Location: Pond-Side Pit
Temperature: 81 degrees F
Whilst waiting on a batch of coals to mature, the sun waned over the roof tops, its golden beams glittering over the pond here by the pit. A doable humidity dallied in the air, and the tweety birds flirted about in the alders and cottonwoods. Lazy clouds of cotton idle in a sky of pastel blue. I positioned myself in my BBQ chair of leisure, and tuned in the Twins game on the pit radio. One of the finer joys of summer grilling, is listening to my beloved baseball team travel the country-wide, and play ball. Granted, they generally lose 2 out of 3, but that’s OK by me. They add to the BBQ ambiance if you know what I mean. An acoustic wallpaper of sorts, to blend with the soft banter of nature.
The coals in the charcoal chimney are getting there. They are in no hurry it seems, which is fitting for our style of the BBQ sciences. No hurries, which off-hand and by-the -way, is the attitude also of the lonely Blue Heron down by the pond. He was in the middle of supper when I sat down, and like many a bird tends to do for some reason, had his spoils clamped firmly in its bill. Tighter than Bill Gate’s vault I would wager. He stood there, backed by tall weeds leaning in the breeze, for what seemed minutes on end, with nary a motion usually reserved for dinner bells and the like. Other than when these fellows harpoon their intended quarry with the fierceness and accuracy of a Samurai warrior, they are one of the slowest, most graceful moving birds I have seen. Deftly stalking the shallows no faster it seems, than the sun arcs yonder through the heavens. I am always and quite dutifully impressed by the innate patience they seem to harbor for their craft. No hurries. A motto undoubtedly suited for the BBQ arts as well.
By the time the Heron commenced with choking down his fish, my coals were ready. I thus banked them to one side of the old kettle grill as usual, for some in-direct cooking. Tonight on the grill, we have something special. Something sure to sooth the savage sweet tooth. Homemade Blueberry Peach Cobbler. Adapted from a little ditty we found at Man Cave Meals, a great site if you’re looking for more on the art and zen of BBQ. There are a lot of words we might use to describe this fruity delight, but “Yum!” about says it all. Let us then get after it, for the patience, I must admit, resides better now with the Blue Heron. This is good eating!
Mix up the batter accordingly:
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 Tablespoon baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup of milk
In an 8 x 8 pan, or roughly that, and over a half-stick of melted butter, pour the batter gently. Resist, by and far, the urge to mix it all up. Just let the batter mingle for the sides of the pan. Advancing at its own good speed.
Bring to a boil in a sauce pan the following:
- 2 cups of peach slices
- 1/2 cup blueberries
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice
Pour this beloved mixture of sweetened fruit over thy batter with a gentle, yet well-meaning hand. Then, mostly for culinary poeticness, lightly dash some cinnamon over the whole ensemble, and place the pan opposite the hot coals.
Go head and put the lid on and do what you do best! Grab a lovely beverage and tarry in the good ambiance patron to the pit. You’ve had a long day no doubt, and you sort of owe it to yourself, don’t you think, to kick your feet up and relax a little. To feel the summer breeze whistle through your up-turned toe-pits. To partition a little time off the clock today, and let up on the accelerator pedal of life. To boldly let the world spin with out you for a while. For life goes by fast enough as it is, so let us not rush it of all places at the pit, doing that which we feverishly love. For this is your opus now. This grill. This evening. The aromas of baking cobbler. The way the sunbeams slant over the green grass. The moment is yours to seize if you want it. All you need do is sit there, and watch it all unfold. No hurries people. No hurries.
In about 45 minutes, or when the batter has browned over a touch, or when it passes the toothpick test adequate to thee – it is done. It’s also always good, when baking via this method, to turn the pan 180 degrees mid-way through the cook, for even cooking. I brought the wondrous dessert inside, and my what lovely aromas tarried with it. Served hot with whipped cream, or better yet, a scoop of your favorite ice cream – glory be!!! A tastier dessert from the grill nor even the oven too, you shall not soon divine. Hot Blueberry Peach Cobbler off the grill. Like that old heron with his fish, there may be more yummy things in life, but right now, we can’t think of any. And getting there was half the fun. Amen.
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!
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”.
