A chimney of hard wood lump charcoal crackled on the pit, its campfire-like aromas enveloping the patio. I long have fancied the patron scent of lump charcoal. The way it lights, smells, and pops like a Jack Pine fire kindled on the wild lake shores of the Canadian shield. Something in its fragrance, its mood, that transports me all at once, back to those rugged expanses of wilderness, and earthy camps from whence I have tarried long in my youth. I poured the fiery chimney load to one side of the old kettle grill, and reminisced some more like men do whilst playing with fire. My gaze sweeps over the back yard, as I mingle with the coals. The grasses surrounding my patio grow long now, with the ilk of a deep and abiding green. The sort of green that is there to stay. And there is a symphony of song birds too, perched all about, all yapping it up like a room full of women scrap booking, with hot tea at their sides. The sky is gray, the sort of gray that is a bridesmaid to the wet season it seems. Nary a breath of wind, and its neat to see the smoke from the grill go straight up for once. Some mallards conspire at the pond’s edge, rain drops cling to a lone Petunia, and a Canadian goose ambles by, trying to nonchalantly as a goose can I guess, check out my supper, and confirm it is not their kin they smell roasting under the lid.
No, it’s not goose, tho one day I probably should I suppose, just to get the awkwardness out-of-the-way. Nay, today on the grill is a simple affair – just some chicken legs, smoked over some hickory, with a light, honey twist. It’s real easy to do, easier than a lot of grill keepers might tell you. For it is an age-old rule of grilling, to apply your sweet sauces at the end of the cook, for the sugars inherent to sweet things can easily burn, and hence ruin your intended spoils as easily as a favorite dog squatting over your new carpet. You don’t let your dog onto your new carpet, and you certainly don’t put sweet things on your BBQ at the beginning of a cook out. But I do. And you can too if you’re careful is all. I rubbed down the chicken legs first in honey, then dusted them in liberal fashion with some Suckle Busters Competition Rub. Then set those legs in-direct of course for the entirety of the cook. A small piece of hickory wood for the smoke, placed directly on the coals. Lid on with the vent over the meat for a proper draft. Oh what sweet smoking pleasure it is, to kick back in your BBQ chair, lovely beverage in hand, and simply watch the smoke curl there. And to smell the damp earth mingle with that of smoldering hickory.
The only trick really to these sorts of sugary endeavors, lest the burning fates acquire your supper, is simply to keep an eye on it. Keep your tongs close, and check in on the meat. It’s OK to lift the lid, for this is no 14 pound pork butt or anything. Nay these legs will cook all too fast as it is. So visit them often, and let them know you love them. Pamper them, and turn them, and position them accordingly to your pit master instincts. If you see some going astray, be there for them, to catch them, and set them back on the proper path to excellence. See how they sing bathed in a fine hickory smoke. And note also, off-hand and by-the-way, how the world has spun on without you for a while now, whilst tending your humble pit. A sure sign that you’re doing it right. For you are in your own little paradise now, aside glowing coals, and gently wafting, blue-tinted smoke. You have put meat to flame, and in that alone there is something good enough, and it is well with your soul. Tongs raised to the heavens, this is your time now, to govern your meat with a supreme authority bequeathed those shapely souls who tarry near the fires and grilling posts of yore. Ah yes, grilling with honey – let us at once take our meat by the arm and walk it slowly down that fiery aisle, thus to culinary matrimony with our impending, tho forgiving bellies. Near the end of the cook, I brushed on a little more honey, just because. A little something more, as it were, for the old goose to think about. Amen.
Honey Tinted Hickory Smoked Chicken Legs. Dang! And yes, we ate the broccoli too!
Amid the spring thaw, and blustery gales , I touched flame to the chimney of hardwood lump. I love the smell of lump charcoal lighting, and the sound of it as it crackles and pops. I am transported all at once back up into the northern tiers of my Minnesota bush lands, back to camp fires past, neath the whispering pines, in the forest hollows, aside babbling streams, at tranquil campsites pitched upon the cold, bones of the earth. Those camp fires of birch and balsam, how their warm light reflects off the faces of camp mates, always make a soul feel more at home there, in a harsh, and barren land. I often reminisce in this way, every time I light the pit here on the patio. I hover my hands over the chimney, relishing the heat there, as the keen northern winds slice with disturbing ease through the city streets, kicking up old tatter along the way. And tho it is cold this April day, the sun is still out, and tweety birds, well they don’t seem to care one way or the other, if it’s cold, or windy, or what sort of charcoal I may be using. And that’s OK. I’m not sharing my supper with them anyways. Speaking of supper, come inside with me won’t you, and let me show you what we have marinating tonight.
