Monday, November 30, 2009
I find many folks end up thinking they are grilling failures, because they do not invest in the right equipment. Even if your barbecue "base" is a standard grill and not a fully equiped outdoor kitchen (which includes most of us), it's still important to have the correct grill gear. You don't try to paint your house without drop clothes and rollers and line tape (or I hope not), so dedicate some time and a little money to ensure much better barbecue grilling fun.
You may think, "Well, I have a grate, so I don't need any pots and pans."
Hum, WRONG. Good grillers use cookware sets and cast iron skillets and grill woks. Some foods just don't work on the grates. Then, there's that side burner on the gas grills. Sadly, few people take full advantage of that feature which allows for full meal cooking outdoors and no heat or mess in the kitchen. Get good pots and pans that conduct heat well, and you expand your grilling horizons tremendously.
On charcoal, I stick with old style cast iron which is black anyway and will withstand flares. Over gas grill heat, I use most any of my good cookware pots and pans - depending on what I'm grilling. The side burner is fine for basically any good quality pot or pan. I like the Le Creuset, because it's sturdy and holds the heat well (and side burners tend to be lacking a bit on the heat output).
I also keep grill gloves on hand. I like Lodge and Oxo Grill gloves. Kitchen mits are not made for the high grill heat, and they get scorched and nasty. If you're a guy, you will not make your lady happy if you mess up her nice kitchen mits. Invest in grill gloves which protect your hands and hold up much longer.
There are loads of accessories and grill gear on the market, and most items aren't too expensive. Look around and put the extras on your birthday or Christmas list. Just a few nice pots/pans, skillets, gloves, really good barbecue sauce like Wild n Mild and an excellent grate cleaner like Grill Floss.
Yes you can grill (as I say at my grill web site by the same name), but it's much easier and the results are much better if you're armed for the job. Start building your barbecue grill gear collection and see the difference.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
If you bought a Perfect Flame SLG series barbecue gas grill (sold only at Lowe's), double check the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and also Health Canada.
There are around 663,000 of these dangerous grills out in the United States and 1,700 in Canada. The problem is that the burners break down and can cause the lids to catch on fire. They've have 40 reports on this problem and are requesting any other reports of problems.
Not all Perfect Flame grills are included, so do check with the government list and see if your Perfect Flame grill is one of the recalled units. If so, stop using it - of course. And, get in touch with Lowe's. These grills run $200 to $500 and are new grills.
It does pay to do your research when buying grills. Problems have been noted on the Perfect Flame grills on grill message boards which ship out of North Carolina but are made in China.
We had a fried turkey breast last night made in the Masterbuilt ButterBall indoor turkey fryer. As you can see, it turned out beautiful, and it tasted great too.
We wore out the old turkey fryer which as the outdoor type with a stand and a fire under. We never had any problems with our old turkey fryet other than just wearing it out, but they are considered dangerous. Easy to tip over. Lots of heat. Not a good plan close the house or with kids and pets around.
So, this time we have an indoor turkey fryer which can, of course, be used outdoors with electricity (and we added outdoor outlets this year). But, the new Masterbuilt turkey fryer is fine for indoors too and is very similar to the fryers that you might use to make French fries in the house.
An indoor turkey fryer is much larger. DUH. After all, turkeys are big. Although we did a turkey breast, the Masterbuilt will handle a turkey up to 14 lbs but is recommended for the 10 to 12 pound range.
With a 6 pound turkey breast, it was recommended to heat the oil to 325 degress. For a full turkey, they say to go on up to 375. There's a dial on the front - very easy. When it reaches the temperature, a green light comes on. That takes close a half hour on the heating with a lot of oil in there to drop a turkey. We had about a gallon and a half of oil in there.
Once the oil was hot, I dropped the turkey breast in the fryer. There's a basket as with most fryers and also a handle that loops around and is quite easy to figure out and use.
Frying time is 4 minutes per pound, so that put our turkey breast in the 40 minute range on frying. Not bad for a big piece of poultry.
Here's the turkey in the fryer. Once I dropped it, I closed the lid. That's how this fryer is designed - to be used with the lid closed. That's nice, since it cuts down in the oil in the air in the house.
