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Category Archives: Technique

Grill Mods: Dual Zone Thermometers

So we did this a while back but I never posted it…partially because it was in the winter and I was pretty ashamed that we had no grass at that point.  Our yard looked super white trashy at the time, but after putting a pool in the middle of our front yard and waddling my huge pregnant booty out there in a bikini, I figure that my white trashiness has reached the point of no return, so here goes.

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The common question seems to be “Why the front yard?” Because the dogs are in the back and it would take them all of 3 seconds to have torn this thing apart.

Anyways, we went down to our local BBQ store to look for a couple of thermometers to add to the lid of our 22.5″ Weber kettle so we could monitor the temperature and have better control over our dual zone cooking.  We picked up two thermometers and a silicone sealant safe for high temperatures.  You are also going to need a power drill, marking pen, and possibly measuring tape(if you want things to be all nice and symmetrical)

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We (meaning Derek, I just stood there and took pictures), measured out the desired distance and drilled a pilot hole, which is a small guiding “starter hole” before you start putting holes in your grill lid with a giant drill bit.

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We also noticed that there was a small notch on the back of the thermometer, to keep it from turning I am assuming? Not really sure, but it required the drilling of yet another hole as well.

It doesn't have to be pretty, it just has to work

It doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to work

Put your sealant around the top of the holes and install your thermometer.  Then seal up around the inside of the grill and you are done!

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Let this dry for at least 24 hours before using, and enjoy your new customized Weber grill!

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Posted by on July 11, 2013 in Barbeque, Technique

 

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Oh Jeez, She is Angry Again…

Definition of barbeque
abbr. BBQ
NOUN
1.outdoor party with food cooked outdoors: an outdoor party where people eat food cooked on a grill
2.food cooked on grill: food, especially meat, poultry, and fish, cooked on a grill
3.equipment for cooking outdoors: an apparatus, including a grill and fuel, used for cooking food outdoors
[ Mid-17th century. < American Spanish barbacoa, probably < Arawak barbakoa “frame of sticks” ]
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Guess what the definition of BBQ does not include:
1. Meat covered in a sugary-red sauce that you cooked in your crock pot
2. Pulled meat products of any kind that were cooked indoors
3.  Anything that requires electricity to cook.
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I really tried not to start this post with another pissed off rant, but it did not happen once I started looking at recipe blogs this morning.  I do not care what you call it, but if you are cooking indoors you are not making bbq.  You can make pulled pork inside, but you cannot make BBQ pulled pork.  Do you understand?  Real barbecue is a friggin art and takes time and dedication to master.  It makes me angry when you people throw that term around just because there is some sugary red crap on your meat.   I want to beat them with a slab of baby backs until they change the name of their recipe to not include the word barbecue!
Now, while we are on the subject of BBQ, do you want to learn how to do a St. Louis style cut on spare ribs?  Of course you do! Now that we are nice and pissed off let’s go grab a knife!
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This, ladies and gentlemen, is a slab of the finest spare ribs.  Wrapping around one half of the slab is an extra hunk of meat that is not actually part of the ribs themselves, and for aesthetic purposes it is often trimmed off.
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With your fingers you will be able to feel where the excess meat is that is not directly attached to the bones.
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Trim the excess off in an L shape and throw that sh*t in your crock pot for some BBQ pulled pork! Haha.
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Now, we cooked these exactly the same as we always cook spare ribs, because there is no sense in messing with perfection.  So you can follow these instructions.  What you end up with is a nice rectangular slab or ribs that you can use to impress your neighbors, or to stick it to that b*tch at a potluck who brought a tofu salad.
 
