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A-maze-n Pellet Smoker, Masterbuilt Electric & A Mailbox

Topic: Cooking | Tags:


front of smoker

3 years ago I decided I wanted to dive into smoking meat. I loved eating brisket and pulled pork but living in Oregon at the time it was hard to find really good smoked meat. I could make some great BBQ on my Weber, but that just wasn’t the same.

I also knew I didn’t have hours on end to tend to a fire and control the temp. So, I set out to buy an electric smoker with a thermostat. I settled on the Masterbuilt Electric Smoker (Amazon) and purchased it December 2012.

It has gotten a lot of use over the last 3 years and has produced some amazing smoked meats. I didn’t have to focus on maintaining a temperature and could turn my focus to the perfect rubs and sauces. Even though it had a thermostat and could keep a pretty constant temperature, I still had to add wood regularly. It wasn’t bad but I wanted something even easier. But, I didn’t want to spend a bunch of money on a fancy smoker with auto loaders or anything like that.

After a lot of reading about the A-maze-n products, I finally decided to take the plunge and give one a try. I had read a lot of people using them with my exact smoker. I also saw the creator of A-maze-n responding to questions and helping people in different forums. He even offered to talk with people night or day to help them with his product.

I did a test run of the AMNPS 5×8 try on Monday night. To my dismay, I couldn’t get it to stay smoking inside my smoker. Others have had some success and still others have had problems.

Rather than try to troubleshoot, I took things a step further. I had seen a lot of people talking about a mailbox mod for their Masterbuilt smokers. People were saying it was the best thing they ever did to their smoker.

So, off to Home Depot I went. After about $65, I had everything I needed. This included some cinder blocks to raise my smoker up a little.

As you can see from the photos, I have a black mailbox sitting under my smoker. I drilled a hole in the back and then used a jig saw to cut a circle for the tube to fit into. I then used some foil tape to secure it in place and cover up the cracks. I also drilled 2 holes in the front of the mailbox and 1 hole in the bottom of it just inside the front edge. This was to help with airflow and keep the AMNPS going.

I ran the tube from there to the hole for the chip loader on my smoker. I also removed the chip tray from inside the smoker as well.

After letting it run all night, I checked on it in the morning and was happy to see that just about all the pellets had burned. Since I was sleeping while it was going, I’m not sure how long the smoke went for. I had it going a couple hours before bed so I knew it burned a while.

All in all, it was a pretty easy mod and will make smoking some delicious meat even easier. I plan to smoke a brisket this weekend. I also have a pork belly curing in my garlic cure and will cold smoke that next weekend.

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Bacon wrapped smoked poppers

Topic: Cooking | Tags:



Lots of people have made and posted similar things. You might have made these yourself already. If so, skip to the photos and drool, then rush to the store and make another batch. If not, follow these instructions and make yourself an amazing appetizer or turn into a full meal, no judgement if that is the case!

Since this was to be an appetizer, I only bought 6 jalapeños and sliced them all in half. I made sure to wear gloves when slicing these. I learned the hard way not to handle spicy peppers with bare hands.

Once slide, remove some of the inside. The more you remove, the less spicy they will be but you will also have more room for filling. Use your own discretion as to how much to remove.

For the filling, I bought some onion & chive cream Cheese and mixed it with some garlic bbq sauce. I used a 2 parts to 1 ration. The 2 being the cream cheese. For a batch of 6 jalapeños, that came out to be 1/2 cup cream cheese and 1/4 cup bbq sauce.

Once the filling is mixed together, add it to your jalapeño halves.

Next comes the tricky part. Wrapping in bacon. You have to be careful not to squish all the filling out of these. Once wrapped, I didn’t worry about using a toothpick or anything to keep it wrapped. The bacon stayed together just fine.

As you see from the photo, I put all of these on a wire grate. I use this for each transport to and from the smoker. I just slide the whole rack in and take the whole rack back out when complete.

Once they are all wrapped, add a good dose of seasoning to the outside. For pork, I tend to use something heavy on sugar with only a little bit of salt.

Since I had to work the day I wanted to have these I prepped them all the night before so they could go right into the smoker the next day. I already had a pork shoulder smoking all day and was planning to just put these in the smoker towards the end.

I smoked them for 3 hours at 225.

You are going to want to eat them right out of the smoker. I totally get that. But if you can be patient, they are best eaten if you let them sit and rest for a little while. I learned this from experience.

Right out of the smoker the cream cheese will be really runny. If you let them rest first, the cream cheese will get a little firm. It will still be warm but that firmness will help with texture and messyness.

As you can see from the finished photo, there are 2 halves missing. They were so good that I ate a couple before I could get a photo taken.


Pork wrapped in pork wrapped in pork

Topic: Cooking | Tags:



Yep, you read that title right. Pork to the 3rd power! Why? Because why not!?

I started out by getting some ground sausage and flattening it into 1 large rectangle. As you can see from the photos, I did this on a piece of saran wrap. This was to make the rolling process easier.

After it is rolled out, sprinkle on your favorite BBQ rub. While you are at it, sprinkle some of that rub onto your pork tenderloin also.

Some pork tenderloins come with a tapered tip. I wanted mine to cook evenly so I cut the tip off and trimmed them both so they would be the same length. The remaining pork was diced up and fried up in a pan while I waited for the main event.

Once the tenderloin is nice and seasoned, put it on the flattened sausage and roll it on up.

Now, for the 3rd pork product … the bacon!

Again, I used saran wrap to help in the rolling. I started by laying out enough strips of bacon to cover the entire log. I overlapped the bacon so I didn’t have any blank spots.

