It finally happened. The event we northerners have been waiting for all winter long. I tarried in my leather man chair with a hot cup of tea in hand and simply watched it for a while, swirl and dance outside the window pane. Snow. Lots of it. Riding a tempest. One might even go so far as to wager it was a blizzard, and by golly it hit the spot to see. It hit the spot because of all the many times the weather men cried wolf this winter, barking of the big one to come. And it never did. Believe it or not, there are some people who actually like snow, look forwards to it, and want to frolic accordingly amid it’s softened flakes. We be some of those people. So it was good to see a boisterous and proper, Minnesota snowstorm engulfing our fair hamlet again. This was how it should be. And after it settled a bit, I went outside to cook something there.
The Power of Halves
After examining my meat larder, something men of a certain age tend to do, I settled on one portly pork butt to do the job. I think it weighed in at 8 pounds, I don’t recall. But I knew if I wanted to have it done by supper time, (6 hours away) then I would have to deploy the old pit master trickery of slicing the butt in halves, thus to reduce the cooking time. It’s a technique I’ve used many times at the pit, and always with favorable results. Not only does it reduce cooking time by maybe a third, but it also increases the surface area. This is good because it basically unlocks new real-estate for more spice rub and smoke penetration. More bark people. Take that weather man!
The Science and Art of Bark
Here we are a few hours into the cook, and as you can see, we were already developing a flavorful and robust bark. The smoke, courtesy of two large hunks of apple wood, combined with the relatively low heat of the Weber performer, which ran at 275 degrees, and the spice rub, Kits KC BBQ Rub, courtesy of the good folk at Miners Mix, all came together in a magical union of yum! Bark is a scientific thing, but you don’t have to be an Einstein to eat it. The Flintstones will do! If you want to learn more about how it’s formed and what is going on, check out the master’s write up of it over at Amazing Ribs What is Bark.
So it was, as the Alberta clipper slid into town that we put the finishing touches on our pulled pork sandwich. A squirt or two of sweet baby rays, combined with some of the more succulent muscles of the pork shoulder, and as always, I like to mix lots of bark in there too, so you get some in every bite. Mercy! Can you smell that? That’s a proper pulled pork sammich people!
When The Bark is Worth the Bite
I plated it up with a side of beans and returned to my man chair. After settling in, feet propped up, and fueled by repetitive instinct, I reached for the TV remote like any red-blooded American man would, but then curiously caught myself looking out the window at the snow again. A soft smile formed from my lips, and I set the remote back down, and picked up my sandwich instead. I had been waiting a long time for this, and I didn’t want to dilute it with the flashing images of a TV. It would be just me, my pork, and the snow. And for a while at least, that was enough. Amen.
Nothing quite so fine as a plateful of bark and beans! Burp!
Some people are just more clever than others. Terry Dabb, of Aurora Wisconsin, is one of them. When I came across this photo on the Weber Kettle Fans Facebook page, I thunk to myself, now why didn’t I think of that! Well, I don’t have a deck for starters, so in that respect, I do take some console in my lack of deck creativity. But a lot of people do have decks. Tiny, little decks. And a lot of those people still wonder how to fit their Weber kettle grills on them in a proper like manner. It’s a quandary that has haunted many a pit jockey down through the ages. Terry Dabb, however, has finally developed a rather elegant solution.
“What you don’t see in the pics is I have 4 more Weber’s” Terry says. “When looking for something to mount them on a free steel door came available from a customer of mine. And the idea ran from there.”
“I have limited space on my deck”, Terry said, “So I just started Brain storming. On how to try and manage my limited space.”
I’d say you brain stormed pretty good my friend. As one of our readers on our Patrons of the Pit Facebook page so eloquently put it, “I bow to the King of Sensible Deck Remodels”. Indeed, a lovely tribute to backyard ingenuity and the endearing will of an inspired pit master.
Terry, even tho you’re a packer fan, I do believe we would get along just fine. This one’s for you!
The mesquite smoke curled with a certain impunity on this balmy summer’s eve. The South wind wormed it’s way through the residential hamlets and marshlands like a warm bath, bringing a sort of sticky contentment to the pit jockey who tarries near to his craft. Oh yes, summer has arrived here on the 45th Parallel, finally, and I suppose one ought to grill something. I mean, it is “grilling season” after all. That hallowed sliver of the calendar where the once captive masses return to their barbies in one accord and offer forth pillars of enriched smoke to the BBQ gods. I dunno, I guess when you refrain from grilling for a tally of three seasons running, you would rather tend to miss it. I know I would. But to us folk who run a year around BBQ blog, summer grilling is just another chapter in a year’s worth of grilling endeavors, except I suppose, sweatier.
Yes, nothing is quite so charming as wandering out to the mail box on a muggy summer evening, only to return to the house cloaked in sheen of your own juices, and sporting a rankness not even desirable to the neighbor’s bull dog, whose standards are suitable low anyways. But that’s summer in the Midwest. You sweat. And the sooner you come to grips with this inherent reality, the sooner you can move on and have fun with this most pleasurable of seasons. You just smell like a stink bomb is all. What can you do. Anyways, on to something that smells a whole lot better than I do. It’s burger night at the pit, and here’s how it went and came to be.
Summer time grilling don’t get too much better, folks! Check out them grass fed burgers and onions on the new Craycort grate. Yum! As usual, we think you all know how to grill a hamburger already, but we will mention the seasoning was just a packet of Lipton Onion soup mix, dispersed amid two pounds of ground beef. Easy cooking, and even better eating.
Toast Thy Buns
Of course we toasted the buns. You are toasting your buns aren’t you? Nothing quite so adds that touch of gourmet to your burgers quite like a crisp, toasted bun. The texture is a pleasure, as well as the satisfaction of knowing you went the extra mile in your burger craft.
Going The Distance
We do rather get into burger night over here at the pit. Note the cool little red baskets, and homemade fries. Not to mention the ultra chocolate shake all served up 50’s diner style. All ideas of my lovely wife who loves burger night as much as anybody, I’d wager. Good times, patron to the pit. And Amen.
Look at that grub! Man! I won’t even mention the joy of feeling your belly wrapped around this greasy handful. I think you get it! Mercy! And with that we bid you a toodaloo from the pit, as the summer sun traverses a blue, Minnesota sky. Blessings to the readership and happy 4th of July in advance.
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
This beauty comes with two probes: one for your meat and one for the pit. Monitor the temperature of both as far away as 300 feet they say. Now you can sprawl happy-go-lucky in the hammock whilst this doodlebopper keeps a good eye over your brisket. It also has presets for 9 different meats at various levels of doneness.
It also has a life time sensor probe warranty. Not too shabby!
2. Myron Mixon 3 in 1 Pitmaster BBQ Grill Tool
Now this one is different, we admit, if not a bit odd looking. But it works. A built-in food flipper hook, an 8 inch chefs knife, and of course a bottle opener. It’s mostly for the fun of it, we suspect, but lo, fun is what it’s all about at the pit anyways. Might be a good gift for the BBQ’er who has everything.
3. Grillaholics BBQ Grill Mats
This is yet another odd one. A heavy duty, reusable, non stick grill mat. No more cooking over nasty grates they say. No more food slipping between the slots. It even leaves grill marks. Made from heavy duty PTFE fabric, one can customize it to fit any grill simply by cutting it to shape. And they are dish washer safe. Our jury is still out on this one, but folks seem to love it. An amazon bestseller for a while now. Check it out.
