From time to time we get asked how can some one get into smoking meat with out the price tag and hassle of a fancy smoker. Well, if you have a humble Weber kettle grill, you can do it just fine. Here’s how.
The Snake Method
Here we have our beloved 22 inch kettle grill set up with what is affectionately referred to in the BBQ circles as “The Fuse Method” or “The Snake Method“. And it really works. You old timers already know all about this, but the basics of it is this – light one end of the “snake”, and gradually the lit coals will light up the unlit coals, and work its way along, like a fuse. Very similar to the Minion Method, of which we go into great depth and detail in our write up from many years ago now, called, The Long Burn: The Method of Jim Minion.
The Snake Method, if you’ve not tried it before, is the common sense answer to the age old question of whether you need to buy a smoker or not. Well, from one pit jockey to another, of course you should buy yourself a new toy if you can have one, that’s half the fun. But if you can’t justify the money or the space for another pit, or just don’t want to deal with it altogether, this technique will hold you over with a degree of class and poetry representative of the big named smokers, with an end game every bit as succulent. All you need is that old Weber kettle sitting out back. It’ll work with other grills too, but here’s how to do it with a 22 inch kettle.
How To Set It Up
In your charcoal chimney plop in 12 briquettes and light them up accordingly. Whilst the dirty dozen are coming of age, line yourself up a snake of unlit briquettes along the inside edge of your grill, as seen in the photo above. We made the snake 2 briquettes wide, by 2 briquettes tall. We wrapped it about half way around the grill. Once the other 12 coals are grayed over, just place them in similar fashion at one end of the snake. Lastly, place your favorite flavor of smoke wood periodically along the snake. And viola, your done! You now have a smoker.
How It Works
As the unlit coals gradually light up, so too do the old coals gradually die off. The cycle of life in your pit. The magic of the snake method resides in this balance. At any given time, you see, the number of coals lit in your grill will produce enough just heat to keep it near to 250 degrees. The perfect temperature for smoking meat. And as the fuse burns it’s course, it will also ignite the smoke wood positioned along the way, providing a nice, continuous source of care free curls. It’s just plain lovely!
Your meat bounty should obviously be placed opposite the hot coals for proper indirect cooking, but in addition to that, with this particular method, you would do well to periodically relocate your meat as well, because the business end of the fuse does indeed, move. How long does it take to burn the snake out, you ask? We find it seems to average around 5 hours for a snake going half way around a 22 inch kettle. Results have of course varied with the weather, but that seems to be the average of things. Plenty long enough for a rack of BlackBerry Baby Backs to come to edible maturity, as you can see, patron to the pit. Let’s plate these babies up!
BlackBerry Glazed Baby Backs courtesy of the snake method. It works people! Give it a try!
Tips for Snake Method Cooking
- Open top and bottom vents wide open to start with, then adjust the bottom one as necessary. The more you close a vent the less air gets in, thus the cooler the grill will run
- Use of a water pan can also help lower pit temperatures if need be, and provide a humid environment within the pit.
- Move your meat once in a while as the fuse moves to keep your spoils indirect
- Patience. It takes the kettle grill a while to get up to 250, but it will get there, and when it does, it will stay there for many hours.
- You can skip the charcoal chimney part if you want, and just light one end of the snake with a weed burner or a mapp gas torch or some other manly lighting device you come up with
- That thermometer you have on your grill lid is probably not accurate. To really monitor your temps right most pit jockeys use a portable digital thermometer doodad, like this one
We had occasion this weekend past to grill for the masses at the bachelor party of a good friend. It was your vintage summer day, as days go. And your classic BBQ party. With a sizzling sun suspended in a bluebird sky, casting golden shafts of light that which fluttered through the thick, green, deciduous canopies of oak and maple and birch. The lawn was freshly cut too, of which I for some reason admired the aroma. My fellow patron’s google music account provided endless streams of proper country and rock for to adorn the acoustic backdrop. Tho one musically misguided brethren in the group kept wanting to listen to once-upon-a-time boy bands, to which we had to snatch the phone from his meaty hand, and tell him to think about his life. Some blokes are just like that for some reason. Always a stinker in the bunch.
What a lovely time of it tho, this day was. You see, when friends beckon a patron to cater for them, they don’t have to twist our tongs much. We love this sort of thing. And for a bachelor party, it is sort of our privilege to escort the groom-to-be on his way to holy matrimony with a gut full of perfectly executed meat! And so it was, the evening slants of light caught the pale tendrils of gently rising oak smoke from the bosom of the Gabby’s Grill. A great little addition for ye Weber owners out there. For those who aspire to a scaled down version of the Santa Maria style of BBQ, to which we are swiftly becoming a devoted fan. Oh how I do fancy manly meat cooking machinery! When you get a chance, go check out their website here. Junior, the man in charge over there, is a good dude and will take care of you fast. His customer service is off the charts. And as you can see, he’s a gifted fabricator too.
We had this beast loaded up too, with dueling tri tip roasts, and enough chicken thighs to choke a wildebeest. You will note the baked potatoes also, tucked down into the fiery depths of the grill. This is how you do it Gabby Grill style people! Load it up! Oh yes, good times indeed. But bachelor party food does not stop with mere meat and potatoes…
For to please the lady folks who may be reading this, we also grilled up some vegetables. Yes mam we did! We was GOOD patrons! On the auxiliary grill, we got sliced zucchini here, along with onions liberally dusted with a pit staple – Miners Mix Steak and Veggie Seasoning. Can you smell it? Of course you can’t, you’re just reading pixels through a dirty glass screen But trust us. If ever you wanted to smell a man’s pits before, this would be the proper occasion!
