We love baseball here at the pit. Love having it on the radio whilst plumes of pecan smoke curl into the air. Or on the TV whilst we nap soundly in our man chairs. And we love to go to games when we can, too, and see the boys of summer ply their craft afield. There is just something about the ambiance of a baseball game of which is as endearing to me, perhaps, as the game itself. From the sounds of wooden bats cracking on a warm summer’s night, to the violent thwack of a fastball arrested in a catcher’s mitt, to the highly-honed riffs of the organ lady as she rallies the crowd. I even enjoy the thoughtful scoop of the plastic seats. And the hearty bellow of the hot dog vendor as they ascend the steps. The sound of some one shelling peanuts in the seat behind you. It’s all part of the ambiance. And ah yes, the food.
The food is half the ambiance right there. From the aroma of polish sausages, and sauteed onions, riding on a breeze. To freshly popped popcorn. And pork chops and deep fried walleye. And Tony O’s Cuban sandwiches. And the heady scent of hot mini donuts drifting down a crowded concourse. Man! Indeed, the ambiance, and the food of baseball, is maybe why we go to games in the first place. It’s the best thing going, after all, when your team is last in their division. Nay, when they are the worst team in all of baseball. Yes, the Minnesota Twins are that team this year. They achieved this status early on in the season, and haven’t bothered to budge ever since. They have struggled. A list of expectations seldom met. Aw well. Let’s just say they’re having some troubles with the curve. But then again, don’t we all.
Indeed, we all run into curve balls from time to time, and sometimes even with things we’re supposed to be good at. Like BBQ. I think of a couple of weekends ago, the July 4th weekend as it were. I was up before the tweety birds, and like many American men, still in my pajamas, standing on the patio gazing up at the stars. It was a beautiful night, or morning, or what ever you want to call it that time of day. Let it be said, however, there is only one thing in this world that will get a man up this early on his day off, and that thing is brisket! Yes sir, I was the proud owner of a 10 pound prime packer brisket, and it was beautiful, and today, if the BBQ gods would have it, it would finish it’s life’s course with a succulent rendezvous deep inside my belly! I was giddy, I don’t mind telling you. But this is brisket, and as any pit jockey knows, you have to wait for brisket.
Whilst the Weber Smokey Mountain came up to temp, we went inside and trimmed the brisket of excessive fat. There are like two kinds of fat on a brisket. Hard fat and softer fat. The hard stuff doesn’t render that well, and we would do well to carve it out of there. The softer fat renders better, but oft times there is just too much of it. And while the fat does baste the meat and help keep it moist, all the big shots in the BBQ industry seem to say to trim it down anyways to about a 1/4 inch thickness. So that’s what we did. We also took a slice off the corner of the flat, as you can see. This an old pit jockey’s trick to remind us later on, whence the brisket is cloaked in bark, which way it was again that we were supposed to slice the thing. Always slice your brisket across the grain for a tender piece.
For the rub today, we used two standbys around here. The first layer is maybe our favorite rub in recent months, Maynards Memphis BBQ, from our friends over at Miners Mix. If you haven’t tried this stuff yet, you’re missing out, people. Very good! So that was the first layer. For a secondary layer of flavor, we like to put on a light to moderate dusting of McCormick Montreal Steak Seasoning. This just gives brisket another layer of flavor that is flat-up awesome. A little something extra to greet your tongue at the front door, and invite you in to the show. Man! Let’s get this on the pit already.
We dialed in the pit temp to a nice 250 degrees, of which the plan was to hold it there all the day long. The going formula these days for a brisket is 1 hour and 15 minutes per pound. We had a 10 pound brisket, and well, you do the math. It would be a long smoke. One of almost heady proportions. Hence our early pit call this morn. And so we put the brisket in the WSM, fat-side up, for to render that fat down into the meat whilst it cooked. Now the choice smoke wood for brisket, if you’re a Texas man anyways, is Post Oak. We couldn’t find any oak about these parts, so we went with the next best thing, pecan wood. Pecan wood is fast becoming our favorite all-around smoke wood. It just works with everything, it seems. And for some reason, stores carry it around here, despite there being no pecan trees in Minnesota. Go figure.
So it goes, under a shimmering star field, our brisket sets out on its long, smokey voyage. And in time, the night sky dissolves into the blue pastels of early morning, courtesy of a softly rising sun. The pecan smoke curls gently in the stillness of the dawn, and I can hear the brisket start to sizzle and drip. Song birds sing sweetly from on high, and it appears, if but just for the moment anyways, all the world is right, and in perfect working order. My eye lids droop like as I pandiculate pit side. I check the pit temp one more time, and then do what any red-blooded man who got up at 4 in the morning would do…I itched my butt and went back to bed
That’s one of the high joys of the long smokes you see. No, not butt itching, but the inevitable spans of clock now at your disposal. Free time. For our people generally leave the pit master alone when meat is on the cooker- to mind it you see, to nurture it, and guide it via our vital pit master instincts to a happy and most edible end game. Now when you have a good smoker, like say a Big Green Egg, Kamado Joe, or even in our case, a Weber Smokey Mountain, once you dial in that temperature, well, you can rest relatively assured that it will stay at that temperature for as long as the coals hold out. And I dumped in a goodly amount of coals, let me tell you.A full 20 pound bag of charcoal, in point fact, and expected a good 12 hours of burn time. Reminiscent of my elder brother’s suburban back in the day, with the 40 gallon gas tank. Anyways, I was a might pooped, and like I said, I sidled back to bed a spell. Belly-up and snoring post-haste, whilst the morning sun crept across a blue sky, the tweety birds cavorted at the pond’s edge, and my pajamas smelled like wood smoke. It was glorious. And then of course, came the curve ball…
Mind Your Meat!
