Tag Archives: Barbeque

Superbowl Snacks: Smoked Chicken Wings

It’s been a couple of days, but I’m back with a tasty food treat. Last Sunday was Superbowl Sunday. No big deal for me, other than I like to see the commercials. They’re typically more creative than the average advertisement. As with last year, I made some snack type food to nibble on while we were parked in front of the TV.

I kept it a little more basic this time since it ended up being just the two of us. However, the weather allowed for pulling the smoker out of the garage and making some slow smoked chicken wings! 🙂

image from middleclasskitchen.blogspot.com AND Ed Edd & Eddie ala Cartoon Network

Step One: Brining

I started by wet brining the wings, and apparently forgot to get a picture of doing so. For those who aren’t familiar with the concept, wet brining is soaking a piece of meat in salt water. This adds moisture to the meat and the salt breaks down (tenderizes) the meat as well. This results in a moister, more tender piece of meat. I find it’s particularly helpful with previously frozen meat. As an added note, poultry and pork brine well, but beef shouldn’t be brined. Beef loses too much of it’s natural juices when brined, which means lost flavor.

Wet brine recipes are all over the internet, and the standard ratio is one cup of salt to one gallon of water. Personally, I think that tends to be a bit strong, and I go roughly 1/2 that. It will take a little experimenting for you to find a ratio that works for your individual tastes. You want the meat tender, but not too salty tasting after cooking.

You can also add other ingredients to your brine mix. I vary mine a bit, but minced garlic always makes it into the brine.

There’s also dry brining. That is basically putting the meat into a bed of salt or dry rubbing salt on it. I’ve yet to try this method for fear of the meat being too salty. HOWEVER, it’s supposed to be good for poultry. Wet skin tends to turn rubbery during cooking, and dry brining is one way to help prevent that. More on that in a little bit. 😉

Step Two: Prep

The next thing to do is dry off the wings as best you can,with some paper towels, for the reason previously mentioned. Before we get to putting a dry rub on the wings though, let’s mention another trick to getting crispy skin on your grilled chicken. That being to dust it lightly with either baking powder or corn starch. Baking powder is an old restaurant trick for this situation since it’s relatively flavor free in light doses.

After drying and possibly dusting with baking powder, there’s the dry rub.

I personally use a simple mix of Salt, Pepper and Garlic most of the time. Options are almost endless here however. Most stores carry several flavors also. Other favorites of mine are Greek, Chipotle and Lemon Pepper. There are thousands of recipes all over the internet also if you want to make your own.

My only two pieces of advice there are use fresh spices, and avoid sugar. Well, also if you make enough to have extra, store it in an airtight container. It’ll last longer. Sugar is really unnecessary though if the rest of the flavors are properly balanced. Some cooks like it because it caramelizes and helps produce a bark on the meat, but good grilling technique can eliminate that need also.

Step 3: Onto the Smoker!

After putting some sort of dry rub on the wings, they’re ready for the grill:

The big lesson in the picture above is to space them out. This gives the smoke as much surface area as possible to soak into the meat and flavor it.

Cooking the wings is a little tricky. The lower the temperature, the more time the smoke has to get into the meat. HOWEVER, to ensure a nice crispy skin on the wings, they need to be cooked at a minimum temperature of 275F to 300F or 135C to 148C.

If you cook at 200F, it will take roughly 2 hours and 15 minutes to get to a proper internal temperature of 165F (74C), which is the temperature the US government says is needed to kill all possible bacteria in the chicken. If you cook at the 275F to 300F range mentioned above, you can reduce that cooking time to roughly an hour and a half total.

A compromise option I use, and have mentioned here before, is to get the meat to an internal temperature about 30F below finished, then put it onto some direct heat like my Weber charcoal grill. This will put a nice sear on beef or pork, and help crisp up the skin on chicken.

As a side note, searing a piece of meat after slow cooking it is technically called a reverse sear. A normal sear occurs at the beginning of cooking. A normal sear is done to lock in moisture. Slow cooking does the same thing however, and will allow smoke and rub flavors to penetrate the meat.

That difference in temperature I found via experimenting. It seems to allow just enough time for the meat to develop a sear without drying it out. The reverse sear step can go fast regardless, so I advise closely monitoring the meat at his stage to avoid drying it out.

Step 4: EAT!

Serve with whatever dressing or sauce sounds exciting OR enjoy as is to truly savor the smoke flavor.

The above pic from Sunday reflects me skipping the reverse sear step. The weather was lousy, and my back was hurting. I crisped them up in our air fryer after this picture which made them much nicer.

They definitely turned out better than the game, or the commercials.

How About Another Round of Tri-Tip?

