Saturday, May 26, 2007

Tri-Tip roast - 1st attempt

This week's adventure is Tri-Tip Roast. Many people have had the Tri-Tip strips that are thin and resemble a boneless spare rib (at least to me). Costco sells the heck out of them. Those are fine and, I'm sure, produce a great product. But to me it seemed that the roast, if executed well, would outshine the strips 100 times over. Now I could be wrong. Honestly I've never made one of the strips so I could just be another misinformed shmoe talking out know. Nonetheless, for me the roast seemed a good project.

I started with about a 3 lb roast. That's enough to feed my family with left overs. I rubbed it with some garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, and a little cayenne pepper. I didn't make not of the recipe. It wasn't a heavy coat.

I got my fire started with about 36 Kingsford briquets and some left over charcoal and wood from a previous cook. The Smokenator instructions say to use 24 briquets to start but my chimney is huge and 24 doesn't fill it in a way that makes it easy to get them all lit. I'm still working on ways to light them. Currently I prefer the Weber FireStarters.

I started the cook with a few mesquite chunks at about 1:40pm. Grill temp was about 200. Within an hour more fuel must have ignited or the grill had come up to temp because I was soon at 250. I spent the next 4 hours doing the dance. Shift coals around knocking off ash, add water to the pan, add mesquite, add fuel, about every 20-30 minutes.

I think I was a little impatient. About 5 o' clock I took temp of the meat and it was about 120. I was shooting for medium since that seems to be the point that works for my family (I'd prefer medium-rare usually). So I was shooting for about 130-135 internal temp. I figured there would be some carry over cooking so 120 seemed a good point to finish it up.

I wanted to have a little crust on the outside. I removed the Smokenator and spread out the fuel giving me a "direct heat" coal bed. I seared one side of the roast...a little too long. It had a nice crust but it was almost burnt. More importantly the heat had already gained momentum and the overcooking had begun. I didn't know for sure but it seemed likely that I was on my way to medium-well. I turned the meat over to sear the other side anyway. After doing so the meat had reached 150. Doh!

I wrapped it in foil to rest and try to keep as much of the meat's juice close to it as I could. After resting I carved it up. It had a nice smoke ring (sorry no pics on this one) but it was definitely not pink in the middle. Not a good sign. We ate it for dinner and it was certainly edible but far from what I had hoped.

I'm going to have to try this again, soon.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

BBQ Brisket Meco Smoker Style

OK so Jason and I have always gone for your traditional BBQ ya know baby back's, chicken, and many other varieties of pork. Well yesterday i got the grand idea to do a brisket. Well this was definitely a test.

To start i took a 5lb brisket and cut it in half. My girlfriend is not a huge meat eater and her eccentric mother wont touch beef at all. I know what you are all thinking it is exactly what i thought the first time i met her, " What the hell is wrong with this woman?" Well i don't have a good answer and any i do are totally negative.

Back to the brisket, I gave it a thorough rubbing of Emeril's Essence. For those of you that have no idea what this is I suggest hitting the Food Network web-site. The recipe is there.

The beginning: I used lump charcoal in my Meco smoker BBQ kettle. Mesquite. Again it was a 5lb brisket rubbed with Essence. I made sure that i had achieved the optimum level of smoking per my handy dandy gauge on the outside of the smoker. Dampers were 95% closed as to maintain the temperature and smoking. With thing i should mention is this. The Meco burns quite hot if you don't have the included water pan on the lowest grill closest to the coals. the water pan helps to add moisture to your meat and keep temps just perfect. This was the first time i had actually used the water pan.

Brisket fat side up on grill for about 5 hours. I occasionally checked the coals to insure that they were staying hot. I made sure to add when needed. Not to big of chunks though. Lump charcoal burns allot hotter than your standard briquet's. So i mainly used the little bits that are left in the bag. Remember don't just throw the coal in because it will stir up ash (not a good thing). I simply used some heavy duty tongs to place the coal gently in the grill.

By now the brisket has smoked for about 5 hrs and is looking great. internal temp is at about 160 and by my little meat thermometer is about medium rare. So i did what any die hard BBQ fanatic does i took it off the grill and took a couple of slices for sampling. One phrase can describe my delight "That's some damn good BBQ".

I put the brisket back on the grill, only this time it was covered in tin foil to insure that there was no more browning of the meat.

I left for approximately 3hrs to go and attend the Master gardeners show that was being put on at our local fairgrounds.

