Friday, November 07, 2014

High Five Naturals Silicone Grill Gloves Review

High Five Naturals Silicone Grill Gloves

I'm always on the look out for the perfect grill gloves. I have found several I really love but tend to rotate around depending on what I'm grilling or have on the barbecue.

High Five Naturals contacted me to see if I'd like to try out their new silicone grill gloves in exchange for an honest review. I've been happy with some silicone cake pans I bought a while back, so I thought these looked promising. And, they do have the "cool factor" in looks.

Out of the box, these grilling gloves are flashy and feel study and well made. They are one size fits all. I used my hand above to give readers a feel for the size on the gloves. Do note that while my fingers are slim, my fingers are the length of most guys. I can palm a basketball.

Grilling with High Life BBQ Grill Gloves

The High Life Naturals are not as tactile as some grill gloves. The material is stiffer than the leather type. That makes it harder to use a brush to put on barbecue sauce (although you really do not need to wear gloves to do that).

The big plus with the silicone grill gloves is that you can touch the grilling food. This especially comes into play when you're doing large cuts like a pork shoulder or turkey (or even baked potatoes which are hard to catch on the grill). Those big cuts and round foods can be hard to turn with utensils (even the large grilling utensils). 

If you turn with cloth or leather gloves, then you risk contamination and get gloves awfully messy. I've had to toss some just due to dirtiness. I'm a clean freak when it comes to food.

I'm going thumbs up here for grill gloves that can be used on the actual grilled foods for turning and can then be cleaned. That is a huge plus and will save me a lot of money on grilling gloves. I'd also note that the price on these grill gloves is really good right now. It's hard to find good grill gloves at this price.  

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Cricket Multi-lite - Greener Option for Starting Charcoal or Wood

Cricket Multi-lite - Refillable 

Cricket has come out with a refillable lighter, and I'm impressed. Not only does it light well (with a safety button to prevent accidental light ups), but it is not a toss away like lighters today.  This is a big deal for someone who lights up grills on a regular basis.

I remember well when my Granddaddy had a silver lighter and filled it with fuel when it ran out. He only had to invest in more fuel and did not have to throw out a lighter every time it stopped firing.

It's been years since I've seen people use anything but toss away lighters, and as an avid outdoor cook, I always feel a twinge of guilt when I toss out a perfectly good plastic casing.

Cricket contacted me with these new lighters and asked if I'd like samples. These long tipped lighters are the style I use, because it's so easy to get a finger burn with the small, standard cigarette lighters. I thought the refill idea was great. I did want to try out the Cricket lighters and pass the word if they worked well.

I mucked up my leg really bad and couldn't grill here for a while, but my son tested out the blue Cricket lighter at college. He said it was great and that I'd love it. I finally got back on the grill and used the black version. Those are the two current colors.

The Cricket lighter has a nice grip and is easy to start though does have two button start up controls for safety. It's similar to the start up on my small chain saw, so that was easy.

Included with the lighter is the refill cartridge below . . .

 Refills for the Cricket Lighter Reduce Waste

The lighter refill just slips right in the handle. It's packaged as above, so it's safe. You don't have to worry about handling possibly toxic chemicals. This is more of a concern with small kids. One of my sons drank some lighter fluid once. That was a trip to the ER.  I don't use lighter fluid at all now. A chimney starter works much better and is safer.

This is not a forever refillable device. I guess plastic wouldn't be safe for years and years like Granddaddy's silver lighter. Still, it means two less lighters for every one used which can be a lot for barbecue people. And, it's handier to have a refill than to carry the large full casings.

I say thumbs up to the Cricket Multi-lite for grilling and general home use. It's a quality lighter with the length to easily start my chimney starter to fire up the grill, and I love that Cricket shifted to refills.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Clever Hen - Great Gift Baskets for Your Barbecue Friends and Family

The Clever Hen Custom Barbecue Basket

The Clever Hen company got in touch to see if I'd like to try out their service. They'd send out a free basket if I'd write an honest review.

I often give BBQ gifts, since I have lots of friends interested in outdoor cooking. From experience, I know it can be hard to wrap up grilling or smoking presents and have them look pretty and special. I'd not thought of a basket, and I'm not that great on bows and getting such items looking nice like The Clever Hen did.

It was a nice surprise to come in and find this lovely basket waiting on me. It is, by the way, boxed well to mail. I opened the box to find all these nice barbecue products below.

The Jake's sauce and seasoning is their top seller, so they included those items. I mentioned that the cherry barbecue sauce looked interesting, so they included that. A surprise was a chili lime sauce (which sounds really good).

They included a couple of snacks (nice while grilling). The small bag was cherries and nuts. They knew the cherry sauce caught my eye, and the dried cherries and nuts were yummy. The larger bag is a Hunter's Mix which is like a party mix but with some heat. Again, that was really good.

Jake's Barbecue Sauce and Seasoning/Rub

You can get a better look at the Jake's products here. I can see why they are a company favorite. I tried Jake's on several grills. Very nice flavors. I'll post later on what I grilled and more about Jake's.

Who Would Like The Clever Hen?

The Clever Hen is a clever idea and has baskets for anyone. They have various themes. I got the barbecue basket, because that's my area - grilling. But, they have baskets for indoor cooks and ones just for fun snacks for those who can't cook at all.

Another really great feature is that you can customize your gift basket. So, if you have a family member or friends who likes cherries like I do, then you can select from the product line and get favorite flavors.

If you're stuck for a gift idea for a barbecue griller/smoker or just want to get something nice that doesn't take forever to put together (or looks a mess if you do it yourself), then The Clever Hen is perfect.

I loved the pretty basket and all the products so far. I still need to try out the cherry and lime sauces. Looking forward to that and will get back on those flavors.

