A few weeks ago a major player in outdoor cooking rigs sent me a 55 lb box, they wanted to know what I thought of its contents. It’s an interesting piece of equipment and am having to run at least 3 meals through it to see how it stacks up. What you’re viewing today is a boar steak from Ted the Rancher of Highland Hills Ranch, located firmly at the Berkeley Famers Markets. Kosher salt only, so creamy smooth with a tender bite that resists a tad then spreads.
Yup, it was this good. Surprised the hell out of me too, am very impressed. I’d planned on smoking the fish the next day, this would put the marination at 24 hours. I wasn’t able to pull it together due to pouring rain and very chilly temperatures. So, the fish and pork loin roast sat another 24 hours before I could get to it.
Thursday after work the first thing I did was start a fire, I needed every minute to get this rolling so I could get to sleep at a decent hour.
The second thing I did was to pull the 2 meats out of the fridge to warm up a bit. After oven roasting the first fish batch, I found the Soy Vey Very Teriyaki marinade to be a bit on the strong side, figured after 2 days sitting in the juice, it’d be pretty much ruined. The pork loin that Chilebrown of Mad Meat Genius gifted me would be perfect. What I thought I’d do was to wash the marinade off the meats, pat dry.
Got the smoker’s temp stable, the meat was at room temp. Just for good measure grabbed a handful of Bledsoe’s bacon to install above the fish and pork, baste!
I used hickory chips for smoke action, it’s what I had on hand. I used Broad Leaf Maple charcoal for heat, it’s all I had left.
Looking pretty good, eh? Wanna see the bacon?
Oh boy! The bacon came off first, the boys and I made that go away. Soon the fish was flaky, juicy, perfect. The pork loin came out later, pulled it at 138 degrees internal temperature and let it rest. While it was absolutely stellar, even better the next day, I have to say the fish was the one to eat Thursday night.
The shot I took of the pork roast wasn’t usable, so decided to leave it out this time. Don’t worry, there will be more in the future. In any case, you can clearly see the inner meat of the fish was white, the marinade didn’t penetrate that far. And since I washed off any bits & juice, the smoke took very well. Tender, juicy fish with flavor of teriyaki, then a warm smoke to finish dialed in this meal precisely. I shared a little of it and was given 3 thumbs up. I can close my eyes, lick my lips and still enjoy this meal.
For years Meathenge has attracted a very nice collection of human beings. From readers, enthusiasts, families making food products in their basements and not the last of all inventors who bring their product to market on their own. The latest and greatest would be Rolfe of Craycort who sent me a cast iron replacement for the Weber kettle for review.
Well, this time I wasn’t offered free stuff (costs the guy too darned much), but I was so impressed with his creation I wanted to stop by and give you a view in to what’s going on in the world of portable cooking pits, The New Frontier.
Gareth Noble of The Settler’s Kitchen Company stopped by a few weeks ago and asked, “Hey Biggles, what do you think of this?” I grilled him about smoker temps (can it hold it at 200F?), available work surfaces, cooking in decent winds, fuel types, build quality and types of metals used. Gareth knows his business, knows key points of metal designs and execution. And dangit, a very fine fellow indeed.
It’s got a hand-driven spit by jiminy! MmMMM, spit roasted meat. The fire is held in the black portion, more to the left to fire up the smoking chamber. Over this one is able to set fry pans or hang dutch ovens over. You can use pre-burned fireplace sized wood for fuel and the smoking chamber gets hot enough to make bread without a thought. Cook, smoke, grill, bake, rotisserie? Portability? Yup, it’s got it.
Check this out, the black portion of the machine slides underneath the powder-coated smoking chamber, bits and pieces are put in the smoking chamber and the shiny legs are used as handles and you can walk out of camp with it using the rear wheels behind you, pulling it! There’s tons more cool features and would offer you go visit his web site to check out the details. Nice shootin’ there Gareth, good luck.
The Settler’s Kitchen Company
A month ago I stumbled myself over to a garage sale, just to have a look. As I walked up my mind was racing, “Don’t do it, don’t do it, walk away, leave now while you can.” Of course I continued on my merry way ooooing and aahhing my way through. There was this really nice, smallish antique sideboard I could really use. But she wanted nearly 400 bux for it, really? I also spied this really nice old radio in an Asian inspired wooden case that was about the same size as the sideboard, didn’t really need that. Then I saw her, glistening in the sun. She was glorious, a sight to behold. And from the looks of things, unused!
