It was rather warm in Minnesota today, as day’s go I suppose. Ninety and one degrees they said, with the customary humidity to match. And I know, you folk way of Texas or the like, will do your finest to shed a single tear down your collective cheeks, post rolling your eyes towards the heavens. But hey, we’re bred for polar vortex’s up here, sub-zero wind chills, and days so bitterly cold, icicles form on the tip of our noses, amongst other things. That’s what we’re used to. So pardon thee if we sweat a little here, amid the thick green foliage, and steamy environs of a Minnesota summer.
It’s not all bad tho. There are some redeeming qualities, turns out, to living in a sauna. Such as an increased joy factor in root beer floats and ice-cold watermelons. Man that stuff is good! Also, we do not have to scrape ice off our wind shields in the morning, which is nice. Nor observe the humbling sights of small children with their tongues fused to subzero wrought iron railings. It happens folks. It happens more than you’d care to admit. And then there are the tomatoes. How I fancy taking a seat out at the pit-side garden and watching things grow there, and especially so the tomatoes. Who doesn’t like to gently rattle those plants from time to time, and smell that delightfully earthy, chlorophyll-tinted fragrance of a thriving tomato plant. Few aromas in this world lend more brilliantly to summer’s bliss, than this. It soothes thee amid soft summer breezes. It makes me happy.
Anyways, whilst I was inhaling my produce, the smoker was slowly coming up to the operating temperature of 225 degrees. Which strikingly was only 85 degrees removed from where it sat, “cold” as it were. We super genius types like to put our smokers out in the sun like that, to capitalize on solar manipulations. You Texas folk do that too, I heard, baking cookies in the cab of your truck. Nice. A gesture towards sanity, perhaps. Indeed, this is how you roll with the prevailing weather patterns, or stubborn dance partners if you will, who must always lead.
On the pit today, every smoke wizard’s prize – pork ribs! A pit master’s litmus test. They’re pretty easy to do too. So grab something cold, and pull up seat, and we’ll tell you all about it, and how it went and came to be, patron to the pit.
After a surgical removal of the membrane (read how to do it here), we dusted the rack over heavily in Famous Dave’s Rib Rub, and placed it bone-side down on the pit. For smoke wood today, we used a blend of hickory and cherry wood. Apple works great with pork ribs too, but we didn’t have any of that on hand. If you want to learn more about smoke woods, and what goes with what, don’t forget to check out our smoke wood page we created just for you, at the top of this site. Or just click here.
Once the heavy black dome of the Weber Smokey Mountain was put in place, and the top damper tweaked, I went ahead and assumed the proper BBQ posture – in the man chair, feet propped up, and a cold beverage in hand, thus to while away the enchanted hours there. No sense, after all, putting these important matters off. This is our time! And as you delve into the BBQ arts, you will begin to concur that good BBQ indeed takes a requisite amount of time. It just does. Time in which the pit jockey proper will have to partition off from an otherwise overly, and no doubt busy schedule, for the heady business of watching smoke curl. And mind you, a good rack of ribs can take between 4 to 6 hours at 225 degrees. If you are a hurried soul, BBQ may not be the thing for you. Consult your nearest microwave.
Some where along the line, I forget exactly when, we tossed on a few chicken thighs as a matter of course, to keep the pig company in there. After about three hours on the pit, at 225 degrees, the rib meat had a nice mahogany color to it, and had pulled back on the bones some, poised suitable now for step 2: The foil.
Also known as the Texas Crutch, we foiled up the ribs with a hearty splash of apple juice to act as a steaming agent. This is where the magic happens, folks. This steaming process really loosens up that toughened meat, rendering the collagen, and escorts your unruly pork by the hand, down the aisle and unto its promising marriage with all that is good and right and savory. Oh yes!
After an hour and a half or so in the foil, I sliced off and sauced a small portion in which to partake in that long-standing custom better known as the pit master privilege. Our moment before the opus, as benefactors of the meat, away form the eyes and mouths of onlookers and meat thieves alike, to bask momentarily, yet with great effect, in the succulent climax of our smokey spoils. It is good, nay it’s the suitable thing to do, to secure the choicest morsel for the pit master. You deserve it after all, what with napping in your chair and such, whilst the warm sunbeams pendulum across a pastel sky. And the breeze which flutters through the Aspen leaves, only to stir your soul, like the tweety birds which sing and flirt in the dapples of the dogwoods. Not to mention the Mallards yonder, and handsome Drakes that which chortle on the pond. Ah summer. These the ambient cast patron to the pit, where the wood smoke rises, and the tomatoes so gently grow. Amen.
A thin, blue, hickory smoke curled from the pit, tapering into a cold, blue Minnesota sky. A sky that which rose to infinity, and shortly touched the sun there. That beautiful flaming orb patron to the heavens, which at this time of the year, after many months of winter, we will gladly wallow in but one of its golden rays. The breeze is cool too, this late winter day, as I turn up the collar on my old smoking jacket, and admire how the soft, white clouds scatter through the air. And how the friendly Black Capped Chickadees, residents of the pond-side pit, bandy together in the old spruce tree, flirting or keeping house, or doing what ever it is that Chickadees do in trees. A beautiful winter day indeed, one in which to tarry pit side for a while, lovely beverage within reach, and smoke up something good to eat. On the pit today, the quintessential appetizer – hickory smoked BBQ chicken wings. It’s real easy to do to.