I don't see how you could go wrong with The Clever Hen. It's a thumbs up from me, and the boys are loving the food I'm making with the sauces/seasonings. They even have a chat, so if you need help on picking items for your basket, you've got help on that too.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

How to Have a Super Popular Personal Blog - Thanks to Barbecue Master Fans

I Went Over 2 Million Blog Viewers Last Night

I knew I had close 2 million visitors to Barbecue Master, but I was surprised when I crossed that big mile marker sometime last night.

First I want to thank everyone who has supported my grilling and smoking blog, because I would not have 2 million hits if people weren't coming to visit. I am humbled and thankful to have touched so many people and to have had so many of you reach out to me too.

My Blogging Story

Barbecue Master was first set up at the request of an online magazine owner who sold out. Trust me, I would not have named myself Barbecue Master, Barbecue Mistress would have sounded worse though. I had in mind something more girly like Grill Girl which I've used some, but Barbecue Master just stuck.

I had a blog that had a few posts to defunct online magazine links. I could have abandoned ship at that point, but I thought to myself: "Self. Family and friends ask you grilling questions, and your boys will grow up and want to know how to do some of these grill and smoker things."

It seemed a good idea to post my outdoor recipes, tips, and reviews. It would save having to type up emails every time. I could send over a link about "whatever" dealing with outdoor cooking. If someone asked a question not already answered or asked for a barbecue recipe not up, I could post it and then have it ready when needed.

So, this little (now big) blog had very modest roots.

When Did Barbecue Master Blog Take Off?

I honestly can't say when my blog went from having a few visitors now and then to a whole lot. It wasn't overnight. I just continued to write (and from the heart), and the blog numbers just continued to grow.

At some point years ago, I began to get companies asking if I'd review their products. Interesting. I'd not thought about that. I decided that could help small companies, but I had one rule: "I'm going to be honest." And, I have been.

Bigger companies began to contact me as well, and I'd check them out as well as long as they didn't expect a glowing PR piece. If the stuff is great, I'll say. If it's good, I'll say. If it's awful, I hate to, but I say. I don't want to ruin any readers dinner. So, I have to say what I think (although tastes do differ).

Yes. I Am a Writer.

I've been writing professionally for thirty years but just on the side. My work has been for newspapers, magazines, and businesses. This is good preparation for blogging, but blogging is a totally different world. I "voice" as needed for professional projects, but you hear my real voice - southern drawl and all here on Barbecue Master.

After several years of blogging with Barbecue Master, I began to get emails about professional barbecue writing. I wrote about the field and did top pick grills and smokers a couple of years, and I wrote a barbecue history piece for the North Carolina hotel travel book (one of my all-time favorite pieces). I have also guest blogged for some big names like K-mart, Sears, Arby's, and McCormick's.

Am I Rich from Blogging?

People often think or even ask if I'm rich.

That's a BIG no. I teach which people know is not a top paying job. I write but only a few projects as I won't take more work than I can do well with my teaching job.

I do have a very successful blog, but I'm not backed by any companies and don't sell anything. Blogging is maybe $70 to $80 per month (for those wondering) - and that's with big visit numbers. I'm not complaining. I just hate for anyone to jump into blogging thinking that they will get rich. A few do - but a very few.

Barbecue Master is still where I share with family, friends, and people online who enjoy my blog. I have more traffic, but the heart of Barbecue Master is still where it started. It's my hobby. It's where I let my hair down and relax.

Excuse My Brag Post

I'm really not one to brag, but I was excited and wanted to share my 2 million milestone but mostly to have a chance to thank everyone who made this moment happen.

It never crossed my mind that I'd be able to (hopefully) help so many people and have the chance to try so many new grilling products (thanks also to the companies that trust me to try out their various products and say what I really think).

Tonight I'll go to sleep with a smile. It's been a rough year, but tonight is one I will cherish. I'm so glad I kept my Barbecue Master blog and kept true to my idea to help others with outdoor cooking (even the huge number of people I didn't know would need or want my help).

Thanks again and happy grilling, smoking, or barbecuing. Every single one of you who stopped by built this blog. Bless you.  


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Nonni's Biscotti Bites - Great Snack While You're Waiting for Foods to Grill or Smoke

Nonni's Biscotti Bites - An Old Favorite and Two New Flavors

I was excited when I opened the box above to find Nonni's Biscotti Bites. They are now my favorite biscotti cookies after an earlier sample. These too are free samples to see what I think of the retro Almond Dark Chocolate and two new flavors: Double Chocolate Salted Caramel and Very Berry Almond.

You may wonder what a barbecue blogger is doing with biscotti cookies. Well, it can take forever to finish up meat especially when it's slow smoked like a brisket or pork shoulder. I don't feel like cooking meals all day while making the main dinner or holiday meat.

Sure, I may grab a sandwich or some of Lance's nab crackers, but I always get a craving for something sweet. When playing with fire, candy bars, ice cream, and many other sweet treats get really messy. And, I get messy grilling anyway.

I find the biscotti especially in these great bite sizes just perfect for a little sweet pick-me-up as I man (woman) the grill or smoker. Huge flavor. No mess.

Some of you may know I had a blood clot earlier this year and also that I'm working this summer, so I'm been struggling to catch up on my blog foods and gear. I had to bump these up, because the box was on the table calling my name.

All three flavors were fabulous. Nonni's really does make the best biscotti I've ever had. While I adore chocolate and caramel, if I had to pick, I guess I'd go with the Very Berry Almond. I've always loved fruity sweet treats.

If you've never had biscotti, they are crisp cookies. Lots of people like them with coffee or milk. I'm not a dunker, so I like mine straight up.

