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The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke
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Getting Better All The Time - Pt. 1

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Recently I have been on quite the roll, and I don't mean the larger than normal amount of rolls that I have been baking. What I am referring to is I have been on a streak where I am turning out some of the best foods I've grilled smoked or baked. It isn't just me saying this. The folks I have been serving this food too are the ones who keep saying this too, and it is nearly unanimous. My Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years & Easter dinners have gotten rave reviews. Same with many of the normal meals in between the holidays. I have begun to feel embarrassed as I post the picture entries here and keep saying: "My guests felt this was the best ______ I've ever made." Don't worry I have not become a legend in my own mind. But the food really has been getting better, despite some technical issues I was fighting for 3 months or so. I am my toughest critic most days, and even I have noticed a difference. This multi-part blog is my attempt to look at what has been going right and wrong, and share some of my thoughts in the hope of helping others. This entry will cover how to get started in this hobby and how to get yourself pointed in the right direction. Part 2 will cover Grills & Grilling and Part 3 will discuss Smokers & Smoking. The Final Part will cover some things I’ve learned about Baking on the Big Green Egg.

First off, let me repeat: I am not suddenly some Magic Chef. I am a (mostly) self-taught hobbyist, who has attended a few classes or seminars along the way. I couldn't write a great tasting original recipe to save my life. But I am able to follow instructions very well. So the first part of any success I've had in the past, and any success I will continue to have in the future, is finding great recipes by real shelves and not managing to screw things up. The goal of this series of blog entries was to look back at some of the items that helped make me a better backyard cook. Some of these I've mentioned in the past in previous blogs, and others are more recent developments. Some of these do relate specifically to my recently purchased Big Green Egg, but this blog entry is more big picture. Many of the items here are NOT specific to any one grill, or will apply more or less to other types of grills. So I do think there might be some useful ideas in here for everybody. This includes me, because I often find organizing my thoughts to write about them gives me some additional insight and clarity on the topic as well.

FIND OUT MORE:

As I mentioned above, I have written one or more times in my blog on many of the topics below. At the bottom of these 4 blog entries, I will included links to these blogs, organized roughly in the order I have discussed them here. The reason I am doing it this way is some of these other blog entries touch on several of the topics referred to in this blog. Rather than have the same entry appear multiple time in the main body of this blog, it will appear once below. So if any of these topics interest you and you might be interested in reading more about them, scroll down to the links below.


GETTING STARTED - RECIPES AND USEFUL INFORMATION:

If you are not an experienced cook or one of these natural cooks who can just pull things out of the air and make it happen, the first thing you need to do is find some good recipes and dip your toes in the water. Here are some of the things to do to help you get started:

  
Get Some Starter Cookbooks:
At the end of this entry, I will post links to blogs I've written about several great starter cookbooks. One of the problems with many cookbooks, is they assume a certain skill level that a beginner may not have. They use terms and techniques you have never heard of and assume you know them. What makes these starter cookbooks great, is there are good recipes in there for anyone. They turn out great food which happens to be simply and easy to make. I still make things from all of these “starter” cookbooks even though I am no longer a beginner.       More Info

  
Web Resources:
Have some good websites to help you get started. At the end of this blog entry I will list some great websites. These websites will not only help you get started, they will continue to be essential as you learn more and more about cooking. The America's Test Kitchen/Cooks Country/Cook's Illustrated family of websites is behind a pay wall, but I couldn't give it higher recommendation.      More Info

  
Web Videos:
There is a wealth of cooking related videos on the Internet. Besides YouTube, many cooking relating sites have videos showing techniques or videos associated with the recipe you are viewing. Words on paper can sometimes be confusing versus seeing the steps actually executed in front of you. Visit YouTube and search for the topic you are interested in. Or when you are surfing the web, do a Google search for your topic or recipe and add the word video to the search query. One word of caution: In the beginning try to stick more to videos done by REAL Chefs or true cooking related websites that are web based extensions of a Cooking TV show or cooking magazine. YouTube can be a double-edged sword. There are many videos on there by people whose only qualifications as a "chef" is their houses happen to come with a Kitchen and they happen to own a video camera. It can often be very helpful to see techniques in a recipe being executed. These days anyone can have a blog so also be wary of “Food Bloggers”. Like I mentioned with YouTube: try to stick with Food Bloggers who are well-known legitimate chefs as opposed to folks who managed to make a few dishes their family liked and suddenly fancy themselves to be big time Food Bloggers.

