Weber’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.
About 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.
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.
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)
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.
You 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.
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.
The #1 tip for cooking meat is to let it rest after you’re done cooking it. The #2 tip for cooking meat is to let it come up to room temperature before you start cooking it.
The reason is that when you pull a steak out of the fridge, it’ll be cold on the outside and on the inside. When you put it on the grill or in the pan, the outside will get cooked faster than the inside. This will result in a piece of meat that’s charred on the outside before it’s even cooked on the inside. It’s a recipe for absolute disaster and something you should avoid at all costs.
The key is to let the meat stand at room temperature before you start cooking it. Let the temperature come up just enough so that you aren’t dealing with a mess later on. Don’t leave it out for too long as bacteria finds meat to be a very pleasing home.
It seems like grill technology hasn’t changed that much in the last ten years… until you start looking at the new stuff companies like Weber is putting out. I just received a little catalog of their new line of products and the grills they’re producing look absolutely amazing. While I haven’t purchased a grill in quite some time, we’ve been looking to move to a home with a larger backyard space and something like the Weber Summit Grill, with its social area add-ons is something I might have to consider.
The core technology of the grill itself is the same as you’d expect from Weber but now you get the whole L shape without the need to build up an expensive (and immovable) grilling area. Here’s what they say about it:
Weber’s most impressive new offering is the Weber Summit Grill Center with Social Area. This stainless steel “L” shaped outdoor grill is a high-end, yet affordable alternative to an outdoor kitchen that typically ranges in price from $20,000 to $50,000. In contrast, the Weber Summit Grill Center with Social Area sells for $4,499 (MSRP). Measuring a total of 57.1″H x 112.375″W x 75.5″D with the lid open, this grill is a less-than-one-day assembly without the need of a building permit, masonry contractor, plumber or electrician. The Weber Summit Grill Center with Social Area is built upon the company’s top-of-the-line, luxury Summit® 670™ grill platform—with the addition of matching, enclosed left and right cabinetry (with adjustable stainless steel shelves inside) plus a right-return Social Area. The entire unit has adjustable legs for leveling on uneven ground, and it can be disassembled to move elsewhere.
The left-hand cabinets enclose Weber’s Tuck-Away™ rotisserie system plus a paper towel holder. The right-hand enclosure has a new, Weber dual-ring side burner that better controls heat and enables a wider variety of outdoor cooking methods in one product: Grillers can use the small ring for small sauce pans or both rings in tandem for large pots or the new Weber Wok. Also, the right-hand enclosure’s corner features both trash and ice bins, so guests don’t have to leave the party to go inside the house.
The Social Area portion has even more enclosed cabinetry with the added feature of an extra large stainless steel serving area. A condiment rail along the area’s back helps minimize clutter.
The Weber Summit Grill Center with Social Area is available at specialty retailers and comes in either Stainless Steel or Black, liquid propane (LP) or natural gas.
At $4500 and boasting a single day construction, it’s something that’s affordable if you’re looking for an option like this.
Smoking turkey is something that I’ve always wanted to try but never had the guts to do. It’s hard to change your annual Thanksgiving traditions when you have family coming in. It’s a lot to have on the line when you’re trying something new, you know?
That said, as I write this in the chill of winter in December, smoking a turkey is something I might try in the springtime. Think of it as a trial run, with the smoked turkey perhaps coming in 2011… but no promises!
Smoking turkey isn’t really any different than smoking anything else. You want to run the smoker so it’s around 235 – 250° F. Then, much like an oven, it’ll take 30-40 minutes per pound. Since you’ll be cooking it slower, the biggest risk you have is food contamination. Expert recommend that you stick to a 12-16 pound turkey because that will still take you at least six hours to properly smoke. A 20 pound bird will take 10 hours minimum, do you have ten hours to spend smoking a turkey? You can see why food contamination might be a risk.
Prepping the Chicken: The turkey must be completely thawed, which is important if you purchased a frozen turkey. Remove that plastic pop-up timer thing, you won’t need it. If you’re into brining, soak it in the brine for 24 hours and then throw on your favorite rubs after you’ve pulled it out. Basically anything you’d do with an oven roasted turkey, you will want to do here.
Smoking: Like in the oven, put it breast side up in a pan (for cleaning). Be diligent about temperature control, opting to be at the higher end of the range (rather than the lower end).
Internal Temperature: The key is to cook your turkey to an internal temperature of 165° F. Remember that the bones will heat up faster and that isn’t necessarily an indication that the turkey is done cooking. Also, white meat heats up slower than dark meat so you’ll only need to test the white meat’s temperature (assuming the dark meat is cooked at the same time). Finally, the thinner your meat thermometer, the more accurate the reading.
Wood: You can technically use any wood but experts recommend one from a fruit tree like apple or cherry. I think I’ll be using some of the hickory wood that I have since I enjoy the flavor and think it’ll work well with turkey.
Have you smoked a turkey? How did it turn out? Any tips or tricks?
I read a story on CNN today that discussed biochar stoves, homemade stoves that are fueled by biomass (garden waste like wood shavings). The idea is that it uses pyrolysis, heating of the biomass with little or no oxygen, to create charcoal, which is called biochar. During the heating process, you could use the stove to cook food as you would with a grill. The biochar leftovers could then be used to improve the carbon quality of soil.
As the story states, there are no commercial versions of biochar stoves available but you can try to build your own, as they do in the developed world where recycling garden waste is more out of necessity than a desire to do good by the Earth. If you want to learn more about biochar stoves, I recommend checking out the International Biochar Initiative website.
It’s not every day that you see a mixed drink that involves blended scotch but the folks at The Famous Grouse recently sent along this recipe for a drink that uses their newly released The Black Grouse. It’s called the Black and Blue, cleverly, and was created by Beverage Manager Tinika GReen and bartender Andrew Duncan of the Blue Smoke in New York.
The Black and Blue
2 ounce The Black Grouse Blended Scotch Whisky
½ ounce calvados (apple brandy)
½ ounce amaretto
¼ ounce Hazelnut Liqueur
How does this fit with Grill Maestro? First, I love scotch and second, I love barbecue. The Blue Smoke is a famous barbecue restaurant in NYC and if it’s fit to sit on their menu, it’s certainly worth a try in my own home!
Please enjoy my writings as I embark on a wonderful journey to grow from a grill charring padawan to a grill maestro!
- Review: Weber’s New Real Grilling by Jamie Purviance
- How to Clear a Propane Grill’s Gas Line Clog
- Make Your Own BBQ Sauce
- Hak’s BBQ Sauce: Gordon Ramsay’s Favorite BBQ Sauce
- What To Look For In A Smoker
- Bring Your Meat Up to Room Temperature
- Weber Summit Grill Center with Social Area
- How to Smoke Turkey
- Biochar Stoves – Green Barbecue
- The Black and Blue