Archive | March, 2012

Rotisserie Chicken – BBQ 25 by Adam Perry Lang “Style”

31 Mar

As you know if you’ve read my little blog, I’ve occasionally been cooking selections from Adam Perry Lang’s Book “BBQ 25” in an attempt to cook my way through the book over the course of this year.

Earlier in the week, I decided to cook a rotisserie chicken this weekend. I had nice 4 lb fryer in the freezer so I thawed it out and started thinking about how I wanted to season it. Then I remembered that I was trying to cook through APL’s BBQ 25 so I took a look at the chicken selections in the book and found an Adam Perry Lang recipe for Whole Spatchcocked / Butterflied chicken. Spatchcocked chicken is a whole chicken that has had the backbone removed then butterflied open so that it lays flat during cooking. It allows for a quicker whole chicken cook and for the chicken to lie flat so that the entire surface area of the chicken can contact the grill grates. I like spatchcocked chicken, but I had wanted to to a rotisserie chicken on my Weber charcoal rotisserie because I like that the chicken self-bastes as it cooks and stays very moist. The longer cooking time also allows ample time for patio-induced relaxation and a cold beverage.

I thought about my dilemma: APL spatchcocked chicken or rotisserie chicken and then I decided “both!” I have a couple of wire mesh baskets that attach to my rotisserie spit and hold the meat being cooked firmly from both sides. I decided I could spatchcock my chicken and still cook it on the rotisserie.

I brined the chicken according to BBQ 25’s instructions – a minimum of three hours in a brine of water, salt, rosemary, thyme, oregano, pepper and a little canola oil. All of this, along with the chicken, went into a 2 gallon zip lock bag and into the fridge for about 4 hours.

The Weber charcoal rotisserie ring sits between the bowl of a Weber kettle grill and the grill’s lid and has mounting hardware for a rotisserie spit. The spit is designed specifically to fit the 22.5 inch rotisserie ring.

Generally when I’m cooking on the Weber rotisserie, I’m cooking at relatively low temperatures – between 300 and 400 degrees. To maintain a Weber kettle grill in this temperature range requires surprisingly little lit charcoal. I use something of a “Minion Method” technique with my charcoal in the rotisserie. I generally use briquettes on my Weber kettles and tonight I happened to have an open bag of regular Kingsford briquettes. I poured a couple of layers of briquettes alongside and parallel to where the spit would  be placed, then lit about a quarter of a chimney of briquettes. When the lit charcoal was glowing red, I dumped it on top of the layers of unlit and adjusted the vents, top and bottom, to about half open. While the temperature was stabilizing (it takes maybe 10 minutes), I removed the chicken from the brine, rinsed and dried the bird, then set about to remove the backbone by cutting alongside either side of the backbone with a sharp knife. I then flipped the bird breast side up and pressed down on the breastbone to break the cartilage between the two breast halves and used my knife to split the bird into two pieces along the breastbone. After than, I separated the thigh quarter of each half from the breast quarter, and seasoned both sides of each piece with Mrs. Dash salt-free onion and herb seasoning (this is not in the APL recipe, but I like rub and since the bird had brined, I didn’t want to introduce any more salt). Finally, I arranged the chicken pieces in the wire mesh rotisserie basket, clamped the top on the basket as tightly as I could so that all the pieces were held firmly in place and ran the rotisserie spit through the slots in each end of the basket, clamped the basket onto the spit with a pair of thumbscrews and headed to the grill.

By this time the temperature on the kettle rotisserie was about 350, which was in my range of cooking temperature (I would have been fine with an initial temperature of anywhere between 300 and 375 since I had plenty of time to cook). I added a couple of chunks of peach wood to the coals and then slid the rotisserie spit into place, replaced the kettle lid, flipped the switch on the rotisserie motor and settled into my chair.

I figured that the chicken would take about an hour and 15 minutes at 325 degrees. As it turned out, my temperature settled closer to 375 so after about 50 minutes, the chicken was very close to done. If I had pulled the chicken and let it rest, it probably would have gotten to 165 in the breast and 170 in the thigh, but I had some baste/glaze I wanted to get on the chicken so I let it turn just a little longer.