These were really yummy to eat as I made Brunswick Stew the other night. That takes several hours. No. I did not eat all three bags. Each has five servings of around five cookies. That would be a pig to eat 15 cookie servings even though I could have.

I did have a couple after too. These make a good dessert. They are not too sweet, heavy, and rich for after a big barbecue throw down. Just a little treat to end a wonderful meal. 

If you've never had Nonni products, then I highly recommend them. I love the sweet crunch and every flavor I've tried so far has been great.

If you have problems finding some of the different foods like these (which are in many grocery stores), then you can get them through Amazon.

Monday, July 14, 2014

How to Make Brunswick Stew (mine is with smoked chicken)

Dinner Last Night - Homemade Brunswick Stew with Smoked Chicken
One of my co-workers invited me over for a Brunswick Stew party. I usually associate that with fall, but it was so yummy that I've had it on my mind all week and decided I needed to make up a pot.

Brunswick Stew is a an east coast (mostly southern) dish. There are a lot of different stories about how it got started. Most say that Brunswick Stew originally had squirrel and any other meat available and a hodge podge of vegetables tossed in (just depending on what was on hand). The stew was made in huge black pots over wood fires and stirred with big paddles.

Today the stew usually has chicken and/or pork butt or pork shoulder and often smoked meat. The common vegetables are tomatoes, corn, lima beans, and potatoes. There are, however, a lot of variations. I've never tasted two Brunswick Stews that tasted the same (or had exactly the same ingredients).

I decided to start my stew off with smoked chicken, since I have a new smoker that I've been playing with. I seasoned the chicken breasts with Jake's Righteous Rubs from the Clever Hen (a space that sells wonderful grilling gift baskets with your picks of items - and kitchen baskets too) and some butter (for extra moisture).

Getting the Chicken in the Smoker with My Super Glove

I loaded up the smoker (well not really loaded but enough chicken to make a big pot of stew) and set the electric smoker temperature and went to the store to pick up the other items I needed. The store is just a mile away, so this was not a long journey, although in a small town you can end up chatting for a good length of time. The chicken was on low and slow and took around three hours, so I had plenty of time.

After the chicken was done at 165 degrees - the recommended safe temperature for chicken, I began putting my Brunswick Stew together.

Pouring in the Ingredients for the Brunswick Stew

The stew can be done outside as in the old days or with a gas blower stool (whatever that thing is called). Since it was in the 90s outside, I decided to do my stew (other than the chicken) inside on the stove.

How to Make Brunswick Stew

1. Cook, grill, or smoke your meat. I used five quite large chicken breasts. Then, I let it cool and shredded the chicken.

2. Put about 4 to 6 cups of broth or water or a combination in a large pot. I think mine was a 12 quart pot, and it was about half full. I used water, because I forget to get broth. If you cook the chicken inside, you can use the broth where you boil the chicken. Just skim off some of the fat.

3. I peeled and cut up six medium sized potatoes in bite sized chunks and put those in the water.

4. Next I added two can of petite cut tomatoes. The size was around 14 ounces per can. Then I topped that off with a little can of tomato soup (5 ounces) just because I had it and don't ever eat tomato soup. One of the boys must have stuck that in my cabinet.

5. After that I added 3 cans of small lima beans and 2 cans of corn (the dry kind in kernals). These cans were all standard in that 14 ounce range. The IGA here does not carry bigger cans.

6. The last thing I did was season. I added salt, pepper, black sea salt, Lowry's seasoning salt, and a bay leaf. I also splashed in a few drops of Cholula hot sauce. I probably went a teaspoon or less on the sprinkle seasonings, and my son said I could have gone heavier on the seasonings. People can always add those at the table though. If food is over-seasoned, there's not much you can do about that.

I set the temperature between low and medium. Stoves vary. You just want a slow simmer and no boiling or the foods kind of turn to mush.

The pot of stew was on for around three hours - long enough for me to be starving with smelling that wonderful smell of Brunswick Stew.

Oh Boy. The Brunswick Stew is Ready to Eat.

I had a bowl of the stew which you can see at the top of the post and then put it away for the evening. Today, I packed up stew for my mom and Harry and for my son, Eli.

Couldn't Find my Bowls with Tops but CoverMate Stretch Covers Had Me (or Really the Stew) Covered

Where my containers go, I do not know. Probably the same place my tools go. I think I'm down to just a screwdriver and a hammer.

Fortunately I remembered that I had CoverMates in the drawer. They stretch and bend to fit most any size or shape bowl. They can be used in the microwave and can also be washed and used again.

I packed up the Brunswick Stew with these handy bowl covers and made my deliveries. Of course, I still have stew left, so I'm set for a couple of days on dinners.

If you decide to make Brunswick Stew, remember that this is a very forgiving and versatile recipe. You can use various meats and vegetables. I'm sure you could scale down the amounts as well, although I've never in my life seen a small batch of Brunswick Stew. It's just too yummy to make a tiny little pot of it. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Robert Rothschild Farm Barbecue Sauces on Grilled Pork Chops

Part of the Gourmet BBQ Sauce Collection of Robert Rothschild Farm

Robert Rothschild's Farm got in touch to see if I'd like to try out samples and let readers know what my family thinks. When they say sample, boy, they mean it. These are 40 ounce bottles. The box was so heavy I couldn't imagine what might be inside.

The hot sauces caught my eye, but my younger son was here, and he is not a heat eater. I told him to pick, and he went with Anna Mae's Smokey Sweet Sauce. I tend to avoid anything that says smoky, because I had to get a big mouth full of liquid smoke (not to worry here - none of that fake flavor).

