A lot of Minnesotan’s want to give that ground hog a good burial right now. It weren’t too long ago, yonder in the town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where the wily rodent emerged from his earthen hollow and declared for us all an early spring. And spirits leapt. Turns out tho one, Punxsutawney Phil, is full of crap. Yup. Ever since then it’s been one blizzard after another. Up here in Minnesota lately, driveways have been lost for weeks. Squirrels buried and orphaned. Icicles stalactites draw longer from the roof than the Trump administration. And the sun seems like a distant relative of whom you can’t quite remember their face. Welcome to March in Minnesota.
I woke up the other day with a sincere hankering for some good BBQ. Being the Keeper of the Coals that I am, I knew it was within my duty spectrum and skill set to do something about it. Now to get a good BBQ on in this inhospitable parallel, you must first dig out your pit, as shown in the accompanying photo. Some days this is as easy as taking to it with a little whisk broom. A few swipes of your fairy tale wand and you’re good to smoke. Other days not so much, and full-on, shovel action is required. Such was the case this Sunday last. I dug and I dug. And I dug and I dug some more. And eventually, whilst the crisp six below wind swept off the frozen pond, I had myself a pit proper again. I employed the propane assist on my vintage 1997 Weber Performer to get things cracking. I like that feature. Not as poetic, perhaps, as the political section stuff up the aluminum arse of a charcoal chimney, but nay, it is a manly way to light one’s charcoal for sure. And whilst the smoke curled in kind there, I gave a few final finishing touches with the snow shovel and headed inside to assess the pork shoulder. Come with me won’t you. Come check out this butt!
That’s one pork butt you see there. It was so big, I felt compelled to lop it in halves to spare a little time on the cook. But more, to increase surface area to garner more bark. An old pit keepers trick I’ve used many times. The rub today is probably our current favorite pork butt and rib rub, from the good folks at Miners Mix. If you’ve not tried their products yet, well you’re missing something out of your lives. That’s all I can say. They’re legit. As good as rubs come, we think. And no they don’t pay us anything other than send us a few bottles now and then. Good stuff. Anyhow, we liberally seasoned the bone-in butt with Maynard’s Memphis Rub and set her on the Weber kettle, indirect, for the next 7 hours. We dug out. Now we’re diggin’ in!
The technique we used here, as you can just make out in the photo, worked really well. We used the old stock grate that came with the pit, you know the stainless steel kind with the hinged trap door deals on either side. It was the perfect tool for this smoke. Under each hinged door, we set one charcoal basket with some hickory wood, some lit charcoals and some unlit coals, making two little minion baskets, you might say. As the cook progresses, all you need do is knock the ash off the coals now and then and add more unlit briquettes as necessary. Maybe some more wood too. It sort of just keeps rocking on like that until thy meat lands gently on the hallowed shores of succulence. 195 to 205 internal. Or until that bone comes out clean.
A Matter of Time
Pork shoulders take some considerable clock however. These kind of smokes are not for the easily bored or the impatient. They are for the loiterers among us. Those who can tarry in a view for hours on end and still think well of their lives. Butt smokes take time. Time to flip up your feet in your favorite chair, tip your hat over your eyes, and let yourself drift into the heavenly land of nod. Time to watch the game, or a movie, or even both. Time to chase the cat around, or the baby. Time to loiter with a lovely periodical in the little pit boys room until your legs go numb. Indeed, time to let up on the accelerator pedal of life for a while, and just be…
Time to do what ever you want really. And that’s what I love most about butt smoking. The time it takes. You see, when you take the time to smoke a butt, you’re really stealing some “me time” in a most hectic world. Even your people will tend to leave you alone if they know your cooking them supper. BBQ is hard work after all! Must leave the pit master to his calling, they think. And a wise pit jockey will do his kindest to water that weed!
Behold, Mount Pork Hath Risen! Succulent, hickory smoked pulled pork courtesy of the Weber kettle and a goodly amount of time. Quality time, patron to the pit. Amen.
March in Minnesota. Don’t believe a ground hog!
I can’t help it if she’s beautiful. That when her little hand grabs my finger that all my insides melt into an irrefutable kind of goo. And I can’t help it either that when she looks at me with her baby blue eyes, that my heart spills over with gladness at what the Lord has done. No, I can’t help it that’s she’s beautiful. And I tell her this all the time.
As many of the readership of PotP know, we got ourselves a little patron in the making this summer. A gift straight from above. And thus the deployment of BBQ articles has dwindled for a time, as we managed our way through the fog of a newborn in your life. Many of you have been there, done that. You know what it’s all about. And so we thank you for your patience, and all the Emails wondering how we are. Yup, we are doing fabulous, by and by, and sort of finding our footing again, amid the new rhythms of life and baby. Indeed, we’re starting, maybe, to get back into the groove again.
Adjusting For The Curve
We learned after while that you can still have a life post baby. That, off-hand, you can still go to baseball games if you want, and manage a fine time. That most stadiums actually have a “mother’s room” somewhere around, with soft chairs, and flat screen TV’s, in which to feed your baby and still keep an eye on the score. I never knew that.
We learned also that our time at the pit need not be compromised. That babies enjoy watching the meat cook as much as we do. And that you can both tarry there together under summer skies and watch how the grass bends in the wind, and the tweety birds all follow each other about from thicket to thicket. I learned that little babies have a natural wiring to make a good pit master. They are well versed, for example, in sitting around and doing absolutely nothing, at least until the next feeding is in queue. Yup she’s good at that, and I had to scratch my head as she’s an awful lot like her daddy that way. Hmm. Maybe that’s why we get along as we do.
Getting Back In the Game
So in an attempt to get back in the groove of things, let me show you my sandwich I made the other day, and how it went and came to be, all patron to the pit, and with a little help from my friend.
The Basics of Pork Butts
It was your most basic of pork butts, of which we seasoned heavily in Miners Mix Maynards Memphis Rub. It’s the same rub we’ve used a hundred times now, but there is of course a reason for that. It’s awesome. And yeah, I guess I threw on rib eye too, you know, for good measure. Hey, pork butts take some considerable clock, and a pit boy needs his snacks! Anyhow, it was an easy smoke as most pork shoulders are. Dampers tweaked down to thin slits, both top and bottom, meat set indirect, and turned 180 degrees from time to time for even cooking. A little hickory wood on the coals. That’s all you gotta do people. That and take it slowly up to 195 degrees internal temperature for to pull there into highly succulent pork sandwiches. Oh, which reminds me. Let me tell you about some sauces we recently got in to test.
Low Country Barbecue
These were pretty tasty. Low Country Barbecue sauce comes in both tomato based and vinegar. Now I don’t know about you, but I’ve come to think a proper BBQ pulled pork sandwich is at it’s most authentic with a good vinegar based sauce, of which this one was very good. But I also tried a sandwich with the tomato based version and honestly, it was just as good. Really good. And I suppose there are thousands of BBQ sauces out there all looking for attention, and these are just some of them. But Shawn, from the Snazzygourmet was kind enough to send us some samples to see what we thought, and being he is a fellow Minnesotan we found out, well, it’s good to help a brother out. And so we will. So if you get a chance, he runs a great website called the Snazzygourmet, which is pretty much a wonderland for foodies. Not just BBQ stuff, but other goodies as well. Check it out!
Anyways, after we pulled the pork into tasty tendrils of BBQ heaven, and mixed a little of the new sauces into it, letting it’s thin viscosity mingle into all the right places, I plated up a nice sandwich or two for my wife. Baby would have to wait, I suppose, until she grew some teeth! But my other sweetheart was more than thrilled, as she usually is, holding to the good status of being the wife of a patron. She said thank you, and smiled brightly as I handed her the plate. I smiled back. Yeah, I can’t help it if she’s beautiful too!
Slow smoked and succulent, glistening in a light vinegar sauce. The privileges of the pit, the good life, and holding hands with those you love. Amen.
We had occasion this weekend past to grill for the masses at the bachelor party of a good friend. It was your vintage summer day, as days go. And your classic BBQ party. With a sizzling sun suspended in a bluebird sky, casting golden shafts of light that which fluttered through the thick, green, deciduous canopies of oak and maple and birch. The lawn was freshly cut too, of which I for some reason admired the aroma. My fellow patron’s google music account provided endless streams of proper country and rock for to adorn the acoustic backdrop. Tho one musically misguided brethren in the group kept wanting to listen to once-upon-a-time boy bands, to which we had to snatch the phone from his meaty hand, and tell him to think about his life. Some blokes are just like that for some reason. Always a stinker in the bunch.
What a lovely time of it tho, this day was. You see, when friends beckon a patron to cater for them, they don’t have to twist our tongs much. We love this sort of thing. And for a bachelor party, it is sort of our privilege to escort the groom-to-be on his way to holy matrimony with a gut full of perfectly executed meat! And so it was, the evening slants of light caught the pale tendrils of gently rising oak smoke from the bosom of the Gabby’s Grill. A great little addition for ye Weber owners out there. For those who aspire to a scaled down version of the Santa Maria style of BBQ, to which we are swiftly becoming a devoted fan. Oh how I do fancy manly meat cooking machinery! When you get a chance, go check out their website here. Junior, the man in charge over there, is a good dude and will take care of you fast. His customer service is off the charts. And as you can see, he’s a gifted fabricator too.
We had this beast loaded up too, with dueling tri tip roasts, and enough chicken thighs to choke a wildebeest. You will note the baked potatoes also, tucked down into the fiery depths of the grill. This is how you do it Gabby Grill style people! Load it up! Oh yes, good times indeed. But bachelor party food does not stop with mere meat and potatoes…
For to please the lady folks who may be reading this, we also grilled up some vegetables. Yes mam we did! We was GOOD patrons! On the auxiliary grill, we got sliced zucchini here, along with onions liberally dusted with a pit staple – Miners Mix Steak and Veggie Seasoning. Can you smell it? Of course you can’t, you’re just reading pixels through a dirty glass screen But trust us. If ever you wanted to smell a man’s pits before, this would be the proper occasion!
Here is one of our affiliate links where you can pick up some of that seasoning. Goes good on just about everything. Especially vegetables! Get a bottle of this and just leave it on the table as your new pepper.
Back to the meat! Mama Mia! The thighs were seasoned with Miners Mix Poultry Perfection which never fails. And the beef, well, it’s a top secret blend that we might get to tell you about some day. Here is where you can pick up some of that Poultry Perfection tho! It’s another affiliate link that we get a wee kick back from. So if you’re looking for a way to be nice to us and help us better afford baby diapers, links like this one below help a little! Thank you kindly in advance if you do! If not, thank you anyways for just being here. You guys surely class up the place regardless.
After about an hour or so, the tri tips were done, and whilst they rested in a foil tent, we tossed on the cobs! If you haven’t grilled your corn in this manner before, we do believe you’re missing something out of your life. And of course, the Gabby Grill took it like a boss! We’re telling you, you gotta pick up one of these rigs for your Weber! We’re not sponsored by them in any way, we just think it’s a great idea long over due!
Lets not forget a massive black iron pan full of sauteed mushrooms and onions, again seasoned up with Miners Mix Steak and Veggie. Oh yes, we pulled out all the stops for the man in the fading twilight of his bachelorhood. It was a good time of fellowship and food under fair and lovely skies. We wish you well in your marriage my friend. And now you even know what to cook for her! Amen.
Check out these 2 great companies for your next BBQ
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The mesquite smoke curled with a certain impunity on this balmy summer’s eve. The South wind wormed it’s way through the residential hamlets and marshlands like a warm bath, bringing a sort of sticky contentment to the pit jockey who tarries near to his craft. Oh yes, summer has arrived here on the 45th Parallel, finally, and I suppose one ought to grill something. I mean, it is “grilling season” after all. That hallowed sliver of the calendar where the once captive masses return to their barbies in one accord and offer forth pillars of enriched smoke to the BBQ gods. I dunno, I guess when you refrain from grilling for a tally of three seasons running, you would rather tend to miss it. I know I would. But to us folk who run a year around BBQ blog, summer grilling is just another chapter in a year’s worth of grilling endeavors, except I suppose, sweatier.