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Posted by on December 27, 2012 in Barbeque, Pork, Technique

 

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Thanksgrilling Recap and a Smoked Ham

Now, we decided not to do a turkey for Thanksgiving, because turkey does not smoke very well.  It tends to get dry and tough, and the technique is still a work-in progress for doing an entire bird, but we got our hands on a beautiful raw ham shank from our farmer, and decided that the turkey would get a pardon this year.  We used about a 7 lb shank, I wouldn’t go much bigger than 9lbs because they are prone to drying out.

and we got yelled at for rough-housing by the grills

Ok, first you turn your pork leg into a ham by curing it.  We used a wet-cure method, which involves brining the meat with:

  • 3/4 C salt
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • a heaping 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves
  • water (enough to cover your meat, I didn’t measure)

Now, you can put this whole thing in a deep roasting pan and put it in the fridge, but who really has the space for that in the days leading up to thanksgrilling? I know we didn’t, so I used a brining bag and a cooler full of ice and topped with a 25 pound bumper plate to keep the dogs out of it.

Before You put your pork in the brine, cut any large hanging hunks of fat off and score a diamond pattern in the regular layer of fat.  This not only helps to release the fatty goodness into your meat while it cooks, keeping it moist.  As a bonus, it also makes for a nice presentation.  Did you hear about the pig who opened a pawn shop? He called it “Ham Hocks”.

Ok, that was really bad…sorry.  Anyways, put your ham in the brine and put it into a cooler for 72 hours.  You have to be careful bringing meat too long, or else it will lose some of its texture, so we decided not to risk losing the whole leg with a week-long brine.  To get the flavor infused all the way through without doing a long-cure you can bust out your trusty meat injector and shoot some of your brine into the ham shank. Also, try to remember to flip the meat around in the brine at least once a day to make sure that all the flavor gets evenly distributed.

Whoa, that is a lot to remember!

After the 72 hours is up, take your meat out of the brine and rinse it off lightly.  Put it in a pan lined with paper towels and then put it back in the cooler to dry for another 24 hours, then you are ready to smoke.  My husband would tell you to use apple wood, because apple trees grow in Washington state, but don’t do this.  This hunk of meat is too big and cooks for such a short amount of time that it does not really get a proper amount of smoke flavor.  Apple wood is a delicate smoke, as you will see from the lack of a bright smoke ring in our finished product.  If you want your ham to be even better than mine use hickory, which is what we will do the next time.

Dont listen to a word this guy says!

Sorry honey.  I love you.

We also bedazzled the ham with whole cloves

Ok, we ran the smoker at 275f for about four hours and forty minutes with the ham in a pan.  When your meat gets to an internal temp of 160 pull it off and let it rest covered for at least an hour.  For additional flavor, we added half a bottle of white wine to the water pan in your smoker, and drank the other half since it is a holiday, why the hell not?  Don’t forget to spray your meat ever 30-45 minutes with a mixture of half apple juice or cider and half cider vinegar.  We always have a bottle in the fridge.

Primal Smoke’s 50-50 spray

Thats it…you now have a basic ham technique for your next holiday.  Glaze it with a little maple and you are ready to serve.

epic

I would like to add one more thing about the color of the ham before someone asks.  No it is not bright pink, store-bought ham is artificially pink from pink curing salt which is highly toxic if you use too much.  If I get a warning from my butcher that curing salt could kill someone I prefer not to add it to my food in any dose whatsoever.  If you want a pink ham feel free to dye it like an easter egg…but seriously you aren’t looking for color here…it is the flavor that is important.  Ok…got that out of the way.

Here are our other Thanksgrilling goodies:

Cranberry-ginger applesauce

Grilled squash

A green salad with figs, pomegranate and blue cheese and grilled sweet potato and poblano salad. The trick to the salad for me is adding a smoky heat, poblanos are not that spicy and to balance the flavor I add chipotle infused olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper.

there was lots of yummy snacks

Wow my kitchen is trashed!

Can’t forget about the pie.  Pumpkin pie gave me a hard time, because I tried other recipes that use arrowroot or gelatin to thicken…yuck.  Sorry people an ok substitution just doesn’t cut it for me, it just didn’t taste like authentic pie filling.  Then it dawned on me, the almighty coconut butter can be used to bake anything, so I added 1/4 cup of that in with my eggs and it was flawless.

