My Favorite Year
12/21/12 -14:17 Filed in: Retrospective
Big Picture-wise this year was actually a mixed bag for me. Personally there were some very sad events. On the Grilling front it was my best year grilling ever. Since this is a Grilling/BBQ based blog I will confine my remarks to my favorite year grilling ever and why I call it that. It was truly a remarkable year! I will admit when it started out, it didn’t look like anything out of the ordinary. It looked to be a continuation of the things I was learning & doing in years past. I should also put a qualification on this too, in terms of the time frame I am speaking about. I define my serious grilling period as starting in October of 2003 when I got my Kenmore Elite 6-Burner gas grill and bought a copy of Steven Raichlen’s HOW TO GRILL to help me learn how to take advantage of the features of this new gas grill. Up until this point I was a weekend warrior, grilling the same 5 or 6 items from Memorial Day to Labor Day. So from October 2003 and beyond is when I became serious about grilling, and later smoking. In those 9 years, this has been my best year ever and I will explore it here in this blog entry. For those who are interested in reading more about certain topics, I will post links to related blog entries written this year.
As I mentioned when the year started out it really didn’t look like anything special. In 2011 I’d started doing multi-item cooks fairly regularly and most of what I was cooking out was turning out better than ever. So I expected 2012 to be more of the same, but with some cooks that were slightly more ambitious and with improving results.
01/12 - WELDERS BLANKET: The first change this year was I finally got around to buying a welders blanket for my my smoker after many years of procrastinating. I actually bought it at the end of 2011, but it was a mild winter and so the first use was actually in 2012. The welders blanket did the trick in terms of stabilizing temperature fluctuations on the CG and helped on charcoal usage. So even though it didn’t get much usage due to the mild winter, I was looking forward to an easier future smoking during the winter.
WELDER’S BLANKETS - MUST HAVE MODS Blog Entry
02/12 - CG KAMADO COOKER: There had been a very noticeable trend on the BBQ Bible Message board forums towards the Big Green Egg. At first it was a trickle & eventually it turned into a flood. Some of the best grillers on that forum moved to a BGE and others were planning their purchase of a second one. This certainly caught my attention and I thought I’d eventually get one myself. But I was still in my skeptical phase, where I felt it was a good grill but no grill was THAT GOOD. In late February I heard talk of a new grill by CharGriller: the Kamdo Kooker. IT was a kamado style cooker made out of insulated metal as opposed to ceramic. I had looked at another insulated metal kamado kooker called the Bubba Keg and it seemed like it work as good or nearly as good as a BGE. The CG version retailed for $299.00 and I planned to take a look at it once it arrived in the stores around here, which finally happened in late April. I was very pleasantly surprised at the build quality of this made in China product. It was far superior to the other CG products which started getting built in China 2 years after I bought my smoker.
I decided to wait and see some reviews after the unit had been out a while, with an eye towards buying one in August when I got birthday money. On the whole the reviews of the CG Kamado Kooker were relatively positive. Most of the complaints could be cured by user applied gasket material or high temperature sealant. I was a little concerned because I wanted to cook on my grill, not work on my grill. But I still had 3 months or so to make a decision.
03/19 - APPLE STOCK DIVIDEND:
During Steve Jobs time leading Apple he nixed the idea of Apple paying a stock dividend more than once. It was about as likely as pigs flying. Well the new CEO, Tim Cook, is a different person than Steve Jobs. He sometimes has approached things differently than Steve Jobs. When asked at the 2012 shareholder meeting if Apple would pay a stock dividend, Tim Cook said Apple was exploring all of it’s options for spending the huge cash surplus they had. Suddenly in March they had a hastily called Monday morning press conferences where they announced Apple would pay a dividend. They would put it up to a vote at the next Board of Director’s Meeting in June, but that was thought to be a formality. When I was at the last company before I went off on my own, I invested in some Apple stock, despite the constant protests of the various advisors. I bought most of it when it cost in single digits or low teens per share. These so-called “Advisors” kept insisting I sell the stock. Fortunately for me, I never considered selling the stock. These same advisors trying to get me to sell the Apple stock had consistently done far less well with the stocks they had recommended for me. So why would I ever listen to them? The first dividend check would be payed in August and it suddenly gave me the option of getting the CG Komado Kooker or a Big Green Egg. I had several months to research and decide.
04/14 thru 05/05 - SPANISH FOOD EXPLORATION: This year I wanted to try some new Paellas, but I also wanted to explore some of the side dishes such as salads, gazpacho (chilled soup) & even dessert (ice cream). For 4 weeks in April I made some new Paellas, as well as 3 types of gazpacho, a Spanish salad & a wonderful ice cream dessert. I originally planned to make just a single paella/gazpacho combination, but at the end of that first meal I was asked what paella I was making for the next week. This behavior continued each week and I’d ask everyone if they weren’t sick of paellas and they said no. It was a fun run where I got to try some new types of paellas as well as discover the joys of gazpacho. The paellas I made were some of my best ever.