Yes, nothing is quite so charming as wandering out to the mail box on a muggy summer evening, only to return to the house cloaked in sheen of your own juices, and sporting a rankness not even desirable to the neighbor’s bull dog, whose standards are suitable low anyways. But that’s summer in the Midwest. You sweat. And the sooner you come to grips with this inherent reality, the sooner you can move on and have fun with this most pleasurable of seasons. You just smell like a stink bomb is all. What can you do. Anyways, on to something that smells a whole lot better than I do. It’s burger night at the pit, and here’s how it went and came to be.
Summer time grilling don’t get too much better, folks! Check out them grass fed burgers and onions on the new Craycort grate. Yum! As usual, we think you all know how to grill a hamburger already, but we will mention the seasoning was just a packet of Lipton Onion soup mix, dispersed amid two pounds of ground beef. Easy cooking, and even better eating.
Toast Thy Buns
Of course we toasted the buns. You are toasting your buns aren’t you? Nothing quite so adds that touch of gourmet to your burgers quite like a crisp, toasted bun. The texture is a pleasure, as well as the satisfaction of knowing you went the extra mile in your burger craft.
Going The Distance
We do rather get into burger night over here at the pit. Note the cool little red baskets, and homemade fries. Not to mention the ultra chocolate shake all served up 50’s diner style. All ideas of my lovely wife who loves burger night as much as anybody, I’d wager. Good times, patron to the pit. And Amen.
Look at that grub! Man! I won’t even mention the joy of feeling your belly wrapped around this greasy handful. I think you get it! Mercy! And with that we bid you a toodaloo from the pit, as the summer sun traverses a blue, Minnesota sky. Blessings to the readership and happy 4th of July in advance.
Every once in a while we like to do a guest post. Today is one of those times. Below is a chart and intro made up for us by Joe, at SmokedBBQSource. He’s developing a website full of resources useful to the BBQ community, and he has shared his latest efforts with us. I found this little chart of smoking times and temperatures to be an effective and handy reference, thus we humbly pass it along to the PotP readership for your kind perusal. Enjoy!
And thanks Joe!
From Smoked BBQ Source:
You probably already know how important managing temperature is when you barbecue. You’ve got to closely monitor your smoker and make sure it stays within the right temperature range for hours at a time.
You’ve also got to know the right time to pull your meat off the smoker so you’re not left with a dry, overcooked mess.
While most meat can be smoked between 225 – 250°F, the best temperature to pull is going to vary a lot with what you’re cooking.
While there are no hard and fast rules, this visual, smoking time and temperature chart is a good resource to check before you fire up the smoker.
Just remember that it all comes down to your individual setup. Use this guide as a starting point, and then experiment to see what works best for you.
Here are a few other pieces of advice:
The smoking time suggestions as a very rough estimate: The problem with using hours / lb to estimate smoking time, is that the thickness and diameter of what your smoking is more important than the total weight.
There’s also a lot of other factors like humidity and how well insulted your smoker is that can effect total smoker time. Bottom line, always use a digital thermometer to determine when your food is ready.
There’s a big difference between ‘done’ and ‘ready to eat’: If you always pull your meat when it reaches a safe internal temp, you will be missing out on a world of flavor. In many cases you want to go well past the ‘recommended safe temperature’ as the collagen and fats continue to melt and make your meat even more juicy.
We were out in the woods this weekend last, playing hobo and such, and just enjoying the pleasures of a lovely spring day afield. The sun was warm, but the lakes and ponds still frozen, and patches of snow tarried in the shadows. We hiked along the wooded trails, kicking up leaves from last autumn, and smelling the earth unwrap itself after a long winter’s hiatus. A vintage spring day in Minnesota. The kind we wait for, and pine for. The sort we hold out hope for, that once winter has had its way with us, that it might bequeath us such climatic spoils. And it did. And what better thing to do in all the world on such a day, than to make a camp in the woods, and cook some good food there.
Enter the InstaGrill
Now I’m a tinkerer. My father is a tinkerer. My brothers are tinkerers. Tinkering, you might say, is in my blood. And so when I get to test out another man’s brain thrust, I feel honored. I can appreciate the engineering, the thought, and the time that went in to it. Such was the case this last trip afield, as we tested out the InstaGrill. A cool, little, highly portable BBQ grill sent to us by a fellow tinkerer, named Jonathan, down in Texas.
InstaGrill. That’s what he’s calling it as of now. It’s an idea he had for easy, spontaneous, low-key grilling. He sent us a prototype so we could get a better idea how it works, and maybe share it with you guys. Here is his website also, if you want more details. www.myinstagrill.com. It’s a pretty nifty little rig, and if you don’t mind, we’ll give you the nickel tour ourselves.
It’s pretty clever at first blush. As you can see, it’s a charcoal grill at its core. That’s what it runs on. You fill it half way up or so like you would a charcoal chimney, and light it from below with crumpled up newspaper or like we did in this case, with a fire starter cube. She lit right up in tremendous fashion, thanks to the built-in chimney effect. In all my years of using portable grills, I can honestly say, this is the best lighting grill we’ve ever used. No lighter fluid needed. It lights like a charcoal chimney, because, well, it is! This is probably our favorite feature of the grill. But anyways, onto the fun part!
When the coals reach maturity, or grayed over, (about 10 minutes) you simply unlatch the side and open it up. Sort of like them Murphy Beds that fold up into the wall, if you’re familiar with those. Yet another clever idea! Then you rake the coals about a bit to suit your fancy, and install the grate as seen in the photo.
As seen above, you can set the grate to three different levels. We liked that feature too!
We found the grill to be just big enough to meet the needs of about two people, least wise for breakfast out in the hinter regions. The grate size is roughly 10 inches by 10 inches. Large enough for four burgers or two steaks. The other dimensions of the grill are 5″D x 10″W x 12″ H. It weighs about 5 pounds. We found it very portable, and simple to set up and easy to use. No complaints!
Granted it was designed for more traditional grilling fare than corned beef hash and eggs over-easy, but alas when your bush, you work with what you’ve got. Regardless, it was a lot of fun cooking with it. The husky handle at the back made it effortless to transport or move it, even when it was lit, should you ever want to do such things. And to extinguish the coals, you simply close it back up and pour some water on the fire. Disperse in the trash at your nearest convenience.
Overall, it was really a joy to cook on. A well thought-out, and articulate little grilling rig. We liked it’s compactness, and portability, and absolutely loved how it started up a batch of charcoal. We can see it being useful for things like: camping, or tailgating, or even just out on your deck. It’s low key enough, it won’t draw much attention, and finally, you’ll get a proper meal cooked over a beautiful bed of coals. Such as grilling was always meant to be.
So here’s the other part of the story. If you want to buy one, you’re going to have to get in line and wait a while. This is a prototype, you see. The ultimate fit & finished product does not exist yet. That’s why the prototype was sent to us, to help Jonathan garner a little exposure. He has also set up a KICKSTARTER Campaign, here, and when and if it reaches it’s goal, he will then go into production with these grills. So if you think it’s a worthy endeavor, and want to help him get his business going, not to mention secure yourself one of his grills later on down the road, head over to his kickstarter page and help a tinkerer out!
It was a morning of slow-curling pillars of pecan smoke which tapered and twirled in the golden shafts of a rising sun. The tweety birds also were in full symphony, flirting in the naked dogwoods at the pond’s edge. And the breeze which sifted through the patio furniture was cool, but soft to the touch, with a tint of mildness lingering in the eddies; a heady sensation not privy to these parts in many moons. And the winter’s snow bounties are receding now, like an old man’s hairline. And there is grass. It’s not the best grass, but alas it’s grass no how, and say what you will, but in February in Minnesota, that is no small thing. I delight also in the way the snow courts the spruce trees yonder. Filling in between the needles. The contrast of green with pockets of white. It’s just a lovely time of year. A first hint of longer days.
Pulled Pork in Less Time With More Bark
On the pit this morning, awash in the early morning light, we have what might appear to be two handsome pork butts. But in point of fact, they are only one. One petite butt, actually, sliced in half. And the reasoning for this is something we’ve been experimenting with here at PotP Headquarters for some time.
You see, I’ve had to eat a few sandwiches for you people to figure this out, but alas, it’s a price for knowledge that I am willing to pay. I’m good with it. But it turns out you do not need to smoke a pork butt for 12 hours to accomplish effective BBQ. That is, I suppose, if you don’t want to. Because there are plenty of days I would just as soon take the scenic route like that, if for no other reason than I rather fancy the journey. But there is a secret bypass on the road to succulence. A route in detour slightly swifter, but just as edible. One that flirtatiously courts the ever-ebbing passage of time with the affable affinity and gentle premise of the tooth fairy. Lets go there, shall we. Lets do this!
The Power of Halves
By slicing your pork butt in half, what you have done, we figure, is reduced the cooking time by maybe a third. My calculations are crude, I admit, but it’s something like that. Smaller butts cook faster than bigger ones. It just stands to reason. What you have also done is increase the surface area. This opens up more acreage for more spice rub and further, more smoke penetration. And what all that means is, you’ll get more bark.And every pit jockey fancies more bark. All of this just from slicing your butt in half. So we sliced it.
The night before, in a zippered plastic bag, we marinated the pork in Kits KC BBQ Rub, from our friends over at Miners Mix. Meat and spice. It’s like hooking two lovely souls up on a highly engineered blind date. It just can’t help but to go swimmingly. We just let the flavors mingle the night long, and let nature take its course. To “get happy“, as they say, in the romantic, yet estranged confines of the refrigerator. And by golly, they did!
Or if you want to whip something up yourself, here is a basic rub recipe pretty amazing on pork.
Basic Pork Rub
- 1/4 cup Paprika
- 1/8 cup Fresh Ground Black Pepper
- 2 tablespoons Garlic Powder
- 2 tablespoons Onion Powder
- 1 tablespoon or more Cayenne Pepper
- 1/4 cup Coarse Salt
- 1/4 cup Brown Sugar
In the morning the meat was ready, already smelling amazing, and was plopped accordingly on the old kettle grill. Now, I would usually use the Weber Smokey Mountain for pulled pork, but again, I was in the experimenting mood. There isn’t much, after all, you can’t accomplish with a good kettle grill. The smoker is designed to hold a lower temperature, but you can do it on the Weber too. The trick with the kettle grill, at least the 18.5 that I used, is to build a smaller fire than usual. We’re talking just ten to fifteen briquettes, if that. Maybe a few unlit briquettes to sport a little Minion Method if desired. All this to keep the temperatures low, say around 250 degrees.
We tossed on a couple chunks of pecan wood, mostly because it’s the only wood we have in stock right now. Just so happens tho, pecan wood seems to go well with any meat you might wish to smoke. A fine all-around smoke wood. Anyways, we plunked on the old enameled lid, and went about our business. Namely that of tucking a periodical under the arm and sauntering into the little pit boy’s room for a spell. You know how it goes.
On an aside, we often get asked about our cast iron grates. They are from a company called Craycort, and might very well be the nicest thing you ever do for your Weber. Check them out on our Amazon affiliate link below. It helps keep a good company in business, gives us a wee kickback, and pretty much pimps out your kettle grill to the highest order. Sincerely, they are great grates!
*Rotate the butts 180 degrees every now and then for even cooking.
After the coals had nearly gone out, we checked under the lid and I noted I had gotten the color I was after. And that’s good enough. You don’t even need to take it’s temperature. That’s how easy this pulled pork is. And that’s all the further time the butt needs to spend on the pit. The next step is to plate them up temporarily, and ferry them inside and put them into…I can’t believe I’m saying this…but yes, put them into a….crock pot.