She’s a 3′ wide, nearly 3′ deep, 180 pounds of a propane powered griddle! What sold me was the fact it was set up to jack right in to the same ol’ propane bottle I have at home. I was in my little Toyota wagon and had to drive home to pick up my Dodge pickup (V8 manual transmission baby!). Lucky for me the top lifts right off, but coming in over 150 pounds, it’s not simply a breeze to move around. I got it temporarily set up in my outdoor cooking area, The Boom Boom Room. There she sat for a few weeks underneath a cover.
Ya know, it was during those few weeks that I realized that this wasn’t necessarily one of the smartest purchases I’d made. I would need to use my hand-truck to get this thing in to the garage. And, the griddle portion rusts, quickly. It was clear, we weren’t made for each other for the long haul and we’d have to part ways in the near future (before winter). But that didn’t mean I couldn’t have some fun in the meantime!
Picture yourself a sunny Sunday afternoon in the shade, cool ocean breeze tickling the air from time to time. The smell of summer is giving way to a wet incoming winter. You’re at home and don’t have to leave the house for anything or anyone. The inspiration hits and you realize you have pork chops, onions, cheese, bread and some butter just screaming to be put together. It was lunch time and Z was looking for some food, it was time.
While the griddle hadn’t been used, it did need some cleaning. I grabbed the hose, a green scotch-brite pad and some Barkeeper’s Friend. Man, that stuff made quick work and I had a clean griddle in no time! I turned around to put the hose down, then turn it off. By the time I got back it was already rusting up! Got me some paper towels and corn oil handy, cleaned the griddle again, dang. Toweled it dry and put on the corn oil immediately. I loves my corn oil, can smell it when it begins to warm, so nice!
Within minutes it was hot and I was standing at my griddle making everything go. Man, it was so much fun! “Look at me !!! I’m Sponge Bob! One crabby patty coming up, Mr. Crabs!” Best afternoon ever and I have to say the boneless pork chop with cheese and grilled onions was superb, Z said so.
Today sadly, I have to report that Chilebrown‘s friend Chef Ray came and took her away this last weekend. He’s a professional caterer and will actually put her to regular use, just as it should be. Farewell to thee, griddle o’ pork.
Big D emailed me more than a few weeks ago and had stumbled on this new product (came out in June). This new product is a cast iron grate that is a replacement for the old chrome grill in a Weber kettle. Cool, eh? He emailed the guy extolling Meathenge’s virtues and said I just had to have one for review. Who am I to argue about such things?
It showed up directly and I monkeyed with it, figuring on dusting off my old kettle and seeing what this new fangled thing could do on a Meathenge Review. The deal was, the following weekend the boys and I were due up in Calistoga for fun and merriment. I usually cook in a hole in the ground, makes things so much simpler and less expensive. Not only do I not have to haul a grill up, but Jeffrey doesn’t have to buy one just for me to have when I’m there. Just toss an old grate on a few rocks and we’re done. An epiphany, I’ll bring the cast iron grate and use that over a hole in the ground! Duh.
I’m glad I thought of it. Sunday afternoon found me cleaning out my hole, the rocks were in fine shape. A fire was started, let it mellow a bit and set the grate down. It’s pre-seasoned, all ready to go. I grilled sausages, chicken parts, country style pork ribs, bacon directly and a beef tri-tip roast and all came out perfectly. It was a dream to cook on, although squatting next to a fire pit for 3 hours does have its drawbacks. Ouch!
The inventor contacted all the major players for distribution of this grill and had no takers. Personally, I believe they really screwed themselves. Now it’s being sold directly, bypassing all the major corporations, go man go!
I will be doing another review wherein I install this to my kettle, but I felt this product really needed to hit the street sooner than I could get that ready. And this was a perfect opportunity to test its mettle, heh. It performs exceptionally well, the build quality is high and it’s a joy to use. I know the 2 guys that have weber kettles at the party will be ordering this very soon. Don’t even remotely wait to order yours, you need it. Remember, you’re not sending your hard earned money to some large corporation, you’re sending it directly to the guy who invented it.
