With two Little Smokies running around it’s hard to find time for the selfish contemplation that is brewing and barbecuing. Brewing takes a good 5 hours from the time I get the supplies out untill everything is cleaned up. Cooking up some pulled pork takes about 15 hours, not to mention the prep time the night before. True, I don’t have to sit next to the smoker for 15 hours, but it’s always on my mind. In my search to be more zen with my barbecuing I’ve found a couple “helpers” to keep my alter ego of Super-Stressed-Out-Action-Man at bay.
First off, for the past couple years I have been using terracotta flower pot bases and tin-foil in my water pan instead of water. This is definitely nothing new or groundbreaking, but I finally got around to trying it and now I wouldn’t have it any other way. The whole point of using a water pan is to help keep a steady temperature in your smoker by increasing the thermal mass. Unfortunately water evaporates and needs to be topped up. Then there is the mess of dirty water with all the fat drippings from your meat. Now I just peel away the top sheet of aluminium foil and throw it away.
That alone is not enough to keep the fire under control. Luckily I now have the PartyQ from BBQ Guru. The PartyQ is one of the cheaper Automatic Temperature Controllers on the market. It isn’t the most feature rich ATC but I was looking for a simple set it and forget it solution. I don’t need to see a temperature log on my smartphone. It also runs off of 4 AA batteries, which is good since the nearest electrical socket is far from my smoker. I did read some negative reviews of the PartyQ but those seemed to be coming from people who were trying to use the PartyQ to bring their fire up to temperature. This can take a while, lead to a massive overshoot in temp, and kill your batteries. I have had no problems so far and the temperature in my smoker stays rocksteady. The only time I see a change is when I open the lid to mop the meat, but this is quickly taken care of without any action on my part. The PartyQ has been a dream and if you follow a couple of basic rules then it is a very powerful tool.
The PartyQ has one probe with an alligator clip on it. The clip can be pulled off so that the probe fits through the BBQ guru probe eyelets I installed years ago for my wireless Maverick ET-73. Since I have the Maverick I didn’t need to get an ATC which has a food probe too, and I can still monitor my smoker and meat temps from inside the house.
Pork tenderloin gets cooked around here quite a lot. Normally its a bit of a no-thought-needed item to throw on the grill. This time I wanted to stir things up a bit. First I decided upon some flavors (apple, pecan, whiskey, maple syrup) and set about figuring out how to combine them. I ended up stuffing the tenderloin with the apple and pecan, and saucing it up with the whiskey and maple syrup. Since it turned out so well I thought I’d share it.
1-2 slices of bread depending on size (cubed and toasted)
1 large apple
1 small onion
1+ tsp dried sage
-1/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans
For the stuffing, sautee the onion and chopped pecans in a decent amount of butter. After the onion goes translucent add the diced apple and sage. Let that cook till the apple softens a bit and then add the toasted bread cubes. Off the fire, lid on, set aside.
In the meantime slice open the tenderloin in a sort of upside down Y and then open it up. Heap the cooled stuffing onto this sheet of meat, fold it closed, and attempt to lace it up. A third hand can be useful. After that, season the meat with fresh ground black pepper and sea salt. Cook indirect (not above the coals, with the lid closed) and baste several times with a 50/50 mixture of whiskey and maple syrup.
Sauce: as usual I didn’t take notes on the sauce so this is an approximation.
1 medium onion, chopped
1/3 – 1/2 cup whiskey depending on how boozy you want it.
4 tbs maple syrup
3/4 cup heavy cream
Pepper and salt to taste
Sautee the onion in a tablespoon or two of butter. Deglaze with the whiskey. Let that reduce to 50% and add the maple syrup and cream. Simmer until its the desired thickness (stir frequently) then run the sauce through a sieve. If you do make it too thick, don’t try diluting it with more whiskey. Don’t ask.
I’ve had a few chances to play around with the Gueuze barrel chips now and thought I’d share my findings (on both grilling use and beer use).
The Beer side: When I first opened the bag of chips I immediately threw some into starter wort to try and grow up the critters living on the chips. Not surprising, the bugs did get going pretty quickly. Also not surprising it developed some green mold. It looked and smelled decent for about 4 or 5 days and I thought that it might end up being usable. Then the aroma really went down hill and the green monster started growing. Oh well. I still haven’t dumped it out (too afraid) and I was thinking that I could possibly pull some of the beer out from under the mold and try to culture that up… but really, I’m too lazy for all that. Plus I like the reliability of buying pure strains and mixing them myself, or culturing up dregs from bottled beers.