  
Use Local Resources:
Many communities have cooking classes that are taught at night or on weekends in local public or vocational schools. There may also be full-time cooking schools that offer classes to the general public. Lastly companies that make cooking related products will often have a demo classroom and offer cooking demos or classes. When I wanted to learn about baking I went up to the King Arthur Flour headquarters in Vermont and took several baking classes there. It was money well spent. This past fall I attended a cooking demo/class on making great hamburgers at Stonewall Kitchens in Maine. The Williams-Sonoma and Sur La Table cooking stores in my area sometimes offer free classes on various cooking related topics. These free classes are intended to help showcase products the stores carry. So you are being marketed to, but there is also useful information even if you do not plan to purchase anything. In general there is often more useful information given out in a paid class or seminar than a free one. Sometimes spending a little money to get you jump started is more than worth the money spent. These classes will save you time (and your time is worth money). They may also keep you from wasting money on useless gadgets and spending your money wisely on items you do need.      More Info

  
Use Family and Friends:
Do you have a friend or family member who already knows a lot about what it is you're trying to learn? By all means pick their brains. Most of them are very willing to share their knowledge. Do you have a friend who is into barbecue? Offer to buy the ribs and bring the beer and see if they won't be willing to give you a rib cooking lesson. I had a friend who’s wife was really into baking and I used to regularly pick her brain. Recently my mother and I had a session where we traded off knowledge. The pie we were making used a type of piecrust recipe my mother had never made before. I was unsure of the proper way to form the ridges around the top edge of the pie plate. So I made the crossed dough while she watched and she put it in the pie plate and formed it while I watched.

  
Use the Time to Learn Favorite Family Recipes:
By this I mean recipes for indoor cooking in addition to outdoor cooking. Some folks might think this is a bit off-topic, and if so: Scroll down to the next item. But if you're like me and you don't even know how to boil water you're going to have to learn some indoor cooking too. A good way to do this is have some of your family members show you classic family recipes. These are often favorites to get passed down from generation to generation. The problem is the ingredient quantities can be totally nonexistent and the directions vague because the person making it had made it hundreds of times before they wrote the directions down. When I was first learning, I had both my grandmother and my mother make some family classics while I watched. I took photos along the way to illustrate the items that might be confusing on paper some years later. Also a picture of a rolling boil is far easier to understand than the words rolling boil. You can take pictures showing the proper appearance of the finished product. My recipe software allows me to include these photos and it really can help when sometimes you go a year or more between making a certain recipe. Think once-a-year holiday recipes.

The other thing I did was deal with pinches and dashes. Once again, the people making these recipes have made it so many times, they don't even think about the quantities. They are just pouring it into their hands and dumping it into the pan. Well your pinches and mine might be two different things. Same goes with dashes and descriptions like “a little”. So what I did is when the person making the recipe poured out the pinch or the dash, instead of dumping it into the pan with the food I "quantified" it. I had them dump it into a small glass bowl so I could then use a measuring spoon to quantify it. The larger quantities of items, such as food that might be cleaned and peeled and then added to the pan, were placed on a plate first which I measured on my kitchen scale.

Before I forget to mention it, be sure to watch along the way to see all the little things that they do while cooking. How much do they stir and how often, what temperature is the pan or the oven (shooting the pan bottom with an infrared thermometer helps out here), what color is the item when it is done after a certain step (here is where a picture is invaluable). Also when they are seasoning “to taste”, be sure to take a before and after taste yourself to see what the food tasted like. Write your impressions down so you will remember the next time you make this dish. When you are done you will have the pleasure spending some quality time with that family member, documenting a family classic recipe which can now be shared and you've learned some about how to cook.

