They strutted across the road like little fuzzy superstars. Like John, Paul, George, and Ringo, with their big body guards fore and aft. Not a care in the world and just glad to be alive on this glorious spring day, doing what ever it is that goose do. This is a common sight this time of year at the Pond-Side Pit. Families of geese or ducks, wobbling about the place with an air of quiet entitlement. They own the place, and we who live here also, well, we just get out of their way. And we’re OK with that. John, he’s the little one in the front of the other little ones. He’s kind of the leader you might say, tho Paul right behind him is too, in his own right, and I suspect will go further in life. George is George, and Ringo, well, he likes to bring up the caboose and set the cadence of their daily walks. They’ll do this every day. Multiple times a day. That is in between their ritual swim in the pond, and rooting through the grass for the odd bug or what ever it is you eat when you’re a goose. Well, they can eat what ever they want, but I myself, I will be feasting proper like, over the pit of plenty today. Let’s head there now, shall we, and I’ll show you what’s cooking. And how it went and came to be. And no, it’s not goose!
It’s chicken and ribs of course. The ribs were liberally seasoned with Miners Mix Memphis Rub, and the chicken was dusted over good with a rub called Poultry Perfection, again from the good folks at Miners Mix. They never ask us to mention them on this blog, but we can’t help it, and we’ll mention them anyways. They’re just that good. Every blend they come up with seems to be a winner. We’ve chatted with the owners on occasion, and my goodness the standards they set for themselves are indeed impressive. They said if they don’t absolutely love it, they just won’t sell it. Simple as that. Such passion resonates clear to the end game too, here at this humble patio, beside a pond, with geese milling through the cool grass. Thank you Miners Mix for setting your bar so lofty. We do appreciate you! Check them out at their website www.minersmix.com
Can you smell it??? No you cannot. This is a computer you goof ball! I promise you tho, it smelled good!
The Texas Crutch
Long about hour three into the smoke, we wrapped the ribs with a few pats of butter and some BBQ sauce. TIP: If your ribs are ever coming out tough and chewy, resembling characteristics like that of proteinaceous Naugahyde, you probably ought to try wrapping them in foil for a couple of hours. Pour in a little apple juice with them, or some sauce, beer, anything that will provide moisture, and just let it steam there in the foil. This is an event for your ribs, and they will love you for it. It’s like taking them to a meat spa to be pampered and indulged there. In Texas they call this technique the crutch. Every where else we call it a good idea!
Fate of a Yard Bird
We let the chicken just go low and slow, bathed in a light hickory smoke for a few hours. Just long enough that it was almost falling apart. Bones would come loose with the slightest twist. This is what we we’re after, for the goal was to make some pulled chicken out of this yard bird! And whilst the ribs were finishing up in the foil, we went ahead and let the bird rest 15 minutes or so, then dug into it barehanded, and pulled it all to pieces for sandwiches later on. We also chopped up bits of skin in there too, because we like that sort of thing. Man!
With chicken and ribs thus procured over a soft hickory fire, and the waning light of another glorious spring day slanting in golden shafts over roof tops and through fluttering cottonwood leaves, I was at once pleased with my efforts at the pit this day. There was a temptation early on to grill only hamburgers or the simple bratwurst, but I’m glad I resisted. Glad I went with the longer smoke instead. For I do not take these moments pit-side for granted. And because it is pert near my favorite thing to do most days, I do find myself in advancing years relishing the journey of BBQ almost more than the BBQ itself. I like that some things in this world take a little time – like pulled chicken and ribs. I like how such endeavors of patience press gently against the hour hand of life, and the pleasurable moments created there for to tarry in, kindred to our soul. That is how good things should come to be. There should be a journey involved. It ought to be earned. Like good BBQ. Raising a family of geese. And perhaps English rock bands. Amen.
Slow hickory smoked pulled chicken smothered in Joe Joes Hogshack BlackBerry Sauce, sided with even more meat! Hickory smoked pork spare ribs seasoned in Miners Mix Maynards Memphis Rub. Man! Pardon me people, but I’m just going to have to eat this right in front of you.
It was a pretty good evening at the pit, I don’t mind saying. One of those patented, gorgeous, Minnesota evenings that when they happen are the finest evenings anywhere in the world. You see, when you wait around for 6 months swaddled in Bill Cosby sweaters and long underwear waiting for the perfect weather in which to grill supper, then, when it actually does happen, you are positively the most grateful person on the planet. You just are.
Thus it was at the Pond Side Pit, under softly ebbing salmon skies, that we reveled in weather most extraordinary, and favored a continuing burger kick partial to a beautiful bed of coals. I do not know why, nor do I seek to analyze it much, but burgers, in particular, big burgers with lots of bacon, cheese, and onions have been my most favorite thing to eat lately. And man did these meat monoliths do the trick. There was no messing around at the pit tonight. We aimed to fill our bellies, and we meant to do it right.
