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July 12 – Bachelor Night Dinner

12 Jul

Meat: Top Sirloin. CAB from Piggly Wiggly

Seasoning: Salt, Pepper & Dizzy Dust

Grill: Weber Q320

Temperature: 450

Cooking Time: 8 minutes

Finish Temp: Approx. 120





After School (or Work) Cookin’ on the Kamado Joe

29 May

Used to be that for a school week or work week grillin’, I would come home and fire up the Weber Genesis or the Weber Q220 or Q320. Those are wonderful grills and in 10 minutes, max, they will heat up and be ready to cook.

However, as fond of them as I am, they do not use charcoal and while gas grilled beats pan seared, oven roasted steaks any day, charcoal grilled steaks beat gas grilled steaks hands down (in my humble opinion, lest we start a blog war). The perception is, however, that it takes too long to fire up a charcoal grill. I’m not sure that is true under ordinary, chimney starter charcoal lighting circumstances, but I KNOW that isn’t the case when you happen to have a propane powered torch nearby! With a long handled propane torch ( check in the welding supply area at Lowe’s) or a weed burner ( bigger ) I can have a Kamado Joe full of lump charcoal lot in about 5 minutes.

Tonight I came straight in from work and hit the lump left over from last night’s pizza cook with the propane torch for about 5 minutes, went inside and changed clothes, poured a cold beverage, and came back to the patio. The Kamado Joe was at 500 degrees and ready for some steaks. I am now enjoying that beverage and waiting until 6:10 to put the steaks on so they will have 10 minutes to cook and a few minutes to rest before the announced dinner time of 6:30.

That is just as fast as any of my gas grills and with a lump of pecan tossed in on top of the lump in the Kamado Joe, I will get flavor not possible on my gas grills.

My technique is simple: steaks on for 3 minutes (rotate half way through if you like cross-hatched grill marks), flip, wait three minutes. Then remove the steaks to a platter. I put a 10 inch metal pizza plate on the grill, put the elevated Kamado Joe second grate on the cooker, and put the steaks on the elevated grate, over the pizza plate, and finish the steaks indirect to get a good, even degree of doneness throughout. Start checking temps on 1 1/4 inch steaks after about 4 minutes on the elevated grate. Once the steaks get over 100 degrees internal, the temps rise quickly. I pull the steaks around 120 internal and let them rest for at least 5 minutes then destroy them!

Great way to finish any work day!



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!

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!

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.


Steak Night – Kickin’ it Old School

9 Dec

Years ago, when Melissa and I were in law school, one night a week I designated as “Steak Night.” It was our take-off on the beef commercial “Steak Night in America.” I didn’t know a whole lot about grilling at the time, and had an unfortunate series of cheap grills, but somehow, I usually managed to cook a satisfying piece of meat.

Years have passed and I’ve cooked thousands of meals on my grills. The grills have improved and hopefully the quality of the meals has improved, too.  In school Steak Night was most often Friday night. Now, its most often Saturday night, but because of this week’s schedule, tonight was Steak Night.  The cuts selected from the Smitty’s Que Crew meat locker (aka, the freezer) were a rib-eye and a couple of chuck-eyes.

The rib-eye, of course, needs no introduction or explanation. The chuck-eye is not as well-known but is a slightly lower-rent version of the rib-eye, taken from the same muscle, but from “higher up” on the animal – in the chuck sub-primal rather than the loin. So, the chuck-eye has great flavoring, nice marbling and is quite tender, albeit a bit more chewy than its muscle-mate the rib-eye. We like chuck-eyes here because each steak is about a half-pound – just the right portion for most of Meredith and my meals (remember, Melissa is a vegetarian). Rumor has it that chuck-eyes generally are more affordable than rib-eyes, although around here, I think somebody clued in the meat departments of the local grocery stores. Chuck-eyes generally run about a dollar a pound less than rib-eyes, but occasionally, the Pig (Piggly Wiggly) will have chuck-eyes for $3.99/lb. When they do, I load up. I hit the steaks with some Worcestershire sauce and a healthy dusting of Weber’s Burgundy Beef rub (a nice, beefy rub that is finely ground and has ample flavor to compliment big cuts of beef).

So, meat selected, I had to decide what to cook on tonight. During the week, I lean toward one of the gas grills, but tonight I decided to go “old school” – real “old” school – and cook on my 1992 Model Weber Performer kettle grill. The Performer is the wheeled and tabled version of the ubiquitous (and wonderfully designed) Weber kettle grill. I got my first Weber kettle in 2004, after hearing a neighbor at the lake sing the praises of his Weber gas grill. I decided to go back to cooking on charcoal about that time and bought a basic Weber kettle grill and started learning to cook on it. There is a definite learning curve coming from gas to charcoal, but that’s a story for another day.