Thats is…Thanksgrilling in a nut-shell!

 

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2012 in Pork, Technique

 

Who Loves Ya Baby Back? Basic Rib Technique and a Holiday Preview

I have been sitting on a rib recipe since Saturday, but I was a little brain-dead from too much vodka at an open-bar wedding on Sunday.   In my hung over state I also had to give the dog a bath and scrub the whole house from top to bottom because little Kirk brought millions of his friends into the house.   Flea-bath and headaches don’t mix, really not fun!  So, now that I have reluctantly de-fleaed the kids and house, it is time to give you the basic rules for ribs.

Amazing ribs are one of the BBQ holy grails.  Like brisket, something that you will not get perfect the first time around, but that’s ok, barbecue takes practice.   Rib recipes are like fingerprints, everyone has them and they are all a little different.  This is not a specific recipe, but instead they are instructions for the novice to follow.  Once you have mastered the basic rib we will get all technical with the fancy recipes!

That beautiful pink hue is the smoke ring! Something you will never get if you take shortcuts!

We started with 2 slabs of pork ribs and carefully cut off the silver skin, also called the “membrane.”  We used hickory smoke for these little piggies, but just about any wood would work here except for mesquite, because it might be too bitter and intense for this particular cut of meat.

mmm membrane

Next we added the rub, which is a bit of a misnomer, because I don’t want you to actually rub it in, so it should be called a pat.  You can use whatever rub you like, or a generous sprinkle of garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, and onion powder will do as well.  Pat your rub onto both sides of the meat really well and let them come to room temp while you start up the smoker.

Ribs are often referred to in Latin as Porkus Maximus

The ideal temperature of the smoker is 225F, but anything under 250F will do.  Once you are up to temp throw your ribs on for approximately three hours, being sure to monitor carefully.  This recipe could be done on a gas grill with a smoker box, or a large charcoal grill with a dual-zone fire and a water pan on the low side.

Once your ribs reach 190F, pull them off the smoker and place each rack in a piece of tinfoil.  Drizzle with a bit(about 2TB) of your favorite BBQ sauce, or mine, and wrap them tightly before placing back on the smoker or the grill. The ribs are ready to eat at this point, but the gristle-y connective tissue hasn’t fully broken down yet, so they need a bit more time.  If you are putting them on your smoker leave them on for another 1-2 hours, or you could expedite this process and throw them on a hot grill for 10-20 minutes, if youre super-duper lazy.  The reason for this is to let the ribs finish cooking without drying out from too much smoke.  Also, it will give the sauce a chance to caramelize into the meat a bit.  This is called the Texas Crutch, but there are many other techniques to experiment with(we will explain the sear and smoke for ya soon!)

The meat should pull off the bone easily, but should NOT under any circumstances just fall right off.  In competition BBQ that is considered a huge freaking failure, because you want the meat to have some “give.” Once they are finished you wont need to add much more sauce, because unlike an indoor(meaning incorrectly) cooked rib, you are tasting the smoke instead of just tasting the sugary sauce concoction that they are smothered in. No pink smoke = no bueno.  Lastly don’t forget to let your ribs rest for about 30 minutes in their foil, as they will be too hot to eat.

We are also practicing for a big holiday coming up…Thanksgrilling.  It is Thanksgiving dinner cooked entirely on the grill! We had a little practice run at some smoked turkey legs, here is a preview

November 22nd is right around the corner!

You better get your technique right before November, because we put a down payment on a pig, and when he gets into our freezer and this website will be a pork-a-palooza!

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2012 in Pork, Technique

 

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Barbeque Basics Part Four: Give it a Rest Already

The secret to cooking perfect meat isn’t actually about the cooking at all, it is about the art of patience.  Perfect meat is created by two processes; tempering and resting, both of which require you to just leave your food alone.

I’m letting my meat rest for a bit!