Grillaholics Grill Mat – Set of 2 Non Stick BBQ Grill Mats – Heavy Duty, Reusable, and Easy to Clean – Extended Warranty
They also offer a lifetime GUARANTEE. If you’re not happy, they’ll make it right. Guess you can’t beat that.
4. Miners Mix Seasoning Gift Crate
If you’re a regular to this blog, you see us use these seasonings on a regular basis. And there is a reason for that. They’re freaking awesome! We just love them. The flavor profile bar is set mighty high with these. If the spice wizards at Miners Mix don’t absolutely love it, they won’t release it to the public. Simple as that. You can also pronounce all the ingredients. Go figure that! Plus the folks at Miners Mix Headquarters are good, down to earth people, who win awards with their rubs on a continuous basis. You’ll just plain like doing business with them.There are tons of spice rubs out there, and these guys are among the very best. Another great gift idea. They also have a line of hot rubs for the pepper heads out there.
“If it didn’t exist in 1850, it ain’t in here!” Love these guys!
5. Ballistic Griddle
Unless you follow the YouTube channel, Ballistic BBQ, you probably haven’t heard of this griddle. A hidden gem we stumbled upon a while back that we thought warranted mention on this list. The Ballistic Griddle is a 22.5 inch half circle made of 3/16 thick stainless steel. And man does it cook. Greg, from Ballistic BBQ, teamed up with Craycort to produce this baby, and it looks worthy. What we like is that unlike many other griddles out there, it dares to be small. We liked the half-size because it in turn keeps the other half of your grate a grate, thus adding to the versatility. A place to do your onions and bacon, whilst still having access to a good grate to grill the meat. Gotta like that thinking!
Still interested in this griddle? Take a look at the video made by the inventor himself. Awesome job, Greg!
6. Franklin Barbeque: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto
We like to smoke a good brisket or two around here, but we humbly acknowledge we now nothing next to this man. Aaron Franklin makes the best brisket in the country. How do we know? Well, just read the reviews on his book, A Meat Smoking Manifesto. You’ll see! Definitely a great gift for your resident pit master.
“Aaron Franklin makes the finest barbecue I’ve ever had, barbecue worth waiting for. His work and his words express a truly rare level of commitment and expertise. With Franklin Barbecue, he shares it all—in a book that, fortunately, you don’t have to wait for.”
— Anthony Bourdain
7. Custom Ordered Branding Iron
Here is something we always wanted to play with but have never gotten around to. Custom branding irons for marking your meat! A fun gift idea no doubt. No pit jockey worth their briquettes doesn’t secretly want to play with branding irons. It’s just what we do.
They just need to offer one more initial and PotP would be on more steaks!
8. Ironwood Gourmet 28101 Steak Barbecue Plate
A pit-master proper is one with the woods. He cooks with it and by golly, should eat off it too. Here is yet another great gift idea in a wooden plate in which to plop your meat. Complete with it’s own juice grooves even! Made from Acacia wood, its quite lovely to look at. Makes a fine presentation too. And they boast it will not dull your knives. I’d plunk my rib-eye on that! Kind of a cool idea.
9. Craycort Cast Iron Grates
We would be remiss and derelict if we didn’t mention these bad boys! If you’re a regular to this blog then you’ve seen us use these grates a thousand times. In point of fact, the #1 question we always get asked, is, “Where did you get that grate?” Well, we got them from Craycort, that’s where we got them. Designed to fit into your traditional kettle grill, these cast iron gems will last a life time if properly cared for. They come pre seasoned, and are modular, meaning you can get various inserts for them, such as: hot plate, griddle, pizza stone, sauce pan, ect.. So if your grill master has a kettle grill, and an affinity for cast iron, this is pretty much the best grilling gift ever.
And oh yeah, nothing generates killer grill marks better than cast iron!
10. IQ120 BBQ Temperature Regulator Kit
Quite possibly the ultimate grilling gadget for a meat geek. Holding steady temperature is fundamental in the art of BBQ. And sometimes it’s not always easy. Well, unless that is you have one of these. The IQ 120 is at last the BBQ nerd’s upward raised middle finger to fluctuating pit temperatures. In a nut shell, this unit will adapt to Weber Smokey Mountains, Weber kettle grills, and various other smokers they say. With a thermal probe, small fan, and some electronic wizardry, the IQ 120 will gently blow air onto your fire at the appropriate times to hold your desired temperature, tighter, they say, than your oven in the kitchen would. That’s pretty amazing!
It will even alert you when your fuel is running low! How the heck?!
IQ120 BBQ Temperature Regulator Kit with Standard Pit Adapter for Weber Smokey Mountain, Weber Kettle and Many Other BBQ Smokers
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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.
Such is light’s brief serenade for the sun which has dipped below the roof tops now, at an hour profoundly prior from which the supper bell tolls. The cool wind rustles up the neighborhood streets and across the backyards freshly mulched and pampered and smelling of a sleepy earth. The old pond dapples in the moonlight as the mallards and stately drakes cavort in it’s still, liquid waters. All the leaves have all fallen now, once resplendent and grand, and the geese are in constant formation it seems, bugging out for the promised land, of…well, I don’t know where the geese go actually. Probably to you guys down in Florida, I suppose. Texas too.
It’s November in Minnesota. Outdoor life is shutting down. Most folk have wheeled their BBQ’s inside for the winter now. We Patrons of the Pit, however, and Comrades of the Coals, well, we stoically march onward still, trimming our collars to the tempest of night, and manning our pits in stalwart fashion, for to bandy some rather keen moments still, in the waning, pale moon light.
On the pit tonight, probably the first head chiseled on to my personal Mount Rushmore of Things You Can Grill…Steak! A nice big one for me, and a slightly smaller one for the little lady. It always amazes me, as the resident grill jockey that I am, from all the umpteen dozens if not hundreds of recipes I’ve tried over the years, my favorite things to grill still are usually of the most simpleton in kind. For example, I enjoy a good steak, like this, lightly seasoned in just garlic and onion salt, as much as I enjoy, say, an elaborate, 12-hour, pecan smoked brisket flat, or even a rack of spare ribs perfectly executed to the nearest square inch. These things are quite lovely, and they are satisfying to do. But there’s also just something pleasantly perfect about a simple fare of meat and potatoes. About steak on the grill. And more over, there is a magic in grilling it there, amid a November night.
I flipped the steaks, tongs in hand, and listened to them sizzle on the hot cast iron grate. Orange flames licked up from below, searing the beef, as I pulled my patio chair up aside the old kettle grill. I sat there with the lid off watching the steaks cook, and enjoying the flicker of the flame and the radiant heat bellowing out of the Weber’s steely bosom. It felt warm on my face, as I looked up and noted how the moonbeams dropped like angel kisses through the pit-side spruce trees. This was nice, I thought. Much better than most people think when they think of November grilling. I was not cold. Nor did the darkness matter. In point of fact, the darkness just seem to make the fire all the better. Something poignant and lovely to bandy by. And so by fire and by moonlight I sailed the culinary seas there, however briefly to the shores of edible succulence from whence I’ve longed. It didn’t take much effort either. Steaks are like that. And I already had the potatoes done in the kitchen, so… I plated up the spoils, turned heel as any man would, and sidled inside for the night.
After sliding the patio door shut, and locking it, I took another glance out at the grill, like pit keepers do. There it sat in the dark, quietly puffing away as if it didn’t have a care in the world. No, it didn’t mind doing its duty in November. In fact, it was just doing what it was born to do. And for a while at least, come to think of it, so was I. Amen.
