Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Willy's Brisket Burgers

When BBQ competitions roll around, I head to Willy's Butcher Shop in Knoxville to get our pork butts and wagyu brisket.  They are also my go to place for other wagyu beef, dry aged steaks, craft sausages, and other high end meats.  When we were picking up our competition stuff, Willy had some thick, great looking burgers made out of ground brisket.  You know we had to buy some.

Custom beef blends for burgers has been a trend over the past few years.  We learned about Chris Lilly's perfect burger blend at the inaugural Kingsford Invitational in 2012.  It had brisket, oxtail, and short rib in it.  We also covered custom beef blends at Grill Talk at the kitchens of Certified Angus Beef last year.  Mike Vrobel of Dad Cooks Dinner and I went with ribeye, short rib, and sirloin flap (like skirt steak).  Another good blend is brisket and flank steak.  

Notice that almost all of those have luscious, fatty beef mixed with leaner, beefy cuts.  But here is Willy rocking the ground brisket burgers - 100% brisket.  I was worried that they might be too fatty but these were crazy good.  Because these burgers were extra thick and very cold (I had them in the Yeti with the competition meats for most of the day), I cooked them at a slightly lower temp and for longer.  Normally I would just straight grill my burgers 4-5 minutes a side.

Since these burgers are loaded with succulent fat, I used a bit of a bolder rub, spicy cheese, and that chile crema I posted a few days ago to balance out the flavor.  Oh yeah, I also used some of our home cured and smoked bacon (pork belly from Willy's, of course).  They were fantastic - the best we've had this year.

Making custom burger blends.

Willy's Brisket Burgers
Makes:  4 huge burgers

For the Burger Dry Rub
  • 2 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp NMT fajita rub
  • 1 tsp mild chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  1. Preheat your grill to medium heat (350-400°f) direct heat.  
  2. Mix together the dry rub ingredients and season the burgers all over. 
  3. Sear the burgers for 5 minutes a side and then check your internal temperatures.
  4. Move the burgers to indirect heat, top with cheese, close the lid and allow to finish cooking to your desired final temperature, about 5 minutes for medium.
  5. Serve with the crema drizzled on top.

The Kick Ash Basket is one of the best must have accessories for a Big Green Egg kamado grill.
Finally bought a Kick Ash Basket for my Mini-Max. We originally got them for our large kamado grills just so we could take the coal out and cool them down quickly at BBQ contests.  But now John and I pretty much use them whether competing or at home.  They aren't needed but they sure make reusing your leftover coal and clean up easier.  

I wanted a big bold flavors to balance the succulence of the burgers, so I went Southwestern.  I used our fajita seasoning recipe but you can just buy one if you aren't so inclined.

Willy's shrink wraps his burgers to keep them fresher, longer.  This squeezes them in a bit so you need to flatten them back out a bit and put a dimple in the middle as shown.  That will help keep them from drawing up with a bulge in the middle.

Great burger grilling tips - season the sides of your hamburgers.
Here's a tip I picked up from BBQ competition chicken - don't forget to season your sides because that is the first place the judge is going to bite.  Same thing goes for burgers. 

How to grill burgers on the Big Green Egg.
We use our Mini-Max mostly for small, quick cooking things like burgers and steaks.

Grill Grates are one of the top 10 grilling accessories for a kamado grill.
Yeah, the burger looks cool but look at how the rendered brisket fat coats those Grill Grates like a lacquer finish! 

Killer burger recipe for the Green Egg.
Is there anything better than grilled burgers on a sunny Saturday afternoon?

I put my homemade raised grate over the Grill Grates to let these burgers finish roasting to temp. Like I said, normally I would just straight grill them but these were not only extra thick, they were very, very cold.  
Incredible bacon cheese burger recipe
I love this burger because while it doesn't have a ton of toppings, it still has a LOT going on.

So what is your favorite burger?  Do you have a favorite blend or just like ground chuck/sirloin/round?  Favorite toppings?