Whilst the beautiful hand-formed patties sizzled over the hot cast iron grate, I got to work on the onions. Also, I found this gem of a black iron pan out in the garage, a smaller 6 inch skillet that was perfect for the job. I suppose we could have used one of our cast iron griddle inserts like we did a couple of weeks back, but we like to spread the love to our other cast iron entities as well. We’re big fans of cast iron around here, if you haven’t noticed, and will bandy with that world often if we can. There is nothing better for cooking over the fire, and maybe even cooking period, than cast iron. Love it. So if you have grandma’s old black iron pan just sitting in your basement holding down a stack of old photos, we highly recommend sticking one of these pans in your grilling kit. Great for the sort of stuff that always slips through the grate, like these here onions. Yum!
And then there was bacon. Yes, I started a paragraph with the word “and” , and all the grammar police now surely hath cringed. Eyeballs rolling. But hark, it’s bacon people, and bacon should be allowed to bend the grammatical rules. Bacon is special. Countries may topple and rise with bacon. Our very destiny with alien life forms may hinge on whether or not we offered them bacon at that first meeting. Boy, I think I’ve digressed. The point is bacon is good, and nobody can deny it. Anyways, we set the bacon indirect for a while to absorb some of the hickory smoke that which wafted by. Man. The smell of sizzling bacon and fried onions over a bed of hickory coals. Buckle up people!
Hickory. We were running a trifle low on charcoal this cook and augmented the briquettes with a nice pile of hickory chunks. A lovely means in which to cook outdoors. A poetry closer to the open fire cooking of the cowboys in days past. Speaking of, we will be delving more into wood fired cooking arts this summer, sans charcoal altogether. Just straight up wood, such as man was perhaps always intended to cook his spoils all along. Be looking for more posts on that.
And so the sun ebbed over the house tops and budding cottonwood trees, it’s long salmon rays spilling across the freshly hewn grasses where long shadows were cast. The sounds of the neighborhood unwinding accompanied thee as I placed slices of smoked Gouda over the savory flanks of charred beef. I smiled as any pit jockey would, as I lowered a big tong full of fried onions atop the cheese. Then of course, the bacon. How are you not drooling on your screens right now! Mercy. Then, like a flag on the summit of Mount Everest it’s self, we topped each burger with a gently toasted bun. Burgers just don’t get no better, folks.
I don’t know if you believe in love at first sight, but I say it so, leastwise with these hickory tinted bacon cheeseburgers it is. Spoils of the flame. And patron to the pit. Amen.
It’s that time of the year again, and grilling season is swinging into gear across the country. From the Redwoods of California to the Appalachia of the eastern states. Men and women in good form are finally pulling the covers off their beloved grills, and defrosting cuts of meat which survived the long, winter hiatus. Yeah, it’s grilling time. And all the pit people of the world rejoice! Grill masters also love toys, as you know. And Father’s Day is coming up. So as the grilling season gets underway, and the wood smoke begins to curl, here then is our Top 10 List of Grilling Gift Ideas for your resident pit master.
Thermo Pro TP 20
Not too many things in the grilling arts make more sense than this. If you ever want to delve further into the game than mere brats and burgers, you’re going to need something to monitor the internal temperatures. There are plenty of wireless thermometers on the market, but this amazon bestseller is one of the best.
ThermoPro TP20 Wireless Remote Digital Cooking Food Meat Thermometer with Dual Probe for Smoker Grill Oven BBQ -$50.99
This beauty comes with two probes: one for your meat and one for the pit. Monitor the temperature of both as far away as 300 feet they say. Now you can sprawl happy-go-lucky in the hammock whilst this doodlebopper keeps a good eye over your brisket. It also has presets for 9 different meats at various levels of doneness.
It also has a life time sensor probe warranty. Not too shabby!
2. Myron Mixon 3 in 1 Pitmaster BBQ Grill Tool
Now this one is different, we admit, if not a bit odd looking. But it works. A built-in food flipper hook, an 8 inch chefs knife, and of course a bottle opener. It’s mostly for the fun of it, we suspect, but lo, fun is what it’s all about at the pit anyways. Might be a good gift for the BBQ’er who has everything.
3. Grillaholics BBQ Grill Mats
This is yet another odd one. A heavy duty, reusable, non stick grill mat. No more cooking over nasty grates they say. No more food slipping between the slots. It even leaves grill marks. Made from heavy duty PTFE fabric, one can customize it to fit any grill simply by cutting it to shape. And they are dish washer safe. Our jury is still out on this one, but folks seem to love it. An amazon bestseller for a while now. Check it out.
Grillaholics Grill Mat – Set of 2 Non Stick BBQ Grill Mats – Heavy Duty, Reusable, and Easy to Clean – Extended Warranty Sale $19.95
They also offer a lifetime GUARANTEE. If you’re not happy, they’ll make it right. Guess you can’t beat that.