  
Make the Recipe as Written First Time Out:
You need to have a base standard to work from. I ALWAYS try to make a recipe exactly as written the first time I make it. If you start making tweaks first time out and things don’t turn out well, you really have no clue why. Was it your tweaks? Was it the recipe? If you make it precisely as written, you now have a base to work from. This is what this particular recipe was actually supposed to taste like. Now you can make tweaks and you will know if they were a true improvement. I sometimes shake my head when I read comments from people online who made a web-based recipe and leave a comment on the web site. Some of them don’t like it and then list the changes they made: quantities of ingredients, changing the ingredients, doneness etc.. They have changed so many things it isn’t the same recipe, but this fact is somehow lost on them.

  
Read the Comments for Web-Based recipes:
I know I was just making fun of some of the commenters on web based recipes sites. There also can be useful comments too. You need to separate the valid from the wacky. Some of the valid comments may be things like: If most of the commenters say the recipe made 2x or 4x what they needed. Or if most everybody says a recipe is too salty, then you might want to go easy on the salt along the way. This may be hard at first, but soon you will know the comments that are just silly and the ones that may be valid.

GETTING STARTED -SCOPE:
Starting something new is always a challenge. Everything is new to you and you are trying to take in everything all at once. Here are some general steps to help get you off the ground:

  
Shoot for Success:
Nothing encourages you to continue with a pursuit like success. Nothing makes people want to give up like a string of failures. So pick things to start off which give you a reasonable chance to succeed. Avoid things at first that have a high risk of failure. Remember hobbies are supposed to be fun. Structure your learning curve so you have a reasonable chance of succeeding and the fun will come.

  
Start Off Small:
This is really a continuation of the first item. It is probably not a great idea to volunteer to cook your Thanksgiving turkey and the various side dishes on your grill or smoker the first time you're using it. Trying to do more than you're ready to tackle is a sure way to crash and burn. Do you want to be the story that comes up every year around holiday time: "Remember Thanksgiving 2012 when Johnny tried to cook the turkey and sides on the grill? We ended up having to drive to a Boston Market so we could have a turkey dinner that year. The lines were going out the door…" Start with items that are small in scope and easy to make. As you begin picking up some skills increase the level of difficulty of what you're going to make. But like everything else in life it is better to walk before you run.

  
Take Lots of Pictures:
Now me I take pictures for three primary reasons: First it's my hobby, second for this website and lastly for a historical record of what I've made. Now photography may not be your hobby nor do you plan on posting pictures of what you make to a website, Facebook, or some message board. But the historical value can’t be underestimated. A picture shows you what the finished product looks like, right or wrong. You have a reference to go by the next time. If the next time is a year later you may not even remember what it looked like when you last made it. These next items assume a digital camera or a film camera which can add a Date/Time stamp to the image. If you take a picture at the start of prep, another picture when the food goes on the grill, and yet another picture when the food is done you have some valuable information. You now know how long the prep took as well as how long the item took to cook. You also know the total time from start to finish. These days most everyone has a cell phone with some sort of camera built-in. So there really is no excuse not to take pictures.       More Info

  
One Warning:
Most cell phones and many digital cameras these days have a GPS chip in them. If so the photos you take may be tagged with the GPS coordinates or city and state for your location. You may not want to share your home’s location with the world. So either turn the feature off on the phone/digital camera, or before you transfer the photos to your computer turn it off in the photo software on your computer or on the website you are posting to. You may want to double check once your photos are posted, that you successfully turned of the GPS geo-location feature.

  
Dry Runs are Invaluable:
To this day I still do dry runs for certain cooks. When you are first starting out dry runs can be invaluable. If you are silly enough to ignore my advice above and volunteer to do the Thanksgiving turkey on your new grill or smoker, you might want to try a dry run a month or so ahead of time. This will allow you time to work any kinks out of the system, or to leave yourself enough time to make alternate plans for how to do dinner. I also use dry runs to give myself an idea of the time the meal may take. For example you may have a bunch of side dishes you will want to finish up around the time your main course will finish up. The dry run will give you an idea of what this time actually is instead of having to guess. You can also test the food for seasoning. I sometimes have issues where one or more family members doesn't like really spicy food. A dry run lets me try it out and adjust the seasoning to suit. There may be some technique you're not sure you can pull off out on the grill. Better to find out ahead of time making a small batch, than with a table full of hungry guests waiting to eat the meal you just found out you can't cook correctly on the grill.      More Info

  
See Weather You Can Actually Do It:
Sorry for the bad pun, but what I mean here is you may want to see if you and your grill/smoker are up for the kind of weather you may experience at Thanksgiving or Christmas. Do some dry runs in similar weather conditions.