Meat and potatoes. Some days I tell you, people, it’s all you need. Well, and a piece of coconut cream pie for dessert wouldn’t hurt none either.
We’ve all been there. Any pit jockey worth his or her tongs has been there. Has seen their beloved grill grate in various states of entropy and decay. With blackened carnage clinging to the grate in crusty reminders of smoke outs past, and grand family BBQ’s. And who hasn’t grabbed one of those steel brushes and got to work on the grate, cleansing it’s working surface for the betterment of thy people. You feel like a man when you do it. It’s what we’re trained to do. And the problem is, it’s not particularity a smart thing to do.
The Folly With Steel Wire
Seems the ageless wire brush we use on our grills has one painful folly. Every once in a while a steel bristle breaks off. And every once in a while beyond that, some one eats it. Well, we don’t need to go into detail how such a diet of steel bristles truly sucks, it’s as bad as you’re thinking it would be, but instead, lets just cut to the point, and find an answer to this quandary. An answer besides not BBQing that is. Because that would be no life at all.
Enter The Wooden Scraper
I’m sure many of the readership has heard of wooden scrapers by now. They’ve been out for a while, in response, no doubt, to steel pricks finding their way in to people’s intestinal tracks. Thus enters the wooden scraper. While we do not know who invented the idea of a wooden scraper for the BBQ arts, we gotta agree, it’s a good idea. Tho we have never once experienced a busted-off bristle ruining our BBQ, and we’ve BBQ’d a lot, it also stands to reason, why would you ever take the chance if you didn’t have to. We recently were given some wooden scrapers to test out by the good folks at bbqscraper.com. Nice little, functional scrapers made of birch. Simple, but effective. Like good BBQ, I suppose. And best of all, no chance ever of a wayward steel needle in your belly. Lets take a closer gander at this thing.
BBQ Scraper – Natural Wooden Grill Cleaner
The Original BBQ Scraper
The Scrape Down
Well there’s basically nothing to it, as you can see. Just use it. Tip it on edge over a hot grate, any kind of grate, and within the time frame of the first cook, the scraper begins to customize right to your grate. Creating its own set of grooves to match your grate. And yes, it’s a grate idea! Sorry. Had to. And further more, the more you use these kind of scrapers, the better, more customized they become. And of course, no worries about a trip the ER to dig out a steel pin from your gut, ruining your BBQ dinner. That’s always nice.
Anyways, these scrapers are looking like a good, solid, and serviceable product that should last quite a while. Well made and a pleasure to use. Adapts swiftly to your grate. There are many sorts of scrapers out on the market, and tho we cannot honestly say any are better than the other, we can say that these guys at BBQ Scraper.com were good to us, and we thank them for their scrapers. Be sure to check them out if you’re looking to ditch that old wire brush. Likewise steel bristles in your intestines. Amen.
You can find them on amazon too. As we are an affiliate for this product, we do receive a small commission if you go through our link. It is small too, but every little bit helps support this blog. We do appreciate all of you. Thank you!
The sunbeams dappled through the turning cottonwood leaves, and the ducks rooted about the green grass like ducks do, whilst I tended a lovely bed of coals in the Weber Smokey Mountain. Autumn is in the air. The leaves are turning gold now, and red, and orange. Geese are on the wing. Shorter days and colder nights. I’ve always liked this time of year. Brings back some fond memories. Some potent ones too. Like the one time I found myself at the business end of a man hunt, mistaken there for a wanted murderer. That’s why I’m smoking a pork butt today. To pay remembrance to the day I felt like Harrison Ford in the fugitive. Grab yourself a spot of tea, won’t you, and I’ll tell you about it. We will reminisce through the old brain pan whilst I tend my BBQ here. And the wood smoke gently rises.
It was two years ago. It was a routine day, or should have been anyways, and I remember it well. I was on my commute, puttering along the back roads of outer suburbia on my 49cc Yamaha scooter. It was the perfect weather in which to go for a ride. The sun was golden, hanging in a beautiful autumn sky, and the geese were a’plenty as I motored by them feeling the softened wind on my face. It was lovely. About as quaint as an autumn day comes, well almost. That’s when I saw the pretty red lights flashing ominously in my mirror.
Now it isn’t often I get pulled over. And it is considerably less often I get pulled over on my little scooter. I mean, it’s not like they’re going to catch me for speeding on the thing. It can go from zero to sixty in, oh, about never. And I’d be lucky to hit thirty on a down hill, even, lest it was plummeting off a thousand meter embankment. So I was relatively sure I wasn’t speeding. So what did the state’s finest pull me over for then? And more over, why did they have their pistols out, trained on my coronary left ventricle?
It is a prudent thing to not try and out run cops on your scooter, especially when you likely look akin to a circus bear on the thing. So I did the most honorable tactic I could think of, and just pulled over. Why fight it. Their 9 millimeter Glock pistols, deployed and pointed at my rattling heart, sort of removes any procrastination on the matter.
“Get off the scooter and put your hands in the air!” croaked the fuzz. More officers suddenly materialized like phantoms on the scene. Resident squirrels darted for cover.
Now when you find yourself in this sort of predicament, with guns pointed at you, I must say your mind does rather tend to race. I was still trying to figure out what this is all about. They were taking my scooter ride very seriously, after all. And if this is how they deal with expired tabs, well, we’ve got problems. And then it occurred to me, like a dog who just crapped on the new carpet, that helicopters had been flying around all day, and I had heard on the news earlier that there was a dangerous fellow on the run in the area, who had just killed some one in a gas station parking lot a few miles away. Could it be the police thought I was this guy? Well, turned out they did.
I’ll tell you this, it is a lonely feeling to be a wanted fugitive. I didn’t have much going for me as the cops surrounded thee like a pack of wolves to a wayward moose, with my hands trembling in the air. The only thing I had going for me, I figured, was the truth. And eventually, I wagered, somewhere down a perilous and fickle line, they would figure that out. So I proceeded to enjoy a good frisking there along side the road, as the cops got to know me. They asked me some questions and I answered, of course, in an unintelligent blabber better suited for room full of baboons. But they understood it. They’ve seen my kind before. They looked at my ID, looked at me, looked back at the ID, then back at me again, and gloriously came to the accurate conclusion that I was not the man they were looking for. And that I was free to go. The truth had done it’s bidding.
“Sorry“, they said” But we’re looking really hard for some one right now“.
“That’s quite alright“, I croaked, and then I told them about the condition of my underpants. We all had a good laugh over that, and went our separate ways.
Yup, that was quite the day for a humble pit jockey such as yours truly. A day I will long remember, for better or for worse. But a day none-the-less of such note worthy stature that I figured it deserves, perhaps, a meal cooked outside, over a lovely bed of coals. Something slow, and meaningful. Something like pulled pork.
Well, once the pork shoulder ebbed over 195 internal it was ready to rest, and then an hour after that, ready to pull. Whence pulled to our proper spec, we drizzled the drip pan contents back over it, and mixed in some of Joe Joe’s Blackberry Sauce. Son of a yum! If you have not tried this sauce yet, man, I really think you’re missing out. Out of the sauces we reviewed from them, this one was the unanimous favorite by family and friends. Here is a link to it if you’re interested. Joe Joe’s Black Berry Sauce Oh, and Joe, if you’re reading this, we are all out of this amazing sauce...Hint.Hint!
