Tag Archives: BBQ

Monday Meals Returns (Late)

LOL

My food posts used to have quite a following. The weather here has been horrible though; more rain than I saw in 10 years back in California. Then the last two months has been house / moving / kitty drama.

I had a few food posts ready to go, but the pics disappeared (along with motivation). HOWEVER, I did manage to find my birthday dinner pics from… a while back. 😉

Yes, we started with spare ribs. My go to for MY day… for a few years now. No, they’re NOT undercooked either. THAT is insanely deep smoked flavor as they were cooked as low and slow as I possibly could. I think they took about 10 hours. Most quality rib joints only cook theirs for about 6 hours.

There was also some corn bread:

And some homemade mac and cheese:

The Panko breading on top didn’t brown too well unfortunately. Blame the cheeses.

My world famous, made from scratch guacamole (appetizer):

And salad and veggies also, but the pics seem to have disappeared… Well, all but one:

Anniversary Dinner

I’m LONG overdue for a food post here, and even this meal was a week ago this evening.

For those who have been following long enough, AND actually reading (RARE), you’ll recall that last weekend was my 2 year anniversary. Thankfully, it was SLIGHTLY less hectic than the actual day.

We had family over and I cooked a big meal for everyone. MOST of it turned out too.

First was homemade Tex-Mex guacamole with tortilla chips as an appetizer:

The main course was Ribeye steaks, slow smoked on the Rec-Tec and then reverse seared on the Weber charcoal grill:

There’s some (turkey) bacon on the top rack that was going to be chopped up and added to the steamed green beans but…

It’s hard to see from the pic, but some of the green beans were bad and turned brown while steaming. So, the beans went into the trash and the bacon got saved for later.

Luckily I had another vegetable in the works at the same time, a combination dish really. I took zucchini and yellow summer squash, sliced them into rounds, seasoned them with a little salt, pepper, garlic, oregano and rosemary, then topped them with Parmigiano Reggiano.

I’ve said it many times but it bears repeating; Parmigiano Reggiano is WORLDS better then plain old Parm cheese and Infinitely better than the gunk in the green can.

The basic recipe i found online just said to go with the cheese only but I knew a light bit of seasoning would help also. Once you throw the cheese on, just bake at 425 (or 218 degees C) until the cheese turns golden. Oh yes, cut the veggies 1/4 inch or .635 cm thickness. The summer squash turns out a little watery, but everybody loved both:

I also had some sliced baby potatoes for a carb:

Oh and if you’re wondering how those steaks turned out:

That’s as close to I got to a picture of a fully plated meal. It kept saying “Eat Me”, so I put down the phone and did. 😀

BUT… Then There was Dessert:

And this was a bear. The core of the dessert was individual sized, double chocolate mini bundt cakes. It took 3 tries to get cakes that would come out of the molds properly, and I had to thicken the batter almost to the point of being brownies:

BUT, we weren’t done there, nooooo. Next I took some Godiva chocolate, and melted it into a ganash, topped the cakes with Mayfield Cookies and Cream ice cream, and then drizzled the ganash all over them:

We ate good, and I think I’m turning my in-laws off the local restaurants with the quality of my cooking, lol.

Unconventional St Patty’s Day Dinner

I showed the corned beef I smoked for this meal in a recent post. Being a contrarian, I had to do something different with it for dinner. We had a long day that day, and after getting stabbed, I didn’t feel like an ornate meal. Truth? They’ll take away my (part) Irish Card, BUT, I’ve always hated the “throw it all in a pot and boil it” thing for corned beef and cabbage on Saint Patrick’s Day. It takes all the flavor right out of everything.

So what DID I end up doing??

Corned beef sandwiches with coleslaw and Havarti cheese on pretzel rolls with fries.

Viola: Corned beef, cabbage and carrots (in the slaw) and potatoes (fries). Untraditionally traditional. 😀

Meatzapalooza!