OK so actually, Tri-Tip is sirloin, not round, LOL. I’m past due for another cooking post however, and I finally managed to find a tri-tip out here. That alone took an act of God. I had no idea when I moved that Tennessee was full of BBQ Philistines who didn’t know what Tri-Tip was, LOL.

These also came pre-marinated, which I didn’t care for, but it was a case of beggars can’t be choosers.

Meat Buying Tip: Do NOT buy the dry pre-seasoned meats from the local grocery store (or Costco). They use the old, nearly expired pieces to make those, and let the spices piled on them cover up that the meat is turning color. Pre-packaged marinade cuts of meat tend to be lower quality as well.

Anyhow, I managed to turn this one into a solid success:

Add in some side dishes and we had a great meal:

One problem with marinading meats shows in the slices above. It’s clearly tender, but the marinade blocked much of the smoke flavor from getting into the meat. The smoke ring is faint, and not very deep.

The Art of the Brisket Sandwich & Judging BBQ

A belated ‘Meals Monday’ Post and it’s going to be a two for one! First there’s the brisket sandwiches.

OK, the plating isn’t as pretty as my usual pics, but I was in a hurry to eat. 😀 Can you blame me with the smoke ring showing on that overhanging meat?

So how does one create the prefect brisket sandwich? Fresh smoked brisket on a warm hot cross pretzel roll, add a tiny pit of mayo to the bottom and a little BBQ sauce on top of the meat; just enough to add a little flavor and moisture. Then top with smoked gouda cheese. 🙂

Devour immediately.

Fun story here also. That is not MY brisket. We finally found a good BBQ place here. You wouldn’t think it would be that hard in Tennessee, but that’s a story for another time.

So we’re out driving along, running errands and we stop at a traffic light right next to this old gas station. Windows are up, and we still smell something heavenly. It was coming from the gas station, which had been converted into a little restaurant tailor made for Diners Drive-Ins and Dives. We just had to whip in there and check it out.

We’ve actually tried three different restaurants recommended on Triple D, and this was quite a bit better. The guy had two stick burners (some BBQ lingo for y’all) out back and was cranking out some amazing ribs, brisket, pulled pork, chicken and sausage. Well, the brisket was so good we bought an extra pound to take home. Hence the Sandwiches. 🙂

What Makes Great BBQ?

Opinions vary there, but I’m going to give you a couple of competition judging standards. No, I’m not a competitor, but I’ve networked with several and a judge or two also. Personally, I’ve found the closer I get to these guidelines, the better the meat tastes too, so there you go.

A Smoke Ring:

It doesn’t matter what you’re cooking; ribs, brisket, chicken even turkey (which isn’t normally a competition item), you have to have a good smoke ring on the meat. This is the indication that the wood fire flavor has permeated the meat.

This IS my brisket. A 16 hour labor of love.

That red ring around the outside of the meat is the smoke ring. If you want to learn the science of what creates a smoke ring, there’s a great article at BarbequeBible.com. For everyone else, I’m just going to continue.

Bark!

Bark, quite simply, is a combination of a modest surface char AND surface seasonings darkening during cooking. A good bark will be on the crispy side and add texture to the meat. Getting a good bark is tricky, and all but impossible with a pellet smoker like I use. Sugar as part of the rub is a common way to get a “good” bark, as it readily darkens and hardens with the heat of the BBQ. NOT something I personally advocate.

Moisture

Rather obvious here, but you want any meat to be moist and tender. Not too dry.

Tensile Strength

I’m not sure what they proper judging term here is, but the idea is that the meat should stay together, not just fall apart. If ribs or brisket just fall apart, it means they were overcooked. Too tough: not cooked enough.

Perfect competition standard is that the meat should come apart with a light tug.

For ribs, that means the meat stays on the bone until bitten, or gently pulled upon. Then it should be tender when chewed.

Brisket has a bit more ornate standard, but Texans take their brisket seriously, LOL.

A slice of brisket should stay together if draped over a finger or held by two fingers at one end of the slice. If it can do that and is still tender to eat, you got a good one.

Similar ideas hold true with chicken or pulled pork. Chicken should stay on the bone, but come free easily when pulled, and pork shoulder roast should stay together until it’s pulled apart (hence the name pulled pork).

Flavor:

Another obvious one, but it merits a note. Ideally when smoking meat, you should be able to taste the smoke flavor, not just see the smoke ring. Some BBQ places use oak for example. Fairly common wood and easy to get ahold of. BUT it leaves very little flavor in the meat compared to something like hickory, mesquite or maple.

Maple is considered ideal for pork, as it adds a sweet smoky flavor to the meat.

There you have it though; a basic guideline to determine if you’re really getting top notch BBQ, or you’re missing out. 😉