It’s that time of the year again, and grilling season is swinging into gear across the country. From the Redwoods of California to the Appalachia of the eastern states. Men and women in good form are finally pulling the covers off their beloved grills, and defrosting cuts of meat which survived the long, winter hiatus. Yeah, it’s grilling time. And all the pit people of the world rejoice! Grill masters also love toys, as you know. And Father’s Day is coming up. So as the grilling season gets underway, and the wood smoke begins to curl, here then is our Top 10 List of Grilling Gift Ideas for your resident pit master.
Thermo Pro TP 20
Not too many things in the grilling arts make more sense than this. If you ever want to delve further into the game than mere brats and burgers, you’re going to need something to monitor the internal temperatures. There are plenty of wireless thermometers on the market, but this amazon bestseller is one of the best.
ThermoPro TP20 Wireless Remote Digital Cooking Food Meat Thermometer with Dual Probe for Smoker Grill Oven BBQ
This beauty comes with two probes: one for your meat and one for the pit. Monitor the temperature of both as far away as 300 feet they say. Now you can sprawl happy-go-lucky in the hammock whilst this doodlebopper keeps a good eye over your brisket. It also has presets for 9 different meats at various levels of doneness.
It also has a life time sensor probe warranty. Not too shabby!
2. Myron Mixon 3 in 1 Pitmaster BBQ Grill Tool
Now this one is different, we admit, if not a bit odd looking. But it works. A built-in food flipper hook, an 8 inch chefs knife, and of course a bottle opener. It’s mostly for the fun of it, we suspect, but lo, fun is what it’s all about at the pit anyways. Might be a good gift for the BBQ’er who has everything.
3. Grillaholics BBQ Grill Mats
This is yet another odd one. A heavy duty, reusable, non stick grill mat. No more cooking over nasty grates they say. No more food slipping between the slots. It even leaves grill marks. Made from heavy duty PTFE fabric, one can customize it to fit any grill simply by cutting it to shape. And they are dish washer safe. Our jury is still out on this one, but folks seem to love it. An amazon bestseller for a while now. Check it out.
Grillaholics Grill Mat – Set of 2 Non Stick BBQ Grill Mats – Heavy Duty, Reusable, and Easy to Clean – Extended Warranty
They also offer a lifetime GUARANTEE. If you’re not happy, they’ll make it right. Guess you can’t beat that.
4. Miners Mix Seasoning Gift Crate
If you’re a regular to this blog, you see us use these seasonings on a regular basis. And there is a reason for that. They’re freaking awesome! We just love them. The flavor profile bar is set mighty high with these. If the spice wizards at Miners Mix don’t absolutely love it, they won’t release it to the public. Simple as that. You can also pronounce all the ingredients. Go figure that! Plus the folks at Miners Mix Headquarters are good, down to earth people, who win awards with their rubs on a continuous basis. You’ll just plain like doing business with them.There are tons of spice rubs out there, and these guys are among the very best. Another great gift idea. They also have a line of hot rubs for the pepper heads out there.
“If it didn’t exist in 1850, it ain’t in here!” Love these guys!
5. Ballistic Griddle
Unless you follow the YouTube channel, Ballistic BBQ, you probably haven’t heard of this griddle. A hidden gem we stumbled upon a while back that we thought warranted mention on this list. The Ballistic Griddle is a 22.5 inch half circle made of 3/16 thick stainless steel. And man does it cook. Greg, from Ballistic BBQ, teamed up with Craycort to produce this baby, and it looks worthy. What we like is that unlike many other griddles out there, it dares to be small. We liked the half-size because it in turn keeps the other half of your grate a grate, thus adding to the versatility. A place to do your onions and bacon, whilst still having access to a good grate to grill the meat. Gotta like that thinking!
Still interested in this griddle? Take a look at the video made by the inventor himself. Awesome job, Greg!
6. Franklin Barbeque: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto
We like to smoke a good brisket or two around here, but we humbly acknowledge we now nothing next to this man. Aaron Franklin makes the best brisket in the country. How do we know? Well, just read the reviews on his book, A Meat Smoking Manifesto. You’ll see! Definitely a great gift for your resident pit master.
“Aaron Franklin makes the finest barbecue I’ve ever had, barbecue worth waiting for. His work and his words express a truly rare level of commitment and expertise. With Franklin Barbecue, he shares it all—in a book that, fortunately, you don’t have to wait for.”
— Anthony Bourdain
7. Custom Ordered Branding Iron
Here is something we always wanted to play with but have never gotten around to. Custom branding irons for marking your meat! A fun gift idea no doubt. No pit jockey worth their briquettes doesn’t secretly want to play with branding irons. It’s just what we do.