Here is one of our affiliate links where you can pick up some of that seasoning. Goes good on just about everything. Especially vegetables! Get a bottle of this and just leave it on the table as your new pepper.
Back to the meat! Mama Mia! The thighs were seasoned with Miners Mix Poultry Perfection which never fails. And the beef, well, it’s a top secret blend that we might get to tell you about some day. Here is where you can pick up some of that Poultry Perfection tho! It’s another affiliate link that we get a wee kick back from. So if you’re looking for a way to be nice to us and help us better afford baby diapers, links like this one below help a little! Thank you kindly in advance if you do! If not, thank you anyways for just being here. You guys surely class up the place regardless.
After about an hour or so, the tri tips were done, and whilst they rested in a foil tent, we tossed on the cobs! If you haven’t grilled your corn in this manner before, we do believe you’re missing something out of your life. And of course, the Gabby Grill took it like a boss! We’re telling you, you gotta pick up one of these rigs for your Weber! We’re not sponsored by them in any way, we just think it’s a great idea long over due!
Lets not forget a massive black iron pan full of sauteed mushrooms and onions, again seasoned up with Miners Mix Steak and Veggie. Oh yes, we pulled out all the stops for the man in the fading twilight of his bachelorhood. It was a good time of fellowship and food under fair and lovely skies. We wish you well in your marriage my friend. And now you even know what to cook for her! Amen.
Check out these 2 great companies for your next BBQ
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Just beyond the stately Spruce, the prickly bows of which conceal the flirtatious exploits of the Black Capped Chickadees, and across a modest lawn sodden with snow melt, at a quiet patio tucked up to the back of a house, you will find a serene column of wood smoke curling from my old kettle grill. And there patron, you will find me also. It’s the weekend, and I haven’t a thing in the world I need to do, or would rather do, than this – to toke a small blaze amid a bandy of coals in the steely bosom of the old steed it’s self – the Weber Kettle Grill. We’ve traveled long and far, this grill and I, through the unknown passages of time. Through every season. And every inclement of weather. And this old kettle grill has been stalwart every step of the way. Faithfully waiting out on the patio for me, straddling it’s little ash pan, I swear I can see it’s top damper quivering like a puppy’s soft tail, every time I round the bend.
Yes, when you grill as often as this, I guess you might say a bond is forged between man and the entity of porcelain-enamel-coated steel. And it’s measure is one to last the ages. A good kettle grill will do that for you. And for the money, Weber probably makes the best there is. I guess I got to thinking about the old grill today, when my fellow patron rang me up and announced he had finally purchased a brand new 22.5 inch Weber kettle grill. I could hear his lips smile. He’s always ran other pits, you see, and has done very well that way his whole grilling career. And we ain’t saying you can’t. But finally, after many years, he has joined the Weber masses. I do not know what has took him so long. I guess every pit jockey at one time or another in his or her life, is destined for a Weber kettle. It’s sort of a right of passage. Many of today’s greatest pit masters cut their teeth on these old standbys. Some folks are so content with Weber kettle grills, like me, that they rarely venture anywhere else. Anyways, I do hope he finds as much joy and excitement and satisfaction cooking with his new grill, as I have found using this old, beat up, patio work horse. If you’re faithful to just clean the ashes out from time to time, it will never let you down. And there are very few things you can’t cook with it, if properly inspired.
Today, for example, the kettle fare is a delicious rack of pork ribs. These grills are not just for hot dogs and hamburgers people. Nay, they are for what moves you. For what tickles your culinary aspiration. There is a reason the Weber Kettle is the in the back yard of so many people that you know. They work. Banking the coals to the far side of the kettle, and tossing on a few chunks of smoke wood, you create an indirect smoking environment. You could get fancier, but for this essay, we’ll just leave it at that. For ribs, you want to build your fire a little smaller than you normally would, to help keep the temperatures down to 225 or so. If you’re having trouble getting that low, try a water pan underneath your ribs, which will act as a heat sink. Also draw the vents on the bottom of the grill to thin slits, and maybe the top vent too. The less air you have moving through your kettle grill, the lower the temps. It’s as simple as that.
I suppose I ought to let you know what we used for seasoning this time. Well, the day prior, 24 hours before these ribs hit the pit, we coated them thoroughly with Miners Mix Maynards Memphis BBQ Rub, wowwy, wrapped them up, and left it alone in the refrigerator for a day or so to, as they say, “get happy”. I know we’ve been yapping a lot about these guys lately, but I’m sorry, when you happen upon the best of something, you just can’t help yourself but to tell people about it. These guys and kettle grills are a match made in BBQ heaven. And this was the only thing we seasoned the ribs with. Didn’t even sauce it, as I didn’t much want to spoil the flavor. *You can detect cocoa in the after taste. Yum!
We usually foil our ribs at about hour 3, but this time around, I don’t know, I may have been feeling lazy, and just “let em go nekkid“. But with routine spritzing with some fruit juice, they turned out fine enough for this old pit boy’s standards. The wife approved too.