I had been asleep, oh, about 3 hours I should think. Not much more than that. I was awoken by my friend, Ralf’s, text. It’s a good thing too, because when I went out to the pit to check in on things, like pit keepers ought to, I discovered something rather interesting had transpired with my beloved brisket. The internal temperature of the flat was 208! Over done by just a tad, but it would suffice. For brisket you want to get it somewhere between 195 and 205. That’s your window of good fortune! That’s where the most amazing things happen in Brisketville. What is interesting here tho is that it reached this temperature in about 4 hours flat! I was expecting something rather more in the vicinity of 12 – 15 hours. And rightfully so. But it happened in 4 instead. And to this end, I have no explanation. I’m what you might call, “Bum-puzzled”. Scratching my head, I couldn’t tell you the tip of my nose from my big toe on this one. The old BBQ adage, “Its done when its done“, certainly applies to this smoke, I guess. The mysteries of conventional BBQ, folks. What can you do? But the thermal probe slide into the tender meat with a butter like consistency, leastwise in the point it did. That’s when you know you’ve nailed. When the probe slides in with no resistance. Just didn’t expect to get there in 4 hours.
Resting Your Meat
No matter. The brisket needed to rest anyways. Always rest your meat before slicing it, to ensure that the juices are properly sucked back into their appropriate locations. Resting your meat 1 to 2 hours is plenty, but if you must, or you screw up like us, you can rest it for 6 hours like we had to. Just wrap it in foil really good, so that no leaks are present, and then place it in your cooler with a bunch of towels. We’ve been using this trick for years, and it will keep your brisket or pork butt piping hot for several hours on end. It really works great.
Blackberry Burnt Ends
This is where we hit the curve ball out of the park. An hour before the meal was to be served, we chopped the point of the brisket up into cubes suitable for burnt ends. Dashed them over with more Maynards Memphis Rub, some Joe Joe’s Hog Shack Blackberry BBQ sauce, along with a splash or two of apple cider vinegar. The pan thus was put back out on the pit for another 45 minutes or so, to do its thing. And no, I did not go take another nap.
Burnt ends are fabulous, people. If you have not yet had occasion to make yourself a batch of these kingly BBQ morsels, you are pretty much missing out on one of the top four best things in BBQ. They melt in your mouth like popcorn, almost. These had a subtle blackberry tint to them, a nice, flavorful bark, and some mighty succulent smoked beef. Man! It is in my estimation the best thing we’ve pulled off the pit in a very long time. Maybe ever. Great Scott they were good!
I plated up a handsome portion of these beefy spoils, and made the acquaintanceship of my man chair. Feet kicked up like a gentleman of leisure, I flipped on the TV to the Twins game to see how they were doing. Turns out they were losing, go figure, and as usual, I didn’t seem to mind much. Not with a plate of good vittles in front of me anyways. That’s the thing. The better the food, I’ve noticed, the easier it is to watch them lose, which explains, now that I think about it, why there is so much good eating at the stadium. And it stands to reason, if good food can take the edge off a losing season, then perhaps a properly smoked brisket is of suitable caliber for the worst team in baseball. Amen.
Pecan smoked brisket and blackberry burnt ends. Yum! You gotta eat, so why not eat well.
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, he 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.
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!
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The cooker we used, Weber Smokey Mountain 22.5, was a fantastic performer as usual. Always a pleasure. Check it out also on amazon!
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Stemming from a long-family lineage of engineers, I have come to adopt the motto over the years “Simple is the best design“. The less moving parts in a device the better, for it cannot break if it isn’t there in the first place. Something that will stand the test of time, is often simple in design. Enter A-MAZE-N cold smoke generators. As simple as they get, and oh so very effective at doing what they do. Generating smoke.
Many of the new pellet grills out there, have attachments for generating smoke, for to engage in cold smoking endeavors and what not. But you will shell out a commendable wallet for such extravagances. On another plane, many a backwoods BBQ bloke has contrived his own cold smoke generator out of various odds and ends left about the house. And the contraption usually looks like something the police should maybe swing by and ask you about. But they work I guess. The simple gadgets from A-MAZE-N Products however, pretty much cut all that goofiness out, and just give you something elegantly simple, and easy to use. A product that will last a very long time. These generators really are kind of cool, and has something to do with cigars actually, and a bright idea from a guy named Todd Johnson.