They just need to offer one more initial and PotP would be on more steaks!
8. Ironwood Gourmet 28101 Steak Barbecue Plate
A pit-master proper is one with the woods. He cooks with it and by golly, should eat off it too. Here is yet another great gift idea in a wooden plate in which to plop your meat. Complete with it’s own juice grooves even! Made from Acacia wood, its quite lovely to look at. Makes a fine presentation too. And they boast it will not dull your knives. I’d plunk my rib-eye on that! Kind of a cool idea.
9. Craycort Cast Iron Grates
We would be remiss and derelict if we didn’t mention these bad boys! If you’re a regular to this blog then you’ve seen us use these grates a thousand times. In point of fact, the #1 question we always get asked, is, “Where did you get that grate?” Well, we got them from Craycort, that’s where we got them. Designed to fit into your traditional kettle grill, these cast iron gems will last a life time if properly cared for. They come pre seasoned, and are modular, meaning you can get various inserts for them, such as: hot plate, griddle, pizza stone, sauce pan, ect.. So if your grill master has a kettle grill, and an affinity for cast iron, this is pretty much the best grilling gift ever.
And oh yeah, nothing generates killer grill marks better than cast iron!
10. IQ120 BBQ Temperature Regulator Kit
Quite possibly the ultimate grilling gadget for a meat geek. Holding steady temperature is fundamental in the art of BBQ. And sometimes it’s not always easy. Well, unless that is you have one of these. The IQ 120 is at last the BBQ nerd’s upward raised middle finger to fluctuating pit temperatures. In a nut shell, this unit will adapt to Weber Smokey Mountains, Weber kettle grills, and various other smokers they say. With a thermal probe, small fan, and some electronic wizardry, the IQ 120 will gently blow air onto your fire at the appropriate times to hold your desired temperature, tighter, they say, than your oven in the kitchen would. That’s pretty amazing!
It will even alert you when your fuel is running low! How the heck?!
IQ120 BBQ Temperature Regulator Kit with Standard Pit Adapter for Weber Smokey Mountain, Weber Kettle and Many Other BBQ Smokers
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A silvery moon hung over the spruce tops as I bandied a batch of coals to the edge of the old kettle grill, banking them up there in a fiery pile. Tho the air temperature dipped below zero, with a sky as clear as a glass of gin, the warmth from the fire kept things sporting out on the patio tonight. Stars twinkling above like diamonds dashed over a blackened canvas, the ice moaning on the pond yonder, and the collar turned up on my old, woolen smoking jacket, whilst hands warmed over a bed of orange-glowing coals. What a beautiful time to make time, to tarry by pit-side on a frigid winter’s eve. This is the perfect marriage of fire and ice. Just cold enough to let you know you’re still alive, but with a fire just delightful enough that you can’t help but to sidle up a little closer to it, thankful as all can be, for to fancy yourself there, a Comrade of the Coals.
People think there is hardship in winter grilling. And I presume they speak of the cold. What they often forget it seems, is that you have at your disposal, via the inherent laws of grilling, a quaint little fire of which you must foster and tend. Fire is hot. And I find this a delightful contrast to the cold. For think back to those sultry days of summer, where the sweat beads down your spine, and it is one hundred and eleven degrees in your back yard, and you smell about as rank as the neighbor’s dog, and for some reason we think it’s prudent then to light a fire and make some hot dogs. A hot fire on a hot day is nice and all, but I’m sorry, there is no comparing the pleasures to the same fire on a cold day. It’s all about contrast.
I reckon that’s why we grill in winter, or at least part of it anyways. Everything is just keener in the cold. Good things become great. It’s like grilling in HD. Your senses seem to absorb the smokey moments as if conveyed over a high speed connection. It’s hard to articulate these matters, but easy to appreciate. Anyways, we pattied up four quarter-pound burgers, seasoned lightly with Lipton Onion Soup mix, and placed them indirect of our beautiful bed of coals. It’s burgers tonight. Nothing fancy. You will find in winter grilling that you don’t often need to be fancy to be satisfied. Just putting meat to flame is sufficient enough to get your fix! And thus we did, indirect tonight, the entire way, with a little hickory wood tossed on the coals for added flavor.
Now you all know how to grill a hamburger. If you can’t you probably ought to reconsider this BBQ past time of yours. Nay, this isn’t about hamburgers, but rather the joy of winter grilling. Yes, there is joy to be had there. There is. And as you southern folk slather on your sun tan lotion, I’ll tell you more. Properly dressed, you see, and with a reasonable attitude, and a good fire stoked in the steely bosom of your pit, you can prosper here. The mechanics are the same. Put meat to flame. Cook meat. Eat meat. Burp. Any dummy can do it.
