How to Dry Age Beef at Home

Credit: _BuBBy_

Credit: _BuBBy_

Do you know why dry aged beef is so coveted?

The process of aging allows the beef’s natural enzymes to work at breaking down the connective tissue in the meat. The dry part pulls some of the moisture out of the beef so that the flavor is concentrated.

It’s called dry aging because they basically hang the meat in a controlled environment to let it “dry.” Professionals try to keep the temperature of the meat somewhere between freezing and 36 degrees F with a humidity of around 85, so there’s water loss but not too much evaporation.

What about bacteria? Good air flow fixes that.

If you have all that, now you need a pro to keep an eye on it to know when it’s done.

Why is dry aged beef so expensive? It takes a long time, a lot of space, and, with some moisture evaporated away, it’s lighter. That ups the price per pound.

Can you dry age beef at home? Yes and Kenji at Serious Eats has this awesome guide on how to do it. In a play of Devil’s Advocate, he also explains why you can’t do it at home.

Should you? The gist is that if you’re starting with regular steaks, you’re screwed. You have to start with sub-primals, that is cuts of meat with bones and fat caps that you would cut away to reveal the good stuff, to really see a benefit.

It sounds like dry aging beef at home isn’t going to have much of a benefit.

Get Weber’s Time to Grill: Kindle Edition for FREE

Amazon has Weber’s Time to Grill: Get In. Get Out. Get Grilling. on the Kindle for free via Amazon Whispernet.

The book was written last year by Jamie Purviance and as someone who has seen the physical version, I have to say it’s a beautiful book worth getting for any backyard griller. It’s chock full of recipes, pictures, and tips that anyone will be able to take advantage of. The fact that it’s free is an added bonus!

Weber 24th GrillWatch Survey Stats

Weber does an annual GrillWatch Survey and, to be fair, the statistics aren’t exactly mind blowing unless you’re in the grilling industry. The percentage of people who own a grill, how often they use it, and things like that aren’t exciting for a regular Joe Schmoe like me. I’m far more interested in learning more about their books, like the Weber’s New Real Grilling, than the stats of people using it!

That said, there were a few statistics in this recent survey that piqued my interested. For example, tongs are the most popular accessory with 80% of grillers owning one (myself included, in fact I own a few). 40% of grillers own a thermometer (this number should be higher), 41% own mitts/gloves, 18% own a cast iron griddle, and 12% own a rib rack. If you were going to make a shopping list or gift list for your favorite griller, try to add one of those to his or her collection.

What also interested me was that the average griller hosted 8.1% parties but some big entertainers hosted 20+ or more (12%). 20 or more parties a year!? That’s one every other week if you only take the winter months off! That’s dedication.

Hawaiian Kettle Style Chips Review: Mango Habanero Flavor

haw_ket_chips_MangoHabanero_wavesBI was recently sent a package of Mango Habanero Kettle Chips from Hawaiian Snacks and I really wasn’t sure what to expect. A lot of companies promise kick. When they say “habanero,” you usually expect it. But oftentimes those chips are too salty or too “barbecuy” and you lose a lot of spicy flavor because the salt is too overpowering.

Personally, I’m a big fan of kettle chips, I like the crunchiness. I like when they’re hard it and it feels like I’m crunching down on something hearty, not something greasy or overly crispy. These kettle chips did not disappoint on the crunchy aspect but they weren’t super thick, so if you’re a fancy of crunch but not “hard,” these fit the bill.

As for spiciness, it delivered in spades. If you like spicy, without a tremendous amount of salt, then these chips are for you. The sweetness from the mango paired well with the habanero in a way I didn’t expect. As my one friend put it – “They are a roller coaster in your mouth and they’re oddly and unexpectedly addicting. They start out a little sweet but are mostly spicy.” And this was the gem of a quote from him, “I know they hurt me when I eat them but i can’t stop since they are so good.”

The chips don’t hurt from the get go, this was after he pounded about two handfuls of chips in about a minute because he just couldn’t stop eating them… so really, the pain was on him. I enjoyed it at a more manageable pace and didn’t experience any pain at all. :)

How Long Should a Propane Grill Last?

That’s the question I’ve been asking myself lately as my Charbroil TEC grill has stopped lighting. I’ve checked all the usual suspects, from the igniter to the burners to the hoses, but I can’t seem to figure out why I can’t get enough gas pressure to come out. The grill lights a little and then goes out. In my research online, it appears that the main complaint about the Charbroil TEC line was durability and it appears as though mine has reached its last legs.

My struggle now is that I can’t figure out what’s wrong and I’m not sure I want to invest money into a six year old grill. It certainly needs new burners, probably could do with a few other replacements, and if I bring out a guy just to try to troubleshoot what’s currently wrong… I’m talking $100 right off the bat. Before we’re done, we could be a few hundred bucks in just to revive a grill that’s six years old. Especially one with a history of weaker materials (according to others).

Personally, I felt like I got a lot of her and I’m sad to see her go. The TEC plate section was the first to go, a few years ago, as corrosion took over and I, given two other burners, skipped replacing it. The TEC thing felt like a fad (it was, that line was discontinued though TEC lives on as its own brand) and I liked the other two burners anyway.