Todd Johnson, a spare-time-meat smoking enthusiast and a fellow Minnesotan, was once upon a time in the construction business. A few years ago, he was working at a house around here of a retired police officer, who among other things, fancied to smoke the big, stinky cigars. Well one day Todd as looking at said cigars on the job site, how they glowed at the end when properly puffed, and how they burned right along kind of like a fuse. And then by chance, he noticed a pile of saw dust residing on the floor near there. Something then clicked in the man’s mind, kind of like epiphanies sometimes do. We all should be so lucky to have such moments in life, and Todd I guess had his there in the officers house. And thus from stinky cigars and sawdust, the humble A-MAZE-N Cold Smoke Generator was conceived. Turned out to be a pretty good idea too. So good in point of fact, folks of high BBQ immortality, such as Steve Raichlen, said it was the 4th best BBQ gift idea of the year in 2012. Now if Steve Raichlen, the Obe Wan Kenobi of BBQ says this to be so, well, there is no need for us to elaborate any more here. But we will.
We contacted A-MAZE-N Products to see about maybe reviewing some of their toys, and none other than the big man himself got back to us. Todd was very cordial, and prompt, and attentive, and frankly a hoot to talk to. Minnesotans are generally a friendly lot you see, and Todd is no exception. And quicker than we could smoke a brisket flat, that man had us a box of gadgets delivered to our door step. Check one star at least, for phenomenal customer service. We couldn’t have asked for better service, really. Them dudes were on top of it for sure.
Anyways, we will be looking at two A-MAZE-N products: The AMNPS 5 x 8 and the 12″ Tube Smoker, as seen above. Which ever one you go with, the first order of business is to bake the thing in the grill or oven for a half hour or so, to burn off the factory oils and what not. After that, its ready to use. And using it is about as easy as lighting your grill.
First let’s look at the AMNPS 5×8. Or, A-MAZE-N Pellet Smoker as seen on amazon. Designed to use both with saw dust or proprietary smoking pellets. I filled the 5×8 maze with Pit Masters Choice pellets, almost, but not quite to the top, and lit off both ends of the maze with some hearty flame action. That’s the fun part of these gadgets. Getting to play with your blow torch. For a match or lighter just won’t cut it. But a business end of an ignited propane welder’s torch sure does the trick. Some folk have even used a can of sterno to light the pellets. It’s up to you, I suppose, and your pyromaniac instincts. We lit off both ends of the pellet fuse, one to double the smoke out put, and two, because these things will burn for umpteen hours if you only light one end, and we didn’t have the time to wait up for it to be done.
The working principle of these devises reminds us a good deal of the Minion Method, a technique now employed by many top-notch BBQ competitors. In the minion method, you get sort of a fuse deal going on too, where the lit coals gradually light off the unlit coals sitting up next to them. And those coals light the coals sitting next to them. And so on. Same principle seems to be at work with these smoke generators too, and go figure, big cigars.
After we got the 5 x 8 lit and puffing away, which only took about 45 seconds at each end of the fuse, we put it in the bottom of the big 22 inch Weber Smokey Mountain. The thing fairly bellowed with smoke. A tight blend of aroma quite pleasant, not to mention abiding, to a long time meat smoker. Placed a block of medium cheddar on the grate, and put on the lid. Cold smoking was underway. And it don’t get no easier.
Meanwhile, at his pit, our patron co-host worked the 12 inch tube smoker. First burning off the factory oils, then lighting one end of it, not unlike that there cigar again I guess. Tho he had a propane torch at the ready, he decided to try to light the tube with a chunk of smoldering ember plucked from his camp fire he had going. The creative sciences we’re upon the lad, and the idea worked brilliantly he said, after a wee bit of nurturing and blowing. After the pellets were suitably ignited, and smoldering as they ought, he tucked the tube in main chamber of his offset pit. The pit temperature only raised a few degrees higher than the outside ambient , and the smoke did it’s thing with a sweeping and convincing ease. He did up some salt, cheese, and everybody’s meat-love – bacon!
We both found the burn time of these smokers to be impressive. They just kept smoldering away. Never going out, nor varying in their output of smoke, until all the pellets were expired. Solid performance, hour after hour. The 5×8, lit at both ends, looked like it would last about 4 hours. So, stands to reason if you just want to light only one end, you might get a solid 7 – 8 hours of premium smoking satisfaction. Not bad. The 12 inch tube smoker gave a good 4 hours of burn time, which is exactly that which they were rated to do. It also came pre-filled with oak pellets. A nice touch, we thought.
The pellets for these smokers come in a rather distinguished variety. About every flavor you can think of, from: hickory and mesquite of course, and apple and peach, to more unique and exotic flavors such as sassafras, mulberry and savory herb! They sell saw dust too, which you can use in AMNPS 5 x 8, in all the usual smoke woods you can think of, but also in flavors you might not think of, such as: bourbon barrel, grapevine, and nectarine. Pretty cool. They certainly have no shortage of smokey goodness to select from. Check out their entire pellet menu here if your interested in seeing more.
The pellets we used were what they called, Pit Masters Choice, a blend of hickory, cherry, and maple. Tho we both found those pellets to smell great during the smoking process, we also thought the smokey flavor imparted on the cheese was a wee bit too strong for our taste buds. However, on bacon it was outstanding. In retrospect, if we were to do cheese with these pellets again, we would definitely smoke them only half as much. (Two hours) Or only light one end of the AMNPS 5 x 8. At the end of the day tho, it’s purely a taste preference you’ll have to make for yourself, via some cold smoking experimentation. All of which is good times.
These gadgets can also be used in traditional hot smoking. Just light them up, and tuck them down in a corner of your grill or smoker, and they will act as your smoke source, giving you the illusion of a fancy pellet grill, at a mere fraction of the price. Just be sure they are receiving adequate air flow where ever you place them in your pit, less they starve for oxygen.