Upon my return to my surprise the coals had gotten hotter than hell on the meat was roasting in the foil. Now every time i have had brisket it has been sliced and served. Well today was not my day for the perfect brisket. The meat was tasty don't get me wrong. It was so tender that i you even thought for one minute that it was going to be sliced you are dead wrong. I more or less ended up with shreddable beef. I still ate the entire thing almost by myself.


Saturday, April 28, 2007

Chicken Breast - Smokenator style!

Those poor chicken breasts didn't stand a chance.

You might recall that I got the Smokenator this week and promised I'd be breaking it in soon. Well today was the day. The Smokenator, in all its glory, took it to 8 unsuspecting chicken breasts (with bone, skin, and rib meat for those keeping track).

The meat was prepared by first removing the skin since I don't eat it and wouldn't want it getting in the way of the smoke anyway. I then used some of my Base Rub minus the chili powder on 4 of them. The other 4 got a dose of Emeril's Essence that I mixed up today. I let them sit for about 2 hours in the fridge.

I fired up the Weber kettle with Smokenator installed according to Don's excellent instructions, starting with 24 Kingsford briquettes. I also added a couple chunks of Hickory for smoke.

One problem I had was that I hadn't gone out and bought some more thermometers yet. I had either misplaced my old ones or they'd stopped working and I was in need. But being the rebel I am I pressed on anyway.

The Weber was smoking real good when I put the chicken on the grill, bones-down. I set my timer for 20 minutes and headed out to the store to buy some thermometers. Relax. I left my wife in charge of the timer. She was instructed to check the Smokenator water pan when it went off and add water.

Everything worked out with the wife acting as water-girl. When I returned everything was still intact.

Don (Smokenator Don for those not keeping track) suggests that you run the Smokenator without food once just to get an idea of how things go, temperatures, etc. Well, remember where I mentioned that I was a rebel? Ya, I didn't heed Don's warning and decided this chicken would be the test.

Needless to say, Don had some good advice. This is my first time using briquettes. I usually use lump charcoal. The biggest challenge I had was working with the briquets to keep a consistent 225-250 temperature at the food level. I was averaging around 200-210 with the top vent on the kettle full open. I think I was supposed to close it down some once it reached the target temp. but I didn't. I was afraid it would cool off. I think I'll open the bottom vent a little next time and see if that helps.

I checked the water every 20 minutes. I added wood chunks every hour or so as well as a few fresh briquettes (usually 6-8). I didn't touch the chicken other than to check it's temp. with an instant read thermometer. I never turned it over.

After the chicken had been cooking for about 3 hours I decided to finish it off on the gas grill. I just cranked it on with one burner active so I could have consistent indirect heat to "bake" the rest of the way. This probably wasn't necessary but my family was getting anxious and even though I had achieved consistent heat in the kettle it was still low and slow.

I didn't take any pictures but the breasts came out looking wonderful. The smoke had definitely penetrated and given it a great flavor. The Essence style chicken had a bit of a bite to it due to the pepper in the Essence. If you like your barbecue with a little spice and are looking for a nice all-around rub, Emeril's Essence works great. The chicken rubbed with my Base Rub was also great but much more mild in flavor.

I told you I had 8 breasts of chicken. The family at 3 (one got vultured before we even sat down). I shredded the remaining chicken and stored it in the fridge. Tomorrow night I'll be making smoked chicken enchiladas for dinner. Those will be awesome! The rest of the chicken will be added to salads, quesadillas, etc.

I can't say enough about Don and his Smokenator. It is a simple system that really turns the Weber kettle into an even more versatile piece of barbecue gear. Don's instructions are excellent and a great guideline to getting started using your Weber kettle as a water smoker.

Next on the Smokenator agenda will be a Tri-Tip roast I think. I'll let you know. Whatever it is it's going to kick ass because that's what the Smokenator and Weber kettle do!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

What beers to drink with what foods?

Hey it's Will, You haven't heard from me yet so i figured i would put in my 2 cents worth. I'll give you a little background on me. I am 31 years old, I have three kids, and I love to cook and eat! I mean lets get serious here that's what this blog is all about right. The love of cooking and eating not necessarily in that order i might add.

So i pose this question to all that are aficionados of the beer industry and food critics alike. What beers do I drink with the food I am eating?

All to often we hear about pairing wine with foods but less often we hear about pairing beer with food. I am no professional beer critic at all. I have kept my likes very simple. I drink mostly Miller Lite. Personally i don't care what anyone thinks about my beer of choice, i like it i think it has good flavor and frankly i think Coors Light tastes horrible, that's my opinion I could be wrong but I'm not.