[Standard FTC Disclaimer]  I received no compensation for this post.  I paid full price for my Mini-Max, Kick Ash Basket, and our meat from Willy's.  I got the GrillGrates for free from Brad, but we have been fans of each other's work for several years since we met at Eggtoberfest in 2010.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Fire Roasted Grilla Meatloaf

One of my favorite things to fire roast is meatloaf.  It is one of the ultimate comfort foods to me.  Meatloaf with sides of mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, and some greens is better at putting you to sleep than Ambien.  The best meatloaf is making a leftover meatloaf sandwich at 2 or 3 in the morning (speaking of Ambien).  

I like all kinds of meatloaf.  Ones that blend pork, veal, beef, and/or sausage together are tasty but so are ones made just from ground beef.  I like ones with brown gravy as much as I do ones with a sweet tangy tomato based glaze.  I like meatloaf with big coarse chunks of sauteed veggies and ones that have everything so ground up it's basically just sausage.  I enjoy meatloaf that is stuffed with boiled eggs.  I guess what I am saying is:

I will eat meatloaf on a boat,
I will eat meatloaf with a goat.
I will eat meatloaf made with lamb,
I like meatloaf, Sam I Am. 

We made this recipe specifically to go into another recipe.  Well, we weren't very successful in using it in that other recipe, mainly because the two of us ate the entire thing when it was done.  It started off with "just a taste" and you know how that goes.  It's pretty basic but oh so good.

How to make meatloaf on a pellet grill.

I don't like to cook meatloaf in bread pans because it just sits in it's own rendered grease.  They have special wire rack loaf pans that will act as a bread pan but let the grease get away from the meat.  Personally, I just free form mixture in the shape of a loaf and that's it.

For the BBQ sauce, you want something bold, sweet, and thick.  For these two batches, I used Albukirky's Duke City Sweet from my friend, Kirk. Another good one to use is Grilla's Thick and Bold BBQ Sauce which is the sauce that won us 2nd Place at the Memphis In May World Championship BBQ Cooking Contest.  

Fire Roasted Grilla Meatloaf


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 medium sweet onion 
  • 1 jalapeno chile, seeded and diced
  • 1 tablespoon roasted garlic or chopped garlic
  • 2 pounds ground chuck
  • 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup BBQ Sauce
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 teaspoon season salt  
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1/4 tsp celery seed

For The Glaze
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup BBQ Sauce
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  1. Saute the bell pepper, jalapeno, onion, and chopped garlic in butter until the veggies are tender, about 8 minutes.  (Skip the garlic if you are using roasted garlic, it's already cooked).
  2. Mix together the ground chuck, red bell pepper, chopped or roasted garlic, and panko bread crumbs.  
  3. Whisk together the eggs, BBQ sauce, black pepper, season salt, kosher salt, granulated garlic, and celery seed.  Fold this mixture into the ground chuck mixture until well combined.
  4. Form the meat loaf mixture into the shape of a loaf and refrigerate it for one hour.
  5. Set up your grill to indirect heat and preheat to 350°f. For a pellet cooker, just turn it on and set to 350°f.   For a kamado style grill like Big Green Egg, Grill Dome, or the Kong, this would be using a heat deflector or plate setter.  For a gas grill, this will be turning on some burners but leaving 1-2 of them off and your food will go over the areas where the burner(s) are off.  For a kettle grill, just bank the coals to the sides, put a drip pan next to the coals and the food will go on the grate above the drip pan.  
  6. Put your meatloaf on the grill, close the lid and let it cook until it reaches an internal temperature of 125°f.  
  7. While the meatloaf is cooking, whisk together the ketchup, BBQ sauce, and dark brown sugar until well combined in a small bowl.
  8. Brush the glaze over the meatloaf to coat the top and sides.  Put the loaf back on the grill with the lid closed and cook it until it reaches an internal temperature of 160°f, about another 30-45 minutes.
  9. Remove the meatloaf from the grill and let rest 5 minutes before slicing to serve.
We used 3 grills making this.  I could have done it all on one but I like to keep in practice on using all types of grills.  Yes kamados are my go to grill but like they say in business - if the only tool in your tool belt is a hammer, you'll treat all of your opportunities like a nail.  

Roast garlic on a Big Green Egg Mini-Max.
I roasted a batch of garlic on the Mini-Max.  About once a month we'll buy a bunch of heads of garlic and roast them just to have on hand.  Substitute roasted garlic for any recipe that calls for regular garlic and you'll get a richer garlic flavor and no bitter edge. 