In conclusion, the smoke generators from A-Maze-N Products LLC are about as simple and effective as you can get. No moving parts, these will stand the test of time we believe, and are delightfully simple to use. The pellet and dust flavors are as prolific as they are diverse. And the customer service is on par with the best we’ve experienced in any business. And all that for about 40 bucks. Not too bad if you want to get into cold smoking with out blowing the bank. It is very difficult to find anything negative to say here. I guess if we had to come up with something, it would be we both favor the smoke imparted from real wood over man-made pellets. We’re just purists like that. Even so, these really are fun gadgets to play with, and when cold smoking is your goal, we are hard pressed to find a better bang for the buck.
Two Patron Thumbs Up!
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Before I go on to explain the “beast”, I will hang my head low and admit that the one I was wrestling with was only 3 pounds. It was my humble first smoke of that cut of meat and I walk away with more knowledge on smoking a brisket. I don’t know what go into me. My father-in-law was heading over for dinner and I wanted to impress him, as all son-in-laws do. You see, I know I can cook a good rack of ribs with sweet and tangy sauce dripping from your chin and elbows while working your way to the bone. I’m confident that my smoked chicken will flake apart at the press of a fork and my burgers come out oozing with a savory smoky flavor. I know that on Saturday I was not confident in smoking a brisket and I probably pulled out all the rookie moves. So, I’m writing this to share with you what not to do if like me, you are a rookie at the brisket.
My first mistake… When I was at the local hardware store a few months ago I needed to stock up on my coal supply. It was around the same time I installed the offset firebox on my smoker. Being it was around the Christmas season I was holding tight on my wallet privileges and so I decided to go with Lump Coal instead of my usual brand Kingsford. I have nothing against Lump coal, but I know that I can get my Kingsford coals to heat up and hit a steady temperature for a good 3 hours in the winter. As I filled my firebox with lump coal, it quickly heated up my smoker. It hit the trusty worthy temperature of 250 degrees and kept going. So I adjust my vents accordingly to bring down the temp. Again it hit 250 and kept going down. So, I repeated the process until I was able to zero on where I needed it. One thing I also noticed with the lump coal was that the slightest breeze, I’m talking a sneeze from one of my annoying hibernating pocket gophers would cause the smoker to raise a good 20 degree and then back down 20 and then teeter off in the middle somewhere. I almost didn’t need the wireless thermometer. I was outside enough to look at the gauge itself.
My second mistake…Never take two different theories on how to smoke a successful brisket and put them together (unless you really know what you are doing). I started off with throwing the brisket on the grate and leaving it there. My brisket was going just fine and then I had to open up my BBQ bible by Steven Raichlen. I read an excerpt from Steven’s book that tells me to wrap the brisket in tin foil a good 3/4 th of the way through, and so i did. As much as I respect Steven Raichlen’s knowledge of the grill and his years of cooking over a flame, I also have learned that some of his techniques are not always the only way. He has tv shows and books, but there are other ways of doing it. Wrapping your brisket in tinfoil wasn’t the rookie move. No, the rookie move was the I changed up my method right in the middle of a smoke. If something is going fine, leave it.
One my goals for the process was seeing bark on the brisket. However, I was informed later that my absence of bark was because I had wrapped the brisket in tinfoil. By wrapping it in foil, I allowed too much moisture to collect and therefore, no bark. I know, a rookie mistake I have made. I shouldn’t change methods in mid-cook and I humbly lay my head low because of it.
In the end, my result was a fully cooked brisket. I achieved the tenderness I wanted. In fact, it was so tender you could cut it with a fork which I believe is the goal from what I hear. The smoky flavor had a great impact with every bite taken. I was complimented greatly from my father-in-law, little did he know of the rookie mistakes I made.
I think I’ll wait until I enter the ring with another brisket. I will then throw it on and leave it. No foil, just intense smoke and a solid 250 degrees.
I don’t like looking back. I’m always constantly looking forward. I’m not the one to sort of sit and cry over spilt milk. I’m too busy looking for the next cow. ~ Gordon Ramsay
Dunking your brand new white mop into a fresh batch of homemade sauce goes against everything mother had taught you. OK all rules ascend out the window when you begin to baste a half-done smoky rack of ribs. The aromatic mix of spice, vinegar, and smoke waft into the air, and you can’t help but to apply more.
I’d like to share a recipe I found online and tweaked a little for my taste. It’s a Chocolate Infused BBQ Sauce. I know what you’re thinking, “What is he thinking?” Chocolate and BBQ? Chocolate and Smoke? Don’t get me wrong, it sounds weird, but tastes very good. Here’s how it’s done!
- 2 cups ketchup
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
- 3 tablespoons molasses
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper – See Note Below
- 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped – See Note Below
- Combine ketchup and next 9 ingredients (through pepper) in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring with a whisk. Reduce heat; simmer 8 minutes or until thick, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; add chocolate, stirring until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth.
I decided to make a few notes for the interested reader.
- If you’re going to use Chocolate, go big! OK, I didn’t look too hard at the grocery store. I went with what cost more than Hershey’s or Nestle. I decided to go with Guittard’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips. I felt the flavor stood out more when I have baked with them in the past.
