Two Men, Two Pits and a Blog

Posts tagged “barbecue

Random Acts of BBQ

 

Two Men, Two Pits, and Forty Pounds of Yard Bird

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It was early Saturday morning at the Track Side Pit. The song birds were singing as brightly as the warm, August sun, of which it’s golden shafts dropped with authority from an eastern sky, kissing the Petunias that which bordered the patio here. Soft music played on the pit speaker system, whilst the tall, leafy stalks of the track-side Mullen plants leaned in the morning breeze. Smoke curled off the freshly lit charcoal chimney, as I prepped the 22 inch Weber Kettle grill for action. My fellow patron, and caretaker of the Track Side Pit, patiently tinkered with his old, Char-Griller Outlaw, also prepping it for business. Yes indeed, a dual patron cook out was in progress. We love it when this happens. It is not often both co-founders of PotP bandy together to ply their craft in one locale. But we did this morning. We had things to do. Manly things. And we would do it together, by and far, as Patrons of the Pit. We would do it for Lee.

 

There is this BBQ chain that I rather admire, called Sonny’s BBQ. Many of the readership here Sonny'shave probably heard of it. Many have probably even partook of it. Sad to say I have never been there however, nor sampled their smokey wares. I’m sure the vittles are good tho, I don’t question that. But it isn’t their food so much that impresses me, even tho I know it would. Nay, it is their character, and in particular, this thing they do, called, Random Acts of BBQ.

What they do is find some one in the community who has been giving selflessly, of their time and talent to others. And doing so whilst asking for nothing in return. Just plain good people helping other people. Anyways, the team at Sonny’s BBQ cater a bunch of tasty BBQ to these folks, throwing a shin dig as just a way to say thanks, and to let them know they are appreciated. Pretty cool stuff. Well, figuring that there is no copyright on kindness, we here at PotP thought we’d dabble in the practice ourselves, and do something nice for some one else, who could use some good BBQ.

That some one is friend that goes to our church. She’s been through a rough time of it lately, rougher than most people I know, losing her husband, Lee, in a car accident last spring. It’s miserable stuff, but with grace handed to her from the Lord above, she’s managing through it alright. Life goes on, as you know, and here lately, she had to throw a graduation party for her daughter, and she needed a lot of meat grilled up for this. She needed help. And this is where a Patron of the Pit must answer his calling. This is what we’re born to do! And we were glad to do so.

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40 Pounds

40 pounds. That’s about how much chicken we had to grill up this morning. This would later be chopped up for a massive quantity of Chicken Caesar Wraps, sufficient enough in-part to feed a parade of hungry tummies. It’s a lot of chicken! And rotating between two pits: the 22 -inch kettle grill, and the Char-Griller Outlaw, we made it happen. Systematically cranking through it. Several chimneys of charcoal. Several lovely beverages.  And four hours of good, meat-flipping comradeship. We were men, you see. Soldiers of the Smoke. And highly smitten for the day. What a pleasurable cook it was. And it started of course, with bacon.

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No, the bacon was not an ingredient for the Chicken Caesar Wraps. Nay, it was for us! If you’ve not yet experienced the joys of breakfast at the pit, well you’re missing out on some of the finer moments of life. My fellow patron brought out his camp stove, and set it up pit-side, and in a few moments, the sounds and aromas of sizzling bacon were at play. That combined with a gaggle of fried eggs, a cup of coffee and some old fashion donuts, well, such set our bellies off right, here in the golden shallows of a morning sun.

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So it was, batch by batch, we grilled our way through the morning hours, whittling away on the 40 pound pile of chicken breasts. It is not technical grilling. Anybody could do it. We seasoned each chunk in a light offering of salt, pepper and garlic. SPG as it’s called in the business. Then we placed them over direct heat to start, right over the coals, this to sear them a touch, and promote a moderate crust with lovely bits of char. And when this was completed on both sides, the breasts were then escorted by tong in hand over to the other side of the grill, opposite the hot coals, and there they would finish out the remainder of the cook, and their journey to excellence. And we did our best of course, not to get in the way of that.

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Indeed, once we found our rhythm, we settled down into our patio chairs when appropriate, legs crossed like gentlemen of leisure, and just watch the smoke pillar from from our grills. Sunbeams broke through the deck above us, illuminated in smokey shafts. Tweety birds sweetly serenaded us from afar, and the grass yonder never looked so green. The children frolicked in the sand box, and you could almost hear the garden growing right beside us. We looked at each other and smiled. Nary a word was said, or needed to be said. We both knew we had arrived. Doing precisely that which is well with our souls. What a beautiful day to grill something. And what a better day yet, to do something helpful for someone else. And to let them know that they matter, and that we’re here for them, by and by.

This one’s for you, Lee. And the little lady. Blessings. And amen.

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 What God the Father considers to be pure and genuine religion is this: to take care of orphans and widows in their suffering and to keep oneself from being corrupted by the world.

– James 1:27

 


Food and Fellowship: How BBQ Could Save The World

A thin-blue smoke pillared from the old bullet cooker as a bandy of black birds sangblt4 from the pond’s edge. It was mid-afternoon, mid-summer, and mid-week come to think of it, and all the world seemed on the bustle today, and busy, and hurried to get along. Well, save for yours truly that is. Nay, I had other plans this afternoon. To smoke up a rack of ribs, for one, and also some chicken wings to take to some friends who could use a good meal these days. A BBQ care package, I guess you could say. People just like barbecue.

Something For Everyone

Barbecue. Have you noticed ever when you go into a BBQ joint that there is just something in the air, something besides the most succulent aromas known to mortal man. That’s right. There is an abiding sort of gastronomic appreciation there. A universal reverence almost, for what is smokey and good. A joy for BBQ scattered in unbiased fashion across the social cross-section.  Your class or zip code makes no bearing in BBQ. Doctors and lawyers, I suspect love BBQ. So do teachers and garbage men. Clergymen and atheists. Pig farmers and even vegetarians, I bet, tho they won’t eat it, deep down admire BBQ. Even people from Iowa! Indeed, black, yellow, white or brown, your skin matters not in BBQ. Every one is free to tarry on it’s savory shores.

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BBQ Fusion

That’s the beautiful part about good BBQ. People from many walks of life coming together in food and fellowship. No matter who you are, or where you’re from, if the BBQ is good, you will gladly slurp it off a paper plate, and wipe your face with your sleeve.Whether you’re a grease monkey from Queens, or the Queen of England herself, everybody is equal where fine smoked meat is concerned. And say what you will on this, but that is no small thing. For BBQ is oft times regarded as a fickle, and snobbish pursuit. One of the most opinionated subjects in the free world, just behind politics and religion. Yet, and somehow,  we all come together in fellowship for some good BBQ.

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What If…

It’s a childish notion, I know, but what if all the leaders of a world gone mad, conspired together for lunch some day, and had BBQ. All sitting around a big table, with make-shift, paper towel bibs, and tall drinks at hand. Communing and dining on perfectly executed BBQ.  I bet they’d be in a pretty good mood for the most part. Well as good a mood as you can be, I suppose, being a world leader and all. There’s just something about BBQ that makes it all okay.

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And so they would eat and feast and look around the table at each other, everybody sporting a little BBQ sauce wayward on their face, and a pleasant, satisfied feeling deep in their bellies. For a while at least, and maybe even longer than that, I hope they would notice that it’s not all bad having lunch together. That if they can get along well enough for an hour or so, maybe they can do it some more, and maybe even become friends, with a plate of good food in front of them. Childish notions for sure, but hark, the working model of this, of course, has already been perfected -a little something your local BBQ shack has known for many years. BBQ brings people together.

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A Time to Share

As the mallards milled about on the pond’s edge, and the breeze mingled sweetly in the trees, I glazed up the wings with some more Blackberry BBQ Sauce, from the kindly folks at Joe Joe’s Hog Shack. On the other pit, the ribs had just come out of the foil, highly pampered there in brown sugar, butter, and a squirt of honey. Smoked with pecan wood. Oh buddy! They were almost, but not quite, falling off the bone. Time to deliver these spoils for whom they were intended! And time to make time, for what is good. And what is right.Barbecue may never save the world, but I’ll tell you this,  it sure is a better tasting place because of it. And that’s a start at least. Amen.


Track-Side: Ceder Planked Shrimp and Scallops

Location : Track-Side Pit

Time : Not too long ago…

Take a gander at this spread, won’t you, put on by John, our Patron of the Pit Co-Founder, and care taker of the Track Side Pit. Yes indeed, he was seen in his backyard recently, plying his craft over a hemorrhaging bed of orange coals. Nothing stood in his way of culinary, smokey-tinted perfection.  We’re talking :butter, garlic, ginger, salt, pepper, scallops, shrimp, onion, pepper and red potatoes. Man! If this don’t make you hungry right now, you probably have a face full of dirt! As he so bluntly, but exquisitely phrased it, “Freakin sexy goodness!”  Indeed, old boy. Indeed.

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He’s coming along, that boy. In point of fact, he finally got himself a 22 inch Weber Kettle Grill. And he’s loving it. I don’t know what he was waiting for either. And as you can see, he’s been making good use of it too.

Here is another thing he whipped up off-hand the other day. A pit keeper’s favorite.

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ATB’s. Better known as Atomic Buffalo Turds. He took them a step further than most pit jockeys, and later glazed them in maple syrup, and dashed them with fresh cracked pepper. Mercy!

So that’s the recent goings on of the Track Side Pit. It’s good to see the other half once in a while. He doesn’t very often post here, or brag of his grilling talents. But I personally think he can grill circles around most people I know, including myself. He holds down the social media branch for PotP, and samples any spices or sauces that are sent our way. If you want to see more of what he’s been up to, you can find him supporting our Patron of the Pit Instagram account. Boy it’s a party over there! Stop by and say howdy to him!

https://www.instagram.com/patronsofthepit/

Sometimes he shows up on our facebook page too.

https://www.facebook.com/Patronsofthepit/

Grill on!

PotP

 

 

 


How To Think of Nothing Else: Pecan Smoked Chicken Fajitas

The fly line went taut and the rod hooped over nicely, as I set the hook into the leviathanIMG_0713 that which swam the grass banks. I soon managed to get the fish onto the reel as I played him closer to shore, determined this time not to let old “Moby” elude me once again. A light rain dappled over the pond, tapping lightly on my rain jacket, as I let out some more line, the reel singing as the fish muscled for rank. “Keep the line tight”, I thought to myself. I have already lost this bucket mouth once today, and this time, if I could help it, he would be mine. The bass suddenly torpedoed out for deeper water, like bass do, then reconsidered to the divining will of my 5 weight fly rod, and made haste instead for a small passel of weeds, there upon and of which he was, I dare say, masterfully escorted unto the damp shore from whence I stood. He laid for a moment there in the grass, panting. We both did.

I do not know what it is about fishing, but I am continually amazed how sweet life’s keen focus is when a fish is tight to our line. More sharpened moments of clarity I seldom see. Likewise, I’m reminded of the show Gilligan’s Island, and something they once said there. I digress. You see on Gilligan’s Island, the Skipper and Gilligan were fishing in the lagoon one day. And the skipper, being a salty, fishing man who never changed his blue shirt, said to Gilligan in a bellowing fashion, that when you’re fishing, and you get a fish on line, for as long as you’re hooked up together, that fish and you, you will in turn think of nothing else. And it’s true.

You think of nothing else.

Maybe that’s why we like to fish so much around here. For the focus. For the rendering of life’s many complexities into quaint, articulate moments of intense, penetrating focus. Fish do that to a body. Don’t ask me why. And we are blessed and highly favored to have a nice pond, pit-side, in which to partake of our craft nearly every day if we want. To stand on it’s earthy shores, and for a while at least, think of nothing else. Man…

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Anyways, all this fishing of late has made this little pit boy ripe with hunger. And if you are too, you’re in luck. Tonight’s feast will sooth what ails you, believe me. Pecan smoked chicken fajitas, patron to the pit. It doesn’t get a whole lot better than this.

Today’s seasoning once again comes from our friends at Miners Mix. XXX Garlic, and man IMG_0682does it do right by poultry. All natural, no junk in this stuff, people. If it wasn’t around in 1850, it ain’t in there. If you’re still looking for your next favorite rub, go and check these mates out. We don’t know how they do it, but they’ve managed to crack the code on spice rubs. We’ve really been enjoying their products. Anyways, we semi-liberally dashed this garlic rub over some boneless chicken breasts, and set them indirect on the Weber Kettle Grill, along with a good bandy of pecan smoke. Lid on, and damper tweaked. I sat back in the BBQ chair with a manly beverage in hand, legs crossed like a gentleman of leisure.

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When the chicken was almost, but not quite done, we removed it and set it aside for a few short moments. If grilling wasn’t fun enough, it’s about to get even better. Enter the ever-sexy, oft-coveted, Mojoe Griddle. Oh yes…

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I tell you this people, if ever in the world a piece of cooking equipment were to have a swagger, this is it. If you’ve been in our readership over the last year or so, you’ve seen this beast surface now and again. 35 pounds of high grade, hot-rolled steel- a restaurant quality griddle, and it all fits neatly over a multiple of heat sources. Simple, effective, and tough. Thus, not wanting to let my cooking coals go to waste, we plunked this behemoth over the top of the Weber Kettle and, viola, the best griddle action money can buy.

