Monday, May 31, 2010

Smoker Mod

Well, it’s Memorial Day, so for me that means the first grill cleaning of the year, as well as an endless supply of hot dog consumption. But, today it’s been scorching hot, so once the cleaning was done, I opted for two spicy chicken sausages, and threw two racks of ribs onto the Weber Smokey Mountain. Two racks should really require little more than use of the Performer, but I wanted to try out an idea.

The 22” smoker uses a lot of charcoal, simply because of the size of the charcoal ring that holds it all. One chimney’s worth of unlit briquettes underneath another’s worth of lit ones. It can hold 200* - 250* for HOURS, but when smoking just a little bit, it’s a big waste of Kingsford. So I wondered if I used a smaller ring, would I be able to use less but still keep consistent temps? Honestly, whatever I’ve done on it before was taken off with the charcoal being about 50-60% spent. Everything else just went to waste.

Hence, my mod:


I bought 8 little paver stones from Home Depot, at 88 cents a pop. No good old clay bricks available that day, but I may pick up one just to make the ring a bit more consistent. Either way, I figure I just saved maybe 25% of the charcoal I’d normally use. Two and a half hours in so far, and it hasn’t wavered off 250*. Sweet!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sous Vide filets (I'm back!)

​OK, it has been one week past a year since my last entry, embarrassingly enough. I’ve spent more time cooking and eating, rather than prepping and shooting. Since last March though, I’ve gotten an iPhone, which although not so great as a camera, is always on me. So, pics from here on out may not be perfect, but at least they’ll exist.

A few weeks ago a blog I read had an entry about the Sous Vide Supreme, a home-use sous vide appliance that allows perfect temperature control of a water bath, the idea being that whatever you want to cook goes into a vacuum-sealed bag and into the water, and whatever temp you want said food cooked at, that’s the temp you set the bath at. Then, no matter how long the food is left in, thanks to thermal physics the food will never hot hotter than the surrounding water. Can you cook a chicken? No, but you can do the parts. I preferred to start with some steaks – filet mignon, to be exact, as that is my favorite cut. However, the idea is to be able to produce a steak so tender, any cut will basically do.

You’ll have to pardon all the non-rotated pics – I have new blogging software (back on Mac, finally!) which doesn’t allow pic rotation, and the iPhone does a dandy job of not recording the data so the picture is presented properly in lots of software. Another time, perhaps.

​The four filets prepped and in the bags, seasoned with just kosher salt and pepper on three of them (son doesn’t like pepper).

​The steaks – 2 per bag – in the 4QT pasta pot.

I added hot tap water measuring about 120*, as I wanted the steaks to finish between 125* and 130*. Since the food is sealed in the bags, you don’t have to worry about how clean your tap water is (I know it’s very clean all things considered, but I also know to always use cold tap water, as the hot water tends to have more particulate in it).

​Temperature probe in the front, with the pasta strainer on top to help keep the steaks from floating, as they must be totally submerged in the water. If the temp got above 130*, I’d just pour maybe 1/4 cup of cold water back into the pot to cool it down. After a few ours, I’d simply ladle out the water lest it get too close to the top of the pot. Easy enough to do, but it also meant never leaving the post

​Although you can’t overcook, you’re not really sure when the steaks have actually come to temp. I kept them in there for two hours just in case. An hour probably would have been enough. The concept is that the entire cut of meat is at exactly the same temperature.

​Here’s how the filets looked out of the bag. Not terribly pretty, and almost boiled-looking. At this point, some people take a blow torch to the steaks to get a nice sear on the outside.

​I went with hot oil in a skillet. Could have used the grill I suppose, but this helped keep everything together on the stove. Next time I may use my cast iron pan, which after 2 years of use has gotten nicely seasoned and wouldn’t have required any oil.

​Inside was absolutely some of the tenderest meat I’ve ever had, especially considering that it was bought at ShopRite, not exactly a foodie purveyor. I didn’t try cutting it with a fork, but I probably could have. I’d rank the texture up there with Lobel’s, my favorite steak place. The seasoning was just ever-so-slightly on the almost-too-much side... I subsequently read that the process does intensify spices and marinades, so next time I’ll use a little less. But the bite of the pepper and the zing of the salt worked perfectly together. Hardly an error was made on that front.

