BBQ Everyday

I have learned how to BBQ. In the very beginning, I didn't even know how to work with charcoal, let alone wood. My transformation has brought BBQ into my life in ways I never expected. However, still today BBQ is more of a weekly big cook than a way of life. That is the next step I am taking on my journey.

As much as I love BBQ, in many ways, it is a labor of love. It certainly is not particularly easy or convenient. At the same time, the meals you get are well worth the effort you put in. The problem for me is simply life. I like to think of the life after winning the lottery when my biggest concern in life is what cook I am going to spend all day on. In my real world though, BBQ time competes with so many other things.

A large number of cooks simply take time. Time for a cook doesn't really fit into the schedule of someone who works and also has a massive schedule of kid's activities I need to carpool for. It is really next to impossible to come home from work and start a real cook for that night's dinner. So how do I shift this?

First off, I am not about to give up charcoal. It may take more time to get the grill ready, but cooking on gas to me is more just cooking outside, not BBQ. So I started dividing up cooks by how long they need to be on the grill. Things like burgers are quick. So for starters, I can get home and immediately start the charcoal. While that is starting to burn, I can prep. Then, an hour after I get home, we are eating a real meal.

Short cooks like this get a bit boring though. So this week, I did a little experiment. Rather than a big Sunday dinner cook, I cooked a ton of meat to eat throughout the week. 

I got a pork shoulder and ten chicken breasts. I started this whole cook the way I would a normal slow cook for Sunday dinner. I prepped the shoulder and got the cooker going. Then I started to prep the chicken breasts. About an hour into the cook, I added some chicken breasts on. Cooking them at 250 until they were about 10 degrees from being done. At that point, I reverse seared them. 

Once off the grill, I simply let the chicken slowly come down to room temp. When the shoulder was finally done, I brought that in and pulled it. This ended up leaving me on Sunday night with a large container of cooked chicken, and another large container of pulled pork.

Now, my week's dinners had a couple short cooks, plus pulled pork and chicken to last throughout the week. It takes a little creativity to pull this off. My family doesn't want to eat pulled pork every night. But, pulled pork sandwiches with slaw one night followed up with making mac and cheese with pulled pork a couple nights later works.

I realize that this comes very dangerously close to left-overs, but so be it. All I know is I spent an entire week eating BBQ and never had to have a 10 pm dinner because a cook took so long. All in all, I was really impressed with how well this worked. Which leaves me planning all sorts of weekend cooks I can do this with. BBQ a chicken, which gives you chicken obviously...but pull some of that for tacos. There are so many possibilities I am anxious to explore!

Until next post, remember kids.....CHUNKS not chips!

Creative Left-Overs

As a whole, I am not a fan of left-overs. I enjoy cooking, I enjoy eating it right then. After that though, well it just doesn't really seem like something I want to eat. Fortunately, though I am married to a devote lover of left-overs, so it really has never been a problem. 

But now, if you go back a couple of cooks ago, I bought a full beef tenderloin. I then attempted to slice some nice filet mignon's out of it. At that point, I really had no clue what I was going to do with the rest of the tenderloin, so I bagged it and threw it in the freezer until I could figure out a plan.

A few weeks later I got a text from a friend wanting to BBQ and drink some beer. Now historically, this meant me going over to his place and drinking while he cooks. Apparently, my reputation behind the grill has taken over. I didn't realize it, but he was inviting himself over to my house to drink while I manned the grill.

It was a little last minute in that I had no cook prepped. The last thing I wanted to do was pick up some pre-made burgers and dogs. Then it hit me! I had a couple pounds of left-over tenderloin, I have a meat grinder, I have bacon. So I picked up some additional chuck and fired up my meat grinder. An hour later, I had 16 beautiful hamburger patties. 

I kept 8 out to cook that night and froze the other 8 for a future meal. I cracked open a Coor's Banquet, seasoned the patties with Southern Links hamburger rub and fired up the kettle. I gave the patties a quick seer, and then slow cooked them until they were medium rare. 

The combination of grinding bacon in with the beef is amazing every time I bite into it. There is just something about it which takes a typical burger completely over the top. I have always loved a good burger, but these are even a step beyond that. I guess after eating them, it really isn't much of a surprise that people are inviting themselves over to my place for BBQ.

Now, all in all, this is not a completely new cook for me. Hell, I wrote about it before. Yet today it is worth writing about because it marks a new realm of cooking for me. I am not cooking purely what Mikey assigns me. I am looking in my freezer and coming up with a cook based on what I see. Now, I hesitate to think of myself as a pitmaster, but I am pretty damn impressed with myself to make it this far!

