Wednesday, December 30, 2009

All You Need to Know About Southern Barbecue in One Funny Song

Ring in the new year with some barbecue humor with this classic bluegrass song defining bbq in the South.

I swear these must be some of my relatives from the mountains. I'm from NC, and the family is musically inclined other than a few of us like myself. I can only play the radio and ths spoons. You might be a redneck if know what I mean by playing spoons (-:

This also answers the age old question: Is Florida a Southern state?


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Melanie's Big Acres Smoker Bags - Great Taste and No Mess Grilling

I was excited to get a Big Acres Smoker Bag that Melanie recommends for those who like mess free grilling. I have two boys, so I'm used to messes. But, it can be nice to make dinner and really have no clean up. It sounded like the grill Smoker Bags would be just the ticket for those kinds of days, and it turned out that they sure are.

You can see in the photo that these look like of like aluminum foil packs for grilling - also called tin foil grill packs in the South. But, the quality is much better with these actually designed to go on a grill. And, they have a bottom layer with wood chips and flavors. We were doing fish so went with the Alder bags for a nice mild smoke taste.

I must confess that my Little Smokey tailgater was not the best pick for Smoker Bags, because they are 11 x 19 inches. Also, they are not intended for direct flames to be hitting the bag. It is fine to use Big Acres bags with charcoal, wood or whatever, but have some distance and no flames hitting the bag.

I tell you what I do right and what I do wrong. In this case, the grill bags are better for a nice sized gas grill where the flames are better regulated and no real direct flames hitting the bag or a larger charcoal grill like the Weber kettle. Also, the smoker bags can be used in the oven as well. As cold as it has been, that's a great option to get smoke flavor without going out in the cold to fire up the grill.

It waas just me and kid for the evening, and these bags would easily hold enough food for 6 or 8 people depending on what you might be grilling and the sides.

My kid loves potatoes and those take longer to cook than tilapia. Times are listed on the back of the pack. That was fine. I just parboiled the potatoes a bit beforehand. If we'd done broccoli or something like that, then all the food would have just gone right in the bag.

After parboiling the potatoes, we just poured the fish, potatoes, onions and some seasonings in the Smoker Bag. Very simple.

I think I might use some marinade next time. They work with or without marinade. I like an Italian dressing marinade on fish, or I might try out one of Melanie's gourmet marinades.

My kid likes grill gadgets and new stuff, so he helped out on the Smoker Bag project. We were breaking out all the cool grill stuff and had a FlameDisk for the fuel (another super easy grilling product that means no mess).

We had to use the lid to cap back the flames a bit, since FlameDisk burns good and hot - better for burgers and steaks. Flame Disk is perfect for direct grilling and makes a nice sear.

It was neat to see how the grill smoker bag kind of puffed up, and we could hear the food kind of sizzling along. The smell was fabulous too, so we were both drooling a bit.

You could use any fork or knife to open up the top of the Smoker Bag, but we have a Fork It Over which is the ultimate in grill forks. It looks like something you might use in a duel, so my guys really like the fork. I would hide it from younger boys as it would be too tempting to want to sword fight with it, and it's a tool and not a toy.

The grilled fish and potatoes were fabulous. The Smoker Bag really did give the food that low and slow flavor from smoking. That's hard to get if not using an actual barbecue smoker like the Weber Smokey Mountain Bullet we love.

I recommend Melanie's Smoker Bags for gas grillers who want a good smoked flavor without the charcoal and wood chip work and mess, but they can also be used on bigger charcoal grills and even in the oven. You can find the Smoker Bags and also some fabulous gourmet sauces made with fresh ingredients at Big Acres Gourmet Shop.

The Smoker Bags are super easy to use, and you really do get that smoke flavor which you don't with many products on the market. I enjoyed an easy night grilling with the food actually tasting great, and then there was no cleaning up afterwards. Clean up often takes me longer than any other part of a grilled meal, so I like having a no mess option now and then. I think I will use the Big Red Char Broil grill next time though and grill for a bigger crowd.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Ho! Ho! Ho! Who forgot to check the weather forecast so grilled in the rain?

