As you delve further into the BBQ arts, eventually you’ll wish to smoke something. It’s just the natural course of things. You need not fight it. Where to start, you ask? Well, as a general rule of thumb, if it grows fruit or nuts, it is probably a legitimate candidate for a smoke wood. Use common sense tho. Make sure it is seasoned, (not green) and not growing some sort of unruly fungus or anything. And please people, no smoking with green treated one by sixes off your back deck. That’s very bad!
Now one of the most common mistakes made by newbie smokers is over-smoking. The assumption that more is better is wrong. Don’t do it. Such antics can impart a bitter taste on your meat. If you see your pit puffing like a choo choo train, tweak the dampers, lift the lid, or wait it out. Wait for the smoke to taper into thinner, almost blue-tinted tendrils. That’s just right. And there is really no need to keep tossing on smoke wood through-out the cook. After about two hours, most meat has gotten all the smoke exposure it needs. Remember the old BBQ adage, smoke is a seasoning, not an ingredient.
Not counting the realm of pellet smokers, the smoke woods you will find come in either chips or chunks. Both work fine, but there is nothing like a good chunk! Two or three apple-sized chunks of smoke wood placed directly on the coals will give you all the smoke you need, many times generating wispy tendrils of it for a couple of hours. Many a pit keeper soak their chips, and even chunks in water or a variety of interesting brews, this to elongate the burn time and to add a bit more flavor. In point of fact, if you boil your wood in water, it will open the fibers and absorb even more water, and thus the wood will smoke longer. But let it be said, because its true, you need not bother with such heady antics, for at the end of the day a good chunk of smoke wood speaks for itself. Just place it on the coals, close the lid on your pit, ensure a good draft, and observe the magic that which gently transpires.
With these things in mind, here then is a little list of choice smoke woods to get you started, or experiment with. All good choices, and good, smokey fun! And many of them can be found at your local hardware or big box store. You may even have some laying in your back yard.
For your smoking convenience, a copy of this list was also placed up on the page index at the top of the site. Now lets smoke something!
- ALDER – A light smokey flavor. Excellent with the likes of fish, pork, and poultry.
- ALMOND – A sweeter tint of smokey flavor. Suitable with all meats.
- APPLE* – Very subtle, slightly sweet. Excellent with poultry and pork. This is one of our favorite smoke woods.
- ASH – A rather subtle but articulate flavor. Another fine choice for fish.
- BIRCH – Another subtlety sweet smoke. Good with pork and poultry.
- CHERRY – Lightly tinted of sweet. Does really well with red meat and pork.
- HICKORY* – Moderate to strong smokey flavor. Good for a variety of meats. If we could only pick one smoke wood, this would be it.
- MAPLE – Easy going and subtlety sweet. A light smokey taste. Good with pork, poultry. Great wood for planking.
- MESQUITE – Maybe the most robust of the smoke woods. Strong smokey flavor. Good with beef, chicken, and pork.
- MULBERRY – Reminiscent of apple wood, just harder to find.
- OAK* – Moderate to strong smokey flavor. Readily available, and a fine all around choice. Excellent for red meat. Does well with pork and fish. We would put this one in the smoke wood hall of fame.
- ORANGE- Mild and slightly sweet. Good with fish and pork and chicken and beef.
- PEACH -Another mild one. Slightly tinted in sweet. Great with beef, pork, fish and poultry.
- PEAR -Light smokey flavor.Great with chicken and pork and fish.
- PECAN* – Mild to moderate smokey flavor. Slight hint of nut. Good with all meats, especially poultry. Pecan is right up there with our very favorite smoke woods.
- WALNUT -Robust smokey flavor. Best with red meats.
*Patrons of the Pit Favorites
If not, amazon carries several species all available with a click of the mouse button. Here are a couple links to get you started.
Smoke on my cronies!
Patrons of the Pit 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
A few dim stars hung overhead as I struck a match and put sweet flame to the political section. Oh there are other sections of the daily paper equally as adept I suppose, at lighting your coals via the venerable charcoal chimney, but none nearly so satisfying. And as the initial rush of smoke curled into a cold, Minnesota sky, a comforting glow conspired neath the maturing coals. I tucked my hands in the pockets of the old smoking jacket, and for a moment, watched the smoke curl. I don’t know why, but I have always enjoyed lighting the coals this way. The process of it. And I suppose, because it is slow. The very thing many a well-meaning pit keeper has turned his back on, for the undeniable speed and convenience of the gas grills. And they are fast I suppose. And convenient too. We cannot deny this. But where these things reign, they also fall sadly short of that smokey flavor patron to the pit. For missing are those lofty aromatic tendrils of rising wood smoke. The crackle and the pop of hardwood lump coal. The ambiance in aroma and sound. And besides that, I like that it takes time to light charcoal. And I’ll tell you why. For here is something I love to do – to be out-of-doors, putting meat to flame, hark, let me hence extend its magic for all its worth. And when the smoke has finally faded, and the evening’s plunder resides steadfast in my belly, at least I will know, as surely as I’ve know anything, that I have just done that which is well with my soul.
Anyways, and all digressions aside, on the grill tonight, another foray into American succulence – Honey Pecan Pork Chops, lightly tinted with apple wood smoke. Dashed in garlic. Good eating, people. This fire looks ready to go, so grab yourself a manly or not-so-manly beverage, and let’s see how these chops turned out, courtesy of the coals.
The Thermal Trifecta of Modern Grilling
- Banking the coals to the back side of the old kettle grill for indirect operations is the first step. Nary is it ever a good idea to spread your coals everywhere in your grill, which we have seen many a smokey tenderfoot burned by. Far better, and more efficient to put them to one side of the pit, thus creating the coveted thermal trifecta of modern grilling. That is what we call it anyways. Three distinct temperature zones in which to ply your bidding. One directly over the coals for intense searing. One, cooler zone, opposite the hot coals for to nurture along your spoils at a safe and modest pace. And something rather of a Switzerland affair right in the middle. It is with these three zones of heat that we charcoal pit keepers can most effectively apply a sweeping thermal sovereignty through-out the smokey kingdom patron to the pit. Oh yes. Anyways, about those chops.
We lightly dusted them in garlic salt, both sides, and sent them straight to Switzerland. After a hearty rummage through the pit-side woodpile, I procured a lovely, baseball-sized chunk of apple wood, knocked the snow off it, and tossed it gleefully onto the orange coals to smolder there. Lid on the old kettle, and the smoke soon began to curl. And nothing is quite so fine on a cold, starry night, whilst the icy breeze sweeps over crusty fields of snow, than the heady aromas of wood smoke and pork. Man! After a fashion and a flipping of the chops, I whipped up the honey pecan glaze.
Honey Pecan Glaze
Are you ready for this. It’s complicated.
2 Tablespoons Honey
1 Tablespoon Crushed Pecans
Introduce them, marry them, and bring them together
Often times the better things in life are also simple in design. Like butter. And so go forth with your sweet and nutty glaze in pan, and whence your pork chops have almost, but not quite yet completed their journey on the pit, varnish them there in a fashion suitable to thee. Flip and brush some more on the other side, tucking them back to the cooler portions of the grill. Lid on, and be mindful whilst you tarry in the aroma of perfectly executed pork. Dang people! Bring them to the land of caramelization if you please, or not. It is a pit master’s discretion. But what ever you do, do not burn your spoils now! The resident sugars are prone to such fates, so monitor it closely, and bath it in smoke. When your chops reach their destiny according to your pit, plate them at once and sidle in through the door and present them to your loved ones. For a fairer fare you shall not find, nor ingest proper, patron to the pit, and courtesy of the coals. Amen.
“At the heart of all good BBQ, is a soul on the scenic path”
It is sweetened by the passage of time. BBQ. Here is a form of cooking, where the whole of the out-of-doors is at the threshold of your kitchen; and where the wood smoke gently rises, you will find your journey in the smokey arts. Pit keepers spanning this country-wide, and the world over, find poetry in the flames, fellowship in the coals, and contentment in their bellies where BBQ is concerned. It is not just for the food, you see, that we aspire for the pit. It is the journey also, which is half the fun.
To BBQ proper is to release yourself from the grinding cog of societal cares, the urban rush, and our inbred bondage to the clock. Brethren of the coals, we are smitten for the hour hand, and to see just how slowly it can make its appointed rounds. Indeed, we are in no hurry at the pit. We are there by and far, but to extend our craft, and up our loitermanship, under lovely skies, and soft breezes. To let the unruly collagen in our lives dance at 225 degrees whilst bathed in smoke and sweet time, and in that time, rendered a tender opus closer to thee. And let it be said, there are a vast many more expedient means in which to cook our supper. And be sure of this also, we will do our utmost to avoid them. For we love to BBQ. It’s as simple as that. And why would anyone, of rational mind, fancy to rush along something of which they so fiercely love. If you’re in a hurry, use the microwave.
So we grill, smoke and BBQ, over real wood and charcoal, because in part, it is slower that way. And forsake the methods that which clutch dearly the hands of haste. To BBQ is to take the long way home, on purpose. And at the heart of all good BBQ, is a soul on the scenic path – where rainbows, tweety birds, and pale-blue moonbeams reside. Our goal you see, as pit keepers, is not only to procure the best possible and most succulent culinary end game we can, but also if we might, to dutifully grab that ever-slipping sun by the tail, and hold it steadfastly there, hemorrhaging in a pastel sky. Bending the fabric of time, for to suit our souls, and with any luck, to extend the moment for the moment’s sake. For we love to BBQ, you see, outside, and in the prettier places, doing that which is well with our souls.
The art and play of BBQ, like a fine wine, ages adeptly in the root cellars of our minds. It is sweetened by the passage of time. And with every cook, and kettle of dancing flame, memories are formed. With every fold of season, and another empty charcoal bag, memories tally. Memories gently forged at the cusp of a loved one’s saucy grin, amid the banter of nature, and the cool, steely grass. And it turns out, the more we do it, the more we show up at the grill front and dare to procure our spoils slowly there, the better off we seem to be. Because in a world of instant gratification, it slows us down, you could say, and places roses in our hand. And after a while at this, it eventually even becomes clear. That not only is BBQ real good, and pleasing to the belly, but the means of getting there is even better still. It is good for us. And this is the way, perhaps, it was always meant to be. This and a few other things, when we choose the long way home, and the hickory-scented plumes which tarry there. Amen.
Under gray, over-cast skies, and still in my pajamas, I sauntered out on to the patio this last Sunday morn, one, to check on my banana peppers growing in the pit garden there, and secondly, to fire up the Weber Smokey Mountain. All the great epic smokes seem to start in my pajamas. OK, that didn’t quite come off right. What I mean is the bigger the meat, like a Boston butt, or in this case, a big brisket, generally means a considerably longer cook. One of marathon status, by and far. Ten hours or more are not uncommon. Thus, and if you’d actually like to have the meat for supper that day, it also requires a rather early start. Reminiscent of what mountaineers refer to as an “alpine start“, when they arise at obscenely early hours for to assault the summit of snowy massifs like that of Mount Everest, before the weather degrades. Those guys are nuts. And we brethren of the smoke have our own Mount Everest. Often times hailed the most difficult, most ornery, and cantankerous cut of meat in our craft to tame. The beef brisket.