There's a filter in the lid which needs to be changed out when it gets dirty. That filters out the oily air coming off the fryer too. So, while I got some deep fried smell in the house, it was minimal. I don't notice any grease smell this morning.
We did blow a breaker switch which got the fryer, basement lights, and the computer. I just got a flashlight and went down in the basement and reset the breaker which only took a minute or two. I chalk that up to using an extension cord, since the main cord is short (maybe 3 feet). I fried on the kitchen table, since my cabinets are narrow, so the cord would not reach the outlet down near the baseboard.
I think I'd probably set up on the side porch next time even though the fryer worked fine indoors. It's just more convenient with the outlets out there and getting the Masterbuilt turkey fryer up closer to where it's plugged in.
Here's the fried turkey. It turned out perfect. The outside was crispy and full of flavor. I did rub it down with Pig Pen's seasoning which is a great local all purpose rub which I love. That made it extra yummy.
Today, I need to clean out the turkey fryer. Ugh. That's never much fun, but this one looks easier than the old outdoor fryer.
There's a drain hole in the back and a little metal tube to get a nice focused stream. The oil can be run trhough cheese cloth and saved to use again. But, with the season rub on there, the oil looks too dirty for me to want to strain and use it. Anyone wanting to strain and re-use the oil probably will not want to do much as far as rubbing the turkey. Probably better to go with injection inside the bird. That adds flavor and moisture, but the turkey comes out moist without anything injected.
Well, that was a fun turkey fry last night, and we had one delicious dinner with the turkey, baked sweet potatoes, and bread. We even have a little fried turkey left for sandwiches today. Not much though. Probably ought to get a bigger turkey next time. Gotta love some leftovers.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Thanksgiving leftovers are terrific, but we were ready for a change of pace. So, we packed up the Portable Kitchen grill and headed out to the Bull Hole River Park in Cooleemee, NC for a "day after" cook out.
With the temperatures in the lower 50s, it was a good day to get outside and burn off some holiday calories. Plus, I love to grill, so it was an easy meal after turkey day which is pretty labor intensive as everyone knows.
The PK grill is cast aluminum, so it holds the heat and smoke as you can see in the photo. Actually, the PK doubles as a great smoker. It really cranks the smoke like here when I lifted the lid to check the food.
The Bull Hole is a beautiful spot for a cook out. It's on the Yadkin River with lots of trees and trails. Our new relatives (Mom got married this year) really enjoyed the scenery and the chance to get out in the fresh air after a couple of days in the house.
My sister brought some kind of game where you toss these balls on a string at stands with different levels. It's a bit like horseshoes or cornhole but with string balls. It worked out great for the adults and kids (with the kids standing closer to even things out). I need to check and find out the name of the game. It works out well for a cook out.
With a lot of burgers and hot dogs to grill and with it cold outside, I offset the coals. In other words, the coals are just on one end of the PK grill.
This grilling offset gave me space to barbecue grill but the cooler end of the grill to keep the food warm and for those who like cheese to add a slice and have it actually melt. Yes. We are spoiled (-:
Also note that I take a thick frying pan with a lid to help in keeping the food hot as it comes off the grill.
With the offset grilling and a skillet to hold the heat, I go slightly under the doneness on the meat as it continues to cook a bit more on the cooler end of the grill and in the holding skillet.
I grilled the burgers up first, since they take longer. Then, I put them on the cooler side of the grill and grilled up the hot dogs which don't take much time at all.
That hot end of the grill also worked out well for family members who like hot dogs grilled crisp. Most of the kids like the hot dogs lightly grilled, but some of the adults like hot dogs pretty well charred. No problem. With the offset on the barbecue coals, I could grill to order with very little effort.
Mom said "Yahoo!" for an easy meal out of the kitchen and some space to move around and burn off some energy. Anyone with kids in the family will relate. Gotta love those little ones, but they sure have energy to spare. So, a cook out was just the ticket after a traditional holiday dinner the day before.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
If you've never had a chance to see a whole smoked hog, this whole hog has been butterflied. That just means that the pig has been spread across the grate for quicker and more even barbecue smoking.