On the counter, in a zippered plastic bag we have a good couple handfuls of chicken wings, the kind of wings popular at sports bars and taverns, and places with more big screens than a showplace theater facility. Blessed is the man whose freezer harbors a bag of these wings. In the immortal words of Mary Tyler Moore, it can take an otherwise nothing day and suddenly make it seem all worthwhile. And it has. For we are men. We eat meat. And we are keen for the wing!
The winglets today, before they hit the hot grate, receive a good pampering in a delicious home-made marinade. A salty and sweet affair with a touch of garlic. Here is the recipe for it if you have a hankering.
Sweet Garlic Marinade
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 3 table spoons honey
- 3 table spoons maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
Also whilst the coals come to maturity, and the wings marinate, we are soaking some peach wood too. I still prefer the big fist sized chunks, as there is no need to soak those. But if all you have is chips, you make do, and you’ll need to soak them before the cook, less they disintegrate like a 20-year-old pair of underwear whence they hot the coals. Not that I’ve tried that. I was pleased to find some peach wood at the local Cabelas, on one of my monthly forays there. You don’t see that sort of flavor up here in the frozen north too often, and I grabbed it rather by instinct when I saw it. A bit of Floridian essence amid icy winds sounded good today.
Nothing is quite so fine as peach smoke carried in the wind. Do to the high sugar content of the marinade, we went indirect the whole way this cook. Life opposite the hot coals is a good motto to grill by, and will long keep you out of grilling peril. I put the lid on and admired the smoke for a bit, like BBQ people do. I sat down, hunkered into my smoking jacket, and watched the smoke dance off into the stately breezes. And then, rather out of the blue, my left eye lid began to droop. Followed closely by the other. And I pandiculated right there in the chair. Pandiculation. That’s my new word. It means to stretch and yawn at the same time. Turns out I’m really good at pandiculating, and so are a lot of people I know. Anyways, when we brethren of the smoke feel such lethargy brewing, there is of course only one suitable course of action. I promptly went inside and took up residence in the man chair, reclined back to its utter most fancy, and there upon, and with great abandoned, did what sleepy men do when meat is slowly cooking on the grill – I belched and wafted off to sleep. It was lovely.
Most men, we postulate, and some women too I think, are born with an internal meat alarm clock. A meat sense, if you will. Sort of a quantum entanglement deal, where upon we just know when our betrothed meat is ready to eat, or more over, if it is in jeopardy of burning, or being pillaged say, by the neighbor’s dog. It’s a great skill set to have really, whence your aspirations for sleeping on the job come to fruition. BBQ is rigorous work after all, and we should be privy to all the tricks. Anyways, the internal alarm went off and I awoke in my man chair with a gentle yet satisfying graduation, like that of brisket coming to its temperature ideal, whilst resting on the counter top. I wiped the accumulated drool from my left lip pit, as my body rebooted. Golden beams of sunlight washed over my face, as I stretched like a spoiled old house cat in the soft chair. Yes, I pandiculated again. And I knew, as surely as one can know these things I guess, that my meat was done. It was time to eat, and after a fashion, never rushed, we did just that. And the wood smoke tapered in the breeze. Amen.
Peach smoked winglets with a tint of sweet garlic, and the theory of quantum meat entanglement. Man oh man. If you understand one, you probably have the other.