Tempering is letting your meat come to room temperature before cooking.  If you have ever eaten a thick steak that looked done on the outside but was raw in the middle you know why tempering is important.  Warmer meat  needs less of a rise in temperature to reach your desired level of doneness, which means less cooking time.  You would think that all these extra steps make your time spent slaving over hot charcoal longer, but it can actually cut your cooking time down by several minutes.  Less cooking time means less time for the delicious meat juice to evaporate as well.  The second reason why this is important is even cooking.  You will not end up burning your roast on the outside while waiting for it to come to temp..   Think about it, it is much more efficient to cook 70 degree meat to 130 than it is to cook 40 degree meat!

Everybody wait, it hasn’t come to room temp yet!

 

Resting is the same thing as tempering, letting the meat sit on the counter, except this time it is done after cooking.  When you heat up a piece of meat the fibers compress, changing the distribution of liquids inside.  Imagine the meat as a sponge, if you squeeze it on one side water will come leaking out the other.  The process of heating and flipping your meat will cause the juices to redistribute all willy-nilly, and like a sponge, it cannot hold all the extra liquid in one spot without some of it running out.  A bad analogy perhaps, but it is what happens when you cut into a steak that hasn’t been rested, the fibers stuffed with juices will release them causing a dry and less flavorful dinner.  When you let it rest for a few minutes the fibers will relax a bit and let the juices redistribute evenly in the meat .  Neat huh?

The next important reason to rest your meat is that it also cuts down on your cooking time since the meat will continue to cook while it is resting.  I typically take my meat off 5-10 degrees before it is done and let it come to temp under a little tin-foil tent.  It is like my meat is waiting for the release of the new iPhone and must camp out for days.

There must be a mastodon roast resting under this tent

 

Ok, so we are going to sum this all up with your mission, should you choose to accept it; leave your delicious dinner on the counter.  To temper let the meat rest for an hour or more depending on the thickness and size of the meat.  For an average one inch thick steak I recommend about an hour, less for burgers, more for roasts, use common sense, but an hour is always a good amount of time.  Obviously you do not want to temper your uncovered meat outside in the hot sun for an hour, but any safe place in your house will do.

I am going to totally go lick your tempering steak right after licking my butt

 

Rest your meat by removing it from the heat or hot pan and placing it on a cutting board or plate.  For steaks, roasts, tenderloins, whole chickens, or other large hunks of meatiness, make the little tinfoil tent.  You do not actually need to get little skewers and build a little North Face hut for your food, just cover it loosely to keep heat and steam from evaporating.  The length of the rest also depends on the meat; 5-10 minutes for burgers, small pieces of boneless pork or boneless chicken, 10-20 minutes for steak, thick pork chops, or bone-in chicken, 20 minutes for large roasts, pork shoulder, whole birds, ect.  This gives you plenty of time to do some dishes, prep your sides, or make a nice pan sauce!

 

Like this

 

If you still don’t believe me, the folks over at Serious Eats have studied this extensively.

 

This picture shows steaks cut into at 2.5 minute intervals, with the first one not resting at all, all the way up to 12.5 minutes of rest prior to cutting.  I think I should just delete my whole explanation and leave you with this picture instead, because it says everything.

Last bonus is that you wont burn your tounge from putting meat that just came off of a 400 degree grill directly in your mouth  Hooray!

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2012 in basics, Technique, Uncategorized

 

Barbeque Basic Part 2: The Tools

Sure every backyard BBQer knows that you need big tongs and a long-handled spatula(unless you want to burn all of the hair off of your arms), but there are also a few gadgets that you should buy if you really want to impress people with your mad skillz.

First and foremost is the charcoal chimney starter.

ta-da!