Yesterday evening we finally had a break in the never ending rain (I swear I thought we moved to Tennessee, not Oregon), and we dragged the smoker out of the garage to get some cooking done while we can. It’s going to rain the rest of the week.

Anyhow, I smoked a small ham for sandwich meat, 3 chicken breasts for a dish I’ll be making in the next day or two, a turkey breast for sandwich meat, and a nice piece of corned beef brisket for dinner tonight. 😀

Meatzapalooza indeed! 😀

A few hours later…

I had to sneak a little piece of the corned beef also after my mom said it would be tough and I should have boiled it.

Being salt cured, it’s a little on the salty side, and while it was a little bit firmer than my usual brisket:

It was still plenty tender, because my family is from Texas, damnit, and tough brisket of any variety is a crime there!

Seriously, ask any Texan and they’ll tell you that you can talk bad about somebody’s mama before you can trash talk their brisket. 😀

…For A Hamburger Today.

Five points if you got where that half-quote comes from 🙂

So here’s Silk’s latest culinary creation; a gourmet hamburger:

What makes it gourmet you ask?

1: Kobe Beef smoked and seasoned to perfection

2: Turkey Bacon – Also slow smoked

3: Homemade guacamole

4: Smoked Cheddar Cheese

5: Fresh Veggies

6: A Toasted Bun.

Super-Tasty and tonight we’re using the leftover Guac (vacuum packed to keep from turning brown) for Taco… Thursdays. O_o 😀

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.

Homemade Meatloaf

I’m a day late posting it too, but I’ve been in a mood lately. None the less, here’s the homemade meatloaf that I cooked on the smoker last night. 😊

OK, a little greasy in that fresh off the smoker picture, and I used a pizza tray as opposed to a bread pan so that more smoke would permeate the meat. Here’s the plated final result:

The bread items were lunch leftovers brought home by my other half, so that saved me a little cooking, LOL. The red around the outer edge of the meat is not ketchup either; that’s the actual smoke flavor penetrating the meat.

That shot shows the smoke ring, such as it was, and how moist the meatloaf was. Unfortunately I forgot and put the A1 sauce on the surface early, and that kept the smoke from penetrating deeper.

THE RECIPE:

First, credit where it’s due; my recipe is a modified version of “Not Your Momma’s Meatloaf” from the Traeger Grills website. Traeger actually has some fairly good recipes, BUT they don’t know how to use their own (junk) grills low and slow. Everything at least used to be 350 degrees. Might as well use an oven at that temperature. You won’t get any smoke flavor.

Ingredients:

1 1/4 Lb of Ground Beef – not more than 20% fat content to avoid excessive grease

1 Lb of sausage of your choice, or another meat like pork or veal. I used Italian sausage last night.

2 Eggs, beaten

1 Cup of bread crumbs.

1 Cup of milk

1/4 Cup of diced Onion, ideally a mild variety.

2 Teaspoons of Salt

1 Teaspoon of garlic powder

1/2 Teaspoon of Sage

1/4 cup Worcestershire Sauce

A-1 Steak Sauce or BBQ Sauce to be added later

Prep Work:

Prep on this is pretty easy. First, mix together everything except the meats and the BBQ or A1 sauce in a bowl. After it’s all blended together nicely, add in the meat and thoroughly work everything together. Typically, this is hand work, but I’ve found my Kitchenaid stand mixer works fine and keeps my hands neater. Just allow a little extra time vs hand mixing.

At this point, I add the meatloaf to a bread pan to give it some shape. If you’re preparing this early, you can cover the pan and put it in the fridge at this point. It’ll maintain a better shape during cooking as an added bonus.

Prep is very quick if you’re organized and the meat is fresh or defrosted. It should only take about 15 minutes.

Cooking:

There are a couple of options here. First is to just put it in an oven at 350 degrees and cook it for about an hour. If you go this route, just put the steak sauce or BBQ sauce on the top before it goes in the oven.