We are pretty much in love with this griddle. And we aren’t bashful about it. If you want to up your game some day, or just want to learn more about it, we did a review on it a while back, and you can read that here. Or better yet, go and visit our friend, Cam, the inventor of the Mojoe Griddle, at his website, http://www.mojoegriddle.com/ , and he’ll show you around. Tell him PotP sent you! Anyways, where were we…

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On a hot, oiled, Mojoe, we set forth our green peppers and onions to saute their way to greatness. Spatula in hand, what great pleasure it is to stand aside the hot steel, cooking in the freshened air. Where the song birds trill and the skies are so blue they do not stop, save for to smile down upon the lone, outdoor cook, flipping his vegetables yonder, amid a soft, summer’s breeze. There is great therapy in cooking outside.

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Next we chopped up the smoked chicken and tossed that into the mix too, and listened to it sizzle there, next to the green peppers and onion. Oh man! The aromas which filled the patio were point blank, off-the-charts. Olfactory high-def stuff, people. Thus, and with great exuberance, I plowed thy spoils about with the steel edge of an inverted spatula, and smiled to myself, as the cloud shadows calved silently across the lawn. Oh if only to slow this cook down, and to extend the moment for the moments sake. I was enjoying this. This relatively simple moment of cooking supper in a complex world. There is just something magical about it. Something right under the sun. If you’re lucky in this life, you will enjoy a few pursuits like this, that which gently cull you from the throngs of haste. Activities that which defy distraction. And promote moments of lingering focus. Like fishing I suppose, and cooking outside. The results of which will illuminate your day, and tug by tender strings, the joy for which tarries down in your soul. Amen.

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Pecan Smoked, Garlic Tinted, chicken fajita makings, patron to the pit. I do believe you can take it from here. Yum!


Pit Paradise: Pecan Smoked Meatloaf With A Twist

Been spending a lot of time out at the pit lately. Here in Minnesota, our privileged,lilacglory season” is well upon us. Has been for a couple of weeks now.  It’s also called Spring. And oh how my senses revel is this bandy of moments. The snow and ice are long gone now, and in it’s stead, green glades and leafy bouquets. Blue bird skies that won’t stop. And air so fresh and so sweet, you want nothing more than to lavish the day long, out-of-doors, drinking that Lilac-tinted air into your lungs. Around every bend, there is beauty. Blooms every where. From apple blossoms to dandy lions. And the sun feels like an old friend again, with it’s warm arm around your shoulders. Man I love spring! I adore it for what is reflected in my soul.

Naturally then, and as stated, I’ve been loitering with great effect out at the pit in recent days. Often taking my suppers out there, feet propped up, hat tipped up, and the world gently twirling before me. I’ll put a bit of music on the pit sound system, draft a lovely beverage, and make an evening of it there, contented and well fed. One of the projects we’ve smoked lately was meatloaf, which in of itself is not uncommon at the Pond Side Pit. But this particular loaf had a twist to it. A strategically placed core of hard boiled egg up it’s center. Yes mam, that’s what we did.

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The idea was suggested to us by one of our Australian readers, Laurie. A pleasant bloke from down under with an affinity for eating good things. So when he mentioned we ought to put hard boiled eggs in our meat loaf, well, we took it as gospel. Laurie knows things. He also harbors a keen sense of humor, so, if he’s pulling one over on us, well, then we’ve been egged. Regardless, Laurie, this one is for you.

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The smoke wood of choice today is pecan. A lovely, abiding, and faintly nutty bouquet sure to escort this loaf into the smokey realm with a degree of elegance. It is not an over powering smoke, but very well-rounded. If you only had pecan wood to smoke with at your pit, I don’t reckon your life would be too bad off. It makes our personal Mount Rushmore of Smoke Woods. And whilst were at it, may we remind you of our smoke wood list we compiled a while back, where upon many woods are gathered in one digital archive for your reference pleasure. Click on our Smoke Woods link here to take a gander.

At any rate, and back to meatloaf, it was prepped like any other meatloaf. I’m sure you’ve all got your recipes for that. We tossed in some chopped onions and green peppers, a few others odds and ends, and seasoned the meat with a packet of Lipton Onion Soup Mix. We flattened it out in a big pan, and laid three hard boiled eggs in a line, as seen a couple photos above. After a moment of retrospection, we bid the eggs adieu, and swaddled them in sticky meat. Meatloaf surprise was thus conceived.

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Man. Can you smell this! After about an hour on indirect heat, gently bathed in pecan smoke, the meat loaf took on a fairly nice crust, which I appreciated. Now if you set up your grill like we did, for indirect cooking, that is all the coals banked up to one side, with your protein on the other side, you will do well to rotate your meat load 180 degrees half way through the cooking process. Rotating is just for even cooking. A large spatula will do the trick there. And the whole cook takes about an hour. Which, off-hand and by the way, is the perfect amount of time to slurp down one manly beverage and nod off a wee bit in your patio chair. Yes sir, these are the high rigors of conventional BBQ. If you’re not up to the challenge, hand the tongs off to some one who is! We think you got this tho!

Thus, and under a beautiful blue sky which tapered into evening pastels, I did what I do best – nothing. Nothing save for to tarry there in the fresh air, and watch the wood smoke pillar from the pit damper. The meat loaf in the home stretch now, I crossed my legs like a gentleman of leisure ought to, listed a bit in my chair, and relished the final minutes of my BBQ. I could feel the accelerator pedal of life let up now. And for a while at least, all the world was reduced to this simple, suspended moment in time.  The wood smoke curling. The aroma of meatloaf under the lid. Song birds serenading from yonder tree tops. And the distinctly soft kiss of Lilacs in the breeze. Amen.

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Pecan Smoked Meatloaf with a Hard Boiled Egg Core. Man! I gotta say, it wasn’t half bad. Kind of takes your run-of-the-mill meatloaf, and makes it bit of a center piece. If we were to do it again, I do think I would rather fancy a nice bacon lattice wrapped around it’s flanks. Bacon and eggs, after all..Regardless, good eating patron to the pit! Thanks Laurie!

 


The Trouble With Gnomes: Hickory Tinted Garlic Chops

I’ve never been to Ireland but my gnome has. And I guess the worst part of it is that I didn’t even know he was gone. He was IMG_6863one of those little dudes in your life that you tend to take for granted, I guess, until he comes back to you. You see he tarries in the garden, where any self-respecting gnome ought to, and no, he doesn’t have a name. I’m not much of a gnome fellow, and I do not see what my wife sees in him, but none-the-less, he stands stalwart among the bean plants, like a gate-keeper to the greens. She picked him up on one of her many errands to the garden center, and nary ever bothered in turn to tell me why. Either you get gnomes or you don’t, I guess. Kind of like Neil Diamond. But I suppose he’s cute enough, by and by. And I’m talking about the gnome, thank you kindly.

Well one day not too long ago, and unbeknownst to us,  he was covertly and flagrantly gnome-napped. Taken hostage by two friends of the female variety, who stowed the little fellow into their travel satchel of assorted womanly sundries, and henceforth made way over the big pond in an aeroplane for Ireland. For ten days, our little gnome parlayed for mercy at the hands of his abductors, and for ten days he was forced to pose for photos in front of a variety of Irish land marks.  I did not know whether to be happy or sad for him, this mostly, again, because I didn’t even know he was gone. But he was. And that’s the great patheticness of it all.

Here is a photo of him let out to pee by the Irish Sea.

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And here is one of him bandied together with like-minded drinking buddies or the kin. I think they were making a break for it and were caught again by the female captures. Their faces say it all.

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I digress. This post was supposed to be about the art of grilling supper, and some how you got me going on gnomes. It’s just that whilst I was loitering by the pit here, the little gnome has done the very same in the pit-side garden. Him and I hang out like this a lot, don’t you know. Just watching the smoke curl into a beautiful Minnesota sky. Leastwise we do these days. Now that his ransom has been won, and he has thus been returned to my garden plot with his spoils intact. I don’t take him for granted as much as I once did. Anyways, about supper. Take a gander at these thick cut chops! For seasoning tonight, we went fairly simple. Salt, pepper, and garlic powder. That’s it. If it’s good pig, that’s all you need most days.

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For ninety seconds, we placed the chops over direct heat, to sear in the juices there. Then we flipped them for ninety seconds more on the other side. Gray clouds idles overhead. A Great Blue Heron swoops past the scene, it’s massive wings fanning through the summer air. The pork chops sizzle sensuously on the hot cast iron grate. If smells were music, then the heady aromas bantering about the pit were like a lovely dollops of Beethoven up your nose. Glory! We then tossed a chunk of hickory wood on the fire, and thus escorted the chops over to indirect heat, opposite the hot coals. And there they would ride the remainder of the path unto a hickory-tinted, highly edible succulence. And it didn’t take long either.

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We also prepped up some tin foil potatoes, one of our very favorite sides for the grill. Two potatoes and one onion, diced to uniformity, and seasoned in salt and pepper, along with a few globs of butter to keep things sporty whence foiled over direct heat. Tin foil potatoes are an easy victory, people. Twenty minutes or so over direct heat, flipping once at your pit master instincts. They are the perfect side to compliment any meat patron to the pit. Yum!

The Gnome Thieves 

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It is likely our civic duty to gnomes, and to lovers of gnomes, to post these mug shots in kind. They probably don’t want their identities revealed, and we won’t do that here, but suffice it this way – if you happen to spy these two ladies poking about your homestead, all I can say is grab your gnomes before they do! Grab them post-haste, people, and run!

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Hickory Smoked Thick-Cut Garlic Chops, sided with Tin Foil Potatoes. Man! The Land of Meat and Potatoes, people. Where good is good, and less is more than enough. Amen.


Peach Baked Beans on the Craycort Cast Iron Pan

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  • 1 Can of your favorite baked beans
  • 1 Can on Peach Pie Filling
  • 8 Strips of Bacon
  • 1 Onion
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper
  • 1/2 Cup favorite BBQ sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons favorite BBQ rub

As I repair here pit-side, at ease in my patio chair, whilst listening to the song birds evening serenade, I think about this recipe for peach baked beans. Who would have ever thought this unlikely pairing would bandy so well. If you haven’t tried peaches in your baked beans yet, you need to get after it people. Leastwise if you fancy peaches that is. And I suppose beans too.  It’s one of those gastronomic anomalies in the human condition that doesn’t make much sense at first, but after trying it, you wonder why you haven’t been doing this all along. It was invented, as far as we know, by Myron Mixon, as seen on the hit TV series, BBQ Pitmasters. Whether you take to Myron’s personality or not, one cannot deny that the man knows BBQ. He just wins. In point of fact, he’s won more on the competitive circuit more than any person alive. Least wise at the time of this writing he has. He’s good, people. And so are his beans. So to pay homage to these glory beans, tonight we deploy our latest toy from http://www.cast-iron-grate.com. The cast iron pan insert.

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It was pretty much love at first sight when this came in the mail. Many thanks to Rolf, of Craycort Cast Iron Grates, for taking good care of we patrons of the pit. His products are excellent, and stand the test of time. If you have a kettle grill, and don’t have one of these grates yet, you’re missing out people. Your grand kids will inherit this stuff, and pass it on down to their kids. That’s the beauty of cast iron. And this pan is just plain slick too, and the perfect cooking vessel for our peach baked beans. Let’s get to cooking, and we’ll show you how it went and came to be.

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Under the blue skies of a summer’s eve, whilst the cottonwood leaves gently fluttered in the breeze, we started up affairs tonight by doing a few slices of bacon in the Craycort pan. The recipe calls for 8 slices, but lo, we’ve been eating a lot of bacon lately it seems, so I felt it a might prudent to maybe tone it down a touch. You know how it goes. So I think we put in only 4 slices. They sizzled to life on the hot cast iron, which was opposite a hot bed of coals, and their wonderful aroma mingled in the late, evening air. A pleasant way to start the supper-time festivities. And it only gets better.

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Then came the onion and bell pepper, chopped to suit, and tossed headlong into the pan. A little bacon grease left over to lubricate the ensemble, and this medley came to maturity in no time flat. Cook it just long enough to get the raw out, but not so much your onions get translucent. Chop the bacon in to appropriate man-sized bites. Man…Can you smell it yet!

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Lastly, we added in the rest of the ingredients, stirring gently,  and cooked up two picturesque pork chops for good measure, lightly dashed in Lawry’s seasoned salt.  The chops were done over the Craycort griddle insert, yet another wonder of cast iron technology. That’s the great fun of these Craycort grates. You can swap out various inserts to accommodate your culinary inclination of the day. Quick and effective. And nothing cooks as evenly as old fashion cast iron.

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I settled back into my chair, momentarily, just to watch my beans bubble. It’s one of those simple pleasures, you see, patron to the pit. If you are in a hurry in this life, well,  you wouldn’t understand. I adjusted in the chair, listing a bit more to the starboard now, left leg over right, and I find I am soothed by the gentle sounds of stewing beans. Vittles on the fire. They say to let it bubble for an hour or so, and I might have, had not they looked so delightful. But I tried. I dallied as long as I could beneath a waxing, pastel-blue sky, adorned in soft, billowy clouds, which caught the evening sun. I tried to linger in the last choruses of bird song,  and the caressing summer breeze which melted through the alders and the spruce. I tried to tarry there, and do what I do best, but the chops were done, my tummy was hungry, and the beans beckoned to me.

Game over. And amen.