Until next post, remember kids.....CHUNKS not chips!

Going Green?

While I realize the name of this Podcast is Man Meat BBQ and this blog may be cause for termination, this past weekend I smoked an amazing meal which contained no meat. Through it, I learned that even though I love meat, you can cook an amazing meal even without it.

So here is the deal, all this time I have been learning to BBQ, my daughter has also come out as a vegetarian. I am an open-minded guy so as much as that isn't my choice, I do support her. I mean yes, I still cook meat, meat which looks absolutely incredible. So far none of this has made her falter in her decision.

So now comes her birthday. The second truth is that while I love my wife dearly, she cannot cook worth a damn. So, if a good meal if being eaten in my house, it either came from a guest or me. But back to my daughters birthday. Normally the vegetarian thing from a cooking perspective is an afterthought in the house. Either it is a side or something else thrown next to a meat-based meal. So for her birthday, I decided to cook a vegetarian meal from the ground up. 

She had selected vegetarian enchiladas. So I got my chef knife out and started chopping until my arm was tired. Then I realized something. Just about every noteworthy date on the calendar is marked with a special meal cooked on my grill. This date could be no different. So I started thinking...enchiladas, go in the over. Today, they are going in my cast iron and getting smoked instead.

That is exactly how it went down, really. I chopped a ton of pepper and onion, sauteed it adding in some broccoli and spinach. Finally mixing in some black beans and cheese and enchilada sauce. From that point, I roll them guys up and usually put them in a pan coated in enchilada sauce. Today that was my cast iron. Once they were done, I poured more sauce over them, covered them with cheese and they were ready for the smoker.

For this, I wanted a nice smoke flavor, but I didn't want to over smoke them at all. Once the fire was going, I found a couple small cherry chunks and added them on. Finally adding my cast iron to the mix.

I am a meat guy, let's get that straight. But this was damn good! I am not talking good as in hey this vegetarian thing that has been made up to look like a burger and while it may be good, it is in no way a replacement for a burger. No, these enchiladas were just damn good by themselves. So much so I would gladly cook them again. The smoke from the BBQ added so much to this meal. 

I would say something cheesy like: 

"BBQ, it not just for meat anymore!"

But, C'mon we all know that my real love of BBQ is in the meat itself. Yet I do realize that you can BBQ an amazing meal which doesn't have meat in it when you need to. Seriously, this meal was great, but tomorrow I cook meat!

Until next post, remember kids.....CHUNKS not chips!

Slicing Off a Steak

A while back, Mikey was asking me what other cooks I wanted to do. It was a difficult question for me. I had never been a super huge meat eater so, to be honest, I have already learned to cook more than I had ever hoped to. Then while we were throwing different cook ideas back and forth I made the startling realization that I have not yet really learned to cook a steak.

Now steak is not our typical low-heat cook that lasts for hours, so I can see how we missed it. Yet, when you think of a grill, a steak comes immediately to mind. The next logical question was what cut of steak. Again here, I knew too little to even venture a guess. While we tried to figure that out, the local butcher made the decision for me.

While walking through the store I came across a 4-day sale on Beef Tenderloin. All I knew at the moment was that it seemed like a really good deal. I assumed I could make a great cook out of it, but I had no clue what that would be. Then Mikey helped connect the dots and informed me that this would be the steak cook. As I learned, with a little knife work, this massive cut of meat would be transformed into Filet Mignon.

This cook meant I was changing everything. No low and slow cooking at 250 this time around. Plus this cook required far more knife skill then I was used to, so it felt like a challenge.

With a sharpened knife in hand, I went to work. Now, when you look at a big cut of meat and think all you need to do is slice off the layer of fat it looks easy. A half-hour later I realized that if you are not good with a knife, it is certainly not that easy. I hacked my way through, and while it may not have been pretty, I got through it.

So I had my filets trimmed and ready. When I looked at them, they looked amazing, yet something was off. I had no idea what, but something felt different than the filets I see at the store. Either way, it was what I had to cook so I went to work. 

I rubbed them down with some Beefcake Beef Rub and let them sit until they got to room temperature. Since they were thick, Mikey advised me against cooking them only on high heat. For this, I would put them on indirect heat, let them come up about halfway to temp, then reverse sear them on the blazing fires of hell until they are ready. 

So while they got to room temp, I decided for good measure I would cook some Au Gratin Potatoes and also try a red wine reduction sauce to have with the filet. With those sides of the cook coming along perfectly it was time to start the grill. It's funny that I was so accustomed to setting up the Weber for 250 that high heat was actually a bit of a challenge for me to get. Once I was there I started cooking. 