A few hours before the wings hit the pit, and whilst favoring a bit of sunlight ebbing in through the kitchen window, we tossed the wings into a gallon-size plastic zip lock bag and promptly dumped in an entire bottle of Italian salad dressing. Turns out this stuff doubles as a fantastic marinade, and is the only reason we can get away with coining these wings – Italian. Anyways, the concoction marinated all morning in the refrigerator, while yours truly may or may not have nodded off in his favorite man chair, whilst PBS cooking shows softly bantered up on the big screen. Good BBQ is never rushed, people. And if marination has spawned on a nap or two, well it only serves your palate the better for it. Be not ashamed! We let these wings soak for about four hours, and quite frankly, they smelled good enough to eat right out of the plastic sack, only we didn’t, because that would be rank folly!
Amid the slanting shafts of an afternoon sun, we populated the grate on the weber smokey mountain heap full of this succulence in poultry, put the lid on, and let the smoker have its way. That is the joy of low and slow, indirect cooking, and especially on pits like the WSM, for you can set the temperature, in this case, 250 degrees, and just let it go with no fear of burning, nor thermal fluctuation. No babysitting. No worries. And let the sweet passage of time and wood smoke gently work the meat unto your highest, most savory ideal.
We pampered the wings in the smoke spa no less than two hours. Two glorious cycles of the hour hand in which to make the acquaintanceship of your favorite chair, fireplace toasty at your feet, and a good narrative in hand. And tho winter’s chill is still with us, the sun burns stalwart, and I can feel its gentle kiss through my window pane. I stretched in my chair like a spoiled house cat, and drew a glance out to the pit. I liked how the wood smoke curled out of the damper in wispy tendrils, and did so without a care in the world. Or wait, maybe that’s me. That is the other joy of low and slow BBQ, in that whilst the cook is on, and the wood smoke poetically rises, the world and its problems seem to dissolve right along with the aromatic smoke itself, into a wild and beautiful sky. The ever-whirling cog of society rotates onward and with out you for a while, and when you consider it some, even if but for a moment, you are quite OK with that. Indeed, it is a high privilege. For you are doing right now precisely that which is well with your soul… Say what ever you will, but that is no small thing. Amen.
Slow Hickory Smoked Italian Chicken Wings. Yet another delicious way to let up on the accelerator pedal of life, under lovely skies, and where the wood smoke also rises. Sauce is optional.
“A snowy gesture, if you will, reflective of our smokey passion. An icy monument that which we thrust forth in stark indifference to winter and its heady throes.” -Potp
The weather was a balmy thirty and one degrees, which after a couple of weeks of below zero living, let me tell you, feels akin to the white sand beaches of Waikiki. Thirty degrees seemed to warrant a man’s finest swim wear, iffin he didn’t know better. Funny what a fellow will get used to. Likewise did the black-capped chickadees rejoice at the pit-side bird feeder today, freshly filled with sunflower seeds. All darting about, happy and flirtatious. And a lone and stately Blue Jay roosted above it all, in a nearby Spruce, doing what ever it is that Blue Jays do. I kind of think he was looking down upon me, and trying to figure out what I was doing. In point of fact, I’m pretty sure he was. You probably would be curious too, iffin you spied smoke curling from a wayward pile of snow, and a bloke standing before it, grinning, with several strips of bacon in his hand. I guess now is the time to digress.
Welcome to the Snow Smoker, least-wise that is what we’re calling it, the latest articulate brain thrust of the Patrons of the Pit. It may look simply as the lower ball, if you will, of Frosty the Snowman, hollowed-out some, and with a smoke stack on top. And that’s because it is. Many an idea are forged in the field of play, and yet most are forgotten there. But when there is bacon involved, a man will sit upright again, and note the gleaming bulb hanging figuratively over his head. Indeed, where there is bacon there is also generally the actions of a motivated man. I had BLT’s on my brain, I guess. Maybe my most favorite sandwich of all time. And I had an idea for it. Anyways, I know what some of you are thinking. You’re thinking how in the heck can you make a smoker out of snow and not melt it all to pieces before the cook is done? Good question. And the answer, naturally, resides in the mysterious folds of cold smoking.
Cold smoking is the business of adding the flavor of smoke to your food with out the nuisance of heat. Or very little heat, anyways. Meat is not cooked during cold smoking. Think of it more are a smokey marination. Cheese is a popular thing to cold smoke, because it won’t morph into goo on you when it’s all done. But other delicate things can benefit too, like trout or salmon. Some misguided goof balls have even cold smoked a block of chocolate before, but it takes a gutsier man than I to mess with an already lovely and immortally stable bar of chocolate. Mercy! But the point is, cold smoking can do these sorts of things. And do it exceedingly well. And thus is the obvious method for filling your igloo heap full with aromatic tendrils of wood smoke, iffin that is, you’re into that sort of thing.