Whilst you tend your proteins over the flame, take a moment and look around. Note how clear the night sky is, free of thermal activity. The clarity meshes seamlessly into the stars, which twinkle and dance there like they were doing so just for you. And the moon, with it’s gentle light dropping through the pit-side spruce trees, their shadows dappling over crusted snow, awash in a subtle blue hue. And lo, behold the hush of a winter night, how all the snow seems to suck up decibels with aplomb, especially freshly fallen, and deep unto thy knees. The fire crackles, and the burgers sizzle, and you are cozy by and far, and highly content, patron to this good fire at your hip. Amen.
Hickory tinted cheddar cheese burgers on a toasted pretzel bun. Yum! Hey, you gotta eat in winter too, so might as well eat good.
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…
Here in Minnesota, when the weather starts to turn, and the temperatures fall to subzero levels, we the faithful remnant, who call Minnesota our home, have to partake in an annual ritual known as, “winterizing the house“. Now when winterizing the house, we do such things as adding more insulation in the attic to prevent any heat from escaping. We blow out sprinkler lines and insulate outdoor water faucets to prevent water freezing in the lines and bursting pipes. Some people do the bare minimum to winterize a house and other folks go a few extra steps towards convincing victory, under the flag of reason – better to be safe than sorry.
We Patrons must also do the same in preparation for Minnesota’s wintry grilling season. As the temperatures drop and our bodies begin to acclimatize, we also must take the proper steps so we don’t lose that much coveted heat, or even worse…our pipes bursting. Now some Minnesotans do the bare minimum to prepare themselves for the winter months, but we Patrons of the Pit, we will always take a few extra steps because as mentioned earlier, it is better to be safe rather than sorry. We think so anyways.
Here at the Pit the proper attire for keeping cozy in the frozen out-of-doors is like second nature. For we are both fans of winter camping and so long johns, hats, gloves and even our smoking jackets are never an understatement. We are a rare breed; we take great delight in sitting beside our smoky pits, and as its chimney puffs away we might light up ones pipe and take in a good English tobacco. As the harsh winter winds slap sharp snowflakes across our face, we fill our trusted Stanley thermoses with our favorite hot drink, and sip away. As the temperature plummets past zero we begin to hug the hoods of our pits while a small camp fire may join us during a bitter cold smoking session, sharing in its efforts to keep us warm. Therefore, insulating the inside of our bodies after standing outside at our Pits during one of our famous blizzards is something we can always work on. This weekend we started that process with Homemade Chicken Soup.
- 1 (3 pound) whole chicken
- 4 carrots, halved
- 4 stalks celery, halved
- 1 large onion, halved
- 1 Bay Leaf
- Water to cover
- Salt, Pepper and Garlic Powder to taste
- 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon granules (optional)
- Desired amount of Egg Noodles
- Desired amount of Wild Rice
Put the chicken, carrots, celery, onion, in a large soup pot and cover with cold water. Heat and simmer, uncovered, until the chicken meat falls off of the bones (skim off foam every so often).
Take everything out of the pot. Strain the broth. Pick the meat off of the bones and chop the carrots, celery and onion. Season the broth with salt, pepper, chicken bouillon and Garlic Powder to taste, if desired. We added a can of Cream Of Chicken Soup to thicken the broth up a little. Return the chicken, carrots, celery and onion to the pot and stir together. At this time also add the noodles and wild rice. Cook until Noodles and Wild Rice become soft and serve.
There is nothing better than dumping hot soup down one’s gullet and bringing a sudden rush of warmth to our bodies, thus beginning the process of acclimatizing our bodies from the inside out. Over the next few months, we might surprise the blog world with recipes for keeping one’s self warm and well insulated. So, let the process of winterizing begin.
“Soup puts the heart at ease, calms down the violence of hunger, eliminates the tension of the day, and awakens and refines the appetite.”
Nothing is quite so fine on a brisk Autumn’s eve, than the primal sizzle of two, portly New York Strip steaks over a beautiful bed of coals. By golly it sets a man straight it does, this the protein-rich pacifier that is called steak. We love it. In point of fact, if you ever want to shut a man up, slap a steak in front of him, and watch how he instantly transforms, suckling up to the beast in kind affection, whilst the rest of his worldly cares are at once erased. Oh it’s true. Reminiscent of those Hollywood scenarios, where felons or good guys alike are on the run, chased by ravaging canines, darting through city streets and over back yard fences. Then they stop, hark, they have a raw steak in their knapsack don’t you know, of which they promptly toss in the path of their fanged pursuer. And in a flip of a heart beat, the drooling beast has a moral dilemma on his hands, of which and of course, he promptly caves to.
