Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Chicken Lollipops or Frenched Chicken Drumsticks

The humble chicken leg doesn't get much attention. That's funny because when we were kids, a drumstick was usually a preferred option.  I think that's mainly because kids love food with a handle. Frenching a chicken leg is a great way to elevate the chicken leg to something a little edgy, like a food truck might serve.  It might be adult food but the kid in you will still love the handle.

Frenching is a technique where tissues are cut away, exposing the bone for a fancier presentation. Usually it is simply for appearance sake, as with pork, veal or lamb chops.  But frenching a chicken leg is more than just an appearance treatment.  When you french a chicken leg, you are also removing tendons and compacting the meat, making a more juicy and enjoyable bite.

I first learned this technique from Danielle Bennett, aka DivaQ.  DivaQ is one of my biggest influences along with Chris Lilly and Adam Perry Lang.  She has coached me not only on BBQ but also social media and building a personal brand.  Plus, she has more freaking energy and determination of anyone I have ever worked with.  Anyway, she came out with a great book this year and she has a recipe for Chicken Lollipops in it, you should check it out.  [My review of her book]

I used Malcolm Reed's technique for trimming the chicken lollipops.  

You will need a good pair of kitchen sheers and a sharp knife.  A tool that I figured out is incredibly helpful for trimming the tendons is a pair of locking forceps.  I think I got this pair from a unused suture removal kit that I got after a surgery.  You can buy them at hobby stores or online for just a few bucks. 

One tip from me - make two passes around with your knife. You'll cut through the meat and skin rather easily but those tendons are tough, slippery, and have a way of hiding in the grooves.

Trying to hold onto the tendons for snipping with the scissors was frustrating until I figured out to use the forceps.  It holds those slippery things securely and then I lift the leg by that tendon, making it easier to snip with the scissors. No more chasing tendons as they slip out of my grip while trying to snip. Great "light bulb" moment for me.

All lined up and ready to go.

Seasonings:  The first batch this weekend was a base coat of my poultry rub and then a coat of Meat Church Honey Hog.  That came across as a touch too salty (not bad, but on the edge) so the second batch was Honey Hog by itself. 

This is one of the Honey Hog only legs.  You can visibly see why I love this as a general purpose BBQ rub.  

This cook was on one of our large Big Green Egg's indirect at 375°f until it they hit an internal temp of around 165°f.  Then it's time to sauce and go back on.

I made a honey-bourbon-roasted garlic BBQ sauce using DivaQ's Kansas City Style BBQ Sauce from her book.  I subbed our roasted garlic for garlic. I added 1/2 cup of local honey, 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper, and 2 tablespoons of single batch bourbon.

Dipping the chicken instead of brushing it on is a trick from competition BBQ. 

Legs and thighs should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 175°f.  I like going to 180°f for legs - they can handle it and still be succulent.  My favorite instant read thermometer is my Thermapen.  Yeah, I still use versions 1 and 2 and they are dated (2 newer models out) but I think that's a testament to how well these things are built.  I don't HAVE to buy a new one every time they update their models. [FTC Disclaimer: No compensation for that statement and I am not an affiliate seller of Thermoworks products, just my opinion.]

If I was doing a food truck menu, this would probably be on there.  Chicken lollys and corn on the cob.

These were fantastic.  It had that old school, Southern BBQ chicken flavor with a fancier presentation and a bolder, modern taste.

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

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Cilantro Lime Marinade for Wings

The beginning part of tailgating season is more fun, don't you think?  The weather is still beautiful all over the country, so people take advantage of that and party earlier and longer.  It's also early in the season and most fan bases still believe that this is OUR year, so more people come out to tailgate central.  

These wings are just the ticket for those warmer, early season tailgates because they have hints of Summer with the warm flavors of lime, cilantro, and habanero.  

Cilantro Lime Wings with Habanero Butter

I made this marinade with wings in mind but it works with any chicken, of course.
This recipe makes enough for a family pack of wings, about 4.5 pounds or 14 whole wings. The marinade itself is rather mild, I add heat with the rub and sauce.