Boneless Pork Chops on the O Grill with Anna Mae's Smokey Sweet Sauce

Boneless pork chops are usually thin and grill fast, so I sauced these beforehand. Most meats, I wait until the last 10 or 15 minutes. These smaller chops hardly take that long to grill from start to finish. If you need help with the chops which can dry out if you don't do it right, then see my post on grilling boneless pork chops. I've had several emails thanking me for these easy directions. Do the same thing but use BBQ sauce rather than marinade in this case.

This little gas grill grills hot and fast, so I stood out with the barbecue chops and watched close. As I was waiting I noticed the smell was really nice. I was getting hungry. My son could not wait and got a little taste and said it was delicious barbecue sauce. He was glad to have a sweet one with no heat for a change.

Grilled Pork Chop with Robert Rothschild Farm BBQ Sauce - Anna Mae's

Although I do love heat in sauce, this was a wonderful sweet barbecue sauce. I would recommend it for anyone. It's sweet but not too sweet. Just a nice smooth flavor. It tastes homemade which means, of course, I really liked it a lot.

I look forward to trying the spicy ones. My older son is my hot son. He'll be home in a few weeks, and we'll have a spicy meal. I still have plenty of the sweet sauce left with the generous sizes, so I can do part of the meal sweet and part hot.

I like this company's products and would definitely recommend the sweet and will get back on the spicy. I would imagine they would be really tasty too.  

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Fire Wire (unique kabobs) Giveaway Contest (winner picked June 26, 2014)

Fire Wire Kabobs - More Fun to Use

I've not been a big fan of kabobs previously, because the wooden ones have to be soaked, and metal ones are bulky and hard to place.

Fire Wire Grilling rethought how to make grill skewers with a bendable metal that can be placed around other foods in any shape and a double pronged skewer that is designed to hold a full meal per kabob per person. The double pronged skewer is also nice, because foods like shrimp don't twirl all around and require manually turning pieces of the food.

You could win two sets of each type of unique Fire Wire products by leaving a comment about why you'd like to win the unusual skewers in the comment section here (which are moderated so comments don't appear until I'm on the page and pressing post - or rude or dirty things would go up).

Many contest people like to have other ways to enter and get slips in the bucket. So, you can do the following and just leave a message here that you did so. Then you get your comment entry and extras if you wish.

Extra Entries (be sure to leave a message in comments to be sure I get your name in again/again):

 * Comment on this post (super easy and no spam)

1. Like Fire Wire on Facebok

2. Follow Fire Wire on Twitter

3. Share this page contest on your Facebook, Twitter, or G+ pages (each one counts as a separate entry)

Be sure to leave some way to get in touch. I don't need a lot of detail - just enough to get in touch with the winner to get a snail mail, so the prizes can be snail mailed by Fire Wire. 

The winner will be selected Saturday June 26th, 2014 at 10 pm.

Here is more data on the prizes for those who are detail oriented.

Fire Wire, Flexible Grilling Skewers

• the cable-style skewer allows effective use of maximum space on grill

• holds 2X more food as traditional skewers

• can easily throw skewers into a plastic bag with marinade

• Wires remain cool to touch even strait from the grill

• Dishwasher safe

• Set of 2 $9.99 – available on

 Fire Wire, Double Prong Stainless Steel Skewer

• Perfectly sized skewer for single serving

• Double prongs keep food from spinning so it cooks evenly

• Dishwasher safe

• Set of 4 $12.99 – available on

*The Fire Wire Grilling company provided me with the same prize that the winner will get. They only asked that I try out the products and give an honest opinion and also offered to send a prize to a reader if I'd like to host a giveaway contest.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Wine with a grilled meal? Yes. Certainly. Tenuta Frescobaldi di Castiglioni

 A Wonderful Red Wine with Our Grilled Steak Dinner

I seldom see wines with grilled meals and have rarely ever thought to serve wine. Lately I've been seeing more wines being suggested for grill outs, and both my boys are of age.

Before the boys took off for the summer (one to Bolivia and the other out west), I grilled up some steaks and served Tenuta Frescobaldi di Castiglioni which is an iconic estate wine from Tuscany.

The Tuscan wines are made in fives estates across Tuscany. The family estates have been run by 30 generations over 700 years. The wineries are beautiful with lots of fancy art (even the posts at the entrances - carved stone I think).

You may be thinking this wine would cost a bundle. No. It depends on the year, but the cost is around $23.

                    Tenuta Frescobaldi di Castiglioni - a crisp and dry red wine

Both my sons prefer white wine (or they did). They generally find the red wines they have tried to be too sweet. In this case, the wine was well balanced with a dryer flavor of Merlot and Cabernet. My older son especially loved this wine, and the younger one did too (although is still leaning toward whites).

Myself? I didn't get much wine with two college aged sons, but it really was excellent. I generally go a little sweeter with a red, but this one had such a rich and full flavor that I'd pick this one now.

*The winery sent wine samples and asked for honest feedback and hopefully a review. After trying this wine, I wanted to share, because it is a wonderful wine that is in a reasonable price range. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Grilled Dominex Veggie Fries Right on the Grates and Turned Out Great.

I Just Ate Eggplant Fries? And I Loved Them.

Dominex asked me if I'd like to try a couple of their line of quick heat-and-eat products free and to give a fair opinion. Yes. I do like something quick now and then. But, I write mostly about grilling, so I wasn't sure about the fries.

To really put the fries to the test, I decided not to use foil or a wok or any other accessory. I decided to go right to the grates for a really tough test. 

Dominex Veggie Fries Doing Just Fine

I put the veggie fries to the edge of the charcoal. This is called offset when you only have charcoal on one side of the grill and gives you many more options.

The Dominex vegetable fries went immediately from the freezer to the grates. I felt they might need to be stiff to start out. Then, I grilled them close to five minutes. I then put the lid down to make sure they got hot inside. I then opened the lid to keep the crispness and finished them off in 3 or 4 minutes.