Once the bacon is ready to go, sprinkle some more seasoning and roll your sausage log in the bacon using the saran wrap to help you roll.

Add some more seasoning to the outside and you are ready to grill.

For the grill, I setup my charcoal for indirect grilling. I put a mound on each side of my webber and placed the pork in the middle.

Grill this until the middle of the tenderloin reaches 145.

Slice up and enjoy!

Selling Pokemon cards for God

Topic: Christianity, Inspirational | Tags:


My son and I put our Pokemon card collection up for sale on Craigslist. I took photos and kept updating the description as cards got sold. We were down to our last bit of cards that I had listed at $145. There is a website that is based back East somewhere that would buy them from me for $140 if I would ship them. On Saturday I was filling out the “sell” order and hesitated. I decided to give Craigslist 1 more day.

An hour later I got a text from a guy interested in buying them. He wanted to meet later that night and we agreed on $110 (this was after a little back & forth and me asking $115). I didn’t want to hassle with shipping them securely so I was fine with that. He was VERY excited.

Something came up and he couldn’t meet and asked if I would hold them till Monday. I said that was fine. He was very appreciative and said that I made his day.

Monday comes around and we agree to meet Monday evening.

At 6pm I get a text that he just got home and something was wrong with his dog. Wanted to see if I would wait 1 more day. Again, I agreed and he was again very appreciative and he offered to pay the $115 I asked earlier for my trouble.

He got his dog to the vet and things under control and texted that he could meet after all that evening (Monday).

After meeting, he is very happy with the condition of the cards and gives me $120. We part ways and I later get a text that some cards are missing. It turns out he was looking at the photos of the original collection, not my updating description.

I offer to send him $10 back with PayPal for the misunderstanding even though the cards he got retail for over $200. He was totally fine though and didn’t want any money back. He was very appreciative for my honesty and integrity. At one point saying  he wished there were more people like me.

At this point I thought I should send something about God but didn’t want to be pushy or anything. I was hesitant but sent something.

Below are 2 screenshots of the rest of the text conversation that followed.



I’m thankful that I hesitated online and that God can use me selling Pokemon cards on Craigslist to reach someone.

I’m not writing this to toot my own horn. I hope this will encourage you to think about how you treat people and how people can see Jesus through how you act.

In the small group I was leading at youth group last week I was just talking to the kids about how our actions can tell people about Jesus. This interaction is testament to just that.

Homemade Bacon – Garlic

Topic: Cooking | Tags:


Whole pork belly

I’ve been making my own bacon for a while and keep forgetting to take pictures and post. I have a few different recipes but this garlic version is one of my favorite.

Pork belly can sometimes be hard to find. When I was in Oregon, I would go to a butcher and buy a whole pork belly. They always had them in stock. There are not very many butchers in the Easy Bay (CA) so I’ve had to look around a while. A good place to check is an Asian supermarket. I’ve been getting them there but you’ll need to ask them to remove the skin for you. You can try it yourself if you have some good sharp knifes but it is much easier if they do it for you.

The picture at the top is from a half pork belly that I got from a butcher in Oregon. I cut this one in half and then weighed each half. I generally adjust my recipe based on how much the belly weighs. I don’t do any crazy math, just try to estimate it all. The half that I did with garlic came to 2 pounds and 7.6 ounces.

After it is all weighed out, mix up the ingredients in an bowl. Be sure to get them mixed well and de-clumped. The brown sugar likes to clump up.

Since the bacon needs to sit in the fridge for a while, I like to put the meat in a zip loc bag. I then pour the seasoning in the bag, seal it up and then rub it all around.

While the bacon cures in the fridge, I usually go out once a day and rub the seasoning around (through the bag, without opening), flip the bacon over and put it back in the fridge.

The bacon is done and ready to smoke after about 6 days. You can tell it is ready by how firm the meat gets.

To smoke the bacon I have a MasterBuilt Electric Smoker (Amazon) along with the cold smoke attachment (Amazon). I use the cold smoke attachment because I don’t want to cook the bacon. You have to be careful though. If the meat is not properly cured, you will not want to have it in the smoker beyond 4 hours, maybe even a little less. Bacteria can start to grow when meat is left out at room temperature for too long. The cure helps prevent that bacteria from growing. I usually smoke for 4-6 hours depending on how patient I am.

After it is done smoking I put it right into the freezer. It can be really hard to cut when it has been sitting at room temperature. Be careful what freezer you put this in. If you have anything like ice or other things that are packaged with thin packaging then those things will smell and maybe taste a little smokey. Not always in a good way either.

For slicing, I have a Chef’s Choice 615 Premium Electric Food Slicer (Amazon) along with a non serrated blade (Amazon). This works great for slicing bacon.

Once it is all sliced, I usually package it up with my vacuum sealer (FoodSaver V3240 – Amazon) with enough bacon to last me 4-5 days (I eat bacon every day for breakfast) and then put it all in the freezer. Since I use the vacuum sealer a lot, I found have been buying the packing in rolls and cutting my own bags. I found that the VacMaster Full Mesh Vacuum Packaging Roll works well(Amazon).

The bacon lasts pretty well in the freezer. I usually have about 6-10 weeks worth of bacon. Since not all the slices are full slices (due to the belly not being perfectly square), I will take the odd pieces and chop them up and use when cooking vegetables like cabbage or brussels sprouts.


Pork Belly – 2 lbs 7.6 oz
1/4 cup sugar
2.5 tbsp kosher salt
.5 tbsp brown sugar
1.5 tbsp garlic powder
3 grams insta cure #1 (Amazon)