Now I know what you’re thinking. What would a patron of the pit be doing with a crock pot! Well, to answer that, I know what else you’re thinking. You’re thinking crock pots are awesome! Brilliant pieces of culinary technology worthy of enshrinement in various halls of fame and grandmotherly kitchens. Why wouldn’t a patron use one! And I agree. But let’s digress, shall we, to the day you were born.
Babies and Pork Butts
You see, those first couple of hours on the pit are not unlike a baby’s first two hours out of the womb. It is the golden period of maternal bonding and modern meat smoking alike. Not only are the first two hours after birth where a mother bonds intensely with her spore, but likewise, it is also where a man imprints with his meat! Okay, I got carried away there. What I’m really try to say is, your meat gets all the smoke it needs after the first two hours. In point of fact, I’ve read from multiple sources that a smoke ring is done forming around 140 degrees internal temp. Or about two hours. It just works that way. Any smoke after that point, technically, is wasted in kind. You can read more about such things, here, if you’re interested.
So the pork has all the smoke it needs after two hours on the pit. That’s the thing to remember here. It’s not done cooking. It has just received the high blessings of the pit, is all. It has been anointed in smoke. We then transferred it to the crock pot, with a few squirts of BBQ sauce, where upon and with the aid of modern crock pot wizardry, you simply leave it to it’s own devices. Bequeath it to the BBQ fates to fall apart as it will. And it will indeed at around 195 – 200 internal. And you do not need to take its temperature here either. Pulled pork in a crock pot is easy like that. Just let the meat speak to you. Use your pit master instincts. It will tell you when its done by its tender flanks submitting to the masterful glide of your fork, as succulent pieces of butt topple over itself into whetted pools of its own glorious juices. The crock pot really does take the guess work out of it. The babysitting. And when its done, it will even keep itself warm until supper. Golly! What utter decadence! It is like a Boeing 747 landing its self on autopilot, and the pit jockey need not raise a finger. And in the end, after you pull it into savory shreds, and stuff it into a good roll, you’ll have yourself some authentic, smoke house quality, BBQ pulled pork, succulent enough for the kings, fit for the pit master, and the crown jewel of your crock potting career. And it was easy too. Real easy, patron to the pit. Amen.
Savory pecan smoked pulled pork, with plenty of delicious bark. Patron to the Pit. Courtesy of the Kettle Grill/Crock Pot Hybrid System. Works real good. But tastes even better.
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I thought I was a humble fellow, but I guess it turns out I’m not. It was just your run of the mill slab of pork ribs. Your basic kettle cook at 20 below. Truly, I thought nothing of it when my wife requested ribs for supper during a polar vortex. This is just what I do. Its who I am. And she knew it. However, in retrospect, I probably should have gone to McDonald’s for a Big Mac instead. Let me digress.
Indeed, the recent polar vortex to come through town put the kibosh on a great many outdoor activities. What with 20 below wind chills, it was a day obviously better suited for other endeavors besides the art of BBQ. But I had never gone sally with the elements before, leastwise where BBQ is concerned, and by golly, today wasn’t the day I would start. And the winds hurtled through the icy township with a divine authority that demanded respect. The good people of the world were huddled indoors, suckling hot cocoas and watching Netflix marathons. And then there was me. Fortunately, the Pond Side Pit was tucked into the gracious eddies of the house that which broke the keen and penetrating December wind. Well, for the most part it did. And there, amid my armory of Webers, I was able to make my stand.
I chose the Weber kettle as my tool of choice this smoke, for a couple of reasons. One, it’s small, and would require less fuel on this cold day to keep it hot. And two, I just didn’t feel like dumping ten pounds of charcoal into the Weber Smokey Mountain for one rack of ribs. As much as I love the WSM, it is rather the gas guzzling SUV of the meat smoking world. No matter, I was a Patron of the Pit. I had smoked ribs in the Weber kettle many times. This was old hat! Child’s play…
“Henceforth, I destroyed thy pork ribs with a vigor usually reserved for a nuclear detonation.”
They were hard, brittle, and crusty to the touch. Looked like the skeletal remains of a pet which did not make it clear of the house fire. It was bad. A chunk in hand could have maybe sufficed as a good charcoal pencil for the cave walls, that which I felt like I have just emerged from. Hark, it looked as if my elder brother had even come by and assisted me with my BBQ whilst I was not looking. Where did I go wrong?
What we learned
Well, for starters, I learned not to under-estimate the narcoleptic value of a good grandma blanket. Because that’s where I was for much of the smoke. Under a grandma in the living room, snoring like a brown bear whilst listening to football on the TV. It was an agreeable lifestyle. The kettle grill was left to its own devices out on the patio. I thought I had set it up for success. Turns out I had not. I had built the fires too hot inside it’s steely bosom. In an ill-guided miscalculation on my part, I figured somewhat logically, that because it was so cold out, I would counter the elements with a slightly larger fire. All this did however, was raise the pit temperature from pretty hot, to split-your-own-atoms, kind of hot. And thus incinerated my beloved ribs with all due effectiveness. Aw well. Live and learn, as they say. There’s always tuna fish sandwiches for supper.
A week has passed. Maybe a bit more than that. The new weekend was upon thee, and I had a span of clock available to smoke another rack of ribs if I wanted. Well, with my last efforts still dawdling on my mind like cigar smoke in the drapes, I wanted nothing more than to rectify my blunder, and set my status right again in the smokey community. To get this rancid flavor of defeat off my tongue. The temperature had risen now to a balmy zero degrees or something like that. The wind was low, in-effectively low, and the tweety birds were even active again, darting about the yellow block of suet I had set out for them. This is as good as it was going to get in a Minnesota winter. Like an aplinist siezing a window of proper weather in which to summit Everest, I knew I must act soon. And I knew this time I would do it right, and fire up the Weber Smokey Mountain.
Tho it uses moocho much fuel, one thing is for sure about the Weber Smokey Mountain. It works. And it works in the cold too. One heaping chimney full of orange glowing coals dumped into the center of a ring of unlit coals, as seen in the photo, is all it takes for a rack or three of ribs on any given day. The minion method is your friend here. That’s where the lit coals slowly light up the unlit coals, and those coals in turn light up other unlit coals, kind of like a chain re-action, thus employing a steady, even burn, to last many hours with out baby sitting. The WSM was soon established at 225 degrees, and it did not budge from this temperature the rest of the cook. I should have just done it right the first time, but you know how it goes.
To learn more about the minion method, we did a write-up years ago on that. It’s probably our most read article. Consume at your leisure is so inclined.
Meanwhile, we seasoned up the ribs with a splattering of Worcestershire sauce, and then liberally dusted it Kit’s K.C. BBQ rub from our friends over at Miner’s Mix. We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again; if we had to be monogomous to one spice rub company, I do believe the Miners Mix crew would be our choice. Just love their flavors. Here’s a link to their stuff if you guys haven’t yet had the occasion.
Anyways, we put the ribs on the pit, bone-side down, and let them do their thing for two and a half hours at 225 degrees in a gentle cloud of pecan smoke. Then we foiled them with a little smearing of butter and BBQ sauce for one more hour. And I napped only cautiously this time, under my grandma blanket, hockey game on the TV, and listened to the calling of my pit master instincts, as the culinary end game drew nearer to thee. And like it does in winter, the night fell early over the land, as the old bullet smoker puffed stoically out on the patio. The aromas of a Carolina BBQ shack wafted over the crusty fields of blue-tinted snow, for which a slender moon hung silently above. I slipped into my shoes, and waddled out the patio door to check the tenderness of my spoils, jacket zipped tight, and there under the scant starlight of a cold winter’s eve, amid the sounds of sizzling pork and aluminum foil unwrapping, I knew as surely I had known anything before, that these ribs would at once be amazing. And furthermore, that I had been quitely redeemed. Amen.
Succulent pecan-smoked pork ribs redeemed from the jaws of a polar vortex. Very satisfying, both to the stomach and soul. Grill on! -PotP
*Found this essay hiding out in the PotP archives, covered in 2 inches of digital cyber dust. Never published. A story about a little cook-out from last spring, some good food, and some people there we met along the way. Enjoy.
It was a soft spring afternoon, under quiet gray skies, with a light drizzle dappling over the land and over the pond. I was out manning the pit of course, doing what pit keepers do, sizzling up a pan of bacon over the old patio stove. The tweety birds were out too, in full chorus I noted, despite the drizzle. And the Mallards milled poignantly in the pond, as always, indifferent to the inclement of weather. Anyways, we were having a bandy of people over today, to fellowship and commune over several pounds of perfectly grilled ground beef. Hamburgers that is. Burgers large enough to warrant their own zip code Okay, maybe not that big, but even so.
The ground beef was seasoned with a packet of Lipton Onion Soup Mix, which was thoroughly worked through all the protein. Massage it in there, people, and get your hands dirty! Divvy out into patties accordingly. I thought about stuffing a couple globs of pepper jack cheese into the center of the patties, for to sport a Juicy Lucy, but I felt lazy at the pit today. So I didn’t. A pit jockey’s freedom.
You all know how to grill a hamburger. Leastwise I hope you do. So we shall not indulge in the how-to’s of the game. I will mention to you however, the glories of a gently curling pillar of hickory smoke, wafting up out of the pit damper. Likewise, the wonderful, earthen aromas of grass and dirt on a wet day, and how it mingles so saintly with the pungency of lightly charred beef. And the Canadian geese yonder, afloat on placid waters, honking it up like the brass section of the high school band. Can’t say it sounds good, but I’m glad it’s there, I guess.
Among the guests to show up this eve, was a little lady I hadn’t had occasion to meet before. She was quiet most of time, keeping to herself, yet drawing mass attention like all babies do. I felt compelled to build her a hamburger. You know, to welcome her to the planet and all. It was a good one too. And I noticed after a fashion, that it was almost, but not quite, as big as her head. Relatively speaking, that’s a burger! Glory be the day that I meet up with such a plunder, as I have a rather larger than normal cranium as it is, or so I’ve been told. But this here baby, in truth, she was not all that impressed with my bountiful offering. She was no more amused with the hamburger than she was with the 42 inch mounted musky on the wall in the living room. Ah, ignorance is such a blinder.
And so we settled in for food, fellowship, and really big hamburgers patron to the pit. Burgers are at once easy to make, declicious to eat, and always seem to go over well feeding a crowd. They can assemble their own, and thus it becomes personal to them. That’s the magic of burgers. Add a chunk of mesquite wood or hickory to your coals during the cook to really up your game. It will propel your hamburger to the next level of smoky goodness, and all your people will rejoice in turn. Well, all that is except for those who don’t have any teeth yet. But what can you do? Amen.
One of the great resources of our modern era is the internet. And perhaps my favorite resource on the internet, is the YouTube. You can learn anything there. Anything! YouTube University, as my elder brother sometimes calls it. And it is. What a privilege to have so much knowledge at our finger tips. Wanna know how to milk a cow? YouTube it! Wanna know how to weld underwater? Well, YouTube it! Many years ago, when we first got into the BBQ arts, cutting our teeth as it were, we naturally perused the YouTube algorithms in search of BBQ videos. What an addicting past time that is, let me tell you. Anyways, along the way we discovered a plethora of fellow BBQ enthusiasts who really knew their stuff. I mean these guys were good! They are not necessarily on the pro circuit or anything, tho some are, but one thing is for absolute sure – they have a passion for BBQ.
If you were to ask us here at PotP who some of our BBQ influences are, well many of them you can find on YouTube. And most of them have their own YouTube channel that they update regularly. Troy Smith, of T-Roy Cooks, is one of them. We’ve been watching his channel for a long time now, and well, there’s just something about him we cotton to. He’s like your favorite old pair of pants, (sorry Troy) , in that he’s just a pleasure to be around and watch him do his thing. A genuine, down-to-earth, kindly and sincere, Texan, who simply loves to make BBQ. So we contacted him to see if he might be up for an interview, and in true T-Roy Cooks fashion, he was all over it.
What follows is our conversation with Troy, as we let the man discourse a little his passion for BBQ. We really enjoyed it, and hope you do too.
