Well it happened. We have grilled so much meat that our humble steel cooking grate has finally burned through. Except those portions of the grate which have narrowed significantly, but still hang on, courtesy of the many fiery sorties and the great thermal traumas inflicted there. It was a good grate, by and by, but not a great grate. It had a couple of short comings – but at the end of the day, I guess we all do. For one, it didn’t last more than a few years. A larger gauge steel would have helped there. However, secondly, it was a steel grate, and meat tends to stick to steel unless they are oiled down before hand. And lastly, tho not that important I suppose, steel grates are challenged when it comes to making those aesthetically pleasing grill marks on your meat. It doesn’t really rank all that important I guess, but every pit keeper in the back of their mind is quietly hoping for a killer diamond hatch pattern on his steak. It just makes him feel good. At any rate, it was time for a new grate. And thanks to a fellow named Rolf Buerkle and a good idea he had once, I got one.
Enter Craycort Grills Cast-Iron Grates. These are some of the very best grates you will find on the market today. We absolutely love them! The modular grate we went with was designed by the aforementioned Rolf Buerkle of Craycort Grills, and is specially constructed for the 18 1/2 inch weber kettle grill. They come in any size Weber you have tho, so fear not. They also are excellent, they say, for big green eggs, and kamados joes. At any rate, it has been a grand experience thus far. Let me tell you about it.
The Craycort customer service was pretty awesome right from the get go. Rolf himself contacted us, making sure we got everything we needed. And we did. Rolf seemed a pleasant, meat-eating fellow, in good humor, who at once appreciated not only our premeditated love for cast iron, but also our proclivity for winter grilling. He took care of us, for sure! He sent us one of his 18.5 inch cast iron grates as seen below.
The grate that came in the mail was heavy. Like almost 12 pounds kind of heavy. A manly grate weight if ever there was one. It was well packaged too, not that it needed much protection, as the thing is built rather like a Sherman tank, but it was good to see it was pampered right from the factory. What we also appreciated is that it came already seasoned in soy oil. So it’s ready to start cooking with right out of the box. Even so, we let it cook a while on the pit, just in case, to burn off any residue that might have accidentally conspired there. The grate is also modular in design. Three pie pieces, if you will, which slip into the main cast iron ring. They are thick and heavy, and mean business right out of the box. You will be impressed.
Of course the slick part, and the reason for going modular in the first place, is you can easily pluck out any section of the grate. This is a key feature for we patrons of the pit, who are forever and always tinkering with the coals; dumping more in along with varied chunks of smoke wood. There is a cast iron handle also sold separately for manipulating the hot grates, which we found quite handy. Or you could conceive your own tool, perhaps, to do the same job. Regardless, we instantly fell in love with the modular design of these grates. It’s the same sort of setup for the 22.5 inch kettle grills, except those grates come with four sections, instead of three. First impressions of the grate appealed to every manly fiber of our being. And if that were it, we probably would have been satisfied right there. But that wasn’t it. It got even better. One word – accessories!
Rolf was also kind enough to send us a cast iron hot plate/griddle insert. Buddy, now you’re speaking my love language! Simply pull out one of the grate sections and plunk this griddle in its place, and you’re off to the culinary races with such comestibles as: eggs, bacon, sausage, sandwiches, vegetables, and well, just about anything you would do on a griddle over the stove top. It gets even better still. These griddle inserts, we discovered, are also reversible. On the other side we found a series of raised, parallel edges, or ribs, suitable for steaks or a panini or where ever your pit master instincts bring you. Very cool! Craycort sells other accessories too, we found out, such as a vegetable wok, which is also modular and will slip right into place. There is a pizza stone too, which we might have to try some day. Some good stuff – all of it made of durable cast iron. And we like that a lot. Back to these grates.
The pros keep chugging right along. And this next one falls into the aesthetic category – of what is pleasing to the eye. If the grates are good and hot, cleaned and oiled down, you can amaze your friends and astound your family with the timeless pit keeper stamp of excellence – the sear mark. And cast iron grates excel at it. To assure the perfect sear mark, butter or oil your meat before you plunk it on the grate.
Remember those old black iron frying pans your grandma used to use? There is a reason grand mothers are always the best cooks in the family. They knew what to cook with! Cast iron well-cared for is not only something you can pass down to your children’s children, it is also supremely adept at evenly spreading heat and then retaining it there. Better yet, cast iron is one of the few things in the human condition that seems to get better with use. These grates will become more and more non-stick with each grilling session, just like grandma’s old cast iron frying pan. It’s not just something you cook with, it’s something, that with time, you are proud of. Something to last the ages. Say what you will, but that is no small thing.