The baste/glaze from BBQ 25 consists of a mixture of extra virgin olive oil, crushed garlic cloves, lemon juice, honey, white wine vinegar and just a dash of water. I had made the glaze earlier and the last 10 minutes or so that the chicken was on the rotisserie, I glazed both sides of the chicken every two to three minutes. Finally, when the chicken had been on the cooker for about an hour, I stopped the rotisserie, took off the flat side of the rotisserie basket and removed the four pieces of chicken to a sheet pan, then glazed the top (skin) side of each piece with the remaining glaze.

Since I had mis-timed the cooking time on the chicken, our red potatoes weren’t quite ready when the chicken came off the cooker, so I put the sheet pan of chicken in the microwave to just sit and hang out until the potatoes were ready.

For serving (it was just me since Melissa is a vegetarian and Darling Daughter #2 was “hanging out” with a friend), I split one of the breast quarters into two pieces and ate one half of the breast and a leg quarter.

The chicken had a pleasing appearance. The color was a honey gold rather than the mahogany color my rotisserie chickens usually turn. I attributed this partially to the use of the peach wood rather than pecan and the shorter cooking time for the quartered chicken as compared to a chicken cooked whole on the rotisserie. The brine left the chicken moist and tender, and the flavors in the brine, combined with the flavors in the rub and the glaze, left the chicken with multiple flavor points, all of which complimented each other quite well. There were herb tones from the brine and rub, as well as bright tones from the lemon juice and just a hint of sweetness from the honey in the glaze. I normally accompany chicken – which can be bland – with some honey mustard or Alabama white dipping sauce. However, tonight, the Alabama white sauce from Billy’s Tavern sat quietly on the table. The chicken didn’t need any additional moisture or flavor. And the skin? Well, I carved the breast with a sharp steak knife, but the skin on the leg and the first bite from the thigh were bite through (YES!). On the second bite of the thigh, the skin shifted, but I wasn’t being very careful about from which direction I bit the thigh. I’m calling the skin “bite-through” and that is what I shoot for on every piece of chicken I cook!

Summary: like the other recipes I’ve cooked from Adam Perry Lang’s BBQ 25, the meat came out quite flavorful and well-seasoned. The chicken also was tender and tasty. Also like the other recipes I’ve tried, I gave the recipe a little bit of an interpretative twist – in this case by quartering the chicken and cooking it on the charcoal rotisserie. This recipe is a winner. I know I will use the brine recipe again, and I’m sure that the glaze will be a base for adding some additional flavors to my competition-style chicken legs and thighs. The rotisserie allows the meat to self baste and just adds a bit of fun to the cooking. Good recipe – good chicken – good meal!


Back in the Saddle! Reverse Seared Pork Tenderloin Medallions

28 Mar

I haven’t been posting much lately – that’s because I’ve not been cooking as much as I like to. We had a nice Spring Break trip to the beach – where  my BBQ Brother Steve C and I did a  steak, fish and shrimp cook for about 20 people. The whole thing ended up rather Iron Chef/Stadium Kitchen/Restaurant Impossible-like with the two of us cooking steaks and fish fillets on large charcoal grills in the dark with our Thermapens lit by the light of our “assistants'” cell phones. The results were tasty, however, and the left-overs were few indeed.

Back home, I had a strong “hankerin” for plain, old hamburgers and whipped up a batch for the Performer and at the farm last weekend, The Professor and I, assisted by the Professor II, reverse seared some wonderful rib-eyes from Mr. P’s using two separate grills, one of which I know is over 30 years old and still in great shape (that’s another post for sure).

Still, between Spring Break and a trip to Louisville for a title insurance conference (and bourbon), there hasn’t been much time to grill.

Tonight was my first night home with an opportunity to grill in quite a while and since I’ve been fortunate enough to eat some good steaks the past couple nights,  I opted to mix things up a little bit and cook a pork tenderloin.

I usually cook pork tenderloins by searing them off for about eight minutes, turning the roast every couple of minutes to get some crust going all the way around the tenderloin, then finishing them off indirect, all about 350-400 degrees.