We’ll go ahead and admit it then, here at the pond-side pit, we are Weber junkies to the core. Like most of the grilling populous, we started out on the humble Weber kettle, cutting our teeth on the venerable grill, which straddled its ash pan stalwart through the ages. A grill by and far in which we still use heavily to this day. Eventually however, if you delve far enough into the BBQ arts, you will want to acquire yourself a good smoker. A rig designed to run low and slow for hours on end, demand very little baby sitting, and at the end of the day turn out some exceedingly good Q every time. The Weber Smokey Mountain 22.5 is what we have used for years now. It is your classic water or bullet smoker in design, reminiscent of a space droid blowing smoke out its head. And it is by far and away the best bang for the buck we have spent in the hobby of smoking meat. Here then is a more in-depth look at the WSM 22.5, in case you find yourself in the market, or if you just have a passing curiosity about the cooker. Because every once in while, we do occasionally need to do something useful around here.
Weighing in at a shipping weight of 76 pounds of glorious porcelain-enameled steel , it comes in one giant box, the cardboard of which is thick enough to flip out on the back stoop and serve as a guest room for visiting relatives.
Some assembly is required here, such as: screwing on the legs, the grate mounts, and one of the handles, the other being welded in place already at the top of the dome.
When erected, the beast stands roughly at 23 by 23 by 48 inches tall, and is guaranteed by the folks at Weber to last 10 years.
Included with the Cooker:
- 2 nickel-plated 22-1/2-inch-wide cooking grates
- 1 Steel charcoal grate
- 1 Three-Gallon porcelain enameled water pan and fire chamber
- Built in thermometer
- Aluminum fuel door
- 3 Aluminum legs
- 3 dampers on the bottom / one up top
- 2 Glass Reinforced Nylon Handles
- 1 Cover and owners guide included
- All hardware is included
All of this equals 726 square inches of premium smoking satisfaction.
To give you an idea of what that looks like in your world, think six racks of St. Louis cut ribs, or six 15 lbs pork butts. Or if you’d rather, you could do the thanksgiving turkey and a ham all simultaneously, with room to spare. Its big, people. Plenty big.
A Closer Look
The fire bowl is comprised of the bottom enameled steel bowl, a steel fire grate, an inner enameled fire ring(fire chamber) three aluminum legs and three dampers. The general procedure here, as shown in the photo, is to fill the fire ring with charcoal. How much charcoal can the WSM 22 1/2 hold you ask? Well let’s just say, if you were so inclined, you could empty an entire 20 lbs bag of charcoal into the belly of this beast with ease. And we have. Set up with the minion method, as seen in the photo, the cooker will run at around 250 degrees for ten hours easily. We have heard of folks getting longer burn times than that even. Reminiscent of the big old American trucks with the 40 gallon tanks, that could go half way across the country before needing a fuel stop.
The nickel-plated cooking grates are your standard Weber affair. 22 1/2 inches in diameter and functional I guess. Nothing very exciting save for that there are two of them. The other one residing about a holiday ham distance below the top one. And this is what gives the cooker its large capacity. Three racks of ribs up top, and a couple of pork shoulders down below, dang, you’re ready to party!
The dome is gigantic feeling too. But then everything about this smoker is. Just lifting the lid is somewhat of an event. The dome is big enough to easily cover the largest turkey you’ll ever want to smoke. In fact, people have been known to somehow fit a young suckling pig in the 22.5. It comes with the standard Weber thermometer you see on most of their products, and we have found it to be reasonably accurate. But keep in mind it only registers the temperature at the top of the dome, and not at grate level, where most pit masters are interested. For grate level readings, you’ll need to use other devices, such as this probe, that we reviewed a while back. But for general smoker temps, it does just fine. The dome also comes with two nylon handles, one on the top, and the other at the perimeter, just below the thermometer. The 4-hole damper vent is just opposite the thermometer.
Just below the two cooking grates you will find the 3 Gallon enameled water pan. It hangs on four strategically placed, multi-purpose brackets, just above the fire bowl. The water pan does two things for this smoker. Firstly, it promotes a moist environment within the cooker, this operating on the plausible theory that such an environment will also help keep your meat moist. While this is of debatable value to some pit maestros, the other thing the water pan absolutely does is act as a heat sink. It absorbs a commendable mass of heat from the fires below, and in turn greatly assists the pit in operating at lower temperatures, whilst at the same time creating a lovely indirect heat that which envelopes your tasty spoils. In point of fact, when the water pan is full, the Weber Smokey Mountain has always seemed to us to be happiest running around 225- 250 degrees F. This is good, because that is also the ideal temperature range in which to tarry, if you want to engage in low and slow smoking activities. Which you certainly do, other wise you wouldn’t be reading this. Fire door opening is roughly 12 inches wide and 14 inches tall.
The Bottom Line
Tho there are better smokers out there, in which the ceramic eggs and custom jobs come to mind, but if you cannot justify thousands of dollars to smoke your weenie on one of them, then the WSM is the next best thing. They are simply adept at doing what they do. Pit masters have won competitions with them, Slap Yo Daddy, Harry Soo for example. These pits just work. Once you dial in the temperature it stays there, no baby sitting, freeing you to go about the important business of loitering belly-up in your man chair, with a lovely beverage in hand. The 22.5 Inch WSM is $400. There are two other sizes out there as well. The 18.5 inch goes for $300. And the 14.5 inch you can find around $200. The porcelain enameled coating keeps these rigs looking sharp for years it seems. If you’re just getting into smoking meat, or want to dabble in competitive BBQ even, these pits fill the bill and your tummy alike. We absolutely love the Weber Smokey Mountain. We think it’s a dang good pit, and it’s our privilege to let you know. Mission accomplished.
