Tag Archives: Pellet Smoker

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. ๐Ÿ˜€

Meatzapalooza indeed! ๐Ÿ˜€

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. ๐Ÿ˜€

Southern UNfried Chicken

I’m overdue for a food post here. ๐Ÿ™‚ I did this one a while back, and have just had too much drama to deal with.

Yes, UN-Fried Chicken

The Backstory:

Almost as fun as the cooking for me. It all started with the bottle of spice in the upper right corner of the picture. We found a cute little shop that sold spices for just about every kind of cooking you can think of. One of the bottles we bought was for fried chicken seasoning.

When it came time to do the chicken for dinner though, we were already behind schedule for the day and stressed out. I just plain didn’t feel like the mess of creating a batter dredge for the chicken. The end result is we decided to put the chicken on the smoker just using the seasonings without all the extra flour and oil.

Net Result:

Chicken that tasted exactly like fried chicken but with a deep smoke flavor also. It was really juicy and tender. Total winner; all the flavor of fried chicken with none of the fat and carbs!

Delicious!

We had it plain the first night, but the leftovers got served with veggies and topped with a bit of cream of mushroom soup as gravy:

This one was a fun experiment that turned out much better than I expected. It just goes to show that there are options for making classic unhealthy food into something healthy that still tastes great. It’s a process of discovery I’m enjoying more and more.

While I did mine on our Rec-Tec pellet smoker, this could just as easily be done baked in an oven. I’d recommend on a wire rack to let the skin crisp just a little as it bakes.

Hatching a Dinner Scheme :D

I teased in a reply to my burger post that I would be doing NY Steak tonight. I did too! The equally fabulous side dish ends up SORT OF getting the headline though. For those who don’t know, I *love* Tex-Mex cooking. Three peppers in particular are my absolute favorites; Chipotle, Tomatillo and Hatch.

Hatch chilis are green chilis grown around the Hatch, New Mexico area. They can get as hot as Jalapenos, but typically are fairly mild. Great for when you have somebody who doesn’t like hot food, but can appreciate savory, OR you want to add some flavor to an otherwise delicate food.

Trying to tell Hatch that they’re not the chili capital is like trying to tell a Texan they didn’t invent BBQ by the way. LOL. More on the side dish in a minute. First lets take a look at that slow cooked New York Steak:

Just a hair overdone today. They came out on the low end of Medium. Slow smoking them meant they were still moist and tender though

Slow smoked for almost 2 hours at 185 degrees (85 Celsius). You can see that delicious Hickory and Mesquite smoke ring in the first picture. Topped off with a little Sucklebusters 1836 seasoning rubbed in before cooking, and it’s nearly perfection.

Not an affiliate link BTW, just one of the companies I trust to do right by people and make a killer product. All their rubs and seasonings are good.

The show stealer turned out to be the baby Yukon Gold potatoes with hatch pepper seasoning though. Just something I found at Kroger. Fabulous flavor, and something I’ll try again. ๐Ÿ™‚ Next time, I’ll try to do the Hatch seasoning myself and will hopefully have a recipe for you all.

Oh, and did I forget the Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel Mousse for dessert? ๐Ÿ˜€

Texas and Asian Spare Ribs

Yes, a 2 for 1 here. After trying the Korean Bulgogi recipe that’s been in my family for a good 40 years on chicken, I threatened to try it on pork as well. When I did spare ribs yesterday, I did just that. One one rack of ribs anyway. The other was old school Texas.

All that was missing was a little green onion added to the Asian ribs as garnish, and some sauce for the regular ribs, but that came later. ๐Ÿ˜‰

The flavor was heavenly on both. I’ve seen a ton of complicated recipes to get ribs to turn out flavorful on a pellet smoker. Nothing beats plain old LOW and slow at 185 for 6 hours however. The only extra is a light basting with apple juice every 45 minutes or so to keep them moist. Results? Judge for yourself:

Magnificent smoke ring on both of them, and deep flavor. The Bulgogi ribs tasted like the best Chinese (well, Korean) restaurant food you’ve ever had. ๐Ÿ™‚

Asian Fusion Smoked Whole Chicken

On a throne no less!

So let’s hop in the way-back machine and go back to the start though. ๐Ÿ˜ I had talked last time I tried “beer can” chicken that I was going to do it again as soon as I got a normal sized porcelain ‘throne’, so that it would actually fit in the smoker. Well, the replacements came in a few days ago.