The veggie fries turned out perfect. Now I went a bit darker than some might like, but I've always liked many of my foods pretty dark. To keep them lighter, then don't put them quite as close to the live coals.

Grilled Steak and Grilled Frozen Veggie Fries

I loved the flavor of the Dominex Veggie Fries. The joke was on me though, because these are eggplant fries, and I did not think I liked eggplant very much. I had to laugh when I read up.

Not only are the veggie (eggplant) fries crisp with a delicious outside flavor, they also have a lovely inside flavor. I'd have to say I like them as much as more than white potato ready to cook fries. Nothing beats my home cut and oil fried potato fries, but I only make them about twice a year now due to high tri levels.

I don't have to worry with Dominex Veggie fries on the trans. They have zero trans fat. They also have no cholesterol which I don't have a problem with, but some family members do (and also friends I'm sure). Another plus is low sodium (65% lower than the average potato fry) - but the fries are full of flavor.

Dominex Veggie Fries are all natural and have 4 grams of dietary fiber.

I'm glad I did not read up before grilling the Veggie Fries. I might not have given eggplant as fair a shake (not on purpose but due to past experience). That's why I usually do my own thing (but may read times and temps) and just let foods speak for themselves.

Veggie Fries from Dominex. Yep. A winner. I did not know eggplant could be so yummy. Now I do. Nice product and went well with the steak and then some later as a snack.   

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Texas Irons Grill Gloves - High Quality and Great Looking Personalized Leather BBQ Gloves

Texas Irons Grill Gloves

I have a few items from Texas Irons which is a company that sells high quality grilling items, so when the company asked if I'd like to try out the BBQ gloves, I was pretty sure I'd like them.

Most likely, the Texas Irons grill gloves are meant for men (since so many more men grill). I do have long fingers (like palm a basketball hands), but my fingers are slim. I wasn't sure how well leather barbecue gloves would work out, but the cotton lining had plenty of "give" and cushioned around my fingers. I could tell the glove could stretch, but it worked just fine for me. I could move my fingers without any issues even when using grill tongs.

These grill gloves are long and go close my elbow but not too close. The protection is great but not over the top even on a female.

One thing I love about the grilling gloves is the smell. I suppose the wonderful smell will go away after a while, but the gloves smell kind of like a new car with leather when I breathe in. I held them up to my face and just enjoyed the smell while I was grilling. Heaven.

Another special thing about Texas Irons Grill Gloves is also that they brand on three letters - or a quite short name. My gloves have my initials CA branded in. I don't know if anyone else would notice, but it's a special touch. I'm not stuck with "man of the grill" and stuff like that.

I'm very particular about grilling gloves. I buy good ones, because I don't like to get burned. Mostly I get leather gloves for cooking outdoors.

The Texas Irons outdoor cooking gloves are excellent. If you need high quality grill gloves or want to get a male friend, husband, or father (or a female grilling buddy) some nice grilling gloves, I am totally impressed with these gloves.  

Here I am grilling a steak and using one grill glove. I'm home alone this week, so I had to make a selfie with my other hand. But, you get the general idea including the brand of my initials on the Texas Irons grilling glove on the tray area.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Castello Havarti Dill Cheese on the Grill Grates

Castello - Gourmet Cheeses

I love cheese grilled on the grates, but it is hard to find. The Castello cheese company contacted me about their cheeses. I noticed that the Havartis could be grilled. Since it is a semi-soft cheese, I'm guessing that it is meant for the more traditional grilled cheese sandwich in a pan. I mentioned this, and Castello sent over the Havarti as well as slices of blue cheese for grilled burgers to sample for free.

Since the Havarti is not specifically marketed for grilling, I was super careful with the cheese. I sliced it pretty thick - close 1/2 an inch thick. I also offset the heat. In other words, I had coals on one end of my cast aluminum grill and none on the other. I put the Havarti Dill Cheese on the side with no coals, so the heat would not get too intense.

As soon as the cheese start to dip or bulge between the grates, I immediately flipped the cheese slices, so it would not fall through. I did miss one, and it dropped fast. So, since this is not a high heat cheese, it's important to have low heat under the cheese and to flip quick.

How Did the Havarti Cheese Do on the Grill?

You can see in the top right side that the one cheese slice got lost. Bummer. The other two slices, I flipped immediately. Notice the slight dip or bulge between the grates. As soon as you see this, then flip the cheese.

Also note that I brushed the cheese with olive oil - very lightly. This helps prevent sticking, so that the Havarti cheese can be flipped quickly. It also adds a nice flavor. I use Garlic Gold which is a garlic olive oil.

It only takes seconds to grill this semi soft cheese which is a specialty cheese made at selected dairys by skilled craftsmen. The flavor is lightly buttery with an herby pop.

As for serving, we like grilled cheese over charcoal to add that smokey flavor. We plate up as an appetizer immediately off the grill, so the cheese is soft and warm from the heat and smoke.

Generally I use Yanni grilling cheese, Haloom, or Halomi which are all high grilling temperature cheeses. Havarti is a bit softer and requires closer attention and quick turning as soon as the melting starts. Castello does have lovely cheeses and interesting flavors, so I was happy to get a different overall flavor with the dill.

I was impressed with the Havarti even though it did require close attention on the grill grates. The Havarti cheese can, of course, be used more traditionally which would be good on the flavor but not as much fun as grating the cheese on the grill and that extra smoke note.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

El Diablo - The Mustard that Bites Back (no kidding)

El Diablo - Hot & Spicy Mustard

I love mustard, and I love heat, so when El Diablo asked if I'd like to try out their new line and write what I thought of cranking up the mustard, I was on board.

