How to bring your spaghetti to the next level with a little smoke and cream cheese
So it was, under beautiful blue skies and amber shafts of light, that the last snow flake melted out by the pit today. And all the ice on the pond dissolved over the last few days, the last of it, today, into a cold, watery soup. The ducks dutifully reveled, of course, swimming to and fro in the pond’s lush water ways, whilst the resident tweety birds darted fiercely about the naked alders, all of which eagerly await the bounty of spring. Have we Minnesotans finally made it around the dark side of moon? Is this light yonder we see spanning into the evening hours really meant for us? Is it possible the barnacle-like grip of ice upon this fair land has at last and finally relinquished? Oh I believe so. For I have seen my shadow on steely blades of semi-green grass, and heard the call of the American Robin for to greet the morning hours. Spring has arrived. And all the northern pit keepers rejoice.
To usher in the milder season, and on the pit today, something a little different. Leastwise amid the grilling circuits it is. Smoked spaghetti meat sauce with a Philly twist. If you’re not a’feared of carbohydrates, you’re going to fancy this one. So grab yourself a manly beverage and I’ll meet you out by the pit.
Over a lovely bed of mature coals, in the old black iron pan, we browned up the ground beef as per the usual tactics to making spaghetti sauce. I know what some of you new to this site may be thinking. Why the heck is he doing this on the grill? To which I must reply, why wouldn’t I! This is a BBQ blog, and by golly, this is what we do! And let it be said, because it’s true, anything you can do on the kitchen range can not only be equaled out on a good pit, but in many cases improved upon, courtesy of the smokey goodness inherent there. Not to mention, it’s just plain beautiful outside tonight. You gotta cook supper regardless, so why not do it some place pretty.
Nothing quite so fine as the fresh spring breeze mingling with the aromas of sizzling beef. After a fashion, after it was cooked brown and drained, we added the sauce. Now you can use what ever sauce makes you happy. Make it home-made if you please, or do like we did, and use a jar of something we picked up at the grocer. It’s all good on the pit. So we pulled the pan to the cool side of the grill, opposite the hot coals, and then added a chunk or two of apple wood to the fire for to secure smokey custody of this classic supper time dish. Yes, smoke is the first of two secret ingredients here, that will set this spaghetti dinner apart from any you’ve ever had. If you’ve never done your meat sauce up on the grill this way, well, you’re missing something out of your grilling career. Like the sunbeams that which slant upon the green grass, it is worth our attention, our time, for to articulate a tasty path towards a higher culinary ideal, patron to the pit.
Whilst the meat sauce simmers in turn, we prepped some French bread with a simple:
(1 Clove finely chopped and 1/3 cup of softened butter)
Wrapped the loaf in foil, and placed it likewise, opposite the hot coals. Oh yes!!!
Put the lid on, establish a draft, and thus engage in some lengthy and protracted smoke watching. This is the portion of the cook where we grill jockeys are in our element. Or more truthfully, in our man chairs, pit-side, with a lovely beverage in hand. Legs perhaps crossed like a gentleman of leisure, hat tipped just so, to thwart the low hanging sun, and scads of sweet time in which to just sit there and do nothing at all. To watch the clouds idle in a pastel sky, and the song birds yonder warming up their little throats for to sing of their glories anew. To observe the gentle wake and science of duck propulsion on the pond. Or, if need be, even to close our eyes, and doze peacefully amid the aromatic tendrils of rising wood smoke. Glory!
Speaking of, every 5 minute or so, lift the lid and stir the meat sauce, for to infuse more of that patented smokey goodness into it. Also flip the bread over when you think of it, for even baking, and be mindful of your pit master instincts.
Lastly, and before we declared this meal complete, we added the final, secret ingredient to the meat sauce. At my bride’s suggestion, we added 1/4 cup of Philadelphia Cream Cheese. Indeed, I was hesitant, but adventurous this night. She saw some one do it on the TV, and thought it would be tasty. So, and with the common sense of a gestating lemming, I gave it go. Stirring the glob of cheesy, white goo, into the beautiful meat sauce until it melted kindly away. The result hence escorting the smokey sauce unto yet another level seldom found in conventional spaghetti sauce. The result – a much creamier, full-bodied meat sauce that which sported a quaint smokey tint. Oh man!
Once the cream cheese is diffused to your specifications, plate up and commence with what you do best!
Smoked Philly Spaghetti and Garlic Bread. If you’re looking for a little something different for your next BBQ, definitely give this one a try. Man!
Nothing is quite so fine on a brisk Autumn’s eve, than the primal sizzle of two, portly New York Strip steaks over a beautiful bed of coals. By golly it sets a man straight it does, this the protein-rich pacifier that is called steak. We love it. In point of fact, if you ever want to shut a man up, slap a steak in front of him, and watch how he instantly transforms, suckling up to the beast in kind affection, whilst the rest of his worldly cares are at once erased. Oh it’s true. Reminiscent of those Hollywood scenarios, where felons or good guys alike are on the run, chased by ravaging canines, darting through city streets and over back yard fences. Then they stop, hark, they have a raw steak in their knapsack don’t you know, of which they promptly toss in the path of their fanged pursuer. And in a flip of a heart beat, the drooling beast has a moral dilemma on his hands, of which and of course, he promptly caves to.
Over direct heat, I flipped the two strip steaks, both lightly seasoned in garlic and onion salt. Gray clouds rolled nonchalantly overhead whilst the tweety birds swooped in and out of the thickets. Now the New York Strip is the same cut as the Kansas City Strip. I know, you weren’t wondering that, but it is. But to you folks over seas, you’ll probably recognize the cut as a club steak. And if you’re really off the bell curve, like in Australia, you’ll just call it a boneless sirloin and be done with it altogether. Who ever is in charge of meat nomenclature has way too much authority, and fun. Regardless of what you call it tho, it is harvested from the short loin, which is a pleasantly abiding muscle of real estate, not only for the cow, but our supper plates as well. The short loin is kind of a lazy muscle, you see, and doesn’t do much work, and there fore is particularly tender. A fact which also makes it particularly suited for it’s inevitable destiny with our pits. Lazy meat is good for something after all.
After a fashion, I tossed some hickory wood on the coals for to infuse some of that smokey goodness into the steaks, and tucked them in-direct for a little bit, just because. Then placed the lid on and let it do its thing whilst I did mine. I never grow weary of this portion of a cook out. That hallowed parcel of time in which it is acceptable, nay, proper even, to take up residence in my favorite man chair, and while away a few minutes doing nothing at all. Kind of like a short loin, go figure. Often times my bride will slide open the patio door and see me sitting there , shrouded in clouds of smoke, contemplating the curvature of my belly. Tho she does not completely understand it, she knows I am in my own space, and politely sidles off, closing the door behind her.
Whence our steaks were of acceptable firmness to the tong, I plated-up and sided the beautiful cuts with some garlic mashed potatoes and a lovely vegetable melody for to please the little lady.
“Lets eat this like a man tonight” I bellowed.
“Hows that?” she countered “Sans utensils?”