In any event, in 2008, I had started to get seriously interested in BBQ, smoking meats and grilling in ways other than dumping a large charcoal chimney of Kingsford in the grill and tossing some steaks on a grill grate directly on top of the coals and cook until several cuts into the meat told me the steaks were done. I had seen pictures on the Weber Virtual Bullet forum of RED Weber Kettle grills and thought they looked fantastic. Unfortunately, Weber wasn’t making the red kettle grill at that time and all of the “redheads” on the forum were in Chicago and California. Finally, I saw a RED Weber Performer on Craiglist and I made a quick call and a quick trip and was the PROUD owner of a RED Weber Performer. This is the old style performer – with the stainless steel table. I spent weeks collecting parts from Weber to put the grill into better shape, cleaning the grill and table and touching up some blemishes in the porcelain finish with high-temperature paint.

So, against the backdrop of “Steak Night” and my desire to fire up the Performer, the selection was made.  I set up the Performer for a “modified two level fire” – as Cooks Illustrated calls putting the coals on one half of the cooking grate and leaving the other half of the charcoal grate empty. I used some once-used briquettes and lump mixed, lit the charcoal with my propane torch and waited for the charcoal to get hot and ready. After about 15 minutes, the charcoal was heating up slowly (it was COLD here tonight) but I went ahead and tossed the rib-eye on the grill over the coals an let it ride about 8 minutes. By this time, the temp on the Weber had risen to about 400 degrees and side one had a nice char on it. I flipped the rib-eye to the other half of the hot side of the grill and added the thinner chuck-eyes. Another 6 minutes or so and the rib-eye was reading about 125 degrees so I slid it over to the cooler side of the grill while the chuck-eye’s finished. The chuck-eyes hit about 130 a couple of minutes later, so I tossed the mean onto a Fiestaware platter I had heated on the top of my Weber Genesis Silver B gas grill and let the steaks rest.

Meredith is my biggest fan – she loves my steaks and pulled pork – but she also can have a critical palate. I generally judge my cooking efforts by how Meredith likes the product. Tonight, she commented quickly that her chuck-eye tasted really good. I was enjoying the rib-eye, which turned out a nice medium rare. After she finished her steak and salad, she asked “Is there anymore steak left?” Ahhh, the sound of sweet success……..

Leftover (YUM) BBQ Pork!

8 Dec

Tonight was a no-cook night – well, sort of – no cooking in the Grill Garden. Luckily, I cooked a Boston Butt over the weekend for a friend and had retained a some of the cookin’. So tonight’s dinner was BBQ Pork and roasted sweet potatoes.

The BBQ was cooked on my Kamado Joe ceramic Kamado-style cooker. The KJ is a red-headed first cousin to the ubiquitous large-sized Big Green Egg. It was given to me as a gift about two years ago, and I have cooked on it at least once a week – oftentimes more – ever since then. The KJ comes with a nice sturdy “nest” with large wheels for easy movement and two teak wood fold down shelves. The cooking grate, which is the same size as the large BGE, is stainless steel and hinged to allow the adding of additional smoke wood, if necessary, during the cook. The Kamado Joe Company, based in Georgia, doesn’t yet offer as many accessories as there are “Eggcessories” for the BGE, but the heat deflector set up is creative and the pizza stone is sturdy. Luckily, “Eggcessories” designed for the large BGE also fir the Kamado Joe. I’ve run the KJ for as long as 20 hours on a single load of Wicked Good lump charcoal, starting with grilling steaks, then cooking a Boston Butt, and finally, finishing with a spatchcocked chicken. The Kamado Joe is my all-purpose workhorse cooker, handling all cooking parties with ease – from 14 hour briskets to 8 minutes of searing steaks to 3 minutes or so of Neapolitan-style pizza.

Although the Kamado Joe holds temperatures rock steady for hours on end, I admit that on my overnight cooks, I cheat. That is, I use a BBQ Guru Nano automatic pit temperature controller to help the Kamado Joe maintain a steady cooking temperature. I start the fire in the Kamado Joe, attach the Nano, and set the temperature on the Nano. When the pit gets to temp, I go to bed and sleep well, knowing that when I get up to check on the fire after four or five hours, the temperature will be right where I left it, and when I get up in the morning, the temperature will be in the same place. Actually, it does that without the Nano, but hey, its a great gadget!

I think that BBQ pork often is as good or better a day or two after it’s cooked than it is when it’s pulled off the pit. The heavily-seasoned, bark-covered, smoky outside meat has a chance to hang out with the tender inside meat and all the flavors meld together. Since pork reheats so well, the BBQ sandwiches, pork empanadas and other leftover creations are often as good as the first plate of pulled pork.

Tonight was not exception – a nice plate of  moist, tender, smoky, sweet BBQ pork tossed with a healthy dose of Saw’s BBQ Sauce from Mike Wilson’s Saw’s BBQ in Homewood, Alabama was a perfect main dinner event for a cold, damp night.

The side-kick for the pulled pork was a cubed-roasted sweet potato, topped with olive oil, salt, pepper and a rub I made a while back for pork tenderloin that has a flavorful dose of cinnamon and nutmeg in it. I had been saving it, waiting for something that I thought it would compliment, and the sweet potato seemed like a natural match and it was.

Great cold weather dinner – tasty, satisfying and, best of all, sensible enough to keep me in my calorie goal for the day! Great meal, even if I didn’t get to go play in the Grill Garden tonight. That’s OK, I’m already planning tomorrow night….