Yes! This was my idea. I thought it would be so much easier to grill for Christmas. OH yes. Forget the marathon in the kitchen. Toss some chicken and hot dogs on the grill and spend the day hanging with the fam instead of cooking, cleaning, and stressing.

Did I check the weather report before I tossed out this idea?

OH NO! Of course not. Ever the optimist, I anticipated one of those North Carolina 70degree winter days. We do have those in NC - honest.

It, of course, started pouring the rain last night and on through the entire Christmas day. This was with 40 degree temps and wind.

But, hey I'm a sport. I lugged the barbecue stuff out to the truck. Then, I got my boots and dry socks, since the yard flooded, and one trip to the truck soaked my tennis shoes and socks up past my ankles. I would tell you how gross that felt, but I am sure you can guess.

With help from the guys and with dry feet, I fired up the Big Red Char Broil infrared grill which worked like a charm.

The side burner on the Big Red grill has more power than most and worked out great for the grilled hash browns which we usually put on the grates (when not cooking for a bigger crowd).

These grilled hash browns are the boys' dad's specialty, and he got the recipe for a buddy in the Navy who called these Butter Tators. He, of course, used 3 or 4 sticks of butter, and we healthy it up just a little with only about one stick of butter (with two bags of hash browns here).

The boys go wild for the Grilled Hashed Browns and always request them. They are most yummy, I must say.

I did the grilled chicken boneless, skinless chicken breasts and used Chef Hymie Grande Sauce. My new step dad is diabetic, and Chef Hymie Grande BBQ carries the national diabetic seal. That's a good reason to select that for a family cook out, but it's also a small batch BBQ sauce with natural ingredients and tastes great.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Dysfunctional Family Christmas - Take it Outside and Grill!

There are some questions that have obvious (but not so true) answers like, "How was your Christmas? (or fill in your holiday) We all know that a warm, fuzzy response is appropriate and called for. "Christmas was lovely. And yours?"

On the flip side, we all know you do not get family near and far together and have a totally harmonious celebration. In fact, I'd wager most families have some of their most dysfunctional moments of the year on Christmas. After all, there's so much hype. How can anyone match those magical TV and movie moments?

Now don't get me wrong. I'm all for family Christmas gatherings, and the bigger the better. Get er' done. These are your peeps and friends after all.

But . . . there are some moments that that do put the dis in dystfunction.

You show or share me some of your dysfunctional Christmas memories, and I'll show/share you some of mine.

Top 10 Dysfunctional Christmas Memories from Grill Girl

1. Granny got tipsy one year and literally tipped over backwards in the rocking chair. She grabbed the Christmas tree to try to stop her chair flip 'n tumble. Mom grabbed the tree instead of MIL Granny (-: No one could find the spilled gin and tonic . . . until I put on my tennis shoes to go outside to play basketball and had a shoe full of liquor. Try explaining smelling like gin to your middle school buds.

2. Went with aunt to take niece to see Santa. Niece cried as Santa looked scary. Aunt cried as no photos for Christmas.

3. Relative got son a swim in tub toy. Played with it before she wrapped it. Mr. Diver would not swim, because batteries had corroded and ruined inside of wonderful swimming toy tub man.

4. Oops. Wrong order. My conservative brother who is into computers did send a thank you note for the lovely little gingerbread house. He was supposed to get a tin of cashews. No one knew he got the little kiddie house until January.

5. Speaking of food. My aunt (not the senile one either) couldn't eat nuts. She did find the box of nut candy and sucked all the chocolate off and put the wet nuts back in the little brown paper holders. Oh. Ick.

6. Now, my confused aunt really made Christmas interesting. She had a thing about unplugging stuff and turning off the oven. You think the turkey is close done, and nope . . . the oven had been turned off. And, the bread machine . . . many a loaf she wrecked by pulling the plug. But, at least she did not lock us all out of the house on Christmas. She did that in the summer and told us to go away and that she "gave at the office."

7. I thought I'd be slick and move Christmas up a day so as not to have to drive Santa toys across state. My son's little buddy came to tell him bye before the trip and saw all the toys in the living room. "Where you get all this stuff?" asks buddy. "Santa," says my kid. "He didn't bring me nothing," said the other kid. Ut oh. "Maybe you was a bad boy," my kid told him. Neighbor kid starts crying. Bummer.