Craycort’s Cast Iron Grate replacement for the Weber kettle grill. Price is approximately 85 bux for the 22.5″ one.
I don’t know where to start with this one. I am proud of myself for waiting 24 hours to post this though, gave me a chance to calm down and catch my breath.
What is an Orion Cooker? It’s a stainless steel rig that cooks your food by convection, the heat source doesn’t see the food. The food is placed inside, on racks or hanging from racks, the match-lite charcoal (manufacturer’s spec) is placed in the tray that surrounds the outside bottom of the cooker and in a little tube pot thing up top. Smoking chips are placed inside between the drip tray and the cooker’s outter wall. Once all that is done, put the lid on and light the charcoal.
For 3 racks of baby back ribs, you do nothing for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Pretty neat, eh?
Since I knew a real wood fire wouldn’t be introduced to the food directly, I had an idea as to what kind of smoked product to expect. It’s really good, juicy, smoky, but lacking the character only a real fire can introduce.
Um, I didn’t get that. I spent nearly 40 bux on 3 slabs, I didn’t get that. What I did get was steamed meat. MmMmmmm, steamed meat. No browning, no smoky flavors, an odd texture and they were over-done. Over-done steamed meat! Oh joy !!! The boys opted for Top Ramen instead. Even a dry rub of 2 kinds of pepper, dried basil, garlic powder and salt produced a very bland product.
After 24 hours of mind numbing reflection and a few conversations, I don’t think I added enough smoking chips and I think I should have pulled the meat at an hour or even 55 minutes. Even so, the looks of a pale rack of pork ribs, all funky with moisture, really turned my stomach upside down. I buried a few ribs in some jarred sauce and it was 100% better, so I tossed them in the trash. Even at 100% better they weren’t worth keeping.
All that aside, it’s an excellent cooker. The damned thing is all stainless steel, built well and built with good thoughts behind it. The screws, washers and nuts are all stainless as well. It went together very easily, every hole matched up and all the threads were perfect.
Considering the briquettes are exposed, small children and pets need to be kept at a safe distance. The instructions say you need about 15 pounds of match-lite, which is about 12 some odd bucks. So, if you’re going to fire this sucker up, fill it up. There’s no damned sense in putting a 3 pound chicken in there. If you have food that flourishes in steamy heat? This cooker just can’t be beat.
I took a handful of pictures of the Orion Cooker and they came out really great. Come for the pictures, leave when the food arrives.
Dutch Oven Gatherings or D.O.G.’s are nothing new, only to me and the rest of us city dwellers. Chilebrown of Mad Meat Genius directly introduced me to the art a few years ago. Basically, you cook your food in a cast iron dutch oven that has feet and a special lid that will accept charcoal briquettes. This way, no matter where you are or where you go, you can have a world-class meal. Cool, eh?
But what happens when your skill set is no longer tested, your mettle isn’t put to the trial? That’s right, you begin down the road of Competition. And that’s just what CB, Abram & Larry (not included in this set) have done, they’ve trundled off to the big time of Dutch Oven Competitions. This is no small feat, you’re competing against people who could very well have done this their entire life! And a hundred or more competitors? It’s a vast sea of flurry for sure.
But you know what? Even after only a few good, heavy competitions these guys, The Meat Men are taking 2nd place. I’m impressed, a lot.
A few weeks ago CB emailed me and had been conversing with Abram, they agreed that I should host a Dutch Oven Gathering Practice Competition at Meathenge Labs. My first reaction was, well … YEAH !!!
Last Saturday was the day and I invited a few local bloggers to attend. I figured The Meat Men could do their thing, we could fire up my smoker, grill and quaff a few Cold Ones and have our own sit-down fest.
It was better than expected, everyone showed up when they said. The attending Meat Men got to work and I worked my station at the smoker. All were fed huge amounts of everything, joined by smiles and cold refreshing beverages.
CB cooked off his yeasted bread, Abram made a stellar Hawaiian Pork Rib dinner and I served up smoked chicken, bacon and a tri-tip. Pam of Zoomie Station provided homemade apple turnovers along with lamb burger sliders. Cookiecrumb of I’m Mad and I eat, Cranky of Pluto Demoted provided fresh oranges, tater salad and some other things I cannot remember. Mostly because it was 4 days ago and too many wonderful beverages in between. Tee hee.
