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The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke

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Looking Back, Looking Ahead

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With the End of the year approaching it seems everyone is doing Top 10 lists. My blog entries have been getting a bit wordy lately, so I think I’ll confine it to some Top 5 lists. I’ll discuss the Top 5 Cooks, the Top 5 Things I’ve Learned, The Top 5 Mistakes Made and my 5 Goals for the New Year

Top 5 Items Cooked in 2006:

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Prime Rib (01/01/06)
I love prime rib and at the right restaurants I am always eager to try their prime rib. The prime rib I made last Christmas on the smoker was the best prime rib I’ve ever had. It was so good I was told I had to make one again a week later for New Years. I was afraid after the one we’d just had on Christmas, the New Year’s Day prime rib would be a let down. Instead it was even better. This year for Christmas it was another Prime Rib from Whole Foods. This one set the new standard for Prime Rib and I’ve used it to replace the pictures on my Prime Rib picture entry.

See:
  SMOKED PRIME RIB Beef Picture Entry
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S.C. Pulled Pork w/ Mustard Sauce (Many Times)
Pulled pork is my favorite of the big three of BBQ (Pulled Pork, Brisket & Ribs in my order of preference). When I started learning more about BBQ and found that there was a regional version of BBQ that featured mustard, my favorite condiment: I was all over that. I have made this recipe many times this year. I like it so much I haven’t seen fit to try another mustard based pulled pork recipe…yet.

See:
  S.C. PULLED PORK Pork Picture Entry
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Millionaire’s Brisket (09/18/06)
This is the third recipe I have tried for brisket and I think it is my favorite. It is not the spiciest recipe I’ve made, but it is the most flavorful with a deep rich flavor. What caught my interest initially was that one of the mop sauce ingredients is coffee and another was beer. This brisket seems to do the best when reheated in terms of retaining much of the original flavor.

See:
  MILLIONAIRE BRISKET Beef Picture Entry
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Grace’s Ginger Leg of Lamb (02/18/06)
This lamb recipe has a strong Thai influence and was sweet and spicy. My father who is NOT a lamb lover had seconds both times I made this dish.

See:
  GRACE’S GINGER LEG OF LAMB Lamb Picture Entry
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Beginners Leg of Lamb (11/04/06)
I don’t know if it was the Icelandic lamb recommended by the butcher at Whole Foods, or the recipe that made this meal so great. Whatever it was: This was so good I made it again a week later.

See:
  BEGINNERS LEG OF LAMB Lamb Picture Entry
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Top Five Lessons Learned, Re-Learned or Reinforced:

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Use Good Meat / Get to Know Your Butcher
Some people I know make a science of getting the cheapest, but yet best meat they can. I have tended to take a different approach. When I’m learning a new recipe or making an important meal, I don’t want the meat to be a potential variable. I am willing to pay more for a good piece of meat. I want the piece of mind knowing it will be consistently good. Other than hot dogs, hamburgers and say chicken breasts: I get all of my meat at Whole Foods. I don’t know if it is the whole naturally raised thing or not-and I don’t actually care. All I know is I have not been disappointed in any meat I have purchased there. I have gotten to know several of the butchers and they have been great in getting me just the right cut of meat prepped just the way I like it. They have also pointed me towards meats I may not have tried otherwise. An example of this was the Icelandic lamb that made my Top 5 list above.
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You Can Grill or Smoke Year Round in All Kinds of Weather
The first couple of years I had my latest gas grill, I managed to cook roasts indirectly several times a month during the Winter. This past year when I got my smoker I my goal was to try to have something coming off the grill or smoker every weekend. Other than a couple weekends where I was out of town or involved with a family event, I was able to do it. There have been many weekends this year when I could have used bad weather as an excuse not to cook. I’m so glad I stuck to my guns to see if I could pull it off. These last few months have seen meals I that I couldn’t postpone coincide with some bad weather. My practice runs gave me the confidence I could go ahead with these meals.