Tonight, however, bolstered by the success of my reverse sear steak cook last weekend, I decided to modify my method a bit. After seasoning the tenderloin with mojo dry rub, salt and pepper, and tying the roast off into about 8 sections using butcher’s twine, I set up a two level fire and put the tenderloin on the cool side of the grill with the temperature at about 325 degrees. I let the roast cook whole, indirect, for about 20 minutes, which brought the internal temperature to about 120 degrees. Then, I took the roast off to rest and let the Performer come back up to about 425 degrees. Once the roast had rested and the grill was up to temperature, I sliced the tenderloin into steaks (or medallions, if you prefer) between the twine ties. Then, I seared the tenderloin steaks over direct heat for about 2 minutes a side. This brought the internal temperature up to about 140 degrees which, with the rest between the steaks coming off the grill and serving, gave the steaks time to come up to my desired finish temperature of 145 degrees.

The results were tender and tasty. The steaks had just a bit of pink in the middle (as they should have) and the mojo rub gave the the tenderloin a citrus-y, Caribbean flavor that paired nicely with some Billy’s spicy and sweet mustard sauce. The leftovers should work wonderfully in some Cuban sandwiches planned for lunch tomorrow.

Feels good to be back in the saddle and on the grill again.

BBQ 25 by Adam Perry Lang – as interpreted by BBQ, Esq. – Effort #2

12 Mar

Last week, I started a serial interpretation of the recipes and techniques in Adam Perry Lang’s book “BBQ 25.” Tonight, I continued the cook-through by tackling the second of the 25 recipes in the book: Chuck Steaks & Leaner-Cut Steaks.

This recipe describes a technique for tenderizing and flavorizing steaks cut from the chuck, sirloin and round primal cuts of beef. These cuts generally are leaner, with less internal marbling than the steaks cut from the rib and short loin. Still, they can be wonderfully flavorful and inexpensive to serve if prepared correctly.

Growing up, these were the cuts my mother would pound with a tenderizing mallet, dredge in flour and fry in a cast iron skillet, using the pan drippings to make a thick gravy. Still a wonderfully delicious way of serving these steaks, but I decided to use these steaks (and a cast iron skillet) in a different way.

Mr. Lang’s technique for leander cuts start with a marinade of Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, red wine vinegar, black pepper, sweet onion, chopped garlic, garlic salt, thyme and chile powder. I made the marinade last night and put a 1 pound chuck steak in a large zip-lock bag and poured the marinade over the steak, pressed out the air and tossed the steak in the refrigerator to hang out. I did make a couple of substitutions in the marinade. I used onion powder, granulated garlic and dried thyme instead of fresh onions, garlic and thyme. Yes, I know, the fresh ingredients would be better, but it was late and I was tired from a round of golf with the Professor and didn’t want to schlep out to Publix at that hour of the night, so I made the substitutions in the ingredients and quantities (about half the recommended measurement of the fresh ingredients).

I decided to cook on my Weber Char-Q charcoal grill tonight. The Char-Q is a discontinued member of the Weber Q series of grills (others being the Baby Q, Q 100, Q 200 series and Q 300 series of propane grills – I have a couple of these and they are great smaller sized gas grills – one of them is the official grill of the Bourbon n Que Tailgate Crew), having been discontinued, one would imagine, because of cheaper (and inferior) offerings by Weber’s competitors in the Char-Q’s price range. The Char-Q is typical Weber quality – a cast aluminum body, configured in a clam-shell style arrangement, with – and this is the killer – heavy cast iron grill grates. The cast iron grates on my Q series grills lay down grill marks like nothing else I own.

After removing the chuck steak from the marinade, I patted each side dry, then “glistened” the steak with Canola. The grill grates had heated up nicely and the steak went on with a satisfying sizzle. Here’s where the cast iron skillet comes in. Mr. Lang suggests pressing on the steak with a bacon press or foil-wrapped bricks to keep the meat in contact with the grill grate. If you have ever cooked a thin cut steak, they tend to want to curl up on the edge, especially if there is a band of fat along the edge of the steak. The heavy object – bacon press or foil lined brick, for example – keeps the meat in contact with the grill and keeps it from curling. I used a 10″ Lodge Cast Iron skillet that I use in and around my grills.

The Lodge skillet (made in the USA in South Pittsburgh, Tennessee) is heavy, flat-bottomed and did a nice job of keeping the steak flat. Mr. Lang calls for cooking the steak until it is “nicely caramelized and charred on both sides, approximately 12 minutes total….” His grill must have been cooler or his steaks thicker, because the Char Q was running at north of 475 degrees on a chimney full of Kingsford briquettes and in 8 minutes (4 on each side) the steak was hitting “medium.” I normally would have pulled the steak at medium-rare, but it was cooking fast, so it was medium before I got it off. When I flipped the steak, I did remember to baste it according to Mr. Lang’s recommendations using Canola oil infused with some Dizzy Pig Cow Lick Steak Rub. That may have helped the steak to remain moist even though I overshot the my desired temperature.