So it was, as I prepped my pecan-smoked pulled pork sandwich, that my day of reflection drew to a close. I know cops have been on the news in recent times for not-so-good reasons, but I must say, that the ones who dealt with me were of good stock. Decent men with families who were just trying to do their job. Men who were putting their lives on the line for a guy on a scooter. For all of us, really. They are nothing short of heroes still in my book. And yes, they caught the guy they were after too, about a week later. He was standing at the Arby’s drive-thru, longing at a photo of a beef and cheddar sandwich there. He gave himself up with out a fight. And I was a free man. Amen.
Slow Pecan Smoked Pulled Pork with a Blackberry Tint. Say what ever you will, but backyard BBQ just doesn’t get any better than this.
Rising from the murky waters of Louisiana there is hope. Resilience. Tho the tempest has howled, and the floods have washed much asunder, it will not wash away the human spirit, nor the ability to carry on. This photo was just too fantastic not to share. We do not know who these guys are, but a tip of the BBQ Tongs of Gold Award to these Gentlemen of the Grill. Comrades of the Coals. And Patrons of the Pit. In the words of Kipling, “You have kept your wits about you when all others are losing theirs“. Bless you, and prayers for drier days. Amen.
In all the years we’ve been into BBQ, and all the smoking projects to come and go across the pit, one of the most elusive has been the venerable Tri Tip. It’s not for lack of trying. It’s just that up here in Minnesota, and many other places across the country, Tri Tip roasts are rather hard to locate. Sort of like a kindly old grandma at a heavy metal concert, it just doesn’t happen. Indeed, I’ve searched this county high and low, and nary a Tri Tip to be found. And then last week, on a casual bacon foray at my local butcher counter, I cast first glance upon my meaty betrothed.
She was beautiful. So shapely and raw. Three points of beef, and decidedly marbled. She laid under the glass like a super model, next to the T-Bones and the rump roasts. My, but I was smitten for this cut of meat. I was ready to drop to my knee right there, and dig out my wallet when a voice bellowed from behind the counter.
“Can I help you with something?” asked the butcher in the white shirt.
“Where have you been all my life!“, I belched through a long-standing gaze, wiping my drool off my chin.
The butcher man just shook his head in shades of pity. I pointed to my quarry beneath the glassy pane.
“Oh, we’ve carried Tri-Tips for years“, he croaked. “You just have to keep an eye out for them, as they do come and go“.
Conversation was squelched by my giddiness, no time to chew the fat, well, at least metaphorically speaking, and before long I had my beloved swaddled in butcher paper and tucked under my wing like an NFL half back, as I darted hither and yon through the crowded grocery store. Putting a spin move on a mother of four. Lowering my shoulder to the door. Back to the Pond Side Pit I went. Back to my caloric destiny! And I knew precisely what must transpire next.
Whilst the coals came to maturation on the old kettle grill, we seasoned up the tri tip with same goodness we used on our 4th of July brisket a while back. Maynards Memphis BBQ Rub, from the good people at Miners Mix. Absolutely love this rub. It has been fantastic on ribs and butts, and likewise we were keen to discover it performs well on beef too. Said so on the back of the bottle. Said it was recommended for Tri Tips, and well, that’s all we needed to know. So we coated the roast liberally with it. Then, as a second layer of flavor, and just because, we sprinkled on a fair coating of Montreal Steak Seasoning. If you have none of this, the old stand-by of salt and pepper is nothing to hang your head about. Add a little garlic and onion powder to that, and you have yourself a time-tested, and most worthy spice rub.
*You can season Tri Tips liberally because you are going to slice it later into thin 1/4 inch pieces, like a brisket. So let the seasonings fly.
It wasn’t long before my meat bounty lay prostrate next to a fiery bed of coals. It sizzled accordingly when it hit the hot Craycort grates, a sound well-loved by many a pit jockey in good form. The sound of that first sizzle sort of signifies to yourself, and those who may be looking on, that the games have indeed begun. That for a while, man and meat will dance, and the fires will be hot. I love it. And to hold with Santa Maria Tri Tip culture, we tossed some oak chips onto the coals. Red Oak is the most poetically correct wood to use. That’s what the Californians would say. But if you’re a rebel, use what you want. I hear pecan wood is no slouch for competent tri tip. We’d caution against green treated wood, however, from your deck. Don’t do it people.
The Poor Man’s Prime Rib
What do you get when a brisket and a sirloin steak get married and have a baby? I think it’s
Tri Tip. It reminds me quite a bit of working with a brisket. But it tastes something like a steak. Tri Tips are harvested from the sirloin, we’ve heard, so that is part of it I’m sure. Some folks like to think of the Tri Tip as the poor man’s prime rib. I like that sound of that too. But it is an exquisite cut of meat, and quite fun to cook. Out in California, they do it all over an open Santa Maria style grill. If I’m ever out in Santa Maria, I must check out their Tri Tip prowess. Those open grills look like too much for a patron of the pit.
As meats go, Tri Tip is an easy cut to cook. Ours was done in about an hour flat, courtesy of the Weber kettle grill. The little lady is not so much fond of rare red meat, so we brought the internal temperature to 150 or so, all on indirect heat, opposite the hot coals, and then plated the beast up and let it rest for 15 minutes or so. During the rest, the meat will reallocate its savory juices in adequate fashion. Then, and only then, we brought it back out to the pit once more, and seared it over direct heat this time. The reverse sear, as it called. Meaning to sear at the end of the cook versus the beginning. This, the one last glorious finale to the grilling process, produces a pleasurable crust, and sort of locks in the rested juices. Searing it at the end of the cook like this also means you do not have to rest it again. In point of fact, serve it immediately to your guests, and watch their eyeballs pop open with delight. The meat burst with succulence. And note the accolades which befall the chosen pit master. Man, can you smell it! Tip your hat, draw a lovely beverage, and thus tarry now in the wake of deeds well done. Indeed, where man and meat hath danced as one. Amen.
*When you slice your Tri Tip, do so as you would a brisket. Cut on the bias, or across the grain for a tender chew. It makes a remarkable difference.
Oak Smoked Kettle Grilled Tri Tip. Come on people now, it don’t get much better than this!
Two Men, Two Pits, and Forty Pounds of Yard Bird
It was early Saturday morning at the Track Side Pit. The song birds were singing as brightly as the warm, August sun, of which it’s golden shafts dropped with authority from an eastern sky, kissing the Petunias that which bordered the patio here. Soft music played on the pit speaker system, whilst the tall, leafy stalks of the track-side Mullen plants leaned in the morning breeze. Smoke curled off the freshly lit charcoal chimney, as I prepped the 22 inch Weber Kettle grill for action. My fellow patron, and caretaker of the Track Side Pit, patiently tinkered with his old, Char-Griller Outlaw, also prepping it for business. Yes indeed, a dual patron cook out was in progress. We love it when this happens. It is not often both co-founders of PotP bandy together to ply their craft in one locale. But we did this morning. We had things to do. Manly things. And we would do it together, by and far, as Patrons of the Pit. We would do it for Lee.
There is this BBQ chain that I rather admire, called Sonny’s BBQ. Many of the readership here have probably heard of it. Many have probably even partook of it. Sad to say I have never been there however, nor sampled their smokey wares. I’m sure the vittles are good tho, I don’t question that. But it isn’t their food so much that impresses me, even tho I know it would. Nay, it is their character, and in particular, this thing they do, called, Random Acts of BBQ.