“Well no, on the couch of course“, I yammered”In front of the TV!”
We promptly inhaled our plunder like an alligator to a bull frog dipped in gravy. Or something like that. Or at least one of us did. And whilst the pretty pictures flashed on the TV, and the steaks settled into our guts, I found great contentment indeed, and heavy eye lids, in the primal glow of post-gorging. My bride glanced my way and it seems I was chin-down, contemplating my belly again. She sweetly removed a plop of mash potatoes off my chest, trying not to squelch my steak-induce mojo. She knew, as surely as she knew anything, that her man was pacified. That he was content indeed. And that a big steak, perfectly grilled, may have played a part in it. Amen.
New York Strip Steak hot off the grill. Oh buddy! Next time you need to pacify your man, considerable the venerable strip steak. It works. Side effects may include protracted belly contemplation.
Under gray, over-cast skies, and still in my pajamas, I sauntered out on to the patio this last Sunday morn, one, to check on my banana peppers growing in the pit garden there, and secondly, to fire up the Weber Smokey Mountain. All the great epic smokes seem to start in my pajamas. OK, that didn’t quite come off right. What I mean is the bigger the meat, like a Boston butt, or in this case, a big brisket, generally means a considerably longer cook. One of marathon status, by and far. Ten hours or more are not uncommon. Thus, and if you’d actually like to have the meat for supper that day, it also requires a rather early start. Reminiscent of what mountaineers refer to as an “alpine start“, when they arise at obscenely early hours for to assault the summit of snowy massifs like that of Mount Everest, before the weather degrades. Those guys are nuts. And we brethren of the smoke have our own Mount Everest. Often times hailed the most difficult, most ornery, and cantankerous cut of meat in our craft to tame. The beef brisket.
Now brisket comes from the front chest of the cow, and at it’s best is an unruly cut of meat, stubborn, yet highly favored by the skilled pit master. The thrill is in the journey, concerning brisket. Like mountaineers, we do it because “it’s there” I suppose. But if done right, it is also one of the most savory plunders in the smokey arts. Very satisfying, in both tummy and spirit. A true test of your pitmanship, or lack there of. And Texas pit masters have long made a living at it. They are to beef brisket what Sherpas are to Everest expeditions. Leastwise that is what they’d probably say in Texas. Those chaps love their brisket. The biggest piece of advice they might give us is that of patience. Briskets are their own beast for sure, an entity in meat, and not every one will be exactly like the other. But if your patient, and stoke your cooker full, and tweak it to 225 – 250 degrees F, well, that’s half the battle right there people. The remaining challenges dwell in the gauntlet of time. Like most good things in life, you just gotta wait for it. And wait and wait. If you’re in hurry, smoking a brisket is not the thing for you. So whilst the smoker came up to temp and stabilized, I started my brisket journey by procuring myself a big bowl of Apple Jacks for breakfast. It was going to be a long day after all, and I didn’t much need the torment of being hungry whilst waiting on a brisket. You know how it is.
Anyways, placing my cereal aside, I smeared the flat over with mustard first, then patted it down with a good smattering of Sucklebusters Competition Rub. Many a newbie to the smokey arts believes the mustard slather is for flavoring the meat, but that is rank folly. In point of fact, we challenge any of you to actually taste the mustard whence the cook is done. You can’t. Nobody can. The reason we do it really, is so our rub has a good surface to stick to. A bonding agent, if you will. You can skip the mustard step altogether too if you wish, and your rub will stick good enough. But we were after a generous bark on this beast later on down the road, and the mustard kind of seems to help with that. Many a brisket purest however, forego the rub all together, and let the full flavor of the meat do the talking. Just salt and a little pepper. And that works too. What ever your pit master instincts are nudging you to do, comply, and let it be well with the soul.
Once the cooker was up to 225 F and had stabilized with the sought-after thin, blue smoke, patron to smoldering hickory, we placed the flat on the upper grate, fat cap up. We did not trim any of the fat cap, as there wasn’t a whole lot to start with as it was. So we kept it all. Fat side up, naturally, for to harness the eternal powers of gravity married with the self-basting effect of rendering fat. Next we inserted the Maverick probe into the thickest, beefiest quadrant of the beast, taking pain not to plunge it into any globs of fat, less its readings go amuck. And that’s it folks. Put the lid back on and let her smoke. If you got things to do, like put a new roof on the house or something, might as well head out and do i tnow. It would be better , however,in our humble opinion, to take up residence in your hammock, with a lovely beverage in hand, and tarry the day away there aside your bride’s feature petunia bed. But that’s just us. Regardless, dig in for the long haul. For the brisket train ain’t arriving till, well, when the cows come home this evening. And maybe not even then. Like many a pit keeper laments, “Its done when its done“. And this is never more so, nor better represented, than with the venerable brisket.
A cool rain developed, like a summer-time treat, falling from the gray skies, and dampening the earth below. Starting slow, drop by drop, and then ebbing into something resembling the weather old Noah must have seen as he reached for his caulking gun. The tweety birds carried on despite, tweeting, and so did I. Rain jacket on, hood flipped up. I like the rain, especially when I’m BBQing. I like the mixed aromas of wet earth and wafting hickory. I like the sound of rain drops splatting over the hot, enameled lid of the smoker. I like the feeling of carrying on when most have dashed for cover. With a quality pit, you might be surprised at the degree of inclement you and your betrothed spoils can weather, nay, can thrive in, whilst the skies fall, and the tempests conspire about thee. A pit keeper is seldom keen to hang up his tongs you see, just for a mere storm cloud overhead. For there is meat to be cooked, and glory to be had, patron to the fellowship of the coals.
At 170 internal, the meat stalled. Like grid lock on a Los Angeles free way. A common phenomenon in smoking the big meats, where you start to think your thermometer isn’t working any more. But it is. The only way out of it, is to grab another beverage, and hit up your favorite easy chair. Sometimes it takes one, or maybe even two naps, for the internal temperatures to start rising again. A vicious game this brisket smoking. But you can do it!
Anyways, after about 8 hours, several of which bathed in hickory and maple smoke, the flat reached 195 internal. Most briskets start to get tender around this temperature. But not ours. It was still being ornery. Now we could have wrapped it in foil around the stall point, like many folks do, and that might have loosened things up a bit, but we were feeling rather lucky today, I guess. We felt like taking the long way around, you might say. The probe still pushed in firmly when I tested other spots, and if it were ideal, the probe would slide into the meat with strikingly little resistance. Most briskets reach optimal tenderness within the 195 – 205 range. This small window is where you have to keep an eye on your beloved meat, less it sidle off for the dark side of BBQ. Now is the time you don’t want to blow it, when you’re this close to the summit. Pull it off too soon, and you’ll have your self a nice, chewy, strap of boot leather. Over cook it, and it’s a dried out strap of boot leather. Yes, it’s a fickle beast. But one you can aptly tame with a liberal and abiding onslaught of patience.