I like the famous Hefeweizen. This heavy wheat beer is great with a slice of lemon. It has a full body and has great after taste. I know allot of people are not to keen on the idea of the cloudiness of this brew but that is what makes it unique. You can drink it with pretty much anything you want "Warning" It is a heavy beer and It will fill you up before you know it.

On the next blog i will get more in depth. This is all I have for now. Please add any comments you may have.

We look forward to hearing from you.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Smokenator in da houz!

Yes! It's here! I'm so fired up (no pun intended) about getting the Smokenator up and running in my Weber kettle.

I have been thinking about it since last summer when I got my kettle. I checked the website, read the reviews, looked at the instructions. I did everything short of ordering it.

A couple days I checked into it again. I saw some recent reviews and after my a few emails with the owner/creator, Don, I made the purchase. I went for the stainless steel model with the hover-grill. The hover-grill is an extra grill with legs that adds a bunch more surface area to the kettle cooking area and if there's anything I like better than barbecued meat it's MORE barbecued meat!

Don was great to deal with. He was very thorough in his email responses as he answered my questions. You can tell he really has a love for barbecue and a passion for his product.

The Smokenator arrived today in a single box, nicely packaged with tape holding the various pieces together so they don't shift in the box.

Unpacking it was easy. Before I installed it I needed to clean out my kettle a little. It had quite the build-up of ash. Once I cleared it out, the Smokenator slipped right in. The Smokenator fits so well, using the grill support tabs already built into the kettle.

(yes the picture shows the kettle before I cleaned it out)

Here is the kettle with both grills installed with a close-up of the hover grill.

And here's the kettle next to my Weber gas grill. I just washed off the winter dust so they look better than usual. The gas grill is going to get a once-over soon as I just found the flavorizer bars are pretty much rusted out. Oops!

I'm thawing out some chicken as we speak so my next entry should be a real cooking review!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

4th of July Pork Ribs

Every 4th of July I'm "volunteered" to handle the cooking over at my father-in-law's house. He has a nice backyard with a pool and waterfalls and all that. He also has a nice little "pool house" building with a mini-kitchen and all that goes with it. His grill is brand new and I was the first to use it. He had it connected to the house gas service, which was a new one for me.

My routine usually consists of prepping 9 racks of pork ribs. Starting the night before I soak them overnight in a brine made up of apple cider, apple cider vinegar (in a 6 to one ration of cider to cider vinegar) and a few spices. I also remove the silver skin layer before the brining. The morning of the 4th I pull the ribs out of the brine and give them each a rub. Since I had 9 racks I did a little expirementing with my rubs and made 3 variations.

The recipes:

The "Base" rib rub:

1 c Hungarian Paprika
1 1/2 c Brown Sugar loosely packed
4 Tbsp. Kosher Salt
2 Tbsp. Chili Powder

The "Spicy" rib rub variation:

1 c Base rub (recipe above)
1/2 tsp Cumin
1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1/2 tsp Chipotle Powder

The "Asian" rib rub variation:

1 c Base rub (recipe above)
1/2 tsp powdered ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp curry powder

The base rib rub is quite basic. There are lots of things that can be done with it. Over time I will be adding other "rub" recipes as I come across them so you can have a variety of sources to begin to create your own personal rub.

The spicy rub was actually not very spicy at all. It had great flavor but didn't give me the kick that I like. 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper over 3 racks of ribs isn't going to give you a lot of heat. If you like yours hot you definitely want to add more cayenne then 1/2 tsp.

The asian rub was quite interesting and flavorful. My father-in-law is diabetic so he doesn't eat most barbecue sauces because of their sugar content so he ate a dry rack that I had rubbed with the asian rub and he couldn't stop talking about it. The curry really gives it an interesting mild flavor. I also made a little sauce for the asian ribs using mostly Thai style peanut sauce and some other asian flavored sauces I had in my fridge. Those ribs turned out with a very unique taste, unique for bbq ribs anyway.

Let's get cooking!

It's about time I actually got around to getting this blog off the ground.

I'm an amatuer chef and griller but I'm wanting to learn more and expand my horizons, so to speak. Through this site I'll be talking about lots of different grilling subjects including grilling/smoking equipment, grilling recipes, techniques, classes, contests, and pretty much anything else I can find to share. So check back often and see what's going on in the world of grilling, barbecueing and smoking (and if you thought those were all the same thing you REALLY want to check back!).