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

Operation Sloppy Joes

First Image
I have great admiration for people that can cook 1, 2, 3 or more items on the grill or smoker without seeming to break a sweat. I certainly am not one of them. When I cook multiple items I have to do a lot of planning to achieve the desired results. Perhaps you too aren’t a natural and the process I used may be of help to you to. I’d planned to write this kind of blog last year when I attempted my first multi-meat cook. I even had a name for that unwritten blog: “Multi-Meatia”. Events conspired against it and this year the same thing was happening with this blog. So before too much time has passed and my memory fades, it was time to write this.

Some health issues in my family had caused me to miss quite a bit of grill time. Happily with those issues coming to an end, it was time to start getting back to it. I’d spotted a recipe for Sloppy Joes in the
Weber Big Book of Grilling called Too Good to be True Sloppy Joes. I loved Soppy Joes growing up and I think the last time I had them was when I was in college. There seems to be a resurgence in so-called “Comfort Foods” and Sloppy Joes are one of my favorite Comfort Foods. My original plan was to just make the Sloppy Joes. Before the weekend arrived I’d decided to push myself some more. I’d do this by making a side dish along with the Sloppy Joes. I’d found another recipe in the same book called TWICE GRILLED POTATOES and that sounded really tasty.

At first I didn’t give this multi-item cook too much thought. Then I started remembering my multi-meat cook from last summer and how it surprised me. Last summer I made 8 racks of ribs in two waves plus a Boston Butt for pulled pork. I figured doing two meats at once would be slightly harder than one. In a way I figured it would be easier because I was simply sharing space on the smoker. Instead it ended up using up a good chunk of my available time which surprised me very much. This year I wanted to eat around 7:00 PM and figured I’d be starting around 4:00 PM. When Saturday arrived I decide to do a little planning. So I figured I’d take a stab at guessing the times and them working my way back to find a starting time. I made sure to allow plenty of time for prep and also for taking pictures to put on this site. I wrote down the time I wanted to eat: 7:00. The Sloppy Joes needed to simmer 30 minutes after adding the meat-that meant the meat needed to be in by 6:30. It would take 15 minutes to shred the meat: 6:15. After completing this exercise working from finish back to start, I found I had guessed wrong and needed to move my starting time up by an hour. This surprised me and I decided to do the same exercise with the potatoes. I knew they would take less time, but I wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to have to be doing two things at once. So I started working backwards adding in the times for the potatoes.


The color coded plan of attack

The title of this blog came from this whole planning operation I went through. When I started working backwards from my end time and placing times in a schedule I began to feel like I was planning some sort of big operation not a meal. One thing became clear right away: I was going to have to use the side burner of my gas grill to make the sauce for the Sloppy Joes. The purist in me had been telling me I should be doing the whole meal on the grill including the sauce. The schedule told me I MUST do it this way. I also found t there were times I would need to be tending to the grill and adding ingredients to the sauce. I also found I would have to extend the cooking time some more. While I could stir a pot while watching the grill, I certainly couldn’t shred the roast and stuff the potatoes. One good thing about Sloppy Joes is a little extra time simmering is only going to help them. So now I found I would have to add 30 minutes into the schedule. I moved my end time up to 7:30.

At this point I had this handwritten schedule with items crossed out and arrows pointing to where I’d rearranged items. It made perfect sense to me at 8:00 Saturday morning but would I understand it later in the day when things started getting hectic? Probably not. So I redid the schedule in an MS Word document. I did a time lime with two different colors representing the meat and potatoes. On the computer it was easy to shift items around or alter times and still end up with a readable schedule. One big variable was the cooking time for the roast used for the meat. The book said the time would be between 90 minutes to 2 hours. By adjusting the schedule slightly I was able to set it up so that the potatoes would be going on the grill at the exact time the meat would be finished. This gave me confidence that the two items could be ready at the same time. I would not add the potatoes until the meat was done.