It only took a few minutes for the steaks to get ready for the reverse seer. Once we were searing it only took a few minutes more before they were done. I let them rest and then cut in to see how they looked. I was going for Medium Rare, and while I was probably more on the Medium side, they looked awesome.

As far as eating them goes, it was a pretty damn spectacular meal. Now that being said, there was one thing I didn't expect. While eating I noticed a portion of the filet had a lot of fat that did not render. Again, not something I expected from a filet. And this is when I finally connected the dots. Apparently, there was a bit more of the filet I should have trimmed off, which explains why they didn't quite resemble the fillets I was used to. 

At the end of the day, it didn't make a difference. It was a great meal and a great experience. I hardly would say I am a master at grilling a steak, but at least now I know where to start.

Until next post, remember kids.....CHUNKS not chips!

Turn in Time.

Welcome again, I hope everybody enjoyed my first blog post. Today we are gonna talk about Competition BBQ. Competition BBQ it is and it isn't like what you see on TV. Sure we've all sat down and watch BBQ Pitmasters, Smoked or Pit Wars at some point. We've all thought hey that doesn't look that hard I can do that. Well I'm here to tell you you can but it definitely takes more work than what you see on TV. So two years ago I said I want to try this. So I looked around on Facebook and found a small local competition. It wasn't actually a sanctioned event but they attempted to run it like one and I said you know what let's go for it. I called up a buddy of mine and said what do you think, think we can handle it? He said yes and that was that we were BBQ team.  

          I started going online and looking for lists of things that we needed. With my list in hand it was time to get my supplies in order. That list is large but necessary. Many of the items you will find on these kind of lists will seem no brainers but without that list I can guarantee you will forget things in fact even with it you will. Biggest thing I did to help was get a three ring binder, yes in today's techie world I said binder. I found it was easy to have my lists right there. Everyone on my team knew the binder and used it. What's nice is it's a physical thing you can grab and flip right open quickly. It also allowed for easy editing of the list. 

        The list does not know your timeline or processes. They do not know your cooker and what it takes to operate. These are all things you have to adapt your list to. Do you wrap brisket in butcher paper or do you Texas crutch? Does your cooker need wood chunks or wood pieces? Are you hot and fast or low and slow? These are all going to change what supplies you will be bringing. Understand too that you or a teammate will most likely be running out at some point because you inevitably will forget something or run out of something. You will reach for foil and end up with a piece half the size you need because the roll ran out. 

           You have your list, gathered your supplies so now what just wait till the weekend of the comp and go for it? No, now it's time to do a practice cook or two or three. We have all spent many a weekend cooking we know how to do it right? Wrong! We know how to relax and cook when time is much less a factor. For most backyard cooks timing is not a huge deal we just cook till it's ready, right? Sorry dear dinner's gonna be more like 5:30 not 5:00. For a competition timing is half the battle. You can make the best ribs in the world but if your late for turn in, then the only people who will know how good they are is you.

         Set a turn in time for yourself and work backwards to figure out your timeline. If you say it's 5:00 pm then work backwards from there to figure out how long you think plating will take, how long it should rest and how long it should cook. Do not forget to figure how long it will take you to prep the meat before cooking. Once you have it figured out try it and see what happens. At this point don't worry about flavor profiles or presentation. Just get your cook times down to cook the meat till tenderness. I also suggest start with each meat individually. I like to break everything down into small chunks then add them together to get a finished timeline. Start small,I did ribs first. Set my finish time then figured about 10 min of plating time, then 15 min of rest. Next is cook time I am more of a hot and fast kinda guy so I do my ribs in 4 hours. I like to have my ribs seasoned  and rested about 30 min before cooking. So I plan on 4 hrs and 55 min from seasoning to plating. Figure this out for each meat. Some meats are different you may want them seasoned and rested for hours before going on the cooker. These are variables that you as the cook have to decide.

             I hope I have been able to help some of you out. We will see you next month where we will continue to talk about competing in your first competition. Till then cowboy up and keep smoking. 

Cowboy Kev

Instagram: @wile_e_bbq

Facebook: Facebook.com/wilee.bbq

Eating My Way Around Walt Disney World

That's right kids, no cooks for me this week. Instead of trying my best to turn a beef tenderloin into perfectly cooked filet mignons, I spent my tax refund on a trip to Disney World! Now before you start flipping channels on me, let's talk about food. See, from my experience vacations can go one of two ways on this. It is either amazing meals which you would normally never experience, or it is just food which never gets thought of again.