The Smoke Generator
There are several means out there in which one can procure plumes of cold smoke, and we will not go into all of them here. Suffice it to say, the simplest and most effective way that we have found is the little generators put out by A-Maze-N Products, Inc. You can spend hundreds of dollars on other, fancier things if you really want to, but why? These gadgets are at once simple in design, and with no moving parts involved, almost fool-proof. They just do what they do. They make smoke. The perfect accompaniment for not only bacon, but an impromptu snow-smoker as well. Winter is just too much fun!
Once the smoke generator was lit, and the flames snuffed out, it promptly commenced with what it was designed to do. We tucked it in the snow smoker, and threw on the bacon for a couple of hours. Yes, bacon already comes smoked, but less you forget what blog you’re reading, you also know we will double-smoke just about anything. A good, thick-cut bacon, like these strips, can handle it. And you will suitably pump up the flavor of these fatty spoils two-fold in the process. And oh, what a lovely process it is indeed. There is something delightfully out-of-place, that comes with the site of thick plumes of apple wood smoke curling out of the snow. It is not your everyday thing, yet in the same breath, feels like it ought to be.
To the Brethren of the Brisket and Comrades of the Coal, to all the pit keepers out there who will not anytime soon hoist the white flag of surrender amid this trying season of ice and cold, here then is our song. A snowy gesture, if you will, reflective of our smokey passion. An icy monument that which we thrust forth in stark indifference to winter and its heady throes. For we love to be outside, I guess, no matter the inclement. And when you think about it, arctic BBQ is but a dance, and our partner, nature, always leads. So we sally forth, with our BBQ tongs in hand, keeping our chins up, our hearts humble, and our fires lit. And if we can, should the icy fates allow, we may yet meet the winter season on its own viable terms, and then embrace it there, aside gently curling wood smoke and curious Blue Jays standing by. Amen.
Today we saw something we have not seen in maybe eight months. We saw eighty degrees of blessed Fahrenheit grace our mercury tubes. The balmiest of suns hung in the sky, and its golden rays poured over the fair land, drenching the trees and those who wandered amid them, in a glorious, life-giving warmth. We didn’t quite know even what to do with ourselves. The last of the ice banks dissolved into a wet earth, whilst the morale of the people soared headlong with the temperatures. And the first buds of the Lilac bushes poked their heads cautiously out, to check and see if it was really as they had heard. If, whether or not, spring was commencing here on the 45th parallel. And it appears, with a rather optimistic hue, that it has.
Naturally, folks across fruited plain are finally firing up their BBQ grills, in a token light to the new grilling season. We were no different here at the POTP, tho sweeter these sorts of days are, I dare say, to those keepers of the flame who have bared the blizzards, and trimmed their grills against the tempest. To our winter grilling brethren out there, for whom’s glowing screen these cyber pages may stretch, who have stood strong in the face of defeating wind chill, eternal darkness, and driving sleet – we commend your fortitude, and your heady passion for the game. For those were our glory days, by and far, standing stalwart at our cookers as the calendar flipped, with our white flags stowed deep in our pockets. Paying our dues with the mounting drifts of snow. Those were the days indeed, robust and raw, and we can be proud of them, as we hold our tongs high. But these eighty degree days, with endless sun and darting song birds, well, they aren’t so bad either. And we can appreciate them just as well, I should say. Days indeed sweeter to the soul, having grilled long remember, on the dark side of the moon. Glory!
On the grill today, hickory-apple smoked country-style rib sandwiches. So get your bib on, cause this one is gonna fall on your lap!
This sandwich is something of an expedient pulled pork affair, for when you’re in the mood for a savory pulled pork sandwich, but you lack the time and fancy to smoke the big Boston butts for half the day long. In some ways, they are better even. A fraction of the time, and because the pieces are small to start with, you get an elevated smoke-to-meat-ratio. Every bite is not unlike the outer, most savory sections of a traditional butt, loaded with seasoning, bark, and smoke. Oh buddy!
Whilst the coals mature on the pit, gather up a pack of country-style ribs to prep. Country style ribs, by the way and if you haven’t heard, are not ribs at all. They are actually part of the pork butt, which actually isn’t a butt at all, but the front shoulder of the hog. Yeah, butchers have way too much fun I think. Anyways, I hit the meat with a good smattering of Famous Dave Rib Rub, and transferred the pork to the grill, opposite the hot coals. The smoke wood today is the pleasant duo of apple and hickory, and a tantalizing tandem in the smokey arts. Then top the grill with the lid, and turn down the dampers. Govern just enough air in to keep the coals alive, and that smoke wood smoldering with flavor.
The next step should come easy to a patron of the pit, and that is to draw yourself a cold beverage and position your self accordingly in your BBQ chair, like a solar panel to the sun. These are the days we have dreamed about all the winter long, distant fantasies once privy only to Florida people, and the blessed lucky schmucks of Ecuador. Today, we will all fend off sunburn, and our smoke will rise as equals. And what a beautiful day it was, with nary a remote disturbance in an otherwise endless blue sky. Mallards floating serenely on the pond, and the call of a song bird’s serenade from the whispering pine. I kicked up my feet on an old bucket, and laid my head back a spell, hat pulled over the eyes, and what hecticness there was at once evaporated into the summer-like breezes. A man at peace by his pit. Nothing is quite so fine. Two and a half hours later, I foiled the ribs.
