Sunday, June 8, 2008

BBQ 5 - Epilogue

Well, the meat was overcooked. So, I sliced it as thinly as I could manage, against the grain, chopped it into small pieces, and dosed it with a good store-bought BBQ sauce. I'll be serving it on toasted onion buns tonight, as a sloppy Joe-type sandwich.

I tried a few test pieces as I was chopping, and it's a bit chewy, for sure, but the flavor isn't bad. Hopefully it will pass muster with The Mister.

I should probably have had the meat thermometer out sooner. Even so, the excess of coals doomed me. Next time, I'll make sure to use fewer coals, which should make a difference. Live and learn. Such are the perils of semi-live blogging.

I did, however, have a pretty cool improv flash of brilliance after I took the meat off the grill. There was still a ton of heat left, so I cooked a peach pie! On the grill!

I spread the coals out into one layer, instead of being on one side. I tightly wrapped the pie in aluminum foil, making sure none of the edges were peeking. I also put the pie on top of a heavy baking sheet, to help diffuse the heat coming up from the bottom of the coals. Since this was a frozen pie, I let it cook for about 2 hours.

It came out pretty well. We got a tornado-producing thunderstorm halfway through the cooking time, so I didn't have a chance to uncover the pie to let it brown properly. So the top crust got a tad doughy. The bottom crust was pretty dark, though--not quite to burnt stage, but more summer tan brown then golden brown.

For the future, I'd probably leave out the bottom crust, and just do a pie crust or cobbler topping. Since this was a pre-made pie, I didn't have much choice in the matter.

This method is definitely something I'll try to perfect, and work on for the future. I was able to cook a pie without having to heat up my kichen, and when the weather's as hot as it has been this week, that's worth a lot. Look for some more blog posts about doing pie on a grill later this summer.

BBQ 4 - Hot

I brought my meat thermometer out to check the brisket, and while I was out there, I decided to check the ambient air temperature. I stepped well away from the grill so I didn't skew the results higher.

According to my meat thermometer, it's 86 degrees out today. The humidity is such that, if I spend more than a minute ouside, I begin to condense a layer of sweat on my body.

My meat is also hot. Too hot. In my excitement with the coals--I can make fire!--I got too many going at once. So, even though it's indirect heat, the side of the meat closest to the coals is getting a fair bit of char on it.

The thermometer says it's at 195 degrees and climbing. Medium-Rare is 140. I'm hoping my thermometer's wrong, but I'm doubting it. The meat's been on for about 2 hours of the 4 I was aiming for. But I think there's no doubt about it--I gotta take the meat off.


Meat's off the grill. I'm gonna let it sit for a ten minutes or so, then cut into it and see what I've got. If I need to, I have enough hot coals to cook it some more.

At any rate, everyone who owns a grill should invest in a pair of welding gloves. They're long, so they cover more of your hands and arms, so you don't have to worry about getting burned. They work so well, you can manipulate the coals with your gloved hands!,GGLD:2004-35,GGLD:en&q=welding+gloves&um=1

BBQ 3 - The Mop, and authenticity

I've watched enough Food Network shows and read enough books to know what the "rules" are barbecue are, more or less. The experts disagree on some points, but overall, you should:

1. Cook the meat Low and slow--the slower, the better.
2. Cook over natural chunk charcoal
3. Use some kind of wood for smoke flavor
4. Use a rub (and keep this rub a secret on pain of death)
5. Do not sauce while cooking. After cooking, sauce is optional and hotly debated.
6. Mop meat with flavorful liquid regularly to keep meat moist.

I'm following about half of the rules. I'm breaking some on purpose.

I'm cooking the meat low and slow, but since I'm using coals, and not a smoker, the heat is probably going to be higher than is ideal. There's not much I can do about this right now.

I'm not using natural chunk charcoal. I love Alton, but I gotta go against him here. The stuff is a pain in the ass to use. It burns out very quickly--we're talking minutes--it burns hot, and it flames up a lot. I might use it for grilling, sometimes, but I'll sooner get a smoker than use natural chunk charcoal to try to barbecue something.

I'm not using wood because I don't have any on hand. Well, I've got some pine, but that's not a good flavor to impart in meat, well, not in the states, anyways.

I am using a rub. But I am sharing the details. Caveat Emptor: I've not tried the rub before, so I don't know how it will be. I do suggest that you make your own rub, because it's just fun to toss stuff together.

I'm not using sauce.

I am using a mop. I'm basting the meat about every half hour with:

1 cup vinegar
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon paprika

The recipes I've found online usually include beer and/or coffee, vinegar, salt, and some spices. I had no beer, so I used a bottle of red I opened the other night. I wanted to keep the mop simple.

I've got a silicone basting brush I'm using to baste the meat, but some hard-core guys use an actual cotton mop for this purpose. Not my style. I'd probably use a clean cotton dishtowel if I wanted to get a similar effect.

I'm thinking I should probably dig out my meat thermometer to get a better idea when the brisket will be done. Be back soon.

Barbecue part 2

Well, I've had my first problem.

You'd think a simple piece of equipment like a chimney starter would be a no-brainer to use. Not so. After the third attempt to light my coals, I called The Mister home.

I was stuffing the paper into the starter wrong. There's a grate at the bottom of the starter. I was putting paper above the grate. But it was supposed to go below the grate.


But now that I've figured it out, I've lit another batch of coals all by myself.


I've shoved the coals to one side of the Webber, and put the meat on the other side. It's been on the grill about a half hour.

For flavor, I put a spice rub on the brisket earlier in the morning.

I didn't really measure what was in the rub, but I figure the recipe below is a fair estimate of what all went into it.

1/2 cup salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
a few tablespoons each of:
chili powder
onion powder
celery salt
curry powder
celery salt
a little bit of
cayenne pepper
black pepper

I massaged all this into the meat pretty good and let it sit while I wrangled with the coals.

Off to mop the meat and check on the coals. What's a mop? Not something to clean floors, in this case. Stay tuned to the next installment to find out more.

Barbecue Part 1

I've been stunningly busy this spring into mid-summer, and have not had much time to blog. As such, my energy to cook creatively has been fairly low, and I've been recharging my culinary batteries. But with the farmers' markets in full bloom, and my CSA share starting in less than two weeks, Cooking will soon become a necesity.

However, this weekend finds me at home. So I've caught up on laundry, tamed the jugle that is our front yard, and decided to do a bit of slow cooking.

I'm doing barbecue.

Not grilling, but barbecue. Where you cook something low and slow over coals, with perhaps a touch of fragrant wood sprinkled atop.

I have to admit, I haven't used the Webber all that much in the 2 years we've had it. It's been nice that The Mister likes to grill, so those days I sit out and let him have at it. But, as he said, 3-5 hours at the coals is a little too much for him.

So, after a quick lesson on grilling, The Mister went off to work and I'm alone at home with the dog, some Kingsford, 2 chimney starters, and 3 pounds of dry-aged highland beef brisket.

Further updates as events warrant.