4. Miners Mix Seasoning Gift Crate
If you’re a regular to this blog, you see us use these seasonings on a regular basis. And there is a reason for that. They’re freaking awesome! We just love them. The flavor profile bar is set mighty high with these. If the spice wizards at Miners Mix don’t absolutely love it, they won’t release it to the public. Simple as that. You can also pronounce all the ingredients. Go figure that! Plus the folks at Miners Mix Headquarters are good, down to earth people, who win awards with their rubs on a continuous basis. You’ll just plain like doing business with them.There are tons of spice rubs out there, and these guys are among the very best. Another great gift idea. They also have a line of hot rubs for the pepper heads out there.
“If it didn’t exist in 1850, it ain’t in here!” Love these guys!
5. Ballistic Griddle
Unless you follow the YouTube channel, Ballistic BBQ, you probably haven’t heard of this griddle. A hidden gem we stumbled upon a while back that we thought warranted mention on this list. The Ballistic Griddle is a 22.5 inch half circle made of 3/16 thick stainless steel. And man does it cook. Greg, from Ballistic BBQ, teamed up with Craycort to produce this baby, and it looks worthy. What we like is that unlike many other griddles out there, it dares to be small. We liked the half-size because it in turn keeps the other half of your grate a grate, thus adding to the versatility. A place to do your onions and bacon, whilst still having access to a good grate to grill the meat. Gotta like that thinking!
Ballistic Griddle $69.90
Still interested in this griddle? Take a look at the video made by the inventor himself. Awesome job, Greg!
6. Franklin Barbeque: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto
We like to smoke a good brisket or two around here, but we humbly acknowledge we now nothing next to this man. Aaron Franklin makes the best brisket in the country. How do we know? Well, just read the reviews on his book, A Meat Smoking Manifesto. You’ll see! Definitely a great gift for your resident pit master.
“Aaron Franklin makes the finest barbecue I’ve ever had, barbecue worth waiting for. His work and his words express a truly rare level of commitment and expertise. With Franklin Barbecue, he shares it all—in a book that, fortunately, you don’t have to wait for.”
— Anthony Bourdain
7. Custom Ordered Branding Iron
Here is something we always wanted to play with but have never gotten around to. Custom branding irons for marking your meat! A fun gift idea no doubt. No pit jockey worth their briquettes doesn’t secretly want to play with branding irons. It’s just what we do.
They just need to offer one more initial and PotP would be on more steaks!
8. Ironwood Gourmet 28101 Steak Barbecue Plate
A pit-master proper is one with the woods. He cooks with it and by golly, should eat off it too. Here is yet another great gift idea in a wooden plate in which to plop your meat. Complete with it’s own juice grooves even! Made from Acacia wood, its quite lovely to look at. Makes a fine presentation too. And they boast it will not dull your knives. I’d plunk my rib-eye on that! Kind of a cool idea.
9. Craycort Cast Iron Grates
We would be remiss and derelict if we didn’t mention these bad boys! If you’re a regular to this blog then you’ve seen us use these grates a thousand times. In point of fact, the #1 question we always get asked, is, “Where did you get that grate?” Well, we got them from Craycort, that’s where we got them. Designed to fit into your traditional kettle grill, these cast iron gems will last a life time if properly cared for. They come pre seasoned, and are modular, meaning you can get various inserts for them, such as: hot plate, griddle, pizza stone, sauce pan, ect.. So if your grill master has a kettle grill, and an affinity for cast iron, this is pretty much the best grilling gift ever.
And oh yeah, nothing generates killer grill marks better than cast iron!
10. IQ120 BBQ Temperature Regulator Kit
Quite possibly the ultimate grilling gadget for a meat geek. Holding steady temperature is fundamental in the art of BBQ. And sometimes it’s not always easy. Well, unless that is you have one of these. The IQ 120 is at last the BBQ nerd’s upward raised middle finger to fluctuating pit temperatures. In a nut shell, this unit will adapt to Weber Smokey Mountains, Weber kettle grills, and various other smokers they say. With a thermal probe, small fan, and some electronic wizardry, the IQ 120 will gently blow air onto your fire at the appropriate times to hold your desired temperature, tighter, they say, than your oven in the kitchen would. That’s pretty amazing!
It will even alert you when your fuel is running low! How the heck?!
IQ120 BBQ Temperature Regulator Kit with Standard Pit Adapter for Weber Smokey Mountain, Weber Kettle and Many Other BBQ Smokers – $199.95
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It was years ago I first married my bride now, and many years before that, that I tried my first White Castle Slider. That the two entities should ever conspire together some day was but a fanciful pipe dream. For it is not with out merit that my lovely bride has refused to eat one the entire time I’ve known her…Except yesterday.
Turns out she has an adventurous palate after all, or barring that, at least a cameo moment of some rather low standards. Makes a patron take pause, it does, and consider his cooking prowess for a bit. That aside, I will admit the venerable White Castle Slider is not what we should call, gourmet. Or even good. In point of fact, half the time I wonder why I just ate it. But for some reason they persist upon the buttocks of human consumption and culinary enigmas as a gastronomic anomaly all unto their own. Why do we eat these things? The fact that I can’t answer this question sort of adds to their own legend. And that’s the disturbing pleasure of it all. But I digress.