At 225 – 250 degrees, you’re looking at probably 1 1/2 hours per pound. Whoa be it however, to the pit keeper who thinks he can cook a brisket by time alone. Nor can we rely solely on internal temperature either, as we learned with this brisket. The best test really, when you think you’re getting close, as with most BBQ , is to slice off a hunk and actually taste it. Think of it as an exercise in quality control. Your pit master privilege. A good brisket is a triumph in tenderness, wrought from seeds of patience. Victory from an unlikely beast. When our brisket hit 205 internal, it was finally tender to the probe, like a knife through a soft stick of butter, and, might I add, tasted undeniably exquisite. Satisfied with what had procured here, I thus foiled the flat and brought it inside to rest.
Resting your meat is the oft over-looked procedure of back yard BBQ. The summit is sight. By golly, you swear you’re standing on it even, with your flag in your hand. We hear you, brethren. We are giddy and hungry, and want nothing more than to tear into our plunder with a reckless abandoned. Especially after waiting the entire day long for to taste it. But old man patience has one last step to teach us. When we rest the meat, it loosens the muscle fibers up a bit. And the juices, which were once scattered from the considerable rigors of cooking flesh, redistribute now, back from whence they came, and thus flatters your end game and plate appearance with a much more savory, and juicy affair. A moist and smokey perfection. It is then, and only then, amid the lingering aroma of hickory, that the summit is officially yours. And you have earned it indeed. Amen.
Slow-hickory-smoked brisket. Oh buddy! A delicious bark, light smoke ring, moist and tender . You gotta be hungry now!
Eat it straight up, or chopped-up in a sandwich with a dob of cool coleslaw. Dang! There may be better things to eat out there…No, on second thought, I take that back. This is it!
Our fellow patron host is on vacation this week. He has traveled much this year, and as usual, he has some things to report from the field. Like when he visited Arizona earlier this spring, and discovered the Dip Lady. Or when he was up in the wilds of northern Minnesota a few weeks back, and won the great 2013 Burger Throw Down there, with his pine-apple topped blue cheese jerk burger. This week he finds himself in Door County, Wisconsin, a lovely tendril of real estate patron to a mid-west sort of paradise. He’s loitering in a quaint country cottage there, and reports back to us his latest supper from the grill. The man is clearly on vacation.
There are times when your mind needs to slow down. When your body needs respite, and life just needs to take a little break. A small cottage in the middle of Door County, Wisconsin, is just a place to do such things. Though the six-hour drive may seem long, pulling into the driveway there is the moment when the cares of this world seem to leave. When life, work, and responsibilities back in Minneapolis begin to disappear. Though I’m not going to write about my worries and cares, there are a few things I can honestly say allow me to let the worries of the world leave for a few hours. And that happens usually when I’m cooking, and mostly when I’m cooking for other people. Which was one of my few responsibilities while spending six quick days in Door County, Wisconsin.
Pork chops are this evening’s canvas for the variety of flavors I’m able to add to them. Mustard, cracked pepper, salt, and brown sugar to start, and finished the it all off with a medium baste of bbq sauce.
Ahh, this evening’s “chef-d’oeuvre”. A BBQ glazed pork chop with a fresh garden salad. Oven baked potatoes topped with sour cream and chives. I only heard a few choice words during dinner. Allot of yums, mmmms, and a couple of wows. I walked away knowing the lack of communication was a compliment.
We are men, and we eat meat. Not that that we require meat every day or anything, but when we do, we want it to be worthy of the wages that beset our colon, not to mention our pocket book. When the day has ebbed long, evening shadows breaking, and we waddle through the kitchen door, pekid and of trembling legs from a day’s long labor, are we not secretly hoping for a big, thick, and decidedly juicy steak, plopped on a platter, juices oozing, sided with a plentiful allotment of potatoes? You’re darn right we are. We are men! We will never turn down a steak, so long as as our doctor is not in the room. Even women get this way from time to time, deliriously entombed in the heady thralls of meat lust. And we are not to analyze why, but instead to procure a succulent T-Bone or the like in short fashion. Yes indeed, there are some days in a pit keeper’s life menu where he must at once, and savagely so maybe, abandon all fanciful marinades and intricate rubs, and get down to the primal business of just putting meat to flame, and worry of nothing else. On days like this, and your body will tell you when, nothing quite so hits the spot better, than a big steak, and a lovely side of potatoes. That is all we need. Man fuel at its most basic. And hunger shall be our spice.
With meager fanfare, let us then lay meat to flame, and declare that it is good. An appetizer of chicken wings to start, just because. Then a thick T-Bone perfectly seared ought to do, surrounded in love by a starchy congregation of potatoes. Spuds rubbed first in olive oil, and seasoned lightly with a little salt, and a little pepper. Placed in kindly order over direct heat. And the steak, oh that beloved cut of beef that we have longed for so long, of all the things we cook on the pit here, this one holds a special place. I shall not regale you with a litany of promising spice and marinade, because in point of fact, there are none. Not for steak. Oh people do, and have a dear old time I know. But of all the meats in the grilling arts, I think I like to keep steak the simplest. Just a dash of garlic and and a touch of onion salt, and nothing more, seared in smokey perfection over a hardwood fire. Dang! Good meat will do the talking, by and far, if we would just get out of its way.
You could get a whole lot fancier, but nothing will hit the spot more keenly, nor lobby for a man’s fuel so feverishly, than fire grilled T-bone steak and potatoes. We are men you see. And if this is all we had, it would be alright. Amen.
This was sermon on the mount type of stuff. Indeed, I decided, right then and there that I was going to give it another try. I was going to smoke something! First thing was to get some wood chips.I eyed with intent, my wife’s sculptured flower beds, with their mounds of wood chips. Little brother cautioned against that. He did not say why, but like a parent with a questioning child just said… “Because I said so.”
I got within twenty feet of my Lilac bush before I heard him holler “Stop”! Like he would to a dog running into a busy street.
Likewise, when I picked up a Maple tree branch from my front yard, left over debris from winter storms, I glanced furtively over at brother. His eyes were closed, his chin was sunk to his chest in dispare, slowly shaking his head back and forth.I guess I was not impressing my teacher too much…At this point Little Brother stood up, glanced around and stated flatly, “I gotta go”.And that was that. I was on my own again.I could tell that my brother was a little bit displeased with my lack of attention to his teachings, so I was going to do something about it. I would go to the store and buy some of those dad-burned wood chips. I would get wood with a label on it, so that next time he cornered me,and wanted to know what the heck I was smoking, I could tell him!Fifteen minutes later,I pushed through the door of the hardware store like a gunman walking into an old western saloon. I stopped for a moment, studying the room and the sauntered over to where the barbecue grills were sitting in all their glory. I casually lifted a lid here and there , checking things out, trying to look cool while searching for wood chips. Golly, there was a lot of paraphernalia for smoking. There were four different kinds of thermometers, and half a dozen tongs to choose from. Then along the bottom shelf I found the wood chips.I found a lot of wood chips. I had no idea there were so many different kinds or what they were even used for. Pecan, Hickory, Apple, Peach, Grape, Mesquite, Cherry and I thought about that branch in my yard when I read the last one, Maple. About then a young gal came over to me, one of the clerks at the store, and asked me if I needed help. I glanced up from my kneeling position at the wood chip shelf, and asked if she might have a preference for one kind wood over the other.