Over direct heat, I flipped the two strip steaks, both lightly seasoned in garlic and onion salt. Gray clouds rolled nonchalantly overhead whilst the tweety birds swooped in and out of the thickets. Now the New York Strip is the same cut as the Kansas City Strip. I know, you weren’t wondering that, but it is. But to you folks over seas, you’ll probably recognize the cut as a club steak. And if you’re really off the bell curve, like in Australia, you’ll just call it a boneless sirloin and be done with it altogether. Who ever is in charge of meat nomenclature has way too much authority, and fun. Regardless of what you call it tho, it is harvested from the short loin, which is a pleasantly abiding muscle of real estate, not only for the cow, but our supper plates as well. The short loin is kind of a lazy muscle, you see, and doesn’t do much work, and there fore is particularly tender. A fact which also makes it particularly suited for it’s inevitable destiny with our pits. Lazy meat is good for something after all.
After a fashion, I tossed some hickory wood on the coals for to infuse some of that smokey goodness into the steaks, and tucked them in-direct for a little bit, just because. Then placed the lid on and let it do its thing whilst I did mine. I never grow weary of this portion of a cook out. That hallowed parcel of time in which it is acceptable, nay, proper even, to take up residence in my favorite man chair, and while away a few minutes doing nothing at all. Kind of like a short loin, go figure. Often times my bride will slide open the patio door and see me sitting there , shrouded in clouds of smoke, contemplating the curvature of my belly. Tho she does not completely understand it, she knows I am in my own space, and politely sidles off, closing the door behind her.
Whence our steaks were of acceptable firmness to the tong, I plated-up and sided the beautiful cuts with some garlic mashed potatoes and a lovely vegetable melody for to please the little lady.
“Lets eat this like a man tonight” I bellowed.
“Hows that?” she countered “Sans utensils?”
“Well no, on the couch of course“, I yammered”In front of the TV!”
We promptly inhaled our plunder like an alligator to a bull frog dipped in gravy. Or something like that. Or at least one of us did. And whilst the pretty pictures flashed on the TV, and the steaks settled into our guts, I found great contentment indeed, and heavy eye lids, in the primal glow of post-gorging. My bride glanced my way and it seems I was chin-down, contemplating my belly again. She sweetly removed a plop of mash potatoes off my chest, trying not to squelch my steak-induce mojo. She knew, as surely as she knew anything, that her man was pacified. That he was content indeed. And that a big steak, perfectly grilled, may have played a part in it. Amen.
New York Strip Steak hot off the grill. Oh buddy! Next time you need to pacify your man, considerable the venerable strip steak. It works. Side effects may include protracted belly contemplation.
“At the heart of all good BBQ, is a soul on the scenic path”
It is sweetened by the passage of time. BBQ. Here is a form of cooking, where the whole of the out-of-doors is at the threshold of your kitchen; and where the wood smoke gently rises, you will find your journey in the smokey arts. Pit keepers spanning this country-wide, and the world over, find poetry in the flames, fellowship in the coals, and contentment in their bellies where BBQ is concerned. It is not just for the food, you see, that we aspire for the pit. It is the journey also, which is half the fun.
To BBQ proper is to release yourself from the grinding cog of societal cares, the urban rush, and our inbred bondage to the clock. Brethren of the coals, we are smitten for the hour hand, and to see just how slowly it can make its appointed rounds. Indeed, we are in no hurry at the pit. We are there by and far, but to extend our craft, and up our loitermanship, under lovely skies, and soft breezes. To let the unruly collagen in our lives dance at 225 degrees whilst bathed in smoke and sweet time, and in that time, rendered a tender opus closer to thee. And let it be said, there are a vast many more expedient means in which to cook our supper. And be sure of this also, we will do our utmost to avoid them. For we love to BBQ. It’s as simple as that. And why would anyone, of rational mind, fancy to rush along something of which they so fiercely love. If you’re in a hurry, use the microwave.
So we grill, smoke and BBQ, over real wood and charcoal, because in part, it is slower that way. And forsake the methods that which clutch dearly the hands of haste. To BBQ is to take the long way home, on purpose. And at the heart of all good BBQ, is a soul on the scenic path – where rainbows, tweety birds, and pale-blue moonbeams reside. Our goal you see, as pit keepers, is not only to procure the best possible and most succulent culinary end game we can, but also if we might, to dutifully grab that ever-slipping sun by the tail, and hold it steadfastly there, hemorrhaging in a pastel sky. Bending the fabric of time, for to suit our souls, and with any luck, to extend the moment for the moment’s sake. For we love to BBQ, you see, outside, and in the prettier places, doing that which is well with our souls.