After all was said and done not only did we really enjoy ourselves, but The Meat Men made their food under their time limit of 3 hours. Not bad, eh?
If you’re interested to see the rest of the story, go here and survey!
ps – Toponia of Fatted Calf gifted me the idea of using the term, Girl Bacon. Why? Because CB’s slab bacon had teats!
Oh goodness me! Listen up, I pay a lot of money to live here, own a home in the San Francisco Bay Area. It rarely gets above 75 or below 40, this is how it is. Oh sure, we get a freeze now and then, maybe a few times it gets up in to the 90’s. I love my fog, fresh bay breeze and anything after that. What I don’t like is huge, nasty, bucktoothed HEAT.
And brother, or sister, that’s what we’ve had in the last few days. Yesterday at around 4pm it was 94 just outside my kitchen. It dropped to 86 soon enough, but when I was actually cooking dinner for the boys, the kitchen leveled out at 92. I only spent nearly 2 hours in there cooking & cleaning, so it wasn’t too bad. Gah!
This is not okay and planned on a different menu plan for Tuesday, tonight!
Chilebrown of Mad Meat Genius sold me a badass propane stove a few years back, so I brought that out. Fired up the grill with some mesquite and hickory chips. The menu? Pork chops, beef burgers, mashed taters with a finish of corn on the cob.
Such a treat for the whole family. It was as though we were out camping in the wilds of Montana, sorta. Everyone got involved in making it go and had a great time. The indoor kitchen was ignored and the outdoor was enjoyed. LOVE !!!
If you’d like to see the rest of the story, please visit here and see Too hot, cook outside, everything!
I was looking at putting this together last week, but couldn’t come with an angle that pleased me. Me & briquets parted ways over 10 years ago and I never looked back. I found that mesquite gave me what I was looking for in grilling and smoking. Plus it didn’t have that telltale sign of a sulfurous smell during and after cooking. Why am I worried about what my smoker smells like after the fact? Grills aren’t so fussy, but if your smoker gets tainted by creosote (smoldering fire ((brown smoke)) or similar nasty smells, it’ll wind up on your food! Don’t believe me? Take some oven cleaner, spray your kitchen’s oven, turn it up to 350 and put a chicken in there. See if your chicken and house doesn’t smell like a chemical factory coming to pay a much feared visit? Heh, no drama here, eh?
A few weeks ago a really nice woman working for one of Kingsford’s PR companies contacted me, wanted to know if I wanted a bag of their new Competition Briquets. Fewer ingredients, burn hotter and longer. Sure, what the hell. Besides, she’s contacted me before over the years and wanted to finally take part in something fresh.
Up until this last Friday, still couldn’t come up with an angle. I googled a few things and read other people’s reviews of charcoal, lump or briquet. Man, these people are nuts! In a good way though, they really go all out. Gram scales, infrared thermometers, timed images, comparison to older versions of the same. It was crazy, I sure as hell wasn’t going to embark on such a journey. I just don’t care that much. There is something I care about though, and that’s how my food tastes. Let’s see how these new briquets cook and what I can come up with in the arena of flavors, or lack therein.
I ran off to Joya de Ceren for my meaty choices, they have the best flank steak around and it doesn’t cost 9 dollars a pound. Flank steak tacos for lunch and figured maybe a smoked whole chicken for dinner. I used a chimney starter and a few pages from my local phone book (really, who uses these things anymore?), and the briquets came right to life. They smoked a bit and smelled like charcoal briquets. It didn’t take long, about 10 to 15 minutes before they were ready to dump in the firebox. I let it go a bit longer, I was in no hurry and wanted to give them some severe heat for a little while longer.
Plus, as it turns out, a wasp was building a nest in the flue of my smoker. I figured this was a great opportunity to play! I got the kids in the house, made sure I had my escape route set up and dumped the briquets in the firebox. I gently closed the smoker and ran in the house. The boys and I spent the next ten minutes with our noses pressed up against the windows attempting to see what was what. The wasp finally came out, lit on the little hood of the flue. He kept trying to fly back down, but couldn’t due to the heat pouring out. After a while the little hat over the flue was so hot he couldn’t rest on it. Another 10 minutes rolled by and it was clear this wasp wasn’t leaving. So, I snuck out to the barn and found my wasp death in a can. It didn’t take long to take care of business and check on the briquets.
