Rosermary, Thyme & Oregano combo)
  • 3 TBS Olive Oil

Horseradish Cream Sauce (prepare day prior for best flavor)
  • 1/2 cup Creme Fraiche (or Mexican Crema)
  • 2 TBS Freshly grated prepared Horseradish 
  • 2 TBS Freshly chopped Chives
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon


Mix your chopped herbs and olive oil and rub on your venison straps. Refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours or overnight if time allows. This is also a good time to mix your horseradish sauce ingredients and chill. The cream sauce flavors need some time to blend. When it's time to grill, set up for direct heat. We want a high heat on these to create some nice grill marks. I also added some wood chunks to the coals to add some smokey flavor.

I let these sit out for about 40 minutes to get near room temp. I am not sure if this is necessary, but I did it anyways. This is also what I do when cooking a nice steak, so I figured it couldn't hurt. Just before throwing on the grill, I sprinkled with some salt and pepper. These are going to cook quick, so don't go far. Make sure you have a cold one handy along with a good cigar.

I was looking for a good medium rare, so went to 130 degrees internally. This only took about 4 - 5 minutes per side with the high heat. The back strap and tenderloins are very lean will dry out very quickly if they are overcooked, so keep an eye on them. Just like a good steak, there are only 3 ways to cook these. Rare...Medium Rare...Ruined. Once they reach the 125 - 130 degree range, remove from the heat, tent with foil and let rest for 5 - 10 minutes. This is a very important step. This lets the juices redistribute and keeps things tender. If you cut into things now, you will have an entire cutting board covered with tasty back strap juices. 

Now it's time to slice. Make sure you go against the grain to keep the tenderness. Cut into 1/2 inch medallions and enjoy as is or cover with some of the horsey cream sauce. It's fantastic either way. 

These didn't last long. They were super tender and had a great flavor. I will definitely be doing these again if my old roomies decide the can spare more meat. I'm very interested to hear how you cook your venison and would love some new ideas. Send them to me at  GO BLUE!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Planked Brie With Cranberry Chutney

It's "The Game" week...AKA.....Turkey Day week.  Things are rolling along nicely for the guys in Maize and Blue with the biggest game of the year quickly approaching. I am so geared up for this one and wanted to try a new recipe for this week. This has been on my "T0 DO" list for a long time and is a nice addition to any Turkey Day tailgate. This is sweet...oozy...gooey and delicious all in one. Give it a try for the big game as a perfect appetizer. I guarantee your guests will "GOBBLE" it up in no time.  


1 Wheel of Brie (4 - 6 inches)
1 Cedar Plank
3 Cups Cranberries (Fresh or Frozen)
1.5 Cups Pure Maple Syrup
1.5 Cups Stubbs Sticky Sweet
1 TBS Meat Church Bacon Rub


Soak the cedar plank in water for 20 - 30 minutes. This will keep the plank from burning while on the hot grill.  Set your grill up for medium, direct heat. This will keep the grill temps in the 275 - 300 range. This can also be done in the oven if you'd prefer. Once the grill gets up to medium heat, add the wet cedar plank to the hot grill and close the lid. Allow the plank to char slightly (About 5 minutes). Turn the charred plank over and set the wheel of brie on the hot side of the cedar plank.

Add 1 TBS of Meat Church Rub and to the top of the brie. Close the lid and let cook for 15 minutes. Keep an eye on the brie to make sure it doesn't burst. It will start to feel very soft after 15 minutes. 

While the brie is cooking, mix the cranberries, BBQ sauce and maple syrup together and cook over medium heat. Cook for 15 minutes or until all the ingredients are well blended. 

Once the chutney is hot and starts to thicken, remove from the heat. The cranberry chutney can be prepared ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator. This also works well with raspberries, blueberries and other sweet fruit.  Once the brie starts to soften (usually about 20 minutes) spoon the cranberry chutney over the top of the brie. 

Continue to cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from the grill and serve with crackers, grilled baguettes or vegetables. Serve along side the remaining chutney. Serve immediately.

Thanks for stopping by and as always.......GO BLUE!!!!!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Smoked Turkey "STUBBS"

  • Turkey Legs
  • Stubbs Chicken Marinade 
  • Stubbs Chicken Rub (1 TBS per Turkey Leg)
  • Stubbs Sticky Sweet BBQ Sauce


Marinate turkey legs in Stubbs Chicken Marinade for at least 4 hours. If you can go overnight, they will be even better. I use 1 bottle of marinade for every 4 turkey legs.