All the flavors sounded great (for a heat freak), but the El Diablo mango jumped out at me first. I opened the mango bottle first and had it on a gourmet kobe burger (American version of the special Japanese beef I had when I lived overseas).

Well, Where is the Mustard?

My son accidentally erased my last month of photos. He felt pretty bad especially, since I got the sniffles (and not from the spice).

So, here is my beautiful burger, but the mustard is under the lettuce which is my favorite place to put condiments. My tilt and shoot picture was one erased, but I can assure you the mango mustard was as good as the burger looks. I'll get another mustard shot soon.

This week I took a couple of Diablo mustard to our annual grilling gathering of the Winter Grillers. No. It's not winter. We're busy grilling at home in the winter.

We tried out the mustard on burgers, sandwiches, and swatches of bread. Our grilling trip to Missouri is laid back like that.

I also did the Roasted Chipotle as a rub on a pork shoulder. Normally, mustard just works as a glue and no real flavor. El Diablo isn't hot/hot on a large, smoked piece of pork, but you still get a bite back when used for smoking. It adds a nice and interesting layer of flavor. Even if you can't take a lot of heat, this idea works for most people who don't go too high on the heat. 

If you do like a kick (and not like the usual grocery store spicy brown mustards), then El Diablo is what you are looking for. This mustard is not like horseradish (which I do like). It is clearly a mustard flavored but notched up with enough kick so that you know you finally found a real mustard for heat lovers.

I ended up loving El Diablo mustard. The heat is smooth and tasty and not just heat for the sake of it. I don't like that kind of heat. This mustard, though, is spot on with the flavors with mango still being my favorite (and quite unusual with the extra sweet note). 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Hammond's Pigs N' Taters Candy Bar - Bacon and Potato Chips in Chocolate

Hamond's Pigs N' Taters Candy Bar

I was at the local and only high end candy store around here The Candy Shop on Main in Salisbury, NC. A student had told me about them, and I was hooked after the first visit especially since they had sugar free candy and my fabulous step father is diabetic.  Now I can get him nice candy and not just bags at the grocery.

I am so nosy (part of a writer's genes). I was looking at what the guy in front of me had. He had a Hammond's Pigs N' Tators candy bar. Hum. I got up like real close. Yes. This was a candy bar with bacon and potato chips. Nirvana for a BBQ freak. I want that. Yes. I want that.

"Excuse me sir, where did you get that candy bar?" I asked.

He pointed over there, but he said he got the last one.

I was going to wrastle (that's wrestle if you're not from the south) for that last candy bar, but I sized him up at over six foot and decided I might not win. Truth be told, he was also about 20 years younger, so I knew I stood not a chance.

I considered crying, but I can't pull that off. OK. I'm not getting a Hammond's bacon and potato chip candy bar. I got some other good stuff to take my mind off missing the last one. Chocolate covered cherries distract me easily - especially when they are good ones.

So, now it's May, and I went in and BINGO. I got my candy bar - Hammond's Pigs N' Taters.

Yeah. It's good. The chips remind me just a tad of the candy bars with Rice Krispies (but a little less crunchy) and the bacon is a back note. Oh yeah. It's there. But, they did not mess up the milk chocolate with mush (which bacon can be - if done wrong).

This candy is a little big dryer than a solid milk chocolate, but the extra flavors max it out. It felt like I was at a cook out even though I was not.

I need to get another bar or two if that big old guy does not beat me to them. I think these Hammond's Pigs N' Taters candy bars would be very interesting used as the chocolate in S'mores. My mind is always going grill like that. 

The bacon and potato chip candy fun bars are neat after a grill out whether you grill them or not. The bacon and chips add extra layers of flavor that I really found interesting and yummy. I'm going with a thumbs up and licking my fingers.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Barbecue Master Takes On the Arby's Brisket Challenge

Arby's restaurant is featuring a yummy brisket sandwich that I wrote about. They invited me to be part of this special project in exchange for a little smoking, sharing and honest opinions (which is the hallmark of my blog). The company did compensate me with some funds to cover the supplies needed and the time to take on the Brisket project as well as a meal featuring their brisket sandwich.

The basic idea is that I check out Arby's special brisket sandwich and then make my own and see what I think. 

Brisket - Texas Needs to Share

First, I'll note that I'm in North Carolina which is pork country. We do get beef steak, burger, and stew beef, but something like a brisket is hard to come by. I found two, and this one looked the best. It is not a premium brisket. The fat cap is not on top. It wasn't on the bottom either. The fat marbling wasn't what I'd hoped for either. But, it's a do-able brisket.

Getting the Beef Brisket Ready to Smoke

I put rub on my brisket and then also a thin marinade. With the lower fat, I felt it needed some extra moisture, plus the marinade is tasty.

The brisket sat out for about 20 minutes while I got the smoker fired up. That gave it time to absorb some flavors and to warm up a bit. A cold brisket right from the refrigerator will drop your smoker temperature quite a bit. So, it's good to leave it out a short while but not a long time (unless you want bathroom issues).

On Goes the Brisket for the Arby's Challenge

I used my monster turner to get the brisket on the smoker. You don't want to poke holes in your meat when you smoke or grill, or you let out the juices and flavor.

Off to the Races - The Brisket is on the Smoker and Ready to Do It's Thing

I had to take a photo before I put the lid on. You don't want to be lifting the lid every few minutes, or your heat drops. So, I gave it a big smile and let it be for a couple of hours.

Waiting is Not My Strong Point

I kicked back and forced myself not to peek. But, I did watch the temperature. I run about 225 degrees F on a brisket. That's low and slow and melds the flavors and turns out a tender brisket usually.

No Smoke - Not a Good Thing

My smoker temperature went below 200 which meant no smoke. That's not good. So, I added another chimney starter of charcoal. That got me right back up to smoking temp and more time to kick back.