- Also, when a recipe calls for freshly ground pepper, then ground your pepper freshly! I have a mortar and pestle. I love going with a rainbow mix of Peppercorn.
- For those of you who have ever tasted chili infused chocolate, go ahead and throw in some chili powder to taste. The sweet of the chocolate and brown sugar really compliment the kick of pepper and chili powder.
Dirt, rubbish, or waste matter.
Dirt….Rubbish….Waste Matter?? I’m slightly appalled at this definition of the word “muck”! Bean Muck is far from that. Though, the effect of eating too much of it could leave you feeling mucky, the dish itself is at best genius. Let me explain.
There was a time, a few years back, my Patron and I were up in the Northern bearings of the SHT. No, this is not a misspell for a foul word, it’s simply an acronym of the Superior Hiking Trail. The Superior Hiking trail is a footpath that extends the northeastern ridge line of Lake Superior for about 275 miles. It’s decorated with pine, birch, aspen, fir and cedar. On occasion you will hear the chickadees sing, the squirrels squawk and the lonely wolf howl. The breeze whistles through the pines in an airy lullaby at night, and you can get lost for days without running into your own species. Back to my point… It was the end of September, early October, and we had the itch to get out alone into the woods. Had a name for our trip, and we decided on the selfish title of Camp Glutton. We title our small adventure because we realized we had enough food to feed ourselves along with 10 other hikers that might cross our trail. So there we sat, 3 long, relaxing days cooking over a campfire. The air in our camp was thick with the odors of brats, steaks, a couple of loaves of French Bannock (story to come) and onion. My patron and I rarely go anywhere without a fresh onion. We cooked eggs for breakfast and soups for lunch. We often retreated to our camping chair and hammock, our guts full and domed high to the heavens waiting for the next round of meals.
We had made it to our last day of camp. Waking up as the sun hits our tents, stretching to the skies and hungry as bears out of hibernation. We knew we didn’t want to leave camp with food still in our packs so we got creative. I had one large can of Baked Beans and a couple of Apple Gouda brats left. My Patron pulled out of his pack an entire onion. We decided to get creative. So, over the fire the brats went. The onion diced up into small squares and the beans simmering over the flames in the pit. Once all three were done, they all ended up in the same pot. There is nothing pretty or attractive about this dish. There is no right or wrong way of making it. Why in Bean Muck you can add really whatever you want. Its Bean muck! We have flirted with the flavors of peppers, spices, honey, syrup, ground beef, and rabbit meat. There is only one key ingredient that one needs to start with and I’m sure you figured it out by now, a can of beans.
Now, the POTP cannot take credit for inventing Bean Muck. We are sure many of you others out there have been creative with your own can of beans. So let us know what some delicacies you have added to your Bean Muck. Share your secrets and lets prove that muck isn’t always dirt, rubbish or waste matter.
**WARNING** When experimenting with Bean muck make sure it’s on a weekend when you’re not around loved ones. If you do, you may find life can be lonely for a week or two. Carry on…
Well, we had allot of left over roast beef from the Po Boy cook a couple days ago, so I thought to myself, self, why don’t you do up something a little different with that left over meat. Something involving the blessed binder of cheese. Take your sandwich kick you’ve been on to another state, and salute something good there. Viola, the destination was clearly then apparent – Philadelphia, and the gloried cheese steak sandwiches – POTP Style.
Man! Sauteed some onion and green pepper, re-heated the Po Boy meat, and mixed it all together. Then promptly topped it with everyone’s favorite ghetto cheese – Velveeta. Slipped this monument to sandwich technology into the toaster oven for a couple minutes, and thus arrived on the shores of cheese steak bliss. It was good people. It was real good.
Dateline: January 20, 2013
Temperature: -8 degrees Fahrenheit .
Mission: Po Boys on the Grill!
That is probably what the neighbors were thinking anyway, when they glanced out their dining room window this morning and saw me yonder, tending my grill. Po boy. Poor boy indeed, having to BBQ when it’s eight degrees below the blessed zero mark. Who would be so daft to grill in temperatures so obscene, they ask, as they shake their head, and sip their fancy coffee. Clearly they have never made the acquaintanceship of this blog.
The Po Boy is a shredded beef sandwich invented and forged in Louisiana, patron to my southern roots, where true BBQ is not only a given, but a way of life. We have been in a sandwich mood here at the pit lately, so why not pay homage to the homeland of my kin down yonder, and do up one of the finer culinary contributions of the south, the Po Boy sandwich, on the grill of course. Granted if a Louisianan were to have stepped out on my patio today, and felt that bone-stabbing cold, they surely would have locked their eyeballs to the tip their nose, and keeled over in a fashion suitable for a coronary thrombosis. Best to let us northern boys handle this one, mates, and show you how it’s done this side of zero. Life at the edge, of fire and ice.
The journey began with a lightly seasoned 4 pound chuck roast, of which was dotingly seared over a hot bed coals, a couple of minutes per side. Since it was colder than Frosty’s carrot out there, I made the fire extra big, and employed the minion method to boot, a tactic essential for this epic, arctic cook. Then get yourself a pot for the roast, (not your wife’s good cake pan) along with some lightly sautéed onions and garlic. Lastly, flood it with a rather copious quantity of beef broth, enough ideally, to cover the meat. Position the pot indirect, put on the lid, tip your hat to a job well done, and make way for your nearest beverage of choice.