Side Note: Steak or BBQ sauce gives the meatloaf a more robust flavor than Ketchup in my opinion.

Now, if you have a smoker of either sort (stick burner or pellet grill), get it to about 200 degrees F and put the meatloaf on a wire rack or a ventilated pizza tray like I used. It’ll take a little over 2 hours to cook this way, but the meatloaf will be even moister and have that delicious wood fire flavor. When you’re about 20 minutes till finish, baste on the steak sauce or BBQ sauce, and turn up the heat to 350 or so. That will put a nice reverse sear on the meat, and make sure that sauce is baked on.

Putting the sauce on sooner will block the smoke penetration, which is why you wait if slow cooking.

Pull the meatloaf off the heat when it hits an internal temperature of about 140 F, let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes, then serve.

The leftovers will make fabulous sandwiches also.

Anniversary Dinner!

One of the bad things about getting married on a holiday is that there’s nothing open to celebrate. Well, I’m as good a cook as most restaurants anyway, and my food handling practices are certainly far better than most. Ergo, the first anniversary dinner was grilled steaks, potatoes, corn and a salad:

I put some fresh grated parm on the corn to make (Italian?) street corn, lol. There were two salads also. Somebody just started eating theirs before I got this picture. 👀🐱‍👤

Yes one steak smothered with portabella mushrooms sauteed in butter and garlic also. 👍 Mine was the plain one. Having Texas ancestry, I know good meat doesn’t need fancy toppings, and these were Prime grade Ribeyes. 😁

The color *might* look a little odd to some folks because I slow cooked them on the smoker and got a nice red smoke coloring all through them. Since we’re not allowed to have open fire grills at the apartments, I got the char marks via use of a HOT pan on the stove top. Here’s the steak cut open:

Tender and moist all the way through with great flavor.

Afterwards, we had a 1 year anniversary cake made to offset the wedding cake being screwed up. Why not? How often is our anniversary going to fall on the Fourth of July after all? 🤡😁🎂

Pink Champaign cake with buttercream icing and raspberry filling… How our wedding cake was SUPPOSED TO be. Cake courtesy of Nashville Sweets. I didn’t have the time or ability to whip up a cake with all the therapy stuff going on. Even if I did, I can’t decorate on that level by any means. 😊

For you vegetarians, here’s a closer look at the salad.

Beyond that, it was a quiet day. We did get to watch people shooting off fireworks in our honor from the comfort of our back porch though, LOL.

So that’s it… The honeymoon is over. 👀

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. 😉

Reblog: Meat Shopping Tips

With the pandemic impacting store inventories, I’m seeing quite a bit of really lousy meat and produce on the shelves. Between that and my being pressed for time, I’m reblogging a post from mid-2019 on shopping for meat. Shop carefully and stay safe.

I’m going to change gears here a little.  EARLY on in the blog here, I made it known that cooking is one of my other loves. 🙂  Anything from near competition level Southern BBQ to baking cakes and cheesecakes.  Am I world class?  No, not quite, but I’m darned good.

Apologies to any non-carnivores here, but since I run into the problem of finding fresh cuts of meat, I thought I’d share some info for readers.

First, let’s address the obvious question; what does it matter?  High end steak houses age their steaks a long time, right?  Yes, they do.  It’s a special process that is different from just leaving food to sit in a store or home refrigerator though.  The final part of that process also involves scraping and trimming mold off the surface of the meat also.  Some folks are OK with that, but the idea of eating meat that used to be covered with mold is gross to me.  What the dry aging process also does is take moisture out of the meat to concentrate the flavor of the remaining meat and juices.  You’re taking the steak part way to jerky for the sake of flavor.

I’m getting a bit off topic though.  My point is it’s a different deal getting an aged steak at a restaurant and having something sit around in the store forever.  I will quickly add that if you’ve ever had freshly butchered meat, there’s a world of difference between that and store bought or aged meat.