If you are so inclined, which you ought to be, do check out http://www.cast-iron-grate.com

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There you go, peach baked beans on the kettle grill, sided with a set of succulent pork chops! Delicious! One of those things you gotta try first, before you knock it. As you will come to learn, it’s all good, patron to the pit…


Easy Pork Ribs On The Weber Kettle: Featuring 14-Spice Dry Rub

Well it was a good 4th of July weekend. Good as can be, really, and surely better than most. Full to the brim with good food, and good fellowship, and good times. Sadly, it’s come and gone now, like all holidays do, FullSizeRender (3)with a soft, pastel sun ebbing into a western sky. And as I watch it sink beyond yonder tree tops, with an icy beverage at hand, left leg crossed over right, I pause to rejoice for these long summer days that which are upon us. We are not worthy. As the temperatures rose to almost 88 degrees today, at last we see again what you good folk down in Ecuador and Texas and Florida experience on a daily basis. Sweat. Inconceivable tributaries of it, dribbling down spine and brow with no remorse nor good will for common man. It’s rather wretched, and that’s a polite metaphor. But after a while you learn to accept it. Because deep down you know the sweat means winter is displaced. And a winter gone means things can grow again. There is life in the good tidings of summer’s bosom. Things like the deliciousness found growing in the pit side garden. Spires of green onions proudly pitched. Pole beans reaching for more lattice. Lush, plump tomatoes and deep-red strawberries dangling in the evening sun. Glory! I must say, what a privilege it is to tarry in the garden here, whilst  blue-tinted pillars of hickory smoke catch in a summer’s breeze. That’s about how supper went tonight. Pleasant. And man it was good too! And after I refill my cup, I’ll be back and tell you more about it and how it went and came be.

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I was given this spice gift a while back, and thought well enough of it to pass it along to you. It’s a homemade affair, and makes a great gift for your resident pit master. If you go to their site, http://www.theyummylife.com, you can print up the label thing in the photo. And from your local grocer, you buy yourself the jar and all the spices and what not, and kabam! A very tasty spice rub to give to family and friends. Anyways, if you want the recipe, you’ll find the link to their site below. We tried it on pork ribs tonight, and I don’t need tell you, but will anyways, that victory was at hand!

http://www.theyummylife.com/dry_rub_mix

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Setting up for Low & Slow

Now my elder brother, who sometimes is the focus of our grilling tome here, well let’s just say he’s come a long ways in the smokey arts. He’s got frozen hamburger patties and beef franks down pretty good. He’s not using green treated wood for smoke, and I don’t think he’s burned the chicken in some three months. He’s feeling rather endowed. So he mentioned the other day that the time had come, that he wished to try smoking pork ribs, and he wanted to know if it would be possible even, on his humble kettle grill. We occasionally get queried this – how to smoke ribs on a regular, old, back yard grill. Well, the Weber kettle is about as regular and back yard as it gets, and it’s also real easy to smoke a rack of ribs with. People have been doing it for ages. Many folk hold for some reason to the misguided belief that they need a fancy off set, or expensive water smoker to smoke ribs at home. Horse hockey! Here then is how to make restaurant quality smoked pork ribs on your old Weber kettle grill. And it’s as easy as taking out the trash!

As seen in the photo above, we set up the grill for indirect cooking. Light up about a half chimney of briquettes and deploy them equally on both sides of the pit. Then mix in a few unlit briquettes on each side as well. Two little minion fires of which to do your bidding. Lastly, add a chunk of your preferred smoke wood to each pile, and that’s all there is to it. We favored hickory today, the old pit master fall back and all-around great smoke wood.

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Bone-side down over indirect heat

After removing the membrane on the back, the ribs were dusted liberally with the 14-Spice Dry Rub, and placed bone-side down, and centered in the grate. The damper on the bottom was adjusted to maybe 50%. The vent on top, open full. Plunk the lid on and let the Weber magic do it’s thing. The little pit came up to 250-something degrees and then stayed there, as the wonderful tendrils of hickory smoke curled into the air.

Now when you put the lid on, be sure to position the top vent over the ribs, thus to draw the smoke where it ought to go, over your spoils. You can stick a thermometer in through the top vent if you want, and it should read somewhere around 250 -275, which is perfect. If it’s hotter than that, reach below and close off the damper there a little more. Close the top vent even, if necessary. The more you close the vents, the less oxygen runs through the pit, and thus the cooler it gets. Simple pit physics people. A pan of water placed between the coal beds can also act as a heat sink for you, helping to keep the pit temperature down. This old faithful kettle grill settled in at 250 however, with remarkable ease. And yours will too. All you have to do is ask nicely.

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Smoke at 250 F for 3 Hours

Let the ribs and the pit do their thing now, for the next three hours. Your only job is to stay out of the way. This age-old discipline usually involves frequent sorties to the fridge where upon you may wish to draw a glass of something cold to drink.  Then it is usually good form to go take up roost some place comfortable and while away the hours there, and enjoy the natural patterns of wood smoke curling against a beautiful, blue sky. If you’re in a rush, BBQ is probably not the thing for you. But if you are one with a proclivity for loitering, at ease with long, protracted hours of peace and tranquility patron to the pit, well then, you can go far in the smokey arts my friend. And rest assured that the path there smells amazing.

On the Fourth Hour

After three hours, we foiled the ribs. Foiling the ribs isn’t necessary I suppose, but we like to do it that way. It almost guarantees a tender, IMG_6502succulent end game every time. The meat is steamed when in the foil, and let it be said, oh how it pampers it so. When you wrap the ribs, add some sort of steaming agent: BBQ sauce, honey, juice, cola, beer.  What ever you like. Just a splash or two. This time around we foiled our ribs with butter and brown sugar, and boy let me tell you, that was a round trip ticket straight to my happy place! The butter and brown sugar marry together for a wonderful caramel effect, those flavors then merging with the dry rub and the wood smoke, mercy,  the results are off-the-charts concerning pork ribs.

Also at this time, add more unlit coals to the fire if you think you need it.

Anyways, let the ribs dot their thing in the foil now for an hour at least, maybe even two. Check in on them after the first hour, and if they bend easy, or a tooth pick passes through the meat with little resistance, they’re ready. If bones are falling out of your plunder like teeth from an old man, it’s passed ready, tho still delicious. But before you jump the BBQ gun here, and dive head first into your ribs with the reckless abandoned that grips you , take them out of the foil and put them pack on the pit for a while longer. This engagement in patience will first off tighten the meat mass back up a little, and lastly caramelize the butter/brown sugar glaze it has been foiled with the last hour or so. And when we say caramelize, we mean caramel! For what, after all,  is caramel made from? Butter and brown sugar for starters. So mind the meat carefully over the coals for a few minutes at the end here, and watch that sweet pit master magic take your ribs to yet again the next level of yum! Man, can you smell it people!

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Back to the grill to tighten up

Let’s slice one off, shall we, and take a gander! Ps…No sauce necessary here!

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Please refrain from drooling on your keyboard, as it is very difficult to clean later.

IMG_6492Hickory smoked pork ribs off the Weber kettle grill, seasoned with 14 -Spice Dry Rub, sided with cold noodle salad  and a scoop of beans! Man! Good BBQ. Good times.

 


Made in Montana: Smokin-O’s BBQ Smoke Rings

Deep in the Bitterroot Range of the Rocky Mountains, amid the pristine, pine-scented forests and tumbling glacial rivers which flank the Trapper2-e1424135597267 (1)gorgeous contours of Darby, Montana, reside the good folks at R&R Conner Inc and Real Wood. Here beneath gently rising plumes of wood smoke which taper into a high Montana sky, you will find the skilled practitioners of the Smokin-O Smoke Rings, or the “ring masters”, as they’re affectionately coined in these parts. Fifth generation forest stewards who, like us, have a deep seeded love for putting meat to flame and declaring it good. And through a rather nifty process where hardwoods and spices are ground up, mixed together, and then extruded under high temperature and pressure, where upon the natural lignins found in the cellular make-up of the trees at once “glue” themselves together, well, the Smokin-O Smoke Ring thus is born. No binders. No chemicals. Just pure smoking satisfaction wrought from the mountain hollows of Darby, Montana.

Smokin-O’s BBQ Smoke Rings – Wood-fire Taste for Gas Grills, Original

SO-pkg-1-980x1040Now a word about these smoke rings.  They were designed for gas grills. When they contacted us to see if we might want to try their product,  we had to decline. For let it be said, we already know what great smokey flavor is because all we cook with is charcoal and wood. It’s what we do. Smokey flavor is part of the package. We have many pits, but nary a single gas grill between the lot of us. Not wanting one either. But then I remembered there is still a small portion of our readership who remain stubborn to their gassy ways. Stalwart souls who shall not budge from their token propane grill for all the cheese in Ireland. You know who you are. You also know you’re missing out on the whole reason to be grilling in the first place – that assurance of smokey goodness patron to the pit. But there is no converting you, and we understand this. Here then is where these smoke rings gather some favor for flavor. Where they make a stand in a world gone to gas.

How to Light Smokin-O’s

They couldn’t be simpler to use. To light them, just place them over the flames of your grill. Run it up to 400 degrees and shut the lid. In 5 tosmokino1 10 minutes, the ring should be lit and smoking rather profusely. They say when it’s properly lit, about 15% of it should be cloaked in white ash and sport a nice, glowing-red edge. So that’s how you’re supposed to light it, but of course, we had to do it like a man, and put the blow torch to it. This technique is proven amid charcoal champions and pyromaniacs alike, and lo, works just fine with Smokin’O’s too. That ring lit right up like an Irishman on Saint Patty’s day, and then smoldered for a good long time. Now you may be asking, what did we smoke, and how did it go? That’s a good question.

Cold Smoking with Smokin’-O’s?

Now being that we don’t have a gas grill, and after studying the unique properties of these smoke rings, a brain thrust naturally sprang to mind. We patrons of the pit get brain thrusts you see.  We get them routinely, for better or for worse. IMG_6235Anyways, I thought, well what about a cold smoke? Perhaps these little compressed rings of wood and spice might prostitute themselves as a right fine cold smoking apparatus. Turns out they do! For the most part anyways. Cold smoking is basically smoke without much heat. Useful for such meltables such as cheese or even chocolate. Or for things you just want to add smokey flavor too, but not necessarily cook yet, like bacon or nuts, or spices such as paprika or salt. These smoke rings emit a little heat, but not much, and when placed opposite what ever you want to cold smoke, such as some cheddar cheese as shown in the photo below, the cheese did not melt. However, when the smoldering ring was placed directly below the cheese, well then the cheese melted like a depleting cheese glacier, and it was very sad. But that was a pit keeper error, and easily rectified. Just place the smoke ring well away from your spoils, and let the smoke do it’s job. Yum! The effect is only improved in the winter months. FullSizeRender (4) The strength of the Smokin-O tho, is in meat. So we felt we ought to at least use it in some traditional grilling efforts, to see it in its full glory. Tho designed for gas grills, we used it anyways on the Weber kettle grill as if it were a piece of smoke wood, and were not disappointed. We tossed it directly onto the coals, like we would with any piece of wood. Soon enough it was puffing away with a contented pillar of amazing smelling smoke. Indeed, it smelled wonderful. Not sure what hardwoods and spices it’s comprised of, but hark, we found the aromas there of most agreeable with our nasal pathways. We put the old black enameled lid back on the pit, and the draft thus engaged – convincingly. These rings have no trouble producing smoke. And will do so, they say, for about a half hour, depending on their location in the pit. The cooler the area you place them, the longer they last. When we tried them with cold smoking earlier, they lasted so long that we gave up altogether waiting to see them burn out, and just went fishing instead. In the end tho, the smoke duration seems more than adequate for most of our needs. And if you need the smoke to last longer, they suggest stacking one on top of the other, kind of like a mini minion method.

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The boneless chicken breasts we smoked up were spot on in the smokey goodness we’re used to around here. Very tasty, and more over, not over powering in smokey flavor. Many a newbie to the smokey arts tend to get a wee bit carried away when adding smoke to their grilled cuisine. These rings seem to give you just the right amount of smoke to balance well with your protein of the day, and the various flavor profiles you might be after. An all-around, good, smokey flavor. No complaints.

Final Thoughts

So if you’re set on gas grills, and vow never to waver, but wish you could still enjoy some of the flavor benefits of a good wood fired grill, then I cannot divine why you would not want to stock up on these Smokin-O’s. Easy to use, affordable, and point-blank effective in what they do – generate smoke. We also found them quite the versatile product, capable of some fairly decent cold smoking, something of which they are not advertised to do, but do, according to our tests. We also liked that they were all natural, of course, not held together by goofy chemicals you cannot pronounce, or harmful binders. And of course, they were made in Montana, one of our very favorite locales, where the ramparts rise high, and rivers run cold through the resplendent valleys below.

Check out their site if you’re at all curious for more, http://www.smokin-os.com/

Or just head straight to amazon and get yourself some! Here’s the link.

Smokin-O’s BBQ Smoke Rings – Wood-fire Taste for Gas Grills, Original


This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.


 


Anything Worth Doing: Pecan Smoked Back Ribs

The north wind whispered among the fields and streams, and along the water’s edge down by the pond. With mallards quietly afloat there, watching as I was, the tiny white flakes of snow begin to twirl down from an ashen-gray sky. It was fairly cool out still, for the first day of spring, FullSizeRender (2)cool enough that is, to heighten the simple pleasures found in close bandy to a beautiful chimney of coals. One of which I had one going just then, as a matter of fact, with my hands hovering over the flames. I tossed a small piece of pecan wood into the chimney, and watched silently as it took flame.