Check them out sometime via our amazon affiliate link! Help put some meat on our grill, people!
- Line water pan with aluminum foil, inside and out for easier clean up
- Start with all dampers fully open and gradually feather the lower ones until pit is running at desired temperature
- In place of water, you can also use ceramic briquettes or play sand in the water pan, which will do the same job of a heat sink
- Spray the cooking grates down with grease before hand to prevent sticking later on
- Brand new WSM cookers tend to run a little on the hot side at first, until a good layer of smokey grime is established on the inner walls
- The Minon Method is highly recommended when using this cooker for sustained low temps for long periods of time
- When adding more fuel, simply toss a chimney full of unlit coals through the aluminum fire door, doing so a half hour before you think you need to
- Fill the water pan with hottest water your tap can produce to get the cooker up to temp faster
- When the lid is off, avoid setting it on the concrete to prevent chipping the enameled coating
- Close all the vents when cook is done to snuff out the remaining coals and reuse them next time
*We are an Amazon Affiliate for this product and others, so when you go to amazon through our link, if you buy, we will receive a small commission. It’s a fantastic pit, and we’re proud to endorse it here at PotP.
It was a pleasant morning as morning’s go. To be adrift out on a local waterway. Sunbeams glittering over the surface. Egrets and Blue Herons milling in the shallows. And a light-green, haze, signifying a budding spring, adorning every bush and every tree. The symphonic serenade of a thousand and one bird songs, mingle with that of dipping paddles, peeling fly line, flipping bails, and 1/32 ounce jigs clad in soft plastics, plopping in the drink. I drifted slowly along the wooded shoreline, resolutely plying the waters there, fishing rod in hand, with a clear, albeit idealistic mission – to catch a fish. Running this site, and eating T-bone steaks is great, and ribs sure do hit the spot, but I’ve been getting what they call “fish hungry” lately, and I aimed to do something about it. And today I might have even, had not I been such a lousy fisherman. Seems I departed the lake this morning with my stringer in void, not to mention my stomach. I was fish-less, and still, as it were, fish hungry.
Being the problem solver that I am, however, I did what any red-blooded, fish-hungry American would do. I stopped by the grocer on the way home and I bought me a fish! Mahi-mahi, to be exact. A lovely fare that which swims the oceans yonder, that at the time, seemed more than suitable for my needs. Let’s head back to the pit, and I’ll tell you more about it, and how it went and came to be.
Mahi-mahi, according to the Hawaiian interpretation, means very strong. By the looks of it, I’d say they’re probably right on that. A surface-dwelling, ray-finned fish known to inhabit tropical, sub-tropical, and temperate waters. They average about 15 to 29 pounds, can live up to 5 years of age, are highly sought after in sport fishing, and they sure as heck don’t live in Minnesota. But you can buy the meat of the Mahi-Mahi here, in point of fact, you can buy it all over the place. And man do they go good on the grill. Here’s how to do it.
Whilst the pit heated up, we patted dry two chunks of the tender fish, rubbed them in a coat olive oil, then, feeling Cajun or something akin, dusted them liberally with a blackened spice rub. Mahi-mahi is a non-fish lover’s fish. Meaning if you don’t fancy the flavor of fish, yet want to eat fish, then this is the fish for you. Very mild in fishy flavor, irrepressibly moist, and with the ensuing spice conglomerate, a delicious fare fit for the finest dinner table. Blackened spice is a real easy blend, and extremely tasty. A fish rub worthy of your time. Here is how to make it.
Blackened Spice Rub
- 2 Tablespoons paprika
- 1 Tablespoon each, onion powder, garlic powder, dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon each dried basil and dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (increase this if you like a little burn on the lips)
- ½ tsp cumin
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper
Next step, and for artistic reasons only, we pre-heated the cast iron grate and coated it in a bit peanut oil for to secure the cosmetic beach-head of any would-be grill jockey – grill marks. Sear the fillets for a minute or so per side, just enough to get some nice grate lines. It doesn’t take long to cook these fish. They also are remarkably robust and hold together astoundingly well for this sort of grilling. Save your expensive planks for more delicate fish than this. You will be hard pressed, we wager, to dry out Mahi-mahi. Anyways, after some nice char marks were in vogue, we escorted the meat back to the cool side of the pit, opposite the hot coals, to loiter indirect there for the rest of the cook. The next item on the menu, is a little grilled asparagus, green and tender, for to please the lady folk. And it couldn’t be easier to do.
To amp up the flavor a bit, we had these asparagus spears soaking for a couple of hours in a simple marinade involving, but not limited to: Olive oil, salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar.
Roast the asparagus over direct heat for a couple of minutes, rolling them like a batch of hot dogs for even cooking, until your desired tenderness is reached, and then tuck them back opposite the hot coals, keeping the fish company for the rest of the cook. Speaking of, you’ll want to flip the fish fillets according to your pit master instincts. Do what you need to do. It’s a rather quick cooking meal, unfortunately. Maybe 15 minutes at most. Denying the pit keeper the much coveted down time for the all-important business of drawing a lovely beverage and watching the clouds idle past a pastel sky. But I guess that is what ribs are for. Anyways, when the fish flakes easily with a fork, your dinner is done. Plate up thy spoils at hand, and commence with what you do best! Amen.