“Oh my,” she stated, “that is way beyond me…I have no idea.”
The girl at the cash register was of the same mind, “Wow” she said, “You one of those guys who can use smoke?”
I stood up a little straighter, a little bit of pridefulness swelling in my soul. I was enjoying this.
“OH, I like to dabble a bit” I said.
I walked out of there with my chest pushed out,apple chips in hand and pride in my stride. Yup, I was one of those guys. I was on my way to becoming a patron of the pit.Back home I was excited to get the little Smoky Joe into action. I placed my seven pieces of charcoal gingerly onto the residual pile from the last cook, and lit up. I watched the flames for a while, mesmerized by the aroma of the smoke wafting out from the little grill. Back in the kitchen I prepared for the event to come. I had nice thick Pork Chops laid out on the cutting board and started to put the seasoning on, or “Rub” as my brother would say. I gently padded and rubbed the meat, trying to emulate my little brothers technique. I really did not know what this was all about, Me? I prefer to pat and rub my plump belly after I eat the meat. But then I respect little brother. After all, he has a Blog, I do not…While all this fondling of meat was going on, I had dutifully been soaking my apple chips in a bowl of water. I will tell you this, they looked just like the chips from the wife’s flower garden. I did the obvious calculation and discovered that it would cost well over a thousand bucks to do her flower beds with this exotic wood. Lucky for me, I only needed a small handful accomplish my needs.Wood on the coals, meat on the grill. I was doing it. I set the little lid on the little Weber and waited, soon puffs of smoke started rising through the holes in the lid. Alright! I sat there in wonder, the magic of the smoke drifting around my camper and driveway. I was surprised that people were not stopping along the street in front of my house to witness this extraordinary event.
An hour later, after shutting down the little grill, I brought my prized meat into the house, the perfume of the apple wood smoke lingering in the air. Gosh, this was good stuff. Brother would be proud of me. I had done a good thing here! I laid miraculous chops alongside the chopped potatoes that I had cooked in foil down in the coals during the cook. The presentation was completed with a dappling of steamed peas and carrots nestled into the grouping.
I work second shift, and as such rarely am home for supper, but I am the cook of the house and I cook for my bride almost every day. When she comes home, there is some kind of supper for her in the refrigerator, waiting for her to heat up. Today was no different, I placed cellophane over the plate and placed my prized meal on the refrigerator shelf like I was setting up an entry for a state fair competition. I would have the left overs when got home from work.
While I was at work, I could smell the distinct aroma of the apple wood,still clinging to my clothes, off and on the whole night. I wondered if anyone else could pick up on the scent. Each time I picked up the fragrance, I would get a flashback, seeing the smoke puffing out of the grill, the smell of the kitchen as I put the meal together. Man, when the bell rang and my shift was over I could not get home fast enough, I was ready to taste the spoils of my toils.
My wife was fast asleep when I got home, but I hardly cared, I was like a kid at Christmas, I had been thinking about those pieces of pork for nine hours. I went straight to the fridge and swung open the door. My mouth was watering as I stared blankly into the empty space that once held my long waited supper.
Nothing was there! I glanced feverishly around the kitchen, what the heck! Where was my supper? I looked in the freezer, and finally in the sink, and there found two dishes, remnants of meat stuck to the dirty edge of one plate. A stray green pea off to the side of the other. It became obvious that my supper was gone. I started at the plates, lifted one gently and took a whiff. Ah…the smell was still there, the fragrance of success. I set the plate back into the sink, leaned my hands on the edge of the counter, and smiled. The loss of my supper was also my gain. It meant that I had passed a test of sorts. I had smoked meat, and it was good.
Good enough that my bride ate it all.
I was now…a “Patron of the Pit”.
What a pleasant thing it is to walk past your patio door, and see your old grill out there, puffing away in a cloud of hickory. To smell the wood smoke in the air, and know something tasty is developing, cooking, and residing just out yonder, under that beat up lid. It soothes a man, I must say. It is well with his soul. For there is just something about putting meat to flame and cooking it there, whilst the fresh air encircles you, that for a while at least, we are content and in need of very little else. And maybe that’s why, come to think of it, we like to cook slowly around here, if for any other reason than to extend the moments – these the fellowship of the coals. It is our twinkle, every time we light the pit, and watch the smoke curl there.
Now every man I ever knew, and a lot of women too, if there was one thing they were good at on the grill, it was big cheese burger. And rightly so, for that’s what most folk start off with, in their formative, teeth-cutting years at the grill front. My eldest brother has long-held to the tactic, when visiting a restaurant for the first time, that the safest, and most efficient stroke you can play there is to try their cheeseburger. For they are not likely first off to screw it up, but more over, in a gastronomic gumshoe sort of way, you can tell a great deal about the rest of their fare, their cook, and their establishment as a whole, but from the mere details revealed in their humble hamburger. How much pride have they taken in preparing it? What is the grade of beef? Do they bother to toast the bun? How much did it cost? Likewise on the grill. It is a pit junkie’s thumb print, the hamburger. And everybody who has flipped a patty has one. Every finger print is a little different it seems, and like a thumb into an ink pad, it is our most basic impression onto the BBQ arena. Want to get an idea of a pit keeper’s prowess, consider first his cheeseburger. Thus, and with a good bed of coals, let us make it a favorable one at least.
You can do a lot of things with hamburgers. Stuff them full of various odds and ends, from bell peppers and corn to blue cheese or hot sauce. Some cast iron constitutions do all of the above at once, and wager it a good day. But if you have supper guests coming over, as we did this evening, and their palates you are not yet acquainted with, it is a wise move for the pit master to keep the meat simple. Provide a cornucopia of toppings and condiments on the side, and let the unknown taste buds hence arriving paint their own masterpiece. And that’s just what we did. Started with 80/20 ground beef, which if you haven’t heard, is the optimal ratio for hamburgers. Leaner blends tend to fall apart on the grill, and lack a little less flavor. Anyways, before the patties were even formed, I worked in to the beef, an envelope of Lipton Onion Soup Mix to give it some flavor. Formed some rather massive patties, half-pound colon busters if you will. Hard to tell in the pictures, but easily appreciated in person. Placed them on the grate opposite the hot coals, and pressed a golf ball-sized depression into the center of each one to thwart the often occurring “curl”, an unsightly malady that burgers sometimes do. The depression punch is purely a cosmetic move for the end game. Next, and to add a nice touch you don’t often get with a hamburger, I added a couple chunks of hickory to the coals, for a pleasant smokey tint to the beef. Nothing like a smoke ring on your cheeseburger to set a man right!
You can leave the burgers over indirect heat the whole way, tho some prefer to do it all right over the coals, hot and fast like. It’s up to your pit master instincts. But one thing you should always take the time to do is to toast your buns. And get the best buns the bakery has, or better yet, make your own. And one of the best ways to toast them is to butter each half, and plunk them on the hot side of the grill. Tend to them like a needy relationship. Like a puppy keen to poop on your new carpet. Check them every few seconds with your tongs. For they can burn easily, and all your hard labors might soon go up in flame. But nothing quite so brings your burger to the next level than a perfectly toasted bun. Man. And never has a dinner guest not appreciate this simple, yet effective effort.