The next step is not to be in a hurry. These big roasts take time. Time for the internal temps to crest high enough to start breaking down the connective tissues and collagen, and enter the food realm better known as savory. You want this meat to fall apart easily. In point of fact, old Po Boy folklore has it, the meat should fall apart with a” hard stare”. And that’s easy to do if you take your time. There is no haste in a pit master’s mojo. For we know the world spends fast enough as it is, thus let our meat at least, tarry back in the quiet eddies of life. Back with the slowly ebbing sun in a pastel sky, and the gentle smoke which rises serenely from our pits.
Eight degrees below the zero mark ain’t exactly the optimal weather for loitering pit side, but it turns out if you can see your pit from inside the house somewhere, well, that’s good enough. And since the football playoffs were on the TV, it didn’t take much coaxing to take up residence in the man chair, and while away a few hours, whilst the grill puffed away in the deep, penetrating cold. Oh how I reveled at the intense labors of being a pit master, with my feet at the fireplace, swaddled in blankets, my eyes drooping on and off, and the football game bantering in the back ground. Eventually, after some fashion, I even woke up, with a trail of drool spilling out of my left lip pit. Glory, this is the life!
After about 5 hours, the meat was done, and falling apart like an alcoholic at a moonshine conference. No hardened stare necessary. It was then time to toast the French bread. Apparently you will be frowned upon if you use anything other than French bread for your Po Boy, so be warned, less you stand at the receiving end of some unruly Cajun ridicule. So French bread it was. We put a little mayonnaise on the bread, and packed it full of the savory meat, and a little lettuce for good measure to suit the lady folk. Man! There are plenty of high-end sandwiches in the world, and let it be said, this is one of them.
Next time you’re in the mood for something different, and have a little time, try grilling up some Beef Po Boy Sandwiches. Subzero temperatures optional.
I went out to the grill the other night, in routine fashion to tend the meat, and found myself for a time just standing there, staring into the hot, glowing coals. It was a crisp night, and the heat from the fire felt good on my hands. And the sky was dark, and scattered with stars, shimmering vanward to a blackened infinity. I turned up the collar on my smoking jacket, and noted momentarily how pleasant it was – this fire, this night. The simple pleasures of loitering pit-side, while lovingly doting over a piece of meat. I just love it. But why. Why would a grown man of apt intelligence forsake a perfectly good stove top, and a heated house, to go instead outside, into the cold, and cook his supper in the humbling style of hobos and passing vagrants. I pushed the meat over indirect heat, paused, and thought about it for a while.
The reasons reside I suspect, with the soft-rising tendrils of smoke, and the waving mirages of heat against a pale, crescent moon. With the dancing flames, and the aromas of smoldering wood. It might also be because of all the many campsites beneath whispering pines I am thus reminded of, every time I strike a match, and kindle a fire. Because meat cooked over an open fire is at once a pleasure, and akin to something deeper in our souls than electric skillets or microwave ovens. Because of the freshened air which expands my chest, and the Black Capped Chickadees which flirt yonder, in the stately trees. Because BBQ is a fickle pursuit, and you are not always so sure how it will turn out. And because good BBQ takes time, lots of time, and loitering over a beautiful bed of coals, with my tongs in hand, is at once a stand of small defiance, in a falling world wrought with haste. And that is no small thing.
Because one day I might smoke the perfect rack of ribs.
Indeed, the reasons are many I suppose, of why we do what we do. And I suppose too there are plenty of other ways to cook a cut of meat, that will taste just as good, and surely a might more comfortable than standing out in the cold. But scarce any of them, let it be said, are nearly so much fun as this; with this fire, this night out-of-doors, under magnificent skies, and over fiery beds of glowing coal. Ah yes. The simple pleasures patron to the pit, and to those who tarry there. This I suspect, is why I grill by and by, and why it is we do what we do.
That, and I like to eat! Amen.
Game day in the National Football League Playoffs. 9 degrees of mercury registering. What do you think we’re going to do! Lets light the smoker!
There are a precious few alignments in the human condition so fine, as football and BBQ. Don’t ask me why. All I know is one shouldn’t tamper with the good things in life, nor try to analyze it much, less it evaporates, like the morning mist over still waters. No, we shall not try to figure out why, but instead be emboldened to embrace it. To put meat to flame, and declare the day is well. Thus to salute the rising smoke, and for a while at least, maybe even to live the dream.
As I repair by the fire-place, in my favorite man chair, the game quietly on the TV, a glance out to the patio sees the brand new 22 1/2 inch WSM puffing gently that fine-blue smoke patron to a good and established, hickory fire. It’s maiden voyage, if you will, like a big ship slipping slowly out to sea. On board today, a rack of maple syrup glazed beef ribs, and a good matter of country-style pork ribs, both dusted in a sweet but spicy, home-made rub. The country-style ribs, which are really cut from a pork butt, took a bit further journey tho, pampered long over-night in a custom marinade adept at improving pork. Like all good journeys, the journey of BBQ starts with an idea, and is done when it is done, never quite positive of where you may end up. Or how you may get there. And I do not think we would have it any other way.