Preheat grill or smoker to 275 degrees. If you are using a gas or charcoal grill, set up for indirect heat. Add 2-3 fruit wood chunks (Pecan or Apple) for smoke.

Remove the legs from the marinade and season with Stubbs Chicken Rub. Don't be shy, these take the spice really well. I use about 1 tablespoon of rub per turkey leg.

Place seasoned turkey legs on smoker/grill and for about 90 minutes. These gobbler legs are done once the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. These legs are perfect as is! 

If you want to take things to the next level, add some Stubbs Sticky Sweet BBQ sauce during the last 20 minutes of the cook. This adds a nice layer of sticky sweet messy goodness that we all love.  Let rest for about 15 minutes once you remove from the grill. Walk around like a caveman and enjoy!

Another great thing about these gobbler legs is how tender and tasty they are the next day. They are great cold! Wrap em up in some foil and enjoy.  These are so much fun to eat while your channeling your inner "Fred Flintstone". Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Bacon BBQ & Red Pepper Butter Pecan Ice Cream.

When my buddy Matt from Meat Church sent me his latest creation, the Bacon BBQ Rub, a million different recipes ran thru my head. Tri-tip...Pork Butt....Bone-In Ribeye....Oinkions.....Ice Cream? I've  gotta admit, Ice Cream came in near the bottom of the list. But then I started thinking about it. It's 100 degrees out and it's going to be this way for the next few weeks. Do I really want to fire up the BBQ right now. (OK, I did want to and I did) But I need something to cool me down and this recipe did the trick.  It might sound a bit odd, but trust me. YOU WILL LOVE THIS ONE. ***The red pepper flakes add a little heat that goes great with the sweetness****


  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 3 TBS Unsalted Butter
  • 2/3 Cup Packed Dark Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Half and Half
  • 2 Cups Light Cream
  • 1 TSP Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 TSP Almond Extract
  • 1 shot Bourbon (Optional, but not really)

  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Water
  • 1 1/2 Cup Pecan Halves
  • 1/4 cup Meat Church Bacon BBQ Rub
  • 1 TBS Crushed Red Pepper Flakes (The kind you sprinkle on your pizza. Do not leave out)


Melt the butter over medium heat in your favorite saucepan. Once the butter starts to turn light brown (about 5 mins) add the brown sugar. Stir this mixture until it melts. This will also take about 5 mins.

Once its melted, add the half and half and simmer until completely incorporated. The sugar mixture will harden up briefly. Just keep mixing and it will soften up.

Mix 2 eggs in a separate bowl. Slowly add some of the half and half/sugar mixture into the eggs. About a cup should do it. Keep stirring as you incorporate the 2, making sure the eggs do not cook. You do not want scrambled eggs here. Return the egg mixture back to the pan with the rest of the half and half and simmer over low heat. Stir for about 5 minutes or until everything is mixed well. The custard will start to thicken. Make sure not to boil or you will scrabble the eggs. Remove from heat and pour into a clean bowl to let cool slightly. Once the custard cools for about 20 minutes, add your cream, vanilla/almond extracts and your bourbon. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

While your custard is chilling,  prepare your pecans. Try not to eat them all while you wait. Good luck!  Mix your sugar and water in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Continue stirring until the sugar dissolves. After about 7-10 minutes, it will start to turn a light amber color and thicken slightly. Once this happens, add your pecans, Bacon BBQ rub and Crushed Red Pepper Flakes. Mix quickly as it starts to solidify almost immediately. Once it's all mixed up, spread on a greased cookie sheet or some parchment paper and let cool. Once cooled, chop into smaller pieces. This is where I accidentally sample half of the nuts.

Once the custard has chilled for 8 hours and thickened slightly, add to your ice cream machine.  After churning for about 20 minutes, add the chopped nuts. Once they are incorporated, it's time to eat. You can enjoy it now or put in the freezer to firm up. Both ways are great.

Let me know how you like this recipe. Don't forget to get your MEAT CHURCH BACON BBQ rub and his other great rubs here. Go to

The original recipe came from the The Ultimate Ice Cream Book. Thanks Bruce.