It was 5:00 in the blessed morning as I stumbled out onto the patio, bag of charcoal in hand, whilst sporting my designer pajamas beneath the twinkling stars above. I put a match to the old charcoal chimney, sending the initial rush of smoke aloft, for to honor the day and to get a batch of coals going. Obsessive compulsive, the neighbor was probably thinking, whilst gazing out the window during his early bird pee. I wouldn’t argue that I guess. But it was Boston Butt time at the pit, and as any one who smokes the big meats are well aware of, them butts take some considerable clock. So early starts like this are what you do some times. But I also had every intention of going back to bed, to those delicious, warm, blankets from whence I came. And after the smoker was under way, I did precisely that, thanks to a fellow called Jim Minion, and the good idea he had once.
Jim Minion was at a BBQ competition one day, and had his wife pick him up a WSM cooker from the store. He slapped it together on the spot, and needed to figure out a way to “light it off“, and not being one for reading instructions apparently, he just tossed a bunch of lit and unlit coals together, and called it good enough. Worked out pretty good for him too, go figure, as he took 1st place in chicken, and 2nd place in ribs. Henceforth, “The Method” had been discovered. And it works exceedingly well. This is no news for you old timers I know, ye keepers of the flame and brethren of the smoke, but our readers are a diverse lot, patron to all the rungs of the BBQ ladder. And like hot coals lighting other coals still new, so to should we pass the flame of knowledge, igniting others, like the Minion Method personified.
As you delve deeper into the BBQ arts, you will want to try this technique. It is worthy for such endeavors as brisket and pulled pork, and really anything you want a long, controlled, burn for. And it couldn’t be easier. I usually start with a doughnut of unlit coals in the fire bowl, and dump a chimney full of blazing lit ones right smack dab in the middle. What happens is the lit coals work sort of like a fuse, lighting any unlit coals that might be sitting next to it. And those coals in-turn light some other coals next to them. And so on. It’s a beautiful thing really, of which gives you the time for the all-important business of kicking up your feet in the sun, with a good narrative and lovely beverage. If your smoker is of good quality, and you put enough coal in, I’ve heard of guys routinely getting as much as 18 hours of steady burn time, averaging around 225 degrees. Now that’s one long burn.
If you have an offset smoker, or some other cooker where this method described above doesn’t seem right, there are gadgets like this to be found. Working off the minion method principle, or more precisely, the “snake method” many a pit master has had success with these sorts of charcoal baskets too.
Turns Your Kettle Grill into a Smoker!
Here is another alternative for you kettle owners. This thing has gotten outstanding reviews, and they say it will give you 8 hours of burn time in a single load. It also works on the minion principle, and has a nifty little vertical water pan, to help act as a heat sink.
It’s not all perfect tho. Within the Minion Method there are two camps. The debate you’ll find between these two are about things called binders. Binders are the chemicals and what-not which basically hold the charcoal briquette together, and it’s these chemicals that are released when a briquette is being lit. So naturally, there are some BBQ folk who say this is not good for you, as this stuff may leach into your food, while the rest of us sort of shrug our shoulders because we don’t really know. Luckily, if it’s something that’s going to bother you, there is a solution in products like, Stubbs All Natural Charcoal, as seen in this link, Stubb’s 9-Pound All-Natural Charcoal Briquets, or lump charcoal, such as Fogo FHWC35LB 35-Pound All Natural Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal Bag, neither of which are supposed to have binders in them. At any rate, it’s something to think about, and you’ll have to make up your own mind on that I guess. Or if you have some knowledge otherwise to enlighten us, do share, as the community of BBQ is only better for it.
Regardless, the method of Jim Minion is quite the effective strategy should you fancy the likes of a long burn with minimal maintenance. Something I can attest to is a glorious thing, should you find yourself one day, lighting up the smoker at 5:00 in the morning, groggy-faced, whilst still in your favorite pajamas.
Off-hand and by the way, if you’ve come here to learn about the minion method, then you’re also probably thinking brisket. Good thinking! The Minion Method is made for brisket. Here is a great read concerning how to smoke the proper brisket, as told by the best in the business. Aaron Franklin makes the best brisket in the country. How do we know? Just read the reviews of his book below, you’ll see!
*People who read this article also read: How To Melt Your Maverick:Wireless BBQ Thermometer Set – Maverick ET73
**Patrons of the Pit are affiliates with Amazon for Stubbs All-Natural Charcoal, among other things. We do receive a small commission if you buy through our link. We do appreciate it!
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.