These are the new generation briquets from Kingsford. They have these grooves on the back that supposedly allow them to light faster. More surface area, don’t ya know. They could very well do that, it makes sense, in a scientific way. And these Competition Briquets are supposed to burn hotter, last longer with less ingredients. This could all very well be true, I don’t know. I’m more interested to see what they do to my food. I would also think they’d be very spiffy for camp dutch oven cooking, hotter would be nice!
The flank steak cooked right along, done directly over the hottest coals. Good colors and as you can see, pulled when ready. Tasted just fine to me, the odor I usually associate with briquets wasn’t there. After the steak was done, let the coals cook down a bit. Played with them, seemed to hold together just fine. I spent the next few hours adding more (cold, not pre-burned), playing, poking and seeing how they lit when added to a waning fire. As I remember, it used to take a bit to get the fire back up to snuff so you could add the food. That was one of my complaints versus their mesquite or hardwood lump counterparts, adding cold fuel with food on the grill is a nono. They seemed to fire up and gray over pretty quickly.
After a few hours of goofing off, started prepping the fire for smoking. Added more briquets, got them gray, spread them out and closed the lid on the smoker. After the fire simmered down a bit, tossed on a whole, trussed and salted chicken to the side. Added some hickory chips, got them good and going, closed the lid. Came back about every 30 minutes, stirred the briquets and added more hickory.
I added some briquets halfway through, pre-burned in the chimney so the temp in the smoker didn’t dip any further. In about 3 hours I had myself a whole, smoked chicken. Set the sucker aside for 10 minutes to cool. It smelled as it should, nothing that would have lead me to believe briquets had been used. I sniffed the firebox, not too close you knob, to see if I could get the sulfurous smell I remember so well. It wasn’t there, eeeenteresting. Of course it didn’t smell like mesquite or hardwood leavenings, but it didn’t smell bad either. And that my friend, is a good thing.
Z and I sliced up the chicken to see what was what. Damn, that was one fine smoked chicken! And you know what? The breast meat was juicy. Ha! I say, “Ha” to you. Nyah. This chicken totally didn’t suck, I’m impressed.
To sum it all up, Biggles used charcoal briquets for the first time in over 15 years, now that I think about it. While I found the briquets performance to be as good or better than I remember, and not quite as stinky, I’m not a convert. I’ll still be using mesquite or hardwood lump, it’s my preference. But I have to give it to Kingsford, this briquet is not my grandfather’s briquet.
I know I’m behind the times, people have been tossing nearly every food product on the grill or in the smoker since the beginning. Yeah well, not me. I know this might sound a little odd, but I enjoy the contrast of the heavily smoked meat product, then the lesser beings (peasant food) to be cooked elsewhere, by others. Understand?
Luckily, Sunday morning found me at the local whatever mart shopping for the coming week’s food. Wanted to grab a few racks of ribs so Zoomie could get her fill. I ain’t payin’ no 18 dollars for a damned slab of pork spares, so it was the country style for me. Almost 8 dollars for a huge mound of fleshy goodness, I picked the one with more fat in it.
I’m not sure what happened or why. But I wanted to go back to the lousy produce section and find me some citrus or a pineapple to toss in the smoker as well. As you can see, the p-apple made it in!
I sat and pondered the unfriendly feeling thing for a while. How to slice? Extra virgin? Salt? Chile pepper? Thin slices and get juice everywhere? Peel? Cut it’s head off? I just love cutting the heads off of things. I opted for the simple approach, cut in half lengthwise and use some kosher salt on the inside. I knew the smoky goodness would not penetrate through the thick halves, but didn’t want to deal with all these fussy little slices falling all over the place.
It was pretty fricken good, for a fruit. Warm, smoky on the outside, tender on the inside. The heat had broken down something molecular on the inside and tenderized the little dear. Slurp! Guess what? It was excellent cold the next day too. Slurrrphah !!!
ps – I don’t know how long it was in there, maybe a few hours or more, not less.