The art and play of BBQ, like a fine wine, ages adeptly in the root cellars of our minds. It is sweetened by the passage of time. And with every cook, and kettle of dancing flame, memories are formed. With every fold of season, and another empty charcoal bag, memories tally. Memories gently forged at the cusp of a loved one’s saucy grin, amid the banter of nature, and the cool, steely grass. And it turns out, the more we do it, the more we show up at the grill front and dare to procure our spoils slowly there, the better off we seem to be. Because in a world of instant gratification, it slows us down, you could say, and places roses in our hand. And after a while at this, it eventually even becomes clear. That not only is BBQ real good, and pleasing to the belly, but the means of getting there is even better still. It is good for us. And this is the way, perhaps, it was always meant to be. This and a few other things, when we choose the long way home, and the hickory-scented plumes which tarry there. Amen.
Stemming from a long-family lineage of engineers, I have come to adopt the motto over the years “Simple is the best design“. The less moving parts in a device the better, for it cannot break if it isn’t there in the first place. Something that will stand the test of time, is often simple in design. Enter A-MAZE-N cold smoke generators. As simple as they get, and oh so very effective at doing what they do. Generating smoke.
Many of the new pellet grills out there, have attachments for generating smoke, for to engage in cold smoking endeavors and what not. But you will shell out a commendable wallet for such extravagances. On another plane, many a backwoods BBQ bloke has contrived his own cold smoke generator out of various odds and ends left about the house. And the contraption usually looks like something the police should maybe swing by and ask you about. But they work I guess. The simple gadgets from A-MAZE-N Products however, pretty much cut all that goofiness out, and just give you something elegantly simple, and easy to use. A product that will last a very long time. These generators really are kind of cool, and has something to do with cigars actually, and a bright idea from a guy named Todd Johnson.
Todd Johnson, a spare-time-meat smoking enthusiast and a fellow Minnesotan, was once upon a time in the construction business. A few years ago, he was working at a house around here of a retired police officer, who among other things, fancied to smoke the big, stinky cigars. Well one day Todd as looking at said cigars on the job site, how they glowed at the end when properly puffed, and how they burned right along kind of like a fuse. And then by chance, he noticed a pile of saw dust residing on the floor near there. Something then clicked in the man’s mind, kind of like epiphanies sometimes do. We all should be so lucky to have such moments in life, and Todd I guess had his there in the officers house. And thus from stinky cigars and sawdust, the humble A-MAZE-N Cold Smoke Generator was conceived. Turned out to be a pretty good idea too. So good in point of fact, folks of high BBQ immortality, such as Steve Raichlen, said it was the 4th best BBQ gift idea of the year in 2012. Now if Steve Raichlen, the Obe Wan Kenobi of BBQ says this to be so, well, there is no need for us to elaborate any more here. But we will.
We contacted A-MAZE-N Products to see about maybe reviewing some of their toys, and none other than the big man himself got back to us. Todd was very cordial, and prompt, and attentive, and frankly a hoot to talk to. Minnesotans are generally a friendly lot you see, and Todd is no exception. And quicker than we could smoke a brisket flat, that man had us a box of gadgets delivered to our door step. Check one star at least, for phenomenal customer service. We couldn’t have asked for better service, really. Them dudes were on top of it for sure.
Anyways, we will be looking at two A-MAZE-N products: The AMNPS 5 x 8 and the 12″ Tube Smoker, as seen above. Which ever one you go with, the first order of business is to bake the thing in the grill or oven for a half hour or so, to burn off the factory oils and what not. After that, its ready to use. And using it is about as easy as lighting your grill.
First let’s look at the AMNPS 5×8. Or, A-MAZE-N Pellet Smoker as seen on amazon. Designed to use both with saw dust or proprietary smoking pellets. I filled the 5×8 maze with Pit Masters Choice pellets, almost, but not quite to the top, and lit off both ends of the maze with some hearty flame action. That’s the fun part of these gadgets. Getting to play with your blow torch. For a match or lighter just won’t cut it. But a business end of an ignited propane welder’s torch sure does the trick. Some folk have even used a can of sterno to light the pellets. It’s up to you, I suppose, and your pyromaniac instincts. We lit off both ends of the pellet fuse, one to double the smoke out put, and two, because these things will burn for umpteen hours if you only light one end, and we didn’t have the time to wait up for it to be done.
