Sunday, January 22, 2017

Tallow Seared and Fire Braised Chuck Roast

This post is sponsored by Certified Angus Beef and one of the great things about having them on board is that their sponsorship affords us the opportunity to cook at community service events like Laundry Love in Knoxville this past week.

What Is Laundry Love?

One of the stigmas of poverty is dirty, disheveled clothes.  Laundry Love helps out people who are struggling financially by hosting a free laundry event each month.  In Knoxville, Laundry Love takes over the Super Wash House and gives the quarters, supplies, and assistance to wash up to 3 loads of laundry.  Meanwhile, a meal is served and we spend a few hours just being neighbors, socializing while the laundry spins.  So it's more than just clean clothes...it is treating people, like people and not labels (i.e. "the homeless", "low income households").  

Serving the meal is where Nibble Me This comes in every few months. We use our C.A.B. sponsorship funds to buy the supplies and cook for 100 people.  In the warmer months, we do BBQ but for this January event we were thinking comfort foods, like luscious, slow cooked beef.  Our menu for this event was centered around this chuck roast recipe.

Certified Angus Beef chuck roast recipe for the dutch oven, crock pot, or slow cooker.


When most people think slow cooking, they think "slow cooker" (aka Crock-Pot™).  But I used the original slow cooker - a Dutch oven.  We sear the chuck roast in tallow and then braise it for hours on the grill until the roast is fork tender.

What The Heck Is Tallow and Why Should I Care?

  • Tallow is simply pure beef fat, similar to lard from pork.
  • Tallow is an excellent high temp oil for searing, sauteing, and frying.
  • Tallow has a milder flavor than lard, making it more suitable for cooking IMO, especially beef.
  • Tallow is shelf stable as long as it stored away from light in an air tight container. (We still put it in the fridge, I know it's okay, but.....) 
  • Tallow is a responsible way to use everything from the animal.
  • You can buy tallow from your butcher or even online these days.

How to make beef tallow for searing, frying, and sauteing.


Here's the recipe that we did for the Laundry Love event in Knoxville.

Certified Angus Beef Chuck Roast recipe for the slowcooker or dutch oven.

Tallow Seared and Fire Braised Chuck Roast

Ingredients


  • 3 pound Certified Angus Beef chuck roast
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil or other high temp cooking oil
  • 1/4 cup NMT Beef Rub recipe (see substitution notes below)
  • 3 tablespoons beef tallow (see substitution notes)
  • 1 quart beef stock, divided
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
  • 1 pound baby potatoes
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • 1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter

Instructions

  1. Preheat cast iron Dutch oven over high heat. I do this over direct heat on a kamado grill running at 350°f. 
  2. Pat chuck roast dry, lightly coat with oil, and season on all sides with the NMT Beef Rub.
  3. Put tallow in cast iron and sear the roast on both sides just enough to start building a crust, about 5 minutes per side.
  4. Set up for roasting.  Switch grill to indirect heat and reduce heat to 300°f.. Remove roast from the Dutch oven and deglaze the bottom of the pot by pouring a little of the beef stock and scraping with a wood spoon.  Put the roast back in the pot with onions and celery.  Pour in enough stock to come up to 1/2 to 2/3 up the side of the roast.
  5. Place the covered Dutch oven back on the grill and let cook for 2 hours
  6. Add carrot and potatoes.  You can add more stock if needed. Re-cover and cook until the roast is fork tender, another hour to 90 minutes.  See notes about the onion and celery.  We left them in this time.
  7. Make the sauce.  Strain off the liquid into a fat separator to get just the broth.  Make a slurry by whisking corn starch and cold water together (skip if using veggie puree instead - see substitutions) and whisk the slurry into the broth.  Continuously stir a cold pat of butter into the sauce to enrich it and give it a sheen. Return sauce to the Dutch oven
  8. Break the roast up with a pair of forks and serve with the veggies and sauce.

