Sunday, June 7, 2015

North Texas BBQ Brethren BBQ Bash

Couple times a year, a bunch of people come together in celebration of killer BBQ, great friendships, and good clean fun.  Every one of them enthusiastic about BBQ and passionate without a doubt.  Last weekend they came together, rain didn't stop us.  Of course some got there much earlier than others of us, but none the less "if you hold a BBQ gathering, they will come."

6am Saturday morning they fired up the pits ...
 (Left is a Vault with I believe Gravity fed Coal / Chunk burner and Right is an Off-Set stick burner)

Even added a little protection against the rain ... sorry folks, no blankies here ...

 This is a pellet cooker - small and portable.

After getting brisket and larger pieces of meat on they started cooking Breakfast Fatties and Bacon Candie!  

Bacon Candie in the making:

  Breakfast Fattie (sausage rolled around eggs and potatoes)
This is Peep's Smoked Pepper Beef ... so freaking good ... nam nam nammy!

Dave and Chris both made Ribs ... Felt honored that Dave used my home made BBQ sauce to glaze his ribs:

Chris's Ribs: 

Dave's Ribs:

I did a Brisket and a Lechon Pork Belly (Filipino Style):
That's me in the camo hat cutting up the Brisket & Pork Belly Roll (Jeff, Chris, Russ, Peeps, then Dave - the far back is Peeps wife - guys please correct me if I got the names wrong - we all use "handles" on the forums)
 Russ smoked Tri-Tip smoked to medium rare - juicy and good!!!
Charles made an amazing Brisket... 

Peeps taught Dave the ways of Smoked - yes I said "SMOKED" Pecan Pie - SO GOOD!!!

Tradition dating all the way back to the first BBQ Brethren Bash get together (I believe early 80s) it has been a tradition to take a swig of Cabo ... several did, a handful of us don't drink so we cheered them on in support. 

Was an awesome good time ... usually goes all day and is usually out at a lake where several will camp the night before.  This time it wasn't possible as all the lakes/parks were closed due to heavy flooding... yes the great flood of Dallas that had many looking to build arcs.  Huge shout out to Peeps for letting us crash his place and even bigger shout out to his wife for letting us.

I believe we are going to try and do a mini-bash get together sometime end of summer up near Lake Lavon for those interested. 

I had a blast and love this group of guys!!! Smoke on my brothers, smoke on!

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.