I'm in the Piedmont of North Carolina where we more often smoke pork shoulders or Boston butts, but folks around here (especially in the country) often do full smoked pigs and often on homemade barbecue smokers, since it takes a really big smoker to do a whole hog. This smoker is a little unusual in that it has the grate that flips, so there's not need to try to lift and turn the barbecue pig.
In the eastern part of North Carlina you can see and eat more whole hog barbecue as that's the popular style there. Whole hog means that you get a mix of meat rather than just shoulder.
This barbecue whole hog was just pulled off the bbq smoker after resting and cooling a bit. Whole hogs are hot, of course, when they come off the smoker. So, it's a bit of a challenge to get one over to a chopping table. But . . . well worth the effort.
Then, you wait a bit or get some chopping gloves (good ones) and either pull the pig meat (pickin as we say here with smoker chefs and guests doing samples off and on).
The barbecue gurus are all ready to start picking the pig here. It's a messy job, but it doesn't take as long as you might expect. The meat is so tender and moist that it just falls right off. Or, that's the way the barbecue is when it's done right, and these pigs were primo.
The pickin' begins, and the barbecue guys have this pig picked clean in no time at all. Helpers ran the meat into the garage where everything was set up for one heap good barbecue meal.
Right before I left the pig pickin', one of the guys asked me if I'd like a slice of the apple that had baked along in the pig's mouth. Well sure. I'd never had pig baked apple, so I was game. I wasn't sure what it was going to taste like, but I must say I've never had a tastier apple. It picks up some of the sweet pig flavor as well as the smoke. Maybe we need to stuff more apples in there next time. It really was yummy.
Ever wonder what a bontified Southern pig pickin' looks like?
My buddy, Jim, put on one hot pig pickin' last night. Seriously, he pulled out all the stops. I'd have to say it's the best pig pickin' I've ever attended. Great company. Great barbecue. Great sides. Great fun.
The guys had two big barbecue smokers going with whole hogs. The front smoker had a butterflied pig. In other words, the pig was split down the middle and put out flat - eastern style. The second smoker had a hole hog complete with an apple in the mouth.
I was quite impressed with the whole hog cooker. Note that the grate flips. One of the guys showed me how they could turn the pig with the flip of a lever. Pretty neat especially when I've stuck with smaller cuts like pork shoulders or Boston butts due to the weight of a whole hog. The flip grate would make a world of difference for anyone smaller. Guess I'd still need help hoisting a full pig up on a cooker, but that flip barbecue grate would be excellent.
Yum! I can't even begin to describe how good this pork turned out. The guys smoking knew their stuff. The barbecue meat just literally melted in our mouths. Very tender and moist.
The barbecue sauce was top notch too. A local fellow, Charles Barber, makes that, and I need to get over and buy some of his bbq sauce. It's as good as any I've had around here in an area where a lot of people make up vinegar based NC barbecue sauce. He's got THE recipe especially his hot version. I do love some hot barbecue sauce.
I even loved the slaw, and (shut my mouth) I am not a barbecue slaw fan. This made a believer out of me, and I'm going to have to hit Jim up for his recipe. That slaw absolutely rocked. It was the traditional NC red barbecue slaw, but Jim did something that made his really stand out.
The pig pickin was to celebrate Jim's 50th birthday, and he had a really cool cake with an Egyptian theme, since he just got from Egypt. The cake looked great, but I was too full of barbecue to eat any sweets. I forgot that "save room for dessert" once I got to eating that barbecue and the sides. Oh well, maybe next time I'll remember not to eat so much barbecue - or not.
We wrapped up the pig picking with a bon fire around back which felt great, since it was a rather chilly night here in North Carolina. Of course, it is November, but we've had some 70 degree days lately. Not last night though. Not sure how cold it got but cold enough that I wished I'd brought gloves. That's OK though. It was warm up next to the fire, and with this crowd, you get to talking and laughing and forget that it's cold outside.
Great pig pickin' Jim - and Happy Birthday!
Saturday, November 21, 2009
My college buddy, Jim, is gearing up for his 50th birthday pig pickin' which will be later today. He is going "whole hog" on the barbecue and the pigs were dressed and ready to be fired up early this morning at 2:30 a.m. Whew! That's an early wake up call, but it takes a long time to do a whole pig.