I foiled the ribs with some apple juice, and let them hence enjoy a sweet steam bath for an hour or so, while I got back to the very important business of loitering in my man chair. Of monitoring sun angles, and judging the song bird try-outs. I may have even nodded off again, and that’s OK. After an hour or so in the foil, and the meat has loosened up a great deal, and the checkered flag is in sight, you’ll want to toast your buns. Yes, goes the extra mile people, and toast your buns. This is your art. Treat it as such! When everything is done, bring it all inside and prepare your sandwich accordingly. Chopping up the savory pork, and maybe mixing it with some of your very favorite sauce, or even hitting them again with a bit more rub. Lay the bite-sized chunks over the toasted bread, piling them together in a magnificent meat melee, and if you’re from South Carolina, or just weird like some of us, go ahead and dob on some cool coleslaw right over the BBQ pork. Man! Press your sandwich together, and commence with the one of the finer culinary pleasures in this life. Be warned tho, sloppy brown chunks may make the acquaintanceship of your lap.
Hickory-Apple-Smoked Country Style Rib Sandwiches. It sure don’t get much better folks! You hungry now? Man!
This winter in Minnesota was a very long, drawn out winter. A winter where we thought for moment our region of the United States by chance had entered into a new Ice Age. We had a few glimmers of hope, but as soon as we saw fresh grass…… FRUMP!, We were again snowed on. Though we Patrons are tolerable with utilizing out our pits all year long we find Spring to be a sigh of fresh air. Don’t take us wrong, wiping snow off of our pit covers and removing our gloves to light a chimney full of coal is just the way of the bbq force out here. We know that for 5 to 6 months of the year removing our boots and putting them back on to maintain the pit is an expected part of the bbq process. HARK! We are now ready for the luxury of flinging off the flip flops and melting into our favorite patio chair with a cold beverage in hand, whilst sitting next to our hot smoky pits. AH yes, to sit downwind so that the cool breezes can blow the pit smoke directly into our paths becomes a fantasy while sitting in a cubical during our weekly rotating responsibilities. The time has come when we can rightfully say goodbye to a season that I can comfortably say had overstayed its welcome. I love winter and I love snow, but it is that time I welcome Spring.
Grill on – POTP
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
Early spring in Minnesota. Melting snow, and river-lets of ice water meandering down the streets. Bird song returns to the barren tree tops, and the sun feels just right on your shoulders. Oh how we love this time of year. Just the mere thought of feeling the warmth from the sun again, not only registers as an event, but it is therapy too for the soul. For here is a simple pleasure, this light from on high, that has spanned the vacuum of space and landed precisely on your corner of the earth. Kissing your cheek there, like it had nothing better to do. That gives a winter riddled bloke hope, I think. And engenders in one’s brain pan those long but dormant notions of golf clubs, and fishing poles. And motorcycles and BBQ’s. The latter of course, something we here at this blog have never put away in the first place. Even so, as I banked the coals this evening to the side of the old kettle grill, I gloried in the purified air that spring seems to usher with it, and how a patch of grass in the spruce grove yonder, is flooded now, in a golden light. It is a pleasure to tarry by the pit on days such as this. And on the grill tonight, now that you mention it, apple smoked, honey tinted pork chops. Man! Are you ready for this!
Coals assembled like a flaming choir to the side of the pit, for proper indirect cooking. The chops were thus lightly rubbed in honey, and then sprinkled with some homemade spice, fresh out of the mortar and pestle. Now when you put sugar based things like honey on your meat at the beginning of the cook, you do increase your odds of burning things. But I didn’t care. With proper pitmanship, one can minimize the sugar rebellion, and procure some dang fine vittles. Thus, I went light on the honey, kept the meat well away from the coals, and just baby sat the beautiful pork chops, giving them almost all of my attention. It is a great hardship I suppose to sit tight to the grill, enjoying its radiant heat like that of a pot-bellied stove, whilst listening to the tweety birds cavort in the Alders. To at once let up on the accelerator pedal of life, and fancy the view of the world spinning with out me, whilst the apple wood smoke rises unto the heavens. This is a great pain indeed, these rigors of the BBQ arts, but one I am willing to endure now and again, for the assurance of delicious meat hot off the grill.
So it was, under blue skies and the banter of returning birds aside dwindling snowbanks, and warm sun beams cast upon my small little corner of the world, thy chops were dutifully grilled, with a touch of smoke, just because. Continually flipping them, nurturing them, ensuring they are having a good time there opposite the hot coals. I know I was. The aromas at the pit were a melody of inspiration, from the apple wood, to the caramelizing honey, to the fresh ground coriander and rosemary that my fellow patron gave me, as a token of good pit gesture. A spice rub we used in the Dual Patron Cook Out blog, consisting of brown sugar, Himalayan Pink Salt, onion powder, pepper corn, smoked paprika, coriander and rosemary. An agreeable host of aromas in which to aptly tarry by. And as I did precisely that in my patio chair, aside the smoking pit, I noted to myself how nice it was to be doing such a thing as this, with out a jacket, no less. The winter grilling season, and those 20 below cook outs, might I wager, are on it’s way out now. Confirmed yonder, by the melting snow, the bird song, and the golden rays of sun residing on a scant patch of grass. Oh yes, we love this time of year.