GRILLED ENSALADILLA Salad Picture Entry
PAELLA DE POLLO NARANJA Y ALEMENDRAS Paella Picture Entry
GAZPACHO ANDOLUZ Sides Picture Entry
PAELLA DE JAMON SERRANO Y ACEITUNAS Paella Picture Entry
GAZPACHO ORIENTAL Sides Picture Entry
PAELLA VEGETARINAS Paella Picture Entry
GAZPACHO ON FIRE Sides Picture Entry
PAELLA CARNE Paella Picture Entry
CINNAMON ICE CREAM Blog Entry
GAZPACHO Blog Entry
PAELLA POINTERS Blog Entry
04-28-12 NEW EZ-UP: When I was taking my EZ-Up down in October 2011 to avoid the winds from an approaching hurricane, I had one of the framing struts break and tear a hole in the roof fabric. In the Spring I got the replacement model for my first EZ-Up which had managed to last 7 years being used 9 months out of the year. I was initially happy because the new model was on sale and cost a little less than my first unit. When I erected the EZ-Up I was concerned because they had changed the design. To me it looked like they had “value engineered” it to cheapen it. My brother, who helped me put it up, felt it was actually a better design. Only time would tell. It was nice having a new shelter to work with.
EZ-UP VERSION 2 Blog Entry
EZ-UP EZ-DOWN Blog Entry
04/12 - EGGHEAD FORUM: The forum found on the Big Green Egg website is a vast thriving community of Big Green Egg owners. When the Apple stock dividend gave me the possibility of moving up to buying a BGE, I started doing some research. I used the forum to learn more about the Big Green Egg and it’s plusses and minuses and what it took to get up and running. Now that a BGE was on the table I was looking more critically at the CG Kamado Pro. I was troubled by the thoughts I’d have to do some after-market repairs to get it performing correctly. Once upon a time I would have done this gladly to save some money. But as I mentioned earlier: I just wanted to use the grill, not work on it. Plus now I had a source for the money.
05/19 - MUSTARD & DOGS:
One of my friends from the Barbecue Bible, Dyal_SC, sent me a PM saying he would like to send me his favorite mustard based BBQ sauce. He knew I was a mustard based life form and he lives in the region of the country, South Carolina, where mustard is king. He was curious to see my reaction to his favorite mustard sauce. I decided I would want to do something different for this special event, not just mustard based pulled pork. So I decided on SC style ribs with a mustard sauce. He also sent me an SC Gamecocks T-shirt which he insisted I needed to wear to recreate a “genuine SC BBQ’ing experience”. Meanwhile I wanted to come up with something to send him that he could only get around here. I was stumped at first, but then I thought about New England style side -split hot dog rolls. When I’d post pictures of hot dog cooks where I used this style of hot dog roll they always got a few comments about the rolls. The advantage is you can toast the sides of the buns. So I sent Dyal 2 packages of New England style hot dog rolls. As it turned out both gifts were a huge hit. None of my guests had ever had ribs with mustard sauce before and everyone loved them. Dyal & his wife loved the rolls, so much so she was saying they might need to move to Massachusetts so they could get more of these rolls. All in all a great time was had by all. And yes I did wear the shirt when I made the ribs as you can see here.
S.C. MUSTARD RIBS Pork 2 Picture Entry
07/12 - KITCHENAID STAND MIXER: A family member informed me he would no longer be using his year or so old KitchenAid stand mixer and he wanted to give it to me. I had been trying to do more baking and I wanted to learn more about desserts. This was certainly a push in the right direction. Additionally I bought some accessories for it, such as the grinding attachment which would allow me to grind my own meat for burgers. Once I started using the mixer I noticed an immediate improvement in my doughs and I found the time I was saving not mixing things by hand or with my hand mixer allowed me to clean up the Kitchen while the dough or batter was mixing. The first couple desserts I made were excellent which was quite encouraging.
08/12 - BIG GREEN EGG:
I decided to go ahead and get a large Big Green Egg using the stock dividend money Apple paid out in August. I couldn’t be happier about my choice. It is the finest and most versatile cooking tool I’ve ever had the pleasure to use. Within the first couple of uses and with little to no experience with the Egg, I’d turned out the BEST whole chicken, BEST steak, BEST pizza & BEST chicken wings I’d ever made. This totally blew me away, because I knew the Egg was a good grill, but I had no idea just how good. It wasn’t just me either, Everyone who had food from the Egg declared it to be about the best they’d ever had. The Egg is said to be a better oven than your indoor oven and having it around has allowed me to explore baking and desserts further and get a lot of usage out of my new mixer. The Egg is so versatile I have made all sorts of things I never dreamed of making on the grill: Deep Dish Pizza, Rolls, Bread, Cakes, Cookies, Fritattas, Quiche, Mac and Cheese and in the last month stir-frys. The last 5 months this year have been a blast and the most fun I’ve ever had in this hobby.