Substitutions


  • NMT Beef Rub - Our beef rub recipe does a great job of bringing out the best in beef without covering it up.  But you can make a quickie rub of 2 tablespoons kosher salt, 1.5 tablespoons coarse black pepper, 1 teaspoon granulated garlic, 1/4 teaspoon onion powder, and 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano.
  • Tallow - I prefer it to any other oil for searing beef but you could substitute other high temperature cooking oils like canola or peanut oil if you don't have any tallow on hand.
  • Grill - You can do this inside.  Just sear in the Dutch oven on your stove top and then put the covered Dutch oven in your regular oven for the braising portion.
  • Celery and onion options.  I just left them in this time.  But you can also strain them out before adding the other veggies and then make a puree to use to thicken your sauce.  You just add it back at the end instead of the cornstarch slurry.

Notes

Certified Angus Beef chuck roasts are great for slow roasting, braising, and slow cooking.
This specific chuck roast inspired this recipe.  I had already picked up my dinner ingredients and was walking past the meat aisle at Food City when this exact roast turned my head.  Look at that marbling!  It may be a corporate hashtag but I think Certified Angus Beef really is the #bestbeef for my day to day cooking, dollar for dollar.

We bought every Certified Angus Beef chuck roast that two Food City stores had.
Speaking of Food City, how many of their Certified Angus Beef chuck roasts did we buy?
All of them!

Preheating a Lodge cast iron dutch oven on a ceramic kamado grill like the green egg, Grill Dome, or Primo.
A cast iron Dutch oven (aka CIDO) over hot wood coals is my favorite slow cooker.  We do actually own a Crock-Pot™...somewhere.  I think it's down in the basement.
 
My NMT beef rub enhances the flavor of beef with salt & pepper, shallot, red bell peppers, garlic, and more.
I make batches of my beef rub, super coarse like this, and then grind it up in a pepper grinder just before using it. That gives me the most intense, fresh flavors.

Certified Angus Beef means consistent quality to me, which is why I knew I didn't have to inject or marinade these roasts.
If I had lesser quality beef, I might have injected these with a beef stock solution. But these were all Certified Angus Beef - well marbled quality beef - so all it needed was simple seasonings and hot black iron to make it tasty.


Seasoning meat on racks keeps the seasoning from sticking to the counter or plate.
I like to use racks like this when seasoning flat cuts of meat so that all of the seasoning on the bottom side doesn't stick to the counter.

How I make tallow at home.
Alexis scooping tallow out for the searing. It's excellent for frying eggs, even better than clarified butter.

Searing a chuck roast in tallow in a dutch oven on a ceramic kamado grill.
You aren't cooking it here, you are just building up a layer of flavor and color.  Black iron and beef get along so well together.

We obviously don't have 10 Dutch ovens so we seared the roasts off, two at a time.

Then we had to rely on half steam pans instead of cast iron for the braising.  Not ideal but it worked.

Braising a chuck roast in a dutch oven on the grill breaks down the connective tissue into fork tender beef.
You want a slow simmer.  A rapid boil will cause issues with your sauce, so adjust your cooking temps up or down as needed for a steady but gentle simmer.  With practice, you can pretty much tell by the sound, without opening the lid.

Braising a chuck roast in a Lodge dutch oven on a cast iron plate setter
Since it cooks with a lid closed, I know that there isn't much difference between cooking this in a 300°f kamado grill versus indoors in a 300°f oven.  But for me, cooking is as much about the journey as it is the destination.

I did two roasts each on several of my kamado grills using multi-level set ups like this.

I also used my Grilla pellet cooker to help braise our Certified Angus Beef chuck roasts.
I also put two on our pellet cooker. Basically if a grill was on my deck, it was getting used for something.


The event was hopping and we gave away every single bite of food.  We had the roasts, potatoes, carrots, fire roasted chicken, rice, green beans with bacon, chicken and rice casserole, salad, rolls, drinks, and other volunteers brought rice crispy treats, chocolate chip cookies, and brownies.

The consummate mid-winter comfort food - tender, slow cooked beef roast with vegetables.