So let's talk about Walt Disney World for a bit here. It is a theme park, yes. But it is more than that, it is a city of its own. The Disney World property includes 4 theme parks, 29 resorts, and over 200 places to get food! So we got a lot to cover. First off let's get rid the misconception of Disney is going to give you overpriced garbage food and that is your only option. It is a theme park, it is seriously expensive, but you can get some incredible eats!

For me, this was a last minute trip which means I had no chance of getting reservations in any of the amazing restaurants. Ultimately, if you do not plan ahead and make dinner reservations, you are stuck. So that leaves me with what Disney calls quick service. 

From the resort to the park there are tons of quick service places to eat. Quick Service is basically fast food. No servers, you wait in line and order off a menu board. But the beautiful part of Disney is that doesn't mean shitty food. Yes, you can get chicken fingers and a burger at 90% of them, but there is a lot more you can get. See Disney World, beyond a theme park, is about an immersive experience. They use everything including the food available to take you on your journey.

So while traveling through Adventureland, I can pick up a Dole Whip. Which is pineapple flavored soft-serve ice cream served in a cup of real Pineapple Juice. Likewise, when I am in the Asia section of Animal Kingdom I can grab a Kobe Beef Cheeseburger. When you jump over to the World Showcase in Epcot, you can quite literally eat your way around the world. 

Now for me, I had no advance planning for restaurants and even worse than that I had 6 people other than myself to provide for. So this would be not the foodies take on Disney, but more the typical dad's take...I am looking for budget and convenience and anything else is the whipped cream on top. 

Let me run through my favorites...

First, at the resort, and just about everywhere, while there are burgers and chicken fingers there are also pulled pork sandwiches. Now, this isn't my slow smoked pork shoulder by any means, but it beat the hell out of the alternative. The Magic Kingdom will give you Turkey Legs & Dole Whips. 

Jump over to Epcot where you can walk country to country picking your food. From Fish and Chips in Great Brittain to a Hong Kong style Beef and Rice Bowl in China. Finishing it all off with a Bratwurst in Germany.

In the Hollywood Studios park, you can find my absolute park favorite at Fairfax Fare, themed after California's farmer's markets, here you can walk up and order a loaded baked potato topped off with beef tri-tip! Not bad for a theme park!

Finally, I give you the park with the most diverse eating options, Animal Kingdom. Here the lands are themed around Asia and Africa and your dining follows suit. The standard cheeseburger and hot dog is replaced with one of Kobe beef and there is absolutely amazing pulled pork and ribs just about everywhere you eat.

For late nights after the park closes, you may be stuck with a mediocre pizza, but hey, it is still better than getting yelled at while ordering Bojangles at the airport!

So while I didn't cook this week, I did eat. And yeah, if you are going to a place like Disney, the food is only going to suck if you let it. Disney is filled with amazing food that won't cost you an arm and a leg, you just gotta get it!

Until next post, remember kids.....CHUNKS not chips!

Chicken's Last Stand

Hey everyone! So if you have been a reader of the blog, you will know chicken is my Achilles Heel. For some reason, anytime I venture into cooking a chicken it just goes wildly wrong. With that, I wasn't exactly thrilled when I almost literally had a chicken appear on my doorstep.

It had been a hell of a couple weeks. On top of the usual life, my household of 5 became the house holding 5 separate cases of strep throat. Now, I love BBQ, but in the middle of this sickness BBQ was the last thing on my mind. I was the first to catch it, which also meant I was the first to feel somewhat normal again. Feeling almost back to myself, my phone rang. It was my mom saying "Hey, I have this chicken defrosted and ready to cook, but I am not able to cook it this weekend. You want it?"

Truthfully, I kinda didn't want it. I mean I suck at chicken and could think of 100 things I would rather BBQ. But, I am cheap and don't want to turn down a good bird. Besides, even if I screwed up the chicken, I still had a chicken carcass to make stock with and the rest of my mending house would like some soup. There, I had talked myself into the bird.

I wish I could tell you some elaborate story of how I mentally prepped for the grill of a lifetime where I finally master the chicken. But the truth is, there wasn't. I simply said, hey I am gonna do my thing. I am going to hold heat, I won't rush it and we shall see what happens...and oh yeah, I am gonna make a side that could double as a meal in case the bird doesn't fly!

That simple thought process is exactly how I cooked. I rubbed the bird with some BBQ Bob's Alpha Rub, got a perfect fire going, added smoke and away we went. Fortunately for me, it was a giant chicken, which meant I had plenty of time to work on my alternative meal of failure...I mean side dish. Again sick house so...I went with a broccoli cheese soup. The soup is pretty amazing, some potatoes, broccoli, and onions cooked in a stock with some blue cheese. Once it is all cooked, you blend it and throw in some cream. Honestly, it is about as good as a vegetarian soup can be.