Now brisket comes from the front chest of the cow, and at it’s best is an unruly cut of meat, stubborn, yet highly favored by the skilled pit master. The thrill is in the journey, concerning brisket. Like mountaineers, we do it because “it’s there” I suppose. But if done right, it is also one of the most savory plunders in the smokey arts. Very satisfying, in both tummy and spirit. A true test of your pitmanship, or lack there of. And Texas pit masters have long made a living at it. They are to beef brisket what Sherpas are to Everest expeditions. Leastwise that is what they’d probably say in Texas. Those chaps love their brisket. The biggest piece of advice they might give us is that of patience. Briskets are their own beast for sure, an entity in meat, and not every one will be exactly like the other. But if your patient, and stoke your cooker full, and tweak it to 225 – 250 degrees F, well, that’s half the battle right there people. The remaining challenges dwell in the gauntlet of time. Like most good things in life, you just gotta wait for it. And wait and wait. If you’re in hurry, smoking a brisket is not the thing for you. So whilst the smoker came up to temp and stabilized, I started my brisket journey by procuring myself a big bowl of Apple Jacks for breakfast. It was going to be a long day after all, and I didn’t much need the torment of being hungry whilst waiting on a brisket. You know how it is.
Anyways, placing my cereal aside, I smeared the flat over with mustard first, then patted it down with a good smattering of Sucklebusters Competition Rub. Many a newbie to the smokey arts believes the mustard slather is for flavoring the meat, but that is rank folly. In point of fact, we challenge any of you to actually taste the mustard whence the cook is done. You can’t. Nobody can. The reason we do it really, is so our rub has a good surface to stick to. A bonding agent, if you will. You can skip the mustard step altogether too if you wish, and your rub will stick good enough. But we were after a generous bark on this beast later on down the road, and the mustard kind of seems to help with that. Many a brisket purest however, forego the rub all together, and let the full flavor of the meat do the talking. Just salt and a little pepper. And that works too. What ever your pit master instincts are nudging you to do, comply, and let it be well with the soul.
Once the cooker was up to 225 F and had stabilized with the sought-after thin, blue smoke, patron to smoldering hickory, we placed the flat on the upper grate, fat cap up. We did not trim any of the fat cap, as there wasn’t a whole lot to start with as it was. So we kept it all. Fat side up, naturally, for to harness the eternal powers of gravity married with the self-basting effect of rendering fat. Next we inserted the Maverick probe into the thickest, beefiest quadrant of the beast, taking pain not to plunge it into any globs of fat, less its readings go amuck. And that’s it folks. Put the lid back on and let her smoke. If you got things to do, like put a new roof on the house or something, might as well head out and do i tnow. It would be better , however,in our humble opinion, to take up residence in your hammock, with a lovely beverage in hand, and tarry the day away there aside your bride’s feature petunia bed. But that’s just us. Regardless, dig in for the long haul. For the brisket train ain’t arriving till, well, when the cows come home this evening. And maybe not even then. Like many a pit keeper laments, “Its done when its done“. And this is never more so, nor better represented, than with the venerable brisket.
A cool rain developed, like a summer-time treat, falling from the gray skies, and dampening the earth below. Starting slow, drop by drop, and then ebbing into something resembling the weather old Noah must have seen as he reached for his caulking gun. The tweety birds carried on despite, tweeting, and so did I. Rain jacket on, hood flipped up. I like the rain, especially when I’m BBQing. I like the mixed aromas of wet earth and wafting hickory. I like the sound of rain drops splatting over the hot, enameled lid of the smoker. I like the feeling of carrying on when most have dashed for cover. With a quality pit, you might be surprised at the degree of inclement you and your betrothed spoils can weather, nay, can thrive in, whilst the skies fall, and the tempests conspire about thee. A pit keeper is seldom keen to hang up his tongs you see, just for a mere storm cloud overhead. For there is meat to be cooked, and glory to be had, patron to the fellowship of the coals.
At 170 internal, the meat stalled. Like grid lock on a Los Angeles free way. A common phenomenon in smoking the big meats, where you start to think your thermometer isn’t working any more. But it is. The only way out of it, is to grab another beverage, and hit up your favorite easy chair. Sometimes it takes one, or maybe even two naps, for the internal temperatures to start rising again. A vicious game this brisket smoking. But you can do it!
Anyways, after about 8 hours, several of which bathed in hickory and maple smoke, the flat reached 195 internal. Most briskets start to get tender around this temperature. But not ours. It was still being ornery. Now we could have wrapped it in foil around the stall point, like many folks do, and that might have loosened things up a bit, but we were feeling rather lucky today, I guess. We felt like taking the long way around, you might say. The probe still pushed in firmly when I tested other spots, and if it were ideal, the probe would slide into the meat with strikingly little resistance. Most briskets reach optimal tenderness within the 195 – 205 range. This small window is where you have to keep an eye on your beloved meat, less it sidle off for the dark side of BBQ. Now is the time you don’t want to blow it, when you’re this close to the summit. Pull it off too soon, and you’ll have your self a nice, chewy, strap of boot leather. Over cook it, and it’s a dried out strap of boot leather. Yes, it’s a fickle beast. But one you can aptly tame with a liberal and abiding onslaught of patience.
At 225 – 250 degrees, you’re looking at probably 1 1/2 hours per pound. Whoa be it however, to the pit keeper who thinks he can cook a brisket by time alone. Nor can we rely solely on internal temperature either, as we learned with this brisket. The best test really, when you think you’re getting close, as with most BBQ , is to slice off a hunk and actually taste it. Think of it as an exercise in quality control. Your pit master privilege. A good brisket is a triumph in tenderness, wrought from seeds of patience. Victory from an unlikely beast. When our brisket hit 205 internal, it was finally tender to the probe, like a knife through a soft stick of butter, and, might I add, tasted undeniably exquisite. Satisfied with what had procured here, I thus foiled the flat and brought it inside to rest.
Resting your meat is the oft over-looked procedure of back yard BBQ. The summit is sight. By golly, you swear you’re standing on it even, with your flag in your hand. We hear you, brethren. We are giddy and hungry, and want nothing more than to tear into our plunder with a reckless abandoned. Especially after waiting the entire day long for to taste it. But old man patience has one last step to teach us. When we rest the meat, it loosens the muscle fibers up a bit. And the juices, which were once scattered from the considerable rigors of cooking flesh, redistribute now, back from whence they came, and thus flatters your end game and plate appearance with a much more savory, and juicy affair. A moist and smokey perfection. It is then, and only then, amid the lingering aroma of hickory, that the summit is officially yours. And you have earned it indeed. Amen.
Slow-hickory-smoked brisket. Oh buddy! A delicious bark, light smoke ring, moist and tender . You gotta be hungry now!
Eat it straight up, or chopped-up in a sandwich with a dob of cool coleslaw. Dang! There may be better things to eat out there…No, on second thought, I take that back. This is it!
Nothing is quite so fine as the aroma of smoldering, sweet, sugar maple curling from your grill on a cool summer’s eve. With the Black-capped Chickadees in flight, showy white Egrets milling on the pond, and golden sunbeams awash over a freshly cut lawn, we keepers of the pit revel in the ambiance of such. It is our token porthole to tranquility in a land otherwise wrought with haste, and bumper-to-bumper traffic. Indeed, that might be half the reason why we grill year-around in the first place, to re-acquaint ourselves with the natural realm, to feel the sun again on our face, and if they’ll have it, to hear the tweety birds sing so sweetly, where the smoke gently rises.
One of the best means of re-kindling with the out-of-doors, via the grill, is planking. If you have not tried it yet, you’re missing something out of your grilling career. Cooking on planks is nothing new, as the Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest were doing it long before any of our ancestor’s ancestors knew what a plank was even. But here lately, planking has really caught on in the grilling arts, and let it be said, because its true, it is a very fine means of procuring one’s supper over the open flame. Just set your meat on the plank, position it over direct heat, put the lid on your pit, and leave it alone. The less you touch it, the better. You need not even flip the meat over, tho instinct may barter otherwise. In return, your chosen spoils get intimately acquainted with the smoldering plank below, as the steam and smoke and some natural tree oils permeate your meaty affair. It works. And it does so exceedingly well.
Enter Superior Planks. Superior on a multiple of levels, and I’ll tell you why. First the obvious. These planks are grown, harvested, and produced by the Eco Wood Company Inc. A family owned business way up north, on Lake Superior. On a quaint little island, known as Madeline Island, which is one of many islands making up Wisconsin’s very own fresh water archipelago, better known as the Apostle Islands. It is here amid the fragrant stands of Cedar, Oak, and Maple, that Superior Planks are born. Let me tell you more.
When I first got into planking, like many of you, I went to the local big box store, and like most men I was drawn by some uncanny tractor beam towards the grilling section. It happens so frequently, it’s just something I have learned not to fight. Anyways, there was a bundle of cedar planks there, of which I snapped up and later that evening, planked up some Salmon. Very tasty it was, giving the salmon a nice woodsy flavor, but I was a little dismayed that my newly beloved Cedar plank had gone way of the unworthy, as it was charred and curled beyond resemblance of its former self, despite soaking it for the recommended hour. I was hoping maybe they’d last longer than one cook, but it was not to be. The end result tasted good, and I guess that’s the main thing, but it would have been nice to be able to reuse the planks a little more. I wasn’t convinced they were worth the money the big stores were charging.
Then here lately, I contacted the friendly folks at Superior Planks, and asked them to send me some of theirs. And boy what a difference. Their planks were at once a noticeably robust affair. 11 1/2 x 5 1/2 x 1/2 inch thick. The kind I got at the box store were maybe a 1/4 inch thick, which I suspect attributed to its unsightly, and premature demise. The folks at Superior Planks fancy their planks to last anywhere from 5 to 12 cooks, depending on how long you soak them. The longer you soak, the longer they last. Logical. They recommend two hours for their planks. I was impatient tho, and soaked it only one. And it still survived the fires with ten times the integrity of the cheaper box store planks. I was impressed. Part of the reason they last so long is pretty interesting actually. It has to do with density.
You see, way up north on the Apostle Islands of Lake Superior, the growing season is disturbingly short. And tho some might think of that as a bum deal, the folks at Eco Wood Company Inc. see it as something as a blessing. You know how there are rings in a tree, if you look at it from a cross-section point of view? And each ring equals a year of growth. Well, the shorter growing season on Madeline Island means the rings of a tree grown there are closer together than trees grown other places more hospitable. And this makes the wood more dense. And that is why they last as long as they do in the fiery confines of your grill. The Maple and Oak planks last the longest, at 5 to 12 cooks. The Cedar planks for what ever reason, do their own thing, and only last around 3 cooks. There’s always a rebel in the bunch.
As I read a little more about Superior Planks, they started to impress me on other levels too. Here is a little family owned operation producing top-notch planks, and doing it with a degree of respect for the environment I surely wasn’t expecting. Turns out they were doing all sorts of things, going out of their way in point of fact, to lessen their footprint. For example, the packaging they ship the planks to you in, is all recycled materials, the ink too, and even the plastic wrap! But that is just the beginning for these stewards of the land. Every tree they haul about up there, to make us our planks is done so by a horse. Yup, you read that right. They employ old trigger as a tractor of sorts, to do their bidding. Say what you will, but this makes for some mighty fine conversation around the pit while planking up some dinner. These folks also run their milling equipment off of bio-diesel, which I thought was pretty cool. Their facility, naturally, is heated by their scrap wood, in an efficient boiler system. And so on. You get the idea. As I learned, and now you have to, these folk are not afraid to be different. And in that alone sets them apart. And it sort of dawns on you, the way good things always do, that they are doing so much more than just making quality planks. Bless these guys.
Check them out when you’re in the mood for some quality planking at your next BBQ. The planks come in Smokey Red Oak, Classic Northern Cedar, and Sweet Sugar Maple.
Way up yonder, in the northern reaches of Minnesota, a series of Weber Smokey Joe grills quietly puffed in turn beneath the whispering pines. Men plying through their coolers, and spice stashes. Other men circling about, taking pictures. Patties of ground beef delicately formed, and laying at the ready. And a light humidity hung in the air. This was the scene of the 2013 Burger Throw-Down. A gastronomic snippet of a men’s retreat. A humble tho seriously esteemed competition held in the hinter lands of Northern Minnesota, along the White Fish chain of lakes. It was there in these competitive pools, that my fellow blog host sought to ply his burger craft. Each contestant was provided 2 pounds of ground beef, 4 hamburger buns, a Weber Smokey Joe, and what ever spice and accompaniments they wish to steal from their home pantries . There would be 8 judges, each sporting a most scrupulous eye, and two hours, give or take, in which to greatly impress them.