Don't get me wrong, the BBQ competitions that we do are still fun.  

But cooking community service events like Laundry Love and Operation BBQ Relief are so much more rewarding.  Getting a thank you hug from someone and knowing that you made a difference in someone's life that day is infinitely more satisfying than getting a couple of scores from 6 anonymous BBQ judges.  

Thank you to Certified Angus Beef for sponsoring my blog so we can do these events.

For more on slow cooking beef....

Monday, January 16, 2017

Product Review: Norris Dam Good Appalachian White BBQ Sauce

This weekend, we were at Pratt's Country Store here in Knoxville and one of the items we bought was Norris Dam Good Appalachian White BBQ Sauce.  

Norris Dam Good White BBQ Sauce is excellent on chicken.

This is a local product that is named after Norris Dam - a part of the TVA hydroelectric system and the reservoir is a prime outdoor recreation area. Chef Michael Hatcher created this sauce with his 20+ years of culinary experience (including formal training at Le Cordon Bleu) and in the spirit of East Tennessee family traditions.  

You probably notice it's not red or brown...what gives?  This is a white BBQ sauce.

What is white BBQ sauce?

White BBQ sauce originated in Northern Alabama, where Big Bob Gibson invented it at his BBQ joint in Decatur.  White BBQ sauce is mayonnaise based with vinegar, salt, black pepper, and a few other things.  Some have some sweetener put in, some like to add more heat like cayenne or horseradish. But in general, white sauces are tangy, simple, and used mostly for grilled chicken and other poultry.

Mayonnaise based, I get it if you initially recoil and say, "Ewwww, mayo BBQ?"

It does NOT taste like you think it would.  Your food doesn't come out all white and goopy either.  In fact, if I put white BBQ chicken in front of you, I doubt you would notice anything odd about it.  You would just think it is a great tasting smoked chicken.  

A Look At Norris Dam Good Appalachian White BBQ Sauce

Size: 16 ounce glass jar
Price: $6.99 at Pratt's Country Store
Availability:  Online store, Pratt's, Willy's Butcher, and other local markets

Norris Dam Good White BBQ Sauce is a #knoxrocks Knoxville local company

  • Appearance
    • Off white with visible specks of coarse black pepper, red chiles, and herbs.
  • Aroma
    • Quite pungent and vinegary.
  • Taste
    • Straight out of the bottle, so tangy it will make you wince but also it has a surprisingly sweet finish compared to some versions. The Dijon in there is something I haven't tried in my white BBQ sauce recipes but I like it.
    • On food, it is mildly tangy with a subtle sweetness.  It is supposed to enhance, not cover the flavor of the food.
  • Texture
    • Thinner than most BBQ sauces, as white sauce should be. 
    • The pepper and herbs will settle to the bottom so give it a good shake before each use, just like a Carolina vinegar sauce in that aspect.
  • Ingredients
    • Mostly pronounceable things that you have in your pantry - stuff like JFG mayo (another Knoxville company), cider vinegar, brown sugar, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and herbs.  It does have potassium metabisulfite as a preservative but that's it.
The best chicken I have ever had in my life was Alabama white sauce chicken from Chris Lilly, pitmaster and operator of Big Bob Gibson's.  He was teaching a class here in town and that was one of the dishes he made.  We have a few different white BBQ sauce recipes that we make and love.  That said, we haven't liked many jarred white BBQ sauces.

Norris Dam Good Appalachian White BBQ Sauce is one of the better ones that we have had.  It was fantastic on fire roasted wings and I was even dipping our celery and carrot sticks in it.  It was also super on smoked bone-in chicken breasts.  Alexis said it would also be a fine slaw dressing. One thing that we both liked about it is that it doesn't feel or taste like a jarred sauce, they have kept the processing to a minimum.

Overall, we're fond of Norris Dam Good Appalachian White BBQ Sauce and are going to buy more to have on hand.  I'll still make my own too, but this is good stuff.