I have always enjoyed the lighting of the coals. The process of it. The initial pungent blast of sulfur from a match, the first plumes of wood smoke curling aloft, and of course, the sweet time it takes to do such things, inherent to wood fired cooking. Oh yes indeed, there is a veritable gamut of quicker ways to procure supper for your self, this we know, from: the venerable stove top, to the drive through window of a fast food place, or hark, even behind the spattered plastic door of your personal microwave oven. Yuck. But it all works I guess. It all gets you there. Let it be said tho, because it is true, nothing so raises the bar of edible succulence, quite like a lovely rack of pork ribs riding the low and slow train all the afternoon long.

Cooking with wood and charcoal is at once an exercise in patience. Many folk have not the muster to do this anymore, or even want to do it, it seems,  courtesy perhaps of our on-demand society. We are contented in large part, with what we can get quickly, and have forgotten at times, the pleasure of the wait. That’s what I love about BBQ proper. The essence of it, right down to its smokey core, is something of jaunt on the scenic path. It makes you wait for it. You have to respect the journey. And it is within the time span of this enforced leisure where the magic keenly unfolds. Lets take a peak under the lid, and I’ll tell you a little more about it, and what we have going on for supper at the pit today.

Baby Backs sizzling in a shroud of pecan smoke

Baby backs sizzling in a shroud of pecan smoke. Oh man!

 

Oh sweet rendering collagen, how I darling thee! You work best at your own speed, and no one can tell you otherwise. Indeed, one should not rush the natural processes of rendering pork. It is a snail’s progression in Pig Picasso,  right before our eyes. Just let it go,  people, low and slow, and do your very best to just stay out-of-the-way. They say every time you lift the lid on your smoker that you add maybe 20 more minutes to the cook. And I suppose it’s true. But I had to show you, you see,  if not for to glimpse the savory baby backs, but I suppose also to add 20 more wonderful minutes to my cook. Oh yes, I like the sound of that. It is well with my soul. For here is an activity of which I sincerely do love, to tarry pit side neath wild skies and darting tweety birds, just watching the wood smoke spiral and world gently spin round and round. I could do this for the better part of the day. And I do mean the better part. So why then would any misguided soul seek to hurry through it. Never!

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I fancy the process of BBQ. And I like that it takes a long time. Because I suppose it gives me an excuse to loiter in my man chair and do nothing at all. It is a common secret among men, you see, and the women seem to let us get away with it, that we are hard at work out here manning our pits! That wood smoke would not curl right without our wise and manly influence. Nor would the protein cook proper like with out our steadfast sorties to the refrigerator for something cold to drink. Indeed, it is simply a man’s duty to tarry by his puffing pit and assure quality control there. And for some reason the women accept this, and the men are just wise enough not to fight it. Blessed be the pit jockey, in fact, who’s pork butt spans half the day, and the evening shadows grow long before his feet. The longer BBQ takes, the more content we are.

I reckon I ought to digress for the moment’s sake, and tell you a bit about the ribs, since your here and all. Easy enough. Firstly, we whipped up a homemade dry rub consisting roughly of what ever we had lying around, which included the following:


Basic Dry Rub of Whatever We Had Lying Around

  • Brown sugar
  • Smoked paprika
  • Onion powder
  • Garlic salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • Ground mustard
  • Cayenne pepper

*Amounts are left up to the pit master’s instincts. 


After the membrane was removed, we thus slathered the rack in Worcestershire sauce, and promptly patted the spice rub all over, to and fro, and tip to tip. Whilst we were getting friendly with the ribs, the Weber Smokey Mountain was coming up to speed, to 251 degrees,  with a good charcoal/pecan fire burning in its steel bowl. After a suitable pause to slurp the top off a manly beverage, we placed the rack bone-side down on the pit grate for to come to edible maturity there, amid the softly rising plumes of pecan smoke. Glory!

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And now is when we wait for it. A pit keeper’s pleasure, if you will. And darn near our highest privilege in the smokey realm. Time to settle in somewhere fair, splay our feet upon gentle inclines, and relish for once the noble feeling of not being in a rush. To let up on the accelerator pedal of life, and just be… To commune with the aromas of perfectly executed pork, that which we usher by the hand unto the enchanted land of succulence.

In closing, I am reminded of the late Colin Fletcher, of backpacking immortality, who once coined, and brilliantly so, “Anything that is worth doing, is worth doing slowly”.  

So it is, Mr. Fletcher. And so it is with BBQ also. Amen.

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Pecan Smoked Back Ribs with a smoke ring to touch the center of the earth. Varnished in sauce, tinted with honey, sided with smoked baked beans and home-made tater salad. Man oh sweet buddy. Get your bibs on people! This is BBQ at it’s best. This is what you can do when you’re not in a hurry.


Only In Minnesota: The Fire On Ice BBQ Competition

As your personal roving field reporter, and benefactor to the smokey community at large, I was off and about the weekend last, IMG_0035doing thy bidding for the betterment of BBQ, and my own good mood in general. It was brought to my attention by one of our finest subscribers, Bill, at Three Dogs BBQ, that a rather unique BBQ competition was being held not far from PotP headquarters. It was so unique, in point of fact, that I just had to go check it out. You see,  The Fire on Ice Competition was in its third year, and claimed to be doing so in true Minnesota fashion – out on a wind-swept, frozen-over, 207 square mile lake just east and trifle south of no where. The last time they did this, it was rumored to be 30 below there, not including the wind chill. And now this year, they’ve cast common logic aside, and seem to be back for more. A hardy lot these cats, I thought, as I sipped my morning brew. Why not. Could be fun!  So I hired a driver, also known as,  Elder Brother, and we were off for the northern muskegs, trucking up the highway at semi-appropriate speeds, with bountiful apple fritters in hand, until we reached the frozen flanks of one, Millacs Lake.

The ice was about three feet thick still, here at Minnesota’s second largest inland lake. Which is a good thing for ice fishermen and pit masters alike. Not to mention the trucks zipping to and fro the scattered ice shanties and the Appledoorn Resort, who once again, has graciously hosted this slightly crazed, but favorable BBQ event. And an event it truly is, in every sense of the word. Over 50 teams were competing this weekend on the ice, in categories ranging from ribs and butts to chicken and beef tri-tip. The number of entries steadily increasing over the last 3 years. Teams from as far as the plains of Texas even, have made the polar pilgrimage for but to smoke their pork over the ice fields of Mille Lacs. It is probably the only BBQ competition in the world where you can pull a 14 inch walleye up through a hole in the ice right next to your smoker. Say what you will, but this is living!

Shuffling like two pregnant penguins over the glazed ice, elder brother and I took a pedestrian tour of BBQ Alley.

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What they do is line up various ice houses and fish shanties to fashion a “main street” if you will. Affectionately referred to as BBQ Alley. And to each fish house you will find a designated smoker or two, or three, along with a band of cheerful folks milling about there, usually with a manly beverage in hand, musing at length over such lofty things as fire and ice. They seemed a happy lot indeed, despite the winter climes. And I could see why. What a glorious stroll it is, I must say, with boots shuffling over thick, crystalline ice, that which shimmers like diamond booty at the terminus kiss of a sunbeam’s golden slant. And the blue-tinted pillars of smoke, patron to good BBQ, curling serenely into a beautiful, blue, Minnesota sky. And the aromas people. Mercy! Every twenty feet your nasal orifices would spread again, as receptors to an aromatic parade of perfectly executed pork.

Here are just a few of the cool pits and pit keepers we came across in our time at the Fire On Ice Competition.

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Some contestants had it all. Even brought their own ambulance, they did. I talked to the owner of this rig, and he just shrugged his shoulders.

“Had to do it!” he said. And he did. He also said he hopes to go full-time into the competitive BBQ circuit.

Can you really do that?” I croaked.

Well, I’m sure gonna try“, he said. “I just love it“. And I think he meant it too. Bless you good sir, and I hope you make Harry’s Bar proud.

You can check out their facebook page if you wish at https://www.facebook.com/HarrysAllSaucedUpAndSmokin

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Shuffling onward, elder brother and I came upon one of my favorite rigs there. A custom-built monument to the BBQ sciences if there ever was one. Complete with its own barber chair! Shoot, I’d get a shave here!

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This one was elder brother’s favorite. I think he just liked the pretty colors, but I try not to over think it any. Anyways…

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Shiggin & Grinnin from Delano, Minnesota sure had a nice pit. I may or may not have lingered a particularly long and protracted time here, enjoying the free aromas and what not. I visited their web site later, and let’s just say, they know how to win! You can check our their site too, at http://www.shigginandgrinnin.com/

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We reluctantly left the premises right around turn in time. People were zipping across the ice on their ATV’s and pick-up trucks, cradling their Styrofoam Cartons O’Plunder close to their downy bosoms, in humble attempts to outfox for a time, the wind and the cold. The contestants all piled into the Appledoorn Chalet for to warm up a bit and see how they had done, patron to the pit. Their labors, their dreams, their meat, in the hands of the judges now. And that’s when we saddled up in elder brother’s old truck, poured a spot of tea from a slender thermos, and made our way south from whence we came, content, and smelling akin of two hickory-tinted pork butts, who if only just for a couple of hours, had a very good and memorable day on the ice, where the wood smoke also rises. Amen.

PS.. Let’s see you do this in Ecuador!

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So if you’re game for a unique, cold weather BBQ competition, one of which is growing bigger every year, then check out Fire On Ice. Maybe we’ll see you out there!

-PotP


Sub-Zero Pork Ribs and Ecuador

It was seven below the zero mark, iffin it weren’t colder. And I think it was. Nobody was outside anyways, to tell me otherwise, not even the tweety birds. No one save forIMG_5228 me, that is. And it was cold alright. The keen wind cut through the pond-side spruce with all the compassion and loveliness of a pit bull getting his favorite parts snipped off. The snow on the patio squeaked underfoot. And your breath, if you had any, spiraled like exhaust from an old diesel truck, and carried in the breeze a fathom and half over snow encrusted fields. Indeed, the day was cold against your face.  My fellow patron and I were to discuss it, and we surmised that the odds were high, and probably accurate even,  that I likely was the only humanoid within a hundred mile radius, out of warm doors right then, putting meat to flame on the BBQ. Oh how the neighbors must all roll their eyes every time they see my smoke rise, whilst the wind-driven ice crystals tap over their window pane. No matter, we Patrons of the Pit are a curious group by default. Not one for common thinking and none such. Forsaking oven and stove to cook instead over charcoal and wood, outside, and under random skies, we stand stalwart and proud at our pits, with our collars up and trimmed towards the tempest. BBQing in the cold is just what we do. What we have to do. Unless, I suppose you live, say, in Ecuador.

We have a reader amongst us, a long-time subscriber if you will, and an all-around good guy. Formerly of Minnesota, now roosting in the tropical climes of Ecuador. We have watched his blog, John and Mary Living it up in Ecuador, over the years, and admired their strange adventures, and knack for good living. If the winter draws long for you, do yourself a favor and check out their wonderful blog. It will warm you up, both inside and out. But the old boy there has a sense of humor, I must say, one that I often ponder in vain whilst I’m manning the smoker on sub-zero days like these. You see, he likes to chime in, and reminisce of what Minnesota in the winter was like. To nonchalantly act like he is in your corner. To recall fondly snowstorms in April, of  football on the frozen ground, and of course, the cold. And then all too often, he likes to end his comments with some thing like this, and I quote “ I have to admit that I now usher in winter with a nice dip in the pool or the warm Pacific Ocean and a nap on the beach covered in SPF-30” John from Ecuador likes to rub it in that way. And we’re not just talking about his sunscreen. So it’s 7 Below. Lets smoke some ribs! IMG_5197   We did this rack fairly simple. First rubbing it down with a little brown sugar, then hit it with a spicy rub I had sitting about. A little something to usher in the heat, if you can call it that. We placed the rack “bone-side” down on the pit, over a steely bosom crackling with orange glowing coals and two fist-sized chunks of hickory. Because it was so cold, no water was added to the water pan of the WSM. It didn’t need any help keeping them temps low today. Lid on. Damper tweaked. A nice pillar of blue-tinted smoke was soon in curl. And as nice as it was out there, I don’t mind admitting none, I sidled it back inside to my easy chair, and pulled a Grandma blanket up to my chin. Glory be! Feet propped up towards the fireplace, my socks hanging off my toes like Stan Laurel in his prime, oh what sheer pleasure it is to bandy with one’s favorite blanket and fire whilst smoking pork ribs on a frosty winter’s day. And as per most rib smokes this side of perfection, I may or may not have dozed off in turn. IMG_5201 At hour three, we went ahead and foiled the ribs with another patting of brown sugar, a few dollops of butter and a shot or two of honey, just because. It smelled good enough to tear into right here, but like a good pit boy, I resisted. My elder brother says patience comes to those who wait. I think ribs probably aren’t far behind. A good hour or so in the foil, smoker running at roughly 257 degrees higher than the outside ambient temperature = 1 rack of authentically procured BBQ ribs. The real thing, people. Oh buddy! Varnish with your favorite sauce if you please, and ingest accordingly and at your will or whimsy. SPF-30 optional, at least for some of us. Amen. IMG_5204 Four and a Half Hour Hickory Smoked Pork Ribs . Yum! A touch of heat and bunch of sweet. Another way to pass a northern cold snap with a wee bit of class, and patron to the pit. Grill on!


