Sunday, March 27, 2016

Product Review: Kingsford Professional Coal and Roasted Garlic Rubbed Ribeye

Kingsford has rebranded their Competition Briquetes* as Kingsford Professional Briquets.  They sent me a bag free to try out so I grilled up this roasted garlic rubbed ribeye.  

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Roasted garlic rubbed ribeye with sea salt potatoes

It is the same all-natural briquettes, but they felt the Competition label was limiting when these briquettes are "perfect for any grilling occasion where you want a higher heat, less as or a long, consistent burn".  The new label more accurately describes the purpose for them. 

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I reached out to 6 time World Champion Pitmaster, Chris Lilly, of Big Bob Gibson's Barbecue about the Professional line and here are his thoughts:

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Before I cooked with the Professional coal, I set up an experiment to test the claims.  Although this isn't a lab or anything, I tried to be as careful as possible to be consistent to make true comparisons.  I used the same grill, set up, and did it on a mild day with as few temperature/wind variations as possible.  

I compared the Kingsford Professional against their Original (aka "blue bag") and Royal Oak's all natural briquette - Chef's Select.  

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I used a Char-Broil CB500X for the test and built a small pyramid of 14 briquettes on one side.  I lit each sample on 4 corners with a MAPpro gas torch and then closed the lid.

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For 2 hours, I recorded the temperature at the grate level on the opposite side every 5 minutes using a reference grade ThermaQ for precision accuracy.  I did this shot just for a picture - the lid stayed closed the entire 2 hours for each sample.

One issue was that the Chef Select weighed much more, almost twice that of a Kingsford briquete.  I tried using an equivalent weight as shown but it would never really get started.  So I ended up just using the same number of briquettes - 14 stacked in a pyramid.

Once the 2 hours was up, I weighed the ash that fell into a collection tray that I put below the charcoal grate.  The scale was zeroed out as to not weight the pan itself, only the ash.

Sorry about the poor rendering.  The red line is Kingsford Pro, the grey is Chef Select, and the blue is Kingsford Original.

Granted this is a small scale test and I don't have the desire to repeat this several more times.  But my informal test results pretty much proved their claims.

Faster Starting
True.  Chef's Select was a close second but Kingsford Professional got hotter, faster.

Higher Heat
True.  Kingsford Professional had both a significantly higher average heat output and maximum temperature during this trial.  

Less Ash
True.  The ash leftover from Kingsford Professional weighed in decidedly less than the other two.

Long, Consistent Burn
Undecided.  Visually you can see that the Professional burns "hotter for longer".  However at the same time, the other two are hotter than the Professional at the 2 hour mark so you could make the argument they burned "longer".  If you go by average deviation, Original has the least deviation in temp but that is a direct effect of the other two being faster starting.  So it's kind of hard to call this one.  

What about lump coal?  I didn't throw that in at first because it brings in so many more variables but I did a trial on that too just for grins and giggles.  I used a brand that I have liked using for a few months.

Since I couldn't count 14 briquettes of lump, I used the same amount by weight - 309 grams.

Stacked it as pyramid-ish as possible and lit just like the others.
Sorry about the poor rendering.  The red line is Kingsford Pro, the grey is Chef Select, and the blue is Kingsford Original. Green is the lump.

You can see the lump blew the others away in start up times and max temp but also had wild temperature variations.  This would be different in a controlled air flow environment like a kamado but in a normal grill with less regulated air flow, the lump rages and then burns itself out.  That makes sense because I when I first started and used a cheap offset smoker, I got more stable temps with briquettes and didn't understand why people raved about lump coal. Then I got into kamado grilling and saw the difference.  

As far as burning, I think the Kingsford Professional burns cleanly, even shortly after warm up. It doesn't have any off flavors and imparts a nice smokiness on foods.  

Kingsford Professional should be in stores near you sometime this Spring.  

Roasted Garlic Rubbed Ribeye
Whenever I roll out the kettle grill, I feel like I'm getting back to the basics of grilling. Here's a good basic steak recipe I did earlier this week.  

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I roasted a bunch of heads of garlic.  Just slice off the top.  Drizzle with good olive oil, salt, pepper, herbs, butter, whatever.  Roast them indirect on a grill for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

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You don't get garlic better than this!  Just squeeze all of the garlic out of the top into a container so you can keep them in the fridge.  Use this to make compound butters, mashed potatoes, pasta sauces, or anything in which you would use garlic.  Rub a clove or two all over your pizza dough.  They're like magic.

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I used the Kingsford Professional in my Char-Broil Kettleman grill.

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I did a little more than a half chimney of the Pro.  Speaking of fast start up times, using the fast lighting Kingsford Pro in this Char-Broil Half Time chimney, my coals were ready in 8 minutes!  This is one of those "why didn't they think of that before now?" kind of things.