The working principle of these devises reminds us a good deal of the Minion Method, a technique now employed by many top-notch BBQ competitors. In the minion method, you get sort of a fuse deal going on too, where the lit coals gradually light off the unlit coals sitting up next to them. And those coals light the coals sitting next to them. And so on. Same principle seems to be at work with these smoke generators too, and go figure, big cigars.
After we got the 5 x 8 lit and puffing away, which only took about 45 seconds at each end of the fuse, we put it in the bottom of the big 22 inch Weber Smokey Mountain. The thing fairly bellowed with smoke. A tight blend of aroma quite pleasant, not to mention abiding, to a long time meat smoker. Placed a block of medium cheddar on the grate, and put on the lid. Cold smoking was underway. And it don’t get no easier.
Meanwhile, at his pit, our patron co-host worked the 12 inch tube smoker. First burning off the factory oils, then lighting one end of it, not unlike that there cigar again I guess. Tho he had a propane torch at the ready, he decided to try to light the tube with a chunk of smoldering ember plucked from his camp fire he had going. The creative sciences we’re upon the lad, and the idea worked brilliantly he said, after a wee bit of nurturing and blowing. After the pellets were suitably ignited, and smoldering as they ought, he tucked the tube in main chamber of his offset pit. The pit temperature only raised a few degrees higher than the outside ambient , and the smoke did it’s thing with a sweeping and convincing ease. He did up some salt, cheese, and everybody’s meat-love – bacon!
We both found the burn time of these smokers to be impressive. They just kept smoldering away. Never going out, nor varying in their output of smoke, until all the pellets were expired. Solid performance, hour after hour. The 5×8, lit at both ends, looked like it would last about 4 hours. So, stands to reason if you just want to light only one end, you might get a solid 7 – 8 hours of premium smoking satisfaction. Not bad. The 12 inch tube smoker gave a good 4 hours of burn time, which is exactly that which they were rated to do. It also came pre-filled with oak pellets. A nice touch, we thought.
The pellets for these smokers come in a rather distinguished variety. About every flavor you can think of, from: hickory and mesquite of course, and apple and peach, to more unique and exotic flavors such as sassafras, mulberry and savory herb! They sell saw dust too, which you can use in AMNPS 5 x 8, in all the usual smoke woods you can think of, but also in flavors you might not think of, such as: bourbon barrel, grapevine, and nectarine. Pretty cool. They certainly have no shortage of smokey goodness to select from. Check out their entire pellet menu here if your interested in seeing more.
The pellets we used were what they called, Pit Masters Choice, a blend of hickory, cherry, and maple. Tho we both found those pellets to smell great during the smoking process, we also thought the smokey flavor imparted on the cheese was a wee bit too strong for our taste buds. However, on bacon it was outstanding. In retrospect, if we were to do cheese with these pellets again, we would definitely smoke them only half as much. (Two hours) Or only light one end of the AMNPS 5 x 8. At the end of the day tho, it’s purely a taste preference you’ll have to make for yourself, via some cold smoking experimentation. All of which is good times.
These gadgets can also be used in traditional hot smoking. Just light them up, and tuck them down in a corner of your grill or smoker, and they will act as your smoke source, giving you the illusion of a fancy pellet grill, at a mere fraction of the price. Just be sure they are receiving adequate air flow where ever you place them in your pit, less they starve for oxygen.
In conclusion, the smoke generators from A-Maze-N Products LLC are about as simple and effective as you can get. No moving parts, these will stand the test of time we believe, and are delightfully simple to use. The pellet and dust flavors are as prolific as they are diverse. And the customer service is on par with the best we’ve experienced in any business. And all that for about 40 bucks. Not too bad if you want to get into cold smoking with out blowing the bank. It is very difficult to find anything negative to say here. I guess if we had to come up with something, it would be we both favor the smoke imparted from real wood over man-made pellets. We’re just purists like that. Even so, these really are fun gadgets to play with, and when cold smoking is your goal, we are hard pressed to find a better bang for the buck.
Two Patron Thumbs Up!
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This winter in Minnesota was a very long, drawn out winter. A winter where we thought for moment our region of the United States by chance had entered into a new Ice Age. We had a few glimmers of hope, but as soon as we saw fresh grass…… FRUMP!, We were again snowed on. Though we Patrons are tolerable with utilizing out our pits all year long we find Spring to be a sigh of fresh air. Don’t take us wrong, wiping snow off of our pit covers and removing our gloves to light a chimney full of coal is just the way of the bbq force out here. We know that for 5 to 6 months of the year removing our boots and putting them back on to maintain the pit is an expected part of the bbq process. HARK! We are now ready for the luxury of flinging off the flip flops and melting into our favorite patio chair with a cold beverage in hand, whilst sitting next to our hot smoky pits. AH yes, to sit downwind so that the cool breezes can blow the pit smoke directly into our paths becomes a fantasy while sitting in a cubical during our weekly rotating responsibilities. The time has come when we can rightfully say goodbye to a season that I can comfortably say had overstayed its welcome. I love winter and I love snow, but it is that time I welcome Spring.