For as great as these grates are, they are not without a downside. The dreaded beast of compromise surfaces once again. We found them to be a little pricey at around 70 to 80 bucks for a grate. But the bright side is it should be the last grate you’ll ever need to buy, so, in the long run, you’re probably saving money. You will be hard pressed to burn through one of these grates. The other down side, and the only thing we can really knock on these grates is, being made of cast iron, they do and will have a tendency to rust if not cared for. But it is controllable with a wee bit of maintenance. If your cast iron grate is rusty, rest assured you have no one to blame but the pit master in the mirror. Craycort recommends you wipe the grate down in cooking oil before and after each cooking session. A good coating of oil is key to protecting cast iron, and especially these grates, which spend most of their lives out-of-doors. Thus, let it be your habit, if you get one of these grates, to keep a bottle of peanut oil or the like handy, and simply make it part of your grilling process to keep the grate clean and wiped down in oil. It will take all of a minute out of your day and go a very long ways towards keeping this cast iron grate beautiful for a life time come.
We found the Craycort Grills 18.5 cast iron grate to be supremely rugged and well built. We cannot divine ever wearing this thing out, and we grill a lot! The hot plate/griddle accessory looks to be equally as well- built, and we liked how it fit right in with the modular design of this grate. At first blush, the price point of the grate seemed a bit steep, but after considering how long it will last, which is basically for ever, well, the price seemed a trivial non-factor. We also loved its non-stick surface and heat retaining qualities of the cast iron, the latter which promotes better char marks. The only downside we found was its tendency to rust. They will require a little maintenance each cook. And that is no big deal really, for supreme grilling satisfaction. And the Craycourt customer service was amiable, friendly and prompt. Looks to be a good company sharing with the world an excellent product. That’s our review of it anyways.
So if you’re looking to upgrade your kettle grill, or searching for a worthy birthday gift for your man, or resident pit keeper, he will be all smiles with one of these beautiful cast iron grates. You may even eat well that night too! Man!
Check them out along with other cast iron grilling products at: Craycort Grills
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Dunking your brand new white mop into a fresh batch of homemade sauce goes against everything mother had taught you. OK all rules ascend out the window when you begin to baste a half-done smoky rack of ribs. The aromatic mix of spice, vinegar, and smoke waft into the air, and you can’t help but to apply more.
I’d like to share a recipe I found online and tweaked a little for my taste. It’s a Chocolate Infused BBQ Sauce. I know what you’re thinking, “What is he thinking?” Chocolate and BBQ? Chocolate and Smoke? Don’t get me wrong, it sounds weird, but tastes very good. Here’s how it’s done!
- 2 cups ketchup
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
- 3 tablespoons molasses
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper – See Note Below
- 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped – See Note Below
- Combine ketchup and next 9 ingredients (through pepper) in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring with a whisk. Reduce heat; simmer 8 minutes or until thick, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; add chocolate, stirring until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth.
I decided to make a few notes for the interested reader.
- If you’re going to use Chocolate, go big! OK, I didn’t look too hard at the grocery store. I went with what cost more than Hershey’s or Nestle. I decided to go with Guittard’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips. I felt the flavor stood out more when I have baked with them in the past.
- Also, when a recipe calls for freshly ground pepper, then ground your pepper freshly! I have a mortar and pestle. I love going with a rainbow mix of Peppercorn.
- For those of you who have ever tasted chili infused chocolate, go ahead and throw in some chili powder to taste. The sweet of the chocolate and brown sugar really compliment the kick of pepper and chili powder.
Well, we had allot of left over roast beef from the Po Boy cook a couple days ago, so I thought to myself, self, why don’t you do up something a little different with that left over meat. Something involving the blessed binder of cheese. Take your sandwich kick you’ve been on to another state, and salute something good there. Viola, the destination was clearly then apparent – Philadelphia, and the gloried cheese steak sandwiches – POTP Style.
Man! Sauteed some onion and green pepper, re-heated the Po Boy meat, and mixed it all together. Then promptly topped it with everyone’s favorite ghetto cheese – Velveeta. Slipped this monument to sandwich technology into the toaster oven for a couple minutes, and thus arrived on the shores of cheese steak bliss. It was good people. It was real good.