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My back to basics recipe - 4 ingredients.  Choice bone in ribeye, kosher salt, black pepper, and roasted garlic. 
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Smash a clove and rub it all over the steak.  That's a clove per side.  Roasted garlic is very soft and will smear sort of like a paste.

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Rubbed and seasoned with salt and pepper, I put them down for five minutes per side over a hot grill.  

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I give it a quarter turn half way through each side to get cross hatch marks.  The steak wasn't medium rare yet so I shuffled it to an indirect spot on the grill and let it finish roasting up to an internal temperature of 127°f. 
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Alexis and I split this with some sea salt and herb potatoes.  
I hope you are having a great Spring and ready to bring out your grills (if you put them up).  I see some of our Colorado friends are getting hammered by snow still - I hope y'all are able to fire them up soon too!

[FTC Disclosure] I received the bag of Kingsford Professional for free but receive no other compensation from them.  I have a content agreement with Char-Broil and get my gear from them for free; however, received no compensation for this post.  I just happened to be using their stuff.  I paid full price for my ThermaQ.  

*Kingsford uses the alternate spelling of "briquetes" while I prefer to use the mainstream "briquettes".  

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Next Week Only - The Jordie

I've mentioned It's All So Yummy Cafe on here before.  They are a locally owned and operated cafe that hand makes their delicious soups, amazing sandwiches, and outrageously good ice creams.  Because of that they are one of our favorite places to eat.

For the week of March 28 through April 1st, I am proud to have It's All So Yummy featuring one of my creations - The Jordie.

The Jordie - brisket, BBQ sauce, chili, chips, pepper jack cheese, Asiago cheese, and corn chips on grilled sour dough bread.

The Jordie starts with our competition smoked brisket that we chop up and add just a touch of our friend, Kirk's, Albukirky's Duke City Sweet BBQ Sauce.  Then we add melted pepper jack cheese, asiago cheese, chili sauce (think chili for hot dogs), and corn chips for some crunch - all on crispy grilled sourdough bread.  If you like it spicier we will throw some jalapenos on there for you.  

This is the cool thing.  For every Jordie sold at It's All So Yummy Cafe next week, $1 will be donated to Helen Ross McNabb Center for their Crisis Services, helping people in the community who are struggling with mental health issues. On top of that, we have arranged for a company matching donation.

So come to It's All So Yummy Cafe next week and buy a Jordie (and some soup and ice cream!).  It's located on Ebeneezer Rd and Kingston Pike in Knoxville (click for map). Your stomach will thank you and you will be supporting your fellow citizens.  

[FTC Standard Disclaimer]  We receive no compensation for this post and have no affiliation with It's All So Yummy Cafe other than we love eating there.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Sriracha Orange Sauce for Grilling, Stir Fry, and More

It has been Sriracha sauce week this week (March 7-13).  I'm sorry I didn't get you a greeting card but I got you this delicious grilling, stir fry, and more sauce instead.

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For the Sriracha sauce, we just used the popular Rooster sauce by Huy Fong.  You can see that trademark red bottle and green cap in the background.

I was instantly inspired for this sauce at breakfast a few weeks ago.  It's All So Yummy Cafe in Knoxville is our favorite locally owned sandwich, soup, and ice cream place.  Their grilled sandwiches are amazingly good, their soups made from scratch, and their ice cream flavors are creative.  A few weeks ago they started opening for breakfast and Alexis got the Big Orange Stacker.

It's All So Yummy Cafe
The Big Orange Stacker from It's All So Yummy Cafe.  They are open for breakfast on Saturdays now.  If you're in Knoxville, check them out.

It's a tower of homemade buttermilk biscuits, avocado, swiss cheese, fresh tomatoes, fried egg, crisp bacon, and an orange sriracha sauce.  I reached over to her plate and dabbed my pinky into the sauce for a little taste.  Damn, I never knew my pinky finger tasted so good. I came home and whipped up this version of the sauce that afternoon.

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This sauce is powerful with bold sweetness, a sharp citrus twang, and the mild complex heat of Sriracha.  This sauce is fantastic brushed onto grilled chicken or shrimp in the last few minutes of cooking.  I think it would work on pork tenderloins or BBQ ribs for something different.  It is dynamite mixed with a little soy sauce and tossed with stir fried chicken for Orange Chicken.  I even used it to make a bright citrus vinaigrette.  

We have tried 5 different brands of orange marmalade for this, from Smucker's off of the shelf to small batch versions that have to be mail ordered.  For off of the shelf, Smucker's worked better than the more expensive gourmet brands at the store.  But the hands down winner for this recipe was Sarabeth's Blood Orange Marmalade.  It has a much more organic texture, you can actually pour it, compared to pretty much all of the rest that are gelatinous marmalades that you have to spoon out of the jar.  The major difference was taste, the sweetness seems more natural from the oranges than added sugar.  