I generally do shoulders or Boston butts, becuase whole pigs are heavy and hard to handle. Also, you need a really big smoker to do a full pig. Whole pigs do look impressive though, and you have that nice ratio of dark and lean as well as plenty of outside brown. So, whole pigs make some mighty fine barbecue.
In addition to all the traditional sides for barbecue (slaw, potato salad, beans), I know we'll be eating some southern pecan pies. Jim talked his sister into baking those up yesterday, and they look fabulous as you can see. I've never had pecan pie at a pig pickin', but it's hard to beat pecan pie for a dessert. Thumbs up!
Friday, November 20, 2009
I wanted to take my son out to eat for his birthday, since we usually cook at home - grilling or Southern home cooking. A change of pace is good from time to time especially for special occasions.
I had the kid pick the restaurant, and he wanted to got to Monterrey's Mexican Restaurant in Salisbury, NC. That has been a family favorite longer than he has been living (17 yrs - his birthday), and he loves the cheese dip they have there (and extra order with the chips).
I've been a bit "iffie" on Monterrey's of Salisbury, NC with the service having gone down the tubes over the last year, but I hoped to for the best. After all, it was his birthday, and I wanted it to be a good time.
The waiter tried to take our order as soon as we sat down. I asked for a couple of minutes, and that's what I got. Honestly, he must have timed it right to the second on two minutes. So, I just pointed at a photo in the menu, and my kid got what he usually gets. Whatever . . .
Being rushed is not cool, but what really ticked me off was that the server at Monterrey's chatted on his cell phone while waiting our table. In fact, he wrote and left our bill while chatting and never asked if we wanted dessert (which might be good on a birthday meal) and never said he hoped we'd come again or any of those things that you might expect at a sit down restaurant.
This is the second time out of either two or three visits to Monterrey's where the server has been gabbing on the cell phone while waiting on our table. In addition, the servers pool up over at the bar and watch TV (ball games, soap operas, news), so drinks do not get refilled, and if they forget part of your order . . . bummer. You have to go to the bar to find your server and then get your own stuff. Hey, it's almost like home - but more expensive.
I just overlooked the the TV watching and sucked up the last time when the server told the person on the cell phone to hold a sec while he took our order. This time, however, it was a special occasion, and I was not happy about a cell phone conversation during our meal. Really, the server did not even bother to tell his buddy that he had a table. He just ignored us and plunked the bill on the table and got some of the dishes which was a bit difficult with one hand tied up with the cell phone.
Normally, I am generous on tips (like 20 to 30 percent), but I could not make myself leave a tip for the first time ever doing that - holding the tip. To my way of thinking, the service could not have been much worse. As a diner, I won't even take cell phone calls. I can't even imagine waiting a table while chatting on a cell phone.
At check out (cash register), the manager asked if everything was OK. I told him that our server waited our table while gabbing on a cell phone. The manager said, "What's the difference. I do too. No one else cares."
Hum. Well, I do care. And, since they only had two tables filled when we were there, maybe some other people do too but just don't tell them.
My family (and there are a lot of us in a small rural area) have been going to Monterrey's of Salisbury, NC for 20 plus years. We won't be going back though. We are the quiet types at restaurants and never complain. So, this one time I do take issue with being served while part of a cell phone conversation by the server (and not the first time), and the manager blows me off on top of that. He made up all kinds of excuses and was a royal jerk.
I did look up and call the local Health Department - Rowan County, NC. Online reports indicate that the restaurant has been warned about not using gloves to cut meat (come on - cooking gloves are cheap), not cleaning between cutting various types of meat on the same cutting table, and there have been complaints about Monterrey's re-using the chips. In other words, they dump the nacho chips left over from a table into a new basket and serve those - or they did. They don't do that now as far as the Health Dept knows, but UGH . . . I wonder how many chips I ate at Monterey's Salisbury, North Carolina that had been sitting at another table and touched by just how many people.