Blackened Mahi-mahi sided with marinated Asparagus hot off the grill. Man! Can you taste it! So if you’re looking for something sort of fishy for your next BBQ, and lack the angling mojo to catch your own, try this one out for sure. You shan’t go wrong. Nor be fish hungry.
It is with great adoration, yet reserved applause, that this Minnesotan declares the arrival of Spring. I came out of my hole the other day, and I saw my shadow, so that must mean something I figure. I have seen motorcycles too, whizzing up and down the local roadways. Golfers milling through the local foliage in search of wayward shots. The turdus americanus is also in town, hopping about the semi-green grass in search, I suppose, of a good worm or two. I have noted likewise, that the ice has dissolved off the local lakes and waterways, and people of generally good ilk are walking to their mail boxes with out the aid of down parkas or thermal underwear. Things are looking up in other words! And just below it all, quivering in the trees and bushes, in the brown fields and winding stream banks, is that once upon a time and long ago lost color that is green. Chlorophyll! Glorious galleys of green chlorophyll. And it tingles and aches, leashed by a solar clock, waiting patiently to explode.
On the pit tonight, a house favorite. Hickory smoke pork chops with a maple glaze. They’re real easy to do too, so let’s get after it.
These bone-in chops came smoked right out of the package, and I swear smelled good enough to eat right there, but like any pit keeper worth his tongs, we’re going to double smoke the chops on the old kettle grill. Oh yes! Placing them opposite a good bed of mature coals, with a few small chunks of hickory wood added to the fire, we were ready for action. We lightly sprinkled the chops in garlic and onion salt, and placed the old, black enameled lid on, tweaked the damper, and caught the draft. Soon aromatic plumes of hickory smoke mingled about the patio, signifying to thee yet another pit session in progress. I was about to assume the proper BBQ posture in the pit-side man chair, but a maple glaze needs to be made, and such things don’t make themselves you know. Here is how to do the glaze.
- 3/4 Maple Syrup
- 2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
- 2 Tablespoons Ketchup
- 2 Tablespoons Mustard
- 1 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
Stir it all together and bring to a boil. Then remove from heat.
With about ten minutes left in the cook, we varnished on the maple glaze, with greater Picasso-like brush strokes. You’ll want to stay mindful here, making sure your chops are indirect still, for the sugars in the glaze can get burned easier than a kindly old grandma in a used car lot. Be good to your chops, people, and unto your grandmas too! Keep the hickory smoke wafting, and repeatedly brush on the glaze, frequently flipping the chops. Open up the bottom damper, and get the heat up if you can, for to caramelize your spoils aside a hemorrhaging bed of coals.
I pulled the man chair up close to the pit, tongs still hand, and tarried there a spell, like pit keepers do. The aromas of smokey pork mingle with the freshened, April breeze. I leaned back, left leg crossed over right, and mused over the cottony clouds parading over head. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to do this. To loiter pit-side and watch the clouds go by, that is with out fusing my hind-end to a subzero, ice-encrusted patio chair. Outdoor leisure only operates for so long when the temperatures court that of a Popsicle factory. But today was different. No jacket needed. And the sun tarried aloft more than adequately to see to cook by. Mallards chortled out on the pond. Blue Jays darted to and fro. And the sweet aromas of perfectly executed pork wafted in the air. I smiled to myself. I could sit here all day, just watching the world spin, and I might have iffin I weren’t so hungry right now. Our supper is done. Lets plate up these chops, and commence to doing what men do best – stuffing face!
Maple Glazed Hickory Smoked Pork Chops hot off the grill. A delightful blend of sweet and smokey meat sure to take your belly straight to church! Man!
Well it happened. We have grilled so much meat that our humble steel cooking grate has finally burned through. Except those portions of the grate which have narrowed significantly, but still hang on, courtesy of the many fiery sorties and the great thermal traumas inflicted there. It was a good grate, by and by, but not a great grate. It had a couple of short comings – but at the end of the day, I guess we all do. For one, it didn’t last more than a few years. A larger gauge steel would have helped there. However, secondly, it was a steel grate, and meat tends to stick to steel unless they are oiled down before hand. And lastly, tho not that important I suppose, steel grates are challenged when it comes to making those aesthetically pleasing grill marks on your meat. It doesn’t really rank all that important I guess, but every pit keeper in the back of their mind is quietly hoping for a killer diamond hatch pattern on his steak. It just makes him feel good. At any rate, it was time for a new grate. And thanks to a fellow named Rolf Buerkle and a good idea he had once, I got one.
Enter Craycort Grills Cast-Iron Grates. These are some of the very best grates you will find on the market today. We absolutely love them! The modular grate we went with was designed by the aforementioned Rolf Buerkle of Craycort Grills, and is specially constructed for the 18 1/2 inch weber kettle grill. They come in any size Weber you have tho, so fear not. They also are excellent, they say, for big green eggs, and kamados joes. At any rate, it has been a grand experience thus far. Let me tell you about it.
