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

Memorable Memorial Day Weekend - Part 2

My meal on Saturday, as described in the previous blog entry MEMORABLE MEMORIAL DAY - PART 1 was not soon to be topped and frankly I wasn’t going to try. I just wanted to grill up something good for Monday and the BBQ CHICKEN WINGS I made filled the bill nicely. The recipe came from Cooks Illustrated Summer Grilling 2009 and while I’d made wings in a similar fashion form some other cookbooks, there were three differences. First this recipe gave you 4 different and very interesting BBQ sauces to choose from. Second: This recipe added smoke and the method America’s Test Kitchen recommended had already proven it’s worth for Saturdays SMOKEHOUSE BURGERS. Lastly I was going to try a new recipe for potatoes called GRILLED NEW POTATOES WITH A RED PEPPER CRUST looked really tasty.

Having a 6 burner grill with extra grill real estate certainly makes some cooks a lot easier. Here burner 1 is on high for the smoker drawer. Burner 2 is set to medium and was burners 5 & 6. The flame tamer over burners 3 & 4 was replaced with a drop in cast iron grill pan. The grate was put back and burners 3 & 4 were left off to cook the chicken indirectly.

The method America’s Test Kitchens (the author’s of the Cook Illustrated Summer Grilling 2009 recipe)used to grill the wings was a method I’d used before for several other chicken wing recipes. The wings are cut apart and the tips get discarded. Then the wings receive a rub and are indirect grilled, in this case using smoke. I’d made wings with smoke this way before, but the problem is the short cook doesn’t allow much time for the smoke to do it’s magic. The method recommended here had worked well on Saturday and involved soaking the chips for 15 minutes vs. one hour. With a one hour soak the chips do a slow smoke that lasts about 45 minutes before the remaining chips go up in flames. The 15 minute soak results in more smoke up front and this stronger dose of smoke lasts for about half the time as the chips with the one hour soak. This is what you want for a short cook like the wings-more smoke in less time. Based on Saturday’s success adding smoke to the SMOKEHOUSE BURGERS, I knew these wings would be better than any I’d grilled this way before. The hardest part was going to be picking which of the 4 sauces to make.

My preference was to use a grill pan for the potatoes instead of skewers. I had to do a test fit before lighting the grill. It was a tight fit over burners 5 & 6 and the handle just cleared the wings. Being able to shake a pan versus turning over 5 or 6 skewers was easier & faster

I finally settled on one called Fiery Mustard BBQ sauce. I was a bit worried that it might be too spicy for he others sharing this day’s meal. The recipe used many spicy ingredients like mustard, mustard powder, chili sauce, scallions, diced hot banana peppers and their pickling juice and lastly and two habanero chilies. The recipe suggested using one Habanero chili if you wanted to tone down the spices. They also suggested not using the seeds or the ribs from the chili pepper. I made sure to do a very fine dice of the one Habanero chili I used. The other thing I did was add all the lemon juice from the two lemons, and not as the recipe called for: “1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice from two lemons”. The picture at the top of this blog shows the ingredients for the BBQ sauce just before they were mixed. All I know is the BBQ sauce was screamingly hot when I first taste tested it. Then one hour later when it was time to eat, the sauce was this wonderful blend of spicy and sweet. Not sure if it was the lemon juice or the brown sugar, but something had toned down the spices. Since the sauce had a hint of citrus to it, I suspect the lemon juice. And as mentioned I didn’t measure it out, I used all of the juice from the two lemons. It may have been a happy accident, but the sauce was great.

The wings were seared over burners 5 & 6 while the potatoes were shifted from here over to burners 1 & 2 after the smoker drawer was emptied

As for the potatoes, they were simple enough. The 24 small Yukon Gold potatoes were halved and then par-boiled for 7 minutes to soften them up a bit. The potatoes were tossed with olive oil. salt, pepper, paprika and cayenne pepper. The directions suggested the use of skewers or a grill platter to cook the potatoes, but I figured this would be perfect for my mesh grill pan with a lid. Plus threading 48 small potatoes halves on and off skewers didn’t have any attraction to me. With the grill pan I could simply shake the pan every so often to turn the potatoes. This way the grill was only open for a short period of time and I’d not lose as much of the heat for the wings which where cooking indirectly. But there was just one problem, grill real estate. I’d planned on dividing my 6 burner grill into thirds for this cook. The left third with burners 1 & 2 would have burner 1 set to high for the smoker drawer and burner 2 set to medium. In the middle of the grill I’d remove the grill grate and flame tamer over burners 3 & 4. In place of the flame tamer I placed the drop in cast iron grill pan made for my grill. I then replaced the grill grate. Burners 5 & 6 were set to medium. The idea was to get an internal temp of 375 for indirect grilling the chicken. Burner 1 was set to high to make sure I got some decent smoke from the smoker drawer. The chicken wings went over unlit burners 3 & 4 and the cast iron pan. My hope was to put the grill pan over burners 5 & 6 to cook the potatoes. Before lighting the grill I went out with the pan to make sure it would fit. It was a tight squeeze but the pan did just fit. The handle went over the chicken but it was high enough I could still flip the chicken when I needed to.