Picking the Brain of T-ROY COOKS
PotP: Who are your BBQ influences? Why did you start a YouTube Channel?
T-Roy Cooks: There are a few competition BBQ’ers that have influenced my cooking. I really enjoy the layers of flavor that Johnny Trigg puts on his pork ribs and I have followed his techniques in many of my own BBQ cooks, so Johnny has inspired me the most. I also like to watch Myron Mixon and Big Moe Cason cook. Each of those guys have their own style of cooking and use different seasonings, but in the end, all of their BBQ looks terrific.
As for why I started a YouTube cooking channel, my son was moving out of the house and did not know anything about cooking. My wife and I wanted him to be able to cook the meals that he grew up eating at home after he moved out of the house, so I started making videos showing how to cook the meals that he loved at home. I guess my passion for cooking really shined through in my videos, because after just a few months of starting my channel, I began to get dedicated followers who really enjoyed my style of cooking. The feedback I received was very flattering and helpful because I was actually really shy when I began putting up videos. That feedback inspired me to continue building my channel into what it is today, so I am grateful to all of my subscribers for helping me feel comfortable in front of the camera. It is also very gratifying when they leave feedback letting me know that they have tried and loved my recipes.
PotP: What is your favorite smoke wood?
T-Roy Cooks: I have found that Pecan and Post Oak go well with every kind of meat, so that is what I mainly use in my Yoder Wichita offset smoker or my WSM. I like to change it up from time to time so that I get different smoke profiles. Right now I am using Pecan. When I run out of that wood, I will switch to Post Oak. I purchase a 1/4 cord at a time from a tree cutting service and find that it will usually last me about 5-6 months of weekend cooks. If I am cooking something hot & fast, such as flank steak, skirt steak, or tri-tip, I like to use Hickory or Mesquite, but my go-to wood has to be Pecan or Post Oak for most cases.
I grew up using mainly Hickory, but after trying other woods, I have found that both Hickory and Mesquite have really strong smoke flavor, so I use them sparingly or mix them with Pecan or Oak. I usually don’t use any fruit woods unless I am cooking poultry or fish. For those meats, I like to use Apple or Cherry. I do love the flavor of Peach wood, but it is difficult to get here in Texas and, if I can get it, it is very expensive.
PotP: Give one tip for aspiring pit masters
T-Roy Cooks: Each pit is different, so learn your pit. It takes a lot of time and patience to learn your pit, but once you have it figured out, you will produce some of the best BBQ you have ever tasted. Don’t give up and don’t over-smoke your meat! Make sure you have good air flow through your pit. You want to see that thin blue smoke instead of billowing white smoke out of your stack. Again, just be patient and learn your pit.
PotP: How often do you cook outside?
T-Roy Cooks: Luckily, in Central Texas we are able to cook outdoors all year. During the hot summer months, I probably cook outside 2-3 times per week. I love the cooler Winter months and spend most days of the week cooking out back, so I’d say 5-7 days a week when it’s cooler outside.
PotP: Favorite cut of meat to BBQ? Why?
T-Roy Cooks: My favorite cut of meat has to be pork ribs. I love pork ribs and I have become a pro at cooking them. You can get so many layers of flavor on ribs that when you take a bite of them your mouth explodes with joy! Ribs are pretty thin, so all of those flavors are packed onto the surface and go very well with the thin meat of the rib. You don’t quite get the same flavorful bites when you try to do the same thing with pork butt or thicker cuts of meat. Also, I do love a good USDA Prime Texas Brisket seasoned simply with salt, pepper, and a little cayenne!
PotP: Do you have any outdoor cooking traditions?
T-Roy Cooks: Cooking traditions, huh? Well, I usually have some tunes going while I am cooking out back. I love Classic Rock from the 80’s mostly, but I also enjoy Classic Country music from the 70’s & 80’s. I also like to have a keg of local Austin beer in my Kegerator out back and enjoy a nice chilled beer while cooking. The smell of the smoke in the air and the smell of the meat cooking while I enjoy some tunes and sip on a cold beer is what I love to do. Life doesn’t get much better!
PotP: What is your biggest BBQ blunder? What just didn’t work? When did Troy slap his head and go “whups!”
T-Roy Cooks: When I first started doing BBQ, I wanted to cook pork ribs on my offset. I read how everyone was using the 3-2-1 method, so I gave it a shot. I ruined my ribs by overcooking them. I found out quickly that the 3-2-1 method does not work for me. My ribs were severely overcooked. The bones fell out of the meat and the meat itself was mushy. I have come to realize that most people like their ribs to be “fall off the bone” tender, but I like mine to have some bite. So, I have never used the 3-2-1 method for cooking ribs again. If I do ever try wrapping my ribs again, I will probably do my own 3-1-1 method!
PotP: Other than eating it, what is it about BBQ that excites you? Why do you keep pursuing it? What fuels your passion, T-Roy!
T-Roy Cooks: When I walk by my Yoder Wichita offset smoker, it smells like I am in one of those very old BBQ joints where they’ve been cooking BBQ on the same pits for over 100 years. You know the kind of BBQ joint I’m talking about where the smoke has discolored the walls of the place and the smoke smell permeates every crook and cranny in the joint? There is something to be said about that smell of a BBQ pit and the aromas filling the air from the meat smoking on the pit.
The smell of BBQ exhilarates me and makes me want to celebrate fine tasting BBQ with my friends, family, and neighbors. I am passionate about BBQ, but knowing that each cut of meat is different, I have to stay on my toes while cooking BBQ. No two briskets or pork butts will ever cook exactly the same. The meat can be temperamental and it is up to me, the Pitmaster, to do everything I can to produce the best BBQ I can from the meat on the pit. It is a challenge, but it is a challenge that I gladly accept. Plus, it’s a lot of fun!!!
PotP: When you don’t feel like cooking, where do you go for BBQ?
T-Roy Cooks: I know you’ll find this quite odd, but I really don’t go out to eat BBQ. In fact, I rarely go out to eat period! There are plenty of BBQ joints here around Central Texas (Austin), but there are only a couple that I would eat at again. One is Louie Mueller BBQ and the other is Stiles Switch BBQ. I hear that Franklin’s BBQ and La Barbecue (owned by Mueller’s grand-daughter) are really good, but I have yet to try those because I don’t like long lines and I don’t like going to downtown Austin.
PotP: What is your pit-side beverage of choice?
T-Roy Cooks: I love relaxing by my pit with a cold beer or a big glass of strong sweet iced tea. In fact, I have a Kegerator, as mentioned in a previous question, and I always have a keg from a local Austin brewery iced down on tap. I change up which breweries I have on tap, but most of them are really tasty!
PotP: What is your choice activity whilst smoking a 16 hour pork butt?
T-Roy Cooks: During the day, I enjoy floating around in my pool under the palm trees or relaxing in my hot tub while listening to some classic tunes from the 70’s & 80’s. If it’s late at night on a long cook, I will watch a good Sci-Fi TV show or movie, a Football game, or some NASCAR on my TV out back to pass the time. I usually have plenty of those shows recorded so I can watch them at my leisure.
PotP: Lastly, what is next for T-Roy Cooks?
T-Roy Cooks: I have had a lot of my followers request that I make BBQ rubs, so I am working on some recipes for my own rubs that I can sell. I am also wanting to do some live cooking shows so that my followers can watch me in live time while I cook. They can ask questions of me and I can instantly respond back to them. The hard part with that idea is finding the right time where I can get the most people watching live.
Bonus Question: I’ve seen you in your videos do cannonball dives into your pool for the amusement of your viewers. Big leaping kerplooshes, sending tsunami-like waves across the land. Pets run for their lives. You have some mad skills there. So, if you were an Olympic diver, and a gold medal was on the line, would the cannonball then be your go to dive?
T-Roy Cooks: If I did a cannonball from a great height, I’d probably drain the pool and other divers wouldn’t be able to compete, so yes! Of course, I’d have to go first! I also do a really elegant back flip off of the diving board, but my pool is only 6 feet deep, so that isn’t something you’ll see me doing in my videos.
Thanks Troy. You’re awesome!
Check out T-Roy Cooks on YouTube some day. Good stuff!
Autumn is a lovely time of year. Cooler days and chilly nights. Walking out to the car in the morning, there is a crisp bite in the air, and it just smells better, somehow, because its cold. Geese are on the wing, daily it seems, flying like bomber squadrons overhead, honking as they strafe past, their strong wings whooshing through the chill air. And then there are the leaves. Umpteen billions of them. Golden, and orange, and fiery red; around every corner, down every road – and they quiver and tingle on thin stems in the slightest breeze, quaking there. Waiting to drop. Waiting the turn.
I was cooking supper at the Pond Side Pit the other night, just admiring the autumn scene. Namely the big, old cotton wood there, and how resplendent its leaves looked against a blue, October sky. I don’t know how it is in Texas, or the desert, or even for our friends down there in Ecuador, but autumn in Minnesota is maybe why we all live in here in the first place. It is surreal. Something beautiful to behold every square foot, leastwise in the natural realm. All the trees gussied up so fine, free of that chlorophyll stuff, and my but they look akin to bride’s maids for the Fall.
Supper was some pork chops. Thick-cut of course, for not only are we Patrons of the Pit, but hark, we’re also hungry! So thick-cut it would be. For seasoning we tried some rub our old buddy, TJ Stallings, sent to us. His good friend, O’Neill Williams, of O’Neill Outside came up with some new flavors, and we were lucky enough a hold of some,thanks to TJ. Tonight’s medley of yum is the Wild Game Seasoning, tinted with a light mesquite smoke, and some darn succulent chops. Granted, my pork chops aren’t too wild, but no how, good is good, right, and now wildly good, perhaps, with some of this seasoning. We’ll give it a shot.
As I bandied a pile of orange glowing coals to the side of the little kettle grill for indirect cooking, it dawned on me that my leisurely summer evenings of cooking in the sunlight were coming to a close. The turn was at hand. Where autumn fades to longer nights. If there is a draw back to this fabulous season, at least for a pit jockey, it is the longer nights. Up here in Minnesota, the nights will come on all-too-swiftly in the coming weeks, and before somewhere in December, the nights will last about 14 hours altogether. That just ain’t right. So that means one of two things for a pit keeper. You either make your supper elsewhere, or you grill in the dark. For some reason I cannot completely divine, we’ve always been partial to the latter. Probably the sum result of inhaling one too many smoke plumes off a smoldering hickory log. Aw well.
So as I brought these gorgeous chops to the sultry land of succulence, I couldn’t help but to lavish also in the scant light that which lingered at the pit this night. How the long slants of an autumn sunbeam washed through the fluttering cottonwood leaves, and lit up that blue sky above for just a few minutes more. Indeed, we’ve been blessed. I savored the moments here, pit side, with tongs in hand, listening to the pork sizzle over the bed of coals, and enjoying the radiant heat off the old kettle grill. This was nice, I thought. Very pleasant. Maybe because I knew in the back of my mind that the winter grilling season was right across the way. I mean, I could see it yonder. Just over there, behind that seasonal curtain waiting to drop. Behind those beautiful leaves fixed to fall. But for the moment anyways, and maybe even longer than that, I know that I am grilling in the light, and long may we tarry here in the sweet sun that which fills the day. Amen.
Mesquite Tinted Pork Chops seasoned with O’Neill Outside Wild Game Seasoning on an October Eve swiftly fading. And all the pit jockeys rejoiced!
Ps…If you’re so inclined, we made a little companion video of this pit session to share with you. Another way to see our meat! Yes, we have a you tube channel. And no, we never use it! But it’s there for times like these, even so. Enjoy!
A lone Drake in good form, and handsome as a duck can be, glided silently over the water, whilst the sun hung dimly on the horizon. It’s scant rays caressing the roof tops, and budding leaves which adorned the neighborhood parkways. I just got home from a long day of responsibilities and the like, and wanted nothing more than to prop my feet up from the vantage of my man chair, and do little else there, save for to monitor the latitude of my eye lids. Yes sir, one of those days where you get home, foot sore and dirty, weary of body, and would fancy a lovely home cooked meal if it were there, but wished frankly to exert no effort towards that end. That’s the predicament I found myself in the other day. And I think we’ve all been there.