8. One uncle is not so coordinated. He sat in the bent wood rocker. And, yes, he flipped it over. No bigge? Wrong. He broke his thumb, so we went to ER that Xmas. ER is not a fun place to spend Christmas.

9. One year I was thrilled Santa brought me a football. Then, someone said that was for my brother and that I got the Barbie car. Geez. My brother did not even like football.

10. One of my buddies "cool" parents in high school told me to make myself some egg nog. She said use the green milk looking container and only ONE shot of Jack Daniels. Well, the butter milk was in a green marked container. If you ever want to taste the worst mixed drink ever - pour some JD in buttermilk.

Well, HO HO HO - it could have been much worse (no one has gone to jail on Xmas day - so far at least), and I'll bet some readers can give me some even better ones. But, those are my favorite dysfunctional Christmas memories, and I'm sure we'll make some more and enjoy telling them again every year.

Anyway, I'm manning the grill this year. How much drama can that be with it scheduled to be cold and rainy? If you get hot under the collar and your relatives drive you nuts, just crank up the barbecue and stay busy. You'll still hear all the funny stories, but you won't end up being a main player.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Melanie's Big Acres Perfect Poultry Barbecue Rub - Going Gourmet BBQ Tonight

Today I broke out the good stuff for some chicken on the grill - Melanie's Big Acres Perfect Poultry barbecue rub.

Perfect Poultry is a gourmet poultry spice rub for serious foodies and includes sea salt, rosemary, thyme, black pepper, white pepper, tarragon and sage. When you open the can, you get this amazing smell of fresh seasonings. Ah bliss!

Since my boys have grown up rural Southern, they tend to be meat and potato fellows, so I decided not to mention that we were going gourmet. I just called them in from playing basketball for some grilled chicken.

"Something smells great," said one of the boys (who are always hungry as most teen boys from my experience).

They look at the chicken for a second, and one of them says, "Ya dropped it in the grass huh?"

LOL. Busted. This is not sprinkle seasoning or even lemon pepper which they recognize. So, I was busted and had to confess. Better than them thinking I rolled dinner around in the yard which I've never done but once with a beer butt chicken which I did wash good and finish up.

You can tell here that the seasonings are the real deal, and you can both see and taste Perfect Poultry. I would note that this is a pretty strong combo on flavors, so don't overdo it. In the South, rubs are often literally rubbed on thick. With Melanie's Big Acres rub, I suggest sprinkling lightly, unless your guests are really serious foodies and used to lots of zip. Even then a light touch is fine. You want to enhance the chicken and not drown it out.

As always, I got input from the guys. But, do keep in mind that I'm talking really regular guys and not foodies or gourmet fellows.

My older son and his Dad thought the chicken rocked. I don't think that's a gourmet foodie term, but they definately liked Big Acres poultry rub. From the best I could tell (by asking questions), my son liked that rosemary in there, and his Dad liked the extra heat. This rub does have a bit of a back bite.

Younger son wasn't sold. He may still think I dropped dinner on the ground (-: Basically, he found Big Acres a little too hot for his liking, but he does not like any heat in his breakfast sausage either. I think me may have a mild food sensitivity to sage. So, this was too much burn for him (though it really isn't very hot at all - just a little zippy).

As for me, I loved the mix of flavor notes in the Big Acres rub. Now, I won't go around here saying that, or my barbecue buds might quit inviting me over to pig pickin' parties. But, Melanie did a great job with the selections and the balance. This is a really delightful poultry rub that takes chicken to a new level, and I can't wait to try it on the turkey breast in the refrigerator.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Barbecue Boston Butt - North Carolina Smoked Pork with Vinegar Sauce

Mom and Harry (my new step dad) got a barbecue Boston Butt today from the local Lion's Club. It's North Carolina barbecue pork shoulder, but the butt is the top part and smaller than a full shoulder. The name comes from the names of the barrels they were stored and sent in. So, NO, you are not eating butt when you get Boston butt. Butt is the ham (-: Sorry to have to tell you that.