So, it was time to get busy! Since these chicken thrones make for virtually unlimited options in what you use to steam the inside of the chicken, I decided to do something really different. My uncle brought back a marinade recipe decades ago from Korea when he was in the Navy. Looking online, apparently it’s bulgogi, but it’s not anywhere as sickeningly sweet as the stuff I’ve tried from Costco and a few other places. So anyway… Yeah… Insert Hipster joke or meme here.

Being bulgogi, it’s intended for beef, but I branched out and tried it on chicken with great success (so long as you don’t over-marinate it). Here’s that recipe, in the quantities he used it for a couple of pounds of short ribs:

Korean Short Rib Marinade (bulgogi)

1/3 a cup of soy sauce

1/3 a cup of water

1/4 cup of white or yellow onion, chopped

1 or 2 scallions (green onions), chopped

2 Tablespoons of sesame seeds

2 Tablespoons of sugar

2 cloves of finely minced or pressed garlic

1/2 a teaspoon of pepper

A couple of quick notes here:

First, the original recipe also called for 1/4 a teaspoon of MSG. Given the bad rap that MSG has, I don’t use it though. I’ve also considered adding a tablespoon or two of freshly grated ginger, but haven’t tried it yet.

I’ve tried this on several cuts of beef such as tri-tip and tenderloin with great results. It works good with chicken also, but marinade times will vary. Beef you can do overnight and have great flavor when you cook. Chicken, you only want to do about an hour to and hour and a half per pound. I suspect it would work well on pork also IF it’s done for the same time as the chicken.

This is also one of those sauces that is best made the day before. It gives the flavors time to blend fully. That gives you the faint nutty flavor of the sesame seeds and the savoriness of the garlic and onion also. If you just throw it together and go, esp without thorough mixing, it’ll taste more like a cross between Teriyaki and Soy Sauce.

Lastly, Soy Sauce: I typically use low sodium soy sauce for food, BUT in the case of this marinade, I use regular soy sauce. The reason being that the marinade acts like a brine and tenderizes the meat. That’s primarily due to the salt in the soy sauce. Besides, with it being diluted with equal parts water, it’s not that strong.

Back to the Chicken!

So, I whipped up the marinade and put it and the chicken into a pot:

the smell was heavenly

Because this was a nearly 4 pound chicken, and the pot wasn’t exactly a snug fit, I had to increase all the marinade recipe portions. I used a full 2 cups of soy sauce and water. I could have used less if I had broke the chicken down but then I couldn’t have put it on the throne. About 2/3 of a cup of the finished marinade went into the ‘throne’ also, instead of into the pot.

I let the chicken marinate 4 hours, then pulled it out of the pot and patted it dry with a paper towel. The next step was to rub some salt pepper and garlic into the skin. Given that I was doing an Asian dish, I added some sesame seeds also. With that, we were ready to go.

If I had been thinking, and had any on hand, I likely would have substituted Chinese five spice for the salt, pepper and garlic rub. I smoked it low and SLOW for two hours, which got the internal temperature to about 125 F. At that point, I turned the pellet smoker up to 350 F and cooked it for another 25 minutes to get the internal temperature to a proper 165 degrees F and crisp up the skin.

It turned out better than I’d hoped. Between the marinade, and the steaming from the throne, the chicken was so moist and tender it was unreal. Add some homemade white cheddar biscuits and mixed veggies on the side, and it was a fabulous meal:

And if you really want to see how moist that chicken turned out, check out this drumstick:

The color is due to a combination of the marinade and being smoked low and slow for two hours. It was properly cooked to 165 F internal temperature (as previously mentioned). ๐Ÿ‘

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. ๐Ÿ˜€ 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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

BBQ Time Again! Beef Tri-Tip!!!

In between all the chores, I did find time Monday to apply my tasty slow cooking techniques to some beef Tri-Tip from Costco. It’s just taken a couple days to get to blogging about it.

Half the time, I’ll use my dual grill method and slow smoke until the meat hits an internal temperature of 100 degrees, then put it on a hot charcoal grill to put a nice sear on the meat and get the IT to 135 degrees. This time, I didn’t feel like fussing with two grills. I slow smoked at 180 degrees for a little over an hour to get the meat to 100 degrees, then I just cranked up the heat on the pellet smoker. So, no grill marks, but it did turn out very tasty:

Perfect medium rare with great smoke flavor

And for those who are curious… Yes, just basic salt, pepper and garlic for a rub. That’s almost all I ever use. Good meat doesn’t need sugar and other fluff. ๐Ÿ™‚