Well, I had two choices. Lay there and go hungry, or get back up again and cook supper. It’s times like this where you know you have, what they call, “1st World Problems“. Or, “Rich People Dilemmas“. At least there is a choice. My wife once took a missions trip to Africa. To the East African Rift zone, and the harsh plains of Kenya there, where upon she encountered many a family who didn’t have a choice in the matter at all, as to what’s for supper. Their day, no less weary than mine, and they would, by enforced circumstance alone, indeed keep laying there after all, and go hungry despite. And here I am grumbling about the ordeal of cooking supper. Not cool.
Thus, and with this renewed outlook and shift-of-mind, I swiftly came to the very accurate conclusion that cooking supper, whether I’m tired, in the mood, or not, is indeed and always a great privilege. And one we probably ought not to be grumbling about. If you don’t believe that, just ask some of the Kenyan families I just told you about. Anyways, the evening was still lovely. I had some chicken in the freezer. Some potatoes at my disposal. And it’s a given, that I always love to grill once I’m out there, where the wood smoke also rises. So lets get after this, shall we, and procure some supper, patron to the pit.
Meat and potatoes. That’s me. Classic man food. Freshly humbled, I got to work over the old kettle grill, with steely tongs in hand, plying my craft in the waning light. Some tin foiled potatoes were placed over direct heat. In the foil and swaddled decently there, were of course, potatoes diced to uniformity for even cooking, a sliced up onion, a few pats of butter, and some salt and pepper to taste. I think some peas too, just because. One of the simplest, and maybe our favorite kettle grill side dish. Tin foiled potatoes. If you’re one of the 5 people left on the planet who hasn’t made potatoes this way yet, well, you’re missing something out of your life. Direct heat – 20 minutes ought to do it.
For to season our chicken today, we went with one of our favorite rubs as of late, Wholly Chipotle, by the good folks at Miners Mix. This one has a little kick to it, well, leastwise to us sally-tongued Swedes it does, so dash it on accordingly. If you slow down, and eat like a civilized cave man, you can notate a slow parade of flavors in this rub. A nice smokey chipotle base which marries well with a variety of meat. Man!
Ah the glories of grilling in the fresh evening air. I was glad I resisted the gravitational pull of the couch. But then I always am where grilling is concerned. Something about the ambiance of wood smoke in curl, and the serenity of the pit. Of communing with the tweety birds, and watching how the grass bends gently in the breeze. How the light dapples through the tree tops. And the how the clouds idle in a pastel sky.
A thin-blue smoke, patron to smoldering hickory wood, pillared forth from the top damper. It looked good there, in the wee, slanting light. We most always include some sort of smoke wood when grilling. The flavor of charcoal is well enough, and ten times that of any gas grill (sorry gassy people), but if you really want to amp up the flavor of your next cook-out, toss a chunk of hickory onto the coals. Or peach wood. Or pecan wood. Or apple wood. Your dinner guests will know at once your kettle fare hails from the smokey realm. A kingdom of which you alone shall rule over with tongs in one hand, and a manly beverage in the other. Ah yes, I love to grill, and I love to tarry out-of-doors under wide open skies. This is your privilege people. Seize it!
And this then is the trick, you see, of how to go about cooking supper when you don’t feel like it. You just get up and do it anyways. You do it because you need to eat. And because you can. And because in a world where so many go hungry, he who is too lazy to cook his own spoils, that which he was richly given, is not at all resonate of a thankful heart. I don’t know about you folks, but I think we should always give thanks for our food. And for the kindly hands that prepared it. Amen.
Hickory Smoked Chipotle Chicken Breasts sided with Crispy Tin Foiled Potatoes. Another winner, patron to the pit.
The other weekend my trail crony and I made camp at a nearby wilderness establishment; a locale of great loveliness, off the beaten path, and aside a watershed patron to a sky full of stars. As you may have gleamed around here, from time to time, we do rather like to engage our souls in the wilder places. In point of fact, if ever we were to scribe another blog, it would doubtless be one touting the high joys of the outdoor life. For this is what we do, by and by, besides grilling beautiful cuts of meat, that is. We seek to tarry where creation is most divine. And so there we were, naturally, on the forest floor, our tents poetically pitched at the tail of a moonbeam. The stars drifting across an ebony sky. And the coyotes yelping from the distant hills.
If you’ve never spent the night in the forest, your senses have never then been properly primed. Nor your imagination so sublimely stretched. To hear the critters scamper about, and everyone of them, you swear, sniffing the trembling corners of your tent. You can hear the diameter of coyote’s nose at ten paces, as it draws it’s air from the still night. The Trumpeter Swans bellowing in the darkness. You can hear those too. The Great Horned Owls stirring up a nocturnal racket, yapping on like little old ladies sitting in the tree tops. Then, some time in the wee hours, the undecipherable sounds of something heavy and hairy wandering at the edge of the woods. Nay, that’s just my camp mate, out for his nightly leg raise. It’s all good in the woods.
Shifting gears now, out at the pit. A light pecan smoke curls from the old kettle grill. It’s been a long week. A busy week. The kind of week that the big city is good at dishing out to those challenged and beleaguered souls entrapped within it’s elastic bosom. Everyone is in a hurry here. Pedal to the proverbial metal. Car horns blaring. Phones ringing. Sirens racing. It’s really something. Or at least you seem to notice it more, perhaps, after a good camping trip afield. Maybe that’s what it is. There is a palatial difference, or is it indifference, between the speed of life in the city and one out in the quieter places. One of head-turning, iconoclastic proportions. And it only takes one night bedded down on the forest floor to realize it. And so my grilling, as humble as it may be, is at last a small respite to me – a last beach head of tranquility in a world gone to haste.
So it was, and with great pleasure, too, that I laid the succulent pork chops over the pecan-scented flames. This one simple act, where man cooks meat over fire, outside, seems to trigger a domino of mental pleasures, all toppling forth in a splendid way before me. For starters, the smell of the wood smoldering over the fire. Very pleasant. Which in turn, connects to memories of cooking fires past. And some of those memories, of fires yonder, in places long ago. Of camp fires and good people. Over hill and by the dale, where the coyotes freely sing, and the moonbeams kiss the tender fabric of our tents. And illuminate the quiet hollows of our soul. Amen.
Pecan smoked pork chops, with garlic mashed potatoes and a good spill of peas. Good is good at the pit tonight. And even better cooked outside. A Pit Keeper’s respite.
“I do not know what it is about women and cheese, but I wager a good block of it will catalyst even the most apathetic of them into action.” -Me
Evening was soon to draw across the Pond-Side Pit, as I henceforth gathered my plunder in the soft, waning light. A glorious light of which is fleeting this time of year, for the supper that which teases the hollow rumble of my belly. I soldier on. I bank some fiery coals to the back of the old kettle grill, setting it up for a quiet spot of indirect cooking. Poker in hand, and shamelessly doting over the orange-glowing rubble, like they were precious gem stones in a cauldron of enameled coated steel. It’s March, on the 45th Parallel, and the breeze is as cool as it is sweet, summoning the best flannel shirts your closet has to offer. Indeed, I had mine on as I tended the fire, enjoying it’s radiant heat on my hands. Admiring the comradeship of the coals, whilst I waited on my lovely bride to shred the cheese.
She openly volunteered to shred up some Parmesan cheese for our supper tonight. I do not know what it is about women and cheese, but I wager a good block of it will catalyst even the most apathetic of them into action. Women love cheese. Leastwise mine does. And so she shredded me a large quantity of it, like a crazed beaver to Cottonwood tree. Swiftly earthing a pile of cheesy goodness into a modest, porcelain bowl. That and an equal part bread crumbs too, these for to play the supporting cast in tonight’s grilling ensemble. Parmesan Crusted Grilled Chicken Breasts, patron to the pit, of course.
What we did is this. We rolled the bone-in chicken breasts in a warm, slippery bath of melted butter, and after saying a quick prayer, liberally packed on a delightful preponderance of that cheese/bread crumb mixture we just talked about. Pack it on thick, people, and don’t be shy. If you want to give your woman what she wants, well this is it! Well, this is it this side of an empty wallet coming out of a jewelry store anyhow.
Kind of looks like coconut chicken, but it isn’t. This is where you must wield your meat with the authority and delicateness of a brain surgeon. Your dear chicken is in it’s most fragile state right now, so be mindful young pit jockeys, not to knock off that which you have so fiercely labored for. Place your lovely proteins with a gentle hand opposite the hot coals. Place the lid on next, and dutifully step aside. We didn’t use any smoke wood this time. The crusty cheese to come will do all the talking here.
It doesn’t take long before you lift the lid and see something like this going on. A beautifully textured crust – the highly edible marriage of Parmesan cheese fused with lightly toasted bread crumbs. This at last to usher these lowly chicken breasts unto their utmost culinary ideal. Glory!
Of course when confronted with nicely crusted proteins, such as these, I cannot help but to tarry pit-side in a bevy of my own thoughts. Here we have two ingredients, that which make up this crust. Two entities. That of Parmesan cheese, and the other of plain old bread crumbs. The Parmesan cheese is like my wife perhaps – white, and silky, and very good. Very forgiving. Gets better with time. And better, by and far, than I deserve. And I am not unlike the lowly bread crumbs here, even whiter still, and if left to my own devices, will likely only make a big mess of things. But here is where the analogy gets interesting, and far better for me. When married together on the charcoal grill of life, the cheese adapts like good cheese does, and works it’s way amid every nook and hollow presented thee by the flaky bread crumbs. In time, the cheese holds the humble bread crumbs together, even, and gives them support and reason and flavor. The bread crumbs thus toast to perfection, coming of age, if you will, and the two together form the most beautiful Parmesan crusted chicken you’d ever want to lay thine eyes upon.
It’s weird what comes to your brain whilst puttering over your pit. It’s all about relationships, my wife keeps telling me. Relationships. Maybe this is what women want. Just to love and be loved – together. Seems reasonable, I guess. And sure seems to be the case with my chicken tonight, I can tell you that. And in the pale light, I plated up said chicken, plunked the old kettle lid back in place, turned heel, and made way from whence I came. To my sweetheart residing warmly inside. Amen.
Just beyond the stately Spruce, the prickly bows of which conceal the flirtatious exploits of the Black Capped Chickadees, and across a modest lawn sodden with snow melt, at a quiet patio tucked up to the back of a house, you will find a serene column of wood smoke curling from my old kettle grill. And there patron, you will find me also. It’s the weekend, and I haven’t a thing in the world I need to do, or would rather do, than this – to toke a small blaze amid a bandy of coals in the steely bosom of the old steed it’s self – the Weber Kettle Grill. We’ve traveled long and far, this grill and I, through the unknown passages of time. Through every season. And every inclement of weather. And this old kettle grill has been stalwart every step of the way. Faithfully waiting out on the patio for me, straddling it’s little ash pan, I swear I can see it’s top damper quivering like a puppy’s soft tail, every time I round the bend.
Yes, when you grill as often as this, I guess you might say a bond is forged between man and the entity of porcelain-enamel-coated steel. And it’s measure is one to last the ages. A good kettle grill will do that for you. And for the money, Weber probably makes the best there is. I guess I got to thinking about the old grill today, when my fellow patron rang me up and announced he had finally purchased a brand new 22.5 inch Weber kettle grill. I could hear his lips smile. He’s always ran other pits, you see, and has done very well that way his whole grilling career. And we ain’t saying you can’t. But finally, after many years, he has joined the Weber masses. I do not know what has took him so long. I guess every pit jockey at one time or another in his or her life, is destined for a Weber kettle. It’s sort of a right of passage. Many of today’s greatest pit masters cut their teeth on these old standbys. Some folks are so content with Weber kettle grills, like me, that they rarely venture anywhere else. Anyways, I do hope he finds as much joy and excitement and satisfaction cooking with his new grill, as I have found using this old, beat up, patio work horse. If you’re faithful to just clean the ashes out from time to time, it will never let you down. And there are very few things you can’t cook with it, if properly inspired.
