I am not a sun worshiper, I do not seek out the sunny areas of the outdoors and bask in the sunshine, I do not try to tan my skin or even want too. But having said that, I have to volunteer, somewhat discreetly , that yesterday afternoon I lavished in the golden sunbeams. I lay willingly in the warm sometimes hot caresses of that fiery orb that is the center of our solar system. I paid homage to the sun and all the good things that it brings.
The warm breeze swept across the ice-covered lake, mingling the hot and the cool air like I love so much. In the northern climates, a day like this is not wasted, it is seized and every drop of enjoyment is squeezed out of it. Motor cycles come out, bicycles, dogs and the people who walk them. Minnesotans find things to do outside, and for some of us, that means lighting up the grill…
It has been six months since I last started the big grill here at the cabin, and I am still a bit intimidated by the hugeness of the thing. I got it for free, someone left it down at the end of their driveway, a piece of cardboard hanging on it swinging in the breeze, scratched with magic marker saying “FREE”.
I kind of see why now, after using it last summer.
They could not afford to fill the thing.
This grill is the GMC Suburban of grills. You can fit an entire turkey in the thing and still have room left over for a few bratwurst and hamburgers for your close friends. The thing is huge. My little Weber grill back home is twelve inches in diameter. At the start of a grilling session, I have only to put five to seven pieces of briquettes on the leftover coals from the last cook. That is all it takes to make the Weber Smokey Joe run. My little brother calls it the Honda Civic of grills. You get a lot of mileage from those little black chunks of coal.
My big Suburban grill at the cabin likes coal, like a sailor likes his rum. I toss four to seven pieces of charcoal into its vast maw and they drop into the abyss. Like dropping rocks into a well. You can hear the things bouncing off the sides on the way down, and they disappear as they reach the darkness at the bottom. Back home, on my humble Weber, a small bag of charcoal will last most of the summer. The largest bag of charcoal I can buy will barely get me three cooks on this behemoth. And worse, because the lid does not fit tightly, they burn all the way down each time, forcing me to replenish the whole pile with each session.
After the grill is lit, and the flames have settled down, ( or stabilized as my brother would say) I feel somewhat awkward placing my single hamburger patty and two Bratwurst on the immense grate. They only take up a small portion of the vast area under the lid. It made me think of being at a baseball game where only you and two of your best friends are sitting in the stands cheering the team, the rest of the huge stadium empty.
I swear, the sizzling hamburger patty had an echo.
In spite of my brother’s influence, I have never been very good on the grill. A piece of T-Bone steak, seasoned with garlic salt is the epitome of my meager talent. I bow to my little brother, who is the proclaimed “Patron of the Family Pit”. I have of course been reading his blog and like you followers out there, I feel inspired to try my hand at the craft. But , I know my limits. . .
I have never grilled fish on a cedar board, and more than likely never will, but give me a pound of hamburger, or some hot dogs, and I am in my glory. Simple tastes for the simple-minded I guess.
I read with awe how my brother put together Apple Wood Spare Ribs, or the Smoked Brisket. I have actually tasted his Hickory Smoked Rib Sandwiches. If I am in the right place, at the right time, an occasional chicken wing will come my way. But, and I will be honest here, I have about as much chance of making his Smoked Honey Tainted Pork Chops as I would making a slam dunk with a basketball.
I thought about these things as my Suburban grill at the cabin did its thing with my three pieces of meat . I knew I was not going to impress my woman with such a scanty offering, but hey, we were out in the middle of nowhere looking out over a frozen lake. Where else was she going to get food?
-The Patron’s Brother
Before I go on to explain the “beast”, I will hang my head low and admit that the one I was wrestling with was only 3 pounds. It was my humble first smoke of that cut of meat and I walk away with more knowledge on smoking a brisket. I don’t know what go into me. My father-in-law was heading over for dinner and I wanted to impress him, as all son-in-laws do. You see, I know I can cook a good rack of ribs with sweet and tangy sauce dripping from your chin and elbows while working your way to the bone. I’m confident that my smoked chicken will flake apart at the press of a fork and my burgers come out oozing with a savory smoky flavor. I know that on Saturday I was not confident in smoking a brisket and I probably pulled out all the rookie moves. So, I’m writing this to share with you what not to do if like me, you are a rookie at the brisket.
