Monday, June 30, 2014

Reverse Seared Strip Steaks with Veggie Stir Fry

I have written about using the reverse sear technique a good bit but someone recently asked me how to do that on a gas grill.  It's really not much different - start with a slow roast at low temperatures and then finish over a high temp sear.  

I did a reverse sear recently for a post over at Char-Broil Live when I made these Reverse Seared Strip Steaks with an Oyster Mushroom and Asparagus Stir Fry

Here is the basic setup that I used on my Char-Broil Gourmet TRU-Infrared grill.

This is the set up at the beginning - only the left burner was on, so the steaks roast with low indirect heat.  When they hit 5 degrees less than my desired final internal temp - I remove them, turn up the heat, and let the steaks rest until the internal temp stops rising.  Then it is back on the grill for a quick sear.  

For full details and the recipe, hop on over to my post at Char-Broil Live.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Event Announcement: Porkopolis - Eggfest in Cincinnati

One of the things unique to the Big Green Egg subculture is the "Eggfests" that Eggheads have.

There is the big Eggtoberfest hosted in Atlanta by the company but there are smaller regional Eggfests throughout the year that actually have more fun. Eggfests are a celebration of our love of cooking on the Big Green Egg kamado grill. 

The typical Eggfest works like this.
  • Friday night pre-party -  We can't talk about this, oaths have been sworn and pacts made.
  • Saturday morning - a group of volunteer Eggheads show up to cook on brand new Big Green Eggs supplied by a local distributor.  These cooks are unpaid and they pay for all of the food they are cooking.  It's not a competition (well, officially) rather it is one huge demonstration cook.  So every Eggchef brings his or her favorite recipe to show off their skills.
  • Late Saturday morning through afternoon - Sampling.  The next group of people ("Tasters") show up and get to eat all of this wonderful food made by the cooks.  You walk around finding out who is cooking what and more importantly, when they expect it to be done so you can be there when the food comes out.  In the mean time, there is lots of entertainment, socializing, and maybe an adult beverage or three.
  • Demo Egg Sale - These Eggs that have been used just once are now cleaned up and sold on site for a greatly reduced price, still covered under warranty.  
  • Saturday After-Party -  More pleading the 5th.  Or was that drinking a fifth?  
Eggfests are a great event to check out if you are even thinking about buying an Egg.  You get to see them in action first hand, talk to volunteer Eggsperts about how to use them, and even buy one on sale if you wish.

Like I said, they are all over the country (Full List here) but in just two weeks from today, I will be attending Porkopolis in Cincinnati, OH.  If you have a copy of my book, The Kamado Smoker and Grill Cookbook, bring it and I'll sign it for you. 

If you are in that region, come on down and check it out. The last time I checked they still have Taster Tickets available.  You don't have to have an Egg, in fact, these are especially great for people who don't.  You'll taste some amazing food, meet some friendly people, and if you aren't careful, you might just become an Egghead yourself!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Rocky Top BBQ Cook-Off - A Rookie's First Competitive BBQ Experience

Do you remember that feeling in your gut an hour before your first REAL date?  The nervousness and the excitement were trying to wrestle each other into submission while your brain was just trying to think rationally about the situation. 

That's how I felt the Thursday night before the Rocky Top BBQ Cook-Off here in Knoxville a few weeks ago.  Sure, I've been going to competitions for a few years.  I have played small roles, on other people's teams, using other people's equipment, using other people's recipes, and following other people's direction.

For the first time, it was all on us.  Our team, our equipment, our recipes, and we were calling the shots.

Our team consisted of myself, Alexis, and our neighbor, John.

Going into it, we had 3 pretty realistic goals.
  1. Have fun,
  2. Get everything cooked and not missing any turn in deadlines, and
  3. Not finish DAL.  (Dead Ass Last)
#2 is harder than it sounds because you have to cook long cooking "big meats" like brisket and pork shoulder and shorter cooking meats like ribs and chicken, timing it so they are all ready to turn in at 12, 12:30, 1, and 1:30.  You have a 10 minute window for each turn in time and if you miss it, you're DQ'd.
Here's how it turned out.  You'll have to excuse the pictures - I didn't even bring my camera so these are all phone shots.