What they do is find some one in the community who has been giving selflessly, of their time and talent to others. And doing so whilst asking for nothing in return. Just plain good people helping other people. Anyways, the team at Sonny’s BBQ cater a bunch of tasty BBQ to these folks, throwing a shin dig as just a way to say thanks, and to let them know they are appreciated. Pretty cool stuff. Well, figuring that there is no copyright on kindness, we here at PotP thought we’d dabble in the practice ourselves, and do something nice for some one else, who could use some good BBQ.
That some one is friend that goes to our church. She’s been through a rough time of it lately, rougher than most people I know, losing her husband, Lee, in a car accident last spring. It’s miserable stuff, but with grace handed to her from the Lord above, she’s managing through it alright. Life goes on, as you know, and here lately, she had to throw a graduation party for her daughter, and she needed a lot of meat grilled up for this. She needed help. And this is where a Patron of the Pit must answer his calling. This is what we’re born to do! And we were glad to do so.
40 pounds. That’s about how much chicken we had to grill up this morning. This would later be chopped up for a massive quantity of Chicken Caesar Wraps, sufficient enough in-part to feed a parade of hungry tummies. It’s a lot of chicken! And rotating between two pits: the 22 -inch kettle grill, and the Char-Griller Outlaw, we made it happen. Systematically cranking through it. Several chimneys of charcoal. Several lovely beverages. And four hours of good, meat-flipping comradeship. We were men, you see. Soldiers of the Smoke. And highly smitten for the day. What a pleasurable cook it was. And it started of course, with bacon.
No, the bacon was not an ingredient for the Chicken Caesar Wraps. Nay, it was for us! If you’ve not yet experienced the joys of breakfast at the pit, well you’re missing out on some of the finer moments of life. My fellow patron brought out his camp stove, and set it up pit-side, and in a few moments, the sounds and aromas of sizzling bacon were at play. That combined with a gaggle of fried eggs, a cup of coffee and some old fashion donuts, well, such set our bellies off right, here in the golden shallows of a morning sun.
So it was, batch by batch, we grilled our way through the morning hours, whittling away on the 40 pound pile of chicken breasts. It is not technical grilling. Anybody could do it. We seasoned each chunk in a light offering of salt, pepper and garlic. SPG as it’s called in the business. Then we placed them over direct heat to start, right over the coals, this to sear them a touch, and promote a moderate crust with lovely bits of char. And when this was completed on both sides, the breasts were then escorted by tong in hand over to the other side of the grill, opposite the hot coals, and there they would finish out the remainder of the cook, and their journey to excellence. And we did our best of course, not to get in the way of that.
Indeed, once we found our rhythm, we settled down into our patio chairs when appropriate, legs crossed like gentlemen of leisure, and just watch the smoke pillar from from our grills. Sunbeams broke through the deck above us, illuminated in smokey shafts. Tweety birds sweetly serenaded us from afar, and the grass yonder never looked so green. The children frolicked in the sand box, and you could almost hear the garden growing right beside us. We looked at each other and smiled. Nary a word was said, or needed to be said. We both knew we had arrived. Doing precisely that which is well with our souls. What a beautiful day to grill something. And what a better day yet, to do something helpful for someone else. And to let them know that they matter, and that we’re here for them, by and by.
This one’s for you, Lee. And the little lady. Blessings. And amen.
What God the Father considers to be pure and genuine religion is this: to take care of orphans and widows in their suffering and to keep oneself from being corrupted by the world.
– James 1:27
It was with small fan fare that my elder brother and I made way this weekend last, for the resplendent, and highly secretive, Valley of the Trouts. A quaint locale of which neither of us is particularly keen in giving you the coordinates to. You know how it goes. Tell one person, tho well-meaning, and that person will in-turn will tell another, and that one passes it on to yet another bloke, and so on, thus engaging the metaphoric domino topple of death to your secret place. So we’re not going to disclose its location. Not today. We will tell you, however briefly, that the stream which gurgles along the valley bottom is of the sweetest variety. Clear and cold and sick with rainbow trout. Winding like a watery tapestry through forests of Oak, and Pine, and Shagbark Hickory. And the sun swings high in a summer sky there, dropping its warm light on golden slants to the valley floor, dappling through the hardwood canopies, and glittering upon trout waters. Indeed, it is a place worth being.
So it was my elder brother and I made an encampment upon these earthy shores of paradise. The stream ever-gurgling past our snug respite. Tweety birds in full form. We got to work doing what we do best – eating! Brother put some bacon to cook in the camper, whilst outside, I fired up the flimsy, old, portable BBQ grill that has seen a thousand and one campsites over the years. What holds that contraption together still, I do not know, but the answer must reside somewhere in the sinew of memories of campsite’s past, and the grilling under the tall pines we have done there. Oh how we love to cook out-of-doors. And especially this is so, in camp.
Perhaps it is the fundamentals of such things, why we aspire so to cook in camp. Just to lay meat to flame in the wild places. Or to hear supper sizzling over a quaint bed of coals, whilst the breeze whispers through stands of stately pines. Life nary achieves a simpler status than this. For a while anyways, all the complexities of our day-to-day are cast aside. And the only thing left now, the only pressing matter in life, is to eat. And to eat good. And then maybe watch the world slowly turn by.
From time to time, it is well to live this almost simpleton’s existence. It sort of reboots a soul to function proper-like, once again. And could nary be more fun.
“You know, cooking bacon is kind of like photographing a beautiful woman!” my brother belched from within the camper.
I’m not sure what he meant by that, for comparing women to bacon could go a multiple of ways, but no how, and even so, I could hear the bacon crackling in its pan of juices, whilst brother manipulated various plates and utensils. And I reveled in the acoustic glory of it. The aromas, too, of thick-cut pork belly wafting out the camper door. Mercy! And amid this splendor, I tended the grill and two portly pork chops there, with the bone in for added flavor. Seasoned simply with garlic and onion salt. And just like with the Weber kettle back home, I created a little pocket for indirect cooking, for a modicum of thermal control under such raw and primitive conditions. Camp life was in full swing.
Of course we engaged in our share of trout fishing whilst there. When you camp next to a trout stream, it sort of stands to reason. And when you love to fish, as we do, it is all but a certainty. We caught a few rainbows, but returned them all. Something a little easier to do when you have a baker’s dozen worth of pork chops in the RV ice box. And you can’t beat a trout camp for ambiance either. Just seeing the fishing gear propped about brings a smile across my heart. Old waders and spin casters and fishing bags. I haven’t however the faintest of clues who Bensy is, but they made the photo even so.
The chops were done at the same time the potatoes were. That’s true camp harmony right there. When two cooks conspire in the woods bringing together the perfect little meal, at just precisely the right time. We don’t always nail it like that, but we did this time. We forgot the cooking oil, however, so we had to fry our potatoes in bacon grease. It worked exceedingly well.
So we tarried there, with a plate of good food, in the Valley of the Trouts. The stream babbled over stones and fallen trees, creating a song which sang sweetly unto our ears. Wood smoke curled off the camp fire, and an old, white-enameled coffee pot sat nearby, and at the ready. Leaning back in our camp chairs with a plate of vittles on our lap, I gotta say, this was proper living. Our chosen life style if we could get it. We gobbled down our food like two pumas to a warthog, and fed the fire whilst the sun ebbed behind the valley rim. And the blue skies all tapered to black, and the stars emerged like scattered diamonds on high. We bantered into the night, as per par for trout camp, enjoying the soft glow of a kerosene lamp, the randomness of fire flies, and a contented feeling residing kindly in our bellies, and deep in our soul. Amen.