Slice off the tops, drizzle with olive oil and season with sea salt and black pepper.  Roast indirect at 350-400° until tender and lightly browned - 60 to 90 minutes.  Then carefully (zey hot!) squeeze out the pulp and discard the rest.  We keep ours on refrigeration for about a week and use it in everything until its gone (< - - - Vampires hate him).  

The Char-Broil Professional is an excellent grill for outdoor cooking.
I sauteed the veggies on the side burner from my Char-Broil Professional.
I mentioned in my Memphis in May post that I had used a pellet cooker and hell didn't feeze over.  In fact, Alexis and I both really liked the Grilla pellet cooker because it was so easy to use and did a bang up job cooking. We were on the Grilla Grills pro team and it was one of the cookers that we had available for use. Fast forward a few weeks and Grilla gave me one of my very own.  I have a review post coming up but suffice it to say I love this thing so far.

The best pellet cooker I have ever used is the Grilla pellet cooker.
The Grilla pellet grill is a head turner, isn't it?  Pellet cookers like this are heated by burning small pellets of wood and they control temp by adding more or less pellets using an auger.

Cooking meatloaf on a pellet cooker is fantastic.
Since I don't use bread pans, the grease is going to have to go somewhere.  I use a resting rack over a foiled quarter sheet pan to catch the grease.  

No loafing here, the Grilla pellet cooker is the bomb.
Did you notice that the grill lid opens sideways?  That makes it easy to check on your food without letting all of your heat escape.  Typically I open it just a crack to see, I opened it more here for the picture.

Ready to sauce.  This is one of my favorite basting brushes. Normally those sets of grilling tools are pretty much crap.  But my brother bought me a set a few years ago from Williams Sonoma and it still rocks (Thanks Jeff!).  Other than a burn on the handle of the tongs, they still look great and function perfectly.  I like the length of the brush and the angled tip makes it easy to baste right on the grill.

Usually I never sauce anything until the last 10 minutes of cooking but for meatloaf I make an exception, I like it to really cook on there.  It's up to you, if you like it still gooey, then wait until your meatloaf reaches an internal temperature of 145°f to sauce it.


So what was that recipe that was going to use meatloaf as an ingredient?  It's a fire roasted meatloaf casserole that was killer.  I'll post that shortly.

*I am not a medical authority and I've never taken Ambien, this was creative license.

[Standard FTC Disclaimer] I received a Grilla pellet grill from Grilla Grills for helping out on their Memphis In May dream team....I was the nightmare part, lol.  I am not contracted with them nor do I receive any compensation from them.  

Monday, June 13, 2016

Tex-Mex Sauce: Hatch Green Chile and Cilantro Crema

We made this sauce tonight for some fajitas that we were grilling.  It was pretty fantastic and would be a great sauce for any kind of Tex-Mex food.  It's heat level is mild as written but you can add hotter chiles or just kick in some dried chile powder.  

Hatch Green Chile and Cilantro Crema 
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

  • 1 cup Mexican Crema
  • 4 ounce can Hatch diced green chiles
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon grilled lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon NMT Fajita Rub

  1. Mix all ingredients together and pulse in a small food processor or blender (aka Ninja-Bullet thingy). 

You can substitute sour cream for Mexican crema but most grocery stores stock crema in the refrigerated Latino foods section. 
I have ordered frozen Hatch chiles but I hadn't seen them available in cans before today.  Food City has them in their Latino dry goods section (ironically they DON'T carry crema).  If you can't find them just use canned diced green chiles.

Operation BBQ Relief - Volunteer Drive and Giveaway
Operation BBQ Relief (OBR) is a fantastic organization that feeds the victims and first responders in the wake of natural disasters.  It started after the 2011 Joplin tornado disaster.  Just a few BBQ guys were wondering what they could do to help.  So they did what they knew how to do - feed people. Since that time, OBR volunteers have responded to 29 disasters in 18 states feeding over 700,000 people.

OBR relies on the great American barbecue network family for talent and equipment.  Buy you don't have to be a pitmaster to help.  OBR needs registered volunteers to do everything from serving, packaging, loading, and plenty activities that you can do even if you burn toast (or in the BBQ community, boil your ribs).  