  
Have a Lifeline:
To this day when I am making something that is new to me be it technique, ingredients, type of cuisine etc. I will often discuss it with other folks I know that may have made it. They can give you some tips that may help make your first attempt go smoother. Also if I have questions that come up during a cook, I don’t hesitate to try to call someone who has the knowledge to help me out. Planning ahead makes more sense, but use the resources available to you right up to an including during the cook.

  
Be Sure to Leave Enough Time:
This is one I still fall victim to. Things always seem to take longer then you guesstimate. Putting the fat off a piece of meat take a half hour instead of the 10 minutes you budgeted, it takes longer to put kebabs on a skewer, it takes longer to chop up some parsley or you can’t find a utensil. Better to get an early start. The worst thing that can happen then is you have some potential downtime during the cook, that you can use to clean the kitchen or do something else. As a new cook, there is nothing else worse than rushing around trying to make up for lost time. You are more likely to make more mistakes, costing you more time and resulting in a less-than-perfect meal.

  
Have Some Flexibility in Your Side Dishes:
When you first start out you may have difficulty judging how long a particular cook is going to take. This is natural. In the beginning, try to avoid planning a cook where everything needs to fit like the parts in a Swiss watch. Until you've made something similar to the item you're trying a few times, you really might not have a good sense of exactly how long it's going to take. The exception to this is if you made a dry run like I described earlier. So perhaps make side dishes that can either be made ahead and held or that can be started towards the end of the cook when the meat is resting. There is a frozen Southwestern style rice I often make in the microwave that takes less than five minutes to get ready. This can be started when the food is coming off the grill and while it is getting ready to go to the table.

  
Absorb EVERYTHING You Do:
Don't be asleep on your feet as you cook. Take in and remember everything. How did the food look? How did it smell?, What changes in appearance occurred to the food and when? What noises were made when you put it on the the grill or the griddle? Did it sizzle right away or did that take several minutes? Note your cooking temperature by using an infrared thermometer to measure the grate temperature. Take photos like I mentioned before. Do voice memos on your cell phone. Jot down some written notes. You may remember things vividly as they are happening, but several months or year later you may not. Each cooking session is a new learning opportunity: Take advantage of it. When you are first starting it is tough because everything is new to you. But try to absorb as much as you can. Everything you learn and retain makes future cooks that much easier.

  
Mistakes Are Normal - Learn From Your Mistakes.
Everybody makes mistakes. It is normal, it is human. What I try and do is not make the same mistake twice. I actually feel you can actually learn more from your mistakes, than from your successes. If you over or undercooked your food, try to guess and document by how much. As I mentioned earlier write this stuff down. You may not remember everything the next time you get around to making this dish. If you're cooker was running too high note that, if your temperatures drop too much when you were adding fuel or opening the lid note that. Whatever the mistake you made, if you think you have the solution write it down or make good mental notes. For a once a year holiday type cook, best to write it down.      More Info

  
Cook to Time not Temperature:
This is the most critical aspect of successful grilling, smoking, baking or any type of cooking for that matter. Recipes may have a time in them, but they are only an estimate. If the temperature varies at all in your set up versus the recipe's set up you'll not achieve the desired doneness temperature in the same amount of time. For food safety purposes, you'll always want to check the doneness temperature of your food. Cooking time is a rough, and I stress rough, estimate of how long things will take. The final temperature the food is the only thing that matters.      More Info

