Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Smoked Bacon Dipped in Dark Chocolate

Every year in my family we try to make treats for friends and family.  This year we are still making cookies but we are also doing something a little different.


Yes, I said that!  And for you naysayers don't knock until you have tried it.  It is quite good!
So for my first batch (test run) I took thick cut apple smoked bacon, smoked it on the pit at 350 for 25 minutes (next time I will smoke it at 325 for 25 minutes - little less dry crisp).
I brought the bacon in and let it cool and patted off the grease.  Want to make sure you do this otherwise the grease will cause problems with the chocolate sticking.

While the bacon cooled I tempered/melted my chocolate.
This was done by bringing a pot of water to a boil, then reducing it to a slight simmer.  Don't want to steam or boil your chocolate.  Just need a little bit of heat to melt it.  Also, avoid getting moisture in the chocolate as that will cause it to seize up.  For this reason I use a bowl (aluminum or glass) that is much larger than the pot I use for boiling the water.  I rest the bowl on the pot and have about 2" inches of clearance between the water and the bottom of the boil. 

Put the bowl with chocolate in it over the simmering pot of water, use a plastic spatula (wooden or bamboo may cause the chocolate to seize) to stir, and after about 3 to 5 minutes you should have some shinny, smooth chocolate ready for coating the bacon. 
Next batch I will be adding some bitter sweet bakers chocolate to the mix to help tone down the sweetness of the Hershey's Dark Chocolate.

Next dip the bacon and set on a rack to cool.  Next time I will still use a cooling rack however I will put parchment paper down to help keep the bacon from sticking. (somehow I managed to NOT take a picture of the bacon cooling after being covered in chocolate).  While the chocolate covered bacon is cooling, I lightly sprinkled with course ground sea salt the placed in the freezer for about 10 minutes.

Pulled them out of the freezer and dipped a 2nd time in the chocolate then put them back in the freezer for about 20 more minutes.

Learned a few things from this first test run...
  • Less cook time on the bacon, thicker slice too
  • Add Bitter Sweet Bakers Chocolate to the Hershey's Dark Chocolate to tone down the sweetness
  • Use parchment paper to keep bacon from sticking to cooling rack after being covered in chocolate
  • A little salt goes a very very long way!
 Over all though, I really enjoyed the bacon and will definitely be doing it again!

Hmmm Chicken (Chicken Leg Quarters)

So I was working more on my chicken this weekend. Been trying to get it to that next level.

Used two different rubs... my go to homemade rub and another rub that I got hooked up with from the BBQ Brethren Bash I went to. I forgot to write the name of it down but I'll edit this later with it. Isn't a fancy rub but its got a good solid flavor profile.

For this cook, I brought the pit up to 350... while it was warming up ... I lightly oiled each leg quarter with EVOO, then dusted them with the BBQ Brethren Bash rub and then sprinkled with mine. Went outside ... temp was good.

At 55 minutes in I cranked the temp up to 425 and dunked each leg quarter in my home made BBQ that I spiced up with some mango/habanero.

I then proceeded to baste them every 10 minutes for 30 minutes...

Pulled and rested them for about 15 minutes...

Loved the skin - was bite throw, had a bit of a caramelization / crunch to it. The heat was subtle and came on the 3rd of 4th bite in. Had a few people try it and they loved it. Said it was my best chicken ever!

"Bite-through skin, tender, juicy, just the right amount of heat and sweet.... Very, very good!"
Will be doing this again to make sure I can replicate! Loved it! My wife killed it too! I thought I'd have some left overs for today - but NOPE! :(

Friday, November 21, 2014

Let's Talk Turkey

Smoked turkey is GOOD!  It has become a tradition in my family to smoke a turkey during Thanksgiving the past couple years.  It frees up the oven for other dishes and let’s face it, smoked turkey rocks!  FYI we do smoked turkey a couple times a year so don’t be afraid to pick up a few extra the day after Thanksgiving when they go on sale, usually around $.50 a pound.  Throw them in the deep freeze and they’ll keep for about a year.  I always get a few and either practice new techniques or bust them out during the year for special occasions. 

If you don’t want a frozen turkey, you can get them fresh from a few stores but you will pay extra.  Remember too that you will need to keep them under 40 degrees Fahrenheit before cooking to keep them from spoiling. 

Speaking of spoilage, let us discuss FOOD SAFETY!  I read about salmonella and food poisoning a lot when dealing with poultry.  It is important that you are aware of storage temps, thawing temps, brining temps, and cooking temps.  
  • 12-14 pound turkeys – these are what I cook.  I don’t mess with small birds as I prefer leftovers and they fit in the food grade buckets better. 