The birthday meal for my son was not special in any way other than the really BAD kind of special. So, I will grill next time. Then, I will know that the food is handled properly and not recycled from another table and that the cell phone will not be part of our meal. I can't think of hardly any phone call that would rate wrecking a dinner (especially a birthday dinner), and that's what the message thing is for - right? If a server must take an important call, then fine. Do that and THEN come wait the table. Really, I can wait a few minutes. Far better than being ignored and part of a private conversation I have no interest in being a part of.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
One of my friends, Make Over Momma, was asking for our favorite and most sinful holiday dishes.
I knew, of course, that I had to sing the praises of grilling or smoking over the holidays. As far as one specific grill recipe or smoker recipe, that would be a hard call. Everything just tastes better cooked outdoors as far as I'm concerned, and firing up the grill or smoker makes cooking fun even when it's cold outside. More and more people are discovering this, so year round grilling is getting more popular every year.
Smoking meats frees up kitchen space, so that's a double plus with large cuts like turkeys, hams, and barbecue shoulders. Those take up the whole oven, meaning that side dishes are hard to juggle along with holiday main dishes.
Men are more likely to grill or smoke, so ladies . . . hint . . . if you plan to include outdoor grilled holiday dishes, you're more likely to get help. Then again, more women are grilling and smoking these days, so it can be a nice break to take it outside and enjoy the crisp air. If the house is packed full of relatives, it can be a little peace and quiet too.
If family tradition calls for doing the holiday meal inside, then polar bear barbecue or grilling means a change of pace the days before or after the main holiday splurge. Stick some steaks on the grill or some crab legs, and give the leftovers a break for a meal. Or, if you want something inexpensive and tasty, grill some chicken and lather it with Alabama White Barbecue Sauce.
Sunday, November 08, 2009
Cool grill tools are a good thing. They are fun, and it's also easier to get guys to help out with anything new in the tool category.
As you can see, my son is cleaning the grill grate. Now, that's not usually a job that anyone likes to do. But, with Grill Floss, it's pretty painless to clean grates, and Grill Floss does a bang up job on dirty grills. Gotta love that.
I guess you could say that Grill Floss is kind of like dental floss. It gets where grill cleaning brushes don't.
Grill Floss has a metal end that is curved that cups the edges of the grate and really gets the gunk or funk off. That grill cleaning end can be flipped around for wider grates. The one here you see is for the wire type grill grates, but Grill Floss can be flipped around on that end piece to do the wider grates - mostly on gas grills.
My kid is hitting a hot grate here before we start grilling up a pork loin. Bad me. I did not clean the grill the last time I used it. The heat does make it a little easier to use Grill Floss, but it does a bang up job on a dirty grate that is not hot. I've done it both ways, and Grill Floss rocks either way.
If you're not sure just what a difference Grill Floss, you can see right here. The first couple of grill grate wires were flossed, and the ones toward the back haven't been flosssed. Big difference. You bet.
No. Grill Floss is not like pushing the "self clean" button on an oven. It takes a little elbow grease but very little. I'm not big on grill cleaning myself to be honest, and Grill Floss is the easiest way I've found to have a really clean grill without loads of work. Just slide the tool up and down the grate, and it looks almost new. I was pretty amazed.
Check out Grill Floss. It's one of my favorite grill products. Thumbs up!
Saturday, November 07, 2009
I've been on a quest to find the best barbecue sauces, rubs, and marinades. One company that caught my eye was Holen One Farms. I gave their bbq sauce the big five stars. Everyone here thought it was a fabulous barbecue sauce.
Holen One Farms marinade is good. It's a mild and very non-offensive marinade. It would work for most any meats and for most any guests. The flavor is good, and it does add moisture to the grilled meats.
I do note that that Holen One marinade is a thin marinade with a high oil content, so especially if you grill over charcoal, you can expect some major flares as you can see here.
If you get charcoal flares, then top off with the grill lid and shut down the vents to cut air flow. If it's an open hibachi style grill, then you have more issues. You can have a cup of water and sprinkle out the flares or pull the meat off if the grill starts to get too hot with major flames.
I'd be more likely to recommend Holen One marinade for gas grillers where there's a drip guard and less chance for big flare ups with oil drips. Because, this is a thin and high oil marinade.