A Superior Respite: Tasty Licks Pecan Smoked Turkey

Way up north where the sun is barely felt, we made our way, my bride and I. A little get-away from the cliché urban rat race, and the ever-whirling societal cog. A time together and alone, along the Lake Superior coast, in which to unwind, listen to the waves gently lap, and muse at length over what ever else struck our fancy that day. It was good to get out. We strolled along the arctic-like shoreline, in one of the shore’s little fishing hamlets, jackets zipped up tight, admiring the many ice formations there, and yet, courtesy of the lake’s massive thermal inertia, how it’s waters remained fluid and resplendent.

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I am no Ansel Adams, not by any means, but I rather fancied how this photo turned out. It was by all accounts and stature, a cloudy, over-cast, cold-to-the-bone sort of day. But in a flip of shutter, lo, the sunbeams did fall from a gray sky, glittered across the bay, and illuminated the ice before my feet. It was beautiful people. Sights patron to a great lakes winter. And for a while at least, you didn’t even notice the cold, and furthermore, you felt sort of privileged just to be there. Seized in the moment. This is nice, I thought. We should eat!

I had brought along on the trip some smoked turkey I had done up the weekend last, and we had been nibbling on it through out our journey in the north. There is something about smoked meat on the shore of a cold lake, with icebergs drifting by, that just feels right. Something partial and abiding with the soul. And as we tarried there snacking on the turkey, eyes drawn to narrow slits in the bright, sparkling light, I was reminiscent of how it went and came to be, this bird back home. It was kind of a fun cook, tho all endeavors at the grill are. Let’s go back in a time just a little, shall we, and I’ll tell you more about it.


 

One Week Prior

Whilst the pit was coming up to speed, I first rubbed a 13 pound turkey with a little soy sauce. I find soy sauce tends to add a most agreeable turkey4flavor to the end game, least wise with poultry. Then I hit the bird over with a good smattering of Tasty Licks Traditional Turkey Rub.  I’ve used it before over the years, and it’s fairly good stuff, designed specifically for turkey. Not sure how they do that, but they do.

So it was with a great, and unbridled enthusiasm I placed the gobbler breast-side up, on a roasting pan for to catch the drippings of course, and further, to elevate the turkey up higher into the path of the smoke. A nice little system should you have the appropriate roasting pan that you don’t mind donating to the smokey sciences. Or, simply do not tell your wife.

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The enormous dome was thus plunked onto the Weber Smokey Mountain, and things were set in motion. I admired how the golden rays of the afternoon soon dropped slantwise from a cold, January sky, and the wood smoke gently spiraled aloft. The wood we used this time around was pecan. A wonderful, slightly nutty wood that which compliments dead birds with aplomb. If you are lucky enough to have a pecan tree in your back yard, and favor the BBQ arts,  you already know this. For us mere mortals however, you might be lucky to find some pecan wood in the grilling section of your local hardware store. Or you could order some online, I suppose. Pecan wood is good mojo tho. Very good!

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We let the turkey smoke approximately 4 hours, at 250 degrees. This is of no hardship, either, to a patron of the pit. 4 hours is just right, in point of fact. 4 hours gives you just enough time to watch one NFL playoff football game. Consume two or three lovely beverages, and partake in one glorious, hour-long nap in your man chair. It was perfect. And so was the turkey! You’re supposed to bring the bird to an average of 165 internal, and that’s what every one will tell you I guess. But we brought ours to 160 degrees in spite of it all, and then foiled it, and then put it in a cooler for another hour to rest. During the rest is where the magic happens, where the turkey continues to cook, and the juices redistribute at the same time. The end game – lets just say, is a pecan-scented, walk-off, culinary home run. Man! Get your bibs out people. Consume it accordingly, and wipe thy bidding’s clear of your chin! Even take some with you on your next excursion to the prettier places. It’s all good, and worth every minute, patron to the pit. Amen.

 

 


Mark of the Pit Master: How to Get Perfect Char Marks Everytime

There is nothing quite so fine on a cold November’s eve, than the sound of a thick porterhouse steak sizzling prostrate over a beautiful bed of sear1coals. It’s ample portions of a cow well-pampered, searing to perfection on a hot cast iron grate. We often praise the method of in-direct cooking here, putting your meat opposite the hot coals for to cook there out of harms way. It is a good and reliable technique. But there are also times in the BBQ arts where it is appropriate to throw caution to the cowards, and plunk your plunder straight over the inferno. The char mark is just such an occasion.

It’s pretty much for cosmetic flare alone, tho there is some flavor in char I suppose. Nay, this is more like chrome on your bumper rather than a finely tuned transmission. You don’t need it to get where you’re going, but it sure looks good when you pull into your destination. A lovingly seared steak, branded with a crisp diamond hatch pattern, is one of the higher pleasures to grace our dinner plates, and men and women folk alike and around the world will openly weep in its presence. It’s pretty easy to do too, and just takes a few minutes over direct heat.

Now a char mark is rather simple to achieve if you have a good cast iron grate to work with. The standard steel grates that come with a Weber kettle can do an OK job, but it’s a whole lot easier, better, and a might more fun, with grates from the likes of Craycort Cast Iron Grates. We got our Craycort  grate last year, and it has been a love affair ever since. If you haven’t bothered to get yourself one of these yet for your Weber Kettle grill, well, you’re missing out!

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Anyways, a good way to get a perfect char mark every time is to first oil the grate. Use an oil with a high flash point, such as peanut oil, and paint it on good and liberal. Let the grate get piping hot. Now if you’re so inclined, and really want to swing for the fences, brush some oil over your steak too. This will all but guarantee you some killer grill marks. When everything is good and hot and oily, plunk your meat right down over ground zero, and listen to it sizzle and sing. Flames will shoot up, and seemingly appear to savage your steak, but fear not. You have things well under control. After 90 seconds or so, and with tongs in hand, adeptly clasp your beloved protein and rotate it a minimum of 45 degrees or so, for the oft coveted diamond hatch pattern. Let your pit master instincts be your guide here.

Flip steak. Oil grate again if you like, and repeat the process. The perfect char marks are yours for the taking. After a fashion, tuck the steaks in-direct now, to finish cooking with a little mesquite wood added to the coals for good measure. Season as you see fit, and serve alongside a good potato. Man! Good eating at the pit. And shoot, kinda looks pretty too!

Grill on, people!

-PotP

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Mesquite Tinted Porterhouse Steak and Garlic Mashed Potatoes. Man! A feller could eat this every day, only he probably shouldn’t!

 

 


Simple Living: Brats and Dogs at the Cabin

Way up north in the hinter regions, there resides a modest lake in good form. Two hundred acres plus, I should wager, and if you had a brat2mind to, you could see twelve feet down into it’s gin-clear waters – the aquatic homestead of umpteen bucket mouth bass, and northern pike. The shores there are delightful too, studded in Red and White Pines, with the occasional sturdy Oak thrown in for good measure. A walk amid these tall timbers invariably reveals beavers at work, and whitetails on the forage. Downy woodpeckers engaged in wild headbanging, and of course the customary sighting of Minnesota’s most beloved bird, the common loon. Oh how it’s otherworldly song echoes through the forest primeval, and likewise the tender recesses of your soul.

I had occasion earlier this Autumn, just before deer season in point of fact, to take my passion for loitering up way of this lake. There is a modest cabin there, topped by gray shingles clad with green moss, and an old, rickety outhouse outback, where you are to toss a scoop of lye down the hole after each use. No electricity, no plumbing, no worries. Simple arrangements to be sure. And if less is really more, then this was just what I was looking for. A little respite, if you will, from the ever-whirling urban machine. From sirens screaming and horns blaring. From a world sadly fraught with haste. To these tranquil shores I have come now, to tarry long under tall pines where the breeze gently murmurs. To brew a cup of tea, toss another log on the fire, and just gaze out over the water, in no hurry to do anything, or go anywhere…

Eventually tho, my tummy had other ideas, namely lunch!

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There is an old kettle grill up there, mercifully. A Weber wanna-be, but good enough for my likes, for a patron of the pit is not picky under such remote conditions afield. We will gladly cook out of an old tin can plucked from a garbage pile, if there is nothing else. In point of fact, we have. So this old kettle grill was quite the luxury, you see. Crikies, the world was ours! So the coals where promptly fired and put to work down in it’s steely bosom, and I enjoyed the comforting heat radiating up out of the kettle into the cool, blue Minnesota sky. Life was good in northern Minnesota. But it was about to get better. Time to plop on the meat!

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In a small hamlet no less than a half hours drive away, we procured from the local butcher shop there a mass quantity of hot dogs and some rather rotund bratwursts. Under the flag of simple living, we had simple food. I would wash no dishes this weekend. Nay, I would eat like a beast instead, and wipe my chin only with a sleeve. Likewise, if I wanted to burp, I’d burp. If I wanted to scratch, I’d scratch. You get the idea. And besides, some times a good dog, swirled in ketchup, mustard and onions just plain hits the spot. Such was the case today, on the shores of paradise. The simple life, people. No TV channels to flip. Now twits to tweet. We didn’t even have cell phone reception…And I reveled in every minute of it. It is good for us. It is medicine. From time to time, I concluded, it is well for a soul to unplug from the “Borg Collective”, and live simply. Or barring that, simply live. Star Trek fans will understand.

And in the distance, somewhere down the lake, the silence broke again with echoes of loon song. Amen.

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Brats and Dogs and Whispering pines. Simple Living and good times, patron to the pit!


How to Lay Low: Cherry Smoked Black Friday Ham

Smoke Date: November 28, 2014

Location: Pond-Side Pit

Outside Temp: 23 Degrees F/Pit Temp: 251 Degrees F

About two miles away, there is a store. A big store, as stores go, and today they offer the very best deals for to sooth the mass consumerism that which has spawned upon it’s very flanks. And shoulder-to-shoulder the covenant die-hard will dutifully tread to and fro amid the fields of commerce. Racing head long to get their paws on that which they easily lived without just yesterday. Today is different, however. Today is Black Friday. The herds are on the move again. And we here at this blog know just how to handle such nauseum. We are well schooled, you see,  in the art of crowd avoidance techniques. Indeed, how to and with great effect, lay low from the masses. Thus, it is time to head out to the pit, of course, and smoke our Annual Black Friday Ham!

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A light, but abiding sleet taps rapidly over the black enameled lid of the smoker. It’s almost up to speed now. Cherry smoke is stabilizing. A cold, November breeze swirls over the snow-encrusted pond, and mingles through the naked branches of the old Cottonwood tree. And the Chickadees flirt about, perch-to-perch, frolicking, or doing what ever it is that Chickadees do. I nary question their motives anymore. They are perhaps the hardiest little birds I know, spending the winter long living out-of-doors, seemingly giddy to be alive. Always fluffy. And always active. Our stalwart mascot of the winter pit! Anyways, let’s head inside shall we and get to that ham.

 

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 Ingredients List

We prepared two things to get this ham started. A liquid base and/or baste. And a simple, sweet rub. Here is the recipes for both

Honey Ham Baste

  • 1/3 Cup Apple Juice
  • 1/3 Cup Orange Juice
  • 1/3 Cup Pineapple Juice
  • 1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Honey

Bring these ingredients henceforth to a nice simmer, for to marry the flavors appropriately.

Patron Ham Rub

  • 1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 Turbinado Sugar
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Ginger
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Paprika

 

First order is to score the ham a good 1/2 inch deep. This humble act will allow further penetration of both spice and smoke. Say what ever you want, but this is a good thing, people! So we scored the ham in an semi-attractive checker board pattern, and then lavished it with liberal brush strokes of the honey baste. Whilst wet, we then gave it a good coating of the ham rub too. And that’s that, folks. Take it at once out to the pit, and commence with what you do best!

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This truly is where most pit junkies are at their finest. Or at least at their happiest. Whence the wood smoke begins to curl, there is a special, contented sort of mojo that which transpires across a pit keeper’s soul. Something about the curling plumes, and the aroma of meat on the low and slow, that sets a fellow at ease. We can at once draw a manly beverage, and prop our feet by the fire, and for a while at least, require very little else in this life. Indeed, we are privileged this way, to revel in the simple order patron to the pit. So I moseyed inside, and lit the fireplace there. Turned the man chair towards the heat, whilst maintaining a good line of sight out to the pit, which puffed serenely just past the frosty patio door. And as I leaned back, feeling the first waves of a nap slosh the shores of consciousness, I couldn’t help but to think of those mass herds of shopping folk, elbowing their way in and out of lines, chasing the ultimate bargain. Filling mini vans. Thinning wallets. Bringing home bountiful piles of stuff, for to add to their already mountainous piles of other stuff. Mercy. I nudged my feet a little closer to the fireplace, pulled a blanket over me, and did the only sensible thing I could divine at the time…

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Baste and hit the ham with rub every hour or so

 

When I awoke, the ham was pretty far along. I gave it another baste, and dusted it over with another smattering of rub. The goal is to take its internal temperature up to 145 F. Higher than that tends to dry a ham out. Since most hams are already cooked, how hot you wish to make it is left to your discretion, of course. But 145 F seems to be a happy temp for most folks. This ham needed more time, a duty of which was my pleasure to ensure. And so I put the lid back on, and sidled through the door, returning from whence I came to my man chair still warm, for a few minutes more under a soft blanket, beside the crackling fire. Rigorous work indeed, this pit keeping. It is not for wimps, nor the faint of heart. You gotta work up to it, people! Thus, I nuzzled back into my nest, feet propped up just right, whilst the chickadees zipped past the window pane.