In the end, each person had a 1/2 pound Colby Jack cheese burger with the works, larger than their face, and towering off the plate like a meat monolith. Mercy! Basic grilling 101. Filling. Tasty. And an American favorite for sure. It is the cheeseburger. Your pit keeper’s thumb print.
Through the cold and dark the smoke shall rise
a curling blue mist that burns in the eyes,
Stoked coals heat the patient Patron
with pit scented fleece and a dirty apron,
The smells of spices thicken with rain
the longer he waits the temperature gains,
Hickory heats and odors his jacket
the pit brings peace from everyday racket,
He quietly waits as the rain drips on
and spring ushers out a snow filled lawn,
A flaming pit through its yearly fashion
the ash pan fills with a fiery passion.
“Grill on” – POTP
Twilight in February. I strike a match, and put flame to the political section, which resided nicely crumpled in the bottom of the charcoal chimney. The initial rush of smoke was strong, as it curled up into the fading light. A satisfied contentment was in the air as I tarried there at the pit, hands in my smoking jacket, admiring how the moon hung in the eastern sky, and how its soft ,blue hue washed over my many snow piles, shoveled high, and seasoned in ashes blown. A pleasant evening to grill, by and far. But then when isn’t it, really. Lets head inside then, and see what’s for supper.
Deep in the recesses of the freezer, where men seldom tread, I found a bag of winglets which all but begged for attention. I was reminded of some popular sports bars in the area, where upon I would patron on occasion, who would specialize in these sort of wings. And they were pretty good wings as wings go, tho nothing remarkable, but a staple still you could count on in the heady thralls of meat lust. But I grow weary of those places, with their crowds of people and their sticky tables. And their overly loud ambiance, of which you can nary hear anybody you’re talking to anyways. I guess I’m getting older. I aspire higher than that. Thus, but to create their choice appetizer from the quiet and tranquil quarters of my pit, kissed gently by a moon beam, well, that was more my style tonight. As most nights are I guess.
After the winglets had thawed, and being the creature of efficiency that I am, I just left them in the bag for the seasoning process. I dusted them with great abandoned with some Louisiana Grill Sweet Heat, and shook the bag around like the shake and bake commercials of old. It felt good. Almost therapeutic A lovely technique for getting that rub everywhere it ought to go. And by golly, I shook it good. The rub was actually a bi-product of haste, go figure, as I mistakenly clicked on it, and the inter web minions thus sent it to my door step, for better or for worse. Turned out to be pretty tasty, however, and I think I might even order some more now. At any rate, the wings are ready, so let’s go put them on the grill. Let us put meat to flame!
Over direct heat to start, nice and hot, like sending your soldiers to boot camp, to sear them up, and make them a little crunchy on the skin. After boot camp, lets tuck these winglets aside over the all-important in-direct heat, a forgiving technique all aspiring grill masters seldom can go wrong with. Smoke wood optional, but if you have it, why not. I always seem to have scraps of hickory laying about, so that’s what I used. Also, in my freezer foray I happened upon some shrimp, or least-wise I think it was shrimp. Yeah, it was shrimp alright, of which I added to the cook at the last-minute, to broaden if you will, the meat diversity on my plate. Giving equal ingesting opportunity to the things of the sea, as well as what flirts in the farm yard.
Next step was to put the lid on and leave the thing alone for a while, to infuse some of that smokey flavor into the meat, that we all know and love. A wonderful process involving the procuring of yourself a lovely beverage from the ice box, and taking up residence in the nearest easy chair, whilst overseeing the grill puff away in fading light. Milky moonbeams on hickory smoke, ah, these are the simple pleasures patron to the cook. Why it is we do what we do, forsaking the stove top for the hobo lifestyle, under the shimmering stars, and over the open flame. Ambiance no crowded sports bar will ever match.
During the last 10 minutes or so, I basted the winglets in some Sweet Baby Rays, and hit them a little more with some direct heat, to caramelize the sugars a tad. Man! Then proceeded to plate up, and dine in the acute absence of the sports bar scene, whilst basking in the relative tranquility patron to the pit. Amen.
Repairing on the couch with lovely beverage in hand, I muse over the weather forecast. The man on the screen says a wintry tempest brews, and a prominent Canadian chill is soon to descend upon us, with no mercy. And the winds will howl, and the temperatures will feel akin to twenty below. Squirrels will fall from trees, and children will openly weep. I crossed my legs like a gentleman of leisure, gazing into the warm glow of the fire-place, whilst listening the weatherman banter, and the cold sleet tap like ball bearings over a frozen window pane. I could almost hear the mercury sink for cover in its fragile, glass tube. Like any opportunist, I knew this was some fine weather to do a little baking. To partake in some quality ambiance. In point of fact, I already had some bread going out on the grill!
Let it be said, because it’s true, anything you can cook in the house, you can also do on the grill. Take bread for instance. Once thought to be the sole domain and prize of a good oven, we keepers of the pit have been puttering on such matters, and are here to tell you, good bread can be baked right along side your steaks and chicken, if you have a mind to. And why wouldn’t you! Bread is good, and besides that, the lady folk all seem to appreciate it, and take to it with consistent good cheer. Say what you will, but that is no small thing.
First off is the dough. I’ll admit, I’m a man, and I can’t bake bread. I have tried before, the end result resembles something rather like a stale, old shoe. And once upon a time, along with many menfolk I presume, I had given up all together of ever having the sufficiency of skill for baking worthy bread. And I was OK with that. I’ll stick to steaks, and leave the bread to the prettier folk. But then one day, on a visit to my elder brother’s abode, everything changed. I stepped into his house and was greeted by a wondrously pleasant aroma I don’t often associate with my elder brother – that of fresh-baked bread. And he was procuring loaves upon beautiful loaves of it from his faithful oven. A big grin on his face, a tightened belly, and mass quantities of bread lay steaming at the end of a bright sunbeam. Well, he had cracked the code it appeared, and after a sampling, a passing of the knowledge was in order, and of course, I felt compelled then to adapt it for the grill.
The bread I speak of is from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A day, an excellent book that swept the nation a few years back. I’m quite sure many of you already know about that, but some of you may not. If you’re in the minority and fancy yourself a bread lover, but inept at making it, then you’re in for a lovely treat. Instead of regurgitating some one else’s brilliance, let me instead link you to the masters themselves. This short video will tell you everything you need to know about making this wonderful bread. Then we will show you how to work it on the grill.
In case you didn’t catch the master recipe, you’re going to want to hang on to this for some future grilling adventures here at the Patrons of the Pit. We have but just begun to show you what is possible, where the bread maker and the grill master meet in stride.