Here are some wings that we made this weekend.  Since we're talking white BBQ sauce, I borrowed from the legendary Big Bob Gibson's whole chicken technique for my wings.

  • Simple seasonings - If memory serves, they just season theirs with salt and pepper.  I went a little more than that but it's still a simple rub.
  • Oil trick - Big Bob Gibson's dips their whole chickens in oil after smoking and almost done. This gets their chicken crispy before saucing.  So I tossed my wings in oil after they were mostly cooked.
  • Sauce bath - They give their birds a sauce bath and then serve.  The sauce just cooks onto the bird as it rests.  My wings weren't going to have that kind of carry over heat, so I put them back on just for a few minutes to cook the sauce on a little.

Norris Dam Good White BBQ Sauce Fire Roasted Wing recipe

Norris Dam Good Fire Roasted Wings

Yield: 28 wing pieces

Ingredients


  • 28-30 chicken wing pieces (wingettes, drummettes)
  • cup high temperature cooking oil (peanut, canola, avocado, etc)
  • 1/2 cup Norris Dam Good Appalachian White BBQ Sauce
For the Dry Rub
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon coarse black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon mild chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon turbinado sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried lemon peel (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat a charcoal grill to 400°f.  
  2. Mix the dry rub ingredients together in a small bowl. 
  3. Season the wings all over with the dry rub.
  4. Place the wings on the upper rack or a raise grill grate on the grill and cook for 8 minutes.
  5. Flip the wings and cook another 8 minutes.
  6. Toss the wings in a bowl with the oil and place back on the grill for 5 more minutes per side.
  7. Toss the wings in a bowl with the Norris Dam Good Appalachian White BBQ Sauce and place back on the grill for 2 more minutes per side.
  8. Remove the wings and spoon any remaining sauce from the bowl over the top of the wings.


How I cook wings on a Big Green Egg ceramic kamado grill.
I took advantage of the Spring like temperatures Knoxville has been having and  trimmed my wings outside.  Those family packs of wings are typically in the 4-5 pound range and have 14-15 wings, giving you 28-30 wing pieces. 

Grilling chicken wings on my Big Green Egg kamado grill.
Cooking the wings on a raised cooking grate does two things.  First, it cooks a little more gently, making your job easier.  Second, it builds up color more evenly by roasting more than grilling.  
Homemade raised cooking grate on a Big Green Egg grill.
Some grills come with an upper rack, if yours has that, just use it.  For kamado grill users, there are a lot of options like Adjustable Rigs, grid extenders, or just building your own like this one that I use often.
I like to toss my wings in a large bowl like this.  It just makes it quick and easy to coat them. You can just baste the oil and sauce onto the wings if you don't want to mess up a bowl or are worried you might lose some wings.


Norris Dam Good White BBQ Sauce Fire Roasted Wings on a ceramic kamado grill.
See?  Doesn't look like mayo.  Nice and crispy too.

Norris Dam Good White BBQ Sauce grill chicken wings
Drizzle that last bit of sauce over the wings, you don't want to waste any of that good flavor.

Norris Dam Good White BBQ Sauce fire roasted chicken wing recipe

So is everyone going to love it?  No, everyone has different tastes.  But if you like Carolina style vinegar sauce, South Carolina mustard BBQ sauces, or just want something away from ordinary - you should give this white BBQ sauce a try.

[FTC Standard Disclaimer]  I received no compensation for this post, paid full price for the BBQ sauce, and have no affiliation with Norris Dam Good.....although I hear they're dam good people ;)

Friday, January 13, 2017

Fire Roasted Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

Here's a recipe that we came up with when my sister was visiting in November for one of our BBQ competitions.  We bought our competition butts and spare ribs from Sam's because they had started carrying Smithfield Prime Reserve. I noticed that they also had the tenderloins so I grabbed a pack of those as well.  

It was the day after the competition and we wanted to have a little fun with the tenderloins for dinner - nothing too crazy, just something drastically different than BBQ.