My first mistake… When I was at the local hardware store a few months ago I needed to stock up on my coal supply. It was around the same time I installed the offset firebox on my smoker. Being it was around the Christmas season I was holding tight on my wallet privileges and so I decided to go with Lump Coal instead of my usual brand Kingsford. I have nothing against Lump coal, but I know that I can get my Kingsford coals to heat up and hit a steady temperature for a good 3 hours in the winter. As I filled my firebox with lump coal, it quickly heated up my smoker. It hit the trusty worthy temperature of 250 degrees and kept going. So I adjust my vents accordingly to bring down the temp. Again it hit 250 and kept going down. So, I repeated the process until I was able to zero on where I needed it. One thing I also noticed with the lump coal was that the slightest breeze, I’m talking a sneeze from one of my annoying hibernating pocket gophers would cause the smoker to raise a good 20 degree and then back down 20 and then teeter off in the middle somewhere. I almost didn’t need the wireless thermometer. I was outside enough to look at the gauge itself.
My second mistake…Never take two different theories on how to smoke a successful brisket and put them together (unless you really know what you are doing). I started off with throwing the brisket on the grate and leaving it there. My brisket was going just fine and then I had to open up my BBQ bible by Steven Raichlen. I read an excerpt from Steven’s book that tells me to wrap the brisket in tin foil a good 3/4 th of the way through, and so i did. As much as I respect Steven Raichlen’s knowledge of the grill and his years of cooking over a flame, I also have learned that some of his techniques are not always the only way. He has tv shows and books, but there are other ways of doing it. Wrapping your brisket in tinfoil wasn’t the rookie move. No, the rookie move was the I changed up my method right in the middle of a smoke. If something is going fine, leave it.
One my goals for the process was seeing bark on the brisket. However, I was informed later that my absence of bark was because I had wrapped the brisket in tinfoil. By wrapping it in foil, I allowed too much moisture to collect and therefore, no bark. I know, a rookie mistake I have made. I shouldn’t change methods in mid-cook and I humbly lay my head low because of it.
In the end, my result was a fully cooked brisket. I achieved the tenderness I wanted. In fact, it was so tender you could cut it with a fork which I believe is the goal from what I hear. The smoky flavor had a great impact with every bite taken. I was complimented greatly from my father-in-law, little did he know of the rookie mistakes I made.
I think I’ll wait until I enter the ring with another brisket. I will then throw it on and leave it. No foil, just intense smoke and a solid 250 degrees.
I don’t like looking back. I’m always constantly looking forward. I’m not the one to sort of sit and cry over spilt milk. I’m too busy looking for the next cow. ~ Gordon Ramsay
Dunking your brand new white mop into a fresh batch of homemade sauce goes against everything mother had taught you. OK all rules ascend out the window when you begin to baste a half-done smoky rack of ribs. The aromatic mix of spice, vinegar, and smoke waft into the air, and you can’t help but to apply more.
I’d like to share a recipe I found online and tweaked a little for my taste. It’s a Chocolate Infused BBQ Sauce. I know what you’re thinking, “What is he thinking?” Chocolate and BBQ? Chocolate and Smoke? Don’t get me wrong, it sounds weird, but tastes very good. Here’s how it’s done!
- 2 cups ketchup
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
- 3 tablespoons molasses
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper – See Note Below
- 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped – See Note Below
- Combine ketchup and next 9 ingredients (through pepper) in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring with a whisk. Reduce heat; simmer 8 minutes or until thick, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; add chocolate, stirring until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth.
I decided to make a few notes for the interested reader.
- If you’re going to use Chocolate, go big! OK, I didn’t look too hard at the grocery store. I went with what cost more than Hershey’s or Nestle. I decided to go with Guittard’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips. I felt the flavor stood out more when I have baked with them in the past.
- Also, when a recipe calls for freshly ground pepper, then ground your pepper freshly! I have a mortar and pestle. I love going with a rainbow mix of Peppercorn.
- For those of you who have ever tasted chili infused chocolate, go ahead and throw in some chili powder to taste. The sweet of the chocolate and brown sugar really compliment the kick of pepper and chili powder.
I went out to the grill the other night, in routine fashion to tend the meat, and found myself for a time just standing there, staring into the hot, glowing coals. It was a crisp night, and the heat from the fire felt good on my hands. And the sky was dark, and scattered with stars, shimmering vanward to a blackened infinity. I turned up the collar on my smoking jacket, and noted momentarily how pleasant it was – this fire, this night. The simple pleasures of loitering pit-side, while lovingly doting over a piece of meat. I just love it. But why. Why would a grown man of apt intelligence forsake a perfectly good stove top, and a heated house, to go instead outside, into the cold, and cook his supper in the humbling style of hobos and passing vagrants. I pushed the meat over indirect heat, paused, and thought about it for a while.