Cilantro Lime Marinade for Wings

Published 08/25/2016


  • 2/3 cup peanut oil
  • 1/3 cup lime juice
  • 1/2 ea jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 cup packed chopped cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon season salt
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle chile


  1. Place oil, lime juice, jalapeno, and cilantro in a blender and pulse for 15-20 seconds until blended.
  2. Stir in the pepper, season salt, chili powder, salt, cumin, and chipotle.  Refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. Marinate wings for 4-6 hours

Yield: 1 cup
Prep Time: 00 hrs. 10 mins.
Cook time: 00 hrs. 00 mins.
Total time: 10 mins.

Marinate the wings for 4 - 6 hours, just the right amount of time to get loaded up and down to the stadium.

Take the wings out of the marinade and shake off the excess.  Then season them with your favorite rub.  I used a couple of tablespoons of my NMT All Purpose Chicken Rub.

I used my Grilla pellet cooker for this cook using applewood pellets.  I got my Grilla as a thank you for being on their Memphis in May team and I have used it a ton this Summer.  

I cooked them pretty much just like my 30-20-10 kamado wings - 30 minutes at 375-400f, flip.  Twenty more minutes, then sauce and put them back on just long enough to set the sauce, 5-10 more minutes.

Grilled wings have a flavor that you just can't get from frying.

They were pretty fantastic just like this - crispy and tangy.  About half of the family wanted them this way.
But my older son and l were in the mood for more heat so I had made a habanero butter sauce using 6 tablespoons of butter and about a third cup of Yucatan Sunshine Habanero Sauce.

Spicy, tangy, buttery, and....the game is starting?  I'll be there in a minute, I have a few more wings here.

If you want to shake your tailgate up with some extraordinary wings - break out these bad boys!

Monday, September 19, 2016

World Food Championship: Low Country Boil Fundraiser, Orange Beach AL Nov 2016

The 2016 World Food Championships are going to be on the scenic Gulf Coast this November in Orange Beach, Alabama.  I'm excited to be attending the Blogger Summit and judging in the first contest.  In addition to the cooking contests, there are a lot of great events that give the public an opportunity to dive in.  

One of these events is...

For just $20 you can enjoy a low country boil featuring the amazing seafood from the Gulf.  The best part is that the proceeds benefit one of our favorite charities - Operation BBQ Relief.  OPR's sole mission is to feed people affected by disasters and the first responders there to help.  

November 10, 6-8pm

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Fajita Friday At Work [Phone Photo Dump]

I have a really great staff where I work, from top to bottom. Every now and then, my Director and I like to do things to show our appreciation to them.  Friday we did an impromptu Fajita Friday at our Knoxville office.  Here are some of the phone pics from the day and some tips about how I plan to cook at offsite locations.

The flier that we put together.  I like the menu because it has a lot of prep work that can be done ahead - I did 75% of the work at home Thursday night.  Things like shopping, meat trimming, making seasonings & marinades, making the rice, prepping veggies, and loading up everything.

Normally we would use skirt steak and thighs for fajitas but I find it's easier to feed bigger crowds using flank steaks and chicken breasts.  

Did a little quality control and taste testing the night before. I used our BGE Mini-Max with GrillGrates.  I use them or a raised grid almost exclusively on the Mini-Max because the coals are so close to the cooking surface. [FTC Disclaimer: GrillGrates are an equipment sponsor of this blog but this is not a sponsored post.]

When cooking offsite for tailgates and such, I frequently turn to my Char-Broil Kettleman grill because it's light in weight but it's not a lightweight.  It's a great general purpose grill with plenty of space since it has 22.5" grates versus the standard 18.5".  I also like the TRU Infrared grates because they prevent flare ups and infrared heat doesn't dry out your food like hot air does.  [FTC Disclaimer:  Char-Broil is one of my premier sponsors but this is not a sponsored post.]

This is the "backyard" of our Knoxville office.  Not bad, right?  This is the highest point in town and from the top of the ridge, you can see across the whole city and to the Great Smoky Mountains.  It's rather peaceful and has a nice stone lined grilling area.

Firing up some coals in my chimney starter

I prepped all of the veggies the night before.  After slicing, I toss them in some oil, lime juice, and tablespoon or so of Meat Church Season All. Gallon zip top bags are the friend of the tailgate griller.

I scored the skirt steaks and marinated them overnight with my fajita marinade.  Same with the chicken breasts.  Another time saver for tailgate and offsite cooks are these disposable cutting boards that come on a roll. We use them at BBQ contests and they are a huge time saver!  Plus my picnic tables are gross....I'm trashing them and getting new ones.