Double Checked the Temp After the Coals Calmed Down

My heat spiked a bit with the new coals, so I waited around to make sure I got back around 225 degrees. Bingo.

Barbecue Master is Not an Early Bird

I really should have rolled out of bed earlier to start a brisket. They take a long time to smoke. Arby's runs about 13 hours on their briskets. Mine ended up in the 12 hour range. As you can see here, it's starting to get dark which put my brisket ready around 2 am. Yum. Post midnight snack.

That Brisket's a Beauty - I Want to Eat It Right Now - But It's Not Ready

This was around midnight. I double checked the brisket and then set my iPhone to ring me up in an hour. Unlike babies, briskets do not cry and wake you up when they need checked.

Bingo - That's a Smoked Brisket

I pulled the brisket after the alarm went off and I checked the temperature of the meat - right around 200 degrees. It also was like butter in texture which is what you shoot for.

The outside is quite dark. That is a sign of brisket. It's bark and tastes great. The red you see is a smoke ring. You don't get that in your oven. It's a sign the meat was actually smoked. Inside it's soft and juicy.

It would have been better if my brisket had been thicker. This is heavy bark and smoke ring for a small cut brisket with little fat.

But, you work with what you have in your area.

Barbecue Master's Arby's Challenge Brisket Sandwich

My brisket sandwich is served on rosemary bread given to me by a close friend, Angelia. The barbecue brisket was smoked with rub and marinade, and I did add raspberry barbecue sauce but not a heavy dose.

Sometimes I doctor up a sandwich with a lot of toppings, but I wanted the brisket to be the star here.

My Brisket Sandwich Versus Arby's

Cyndi Trying out Arby's Brisket Sandwich

Comparing brisket is like comparing apples and oranges. I've never had any two briskets that tasted the same. Mine was a little plainer (and tougher) but with more heat flavor due to the rub and sauce. The brisket sandwich at Arby's was more in the sweet category and also more fully dressed with smoked Gouda cheese and fried onion rings.

I enjoyed both brisket sandwiches.

One good thing about the brisket sandwich at Arby's was that I did not have to babysit a smoker for 12 hours. That's a lot of time and work. Arby's does the work behind the scenes, and you just walk in and relax and have your sandwich.

The nice thing about smoking your own brisket is that you can play around with flavors and hang out with family and friends (especially if you don't wait until after lunch to put your brisket on).

If you want to talk brisket and get more ideas and tips, Arby's will have a Twitter Party on Thursday May 15, 2014 from 8-9 EST. Use the hash tag #BrisketIsBack to catch up with everyone. Hope to see you there.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Have You Tried Arby's Brisket Sandwich? Now You Can Win One (contest ends May 13, 2014)

Off to Arby's for a Smoky Brisket Sandwich

I'm part of the barbecue blogger team that Arby's asked to check out the Smoke House Brisket sandwich. So, today, my son and I took a break after exams and went out for lunch and got our brisket on.

Checking Out the Brisket Sandwich at Arby's

I love to eat and especially smoked foods. It's hard to get brisket here in pork country, so this was a treat.

The Smoke House brisket sandwich has thinly sliced brisket which is moist. There is a very fine bark on the edges and just a tiny sliver of the fat cap. I usually remove all fat at the table, but this was thin and did not detract (for me).

On top of the meat is smoked gouda cheese (one of my all time favorites) and then the house onion rings. I don't usually put things like that on my sandwiches, but this worked perfectly. Even if you think you don't like onion rings, the balance is better with them, and you don't get a big onion ring flavor.

The sandwich was lightly sauced with mayonnaise and barbecue sauce. I could not detect the mayo. The flavor is sweet and tasty. I like heat so I added the Arby's horsey sauce (horseradish). Do a taste test on that first, because it might be too hot for some. I'd call it a low heat, but tastes vary.

Up Close and Personal with the Arby's Brisket Meal

I really enjoyed my meal. It did not taste like my brisket. It did not taste like any I've had. But, I've never had two briskets that tasted the same. Brisket is a slow cook meat, and the time, rubs, sauces and so on make every smoker's brisket a little different. Frankly I'm surprised a fast food restaurant could pull off one of the harder meats to get right. And, they did a very fine brisket sandwich. It was really tasty.

Want To Try Arby's Brisket Sandwich?

Want to try this out yourself and for free with a fun contest? Arby's gave me two free brisket sandwich coupons. If you leave a comment on my blog and any way to let you know if you win, then two lucky readers can get a brisket sandwich for free with the contest ending on May 13 at midnight EST. Can't beat that.

If you want extra entries for the giveaway (some readers ask), you can do the following and leave a separate note on the blog for more slips in the hat:

- Like Arby's FB page
- Share the contest on FB
- Tweet the contest
- Google+ about the contest
- Get a friend to enter (and have them say blank - your name - sent me)

There it is. Easy as can be. No hoops. No spam. Just leave a comment and if you want to do extra entries, that's fine too.


I'd also like to note that our local Arby's in Salisbury, NC was fabulous. You know it's kind of odd when a woman comes in and starts taking photos. I spoke to the cashier who got the manager to double check beforehand. Both women were extremely nice and helpful when I explained about the blogger project and were excited about the idea. I'd also note the location was ultra clean including the bathroom. It's across town, but I'll get out there more. They really were doing an extra nice job across the board.   

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Cookina Barbecue Reusable Cooking Sheet

COOKINA Reusable Grilling Sheet

Cookina reached out and asked if I'd like to hear about their new products debuting at Home Depots this summer. I'm always up for what is new in grilling and barbecue, so I said I'd be interested.