  • Large turkeys 16lbs and larger require more cook time and stay in the danger zone longer, between 40 and 160 degrees.  This allows for a higher risk or chance that bacteria will develop.
  • No Stuffing goes inside a smoked bird.  Stuffing slows down the cooking process on a smoker and can again cause a higher change of bacteria.  We do our stuffing in the oven.
  • After handling poultry, always wash your hands.

Thawing a Turkey
There are typically three methods used for thawing a turkey; thawing in the fridge, thawing submerged in cold water, or thawing in the microwave.  I have used both of the first two methods but I refused to use a microwave to thaw my birds.  

  • Fridge Thawing (to me, this is the easiest and safest method)
    • General Rule - allow 24 hours per 5 pounds of meat.  So if you have a 14 pound bird it will take roughly 72 hours to thaw.  I like to build in a safety net and give it an extra 12 hours of thaw time.
  •  Cold Water Thawing
    • General Rule - allow 30 to 45 minutes per pound.  If you have a 14 pound bird, it will take around 10 hours to thaw (past experience confirms).
    • You will need to change out the water every 30 to 45 minutes to help ensure that the temp stays under 40 degrees (food safety, we want to be fat and happy, not sick and dying).
  • Microwave Thawing (this is not an option and never will be in my home)
    • Look up and follow the directions listed by the manufacturer of your Microwave.
    • Once you nuke a bird it has be cooked, it cannot be refrozen. 
What will you need?
I’ve used this technique and recipe on 40 or so Turkeys now and it is pretty much my go to … I have used others techniques and recipes but this one I like best.  Doesn’t mean I won’t find something better, but at this point, this is what I like.

·         1 Turkey (12-14lbs)
·         1 Gallon of Water
·         1 Cup Salt (Morton’s Table Salt or Kosher; either is fine)
·         ½ Cup sugar (I use organic ground brown sugar)
·         2 TBSP whole peppercorns
·         2 TBSP Honey
·         1 Cup EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
·         1 Cup favorite Rub (aka seasoning)
·         1 Large Brining Bag
·         1 Five (5) Gallon Food Grade Brining Bucket