So I got that cooking, the bird cooking and honestly, it was time to relax a bit. Next thing I knew, the soup was ready to blend and the bird was about at temp. Now I haven't ever done this right. So I didn't really know what to expect. The darkened skin of the chicken really just made me assume I messed up again. Still, I took her temp and it seemed to be exactly where it should be. So I brought it in and let it rest. 

Now while I cannot say what a good BBQ chicken looks like, all of my previous failures have gotten me pretty versed in breaking down a chicken. So I grabbed my knife and went to work. This was the stunning part. First the legs and thighs. After I cut them off, they looked pretty damn good. The wings were next and they too looked amazing. As I started to cut out the breast meat I was sure that I would see a pink center. But I didn't! The meat was all cooked, not overcooked. Not dry, the meat was actually glistening!

So while I will gladly put my broccoli cheese soup up against anything, today the chicken stole the show. I mean seriously, I still don't love chicken. I will choose beef or pork just about any day over chicken. But, this chicken was damn good.

Now on to the final part of this story, because it doesn't end here. Now, I took that smokey carcass, the scraps of skin, and the leftover bones and tossed them in a pot. I added some chopped onions, carrots and garlic. I filled it up with water and just let it simmer for a couple hours. In the end, I strained out everything leaving me with the most amazing chicken stock I have ever tasted. I mean hell, you can actually taste the smoke in the stock. 

So now, I have left over the smoked chicken breast and my chicken stock. Throw in some veggies and noodles and that will be a leftover meal which might actually taste better than the first meal it came from. 

Until next post, remember kids.....CHUNKS not chips!

A Quick Turnaround

Somewhere along the way, it was realized that I had not yet grilled shrimp. Well to be fair, I had, but that was way back in the days of my clueless ventures in using a propane grill which, even for shrimp, doesn't count. Upon this realization, it is safe to assume that grilled shrimp was indeed my next assignment. 

This cook is very different to what I am used to because it is a speed cook. There is no slowly reaching temp and making the choice of medium rare or let it come up a couple more degrees. This is high heat, put em on the grill and before you can sit down for a beer they are done. So combine that with my new mission of creating entire meals and this is one of the rare cooks where I am starting the rest of my meal prior to anything hitting the grill. 

The set-up for the shrimp was pretty simple, put them on skewers, rub them with Lane's Q-Nami and you are set. For the sides, I was going with a garlic parmesan orzo and some lemon crusted asparagus. Here is the big issue with the cook as a whole. The orzo, once cooked, take about 10 minutes. The asparagus takes about 10 minutes. And the shrimp, yeah, they take about 10 minutes too. Additionally, when I am cooking meat, the meat can rest and hold temp for a long time giving me the luxury to finish up everything else. Shrimp, on the other hand, do not hold heat at all. 

To accomplish all this, it took on the mantra of prep absolutely everything I could before anything started. That way, when I was cooking I didn't have to worry about anything other than just cooking. I even went to the point of using little bowls for everything. My shallot, garlic and lemon zest in one for the asparagus. Garlic and parmesan in another for the orzo. Melted butter and some addition Q-Nami for the shrimp. And finally, one with chopped parsley to finish both the orzo and the shrimp. 

With all the prep I could do done, I started cooking the orzo and lit the kettle. With the kettle we were shooting for 350-400 degrees, so that was pretty simple. I let the kettle hold heat while I heated my cast iron and finished cooking the orzo. I started to saute the shallot and garlic, drained the orzo and now it was game time.

I put the shrimp skewers on the grill, added my asparagus to the cast iron and simultaneously tossed the orzo in a skillet. The next 10 minutes was a blur of checking this, stirring that, running to check on the shrimp etc. To say that this cook was a high energy race to the finish is an understatement. Yet, it all came together.

The meal was outstanding. Every flavor kinda played off each other and it truly did feel like a meal. The shrimp stood out. The flavor of Q-Nami never disappoints. If I could go back and change part of this meal, I wouldn't. It all worked perfectly together and it was simply great. 

Shrimp is an absolutely great cook for the grill. It is simple and it is quick. Where shrimps difficulty comes in for me is the fact that it does not retain heat once it is cooked. You better have everything else ready because when the shrimp are ready, it is time to eat. 

Until next post, remember kids.....CHUNKS not chips!