The Craycort customer service was pretty awesome right from the get go. Rolf himself contacted us, making sure we got everything we needed. And we did. Rolf seemed a pleasant, meat-eating fellow, in good humor, who at once appreciated not only our premeditated love for cast iron, but also our proclivity for winter grilling. He took care of us, for sure! He sent us one of his 18.5 inch cast iron grates as seen below.
The grate that came in the mail was heavy. Like almost 12 pounds kind of heavy. A manly grate weight if ever there was one. It was well packaged too, not that it needed much protection, as the thing is built rather like a Sherman tank, but it was good to see it was pampered right from the factory. What we also appreciated is that it came already seasoned in soy oil. So it’s ready to start cooking with right out of the box. Even so, we let it cook a while on the pit, just in case, to burn off any residue that might have accidentally conspired there. The grate is also modular in design. Three pie pieces, if you will, which slip into the main cast iron ring. They are thick and heavy, and mean business right out of the box. You will be impressed.
Of course the slick part, and the reason for going modular in the first place, is you can easily pluck out any section of the grate. This is a key feature for we patrons of the pit, who are forever and always tinkering with the coals; dumping more in along with varied chunks of smoke wood. There is a cast iron handle also sold separately for manipulating the hot grates, which we found quite handy. Or you could conceive your own tool, perhaps, to do the same job. Regardless, we instantly fell in love with the modular design of these grates. It’s the same sort of setup for the 22.5 inch kettle grills, except those grates come with four sections, instead of three. First impressions of the grate appealed to every manly fiber of our being. And if that were it, we probably would have been satisfied right there. But that wasn’t it. It got even better. One word – accessories!
Rolf was also kind enough to send us a cast iron hot plate/griddle insert. Buddy, now you’re speaking my love language! Simply pull out one of the grate sections and plunk this griddle in its place, and you’re off to the culinary races with such comestibles as: eggs, bacon, sausage, sandwiches, vegetables, and well, just about anything you would do on a griddle over the stove top. It gets even better still. These griddle inserts, we discovered, are also reversible. On the other side we found a series of raised, parallel edges, or ribs, suitable for steaks or a panini or where ever your pit master instincts bring you. Very cool! Craycort sells other accessories too, we found out, such as a vegetable wok, which is also modular and will slip right into place. There is a pizza stone too, which we might have to try some day. Some good stuff – all of it made of durable cast iron. And we like that a lot. Back to these grates.
The pros keep chugging right along. And this next one falls into the aesthetic category – of what is pleasing to the eye. If the grates are good and hot, cleaned and oiled down, you can amaze your friends and astound your family with the timeless pit keeper stamp of excellence – the sear mark. And cast iron grates excel at it. To assure the perfect sear mark, butter or oil your meat before you plunk it on the grate.
Remember those old black iron frying pans your grandma used to use? There is a reason grand mothers are always the best cooks in the family. They knew what to cook with! Cast iron well-cared for is not only something you can pass down to your children’s children, it is also supremely adept at evenly spreading heat and then retaining it there. Better yet, cast iron is one of the few things in the human condition that seems to get better with use. These grates will become more and more non-stick with each grilling session, just like grandma’s old cast iron frying pan. It’s not just something you cook with, it’s something, that with time, you are proud of. Something to last the ages. Say what you will, but that is no small thing.
For as great as these grates are, they are not without a downside. The dreaded beast of compromise surfaces once again. We found them to be a little pricey at around 70 to 80 bucks for a grate. But the bright side is it should be the last grate you’ll ever need to buy, so, in the long run, you’re probably saving money. You will be hard pressed to burn through one of these grates. The other down side, and the only thing we can really knock on these grates is, being made of cast iron, they do and will have a tendency to rust if not cared for. But it is controllable with a wee bit of maintenance. If your cast iron grate is rusty, rest assured you have no one to blame but the pit master in the mirror. Craycort recommends you wipe the grate down in cooking oil before and after each cooking session. A good coating of oil is key to protecting cast iron, and especially these grates, which spend most of their lives out-of-doors. Thus, let it be your habit, if you get one of these grates, to keep a bottle of peanut oil or the like handy, and simply make it part of your grilling process to keep the grate clean and wiped down in oil. It will take all of a minute out of your day and go a very long ways towards keeping this cast iron grate beautiful for a life time come.
We found the Craycort Grills 18.5 cast iron grate to be supremely rugged and well built. We cannot divine ever wearing this thing out, and we grill a lot! The hot plate/griddle accessory looks to be equally as well- built, and we liked how it fit right in with the modular design of this grate. At first blush, the price point of the grate seemed a bit steep, but after considering how long it will last, which is basically for ever, well, the price seemed a trivial non-factor. We also loved its non-stick surface and heat retaining qualities of the cast iron, the latter which promotes better char marks. The only downside we found was its tendency to rust. They will require a little maintenance each cook. And that is no big deal really, for supreme grilling satisfaction. And the Craycourt customer service was amiable, friendly and prompt. Looks to be a good company sharing with the world an excellent product. That’s our review of it anyways.
So if you’re looking to upgrade your kettle grill, or searching for a worthy birthday gift for your man, or resident pit keeper, he will be all smiles with one of these beautiful cast iron grates. You may even eat well that night too! Man!