The grill pan did a great job of cooking these potatoes

Once I had the grill real estate planned out I added the wood chips to the smoker drawer and lit the grill. I went back into the Kitchen and finished my prep. The first thing left to do was apply the rub to the chicken. It was a simple salt, pepper & cayenne pepper mix. Next I reserved some of the BBQ sauce for use at the table. Finally I put the potatoes in the grill pan after spraying the grill pan with PAM for Grilling. As I was getting ready to head out to the grill a pleasant thought occurred to me: I realized that in the last few months I had started making more complex meals many with multiple grilled or smoked items. At first it seemed to be a bit of a stretch, but I realized that a lot of this was now becoming second nature. With a little advanced preparation on my part, I was now becoming comfortable making 2,3, or 4 items for a meal. Once again I remembered how nervous I used to get, and now I was relaxed and enjoying myself. Today’s prep was pretty much going according to plan and in the time I had estimated. This all bodes well for future cooks.

The BBQ Chicken Wings & Grilled New Potatoes were a hit. In about 10 minutes all of these dishes were empty

When I got outside with the food, I found that the wood chips, which had been soaked for only 15 minutes, were producing a good amount of smoke. I cleaned and oiled the grill grates and added the chicken over unlit burners 3 & 4. Lastly I put the the mesh grill pan over the lit burners 5 & 6. The plan was to cook the wings indirectly for 25 minutes, flipping them mid way through. I gave the potatoes in the grill pan a shake every 6 minutes. At the twelve minute mark I flipped the wings which were starting to develop some color. After 25 minutes I was supposed to finish the wings by searing the wings for 3 minutes a side over high heat. The only problem was the only open spot with high direct heat was the left side of the grill, but that is where the smoker drawer was and I didn’t want to over smoke the wings. I decided to make a change: with 5 minutes left for the indirect phase I turned burners 5 & 6 up to high. When the indirect phase was over I dumped out the chips in the smoker drawer into my smoker’s ash disposal bucket and moved the grill pan with the potatoes over to burners 1 & 2 on the left side of the grill. The wings got sauced with the BBQ sauce and then moved over burners 5 & 6. I applied more sauce and flipped the wings after 3 minutes of searing the first side. The wings had a nice sear, but there were starting to be some flare ups, so I turned the burners down to medium high. The wings finished off uneventfully in another 3 minutes. I brushed the wings once more with the BBQ sauce and I brought everything in the house to eat.

I can’t wait to make this great recipe again with one of the other BBQ sauces in the recipe

The wings turned out great. While I’d cooked wings this way before, these were the best version yet with more smoke flavor than ever before. It was just the right amount of smoke. The BBQ sauce was really wonderful and was the highlight of the meal. During the one hour the sauce had sat around, the sweet had caught up with the spicy to balance out the flavor. The BBQ sauce was a great compliment to these wings and I used far more of it as a dipping sauce than I usually do. The potatoes were very tasty with a crispy exterior crust, and in retrospect the best part was how easy they were to make. Even the chicken wings were relatively simple. I plan to make another batch of the wings later this week using one of the other 3 BBQ sauce recipes. It will be a tough call which BBQ sauce to try next. One sign of how good this meal was even though I’d made extra, there were no leftovers This was a fine wrap up to a great Memorial Day Weekend of grilling. I was really happy with my results and pleased at the realization that things were getting easier and better at the same time. I shall have to offer up some extra thanks to the BBQ Gods.

Here are some links for the Picture Entries for the items described here.

  GRILLED BRATS IN BEER Hot Dogs Picture Entry for Friday’s meal
  SMOKEHOUSE BURGERS Burgers Picture Entry for Saturday’s meal
  GRILLED CORN WITH CHILI BUTTER Veggies Picture Entry for Saturday’s meal
  JALAPENO POPPERS Appetizers Picture Entry for Saturday’s meal
  MEMORABLE MEMORIAL DAY - PART 1 Blog Entry for Saturday’s meal
  BBQ CHICKEN WINGS Poultry Picture Entry for Monday’s meal
  GRILLED NEW POTATOES WITH A RED PEPPER CRUST Veggies Picture Entry for Monday’s meal


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