This gadget allows you to start your coals without using any lighter fluid.  There are instructions on the nerd net for making your own out of an old coffee can and wire coat hanger.  That sh*t looks dangerous, spend the 10 bucks and get a real one.  What you do is stuff newspaper in the bottom(the end with the holes) and pour your charcoal in the top.  Light the newspaper in a couple of places and leave it alone for a few minutes, it will heat up your coals on its own.  Are your coals good and hot yet?  Ok, grab the handle and carefully dump them out into your grill…which brings me to my next point oven mitts.

Get yourself a good pair of insulated BBQ gloves, they are going to take a beating.  Also, a long-handled steel BBQ brush is needed to clean off your cooking grates.  If you’re smart you will store it out of reach of big dogs, since mine thought it was a toy.

Your high-tech gadgets should include an instant read thermometer and a timer.  That’s it.  You do not need a thermometer that hooks up to an iPhone app to be successful (although they do make that, but I heard it sucks)

For cooking ribs you could also get a rib rack.  This is not a necessity, but merely a space saver, letting you multiply the amount of delicious ribs you can cook at once.  You will also need disposable foil pans.  We buy them at Costco because we use them so much.  They are used for soaking wood chunks, making a water pan, moving foods on and off the grill, and even for cooking.  Please don’t give me the whole “cooking with aluminum is bad” speech, I don’t care.

For flavoring your meat you will need a flavor injector.  These usually look like some evil Dr. Henry H. Holmes needles, but they’re great for putting your marinade directly into the meat.  This is especially important for cuts that tend to be tough like brisket.  Also, having a spray bottle on hand will help you keep your meat moist.  Usually during smoking meat is sprayed with apple cider vinegar or juice to keep it moist and tender.

That is really all you need, you can probably get all of this crap for about 75$, and of course we also had to buy a set of outdoor shelves to put it all on, because somebody was pissy about having it all lying over her patio set all the time (that would be me).

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2012 in Barbeque, basics, Random, Technique

 

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The BBQ Basics Part One: The Charcoal

Our ancestors had to go through the process of burning down hardwood into charcoal if they wanted to make a nice frenched rack of mastodon, fortunately for us, we can run to any grocery store and pick some up.  Also I am pretty sure my neighbors would be pissed if I started cutting down neighborhood trees to make my own.

There are two basic types of charcoal: Lump Charcoal and Briquettes each with different advantages, so we are going to talk about why you should have both in your backyard.

Pure hardwood charcoal, also called lump charcoal

Pure hardwood charcoal, or “lump charcoal” is just a big fancy name for burnt down pieces of wood. This stuff is great for your day to day grilling, burgers, steaks, chicken, or whatever you little heart desires.  The best part about lump charcoal is that it lights very quickly and gives your food a nice smoky flavor.

Briquettes are little uniform pillows of awesomeness that give you a longer more even burn and steadier temperatures than regular lump charcoal.  You can buy Hardwood briquettes, which give you a more consistent burn than pure hardwood, and they still impart a somewhat woodsy smoke, though not as intense.  If you are going for a really long cooking time or slow smoke, it is best to use the standard briquettes due to their superior ability to hold steady temperatures.  One warning though, getting the briquettes that have been infused with lighter fluid can give your food an oily, chemical-soot sort of taste. Do not buy the “EZ Light”  charcoal, just get the standard and light it with a charcoal chimney (more on that soon).

Of course there is always the gas cooking method, but in the real BBQ sphere this stuff is useless.  It does give you the most even temperatures, and you can actually choose to set your grill at 350 and it will stay there.  However doesn’t this sort of take takes the artistry out of it? Good BBQ is equal parts gastronomy and art.  Plus, you can never achieve the same sort of flavor as you will cooking over coals.  Nevertheless, if a gas grill is all you have, you can always add a small wood smoker box and still taste the heavenly clouds of deliciousness from wood smoke.

Whichever method you choose will of course get your food cooked (Duh!), but there is of course subtle differences in the end result.  It can mean the difference between the most incredible thing you have ever eaten, or just a cooked piece of meat.  This is pretty serious stuff people!

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2012 in Barbeque, Technique

 

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