After I pulled the steak, I brushed it again with the Canola / Dizzy Pig mixture and brought it in. The steak had a dual purpose tonight: (1) to be used as filling for an enchilada casserole that Melissa was cooking for dinner and (2) for me to eat aside from the casserole since I didn’t want to eat as much cheese and flour tortilla as I would have had I put all of the beef into the enchilada casserole. So, how did it turn out?

Quite well actually! The meat was well-seasoned, with the flavors of the Worcestershire, onion powder and garlic noticeable but not overpowering. Their was a hit of spiciness from the chile powder (I use Chipotle) and the Dizzy Pig. As a steak, the tenderness was good, not great – after all this was a chuck steak (not chuck eye – one of my favorites) – but the steak was very tasty and quite satisfying. As filling for the enchiladas, the steak was outstanding! I chopped the steak for that went into the enchilada casserole and it was perfectly seasoned for the purpose. I would have really liked to have eaten more of the enchilada casserole – it was excellent – but I didn’t need all the cheese and tortillas.

The verdict on recipe number 2 from APL’s BBQ 25 is that it is a definite “do again.” Lean cuts of beef like chuck, sirloin (especially top sirloin) and eye of round frequently are on sale in my area for several dollars per pound less than my favorite cuts. I don’t think any of these leaner cuts will replace my rib-eyes and Porterhouses as my weekend “comfort” steaks but they can be tasty and economical week-day cuts.Next time, I think I will bring the temperature of the grill down to around 350-400 to make sure the I can catch the target temperature on the thinner steaks.

Two recipes down – only twenty-three more to go!

BBQ 25 – Interpreted by BBQ, Esq. – Results Round 1

11 Mar

Yesterday, I posted about my plans to cook my way through Adam Perry Lang’s book “BBQ 25″ and described how I planned to cook the first recipe from the book, Strip Steak over 1”, using methods inspired by the book, even if I deviated from those methods a little bit for one reason or the other.

Although I don’t generally post a lot of pictures – I usually forget to take them or the cook is moving so fast I don’t want to risk messing up the product by stopping to take pictures – this time, I managed to take a few pictures that show the progression of the method Mr. Lang described in his book and that I, more or less, followed last night.

So here we go:

Photo 1 shows the NY Strip Steak, all seasoned with salt and pepper pressed into the sides and edges of the meat (I trimmed the fat from the edge of the steak prior to seasoning). The ramekin contains some olive oil infused with Weber’s Chicago Steak seasoning with some additional garlic and rosemary. I didn’t have an “herb bundle” to make a mop out of so I just used a silicon brush.

Photo 2 shows the indirect portion of my “reverse sear” method of cooking thick steaks. The coals are arranged on one side of the grill and the meat is placed on the other side of the grill (the “cool” side). The top and bottom vents of the Performer are closed down to about half an inch and the temperature settled between 275 and 300 degrees. The Performer lid was turned so the vent was over the meat, which draws the smoke from the pecan chunks up and across the meat, giving it a bit of smokey flavor.

The indirect portion of the cook takes from 15 – 25 minutes depending on the thickness of the steak and the grill temperature. My target tonight was about 20 minutes to get the steak to about 110 degrees internal and then 5 minutes to sear, followed by a 5 minute rest. I brushed the steak with the seasoned oil about 15 minutes in and flipped the meat. I was a bit surprised to see that I had some nice grill marks on the steak even though the meat had been on the cool side of the grill with no heat under it. Apparently the stainless steel cooking grate did a good job of transferring the heat from the hot side of the grill across the width of the grill and heated the grill grate underneath the steak. That was interesting to me. I’ll have file that away and play with that later.

During the last 10 minutes or so of the indirect cook, I opened the vents on the Performer to let the grill come back up to searing temperature. I also lit about a quarter chimney of briquettes in my chimney starter to supplement the coals that were already on the grill since I wanted to get a nice hot bed of coals on the grill for the searing portion of the cook.  I could have just used a small grill grate from my BGE mini and seared the meat directly on top of the chimney starter.