Today, for example, the kettle fare is a delicious rack of pork ribs. These grills are not just for hot dogs and hamburgers people. Nay, they are for what moves you. For what tickles your culinary aspiration. There is a reason the Weber Kettle is the in the back yard of so many people that you know. They work. Banking the coals to the far side of the kettle, and tossing on a few chunks of smoke wood, you create an indirect smoking environment. You could get fancier, but for this essay, we’ll just leave it at that. For ribs, you want to build your fire a little smaller than you normally would, to help keep the temperatures down to 225 or so. If you’re having trouble getting that low, try a water pan underneath your ribs, which will act as a heat sink. Also draw the vents on the bottom of the grill to thin slits, and maybe the top vent too. The less air you have moving through your kettle grill, the lower the temps. It’s as simple as that.
I suppose I ought to let you know what we used for seasoning this time. Well, the day prior, 24 hours before these ribs hit the pit, we coated them thoroughly with Miners Mix Maynards Memphis BBQ Rub, wowwy, wrapped them up, and left it alone in the refrigerator for a day or so to, as they say, “get happy”. I know we’ve been yapping a lot about these guys lately, but I’m sorry, when you happen upon the best of something, you just can’t help yourself but to tell people about it. These guys and kettle grills are a match made in BBQ heaven. And this was the only thing we seasoned the ribs with. Didn’t even sauce it, as I didn’t much want to spoil the flavor. *You can detect cocoa in the after taste. Yum!
We usually foil our ribs at about hour 3, but this time around, I don’t know, I may have been feeling lazy, and just “let em go nekkid“. But with routine spritzing with some fruit juice, they turned out fine enough for this old pit boy’s standards. The wife approved too.
Feel The Burn!
Some time ago, back in the sultry days of summer, we received some rubs from the good folks at Miners Mix; a small bandy of spice wizards out way of California, who are quietly putting together, we learned, some of the best flavors in the world. They said if we ever wanted to try a “real rub”, just to let them know. Well, we’ve succumbed, and you’ve probably already read some accounts now of their rubs, and we will kindly remind you that they did not disappoint. Anyways, in passing, they mentioned that they also had some hot rubs, new to their line up, and if we wanted to try some of those too, they would set us up accordingly. Initially, I passed.
You see I am not a pepper head by nature. Nay, I’m Swedish. Which means concerning the spicier things in life, I am what you might call a pansy. A sally-tongued neophyte as easily recoiled by a humble jalapeno pepper, as I might be if my face were melting off. I know – boring. Luckily, however, the smokey co-founder of the Patrons of the Pit is most certainly a hot head, and I mean that in the most kindly of ways. He seems to favor a delightful burn. I mean, a sweaty forehead and runny nose is common place for the man. And it was he who offered to sample these hot rubs for us today. And I eventually caved in, as any grill jockey ought to, and went over to his house the other night for to sample some heat. Some Fire in the Hole Cheese Burgers. Oh man!
A cool, February wind whistled through the Track-Side Pit, where I found my fellow patron grilling up the burgers in the dark. When you grill in Minnesota in February, chances are you’ll be doing it in the dark. Anyways, he declared he tightened up the burgers with Fire in the Hole spice rub, from Miners mix. Now, I’ve heard of these guys!
Fire in the Hole. The name says everything you need to know, folks. All too much, in point of fact! This stuff is something else. Loaded with all matter of hot, make-your-forehead bleed sort-of mojo. Such as: Cayenne, Jalapeno, Habanero, Chipotle, Ancho, and oh yeah, Ghost Pepper powder! Mercy! One fellow at our little burger bash threw a pinch or two of this rub in his mouth, and promptly proclaimed “it burned a hole through my tongue!”
Indeed it could.
The Ghost Pepper, originally known as the bhut jolokia, is a interspecific hybrid chili pepper cultivated out yonder in India or something, and it means business, people. 400 times hotter than Tabasco, they say. At 1 million Scoville heat units, I’d wager they’re right about that. In point of fact, in 2007, it was lofted as the hottest chili pepper on the planet. That honor now belongs to the dreaded Carolina Reaper. I think I’d rather eat grilled spiders with John from Ecuador than make the acquaintance of a Carolina Reaper. Even so, we must still respect the ghost pepper. Anyways, that digression aside, Miners Mix loads this Fire in the Hole rub up with a nice quantity of ghost pepper powder, and when you note that such powder runs at about $180 per pound, well, let’s just say that the little bottle suddenly becomes the most handsome of all bottles on your spice rack.
Where’s The BEEF!
He plopped it down in front of me. I don’t think I had ever seen a hamburger in my life that was as tall as it was wide, but this one came dang close. A monolith of spicy hot meat in which to come of age with. We’re talking it must have been 3/4 of a pound of ground beef here, and maybe 2 tablespoons of Fire in the Hole rub, worked into every corner of protein. Our fellow patron took it one step further, and impregnated the burger with a molten core of Colby Jack cheese, and that too, was laced with even more spicy goodness. Mercy sakes, call the fire department! And I wasn’t hungry again for two days!
Thus, four men sat around a wooden table of red meat, attempting to open their pie holes to adequate apertures, for to make way with these giant, Juicy Lucys. Some of us had bigger mouths than others, and those somebodies gradually developed a good and abiding burn first.
Now it wasn’t the sort of burn than sends a man running post-haste for a glass of milk, blabbering in tongues of fools, but it was undeniably present, even so. Enough to make your eyebrows go moist, and your face to feel a little funny. A little runny nose deal is to be expected as well. And of course, the all encompassing fire from Hades in your mouth syndrome. Depends on your proclivity and tolerance for the spicy side of life, I suppose. And don’t even get us going on the morning after, whilst reading the paper in the little pit boys room. We need not go there! At any rate, I seemed to be doing better than I thought I would, concerning the heat, and here is where it got down right wonderful to behold.
We all noticed that after the burn had tapered, it was then we started picking up on the subtleties of the rub. A parade of delightful flavors start showing up in our mouths. In point of fact, from the moment you put the food in your mouth, clear down through your last burp of after taste, the flavors keep coming. And this is what sets this rub apart from a great many others we’ve tried over the years.
Our fellow patron said, and quote,”These guys got it going on!”
He said, “There just hasn’t been many spice rubs that can do that“, and he added, “with such a wide palate of flavors surfacing after the burn”.
Same thing happened with the HOTBANERO spice rub they sent us too. Not as hot as the Fire in the Hole, but spicy enough for Swedes like me. When the burn subsides, you get another show, an encore of flavors, like: chili powder, sugar, rosemary, onion, thyme, and a slight salty flavor. And it’s all really good! And the parade seems to meander from the front of your mouth towards the back. For a while, I was starting to see maybe what all ye pepper heads enjoy so much about spicy foods. Maybe there is more to it after all, than just burning a hole through your tongue. Indeed I wager now that there is.
If you’re a fan of a fine and pleasant burn, accompanied by exquisite flavors, you’ll be doing yourself a favor if you go check out these guys. Outstanding work once again, good folk at Miners Mix. Man we love what you do! Amen.
My brother has a cabin way up in the woods you see. A humble conglomerate of shingle and cedar. A manly outpost on the edge of all things, in rhythm with the earth and sky. Maybe even a last vestige, perhaps, of solitude in a world surely gone mad. You need only to get in your truck and go there. Out past the city limits, indeed way yonder past that. Past the wind-swept prairies drifted high in waves of granulated white. Over the frozen river and through the woods, where the brown, crisp leaves of the red oak trees still tremble in a winter’s wind. Past the next hamlet and the one after that. Down the winding gravel road you must go. Keep going past all these places, until you reach where the stately white pines rise up and anoint a beautiful, blue sky, and the Blacked Capped Chickadees cavort with a contagious enthusiasm. To where the morning sun dapples on an earth seldom trampled. And here, where the wood smoke curls serenely from a lone chimney stack, on a hill just up from the lake, you will find my brother’s cabin.
I haven’t been to my brother’s cabin in some time now. And I guess the misery of it is, neither has my brother. Oh elder brother is fine and all, it’s just that the wretched noose of society hath wrapped it’s callous coils around his neck again, refusing ever to let go. It’s called work. And responsibility. That’s the high problem of the city life. The city, by it’s very nature will try to pin you down and hold you there, wriggling like a worm under an angler’s thumb. It is it’s most favorite thing to do, seems like. For all the social postures we thus escape, and still to maintain a reasonable and untrammeled urban profile, well, it’s some trick. Some kind of way yonder too big a trick.
So I think of my brother’s cabin now, as I put these chicken thighs to flame. Listening to them sizzle over a hot cast iron grate, with pecan wood buried into the coals. The interesting thing is, every time I light the grill, and smell the wood smoke pillar into the air, even here in urban America, it triggers something, and I cannot help but to recall a vast gamut of recreational fires past, and elsewhere, all over the country in part, and some of those, yes, at my brother’s cabin. That’s the wonderful, under-stated, glory of wood smoke and memories. They are linked in a symbiotic dance. And my how it brings you back. Oh how I fancy to be there right now, under that old, squeaky roof, towering with snow, to hear the crackle of pine and the cedar pop in his portly, old wood stove. A kettle of orange tea simmering quietly there. The sweet, radiating heat of the fire, glory be how it feels like Beethoven incarnate on your cold feet. And I would tarry in the chair there, just because, sipping from an old tin cup, and gaze out across the frozen lake to the far distant shore where the Bald Eagles perch. Drinking in the quietude set aside for thee. Yup, I miss that place. And you need only to get in your truck and go there. And we might, iffin it weren’t for this whole earning a living thing.
This post is turning out rather anemic concerning the things of BBQ, and for that I apologize. I guess I’m engaged in a bit of what you might call, “day dreaming”. It’s just that the winter wears long in these parts, and to a man, we haven’t felt the sun on our face in some five billion years, feels like. Those of you blessed with eternal summers, patron to the good southern life, I do not know for certain if you feel our kink here. Of how long a winter can ride. Or how giddy we can get at the mere thought of spring. For let it be said, it’s that time of the year again, where all that we do, and all that we ponder on, is the promise of spring. Well seems like, anyway. And we pace at the edge of night, with a cup of hot tea in hand, fire crackling in the old wood stove, listening to the cold sleet tapping against our window panes. In the paraphrased words of Jim Klobuchar, “we tingle and ache, waiting for the exploding sun”.
Yes indeed we do that.
Pecan Smoked, Grilled Chicken Breast, varnished in a light but tangy BBQ sauce. Man! Can you smell it people!
Every time we light our fires, we kindle also those quaint fires past. Those smokey memories impressed on the tender fabric of our souls. That and we usually get something good to eat too! Just another couple of reasons to cook outside and revel in it. Amen.
I love to BBQ, this I know.
And it’s not so much because I love to eat, tho that is a part of it no doubt. But more rather, it’s the act of BBQ that which inspires me. The process. That and also because I get to be outside, where the fresh air is tinted with wood smoke, and my patio chair resides quietly at the terminus of a warm sunbeam. Well sometimes. When you do your BBQing in Minnesota, sometimes that warm sunbeam part takes a six month hiatus, contrary to your ideals. But not this Sunday last, the day I cooked out-of-doors, under pastel blue skies, amid a hint of spring.
I could not help but to rejoice when I saw a patch of grass in my yard, gently unveiled there in a hollow of spruce, the sunlight dappling through the green needles, the snow tapering out of the shade. It isn’t much I know, but to a snowbound pit jockey, it is a sight as sweet and as glorious as the grandest mountain. As welcoming as the soft clasp of a baby’s hand. That there dollop of sunlight on the brown grass is much more than a soggy place in the yard. Nay, it is hope.