See:
  WICKED WINDY Blog Entry
  IT DOES GET EASIER Blog Entry
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Use Real Juice Not Bottled Concentrate
Last year I learned there was a big difference between jar spices and fresh spices. I bought a lemon press this summer. The first batch of ribs I marinated using real lemon juice vs. the jar variety were tastier and everyone noticed the difference. I went right out and bought an orange and a lime press. Using fresh juice has made a noticeable improvement in my cooking.
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There Can be a BIG Difference in Charcoal
With the birth of the less than stellar New Kingsford charcoal, I discovered DuraFlame charcoal this year. It is much, much better than anything else I’ve tried. It seems to have the best qualities of lump and charcoal briquettes combined.

See:
  NEW CHARCOAL ON THE BLOCK Blog Entry
  MORE ON DURAFLAME Blog Entry
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Get to Know Your Grill
This past year I have been starting to do more multi meat or multi item cooks. These have reinforced the importance of getting to know your grill. As you use up more of the surface area of the grill, you run into more and greater temperature variations. I held of trying multi item cooks for a while and once I did them I had learned the variations on my smoker and was able to position the meat to take advantage of them at times. Other times I knew when I’d need to rotate the items to get them to cook evenly and finish together.
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Top 5 Mistakes Not to Repeat
Don’t Try to Smoke at Too High a Temp using New Kingsford
- I had a near disaster of a cook trying to achieve a 325 degree (160 C) temperature in the smoker using New Kingsford charcoal in the Side Firebox. It doesn’t get much past 275 degrees 135 C). DuraFlame on the other hand can easily hit 300 (150 C) plus.

See:
  COMEDY OF ERRORS Blog Entry
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Stabilize Your Temps Before Adding Food
One day because my prep took longer than expected (See Item 3 below), I tried to rush some food onto the smoker before it was sitting comfortably at the cooking temperature. The recovery took forever.

See:
  NEW DAY NEW LESSON LEARNED Blog Entry
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Leave Extra Time for Prep
I never seem to leave myself enough time for the prep: Something(s) always take a little longer than expected and I end up in a race with time to make my schedule. Even when I start a little early I seem to fill up the time. I’m going to try to do better, because sooner or later I will make a mistake from rushing or badly miss a schedule.

Aspects of Cooking Can Be Dangerous, Be Careful
You are dealing with sharp tools and high temperatures. Always be on your guard. Let’s just say I have a deep scar that reminds me of this from now on and we’ll leave it at that.

Have Spare Batteries Around
I had my remote thermometer batteries die at 3:00 in the morning on a holiday in the middle of an overnight smoke. If you live in the suburbs like I do, having to leave the smoker unattended while on a battery quest is not the ideal situation. By the way: An all night gas station saved the day.


Five Goals for Next Year Continue to Learn More About Grilling and Smoking
I want to continue to expand my horizons by trying a variety of recipes. Oh and to have lots of fun doing it.

Grill & Smoke More Fish
Until this week it would have been grill or smoke some fish in the new year. I finally got some fish on my smoker this past week. I’ve been a bit afraid to try fish as it is harder to get right than many types of meat.

Start Making More Vegetables
Grilled vegetable can be very good and I’ve had my share at restaurants and friend’s houses. Other than Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes, I’ve never cooked them on the grill. Now that I’ve gotten to the point where I feel I have a working knowledge of my grill and smoker, I’m ready to try my hand at these.

Start Making Desserts
For the same reasons as discussed in Number 3 above.

More Multi-Item Cooks
For my comfort I have to get good at one thing before I bite off more. Now that I’ve gotten a handle on some basic items, I’ve been starting to make 2 or 3 items at a time. I want to get to the point where I feel as comfortable doing multiple items on the grill or smoker. I want it to feel the way I does now when doing a single item.

Well if you’ve made it this far, let me just close by wishing you a happy and successful new year. May there be lots of good eats great grilling and good times in it for all of us.


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