Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Giveaway: Operation BBQ - 200+ Smokin' Recipes from Competition Grand Champions - UPDATED

Operation BBQ Relief is one of the best organizations that you can support.  OBR was founded to feed survivors and first responders in the wake of the Joplin Tornado in 2011.  Since then, Operation BBQ Relief has gone on to have 57 deployments and provide over 2.9 million meals to those in need and first responders.  

The organization has released Operation BBQ - 200+ Smokin' Recipes from Competition Grand Champions as a fundraiser and this is a top-notch, rocking BBQ and grilling cookbook.


Let's face it, sometimes community fund-raiser cookbooks are a hodge-podge of hit and miss recipes.  They are often full of lack-luster recipes like Aunt Judy's jello mold or are unoriginal casserole recipes copied from the label on a can of condensed "cream of whatever" soup.

Not this one!  Every single recipe in Operation BBQ comes from a competition BBQ team that has at least one Grand Champion victory to their credit.  The recipes are kickin' and the photography by Ken Goodman is drool-inducing.  For example....

Jalapeno and Applewood Bacon Burgers with Smoked Vermont Cheddar and Crispy Vidalia Onions by Three Men and A Babyback BBQ Team (page 147).  Photo from the book.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Event Recap: 2019 Sunshine State Eggfest in Vero Beach, FL

The Nibble Me This Grilling & BBQ Team had a fun-filled time at the Sunshine State Eggfest hosted by Wassi's Meat Market this past weekend in Vero Beach.


An Eggfest is a food festival that features mouth-watering grilled delights cooked on Big Green Eggs by teams of "Eggheads" (BGE enthusiasts).  This year there were 41 grilling teams, 8 restaurant teams, and 10 vendor teams participating in the event that raises money for Candlelighters of Brevard.

So much fun, food, and fellowship go on at these events that it is impossible to capture it all in a post.  But here are some pictures from the weekend to give you an idea of what goes on at these food festivals.

For Alexis and me, it starts with loading up the truck with coolers, hotboxes, grilling tools, and whatever else we can fit in the Titan XD.   Our drive for this event was 13 hours thanks to traffic so we got to the AirBnB (actually VBRO?) after dark. 

I woke up the next morning and saw that Sean was fishing at dawn. I rolled over an got another hour or two of sleep, the fish could wait.  Photo credit: Rhonda Hollis

We were on the Indian River which brings back memories of driving to Cape Canaveral to watch Apollo and Shuttle launches.   Rhonda got this fantastic picture from the balcony.
Usually, we do most of the food prep on Thursday at Rhonda's home so we have Friday to goof off and finish up any details.  This year; however, work got in the way and we ended up prepping most everything on Friday.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Product Review: Char-Broil Kamander (after 2 years of use)

[FTC Disclosure]  I received my Kamander for free from Char-Broil when they first came out.  I do have a service contract with Oklahoma Joe's, a related company; however, that agreement does not require or request that I post about their products on this blog or social media.  Anything I post here is just because I feel like it.

Earlier this week, news outlets reported on Consumer Reports testing of kamado grills and Consumer Reports recommended the Char-Broil® Kamander™ for a low-cost kamado.  The Kamander currently lists at $379, but it is currently advertised as low as $299.

I thought that I would share my experience with this cooker after two years of use, for the people who are considering buying one.

Image from Char-Broil.com

Initial Impressions

I have to admit that I had preconceived notions about this smoker before I got it.  I was expecting to dislike it because of bad experiences using another brand of cheap, metal kamado grills.

When I unboxed and assembled the Char-Broil Kamander, I thought it looked snazzy, I loved the price, and I liked how light it was compared to my heavy ceramic kamado grills.  But my past use of cheap metal kamados made me wary.  I didn't like the weird air intake vent, I assumed that holding temperatures would be an issue, and I thought it would rust out quickly.

It only took a few cooks to prove me wrong.   For the past 2 years, we have used our Kamander in frequent rotation with our other grills and smokers. This kamado became our "on the road grill" because it was so portable.  It even got pressed into severe use, cooking several hundred wings at the 2018 Big Kahuna Wing Festival when our big smoker went down. Our abuse of the Kamander has shown that this kamado can grill and smoke with the best of them.

Here is a breakdown of the Kamander, component by component.

Exterior Shell

The shell is made out of powder coated steel.  The dome lid is double-insulated to maintain steady temperatures, and the exterior stays relatively cool, showing the insulation is sufficient. The base is double insulated by utilizing the internal components and also stays relatively cool.