That's right - they aren't asking for a dime.  They are just asking you to take a few minutes to register to volunteer to help if a disaster strikes in your region.  Right now if you volunteer (or update your info for existing volunteers), you can get entered into this kick ass prize package!  

Prize package worth over $500 includes: 2 Panel Grill Grate Set & Spatula; Snake River Farms Grilling Package; Pelican 35 Qt Cooler; OBR Swag.

Who is #IAMOBR? You are! Sign up to be an OBR volunteer, join our mailing list & share this post on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram. 
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[This giveaway is run by OBR at the above listed links, not here.  You don't have to comment or do anything on my blog - just go register and share.]

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Scenes From Memphis In May 2016

Last month we competed at the Memphis In May World Championship BBQ Cooking Contest - or as I like to call it, "the Sodom and Gomorrah of BBQ" because of the sheer spectacle and excessiveness.  I was fortunate to have been invited to cook on Team Grilla which was made up of several great teams including Draper's BBQ, Charcoal Cowboys, Crow Creek BBQ, Susquehanna Smoke BBQ, Brother's BBQ, and a few other folks.  

I could write a book about our experiences but I'll leave it to a big photo summary.  But the long and short of it, I had a great time with friends, learned from my teammates, and oh yeah.....we got on stage with a Second Place in Tomato Based BBQ Sauce.  

Here are shots of some of the cookers that teams were using.

Memphis in May 2016
Tuffy Stone rolled into Memphis with his shiny new double barreled Jambo.  Pretty, isn't it?

Johnny Trigg, The Godfather of Ribs, came to battle in the biggest category at Memphis in May.

This rig has a little wear on it but it looks like it can handle it's own.

I thought this offset smoker looked pretty bad ass.

This stainless steel smoker is HUGE. I think the diameter was about 4 to 5 feet.  

We used a pair of Tucker cookers, an Old Hickory, and Grilla's new Kong kamados.

The Kong is Grilla's entry to the kamado grill market and it's what we used for our Ancillary Categories entries.  At 21+ inches across the interior, this is a huge kamado!  As shown they are $799 delivered to your door, shipping included.

Team Booths
At most BBQ contests, "team booth" means a few pop up canopies in a 10x20 space or a trailer by itself.  At Memphis In May everything is bigger, wilder, and just a bit ridiculous.  "Team booths" are often multi-story structures with professional lighting and sound systems.  Ours was on the small side and had an event tent with subfloor, a trailer, and two pop ups.

Since this is a World championship, each year there is a "host" country named and this year it was Canada.  So you will see a lot of Canadian references in the themes this year.

See what I mean?  This is a "team booth".

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

How To Replace A Gasket On A Big Green Egg Kamado Grill

Once upon a time, back in 2010, we bought Egg #2.  It had virgin ivory ceramics inside and the felt gasket was unblemished.

Big green egg kamado table design

Six years later, the heavy grilling, smoking, and being hauled around to BBQ contests have taken their toll.  The gasket was toast.  Actually it was beyond toast, this gasket more.   

Replacing a BGE gasket and installing a Rutland gasket.
Yeah, it's beyond time to replace this gasket.

Gaskets are the weakest point of a kamado grill.  They function as a seal between the top and bottom pieces of the ceramic grill.  They are made of things like felt, Nomex, and rubber.  Eventually, most of them fail.  Egg #1 lost his gasket within the first year and I ran it gasket-less for years.  Using a kamado without a gasket isn't the end of the world but they work a lot better with one.

How to replace a Grill Dome gasket.
My Grill Dome gasket has had over a year of very heavy use and it is surprisingly intact.  But it has gotten compacted and pretty inflexible so it doesn't provide much of a seal if I have thermometer cables running into the kamado.  I think I'll go ahead and replace it too but it has held up well.
When it comes to replacement gaskets, check with your kamado manufacturer first for their recommendations and whether or not they cover the gasket under warranty (most won't).  

So here is where I tell you don't do what I do, because technically the woven fiberglass gasket that I use is NOT approved by any kamado manufacturers that I know of and it is NOT certified as food safe. This is the thing....I'm not cooking my food on the gasket - I'm cooking it on the grill. 

Step by step tutorial for how to install a new gasket on a big green egg kamado grill.

Step 1 - Get your stuff!