  
Cooking = Time and Temperature:
The basics of cooking are a relationship between time and temperature. If you cook it a higher temperature it will take less time and if you cook a lower temperature it will take more time. That is the basic premise. But as I just mentioned above: Note all the various aspects of your cook, successful and unsuccessful. This relationship of time and temperature is valid for a certain range only. At some point you cannot raise the temperature enough to cook the food faster. The outside will burn and the inside will be uncooked. You also cannot lower the temperature beyond a certain point or the food won't cook properly or in a timely manner. You need to work within the proper temperature range for good results.       More Info
One of the reasons I suggest paying attention to every aspect of the cook is in case you run into trouble with an improper temperature. I recently ran into a problem where the cold weather was preventing my griddle from achieving the proper temperature. I could tell right away because I was familiar with the SOUND the griddle usually made when cooking at my target temperature. The griddle was barely sizzling so I knew I had a temperature problem. I lost quite a bit of time and I had to raise the fire much higher to get things to cook properly and for them to finish out in a timely manner with other parts of the dish. The only reason I was successful pulling this off was based on noting prior experiences. In the past I had observed what the items were supposed to look like at various points in the cook. So I could tell when they were getting done even though they were cooking at a different temperature. I also was used to the noises that I should be hearing, which told me things were cooking too slowly at first and then properly later on. As a beginner if this had happened to me I would've been totally screwed. With enough cooking time under my belt, and observing the way things looked, smelled and sounded as they cooked, I was able to fake it and pull my chestnuts out of the fire so to speak. There were three items that needed to be cooked on two griddles. The intent was they could all come together towards the end of the cook and finish together as one. I actually managed to get everything cooked up properly and to finish up together. I was rather stunned myself that I had managed to pull this off. And once again the only thing that allowed me to do it was paying attention in the past when things were going right.

GETTING STARTED - GRILL GEAR:
These are some general suggestions that apply to all the other areas in later parts of this blog. This is not going to be an all-encompassing list but just some things to get people headed in the right direction based on my experience:

  
;Instant Read Thermometer:
This is an essential. If you can afford it get the Thermapen Instant Read thermometer. The cost is in the $90 range, but it is worth every penny. I've owned several other instant read thermometers that cost nearly as much and they weren't even half as good. A fast instant read thermometer allows you to take multiple temperature readings in short order to make sure that your food is cooked a temperature. This item is not just invaluable out at the grill, it also can be invaluable in the kitchen too.      More Info

  
Remote Read Thermometer:
The Maverick ET-732 or ET-733 are remote read thermometers that have wired probes to measure the temperature of your cooking great and food. The wires from the probes plug into a transmitter unit the sits outside next to your grill. The outside transmitter unit sends a wireless signal to a second receiver unit where you can monitor the cook from a remote location such as your kitchen. This allows you to keep an eye on the grill and the food while continuing on with your prep. There are alarms you can set that warn you if the grill temperature is out of range or your food has reached it's doneness. The important thing about the probe that measures the grill temperature, is that it measures it at the grate level where you are cooking your food. Pay no attention to the thermometer located high up in the dome of the grill's lid. You're cooking down at the grate level, the temperatures at the dome level can vary widely depending on time of year, outdoor air temperature and amount of time the grill has been running. It Remote read thermometers like this may seem like a convenience item. There is no denying IT IS a convenience item, but I truly consider it essential to a successful cook. when the food probe reading tells you you're close to your desired temperature, you can make a quick run outside with your instant read thermometer and double check the settings. And yes it is nice being able to stay indoors during the cold weather and keep an eye on things from your kitchen.      More Info

  
19" Locking Tongs:
A pair of long locking tongs are essential. They should be long enough that your hand is not over the fire. I actually own 4 pairs of the Steven Raichlen tongs I use. One pair for handling raw food first going on the grill and another pair for handling the cooked food. The other two pairs are backups, so I can have 2 pair in the dishwasher from lunch and a second two pair is at the ready for supper.      More Info

  
19" Grill Spatula:
Once again you want a spatula that allows you to reach your food without your hand being over the hot fire. I have multiple grill spatulas for the same reason as I mentioned fro the tongs.

  
Gloves:
A pair of high temperature rated gloves, such as Welder's gloves or high temp rated grilling gloves that extend up to nearly your elbow are the best. Two pairs are even better since I have seen some grill pans where you must “double glove” to pick up the handle which gets as hot as a branding iron.

