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

More Lessons Learned

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I have been having a great run lately: I’ve been cooking new items for me and cooking multiple items on a regular basis. I figured I’d pass along some of the lessons I am learning-some are repeat items and some new. The repeat items a may have mentioned in other blogs reinforce things I should never forget. This will be a list in outline form in no particular order.

  • Leave enough time: I always think I have more than enough time to do what I have to do. Many times I end up having just enough time.
  • Use Good Knives: I had a set of Cuisinart Knives that were a cut above the knives I had been using prior to that. Last October I bought some Wusthoff knives and I am still surprised at the difference good knives make. Prep goes faster and I can get a far more precise cut. Sharp knives are actually safer because they won’t drift off course. Just be careful because they will cut you even deeper than your old crummy knives.

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Having two sets of measuring devices makes cooking multiple items or multiple back to back meals easier. I actually have 3 sets of OXO plastic measuring spoons and two sets of the OXO measuring cups

  • Have 2 Sets of Measuring Devices: I doubled up on my measuring spoons and cups and it makes it easier to do prep. You can have one in the dishwasher and still have one available for instant use. I also bought extra glass bowls that I use to hold the measured ingredients. I also bought a double batch of a larger sized bowl for bigger portions. Now I always have enough for recipes with lots of ingredients, or 2 consecutive cooks or have extra when some are being cleaned.
  • Hot Peppers: Wash your hands very thoroughly with warm water. Several washings may be necessary with the real hot habanero peppers. Don’t ask how I know this.
  • Don’t Forget to Close the Valve on the Propane Tank: This is an oldie, but when you are in a hurry it is easy to do this. Over time your gas will find it’s way out.
  • Always Keep a Spare Propane Tank Around: (Also see item above) You’ll thank me on a holiday weekend when the stores are closed. My 6 burner grill goes through propane at a decent clip. I always refill my second tank the first chance I get.
  • Use a Good Charcoal: I can’t believe the difference between charcoals. I have learned to love DuraFlame natural hardwood briquettes. The right charcoal is predictable and a joy to use.
  • Learn Your Grill: I have learned how to control my grill using them in all kinds of weather. Now that this is second nature I can devote the energy devoted to tweaking the position of items on the grill, to do other things like grill and smoke items at the same time or grilling multiple items. Learn the hot and cold areas on your grills so you can speed up or slow down the cooking to insure items finish up together. Knowing your grill is key to cooking multiple items and also consistency of results.

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The difference between 25 degrees (14 C) can be huge. The same time but 350 (175 C) (left) vs 325 (160 C) (right).

  • Learn the Right Heat: As I have started making more grilled veggies and items involving breads, I have learned the importance of the right temperature. Some items with tough skins like steak, you can cook for more or less time to make up for temperature variations. Others need the right temps for the right results. Breads, pizza, quesadillas, potato chips, polenta all come to mind. Breads and sensitive items seem to do best at 325 (160 C) degrees on my grill. Higher than that and they start to burn on the outside before they are cooked through. Even at the right temperature some items begin to burn in the blink of an eye. Don’t take your eyes off these items. A few degrees or a few seconds can be the difference between nicely browned or burned.
  • Keep the Grill Grates Clean and Well Oiled: Any type of soft or delicate item (bread, potato slices, soft skinned veggies, mushy meats, veal burgers) will stick to the grates unless you keep them well oiled. I scrape and oil my grill after it has heated up. I repeat this again by leaving left it on for 10-15 minutes after I am done cooking. Any time I do something soft and delicate I try to remember to use more oil. Several of the burgers I have made from Mastering the Grill or Build a Better Burger are very soft and mushy when you form the patties. Often this is due to liquid being added to the mix to help keep them moist during high heat cooking. I my case I use PAM for Grilling and I try to use a little more for these soft items. Otherwise the nice grill marks you get will be stuck onto the grill grate along with big chunks of your food.

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Several sizes of lidded containers keep the elements and bugs out when the food is going to the grill

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Full sized sheet pans make prepping ribs or other large items easy. They are also great for transporting all your food to the grill.

  • The Right Tools at the Grill Make a Big Difference: I picked up some full and half stainless steel sheet pans at a restaurant supply house. They are great for both prep and for taking things out to the grill. You can spread out large racks of ribs and apply a rub or BBQ sauce. You can then take them out to the grill on the same tray. While at the restaurant supply house I picked up several sizes of clear containers. They are lidded drop in pans use in cafeteria style serving lines. I like them for keeping items both dry in wet weather and bug free in any weather.

I’ll stop here for now and at some point I’ll probably revisit this topic as I learn (or relearn) lessons.


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