Stuffed pork tenderloin featuring Smithfield Prime pork

Pork Tenderloins Expand Your Options

I often use pork tenderloins in the kitchen and out at the grills.  Why? For several reasons.

  • Pork tenderloin has a mild, neutral taste which gives the chef a lot of freedom for choosing flavor profiles.
  • Pork tenderloin can be prepared in many different configurations.  I can serve it as a whole roast, cut it into filet, cut it into medallions, cut it into strips for pinwheels, or flatten it out for a roulade like I did for this recipe.
  • Pork tenderloin is one of the leaner cuts of pork for those counting fat calories.
  • Pork tenderloin is quick cooking so I get it on the table faster.

Speaking of options, yes you can cook this under the broiler in your oven instead of on the grill.  Sure, you can swap out ingredients.  Don't have pizza sauce? Use marinara sauce.  Do whatever you want, it's all about exploring.  

Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

Published 01/13/2017

Ingredients

  • whole pork tenderloin, trimmed and butterflied or spiral sliced
  • 1 cup baby spinach leaves, rinsed
  • 1 cup white cheddar cheese curds
  • 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes
  • 7-8 pieces kitchen twine, 10" long
  • 1 tablespoon high temp oil
  • 1 cup roasted garlic pizza sauce
For the seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried lemon zest (optional)

Instructions

  1. Set up your grill for direct heat and preheat it to 400°f (Medium High). 
  2. Butterfly the tenderloin.  See notes.
  3. Mix together the seasoning ingredients.  Use a little more than half to season the top half of the butterflied pork tenderloin.  Reserve the rest for seasoning the outside later.
  4. Assemble the roast.  Layer the spinach on top of the tenderloin, leaving a 1 1/2" gap on one side.  On the opposite side, layer the sun dried tomatoes and cheese curds in a row against the edge (see pictures).  Use both hands and roll the cheese curd edge towards the exposed edge like a jelly roll.  Lay the strings about and inch a part and put the roast seam down on top of the strings. Tie the strings and cut off the excess.
  5. Lightly coat the outside of the roast with oil and season with the remaining seasoning.
  6. Place the roast on the grill and cook for 24-27 minutes, turning every few minutes.  Meanwhile, heat your pizza sauce.
  7. Temp check the meat to make sure it is 145°f and allow to rest for at least three minutes. (That's FDA recommendations.  Honestly, I pull it at 140°f.)
  8. Remove the strings and then slice about 3/4" thick.  Plate the slices on top of a smear of the pizza sauce. 
Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 00 hrs. 20 mins.
Cook time: 00 hrs. 27 mins.
Total time: 0 hrs. 47 mins.


I first found out about Smithfield Prime at the American Royal last year (which Smithfield took over as title sponsor this year, kind of a big deal!). Smithfield sponsored my trip there to be a part of the event and cover their Hog Wild Throwdown on social media. The hospitality tent was serving the Prime line and I was pretty impressed with the results.
Smithfield Prime spare ribs at the American Royal
What is so special about Prime? First, it's a label, NOT a grade.  But it is special.
  • The Prime line is all natural and a part of the USDA's Process Verification Program.  
  • It is 20% more tender than other brands in the non-enhanced (injected, etc) category.  
  • But what I like is that this is a premium pork, a Duroc blend.  Smithfield has their own line of Duroc hogs and they are the sires for the hogs used for the Prime line of pork.  


Smithfield Prime Reserve pork tenderloins are 20% more tender than non-enhanced competitors.  Better pork, less junk.
I noticed that our local Sam's Club started carrying Smithfield Prime Reserve in mid-November.  I asked my contact who advised that it is the same pork as the Smithfield Prime.