Hopefully the stores in your area are better than the ones in my city, but using food coloring or nitrogen to make meat look fresh longer is getting to be a very common trick as grocery stores try to stretch profits.  You can potentially end up with something that looks good on the surface, but is brown and starting to rot inside.

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The above picture was meat I was going to cut up for fajitas…  Until I saw the brown in the middle.  What you have there is food coloring, probably injected as well as surface dunked.  Hence the weird ring of brown

Food coloring is easy to spot.  When you’re inspecting the meat, does it look to be a natural color of red?  That meat above was borderline on looking right color-wise.  One of the most blatant examples I personally found though was this:

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No, you’re not seeing things, that $18 a pound filet Mignon IS indeed fire engine red…  Even the fat!  So are the beef kabobs next to them.  Talk about food colored to death.  That’s the meat counter at Sprouts; a supposedly upscale grocer that prides itself on fresh and natural.  Lesson for the day; even “high end” grocery stores can try to pull a fast one on you.

Food coloring is getting to be out of favor though.  There’s a new technique used by grocers and meat distributors; spraying the meat with nitrogen gas.

Contrary to how that may initially sound, it’s not inherently a bad thing.  Nitrogen will slow the natural oxidation of the meat, which is a big part of what makes it spoil.  It’s similar to the reasons athletes and body builders use nitrogen based supplements and some places put nitrogen in car tires instead of air.

The problem comes when grocery stores ignore and refresh the pull dates because the meat still looks good on the surface.  Nitrogen won’t penetrate all the way through the meat so the center decays while the surface looks good.  Since the nitrogen is also rarely applied to every square inch of the meat, careful examination can turn up brown spots before you buy:

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Now, note that is a USDA Prime cut of Brisket, which is the highest quality available.  More there in a bit.  This Brisket was also being sold by Costco, which used to pride itself on high quality and doing right by it’s members.  Does that big stripe of brown look quality to you?  It’s an indication that there’s more brown under the surface though.

So how do you find good meat if it’s all treated with Nitrogen?  It still comes back to color.  Nitrogen chases the oxygen out of the tissue and fluids, and oxygen is what gives meat it’s red color when it’s fresh.  SO, when it’s still early after it’s treatment, the meat will have a bit more of a pinkish color but still look fresh.  After it’s sat a while, the meat will get permeated by oxygen again, and turn more of it’s natural color:

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THAT is probably a good tri-tip.  It’s red, the color is even and where the color varies, it’s more of a pinkish color like the bottom center.

What you want to look for and avoid is this:

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See how it looks red at first glance, but the steak that’s second from the top is showing brown in the left 2/3 of it?  The steak right below that one is faintly showing some brown also.  A discerning eye can save you some heartache and even more stomach ache.

If you have any doubts about the quality of the meat when you get it home and open it, cut a small slit in it and look inside.  Yes, you may lose a bit of juices when you cook but it’s better than eating iffy meat.  Better safe than sorry.

To be fair, meat like those Sam’s Club steaks above may not be far enough gone to present a health risk, particularly if you have a reasonably strong system.  With steaks costing $10 a pound though, don’t you deserve to get reasonable value and the most flavor for your money?

One last thing.  I mentioned above I’d talk about the differences between the USDA’s grades of meat.  This won’t apply outside the U.S. but many other places have similar systems.  A quick internet search can turn up info for you

In the U.S. we have three grades of meat:

Prime is the highest grade, and is the the most tender with the best marbling of fat.  It’s also the most expensive.  Typically it’s only found at better quality restaurants.  Real butcher shops and a few places like Costco will also have it usually.

Choice is the mid grade of meat.  This is what most grocery stores and low to mid quality restaurants typically carry.  While not quite as tender as prime and not having quite as even a level of marbling of fat, it’s still a good quality of meat, especially in the hands of a good chef.

Select is the lowest grade of meat.  It’s edible but won’t be as tender as the other grades, and will have less fat or more uneven fat marbling, meaning a higher potential for it to be dry after cooking.