North Carolina pork is smoked low and slow - low temperatures over a long time like 8 to 12 hours. Then, the pork can be sliced but is usually chopped. Then, the barbecue (not to be confused with something grilled) is served on a white bread bun with a vinegar based sauce which is thin and zippy. Oh my. Let me tell you. It is heaven.

I get requests for North Carolina style pork barbecue recipes, but pork barbecue is much more art than science. A basic recipe would be hard to post, but I'll probably give it a go some time. So, be sure to sign up for my newsletter to the right or hit follow on one of the follow opitons. I'll think it through one of these days and give everyone a starting point on NC BBQ.

Do know that every pitmaster or smoker in NC uses different rubs, techniques, and sauces. The smoker makes a difference too in terms of how you smoke the pork and how long and so on. Personally I don't think you can beat the Weber Smokey Mountain Bullet, and that's the one I use most for barbecue smoking.

The barbecue shoulder was good today. The Lion's do a nice job on that fundraiser, and I know it's labor intensive. They also have a good recipe for the vinegar sauce. The sauce really can make or break North Carolina barbecue. It's really not NC BBQ without that unusual vinegar based barbecue sauce.

Grilling in the Snow - Polar Bear Barbecue Club - Join Us

Yes! We do grill in the snow. In fact, last year I grilled almost every night all winter to test grills for Consumers Digest. But, I always did some cold weather grilling and smoking, and today was no exception.

The coals were super easy to get started with a chimney starter. If you don't own one, I strongly suggest it. You never have to buy lighter fluid again, and the coals are hot and even in 15 minutes or under. A chimney starter is a simple but great invention for charcoal grillers.

We went with steaks tonight, since it was my son's first day back from college for the Christmas break. We had no fatted calf for his homecoming, but that steak the meat man sold me off the truck worked fine. It was a little thin cut for grilling, but I watched close and nailed it. Normally I would suggest about 3/4 inch on the steak cut (or a little thicker). These were probably less than 1/4 inch New York Strip Steak. It worked out, but you have to be really good at eye-balling for doneness to do thin cuts of steak on the grill.

We used Wild n Mild for our marinade and barbecue sauce mop. That helps on thinner cuts, as Wild n Mild adds moisture as the steak is grilling. Wild n Mild is not tomato based, so it can be slathered on all during the grilling. And, it adds an excellent flavor. I love Wild n Mild.

Grilling out in cold weather is not must different than grilling in the summer. You do want to warm the grill up well with the lid on, and you likely want to use the lid on part of the time to contain the heat when the temps outside are below freezing.

You also want to bundle up good - of course. I go with layers in case it gets hot next to the grill. I also like loose clothes, so it's easy to move around which means that I often grab some of the boys' sweat shirts and jackets. So - I do want to note that I am not XXX Large from Sports Illustrated like it says on that shirt. It must be a guy thing, because the shirt is actually a small large. I guess guys like to think big huh? Trust me. Girls would never want the size, especially a large one, printed on the front of a sweat shirt. But, it's a nice thick and warm one, so I can't complain.

Oh yeah, please leave a message if you too are a Polar Bear BBQer! We need to unite.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Backyard Barbecue Pitt in Durham, NC - Had to Go Back

My younger son and his dad had been wanting to go to Backyard Barbecue Pit after the older kid and I went there and had a great real wood smoked barbecue sandwich and real home cooked Southern sides. Since, West Rowan High School was playing in the state championship football game (and won - yay), and we were headed up to Raleigh, we timed it for a dinner stop at Backyard BBQ in Durham, NC.

Last time, I didn't mention that I'm a barbecue blogger and owner of Yes You Can Grill. I always figure I want the real experience so only mention that I'm a writer after I pay for and eat my meal and then want photos and so on. Then, I rather need to mention what I'm doing, or I look like a psycho or something (-:

Even though this was only a second visit with it being a long drive (but worth it) to Backyard Barbecue Pit, we felt like family this time. Backyard is the kind of North Carolina barbecue joint where you get treated right no matter who you are and can be a "regular" if you come back again.

I was glad I took my other guys back to check out this NC barbecue place, because they thought it rocked too - just as I expected.