So for us, it appears that six years is the limit. If you get a grill that is sturdier, if you don’t have as many winters as we do (we’ve been clobbered a few times the last six years), and you replace what you need to replace, a decade isn’t unreasonable. Six years is decent though.

Review: Weber’s New Real Grilling by Jamie Purviance

Weber's New Real GrillingWeber’s New Real Grilling by Jamie Purviance, billed as “the ultimate cookbook for every backyard griller,” is a gorgeous book. At over three hundred pages chock full of beautiful full page pictures and detailed instructions, this tome is one that should be in the library of anyone who owns a grill in their backyard or on their patio.

Jamie Purviance graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and Stanford University and has written all of Weber’s cookbooks. Weber’s Way to Grill was a James Beard Award nominee and both it and Weber’s Smoke are NYT best sellers.

What I enjoy the most out of the book is the fact that it’s not just a book of recipes. Think about every barbecue or cookout you’ve ever been to – chances are the menu is the same. You have burgers, hot dogs, kabobs, or some other meat sizzling on the grill and everything else is prepared inside. You combine a piece of meat with a couple pieces of bread, eat some delicious vegetable or starchy sides, and that’s it.

How often have you gone to a place where you enjoyed a hickory-smoked beer can chicken? An entire chicken roasted on a grill? Probably not. (that recipe is on page 208). How often have you had seafood prepared on the grill? Seafood section starts on page 214 and goes through everything from scallops to shrimp to arctic char and whole fish.

Enough with the recipes, I said it was more than just a book of recipes, right? The value in this book is in the instruction. There are “skills” section that teach you how to sharpen a knife, what tools you’ll need, what spices you’ll want to stock in your pantry, and all those “basics” that a novice will need. It also goes into cooking instructions, which is invaluable if you’ve never grilled a particular product on the grill and don’t want to tragically mess up the first time (any experimenter will know you never get it right, we just try to avoid the tragedies!).

So I flipped to grilling seafood, something I’ve never done, and there are instructions on how long to cook a particular item and how. For example, mussels need about 5-6 minutes on direct high heat for every 1-2 ounces. Oysters weighing 3-4 ounces need 5-7 minutes on direct high heat. Whole fish, on the other hand, need indirect heat and 15-20 minutes if it’s a single pound. Up it to 2-2.5 pounds and you’ll want 20-30 minutes. As is the case with anything on the grill, these are just guidelines but it’s good to know what time range to be in.

One word of warning, don’t look at this book when you’re hungry. :)

How to Clear a Propane Grill’s Gas Line Clog

Burgers & Dogs on the GrillAbout a week ago, during the first warm day of the year, I thought it would be fun to fire up the propane grill and grill up some hamburgers and hot dogs. There’s nothing better than the smell of grilling meats, especially if you can sit outside and enjoy it at the same time! Sadly, as I fired up the grill, it wouldn’t light. The lighter was clicking, I could see the electrical arc, but there was no propane coming out. I couldn’t smell it, I couldn’t hear it. The propane tank was about halfway full, so that wasn’t the answer, it must be some kind of clog.

A clog can happen for a variety of reasons. Maybe there’s some rust that fell in or perhaps a bug decided to make it home (and never made it out), but clearing a clog isn’t difficult. It just takes a little bit of time. Here’s what you do to clear out a clog.

Disconnect the Propane Tank

Before you ever do any maintenance on your grill, disconnect the tank. When you do so, check that everything checks out on the tank itself. There are new QCC tanks (Quick, Closing, Coupling) that use special valves that are designed to shut off if there’s too much gas being released. If you think the regulator is shutting off the gas, connect the tank and only turn it up halfway. Then try lighting it. If that doesn’t work, disconnect because you probably have a clog.

Check Connection

This is the part of the grill that connects to the tank itself, check to see nothing has gotten in there. This is the easiest to check and clean.

Check Valves & Tubes

Here’s where it gets tricky, these are the tubes and valves the gas flows through to get to the burners themselves. You have to use thin wire to remove anything that has gotten inside. If you can get the propane to light but not stay lit, check the Venturi tubes (these connect the control valves and the burners.

Check Burners

This is the last one to check and lots of little critters and burnt food tends to fall into these areas and can block the flow of gas.

That’s it! It’s pretty easy to check all of these things. Consult your manual so you know where to look and where to put things back if you have to disconnect or remove them. :)

(Photo Credit: R Barnes Photography)

Make Your Own BBQ Sauce

One thing I’ve learned after using a lot of barbecue sauces is that a lot of them contain high fructose corn syrup. Take almost any commercial brand and chances are the first or second ingredient on the list will be high fructose corn syrup. I don’t have a strong dislike of the stuff but after trying some of these basic recipes, you can almost immediately tell the difference. If you don’t want to try your hand at homemade, try picking up a bottle that uses molasses instead of the syrup. You’ll tell an immediate difference.

I have yet to try this recipe myself but Serious Eats has a basic barbecue sauce that they use as a base, take 15 minutes, and consists of stuff you already have in your cupboard (and it uses molasses!):

  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of your favorite barbecue rub
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Then combine all into a saucepan and slowly bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then simmer for 10-15 minutes to reduce it down to a darker, thicker sauce.