- 3 cups lukewarm water
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons granulated yeast (1 1/2 packets)
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons kosher or other coarse salt
- 6 1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour, measured with the scoop-and-sweep method
*We have found, through extensive experimentation, that 5 1/2 cups of flour makes for a considerably softer bread, and though the dough is trickier to work with, it does at least save some flour.
Adapting it to the grill is easy too. Every thing about this bread is easy. Now the grill we’re using this cook is your basic Weber kettle type, on the assumption that’s what most people have. If your working the BGE or other ceramic egg types, odds are since you have one of those, you already know how to set it up for baking. If your working a barrel type grill, the concept we will share isn’t too far off. You’re pit master instincts will serve you well. Anyways, while ideally you’ll want your grill at about 450 degrees, it’s not that big of deal if it’s not. Employ your considerable skills to get it close enough. Next, if you like a crunchy crust on your bread, lay it directly on the grate, in-direct of course. For a more easy-going crust, lay the dough on a pizza stone or in a cast iron pan, and again, over in-direct heat. A pan of water in the grill is also supposed to lend to crisper crust, but having done it both ways, neither seem to make much difference, so I usually just go with out. Put on the lid to create an oven-like atmosphere, and proceed to go draw yourself a lovely beverage. As it bakes, check in on it from time to time, and rotate it 180 degrees at least once for even baking. At 450 degrees, it should take about 30 minutes. This particular loaf took 45 minutes, none the worse for the journey. You’re looking for an internal temperature of 200 degrees. After some practice, you’ll know exactly when it’s done by its hollow sound, with but a mere strike of the finger upon its golden crust.
Artisan bread on the grill. It will amaze your family, and astound the women in your life too. Womenfolk like bread you see, don’t ask me why, they just do. They are drawn to it, and irrevocably so. To its soft center, shielded by a firm crust. To its deposits of guilty carbohydrates inherent within. They just like bread is all. And if they see a man make it, well, you quickly become their hero. And you’ll just have to deal with it, by and by.
I know, a meatless blog by The Ministers of Meat. It ain’t right. Rest assured tho there was chicken grilled also during this cook, and that this bread makes for amazing, robust, meat sandwiches if one so chooses. Anyways, gentlemen, if you want to impress your lady, try baking them a loaf of home-made artisan bread. Better yet, go do it on the grill, and you’ll both be happy ever after, I think…
As the winter tempest barrels across this mighty country, I stoke the coals in the grill, banking them to the side of the old kettle. Plumes of heat bellow forth and feel good on my face, and my old wool smoking jacket feels “just right” as I place a small piece of hickory on the fire, which dutifully ignites, as if on queue to a higher calling. Hands to my pockets, I pause momentarily, to fancy the fire some, and to consider the day. To inhale that cool winter air, and declare that the moment is well here at the pit. It’s only like 30 degrees, which compared to what it has been, well, I may as well be grilling on the white sand beaches of Waikiki. Balmy! But a wall of snow approaches steadfastly from the East, as it sweeps across the northern states, leaving a wreckage of automobiles marooned in it’s wake. There are times when it is good to leave the house, and times when it is not. Times to build a fire and hunker down, as they say. We Patrons of the Pit, we know just what to do. It is our second nature. Thus, on the grill tonight: Bone-in Chicken Breasts, and some Bacon Cheese Onion Buds. As my fellow patron is fond of saying, “Bam!”
Start with the onion first, one of them big onions bout the size of an ostrich head, as it needs about an hour on the grill. Slice it like a blooming onion, or in a checker board pattern, going almost, but not quite all the way through. You want the onion, like so many rock bands we’ve grown to love, to just stay together. Next order of business is to dash it with a smattering of your favorite seasoning. I used some Cajun flavors I had laying about, but you can use what ever. Then lay two or three strips of bacon on top, because bacon is good, and should never be considered otherwise. Gently set the onion monument on the grill, over in-direct heat of course. Rotate once or twice in the next hour, at the discretion of your pit master instincts and beverage levels. The bacon will of course baste your onion as only bacon can.
Twenty minutes into the cook, put on the chicken breasts. I used the succulent bone-in sort, which renders the meat with more flavor I believe. The rub this time around was of the home-made variety, a sweet and salty concoction with just enough heat to make it interesting. Anyways, I thus dusted the breasts liberally and then seared them first over direct heat, to crisp them up, and then tucked them back by the onion for the rest of the cook. Lid on, dampers cracked nicely, and a light blue smoke, patron to smoldering hickory, wafting into a gray, Minnesota sky, with blizzards, and white-out looming distinctly on the horizon. It don’t get much more pleasant than that.
The last step, after about of hour, is to chop up the bacon and sprinkle it back over the onion with a whole lot of cheddar cheese! Glory! And pass the cardiologist!
Hickory Smoked Chicken Breasts and Bacon Cheddar Onion Buds hot off the grill.
No finer way to hunker down for a winter storm than that. Bam!
Why is it when us Patrons of the Pit become giddy as a kid on Christmas when we know a snow storm is in our forecast? Why is it we contemplate our next meat choice in the grocery store as the weatherman predicts a cold and heavy snow. Why do we bundle up and head out into the tundra as we know the rest of the world stays inside? As the winter wonderlands blow across our patios we hold our tongs in hand waiting to add another chunk of hickory to the flame. Our neighbors gaze out the window and question what we are up to next. Our wives sip hot coco and smile knowing that they will get a meal out of our insane obsessions. While the whole time we sit in peace. As snowflakes falling on our stocking hats and ice crystals collect on our whiskers. We breathe in and out, taking in as much of the aromatic mixture of smoke, meat and spice rubs. It’s natural…it’s poetic.
Yes, to all of those affected by the storm this weekend. Let your grill smoke away. Let your meat slowly fall apart on the hot grate, when only 1/16th of an inch away, Winter hammers the lid of your smoker with its fierce cold. When you sit at your dinner table, fork in hand and BBQ sauce in the other, smile at your accomplishments. Laugh at yourself knowing you have performed an act that most people in their right mind never would. Then eat!
Over a steaming cup of tea, I glance out the window at the pit, watching spindrift swirl off the house in a fashion suitable maybe, for the weathered, icy, flanks of Everest. The mercury gauge read a sporty 5 degrees F, but the weather man said it felt more like minus 15, and I guess believed him. You kind of have to believe him I concluded, when it feels like your parking brake is engaged when you back down the driveway in the morning, only it isn’t Yeah, it was cold out there alright. A vintage January day in Minnesota. The kind of day where you put on two or three shirts in the morning, and then you go about the business of getting dressed. I curled my toes in my warm socks, fingers cradling the hot, porcelain cup , and after a dash of consideration, I decided to do the only sensible thing I could think of – to go outside naturally, and ignite the Snow Weber!
Robert Frost postulates in his poem the virtues of world destruction either by the fire or by ice, figuring either, if we had to, would be pretty nice. I wonder tho if he ever grilled in winter, or knew that the two forces could harmonize together for the betterment of his tummy. Because they can. And so it was, with pork chops in hand, I stepped out onto the wind-swept patio, and at once my left eye lid seared tight from the keen northern wind. I love it! Tenderly I placed the two chops on the hot grate, and admired them there for a spell. The previous owners of which I’m sure knew each other back on their farm. Perhaps routinely getting together for morning slop, to discuss their lives, their hopes, and their dreams. Maybe they even aspired to make it on to this blog one day. Hmm. I shook off the thought, and dusted the chops with some Louisiana Fish Fry Cajun Seasoning instead.