Stream side with grilled pork chops and fried potatoes. Oh yes, and bacon!
Rule #1: Don’t Experiment On Your Guests
The heat index hemorrhaged around 102, but of course, it felt even hotter than that. It pretty much had too. I was grilling, you see. Grilling on the hottest day of the year. I stood abreast the pit, fires blazing as if spurted up from the very bowels of Hades, sweat tumbling off my nose like a Yosemite waterfall, spatula in hand, working deftly a herd of cheeseburgers about the grate, trying to coral them all into the indirect heat, opposite the orange bed of coals. The grease spilled from the burger underbellies, igniting like Ron Howard’s Back Draft on the coals below. The casualties of burnt knuckle hair a’waft in the evening slants of golden light. I slipped the lid on with all due haste, snuffing the inferno. Vexed like a Saber Toothed Tiger who just chased a monkey up a tree. I grabbed a paper towel and drew it across my forehead. My but it was hot and sporty at the pit today. Unmercifully heated! But I worked it. I had to. I stood my ground as Keeper of the Coals. For I had people to feed today. Lots of people.
We were having some company over, you see, and my bride hereby appointed me head cook for the crowd. You can do that, I guess, when you’re a wife of a patron of the pit. There are certain privileges they enjoy, such as not cooking, and getting to sample your routine grilling spoils. It’s a good life for them, I cannot deny. But they also must endure. They oft-times are the humble recipients of your experimental meat art. Of new flavors, and coarse culinary ideas. She never quite has let me live down the smoked peach cobbler incident, that which tasted more like a rank ash tray that any peach we knew. But what can you do? Seemed like a good idea at the time. This day, however, we were going with a known quantity sure to sooth the populous tongue. Cheeseburgers! And thus, under blue skies and a rather hellish sun, so it was, and came to be.
You Seasoned it With What???
Now when cooking En masse, because of a distinct variety of tastes you’re trying to please, I find a good technique as far as seasoning is to err on the edge of simple. Keep it simple. For some folks do not care for bold, in-your-face, flavors. They just don’t. And it is a pain in the pit keeper’s hind quarter, but alas he should refrain from impregnating his beloved beef patties with his newly contrived ghost pepper sauce. Just don’t do it. Lest you enjoy hearing your name moaned in vain across three and one-half zip codes. Keep it simple.
So to season our burger patties we went about as simple, and as time-tested as you can get. Just some kosher salt and some fresh cracked black pepper. That’s it. That’s all you need when sailing the sea of many palates. Throw some smoke wood on your coals to give the burger a little something extra, patron to the pit. And your guests will know at first bite that your burgers hail from the smokey realm. And don’t forget the bacon either!
Enter The Meat Candy
Being your quintessential red-blooded man, I estimated we needed roughly two pounds of thick cut, maple-smoked bacon, give or take, for our cheeseburgers. A frying project perfectly suited for the Mojoe Griddle. We took the steel behemoth from its box and lugged it pit-side, and centered it over the 30,000 BTU burner of the Camp Chef stove. Glory be, you have never in all your days seen a mound of bacon cook so swiftly, and so effortlessly as this. And the heady aromas which pummeled your nose bordered on cardiac utopia. Once again, we are smitten with the Mojoe way of life. But then, who wouldn’t be with all that bacon.
If you haven’t yet had occasion, and if you feel like it, do go and check out http://www.mojoegriddle.com/ You can learn all about the Mojoe there, and who knows, maybe even pick yourself up one for your next meat party.Worth every dime.
Thus it was with a sweat laden reproach that we scooped the last burger off the pit, some of them cloaked in a gooey pile of medium cheddar. Man! Lightly seasoned only in salt and freshly cracked pepper, and tinted with a sweet kiss of pecan smoke, just because. And all the fixings left to the discretion of your supper guests. That’s how you do it. If you’re a good pit jockey, you might even toast the buns for them. Amen.
A thin-blue smoke pillared from the old bullet cooker as a bandy of black birds sang from the pond’s edge. It was mid-afternoon, mid-summer, and mid-week come to think of it, and all the world seemed on the bustle today, and busy, and hurried to get along. Well, save for yours truly that is. Nay, I had other plans this afternoon. To smoke up a rack of ribs, for one, and also some chicken wings to take to some friends who could use a good meal these days. A BBQ care package, I guess you could say. People just like barbecue.
Something For Everyone
Barbecue. Have you noticed ever when you go into a BBQ joint that there is just something in the air, something besides the most succulent aromas known to mortal man. That’s right. There is an abiding sort of gastronomic appreciation there. A universal reverence almost, for what is smokey and good. A joy for BBQ scattered in unbiased fashion across the social cross-section. Your class or zip code makes no bearing in BBQ. Doctors and lawyers, I suspect love BBQ. So do teachers and garbage men. Clergymen and atheists. Pig farmers and even vegetarians, I bet, tho they won’t eat it, deep down admire BBQ. Even people from Iowa! Indeed, black, yellow, white or brown, your skin matters not in BBQ. Every one is free to tarry on it’s savory shores.
That’s the beautiful part about good BBQ. People from many walks of life coming together in food and fellowship. No matter who you are, or where you’re from, if the BBQ is good, you will gladly slurp it off a paper plate, and wipe your face with your sleeve.Whether you’re a grease monkey from Queens, or the Queen of England herself, everybody is equal where fine smoked meat is concerned. And say what you will on this, but that is no small thing. For BBQ is oft times regarded as a fickle, and snobbish pursuit. One of the most opinionated subjects in the free world, just behind politics and religion. Yet, and somehow, we all come together in fellowship for some good BBQ.
It’s a childish notion, I know, but what if all the leaders of a world gone mad, conspired together for lunch some day, and had BBQ. All sitting around a big table, with make-shift, paper towel bibs, and tall drinks at hand. Communing and dining on perfectly executed BBQ. I bet they’d be in a pretty good mood for the most part. Well as good a mood as you can be, I suppose, being a world leader and all. There’s just something about BBQ that makes it all okay.
And so they would eat and feast and look around the table at each other, everybody sporting a little BBQ sauce wayward on their face, and a pleasant, satisfied feeling deep in their bellies. For a while at least, and maybe even longer than that, I hope they would notice that it’s not all bad having lunch together. That if they can get along well enough for an hour or so, maybe they can do it some more, and maybe even become friends, with a plate of good food in front of them. Childish notions for sure, but hark, the working model of this, of course, has already been perfected -a little something your local BBQ shack has known for many years. BBQ brings people together.
A Time to Share
As the mallards milled about on the pond’s edge, and the breeze mingled sweetly in the trees, I glazed up the wings with some more Blackberry BBQ Sauce, from the kindly folks at Joe Joe’s Hog Shack. On the other pit, the ribs had just come out of the foil, highly pampered there in brown sugar, butter, and a squirt of honey. Smoked with pecan wood. Oh buddy! They were almost, but not quite, falling off the bone. Time to deliver these spoils for whom they were intended! And time to make time, for what is good. And what is right.Barbecue may never save the world, but I’ll tell you this, it sure is a better tasting place because of it. And that’s a start at least. Amen.