I repeated this process hourly, two more times in point of fact, before the ham was hot all the way through. A routine you should know, that you may become quite accustomed to. A most beautiful, intoxicating rhythm indeed, when Black Friday rolls around, or any day really, when you feel the re-occurring need to lay low. Amen.

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Sweet and Smokey: Cherry-Smoked Honey Ham, fresh off the pit, sided with a heaping spoonful of homemade scallop potatoes, and a vegetable medley for to please the lady folks. Yum! You can do more popular things on Black Friday, I suppose, but why!!

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Real Men Don’t Need Stoves: Smoked Creamy Chicken & Wild Rice Soup

One Patron’s Foray Into The Fine Art of Hardware Store Dining

It was the last of autumn, and the days they were falling short. All the leaves had fallen, sunbeams in scant supply, and the IMG_13211tweety birds and retired folk had gone south now, to tarry under balmy skies, and big umbrellas. The hardy residents that which remained, however, here in Minnesota, could be found battening down their homes; cleaning gutters, mulching leaves and stacking firewood. Prepping their nests for what wintry tempests may brew. This increased activity on the home front is surely sparked by the seasonal folds, and likewise may I say the same about my dinner tonight. A nice spot of hot, savory soup sounded good all day, chicken and wild rice to be exact, and when I got home, I aimed to do something about it.

Oddly enough, my sojourn into soup today started many hours previous, flannel clad, in a local big box store which rhymes roughly with “my nards“. Anyways, I was strolling through the manlier sections of the real estate there, fondling saber saws and cold chisels, you know how it goes, when I came upon a small grocery section, recessed deep in the bowels of the store. It was lovely to the eyes, I must admit, like a gastronomic island oasis in a sea of hardware. I paused as any man would, in the shadow of a veritable wall of beef jerky – meat spanning a fathom wide off both my anatomical port and starboard, and rising higher than I could reach. Glory be, but I had stumbled upon a worthy den!  I moseyed thus over to a wall of assorted nuts, all neatly canned and priced to sell. Every nut you could think of. In every size and shape. And I might have lingered there too, had I not first been wooed by the soup.

wild rice soup

The soup was in an semi-attractive yellow package I guess, but the price was even more handsome still. I do not know why, but men folk are sometimes drawn to these things.  I think because it looks easy. Or barring that, it must be the pretty pictures. At any rate, Shore Lunch Creamy Wild Rice it was called, and it even looked creamy, so I tossed it in my cart. I knew with a supplement of chicken quarters I had back home, and a hand full of mesquite wood chips, I could do something worthy with this humble offering, patron to the pit. And that’s just what we did.

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So under a gray November sky,  we did up the soup as per it’s instructions, but of course we did it on the faithful Weber Kettle, for poetic reasons you see. Real men don’t need stoves! Placing the pot over direct heat, stirring often, it’s heady aromas soon melded with the cool, Autumn air. Along side, we lightly seasoned some chicken quarters in garlic salt, and grilled them up as well, opposite the hot coals.  And lastly, we tossed some mesquite wood onto the coals for that signature scent and added touch only found in outdoor cooking. There by, and for a good while, we let it simmer and smoke whilst the November breeze rustled through the old oak tree. It was good times, as the season’s first snow flakes fluttered down about thee.

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When the chicken was bronzed and savory to eat, and the soup had thickened up, we brought it all inside. Shredded the chicken and stirred it lovingly into the soup, bringing a smokey tinted affair to the meal. And it was good. Darn good I must say. My bride mistakenly assumed even, that I had slaved the afternoon away, preparing the dish from scratch. Now I suppose I could have let the myth perpetuate itself, with my chest stuck out in sad deception- but I couldn’t. I eventually had to fess up that tonight’s rations were procured from but a humble yellow bag that I found at the hardware store. And if she didn’t mind beef jerky and nuts for dessert, I had that covered too! Amen.

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Mesquite Smoked Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup. Sometimes you’d be surprised where your next meal will come from. Then again, all is possible patron to the pit. Grill on, people!

 

 


How To Have Roses In December: Smoked Cheddar Burgers on the Kettle Grill

A cool wind stirs, as the last of a golden light ebbs over the neighborhood roof tops, their silhouetted chimney stacks puffing contentedly against a pale, autumn sky. burger2Where geese occasionally cruise on the wing, first stars appear, and the moon holds still, suspended in time, above the old Cottonwood tree down by the pond. A tree almost, but not quite yet ready to give up its beloved leaves. Umpteen thousands of them, born of green, the shapely spawn of the Populus deltoides, such as the Latins have coined, and my but how they have fluttered brightly the summer long. A life of sunny days and rainy nights. Of storms and droughts. Of bluebird skies that would never end. Now one by one, laying to rest in fields of gold.

Oh what a show the Minnesota trees are putting on right now. By the time this is published, most of the leaves, save for the stubborn, old oaks, will have parted ways with their respective tree, and made their rendezvous with decay on the forest floor. One can’t help but to marvel at the beauty of it all right now, and I guess if you’re anything like us, kindle a good fire in the pit, and cook something there. To flip meat over flame whilst the leaves rain down upon thee. It’s good times, people. And while the coals come up to speed here, let us head inside, shall we, and see how we prepared tonight’s protein.

burger1Now, just as I do not know how many leaves have fallen in my yard, likewise, I cannot tell you how many cheeseburgers I have grilled in my life. Both tallies are rather uncountable, I should wager, and neither will ever be enough. Oh how I fancy a good burger. When guests are to come over, burgers are at once an easy dinner solution that most people, save for the odd, toothless relative, seem to devour with a haste usually reserved for flannel clad individuals on a diet with a disturbing affection for maple glazed doughnuts. You know who you are. Burgers are just good, people. And they always will be. Here then is this patron’s go-to burger recipe when rumbling tummies come calling.

What we do is disperse one envelope of onion soup mix evenly through a pound or so of  80-20 ground beef . The soup mix, if you like that sort of thing, adds a delicious ensemble of flavor, that which favors beef, and can nary attempt to be any simpler. Work it into the meat good and thorough and get your hands dirty. It’s OK. Good meat responds to the hands that which pamper it.  Anyways, that’s it for the seasoning. In point of fact, it’s more than enough. In the steel bowl towards the back, in case you were wondering, resides a few spuds from the fertile fields of Idaho, lovingly shaped by my beautiful bride into a plethora of french fries for to swim in the electric deep fryer. Nothing accents your burger craft with more authority than a batch of home-made french fries. Do go out of your way some time, and try it.

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Burgers deployed over the iron grate, opposite the hot coals. You can cook burgers anyway you want. If you want to go directly over the coals, and cook them hot and fast, then let it be so. Today, however, I was in the mood to mosey. To take the scenic path as far as grill craft is concerned. So we placed them indirect, and tossed on a hunk of mesquite wood too.

 

 

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After a fashion, the old, porcelain enameled lid was set in place, and the damper adjusted just so. Naturally there after I assumed the proper pit master position, in the outdoor man chair, legs crossed like a gentleman of leisure, lovely beverage within reach, and the brim of my hat tipped up in a rather nonchalant manner. The blue-tinted smoke spiraled out of the vent in long, magical tendrils, dissipating into the ether, and smelled point-blank out of this world.  I hear the tell-tale honk from one of Minnesota’s patented voices, the Canadian goose, who it seems is always aloft this time of year – the benediction of Autumn. It brings a smile to my face, as I lean back and look over the kettle lid, at the old Cottonwood tree, standing handsome at the edge of the pond. It’s upper most canopy still lit in the evening sun. It’s leaves softly clacking in the breeze. And for a while at least, all the world spins as it should. These are but the moments pit-side we cling to, and try to remember come the frigid, short days of winter. And so I sat there in the quietude, with wood smoke rising, trying to remember. Amen.

God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December – James M Barrie

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Mesquite Smoked Cheddar Cheese Burgers, Darting Canadian Geese, Autumn Awesomeness & Deep Moments – it’s all there, people, and patron to the pit.

 


Seasoned With Hunger: Mesquite Grilled Chicken Breasts

I love to loiter, it’s true. On my patio, next to the faithful Weber kettle, smoke curling serenely from its old damper. It soothes me. Leaning back in the grilling chair, with a manly chicken3beverage in hand, what a pleasure it is to watch the world gently spin there, circling about thee. Oh I could do other, more productive things I suppose, but I don’t want to. Not today. Right now as the Spruce rise blackened against a pale western sky, with this beautiful bed of coals residing pit-side, well, this is all that I need. This and a few moments more patron to the pit. Moments where the Canadian geese engage in their dutiful and seemingly daily fly by, with those large, magnificent wings slicing through the cool, autumn air. And then there is the poetic turn of foliage, of once green and hardy leaves, now tinted with orange and yellow and red. Now fluttering to the earth in a showy submission to the likes of gravity and sweet time.

I fasten another button on my smoking jacket, and turn up the collar as I poke at the coals in the fading light. I find myself lingering there, staring into the fire. Loitering. Absorbing the ambiance of waning daylight, and relative warmth, and the sight still of green grass. For we northern patrons of the pit, we are quietly keen to the slow-ebbing path of the sun. We know it’s plotted course, its time to shine and when it goes dark. We are acquainted indeed with the diurnal rhythms at hand. And we see it coming now, just around the cosmic bend. The day we will be grilling supper in the dark again. The day we usher our BBQ pits over to the dark side of the moon. A campaign that up in these parts can last almost half a year. Say what you will, but this is why I loiter now. This is why I tarry in the tapered light.

On the pit tonight, mesquite smoked chicken breasts. It’s easy to do, and oh so very tasty. Join us won’t you, and we’ll tell you more about it, and how it came to be.

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Simple. That was the motto tonight. I didn’t want anything too complex you see, that it would interfere with my prospect of loitering. So what we did was take two portly chicken breasts, with the bone-in of course, and oiled them up a tad to promote a more crispy skin come the end game. You’ll never regret choosing bone-in meat, people, if you have the choice that is. There is a wonderful and undeniable flavor with meat on the bone, courtesy to the marrows and other things residing with that perfect marriage in protein. Yum! It’s how man was always meant to ingest meat! On the bone, with juices running down your fore arm. Anyways, the seasoning also was pert near as simple as it gets – a sprinkle of garlic salt, and an equal dash of onion salt. Many a time I have enjoyed this simple combo with more enthusiasm than some elaborate spice rub I have concocted in the kitchen laboratory. As one of our heroes, the late, great Dick Proenneke said, “I eat simple food seasoned with hunger“. And that’s about how we rolled tonight. Simple. And hungry.orange coals

Thus atop a beautiful bed of orange-glowing coals, we tossed on one small chunk of mesquite wood, no bigger than a golf ball, to christen this meat benefactor of the smokey realm. We laid the breasts carefully over direct heat, intensely searing them there, this to get the skin good and crispy, and maybe a little charred. Flipping the meat at your pit master instincts, give the other side some time over the direct heat too. It only takes a minute or two if your fire is good and hot. Once the skin was crisp and tight, we escorted the chicken back to the cooler side of the pit, indirect as they say, opposite the hot coals. This then is where we put the lid on, top damper over the meat, where the draft catches and the wood smoke began to curl.

Glory, but these are moments a pit jockey craves, aside his faithful cooker, aromas of meaty plunder dancing in the air, mingled in mesquite. For a moment at least, and maybe even longer than that, we are exactly where we wish to be, doing precisely that which is well with our soul. And may the clouds idle by then, and the sun hold still in a gorgeous sky, it’s warm rays cast upon our shoulders, and through the dappled leaves. The simple pleasures, people, and good times patron to the pit. So when you see your favorite pit boy loitering by a good bed of coals, remember there is probably more going on there than just meat and flame. There is joy also. And this is usually the case. Amen.

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Mesquite grilled chicken breasts with a crispy skin, sided with hot buttered corn, dashed in pepper, and touched in salt. Simple food seasoned with hunger. Man!


Review: Weber Smokey Mountain 22 1/2 Inch Cooker

We’ll go ahead and admit it then, here at the pond-side pit, we are Weber junkies to the core. Like most of the grilling populous, we started out on the humble Weber kettle, afterfocus_1366310800546cutting our teeth on the venerable grill, which straddled its ash pan stalwart through the ages. A grill by and far in which we still use heavily to this day. Eventually however, if you delve far enough into the BBQ arts, you will want to acquire yourself a good smoker. A rig designed to run low and slow for hours on end, demand very little baby sitting, and at the end of the day turn out some exceedingly good Q every time. The Weber Smokey Mountain 22.5 is what we have used for years now. It is your classic water or bullet smoker in design, reminiscent of a space droid blowing smoke out its head. And it is by far and away the best bang for the buck we have spent in the hobby of smoking meat. Here then is a more in-depth look at the WSM 22.5, in case you find yourself in the market, or if you just have a passing curiosity about the cooker. Because every once in while, we do occasionally need to do something useful around here.


The Specifics

Weighing in at a shipping weight of 76 pounds of glorious porcelain-enameled steel , it comes in one giant box, the cardboard of which is thick enough to flip out on the back stoop and serve as a guest room for visiting relatives.

Some assembly is required here, such as: screwing on the legs, the grate mounts, and one of the handles, the other being welded in place already at the top of the dome.

When erected, the beast stands roughly at 23 by 23 by 48 inches tall, and is guaranteed by the folks at Weber to last 10 years.