As the Canadian Jays and Black Capped Chickadees cavorted in the white pines, and the air smelled of damp earth from recent showers, the contestants hovered over their prep areas, one and all, prodding over patties of beef, and a litany of spice and cheese. The game was on, and our fellow blog host recalls, in his own words, getting things underway, in this, the great burger throw down of 2013.
“The burger throw down was as fun as I thought it would be. I was the first one to show up knowing I would have much prep for my burgers. I had my premixed jerk rub tightly vacuumed sealed for freshness and a large can of pineapple rings. I also brought a zip lock bag of hickory chips that has been soaking since Thursday night, so almost 2 days. So, I started my coals first, as one should always do, and as they began to burn I started moving them around the bowl of the Smokey Joe. Placing them on one side of the bowl so I can do a little in-direct smoking once the burgers were fully cooked. When people saw what I was doing with the coal placement, I could hear comments like “wow, he’s got it down to a science, or this guy is serious”. I was just doing what I’m used too.”
The men henceforth got down, as men do in competitive burger making. Got down to the heady business of procuring something memorable, and pleasing to the palate. Something apt to move a judge’s tummy for the better, and put a mile on his face. The contestants were up for the challenge Everything from pesto and jalapeno to feta and Munster cheese. Our fellow patron admits to being slightly intimidated, standing alongside some of these Meat Maestros. But he sticks with his game plan, and his secret weapon – 48 hour soaked hickory chips.
“I then quickly began to prep my burgers. Now, I brought a lot of spice rub with me and I wasn’t sure how much I should use so I decided I would start mixing the rub into the meat until I could smell it. I used about half of what I brought, folding and pounding the meat until the smell joined the wet pine of the camp. I quickly shaped my patties and filled the middle with blue cheese. I sprinkled a little more rub on the cheese and laid the other patty on top of it. I finished by pinching the patties together and rubbing spice on both sides of it. I think soaking the chips as long as I did helped put steam into the meat because I know my burgers were juicy. After they were fully cooked I moved them to indirect heat and placed the pineapple over the coals. I charred them up a little and then toasted the buns. I threw everything together and mine were the first for the judges to eat. I realized at that point I forgot two of my main ingredients, bacon, which would have gone on top of the pineapple, and then some smokey bbq sauce to go on top of the bacon. I’m glad my burgers were juicy, because sometimes without sauce you get a dry burger.”
Were talking a burger here folks. One that would make even a heathen man pause to say grace. One-half pound of hickory smoked ground beef, filled with a pocket of gooey blue cheese, seasoned with the patron kick of good jerk rub, topped with a charred pine-apple ring and of course, a toasted bun. Dang! You certainly are not going to eat a whole lot better under the whispering pines nor burger shack alike. And apparently the judges thought so too, as they gave our fellow patron 1st Place honors for his Smoked Blue Cheese Jerk Burger. Well done old chap. Well done indeed.
Besides getting to sport the title of Defending Champion for a year, he also won himself a chef’s hat and an apron. If we’re nice to him, and flatter him a little, maybe we can even get him to model it for us. I doubt it, but maybe.
We will go out a limb here and foster the notion that summer has finally come to Minnesota. Or at the very least, I suppose, that winter is gone now – retreating rampantly into the far northern tiers of Canada and beyond. Minnesotan’s have cut their lawns now, for the first time since, well, I think since last October. It was a very, very long winter. But the people have emerged now. And there is hope on their face. They have wagered it plausible maybe stick a tomato plant in the ground. So to have the Lilacs began to bud, poised to unleash their fragrant bouquet any day. And the leaves of the Populus deltoides, or Cottonwood tree, have formed now, down by the pond. There is the smell of green in the air again, and humidity has come with it.
I raked the crackling hardwood lump coals to the side of the old kettle grill, readying it for in-direct cooking, and admiring the utter simplicity of pleasure it is, to do such things, and not have to stave off a subzero wind chill at the same time. Something year-round grill keepers don’t take for granted. Our stoic stands at the winter pit influence even these tranquil moments, pit-side, amid the sunshine and song birds. It is paradise over coals, and a patron of the pit knows it. He knows it by the soft impression on his soul, left by lazy clouds in a blue sky, and the silently curling smoke which lifts from his grill.
I spread out some chicken thighs over a cleaned grate, opposite the hot coals. Then I dusted them over with Cajun Injector Cajun Shake, and tossed on a small chunk of hickory wood, into the fiery coals. Lid on, and top vent tweaked – it was not long before a gentle smoke began to curl. I flipped the pit radio onto the local Twins game to complete the acoustic wallpaper. Then of course, I did what all real men of BBQ do best – repair to my BBQ chair with a lovely beverage, feet up, and survey my smokey kingdom. On the grill tonight, we’re doing one of my bride’s favorites, grilled chicken tacos – POTP style.
After a suitable amount of loitering, I flipped the chicken thighs over, and hit the other side with some more of that Cajun Shake, to give the routine meat a bit more flavorful kick. Lid back on, and the hickory smoke resumes as soon as I make it back to my roost. Hard work this BBQ stuff. I settled in, listening to the baseball game, whilst watching the thin smoke curl from the grill. A routine by and far that I could become accustomed to. The ambiance of the pit – something always missed, and then lamented over, every time a misguided pit keeper opts to cook his spoils indoors.
When the chicken is done, chop it up into man sized chunks, and consult your tortilla taco making instincts. Like a true man, I stuffed my tortilla way too full of smoked chicken, tomatoes, cheese, lettuce, onions, and sour cream. And savory globs fell all which way. But who cares. Good is good, and this was good! And my pants were already dirty.
So next time you’re hungry for a taco, and want to take it to the next level, try doing them up on the BBQ. Because everything is better outside, and absolutely better off the grill.
Hickory Tinted Grilled Chicken Tacos. If a taco gets any better, you all let us know about it!
What a delightful respite it is, after a busy day afoot, of bowing to social postures, to repair in leisurely fashion alongside one’s faithful pit. True and ever-stoic, standing at the ready for thee to beckon. For no higher calling becomes a pit than to procure its master a tasty supper, from whom’s menu the list runs long. And amid the smoke which rises there, what too, heady memories are forged, patron to that hot grate, perfectly seared meats, and the fellowship of the coals. Many a grill keeper feels this twinkle pressing upon their souls, and often pines the day long for to smoke some thing savory again, under that beat up lid, beneath puffy clouds idle in a blue sky, and next to where the grass grows ever-green. We dwell on it in point of fact, more than we’d care to admit, always wondering what our next cookout might entail. And when might that be.
For a Patron of the Pit, well, some might say our coals never quite get cold all the way through, before the next cook begins. An exaggeration of course, but this time of year, it is truly an effort not to cook out-of-doors. For our hearts they tarry long under lovely skies, and warm breezes. We revel in the freshened air, and the bird song aloft. The fragrance of the spruce, and the mingling hickory smoke which curls softly from our cookers. These, and many more are the simple pleasures patron to the pit. Why it is we must jockey for the door, and feel that sun on our face. And simple meals one would normally fire up the kitchen range for, we of course adapt it for the pit instead. If for no other reason than we just cannot divine being inside when weather is at a premium. In case of point tonight, we do an old classic with a twist. The infamous loose meat sandwich, better known as the Sloppy Joe. Yes, all things can be done, and done with great effect, on a good grill. Ever had a hickory smoked Sloppy Joe? If not, well, you’re missing out. And you probably should finish reading this too , lest your Sloppy Joe’s reign ever smokeless. A sad plight indeed.
First order of operations is to brown your ground beef with some onion and green pepper in black iron pan. You all know how to do that. In fact, just make your Sloppy Joe however you’re used to. It’s all good. The only difference here is of smoke. For that you’ll want some smoke wood adept with the redder meats, such as hickory or mesquite or cherry. After the meat, peppers, and onions were browned up, I added some ketchup, mustard, garlic salt, brown sugar, and pepper, and stirred up this meatiest of bouquets. Delicate aromas of meat and sweet waft about the pit. Man! Now the good part. Pull the pan over opposite the hot coals, and put on your wood. Lay it directly on the coals of course. We used hickory for this smoke, and man did that hit it. Put on the lid, and make sure the vent on top is open and directly over your spoils, thus to create a natural draft of smoke past your meat. Let the pan simmer for half hour or so, and very occasionally stir the meat about, bringing the meat from the bottom up to the top. Doing the best of your pit keeper’s ability to keep re-acquainting the contents of the pan with endless barrages hickory smoke. Keep cycling the meat about in a smokey parade. This to an end, is a beautiful destiny not often bequeathed the humble, tho beloved, loose meat sandwich – but should be.
Oh glory! After a fashion, go head and do the honorable thing and take a taste for quality control reasons. I certainly did. We who cook often must do such things. For we do not want some misguided spoil cast haphazardly into the feeding pool of our people. So take a spoon full, and see what you think. You might have to bathe it longer in smoke, or it might be good enough, that is left to your considerable pit master instincts. Then grill up some sides, such as corn on the cob plucked fresh from the grocer, and toast your buns for that winning edge. Plate up these succulent, hickory-tinted sandwiches, and tower that meat high boys, for this is your feast. And these were the days.
Hickory Smoked Sloppy Joe Sandwiches. Man! Oh you could have done them on the stove top like you have done all your life – but when it comes down to it, everything is just better out-of-doors. Amen.
It’s a catchy name. One that you’ll remember. SuckleBusters! What is a SuckleBuster you ask? Well, you’ll have to read the back story on that, as told by the head SuckleBuster himself, Dan Arnold. It’s a long story. To paraphrase, to be a SuckleBuster is a good thing. And to “bust some great steaks” is coin of high praise indeed, according to Dan. Dan is a friendly chap, whose passion for BBQ is only matched perhaps by his gamut of iconic sauces and rubs, every one of them to a tee, “bustin’ with flavor!” I have long remembered the name, now it was time to find out why.
My patron and I fired up our grills this weekend to do just that. Armed with various degrees of Sucklebuster’s finest, and left to our own devices, we both opted for the canvas of pulled chicken, for to paint the flavor profile masterpiece. And Sucklebusters, let it be said, has many flavors for a BBQ Picasso to play with. From their award-winning Competition Rub, and spicy favorite, Hoochie Mama BBQ Rub , to their super sweet Honey BBQ Sauce, and if you’re feeling wild, and robust of tongue, maybe even their Chipotle BBQ Sauce. They even have a Peach BBQ Sauce that I’d surely fancy to get my hands on some day. Suffice it to say, they will likely have you covered, with what ever flavor you may have a hankering for. But does any of it taste good? None of the fun names matter if it doesn’t. And that is what we’re aiming to find out today. A matter of opinion to be sure, of which the BBQ circles are full of. And this is one of them.
I hit some chicken leg quarters with their tried and true, Competition BBQ Rub, and whilst the coals matured on the pit, I scanned through their website. Apparently a lot of people think SuckleBusters tastes pretty good, judging from its long list of distinguished awards, including a 1st place in the American Royal BBQ Sauce Contest in Kansas City, for their Original BBQ Sauce. One of the same sauces we selected for today’s cook. The award list was long enough in fact, that I suspected if the Noble Peace Prize people were handing out something for BBQ folk, well, SuckleBusters probably would have one of those too. Their sauce scientists seem to have it going on. Which is good news for we who hail from the smokey arts.