Hope for a promise of warmer days, and long BBQ campaigns in a slow-ebbing light. Of chlorophyll emboldened trees, and their delicious, green leaves flapping in the summer breeze. Of bountiful tweety birds, resplendent in their many colors, and all singing their praises from atop the highest perch, patron to a deep, blue sky. Of naps in the hammock, undisturbed, nor hijacked by cold. Of a nicely beaded glass of something cold to drink, whilst the radiant sun rubs the back of your neck, and the aroma of perfectly executed brisket lingers in the air. Yup, that’s what that patch of grass yonder means. A dash of hope, and a hint of spring.
Man I love to BBQ. The day must have got into the 40’s even, sunshine eternal, and I reveled accordingly in it. Two plump chicken breasts seasoned heavily in Miners Mix Poultry Perfection. You can go heavy with these spices because they’re low in sodium by design. That’s the way the Spice Wizards there at Miners Mix developed their rubs- low in salt. That way you can enjoy what the rub really tastes like. If you want to add salt you always can, but trust us, you don’t need to with a good rub, and some quality protein at your side. We put these breasts indirect of course, if but only to take our time with the cook. To linger and pause, where the savory aromas dawdle in the cool air.
Somewhere along the way, the day got even better still, when I kindled a small fire in the chiminea. Old scraps from the wood shop served to up my ambiance meter one more notch, as I leaned back in the chair, gazing into the humble flames. The day was as comfortable as I’ve seen it at the pit in many months, and were talking no jacket here, which is saying something for Minnesota in the end of January. I didn’t complain either. One has to take these things in stride, you see, lest he becomes complacent to the better things in life. And so I tarried there, in no particular hurry to go anywhere or do anything. Just the aroma of BBQ in the air, and this quaint, crackling fire was all that I needed. And for a moment at least, the world was simple again, and kind, and warm. And a contentedness filled through-out my soul. That’s kind of why we do it. That’s the joy of BBQ. Amen.
Slow roasted, indirect BBQ chicken breasts with a touch of apple wood smoke, sided with a smattering of vegetable matter for to please the lady folk.
Post Script.. Here is my sunshiny soggy place of hope today. Ain’t that how it goes.
The standard, blue-tinted hickory smoke ascends into the first light of a new day, a new year at the pit. We fired up the coals rather early today, tho the sun was up already. It’s just that we had to get an early start of it if we wanted pulled pork for supper. The big meats roll like that, as you know. And we had a genuine hankering, as they call it, for some authentic, slow-smoked, pulled pork sandwiches. And save for a sortie to the nearest BBQ shack, there is only one way to get real pulled pork – you wait for it.
Waiting comes with the package of Do-It-Yourself BBQ. That’s just how it works. If you’re used to having your spoils swiftly in life, and don’t lend well to, say, loitering in your man chair with a lovely beverage for the better part of 5 hours for a taste of rib meat, then BBQ may not be the thing for you. BBQ only comes to those who wait, you see. So once you figure out how to do that, then you’re well on your way, mentally at least, to some succulent, home-spun BBQ.
On the pit we plunked a big, old, pork butt, with a few of it’s kindred spore tucked around it’s flanks for good company. The smaller the butt, the quicker they cook it’s true, but that’s not the point here. Pork butts as a crude rule run at about an hour and half per pound, and you want to get them up to anywhere between 195 to 205 internal. Or until they pull apart in a savory way that which matches your expectations. Pork butts are perhaps the most forgiving of the big meats in the BBQ arena, and if you’re just getting into the art of smoking meat, pulled pork is a fool-proof dish to start with. Just set your pit to 225 -250 degrees, toss a few chunks of your favorite smoke wood on to the coals, and let the meat take it’s course from there. If you have a good pit with even heating, you don’t need to flip the meat over. You don’t even need to wrap it in foil. Harbor no offence to this, but the less you touch it, the better.
I suppose we ought to elaborate how we seasoned the pork butt. Well, if you fancy a good bark on your BBQ, starting your seasoning process with a good mustard slather certainly can’t hurt. Paint the meat over with some mustard, and do so every where. No, you will not taste the mustard in the final product, but what it does do is serve as an adhesive agent. Such provides something nice for your rub to stick to. The more rub that sticks, combined with lots of time and lots of smoke, equals amazing bark on your BBQ. So we slathered the butt up in some cheap mustard, and then liberally dashed if over with Miners Mix Manards Memphis Rub. You can use of course what ever rub you like, we just happen to like this stuff lately.
Once your butt is slathered and seasoned, and placed henceforth on the pit at 225 – 250 degrees, and some smoke wood added to the coals, the hardest part of your day is done. All you have to do from here is wait for it. And this is where most pit jockeys are at their very best. Now is the hallowed time where you may go to the ice box and draw yourself a manly beverage. Now is the time where taking up roost in your favorite man chair, with an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie is also a good call. If the wife sees such acts of laziness but deplorable in her eyes, then, if you must, you can always flip out a proper chair by the pit itself, and declare you are working on supper there. Silently plying your innate, God-given craft for smoke and meat for the betterment of your family. They usually leave you alone at that point, and with any luck, you may be able to nod off a bit there, where the wood smoke tapers into a blue sky. Ah the rigors of BBQ!
Whence your plunder is pull-able, do so, and then stir in some of your favorite sauce. Game over. Inhale henceforth at your soonest convenience.
Do-It-Yourself Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork Sandwiches. You will not find more authentic BBQ than this. It’s the real thing, people. And any body can do it! Oh yeah, it tastes amazing too!
The sun barely hemorrhaged in a southwestern sky, its underbelly seemingly scratched by the dominant, leafless, silhouetted oaken forests below, bleeding it’s beautiful salmon hues and soft pastels over the frozen wetlands from whence we camped. Off the shore, a large pond nestled like a flattened jewel in the forest primeval, frozen in time, and reflecting the last colorful rays of the day. My trail cronie and I watched, as the last sunbeams kissed the cold earth, and all the land tapered into darkness. We felt like a couple of Apollo astronauts, adrift, our orbit silently slipping around to the dark side of the moon.
You see, it’s the winter solstice here in Minnesota. And thus it gets dark, swiftly, and kind of stays that way for an exquisite amount of time. The sun was to set at 4:34 in the afternoon, they said, and not to rise again until 7:48 the next morning. I quickly did the math. It came to around 15 hours of darkness. Now I have no idea what it’s like, or how long it takes to orbit around the far side of the moon. Nor how those brave astronauts must feel abandoning all light and heat, sailing on faith through the darkness, but this may be as close as I ever get. Cold, dark and alone. Well not alone, I have a fellow patron with me today. We decided at the last-minute to celebrate the shortest day of the year with a little camping trip afield. A sortie to one of our favorite little woodland retreats, to get away from the urban throng a bit, and if the day would have it, to bake a pizza.
Turns out we did. The crust was just one of those easy ones. You know, the kind where you get to pop open one of them pressurized cans. When its 20 degrees outside, we figure, who wants to mess around. Anyways, oil the bottom of the pan, and spread the dough out accordingly. Season with olive oil, oregano and garlic. Earlier, whilst still the recipients of a sunlit encampment, we baked the crust first. Call this instincts, but not all cooking over a camp fire is a sure thing. With uneven heating, and scant equipment at your disposal, as is commonplace in a campsite, we figured we best see to it the crust got the best shot it could towards a delicious end game. So we cooked it separately, for to keep an eye on it and make sure it complied to our highest bidding. First, we placed it on the fire grate, over direct heat and cooked the bottom. Then tipped it on edge, indirect of the fire, to finish it off by reflection. Now the crust is done all the way through. Because we have no oven, and are just winging this cave man style, this seemed good strategy. Next we assembled the yum!
I believe we had about two layers of pepperonis on that thing. A can of olives. A can of mushrooms. A pile of red and green peppers. And enough cheese to block up an elephant. Man! Whence the creation was built, it was then laid indirect of a good blaze, and tipped towards the fire as much as possible without dumping everything into the ash. Oh it’s a dicey game we play when we dare to dance the flames of camp fire cooking. A better technique would have been to put a lid over the pan of pizza, and scatter some coals atop of it. To cook it like that intensely from above. But we didn’t have a lid. We didn’t have much of anything really. We were camping, you see, and didn’t wanted to be bothered by the clutter. Which is another way of saying, I wish we had a lid! But we didn’t. Turns out if your patient type, you don’t need a lid after all, to bake your camp fire pizza. You just need time and heat. And we had both.
So we let the pizza ride indirect for 20 minutes or so, and rotated it 180 degrees for even cooking. It was the slowest pizza we have ever baked, but it was getting there alright. By about 40 minutes into it, you could just start to identify the aromas of fresh-baked pepperoni pizza wafting through camp. Say what you will, but out yonder in the hither regions where no man goes, with a frozen ground below your freezing toes, and the stars shimmering above, and no running water nor electrical outlet for your vain amusement, and an eternal December night stretched out in front of you – well, to smell hot pizza in your vicinity, let’s just say there is no reward so sweet!
Low and slow pizza is what this turned out to be. Such are the antics of the campfire chef. But good is good, and pizza is always good! And under the soft LED glow of a head lamp, we sliced into it, making first tracks on the dark side of the moon. Amen.
The winds of November felt more like September, this weekend last. And tho the leaves have all descended now, and the song birds have parted ways for yonder lands far to the south, and the earth is on hold now, seems like, waiting for winter; the weather that which remains this side of a setting sun, at the time of this draft anyways, has been nothing short of paradisaical. Shirt sleeve temperatures, leastwise for a Minnesotan it is. Blue skies, no humidity, and no bugs. I rather like it. And so does Gus.
Gus is my rabbit, don’t you know. He’s been hanging out at the pit with me a lot lately, often occupying the same corner of the yard, meticulously nosing through the lawn there whilst I putter on the patio. He’s a good rabbit, by and far. Never a cross word. Keeps out of trouble. And no, I’m not at all positive he’s a he. Nor does Gus cotton much towards my curiosity to check on these matters. So I let him be, under the plausible notion that it probably doesn’t matter anyways, and the two of us, man and rabbit, manage to co-exist together no how, where the wood smoke gently curls.
Such was the case last Saturday afternoon. I had me a beautiful skirt steak sizzling away over a good bed of coals, jazz music playing, and the afternoon long to while away here at the pit. Whilst Gus milled about in the grass, I tinkered with a new technique on my Weber Smokey Mountain. How to convert the classic smoker into a grilling machine. It’s elementary really, but I’ll tell you about it anyway, because that’s what we do around here.
The technique here is to use the lower rack in the smoker to hold your fire. I told you it was simple. And it works too! Those of you not familiar with the Weber Smokey Mountain could probably give a barn owl’s dropping about this, but to a WSM owner, a beautiful new world has just opened to thee. You take the charcoal ring from the fire bowl below, and place it, centered, on the lower cooking rack of the WSM, and thus kindle your blaze accordingly there. This not only ushers a hotter fire closer to your spoils, proper for the likes of steaks and burgers, but also expands the versatility of the WSM. Another method is to place a cooking grate directly over a good fire in the fire bowl itself, and do your grilling there. But I kind of like this method just as well, as it lets you stand up to do your cooking. Say what you will, but we do like to be civilized at the pit.
Anyways, about this skirt steak. Hark, if you could have smelled it here, I do believe you would have shed a tear, or at least had a man moment, patron to the pit. Man it smelled good! Even Gus flared a nostril. We marinated the beef for 6 hours in a 30 minute marinade. Now like most red-blooded American males, we figured if a little is enough, then too much is just right. Not sure if we were allowed to perpetrate such behavior, but we did. The marinade was Lawry’s Steak and Chop Marinade, and wow, did it pack some flavor into that skirt steak. Maybe 30 minutes would have been plenty after all. Even so, good is good. After the steak was almost, but not quite done, we converted the Weber Smokey Mountain yet again, this time into a giant frying pan!