We love baseball here at the pit. Love having it on the radio whilst plumes of pecan smoke curl into the air. Or on the TV whilst we nap soundly in our man chairs. And we love to go to games when we can, too, and see the boys of summer ply their craft afield. There is just something about the ambiance of a baseball game of which is as endearing to me, perhaps, as the game itself. From the sounds of wooden bats cracking on a warm summer’s night, to the violent thwack of a fastball arrested in a catcher’s mitt, to the highly-honed riffs of the organ lady as she rallies the crowd. I even enjoy the thoughtful scoop of the plastic seats. And the hearty bellow of the hot dog vendor as they ascend the steps. The sound of some one shelling peanuts in the seat behind you. It’s all part of the ambiance. And ah yes, the food.
The food is half the ambiance right there. From the aroma of polish sausages, and sauteed onions, riding on a breeze. To freshly popped popcorn. And pork chops and deep fried walleye. And Tony O’s Cuban sandwiches. And the heady scent of hot mini donuts drifting down a crowded concourse. Man! Indeed, the ambiance, and the food of baseball, is maybe why we go to games in the first place. It’s the best thing going, after all, when your team is last in their division. Nay, when they are the worst team in all of baseball. Yes, the Minnesota Twins are that team this year. They achieved this status early on in the season, and haven’t bothered to budge ever since. They have struggled. A list of expectations seldom met. Aw well. Let’s just say they’re having some troubles with the curve. But then again, don’t we all.
Indeed, we all run into curve balls from time to time, and sometimes even with things we’re supposed to be good at. Like BBQ. I think of a couple of weekends ago, the July 4th weekend as it were. I was up before the tweety birds, and like many American men, still in my pajamas, standing on the patio gazing up at the stars. It was a beautiful night, or morning, or what ever you want to call it that time of day. Let it be said, however, there is only one thing in this world that will get a man up this early on his day off, and that thing is brisket! Yes sir, I was the proud owner of a 10 pound prime packer brisket, and it was beautiful, and today, if the BBQ gods would have it, it would finish it’s life’s course with a succulent rendezvous deep inside my belly! I was giddy, I don’t mind telling you. But this is brisket, and as any pit jockey knows, you have to wait for brisket.
Whilst the Weber Smokey Mountain came up to temp, we went inside and trimmed the brisket of excessive fat. There are like two kinds of fat on a brisket. Hard fat and softer fat. The hard stuff doesn’t render that well, and we would do well to carve it out of there. The softer fat renders better, but oft times there is just too much of it. And while the fat does baste the meat and help keep it moist, all the big shots in the BBQ industry seem to say to trim it down anyways to about a 1/4 inch thickness. So that’s what we did. We also took a slice off the corner of the flat, as you can see. This an old pit jockey’s trick to remind us later on, whence the brisket is cloaked in bark, which way it was again that we were supposed to slice the thing. Always slice your brisket across the grain for a tender piece.
For the rub today, we used two standbys around here. The first layer is maybe our favorite rub in recent months, Maynards Memphis BBQ, from our friends over at Miners Mix. If you haven’t tried this stuff yet, you’re missing out, people. Very good! So that was the first layer. For a secondary layer of flavor, we like to put on a light to moderate dusting of McCormick Montreal Steak Seasoning. This just gives brisket another layer of flavor that is flat-up awesome. A little something extra to greet your tongue at the front door, and invite you in to the show. Man! Let’s get this on the pit already.
We dialed in the pit temp to a nice 250 degrees, of which the plan was to hold it there all the day long. The going formula these days for a brisket is 1 hour and 15 minutes per pound. We had a 10 pound brisket, and well, you do the math. It would be a long smoke. One of almost heady proportions. Hence our early pit call this morn. And so we put the brisket in the WSM, fat-side up, for to render that fat down into the meat whilst it cooked. Now the choice smoke wood for brisket, if you’re a Texas man anyways, is Post Oak. We couldn’t find any oak about these parts, so we went with the next best thing, pecan wood. Pecan wood is fast becoming our favorite all-around smoke wood. It just works with everything, it seems. And for some reason, stores carry it around here, despite there being no pecan trees in Minnesota. Go figure.
So it goes, under a shimmering star field, our brisket sets out on its long, smokey voyage. And in time, the night sky dissolves into the blue pastels of early morning, courtesy of a softly rising sun. The pecan smoke curls gently in the stillness of the dawn, and I can hear the brisket start to sizzle and drip. Song birds sing sweetly from on high, and it appears, if but just for the moment anyways, all the world is right, and in perfect working order. My eye lids droop like as I pandiculate pit side. I check the pit temp one more time, and then do what any red-blooded man who got up at 4 in the morning would do…I itched my butt and went back to bed
That’s one of the high joys of the long smokes you see. No, not butt itching, but the inevitable spans of clock now at your disposal. Free time. For our people generally leave the pit master alone when meat is on the cooker- to mind it you see, to nurture it, and guide it via our vital pit master instincts to a happy and most edible end game. Now when you have a good smoker, like say a Big Green Egg, Kamado Joe, or even in our case, a Weber Smokey Mountain, once you dial in that temperature, well, you can rest relatively assured that it will stay at that temperature for as long as the coals hold out. And I dumped in a goodly amount of coals, let me tell you.A full 20 pound bag of charcoal, in point fact, and expected a good 12 hours of burn time. Reminiscent of my elder brother’s suburban back in the day, with the 40 gallon gas tank. Anyways, I was a might pooped, and like I said, I sidled back to bed a spell. Belly-up and snoring post-haste, whilst the morning sun crept across a blue sky, the tweety birds cavorted at the pond’s edge, and my pajamas smelled like wood smoke. It was glorious. And then of course, came the curve ball…
Mind Your Meat!
I had been asleep, oh, about 3 hours I should think. Not much more than that. I was awoken by my friend, Ralf’s, text. It’s a good thing too, because when I went out to the pit to check in on things, like pit keepers ought to, I discovered something rather interesting had transpired with my beloved brisket. The internal temperature of the flat was 208! Over done by just a tad, but it would suffice. For brisket you want to get it somewhere between 195 and 205. That’s your window of good fortune! That’s where the most amazing things happen in Brisketville. What is interesting here tho is that it reached this temperature in about 4 hours flat! I was expecting something rather more in the vicinity of 12 – 15 hours. And rightfully so. But it happened in 4 instead. And to this end, I have no explanation. I’m what you might call, “Bum-puzzled”. Scratching my head, I couldn’t tell you the tip of my nose from my big toe on this one. The old BBQ adage, “Its done when its done“, certainly applies to this smoke, I guess. The mysteries of conventional BBQ, folks. What can you do? But the thermal probe slide into the tender meat with a butter like consistency, leastwise in the point it did. That’s when you know you’ve nailed. When the probe slides in with no resistance. Just didn’t expect to get there in 4 hours.
Resting Your Meat
No matter. The brisket needed to rest anyways. Always rest your meat before slicing it, to ensure that the juices are properly sucked back into their appropriate locations. Resting your meat 1 to 2 hours is plenty, but if you must, or you screw up like us, you can rest it for 6 hours like we had to. Just wrap it in foil really good, so that no leaks are present, and then place it in your cooler with a bunch of towels. We’ve been using this trick for years, and it will keep your brisket or pork butt piping hot for several hours on end. It really works great.
Blackberry Burnt Ends
This is where we hit the curve ball out of the park. An hour before the meal was to be served, we chopped the point of the brisket up into cubes suitable for burnt ends. Dashed them over with more Maynards Memphis Rub, some Joe Joe’s Hog Shack Blackberry BBQ sauce, along with a splash or two of apple cider vinegar. The pan thus was put back out on the pit for another 45 minutes or so, to do its thing. And no, I did not go take another nap.