Over at my patron’s pit, he was up to the same thing. Procuring some savory SuckleBuster magic of his own, in the form of pulled chicken. He used the hot Chipotle BBQ Sauce and the sweet and spicy Mustard BBQ Sauce, their latest new mustard based creation, which if there is a bigger fan of than my fellow patron, I do not know of any. He loves the mustard stuff. Anyways during the smoke, I did note, even within a couple of hours, the chicken already was developing an abiding, and very suitable bark. Mark one more star for the Competition Rub.
About the Competition Rub, and all the rubs from SuckleBusters, sauces included in fact, is that they are clean. No MSG, or artificial junk that you can’t pronounce. Just real ingredients. Basic and clean. And we here at POTP liked that allot. And suspect perhaps, that is one of the reasons this stuff tastes so good. “No Bad Stuff” as they like to remind you on their site. And we’re glad they do. Another star and tip of the hat, Mr Arnold.
After a few hours of low and slow, we applied the sauces, mixing them in with the pulled chicken, built some rotund sandwiches, and put on some more sauce, just because. The moment of BBQ truth. Every pit master and budding wannabe alike live for this moment. To put your talking where your mouth is, go figure, and commence with the feeding. Now I thought the SuckleBuster Original BBQ Sauce married beautifully with their Competition Rub. Flavors complimenting one another in a fair, but seemingly deliberate fashion. There was just enough zing from the vinegar in the sauce to remind my tongue that something good had just happened here, and like most original formulas I guess,something else lurked in there too, compelling me to keep going back for more. A well-balanced symphony of flavors. None over-powering the other, and rest of it just right. There was just enough spicy heat present, to linger in your mouth after each bite, to make my spicy-challenged Swedish taste buds feel good about themselves. Like maybe I could handle the heat if I had to. A notion my fiery-tongued fellow patron will probably only laugh at. His pulled chicken sandwiches were on the hot side of the Sucklebuster menu. And he loved them accordingly. He had guests over for supper, and served them all pulled chicken slathered in both the Mustard BBQ Sauce and the Chipotle BBQ Sauce. He determined that the heat was indeed “do-able” and very, very good. He said even I could have probably handled the Chipotle BBQ.
At the end of the day, my patron and I had come pretty much to the same conclusion. That this BBQ company with the memorable name also puts out some dang fine BBQ flavors. Yeah, we fancy to make our own home made sauces and rubs, and we do pretty good, but we are not even remotely in the league these guys are privy too. The only downside we could find, because nothing is perfect it seems, is that their seasonings and sauces are not the cheapest ones on the shelf, but like many things in life, with this one you really do get what you pay for. A good sauce will make or break your BBQ. These sauces take your meat by the hand, and usher it into a whole new realm. Their track record speaks for itself I guess. And I suppose if we had to be monogamous to one and only one BBQ Sauce company, SuckleBusters would be it. They’re just good, people, and that’s the plain truth. We give their products a Two Patron Thumbs Up, and will be returning customers for sure.
After all the awards, however, and the accolades of these wonderful sauces and spices have been spun, after the sun had set on our grills, and our bellies were filled, we both noted something very subtle with our SuckleBuster experience. Subtle, but poignant upon our soul. And that is on every jar of sauce, on every bottle of rub, and maybe some more stuff too, you will find reference to the scripture – Proverbs 5:3-5. Subtle yet bold, like a SuckleBuster ought to be. Now half the world probably won’t care about that. And the other half will probably wonder if they ought to care about that. But we here at POTP are believing folk, and for what ever reason, we think that is very cool indeed. And in that alone, SuckleBusters has our lasting respect, and leaves an abidingly good taste in our mouths. Which after all, is what they’re in the business of in the first place. Amen.
So if you’re looking for some good award-winning sauces and rubs, that don’t have all the chemicals, and you don’t mind dealing with some very kindly people, check out SuckleBusters for your next BBQ.
I am not a sun worshiper, I do not seek out the sunny areas of the outdoors and bask in the sunshine, I do not try to tan my skin or even want too. But having said that, I have to volunteer, somewhat discreetly , that yesterday afternoon I lavished in the golden sunbeams. I lay willingly in the warm sometimes hot caresses of that fiery orb that is the center of our solar system. I paid homage to the sun and all the good things that it brings.
The warm breeze swept across the ice-covered lake, mingling the hot and the cool air like I love so much. In the northern climates, a day like this is not wasted, it is seized and every drop of enjoyment is squeezed out of it. Motor cycles come out, bicycles, dogs and the people who walk them. Minnesotans find things to do outside, and for some of us, that means lighting up the grill…
It has been six months since I last started the big grill here at the cabin, and I am still a bit intimidated by the hugeness of the thing. I got it for free, someone left it down at the end of their driveway, a piece of cardboard hanging on it swinging in the breeze, scratched with magic marker saying “FREE”.
I kind of see why now, after using it last summer.
They could not afford to fill the thing.
This grill is the GMC Suburban of grills. You can fit an entire turkey in the thing and still have room left over for a few bratwurst and hamburgers for your close friends. The thing is huge. My little Weber grill back home is twelve inches in diameter. At the start of a grilling session, I have only to put five to seven pieces of briquettes on the leftover coals from the last cook. That is all it takes to make the Weber Smokey Joe run. My little brother calls it the Honda Civic of grills. You get a lot of mileage from those little black chunks of coal.
My big Suburban grill at the cabin likes coal, like a sailor likes his rum. I toss four to seven pieces of charcoal into its vast maw and they drop into the abyss. Like dropping rocks into a well. You can hear the things bouncing off the sides on the way down, and they disappear as they reach the darkness at the bottom. Back home, on my humble Weber, a small bag of charcoal will last most of the summer. The largest bag of charcoal I can buy will barely get me three cooks on this behemoth. And worse, because the lid does not fit tightly, they burn all the way down each time, forcing me to replenish the whole pile with each session.
After the grill is lit, and the flames have settled down, ( or stabilized as my brother would say) I feel somewhat awkward placing my single hamburger patty and two Bratwurst on the immense grate. They only take up a small portion of the vast area under the lid. It made me think of being at a baseball game where only you and two of your best friends are sitting in the stands cheering the team, the rest of the huge stadium empty.
I swear, the sizzling hamburger patty had an echo.
In spite of my brother’s influence, I have never been very good on the grill. A piece of T-Bone steak, seasoned with garlic salt is the epitome of my meager talent. I bow to my little brother, who is the proclaimed “Patron of the Family Pit”. I have of course been reading his blog and like you followers out there, I feel inspired to try my hand at the craft. But , I know my limits. . .
I have never grilled fish on a cedar board, and more than likely never will, but give me a pound of hamburger, or some hot dogs, and I am in my glory. Simple tastes for the simple-minded I guess.
I read with awe how my brother put together Apple Wood Spare Ribs, or the Smoked Brisket. I have actually tasted his Hickory Smoked Rib Sandwiches. If I am in the right place, at the right time, an occasional chicken wing will come my way. But, and I will be honest here, I have about as much chance of making his Smoked Honey Tainted Pork Chops as I would making a slam dunk with a basketball.
I thought about these things as my Suburban grill at the cabin did its thing with my three pieces of meat . I knew I was not going to impress my woman with such a scanty offering, but hey, we were out in the middle of nowhere looking out over a frozen lake. Where else was she going to get food?
-The Patron’s Brother
Today we saw something we have not seen in maybe eight months. We saw eighty degrees of blessed Fahrenheit grace our mercury tubes. The balmiest of suns hung in the sky, and its golden rays poured over the fair land, drenching the trees and those who wandered amid them, in a glorious, life-giving warmth. We didn’t quite know even what to do with ourselves. The last of the ice banks dissolved into a wet earth, whilst the morale of the people soared headlong with the temperatures. And the first buds of the Lilac bushes poked their heads cautiously out, to check and see if it was really as they had heard. If, whether or not, spring was commencing here on the 45th parallel. And it appears, with a rather optimistic hue, that it has.
Naturally, folks across fruited plain are finally firing up their BBQ grills, in a token light to the new grilling season. We were no different here at the POTP, tho sweeter these sorts of days are, I dare say, to those keepers of the flame who have bared the blizzards, and trimmed their grills against the tempest. To our winter grilling brethren out there, for whom’s glowing screen these cyber pages may stretch, who have stood strong in the face of defeating wind chill, eternal darkness, and driving sleet – we commend your fortitude, and your heady passion for the game. For those were our glory days, by and far, standing stalwart at our cookers as the calendar flipped, with our white flags stowed deep in our pockets. Paying our dues with the mounting drifts of snow. Those were the days indeed, robust and raw, and we can be proud of them, as we hold our tongs high. But these eighty degree days, with endless sun and darting song birds, well, they aren’t so bad either. And we can appreciate them just as well, I should say. Days indeed sweeter to the soul, having grilled long remember, on the dark side of the moon. Glory!
On the grill today, hickory-apple smoked country-style rib sandwiches. So get your bib on, cause this one is gonna fall on your lap!
This sandwich is something of an expedient pulled pork affair, for when you’re in the mood for a savory pulled pork sandwich, but you lack the time and fancy to smoke the big Boston butts for half the day long. In some ways, they are better even. A fraction of the time, and because the pieces are small to start with, you get an elevated smoke-to-meat-ratio. Every bite is not unlike the outer, most savory sections of a traditional butt, loaded with seasoning, bark, and smoke. Oh buddy!
Whilst the coals mature on the pit, gather up a pack of country-style ribs to prep. Country style ribs, by the way and if you haven’t heard, are not ribs at all. They are actually part of the pork butt, which actually isn’t a butt at all, but the front shoulder of the hog. Yeah, butchers have way too much fun I think. Anyways, I hit the meat with a good smattering of Famous Dave Rib Rub, and transferred the pork to the grill, opposite the hot coals. The smoke wood today is the pleasant duo of apple and hickory, and a tantalizing tandem in the smokey arts. Then top the grill with the lid, and turn down the dampers. Govern just enough air in to keep the coals alive, and that smoke wood smoldering with flavor.
The next step should come easy to a patron of the pit, and that is to draw yourself a cold beverage and position your self accordingly in your BBQ chair, like a solar panel to the sun. These are the days we have dreamed about all the winter long, distant fantasies once privy only to Florida people, and the blessed lucky schmucks of Ecuador. Today, we will all fend off sunburn, and our smoke will rise as equals. And what a beautiful day it was, with nary a remote disturbance in an otherwise endless blue sky. Mallards floating serenely on the pond, and the call of a song bird’s serenade from the whispering pine. I kicked up my feet on an old bucket, and laid my head back a spell, hat pulled over the eyes, and what hecticness there was at once evaporated into the summer-like breezes. A man at peace by his pit. Nothing is quite so fine. Two and a half hours later, I foiled the ribs.
I foiled the ribs with some apple juice, and let them hence enjoy a sweet steam bath for an hour or so, while I got back to the very important business of loitering in my man chair. Of monitoring sun angles, and judging the song bird try-outs. I may have even nodded off again, and that’s OK. After an hour or so in the foil, and the meat has loosened up a great deal, and the checkered flag is in sight, you’ll want to toast your buns. Yes, goes the extra mile people, and toast your buns. This is your art. Treat it as such! When everything is done, bring it all inside and prepare your sandwich accordingly. Chopping up the savory pork, and maybe mixing it with some of your very favorite sauce, or even hitting them again with a bit more rub. Lay the bite-sized chunks over the toasted bread, piling them together in a magnificent meat melee, and if you’re from South Carolina, or just weird like some of us, go ahead and dob on some cool coleslaw right over the BBQ pork. Man! Press your sandwich together, and commence with the one of the finer culinary pleasures in this life. Be warned tho, sloppy brown chunks may make the acquaintanceship of your lap.
Hickory-Apple-Smoked Country Style Rib Sandwiches. It sure don’t get much better folks! You hungry now? Man!