The Fire side: The chips have been used to add some smoke to pork, fish, and numerous chickens. Result… Shocker, the smoke flavor is just like oak! Well, to be fair I think there may be a slight difference that I haven’t yet been able to nail down, but unless you are going to do a side by side oak vs gueuze barrel (made from oak) smoke test, I don’t think anyone would pick up on a difference. I actually do plan on doing that some time though (Bourbon barrel chips vs Gueuze barrel chips).
That being said I do actually like using these chips. In general, they are chipped quite small and don’t need to be soaked too long before throwing on your fire. That makes them ideal for quickly adding smoke to items that aren’t slow-cooked for 60 hours. Also handy if you are “planning-challenged” like me and realize that you forgot to soak your chips as you’re about to throw the meat on the grill.
Gueuze Barrel chips are great for a quick burst of smoke when grilling
Don’t bother using them for long smokes
Keep them out of your homebrew (just culture up dregs from a bottle if you must)
I wonder if barrel chips from a good kriek would offer anything extra? Hey,Peter De Clercq, how about that? I’ll help test them out for you.!
Spelling aside, I turned a year wiser. Ok, it was actually a couple months ago but let’s not get carried away with details. To celebrate I decided to cook up some Ribs. Realizing I have never written a real post about ribs, I thought I’d throw this one out there.
First the meat: In Belgium there is only one type of rib, the Baby Back rib (bottom of the photo to the left). Strangely enough on menus all across the kingdom they are always called Spare ribs (top of the photo to the left) . After some discussion with my local butcher I finally figured out what real Spare ribs are called here, Vleesribben (or “Meat ribs”). They are usually cooked and served as individual rib bones here, but I wanted full racks of course. Armed with this new knowledge I ordered up three racks of meat ribs for my birthday.
The racks were cut a bit taller than what you typically get back in the US, but not as long. I trimmed the ribs St. Louis style and rubbed them with the latest version of my evolving rib and butt rub.
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup paprika
1/3 cup coarse sea salt
1 1/2 tbsp. fresh ground black pepper (I may up this a touch next time)
4 tsp. dry mustard powder
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. cayenne pepper
The ribs went into the smoker at 100C (212F). The minion-method fire was made up of coconut shell briquettes with 4 large chunks of hickory and apple wood buried throughout. The smoker stayed right between 100 and 110 (212F to 230F) for 5 hours until I ramped it up to around 130C (265F) for two more hours. None of that 3-2-1 nonsense, just a well controlled smoker and some good meat. I was using water in the water-pan but plan on doing it with a clay-saucer next time to compare. The ribs were mopped twice during the cook with straight apple juice but one rack did also get a slathering of RodenQue sauce 30 minutes before pulling them off. The meal was complete with a whole grilled chicken, cornbread, coleslaw, salad, RodenQue sauce, and one of Ribs best friends… beer.
These were my finest ribs yet. They were nicely smokey and tore away from the bone cleanly, but weren’t so tender that they were mushy (like in a lot of restaurants). I’m still dialing in the rub and the process, but these meat sticks made me darn proud. This cook reignited my love of ribs. I’ll have to start cooking them more regularly from now on.
Roasting a chicken on the grill has never been a real problem, but I always felt that it could be done better. The skin was never crisp enough, some parts were more juicy than others, and you have to tend the meat quite a lot. I wanted better results with less work. Thanks to a recent birthday I now have the tool to allow me to achieve this, the Weber rotisserie. It’s a real “set it and forget it” solution to perfectly done poultry… and non-feathered meats too.
The reason a rotisserie makes a difference is because you can evenly and easily cook a large hunk of meat at a higher temperature without worrying about burning one side of the meat. If you tried that temperature with a normal indirect steup then you would have to watch your chicken like a hawk, constantly open up the lid to turn your chicken, losing all the heat and therefore not getting crisp skin.