Grill on – POTP
Sometimes life should stay simple. Though us Patrons enjoy working hard at making culinary masterpieces over a flame, we don’t always have the time to do so. Surprised you might be to the fact that we also work full-time jobs. Though we may post many things on here throughout the week, it’s not because we stay at home grilling and smoking meats all day, tho there are days where we wish we could do so. Days when the flirtatious considerations of leaving the trustworthy 9 to 5 and becoming a full-time food artist dance across the brainwaves of our minds. We sit back in our desk chair, stomachs groaning, while the pondering issues related to our work trade gather in the background. We exhale a sigh, because all we want to do is fill a coal chimney, stuff it with newspaper and light it with a flame. Then of course, reality strikes, and we can’t. We eat a granola bar to cater to grumbles of the stomach and press on until the whistle blows. During the winter when the sunlight is less than your blessed summer nights; we like most of you out there need to keep meals simple. A brat, corn and baked beans are one of the most intelligible meals you can get. So simple that the only spice I used was cracked pepper over the beans. It may be simple, but it hits the spot…always. In closing, cheers to those who work real jobs, a full eight-hour shift that allows little glimpse of sunlight. To those who need to think of something fast, remember there is always hot dogs, brats, corn and peppered baked beans. Grill On – POTP
It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all. – Laura Ingalls Wilder
I’m a morning person. I like getting up before most people and listen to the weather outside. I enjoy sitting here quietly and contemplating life. The folk music on in the background and the tea kettle announces its finished with its end of the job. I hold my bowl of raisin cookie oatmeal close to my chest taking in and enjoy every bite. Sipping my hazelnut coffee I feel blessed, content with what my maker has shown me. It’s days like this when you know it’s going to be a very good day.
We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. (Hebrews 6:11, 12 NIV)
Why is it when us Patrons of the Pit become giddy as a kid on Christmas when we know a snow storm is in our forecast? Why is it we contemplate our next meat choice in the grocery store as the weatherman predicts a cold and heavy snow. Why do we bundle up and head out into the tundra as we know the rest of the world stays inside? As the winter wonderlands blow across our patios we hold our tongs in hand waiting to add another chunk of hickory to the flame. Our neighbors gaze out the window and question what we are up to next. Our wives sip hot coco and smile knowing that they will get a meal out of our insane obsessions. While the whole time we sit in peace. As snowflakes falling on our stocking hats and ice crystals collect on our whiskers. We breathe in and out, taking in as much of the aromatic mixture of smoke, meat and spice rubs. It’s natural…it’s poetic.
Yes, to all of those affected by the storm this weekend. Let your grill smoke away. Let your meat slowly fall apart on the hot grate, when only 1/16th of an inch away, Winter hammers the lid of your smoker with its fierce cold. When you sit at your dinner table, fork in hand and BBQ sauce in the other, smile at your accomplishments. Laugh at yourself knowing you have performed an act that most people in their right mind never would. Then eat!
Way up yonder, on the northern tiers of Minnesota, we often press a tent stake patron to some pretty places here and there. Places of exquisite beauty, where the waters run clearly, and the breezes taste sweet, sifted through the fragrant pines. My fellow patron and I routinely visit these locales, if not even for but one day. One day to inhale that pure, unpretentious air, and to absorb a rarefied tranquility lost, but not forgotten, in the ever-whirling cog of society. Indeed, we fancy to strike off for the wilder places just as often as we can, for to live simply, and abandon all tension there. For we are at home in the woods, by and by, and love to tarry fire-side amid the whispering pines.
Putterers by nature, we are content for hours on end it seems to cook exotic camp food over smoldering coals, repair in our chairs, and simply watch the smoke rise unto the standing pines. To tell story, and play song, whilst dotingly poking at the fire. Bannocks baking in blackened skillets, chickadees flirting, and all the many phone calls at once escaped in our own personal, wilderness sanctum. Oh the places, the beautiful places, that we have loitered in, here and there.