This winter in Minnesota was a very long, drawn out winter. A winter where we thought for moment our region of the United States by chance had entered into a new Ice Age. We had a few glimmers of hope, but as soon as we saw fresh grass…… FRUMP!, We were again snowed on. Though we Patrons are tolerable with utilizing out our pits all year long we find Spring to be a sigh of fresh air. Don’t take us wrong, wiping snow off of our pit covers and removing our gloves to light a chimney full of coal is just the way of the bbq force out here. We know that for 5 to 6 months of the year removing our boots and putting them back on to maintain the pit is an expected part of the bbq process. HARK! We are now ready for the luxury of flinging off the flip flops and melting into our favorite patio chair with a cold beverage in hand, whilst sitting next to our hot smoky pits. AH yes, to sit downwind so that the cool breezes can blow the pit smoke directly into our paths becomes a fantasy while sitting in a cubical during our weekly rotating responsibilities. The time has come when we can rightfully say goodbye to a season that I can comfortably say had overstayed its welcome. I love winter and I love snow, but it is that time I welcome Spring.
Grill on – POTP
A formal apology must be made to my fellow Minnesotan’s, for I guess I uttered a tad too loudly in a recent blog, that winter, by and far, was done now. Oh what foolery hath slipped from my lips. For it looks like the old man winter caught wind of that, and naturally dumped a foot of snow on our BBQ grills, just for spite. Just because he can. A little slap in the face perhaps, to an over-eager gesture, here in the mid-folds of April. The snow now is shin-deep again. And tight still are the icy bonds from whence we have so endured. Tho there is hope I see, residing yonder.
The american Robin has moved back in to town now. An usher of hope. I guess he hadn’t got the word on his original twitter account, that it was still winter up here. Like many of us, he too had gotten his little hopes elevated. He’s sitting up in a tree right now, over fields of snow, chirping in a disgruntled manner, whilst no doubt reconsidering his life as a bird. Come to think of it, many people I know are doing the same thing, more or less, in the homely posture of snow-bound tweety birds. All they want for is a little green grass, and a splash of golden sun. A convenience simply not meant to be, this day, as one and all, we parlay for warmer times, and softer skies. One and all, we must surely wait.
I kind of think the wait is good for us BBQ people at least. The wait, after all, is analogous to the low & slow mantra much revered in the smoking sciences. The wait is what makes it all worth it. The longer we extend the smoke, the slower we go, the more time the meat has to absorb the smoke, and for the collagen to break down. The longer we wait, the more savory it gets, sometimes hunger alone even, need be our only spice. In this day and age of the drive through mentality, people just don’t like to wait. But I think by getting what ever we want in expedient fashion all the time, has taken something away from us as a people. It has taken our patience. Smoking meats low and slow at once returns us to that realm of waiting. Teaches us that it is OK, nay, it is beautiful, to let up on the accelerator pedal of life, and do something slowly for once. To nurture that reserve of patience we have lost touch with, and that when it comes down to it, that it is our privilege to wait for something, less we betray the beauty of the moment, and fall victim to the tragedy of haste. Patience is indeed a virtue most lovely. And, as my elder brother is fond of saying, “Patience comes to those who wait”.
A day passeth, and a brilliant sun the likes of which we have not seen in many months, rises high into a blue, Minnesota sky. Snow dripped from the roof of the house with the fierceness of a brooding rainstorm. Oh a fair shade different than yesterday. But that is the nature of spring in Minnesota, fickle and shifting, like the mood of a woman. Neither can help it, and we understand that. For it lends a greater joy towards the good days, and that which we have waited for. Anyways, it was my hallowed day off, and I knew, like any man would, that I would be grilling this day, for the day itself begged of it, and I felt more than a wee bit abiding. On the grill today, slow smoked sirloin pork roast and tin foil potatoes. Oh buddy! Let me tell you about it now, and just how it was done.
Long before any coals were lit, the pork roast was lovingly scored with a knife about a quarter-inch deep, in an artistic checker board pattern. Mostly a maneuver aimed at opening it up a little, so more spice and smoke penetration could be had. I then let it marinate for a few hours, in our standard patron marinade we use here. A sweet and garlicky affair that really helps out unruly pork cuts.
Sweet Garlic Marinade
3 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons garlic salt
1 teaspoon cracked pepper
After a few hours, and after the sun had risen higher yet into that gorgeous blue sky, I sought the next installment of today’s flavor profile, with this delicious paste rub. In a food processor, toss in the following ingredients, and thus process them accordingly.
Sweet Apple Paste Rub
1 Chopped Sweet Onion
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons black pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoon mustard
3 tablespoons apple juice.
Next, dutifully work the paste rub into all the many surfaces of the roast. Be gentle and take your time. Remember we’re in no hurry today. Today is the day we choose to wait. To cultivate the patience patron to low and slow victory. Whence all the paste is rubbed in, let the roast sit there with its new flavors. Let it them mingle and get to know one another. This while you are outside lighting the coals.
Bank the coals to the side, and add a chunk or two of your favorite smoke wood. We used apple wood in this cook, as most find it favorable with pork. Maple is good too. Set the roast on the grate indirect of course, with a temperature probe if you got it. If not, no worries, just keep checking back in on it. We are looking for the minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Rotate your prized meat once or twice during the smoke for even cooking. At around 150 degrees internal, is a good and worthy time to apply the glaze. Here is the wonderful glaze we used on this savory pork roast.
Caramel Apple Glaze
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
3 Tablespoons salted butter
3 Tablespoons apple juice
2 Tablespoons mustard
Boiled this all down in your favorite little sauce pan for ten minutes or so, and baste it on to the pork roast with a brush every ten minutes or so, until you reach 165 internal. Keep the lid on, and the smoke going. Turn down the dampers on the grill. Take your time people. This is your magic hour of grilling. That precious span of minutes where your vittles sizzling give off their most excellent aromas, of spice and sugars, of wood smoke and dripping fats. It is your privilege now, to slow it all down. To extend the moment for the moment’s sake. To take up residence in your BBQ chair, and tarry in the sun there. Good advice I know, and I might have taken it even, had not I spied something green yonder, by the old spruce tree. I got up and wobbled over there, and lo, a patch of grass, spread out before me, between receding patches of snow. I knelt down to investigate it. It has been some time indeed, since I’ve felt a patch of grass with my hands, and smelled its earthy bouquet. Even better, it was dry. Dry enough in point of fact, that I could sit down on it with out that awkward event of having to get up again and looking for all the world like you should be wearing a diaper. In no time, I found myself belly up in the sun there, staring up through the fragrant spruce bows, to a deep blue sky beyond. The song birds rejoiced around me, and my soul did sing. And for a moment, and maybe even longer than that, I felt a kinship with the robin I saw yesterday, and the other souls mired in winter’s clutch, once chirping in disdain over fields of snow. Turns out all I needed indeed, was but a little green grass, and a splash of golden sun.
After a fashion under the old spruce tree, I foiled the roast and brought it inside to let it rest a spell. Ah yes, even when the food is done, a good pit junkie will let his meat rest. To wait even more, in a pleasurable torment, amid aromas of perfectly smoked pork. As it rests, and you pace the floors like a predatory cat, the juices will return to where they most ought to be, and then in turn, to the infinite pleasure of thy palate awoken. Slice the roast into serviceable pieces and dribble some more of that glaze over it, and hail the dinner bell for those so lucky, and patron to your spoils. This a meal by and far, succulent, and most worthy of the wait. Amen.
Slow smoked sirloin pork roast with a caramel apple glaze, sided with tin foiled potatoes. Man! Feel free to drool. We’ll clean it up.
We are betwixt by the fire and by the ice. That oft volatile, yet seasonal line between winter’s bond and that of a lush, green lawn. Of snow banks and sun burn. Of golf clubs and wind chill. Of spring in Minnesota. This evening, upon the outer crust of the midlands of April, standing over a beautiful bed of coals, working the pit, admiring a lawn full of grass whilst blizzards gather headlong in the west, I am reminded yet again, of the heady pleasures of Minnesota BBQ. Sleet taps like ball bearings over the land now, and the cold wind curls around the old kettle grill – the wood smoke wrapped in eddies. Perhaps this is the reason you never hear our state mentioned on the same pages like that of Texas, South Carolina, and Kansas City, when it comes to BBQ. If those blokes had to BBQ in sub-zero temperatures for fifty percent of the year, perhaps we northern wannabes would tally a might higher in their counts. Its not easy, let me tell you, fighting off wind chill induced hypothermia while procuring a perfectly executed rack of ribs. But even so, some body has to do it, and we are up here despite, giving it a go. For it is the journey anyways, that we favor most in BBQ. The rest sorts itself out, by and by.
On the grill tonight, blizzard or not, we’re doing up a house favorite – BBQ chicken quarters.I know you’re tempted in the grocery aisles to pick up your packages of boneless chicken breast, but I have long held to the notion, that birds we’re designed to have their bones in them. More over, that the bone imparts a noticeably better flavor on your meat’s end game. Indeed, we are men, and we just know how ever it is men know things, that meat on the bone is poetically correct, and the very best way to go. And chicken quarters have lots of bones, beautifully placed alongside vast reserves of meat. It is a good thing. A worthy bone to meat ratio. Thus, and amid the falling sleet, the quarters were rubbed down in olive oil, and dutifully dusted in a liberal fashion with Grill Mates Chicken Rub. This while the fire matured, and the darkened, snow-laden clouds advanced upon our fair hamlet.
As usual, well that is if your interested in a crispier skin, we seared these lovely quarters a couple minutes per side, over some hot coals. Then of course tucked them back, to the cool side of the grill for the rest of the ride. We used apple wood for the smoke flavor tonight. Apple is an apt choice for all things poultry, and one can nary go wrong using it. Just a chunk. You do not want it bellowing like a choo choo train, as pretty as it may look. Nice thin wisps of smoke are what you’re after. Too much smoke is actually possible, and over-doing it has been known to result in bitter tasting meat. Indeed, it is well to think of smoke perhaps as a seasoning, and not an ingredient, like so many newcomers to the BBQ sciences postulate. Anyways, the lid thus was put into place, and the smoke began to curl. And for a while, tho the winter tempest was conspiring, all the world was right. That glorious, contented feeling, patron to wafting wood smoke, and savory meat sizzling quietly aside hot embers. The last ten minutes of the cook, I went ahead and applied the BBQ sauce. Brush strokes of a Meat Mona Lisa! The aromas of smoked chicken and apple wood a waft in the chill, April air. Man! Say what you will, but this is living!
Ain’t too many things finer before a spring snow storm, than a steaming plate of good BBQ chicken. Meat on the bone. It not only sets a man straight in his ways, but motions him to accept the prevailing weather scenarios with aplomb. To be OK straddling that curious but seasonal line the sand right now, which seems so privy to both fire and ice. Good BBQ knows no meteorological boundaries. It can’t you see, as we won’t allow such foolery, less we keepers of the northern flame would have to hang up our tongs half the year long. And that just ain’t right. Its not right at all.
In the morning, winter had returned, making itself at home on the pit once again. So be it. For a hearty flame still burns here, deep in the frigid north. And the wood smoke shall rise again. Amen.
It was one of those vintage, gorgeous Sunday afternoons here on the 45th parallel, if you can call 38 degrees gorgeous. Minnesotan’s I think can, because we love the spring. We love it because for a time, we were rather convinced it would never make our acquaintanceship again. For long was the winter, and eternal did its icy bonds adhere, not only to our driveways, and our favorite lakes, but unto the tender skin of our souls as well. Persistent ice and cold, well, it has it way of getting to some people, like barnacles on the buttocks of our lives. Even so, we kept a positive attitude, and we endured. But most folks I know of are done now with the winter, throwing up their middle fingers along with their shovels in a quiet contempt, dis-satisfied with its once frosty allure, for they are ready again, for the vibrancy of spring. Emboldened by the sun on their shoulders perhaps, and ready for action. Like for instance my ducks.