Apple smoked, honey-tinted pork chops, with freshly ground, aromatic spices. You could do a whole lot worse I suspect, but not have nearly so much fun.
It’s been a very long time since I’ve felt the sun. Or sat comfortably, and contentedly, in its golden rays. Up here in Minnesota, the winter can stretch eternal, spanning half a year if it has a mind to. And this year at least, it has a mind to indeed. But this last Sunday was at once an anomaly, and an idealistic respite from winter’s grip, as the sunlight astutely flooded my patio with warm, life-giving thermal units. It must have been 30 degrees out there, which I know doesn’t sound like much to you Florida people, but trust me, to a Minnesotan in March, that is a veritable heat wave worthy of your very finest swim wear. Of course, and understandably so, I was out there, jacket-less, smoker puffing away, repairing in my Adirondack chair, just soaking up the sun. And it felt wonderful. Besides that, it was my beloved bride’s birthday then, and she wanted ribs. Thus, it was my privilege, as it would be any man’s, to tarry in the sun a trifle, postulate the drifting clouds and the rabbit tracks in the snow, whilst smoking some savory meats over a beautiful bed of coals. It is no hardship at all.
In the big WSM, over a smoldering fire of apple wood, I placed with great care three near perfectly seasoned racks of pork spare ribs. These racks were first sprinkled with a light measure of brown sugar, and rubbed down like a life time member in a fine spa, smearing it all about. Then I let it rest a tad, just until the brown sugar began to liquefy. This created a decently sticky, tactile surface, in which to receive the rub. The rub today, Grill Mates Applewood Rub, is a long time favorite of my fellow patron who co- hosts this blog, of which I dutifully applied in liberal fashion over the entirety of the ribs. To finish off the pork canvas, I sprinkled another light layer of brown sugar over the top of the rub, which when liquefied, would seal in the rub, thus locking into the tighter flavor profile of which I was after. Man!
During the next three hours, I naturally took up periodic residence in a gamut of my favorite easy chairs, whilst watching out of the corner of my eye, the apple wood smoke quietly curl from the cooker. I don’t know what it is exactly, about a smoking pit, and meats quietly cooking there, but it stirs me. It cultivates a great contentment in me, and for a while at least, I am in need of little else. And as I repaired on the couch with my favorite father in-law, our feet propped up, lovely beverages in hand, I declared that this was indeed the high rigors of BBQ, but more over, that we were undoubtedly up to the task at hand. We raised our beverages with the rising smoke, saluting the BBQ arts, and then I think father in-law may have even nodded off a bit. Bless him and his true BBQ posture!
At about hour three, I foiled the ribs with a generous splattering of apple juice. At about hour four, I lit up yet another grill for the chicken leg quarters, of which I have grown fond of in recent years. Nothing is quite so stroking to your pit master ego as running dual cookers out on the patio. Smoke bellowing in stereo from multiple fronts, the smells and aromas surround you. Engulf you, and then enchant you. And for a while at least, you are in your glory. Tongs in hand, you are the supreme governor of your smokey kingdom. Or the conductor of a BBQ symphony. I could have I suppose thrown the chicken legs on the smoker too, and been an efficient person, but I was after a crisper skin than one can get in a smoker. Plus I liked the idea of having two grills going. It made me happy. So I rubbed the chicken down with some Louisiana Grill Sweet Heat, and seared them up over direct heat, then tucked them back in-direct for an hour maybe, bathed in light hickory smoke. At hour 5, I took the ribs out of the foil, and put em back on the smoker, and basted them good with some Sweet Baby Rays elegantly thinned with a splash of apple juice. Oh buddy!
When dinner was served, we had some savory spare ribs where the smoke ring plum near reached the bone. The brown sugar caramelized some, mingling with the slight kick of the Apple Wood Rub and the BBQ sauce, whilst lightly tinted with the aromas of apple wood smoke. It was a symphony in meat alright. An opus of ribs. And the chicken was spot on its juiciest ideal.
Apple wood spare ribs and chicken. You could eat allot worse I suppose, but not have nearly so much fun. Amen.
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…
Well, we had allot of left over roast beef from the Po Boy cook a couple days ago, so I thought to myself, self, why don’t you do up something a little different with that left over meat. Something involving the blessed binder of cheese. Take your sandwich kick you’ve been on to another state, and salute something good there. Viola, the destination was clearly then apparent – Philadelphia, and the gloried cheese steak sandwiches – POTP Style.
Man! Sauteed some onion and green pepper, re-heated the Po Boy meat, and mixed it all together. Then promptly topped it with everyone’s favorite ghetto cheese – Velveeta. Slipped this monument to sandwich technology into the toaster oven for a couple minutes, and thus arrived on the shores of cheese steak bliss. It was good people. It was real good.