The reasons reside I suspect, with the soft-rising tendrils of smoke, and the waving mirages of heat against a pale, crescent moon. With the dancing flames, and the aromas of smoldering wood. It might also be because of all the many campsites beneath whispering pines I am thus reminded of, every time I strike a match, and kindle a fire. Because meat cooked over an open fire is at once a pleasure, and akin to something deeper in our souls than electric skillets or microwave ovens. Because of the freshened air which expands my chest, and the Black Capped Chickadees which flirt yonder, in the stately trees. Because BBQ is a fickle pursuit, and you are not always so sure how it will turn out. And because good BBQ takes time, lots of time, and loitering over a beautiful bed of coals, with my tongs in hand, is at once a stand of small defiance, in a falling world wrought with haste. And that is no small thing.
Because one day I might smoke the perfect rack of ribs.
Indeed, the reasons are many I suppose, of why we do what we do. And I suppose too there are plenty of other ways to cook a cut of meat, that will taste just as good, and surely a might more comfortable than standing out in the cold. But scarce any of them, let it be said, are nearly so much fun as this; with this fire, this night out-of-doors, under magnificent skies, and over fiery beds of glowing coal. Ah yes. The simple pleasures patron to the pit, and to those who tarry there. This I suspect, is why I grill by and by, and why it is we do what we do.
That, and I like to eat! Amen.
Game day in the National Football League Playoffs. 9 degrees of mercury registering. What do you think we’re going to do! Lets light the smoker!
There are a precious few alignments in the human condition so fine, as football and BBQ. Don’t ask me why. All I know is one shouldn’t tamper with the good things in life, nor try to analyze it much, less it evaporates, like the morning mist over still waters. No, we shall not try to figure out why, but instead be emboldened to embrace it. To put meat to flame, and declare the day is well. Thus to salute the rising smoke, and for a while at least, maybe even to live the dream.
As I repair by the fire-place, in my favorite man chair, the game quietly on the TV, a glance out to the patio sees the brand new 22 1/2 inch WSM puffing gently that fine-blue smoke patron to a good and established, hickory fire. It’s maiden voyage, if you will, like a big ship slipping slowly out to sea. On board today, a rack of maple syrup glazed beef ribs, and a good matter of country-style pork ribs, both dusted in a sweet but spicy, home-made rub. The country-style ribs, which are really cut from a pork butt, took a bit further journey tho, pampered long over-night in a custom marinade adept at improving pork. Like all good journeys, the journey of BBQ starts with an idea, and is done when it is done, never quite positive of where you may end up. Or how you may get there. And I do not think we would have it any other way.
The spoils are on the smoker now, for a two and one half hours I should wager, bathed in light hickory smoke, at a modest 250 degrees. The keen wind chill, of which it must be subzero, slices with ease, and not-so-compassionately through the trees, and over the frozen land: but the WSM holds stalwart in the face of bitter inclement. A victory affording myself the high pleasure of taking up residence “belly up” in the man chair, feet propped up by the fireplace, dosing peacefully amid the banter of Sunday football. There are few naps finer than football naps, save for perhaps golf naps, tho that would probably be up for debate I suppose. My brother likes to take naps under his truck, but that’s a different story. At any rate, as cozy as I was, eventually I knew I had to get up and foil the ribs, of which I did. A labor of love, by and by. It was no big deal.
Another hour and half in the foil, with a dose of BBQ sauce and splash of Dr Pepper, just cause. This loosened up the meat with aplomb, and took it by the hand, escorting the unruly meat to the next level. Taming the beast, as it were, swaddled in tin foil. Pampered with love.
Lastly, a toasting of the french bread, over the remaining, tho still softly-glowing embers, for that finishing touch savored by the lady folk.
After the bones pulled freely, we then plated the ribs, and chopped them into lovely man-sized chunks, and served them lightly basted in BBQ sauce on the toasted french bread. This was it. We had arrived. The maiden voyage of the new smoker had landed, nudging the fateful shores of a meat utopia. A land where the slobbers run freely, and a good burp is considered high praise. If ever you want to one-up your standard pulled pork sandwich, this is how to do it. Man!
Next time you’re in the mood for some tasty football food, and wanna do something a little different, try yourself some slow-smoked rib sandwiches. Ain’t too many things finer.