Glory be but for the endless virtues of restaurant grade, hot-rolled steel, placed steadfastly over a beautiful bed of coals. By now you know of our love affair with the venerable, Mojoe Griddle. It’s no secret. And that’s good because we’re not ashamed to show it! Nay, we cannot help but to revel in it’s capabilities, and now coupled with the 22.5 WSM, set up in grilling mode, well, let’s just say that the culinary world is ours! From smoking, to grilling, to elaborate frying over the nearly nonstick Mojoe surface. This is high living, folks. Made in America. And made to last.
Whilst the Black Capped Chickadees lit atop the pit-side spruce, we tossed the vegetables onto the lightly oiled griddle and got to work. I suppose I ought to tell you, now that I think of it, what we’re cooking today. It goes like this. One of my favorite places to eat is the Chipotle Mexican Grill. And my favorite thing to eat there is the burrito bowl. Well, Chipotle has been in the news lately, as you may know. Apparently Escherichia coli is on the menu too there, and people don’t much care for it. I’m not sure what E coli does to a chap, but I just as soon steer clear of a dinner date with the Big E! Thus, and today, we do the only sensible thing a man can when he craves a Chipotle burrito bowl and can’t have one – we re-create it at home! Turns out its real easy to do too!
Onions and bell peppers chopped to suit, and tossed on the griddle. My they sizzle liked a love song there. We got some black beans heating up there too. Some corn also, dusted in Wholly Chipotle Rub from the good folks at Miners Mix. A pot of brown rice simmers off to the side on the pit stove. Can you smell it yet! The aromas which curled and ebbed about the pit, the onions and marinated smokey beef and peppers, man, well lets just say it was enough to draw the drool from the lip pit of anyone with an fair to adequate pulse! What a pleasure to escort these spoils about, spatula in one hand, lovey beverage in the other. Turning them, folding them, working them together unto a higher calling suitable to thee. My inner Mexican rejoiced, and for a moment, all the world was right.
It was time. I bid Gus a hearty adieu, who was still prospecting through the grass yonder. Then I plated up some spoils, and topped it fresh with some shredded cheese and of course, the token dollop of sour cream.Yum! Needless to say, but we will, it was aptly devoured in kind. And Amen.
Home made burrito fajita bowl, or how ever you wanna say it. Indeed, good is good, patron to the pit.
Links To Stuff We Used Today:
I’m not sure why, but I like flowers. I know this is not the most manly thing for a meat blog to disclose, but it’s true. I like flowers. I like rolling fields of them, turning abreast in the morning sun. And I like the little one’s too, that roost on a single stem, all by themselves. I like the flowers men get for their sweethearts in February. And I fancy the lanky lilies down by the pond. I even like dandelions, for what they’re worth. Weeds to some, but pretty even so. But what I really like are petunias.
I have some petunias which lavish the flanks of the pond-side pit, delicate and dainty, and they are my daily reminder of what is lovely in this world. In the misguided haste of youth, I remember using my mother’s petunia garden for traction in many a game of backyard tag. Today, however, with advanced years, I’m more inclined to pull up a chair and tarry a spell, and wonder why I hadn’t been doing this all along.
I like flowers. And as these chops sizzle over a beautiful bed of hickory-accented coals, I hope you don’t mind none if I ruminate a touch more on the softer things. You see we get it rough enough in this life just having a pulse. Your kinda of born by default into your share of the unsavory, and just when you think maybe the world is a whole lot of unfair, you come across a purple petunia to direct you otherwise. There they be, fragrant and fragile, beautiful but bold. Bold in their soft, but showy arrangements, which thus flirt in proud contrast amid the many sprawling weeds of life. Maybe that’s what I like about flowers. I like what they stand for. Of unmerited goodness in a world fallen. They’re just plain wonderful is what they are. And they put up with you too. These Petunias are good to me, even when I forget to water them. There is much grace in their little purple petals. Much patience, kindness and forgiveness. They didn’t have to be this way, you see, but they are. And that’s what makes them great. Kind of like they were created just for you, seems like. And as the season ebbs on, some how, through the grace that be above, they seem only to get better and better. Yeah, I like flowers.
I smiled as I reached for a manly beverage, whilst summer clouds idled overhead. And just then, rather unexpectedly, my lovely bride pokes her head out the patio door just to say hi, and boy howdy, if I don’t get them same gooey petunia feelings all over again. Golly… Blessed is the man with both pit and petunias and a sweetheart there to share them with.
Speaking of the pit, about these chops. They are your simple bone-in affair, delicious, and highly pleasant to do. They started a couple of hours ago with a swim in a tasty homemade honey & garlic marinade.
Honey Garlic Marinade
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon cracked pepper
After the marinade, we placed them semi-ceremoniously upon the hot cast iron grate, opposite the hot coals. The cold protein sizzled to life there, as a light shroud of hickory smoke curled into the air. A portly bumble bee buzzed by, as I plunked on the old, enameled lid. The draft soon engaged, and I settled back into my patio chair again, feet up, icy beverage in hand, taking up the resident pit master posture that might otherwise be mistaken for a fellow doing nothing. These are the high rigors of BBQ, people. Somebody has to do it!
Watching the wood smoke curl there, and listening to the song birds trill in the evening light, one can’t help but to appreciate all these little things which abound. From the frogs sounding like so many rubber bands, warming up down by the pond. To the way the summer breeze flutters the cottonwood leaves, clacking gently there, under an endless, blue sky. Then to the aroma of perfectly executed pork wafting through the tomato plants. The way the crescent moon peeks around the darkened spruce tops, and how at day’s end, sunlight washes over the freshly clipped grass in a scenic flood of amber and gold. All of these “flowers” , if you will, and many more simple wonders, are always there, I’ve noted, iffin we have a mind to see them. They tarry in life’s quiet eddies, tingling to be noticed. That’s how flowers work, don’t you know. They’re only as useful as the soul who embraces them. You gotta slow down for them tho. It’s Okay to yield for flowers. Nay, it’s our privilege. Amen. Hickory Smoked, Honey Tinted Pork Chops hot off the Pit. Man! Grill on comrades! Go forth and grill likewise, and do so with great exuberance!
“To say barbecue in the South is a big deal is an understatement. It’s about sharing an age-old tradition with family and friends -enjoying the fundamentals in life: food and fellowship.”
-Taken from Southern Living Ultimate Book of BBQ
Now I don’t know about you, but I like that quote. I like it more than I can tell you. A person can digress over a great many things concerning BBQ, from technique to recipe, but at the end of the day, it’s all about sharing something good with the people around you. And BBQ is good! It is a sad affair indeed, the lonely pit master who has not one person in his lot to share with his smokey wares. Good BBQ cannot be hoarded. Nay, it ought to be shared.
Which brings me to this cook book from the good folks at Southern Living. They have shared quite a bit in this one. I’ve had the good fortune to peruse its pages over the last few days, whilst taking up residence in my man chair, with a lovely beverage at hand of course. Thumbing through the book, and being a man, I was at once taken by the pretty pictures. It was bitter-sweet however. Because here at this blog we try our very best to snap the finest pictures we can, taking great pains with light and subject, but after seeing the food photography in this book, our pittance might as well have come from the fumbling shutter of a preschooler. My but it was good. I did rather fancy the photos.
It is well written too. And diverse. It says in the book, “if you ask 10 different southerners their thoughts on the best barbecue, you’re bound to get 10 different answers“. And it’s true. That’s BBQ alright, and the book seems to captures that essence pretty good. It looks to have it all, from BBQ basics, to expert cooking tips from pit blokes like Troy Black, Myron Mixon and Robb Walsh. But the main force behind the book, is pit master Christopher Prieto. This is his first cook book. You might have seen him on the television show, BBQ Pit Masters, which is a great show, BTW. Or if you’re really lucky, you live in North Carolina, and eat his BBQ in person. And to this end, you have our sincere envy. As the owner of Prime Barbecue, in Raleigh, NC, Christopher and his team will be happy to cater to you there, or in surrounding areas. Come to Minnesota young Christopher! We need you here!
Anyways, the Ultimate Book of BBQ is a lovely compilation of more than 200 recipes of utter BBQ succulence, that I think are Christopher’s. From ribs to chicken to brisket to salmon to soup to collard greens. No point in scratching your head, it has it all. It’s the ultimate book of BBQ after all. In point of fact, here is an excerpt recipe for some Cackalacky Sauce, as seen in the above photo, that you might want to try. No, we have no idea what a cackalacky is either. Must be a North Carolina thing. But check out this tasty sauce!
Anyways, there you go. A little review of the latest cook book to come by the pit. Pros: It’s well articulated, deliciously diverse, and beautifully photographed. Also impressively inspired from one, Christopher Prieto. This bloke can smoke! Cons: A bit pricey at $25 bucks a copy, but what isn’t these days. Other than that, we liked pert near every thing about it. So if you’re looking for inspiration for your next BBQ, or a great gift for your pit master, you’d do well to check out Southern Living Ultimate Book of BBQ. Read it. Barbecue something good. Then share it at once with some one that you love, and enjoy some of life’s fundamentals: in food and fellowship. Amen.
A long time ago on a backyard patio not too far away….
It was a time of year when the heat was beating on our Pits with such strength. For one Patron was going about his summer enjoying the freedoms of his yard and his pit, when completely unexpected, he was taken back by a phone call that would change his life forever. He and his wife were asked to adopt a baby girl who hadn’t been born yet. Fast forward 4 days later, little Isabella Mae was born at 8 lbs 11 oz – about the same size as a prized brisket. Being he and his wife only had 3 days to prepare for their new blessing, their world was turn upside down.
Three months later this Patron was starting to feel very comfortable with the lifestyle of a new Daddy, as he noticed he hadn’t touched his pit once in those three months. Sharing his revelation with his wife she dared to ask a very conniving question,
“Are you sure you still know how to smoke anything?”
Insulted, yet with a cocky posture he looked at her and said,
“Honey, I am a Patron of the Pit! Smoking is in my blood. I sweat hickory! I enjoy the burn in my eyes as the hood of my pit opens and the sweet aromas of fire, wood, spice rubs and barbecue sauces bellow towards my face. There are not many of us who stand out at their pit during a Minnesota blizzard while the rest of the world curls up on their couch waiting for a microwaved dinner. I will not let three months of not lighting my pit filter this Patron’s good name!”
So with his chest out and his head high, he accepted her challenge unveiled.
With eagerness he took his challenge fervently. He stalked the aisle of the meat market looking for the cut of meat that he was going to shock the family with. And there it was, a 4 pound pork butt! He went in for the kill…even though the choice meat was dead, he paid for it and took it home like any backwoods hunter would, returning to his family with trophy in hand.
That Saturday night he mixed his marinade:
- 1 beer
- 4 tablespoons of hand crushed peppercorns,
- 1/4 cup of brown sugar.
He let the pork marinate for 12 hours in the refrigerator and the next morning the coals were lit at 10 am.
It was a nice day out at his pit. A south wind was blowing at a medium pace and the sun was hitting the cooker just right. Though it was only 15 degree’s out, he enjoyed the cold air mixed with his choice of wood for the perfect smoke. He decided to hit the pork butt with the sweet flavor of cherry wood, offering up a light smoke to taunt his neighbors with. The smoker was a steady 250 degrees as he monitored the temperature and stoked his fire-box as needed. A good 5 hour smoke went by and around 4 pm he took the pork butt off the cooker, wrapped it tightly in tin foil and let it rest for 45 minutes. Once it was done, he slowly peeled back the foil. The pork immediately fell into pieces, thus started the pulling process. With two forks he did just that. He added his favorite smokehouse maple spice rub and mixed it all back in with the juices that collected from the initial smoke.
Later that evening with a full belly, his wife turned to him and at last recognized his craft. She reassured him that he hadn’t lost his skill and stated that she wished for him to continue plying his art of the smoker. And so he sat, knowing that a successful pork butt wasn’t the real prize here. The real prize was sipping from a bottle in his arms. He smiled contentedly…