Included with the Cooker:

  • 2 nickel-plated 22-1/2-inch-wide cooking gratesweber smokey mountain
  • 1 Steel charcoal grate
  • 1 Three-Gallon porcelain enameled water pan and fire chamber
  • Built in thermometer
  • Aluminum fuel door
  • 3 Aluminum legs
  • 3 dampers on the bottom / one up top
  • 2 Glass Reinforced Nylon Handles
  • 1 Cover and owners guide included
  • All hardware is included

All of this equals 726 square inches of premium smoking satisfaction.

To give you an idea of what that looks like in your world, think six racks of St. Louis cut ribs, or six 15 lbs pork butts. Or if you’d rather, you could do the thanksgiving turkey and a ham all simultaneously, with room to spare. Its big, people. Plenty big.

Weber 731001 Smokey Mountain Cooker 22-Inch Charcoal Smoker, Black


A Closer Look

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The fire bowl is comprised of the bottom enameled steel bowl, a steel fire grate,  an inner enameled fire ring(fire chamber) three aluminum legs and three dampers. The general procedure here, as shown in the photo, is to fill the fire ring with charcoal. How much charcoal can the WSM 22 1/2 hold you ask? Well let’s just say, if you were so inclined, you could empty an entire 20 lbs bag of charcoal into the belly of this beast with ease. And we have. Set up with the minion method, as seen in the photo, the cooker will run at around 250 degrees for ten hours easily. We have heard of folks getting longer burn times than that even. Reminiscent of the big old American trucks with the 40 gallon tanks, that could go half way across the country before needing a fuel stop.

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The nickel-plated cooking grates are your standard Weber affair. 22 1/2 inches in diameter and functional I guess. Nothing very exciting save for that there are two of them. The other one residing about a holiday ham distance below the top one. And this is what gives the cooker its large capacity. Three racks of ribs up top, and a couple of pork shoulders down below, dang, you’re ready to party!

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The dome is gigantic feeling too. But then everything about this smoker is. Just lifting the lid is somewhat of an event. The dome is big enough to easily cover the largest turkey you’ll ever want to smoke. In fact, people have been known to somehow fit a young suckling pig in the 22.5.  It comes with the standard Weber thermometer you see on most of their products, and we have found it to be reasonably accurate. But keep in mind it only registers the temperature at the top of the dome, and not at grate level,  where most pit masters are interested. For grate level readings, you’ll need to use other devices, such as this probe, that we reviewed a while back. But for general smoker temps, it does just fine. The dome also comes with two nylon handles, one on the top, and the other at the perimeter, just below the thermometer. The 4-hole damper vent is just opposite the thermometer.

Just below the two cooking grates you will find the 3 Gallon enameled water pan. It hangs on four strategically placed, multi-purpose brackets, just above the fire water panbowl. The water pan does two things for this smoker. Firstly, it promotes a moist environment within the cooker, this operating on the plausible theory that such an environment will also help keep your meat moist. While this is of debatable value to some pit maestros, the other thing the water pan absolutely does is act as a heat sink. It absorbs a commendable mass of heat from the fires below, and in turn greatly assists the pit in operating at lower temperatures, whilst at the same time creating a lovely indirect heat that which envelopes your tasty spoils. In point of fact, when the water pan is full, the Weber Smokey Mountain has always seemed to us to be happiest running around 225- 250 degrees F. This is good, because that is also the ideal temperature range in which to tarry, if you want to engage in low and slow smoking activities. Which you certainly do, other wise you wouldn’t be reading this. Fire door opening is roughly 12 inches wide and 14 inches tall.


The Bottom Line

Tho there are better smokers out there, in which the ceramic eggs and custom jobs come to mind, but if you cannot justify thousands of dollars to smoke your weenie on one of them, then the WSM is the next best thing. They are simply adept at doing what they do. Pit masters have won competitions with them, Slap Yo Daddy, Harry Soo for example. These pits just work. Once you dial in the temperature it stays there, no baby sitting, freeing you to go about the important business of loitering belly-up in your man chair, with a lovely beverage in hand. The 22.5 Inch WSM is $400. There are two other sizes out there as well. The 18.5 inch goes for $300. And the 14.5 inch you can find around $200. The porcelain enameled coating keeps these rigs looking sharp for years it seems. If you’re just getting into smoking meat, or want to dabble in competitive BBQ even, these pits fill the bill and your tummy alike. We absolutely love the Weber Smokey Mountain. We think it’s a dang good pit, and it’s our privilege to let you know. Mission accomplished.

Check them out sometime via our amazon affiliate link! Help put some meat on our grill, people!

Weber 731001 Smokey Mountain Cooker 22-Inch Charcoal Smoker, Black


Operating Tips 

  • Line water pan with aluminum foil, inside and out for easier clean up
  • Start with all dampers fully open and gradually feather the lower ones until pit is running at desired temperature
  • In place of water, you can also use ceramic briquettes or play sand in the water pan, which will do the same job of a heat sink
  • Spray the cooking grates down with grease before hand to prevent sticking later on
  • Brand new WSM cookers tend to run a little on the hot side at first, until a good layer of smokey grime is established on the inner walls
  • The Minon Method is highly recommended when using this cooker for sustained low temps for long periods of time
  • When adding more fuel, simply toss a chimney full of unlit coals through the aluminum fire door, doing so a half hour before you think you need to
  • Fill the water pan with hottest water your tap can produce to get the cooker up to temp faster
  • When the lid is off, avoid setting it on the concrete to prevent chipping the enameled coating
  • Close all the vents when cook is done to snuff out the remaining coals and reuse them next time


*We are an Amazon Affiliate for this product and others, so when you go to amazon through our link, if you buy, we will receive a small commission. It’s a fantastic pit, and we’re proud to endorse it here at PotP.


 

Primal Grill with Steven Raichlen, Volume One


Another Season to Grill: BLT’s on the Weber Kettle

Above the pastels of a western sky, tarries a toe nail moon, slender and bright, whilst an autumn breeze mingles serenely amid the fallen leaves.  I shift a bit in the BBQ blt4chair, left leg crossed over right, a hot beverage in hand, and watch how the wood smoke gently curls from the old Weber kettle. Mesquite, aromatic tendrils of it, ascend into the tapering light, and a squadron of Canadian geese honk over head, their feathery wings paddling through the thin air. And yonder, the colors turn on the old cottonwood tree down by the pond, waxing yellow and brown – all gussied up for their imminent rendezvous with the earthen soils below. I take a sip off my beverage, relaxed and content with the day. Another day further into the season that is Autumn. A most privileged time of year indeed, to be a patron of the pit.

Gone now are the heady days of sweat, where a simple sojourn to the mail box would render you an unruly tatter, returning to the house in a glistening sheen of your own rank juices. Hark, your stench not much better off than the neighbor’s pit bull, or for that matter, the neighbor I suppose. No more, and I’m OK with this. With the cooler weather, I shall bring forth out of semi-retirement my beloved smoking jacket, its woolen fibers still tinted with the scented memories of a thousand and one past cook outs. Of feasts procured fireside, under starry nights, where the cosmos never ended. Most folk think they are under law to put their smokers and BBQ grills away this time of year, but to we avid pit junkies, and keepers of the flame, well sometimes I think the really good grilling season is just beginning. When the temperature drops to jacket clad levels, and darkness descends in mid-cook, here then you will discover a noticeable and very tangibly increased appreciation found in the fellowship of the coals. Your cooker is not just an instrument of gastronomic science anymore, but rather it is your companion. Your comrade in the trench. Your hickory scented infatuation. You sort of nestle up to the pit, and revel in the heat radiating forth from its steely bosom. And glory long in its soft, flickering light, tinted with the pungency of smoldering wood. I love it.

I also love, bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches. And there is not a better place or way to make them, than over a well-managed hardwood fire, out-of-doors, and under magnificent skies. Here then is how we did this classic sandwich. And how it went and came to be.

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Firstly, you must understand that what is good about bacon is only amplified when cooked proper on the grill. There is no better aroma in all the land than bacon sizzling over hot cast iron. Like wise, there is no more comforting and pungent a parlay than said bacon sizzling over a hardwood fire. The melding of bacon smell and wood smoke is enough to send man or woman alike into a rapturous state of euphoria and well-being. Grown men will babble unintelligible phrases whence under the spell of bacon sizzling over an open fire. This aromatic combo of the gods, of bacon and wood smoke, tugs on tender strings to stuff residing deep in our souls. There is no explaining it. No justifying it. All we can do is appreciate it, and let it be at that. With our bacon tonight, we did it sans charcoal, completely, with a 100% cherry wood fire, the embers and coals of which, raked to one side of the pit for the option of indirect cooking.

If the fire is good and hot, place your bacon indirect, and put the lid on, top damper open of course. Most bacon will come smoked already, but we went and double smoked it again, just because. Bathing the beautiful strips of pork belly in continuous wafts of cherry wood smoke, until the bacon was cooked to suit thee. We’ve said it before, cooking your bacon in the kitchen is good, because bacon is good. Bacon will always be good. But cooking your bacon on the grill, over a real fire, is point-blank out of this world amazing. The higher quality the bacon, of course, the more proportionate this effect is.  Your inner caveman will weep.

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Lastly, a toast is order. A toasting of the bread that is. No grill smith worth his patented silver tongs should make a BLT on the grill and not toast the bread. I mean if you’re going to do it, then go all the way, right. And we did. Lightly buttering up some left over ciabatta bread, and roasting it quickly over the fire, for to usher in that crispness of texture to match the cold lettuce to come. And the tomato, well that was to be plucked ultra fresh of course, from our garden folds, which proudly holds on still, remnants of summer season now ebbed and gone.

Inside, we thus assembled the hallowed BLT, and with a nod to those who bring us bacon, and the new season upon us, we duly devoured. Amen.

 

blt3Fire Roasted BLT’s over a Cherry Wood Blaze. Oh man!! If you haven’t tried this classic sandwich off the pit yet, well, then in the immortal words of the BBQ Pit Boys, you’re missing something out of your life!

 


The Fine Art of Doing Nothing: How To Smoke A Brisket Point

Part One: The Day Off

There comes a time in a man’s day-to-day, when all the world seems to conspire around him. Where one social posture leads into the next, and for a while at least, brisk5he cannot seem to get his feet on solid ground. Nary can he find a hidden moment even, to catch his breath, and enjoy his inalienable right to watch the clouds slowly idle by. Such was the case here recently, as it sometimes is when one lives a busy life. Drawn henceforth from duty to duty, event to event, it’s easy for a pit jockey to get restless for his craft when he cannot do it. When the ever-whirling cog of society sweeps you under the rug of life, and you are mired there, like a dull, gray moth trembling in a spider’s web.

This weekend last, as the tweety birds cavorted in the morning dew, and the sun came up over the pond, for the first time in a string of many weeks, I found myself the proud owner of an entire day. A day in which, if I so fancied, I could do anything I pleased. No schedules to uphold. No duties to meet. Just sweet time at my disposal. Naturally, then, and without much fore thought, I did first what any red-blooded man would do. I grabbed a wood working magazine and headed for the little pit boys room. There I amused myself with cutting edge articles of mortise and tendon joinery, whilst casually forming my itinerary for the day. The goals at hand today would be lengthy, I concluded, but doable. Whilst still perched on my white throne, in the classic fist-on-chin-elbow-on-leg position suitable to the great thinkers of our time, I nonchalantly chucked my magazine aside, and with steely eyes trained on the far wall, tabulated the plan of attack for my day off. I would, I reasoned, under blue skies and warm breezes, smoke a brisket point low and slow, and by golly if I could help it any, refrain from doing anything else.  It was mission statement I was up for I think, nay,  born for some might say. In point of fact, I already had the pit coming up to speed. Lets head out there now and check out the Weber Smokey Mountain.

Weber 731001 Smokey Mountain Cooker 22-Inch Charcoal Smoker, Black

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Here in the fire bowl, we have what is known in the smokey arts as the Minion Method. A technique developed by its name sake, one Jim Minion, of high BBQ immortality. If you are going to delve far into the low and slow philosophies, or just want a long-sustained fire in your pit, with minimal babysitting,  then this is the way to go. It really works slick. To learn more about the Minion method, check out our write-up, The Long Burn: The Method of Jim Minion

Now, Onward to the Beef!

As an aside, and in a show of flat-up beggery, if any of our lovely readership would ever feel the urge to send us a Wagyu Brisket for a slobber-tugging and thoughtful review, or just to be nice to a couple of pit boys, we are dutifully and irrefutably here for you! We like Wagyu. It’s just that we can’t afford it!

Gold Wagyu Brisket (15 – 17 LBS)

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In a quaint haze of mesquite smoke wafting up out of the pit,  I plunked on the gastronomic center piece of the day , – a modest, Wagyuless,  5 pound brisket point, or in fancy talk, a deckle. What ever you wish to call it, suffice to say, it’s an ornery slab of beef that which requires much love, and much pampering. And as the laws of conventional BBQ would have it, about 7 or 8 hours of quintessential pit time, aside curling plumes of wood smoke, and soft, tapered sun beams.  Perfect. Just what I was looking for. It went on fat side up, for to harvest the natural basting effects of rendering fat and gravity. We also filled the water pan below with about two gallons of water for to promote a moist smoking environment, but more than that, to act as a heat sink from the raging fires just below.