A female Cardinal lit on the bird feeder yonder, pecking at the seed. The sun hung like a fiery chandelier in a blue Minnesota sky, dappling through the Spruce, and budding Cottonwoods, and glittering off the pond whilst a pair of mallards conspired for lunch along the edge of it. Chickadees flirted to and fro the suet I had hung for them, and a broad-tailed hawk spiraled upon the thermals far above. I stirred quietly in my BBQ chair, coming to for a moment to hear the tweety birds sing sweetly in the breeze. It felt good to loiter at the tail end of a sun beam today. To make the acquaintance of this old friend removed, from a winter long-standing. I stretched like a spoiled house cat in my chair, and took a sip of cool beverage, whilst casting an eye at the smoker thermometer. 225 degree it said. Which was perfect for the kind of loitering I had in mind today. Smoking ribs is hard work don’t you know, and I had been at it for a couple of hours already, and I do believe I could fancy another nap, as the BBQ rigors this day were decidedly high. Thus, I tipped my hat back over my eyes and resumed the proper BBQ posture, feet kicked up, at ease with the world, and the abiding aroma of smoldering hickory in the air. Welcome to rib smoking 101, POTP style.
Now I suppose, iffin you’ll let me, that I should go back to the beginning and show you few things about today’s smoke. There are a lot of wonderful things in this world you can choose to lay in a cooker and subject smoke to, and a man has got to reckon that a rack of succulent ribs might be the very best. There is nothing quite so fine as pig on the bone, perfectly smoked, married in a deep flavor profile, and yet tender to the teeth. Many a backyard pit keeper aspires towards ribs, often at first intimidated by the unruly cut of meat. Many a professional pit master, likewise, has spent the better part of their adult life pursuing this perfection in pork. No matter where you are on the rib ladder, one thing is for sure – ribs are good, and the journey, dare we say, is half the fun.
Things started out by firing up the big 22 1/2 inch WSM. As usual per my pit tendencies, I was in the mood for a little low and slow. The scenic route on the highway of BBQ. I set up the fire bowl using the Minion Method of course, because I had a lot of napping I wanted to get done today, and didn’t want to be bothered with the business of lighting up more charcoal again later. And let it be said, a Weber Smokey Mountain set up with the Minion Method affords a fellow a good deal of opportunity for napping. Its real easy to do too. Simply pour a chimney full of lit charcoal right smack in the middle of a bunch of unlit charcoal. Depending on how much coal you use, and how you tweak the vents, your cooker can burn at 225 to 250 for a very, very long time. Its a worthy technique used by many. If you want to learn more about it in-depth, feel free to waddle on over to our write-up, The Long Burn:The Method of Jim Minion.
After the smoker had gotten up to 225, and after I had ripped the membrane off the back of the ribs, and after it was liberally dusted over its entirety with SuckleBusters, Hog Waller Rub; after all these things, and procuring another cool, lovely beverage, the ribs were lovingly placed in the pit, top grate, like laying a new-born baby down on the diaper table. Well maybe not quite like that, but careful even so, so as not to knock off any of the precious rub. Lid on, and at once the Hickory smoke began to curl, bringing that signature scent to a man’s pit that equals sublime harmony with elevated levels of protein. Thus, and under very blue skies, I repaired to my BBQ easy chair, found something to kick my feet up on, and proceeded henceforth to ponder the day. And a sweet, pit-side nap was soon enough forthcoming.
You all know the old saying, “good things come to those who wait“. Probably true. But I also suspect that maybe crap can show up right away. Oh how many of us, at one time or another, have rushed our beloved rack of ribs. Pressing them along too fast, or too hot, only to render them into flanks of inedible boot leather. That is not how to do ribs, or much of any good BBQ for that matter. Let us at once revel and thrive in the slow ways. Dare to practice thy patience. May your rendering collagen be bathed in sweet time, and your bark emerge like the glaciers of yesteryear. For the smokey arts are rather a beautiful past time when you think about it, so what then would be your hurry to rush haphazardly through it. Nay! Now is our time, as patrons of the pit, to slow it all down, and tarry in the good favor of rising wood smoke and the savory aromas of sizzling meat. It is our highest privilege, to take the scenic route and try if we can to pause the sun momentarily in the sky. And we will.