The guys had full plates as you can see. They are very generous on the portions at Backyard Barbecue. And, the prices are super. A pork barbecue sandwich with two sides runs just $4.99, and frankly I'd raise that if I ran this place.

Other plates are a little higher, but you can see that you get plenty to eat. Plus, it's all good eating.

While most wood burning barbecue restaurants just do whole hog or barbecue shoulder, Backyard does shoulder plus chicken and ribs also in the wood smoker. And, they fry up some fish which I really must try. It looks wonderful, but I'm such a barbecue girl that it's hard to pass on real deal que.

We were in late and after dark, so here's what to look for. You're just three lights off I40 in Durham. I would say that you can't miss it, but I have missed places when folks tell me that. Really though, the sign is easy to see, and the white building and the lights are easy to see.

Backyard BBQ has a second location open now on Guess Road, but I've not been there. We are always coming in from Chapel Hill off I40, so we hit the main stop here. It's maybe a 15 minute drive - definately not far from UNC.

So - here is what you missed (-: My plate is the barbecue sandwich which is stacked high. The sides are the white potatoes which are like my Grandma used to make (kind of with a sauce) and fried okra (which I adore and which my guys have never warmed up to). Last time, I had the Brunswick stew and the collard green, and both of those were yummy.

The guys also had macaroni and cheese and said it's great. Bless my Southern self; I do not like mac and cheese. Don't tell that. I might get run out of North Carolina. The kid also had green beans and liked those. I'll have to give those a try. They have so many sides that it is hard to pick.

I would also note that the fried items are dropped fresh and not out on the line. If you want French fries or fried okra, you just say. They make those fresh, so they are never limp and greasy.

The desserts at Backyard Barbecue look wonderful too, but I've not had room to eat any yet. That pecan pie on top of the counter was calling my name this time. It looked like the ones my Momma makes. Yum. I may have to get carry out on dessert some day (when not road tripping), because Backyard Barbecue always fills me up and on a dime.

I sure wish I lived closer, but this barbecue joint would wreck my diet and waistline for sure. I'm glad I go out I40 from time to time though, and I do like to time it so that I can eat here. It's hard to find wood smoked barbecue and home cooked sides. Add in that friendly service, and this is a thumbs way up.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Grilling Out for Christmas - No Kitchen Marathon Here

It's offical. We are having a cook out for Christmas instead of the traditional mega meal that takes several days to cook.

We grilled at the Bull Hole the day after Thanksgiving, and it was so quick and easy to pull together. I did the burgers and hot dogs, and everyone else pitched in with sides. It wasn't a load on anyone.

So . . . I got to thinking.

Why not grill on Christmas day and save the extra time and energy to enjoy being together as a family. After all, that's what it should be all about.

Of course, we'll have our favorite snack treats like Chex Party Mix, peanut butter fudge, and lots of homemade cookies. But, those can be made along as everyone has time.

And, I know we'll fry a turkey in our Masterbuilt Fryer and smoke a pork shoulder on the Weber Bullet some time over the holiday break. Just not on Christmas Day when things get kind of wild and crazy.

Yes. Christmas can be exhausting, but it doesn't have to be. So, this is the year when we're skipping the two day or more cook-a-thon and taking it outside. We may still need an afternoon nap (-: and that's OK too. We'll just relax and have fun and spread out those holiday treats instead of having one huge meal and everyone too tired to really savor it.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Best Barbecue Smoker - Weber Smokey Mountain Bullet

I'm often asked what's the best barbecue smoker to buy. Barbecue smokers are used to cook low and slow with larger cuts of meat typically like pork shoulders but are also great for beer butt chicken and for ribs. Heck, bbq smokers are super for a lot of outdoor foods, but those tend to be the most popular anyway.

Grilling is direct heat (hot flame) though it's possible to offset the charcoal and use the lid and vents to do some smoking. It's just a lot harder to use a grill rather than a product designed to smoke. Also, it's hard to do a good job smoking with the low end smokers. You end up babysitting them a lot and have problems with temperature control, so the meat may or may not come out good.

I do for quality when buying barbecue smokers or grills but also am practical and like to have enough money to pay my bills like everyone else. So, while there are some terrific high end smokers (and those may be what you need if you make huge quantities of smoked meats of shift into competition smoking), my top pick barbecue smoker for home smokers is the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker which is often called the Weber Smokey Mountain Bullet or just "The Bullet."