You'll also get a less intense flavor than if you use a bottled marinade like Kraft Zesty Italian dressing (oil based - and not the creamy kind which will burn). That's a matter of taste, so for anyone who finds bottled Italian a bit overpowering, Holen One is layered nicely but let's the meat flavor shine. It does not add a lot of flavor but does add moisture and more subtle flavor experience.
Don't use Holen One marinade over charcoal, unless you're experienced with temp control. On gas, you catch a break to some extent but may still need to adjust with the lid and temp controls. This is one hot burning marinade.
On a side note, NO, I did not burn those rib eye steaks. I shot the photo fast and moved them away from the flare to finish them off. But, I've been grilling over charcoal for over 35 years.
The Holen family got in touch with a really nice note thanking me for reviewing the marinade and the Holen One sauce glaze and for giving fair and balanced opinions.
They also gave me some more info on the marindade which I thought I'd share:
"When using the Holen One Farms Marinade with open flame grilling it is particularly important to follow the instructions as to the amount to be used. We recommend an ounce per pound to be added to the meat in a ziplock bag, which is then sealed and allowed to be taken into the meat for at least 4 hours and preferably over night. This will allow all the marinade to be taken into the meat and a minimum or flareups will occur. If there is still a significant amount of marinade surrounding the meat after the suggested rest time in the refrigerator, you are probably using too much marinade."
Appreciate the extra info, and I need to round up my reading glasses (-: I tend to go heavy on the marinade. I'll try again and use a lighter touch when I pour. We did have a lot of marinade on our meat.
Yesterday I stocked up on meat when Omega Meats stopped by my house. That's a company based in North Carolina, and they deliver meats right to your door.
The first time a meat truck stopped by, it did not have a sign on the truck. I'd read something about mad cow disease that week, so I was rather nervous on random meat. I called the local cops. This is a town of only 800, and the police station is just one block up. So, they checked it out, and it was on the level. That was, by the way, another company and not so well marked as Omega Meats.
By this time, I am OK with ordering meat online like from Omaha Steaks and also with the random meat men who stop by and want to sell me meat off the street. Still seems an odd concept, but it's convenient, and the prices are good especially in a small town and at the end of the day.
Ronald Williams and another nice guy were winding down on the day and had some cases of steaks and pork that would be perfect for the grill. But, I have a small refrigerator with a very small top freezor. So, I called a neighbor to see if he wanted to split the cost and the meats.
It was still a tight fight as you can see in the above photo. My son is the master at organizing and packing, and he had to pack out three times to get all the meat in the freezor. The company guys will do that, but it just seems too intimate to me to have someone playing in my freezor. Also, I had to send a bag of food over to my Mom's house when we flat could not get it all in.
Now, this is a well stocked freezor for sure. Eli did get all the meat in, and it was just some random stuff like chili beans and hash browns that had to go over to Mom's where she has a full sized freezor.
The meat from Omega Meats Inc is very good. It's sealed tight unlike some of the loose packs at the grocery store. And, they do guarantee the meat for a full year - even if the power goes out and the meat goes bad. Hard to beat that.
If you're in North Carolina, they cover most of the state. Heck, Omega Meats even covers out here in the middle of nowhere. They can set up a regular delivery, or you may just get lucky when they drop by and have some boxes left and want to move them out before heading back to the office.
They have chicken and seafood, but we got the last boxes left which were beef and pork which I especially liks for grilling.
If you want to follow up with delivery meat that's great on the grill and keeps a long time, then the phone number for Omega Meats is 336-662-0000. I've never called myself or had any regular delivery, but I might buy if they catch me right in from work like yesterday. It really depends on my space, and it was tight this time.
I was feeling pumped with the freezor packed with meat ready for grilling, but then I got ready to go to bed and discovered that I'd been robbed. Sigh. Someone broke in and took a lot of my jewelry as you can see here. They didn't just take the stuff, they took the drawers, so I now need to see about getting a cabinet maker to custom make some new drawers to boot.
Oh well, some things go well and some not. I'm still pumped about the good deal on the meat for grilling but hate that I had a robbery at my house while I was at work. Better than when at home though, so I count myself lucky on that.