The ingredients for the sauce

My 3:00 start time rolled around and I began my prep. As is often typical for me, I underestimated the prep time. Right off the bat I was 15 minutes behind. I hoped the roast would cook closer to 90 minutes than 2 hours. The meat needed to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature after the rub was applied. It was time to light the grill. When I went out to light the grill I found I was out of gas. I always keep a spare filled tank around and this policy paid off big time. Since I was already behind on my schedule I decided that while the roast was cooking on the gas grill, I would do whatever prep I could do ahead of time. This way if something took longer than I planned, it wouldn’t matter since I was doing everything in advance. I added the meat to the grill and seared it for 15 minutes using direct medium heat, turning once. While this was going on I started chopping up the ingredients for the sauce. I used a digital kitchen timer with an alarm to tell me when it was time to turn the meat. After 15 minutes I ran out to move the roast over to the unlit side of the grill. The roast would finish cooking using the Indirect Method. It could basically be left unattended until it cooked to 160 degrees (71 C). I went back inside and completed the prep for the potatoes. I also used this down time to set the table and do a little cleanup. I have found it is best to use any down time like this to get things done ahead of time. I always figure: Get things done early and you can relax later. Somehow when things start getting hectic later, that spare time never seems to materialize. I am always glad I did things early.

A stainless steel sheet pan and a Black & Decker Workmate make a good work surface

One thing that helped a lot was the fact the temperature for this roast was rising in a linear fashion: 3 degrees every two minutes. As a result I could predict the end time for the roast. This allowed me to start sautéing the ingredients for the sauce at the right time. As I started sauteing the peppers and onions the wind began to pick up. I had to be careful to keep an eye on the flame for the side burner to make sure the flame didn’t get blown out. One thing I did to make my outdoor prep easier was to put all of my ingredients and tools on a large stainless steel sheet pan. I set up my portable Black and Decker Workmate next to the grill. The Workmate together with this sheet pan make a great work surface. You can bring everything in and out in one operation too. As I began making the sauce I was glad I’d taken the time to document my schedule. It allowed me to easily set my kitchen timer for the time for the next step. By making the schedule I also realized there would have been no way to start the sauce on the stove in the house.

The sauce is started on the side burner

The remote read thermometer gave me constant feedback on the temperature of the roast. The schedule helped me avoid forgetting things along the way, particularly when things got busy. Between the two of them I was able to tell when to start prepping the potatoes to go on the grill. The spray mister I have makes quick work of spraying olive oil onto your food. I quickly had the potatoes ready to go on the grill. The meat came off the grill and smelled wonderful. I brought it into the house for a 15 minute rest. I added the potatoes to the grill. It was time to start simmering the sauce in preparation for receiving the cooked meat in 30 minutes. This is when I ran into a little problem. When I’d turn down the sideburner to simmer the sauce, the wind kept blowing out the low flame. With the flame turned up higher the sauce was coming to a rapid boil. At this point the sauce prep was done other than adding the meat, so I could bring it inside and use the range in the Kitchen to simmer it.

The meat is sliced before going into the food processor

The food processor makes quick work of shredding the roast

After 15 minutes the meat was ready to shred. I first cut it into slices, then chunks and then tossed it into a food processor. The meat looked juicy and smelled wonderful. I couldn’t resist sampling a piece. This roast with this rub was excellent. I think at some point in the future I will probably make it as a roast instead of for Sloppy Joes. I shredded the meat and added it to the sauce. It was time to go back out and remove the potatoes from the grill. The schedule was tight but was working. I let the potatoes rest for 5 minutes and used some kitchen gloves to help me hold them while I scooped out the innards. A melon spoon was perfect for the task. I started adding the ham, cheese and other ingredients to the potatoes to make the mix that would be scooped back into the potatoes to finish up. Meanwhile the Sloppy Joes were gently simmering in the Kitchen. The refilled potatoes were placed back on the grill for 10 more minute to finish up. After 10 minutes the cheese hadn’t finished melting, so I extended the potatoes stay on the grill another 5 minutes.

The meat is added to the sauce

The twice grilled potatoes are done

It was now 8:00, 5 hours after I started. It was finally time to try the Sloppy Joes. The first bite was NOT at all what I expected. These were definitely not the Sloppy Joes I grew up with. These were a totally different animal. After getting over the initial shock I then had to decide if this was a bad thing. These Sloppy Joes were a very complex blend of flavors. It sounds like a contradiction to say they were both subtle and spicy. By the time I started the second half of my Sloppy Joe, I’d decided I really liked these things, Although I initially didn’t think they were real spicy, I noted my tongue was now very tingly. The potatoes were more of the same: Subtle but spicy.

Five hours for Sloppy Joes??? These are definitely worth it

The final verdict was both of these recipes are keepers and I plan to do them again soon. The other valuable lesson I learned was it really pays to storyboard a mutli-item cook. It helps avoid schedule snafus, assures the food finishes on time, and helps you keep from skipping some step along the way. Believe me Sloppy Joes never tasted like this.

  SLOPPY JOES Sandwiches Picture Entry
  TWICE GRILLED POTATOES Veggies Picture Entry


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