Monday, July 21, 2008

Aspirations, or too much of a good thing?

I found this on the Bass Pro Shop site. I hope to see one when I am in San Antonio next week. I can't pass up a trip to Bass Pro Shop. It's just too much fun!

Letting Your Meat Rest-

I talk a lot about barbecue with my work associates. Most are unrepentant carnivours. Not necessarily unreformed, but unrepentant. We love meat, even those of us who are being compelled to cut back due to weight and high cholesterol.

One of my associates, Kevin Fisher, shared something he has been doing to rest his meat. Ahem. That is, to let the meat rest for a time after taking it off of the fire and away from the source of heat. This purportedly allows the juices to even out through the meat and improve the flavor.

The tool he uses is an Igloo cooler. Lined with aluminum foil, the cooler becomes a hot box when meat is placed inside and the lid closed. Using the Igloo in this manner allows the meat to be cooked and then to rest in the hot box. Other meats may be prepared, and later added to the insulated box. It all stays hot until ready to serve.


Kevin claimed to have learned this from a friend while attending a barbecue. This friend used a different colored box for different meats, and always used the same box for the same kinds of meat. Inexpensive, and a very good idea.

Keven even said he could do the meat, then grill the vegetables and get the sides all ready while the meat rested in the Igloo. The grilled vegetables could be added to the meat to stay warm until time to serve.

I really like this idea. One of the problems with low-and-slow cooking has been coordinating the cooking times. Now it will be easy!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Pork Rib Roast-

That's what the label said. Five nice chunks of pork. Good looking fat. Nice meat. I liked the texture. Four pieces had bone in. I judged a two hour cooking time, and set up for that.

My spices were a blend of Dollar Tree Zesty Seasoned Salt, Black Pepper, and table salt in equal portions. I blended them in a little shaker we had around the kitchen. The meat was rubbed with oil, and the seasoning applied. I think it applied more evenly than with sprinkling by hand. I was generous, but not as extreme as the last two barbecues. Those tasted just a bit salty.

I got the fire going, and the meat on the cooking grill. I monitored at the usual 30 minute intervals, adding coals and wood chips as I went along. I did some reading during this time, and enjoyed the afternoon.

The results were quite tasty. The meat was as good as it had looked. The fat had cooked down, and flavored the meat very nicely.

My only particular note is to be generous with the fuel. With the Silver Smoker, I have learned that the temperature declines if the fuel is not abundant. I would advise loading on the fuel, and adjusting the temperature with the vents if necessary.

I still have not found a good source for charcoal in bulk. So far I have been satisfied with the performance of the Kingsford brand of charcoal. I get more consistent temperatures with this product than the lump charcoal, and it is more readily available.

One thought for the future is to set out the charcoal in some small buckets to aid in adding fuel. Do a check, dump in the prepared bucket of fuel. No digging in the bag, no pouring from the bag and getting too much in the fire box.

So far I have not been pre-lighting my charcoal when I add it to the fire box. I just dump in the unlit charcoal and move it around. Since the firebox is offset from the cooking chamber, I don't have to shape the fire as much as would be necessary on a kettle grill.

I am due for some new gloves. I will probably get some good gloves in the next few weeks.

Well, that's all for now. I think I am ready to begin experimenting a bit. I seem to have the basics down, and it is time to have some real fun!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Beef and Chicken-

The other day it was a beef roast and a Cornish game hen. I did my oil and rub. Set things up in the usual way. Cooked for four hours. Turned out good. Quite good, actually.

The only change this time was to feed fuel more regularly. Every thirty minutes I checked the fire, added hickory chips, and added briquettes. As a result, I got very good and consistent heat. I reached temperature at around three hours, and let it ride the last hour. I kept the fuel level up, and the finish was very good.

I have chopped up about half of the beef and chicken, and mixed them in a bowl to use as chopped meat over a couple of days. I did a barbecue spaghetti, which was pretty good. I was surprised to find a barbecue restaurant (mentioned on the Travel Channel) was also doing barbecue spaghetti. They use their barbecue sauce (proprietary) as the spaghetti sauce, as well as using their barbecued meat.

Soon I hope to find the time and resources to explore creating my own sauce. I plan to begin with an apple and an onion. I am not yet sure what I shall add to that.