Our pit faces a pond you see, and these ducks, oh how they like to strut around the place, with their little chests puffed out so proud. Many a time I will be lighting up the grill, and I don’t know if it’s the smoke or the resounding clang of the enameled lid, but they more often than not come hustling up out of the pond to see whats for supper. And I tell them. I have to tell them you see, or they get mad at me. I have to assure them that this too is not their kin they smell cooking under the lid. They always show up as such, and always in the nick of time it seems, making things just a little awkward, as if they have every right to. And maybe they do. Some day I may just have to get it over with, and smoke a duck, and watch them all tout about, and field their penetrating glares. I don’t know. Regardless, and on the menu tonight, we’re making a backyard pit favorite – artisan pizza on the grill. So get a hold of your inner Italian, and let’s make a pizza pie!
If you’ve been paying attention in this blog over the last month or so, you will recall a write-up, How To Impress A Woman: Bread. You should also remember, because there was sugar involved, that the same bread dough we used for that, was also used to procure some rather amazing caramel rolls off the grill, in How To Impress A Woman Again: Caramel Rolls. These two culinary triumphs are not without a third. For we have subtly been holding your hand, here at the pit. Ask for but one strand of golden hair from an elvish queen, and she may give you three. Indeed, and henceforth, tho we ain’t no queen, here then is the third installment towards a higher carbohydrate utopia; a cheesy salute to an all-time favorite, and yet another use for this amazing dough. Sure to impress women and men alike, and maybe a couple of ducks too. If you need to refresh your memory on how to make the dough, just refer back to the links above. But here is memory nudge, none the less.
- 3 cups lukewarm water
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons granulated yeast (1 1/2 packets)
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons kosher or other coarse salt
- 6 1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour, measured with the scoop-and-sweep method
You can use what ever pizza dough you wish of course, and many of you already have your own systems for pizza in place, which is great, but the whole point of this article, and the two previous blogs under the bread umbrella, as linked above, is to show you the utter versatility of this fantastic dough. From fresh bread, to pizza. To caramel rolls for dessert. Its real easy to do too.
Simply roll out the dough to a uniform 1/4 inch thickness, add what ever toppings you fancy, and transfer it to an oiled pizza stone, which has been preheated on the grill. Charcoal arrangement should wax reminiscent of a smoldering doughnut, sure enough about the diameter of your pizza stone, and the lid on for an oven-like atmosphere in the cooker. If you’re using a Weber kettle, vents should be wide open. Grilling pizza goes against everything we have taught you about the hallowed virtues of going low and slow. It is hard for us to utter such words, but hot and fast is your motto here. Thus for you a speedier rendezvous to your quintessential pizza nirvana. Whence the crust is of a golden brown, plate the pie, and offer it in good stride to your people. Oh, make haste with it. Plop it down on the table in front of them, with the steam still rising. And watch the molten cheese ooze over the sides whence you peel off a slice, appreciating for a moment how your people foster flattering notions for thee, as their pit master most cool, and bequeather of the beloved Artisan pizza pie. Yum!
Artisan Pizza hot off the grill. Man! Yet another culinary gem from the such a versatile dough, and even better of course, patron to the pit.
Amid the spring thaw, and blustery gales , I touched flame to the chimney of hardwood lump. I love the smell of lump charcoal lighting, and the sound of it as it crackles and pops. I am transported all at once back up into the northern tiers of my Minnesota bush lands, back to camp fires past, neath the whispering pines, in the forest hollows, aside babbling streams, at tranquil campsites pitched upon the cold, bones of the earth. Those camp fires of birch and balsam, how their warm light reflects off the faces of camp mates, always make a soul feel more at home there, in a harsh, and barren land. I often reminisce in this way, every time I light the pit here on the patio. I hover my hands over the chimney, relishing the heat there, as the keen northern winds slice with disturbing ease through the city streets, kicking up old tatter along the way. And tho it is cold this April day, the sun is still out, and tweety birds, well they don’t seem to care one way or the other, if it’s cold, or windy, or what sort of charcoal I may be using. And that’s OK. I’m not sharing my supper with them anyways. Speaking of supper, come inside with me won’t you, and let me show you what we have marinating tonight.
On the counter, in a zippered plastic bag we have a good couple handfuls of chicken wings, the kind of wings popular at sports bars and taverns, and places with more big screens than a showplace theater facility. Blessed is the man whose freezer harbors a bag of these wings. In the immortal words of Mary Tyler Moore, it can take an otherwise nothing day and suddenly make it seem all worthwhile. And it has. For we are men. We eat meat. And we are keen for the wing!
The winglets today, before they hit the hot grate, receive a good pampering in a delicious home-made marinade. A salty and sweet affair with a touch of garlic. Here is the recipe for it if you have a hankering.
Sweet Garlic Marinade
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 3 table spoons honey
- 3 table spoons maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
Also whilst the coals come to maturity, and the wings marinate, we are soaking some peach wood too. I still prefer the big fist sized chunks, as there is no need to soak those. But if all you have is chips, you make do, and you’ll need to soak them before the cook, less they disintegrate like a 20-year-old pair of underwear whence they hot the coals. Not that I’ve tried that. I was pleased to find some peach wood at the local Cabelas, on one of my monthly forays there. You don’t see that sort of flavor up here in the frozen north too often, and I grabbed it rather by instinct when I saw it. A bit of Floridian essence amid icy winds sounded good today.
Nothing is quite so fine as peach smoke carried in the wind. Do to the high sugar content of the marinade, we went indirect the whole way this cook. Life opposite the hot coals is a good motto to grill by, and will long keep you out of grilling peril. I put the lid on and admired the smoke for a bit, like BBQ people do. I sat down, hunkered into my smoking jacket, and watched the smoke dance off into the stately breezes. And then, rather out of the blue, my left eye lid began to droop. Followed closely by the other. And I pandiculated right there in the chair. Pandiculation. That’s my new word. It means to stretch and yawn at the same time. Turns out I’m really good at pandiculating, and so are a lot of people I know. Anyways, when we brethren of the smoke feel such lethargy brewing, there is of course only one suitable course of action. I promptly went inside and took up residence in the man chair, reclined back to its utter most fancy, and there upon, and with great abandoned, did what sleepy men do when meat is slowly cooking on the grill – I belched and wafted off to sleep. It was lovely.
Most men, we postulate, and some women too I think, are born with an internal meat alarm clock. A meat sense, if you will. Sort of a quantum entanglement deal, where upon we just know when our betrothed meat is ready to eat, or more over, if it is in jeopardy of burning, or being pillaged say, by the neighbor’s dog. It’s a great skill set to have really, whence your aspirations for sleeping on the job come to fruition. BBQ is rigorous work after all, and we should be privy to all the tricks. Anyways, the internal alarm went off and I awoke in my man chair with a gentle yet satisfying graduation, like that of brisket coming to its temperature ideal, whilst resting on the counter top. I wiped the accumulated drool from my left lip pit, as my body rebooted. Golden beams of sunlight washed over my face, as I stretched like a spoiled old house cat in the soft chair. Yes, I pandiculated again. And I knew, as surely as one can know these things I guess, that my meat was done. It was time to eat, and after a fashion, never rushed, we did just that. And the wood smoke tapered in the breeze. Amen.
Peach smoked winglets with a tint of sweet garlic, and the theory of quantum meat entanglement. Man oh man. If you understand one, you probably have the other.
Nothing is quite so fine as firing up your pit on Easter morning. The smell of hickory wafting in the early sunbeams, the finches flirting in the fragrant spruce, and the world today, as most days go, seems to be rotating a little slower. There is leisure in the air, aloft with the wood smoke, and every fiber of your BBQ being knows it. The token urban madness is displaced it seems, with quieter streets, strolling neighbors, and driveways of parked cars, patron to house holds filled with warm banter and good food. And I like that. We had family coming over too, because once upon a time, I had leaked word that one could aptly pump up the flavor of your run of the mill smoked ham by ten times, if you smoked it again. Well it wasn’t long before I was asked one year to do the Easter ham, and well, that’s how traditions start I guess. My privilege. And that is what we’re up to at the pit this day. Smokin’ that good Easter ham. So get yourself a bib tied on, and lets commence with the task at hand. But be warned, once you do it on the smoker, you may never want to put your ham in the oven again. Man it’s good!
Now the first order of business, that is after of course pouring yourself a lovely beverage, is to rub your ham down in mustard. No, it’s not a flavor thing really, but as many smoke masters know, it is an adhering agent. In point of fact, I never heard of any one who can even taste the mustard whence the cook is complete. Think of it maybe as a primer for your rub. Lots of folks rub down all matter of cuts of meat in mustard before applying the rub. It’s just a great way for getting your rub to stick. Anyways, our rub today is as simple as it gets – brown sugar. That’s it. You can use what ever you like of course, but we went with good smearing of brown sugar. Then decorated it with pineapple slices, not just for cosmetic value, but also for the self-basting effect of smoking pineapples. It’s important here to let the ham and the sugar get to know one another for a while. To mingle. Wait until the sugar has liquefied, and becomes tacky to the touch before it goes on the smoker, for improved reception to the smokey goodness imparted upon it.
Hams are delightfully easy to double smoke because most hams that you’re used to are already cooked. Which nicely removes the pressure of wondering if its done or not. However, you want it hot, so the target internal temp to shoot for is 140 degrees, which is a good eating temperature for most tongues, save for the most hardened coffee drinkers. So I put the maverick probe in, just to keep tabs. With your smoker set at 250 degrees, most hams will take about 3 hours. Otherwise just keep an eye on that internal temperature. The smoke wood today is hickory, since the ham was originally hickory smoked to start with. It’s good to match it up if you can, however, I also tossed in a couple chunks of apple wood too, because that’s just how I roll.
Around 130 internal, you’ll want to start brushing on your glaze. The glaze we used was almost as simple as the rub.
Maple Ham Glaze
Mix together in your sauce pan the following:
- 1/2 cup apple juice
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
Then proceed to varnish your ham with liberal abandoned. When it reaches 140 internal, go ahead and bring it inside and foil it. Let it rest as you do, as the juices find their way back through the smoke-scented meat. Note the aromas in the air, how they fill the house, and how your people at once beckon closer to thee, for to sample a bite perhaps, before the dinner bell tolls. Snag the choicest bits for the pit master of course.
Hickory Apple Double Smoked Ham, with a Maple Brown Sugar Glaze. Man! With a special thanks to our Savior, for He’s the reason we even get to smoke a ham today in the first place. Amen.
*Stomachs, time, and the rest of the food out-paced our Easter ham, and I had to reluctantly pull it from the smoker too soon, and accelerate it in the oven. And tho it didn’t come out the most attractive thing after that, rest assured, it was still as moist and savory as it was smokey, complimented with that wonderful, sweet glaze. And bellies were filled.
Early spring in Minnesota. Melting snow, and river-lets of ice water meandering down the streets. Bird song returns to the barren tree tops, and the sun feels just right on your shoulders. Oh how we love this time of year. Just the mere thought of feeling the warmth from the sun again, not only registers as an event, but it is therapy too for the soul. For here is a simple pleasure, this light from on high, that has spanned the vacuum of space and landed precisely on your corner of the earth. Kissing your cheek there, like it had nothing better to do. That gives a winter riddled bloke hope, I think. And engenders in one’s brain pan those long but dormant notions of golf clubs, and fishing poles. And motorcycles and BBQ’s. The latter of course, something we here at this blog have never put away in the first place. Even so, as I banked the coals this evening to the side of the old kettle grill, I gloried in the purified air that spring seems to usher with it, and how a patch of grass in the spruce grove yonder, is flooded now, in a golden light. It is a pleasure to tarry by the pit on days such as this. And on the grill tonight, now that you mention it, apple smoked, honey tinted pork chops. Man! Are you ready for this!