How to Smoke a Turkey (Gerry Style)
  1. Thaw and clean the turkey – rinse the turkey inside and out with cold water, remove the giblets/packets from the cavity of the turkey.  My wife is from the Philippines and loves cooking these up, so I take them out and hand them off to her.  I also remove the pop-up thermometer that comes in most turkeys.  You don’t have to, I just don’t like them and I find them to be more of a nuisance than a help.  
  2. Make your brine:  in a large pot combine ½ gallon of water, salt, sugar, peppercorns, and honey over medium heat.  Once it begins to simmer turn off the stove, boiling causes the honey to break down, plus we need to cool the brine to under 40 degrees Fahrenheit before using.  Allow the ingredients to thoroughly mix and the salt and sugar to dissolve.  Add the remaining ½ gallon of water and a couple trays of ice.  Place brine in fridge until cooled.  Because I brine I do not inject.  I usually make my brine the night before and refrigerate it to ensure that the brine is cool before adding the bird.
    1. I’ve done injection but prefer brining.  Sure there is more time involved but I prefer it.  If you don’t want to brine I would highly recommend injecting the bird.  This will only take about 30 minutes. 
    2. Over medium heat, combine 1 stick of butter, 1/8 cup of your favorite seasoning/rub, a 32oz box of chicken broth, and a dash of salt.  Bring to a boil, remove from heat, and allow the injection to cool.  Strain injection to remove large sediments so you avoid clogging the injector.  
    3. Inject the turkey breasts, then the thighs and legs.  
    4. Once injected move to step 6
  3. Line the inside of a 5 gallon food grade bucket with the bringing bag (I use bags from and fill with the cooled brining liquid.  
  4. Submerge the turkey in the liquid, and close the bag.  Get as much air out of the bag as possible.  You can take some heavy bricks wrapped in foil and in Ziploc bags or a heavy pot and set it on top to help keep the turkey from floating if you would like.  The turkey needs to remain under 40 degrees during the bringing process so either store in the fridge OR fill the bucket with ice.  You will need to constantly check the ice and change it out as needed.  I have a fridge outside with a shelf removed so I can fit my turkey in there.  Some people use their vegetable crisping drawer for bringing so they don’t have to worry about space.  You can also use an ice chest – it will keep ice longer.**Little Side Note:  I prefer to brine all natural and non-enhanced turkeys.  This means they haven't been injected with a 8% or 12% solution.  Natural allows for the turkey to take the brine better. 
  5.  I brine my turkeys (12-14lbs) for around 16 hours.  I will typically put my turkey in the brine early Wednesday morning and then take it out of the brine Wednesday night before bed.  Once out of the brine, I thoroughly rinse the turkey inside and out, pat the skin dry with a paper towel, then set it on a cooling rack (this allows all of the skin to dry) and put it in the fridge overnight.  After brining for that long, the bird needs time to recover, more specifically the skin.  The fridge will dry the skin out, allowing it to tighten back up resulting in a better finish and texture to the skin.  IE more crisp skin.  If you skip the drying out / recovery phase, the skin will have more of a rubbery consistency.  No Bueno in my book.
  6. Bring the pit up to temp.  I usually cook my birds at around 350 degrees.  Turkey and chicken for the matter, in my opinion, don’t need a heavy dose of smoke and fair better at a high temp for a faster cook.  Or in the words of most of the BBQ peeps out there, Hot & Fast.   I’m not saying that a cook at 225-250 is bad, it typically yields a great bird, but for me I like high temp on the bird, shorter cook time, and usually because of the higher temp a crispier skin.  I will use a drip pan and a turkey rack inside the smoker.  The rack elevates the turkey to allow it to receive smoke all the around and the drip pan catches those yummy drippings to accentuate our wonder gravy!   That said I found that I do need to go out at about 2 hours and use my suction tube baster to suck up the juices so they don’t burn off.
  7. About 20 to 30 minutes before my pit is going to reach cooking temp (depending temp outside and your pit this can take as little as 30 minutes to as long as a couple hours…) I will pull my turkey out of the fridge and do the last bit of prep.  I will lightly rub it down with EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) then sprinkle with the rub of my choosing.  This year it’s a simple rub; kosher salt, fresh ground peppercorns, garlic powder, onion powder, dash of paprika, and maybe a little spice.  I won’t rub olive oil on the inside cavity but will put rub inside.  Again NO STUFFING goes in a turkey that you are smoking – the risk of bacteria is too high in my book.
  8. You will smoke the turkey until the thigh reaching a temp of 160 to 165.  At 350 this is around 3 to 3 ½ hours.  If cooking low and slow at 250 its closer to 6 hours.  This time line is again for 12-14lb birds.  Thighs will take longer to cook than the breast meat so at around 2 ¾ hours I put a piece of aluminum foil across the top of the turkey to help prevent the breast from drying out.   I know some who baste their birds during the cook, I do not.  Tried it a couple times and just didn’t notice enough of a difference, especially since I brine my birds.
  9. Pull it from the pit and allow it to rest for 30 minutes before carving it up.  This lets it cool off a little and allows for the juices to redistribute evenly.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Brisket Pizza

So with all my cooking and experimenting lately, we've had a lot of extra meat getting vacuum sealed and tossed in the freezer. Solution presented itself when I purchased an Italian cookbook for my wife called Extra Virgin... she decided she wanted some pizza but BBQ too... as, a, result we had Brisket Pizza.

Learned I need to get a couple pizza stones for my pit but we improvised...

Almond flour pizza dough ... proofed for 3 hours and then hand tossed and stretch thin. Rubbed the bottom down with EVO.

Applied homemade tomato sauce (tomatoes from our garden), fresh shredded mozzarella cheese, shredded sharp cheddar cheese, purple onions, garlic, olives, and smoked brisket. We wanted to add some basil but we were out.

Next time we're going to add some mushrooms and some avocado.

Heated the pit to 450ish ... pizza cooked for 25 to 30 minutes.

As always, thank you again for taking the time to check out my posts.

Surgery for the 4th

So as it turns out the pain in my back that I have been experiencing for that past several months was my gallbladder ... good news is the pain is now gone, bad news is that they took the gallbladder out on the 3rd of July. Bad because I had already committed to doing some briskets for my buddy's family reunion ... somewhere between 25 and 30 people.

I cowboy'd up and enlisted the aid of mentioned buddy. I supervised and he did the manual labor. There were moments where I had to step in and make some fixes to the trim or the making of the sauces/rubs. But over all, he did pretty good.

This was the fun ... I have yellow socks that match the pillow so my wife said I just need some blue overalls and I can be a Minion for Halloween.

Got home that evening and my buddy came over and did the prep work - opened the cryo, rinsed the meat, did some trimming, and then a simple injection ... (1/4 Worcestershire and 3/4 beef broth). Rested them in the fridge, covered, over night. 3:45am I got my 14 year old nephew, who is staying with me, to pause his Xbox game (he staid up all night) to pull the brisket out of the fridge and set on the counter for me. I am not allowed to lift more than 10 to 15 lbs.