Check them out along with other cast iron grilling products at: Craycort Grills
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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 formal apology must be made to my fellow Minnesotan’s, for I guess I uttered a tad too loudly in a recent blog, that winter, by and far, was done now. Oh what foolery hath slipped from my lips. For it looks like the old man winter caught wind of that, and naturally dumped a foot of snow on our BBQ grills, just for spite. Just because he can. A little slap in the face perhaps, to an over-eager gesture, here in the mid-folds of April. The snow now is shin-deep again. And tight still are the icy bonds from whence we have so endured. Tho there is hope I see, residing yonder.
The american Robin has moved back in to town now. An usher of hope. I guess he hadn’t got the word on his original twitter account, that it was still winter up here. Like many of us, he too had gotten his little hopes elevated. He’s sitting up in a tree right now, over fields of snow, chirping in a disgruntled manner, whilst no doubt reconsidering his life as a bird. Come to think of it, many people I know are doing the same thing, more or less, in the homely posture of snow-bound tweety birds. All they want for is a little green grass, and a splash of golden sun. A convenience simply not meant to be, this day, as one and all, we parlay for warmer times, and softer skies. One and all, we must surely wait.
I kind of think the wait is good for us BBQ people at least. The wait, after all, is analogous to the low & slow mantra much revered in the smoking sciences. The wait is what makes it all worth it. The longer we extend the smoke, the slower we go, the more time the meat has to absorb the smoke, and for the collagen to break down. The longer we wait, the more savory it gets, sometimes hunger alone even, need be our only spice. In this day and age of the drive through mentality, people just don’t like to wait. But I think by getting what ever we want in expedient fashion all the time, has taken something away from us as a people. It has taken our patience. Smoking meats low and slow at once returns us to that realm of waiting. Teaches us that it is OK, nay, it is beautiful, to let up on the accelerator pedal of life, and do something slowly for once. To nurture that reserve of patience we have lost touch with, and that when it comes down to it, that it is our privilege to wait for something, less we betray the beauty of the moment, and fall victim to the tragedy of haste. Patience is indeed a virtue most lovely. And, as my elder brother is fond of saying, “Patience comes to those who wait”.
A day passeth, and a brilliant sun the likes of which we have not seen in many months, rises high into a blue, Minnesota sky. Snow dripped from the roof of the house with the fierceness of a brooding rainstorm. Oh a fair shade different than yesterday. But that is the nature of spring in Minnesota, fickle and shifting, like the mood of a woman. Neither can help it, and we understand that. For it lends a greater joy towards the good days, and that which we have waited for. Anyways, it was my hallowed day off, and I knew, like any man would, that I would be grilling this day, for the day itself begged of it, and I felt more than a wee bit abiding. On the grill today, slow smoked sirloin pork roast and tin foil potatoes. Oh buddy! Let me tell you about it now, and just how it was done.
Long before any coals were lit, the pork roast was lovingly scored with a knife about a quarter-inch deep, in an artistic checker board pattern. Mostly a maneuver aimed at opening it up a little, so more spice and smoke penetration could be had. I then let it marinate for a few hours, in our standard patron marinade we use here. A sweet and garlicky affair that really helps out unruly pork cuts.
Sweet Garlic Marinade
3 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons garlic salt
1 teaspoon cracked pepper
After a few hours, and after the sun had risen higher yet into that gorgeous blue sky, I sought the next installment of today’s flavor profile, with this delicious paste rub. In a food processor, toss in the following ingredients, and thus process them accordingly.
Sweet Apple Paste Rub
1 Chopped Sweet Onion
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons black pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoon mustard
3 tablespoons apple juice.
Next, dutifully work the paste rub into all the many surfaces of the roast. Be gentle and take your time. Remember we’re in no hurry today. Today is the day we choose to wait. To cultivate the patience patron to low and slow victory. Whence all the paste is rubbed in, let the roast sit there with its new flavors. Let it them mingle and get to know one another. This while you are outside lighting the coals.
Bank the coals to the side, and add a chunk or two of your favorite smoke wood. We used apple wood in this cook, as most find it favorable with pork. Maple is good too. Set the roast on the grate indirect of course, with a temperature probe if you got it. If not, no worries, just keep checking back in on it. We are looking for the minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Rotate your prized meat once or twice during the smoke for even cooking. At around 150 degrees internal, is a good and worthy time to apply the glaze. Here is the wonderful glaze we used on this savory pork roast.
Caramel Apple Glaze
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
3 Tablespoons salted butter
3 Tablespoons apple juice
2 Tablespoons mustard
Boiled this all down in your favorite little sauce pan for ten minutes or so, and baste it on to the pork roast with a brush every ten minutes or so, until you reach 165 internal. Keep the lid on, and the smoke going. Turn down the dampers on the grill. Take your time people. This is your magic hour of grilling. That precious span of minutes where your vittles sizzling give off their most excellent aromas, of spice and sugars, of wood smoke and dripping fats. It is your privilege now, to slow it all down. To extend the moment for the moment’s sake. To take up residence in your BBQ chair, and tarry in the sun there. Good advice I know, and I might have taken it even, had not I spied something green yonder, by the old spruce tree. I got up and wobbled over there, and lo, a patch of grass, spread out before me, between receding patches of snow. I knelt down to investigate it. It has been some time indeed, since I’ve felt a patch of grass with my hands, and smelled its earthy bouquet. Even better, it was dry. Dry enough in point of fact, that I could sit down on it with out that awkward event of having to get up again and looking for all the world like you should be wearing a diaper. In no time, I found myself belly up in the sun there, staring up through the fragrant spruce bows, to a deep blue sky beyond. The song birds rejoiced around me, and my soul did sing. And for a moment, and maybe even longer than that, I felt a kinship with the robin I saw yesterday, and the other souls mired in winter’s clutch, once chirping in disdain over fields of snow. Turns out all I needed indeed, was but a little green grass, and a splash of golden sun.