I went out to the grill the other night, in routine fashion to tend the meat, and found myself for a time just standing there, staring into the hot, glowing coals. It was a crisp night, and the heat from the fire felt good on my hands. And the sky was dark, and scattered with stars, shimmering vanward to a blackened infinity. I turned up the collar on my smoking jacket, and noted momentarily how pleasant it was – this fire, this night. The simple pleasures of loitering pit-side, while lovingly doting over a piece of meat. I just love it. But why. Why would a grown man of apt intelligence forsake a perfectly good stove top, and a heated house, to go instead outside, into the cold, and cook his supper in the humbling style of hobos and passing vagrants. I pushed the meat over indirect heat, paused, and thought about it for a while.
The reasons reside I suspect, with the soft-rising tendrils of smoke, and the waving mirages of heat against a pale, crescent moon. With the dancing flames, and the aromas of smoldering wood. It might also be because of all the many campsites beneath whispering pines I am thus reminded of, every time I strike a match, and kindle a fire. Because meat cooked over an open fire is at once a pleasure, and akin to something deeper in our souls than electric skillets or microwave ovens. Because of the freshened air which expands my chest, and the Black Capped Chickadees which flirt yonder, in the stately trees. Because BBQ is a fickle pursuit, and you are not always so sure how it will turn out. And because good BBQ takes time, lots of time, and loitering over a beautiful bed of coals, with my tongs in hand, is at once a stand of small defiance, in a falling world wrought with haste. And that is no small thing.
Because one day I might smoke the perfect rack of ribs.
Indeed, the reasons are many I suppose, of why we do what we do. And I suppose too there are plenty of other ways to cook a cut of meat, that will taste just as good, and surely a might more comfortable than standing out in the cold. But scarce any of them, let it be said, are nearly so much fun as this; with this fire, this night out-of-doors, under magnificent skies, and over fiery beds of glowing coal. Ah yes. The simple pleasures patron to the pit, and to those who tarry there. This I suspect, is why I grill by and by, and why it is we do what we do.
That, and I like to eat! Amen.
Once upon a time, OK a couple years ago, I got a knock on my door. I swung it open to see the UPS guy shuffling down the driveway to his brown truck. I looked down upon my doorstep and there was the big box from the Weber company I was expecting. It was some where in the days leading up to Christmas, and I thought it fit for myself to get me a little gift if you will. Something to sooth the meat eater in me, and while away a good matter of my Christmas vacation. A Water Smoker. Shaped like R2D2, and probably just as smart, this little gem started out it’s life with us in style, on the living room carpet, with holiday music playing softly, and the multi-colored light’s of the Christmas tree reflecting upon it’s glossy, black-enameled finish. It’s good to surround newborns in such love, and let them know that they matter.
I settled on the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker after much study, and much review. It is a solid smoker, that will hold the ideal temperature for hours on end with out babysitting. It cooks in a vertical format if you please, and has two racks, and a 2 gallon water bowl. This dude will not only smoke your Christmas ham, but your big old turkey as well, not to mention 4 racks of ribs – all at once. It was a beautiful sight, and I might have shed a tear, as I pieced it together out of the box, giddy as a school boy on Christmas morning. I set it up, and leaned back and admired it. We bonded, the grill and I, right there in the living room. Like a baby duck to her mama, it imprinted on me. It was the genesis of a beautiful relationship. And then my phone rang.
It was my fellow Patron of the Pit, John, and he had good news for me. It seemed on this very eve, the stars and what ever else were aligned, and he too received a new grill this day. My eyebrow raised, sensing the gravity of the moment, and a fellowship of the flame was ignited. He was giddy too, bouncing around the house in his pajamas, assembling his new cooker. The 1038 Square inch Char-Griller 2137 Outlaw with option offset smoker box. He was in love. And I was happy for him. It’s like we both got dates to the prom on the same day. Our world was complete.
Being the meat geeks that we are, John also scoured the market reviews before any wallet was pried. He settled on the Char-Griller Outlaw, which was highly favored by many, and maybe the best bang for the buck available at the time. With cast iron grates, adjustable fire grate, and a chimney that make grown men smile, he has procured many a meal for this grill. It’s your truly poetic sort of pit. If ever something was going to look cool covered in suet, grease, and BBQ sludge, this is it. Your quintessential blackened barrel, tipped over, cut in half, and more than capable of anything BBQ.
And so it was, two pits, and two men, conspired together at the roll of the BBQ dice. As if it were meant to be. Brethren of the Flame. And the Patrons of the Pit.