How to trim a pork tenderloin using a Victorinox boning knife with fibrox handle and flexible blade.
On the far left is an untrimmed tenderloin.  The one on the right, I have removed the silverskin and any excessive fat.  I also trimmed tip off and around the other end to make the roast even.  I cut those scraps up for stir fri, sausage, or things like that. A sharp boning knife does wonders.  That is an Amazon Affiliate link but this is my favorite boning knife - I have 2 others that both cost 3 times as much.  The Victorinox flexible blade has just won me over.  It's also popular with meat cutters and prep chefs.

tips and tricks for spiral slicing or butterfly cut a pork tenderloin from Smithfield
To start, I place my knife down next to the tenderloin.  The gap between board and blade, caused by the handle, is just the height at which I want to begin.  Again, sharpen and hone your knife before doing this.  It is so easy with a sharp knife.  With a dull one, it's a pain.

How to butterfly a pork tenderloin from Smithfield Prime Reserve
Cut a straight line almost all of the way across like this and then stop about  1/2" from the edge.

Spiral slicing a pork tenderloin from Smithfield Prime Reserve
Flip the top half over and start cutting through that piece the same way, opening it up flat.

How to stuff a pork tenderloin for grilling, roasting, or broiling.
Place plastic wrap above and below the meat and finish flattening it out evenly with a meat mallet.

Step by step instructions for stuffing pork tenderloin
Here's how to stack the stuffing, leaving the edge exposed.  You will start rolling from the right, curling tightly over the curds, and keep rolling.
I use cheese curds for 2 reasons....wait, make that 3 reasons.

  • I just love them.  
  • They give a good shape for getting the roll started tightly and firmly.  
  • They don't seem to melt out of the ends of the roast as sliced or shredded cheese likes to do. 
Because of that, if I couldn't get cheese curds, I'd take shredded cheese and squeeze it into pieces the size of curds.

How to stuff pork tenderloin for grilling, roasting, and broiling.
All tied up and ready to go.

Ceramic kamado grills, like Grill Dome and BGE, are all weather grills and smokers.
For this cook, I was using my kamado grills, specifically the Big Green Egg on the right.  It was the coldest day of the year, think we got down to 7°f that night.  Ceramic kamado grills can handle ridiculous weather.  Pork tenderloins are small enough that you can do them on small grills like a BGE Mini-Max.

How to use mojobricks for a kamado grill
I wanted to put a little wood in the grill for extra smoke flavor but all of my wood chunks are on the trailer in storage and my logs downstairs were snow covered and wet. Fortunately I had some Mojobricks (hickory) leftover from Memphis In May.  I cut them with a saw so they were basically Mojobricks Mini's at that point and put one in the kamado grill.  They may look like MDF but they are just wood pieces and lignin - a natural binder in wood.

Kick Ash Basket is a great tool for grilling on a kamado grill like a Kamado Joe, Big Green Egg, or Vision Grill.
Since the Mojobrick products are dense, in a kamado grill, placement is key.  Place it too far from the lit coals and it might not even get lit for a few hours (which can be useful in longer cooks).  This was a brief cook so I made sure the one that I put in was near an ignition point.  This is in a Kick Ash Basket in a large BGE.

fire roasted stuffed pork tenderloin on a large Big Green Egg
Two stuffed tenderloins just after going onto the Big Green Egg.  Leave them for about 5 minutes and then start turning every 3-4 minutes until done. 

How to grill stuffed pork tenderloins and how to cook pork tenderloins on a Big Green Egg.
I put the sauce on in the last few minutes, just to warm up. Don't worry if a little of your cheese melts out at the end, most is staying in there.

Stuffed pork tenderloin steaming hot
Yeah, it was a little cold out (about 20°f) so these steamed up a good bit when they came off.  

Techniques, tips and tricks for grilling pork tenderloin:  Rest it on a raise rack to avoid moisture loss.
As always, rest your cooked meats on a raised rack to help even cooling and minimize moisture loss.
Sliced fire roasted stuffed pork tenderloin featuring Smithfield Prime pork
Sliced and ready to serve! 


Stuffed pork tenderloin recipe for the big green egg.
Close up of the slices, look how nicely cooked these are.  And even though it was a hot and fast cook, the tenderloins still got a slight "smoke ring" around the edges.


[FTC Standard Disclaimer]  I received no compensation for this post.  However here is clarification on any mentions.