Friday Morning - Load In
We're local so we didn't bother to set up until Friday morning.  Out of town teams often show up Thursday evening.  We were able to get everything in two vehicles for a pretty easy set up.

We had a 10 x 20 space and took just 1 EZ-Up, our gear, The Warthog and a kamado.

The view outside of our pop-up.

Team banner
I had a while before we had to prep anything so I walked around to get shots of some of the other teams getting set up.  

Our neighbor on our left side.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Smoked Chicken & Bean Burrito and the Big Kahuna Wing Festival

Question:  Where can you sample 30 chicken wings from 30 competition teams for only $10, plus get a day full of entertainment?

Answer:  The Big Kahuna Wing Festival in Knoxville THIS SATURDAY benefiting the Empty Stocking Fund and the Ronald McDonald House.

More about this cool event in just a minute, but first let me share this recipe for smoked chicken and bean burritos that we made from leftovers the other day, because they were delicious.  This recipe would also work exceptionally well with leftover rotisserie chicken.

Last Sunday, John and I were running some temperature tests on The Warthog (our trailer mounted BBQ pit) after we had made some modification.  The testing involved running the smoker with about a half dozen temperature probes to check for hot spots in the cooking chamber.  We weren't intending to cook anything but the smoke smelled so good we decided to through some chicken in there while we tested.

The wires are for the temperature probes.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Memphis In May 2014

A little less than a month ago, Alexis and I attended Memphis In May World Championship BBQ Cooking Contest.

In the world of BBQ contests, Memphis in May (MIM) is one of the four majors along with The Jack Daniels BBQ Invitational, American Royal, and Houston Rodeo.  It is a spectacle that has to be experienced in person but I'll try to share the feel of the event through some pictures.

Teams, Banners, and Booths
One of the first things I like to do at MIM is walk around and behold the amazing team "booths".  At most contests, team booths are just a pop up canopy or two but at MIM,  team spaces are more appropriately called "structures".  I also like to see what teams are there and check out the fun names and logos.

Two large "booths"...not exactly 10 x 10 Ez Up canopies, right?

US Army Corp of Engineers

Most of these multi-level structures are built with scaffolding but I hear they have to be permitted or reviewed by a city inspector.  You'll see why load ratings are important later.

The fabled "porkapotamus".

Monday, June 9, 2014

Product Review: Thermoworks TempTest 1

My neighbor and BBQ teammate, John, did such a good review of the Vision kamado grill that I asked him to review the latest offering that I have gotten from Thermoworks - the TempTest 1.  Here is his review:

Chris received this great unit from Thermoworks and since he had just reviewed their new Thermopop and TimeStick he asked if I would give it a workout and note my experience.  Of course I couldn’t resist.

I have been a Thermapen owner ever since I got my Large BGE 3 years ago and have loved it and consider it an essential, even mandatory, tool to own.  This new unit adds some convenient features that my Thermapen lacks such as 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Win A Big Green Egg

How would you like to win a nice, new, shiny Big Green Egg for your backyard this summer?

This one is mine, you'll have to go win your own!

The National Pork Board and Kroger's search for America's Top #ChopGriller has narrowed from 6,000+ entries to just eight contestants.  These eight finalists are vying for a huge $15,000 backyard makeover and they need your vote to do that.  I think the voting is going to be tough, because all of these folks deserve to be in the finals. 

Some focus on recipe ideas with mouthwatering flavor combinations for pork, like Mary Edwards fruity brine and herbs or Taylor Middleton's combo of Gouda cheese, cumin, and brown sugar.  Some utilize "secret" (well, they were secret) ingredients, such as; Seph Anderson's use of jalapeno juice or Sandi Sheppard's jerk grilled pineapple.

Other contestants bring ideas that emphasize techniques for creating pork masterpieces.  Stephen Radford borrows from the French technique of sous-vide and marinades under vacuum pressure.  Jack Tatum adds wood smoke to his JD marinated chops.  BJ Hoffman grills his chops upright, a technique that I used in my book, and Alan Bowman uses the reverse sear. 