A full chimney of lit charcoal was divided on two sides of the grill and a drip pan nestled inbetween. The zwarte hoevekip (black “farm chicken”) was then skewered, seasoned and set in place. The chicken seemed dwarfed by the whole setup but was soon having fun pirouetting over the hot coals. The rotisserie’s electric motor was very quiet and I found myself looking for signs of movement to make sure it was still running. When the meat looked like it was almost done, I applied a light glaze. This was more for looks than anything else. It does add flavor to the skin but it doesn’t really give the meat underneath anyting extra. The chicken received three layers of glaze in the last 10 minutes. Total cook time was a quick 35-40 minutes. Thats pretty quick.
Seasoning: grey sea salt, fresh ground black pepper and a decent dash of ginger powder.
Glaze: 1/4 cup maple syrup, 1/4 cup orange juice and the juice of one lemon.
The resulting chicken was very tasty. I probably could have left it on a couple minutes longer since not all of the skin had crisped up yet but none the less the skin was much better than usual. The maple and citrus glaze was a great addition and next time I will try injecting some of that into the meat before cooking rather than glazing. All in all I am very happy with my new grilling gadget and can’t wait to get some other meats spinning!
Cooking on a wooden plank has been popular amongst the grilling kind for a while. For some reason I have only now gotten around to trying it, but I now know what many others already discovered, cedar planked salmon is damn tasty!
The plank was soaked for an hour in water, with a coffee mug on top to keep it under water. When the fire was ready for indirect cooking (fire to one side) I placed the salmon on the plank and smeared a Lemon/Dill/Garlic butter mixture on top. The plank went directly over the fire to warm up, about 3 minutes, then it was moved to the cool side of the fire. Lid went on and the fished cooked about 20 minutes.
Garlic, Dill, Lemon schmear
one clove of garlic – chopped
juice of 1/2 a lemon
leaves off two sprigs of fresh dill
a good pinch of sea salt
I suggest using a blender for mixing this up or else you will have a heck of a time getting the lemon juice to incorporate into the butter (as in never gonna happen)
The cedar flavor was more subtle than I thought it would be, so it had some trouble showing through the garlic, but the overall flavor and aroma was fantastic! Looks like cedar planks will have to get some more use around here. Its always nice to add another tool/flavor to the grilling toolbox. Now I’d like to try out some planks from other woods, and perhaps even a salt “plank“
Yes. I even surprised myself, but it is possible for me to cook without using beer. Searching for ideas the other day, I noticed that there was just a scoche of dark Cuban rum left in the liquor cabinet. Realizing that rum, no matter how good, does not make a complete meal for 6 people, I figured I’d throw together a rum glaze to apply to some pork. It turned out pretty tasty so I’m sharing it here.
The rum was matched up with some dark chestnut honey. Sweet, spicy, smokey and leathery this dark and complex honey pairs well with grilled foods. Wrap all those flavors up with some pecan wood smoke, and you have yourself wonderful piece of pig. Everything melded together very well.
Rum and Chestnut Honey glazed pork medallions
set up your fire for indirect cooking. Medium heat.
take your pork tenderloin (s) and cut into roughly 4cm (2″) thick medaillions
Wrap each with a slice of bacon and secure with a tooth-pick
in a saucepan combine (rough measurements)
60 ml (1/4 cup) dark rum with
4 tbsp chestnut honey
1 tbsp grain mustard (optional)
heat only until the honey is dissolved
throw a chunk of pecan wood onto your fire (hickory, apple, cherry would all work well)
Sear the pork directly over the fire (about 2 minutes each side) then move to indirect.
Brush on the glaze and put the lid on.
repeat the glazing every 5 minutes or so until the meat firms up nicely and is done (roughly 20-25 minutes)
To go with the pork we served salad, a couscous and carrot dish, and some delicious grilled zucchini slices. The zucchini was first tossed in equal parts olive oil and cider vinegar (about a tbsp each), seasoned with salt and pepper, then grilled and thrown back into the bowl with the oil and vinegar.
There was also a sauce made with the leftover glaze, a touch more mustard, sauteed onion and a touch of heavy cream…. but the meat was more than confident enough to stand on its own.
On Sunday I whipped up some more pulled pork. Maybe “whipped up” isn’t the right way to say it since it isn’t exactly the quickest meal to make. Let me re-phrase that… Last Sunday I waited and waited while the glorious combination of wood-smoke, spices, pork and Rodenbach Grand Cru washed over me bringing intense hunger and anticipation. Yeah, thats better.