Backcountry Sliders 101
Hearken back with me now to another time and place, far away and up north. North of the big city where the wind whispers in the pines with a stately purpose, and the rivers tumble through wide, rocky gorges, and the skies spill the color blue like you have never seen before. It was up there, at a camp site in Jay Cooke State Park, where my bride and I made camp last, and where I also cooked her the PotP version of a proper slider.
Helping me out on this cook today was our little grill donated to us by Instagrill. A prototype they were working on, which off-hand and by the way, has raised the proper funding now to put these babies into production. If all goes well, they should start becoming available this summer some time. Feel free to learn more about it in the link provided here.
Two quarter-pound patties of ground chuck, people, each impregnated with globular clusters of cheddar cheese and the occasional bit of onion. Still more onion was put on the grill, these slathered in olive oil and seasoned in salt and freshly cracked black pepper. We did onions like this a few posts back, and one of our subscribers, Todd baker, suggested that such an onion be slapped onto a burger some day. Doh! I was inspired by the man’s genius, and well, this one is for you Todd. And by the way, if ever you are looking for some good reads concerning running, metal concerts, and the odd rumination of life, do check out Todd’s blog, anddocoolstuff. Quite enjoyable. Anyways, back to the cook.
Ever gander at your meat from below? No, not with a mirror when you’re checking for ticks. But like in the photo above. I found this a refreshing angle not privy to most grills. I sat there in my folding man chair and just watched the fat render and drip, sizzling onto the coals whilst listening to Milwaukee Brewers baseball on the little radio. Oh yes, there are worse things in life than roughing it in the woods.
You all know how to grill a hamburger. There’s no secret here. We did go the extra mile however, and toasted the dollar buns like a good pit jockey ought to. We chose dollar buns because, well, that’s all the little store along the country road had. But the little buns were about the same size as a White Castle bun, and secretly I knew it would only accentuate my bountiful burgers into a thing of rapturous beauty. And this in turn would impress my wife, who was not all that impressed, I think, with the meat offering in the original WC. I can see why. The White Castle Slider sports some dubiously thin meat. Thin as a worm’s tongue it is. And not all that better tasting. Well, tonight in the woods, things would be different. Much different indeed. We would not want for beef!
Glory be! Say what you will, but this is a proper meat-to-bun ratio! Mercy, it knocked the hunger pangs out of the park like a Roger Maris home run. I was too full to even burp!
This was adequate camping grub, let me tell you. And tho I cannot promise I will never set foot inside a White Castle again, let this be an example of what can be procured in the woods or at home. Should you have a mind to, one half pound of ground beef, and a couple of dollar buns patron to the pit. Amen.
Pecan smoke spiraled from the old pit damper whilst the lone drake floated serenely on the pond. The cool spring breeze caressed the cottonwood buds, and the sun, man, how divine it felt to sprawl at the terminus of one of it’s golden shafts. In a word, decadent! I was what you might say, “settled in” and pit-side, with a lovely beverage in hand and the game playing softly through the little speaker of the pit radio. The day was point blank glorious. Another vintage spring day in Minnesota. One to savor fondly from the vantage of a pit keeper.
I love to cook out-of-doors. It’s largely what I do. There are times when I actually wonder if my stove in the kitchen even works, for I use it so seldom. At certain times of the year, not unlike most grill jockeys hard into their game, a passerby of my open garage door may spy a pallet’s worth of charcoal stacked in there. Hundred of pounds of beautiful black briquettes awaiting my call. My bidding for the smoke. A pit keeper must be prepared don’t you know. Same unto the freezer adequately stocked with all matter of bits and bobs, from turf to surf. It’s all because I love to cook outside, and I for one do not wish to miss the opportunity should the impulse arise. Or, if by chance, guests come over keen with hunger pangs.
They did the other day, and I was ready. They all had cheeseburger shaped hollows in their stomachs, and the Pond Side Pit was the remedy! So I preheated the old Craycort cast iron grate, and freshly oiled it. ( See our review of this modular grate system here) I also deployed the cast iron griddle insert for this cook to assist in frying up a little bacon there. This was going to be fun!
Slow it Down Partner!
I stayed calm however. This is the hallmark of good pit keepers. The ability to exercise patience in the face of slobber-slopping expectation. You want with all your might to dive in and get after it, but then you know if you do, the fun will be only shortly lived at best. The trick then is to stretch it out. To make the moment linger if but only for the moment’s sake. It’s a game we pit jockeys play with ourselves. And those who do not love to cook outside just won’t get it. And that’s OK.
So I paused momentarily, like deep thinkers do, relieved myself of a certain pending gas, and I lit another fire in the chiminea. A blaze just for show, really, and patron I believe to higher levels of pit ambiance. Nothing is quite so fine as dual fires in a spring time cook out. The aromas surround. The crackle and pop do too, port and starboard. It works. It also slowed me down to better savor the day, which was the whole point. Then, whence a heady blaze was kindled there, I finally put meat to flame and grunted semi-appropriately in that golden light.