Got them uncovered, drained, then wiped down with L&P Worcestershire (gluten free) and rub.
At this point, I paused to take some of my wonderful pain meds... then returned to reality.

By this time, the pit was sitting around 225 (I used my Traeger along with a Pellet Tube Smoker for added smoke), again got my nephew to help load the meat. I also use a small water pan that had to be filled up several times throughout the cook.
At 2 hours in I mop the briskets with my injection mix, plus 2 tbsp of my rub.
Closed it back up and then at 4 and 1/2 hours, pulled the meat for wrapping.

 I love that I am now getting a consistent color every time ... whether it be on the Traeger or my stick burner... these are the two briskets getting my mob and butter treatment for wrapping.  I don't wrap much any more but since I was not as active at watching the meat due to the surgery, I decided to wrap this cook.
Turned the temp up on the pit to around 275... took another 3+ hours to bring the briskets to an internal temp of 198.

When they probed 198, I brought them in, unwrapped them, drained the yummy juice off and saved it for use later. I let the briskets rest unwrapped for about 15 minutes, then I wrapped them in two layers of heavy foil and then put them in an Ice Chest wrapped in towels, where they would rest for 2 to 3 hours.

I am again loving the color ...

As they sliced and chopped the brisket at my buddies house, I unfortunately do not have any more photos. HOWEVER, my wife surprised me and while I was resting she made Filipino BBQ Pork on a Stick, and made fresh juice (strawberries, apples, and carrots). Gotta love my wife!!!

 As always, thanks for reading my posts ... I enjoy sharing, as I am sure y'all can tell.

Apple Wood Huli Huli & Inject Corn

OK so having never made Huli Huli before and after seeing the Wolfe Pits video on it, decided I was going to give it a try. Was very happy with the way it turned out.

Brined the chicken for about 4 hours (while we were at church), came back took it out of the brine, dried it with paper towels, then let sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes while I brought the pit up to 350. Also made the Huli Huli sauce (didn't have light soy sauce so I used a little less than what his recipe called for and I actually added a little bit of honey to the mix just cause).

Rubbed the chicken and then had it on the pit for 45 minutes, flipping the chicken every 5 minutes. At 45 minutes I added the Huli Huli sauce, cooked for 10 minutes, flipped, Huli Huli'd the other side, cooked 10 more minutes, removed from heat, rested for 20 minutes, and served. Pulled chicken when it hit 170 internal.

For the corn I melted some butter, clarified it, added in some sea salt and granulated garlic. After that I loaded up my injector and injected the liquid goodness from each end of the unhusked cob under the husk but not into the corn itself. The corn spent about 40 minutes on the grill. Pulled it off, cut off the end, squeezed and the corn came right out. Brushed it lightly with a little more of the liquid goodness, sliced up some chicken, and sliced up some pineapple. Great dinner. Will be making it again. Maybe a smidge less cayenne and little less salt next time, but definitely on my go to list.

Chicken was spicy sweet and super moist. Corn crunchy and fresh. Was a good cook.

Huli Huli Chicken Brine
    1 Cup - Kosher Salt
    1/2 Cup - White Sugar
    2-3 - Bay Leaves
    2 tsp - Granulated Garlic
    6 Cups - Ice
    4 Cups - Cold Water
    1 Cup - Hot Water
    5 to 6 pound - Whole Chicken (split in half) see video.
    - Combine hot water, bay leaves, kosher salt, sugar, and garlic - mix until combined and disolved.  Add cold water, ice, and chicken.  Make sure chicken is completely covered by brine, the refridgerate for 4 to 12 hours, or over night.

Dry Rub

    2 TBS - Granulated Garlic
    2 TBS - Kosher Salt
    1 TBS - Paprika
    2 TSP - Cayenne
    1 TBS - Granulated Onion
    1 TBS - Black Pepper
    1 TSP - Cumin
    - Mix all ingredients

Huli Huli Sauce
    1 Cup - Pineapple Juice
    1/2 Cup - Ketchup (cory syrup free is what we use)
    1/2 Cup - Lite Soy Sauce (tried with dark and with lite - GET THE LITE!)
    3 TBS - Apple Cider Vinegar
    1/2 Cup - Light Brown Sugar
    1 TBS - Fresh Minced Garlic
    - Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan over medium heat, bring to slight boil, reduce heat, and simmer for approximately 10 to 15 minutes.