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.
I can’t go often in life without music. Creating playlist or soundtracks as I like to call them has become a hobby of mine. Matching music up to what I’m doing at that moment. To become the musical director for my life is something I take serious. Being that I’m a musician, I’m very picky and biased when doing so. To go into the many avenues of life and tell you about my music selections would probably force me to start another blog, so I’m going to focus on sharing of my music stations I have created when dedicating an afternoon at the BBQ pit.
First off, who could go wrong with a B.B King station. How often is it you walk into a BBQ joint and they have classical music, or rap playing on their overhead speakers? What music is better associated with BBQ than blues music. The crying guitars whine as your basting your meat. The harmonica calls out while the hickory smoke curls into a dimming orange sunset. The singer cries as they have lost their lover over, perhaps over someone else’s BBQ. My B.B. King station of course is always my first choice of serenades when standing next to a smoking pit.
My second choice is my Elvis station. I grew up listening to Elvis and have many fond memories of establishing myself on a sunny afternoon. Our backyard patio packed with Aunts and Uncles. My dad sat with his banjo and my Uncles sat with guitars, often livening up the family with classic rock and roll tunes and old country western songs. This station is often listened to because of the strong feeling of nostalgia it brings on. I can remember words of songs I hadn’t heard in 20 years purely because I fell in love with the moment I first heard them. Thus, Elvis often joins me when BBQing for large groups of people.
Now there is a station I don’t often brag about. This station is played in my headphones so many people don’t judge my geeky side of life. But here, I hide nothing about my BBQ experience. So I would like to publicly announce the third choice of station is my Lord of the Rings Soundtrack station. I use this station when having a full day ahead of me – of a long drawn out smoke. When smoking a cut of meat that may need a little more effort. From the point of lighting the flame to pushing a sharp knife through that saucy, sweet, smoky, spicy side of meat. You then know your efforts have paid off and the epic journey of BBQ was fulfilled. No other station encourages such BBQ geekiness as my Lord of the Rings Soundtrack Station.
So, my question is to you who have read this, what music do you like to listen to during an afternoon at the pit? What might be on your BBQ playlist?
Have a good day – POTP
Once upon a time, back in the days when the patio had but one grill, I remember thinking also, that one bag of charcoal was plenty for my needs. And it was I suppose. But as BBQ skills matured and grew, it seemed so too would my charcoal reserves. For let it be said, nothing quite so burns your brisket more than getting your slobbers going for some good BBQ, and then to go out into your garage or shed and discover a nearly empty bag of charcoal sitting there, with three maybe four briquettes left, sitting prostrate in a shallow carpet of coal dust. Oh how many a fanciful smoke has been delayed by this grievous situation not soon forgotten until at last some coal is lit, and meat plunked on the grate. We Patrons of the Pit, we eventually learn, and we heed the boy scouts long-standing motto, and vow to be prepared, ever more, less this sort of foolery rear again. Here is how we do it.
We buy allot of charcoal. My brother says we’ve gotten to the point now where we are buying charcoal by the pallet. Well, that’s a bit of a stretch, but I guess it not uncommon to see an mean average of a 120 pounds of Kingsford blue in our garages on any given day. Some days even more. And it is a beautiful site of preparedness, one of which grilling purists, and Brethren of the Flame will all hail, and the rational people of the world I suppose, all shake their collective heads. It is only slightly obsessive we wager, stocking up on so much charcoal, for grilling proper is but a seizing of the moment. And to not have the adequate sum charcoal on hand when the moment is ripe, is a travesty not fit for a pit master proper, nor even his dog. So we stock up.
Of all the charcoal products out there, the Kingsford in the blue bag is what we keep coming back to it seems. For the very simple reason – they work. Indeed, they always give a predictable burn, with a steady heat, and are easily lit. They are the baseline charcoal briquette most enthusiast cut their teeth on. There are rumors circulating the internet that Kingsford has changed something in their charcoal as of late, but we haven’t noticed if this is true. How ever, it is still fun to change it up at times, and cook with hardwood lump charcoal, which tends to burn hotter that briquettes, which is not at all a bad idea for things like steaks or burgers. Regardless of what charcoal you go with however, it is well with a grill master’s soul to amass a veritable mountain of it deep in his lair. To be prepared. So that no sooner does the impulse to grill strike that he not plunder in the folly of the moment, for this sad state of not having enough charcoal in which to dutifully roast his beloved, tho highly fattening pork butt.
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.
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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.
Here is an excellent method for grilling delicate meats, such as fish. If you haven’t tried plank cooking yet, your missing something out of your grilling career. It’s frighteningly easy to do, and here is how you do it!
First off, get your hands on some cedar planks, and these are often found in any grilling section of any hardware or big box store. Next soak them in water for no less than an hour. After that, brush down the surface you’re going to lay the fish on with a coat of olive oil. Season the fish how ever you like, and lay them on the plank nice and pretty like. Then head out to the grill and gently plunk the plank over direct heat, and smile to yourself as you put on the lid. Yes, it’s that easy. In point of fact, perhaps the easiest grilled fish you’ll ever do. You don’t even need to flip the meat. Just let it go. And the less you touch it the better.