Burnt ends are fabulous, people. If you have not yet had occasion to make yourself a batch of these kingly BBQ morsels, you are pretty much missing out on one of the top four best things in BBQ. They melt in your mouth like popcorn, almost. These had a subtle blackberry tint to them, a nice, flavorful bark, and some mighty succulent smoked beef. Man! It is in my estimation the best thing we’ve pulled off the pit in a very long time. Maybe ever. Great Scott they were good!
I plated up a handsome portion of these beefy spoils, and made the acquaintanceship of my man chair. Feet kicked up like a gentleman of leisure, I flipped on the TV to the Twins game to see how they were doing. Turns out they were losing, go figure, and as usual, I didn’t seem to mind much. Not with a plate of good vittles in front of me anyways. That’s the thing. The better the food, I’ve noticed, the easier it is to watch them lose, which explains, now that I think about it, why there is so much good eating at the stadium. And it stands to reason, if good food can take the edge off a losing season, then perhaps a properly smoked brisket is of suitable caliber for the worst team in baseball. Amen.
Pecan smoked brisket and blackberry burnt ends. Yum! You gotta eat, so why not eat well.
Every once in a while, we here at the pit like to sample the wares of our readership, and then if you don’t mind, tell you about it. You might call it a review, but we just call it spreading the word. It’s a highly tasty thing we get to do, so we don’t mind none doing it. I mean, golly, we get to eat BBQ, and help out some others along the way. Why wouldn’t we! So this won’t be our normal sort of post that you’re accustomed to. But rather a thank you to some good folks who sent us some of their spoils! Today’s culinary brain thrust comes to us all the way from the lovely folds of Maryland, courtesy of Joe Joe’s Hog Shack.
Joe, the man behind the curtain over there, has come up with three pretty darn impressive sauces: Blackberry, Sweet “N” Tangy, and a Carolina Sauce, the latter of which, is the final incarnation of his first sauce, Joe Joe’s Hog Sauce. But before we tell you about his sauces, we wanted to first tell you a little more about the man, because I think we rather fancy him. And you might too.
Joe is a traveling man. An outdoors man. Leastwise, that’s what we’ve gathered. And that right there ranks him decidedly high in our book. A bit of a gypsy’s soul, apparently he can oft-times be found gunk holing up and down the east coast tarmac in his recreational vehicle. Gunk holing. It’s a sailing term. Honest. Not sure how it applies here, but I just like the word, I guess. Anyways, back to Joe. You might also spot him dug in at a campsite somewhere, aside beautiful rivers and fluttering trees. Routine weekends at the hunting lodge are not uncommon with Joe either. Yeah, we like this guy! Anyways, Joe started to develop BBQ sauces to take with him on his many trips afield. Something for to please the palate of his travel mates. And what at its genesis was just a hobby, morphed into something far greater. A passion. And a business. These three sauces are the culmination of much kitchen tinkering. Much work. And much love. Let’s dig in, shall we, and learn a little more about them!
Seek the Meat!
Rummaging through the freezer for a test meat is always fun. My bride is a highly organized individual with an acute need for tidiness. This is reflective in all her areas of the house. Color coded and alphabetized. Even our movie collection is organized into Genre. And of course alphabetized from there. But my freezer at once, is the opposite of this. I’m talking about the freezer out in the garage, now. Man space, as it were. To open the top lid of that freezer is to view chaos in its most distilled, and paralyzed form. There is everything in there from ham bones, to pheasant, to liver, to fish guts wrapped up in plastic bags and stashed and forgotten there to keep them from smelling up the trash can. And somewhere down in the icy crags of the freezer, shoulder deep, I found the perfect test meat for our sauces today. Chicken legs. Plain, old, boring chicken legs. If anything would bandy well with a flavorful sauce, these would be it.
So I got to work at once with a little searing over direct heat, to crisp up the skin, and then tucked them back over indirect heat, opposite the hot coals, for the rest of the cook. We applied the sauces at the end of the cook, during the final few minutes.
Meanwhile, over at the Track Side Pit, our fellow patron/co-founder, was doing some testing himself. He had a much better portion of the yard bird too. Thighs! Man, we love them thighs! And here is a shot of them in full maturity, heavily glazed in Joe Joe’s Blackberry Sauce. Man, get your bibs on people!
The Blackberry Sauce was at once a delight on the tongue. It’s a thin sauce. There is no spicy after-kick, and was highly favored by our food critics, also known as, our wives. Mother In-law approved too. It sported a very pleasant blackberry flavor, not over-powering, but just pleasantly there, sweet, yet mildly complex, and because of its high sugar content, be sure to use this stuff only at the end of the cook. It would make a great glaze, we wagered, be it on your pork ribs, or beef ribs, chops, even the Easter ham! It also is supposed to do well with vegetables, we read, and of which we had to agree. When our corn on the cob wandered by happenstance into the sauce, it almost felt like a marriage had just transpired on my plate. It was amazing. Out of the three sauces, the Blackberry was my personal favorite, and the favorite also of most of the people we ran it by. You just wanted to eat with a spoon right out of the jar! It’s a very, very fine sauce.
Our fellow patron, however, thought the Carolina Sauce smothered on his apple wood smoked pork chops, was, and I quote, “A death row kind of meal“. And whilst I don’t care to thoroughly test his thesis on that, I shan’t argue too hard against it either. For through some rather exhaustive field studies of my own, forced to smoke up a rack of spare ribs the other day, I varnished said ribs with a good deal of this Carolina Sauce, and what henceforth transpired in my mouth can only be summarized as, “meant to be“. Man that was good! Authentic BBQ flavor. We both thought all these sauces were very good on chicken, but we both agreed they were outstanding on pork. Especially this vinegar-based, peppery, Carolina Sauce.
We were also pretty much in accord that the ultimate end game for this Carolina Sauce, in our opinion anyways, has got to be a good pulled pork sandwich. Something of which we were glad to verify. The thinner viscosity of this vinegar-based sauce oozed with great effect into the succulent hollows of the pulled pork, it was quite tasty, people, and no doubt would satisfy any man or woman in kind. Even, perhaps, those unfortunate enough to be residing in the cold, incarcerated flanks, of death row.
Sweet “N” Tangy
Now back to the legs, where we’ll finish things off today. The last sauce we tried was Sweet “N” Tangy, of which we liberally slopped on a couple of the chicken legs. Now here was a tomato-based sauce that as soon as you popped the lid off the jar and took a sniff, you just knew that Mr Joe, of Joe Joe’s Hog Shack was a gifted man. And you become relatively certain also, that his family is probably well-fed! A tint of smokey goodness, it is a thicker sauce with a very impressive peppery kick at the end. Not enough to make your nose run or anything, but enough to let you know you’ve lived a good life today. It’s a very good sauce, as good as any you’ll buy in any store somewhere. Maybe even better, because Joe made it.
Joe, you’ve done good, good sir. Your sauces are worthy. Adept. And well thought out. Thank you for your expertise, your time, and simply giving the sauce business a go, so that we all can share in your spoils. The world is a little better tasting now, because of you. Thank you!
On another note, and about the only thing we can knock on the sauces, is the glass jars they come in. We love glass over plastic, but they were rather prone to cracking during shipment. Not a big deal, because when we contacted them, they promptly sent us a replacement. Very quick customer service over there. And good people, too.
So if you’re looking for a new sauce to try out, give our friends at Joe Joe’s Hog Shack a try.
And tell Joe he done good! Because he did…