The proof is in the barrel

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.!

can’t spell Birthday without R I B S… wait

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.

stick your wood in it

Belgium can be a bit of an outdoor-cooking wasteland. When the sun comes out everyone does love to run out in the back yard and blacken some meat, but it is rarely taken seriously and is never combined with the idea of high quality food. Often if I talk about cooking a very nice cut of meat on the grill I get the response “Aww, thats a shame.” Because of this attitude it is rare that Belgium offers something unique to the outdoor-cooking world. Perhaps it was born from a pure marketing idea or perhaps it came from a genuine search for new flavors, but never the less, woodchips made from Gueuze-barrels is an interesting and uniquely Belgian product.

I was surprised to find these wood-chips but I was flabbergasted that they were at my local grocery store, not some obscure online barbecue specialty store. Peter De Clercq, Belgiums one and only outdoor-chef, has been trying to bring grilling to a higher level here and is the man behind this new idea. Thanks Peter! Now I just need to see if they are any good. Hmmm, what would go well with Gueuze smoke?

Not only am I excited to throw these chips onto the fire but I am also wondering if I can inoculate some beer with them. According to the package the chips come from barrels at Timmermans that were either at the end of their life, or broken. I am not sure of the conditions in which the wood was “chipped” but I tossed a handfull into some starter wort to see what happens. The chips should be full of brettanomyces, pediococcus, kloekera and hopefully saccharomyces (among many other critters). I flushed the starter with CO2 to try to prevent any acetobacter from taking hold. As long as I don’t get any black or green mold I should be able to start up a useable culture, or at least make some interesting vinegar. Of course it would be a lot easier, and probably more fruitful, just to use the dregs from a bottle of Gueuze… but then I couldn’t say that I stuck my wood in it.

boy meets plank

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

  • 3tbsp butter
  • 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

What? Pork without beer?

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.

smoke ’em if ya got ’em

I’ve been neglecting that whole world wide web net thing for a while so I’ve been missing out on all kinds of information. Apparently a lot of people have been talking about a guy with a funny name and health care for all. Fortunately I can rely on some trusted bloggers to pick out the real important news, like Noskos over at BBQ NL. It seems that Weber is expanding their line of wood chunks and chips. Now thats news I can sink my teeth into!

The wood I’ve ben using is a mix of odds and ends… a few apple and pear logs from somebody who knows somebody, some grape-vine chunks and the Hickory and Mesquite wood chips from Weber. Now I can expand my smoke repertoire by using the new Apple, Cherry, and Pecan wood chunks! Cherry is something I’ve been really wanting to use and Pecan could be very nice. Hopefully my now official local weber retailer will carry all the new wood chunks. Previously he only sold the chips. If not, I will have to either order them from, or Amazon UK.

Other exciting news (that was actually announced a long time ago) is that the line of Dizzy Pig rubs will be coming to Europe. They set up a site a while back saying that they’ll be up and running soon. Lets hope that soon really means soon because the weather will quickly become the kind that beckons you outside and forces you to feed your caveman fascination of fire. Mmmmm, fire.


black_albertOn Sunday I tried out a new marinade idea. I call it my Beeriyaki marinade. So what could that possibly be? Well it combines my love for a good teriyaki sauce with my love of big beers. The base for the sauce is Black Albert, a rich imperial stout from De Struise Brouwers. A roasty brew with hints of coffee, chocolate cake batter, molasses and a healthy dose of hops and sweet alcohols. To this roasty base I added more traditional Teriyaki ingredients like soy sauce, brown sugar, black pepper, onion, garlic and honey. I marinaded a 1+kg beef center-cut roast for about 3 hours in the fridge, before letting it sit out to warm up a bit. Then it was thrown onto the grill for indirect cooking (this was a reverse sear cook). Towards the end of the cook I added a handful of soaked Jack Daniels wood chips to the coconut shell briquettes. The meat was cooked to an internal temp of 55C but I should have taken it off just a bit earlier. Due to its thickness it had more thermal momentum than I thought so it ended up just slightly too high. Next time I’ll take it off a 52C. Still, it turned out just fine. The flavor was very nice with a typical Teriyaki character (though a bit milder) and just a touch of something deeply roasted. This is a marinade that I will be using again. Hmm that reminds me, I have some bottles of a homebrewed Imperial Stout that never carbonated properly. That would be perfect for this.

Beeriyaki marinade

1 bottle of Black Albert or similar imperial stout (33cl or 12oz)
1/2 medium yellow onion (chopped)
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tbs. worcestershire sauce
2 tbs. honey
1 tbs. brown sugar
3/4 tbs. black pepper
1/4 – 1/2 tsp. garlic salt (depending on taste)
Mix everything together and throw in your beef. Let sit covered for a few hours in the fridge. While cooking baste the meat with the marinade a few times.

Pork medallions & Cuvée de Ranke

pork medaillions april 2009Inspired by the pork medallions that Noskos fired up, I tried my hand at these nice little bacon-wrapped goodies last saturday. Noskos’ version was rubbed with a cajun rub. Mine was rubbed with a sweeter rub of brown sugar with a dash of garlic salt, onion salt, ground ginger, paprika and of course some sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. The bacon was salted bacon, so the salt in the rub was kept low. These were first seared directly over a fire of lump, coconut briquettes and a chunk of grape vine wood. After a quick sear they were cooked indirect until the meat firmed up a bit. It was the first time using grape vine with a thick cut of pork. Unlike in a previous post “through the grape vine,” the wood went very well with the sweet rubbed pork. Of course since this was just grilled rather than smoked, the smoke was subtle.

I also made a quick sauce to accompany the pork. It was a bit of a last minute decision but it turned out well. I took a left over piece of the thickly cut bacon, chopped it up and sauteed it with a large shallot. To this I added about 20cl of light blond beer (which I rather not name) and cooked it down quite a bit. Then I added about one tablespoon of the left over rub, some heavy cream, and a 1/2 tablespoon of strong dijon mustard.

To drink with the pork I had a bottle of Cuvee de Ranke. A nice smooth musty sour with fruity edges that went extremely well with the sweet pork and salty bacon. A truly wonderful combination! Perhaps one of the better food pairings that I have had in quite a long time, unless you count the treats that Glenn cooked up for the Pre-ZBF gathering at Alvinne. Next time I will also use this in the sauce in place of the unamed blond lager, and that will no doubt take the sauce from being good to being stellar!

click on the photo for more

through the grape vine

grapevinewood1I haven’t posted anything about grilling or smoking yet, so here is a quickie.

I have been using some of the grape vine wood chunks that my brother-in-law bought as a gift for me a while back. At the time I had never heard of using this for smoking or grilling (apparently its very popular in France and Italy for grilling). The first time I really tried to use it for cooking I was taken back by how good it was. I used it to smoke a couple chickens. The flavor went extremely well with chicken. It also went well in a mix with apple wood for some ribs (mostly apple with a little grape vine). For poultry, it is now perhaps my favorite wood. On Sunday I tried a quick test with some steaks on the grill. As I was getting the coals ready I placed one chunk of the grape vine wood on the coals and let it burn down a little. I then seared the steaks over the coals and wood and then cooked them indirect. The grapevine wood didn’t quite work with the steaks. I guess Oak and Hickory are still the best for that task. The steaks were still good, but the wood choice didn’t really seem right. I guess no real surprises there though. I’ll have to try it with fish next, that should be good.