As with any fish, when it flakes easily with a fork, it’s done. What happens during the cook is truly a wondrous dance between smoke and heat. The plank fairly sizzles, and releases a delicate barrage of cedar smoke up into your meat, infusing it, whilst in the same breath, protects your spoils from the inferno below. The result is a savory cut of fish tinted with an aromatic marriage of cedar and seasoning. A delightful flavor profile, with a woodsy tint. And because you never have to turn the fish, this plank method is particularly well suited for meat of this delicate nature, tho other meats and vegetables can be cooked the same way.
Cedar plank grilling. Give it a try!
And yes, a bite was taken from this picture for quality control reasons. A pit master privilege.
Happy New Year, from our pit to yours.
Looking back over another good year of grilling and smoking, – of BBQ, one of our favorite cooks, hands down, was pecan smoked white fish, freshly caught from a pure, upper mid-west lake, that of course in these cyber pages, shall go unnamed. Fishermen every where will understand. The smoked fish was at once tasty, succulent, and decidedly agreeable with our bellies. Even my wife liked it, and she doesn’t so much fancy fish. So if you haven’t tried it yet, your missing something out of your grilling career. Nothing is quite so fine, let it be said, than a day on the lake, angling under a beautiful blue sky, procuring your limit, and then whiling away the evening hours smoking your spoils over a gentle fire, whilst kicked back, and feet up, lovely beverage in hand, watching the sun slowly arc towards the trees. Your finger on the pulse of nature, and what once swam yonder; cooking quietly on the grill… Man! We cannot teach you how to fish right now, but here is how to smoke one, should you be so lucky.
First off, and before anything else, clean the fish as you like and let it soak in a brine over night. I know what some of you may be asking. What’s a brine, and why should I do it? Well, a brine simply put is a solution of salt and water that you soak your meat in to improve the over all quality of your end game. To brine your fish will first off improve the texture, and also add considerable flavor. But what it does best is convince the fish to retain moisture during the cooking process, and that is no small thing. If you’re a meat geek, and want to learn more about the science of the brine, check out this in-depth link.
Anyways, here is the brine recipe we favor to get you started:
- 2 Quarts water
- 2 Cups brown sugar
- 1 Cup kosher or pickling salt
- 1/2 Cup soy sauce
- 1/2 Cup lemon juice
- 1 Teaspoon each Garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper
Soak your fish in this over night. It will look like a sickly stew, and your first instinct will be to go throw up somewhere, but you’ll grit through it some how, especially later on, whence you smell it on the cooker. Next day, you will need to employ your considerable pit master skills and get your grill or smoker running pretty low, like 150 degrees. Every smoker is different, and every grill its own entity. So be creative, and assert yourself, 150 isn’t that hard to do.
- One tip – is to build a smaller fire than you normally work with, and to add a big tray of water which will act as a heat sink, absorbing some of the thermal energy you don’t need, and thus keeping the temperature lower.
Once you get the temp dialed in, you have just completed the hardest part of smoking fish. Lastly, put on a chunk of gently smoking wood. Pecan wood yielded amazing results for us, but any fruit wood will do. Thus, put the wood on and then the fish, and let her do her thing. In the mean time, grab your pole and head back down to the lake and catch yourself some more. Or perhaps make the acquaintanceship of your hammock, a meeting long over due. When the fish easily flakes with a fork, it’s done. Usually a few hours.
“There is a simple pleasure in charcoal, not soon lost after the cook is done. You go to put on your grilling jacket the next day, and it smells like a hundred and one campfires, reminding you of the good life. Lighting charcoal also takes time, and in this day of the drive through mentality, that is an oddity indeed. But one worth doing. For the smoke that rises gently from your stack is at once poetic, and a small victory in an otherwise busy life. When smoke rises from your charcoal grill, it is a signal to yourself and those around you, that for a while at least, you’re in no hurry. That you are taking something you love, grilling, and not betraying the moment for the tragedy of haste. That the world can spin without you now, for there is meat to be cooked, and joy to be had, patron to those who choose the scenic path, and the smoke which rises there. Amen.”
Of all the BBQ arts, ribs are perhaps the most ubiquitously loved and feared item on the menu. Nothing is quite so fine as the perfectly smoked rib, patiently pampered, and delicately seasoned. Tender, and complete in it’s flavor profile. While in the same breath, few things that come off a grill are as miserable as a poorly cooked rack of ribs, tougher than shoe leather, and not all that much better in taste. Ribs are a litmus test of your grilling prowess, and for that reason alone, they are a revered subject in the BBQ community. So for those who have not yet attempted a rack of ribs on the smoker, here is how to bring your game to the next level.