You don’t need to be told how to grill a cheeseburger. We’ve discoursed on that art enough in a hundred other posts. I will say, however, and if possible, do your best to refrain from pressing the burger patty with your spatula or tong, like you see so many people do. The only thing this does is squirt flavor clear of your supper. I will also say, glory be to the pit jock who does up his bacon and onions also on the grill. These two ingredients truly made the feast. Bacon and onions done over the stove are good and all, but doing them over the grill, allowing the wood smoke to adhere to the greasy bacon and the fried onions, well, it’s enough to make a grown body weep. And top these comestibles on your pecan smoked cheddar cheese burger and toasted pretzel bun, and well, I don’t have to tell you that you have officially arrived. And all your supper guests will smile and burp aloud, with grease dripping off their chins, as they tarry there, plumply, from the vantage of a pit keeper. Amen.
The weatherman said it was a Top 10 weather day, and I believed him. I mean how could I not? Blue bird skies as far as you could see, song birds trilling at the top of their little lungs, and 70 blessed degrees of Fahrenheit seemingly around every bend. The humidity was non existent too. It was the kind of day you could wear your favorite flannel shirt or your new designer swim suit, even at the same time if so inclined, and be none the worse for it minus a few stray looks. The kind of day that begs a body to be outside. The sort that draw brethren of the brisket from their smokey lairs to ignite the political section in charcoal chimneys across the land. To send forth pillars of smoke and meaty aromas into the air for to cross the neighbor’s fence and illuminate the inhabitants there. Indeed, the kind of day we wait for all winter. The kind that compels even a person of moderate-to-sober intelligence to, and at once, roll in the grass like a puppy and say to heck with what they think across the fence. In short, it was the first truly lovely day of Spring, and every soul north of the 45th parallel rejoiced in it.
Prepping the onions at the Track-side Pit
So it was I found myself pit-side for supper in the driveway of my fellow patron and co-founder PotP. Always a pleasure when I ended up over there for grilling fare. We were bachelors this evening, you see, and might I add that our spoils were simple. Basic but flavorful. Steak and onions. Lets talk about the onion pops first.
John skewered them like little lolly pops, and varnished them first in olive oil. This old trick would help his incredibly intricate seasonings properly adhere. A harmonious, time-test blend better known as salt and pepper. Freshly cracked of course. It may not sound like much, and in truth it may not be, but the end result will make a pit jockey question why he or she doesn’t do this kind of thing more often. Man they were good!
They crisp up after a fashion, and almost be come candy like. In another way, they reminded me of onion rings. It was all we could do to refrain from sucking these things down before the main event. My but they had a spell on us. The onion rich aromas likewise merged with the cool spring air like an olfactory-based Beethoven movement. And that’s where I’ll leave that analogy I do believe. Besides we got us some steaks to grill.
On the way over to the Track-side Pit, I swung by a local Ma and Pa meat market and found a rib-eye proper that called my name. Of all the cuts of steak out there, I think the venerable rib eye is still my favorite. Nothing beats it for the money. A nicely marbled rib eye is where it’s at people. Maybe it’s just me, but I also thought it looked rather becoming resting there on the manly bumper of the pit keeper’s FJ Cruiser. That’s better looking to us grill jockeys than a bikini clad super model draped over a sports car. Or something like that. Indeed, if only half the road kill out there could end like this, we’d have a Merry Christmas.
Bring on the meat!
We seasoned our steaks with liberal dosage of Montreal Steak Seasoning. A great blend for beef, and we both love it’s coarse texture and peppery appeal. Who doesn’t already have this stuff on their spice rack. A time-tested seasoning favored by the multitudes for it’s spicy crunch. We use it on brisket too, as it’s quite favorable amid a robust bark. Good stuff, people. And if you get if off the Amazon link just below, we’re supposed to get a small kickback. So it’s good for your steak, and for us! Thank you kindly and in advance for that!
Anyways, you all know how to grill a steak. We brought ours to a medium and called it good. Long as it ain’t still wiggling, we’ll eat it no how. Whilst tempering a deluge of drool, we proceeded to plate up this beefy utopia dressed in crisp onions, and admire it in the soft evening slants of golden light. What a lovely sight. A supper that which required no pampering of appetite. A perfect day is sometimes like that. And for dessert we’ll just go roll in the grass. Amen.
Grilled rib eye and bacon wrapped sirloin sided with crisp grilled onions. Simple and to the point. And our bellies did smile, patron to the pit.
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Every once in a while we like to do a guest post. Today is one of those times. Below is a chart and intro made up for us by Joe, at SmokedBBQSource. He’s developing a website full of resources useful to the BBQ community, and he has shared his latest efforts with us. I found this little chart of smoking times and temperatures to be an effective and handy reference, thus we humbly pass it along to the PotP readership for your kind perusal. Enjoy!
And thanks Joe!
From Smoked BBQ Source:
You probably already know how important managing temperature is when you barbecue. You’ve got to closely monitor your smoker and make sure it stays within the right temperature range for hours at a time.
You’ve also got to know the right time to pull your meat off the smoker so you’re not left with a dry, overcooked mess.
While most meat can be smoked between 225 – 250°F, the best temperature to pull is going to vary a lot with what you’re cooking.