Q: WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? A: TAKEN BY A CULT- This blog entry details how I came around to getting my Big Green Egg.
BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 1 - ASSEMBLY - My BGE came with free assembly. In this blog I describe in a big picture fashion what is involved with assembly, so you can decide if you want to attempt it yourself.
BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 2 - 1ST COOK - What I chose to make for my first meal on my new BGE, why I chose it, my first impressions & how it turned out..
BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 3 - MYTHS & LEGENDS - There are lots of things said about how good the BGE is. After using it for a while I use this blog to address some of the popular claims about the BGE.
BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 4 - 1ST LOW & SLOW - The Big Green Egg may cost more up front, but it costs far less over time due to it's stingy use of charcoal.
BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 5 - TOTAL COST OF OWNERSHIP - The Big Green Egg may cost more up front, but it costs far less over time due to it's stingy use of charcoal.
BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 6 - BEST IN CLASS PIZZA - The Big Green Egg turns out the best grilled pizza I’ve ever had or made.
BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 7 - EGGCESSORIES - BIG PICTURE - My take on Big Green Egg accessories. Are they too expensive or should some come with the Egg?
BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 8 - EGGCESSORIES - GENERAL - The grill related accessories I bought along with my BGE.
BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 9 - EGGCESSORIES - COOKING - The cooking related accessories I bought along with my BGE.
BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 10 - STEAK ON THE EGG - My first steak on the Egg had a little drama, but was my best steak ever.
BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 11 - GASKET REPLACEMENT - BIG PICTURE - The the background & what was involved doing my gasket replacement.
BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 12 - GASKET REPLACEMENT - BLOW BY BLOW - The actual story of how my gasket replacement experience went.
BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 13 - BIG GREEN EGG COOKBOOK - See why I consider the Big Green Egg Cookbook an essential tool for using a BGE.
BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 14 - IMPRESSIONS AFTER 90 DAYS - My impressions after 90 days using the Big Green Egg.
BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 15 - GRATE ACCESSORIES - GRIDDLE - Cast Iron Griddle Grate.
BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 16 - GRATE ACCESSORIES - RAISED GRID - Half Moon Raised Grid for indirect grilling.
BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 17 - STIR-FRYING ON THE BIG GREEN EGG - Getting set up for Stir-Frying with a Wok on the Big Green Egg.
BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 18 - FIRST STIR-FRY - My experiences on my first Stir-Fry using the Big Green Egg.
BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 19 - IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE - I know it may sound crazy, but the Big Green Egg will really change your life.
09/12 - GRILL GAZEBO: This item was even less expected than my getting a Big Green Egg. As mentioned earlier, I’d gotten a new replacement E-Up in the spring of this year. I also mentioned I was a bit worried by what I perceived to be some “value engineering” done to the new EZ-Up design. My fears turned out to be well founded and I found myself outside at 2 AM in a raging thunderstorm taking down the EZ-Up which was collecting water all over the roof surface and which I feared would collapse on my grills including my new Egg. While I was drying off at 2:30 AM I did some hand sketches of a design for a possible future permanent grill gazebo made out of pressure treated lumber. To my great surprise the lumber was affordable. I just needed to find a way to build it myself.
The next day some work was scheduled to begin on the inside of our house. The two guys doing the work were extremely conscientious and were very detail oriented and I decided I would make them a meal on their second day there to show my appreciation. I grilled them up a steak dinner with some prime grade rib-eyes and using the recipe that was consistently turning out the best steaks ever. This got me thinking. I’d taken the time off while the house was being worked on and I wanted to practice on my new Egg, so I incorporated the carpenters in my plans. I cooked a meal every day at lunch time on the Egg and made enough for them to have too. This gave me something real to shoot for: Trying to do a meal and having it come out at a specific time made things more real. I knew the guys were flexible and wouldn’t mind if I was late, but it was good practice for me trying to hit a precise time to eat. One day the owner of the construction firm was in my house and saw me rotating the 3D computer model I’d made of the grill gazebo. At first his interest was about the CAD software I was using and then he got curious about the grill gazebo itself. When I told him it was something I wanted to actually build at some point in the future he had a proposal for me. He had a Kitchen remodeling job he was scheduled to start the next week, get pushed back a week due to cabinet delivery delays. He suddenly had a hole in his schedule. He was also grateful for my feeding his guys the last three weeks. He told me if I wanted to have his guys build it the next week, he would give me a real good price on it. The rest as they say is history. I still want to pinch myself every time I go out to cook on my new BGE in my new permanent grill gazebo. Even more fun is the fact the contractor liked the plans I did for the grill gazebo so much, he is starting to use me as an architect on some of his projects.