Our preferred marmalade after trying several.

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BGE chicken breast, BGE mini-max cast iron grate
I couldn't wait to try it so I grilled a couple of chicken breasts on the BGE Mini-Max kamado grill.  It was excellent, exactly what I was looking for. 

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This past weekend was gorgeous and Springlike, so I rolled out the Kettleman grill to do some "old school" grilling like when I first started barbecuing.  

A kamado grill is my preferred weapon of choice so people are sometimes curious why I use different grills, if the kamado grill is really that good.  In business there's a saying that if the only tool in your toolbag is a hammer, you treat every opportunity as a nail.  Same with grilling, I like to use a variety of grills because:
  1. it challenges my skill set,
  2. it helps me keep an open mind,
  3. it helps me connect better with my audience - only about half are kamado users, the rest are using kettles, gas grills, and such, 
  4. and most importantly, sometimes I just feel like it.  

Sponsorships?  Sure, it's nice to have them but I have used a variety of grills (Brinkman SnP, Brinkmann Professional Charcoal Grill, Smoke Hollow gas/coal combo unit, and more) since the start of this blog and long before sponsorships were rolling in.  

I used about 1/2 chimney of briquettes.

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I made a simple rub of 1 tablespoon salt, 1/2 tablespoon Lawry's Seasoned Salt, 1 teaspoon granulated garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon dried parsley.

I spritzed 3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves with spray butter and then seasoned them with the rub.  The butter acts as a binder for the rub but also oils the meat to help prevent sticking and get a nice crust.

I arranged the coals in a single layer and left room for an indirect area.

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My target for grilling chicken breasts, whether grilling on a kamado or kettle, is in the 350-400°F.

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If I'm doing thick breasts (not butterflied), I typically do about 6 minutes per side directly over the hot coals.
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After 12 total minutes, I brush them with the sauce on both sides and then shift the chicken to the indirect area that is not directly over the coals.  I close the grill lid and let them finish cooking until they hit an internal temp of 160°f.  That's usually about 10 minutes.

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The indirect heat bakes the sauce on without burning it.

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Since we were putting this chicken on salads, I let them sit for 15 minutes or the hot meat would wilt the lettuce and veggies.

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We had sauce leftover so I decided to whisk up a vinaigrette for our salad with the sauce.

Sriracha Orange Vinaigrette
1/3 cup Sriracha Orange Sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sriracha sauce
2/3 cup olive oil

Mix together the sauce, vinegar, salt, pepper, and Sriracha.  Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking vigorously.  Or briskly.  Whatever your whisking style is, just do it fast and the oil slow.

We put together a salad of mixed greens and Swiss chard, onions, avocado, Mandarin orange segments, homemade bacon, and rice noodles.  Then we sliced the chicken breast and topped that with the vinaigrette.

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I still call this bunny rabbit food, but it's damn good bunny rabbit food!  

Sriracha Wings
Speaking of Sriracha Week, our friends Brian and Marilyn at Hot Sauce Daily posted this recipe post for Garlic Sriracha Chicken Wings based on one of our favorite wing recipes by Michael Symon. Click on over there to check it out.

Also, did you know that there is a Sriracha beer?  Rouge Ale and Spirits has brought to market a Sriracha flavored stout beer.  The tell-tale rooster and green cap are a nod to Huy Fong's brand of Sriracha sauce.

I like beer but I'm not sure that this one is for me.  I mean I'd try one if you had it in your fridge but I wouldn't go out of my way to buy one.  How about you - would you try it?

Happy Sriracha Week!  Errrr....well there's only 2 days left.  Happy Sriracha Weekend! 

[FTC Standard Disclaimer]  I received no compensation for this post.  We paid full price for the Sarabeth marmalade and Rooster sauce.  I bought the BGE Mini-Max.  I got the Char-Broil Kettleman as part of my sponsorship package last year.  I have no affiliation with Huy Fong or Rogue Ale.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Southwestern Chicken and Charred Corn Chowder

Spring is knocking at the door but Winter isn't gone just yet. Technically Ol Man Winter has a few weeks left and he can still throw a last punch or two on his way out.  Remember that the Blizzard of '93 hit in mid-March.  

So in case you get another cold snap or two, here is a fantastic chowder that we've made a few times this winter.  It's creamy, hearty, and brimming with flavor.  It's not really a true chowder since I don't use a roux but the end result is worthy of the name.  

If you aren't up to grilling a chicken or making the veggies, you can do a cheating version.  You can use a rotisserie chicken instead and use 2 cans of Mexi-corn (corn with chiles) in place of the fresh veggies.  If you do this, cut out all salt until tasting at the end because the processed stuff contains more salt. 