So, it ain’t grilling or BBQ, but it is low and slow, and the results were fantastic. The process though is boring and the maintenance of temps is constant. Instead of going for the home appliance, at $450, I instead decided on a $140 device that you plug a basic, cheapy slow cooker into, filled with water, and put the device’s temperature probe into the bath. When the temp goes higher than your setting, it shuts off the electricity to the cooker. When it falls below, it turns it back on. I can see using this for chicken, strip steaks, pork cuts, and fish – basically anything that I’d love to know I can grill reliably and perfectly, but that I also know I’m just a bit inconsistent with. It does take a bit more time than grilling, and you don’t have the fun of playing with fire, but you can still crack open a drink and sit outside while something else monitors the temps for you!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Lentil soup


Coming soon… have to spend some time setting up the blog writer…

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Like the 4th of July...

Made some flank last night, and there was something in the marinade that made the burners sparkle. Not a great shot, but I've never seen flames look like this.

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Fortunately, the steak turned out as usual - perfect!

Friday, November 14, 2008

What's wrong with this picture?


"Hi, I'm Paula Deen. I've just finished grilling these meats, and am now resting my arm on a flaming hot hood."


Monday, November 10, 2008

Start 'em early

Homemade chicken nuggets on a Jack-and-daddy night.

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OK, two things dad needs to work on: pan-frying and flash photography. They actually didn't burn, but I should have flattened the cutlets first - and the parmesan we added to the bread crumbs fried pretty dark. Stir fried soy green beans and cucumbers in an improvised vinegar/chili oil/sugar sauce turned out much better.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Adobo-Citrus Grilled Chicken Thighs

Last night was a late night for me... a really late night... as a friend from junior high was in town, whom I hadn't seen in roughly 25 years. Friends came over, wine and cheese were had, karaoke was sung, and the clock kept moving forward well past my bedtime. I knew enough to make sure we knew what we were going to do for dinner, so it could be done early. Frozen chicken thighs at the ready, I went hunting online for a good recipe. Most required lots of marinating time and more ingredients than I had, and I didn't want to run to the store. I came across this one here - anything with chipotle in adobo is tops in my book.

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Grilling at night in 60* weather - is there nothing better?


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The marinade sounded too good not to boil off and reduce a bit. Until I tasted it, that is. Waaay too spicy with the food-processed chipotle, although flavorful. After the aforementioned wine intake last night, I best leave my delicate system of today as unperturbed as possible.

Wife liked the dish, as she's a fan of thighs. I prefer grilled marinated breasts myself, leaving the thighs for slow cooked food. Either way, it was a good night to fire up the grill.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Beer can chicken

It wasn't the big blowout I wanted for the end of summer, just a chicken and some brisket that wife made in a slow cooker (good, but no comparison to a smoked 6-pounder). It was a beautiful day however, made better by great weather and homemade blueberry-vodka spiked frozen lemonade. Also, I spent two hours on Saturday cleaning out the 620 gas grill. Many parts are beyond ever getting really clean, but for the first time I paid close attention to the burner tubes. No more orange flames or clogged holes, though I was surprised it seemed to take longer to get up to temperature the first time on. Not so the second time. Most importantly, I remembered to turn off the gas and unhook the line *first*.





Self portrait - getting my art on.


Lime butter for the corn, nicely warmed on the side burner, which I have come to love.


C'mon - what are summer cookouts without corn?





My last two Saturday's in September are wide open. Smoked brisket will be had. I think I have to try our some pork shoulder too. I'm much more amenable to long BBQ days when it's not in the 80's or 90's.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

PSMO beach and all the steak I can eat

I finally got some grill time in last night, with some neighbors over for a little get together. Wife picked up a PSMO from the Amish market, and never having trimmed or served one, I went straight to Mike's instructions and Cook's Illustrated recipe. Dogs and burgers for the kids, and the moms did all the salads and sides. Just under $100 for the cut, which fed 8 hungry adults, and I still have leftovers.

You'll have to pardon the shots - I'm out of practice with the camera...



Trimmed up and tied up. I wound up cutting off the butt, so instead of folding over the tip I just tied the butt and tip together for a relatively even thickness.


Seared for 2 minutes a side, then finished for 20 minutes off the coals. Incredibly easy...


... and tasty. Some thinner areas came out a bit more on the medium side than I wanted, but nothing was cooked beyond that.

It was good to get back to the grills, though they really need a thorough cleaning this weekend - my S620 is in front of the dryer exhaust vent, which was cleaned last week, blowing lint all over the grill, which got inside it even though it was covered. And while wife is finally learning to use it, she's been a little heavy on marinades, which have somehow dripped into the burner tubes and caused a lot of orange flames. Cleaning all that up will be tomorrow afternoon's task.

Not much else planned for the holiday weekend, besides taking some kids to a water park tomorrow and finally replacing our dishwasher. But I don't feel like I really grilled/BBQ'd enough this summer, so I may have to make up for it on Monday.