Coals assembled like a flaming choir to the side of the pit, for proper indirect cooking. The chops were thus lightly rubbed in honey, and then sprinkled with some homemade spice, fresh out of the mortar and pestle. Now when you put sugar based things like honey on your meat at the beginning of the cook, you do increase your odds of burning things. But I didn’t care. With proper pitmanship, one can minimize the sugar rebellion, and procure some dang fine vittles. Thus, I went light on the honey, kept the meat well away from the coals, and just baby sat the beautiful pork chops, giving them almost all of my attention. It is a great hardship I suppose to sit tight to the grill, enjoying its radiant heat like that of a pot-bellied stove, whilst listening to the tweety birds cavort in the Alders. To at once let up on the accelerator pedal of life, and fancy the view of the world spinning with out me, whilst the apple wood smoke rises unto the heavens. This is a great pain indeed, these rigors of the BBQ arts, but one I am willing to endure now and again, for the assurance of delicious meat hot off the grill.
So it was, under blue skies and the banter of returning birds aside dwindling snowbanks, and warm sun beams cast upon my small little corner of the world, thy chops were dutifully grilled, with a touch of smoke, just because. Continually flipping them, nurturing them, ensuring they are having a good time there opposite the hot coals. I know I was. The aromas at the pit were a melody of inspiration, from the apple wood, to the caramelizing honey, to the fresh ground coriander and rosemary that my fellow patron gave me, as a token of good pit gesture. A spice rub we used in the Dual Patron Cook Out blog, consisting of brown sugar, Himalayan Pink Salt, onion powder, pepper corn, smoked paprika, coriander and rosemary. An agreeable host of aromas in which to aptly tarry by. And as I did precisely that in my patio chair, aside the smoking pit, I noted to myself how nice it was to be doing such a thing as this, with out a jacket, no less. The winter grilling season, and those 20 below cook outs, might I wager, are on it’s way out now. Confirmed yonder, by the melting snow, the bird song, and the golden rays of sun residing on a scant patch of grass. Oh yes, we love this time of year.
Apple smoked, honey-tinted pork chops, with freshly ground, aromatic spices. You could do a whole lot worse I suspect, but not have nearly so much fun.
Chickadees lit amid the Alders, chirping and rejoicing, as shafts of brilliant, warm, sun slanted through the stands of Spruce with aplomb. The smell of apple wood smoke tinted the air, as snow melt dribbled from the roof like, cold, glacial run off, reminiscent of the icy ramparts of the Mountain West. Like a seasoned man’s hairline, the snow piles around the pit had receded some in recent days, exposing for the first time in a long time, a few sickly looking, tendrils of grass, bent over from a winter’s hiatus. A good life choice I suppose, if you’re a blade of grass in Minnesota. Take the winter season off, and re-group come springtime. A mindset of no such value however, to we patrons of the pit, who have been grilling hard all the winter long. Keepers of the flame, and chickadees alike, know no such luxury as hibernation. Nor at the end of the day, I wager, would we want to. It’s a beautiful Saturday. The inaugural first smoke of the spring. The tweety birds are singing. And my fellow patron has come over to share it with me, like any good BBQ crony would.
Every once in while, if the stars and the orbits of our lives align, my fellow patron and I like to get together to ply our craft. The likely recipients of our exploits, for better or for worse, being our beloved wives. Sweet girls who have put up with their fair share of experimental BBQ over the years. They have been there for the very best of it, delighting in our victories, and they have been there amid our fool blunders too, politely eating it anyways. Lovely souls, who just so happen today, to be out on the town together, doing what ever it is ladies do when their out together. My fellow patron and I henceforth found ourselves doing what only came naturally, hunkered over my pit, procuring some rather tasty vittles for our women, whilst at the same time entertaining the notion of keeping digital tabs on our credit card accounts. Anyways, on the pit tonight, smoked chicken thighs and peach baked beans. Grab yourself a lovely beverage, and let us get after it.
Whilst the big WSM was coming up to speed, being the efficient creatures that we were, we split up the duties. Divide and conqueror tactics if you will. John took the chicken thighs, and I took the beans. The chicken was amazing, seasoned in a blend of home-crushed spices, and I’ll tell you more about that in a bit, but first let’s get after these peach baked beans. And don’t curl your nose, I think you’ll like them. They humbly are not of our brain thrust, but of Pit Master Myron Mixon, who was at one time at least, the Tiger Woods of competitive BBQ. Say what you will about the man, but he can smoke. And these beans I figured, were at least worth a shot. Here’s how you do it.
Peach Baked Beans
- 1 can baked beans
- 1 can sliced peaches or peach pie filling
- 1 diced red bell pepper
- 1 cup chopped bacon
Into your grilling pot, empty the contents of your favorite can of baked beans. Then dump yourself in a can of sliced peaches. A little of the peach juice is a good idea, but you may want to refrain from dumping the whole thing like I did, less you fancy a soupier baked bean. Or a better bet is to use a can of peach pie filling, which is what you’re really supposed to use, but I didn’t have any on hand. Next thing is to dice up a red bell pepper and toss that in there too. Finally, and to every meat lovers fancy, add a good handful of chopped up bacon chunks. If you really want to do it right, you’ll do up the bacon on the grill first, and impart a liberal dosage of smoke upon it, because its bacon after all, and bacon is worthy of our highest flattery. So mix all these wonderful ingredients together, and if you have a hankering, sprinkling in a little of your chosen spices of the day, is hardly ever a move soon regretted, and compliments the main course with a quiet, but favorable elegance. Proceed then to let the flavors mingle and stew for two hours out on your pit, stirring on occasion to circulate a little more smokey goodness into your bean pot of glory. Man! Now let’s see how John did up those thighs.
First order, he removed the flaps of skin common to inhabit chicken thighs, and then rubbed them down in olive oil. This to properly receive his freshly ground melody of spices which include, but are not limited to: Coriander, brown sugar, pink Himalayan salt, pepper corn, onion powder, smoked paprika and ground rosemary. By freshly ground, we’re talking an hour before the cook, in his mortar and pestle. Glory! It don’t get no better than that folks. Then he sprinkled some over the thighs. A little of this stuff goes a very long ways, he said, so he made work of it with a light hand. Delicately allotting the spices equally over the meat. He was quite proud of his creation, often bellowing in acute joy over how pretty it looked. The spice he has since coined, Rolling Stone Rub, its namesake inspired in the heady wages of the recent kidney stone he recently passed. A token beam of brilliance wrought from a most miserable circumstance. Anyways, then he gently placed the thighs out on the smoker, where upon an apple wood fire had already stabilized into a light, easy-going smoke. There they would stay for the next couple hours, next to the pot of beans. Oh buddy!
So it was, meat and beans on the pit, a light apple wood smoke wafting amid the patio, sunbeams melting in through the windows, and we menfolk at last taking up the proper BBQ posture, in our man chairs, beverages in hand, and a couple of hours of premium loitering ahead of us. Nothing quite so fine as that, after a hectic week whirling about in the cog of society. And we chew the fat some, as men do when they are waiting for meat, frequently gazing out to the pit, appreciating the curling smoke there. We kick our feet up and get a trifle more comfortable, click on the TV, and settle in for the high rigors of the BBQ life. Somebody has to do it.
Apple smoked chicken thighs and peach baked beans. If there’s a better way to usher in the spring, I can’t think of any.
*Bean recipe was ultra simplified here, but of you want to see the original recipe, in it’s uncut form as Myron Mixon intended it, let us refer you to the following link:
Amid the lingering piles of snow, I sat out by the pit, like men do, enjoying the last sunbeams of the day. Nothing was on the grill tonight, as I didn’t have time really. We had to be somewhere in 45 minutes, and I had thus released the option of grilling tonight; something just not in the roll of the BBQ dice. But as the black-capped chickadee lit upon my bird feeder, I noted out of the corner of my eye, the little Weber standing stoically in place, childishly straddling its mountainous pan of ash. It was giving me the look again, the one it always gives me, every time I step out onto the patio. Like puppy dogs or cute babies, the grill knows how to work me, how to manipulate me, and eventually, how to get its way. I look at the clock. I look at the grill. Back to the clock. The grill. If the Weber had a bottom lip, it was jutted out pretty nice. Patron to pathetic indeed, and just a little bit inconsiderate.
“Fine then”, I muttered to the grill, as I grabbed the charcoal chimney in one easy motion, filling it three-quarters with coal, and plunking a couple chunks of apple wood on top. I crammed some papers up its bottom end, and put flame to it with a mechanical ease born of sheer muscle memory. Before I knew it, smoke was bellowing into the air, as I stood abreast of the little pit, mentally improvising a menu.
“I’ll give you what you want”, I said, “But it won’t be pretty”. The little Weber seemed delighted if but just for a moment, that it was going to get used. And a man’s pit should get used, just as often as it can be, for not only to season it, but to foster a degree of sanity upon one’s own meat lust, and the ever-abiding need to occasionally burn things. It is good for us.
Quick and dirty like, with no motion for poetry, I slapped together some winglets, gently seasoned in Lawry’s, and set them to sear in an orange blaze of apple wood. I had also been in the mood all day for a simple grilled cheese sandwich, so I tossed on one of them too, delicately toasting it over the bed of coals. Now some might hazard it plum foolery to cook his grilled cheese out on the grill, forsaking a nice kitchen range, but I contend that “on the grill” is the way it was always meant to be, and couldn’t be more fitting, nor more honorable to its namesake. The trick to really grilling your grilled cheese to watch it closely. Like a high maintenance relationship, keep checking in on it, and nurturing it as necessary. Yes, I suppose you could do it inside on the stove top like you’ve done all your life, and that is good too, but you would at once miss the tweety birds flirt amid the dogwoods, and the sun light slant through the fragrant spruce, and the wispy aroma of the grill, the fresh air, and the fellowship of the coals.
Grilled Cheese and Chicken. In a few short minutes, the call of the Weber had been pacified, and supper thus procured. Victory snatched from the jaws of haste. The little grill looked a trifle more at ease now, resting contentedly, smoldering quietly the last of its hot coals. Basking in the wake of deeds well done. Tomorrow, it will want to do it again. That’s the way man-pit relationships go. We just have to deal with it. True, good BBQ is all about taking our time, and that is always preferable than rushing head-long through it. But it is still better to have grilled and grilled fast, than not to have grilled at all. Because it is our stead-fast belief, or at least our sincere hope, that time spent grilling is not deducted from one’s life span. Which is handy, because it may take a life time even, to aptly tame your Weber.
As the March sun melts through the snow-laden spruce, I rake the orange-glowing coals about in the pit, banking them to the back side, like I always do. And I pause momentarily, not just to savor the heat off the grill, which is nice, but to note this day how the sun at once seems a peck more sluggish aloft than maybe it once was. A little less keen on the business of dropping into darkness, or to give up its waning light. And this gives us northern folk pause for hope. It sings to our soul. But then I notice this same thing every year around this time, around day light savings time. We set the clocks forward, thinking that does something important. And maybe it does. Up at this latitude anyways, people today saw the sun at supper time, and say what you will, after a winter’s worth of dark suppers, this is a most novel event. Such milestones give hope to the BBQ spirit, that some day soon again, there will be warm sun beams awash over our grills, and merit to the notion we won’t soon either have to dig them out anymore, from the lofty drifts of snow which hath conspired there. Indeed, we Patrons of the Pit notice these things such as the lingering sun. How couldn’t we. It is in our blood. Anyways, let’s head inside and see what is going on the grill tonight.