Yes. It is more expensive than some of the low end brands of smokers. But, the Weber SMB is much less expensive than other quality smokers. So, it's a great middle ground pick - excellent product but not over-the-top on price. Also, it lasts for years and years as do other Weber products. You don't have to replace a Weber smoker every year or two, so it makes sense when it's averaged out.

Here you see my family doing smoked ribs. If you have tough ribs, then you're probably doing them on the grill. Ribs really need a low and slow cooking time to be tender. They work really well on the Weber Bullet and add a rib rack, and you can do several ribs at once.

Over the holidays, we love to do smoked shoulders or Boston Butt (the top part of the shoulder - really not the butt - honest). The barbecue comes out great on the Weber Smokey Mountain, and once the vents are set, doing barbecue on a Weber is low maintenance as well - unlike on cheaper models.

Here are our ribs going on the Weber Bullet. Note that we are using a rib rack. Ribs can also be rolled and tied, but it's much easier to use a rack, and they taste better too (in my opinion).

Right near the end of the smoking process (last 30 minutes or so), we sauce up the ribs, and this is what they look like before we dig in.

I went back and forth on whether to get a smoker. It does take some time and work to do low and slow. But, the Weber Smokey Mountain really is easy to use, and WOW - the meat comes out fabulous. I'm glad I bought the Weber Smokey Mountain Bullet, and it's the barbecue smoker I most often recommend when folks email and ask.

Good Barbecue Sauce Makes a Nice Hostess Gift

If you're looking for a nice hostess or housewarming gift, consider a tasty barbecue sauce. After all, everyone can use some good barbecue sauce even if they don't grill (though they ought to be thinking about getting a grill - for sure).

Last night I went to a fabulous work party at a mansion. Seriously, the house had three kitchens and a back porch room looking back across 300 acres of prime land.

It seems that a bottle of wine is the default bring along gift to a party, but I know the hosts always have plenty of nice wines (and certainly knows more about wine than I do). So, I went with what I do know - and that's grilling and barbecue. And, my pick from my sauce collection was Chef Hymie Grande.

I order Chef Hymie Grande grilling sauce from Open Sky Yes You Can Grill Store, and it's a beautifully balanced barbecue sauce with great flavor and some excellent flavor notes.

The idea of going with barbecue sauces when I am invited to gatherings came to me while reading Chowhound (a web site for foodies). They get into talking at these kinds of things. Some foodies ragged on those who showed up empty handed while others complained about people arriving wtih food or wine that did not mix well with the planned meal (and concerns that there was an expectation that what was brought had to be offered up at the gathering).

Now, to me, a gift should be fun and not a worry. Since most everyone knows I'm big into grilling and barbecue, grill sauce just makes sense. But, it has to be excellent barbecue sauce and not from the grocery shelves here. I select something that I order online and that will be new and special. Chef Hymie Grande seemed a great fit for the party last night, but I also like to share Wild m Mild locally when I go to a party and know the host hunts of likes marinade and/or barbecue mops. Wild n Mild is fabulous on game meat but also on any type of meat. So, I put some thought into what I think is best for the host or hostess.

Finding the right size gift bag proves a challenge with bbq sauces as they are different shapes and sizes, so I usually just add a card and ribbon and the pretty barbecue sauce bottles take center stage. I hole punch the corner of the card and thread the ribbon and then use the scissors to make the curls.

Below you'll see Chef Hymie Grande on some chicken. It's actually vegan and also carries the diabetic seal, so it works for your non meat eating friends too. And, yes, it does taste as good as it looks. It also bakes up fine in the oven for non grillers.

Another of our favorites is Melanie's Big Acres gourmet sauces. She has some very interesting and delightful flavor combinations. You can even get a nice gift box with her sauces.

So, all in all, I don't see how you could go wrong with sauce if you're trying to think of something a little different to give to a host of a party. They don't have to worry about whether they're expected to actually use the gift at the party. Somehow barbecue sauce does not go so well on finger foods (-: So, you know they get to enjoy it after all the work of hosting a special event.