When the coals were ready and the meat was at about 110 degrees (had the meat gotten there before the coals were ready, I would have pulled the meat off the heat and let it rest until the coals were ready). I sat the grill grate off the grill and onto the top of another chimney starter while I dumped the additional coals in the Performer and let the coals get a nice dose of oxygen and get up to temperature.

The third photo shows the direct portion of the cook. I let the steak cook for about minute, flipped and moved to another part of the grill, cooked for another minute, rotated and flipped, and then cooked the steak for about another 30 seconds on each side. I was looking for an even sear on both sides of the meat.

The fourth photo shows the Performer at sear temperature. It would have gotten hotter if I had wanted it to, but this was plenty hot. Note that I moved lid so that the top vent was directly over the coals to improve airflow to the coals and increase the heat.

Finally, after a short rest (it should have been longer but the total cook had taken about 35 minutes instead of the 30 minutes I had estimated, the rest of the dinner was ready and the girls were  hungry), photo five shows the finished product resting on a bed of melted butter seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic  and rosemary – the APL board dressing described in the book.

I was shooting for an even medium rare throughout – I think I got it just about right. The flavor was big, beefy and complex from the pecan smoke and additional seasonings applied during and after the cook. The meat was moist and tender, and just slightly chewy, which is good because it let you enjoy the flavor for a bit longer with each bite (not that the steak was tough – to the contrary – this was a beautifully marbled Certified Angus Beef / USDA Choice steak – top loin is just naturally chewier than ribeye or filet and that is fine by me). I generally keep a bit of steak sauce or ketchup on the table in case a lesser piece of meat needs a little help in the flavor department. That was definitely NOT needed for this effort.

First effort from BBQ 25 was, in my opinion, an unequivocal success. The method was easy to follow and apply and the results were top notch. Also, one benefit of a longer grilling procedure – like the reverse sear – is that there is time during the cook to enjoy a wee bit of Maker’s Mark to prepare the mind and palette for the meaty treat that is to come!

BBQ 25 by Adam Perry Lang, as Interpreted by BBQ, Esq.

10 Mar

Several years ago, Chef and BBQ cook Adam Perry Lang wrote a book called “Serious BBQ.” It is an excellent barbeque and grilling method and cookbook and approaches the cooking and grilling process from a very detailed perspective with some innovative techniques (herb bundle, flavoring the cutting board with melted butter or oil and herbs and spices before cutting the meat, and others). The only real drawback is that Mr. Lang (or “APL” as he is sometimes called) is a culinary school-trained chef, who was introduced to barbeque by ranch hands on a ranch where he served as private chef to the owner. As a trained chef, he makes use of an exhaustive list of ingredients, flavorings and spices. I would have to take a large bag to Penzy’s to get the dry spices that Mr. Perry has at his disposal, then go who-knows-where to get all of the fresh herbs. So, while the book is an educational and entertaining read, it has its limitations in terms of practicality.
Hearing these comments, Mr. Perry took heed and about a hear later released “BBQ 25” which is a compilation of 25 recipes and techniques from Serious BBQ that are slimmed down in terms of ingredients and techniques. I have had Serious BBQ since it was released, but despite having purchased a couple copies of BBQ 25 for my friends Steve Blake and Bob Fite of Jiggy Piggy BBQ team fame, I only recently purchased a copy of the book for myself. The book is constructed almost like a children’s book in that it is printed on heavy stock with a moisture resistant finish. The binding is designed so the book will lie open so that you can read the recipe without the pages trying to turn themselves. The recipes are slimmed down in terms of the number of ingredients and the techniques are simplified (I now have the option of brushing oil on my meat with a regular brush rather than an herb bundle made by wrapping fresh herbs around a wooden dowel), but the book does make the reader want to fire up the grill and start cooking. That should be the goal of any good grilling and barbeque book after all.
Ever since I got a copy of Gary Wiviott’s excellent book “Low and Slow” right after it was published, I’ve been wanting to do a “serial cook” – kinda like Julie Powell’s goal to cook her way through Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” – but I’ve never gotten around to it. However, I decided that 25 recipes was a manageable goal considering how often I cook outdoors and the number of cookers I have at my disposal. So, I decided I would cook my way through BBQ 25 and tonight is Night #1.
I’m not necessarily cooking the 25 recipes in the book in order. To night for example, I am cooking entry number 2: Rib-Eye, T-Bone & Strip Steaks Cut over 1″.  The recipe and technique are pretty straightforward: (1) Season with salt and pepper, pressing the seasoning into the meat and dabbing the edges of the meat on the seasoning board to collect any excess; (2) “glisten” the meat with canola oil; (3) direct grill the meat; (4) baste the meat with oil and/or butter infused with some dry spices and fresh herbs during cooking; pull at the correct temperature; and (6) rest then pour a board dressing on the cutting board and slice the steak, turning the slices in the board dressing to add flavor.
So that’s what I am going to do tonight. I have a nice 1.5″ choice grade New York Strip thawed and in the refrigerator. I am going to cook the steak on my Weber 1992 Model Performer kettle grill using briquettes and pecan chunks. I am going to vary the APL technique in one way: I am going to “reverse sear” the steak. That is, I am going to cook the steak over indirect heat , at about 325 degrees (basting it as Mr. Lang directs, about every 5 minutes), until the internal temperature of the steak gets to about 110 degrees. Then I will set the steak aside and let it rest while I bring the grill back up to about 450-500 degrees, adding some lit coals if necessary. Then I will put the steak back on the Performer over the high direct heat, for about 2 minutes a side to sear each side and form a crust, pulling the steak when the internal temperature gets to about 120 (the internal temperature of thick steaks continue to rise by up to 10 degrees, in my experience, after they come off the grill).  By cooking the thick steak this way, I hope to end up with a steak that is a perfect dark pink medium-rare from one side to the other (without the band of gray on either side of the steak that would signify that while the middle of the steak turned out medium-rare, the edges were, in fact, medium-well) and a well-seasoned crust on both sides.
I’ll let you know how it turns out!