One of my favorite things to grill are potatoes. And maybe my favorite method of doing them is diced up in the foil. If you’ve never grilled your spuds like this before, you’re missing something out of your grilling career. The process is as simple as it gets almost, and nary fails to turn out a delicious end game. Here is how to do it. While the grill is coming up to speed, lay down a sheet of tin foil and dice up a few potatoes into uniform chunks about the size of dice. Skin on or off, it doesn’t matter, however you like them is fine. It doesn’t really matter even what size you want to dice them, just so long as they are uniform in size thus to allow for even cooking. The next crucial ingredient is fat. You can dribble some cooking oil over them, but I like to disperse a few generous pats of butter over the potatoes. Next, if you’re an onion person, of which we can only hope our readers are, you’ll likely wanna chop up one of them on the pile too. Then hit the whole thing with a dusting of pepper and a few pinches of kosher salt. Some times I toss in some vegetables too, but not tonight. When you have it all ready, wrap it up good in the foil, tuck it under your wing like a full back, and make way for your grill. Lets head back out there, where as my elder brother is fond of saying ” the metal meets the meat”.
We preach the in-direct method allot here on POTP, and you should aspire for it, but here is one occasion where it works to go directly over the flame. Go head and put your foiled-up potatoes on the grate, right over the coals. The butter will quickly come to a sizzle, in a ricocheting applause within it’s tin foil sanctum. Now also would be a good time to toss on a few chunks of meat if you have a mind to, and if you’re man, well, this should not require too much additional thought. We’ve been on a chicken leg quarter sort of kick here at the pit lately, so we thought to use up some more of those. Patted down in vegetable oil, and seasoned in garlic salt. Nice and simple. As any meat and potato mantra should be. Seared them, them tucked them in-direct. Put on the lid, and went about the vital business of procuring myself a lovely beverage from the refrigerator. Standard Pit Master Procedure.
As is custom in winter grilling, you will want to take up residence in your favorite man chair, strategically positioned with a view of the pit and perhaps the big game on the TV. These are the moments in every cook you remember. Those contented span of minutes where the aromas of food and smoke waft from the grill damper, and there is banter in the air, as your posture slouches a bit in your chair. A seasoned pit master doesn’t fight it too much you see, and if you need to tip your hat over eyes and procure a nap for a few minutes, well, we will harbor no shame against thee. In point of fact, we will salute you. For at the heart of all good BBQ, is a soul on the scenic path, taking his time. Taking these moments we love, and extending the moment just as long as we can. No hurries, mate. However, in this cook, we do have vittles over direct heat, and they should be done in about 20 -25 minutes. So don’t nap too long. It’s time to go plate up.
My beautiful bride is particularly fond of these potatoes of you can get some of them a little crispy, and these sort you will usually find adhering like a tick to the side of the tin foil. Peel them off to compliment the color and texture of your plate. Served alongside some perfectly executed BBQ chicken, hark, a meal fairer to thee, and patron even to the sun which has returned; and unto its golden light cast upon our grills. Amen.
Repairing on the couch with lovely beverage in hand, I muse over the weather forecast. The man on the screen says a wintry tempest brews, and a prominent Canadian chill is soon to descend upon us, with no mercy. And the winds will howl, and the temperatures will feel akin to twenty below. Squirrels will fall from trees, and children will openly weep. I crossed my legs like a gentleman of leisure, gazing into the warm glow of the fire-place, whilst listening the weatherman banter, and the cold sleet tap like ball bearings over a frozen window pane. I could almost hear the mercury sink for cover in its fragile, glass tube. Like any opportunist, I knew this was some fine weather to do a little baking. To partake in some quality ambiance. In point of fact, I already had some bread going out on the grill!
Let it be said, because it’s true, anything you can cook in the house, you can also do on the grill. Take bread for instance. Once thought to be the sole domain and prize of a good oven, we keepers of the pit have been puttering on such matters, and are here to tell you, good bread can be baked right along side your steaks and chicken, if you have a mind to. And why wouldn’t you! Bread is good, and besides that, the lady folk all seem to appreciate it, and take to it with consistent good cheer. Say what you will, but that is no small thing.
First off is the dough. I’ll admit, I’m a man, and I can’t bake bread. I have tried before, the end result resembles something rather like a stale, old shoe. And once upon a time, along with many menfolk I presume, I had given up all together of ever having the sufficiency of skill for baking worthy bread. And I was OK with that. I’ll stick to steaks, and leave the bread to the prettier folk. But then one day, on a visit to my elder brother’s abode, everything changed. I stepped into his house and was greeted by a wondrously pleasant aroma I don’t often associate with my elder brother – that of fresh-baked bread. And he was procuring loaves upon beautiful loaves of it from his faithful oven. A big grin on his face, a tightened belly, and mass quantities of bread lay steaming at the end of a bright sunbeam. Well, he had cracked the code it appeared, and after a sampling, a passing of the knowledge was in order, and of course, I felt compelled then to adapt it for the grill.
The bread I speak of is from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A day, an excellent book that swept the nation a few years back. I’m quite sure many of you already know about that, but some of you may not. If you’re in the minority and fancy yourself a bread lover, but inept at making it, then you’re in for a lovely treat. Instead of regurgitating some one else’s brilliance, let me instead link you to the masters themselves. This short video will tell you everything you need to know about making this wonderful bread. Then we will show you how to work it on the grill.
In case you didn’t catch the master recipe, you’re going to want to hang on to this for some future grilling adventures here at the Patrons of the Pit. We have but just begun to show you what is possible, where the bread maker and the grill master meet in stride.
- 3 cups lukewarm water
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons granulated yeast (1 1/2 packets)
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons kosher or other coarse salt
- 6 1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour, measured with the scoop-and-sweep method
*We have found, through extensive experimentation, that 5 1/2 cups of flour makes for a considerably softer bread, and though the dough is trickier to work with, it does at least save some flour.
Adapting it to the grill is easy too. Every thing about this bread is easy. Now the grill we’re using this cook is your basic Weber kettle type, on the assumption that’s what most people have. If your working the BGE or other ceramic egg types, odds are since you have one of those, you already know how to set it up for baking. If your working a barrel type grill, the concept we will share isn’t too far off. You’re pit master instincts will serve you well. Anyways, while ideally you’ll want your grill at about 450 degrees, it’s not that big of deal if it’s not. Employ your considerable skills to get it close enough. Next, if you like a crunchy crust on your bread, lay it directly on the grate, in-direct of course. For a more easy-going crust, lay the dough on a pizza stone or in a cast iron pan, and again, over in-direct heat. A pan of water in the grill is also supposed to lend to crisper crust, but having done it both ways, neither seem to make much difference, so I usually just go with out. Put on the lid to create an oven-like atmosphere, and proceed to go draw yourself a lovely beverage. As it bakes, check in on it from time to time, and rotate it 180 degrees at least once for even baking. At 450 degrees, it should take about 30 minutes. This particular loaf took 45 minutes, none the worse for the journey. You’re looking for an internal temperature of 200 degrees. After some practice, you’ll know exactly when it’s done by its hollow sound, with but a mere strike of the finger upon its golden crust.
Artisan bread on the grill. It will amaze your family, and astound the women in your life too. Womenfolk like bread you see, don’t ask me why, they just do. They are drawn to it, and irrevocably so. To its soft center, shielded by a firm crust. To its deposits of guilty carbohydrates inherent within. They just like bread is all. And if they see a man make it, well, you quickly become their hero. And you’ll just have to deal with it, by and by.
I know, a meatless blog by The Ministers of Meat. It ain’t right. Rest assured tho there was chicken grilled also during this cook, and that this bread makes for amazing, robust, meat sandwiches if one so chooses. Anyways, gentlemen, if you want to impress your lady, try baking them a loaf of home-made artisan bread. Better yet, go do it on the grill, and you’ll both be happy ever after, I think…
It was 5:00 in the blessed morning as I stumbled out onto the patio, bag of charcoal in hand, whilst sporting my designer pajamas beneath the twinkling stars above. I put a match to the old charcoal chimney, sending the initial rush of smoke aloft, for to honor the day and to get a batch of coals going. Obsessive compulsive, the neighbor was probably thinking, whilst gazing out the window during his early bird pee. I wouldn’t argue that I guess. But it was Boston Butt time at the pit, and as any one who smokes the big meats are well aware of, them butts take some considerable clock. So early starts like this are what you do some times. But I also had every intention of going back to bed, to those delicious, warm, blankets from whence I came. And after the smoker was under way, I did precisely that, thanks to a fellow called Jim Minion, and the good idea he had once.
Jim Minion was at a BBQ competition one day, and had his wife pick him up a WSM cooker from the store. He slapped it together on the spot, and needed to figure out a way to “light it off“, and not being one for reading instructions apparently, he just tossed a bunch of lit and unlit coals together, and called it good enough. Worked out pretty good for him too, go figure, as he took 1st place in chicken, and 2nd place in ribs. Henceforth, “The Method” had been discovered. And it works exceedingly well. This is no news for you old timers I know, ye keepers of the flame and brethren of the smoke, but our readers are a diverse lot, patron to all the rungs of the BBQ ladder. And like hot coals lighting other coals still new, so to should we pass the flame of knowledge, igniting others, like the Minion Method personified.
As you delve deeper into the BBQ arts, you will want to try this technique. It is worthy for such endeavors as brisket and pulled pork, and really anything you want a long, controlled, burn for. And it couldn’t be easier. I usually start with a doughnut of unlit coals in the fire bowl, and dump a chimney full of blazing lit ones right smack dab in the middle. What happens is the lit coals work sort of like a fuse, lighting any unlit coals that might be sitting next to it. And those coals in-turn light some other coals next to them. And so on. It’s a beautiful thing really, of which gives you the time for the all-important business of kicking up your feet in the sun, with a good narrative and lovely beverage. If your smoker is of good quality, and you put enough coal in, I’ve heard of guys routinely getting as much as 18 hours of steady burn time, averaging around 225 degrees. Now that’s one long burn.
If you have an offset smoker, or some other cooker where this method described above doesn’t seem right, there are gadgets like this to be found. Working off the minion method principle, or more precisely, the “snake method” many a pit master has had success with these sorts of charcoal baskets too.
Turns Your Kettle Grill into a Smoker!
Here is another alternative for you kettle owners. This thing has gotten outstanding reviews, and they say it will give you 8 hours of burn time in a single load. It also works on the minion principle, and has a nifty little vertical water pan, to help act as a heat sink.
It’s not all perfect tho. Within the Minion Method there are two camps. The debate you’ll find between these two are about things called binders. Binders are the chemicals and what-not which basically hold the charcoal briquette together, and it’s these chemicals that are released when a briquette is being lit. So naturally, there are some BBQ folk who say this is not good for you, as this stuff may leach into your food, while the rest of us sort of shrug our shoulders because we don’t really know. Luckily, if it’s something that’s going to bother you, there is a solution in products like, Stubbs All Natural Charcoal, as seen in this link, Stubb’s 9-Pound All-Natural Charcoal Briquets, or lump charcoal, such as Fogo FHWC35LB 35-Pound All Natural Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal Bag, neither of which are supposed to have binders in them. At any rate, it’s something to think about, and you’ll have to make up your own mind on that I guess. Or if you have some knowledge otherwise to enlighten us, do share, as the community of BBQ is only better for it.
Regardless, the method of Jim Minion is quite the effective strategy should you fancy the likes of a long burn with minimal maintenance. Something I can attest to is a glorious thing, should you find yourself one day, lighting up the smoker at 5:00 in the morning, groggy-faced, whilst still in your favorite pajamas.
Off-hand and by the way, if you’ve come here to learn about the minion method, then you’re also probably thinking brisket. Good thinking! The Minion Method is made for brisket. Here is a great read concerning how to smoke the proper brisket, as told by the best in the business. Aaron Franklin makes the best brisket in the country. How do we know? Just read the reviews of his book below, you’ll see!
*People who read this article also read: How To Melt Your Maverick:Wireless BBQ Thermometer Set – Maverick ET73
**Patrons of the Pit are affiliates with Amazon for Stubbs All-Natural Charcoal, among other things. We do receive a small commission if you buy through our link. We do appreciate it!
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