  • Smithfield - I attended two events hosted by Smithfield in 2016, travel included, but don't have any kind of endorsement deal, pay for content, or anything like that.
  • Victorinox - I paid for my knives, but love the brand.  Just ask to look in my knife bag at a contest and you'll see my 4 main ones are Victorinox with the Fibrox handles.  
  • Mojobricks - These were the last of the leftovers from Memphis In May last year.
  • Kick Ash Basket - Got the first one as a sample and ended up buying 4 more for our other kamados.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Bacon Crusted Salmon

Tender, smoked salmon topped with a crust of crumbled brown sugar bacon - you just can't go wrong with that, right?

This salmon is easy and crazy good and it comes from a BBQ expert and grilling authority.
The recipe for the Charred Corn Bisque was in my previous post.

About The Recipe

The first time that I ever saw this dish was at the photo shoot for Chris Lilly's second book.   Here you had a world famous food photographer, a food stylist from Southern Living, and other people who are used to stunning food.  But when they had finished shooting this particular dish and the crew started tasting it, things got quiet.  Instead of the usual chaos before the next shoot, everyone just got absorbed in eating this fantastic recipe - it was literally "shut your mouth" good.

The Komodo kamado is best in class when it comes to kamado grills, actually it's in a class by itself compared to other kamado grills.
Chris Lilly adorning his bacon crusted salmon with the ginger maple glaze during the photo shoot for his second book.  The grill is Chris' personal Komodo Kamado.  I'd say Komodo is the "best in class" of kamado grills except it's not even in the same class as most other kamados, including the brands I love and use. They have exquisite tile work, unique designs, and decked out in premium stainless hardware inside and out.  Of course, I could buy 4 Big Green Eggs for the cost of one Komodo. 

Recipe Source

The recipe can be found in Chris' book, Fire and Smoke, A Pitmaster's Secrets ($24.95).  I'm not going to post the recipe, just buy the book it's worth it - it's loaded with great recipes.  I'll just give you the basic idea and what I did differently (not that the recipe needed any changes...I'm just incapable of following directions).  


My Grilla pellet cooker makes smoking and roasting easy, simple, and makes delicious food every time.
For the bacon crust, I wanted to up the ante a bit. First, I sprinkled a LIGHT amount of brown sugar on the bacon and just on one side. I only wanted it slightly sweetened, not full on candied bacon.  Second, I smoked the bacon in my Grilla pellet grill. Grilla is the sponsor of the Memphis in May team on which I compete and I got my Grilla as a thank you for being on their team last year.

Bacon crumbles for bacon crusted salmon.
Chris Lilly used a mini-food processor to crumble his bacon.  I like to practice my knife skills so I used a santoku knife to finely mince the bacon. You can do either but the food processor makes more sense for mixing in the bacon fat and panko bread crumbs. 

Chris Lilly uses a flavorful marinade for his salmon recipe with soy sauce, ginger, garlic, sesame oil and more. I used a lot of the same ingredients but I cheated because I had this pair of aces up my sleeve...

Ink Soy Sauce is a gourmet flavored soy sauce that makes marinating, glazing, and saucing easy and delicious.
 A friend of mine has a client that is a start up company making gourmet soy sauces and they had a small packaging error. As a result, I got a 6 bottles (each one a different variety).  This isn't a product pitch because they haven't gone in full distribution mode yet and you can't get Ink Soy Sauce.....yet.

But when you can get Ink Soy Sauce (such a tease, right?), I recommend giving it a shot.  It's good stuff and rocked in this marinade.  It was rich, tangy, sweet, and salty.  The marinade was good and will be good with chicken too.  Mix a little (1/4 cup or so) with some maple syrup or honey and you have a nice glaze too.

Garlic Ginger Sesame Marinade

  • 1/2 cup Ginger Sesame Soy Sauce by Ink Soy Sauce
  • 1/4 cup Garlic Sesame Soy Sauce by Ink Soy Sauce
  • 3 tablespoons sushi vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 3/4 cups peanut oil
Mix first four ingredients together and then slowly add the oil while whisking rapidly.  