Campfires of Birch and Balsam often flicker in camp, as the lake serenely laps upon our shore, and the stately pines sway gently in the breeze, like a thousand and one fly rods, nay, make that a thousand and two. Oh how we love to cook over the open flame in these places, to ply our craft, turning our spoils into shore lunch. The stars, the moon, the forest glade, we love it all, even the smoke in our face! And here is the thing I have noticed, and maybe some of you have to; every time back home when we thus light the grill, and we smell that campfire-like smoke lofting towards the heavens, are we not at once, and irrevocably so, reminiscent, and smitten deeply for these places. Because smell is at once patron to memories, and memories thus flood back of those quiet campsites nestled aside shimmering waters. And for a moment, we can taste again the simple life we had once aspired to there. Because here it is again, deep in an urban sprawl, working over this old kettle grill; and there are blackened skillets, and chickadees even, and the sweet fusion of memories gently forged, both here and there, over the swiftly ebbing seasons, and the smoke which curled there. Amen.
The Super Bowl, a game that draws crowds together in front of TV’s across America. To bring families and friends together and carry on with banter of who might win the big game and discuss what their team should have done better that season. All while eating sloppy barbecued cuisines that make us men proud because we spent that afternoon over an open flame, a cloud of smoke and a bed of ash. Some areas of the country under a warm sun, in my part of the country it was spent in a warm winter jacket.
Though Kick Off might have started for most at prime time, it started for me around 12:30. A last-minute Super Bowl party was set in place and so I had to pull out all the last-minute calls. I had to be picky with the plays I was going to make and how I was running the ball, for I had only four and a half hours to come up with a menu. Game on!
My day started off with cutting chicken breasts into chicken tenders and giving them an hour bath in apple cider vinegar and apple juice. During that time I gathered my ingredients for the Carolina Mustard BBQ Sauce. BOOM… 1:30 exactly and my coals were nice and hot. Into the smoker they went, water pan filled and lid closed to heat up to the blessed 250 degrees. Back inside to prepare the North Carolina Coleslaw, a recipe from Steven Raichlen BBQ bible cook book. Hark, the clock hit 2 pm, 3 hours until my door bell starts to ring, chicken now hits the grill. The chicken was dusted with Grill Mates Apple Rub and was blasted with a heavy dose of mesquite wood smoke. The chimney of the smoker quickly puffed with a thick bellow of smoke and as the smoke rose, the snow quietly began to descend with big flakes turning my pit into the scene from a snow globe. AHHH…2:30, as much as I want to sit outside in my backyard wonderland, I’m on a time crunch and I have people to cook for.
The Carolina Mustard Sauce was fun to cook. I like doing sauces because I’m a sort of mad scientist when reading recipes. I rarely stick to the main recipe, and though I can’t take credit for the idea, I’ll post how I made it.
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 cup Ballpark Yellow Mustard
- 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 1/4 cup distilled white wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
- 3/4 cup of orange organic blossom honey
- Coarse salt (kosher or sea) to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup of apple juice
- 1/8 teaspoon of horseradish
Bring to a simmer, turn to a low heat and let it simmer for about 5 min. Take it off the heat a settle until room temperature. This will last about 2 weeks in the fridge. Your house will become overwhelmed with the scent of mustard, but the taste is worth is. This one is great over pulled chicken and a great baste for ribs.
OH MAN…3:35, time to take the chicken off the smoke and put in a tin foil pan to speed up the cooking process. It’s a nice trick for doing pulled chicken in a crunch. After putting the chick in the pan, I gave it another splash of apple juice.
Clock check…3:45, Time for the slaw. Whisk in a large bowl mix…
- 1/3 cup Dijon mustard
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup distilled white vinegar (I used apple Cider vinegar)
- 2 teaspoon celery seeds
- 5 tablespoons of mayo
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
To speed things up I used pre-shredded cabbage, carrots and other junk for the slaw. Once everything is whisked together, pour it over the cabbage mix. Stir and chill.
Star Date 4:15…45 minutes until the doorbell goes nuts. Time to make the Caramel Fudge Sea Salt brownies! Ok, I will admit, I’m not good at baking. I won’t pretend either for the blogs sake. I went to the store, bought a box of mix, added eggs, oil and water and baked it as directed.
5pm and the brownies are pulled out of the oven. Let them cool for whatever time you want, pour on caramel and sprinkle on your desired amount of Sea Salt. I tend to be generous with it. It’s an amazing combination if you have never tried it.
5:15 took the chicken off the smoker and began to pull. I poured out some of the greasy fat juice and replaced with more apple juice. Last, I finished it off with a good dusting of the Grill Mates Apple Rub.
5:30…DING DONG… company arrived late. WHEW!
Though, I was a little bummed at the outcome of the game, MY game was on for the day. When everyone dove into the food that I had made, I felt that I chose the right plays. That’s right, I ran the ball at the exact time I needed too and the outcome was a victorious culinary win. I can only hope the rest of you enjoyed your day and evening as much as I did.
Please, share any of your game day creations. We would love to hear!