Last timeI posted about Pulled Pork I used a small portion of a “picnic” (a picnic is basically the shoulder of a pig). This time I used a 6.2kg (almost 14 lb) whole picnic. Well, almost whole, I had the butcher remove part of it so that it would fit in the smoker better. I think it may have been the first time that he had sold such a big hunk of pig like that, but it won’t be the last! I kept everything pretty simple with this cook but in return I was rewarded with an outstanding end product that brought a smile not only to my face but also to Mrs Smokey and Lil’ Smokey. Served with some coleslaw, fries and a Rodenbach BBQ sauce (see below) it was a satisfying meal!I trimmed most of the extraneous fat off of the pork and rubbed it the night before with a new simple pork rub recipe I am trying (see below). The next morning while the family was still in bed I started up the fire and rubbed the pork again. For the fire I loaded up the charcoal ring on my WSM with briquettes. I normally use a good hardwood lump charcoal, but for a long cook like this I went with longer burning briquettes. A few large chunks of both Apple wood and Pecan wood were added throughout the charcoal load. On top of all that a half chimney of lit briquettes got things going.
The pork went in the smoker just before breakfast. Instead of cooking at the normal 95-110°C (roughly 200-225°F) I set the smoker up around 125°C (257°F) because I didn’t want to still be cooking the next morning. The WSM did a beautiful job holding right between 122-128°C without any further assistance from me. After 5 hours in the smoke I started to mop the pork every 2-3 hours with a mixture of Rodenbach Grand Cru and some of the rub.
After 8-9 hours the meat hit the plateau at 75°C (internal meat temp) and stayed there for almost 4 hours. I ended up ramping up the smoker temp to 150°c (300°F) for the last 3 hours of the cook until I reached an internal temp of 88-90°C (190-194°F). In total the cook time was almost 14.5 hours, which for a piece this large isn’t so long. It was also nice that I didn’t have to add any more fuel during the cook. The resulting Rodenbach infused pork was fantastically tasty, succulent and pulled apart with ease! The freezer is now happily stuffed with this treat. The stash should last me a while and allow for some experimentation. One thing I need to try out are Noskos’s Pulled Pork egg-rolls!
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup paprika
1/3 cup coarse sea salt
1 tbsp fresh ground black pepper (I may up this a touch next time)
4 tsp. dry mustard powder
3 tsp garlic powder
1 ½ tsp cayenne pepper
mix together and rub half on the picnic. Refrigerate pork over night and rub again in the morning. Save some rub for the mop and the sauce.
1 33cl. bottle Rodenbach Grand Cru
1 tbsp rub
heat on the stove and use warm
1 33cl. bottle Rodenbach Grand Cru
2-3 tbs brown sugar (I like 2 but Mrs. Smokey likes 3)
1/2 cup Ketchup
1/2 cup tomato puree (not concentrate)
1-2 tbs of whatever rub you are using
1/4 tsp onion powder (optional)
Simply combine all the ingredients in a pot and reduce on a medium fire (about 35-45 minutes). Pour the finished sauce back into a cleaned Rodenbach bottle and pop in a cork or stopper.
Pork Loin and I have always shared a special bond, but lately my friend has been getting a little jealous. You see, this summer I spent a lot of time with another cut, the flirtatious Rack of Lamb. Except for the fact that Mrs Smokey doesn’t eat lamb (minor detail) everyone in the greater Smokey family circle has been getting quite friendly with this beauty. I still love my pork loins but I am now quite infatuated with these fancily trimmed meat popsicles. So easy to cook, yet so satisfying. A succulent treat that can be plated up and taken to the ball or just grabbed by the bone and taken advantage of. Dressed up or dressed down a rack of lamb always knows how to please you.
A dash of fresh ground black pepper and some good chunky sea salt is all a nice rack needs. If you do want to get a little fancy you can sprinkle on some rosemary, brush them with a little mustard and honey, encrust them in herbs and bread-crumbs, or throw some grape-vine wood on the fire for a smokey touch… But that is just more to get through when it comes down to the moment. I say leave it nude (the meat, not you), dim the lights, put on some music, pour yourself a nice beer and enjoy the show.
Sorry, no recipe or fun cooking technique here… Just a post by a man who has been love-struck by a piece of meat. Is that so bad?