The company selected the free product to send out for a fair review. I did let them know when the reusable cooking grilling sheet arrived that I never cover my grates. I once broke up with a guy after he grilled out steaks over charcoal on a sheet of tin foil (aluminum foil if you're not from the south). Well, that wasn't the only reason, but that did not score him any points when the steak was greasy and did not get much charcoal flavor.

With that being said, I did try out the Cookina sheet.

Fajitas on the Cookina Grill Sheet Over Charcoal

This was an evening home alone, so I decided to make fajitas with chicken, green peppers, and onions.

I opted to do chicken which does not have a lot of fat, because part of what I love about grilling is that the fat falls through the grates and makes the meal healthier. 

The Cookina barbecue sheet was large enough to do my meat, vegetables, and to add my tortillas right at the end to heat them up. If you just did meat, you could get quite a bit on the sheet.

The grilling sheet cover held up fine to the high heat and did cook my meal. It says you get grill marks on the box. I did not on the chicken, but small chicken tenders do grill fast. The green peppers did get some markings, and the onions browned but not really with stripes. Frankly I think grill marks are overrated, but that's just me.

Grilled Fajita Dinner Off the Cookina Grilling Cook Sheet

I enjoyed my dinner. It was quite tasty. This is before I took them in and doctored them up with toppings. Then the only real clean up was washing off the Cookina sheet which comes with a scratchie cleaner. Clean up was easy. Much easier than grate cleaning.

Thoughs and Tips on the Cookina Barbecue Grilling Sheet

I'd recommend the Coookina Cooking Sheets for those using gas grills, since you're not looking for charcoal or wood flavor. They would be especially nice if you use a lot of marinade or barbecue sauce. Those make a mess.

Higher fat meats would be a good idea. The marinade on my chicken and vegetables helped prevent sticking, but I had to add marinade about half way through when things started to stick. Do remember that what I was grilling had almost no fat at all. That's going to stick to anything. That's why I used marinade.

If you hate grate cleaning, then these grill cooking sheets are the ticket. You do have to wash the sheets. Well, I guess you could buy new ones every time, but that's not very "green." They really aren't very hard to clean especially when they add the cleaning scratch pad, so that's a plus for a lot of outdoor grillers. 

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Goumet Giveaway Marukan Rice Vinegars SUPER NICE (ends Sat May 10 2014 at midnight EST)

 Marukan Premium Rice Vinegars
The UPS man came by today with a beautiful package. Marukan had emailed to see if I'd like to try out their gourmet rice vinegars developed in Japan and in business since 1649. They offered me a free set and one for readers if I'd try them out and post and honest review. 

I lived in Japan for a year or so, and even though this is crunch time at work, I wanted to check out these rice vinegars. 

Marukan uses ancient and slow methods to develop the flavors on the vinegars with all natural, certified organic ingredients. They are also certified with no GMOs and are Kosher too. All this means lower acidity so a mellow vinegar kick without making you pucker up like many of the cheap ones. 

These vinegars are quite hot with the high end chefs and TV celebrities like Martha Stewart, Hoda Kotb, Marie Oser, and Walter Staib. 

The pack looks fit for a superstar as you can see below:

 You can win this wonderful set which includes:

• MARUKAN GENUINE BREWED Rice Vinegar: This exceptional artisan vinegar takes 2 months to brew in the traditional way with NO sodium and all natural ingredients to heighten the flavor of any recipe. The delicate acidity is versatile and excellent as an addition not only to Japanese but also Chinese, European or American dishes. You can use it straight from the bottle, or as an ingredient for salad dressing and sushi rice. This product contains NO sodium, fat, sugar, artificial ingredients or calories. Naturally gluten free and non-GMO.

• MARUKAN SEASONED GOURMET Rice Vinegar: Marukan's best-seller for sweeter marinades and more flavorful dressings, dips and sauces. We have more recipes featuring our Seasoned Gourmet than any other variety. Blended with care according to Marukan's very own processing technique, it can also be used in preparing delicious sushi rice at home by simply mix 1 oz. Marukan Seasoned Gourmet with each cup of steamed short-grained rice. Because it does not contain any fat, it also serves as a healthy ingredient for marinades by mixing it with your choice of oil or creamy dressing. Non-GMO and naturally gluten and fat free. 
• MARUKAN All Natural PONZU – Premium Soy Dressing with Sudachi Citrus: Our premium ponzu is made from natural sudachi lime extract imported from Japan. The ponzu is a perfect match for steak and BBQ, but it can also be used as an alternative to regular soy sauce for almost any dish. The sudachi citrus is high in vitamin C with a refreshing citrus flavor. This 100% vegan ponzu contains gluten.

How Can You Win This Special Prize?

Just comment here on the post to be entered in the Barbecue Master giveaway which will end on Saturday night at midnight for a Mother's Day treat for someone who loves to grill or rock it out in the kitchen (May 10, 2014).

Do leave me some clue as to how to find you if you win. It can be an email or something like your FB name if you're on my list. I only use this data to send in the winning name, so Marukan can mail the package to you. 

Extra Entries for the Barbecue Master Marukan Giveaway

Some readers like extra entries. Do any of the following and just add as a new comment, so I'll get your extra slip in.

- Share the contest link on FB.
- Share the contest link on Twitter.
- Share the contest giveaway on Google+.
- Post the contest and link on your blog if you have one. 

You don't have to do any of the extras. A comment gets you entered. These are just extra entries if you like to do that.  

 Where Can You See or Buy Marukan Products?

Where to Buy: Find Marukan in the Asian foods section or wherever fine vinegars are sold, including major retailers nationwide like Whole Foods, Ralphs, Smart& Final, Stater Bros, Jons, Albertsons.

You can also check out the Marukan company at these spaces:

Website:             http://

 Good Luck! This would be a great Mother's Day Surprise. 

The winner is Mary. CONGRATULATIONS!