Pushing My Limits

Last post I talked to you about this being a year of taking my BBQ to the next level. For me, that is not purely about BBQ itself, but also the meal as a whole. As I have posted for the past year my cooks have gotten tremendously better while everything which accompanies the meal has been lackluster, to say the least. I realize that a good BBQ can be pushed tenfold by how it is included in the entire meal. Yes, the star will always be the BBQ, but I need to get my shit together with everything else to make it shine.

Knowing this flaw, I have begun to learn how to cook indoors as well as out. No, I am not going to pan sear steaks...but I am hell bent on creating entire meals revolving around my BBQ. This comes in many forms. It starts as basic and simple as knife skills and extends everything I prepare. 

See, here is the thing, there are a lot of my BBQ cooks this past year which were more like experiments. I walked in with not knowing if it would be cooked properly and certainly not if anyone in my house would eat it. Now, BBQ is done with some skill. I know that when I start a cook, I am not going to use the smallest portion because I don't know who will eat it. Now I make a point to make sure I cook when everyone is home to eat. 

So for this cook, I had the entire family plus ready to eat. I knew everything not on the grill would take up a ton of effort, so I went simple on the cook. The one piece of meat I have total confidence around, the tri-tip! Looking back, my selection was a bit of a double-edged sword. Great that I knew the cook. The downside is that it cooks fast, so it wasn't like I had a couple hours to cook everything else. Once the tri-tip hit the smoker the clock was running.

As I looked for something to pair up with the Tri-Tip, I quickly realized that in order to pair with the food well and have something my family would eat, I was going to have to make a lot of substitutions. So I finally settled for a medley of baby carrots, beets, broccoli, and baby red potatoes. All would be oven roasted in a pan of parsley, thyme, and rosemary.

It all sounded good and work intensive, but then I took it off the rails. Somewhere along the way my wife also asked to try some recipe for a healthy mashed potatoes which includes white beans. So I said sure, let's throw that in the mix too.

So here is how this all went down. I set up my smoker ready for the fire. I then took the meat out of the fridge and rubbed it down with some Caribeque Beef Rub. I set that aside and let it get to room temp. I then peeled all my potatoes and prepped everything for the mashed potatoes. I then prepped everything for my roasted vegetables. 

Now with the difficult prep work out of the way I was ready to fire up the cooker. I quickly got the fire going thanks to my Looftlighter. I bought the cooker up to temp and threw on the cherry. Soon the beautiful tri-tip was on the cooker!

With the tri-tip on the cooker, the potatoes started boiling and I started assembling my tray of vegetables. From this moment forward, it was a bit blurry. It was just a mad scramble to do 10 things at one time. But, it absolutely worked! Well I mean I will not say go make mashed potatoes with white beans, it was just blah. But the vegetables were amazing. It takes a lot for me to say a vegetable is amazing, but they absolutely were. Once they paired up with the amazing tri-tip, this was simply one incredible meal. 

So no, I haven't jumped into a cook that I have no knowledge about. But I did accomplish something I never have, a complete full meal for my entire family. For once my cooking meant something more than a plate of meat.

And next time, I promise I will cook the cook assigned by Mikey!

Until next post, remember kids.....CHUNKS not chips!

A New Year of Cooks

So I have officially made it through an entire your of BBQ. This milestone was marked by smoking a ham for Christmas. Early Christmas morning it was easy to think back on the progress I have made in this last year. Last Christmas I was nervously following Mikey's instructions down to the exact number of briquettes in his PK Grill. This year it was on my Weber and while I was still reliant on monitoring the temp of the cooker, it was much more cooking by feel.

I realized in this year that I can cook. Sure I find certain cooks to stretch my limits, but I am comfortable in saying, hell yes, I can cook that. I have also found myself looking to BBQ more. Taking things which would normally be cooked in the kitchen and looking for a way to cook them in my cooker. In short, it has been an incredible year.

With that being said, I realize that this is not the time to rest. BBQ is an art that comes with not only some skill, but a  lot of knowledge and experience. There are no shortcuts available to provide this. In looking at the new year ahead of me, while it may be comfortable to continue cooking the meals I know, I will be using Mikey to push my limits. Getting me out of the comfortable area and give me the experience I need.

When Mikey asked me to cook Pork Belly Burnt Ends, he was doing just that. First, there was the cut of meat, which aside from bacon I was inexperienced with. Secondly, there was the cook itself. This whole cook was a step out of the comfort zone.

Finding the cut was difficult. With very few real butcher shops near me, I called about 15 places with no luck to get the elusive uncured pork belly. Finally, I was saved. Mikey sent me a text from whole foods who had it. I drove out there, picked up an extra Tri-Tip to have in the freezer and I was set to cook.