Southwestern Chicken and Charred Corn Chowder

Published 03/07/2016


  • 1 whole chicken, spatchcocked (see notes)
  • Southwestern Seasoning
  • Seasoning Salt
  • 1 poblano chile
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 4 ears yellow corn, shucked and silks removed
  • 1 can yellow corn kernels, drained
  • 1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 3/4 teaspoon seasoned pepper or black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon ancho chile pepper
  • 2 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 slices pepper jack cheese
  • 2 slices mild cheddar cheese
  • salt to taste (about 1 teaspoon)


  1. Preheat your grill to 350°f and set it up for "raised direct" or grilling on an elevated rack. 
  2. Spritz the chicken lightly with spray butter or oil and then season the chicken liberally on the front and back with the Southwestern seasoning and seasoning salt.  
  3. Place the chicken skin side up on the raised grill grate, close the lid, and cook until the chicken reaches 160°f in the breasts and 175-180°f in the thighs.  On the kamado this consistently runs right at 1 hour.  Allow to rest for 15 minutes. Remove meat from skin and bones and tear into bite sized pieces.
  4. Meanwhile fire roast, peel, and chop the chiles.
  5. Grill the corn until slightly charred on each side, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side.  Remove from the grill and slice the kernels off of the cobs.
  6. Place the 2 cups of chicken meat, chiles, fresh corn, can corn, soup, stock, seasoned pepper, salt (start light, about 1 teaspoon), and cream cheese in a thick bottomed, grill safe pot or Dutch oven.  Place pot on the main grate of the 350°f grill, close the lid, and allow to cook for an hour once it comes to a simmer.  NOTE:  I cover it covered until it has simmered for about 45 minutes.
  7. Add the sliced cheeses, stirring them in until melted.  Taste for final seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.   
Yield: 6

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Firing up the Grill Dome using a MAPpro gas torch - my preferred way of starting up a kamado grill.  I just hit 3 spots around the edges for 20 full seconds each. Other methods include starter cubes, an oiled paper towel "wick", electric starter, weed burner, Looftlighter, and alcohol.  I prefer the torch because I think it's faster and more consistent. Plus dodging the popping coal bits keeps my ninja skills in shape.

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To spatchcock a chicken, use kitchen sheers to cut out the backbone (save it for stock).  Flip the bird over and forcibly push down with the heel of your hand on the sternum.  You should hear the ribs crack.  If you are too squeamish, you can ask a full service butcher to do it for you.  

The advantage to a spatchcocked chicken is that it cooks quicker and more evenly because it is flattened out.  In my opinion it's a much more reliable method than "beer can chicken".  

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Notice the wings, I fold the wing tips back behind the shoulder like this.  This keeps the wings tucked in so they don't cook too fast compared to the rest of the bird.  

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The raised direct technique on a Grill Dome kamado grill.  This does a few things. First, it gets you away from the most intense heat of the coals below, allowing you to cook it through without ever having to flip the chicken.  Second, it puts the chicken closer to the reflective heat of the ceramic dome, giving even cooking and crispy skin.

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While that was cooking, I fired up the BGE Mini-Max to grill my veggies.  I could do that on the same grill once the chicken was done but if you have lots of grills, you might as well use more than one at a time, right?

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Technically this is grilling, not roasting, but whatever.  I love the smell of fire cooked veggies.

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Don't be shy, you almost can't get chile peppers TOO charred.  You want it black.

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I didn't use any wood in the coals, but you could if you like.  The smoke here is just rendered fat dropping onto the red hot coals below where the drippings pretty much vaporize.  That's another advantage of the raised direct technique, any flare ups won't burn the chicken. 

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That is a pretty chicken, isn't it?  I could have just quit cooking here, I wanted to just eat this right on the cutting board.

Brightly colored foods, in general, are supposed to be good for you, right?  Flavorful too.

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I cook it covered at first because a lidded pot gets the chowder up to a simmer quicker, keeps the liquid from evaporating, and keeps it from getting too smoky.  Sidenote:  I've had this bean pot for 5 or 6 years but this is the first time I have ever noticed that it was made in "RANCE".

Once it has cooked for a while, I take the lid off and cook it until it gets to the texture I want.  Now the liquid will evaporate off and the chowder will start to thicken.

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This is our favorite new soup/stew/chowder from this Winter.

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We came up with the idea of making some blue cornbread mini-waffles for a topping.  But you could use anything you like - croutons, onions, black beans, cilantro, cheese, Mexican crema, etc.

This reheats very well so you can make it ahead of time, making it convenient for fast weeknight dinners.

[Standard FTC Disclaimer]  I received no compensation for this post.