Remove the Membrane
Insert a butter knife between a bone and the membrane on the back side, and near the end of the rack of ribs. Pry up the membrane there enough to get a hold of it with your hand. These things are as slippery as a bar of soap in the bath tub, but if you grip it with a paper towel, you can aptly tame the beast. Grab tight and pull, peeling it off down the length of the rack. The membrane is on there tighter than a tick to a hound dog, but if you do it right, it comes off in one, easy, stroke. If you do it wrong, you’ll live I guess. Anyways,the reason you have to peel it off is two fold: firstly, it’s a son of a gun to chew on, and secondly, by removing it, you increase your ribs capacity for smoke absorption and rub penetration, as neither can breach the membrane. So do your very best to remove it. If you just can’t make it happen, the old pit master trick of scoring it in a checker board pattern will loosen things up enough to eat it. It’s not the BBQ ideal, but we can turn our heads if we must.
Next, some pit masters like to wipe it down in vinegar at this point, to open the pores of the meat. While others will slather the rack in mustard, to form sort of an adhesive agent for the rub. Rubs, like most things BBQ, are an art. There is no right or wrong thing here, just go with your grill master gut. I used to do the mustard thing for quite some time, and despite what newbies tend to think, you cannot taste the mustard. It’s job is purely to hold the rub. Lately here tho, I’ve been forgoing the mustard idea altogether, and just slapping on the rub on right away, and that works too. But the main idea here is to get your favorite rub on the ribs. Dash it all over, and don’t skimp. This is the single biggest influence of flavor for your end product. Do it right.
Before we move on to the next step in our ribs, we would be remiss if we did not tell you about the book of books concerning ribs, and everything else for that matter. Aaron Franklin makes some of the best BBQ in the country, and maybe the best brisket period. How do we know? Well just read the reviews on his book. You’ll see. We humbly bow to his expertise. Anyways, back to our story.
Warming Up The Pit
While doing all this prep, the smoker should be warming up and stabilizing. For this instructional, you should dial in your cooker for the smoking ideal, 225 to 250 degrees. This is your magic temperature range for the low and slow gospel approach to true southern BBQ. I believe in it, and sing it’s lofty praises. As for a water pan or not, I have done it both ways, and have come to the conclusion that it matters not for the moisture of the ribs in this application. The water pan may be useful however in acting as a heat sink, to help you lower the temperature in your cooker. Every smoker is different, and it’s your duty as it’s pit master to learn how to run your grill efficiently. At any rate, once you get it up to temp, go head and toss on your smoke wood of choice. Here too it is art, so follow your inklings. We love apple or hickory wood, but since maple trees are abundant around here, we tend to favor their aroma from time to time too.
Off-hand, if you’re looking for a good smoker for the money, you can’t go wrong with the Weber Smokey Mountain. It’s what we’ve been using for years and years now, and we cannot recommend it enough. Great pit! Excellent bang for the buck. If you want to get your man something for his next birthday, by golly, this is it!
Once your smoker has stabilized, or in other words holding your desired temperature, and the bellowing smoke has settled down into something of a thinner affair, it is then time to lay your rubbed up rack gently in the smoker, bone-side down. Put on the cover. The hardest part is done now. Now, and at last, you are liberated to do as you wish. These are the moments BBQ people live for. For the next 2 1/2 hours, you are free to saunter about the house, doing what ever it is you do in your house when meat is cooking quietly. I would suggest taking up residence in your big leather man chair, with a lovely beverage at hand, and a Stallone movie on play. Either that or tranquil nap pit-side, smoke wafting, with the Black Capped Chickadees flirting at your bird feeder, and the warm sunbeams melting over your rose bushes. These are the poetic moments of the smoke, and the binders of your memories whence the food is gone, and the coal is out. This is why, by choice, you go low and slow. Simply to extend the beauty of the moment, for the moment’s sake. What a joy it is to take your foot off the accelerator pedal of life, and coast amid it’s treasured ambiance. This is your time to revel in the cook, and glory in the smoke patron to the scenic path. This is why we do what we do.
A Time To Cheat
After 2 1/2 hours, then begins the Texas cheat. Say what you will about foiling your meat, it works. Yes, it’s more macho I suppose to do it without foil, but the success rate of ribs foiled is too staggering to ignore. So cheat. Then end result is quality BBQ ribs, which after all is what we are after in the first place. Wrap your ribs in foil with a good splash of apple juice for good measure, and place it back on the smoker for another 2 hours. This is where the magic happens, and where the fate of boot leather ribs is thwarted. What happens is a steam bath of sorts. It’s like sending your ribs to the spa for a good pampering. Steaming in apple juice, or what ever drink you have on hand really, will loosen the meat, moisten the meat, and flavor the meat all at once. It is your secret weapon for perfect ribs.
Finally, after a couple hours, go ahead and remove them from the foil, pouring it’s drippings back over the meat. Let them continue their journey to excellence back where they started, on the grate. For the next half hour, liberally baste them in your choice BBQ sauce. Or if your feeling daring, let your rub speak for itself. Let them firm up a little. Let them gain their composure. And then, whence your slobbers can stand no more, plate them up, and take them to your people. And watch their heads turn, and their tongues fall out. The aroma of victory will follow you. And the cheers of your people will wash over you as they sample your spoils. And you will have successfully, with out any doubt, passed your BBQ litmus test. Amen.
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