After a while, and maybe even longer than that, I felt the compulsion to put the lid on, and go think about my life. Nothing quite so fine as repairing out in the yard with a 15 below cross-wind, whilst two pork chops sizzle on the snow grill. Glory! The art of winter grilling, if your wondering, is not to fight it. But to embrace it. To make the proverbial glass of lemon aid out of it. To meet it on it’s terms and not your own. That, and a degree of lunacy doesn’t hurt none either.
And supper is served, courtesy of, and inspired by:
Fire and Ice
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
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
We are men. And we are moved by meat. Don’t ask us why. We don’t know. Difficult perhaps to articulate, but easy to appreciate, whence our incisors have pierced the hallowed surface of that perfectly seared steak. Ah yes, steak. A good one will settle a restless man’s soul, and in turn draw him closer to thee, and unto his meatiest ideal. Hark, the world and it’s cares fairly ebb to a faint hush, and the pendulum of the sun at once holds stalwart in the sky, when at last we lay big meat to flame, and simply cook it there amid the rising smoke. Oh how we favor a good steak, abiding in it’s juices, sizzling quietly over a beautiful bed of coals. It moves us.
It was one of those vintage winter afternoons, under skies of sleet and falling snow, where the call of the grill was at it’s most primal. It’s most basic, I should wager. Nothing fancy today, as fancy would only ruin it. Nay, when bridled in the heady thralls of meat lust, let there just be meat on flame, and let hunger be our spice. The rest will sort itself out, by and by. For today, as in days past, we are smitten for the rib eye. The bone-in succulent sort known to send grown men into slobbering fits of idiocy. Plunk one of these down on a man’s plate, and plop a potato along side it, and he is at once and for all the world, a contented species. Gobbling quietly by himself, with no apparent no need for conversation. Like a pacifier to a new born, for a time anyways, he will require little else. Indeed, for a few fleeting minutes, and maybe even more than that, all the world is right. For let it be said, nothing is quite so efficient at setting a man straight, than grilled meat on the bone, and a fashionable side of potatoes.
So next time your looking for something simple off the grill, or have a restless man on your hands, well, ain’t too many things better suited for both, than a perfectly grilled Rib Eye, and the space in time to devour it.
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.
Dirt, rubbish, or waste matter.
Dirt….Rubbish….Waste Matter?? I’m slightly appalled at this definition of the word “muck”! Bean Muck is far from that. Though, the effect of eating too much of it could leave you feeling mucky, the dish itself is at best genius. Let me explain.
There was a time, a few years back, my Patron and I were up in the Northern bearings of the SHT. No, this is not a misspell for a foul word, it’s simply an acronym of the Superior Hiking Trail. The Superior Hiking trail is a footpath that extends the northeastern ridge line of Lake Superior for about 275 miles. It’s decorated with pine, birch, aspen, fir and cedar. On occasion you will hear the chickadees sing, the squirrels squawk and the lonely wolf howl. The breeze whistles through the pines in an airy lullaby at night, and you can get lost for days without running into your own species. Back to my point… It was the end of September, early October, and we had the itch to get out alone into the woods. Had a name for our trip, and we decided on the selfish title of Camp Glutton. We title our small adventure because we realized we had enough food to feed ourselves along with 10 other hikers that might cross our trail. So there we sat, 3 long, relaxing days cooking over a campfire. The air in our camp was thick with the odors of brats, steaks, a couple of loaves of French Bannock (story to come) and onion. My patron and I rarely go anywhere without a fresh onion. We cooked eggs for breakfast and soups for lunch. We often retreated to our camping chair and hammock, our guts full and domed high to the heavens waiting for the next round of meals.
We had made it to our last day of camp. Waking up as the sun hits our tents, stretching to the skies and hungry as bears out of hibernation. We knew we didn’t want to leave camp with food still in our packs so we got creative. I had one large can of Baked Beans and a couple of Apple Gouda brats left. My Patron pulled out of his pack an entire onion. We decided to get creative. So, over the fire the brats went. The onion diced up into small squares and the beans simmering over the flames in the pit. Once all three were done, they all ended up in the same pot. There is nothing pretty or attractive about this dish. There is no right or wrong way of making it. Why in Bean Muck you can add really whatever you want. Its Bean muck! We have flirted with the flavors of peppers, spices, honey, syrup, ground beef, and rabbit meat. There is only one key ingredient that one needs to start with and I’m sure you figured it out by now, a can of beans.
Now, the POTP cannot take credit for inventing Bean Muck. We are sure many of you others out there have been creative with your own can of beans. So let us know what some delicacies you have added to your Bean Muck. Share your secrets and lets prove that muck isn’t always dirt, rubbish or waste matter.
**WARNING** When experimenting with Bean muck make sure it’s on a weekend when you’re not around loved ones. If you do, you may find life can be lonely for a week or two. Carry on…
Dateline: January 20, 2013
Temperature: -8 degrees Fahrenheit .
Mission: Po Boys on the Grill!
That is probably what the neighbors were thinking anyway, when they glanced out their dining room window this morning and saw me yonder, tending my grill. Po boy. Poor boy indeed, having to BBQ when it’s eight degrees below the blessed zero mark. Who would be so daft to grill in temperatures so obscene, they ask, as they shake their head, and sip their fancy coffee. Clearly they have never made the acquaintanceship of this blog.
The Po Boy is a shredded beef sandwich invented and forged in Louisiana, patron to my southern roots, where true BBQ is not only a given, but a way of life. We have been in a sandwich mood here at the pit lately, so why not pay homage to the homeland of my kin down yonder, and do up one of the finer culinary contributions of the south, the Po Boy sandwich, on the grill of course. Granted if a Louisianan were to have stepped out on my patio today, and felt that bone-stabbing cold, they surely would have locked their eyeballs to the tip their nose, and keeled over in a fashion suitable for a coronary thrombosis. Best to let us northern boys handle this one, mates, and show you how it’s done this side of zero. Life at the edge, of fire and ice.
The journey began with a lightly seasoned 4 pound chuck roast, of which was dotingly seared over a hot bed coals, a couple of minutes per side. Since it was colder than Frosty’s carrot out there, I made the fire extra big, and employed the minion method to boot, a tactic essential for this epic, arctic cook. Then get yourself a pot for the roast, (not your wife’s good cake pan) along with some lightly sautéed onions and garlic. Lastly, flood it with a rather copious quantity of beef broth, enough ideally, to cover the meat. Position the pot indirect, put on the lid, tip your hat to a job well done, and make way for your nearest beverage of choice.