GETTING STARTED - INDOOR GEAR:
  
Good Quality Kitchen Knives:
You will want to have some super sharp very good quality knives. Super sharp knives that will keep a good edge over time are important. A sharp knife is actually safer than a lesser knife which dulls quickly. A sharp knife goes where you tell it to, whereas a dull knife can suddenly drift off course on you. You can drop some serious coin on an expensive set of knives. The reality is many chef’s feel that all you really need are three essential knives. Therefore you can spend some more money on these three knives individually, as opposed to buying a very expensive set of eight or 10 knives, most of which you will rarely use. The three knives in question are an 8 inch chef's knife, a paring knife, and a serrated edged bread knife. Personally I don't like chef's knives. I find them a little bulky and awkward to use. I use the Japanese santoku style knife which is their take on a chef's knife. I find I have better control and it is easier for me to use. I know quite a few people who stopped using a chef's knife when they tried out a santoku knife. Try both out and see what feels better to you. I owned two cheaper sets of kitchen knives before I sprung for a set of Wusthoff Classic German knives. These knives have outlasted the other two sets combined. With some occasional sharpening these Wusthoff knives still feel as sharp as the day I bought them. My set had 12 knives in it, and I find I actually use six of them regularly. The 5" sanoku is my go to knife, followed by the serrated edge paring knife, a serrated veggie/tomato knife, an 8" serrated edge panini knife with an offset handle, the 8" bread knife and a 5 1/2" boning knife. I never use the two different sized chef's knives or the the straight edge paining knife. I sometimes use the 7" santoku and the 12" carving knife.

  
Measuring Spoons:
I like the OXO black plastic measuring spoons. I bought two sets almost immediately so one can be in the dishwasher and one in use.

  
Measuring Cups:
I have two sets of OXO metal measuring cups.      More Info

  
Glass Measuring Bowls:
Pyrex and Anchor make small glass bowls for measuring out ingredients prior to combining them in your dish. They typically come in 8 packs. These are very handy for keeping things straight when you are measuring out the ingredients for complex recipes (rubs, marinades etc.). I use the 6 oz. (175 ml.) and 10 oz. (300 ml.) sizes. While I started off small with a set of each, I now have enough to cover the needs of the largest recipe I might make x2. This lets me have some in the dishwasher and still have enough to cook with. Having ingredients measured out in advance, ultimately makes your prep easier and helps you avoid mistakes.      More Info

  
Metal Cups:
I recently started using small stainless steel measuring cups that hold about 4 tbsp. (60 ml.). They are great for measuring out quantities less than 1/4 cup. Buying more of these allows you to have less of the glass bowls.

Hopefully you already have certain kitchen basics in your possession. The items I mentioned above are items that have helped make grilling and smoking type recipes easier. You will often be making rubs or sauces that have lots of ingredients. I have made rubs that use 20 or more ingredients and the items above help you jeep things straight a 4:00AM if you are pulling an all-nighter.
________________________

PART 2 of this blog will cover items specific to Grills & Grilling.

SOME RELATED BLOG ENTRIES
Here are some blog entries which take some of the items covered above and expand on them:

STARTER COOKBOOKS - Grilling
:   HOW TO GRILL: (2008 Blog Entry) By Stephen Raichlen. Great cookbook for beginners with great recipes for every skill level. Every technique is very well illustrated.
  MASTERING THE GRILL: (2008 Blog Entry) By Andrew Schloss and David Joachim. This is more of an intermediate lvel cookbook that treat grilling as equal parts Art & Science. There is some very solid knowledge and great recipes to be found here
  WEBER’S WAY TO GRILL (2009 Blog Entry) By Jamie Purveyance. Great cookbook for beginners with great recipes for every skill level.

STARTER COOKBOOKS - Smoking:

  SLOW FIRE: (2014 Blog Entry) By Ray (Dr. BBQ) Lampe. This is the essentially the smoking version of HOW TO GRILL. Great information for beginners to the world of smoking and great recipes for all skill levels.