It was just me and Tiny E on Sunday, we had plans. One of which was installing and making right our new 55 gallon fresh water aquarium, the other? Smoking a slab of babybacks in the wood fired pit. That post will be up here soon, but it’s what happened after we smoked the ribs that shook us both and forced me to spill my guts here. I just need to get this off my chest.
See, we got the ribs smoked perfectly, Tiny E tends a good fire. I pulled them to rest for about 20 before I cut in. Holy crap they were good, real good. The smoke was gentle, but definitely full of deep tangles worth of flavors. Meat was tender, tasteful & beautiful all at the same time. But I could only eat about 1/3 to 1/2 the rack myself, Tiny E don’t eat much so that portion don’t count. What to do, what to do.
Give it to neighbors! I sliced up the ribs, so they could eat them right away, nothing impaired, no fuss. Rip the foil open and dig in, that was my mission.
Yeah well, all the neighbors I know were gone, out and just plain not there. All except for, Those Neighbors. Who are they? I got no idea, truly. I’ve been here 8 years and never once exchanged any verbal communication. OH sure, there was the initial smiling and waving, but they returned a dead stare with a finish of moving on as though I wasn’t there. I know who the owner is, and he’s got roomates. I can see their good people, exceptionally well built, hunks if you will. Different women coming and going each month. But they communicate with nobody, it’s as if we don’t exist. K, got it?
After checking out my friendly neighbors, I noticed one of the roomies at Those Neighbors house and his girlfriend were out on the front stoop having a light conversation in the early evening light. It was calm and I figured I’m holding some solid, “Howdee neighbor! I have quality hardwood smoked pork ribs here if’n you’d like to partake” type of greeting. I was on a mission (remember?), after 8 years they were going to know who I am, or was or whatever.
Um, do you own a dog? Do you know someone who owns a dog? Picture this neighbor roomy saying “NO” to me as though I was a dog at the table begging for scraps. By the second “NO” I grabbed my booty, the boy and I left to our warm, happy abode. As we were walking back home Tiny E said to me, “How come they don’t want our ribs, Papa?” In a hushed tone I replied, “Because they’re vegetarians honey.” Tiny E sighed and said under his breath, “That’s too bad Papa, that’s too bad.”
I replied in a Ward Cleaver sort of way, “That’s okay honey, in this country we can treat others very badly because of our personal beliefs. It has nothing to do with respect or courtesy, they’re making a statement about how they feel about something. Sometimes it doesn’t matter if they kill other people, animals or harm them in a very bad way. They feel their views are right and just, so it’s okay for them.”
Tiny E responded with a quick, “Um, yeah but we got the ribs.”
The argument in regards to wood versus briquette, versus propane, versus electric heat sources in smokers has got to be way older than the one on PC versus MAC, and that’s saying something. We know that for grilling, there is an exceptional difference, but does it matter for hot smoking (approximately 200 to 250 degrees F)? It doesn’t for cold smoking (90 to 110 degrees F). I’ve always stood by the age old ways of saying, “Yes nitwit, the fire does make a difference and it’s noticeable. Real wood, charcoaled or not, does make a difference.”
Over the years I’ve had quite a few propane lovers extol the virtues of their propane powered rigs. My eyes cross, I hear buzzing in my ears and go back to my old ways of using wood to power my smokers. I never even remotely considered buying in to the procedure, especially after tasting what I pull out of my smoker. Sorry pal, you can’t reproduce this, no way, no how.
On Sunday I decided to put my cold smoker to use, finally. Instead of 100 degrees, I jacked it to 212 and hot smoked a slab of baby backs using only an electric hotplate and a smoke generator.
Please click through to read the rest of the story, “Heat source, does it matter?”
This post isn’t for you people who are already hip to the love of an old, well used smoker. But for those of you who may feel they need the new stuff, the bells and even a few whistles. As with many crafts, it’s about the person wielding the brush, not the brush itself.
Yeah well, before we left for Calistoga Jeffrey said a friend had given him an old smoker that someone had tossed out. It looked complete, but old, rusty and kinda funky. He sent me a picture and it looked serviceable. While I have used and owned a few of those bullet shaped smokers, I’d never actually used one with no visible air vents or access door to the fire.