The next step is not to be in a hurry. These big roasts take time. Time for the internal temps to crest high enough to start breaking down the connective tissues and collagen, and enter the food realm better known as savory. You want this meat to fall apart easily. In point of fact, old Po Boy folklore has it, the meat should fall apart with a” hard stare”. And that’s easy to do if you take your time. There is no haste in a pit master’s mojo. For we know the world spends fast enough as it is, thus let our meat at least, tarry back in the quiet eddies of life. Back with the slowly ebbing sun in a pastel sky, and the gentle smoke which rises serenely from our pits.
Eight degrees below the zero mark ain’t exactly the optimal weather for loitering pit side, but it turns out if you can see your pit from inside the house somewhere, well, that’s good enough. And since the football playoffs were on the TV, it didn’t take much coaxing to take up residence in the man chair, and while away a few hours, whilst the grill puffed away in the deep, penetrating cold. Oh how I reveled at the intense labors of being a pit master, with my feet at the fireplace, swaddled in blankets, my eyes drooping on and off, and the football game bantering in the back ground. Eventually, after some fashion, I even woke up, with a trail of drool spilling out of my left lip pit. Glory, this is the life!
After about 5 hours, the meat was done, and falling apart like an alcoholic at a moonshine conference. No hardened stare necessary. It was then time to toast the French bread. Apparently you will be frowned upon if you use anything other than French bread for your Po Boy, so be warned, less you stand at the receiving end of some unruly Cajun ridicule. So French bread it was. We put a little mayonnaise on the bread, and packed it full of the savory meat, and a little lettuce for good measure to suit the lady folk. Man! There are plenty of high-end sandwiches in the world, and let it be said, this is one of them.
Next time you’re in the mood for something different, and have a little time, try grilling up some Beef Po Boy Sandwiches. Subzero temperatures optional.
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.
Have you ever happened upon a piece of meat that should come with it’s own cardiac unit! A mass of flesh so prominent that folks are slowed by it’s gravitational field. That cameras are drawn, and grown men weep with happiness. Meat so big that it’s effects ripple into the stock market, and Wall Street, and pronounced plunger sales. Such a hunk of meatiness was spotted in the Minneapolis area over Christmas. Photos were snapped. Respects were paid. And then of course, after a moment of silence, it was eaten. Amen.
Every once in a while, we have to do something useful around here, so here is short review of something every pit keeper should have.
If your just getting into the BBQ arts, and are wondering where in the heck point your wallet, here is a worthy place to start. The smoke zone , or “sweet spot” for low and slow BBQ is somewhere between 225 to 250 – the choice temperature to keep your cooker at, and this gadget will help you monitor your smoker for that temperature, and much more.
The Maverick RediChek Wireless Remote Thermometer. There are lots of things similar out there, and some are nicer, but this is the one we use. So we know from vast experience that they work well and because serious BBQ is nothing to goof around with, we can therefore recommended them with impunity.
It’s a two piece affair: One transmitter, and one receiver. It also comes with two thermal probes- one for your meat and one for your cooker.
Tip – When inserting a probe into meat, ensure that it is indeed in meat, and not by mistake, in a fat cap or next to a bone, as such folly will only give you inaccurate readings. The other probe should be positioned in the smoker at grate level obviously, because that’s where the vittles are.
Once you have the probes in place and your smoker up and running, turn on the transmitter and receiver, and they should link up in a couple of seconds. The transmitter stays out at the pit, while the receiver shall accompany you by your recliner, whilst you repair with a lovely beverage and watch the big game. The nifty part of this is you can set various alarms on the receiver to alert you of a gamut of events, should you fall asleep in said recliner, such as: if smoker temps wander too high or too low, or perhaps the most lovely alert of them all, in which it chimes in due accord whence your meat is done. Be prepared for Pavlov-like reactions with this alert.
The Maverick Redi Chek also boasts a 100 foot range, of which I suppose is possible if there is no sheet rock, wood, glass, or furniture between you and your pit. We just have not found this range to be accurate in real world use. It’s more like 25 feet realistically, which tho, as it turns out, is well enough for most people.
All-in-all, a good little unit at a reasonable price to get you started in the smokey arts.
Another tip: Note what happens when you leave your Maverick too close to your pit. Whups. To its credit however, it still works like the day I got it. Hats off to a good product.
People who read this article also read : The Long Burn : The Method of Jim Minion
Editor’s PostScript: Well, it’s been four years since we’ve done this review, and we’re pleased to say that the RediChek ET-73 is still working just fine, save for it’s hemorrhaged plastic case indecent. These things happen. Regardless, it has stood the test of time for our uses, and that says something at least. If there has been any weakness with it, it has been the range. I do wish for a unit that would transmit from the patio all the way up to master bedroom for those all night smokes. That was always asking too much of the ET-73. It is line of sight with that one. That being said, there are still better units on the market these days. If we were buying today, we’d probably go with something like the ThermoPro TP20. It has a little more under the hood, if you will, and well, it’s orange! Plus, it boasts a range of 300 feet. I’ll have to see that to believe it tho.
This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.
Though the snow may be cold
And the wind chills the air
Associates gather to bend their wit
These two logs have held the cheeks
Of Patrons of the Pit
Conversations of brisket cuts
And ribs that drip with flavor
To watch your cronies eat with joy
And sacrifice dietary behavior
The culinary dares may bet and fly
To see who alters the plan
The recipe changes from bloke to bloke
Yet still fill the greasy drip pan
Though our pits don’t always look the same
The outcome still comes together
To give your smoke some bragging rights
Because you have smoked in astringent weather…
No, I do not speak of the kind of smoking jacket you’re probably thinking of. The purple-velvet sort worn by gentlemen of high leisure, who own a humidor, and pace about in front of their fireplace with a pipe in hand, attempting to look thoughtful. No, the jacket I speak of is more humble than that, but equally as enchanting. And if you tend the grill year-around, and live in the colder places, you probably have one too. Indeed, it is the jacket we dawn most when favoring our spoils over a beautiful bed of coals, pit-side, amid the rising wood smoke. It is our smoking jacket, and it is well with our souls.
My go to grilling jacket is a thick, red and black, checkered affair, and made entirely of wool. It has just enough pockets to hold the various spices allotted for the cook, a book of matches, and a couple of cold hands. But what it holds best, is smoke. Something about the woolen fibers which absorb and record a tapestry of cooks in the out-of-doors. Grill-side gems I am reminded of every time I slip into its heavy sleeves, and I smell the aromas patron to the good life, and the memories procured there. It all tarries quietly in the smoke.
Memories of a thousand and one heady cook outs, on crisp, autumn days and frigid, starry nights. Of blizzards, and Christmas hams. And tho I never wear it in the warmer months, it even reminds me gently of Memorial Day cook-outs, and long Fourth of July smokes, beneath a balmy sun. Oh yes, if smell is linked with memories, and science has proven this to be so, then a smoking jacket proper beholds a lifetime supply of them. A cornucopia of moments, doing something we love, preserved in smoke. And tho I may not have the fanciest smoker, or the biggest grill, nor the covetous meat budget of some other guys, even so, every time I put on the smoking jacket, and smell the gloried past upon it, I know that I am favored, and a considerably a rich man. Amen.