For me, the only gasket that I will use is a Rutland stove gasket. I heard about them from a lot of people who swore by them on the kamado forums. The bottom line for me is that I have never had to replace a Rutland on a kamado once I have installed one. 

What to order to install a new gasket on a BGE kamado grill
The specific model I use is a Rutland 95W-6    (3/4" x 1/4" x 7') .  This is a flat gasket, not the rope style.  You can buy them online from Amazon but I got all three of these items from Ace Hardware in Knoxville.   Note that the gasket is much thicker than the original one on the kamado.  You will only be installing it on the lower rim.  The rim of the dome lid will stay bare after this replacement.

Instead of using the cement provided with the gasket, I like to use Permatex Copper gasket maker.  It's the same stuff we used to seal around the lower vent on other kamados with good success.
How do I replace my grill gasket?
The best tool for cleaning off the gasket, grease and adhesive residue left by the first gasket is a drill mounted 3M Paint and Rust Stripper
Step 2 - Take that kamado apart!
How to remove the bands on a kamado grill.
The first thing you have to do is secure the spring loaded hinge.  These have stored energy so be careful when handling them.  If you kept the retaining pieces (white pieces on top) you can use those.  These were my neighbor's and they didn't fit this older Egg so I used 2 heavy duty zip ties on each side like this.

How to tighten the bands on a kamado grill.
Next, I loosen the 2 band bolts like this until they are completely loose.  Carefully lift the dome lid off and set aside.  Then remove the bands.

Step 3 - Lose the old gasket - or what is left of it.

Pull off the old gasket and remove as much as possible using a small putty knife.

Prepping a kamado grill for gasket replacement.
Then I use the 3M Paint and Rust Stripper on the rims of the top and bottom.  You shouldn't have to press down too hard, let the drill do most of the work.  As always, wear safety glasses when using power tools.

I want the rim to be totally clean of dirt or debris like this so the adhesive can stick to it.
Step 4 - Apply the new gasket.

Using Permatex copper to install a new Rutland gasket on a kamado grill.
Next, I apply a zig zag bead of the Permatex all the way around the rim of the base.  Then immediately start installing the gasket.

You will see the ends are slightly frayed.  I have found the more you play with them the worse they get so I leave it alone.  I start this on top of the base rim at the back where the center of the hinge would be.  Notice that I'm wearing gloves...fiberglass makes me itchy. 

Best gasket replacement.
Work your way around the rim laying the gasket on top and slightly pressing down into the Permatex. The inner edge of the gasket should be just inside the inner edge of the rim, it should not protrude into the cooking area.
When I get all the way around to where it started, cut the excess gasket off with a pair of sharp scissors so that the gasket ends flush with itself.  There will be a little fluff from the two frayed ends.  I press what I can down into the Permatex and the rest has never been a problem for me.

Once I have the gasket lined up to my satisfaction, I place the dome lid on top and let the adhesive cure for at least one hour.
Step 5 - Put it back together.
Once the gasket has cured, it's time to put the the bands back on.  I line the handle back up with the bottom vent and then secure the bottom band by tightening the bolt just enough to hold it in place.
Aligning a Big Green Egg dome and tightening the bolts on a BGE
Finally it's time to put the dome lid back on and make sure it is aligned dead center.  These guides from Big Green Egg make that a little easier but I've done it without them.  Just look straight down and make sure it is centered.

Once aligned, I tighten both band bolts.  First,  I press up lightly on the upper band and tighten the bolt just enough to hold it securely in place.  Stop there and double check that your alignment is still good.  Then I finish tightening the lower bolt. I don't have a torque wrench so I just tighten it until I see the bolt start to bend.  Then I finish tightening the top band the same way.

Finally I do the "dollar bill" test to make sure that I don't have air gaps anywhere in the seal.  Just stick a dollar on the gasket and shut the lid.  Try to pull the dollar out and you should feel resistance.  Do those spot checks all around the kamado.  If it just slips out without effort, you've got an alignment issue.  Loosen the bolts, re-align the dome, retighten and try it again.

Ready to go back into the grill rotation. I'll use it a few times before its next BBQ competition in about 2 weeks.

Standard FTC Disclaimer:  I received no compensation for this post and paid full price for the supplies mentioned.