The advantage of the metal shell is that it is much lighter than the ceramic shell of my Eggs. The obvious concern with steel is rust but two years in and I have none anywhere on mine so far, inside or out. The metal does not have the temperature stabilizing thermal mass of ceramic, but I haven't seen this be an issue even on cold, windy days.  A strength of the metal shell is it doesn't break like ceramic.

Gasket

The gasket is the piece that makes an airtight seal.  The stock gasket on my three Big Green Eggs was constructed of felt and two of those gaskets burned out within six months. A "high performance" gasket offered as an upgrade, I believe that is made of Nomex® or another type of meta-aramid.  I chose instead to replace the gasket on my Eggs with a woven fiber gasket, and I have never had to replace those.  Kamado Joe has switched to a woven fiber gasket on their new kamados.

The Kamander features a woven fiber gasket, as well.


Instead of adhesive, this gasket is held on by a series of spring clips.  I was worried that the spring clips would give out, but that hasn't been an issue, I've never had to touch them since installation.  My gasket has held up nicely, it is still fully intact and doesn't leak air.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Dry Aged Ribeye Steaks

[FTC Disclosure] I received the steak knives as a gift from Certified Angus Beef® Brand.  

I have been having some fun with dry-aged, ribeye steaks over the past month.

Dry-aged ribeye steak with crisp potato stack

I had the steaks because I had dry-aged a Certified Angus Beef® Brand whole ribeye to make this dry aged ribeye roast.  It was one of the final recipes that we shot earlier this year for my new book coming out in July 2019.  

Dry aged smoked ribeye roast from The Offset Smoker Cookbook

I like to use UMAi Dry bags for dry aging because I don't have a dedicated dry aging refrigerator.  These bags are semi-permeable and let air and moisture pass out through the bag but won't let aromas from other foods in the fridge get to the ribeye.

I placed the ribeye into the bag and then vacuum-seal the end with a special membrane (supplied in the kit) in place. One problem we ran into was our vacuum sealer.  After burning through sealer after sealer, we finally found a durable one that we like and has lasted a few years.  The problem is to seal these bags with a ribeye in it, we actually needed one that opens up like a clamshell, so we had to buy another cheap one, just for this.

Dry aging a Certified Angus Beef Brand ribeye using an UMAi Dry bag
Ribeye in the fridge. Notice that it is on a raised rack so air can circulate around the entire ribeye.  The sweet spot for dry aging is 33-36°f, so I kept a refrigerator thermometer near the ribeye to make sure that it was staying in that range.  I also kept an eye on relative humidity (65-70%) with a cheap hygrometer and put a small battery powered fan near the ribeye.
I dry aged this ribeye for 30 days.  During that time, a couple of things happen.  Moisture evaporates from the meat, which is going to concentrate the flavor much like reducing a stock.  Also, natural enzymes in the meat break down the meat, making it more tender and flavorful.


Thursday, April 4, 2019

Stockyard Spud - Prime Rib Stuffed Baked Potatoes

[FTC Disclosure]  I received no direct compensation for this post; however, I am attending an expenses-paid trip to Certified Angus Beef® Brand's BBQ Summit later this month.  Also, if you end up buying one of my books, obviously I get compensation there.

The Stockyard Spud is my latest creation from leftovers.  It is a mammoth-sized Idaho spud fire-roasted on a kamado grill and then stuffed with chopped, smoked prime rib, beef jus, cheddar cheeses, and caramelized onions.  

The Stockyard Spud - Fire roasted potato stuffed with smoked prime rib, beef jus, cheddar cheese, and caramelized onions featuring Certified Angus Beef Brand


If you don't have a slice of prime rib roast lying around, some chopped up leftover steak would be just as good in this.  Heck, this will let you split one steak between 3 or 4 people and still leave no one hungry.

I'm not going to write up the recipe, this is more of a "take the concept and run with it" kind of thing.  If you have any questions, just shoot me an email or reach out on social media.  I had to turn off comments because of the ridiculous amounts of spam comments per day made it too hard to manage.

I happened to have a slice of this dry-aged, smoked rib roast leftover from the last photo shoot for my second book -  The Offset Smoker Cookbook (releases in July 2019).

I dry aged an 18-pound Certified Angus Beef® Brand ribeye roast for 30 days using a Umai Dry bag. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Carolina ATW Burger

[FTC Disclosures]  I received a free sample package of Kingsford® Flavored Briquets.  I didn't sign up with Certified Angus Beef® Brand this year (logistical reasons only), but I am attending an expenses-paid BBQ seminar with them later this month.