Now one of the most common mistakes to procuring perfect ribs is over-cooking them. Folks tho do rather love to gloat that their ribs were “fall-of-the-bone perfect”. But as any competition rib bloke knows, if they are falling off the bone, you have done went and over-cooked them. And the judges will dock you accordingly, because it took less skill. They still taste amazing tho, no doubt, because at the end of the day, good is good, and ribs are good. And back yard pit keepers, well, they don’t really care anyways, so long as they can muckle themselves some rib meat at cook’s end. But if you want to challenge yourself, and hone your pit craft some, try to smoke them so they have some meat retention left on the bone. You want the meat to easily rip of the bone with each bite, yet be tender and succulent to chew. Such perfection lurks in a narrow window, its panes fogged with smoke, and so you must check in on your ribs frequently then, and further more you must know when they are done.
When a rib is done is a fickle business, because ribs vary, and smokers do to. Many like the bend test, and that is when you hold the end of the rack in your tongs and let them bend, like a fat man walking out onto a diving board. When the meat starts to split open at the bend, they are probably done. Likewise, others fancy the toothpick test, where the picker pokes his pick in the pork, and if it slides through real easy, its probably done. Others like to twist on a bone. Others go strictly by the clock. What I like to do is just by-pass the wondering all together, and cut myself off a hunk and try and eat the thing. You’ll know pretty quick what you’ve got on your hands.
Anyways, after about three hours of supreme loitermanship, for good measure, I tossed on a pot of peach baked beans and some chicken legs, and I also went ahead and foiled the ribs with a splash of apple juice. Foiling them, or the Texas Crutch, never seems to fail in loosening the meat up a little. Often times, its where the magic happens. You certainly don’t have to, but its success ratio is too good to ignore. So foil them and be not ashamed. I checked in on them after about 45 minutes, and by golly, they were eager little things turned out, and ready it seemed for their destiny according to my belly. I was kind of dismayed the smoke wasn’t going to last longer. But that is the nature of the BBQ arts. It is done when its done, as they say. And boy these ribs were done just right! I proceeded then to remove them from the foil and lay them back on the grate and then to sauce them with SuckleBusters Original BBQ Sauce. Brush strokes of love, upon my own personal, Rib Rembrandt.
Nothing quite like meat on the bone to set a man straight. Succulent. Tender. Smokey goodness! I took this sample back to my BBQ chair from whence I have loitered so well, and needless to say, had my way with it. Truly a pit master privilege. I smiled contentedly, BBQ sauce strewn across my face and over my belly. I kicked my feet up again, content with what I had done. And the mama Cardinal watched from the Alders. Amen.
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…
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.
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.
As you delve into your pit master career, and hone your craft there, every once in a while it’s good to regress back to something basic, something easy. The sort of cooks that once upon a time you cut your teeth on, all those many years ago, back when you thought putting a hot dog on the grill was a holy event. Indeed, it’s a refreshing respite on the grilling front, for a time, to set aside all notions of fancy rubs and intricate marinades, of exotic smoke woods, and elaborate technique, and simply put meat to flame and call it good enough. That’s what I felt like today, beneath a cold December sky. Something simple.
A couple of chicken thighs in the back of the freezer would be just right. Had I the proper equipage, I might have done a carbon 14 dating process on the meat, but seeing I had no such device, why not let ignorance be my ally. Thus, over a beautiful bed of coals glowing hot-orange, thighs were put over direct heat to start, to sear and crisp them up a little, then placed over indirect heat for the rest of the cook. Even at 9 degrees Fahrenheit outside, on a wintry Minnesota eve, with the lid on the grill it easily kept up to the task of cooking supper. I stood grill-side, hands in my jacket pockets, admiring how the moon looked in the sky, whilst savoring the simplicity of the cook. We all should do this sort of grilling more often, I thought. I even resisted the urge to add smoke wood, purely to adhere to my simplistic mantra of the day. However, I did hit them with a touch of garlic salt, just because. The results later, were a couple very tender chicken thighs, juicy, with a crisp skin, sided with a left-over portion of the Christmas corn. Son! Perfection in simplicity. Procured at the tail of a moon beam. And for all the fancy flavors we like to impart on our meat, and they are quite good, don’t get me wrong, there is still something to be said for a little salt, a dash pepper, and a hot bed of coals.