Costco Traegers – My Traeger Story

10 Mar

There was a post on the Weber Virtual Bullet forums (a fantastic resource for all grilling and smoking interests, not just the ubiquitous yet wonderful Weber Smokey Mountain Smokier) about the sale of Traeger pellet cookers at Costco stores. I have a Traeger, which I was able to purchase at a substantial discount, although not from Costco, and the local Traeger dealer is my friend. I posted on the forum about the interplay between dealers and big box stores and considerations when deciding between a discount store purchase and a dealer purchase. I thought somebody might enjoy reading it here, so here is my response:

I have a Traeger BBQ 075 “Texas Grill” smoker/grill that I’ve cooked on for about 10 months. I bought mine from an employee of a Traeger supplier who gets to buy a couple a year at a steeply discounted price, so I didn’t pay retail.

I use mine regularly and have had no problems thus far, despite the flurry of comments that the quality went south after the company began production in China. I had clearly rather have a product Made in the USA, but these days, who knows what that really is or if it truly exists.

I can put 8 butts on my Traeger or a bunch of chickens or, with the rib rack, a bunch of ribs. etc. The level of “smokiness” in the meat depends more on the temperature at which the meat is cooked. Because less smokey flavor is much less pronounced when I cook at 325+ than when I cook at 275 or below. Max temp on my Traeger runs between 450 and 500.

I prefer to use BBQer’s Delight pellets. They are oak blended with the flavor wood of choice and burn particularly clean and give excellent flavor to the meat when smoking. They also produce some charcoal pellets if you don’t want any more smoke flavor than you would get with a bag of Kingsford or Royal Oak.

All of that being said, I would be a bit skeptical of the Costco Models. I would compare the models offered at Costco to the models on display at a local dealer’s shop and ask questions of the dealer – nobody will know at Costco. Also, when you buy it at Costco, it’s yours – for better or worse – there isn’t going to be any dealer support there. On the other hand, you’re going to pay more at the dealer but you’re going to be getting the dealer service, including warranty service, that is going to be vapor at Costco. (And I’m not picking on Costco – I’m a member at the one nearby, but don’t go there very often – Sam’s is closer to my house but the same analysis going for name brand items purchased at Sam’s). Despite what the manufacturer might say or imply, I am not convinced that the goods sold through the dealer network and the goods sold under the same brand at the big box discounters are, indeed, the same product.

