How to Keep Your Grill Clean

99% of keeping a grill clean is consistency.

Just scrub it.

Scrub it with a stiff wire brush when it’s still hot and most of your regular grill cleaning is done. (if you forget on the cooldown, scrub it after you’ve turned it on the next time but before you put your food on)

As for gear, all you need to keep your grill clean is a nice stiff wire brush. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of cleaning products on the market but this guy will be your best friend.

From fancy brushes to various wipes, all of which they’ve convinced you that you need, but a stiff wire brush and a habit of keeping your grill clean gets you 99% of the way there.

What about the other 1%?

Once a Month During Grilling Season

About once a month (or more), before I use my propane grill, I give it a more thorough cleaning.

First, remove and scrub the grates that make up the cooking surface. Then, scrub any bits off the flame shields (those long folded metal pieces that cover the burner tubes, they’re sometimes called heat shields too). Next, clean off any gunk and grime from the inside of the main chamber.

The goal here is to get rid of all the crap inside – bits of food you’ve cooked, grease and grime that have accumulated, and otherwise get anything that could potentially catch fire and impart off flavors to your food.

Next, check the grease trap. Empty it and wipe it down. You don’t want that to catch fire!

Finally, give the outside and non-cooking parts of your grill a wipe down (this includes the inside of the hood!). Chances are you have some grease splatter and it’s good just to give it a nice wipe to keep things clean.

It’s part cleanliness and part psychological – a clean grill is nice to look at and nice to use!

What about all those wipes and scrubs and everything?

It’s really up to you.

Some of those products are garbage (i.e. you don’t need it, it’s just marketing) but some do make your life a little bit easier. Outside of a good scrub brush, you don’t need anything you don’t otherwise have in your home for other purposes.

Remember, the key is consistency!

Best Charcoal & Electric BBQ Smoker

I love our smoker. There’s nothing better than pulling off some hickory smoked pork ribs and enjoying them right off the grill.

Sure, I could put a little bbq sauce on it, but when you pull it right off the smoker there’s nothing more magical. The sweet smell that wafts up to your nose, the tenderness of the meat, the juiciness of the meat and the taste of hours of work… can’t beat it.

If you’re thinking about getting one, I’m hoping I can provide a little bit of advice before you spend the cash.

How to Buy A Smoker

The first question you have to ask yourself is how serious are you about smoking meat? Are you thinking you want to enter competitions? If so, you’ll want charcoal and you’ll want something huge because you’ll need to cook a lot of meat and use a lot of wood. I am not on this level so I’ll stop here because I won’t be able to explain what you need and how to evaluate it.

Do you want things easy? Or you enjoy the craft of it and want to tinker and play with it? Then electric or propane.

What if you’re in the middle? You want to make some delicious smoked pork ribs or a nice shoulder or butt for some friends and you enjoy the craft of it all. Then charcoal is the answer.

Why you might want electric. If simplicity is your thing, I recommend an electric smoker. You have the classic arguments between propane and charcoal (what tastes better, smoky flavor, blah blah blah) but when it comes to electric, you can’t get any easier.

One of the benefits of an electric smoker is that it’s so much easier to control the temperature. If you want to do some cold smoking with lower temperatures, like 60 degrees, you can only do it with an electric smoker.

Why you might want charcoal. You like charcoal. You like messing with air vents and fuel to get the right temperature. Set it and forget it seems a little too hands off.

Personally, I don’t think the taste is a huge difference, especially since you’ll be smoking. That said, I’ve never owned an electric. :)

If You Want Electric…

Electric SmokerI have very little experience with electric smokers but this Masterbuilt Electric Smoker has nearly 900 5-star reviews (and almost 300 four-star reviews) on Amazon. It has two and a half cubic feet of space, four smoking racks, a 24-hour timer with auto-shut off. It’s pretty much as simple as they get!

I’m never one to not give you options so the second best selling electric smoker is a Char-Broil 30″ Electric Vertical Smoker. It doesn’t have nearly as many reviews.

If You Want Charcoal…

Weber Smokey MountainWhen it comes to simplicity – you can’t beat Weber’s Smokey Mountain. The original is a 14.5″ Black where the 14.5″ refers to the diameter of the grill, it’s 31.4″ higher. They also have two larger, newer, ones – a 22.5″ wide Smokey Mountain and an 18.5″ wide Smokey Mountain.

If you’re going to buy one of these, consider getting yourself a Rapidfire Chimney Starter to give you a hand in getting the charcoal fire going.