One step at a time.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Barbecue Design-

Most recently competitive barbecue masters have addopted the oil drum as a cooking instrument. Standing upright, with a wire mesh fire box at the bottom and a grill at the top, and a vent pipe which draws air into the fire zone at the bottom of the structure.

The fire boxes are ingenious. Mesh boxes with a mesh floor that could be moved up or down in the box to allow for more (or less) fuel. These are loaded with charcoal and placed in the bottom of the drum. They are generally ignited by a blow torch with an extension to reach the bottom of the drum.

The grate is near the top, just enough below the top to allow a lid to be placed on the assemby when the meat is in place. The lid has a smoke vent, with a cap to restrict the outflow of smoke.

Most are manufactured by the user from actual oil drums. One fellow I saw using such a device in a video was proud of the fact that the unit had cost him two dollars. I assume a serious cleaning takes place before these recycled oil drums are put into service.

The commercially produced units are drums that never contained oil, or anything else. They are new drums.

Now, I had a thought on this. If the drum were cut around the circumfrence about a foot from the bottom, the lower section would be available as a fire ring. If metal tubes were welded on at fixed distances around the circumfrence of both the top and bottom sections the units could be locked back together. To aid in this I would weld a strip of metal to the bottom of the top section along the inside circumfrence to aid in aligning and joining the two halves.

This access to the bottom of the drum would make lighting the fuel easier. Placing the fuel would even be easier. Plus, used as a fire ring, rods of metal could be placed into the tubes used to lock the two parts together and used to hold meat in place to roast beside the fire.

If one wished to do some dutch oven cooking, the tripod could be affixed to these points as well. The fire would be contained. The ash and other remains of the fire could be carried away with the rest of the gear, leaving a campsite clean and clear.

If I get around to drawing this up, I will place my drawings here.

At the present cost of these new drum smokers, I won't be buying one anytime soon. However, they are intriguing, and certainly I shall keep them in mind when I am ready to replace my Silver Smoker.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

More barbecue chicken-

I have gotten tired of chicken over the years. Uninspired baked chicken. Uninteresting chicken breasts prepared in a "oh, well, we might as well have chicken" kind of way. Boring chicken.

However, the barbecue has given chicken a new excitement. I already did chicken in a previous post, so I will simply relate what I did different this time.

I was looking at my Barbecue! Bible and saw a way of preparing the chicken. In essence it was a matter of cutting out the backbone and the breastbone to be able to lay out the chicken flat on the grill. The technique was a bit more fancy than what I did. I just cut as much away as I could on either side of each bone using kitchen shears, and then finished the cuts with my cleaver.

The halves flattened out quite nicely. No real loss of meat, and the cut-off could be used for stock.

I used my olive oil to prep the birds. I rubbed them down with Zesty Seasoned Salt (from the Dollar Tree), pepper and salt mixed in equal portions.

The charcoal I started in the chimney using my alcohol igniter. Got a good bed going. Laid out the birds (nice and flat.) Inserted the thermometer and sat back to read The Barbecue! Bible.

I paid closer attention to my fire over the course of the next two and a half hours. I have been loosing heat toward the end of my cooking time, and wanted to see what I was doing wrong. Early on I add briquettes as I tend the fire, adding soaked wood chips when I do so. However, I noticed that I was misjudging the state of the fire toward the end of the cooking time.

The coals had a good ash, and were glowing red deep inside the pile. The box seemed hot, so I didn't add any fuel toward the end. My temperature (inside the meat) was running steady at 160 degrees, when my target was 165 degrees. I finally added some more fuel and eventually got to target temperature.

What I figure I am doing wrong is allowing the charcoal to burn away enough fuel that it just does not have enough energy to pump out that last bit of heat. The ash was growing heavy, and even though the fire box seemed hot, it was not hot enough.

So, I plan to add fuel with every check, about every thirty minutes or so. Make sure that fresh fuel is entering the cycle, to keep that heat on. Even toward the end of the cooking run, when it seems like a waste of fuel.

I finally reached temperature after about two hours and twenty minutes of cooking. My last chicken run was not quite as tender as I wanted it to be, so I closed down the vents and most of the chimney vent to hold in the heat and slow the burning of the fuel. It just seemed like a good idea.

Moist, tender, and full of flavor! We had the chicken with Bush's baked beans, and it was delicious! I see Bush has some new beans to offer to complement the grilling experience. I have to give that a try.

Beer of the day; A&W Root Beer!