I might have to give this a try. :)

Hak’s BBQ Sauce: Gordon Ramsay’s Favorite BBQ Sauce

Haks BBQ SauceYou knew it was going to happen sooner or later: gourmet BBQ sauce. Sure there’ve been plenty of “high-end” sauces on the market, some backed by master chefs, but that’s always been a bit of a gimmick, kind of like gourmet soda. The division has often been between mass-produced and independent sauce makers when deciding which brands carry the best flavors for your bucks. Similar to the way brew is compared, it’s usually about the in-house industrial techniques that separate good from bad flavor. But now, the trend is that BBQ sauce is more like a bottle of wine: it should be approached with the body at the forefront of focus – something with a life of its own.

Master chef Sharone Hakman, an East Los Angeles native with Israeli ancestry who’s gone on to cook for the Hollywood elite, is no stranger to having to please everybody at once. Hakman’s BBQ sauce, which runs $11.00 for 12 ounces online with shipping included, is meant to please the palate of the people, while designed with the care of a culinary guru. Hak’s Chipotle Bourbon BBQ Sauce is not just a bottle with his name on it – Hakman made it his mission to personally create a crowd pleasing sauce that wasn’t going to fall flat on flavor or cost a fortune. He ended up creating a flavor that celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay called “The most delicious BBQ sauce ever made.”

The sauce has an initial sweet and tangy taste telling of the caramelized onions and fresh garlic that make up phase one of the flavor. It’s quickly followed up by a little blast of bourbon (this really makes the sauce shine and separates it from the pack), heated and seasoned to perfection by the delayed release of flavor from the smoked and roasted chillies. It’s what you’d certainly expect and hope for from a chef who specializes in taking the complex sensations of south of the boarder and combining them with the fusion cuisine of Israeli cooking. While your usual BBQ sauce makers who take pride in their work tend to produce flavors that seem tempered with time and tradition, Hakman’s comes off as fresh, bold, and a little revolutionary.

Three bottles bought online will run you about $30.00 with shipping included. Here’s to Hak’s BBQ Sauce making its way to your local shelves at some point, or else the cost will remain too high for most consumers. But that’s a given when a sauce is just starting out. Judging from the flavors it possesses and the versatility it has between steaks, ribs, and even pulled pork, it’s probably a safe bet it’ll catch on. In the meantime it’s certainly worth the price for both the experiment and the sensations. You won’t be disappointed in anything but the bottle running out too soon.

What To Look For In A Smoker

When you’re buying a smoker the first thing you need to know is that a smoker is most defiantly not a grill. The process is totally different. The low and slow cooking is what sets it a part from the two approaches. The best smokers are able to maintain a median temperature between 180 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the optimum temp for most foods that are smoked. This is a process that insists upon patients and good design but beyond it’s slow process, many people don’t know what to look for in a smoker. Here are some basics that any novice to food smoking should know when shopping around.

• Built-in versus Exterior Thermometers:
Most build-in thermometers for smokers are much less effective than exterior, or individual thermometers. This is because the built-in model just takes the temperature inside the smoker. Doing this can often result in poor results and often cause you to overcook your food. Using a high-quality thermometer is best so you can know the internal degree of all of your food inside the smoker so you can cook your food for the optimum time.

• You Might Not Need To Buy a Smoker:
Smokers are expensive but some argue that it adds an entirely different dynamic to cooking but you might not need to buy a new item. Some experts say that by merely placing wood chips on top of the hot coals in your charcoal grill will give you the same results. You can also buy a smoker box for your gas grill. Using this indirect cooking method will allow you to work with what you already have and give your food that wood-filled taste and aroma without the added cost of a smoker.

• Fuel Costs:
Factor in all of the costs when doing this. The cost of chips or pellets can significantly add to the cost of preparing and smoking food. Some fuels cost more than others. Sometimes just buying wood chips or pellets to your current grill can end up being far more cost-effective.

• Realizing the Cost In Time:
When you’re smoking food it’s important to be patient because the process is quite time consuming. For example, smoking a 5-pound chicken can take up nearly four hours. This all depends on the internal temperature and how tender you want the chicken to be. The longer it takes, the more tender your result will be. Consider this before buying one because smoking your food is for those who take pleasure in the process rather than the end result.

• Account For the Safety Conditions:
Smokers are a bit of a fire risk so it’s best not to place your smoker on a wooden deck. If you are, place it on a heatproof surface. Some recommend putting it over a metal tray filled with sand in order to catch any drips or falling debris. You should also get a smoker with a drip pan. This is to also help with the later cleanup as well as any fire hazards that may result from hot liquids interacting with flammable surfaces.

Smoking food isn’t easy but it’s quite rewarding so before you make any purchases, consider these factors. The Internet is also a very helpful tool in this research process. You can find tips and tricks to use your smoker more effectively and also get the less expensive options. Do the research before you buy because you’re likely to save yourself a lot of time and money that would otherwise be devoted to trial-and-error.