I hope this helps you find the perfect smoker for you!

Review: Weber’s Big Book of Burgers

weber-big-book-burgersWeber’s had a history of producing some beautiful cookbooks, I have a couple on my shelf already, and so I was thrilled to see a copy of their latest creation – Weber’s Big Book of Burgers.

I love a good burger.

If I go to a restaurant and I’m not sure what I’m going to eat, chances are it’ll be a burger.

When it comes to grilling at home, I never got too inventive with my burgers. I mix some spices in with the beef patties (onion powder, garlic powder, some paprika, salt and pepper) but I don’t get too creative with mixing different things in so I was eager to see what kinds of creativity I could steal from this cookbook. :)

I was almost overwhelmed when I opened the book. You have your standard beef burgers, but you also have beef, fish, chicken, and vegetarian burgers. Each one looks absolutely delicious and there’s a litany of different sauces, salsas, and toppings go with each.

In addition to the recipes themselves, you have “guides” – or little sections that explain what might work well with what. I really like sections like this because it gives you an education. It teaches you about flavors and what works well together so you can come up with your creations. The best one has to be the explanation of cheeses. They explain the pros, cons, and the best uses for each.

For example, here is the listing for Brie, a cheese you don’t normally associate with burgers:
brie-cheese

The book might be titled big book of burgers, but it has sections for all sorts of delicious grillables like hot dogs, sausages, quesadillas, kabobs/skewers, brats, tacos, etc.

Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, it has sides. We’re talking sides that you might grill, like potatoes, but also slaws and salads that simply pair well with burgers.

Finally… as if that’s not enough, you have a drinks section. :)

Whew!

Who is Jamie Purviance? He’s a very accomplished chef and author, having studied at Stanford University and the Culinary Institute of America. Purviance is the the author of several cookbooks including several Weber books, including Real Grilling and Art of the Grill, as well as co-author of Big Book of Grilling with Sandra S. McRae.

Definitely worth checking out if you’re in need of a grilling cookbook.

Best Tailgating Grills

Credit: seantoyer

Credit: seantoyer

Ahhh tailgating, is there nothing better than firing up a hot grill to use in a parking lot so you can grill up some burgers or brauts?

No.

I love a good tailgate, sometimes more than the game itself, and one of the best parts about tailgating is the food. I love the smell of BBQ, the sizzle of meat on the grill, and when you’re tailgating, you can’t bring your regular grill. It’s just too big.

I’ve seen some set ups where they wheel a huge grill in or they strap it to their truck. It’s not bad but often messy. I’m dedicated but I don’t own a truck and, honestly, my grill has been too well loved and used to make the trip.

What’s the best next thing? Getting a tabletop grill.

For these types of grills, you have two options – charcoal or butane/propane.

Weber Smokey Joe Grill – Charcoal

If you’re going to buy a charcoal grill, there’s no reason to buy anything other than a Weber. The Smokey Joe is a small grill with a 14.5″ diameter grilling surface and it’s as simple as it gets.

For around thirty bucks, you have your grill. It’s portable, no moving parts, and it will last forever.

The only downside with charcoal is that it’s not as easy to start up. You’ll need to bring a bag of charcoal briquettes, lighter fluid (if necessary), and a lighter.

Cuisinart Portable Tabletop Propane Gas Grill

If you prefer propane or butane, Amazon’s best selling camp stove is the Cuisinart All-Foods 12,000-BTU Portable Outdoor Tabletop Propane Gas Grill. The grilling surface is enormous, porcelain enamel coated cast iron for durability, and it runs off propane with an easy one-handed starter. It also puts out 12,000 BTUs, which is more than enough to cook anything you’ll want at the tailgate.

All you need to bring is a 16.4 bottle of liquid propane and you’re ready to go (you can get an adapter hose to use a larger 20 lb. propane tank if you want to).

Cuisinart Petit Gourmet Portable Gas Grill

If you don’t want something as powerful as the 12,000 BTU, Cuisinart also makes a smaller 5,500 BTU tabletop grill that is still popular on Amazon. The Cuisinart Petit Gourmet Portable Gas Grill has a 145 square inch grilling area, so not as large, but good enough if you want portability and a cheaper price.

As for fuel type… I’ll leave the debate of charcoal vs. propane/butane up to you, personally I like to use whatever is easiest for me to control (especially with little kids around). It’s just faster to use propane and you don’t need to mess around with a ton of smoke and lighter fuel.

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. :)