Think about the best burger you have ever eaten.  The best burger that I have ever had is from Melvin's in Elizabethtown, North Carolina.

Photo Credit: BladenOnline

Elizabethtown is a small town, about 3,500 people today and even fewer people back in the 70's when I had my first Melvin's burger.  Melvin's was also known as the Pool Room because that's what it started out as.  Today the pool tables have been replaced with dining booths, but the burgers are still amazing.  The food is so good that at lunch, the line stretches out of the back door.  But the crew is lightning fast, and you never have to wait for long.

For me, the only way to get a burger at Melvin's is ATW (all the way) - topped with chili, creamy slaw, diced fresh onion, and yellow mustard.  You can get a similar burger at Cookout, there it is called "Cookout style."  I was craving a Melvin's burger the other day so made a homemade version. 

A Carolina-style ATW burger is absolutely a messy burger!



Melvin's used to have the local Red and White Store grind their beef, but now they do it in-house.  My grandmother once told me that they grind white bread in with their beef.  I heard another rumor that they put breakfast sausage into it, but that would make more sense for the chili. I will experiment with that this summer.  All of my ground beef blend (brisket and sirloin flap) was frozen, so I ran to Food City and picked up a package of Schweid and Son's The One Percenter, which are made from USDA Prime Certified Angus Beef® Brand chuck.  

For this cook, my weapon of choice was my PK Grill.  I just felt like grilling old-school, and this grill is about as basic as you get, in a good way.  I used a chimney full of Kingsford® pecan flavored briquettes

Melvin's burgers are cooked on flattop griddles, so I flipped a set of GrillGrates to create fire powered griddle.  Inverted GrillGrates are quite effective at transferring heat, so you have to cut your cook times by about 10-20%.  I did these about 3 minutes a side.  As soon as they were done, I seasoned them with finely ground NMT Beef Rub v.2

I used the chili recipe from our Chorizo Chili Cheeseburger recipe for this burger.  Melvin's uses a creamy mayonnaise-based chopped slaw.  I was out of mayo but I had a bottle of Lane's Sorta White BBQ sauce so I used that as my coleslaw dressing.  

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Skillet Porterhouse Steak Basted with Compound Butter and Tallow

[FTC Standard Disclaimer] This is not a sponsored post, as I have taken a break from sponsorships this year.  However, in the spirit of transparency, we still have a close working relationship with the folks at Certified Angus Beef® Brand.

Many of my friends scoff at the notion of "grilling season" because most of us grill and barbecue throughout the year.  But I still think that there is a "grilling season" that starts for me with Daylight Savings Time.  "Grilling season" to me means that it is the optimum conditions for grilling:
  • Lighting - The sun starts setting later in the evening, and for our deck, that means beautiful rays of golden sunlight boldly shine through the trees in our backyard.
  • Warmth - It feels good to be outside, with warm breezes and pleasant temperatures.  
  • Wildlife - Birds, frogs, rabbits, squirrels, and other critters are out and about, and their chorus of animal Tinder ads fill the air.
  • Greenery - Winter's fifty shades of grey is over.  The grass is vibrantly green, flowers are bursting open like fireworks, and trees have leaves, once again.
To celebrate the first day of Daylight Savings Time this year, I went to Food City and picked up the prettiest Certified Angus Beef® Brand porterhouse steak they had.  I cooked it in a skillet over hardwood coals and basted it with a mix of compound butter and beef tallow.



When I was posting about this while cooking, one of my followers asked a good question:

@nibblemethis , this may be a dumb question, but what’s the advantage of searing a steak in a cast iron skillet over coals vs. a hot gas or electric stove? Does the meat acquire extra smoke flavor? Gas seems so easy compared to coals. Thanks
The answer is that I did it solely to enjoy the experience.  With an open grill like this, you aren't going to get any smoke flavor.  If I used the skillet as the sear part of the reverse sear technique, then yes, I would get that smoky taste. 

Gear and Set Up

I decided to use a skillet for this cook.  I love uniform cross-hatch marks, but it is hard to beat a cast iron skillet seared steak.  But more importantly, I wanted to butter-baste our steak.  My weapon of choice was a PK Grill, a simple clam-shell type grill and I used Tennessee hardwood lump charcoal.  Notice two things.  
  • First, the skillet is empty.  Don't add food, oil, or anything until it is preheated - when you start to see slight wisps of smoke come off the surface.  
  • Second, notice the gap with no charcoals, that is my escape area if the skillet gets too hot.