Finally, consider where you want your dollars going: to the big box retailer or a local dealer who probably lives and supports your local community. Price is always a consideration, but my time is valuable, so service after the sale and customer support also is important to me. If I can get a great deal on what I know is an equivalent product, I go to my local dealer and ask him about the price and the product I’m considering. My local dealer and his staff will be honest with me. If I decide to buy the “deal” I then ask them if they will give me support on the product if I buy my fuel and accessories from them and pay them for service at a fair rate. The folks I work with (Mike and Winfred at Alabama Gas Light & Grill for my Traeger, Primo and Kamado Joe products) are wonderful folks who work with me on whatever I need. In return, I am a loyal customer for fuel and accessories and I never try to take advantage of them or their time. I think it is a good arrangement for us.

Rambling post to say: Look before you leap, decide what is truly important to your cooking experience, and get to know your local dealer.


Parting Brisket…..

9 Mar

Today was Missy’s last day at the law firm where she has worked for the past two years. She starts a new job with a title insurance company on Monday. Over the past couple of years, I’ve cooked lunch for her co-workers. I’ve done beef brisket for brisket tacos and pork butt for pulled pork and they’ve both been well-received, but the brisket seemed to be the favorite. When Missy told the group she was leaving, they asked if I would cook brisket for them one more time. Cook? Brisket? SURE!

I had planned to cook two packers, but when I hit the Sam’s Club yesterday afternoon, they had only flats so I picked up three flats, about 6 lbs each, for the cook.  I did a light trim on the briskets, leaving the fat cap on the bottom and rubbed them up with a blend of salt, pepper and granulated garlic, then topped the briskets with a dusting of the “Wow up your Cow” rub.

Since this was an overnight cook – or most of the night – and I like to sleep on work nights, I decided to cook on the Traeger Texas grill, using Traeger Pecan pellets. The briskets went on the smoker at 9:30, with the temperature control set to 225 and actual temperatures on the digital read out running about 235 – 240. I went to bed and then got up at 2:30 and wrapped the briskets in foil, adding some cheap beer to the foil before putting the meat back on the smoker. About 5:00 this morning, I went down to check on the progress and the meat temps were around 200 degrees and the temperature probe “fell into” the meat when I checked the temperature. Perfect, BUT I knew that the temps would continue to rise and it was likely that the briskets would be a little overdone by competition judging standards. So I left the briskets in the foil sitting out on a table for a couple hours to minimize the temperature rise.

Since there isn’t a kitchen on the floor where Missy’s office is located, I needed to slice up the brisket before I left for the office. I drained the pan juices from the foil and set it aside, then sliced the briskets. Since I knew the briskets might be a bit overdone, I used an electric knife to get a cleaner cut, and this helped considerably. The briskets would, for the most part, have been a bit overdone for competition (bit I think I still could gotten six decent slices for a turn in box if I had to), but as it turned out, was just right for making brisket tacos. I sliced the briskets, then took the odd ends and trimmings and chopped them in a faux burnt ends presentation that I put in one end of one of the half pans.  Since I still had a while to go before leaving for work, I decided to try something: I took the fat caps I trimmed from the bottom of the briskets and put them on top of the pans of beef, then put a foil lid on each pan and put them in the oven at 170 until time to leave for the office. My theory was that the fat caps might continue to render and help keep the briskets moist.

I put the pan drippings in the refrigerator to separate the fat from the juices and got ready for work. By the time I was dressed, the fat had coagulated at the top of the container and I was able to remove it easily, then season the drippings with Worcestershire Sauce, Stubbs Spicy BBQ sauce and some apple juice, as well as a little chicken stock (a good flavor neutral medium) and beef stock.

I transferred the pans to a cooler then headed to work until time to take the food over to the law firm. Once there, I got the meat ready to serve. The fat caps covering the sliced meat seemed to do their jobs since the brisket slices still had a moist sheen to them.  I transferred the meat to a couple of microwavable serving dishes, added some of the sauce, and heated the meat just a bit (it was still pretty warm when removed from the cooler).

The verdict: although I would have considered the brisket a bit overcooked if I was presented with my slices at a contest, I thought the meat was just right for the tacos we were serving today. The meat was still moist, was very tender. We had about 10 pounds of meat, about 25 people and just a little bit left over. Most folks were getting second (or third) helpings so I’m calling it a success. Still kicking myself for not getting it off the smoker at “just” the right moment, but there is a difference between competition food and regular good eatin’ food and while this might not have gotten me any 9’s at a KCBS contest, it did get me a lot of High 5’s at the lunch table!