With the pork belly in hand, I began. I first cut the belly into 1-inch chunks. I then rubbed them with Meat Church Gospel and let them sit. I set the fire up, tossed on some apple wood and we were in business. I let the chunks cook for a couple hours until they hit 170 degrees and started getting crispy.

I took them off the grill and put them in a tray where I covered them in brown sugar and butter. After sealing the tray they went back on the grill for an hour. By the time they were done they were transformed from small chunks of meat to the completed burnt ends.

I wasn't exactly sure what to expect out of this. However, the completed cook created something I didn't expect. These were truly meat candy. Bite size pieces so full of flavor that I cannot even describe it. They were simply amazing.

For me, this is out of the box cooking. When I started, cooks were the big things....the pork shoulders...the meals. I certainly would have never expected to be cooking meat candy. There is a huge wide world of possibilities when it comes to BBQ and everything I learn shows me there is even more out there to explore. So come along with me this year as I start taking my BBQ experience to the next level!

Until next post, remember kids.....CHUNKS not chips!
 

The Ultimate 2017 BBQ Gift Guide

That's right everyone, while I love you all reading my posts, this is the one post that maybe you want to forward on to anyone buying gifts for you. Also, if you are feeling super generous and feel like thanking me for my awesome posts, this is a great list for you.

Here is the thing as people with a passion for the cook, we all fall into a nice little category of things we like and can use. Reality is no one should struggle with what to buy someone who barbeques because we all need a lot. With that being said, creating a list is a bit tricky. See there are some things which are insanely personal, like the rubs we use, and we don't necessarily want Aunt Edna giving us a years supply of rubs we don't like. On the other side, this world of BBQ is littered with the kind of gifts which are not useful. You know, the spatula with your kinda favorite team's logo on it or the novelty apron. These are not bad gifts at all, but they also fail in meeting one thing I think is super important when it comes to giving gifts, the need.

From my perspective, the perfect gift is something that is needed first, but secondly kinda falls onto that list of something we want, but have held back from pulling the trigger on. So before you let your loved ones spring on a thermometer from the unique gift section of a department store, let's get to things that would actually be a great addition to your BBQ life.

I just want to point out one other note on this list. We cover a very broad price range on this list, for good reason. So yes there are expensive gifts and there are gifts affordable to even dear Aunt Edna. But enough about that lets jump right into this!

10) A stocking full of Coal!

Yup, the gift you dreaded your entire childhood is now something you desire and need. As you all know there is a massive array of charcoal out there, some are crap some is amazing. Unfortunately for us, the amazing stuff isn't always that easy to buy in a pinch. You cannot exactly run to Wal-Mart and pick up some quick. So what could possibly be better than a 35-pound bag of premium charcoal in unique Christmas sack? Besides, if you have kids, not only is this a great useable gift but it also reinforces that whole do as I say not as I do concept because now you are on the naughty list!

9) The Weber iGrill 2 or a Thermapen MK4

We all need a great thermometer! And while I have put together an amazing article which will give you the in's and out's of the entire market, these are two great general picks. If you don't have a thermometer you can leave in and monitor temp from, the iGrill is a great choice. You may not use it in every cook, but it will be very valuable when you do. 

https://www.weber.com/US/en/product/igrill/igrill2/

Now on the other side, maybe you have a great remote read thermometer already, that doesn't mean you don't have a use for a great instant read. Honestly, I really don't care if you even have some "instant read" already, the MK4 is simply a must-have. If you don't have one, you need one! Besides, an MK4 will fit perfect in your stocking.

http://www.thermoworks.com/Thermapen-Mk4

Finally, in this category. If you already have your thermometers and are still in need of a small stocking stuffer, additional probes for your remote read are always a great choice. And of course, if you don't like my top picks here, go ahead and read my super comprehensive thermometer guide here: http://www.manmeatbbq.com/mmb-blog/2017/10/27/got-the-temp-mmb-reviews-the-best-and-the-worst-bbq-thermometers-part-2

thermapen MK4

8) The Looftlighter

There are a ton of different ways to light your fire for a cook. Hopefully, if you are reading this, lighter fluid is not an acceptable option. Now if you are like me you won't use fluid, propane assist, cubes or anything like that. For you, your go-to is the good old chimney. Well, this may be the best gift ever to you then. Why? well first, it is completely clean. None of that garbage which will end up changing the smoke that goes into your food with the Looftlighter you are simply using air. Second, it is simple. It works like a hairdryer and will light your coals in only 60 seconds! Finally, if you are not the best at maintaining your heat and need to add some fire mid-cook, this is perfect. Your coals will be relit in a minute and your cook will continue. 