While there are no hard and fast rules, this visual, smoking time and temperature chart is a good resource to check before you fire up the smoker.
Just remember that it all comes down to your individual setup. Use this guide as a starting point, and then experiment to see what works best for you.
Here are a few other pieces of advice:
The smoking time suggestions as a very rough estimate: The problem with using hours / lb to estimate smoking time, is that the thickness and diameter of what your smoking is more important than the total weight.
There’s also a lot of other factors like humidity and how well insulted your smoker is that can effect total smoker time. Bottom line, always use a digital thermometer to determine when your food is ready.
There’s a big difference between ‘done’ and ‘ready to eat’: If you always pull your meat when it reaches a safe internal temp, you will be missing out on a world of flavor. In many cases you want to go well past the ‘recommended safe temperature’ as the collagen and fats continue to melt and make your meat even more juicy.
We were out in the woods this weekend last, playing hobo and such, and just enjoying the pleasures of a lovely spring day afield. The sun was warm, but the lakes and ponds still frozen, and patches of snow tarried in the shadows. We hiked along the wooded trails, kicking up leaves from last autumn, and smelling the earth unwrap itself after a long winter’s hiatus. A vintage spring day in Minnesota. The kind we wait for, and pine for. The sort we hold out hope for, that once winter has had its way with us, that it might bequeath us such climatic spoils. And it did. And what better thing to do in all the world on such a day, than to make a camp in the woods, and cook some good food there.
Enter the InstaGrill
Now I’m a tinkerer. My father is a tinkerer. My brothers are tinkerers. Tinkering, you might say, is in my blood. And so when I get to test out another man’s brain thrust, I feel honored. I can appreciate the engineering, the thought, and the time that went in to it. Such was the case this last trip afield, as we tested out the InstaGrill. A cool, little, highly portable BBQ grill sent to us by a fellow tinkerer, named Jonathan, down in Texas.
InstaGrill. That’s what he’s calling it as of now. It’s an idea he had for easy, spontaneous, low-key grilling. He sent us a prototype so we could get a better idea how it works, and maybe share it with you guys. Here is his website also, if you want more details. www.myinstagrill.com. It’s a pretty nifty little rig, and if you don’t mind, we’ll give you the nickel tour ourselves.
It’s pretty clever at first blush. As you can see, it’s a charcoal grill at its core. That’s what it runs on. You fill it half way up or so like you would a charcoal chimney, and light it from below with crumpled up newspaper or like we did in this case, with a fire starter cube. She lit right up in tremendous fashion, thanks to the built-in chimney effect. In all my years of using portable grills, I can honestly say, this is the best lighting grill we’ve ever used. No lighter fluid needed. It lights like a charcoal chimney, because, well, it is! This is probably our favorite feature of the grill. But anyways, onto the fun part!
When the coals reach maturity, or grayed over, (about 10 minutes) you simply unlatch the side and open it up. Sort of like them Murphy Beds that fold up into the wall, if you’re familiar with those. Yet another clever idea! Then you rake the coals about a bit to suit your fancy, and install the grate as seen in the photo.
As seen above, you can set the grate to three different levels. We liked that feature too!
We found the grill to be just big enough to meet the needs of about two people, least wise for breakfast out in the hinter regions. The grate size is roughly 10 inches by 10 inches. Large enough for four burgers or two steaks. The other dimensions of the grill are 5″D x 10″W x 12″ H. It weighs about 5 pounds. We found it very portable, and simple to set up and easy to use. No complaints!
Granted it was designed for more traditional grilling fare than corned beef hash and eggs over-easy, but alas when your bush, you work with what you’ve got. Regardless, it was a lot of fun cooking with it. The husky handle at the back made it effortless to transport or move it, even when it was lit, should you ever want to do such things. And to extinguish the coals, you simply close it back up and pour some water on the fire. Disperse in the trash at your nearest convenience.
Overall, it was really a joy to cook on. A well thought-out, and articulate little grilling rig. We liked it’s compactness, and portability, and absolutely loved how it started up a batch of charcoal. We can see it being useful for things like: camping, or tailgating, or even just out on your deck. It’s low key enough, it won’t draw much attention, and finally, you’ll get a proper meal cooked over a beautiful bed of coals. Such as grilling was always meant to be.
So here’s the other part of the story. If you want to buy one, you’re going to have to get in line and wait a while. This is a prototype, you see. The ultimate fit & finished product does not exist yet. That’s why the prototype was sent to us, to help Jonathan garner a little exposure. He has also set up a KICKSTARTER Campaign, here, and when and if it reaches it’s goal, he will then go into production with these grills. So if you think it’s a worthy endeavor, and want to help him get his business going, not to mention secure yourself one of his grills later on down the road, head over to his kickstarter page and help a tinkerer out!
As December rolls around here on the 45th parallel, and the snow begins to fly, I tarry here at my desk, with a lovely beverage at hand, and reminisce on another year in BBQ. Another calendar traverse of manning the pit through sunny days that would not end, to tempests and heatwaves, and penetrating arctic cold fronts. All from which this vantage I do declare blessings to behold. Did many a smoke out this year, and most of it was edible by our standards. Here then is a list of our favorites, and how they went and came to be.