The spoils are on the smoker now, for a two and one half hours I should wager, bathed in light hickory smoke, at a modest 250 degrees. The keen wind chill, of which it must be subzero, slices with ease, and not-so-compassionately through the trees, and over the frozen land: but the WSM holds stalwart in the face of bitter inclement. A victory affording myself the high pleasure of taking up residence “belly up” in the man chair, feet propped up by the fireplace, dosing peacefully amid the banter of Sunday football. There are few naps finer than football naps, save for perhaps golf naps, tho that would probably be up for debate I suppose. My brother likes to take naps under his truck, but that’s a different story. At any rate, as cozy as I was, eventually I knew I had to get up and foil the ribs, of which I did. A labor of love, by and by. It was no big deal.
Another hour and half in the foil, with a dose of BBQ sauce and splash of Dr Pepper, just cause. This loosened up the meat with aplomb, and took it by the hand, escorting the unruly meat to the next level. Taming the beast, as it were, swaddled in tin foil. Pampered with love.
Lastly, a toasting of the french bread, over the remaining, tho still softly-glowing embers, for that finishing touch savored by the lady folk.
After the bones pulled freely, we then plated the ribs, and chopped them into lovely man-sized chunks, and served them lightly basted in BBQ sauce on the toasted french bread. This was it. We had arrived. The maiden voyage of the new smoker had landed, nudging the fateful shores of a meat utopia. A land where the slobbers run freely, and a good burp is considered high praise. If ever you want to one-up your standard pulled pork sandwich, this is how to do it. Man!
Next time you’re in the mood for some tasty football food, and wanna do something a little different, try yourself some slow-smoked rib sandwiches. Ain’t too many things finer.
I can’t go often in life without music. Creating playlist or soundtracks as I like to call them has become a hobby of mine. Matching music up to what I’m doing at that moment. To become the musical director for my life is something I take serious. Being that I’m a musician, I’m very picky and biased when doing so. To go into the many avenues of life and tell you about my music selections would probably force me to start another blog, so I’m going to focus on sharing of my music stations I have created when dedicating an afternoon at the BBQ pit.
First off, who could go wrong with a B.B King station. How often is it you walk into a BBQ joint and they have classical music, or rap playing on their overhead speakers? What music is better associated with BBQ than blues music. The crying guitars whine as your basting your meat. The harmonica calls out while the hickory smoke curls into a dimming orange sunset. The singer cries as they have lost their lover over, perhaps over someone else’s BBQ. My B.B. King station of course is always my first choice of serenades when standing next to a smoking pit.
My second choice is my Elvis station. I grew up listening to Elvis and have many fond memories of establishing myself on a sunny afternoon. Our backyard patio packed with Aunts and Uncles. My dad sat with his banjo and my Uncles sat with guitars, often livening up the family with classic rock and roll tunes and old country western songs. This station is often listened to because of the strong feeling of nostalgia it brings on. I can remember words of songs I hadn’t heard in 20 years purely because I fell in love with the moment I first heard them. Thus, Elvis often joins me when BBQing for large groups of people.
Now there is a station I don’t often brag about. This station is played in my headphones so many people don’t judge my geeky side of life. But here, I hide nothing about my BBQ experience. So I would like to publicly announce the third choice of station is my Lord of the Rings Soundtrack station. I use this station when having a full day ahead of me – of a long drawn out smoke. When smoking a cut of meat that may need a little more effort. From the point of lighting the flame to pushing a sharp knife through that saucy, sweet, smoky, spicy side of meat. You then know your efforts have paid off and the epic journey of BBQ was fulfilled. No other station encourages such BBQ geekiness as my Lord of the Rings Soundtrack Station.
So, my question is to you who have read this, what music do you like to listen to during an afternoon at the pit? What might be on your BBQ playlist?
Have a good day – POTP
Have you ever happened upon a piece of meat that should come with it’s own cardiac unit! A mass of flesh so prominent that folks are slowed by it’s gravitational field. That cameras are drawn, and grown men weep with happiness. Meat so big that it’s effects ripple into the stock market, and Wall Street, and pronounced plunger sales. Such a hunk of meatiness was spotted in the Minneapolis area over Christmas. Photos were snapped. Respects were paid. And then of course, after a moment of silence, it was eaten. Amen.
Once upon a time, back in the days when the patio had but one grill, I remember thinking also, that one bag of charcoal was plenty for my needs. And it was I suppose. But as BBQ skills matured and grew, it seemed so too would my charcoal reserves. For let it be said, nothing quite so burns your brisket more than getting your slobbers going for some good BBQ, and then to go out into your garage or shed and discover a nearly empty bag of charcoal sitting there, with three maybe four briquettes left, sitting prostrate in a shallow carpet of coal dust. Oh how many a fanciful smoke has been delayed by this grievous situation not soon forgotten until at last some coal is lit, and meat plunked on the grate. We Patrons of the Pit, we eventually learn, and we heed the boy scouts long-standing motto, and vow to be prepared, ever more, less this sort of foolery rear again. Here is how we do it.
