I love food. Like LOVE food. Nothing motivates me quite like it, actually. And as much as I enjoy having someone serve me in a restaurant, my family can usually eat better (and cheaper) at home between my hubby’s and my contributions in (and out) of the kitchen. When he suggested we look into a Pitbarrel smoker (https://pitbarrelcooker.com/) with our tax return in the Spring of 2019, it didn’t take much convincing. Little did I know then that our Pitbarrel smoker would be quite a life-changer for my family. We’ve experienced a lot of positives since then, especially during the pandemic, that I couldn’t help but share.
We opted for the larger pit barrel smoker. More space meant more food, like bigger birds, bigger racks of ribs, as well as more room for roasting potatoes, peppers, sausage, squash, corn, and more while the meat is smoking. We like efficiency. Because of the extra room in the smoker, I’ve learned that buying larger quantities of meat means spending less per pound, and when meat was getting scarce because of the pandemic, the larger portions were still pretty easy to find. I’ve utilized the bulk portions at Costco as well as supported friends who provide beef and pork from their own farms. Over the course of “Stay Safe, Stay Home,” we’ve gotten in the habit of smoking something large and delicious on a Sunday, and then using that protein in meals for the rest of the week. Chicken or turkey means making our own stock to use in soups, rice, and more (like my favorite: Gumbo). Poultry on Sunday usually means a week with noodly soup, pot pie, mashed potatoes and gravy, and gumbo! Ham on Sunday means soup (https://downtonabbeycooks.com/recipe/hearty-irish-ham-potato-soup/ or https://myheartbeets.com/instant-pot-creamy-ham-wild-rice-soup-gluten-free-dairy-free/), pot pie, brinner ham and eggs, grilled ham and cheese, jambalaya, and more! Shredded pork can live on through sandwiches or on baked potatoes (thanks Pioneer Woman for that idea!). Cooking large potions in the smoker on Sunday also means we have been able to share with my parents who were both affected by layoffs/closures earlier this year due to COVID-19. And nothing brings out the neighbors quite like having the smoker going. We were already fortunate to move into a great neighborhood, but we have been able to get to know our neighbors even more since getting our smoker.
Using our smoker has become a hobby for us filled with experiments. For example, I learned that the BEST and most perfect toasted marshmallows come for a day’s worth of coals in our pit barrel. We have experimented with a few different rubs on ribs, vegetables, brats, and more. Also, thanks to https://pitmasterx.com/, we’ve learned to make our own bacon. (I LOVE his videos, too! He’s Dutch, so I’ve learned more about Dutch food and culture.) All you need is a big slab of pork belly, some kosher salt with your preferred flavoring, and time. Me? I like raw sugar, honey, and molasses. My husband prefers cajun seasoning. Bacon is easily one of our daughter’s favorite foods, and making our own is saving us money, too. Plus, there is nothing like a slightly grilled hunk of pork belly steak. Mmmmmmmm, are you drooling yet?
For me, nothing really beats walking out of the front of the house or the garage to the smell of the smoker. It’s brought our family closer together with experiments and has become like the neighborhood water cooler, bringing us out and together to chat and catch up. Honestly, the smoker has kept us sane in a world full of so much chaos. Many weekends you will find us playing in the front yard, checking in with neighbors as they pass, and enjoying the smell of whatever is cooking in the smoker. Food may not be an actual love language, but it definitely speaks to me and makes it easy to share leftovers with others. I’ll take the yumminess of food from our smoker over take-out any day.