Best New-To-Us Cut of Meat That We Grilled
The venerable Tri-Tip Roast. I know you California folk see this fare at every grocery store, but for what ever the reasons, the heck if we could find a Tri Tip in Minnesota. And then one day last summer, oh how I remember it now, mine eyes lay gaze upon the Tri Tip roast of my dreams, residing prostrate behind the butcher’s glass. I knew then, as surely as I had ever known anything in the past, that there was a rendezvous in my future. A meaty conspiring with this formidable chunk of beef. And I loved it! So delicious and worthy of the hunt.
Somewhere between a brisket and a steak, this Tri Tip was at once a love affair. I cannot wait to do the next one, when ever that may be. Here is a link to our write up on this one, if you’re keen to such things.
Best New BBQ Sauce We Tried
No question here. Joe Joe’s Hog Shack Blackberry Sauce. All their flavors were excellent, but the blackberry sauce was unreal. The undisputed favorite in the two households we served the sauce in. It went fabulously with everything from: chicken to pulled pork, to beef. Only down fall was that it didn’t last long enough. A hungry family can suck a bottle of this nectar up in just days if you’re not witty about it. We weren’t too witty.
Indeed, if you’re looking for your next favorite sauce, do check out these blokes from out east. Here’s a link to that write up if you’re so inspired.
Here is their website too!
Best New Hot Rub That We Tried
This one is easy too. Fire in the Hole. We’ve been using the rubs from Miners Mix for a while now, and have pretty much fallen in love with everything they do. They are Spice Wizards, and just have special powers that us mere mortal folk cannot divine. I’ve stopped trying to figure out how they do it. Going along with the theory that some of the good things in life just ought not to be analyzed, but savored. So we do such with Miners Mix. When we tried their latest brain thrust, Fire in the Hole, I think the world stopped rotating on its axis for a moment. Or maybe that was our faces melting off. I’m not sure. It is a legitimate heat source tho, with lots of ghost pepper powder in it. A rub to be respected! But my, the parade of undertones that come sailing by your palate is a journey in of itself. Most hot rubs we’ve tried just try to blow you away with sheer scoville units. They figure if they melt a hole in your tongue, then their job is done. But it’s not. The spice jockeys of Miners Mix went to extra pains to make sure their hot rub experience did not stop with the heat, but instead to incorporate a symphony of flavors, perhaps heightened by the heat. I dunno. Like I said, they just know stuff we don’t concerning spice rubs. Anyways, best hot rub of 2016 goes to Fire in the Hole, aptly coined by the good folks at Miners Mix.
Here is our blog on that one.
Most Interactive Subscriber on This Blog in 2016
Well, we have a great many wonderful subscribers to this blog. Diverse, beautiful people from all over the world and we probably wouldn’t be writing this post at all today, if it were not for you. So a heart felt thank you, to all of you. But looking at the stats page, just from a mathematical perspective, two subscribers have risen above all the rest, in terms of leaving comments. Both in frequency and in substance. Which is about as interactive as you can be on a blog. Two gentlemen of commitment! And loyalty. And keen wit! The race was close too, about neck-and-neck, I should say. Neither one would probably even care if they were the number one comment maker anyways, so we’ll call it a tie, because in truth, it is. And besides that, we just want to say thank you.
So in no particular order, Todd Baker, come on down! Perhaps none of our subscribers have been more stalwart in showing up in 2016, than Todd. And always with a thoughtful comment. Interacting and showing the love on Facebook even. A brethren of the pit, likewise, we would be remiss not to mention his blog. Here is one we subscribe to and enjoy. Todd is at once an excellent writer in his own right, and cobble smith of the English language. His essays are like fine Swiss chocolate, crafted to the highest levels. For example, he can write an essay on going to a heavy metal concert, of which I have no interest in, and still make you think by the end of the read that it has been time well spent. Say what you want, but that’s a good writer. Be who you are, like what you like, and do cool stuff. That’s his tag line, and it fits. He is who he is, likes what he likes, and by golly, does cool stuff! Many thanks to you, Todd, for being such a great subscriber. And yeah, doing cool stuff.
John and Mary in Ecuador share the prize with Todd, for Most Interactive Subscriber to the blog. Tho I suspect John does most of the talking, Mary has chimed in too, on occasion. One of the greatest privileges of running a blog we’ve found out, nay the best thing about blogging, is meeting cool people. John and Mary in Ecuador are two of them. Once upon a time they hung a shingle and worked in the USA, and now are retired, and living the sweet life in Ecuador. We subscribe to their blog too, and is one of our favorites to peruse. What a pleasure to tarry by the fireside up here in Minnesota on frosty winter nights, and read about John in Ecuador inflating his pool noodle. He often times likes to rub it in like that too. When he sees that we have blizzard going up on here, I think he gets a particular joy in letting me know of his paradise like conditions patron to the Ecuadorian lifestyle.