GRILL GAZEBO New Media Section
11/12 - FIRST THANKSGIVING ON THE EGG:
The Big Green Egg is such a versatile tool I used it for more than just a smoke roasted turkey on Thanksgiving. I also baked the dinner rolls, hermit cookies & a bundt cake on the Egg before putting the turkey on. The Egg was going basically from sunup to sundown and in that whole time I only had to tweak the vents once in 10 hours. That was when I put 13 pounds of cold turkey into the Egg and that type of adjustment is to be expected. After years of doing the Thanksgiving turkey on my smoker, where I had to keep running outside at least once an hour or more (depending on the weather) I really appreciated the set it and forget it nature of using the Egg. I also would have had to do 2 or possibly 3 refuelings of the smoker. All of these would have taken time away from what was my busiest day cooking ever. The baked goods all turned out perfectly and it was the best and most juicy turkey I have cooked to date. I am looking forward to many more holiday meals cooked on the Egg.
HERB ROASTED TURKEY - BGE Version Poultry 3 Picture Entry
CLOVERLEAF ROLLS Baking 1 Picture Entry
EGGNOG BUNDT CAKE Desserts 1 Picture Entry
HERMIT COOKIES Desserts 1 Picture Entry
12/12 - STIR-FRYING: After seeing some pictures posted on the Egghead Forum of several users stir-fries, I knew what I had to learn to do next on the Egg. With the help of the resident wok eggspert and some of the members on the Egghead forum, I ordered the necessary gear and cookbooks to enter the world of stir-frying. The two Grace Young Cookbooks I ordered: Breath of a Wok and Stir-Frying to the Skies Edge were just what I needed to learn about proper technique and use of the gear. My first stir-fry and every one of the two dozen since then have been a success. It turns out stri-frying reminds me a lot of a high speed version of grilling paellas. They are very convenient to make with relatively short prep times and 5-6 minute cooks. What is very interesting is with relatively simple ingredients you get some remarkable complex flavors in a very short amount of time. Each recipe is totally different from the others and the amount of potential recipes seems endless. I am so glad I added this style of cooking to my still somewhat limited knowledge base. I am hoping that the proven versatility of the Egg will allow me to add other styles of cooking to my repertoire and make me a better cook in the process.
STIR-FRIES New Stir-Fry Galleries Section
BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 17 - STIR-FRYING ON THE BIG GREEN EGG Blog Entry
BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 18 - FIRST STIR-FRY Blog Entry
WOK TALK - HITTING A COMFORT ZONE Blog Entry
WOK TALK - IT”S ALL ABOUT THE SEASONING Blog Entry
12/12 - IT’S A LARGE: A second Large BGE will be arriving here soon thanks to X-MAS money and Apple dividend money. When I bought the Large I was debating whether to get a XL or a Large. Many people said I’d be be better of getting two Eggs, a Large and a ..... Opinions differed on the second size to get. When I bought the first large in August the idea of someday getting a Small for a second Egg at some point in the murky, distant future was the possible plan. This would allow me to cook at two different temperatures, or do direct on one and indirect on the other or give me much more room. Well fast forward to November when we had a hurricane and a tropical storm whose winds tore up the cover to my smoker. I started thinking about whether to even get a new cover for the smoker since I hadn’t used it since I got my Egg. The conclusion was NO!! I then started thinking about the original idea of getting a Small for my second Egg. This made less sense to me now that I had my large and had spent a decent amount of money Eggcessorizing it. What seemed to make more sense was getting a second Large. I already know the large, I have all of the Eggcessories for it and other than the Platesetter I could share them and not have to buy Eggcessories for a second sized Egg. It all seemed to make sense. So a second large will soon be joining my grilling arsenal. Sadly it will mean saying goodbye to an old friend, but my smoker was nearing the end of it’s useful life and I wasn’t using it anymore. So just like New Years out with the old and in with the new.
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU: To all of the great folks on the Barbecue Bible Message Board and the Egghead Forum who helped me decide whether to get an Egg and which Eggcessories to get. Thanks for your passion, enthusiasm and willingness to share your knowledge with others. There is a wealth of knowledge on both boards to answer many questions. Thanks also for the detailed and personal responses I got to specific question I had. Thanks to the folks at the dealers who shared their knowledge of the Egg and helped me get pointed in the right direction. Thanks to Dyal_SC for the fun BBQ swap this past Spring. Thanks once again to the folks on the Egghead forum who gave me sound advice and very positive feedback on my various efforts on the Egg. Thanks to Bruce, Jay & Mike for building my grill gazebo for me. Thanks to Apple for helping make my dream of owning an Egg possible. And lastly thanks for all of the folks who shared their time dining with me. One of the most fun aspects of this hobby is being able to share the results with other. Hopefully too, the best is yet to come.
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