See?  You have a tough choice to make.  I definitely plan on borrowing these ideas for my grilling repertoire.  Don't worry, the National Pork Board and Kroger don't want to leave you out in the cold.  They want you to win something too. All that YOU have to do to be entered to win a Large Big Green Egg and a supply of pork for the summer is to VOTE.   Just click right here and go vote for the contestant that you think has what it takes to be the Top #ChopGriller.  You can enter once a day through June 13, 2014, so get clicking! 

Speaking of techniques, here are some great grilling tips from the pros.  Robyn "Grill Grrrl" Lindars asked some of the heaviest hitters in BBQ for their grilling pointers to help elevate your backyard grilling game.

Those are some fantastic tips from some of my favorite people, for sure.  I really liked Brad's tip about the sauce, since I see many people just stir that together cold.  I took a little different approach putting together my grilling advice, because there are things you can do before or after the actual grilling that also make a big impact on your grilled pork chops.  So I want to share 2 tips for Before The Fire, During The Fire, and After The Fire

Before The Fire
Layer Flavors
Sure you can just throw salt, pepper, and garlic on your pork and grill it for a good chop.  But to make it a GREAT pork chop, build layers of flavor.  In addition to a good dry rub, I like to build up  that flavor through either marinade, brine, or injections.  Whatever you use, make sure that you use flavors that either complement the essence of your rub or add to it. 

Marinades, brines, and injections are an ideal way to make your neighbors envious of your grilled chop skills.
Pick The Chop For You
Pork chops are a personal thing so go with what you like.  If you like thin, I recommend going with a rub and a brine or marinade.  If you like them thick, I tend to go with an injection since brines and marinades only penetrate the surface of the meat.  If you like boneless, go for the New York Pork Chop for the classic "boneless pork chop".  Want something a little fancier?  Go with a pork chop that has been "frenched" so that a portion of the bone is exposed like a handle.  My favorite chop?  Easy!  That would be a 1 1/2" thick porterhouse chop!

During the Fire
Preheat Your Grill
Whether you use coal, wood, or gas, be sure to give your grill plenty of time to preheat.  It takes the metal longer to heat up than the air inside the grill, so don't just throw the chops on as soon as the grill thermometer hits your cooking temp.  Giving your grill grates time to heat up will minimize problems with meat sticking and it will let you get those pretty cross hatch marks.  

Reverse Sear Thick Chops
Thin pork chops are ideal for grilling direct, or what most people consider "regular" grilling.  But for thick chops (1 inch or more), I like to treat them with the reverse sear.  Set up your grill for indirect heat and slow roast your pork chops until they hit your desired internal temperature (145-160°F with a three minute rest).   While your chops are resting, turn your grill up to "nuclear" and then sear the chops just long enough to caramelize the outer surface of the chop.  This will give you an evenly cooked chop with a golden crust.

After the Fire
Don't stop seasoning after the grill
Remember what I said about building layers of flavor?  That doesn't stop with the fire.  There are several ways to add flavor after cooking.  One way is to use a "board dressing" on your cutting board or plate.  Drizzle a little oil and sprinkle some fresh herbs and garlic on your plate.  Then as you are cutting up your pork chop, it mixes with the additional flavors.   Another way is to use a high quality finishing salt, such as fleur de sel, Himalayan pink salt, or some of the exotic Hawaiian salts.  

My favorite way to layer flavor after the cook is to use a compound butter that you put on top of each chop as they come off of the grill.  Mix together a 1/2 stick of softened butter, 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon of apple pie seasoning and then chill it for 30 minutes.  Top your resting chops with a pat of that and you will be impressed with yourself.

Use A Raised Rack
When you rest your meat, you're giving the juices a chance to balance out.  The only problem is the surface on the bottom has all of that heat trapped and that causes the fibers of the surface to open up, leaving a puddle of deliciousness behind.  If you put your chops on a rack like this, you won't have that problem.  Don't have a fancy "raised rack"?  Steal the rack out of your toaster oven!

So don't forget....

You can enter to win a Big Green Egg, once a day, every day between now and June 13th simply by voting for your favorite Top #ChopGriller at the Pork Be Inspired website.

[Standard Disclaimer]  This is a sponsored post and I received compensation from the National Pork Board and Kroger for my participation in this promotion.