WEB RESOURCES:
  Cooks Illustrated / America’s Test Kitchens / Cooks Country - Great recipes that have been worked out to the last detail and then taste tested for goodness. They also cover cooking techniques and test cooking gear. This is a paid site, but I have had a membership going on 10 years now and it is worth every penny: www.cooksillustrated.com/
  foodnetwork: I will admit this network has been becoming less about the food and more about the BAM! and pretty faces over the years. But some of the chef’s there such as Aalton Brown really know their stuff. http://www.foodnetwork.com
  Barbecue Bible Message Board: For those of you who own non-komado style gas or charcoal grills this is an excellent resource with friendly and very helpful members. There are plenty of other grilling related message boards out there, but often they are rather cliquey and prone to flame wars over the smallest provocation. The Barbecue Bible Message Board is population by a bunch of friendly and helpful folks. There is a wealth of stored knowledge there as well: http://www.barbecuebible.com/board/
  EggHead Forum: If you own a Big Green Egg this message board is a valuable resource. It is run by the Big Green Egg company itself, but they don’t seem to interfere too much. There are other Big Green Egg related message boards out there, but I have found this one to be the friendliest and easiest to follow.

  
Other Links:
Visit my LINKS page for some other helpful links which are more for the intermediate level griller.

COOKING CLASSES:
Here are some blog entries describing several of the classes or seminars I have attended.
  NIGHT SCHOOL: (2009 Blog Entry) Baking Class I took at the King Arthur Flour Company.
  WICKED GOOD LECTURE: (2013 Blog Entry) Cooking Demo given by the author’s of the WICKED GOOD BURGERS cookbook.

TAKE LOTS OF PICTURES:
Here are some blog entries describing the uses for pictures of your cooks.
  A PICTURE IS WORTH 1,000 WORDS: (2010 Blog Entry) Suggestions for a couple valuable pictures to take of your cooks.
  WHY DO YOU TAKE SO MANY PIX? (2010 Blog Entry) Describes the multitude of uses for pictures taken during your cooks.

THINGS TO LEARN:
Here are some things to learn to get you off to a successful start cooking outdoors.
  BE PREPARED: (2010 Blog Entry) Doing test runs of new cooks or techniques to help when it comes time to do the real thing.
  DRY RUN: (2012 Blog Entry) The benefits to doing practice runs of your cooks before doing the real thing
  A RECIPE FOR FAILURE: (2012 Blog Entry) Not all recipes are fool or fail proof.
  TIME VS. TEMPERATURE: (2012 Blog Entry) Cooking to temperature is the only way to insure proper doneness.

GETTING STARTED - Grill Gear:
Some accessories that help make grilling and smoking easier and safer.
  THERMAPEN INSTANT READ THERMOMETER: (2014 Blog Entry) Essential piece of gear for not only outdoor, but indoor cooking too.
  MAVERICK ET-733 FIRST IMPRESSIONS: (2014 Blog Entry) This may sound like a luxury, but a remote read instant thermometer is an essential piece of gear in my opinion. Here is a review of the third generation model of this thermometer.
  MAVERICK ET-732 - NEW & DEFINITELY IMPROVED: (2012 Blog Entry) A review of the second generation model of this thermometer, which is still available at a new lower price not that the ET-733 is out.
  GET A GOOD GRIP: (2009 Blog Entry) A review of the Stephen Raichlen 19” locking tongs.

GETTING STARTED - Indoor Gear:
Some accessories that help make grilling and smoking related tasks performed indoors in your Kitchen easier and safer.
  BOWLED OVER: (2011 Blog Entry) Using glass measuring bowls for prep.
  THESE CUPS MEASURE UP: (2011 Blog Entry) OXO Metal Measuring Cups

OTHER ENTRIES IN THIS SERIES:

  GETTING BETTER ALL THE TIME - PT. 1 (General)
  GETTING BETTER ALL THE TIME - PT. 2 (Grilling)
  GETTING BETTER ALL THE TIME - PT. 3 (Smoking)
  GETTING BETTER ALL THE TIME - PT. 4 (Baking)

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