Of Seasonings & Such

The home-made seasoning today was a simple affair to be sure. An ode to the Texan way of doing things, one part kosher salt, and one part black pepper. That’s all a good brisket needs is salt and pepper, thus letting the wonderful beef do the talking. Especially if you’re smoking for a mass variety of palates, going simple is the surest way to please the majority at least.  But for kicks we mixed in a little garlic powder and a shot of cayenne pepper, just because, and to bring a wee more heat to our end game. There was a dash of paprika in there too. Here is the simple rub recipe we concocted.


Brisket Rub

  • 1/2 Cup Kosher Salt
  • 1.2 Cup Fresh Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Table Spoon Garlic Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Paprika
  • 1 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper


Before we carry on to Part Two, we would be remiss if we didn’t tell you about the book of books concerning brisket. Aaron Franklin makes the best brisket in the country! How do we know? Well, just read the reviews on his book. You’ll see. We humbly bow to his expertise. Anyways, back to our story.

Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto


Part Two

The Campaign For Nothing

Big black enameled lid in place, and we were off. The aromatic issue of smoldering mesquite soon took aloft, and before I knew it, I was ensconced in my patio man chair, settling in for the day. Left leg crossed over right, lovely beverage in hand, I was ready, doing what I do best – nothing! And that is the secret to brisket. Patience. You gotta wait for it. Let your smoker do all the work. And you my friend, your biggest duty is just to kick up your feet and keep yourself hydrated hydrated. Just do nothing.

It didn’t take long tho, for temptations to rear. The tomatoes in the garden, for example, looked a wee bit thirsty. Why it wouldn’t take me but two minutes to give them a drink, I thought. But then that would go against my moral code of the day, which was to do nothing. So I resisted, and the tomatoes went thirsty. I kicked my feet up instead, and trimmed my hat towards the sun, eyes drawn shut whilst enjoying the aromas of curling wood smoke and the gentle clatter of the cottonwood leaves yonder. It was a fine day indeed, to smoke a brisket.

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A few hours into it, I had amassed a commendable tally of tasks that I was able bodied enough to avoid doing. Temptations to productivity that I thus refused. And I was getting pretty good at it too. I resisted, for example, the re-occurring, yet compelling urge to wash my truck. Which turned out, wasn’t really that hard to resist after all. Likewise to scrub out the shower stall, which stood in long need, again wasn’t that tough! Napping however, was allowed I figured, for that is the veritable incarnate essence of doing nothing. Indeed I should aspire, I thought, for as many naps as I could. So when the urge to do something was strong, I just laid down until the feeling passed. I was developing a system that I could have gotten used to, or would have, had it not been for the ribs.

I love ribs. A cannot deny, they flutter about in my dreams, and court my very salivary glands to no end. I long to be in their presence, and admire their mahogany complexion post bathed in sweet hickory. Let me as soon as I can muckle onto a rack and henceforth make it my own. And the thing was, I had a rack in the refrigerator, and it was calling my name. Well I had to respond in kind, if but for the efficiency of the smoker alone. Would be a pity, I reasoned, to run that big old pit with just a wee little brisket on board. What a waste of fuel. It needed company. So before I knew it, the “do nothing treaty” was broken, and a rack of pork ribs lay prostrate on the pit. Tendrils of mesquite rose silent into the air. I settled back into the man chair, content with my biddings and resumed with the heady business of doing nothing.

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That’s the great difficulty, I discovered, with doing nothing.  You can’t stop to rest! It is very challenging and awkward at best. But it can be done, I’ve concluded, if but in short, well-calculated bursts. You kind of have to work up to it. After a fashion, a few hours at least, you do slip into a beautiful rhythm. A magical span of clock where the hours while away in a wondrous melody patron to the scenic path. You find you do not fight it any more, the urge to rush from one thing to another. That sort of hasty lifestyle is the rhythm of anxious city folk, and not fit for a pit keeper proper. Good BBQ should never be rushed. Instead there is an almost honest embrace taking place, for the leisure at hand. Like a prized trophy wrought from the battlefields of haste. What once was a struggle to sit still,  is now your privilege. What great fun it is to lean back in your chair, in no hurry for once, and just let the world spin headlong with you. Letting up on the accelerator pedal of our lives for to bask at the end of warm sunbeams, where the wood smoke also rises.

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Take the point to 195-205 internal temperature

We took the brisket to around 200 degrees internal. A brisket is usually tender between 195 to 205. That’s your window of victory. If the thermal probe slides in with little resistance, you probably got it right. We never wrapped it in foil either, tho some do.  It didn’t need to be wrapped no how. The beefy juices fairly oozed forth, and the bark came out a robust, peppery ensemble of flavor. Man! We went about chopping up the brisket next,  for to fashion a BBQ sandwich to match any man’s dream and meatiest ideal. And we declared it good. A good day indeed to smoke a brisket, and for a while at least, do very little else. Amen.

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Slow Mesquite Smoked Brisket Sandwiches on a toasted Ciabatta Roll with a touch of tangy Sweet Baby Rays. Yum! Top it with slaw Carolina style if you please.


Beyond Brisket Basics: A How-To Guide On Smoking Texas Style Competition Brisket


Postscript: When smoking the big meats like this, it is imperative to watch the internal temperature. If you miss that window of 195 to 205, you’ll probably screw up your supper. There are lots of gadgets for monitoring the temperature. The one we’ve been using for years now is the Maverick RediChek ET-73. A decent performer for a fair price. To see our review of it, click here.  Or check it out on Amazon. We are an affiliate for this product, so a small commission will be sent our way ,eventually, if you go through our link. We do appreciate it.

Maverick M Remote Smoker Thermometer [ET-73] – White

The cooker we used, Weber Smokey Mountain 22.5, was a fantastic performer as usual. Always a pleasure. Check it out also on amazon!

Weber 731001 Smokey Mountain Cooker 22-Inch Charcoal Smoker, Black


This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.



Dirty Birds and Hamburgers

They were cute once, iffin you didn’t already know it. My beloved tweety birds which dart about the pond-side pit here, happy-go-lucky, flirtatious, and like I say, cute. But this ash birdsmorning as I stepped out on the patio, beverage in hand, I find a gaggle of them floundering fancy in the ash pan residing beneath the old kettle grill. Flopping about there, doing their best wildebeest impressions, antics oft reserved for the dusty plains of Botswana. Their little feathers cloaked in ashen debris, kicking up little gray clouds of it, which scattered in the morning breeze. What a bunch of goof balls, I thunk. Rolling around like pigs in the mud. Like puppies in the grass. Like grown men in the ball pit at the Burger King. They were having a good time at it too, and I nary could convince them otherwise. But then again, I wasn’t trying to.

I’ve long admired blokes, you see, who make the best of things. When your bird bath is as dry and filthy as a Weber ash pan, and you look like a bird who has just endured a volcanic blast, yet you still frolic with great and unbridled enthusiasm, well my hat is off to you little bird. Not conformed by conventional thinking or naysay, but emboldened perhaps, by the cliché cup of lemonade that awaits you – you made the best of things, and you did so with the least of things. You did it with a pile charcoal ash. I guess they were just washing themselves, or something akin. Tweety birdologists could enlighten us, I suppose. But I say if their goal was to get out the other side of this activity cleaner than they began, well, they failed miserably at it. I had me some dirty birds at the pit today. Some very dirty birds indeed.

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Anyways, lunch was a trifle cleaner you might say, and probably better tasting too, than tweety birds rolled in ash. We henceforth evicted them of their little health spa, and fired up a chimney of coals. And whilst those coals matured, we sprinkled some of this Cajun Blast Seasoning over two portly patties of 80-20 ground beef. We were burger hungry at the pit today, I cannot deny. But then if you asked us most days what we would fancy, a good hamburger is usually at the top of the list, and rightly so. For they are a rather filling affair of meat and bun. Easy to do. And quick too, if that is how you like to bend. But above all that, burgers are just plain good, and nothing more needs to be said about that.

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You all know how to grill a hamburger, so we shan’t prolong here the intricacies of it. A hamburger is personal anyways, as every pit keeper embellishes his or her own unique touch on it. Like a finger print, perhaps, no two burgers are the same. A burger proper is but a reflection of your mood that day. Some days you’re feeling spicy, other days just plain. Some days you’ll hanker for the works, plucking everything and anything out of the refrigerator door. While still other days, you’ll just stick a fork in your burger and eat it like meat Popsicle. It’s all good in Burgerville, and that is precisely what makes them so wonderful.

We tossed some cherry wood into the coals for to smoke there, and brought the burgers to a state of well done, just before of course, toasting the buns. We almost always toast our buns, if but to add that extra texture so lovely in a hamburger. Then melted some medium cheddar cheese as a matter of course, added a slice of tomato from the garden folds, and lastly, and totally fueled by impulse here, squirted a shot of Thousand Island-like salad dressing on the bottom bun. Man!

As I plated up, sunbeams swept across the green lawn. Clouds the shape of pork chops and wiener dogs idled overhead, and a gentle breeze with subtle kisses of autumn mingled through the fluttering tree tops. Tomatoes ripening before thine eyes. Bean plants sprawling. Honey bees buzzing. The ninth inning of summer was going strong. And yet another span of moments pit-side, sealed in that smokey vault of memories. Satisfied, my plated spoils in hand, I stepped into the house, sliding the screen door shut behind me. And just then, and rather out the woodwork, three little tweety birds fluttered up on my six, and with a cheerful chirp, lit again into their hallowed ash pile- floundering around there in little gray clouds stretched by the wind. I smiled quietly. What can you do. I had some dirty birds on my hands today, and that’s all there is about it. But they were cute once, I tell you, they really were. Come to think of it, they still are I guess. And burgers are always good. Amen.

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Long Summer Days: Roasted Red Potatoes and Grilled Green Beans

What can be said, really, if for the shafts of warm light that which still fell from above. We’ll take it. And the quietude only pierced by thegreenbean 4 sound of my paddle blades dipping rhythmically into the still, glassy waters, stained amber from a waning sun. We’ll take that too. And I suppose also, the charming banter of barn owls, perched up their oaken stays; glory be but what a hoot-fest at hand, echoing through the musty, forest glade, and the tender places deep in my soul. Indeed, what can be said, but thank you, and we’ll take it. For it was one of those vintage, long summer days you see, that which the likes of you wish would never cease. With memories of winters past, so cold and so stiff, I guess a bloke knows when he’s onto something good. Something exquisite, with a gently arcing sun. And long may it tarry there, we pray, hovering over the western shore, sizzling, the illumination of a daily bookend, for those of us lucky enough to linger in but one of its golden rays. Indeed, we’ll take it if you please.

We’ll take it because we keepers of the pit notice these things. We spy yonder the tweety birds acting differently. Formations of geese overhead, as if in a dress rehearsal for the banquet that is fall. The subtle turn of a Cottonwood leaf. The tell-tale nip in the morning air. And of course, the swifter days, ebbing into longer nights. And whilst it still feels like summer, and looks like summer, we know in the back of our minds that these days are numbered. Thus, the DNA reflex to seize them now, vigorously whilst we can, in this, life’s heady game of memories, and the acquisitions there of.

On the pit tonight, a little a salute then, to summer’s good tidings – roasted red potatoes, and green beans harvested from the pit-side garden. And yes a little steak tossed in there too for to please the men folk. Cause steak is good and we mustn’t fight these things!

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 Red potatoes over direct heat

First on the pit, the red potatoes. We love roasting these little starchy spheres on the kettle grill. It works so good, every time. No foil needed. They were sufficiently cleaned I should wager, leastwise good enough for this pit boy, and then pointedly rolled about in a smattering of olive oil. This to act as an adhering agent if you will, for the seasoning. We used some more of that Grill Happy Seasoning we’ve been using lately. You can read more about that in our previous post if you wish, or just click here. Anyhow, the spuds were placed over direct heat the entire cook. Flipping once or twice at your discretion. About twenty minutes, or until soft. They’re real easy to do too. The end product of yum should be crispy on the outside, and fluffy on the inside. Like many of us.

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 Foiled green beans on the grill

Next we tossed on some green beans plucked fresh from the garden’s green bosom, which were wrapped up in some foil along with a dollop or two of butter, and a splash of olive oil, and some home-grown scallions, just because we can. Salt and pepper to taste. These can be placed over medium or indirect heat for 15 minutes or so. Flipping once at your pit master instinct. Of which we did not soon after plopping on a hunk of cow, the cut of which I couldn’t rightly tell you. It was one of those pleasant finds I had discovered rummaging through the freezer, a left over that I had tucked away there from a previous cook out. I believe it was some form of sirloin or the like. But the truth is it doesn’t even matter, I guess. We are men you see. And we eat meat. It doesn’t matter if it has a proper name or not for to make the acquaintanceship of our bellies!

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A rather swift cooking meal, this shouldn’t take more than a half hour if your fire is good and hot. Long about the half hour mark, the steak was done, nay, everything was done, and we pulled the beans off and took a peak inside. Steam bellowed from the sparkling folds of foil to the green harvest residing within. Very nice. Nothing is quite so delightful to the soul, it seems, than feasting on what you have grown. I suspect it is how we were always designed to live. Closer to the garden than a card board box. So plant what is wise, logic suggests. Not just in the garden, but in the very soils of our life. Plant what is good and right and decent in this world, the things worth growing, and watch then how the sunbeams fall over the fields of green, shadows cast, and rainbows stick to the sky, in these, the long days of summer, by and by. Amen.

green bean 3Grilled steak, roasted red potatoes lightly seasoned, and hot, buttery green beans, fresh from garden to grill, and all patron to the pit. So next time you’re looking for something tasty on the BBQ, swing by the garden first and see what’s growing there.