For the fish, it was a short swim in the marinade, just long enough to make the Charred Corn Bisque and Poblano Crema.  For chicken I'd let it ride for 4 hours.

Bacon crusted salmon on the grill, the recipe is easy, quick, and stunning.
So I forgot to add bacon grease to my bacon/panko mixture and it didn't stick to the fish when I pushed it down into the crumbles.  No big deal, when I flipped it back over, I just sprinkled the leftovers on top and pressed them down a bit.  Worked fine.

Recipe for bacon crusted salmon on the grill.
If I was cooking on a kamado grill, I would have used wood planks like the book recipe does.  But I was cooking these on my Grilla pellet grill so 1) it was going to get plenty of smoke from the pellets burning and 2) the planks wouldn't smolder much if at all because there would be no direct heat under them.


The Grilla pellet cooker is simple to use for smoking, roasting, and braising.  Here's how I make salmon on a pellet cooker.
It was a quite cold and very blustery night, with snow moving in. The Grilla did well fending off the wind and cold, holding temps.  If I opened it up all the way like this, of course, I lost a good bit of heat and it took a few minutes to restore cooking temperatures.  So most of the time I just barely opened the Keep Heat Swing Lid to check on progress or to drizzle the glaze.  That kept the heat much more stable.
The Grilla pellet cooker is one of my favorite, best reviewed pellet cookers.
Here is a better shot of how the Grilla's Keep Heat Swing Lid works.  Instead of opening up, the lid access door swings right and left. The advantage of this is you can open it just a crack for checking doneness, basting, spritzing, or glazing.  

Bake biscuits on a ceramic kamado grill like the Kamado Joe, Grill Dome, or Primo.
While the salmon was cooking on the Grilla, Alexis used one of our ceramic kamado grills to make a clone recipe of Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits.  The set up was a plate setter (legs down), a raised rack above that, and a pizza stone on the rack.  This got the biscuits high up in the kamado so they get brown on top.  Yep, there was also a Kick Ash Basket in there, we pretty much always use those in our kamados.

My Thermoworks RT600C is quick, accurate and fits in my chef's shirt, apron, or jacket.
I cooked the salmon until the crust was golden brown and the internal temp was 130°f, about 20 minutes at 350°f.  Internal temps for fish should be between 120°f and 140°f.  Dense flesh fish like tuna and salmon can be done at 120°f..

This is a great idea for a salmon recipe that will impress your guests.
We liked the glaze so much that I reserved some of it and drizzled it over the finished fish as a sauce. Sooooo good.

Great salmon idea for ceramic kamado grills, like Big Green Egg, Vision, etc.
Served at 10pm on a snowy, cold Saturday night (we ate lunch at 4pm....don't judge) with cheddar biscuits and Charred Corn Bisque.

This is a rock solid recipe, but then again, recipes from both of Chris Lilly's books typically are. His first book was instrumental in helping me master BBQ and grilling and the second one continued that journey.  If you don't have them, you should correct that immediately :)

For more about plank grilling on a kamado grill, you can check out my post about Plank Grilled Potlatch Salmon.

[FTC Standard Disclaimer] I received no compensation for this post but just to be clear on a few product mentions....

  • Chris Lilly's books - I paid full price for both and I don't get affiliate sales or anything from the links I provided.  
  • Grilla Grills - I don't work for Grilla Grills but I am on their Memphis In May competition team and I got my Grilla pellet grill for helping out.
  • Ink Soy Sauce - Like I said, they are just a client of a friend of mine and I got some free samples from my friend.  Good stuff, though.  Keep an eye out for it in the next few months.
  • Kick Ash Basket - Great product.  I received one as a review piece a couple of years ago.  Since then I have bought 4 more (3 large and 1 for my Mini-Max) at full prices, putting my money where my mouth is. 
  • Komodo Kamado - No affiliation whatsoever.  Just a great kamado grill with a wonderful reputation.