The Looftlighter

7) A Pizza Stone

What is better then barbequing some meals? Using the BBQ for even more! Forget delivery or frozen pizza, once you cook a pizza on your cooker, you will never go back! This is a great gift for anyone who wants to give this a shot. Maybe you are already cooking a few pizzas on your cooker, well then it is time to step up to the Kettle Pizza and convert your kettle to a pizza oven. Check out this great blog by Jeff on doing just that: http://www.manmeatbbq.com/mmb-blog/2017/8/9/kettlepizza

Anyway, you want to do it, it is time to step up to cooking pizza, and here are some great choices to get you started!

https://www.weber.com/US/en/accessories/gourmet-bbq-system/pizza-stone

http://biggreenegg.com/product/pizzabaking-stone/

https://www.kettlepizza.com/

Kettle Pizza

6) Lodge Cast Iron

A year ago I would have never thought I would ever even use a cast iron skillet. But since I picked one up for myself I have quickly learned what an indispensable tool it is in the world of BBQ. If you have not yet started using one, you must! If you already have one, well there are a ton of different sizes and styles which I am sure include something you would love to have!

Lodge Cast Iron

5) Bison Cooler

Okay, we all have those old Igloo coolers filling up our garage and if you want to keep beer cold for a couple hours, they are great. However, we have come a long way since those first plastic coolers were made. As more evolved and dignified purveyors of barbecue, we need to step up this game. When you are ready to step into the big leagues of coolers, Bison has you covered. Seriously have you ever heard of an igloo keeping ice for more than 10 days? There really aren't any justifiable reasons to not add a Bison to your list.

Bison Coolers

4) Butcher Block Cutting Board

Sure we BBQ outside, but we do our prep in the kitchen. And prepping our meats is messy, to say the least. So let's stop this game of prepping meat for the cooker using a bunch of different plates and trays and small cutting boards, let's use one good cutting board. Prep your meat for the cooker, clean it off, cut up your vegetables, clean it off, slice your finished meat, clean it off, It really is that simple and these also simply look great in your kitchen. However, if I am going to make you up your game with your cooler, I'm gonna do it here too. So instead of just your average butcher block cutting board, why not go try Concave Cutting Boards who are bringing their unique twist to the game. Concave boards are, well, concave. Designed to compliment the curve of your cutlery and also help keep your meats juices in one place.

Concave Cutting Board

3) Knives

So we all use knives, right? Some of you, you have bought good knives, and you know who you are. If not, it is time. Sure you can keep taking the knives out of the drawer from a set you got as a wedding gift 20 years ago...sure it cuts, it does what a knife does. Until that is, you actually use a real knife. Plus, everyone notices a sexy knife in a picture of amazing BBQ. So these little guys can come with a hefty price tag...so rather than a set of 20 where you actually only use a couple, let's start off with this perfectly sized BBQ set from Shun Cutlery. I know they look absolutely beautiful in the pictures, but wait until you cut with them...it changes you.

Shun Cutlery Kanso BBQ Set

2) Meat

This is kinda my equivalent to giving the gift of a nice dinner out. Yes, you can give a gift certificate to some restaurant you like just like every other gift. Here is the deal we like to BBQ, we like to cook so instead of spending the night at some restaurant, how about spending the cooking an amazing meal which will taste better and be more enjoyable? Okay, okay I know meat isn't exactly the best thing to wrap under a tree, especially if you have pets. So how about a gift certificate? How about a gift certificate from a place which is only going to sell you the best meat possible? Seriously, we cook all the time and we love high-quality meat which we don't always buy on our own. 

Snake River Farms Meat

1) A New Cooker!

You have all seen the commercials that are on TV this time of the year. You know where the guy with a classy sweater wakes up to find his wife has bought him that new Lexus he was dreaming about....and there it is in the driveway with a massive bow on it! But then there is the rest of us...As much as I could dream about it there is not gonna be a new Lexus in my driveway...and if there was I couldn't afford it. But stay with me. How about giving a gift with the same pop, the same massive reveal. The same lifetime of thankfulness. Get a new cooker, set it up and put a bow on it!

But seriously friends...no matter how you do it, the number one gift on the list really is official MMB apparel! What a better way to decorate that new cooker for the big reveals then with MMB gear? Can't swing buying a new cooker this year? No big deal he will love his MMB hoodie almost as much!

Man Meat BBQ Apparel

 

Until next post, remember kids.....CHUNKS not chips!