After a fashion under the old spruce tree, I foiled the roast and brought it inside to let it rest a spell. Ah yes, even when the food is done, a good pit junkie will let his meat rest. To wait even more, in a pleasurable torment, amid aromas of perfectly smoked pork. As it rests, and you pace the floors like a predatory cat, the juices will return to where they most ought to be, and then in turn, to the infinite pleasure of thy palate awoken. Slice the roast into serviceable pieces and dribble some more of that glaze over it, and hail the dinner bell for those so lucky, and patron to your spoils. This a meal by and far, succulent, and most worthy of the wait. Amen.
Slow smoked sirloin pork roast with a caramel apple glaze, sided with tin foiled potatoes. Man! Feel free to drool. We’ll clean it up.
Amid the spring thaw, and blustery gales , I touched flame to the chimney of hardwood lump. I love the smell of lump charcoal lighting, and the sound of it as it crackles and pops. I am transported all at once back up into the northern tiers of my Minnesota bush lands, back to camp fires past, neath the whispering pines, in the forest hollows, aside babbling streams, at tranquil campsites pitched upon the cold, bones of the earth. Those camp fires of birch and balsam, how their warm light reflects off the faces of camp mates, always make a soul feel more at home there, in a harsh, and barren land. I often reminisce in this way, every time I light the pit here on the patio. I hover my hands over the chimney, relishing the heat there, as the keen northern winds slice with disturbing ease through the city streets, kicking up old tatter along the way. And tho it is cold this April day, the sun is still out, and tweety birds, well they don’t seem to care one way or the other, if it’s cold, or windy, or what sort of charcoal I may be using. And that’s OK. I’m not sharing my supper with them anyways. Speaking of supper, come inside with me won’t you, and let me show you what we have marinating tonight.
On the counter, in a zippered plastic bag we have a good couple handfuls of chicken wings, the kind of wings popular at sports bars and taverns, and places with more big screens than a showplace theater facility. Blessed is the man whose freezer harbors a bag of these wings. In the immortal words of Mary Tyler Moore, it can take an otherwise nothing day and suddenly make it seem all worthwhile. And it has. For we are men. We eat meat. And we are keen for the wing!
The winglets today, before they hit the hot grate, receive a good pampering in a delicious home-made marinade. A salty and sweet affair with a touch of garlic. Here is the recipe for it if you have a hankering.
Sweet Garlic Marinade
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 3 table spoons honey
- 3 table spoons maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
Also whilst the coals come to maturity, and the wings marinate, we are soaking some peach wood too. I still prefer the big fist sized chunks, as there is no need to soak those. But if all you have is chips, you make do, and you’ll need to soak them before the cook, less they disintegrate like a 20-year-old pair of underwear whence they hot the coals. Not that I’ve tried that. I was pleased to find some peach wood at the local Cabelas, on one of my monthly forays there. You don’t see that sort of flavor up here in the frozen north too often, and I grabbed it rather by instinct when I saw it. A bit of Floridian essence amid icy winds sounded good today.
Nothing is quite so fine as peach smoke carried in the wind. Do to the high sugar content of the marinade, we went indirect the whole way this cook. Life opposite the hot coals is a good motto to grill by, and will long keep you out of grilling peril. I put the lid on and admired the smoke for a bit, like BBQ people do. I sat down, hunkered into my smoking jacket, and watched the smoke dance off into the stately breezes. And then, rather out of the blue, my left eye lid began to droop. Followed closely by the other. And I pandiculated right there in the chair. Pandiculation. That’s my new word. It means to stretch and yawn at the same time. Turns out I’m really good at pandiculating, and so are a lot of people I know. Anyways, when we brethren of the smoke feel such lethargy brewing, there is of course only one suitable course of action. I promptly went inside and took up residence in the man chair, reclined back to its utter most fancy, and there upon, and with great abandoned, did what sleepy men do when meat is slowly cooking on the grill – I belched and wafted off to sleep. It was lovely.
Most men, we postulate, and some women too I think, are born with an internal meat alarm clock. A meat sense, if you will. Sort of a quantum entanglement deal, where upon we just know when our betrothed meat is ready to eat, or more over, if it is in jeopardy of burning, or being pillaged say, by the neighbor’s dog. It’s a great skill set to have really, whence your aspirations for sleeping on the job come to fruition. BBQ is rigorous work after all, and we should be privy to all the tricks. Anyways, the internal alarm went off and I awoke in my man chair with a gentle yet satisfying graduation, like that of brisket coming to its temperature ideal, whilst resting on the counter top. I wiped the accumulated drool from my left lip pit, as my body rebooted. Golden beams of sunlight washed over my face, as I stretched like a spoiled old house cat in the soft chair. Yes, I pandiculated again. And I knew, as surely as one can know these things I guess, that my meat was done. It was time to eat, and after a fashion, never rushed, we did just that. And the wood smoke tapered in the breeze. Amen.
Peach smoked winglets with a tint of sweet garlic, and the theory of quantum meat entanglement. Man oh man. If you understand one, you probably have the other.