I can’t go often in life without music. Creating playlist or soundtracks as I like to call them has become a hobby of mine. Matching music up to what I’m doing at that moment. To become the musical director for my life is something I take serious. Being that I’m a musician, I’m very picky and biased when doing so. To go into the many avenues of life and tell you about my music selections would probably force me to start another blog, so I’m going to focus on sharing of my music stations I have created when dedicating an afternoon at the BBQ pit.
First off, who could go wrong with a B.B King station. How often is it you walk into a BBQ joint and they have classical music, or rap playing on their overhead speakers? What music is better associated with BBQ than blues music. The crying guitars whine as your basting your meat. The harmonica calls out while the hickory smoke curls into a dimming orange sunset. The singer cries as they have lost their lover over, perhaps over someone else’s BBQ. My B.B. King station of course is always my first choice of serenades when standing next to a smoking pit.
My second choice is my Elvis station. I grew up listening to Elvis and have many fond memories of establishing myself on a sunny afternoon. Our backyard patio packed with Aunts and Uncles. My dad sat with his banjo and my Uncles sat with guitars, often livening up the family with classic rock and roll tunes and old country western songs. This station is often listened to because of the strong feeling of nostalgia it brings on. I can remember words of songs I hadn’t heard in 20 years purely because I fell in love with the moment I first heard them. Thus, Elvis often joins me when BBQing for large groups of people.
Now there is a station I don’t often brag about. This station is played in my headphones so many people don’t judge my geeky side of life. But here, I hide nothing about my BBQ experience. So I would like to publicly announce the third choice of station is my Lord of the Rings Soundtrack station. I use this station when having a full day ahead of me – of a long drawn out smoke. When smoking a cut of meat that may need a little more effort. From the point of lighting the flame to pushing a sharp knife through that saucy, sweet, smoky, spicy side of meat. You then know your efforts have paid off and the epic journey of BBQ was fulfilled. No other station encourages such BBQ geekiness as my Lord of the Rings Soundtrack Station.
So, my question is to you who have read this, what music do you like to listen to during an afternoon at the pit? What might be on your BBQ playlist?
Have a good day – POTP
Once upon a time, back in the days when the patio had but one grill, I remember thinking also, that one bag of charcoal was plenty for my needs. And it was I suppose. But as BBQ skills matured and grew, it seemed so too would my charcoal reserves. For let it be said, nothing quite so burns your brisket more than getting your slobbers going for some good BBQ, and then to go out into your garage or shed and discover a nearly empty bag of charcoal sitting there, with three maybe four briquettes left, sitting prostrate in a shallow carpet of coal dust. Oh how many a fanciful smoke has been delayed by this grievous situation not soon forgotten until at last some coal is lit, and meat plunked on the grate. We Patrons of the Pit, we eventually learn, and we heed the boy scouts long-standing motto, and vow to be prepared, ever more, less this sort of foolery rear again. Here is how we do it.
We buy allot of charcoal. My brother says we’ve gotten to the point now where we are buying charcoal by the pallet. Well, that’s a bit of a stretch, but I guess it not uncommon to see an mean average of a 120 pounds of Kingsford blue in our garages on any given day. Some days even more. And it is a beautiful site of preparedness, one of which grilling purists, and Brethren of the Flame will all hail, and the rational people of the world I suppose, all shake their collective heads. It is only slightly obsessive we wager, stocking up on so much charcoal, for grilling proper is but a seizing of the moment. And to not have the adequate sum charcoal on hand when the moment is ripe, is a travesty not fit for a pit master proper, nor even his dog. So we stock up.
Of all the charcoal products out there, the Kingsford in the blue bag is what we keep coming back to it seems. For the very simple reason – they work. Indeed, they always give a predictable burn, with a steady heat, and are easily lit. They are the baseline charcoal briquette most enthusiast cut their teeth on. There are rumors circulating the internet that Kingsford has changed something in their charcoal as of late, but we haven’t noticed if this is true. How ever, it is still fun to change it up at times, and cook with hardwood lump charcoal, which tends to burn hotter that briquettes, which is not at all a bad idea for things like steaks or burgers. Regardless of what charcoal you go with however, it is well with a grill master’s soul to amass a veritable mountain of it deep in his lair. To be prepared. So that no sooner does the impulse to grill strike that he not plunder in the folly of the moment, for this sad state of not having enough charcoal in which to dutifully roast his beloved, tho highly fattening pork butt.