“You just like to rub it in“, I would croak.
“Only thing I’m rubbing in is my sun tan lotion!” he would yammer.
You see how it goes. And we love it! Check out both of these guy’s blogs some day when you’re looking for something good to read.
Best Smoked Meal of 2016
This one was not so easy. There was plenty of yum coming off the pit this year. But the one that stands out, the one that I keep thinking back to again and again, the one that I know I must try and replicate at some point yonder, has got to be the burnt ends.
It was the 4th of July weekend, and I was doing up my annual brisket, the full packer as it were, when I decided to finish off the cook by making some burnt ends from the point. A common move of a well-versed pit jockey. Now it may not look like much, but if you’ve ever had occasion to ingest some burnt ends in your days, you know what I mean here. You know from what utter succulence I refer. The brisket turned out just fine, but these burnt ends, mercy, I do believe they were the very tastiest thing procured off the pit this year. The most tender and succulent smoked meat I may have ever put in my mouth and declared good. Blame it on the high fat content, I suppose, but my, what a treat. The perfect blend of smoke and Miners Mix spice, tinted with some of that Blackberry sauce we talked about earlier. Even half a year later, I’m still getting compliments from family members about this humble pan of meat. Really enjoyed these burnt ends.
Here’s the link to this one too.
Best Day at the Pit
It was spring. The pond was still frozen, but the sun was warm, and the grass dry. The kind of day you wait for all winter long. The sort of day a soul rejoices in the sun. So I did up a batch of beef stew that day on the faithful, Weber kettle grill. Oh what loitering Nirvana then was at hand. Black Capped Chickadees in full flirtation. Cool spring air mingling through the pit side spruce. The smell of the earth in a slow reveal. It was so lovely, I remember, that I set up my new backpacking tent, just because, and pretty much camped out pit-side, whilst the wood smoke curled into a blue, Minnesota sky. There are some days at the pit where you know as surely as you’ve known anything, that you’ve scored. Both in weather and in calorie. No time crunch either. Hanging ten on the metaphoric waves of outdoor cooking. It’s easy to do when it works. Just let the smoke curl and the vittles bubble, whilst you do your best to tarry there in the gentle wake of deeds well done. And I did. And also amen.
*Found this essay hiding out in the PotP archives, covered in 2 inches of digital cyber dust. Never published. A story about a little cook-out from last spring, some good food, and some people there we met along the way. Enjoy.
It was a soft spring afternoon, under quiet gray skies, with a light drizzle dappling over the land and over the pond. I was out manning the pit of course, doing what pit keepers do, sizzling up a pan of bacon over the old patio stove. The tweety birds were out too, in full chorus I noted, despite the drizzle. And the Mallards milled poignantly in the pond, as always, indifferent to the inclement of weather. Anyways, we were having a bandy of people over today, to fellowship and commune over several pounds of perfectly grilled ground beef. Hamburgers that is. Burgers large enough to warrant their own zip code Okay, maybe not that big, but even so.
The ground beef was seasoned with a packet of Lipton Onion Soup Mix, which was thoroughly worked through all the protein. Massage it in there, people, and get your hands dirty! Divvy out into patties accordingly. I thought about stuffing a couple globs of pepper jack cheese into the center of the patties, for to sport a Juicy Lucy, but I felt lazy at the pit today. So I didn’t. A pit jockey’s freedom.
You all know how to grill a hamburger. Leastwise I hope you do. So we shall not indulge in the how-to’s of the game. I will mention to you however, the glories of a gently curling pillar of hickory smoke, wafting up out of the pit damper. Likewise, the wonderful, earthen aromas of grass and dirt on a wet day, and how it mingles so saintly with the pungency of lightly charred beef. And the Canadian geese yonder, afloat on placid waters, honking it up like the brass section of the high school band. Can’t say it sounds good, but I’m glad it’s there, I guess.
Among the guests to show up this eve, was a little lady I hadn’t had occasion to meet before. She was quiet most of time, keeping to herself, yet drawing mass attention like all babies do. I felt compelled to build her a hamburger. You know, to welcome her to the planet and all. It was a good one too. And I noticed after a fashion, that it was almost, but not quite, as big as her head. Relatively speaking, that’s a burger! Glory be the day that I meet up with such a plunder, as I have a rather larger than normal cranium as it is, or so I’ve been told. But this here baby, in truth, she was not all that impressed with my bountiful offering. She was no more amused with the hamburger than she was with the 42 inch mounted musky on the wall in the living room. Ah, ignorance is such a blinder.
And so we settled in for food, fellowship, and really big hamburgers patron to the pit. Burgers are at once easy to make, declicious to eat, and always seem to go over well feeding a crowd. They can assemble their own, and thus it becomes personal to them. That’s the magic of burgers. Add a chunk of mesquite wood or hickory to your coals during the cook to really up your game. It will propel your hamburger to the next level of smoky goodness, and all your people will rejoice in turn. Well, all that is except for those who don’t have any teeth yet. But what can you do? Amen.