We buy allot of charcoal. My brother says we’ve gotten to the point now where we are buying charcoal by the pallet. Well, that’s a bit of a stretch, but I guess it not uncommon to see an mean average of a 120 pounds of Kingsford blue in our garages on any given day. Some days even more. And it is a beautiful site of preparedness, one of which grilling purists, and Brethren of the Flame will all hail, and the rational people of the world I suppose, all shake their collective heads. It is only slightly obsessive we wager, stocking up on so much charcoal, for grilling proper is but a seizing of the moment. And to not have the adequate sum charcoal on hand when the moment is ripe, is a travesty not fit for a pit master proper, nor even his dog. So we stock up.
Of all the charcoal products out there, the Kingsford in the blue bag is what we keep coming back to it seems. For the very simple reason – they work. Indeed, they always give a predictable burn, with a steady heat, and are easily lit. They are the baseline charcoal briquette most enthusiast cut their teeth on. There are rumors circulating the internet that Kingsford has changed something in their charcoal as of late, but we haven’t noticed if this is true. How ever, it is still fun to change it up at times, and cook with hardwood lump charcoal, which tends to burn hotter that briquettes, which is not at all a bad idea for things like steaks or burgers. Regardless of what charcoal you go with however, it is well with a grill master’s soul to amass a veritable mountain of it deep in his lair. To be prepared. So that no sooner does the impulse to grill strike that he not plunder in the folly of the moment, for this sad state of not having enough charcoal in which to dutifully roast his beloved, tho highly fattening pork butt.
Every once in a while, we have to do something useful around here, so here is short review of something every pit keeper should have.
If your just getting into the BBQ arts, and are wondering where in the heck point your wallet, here is a worthy place to start. The smoke zone , or “sweet spot” for low and slow BBQ is somewhere between 225 to 250 – the choice temperature to keep your cooker at, and this gadget will help you monitor your smoker for that temperature, and much more.
The Maverick RediChek Wireless Remote Thermometer. There are lots of things similar out there, and some are nicer, but this is the one we use. So we know from vast experience that they work well and because serious BBQ is nothing to goof around with, we can therefore recommended them with impunity.
It’s a two piece affair: One transmitter, and one receiver. It also comes with two thermal probes- one for your meat and one for your cooker.
Tip – When inserting a probe into meat, ensure that it is indeed in meat, and not by mistake, in a fat cap or next to a bone, as such folly will only give you inaccurate readings. The other probe should be positioned in the smoker at grate level obviously, because that’s where the vittles are.
Once you have the probes in place and your smoker up and running, turn on the transmitter and receiver, and they should link up in a couple of seconds. The transmitter stays out at the pit, while the receiver shall accompany you by your recliner, whilst you repair with a lovely beverage and watch the big game. The nifty part of this is you can set various alarms on the receiver to alert you of a gamut of events, should you fall asleep in said recliner, such as: if smoker temps wander too high or too low, or perhaps the most lovely alert of them all, in which it chimes in due accord whence your meat is done. Be prepared for Pavlov-like reactions with this alert.
The Maverick Redi Chek also boasts a 100 foot range, of which I suppose is possible if there is no sheet rock, wood, glass, or furniture between you and your pit. We just have not found this range to be accurate in real world use. It’s more like 25 feet realistically, which tho, as it turns out, is well enough for most people.
All-in-all, a good little unit at a reasonable price to get you started in the smokey arts.
Another tip: Note what happens when you leave your Maverick too close to your pit. Whups. To its credit however, it still works like the day I got it. Hats off to a good product.
People who read this article also read : The Long Burn : The Method of Jim Minion
Editor’s PostScript: Well, it’s been four years since we’ve done this review, and we’re pleased to say that the RediChek ET-73 is still working just fine, save for it’s hemorrhaged plastic case indecent. These things happen. Regardless, it has stood the test of time for our uses, and that says something at least. If there has been any weakness with it, it has been the range. I do wish for a unit that would transmit from the patio all the way up to master bedroom for those all night smokes. That was always asking too much of the ET-73. It is line of sight with that one. That being said, there are still better units on the market these days. If we were buying today, we’d probably go with something like the ThermoPro TP20. It has a little more under the hood, if you will, and well, it’s orange! Plus, it boasts a range of 300 feet. I’ll have to see that to believe it tho.
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Though the snow may be cold
And the wind chills the air
Associates gather to bend their wit
These two logs have held the cheeks
Of Patrons of the Pit
Conversations of brisket cuts
And ribs that drip with flavor
To watch your cronies eat with joy
And sacrifice dietary behavior
The culinary dares may bet and fly
To see who alters the plan
The recipe changes from bloke to bloke
Yet still fill the greasy drip pan
Though our pits don’t always look the same
The outcome still comes together
To give your smoke some bragging rights
Because you have smoked in astringent weather…
Getting prepared for the rib rack smoke! The coal chimney is an essential tool for smoking. It evenly heats up the coals and does it with crunched up newspaper. No lighter fluid ever needed. Other than the coal, it’s a tool that separates those who use charcoal grills and gas grills. The argument is, gas grills are faster. That may be, but it lacks in the flavor grilling is known for…Smoke. Then again, why grill if you’re in a hurry. Enjoy your time outdoors. Light your pipe, sip your Iced Tea, snooze in your hammock. In reality, charcoal may add about 15 min to your grilling session. Use that time to prep your cut of meat. Once you get used to that flavor, it’s hard to cook without it! If you’re in a hurry, microwave leftovers. – POTP