Once onsite, I shake off the excess marinade and season the meat with some dry rubs.

The rubs are my NMT Fajita Seasoning and Albukirky's Green Chile Rub. We love that green chile rub, it works on so much stuff, from eggs to briskets.  Kirk is a fellow egghead and we have used his stuff for probably 5 years or more now.  

We also brought my Char-Broil CB500X grill for grilling the veggies using a vegetable wok.  I consider this grill to be our camp grill for the past 2 years but it makes a good one for tailgating too.  It's not much to look at but it's a rugged little beast.  It's compact but has a good bit of space, an adjustable charcoal tray, and cast iron grates. 

Everything coming together.  I cooked the flank steaks about 5 minutes a side.

The chicken took longer, about 6-7 minutes a side.

One reason I like doing flank steak instead of skirt steak is that some folks at my office like their meat medium.  Flank steaks are thicker at one and and slender the other so one end was medium rare like this and  medium at the other end. 

No plated shots.  I was hungry and once everyone got their plates, I was ready to eat.  But we had a good time together and shared a great meal.

We aren't the Smoky Mountains but Knoxville's highest "mountain" was smoky that afternoon.

[FTC Standard Disclaimer] I received no compensation for this post.  I don't get any sales commissions from the links either.  I'm just throwing them in there in case you're interested in something that I mention.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Product Review: Meat Church Injections - Beef, Chicken, and Pork

[FTC Standard Disclaimer] I received no compensation for this post, have no affiliation with Meat Church, and paid full price for the products mentioned.  

Did you know that Meat Church has meat injections now?  Neither did I!

Meat church meat injections are low cost, high quality BBQ injection.

I had logged into their website to order a pound of their Honey Hog BBQ rub when I saw a listing for a combo package of their 3 injections - chicken, beef, and pork - for about 65% the cost of my usual injection.  I immediately bought a set.  We have been using them for several weeks now and here are my thoughts on them.  

Meat Church Holy Cow Brisket Injection ($15.00 per pound)

For brisket, when I do inject, I normally either use a popular commercial injection or a homemade mixture of stock, shallot, and liquid aminos.  The Meat Church beef injection is similar to the two commercial ones that I use in competitions with proteins, MSG (flavor enhancer), phosphates (moisture retention/flavor additive), xanthan gum (thickener), and beef flavor.

I've used Meat Church Holy Cow Brisket Injection on 3 briskets now including this one that I did at my sister's house this weekend.  We were cooking for family but trusted Meat Church (and my mad skills, ha ha) to not screw it up.  In my trials, I mixed the Meat Church Holy Cow Brisket Injection as directed and injected in 1 inch grid pattern all over. I used 5ml for each injection point.

Challenger kamado cart / table
I fired my sister's large BGE up at the crack of dawn and put on a 16 pound angus brisket that we got at Restaurant Depot there in Jax.  I injected it with the Holy Cow and rubbed it with Meat Church's Holy Cow Brisket rub about 12 hours before it went on.

How to smoke brisket on a kamado big green egg grill smoker
I used some seasoned pecan cut branches that my sister had and smoked the brisket at 290°f.  I separated the point and flat so they would cook quicker.  Plus it makes my burnt ends have bark and smoke rings on at least 2 sides.

...said burnt ends that I just mentioned.  They were a big hit, as usual.  I glazed them with Blues Hog cut with beef jus.

Smoked brisket on a ceramic kamado grill like the big green egg, grill dome, or kamado joe.
Look how moist the flat was when I sliced it.

Finger test passed with flying colors.

Meat Church Hog Injection

Typically we use either a commercial pork injection for competitions or at home we make Chris Lilly's pork injection recipe (apple juice, water, salt, sugar, worcestershire sauce) from his Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book.  Meat Church Hog Injection has a lot of the same ingredients as that other commercial injection.  

I used the Meat Church Hog Injection on several pork butts that we did for the Laundry Love community event last month. We also smoked a few butts to refill our freezer because we always try to have some frozen pulled pork on hand at the house.

Meat Church T-Bird's Chicken Injection

When it comes to chicken, I used to use a homemade mix of things like chicken stock, butter, and seasonings.  For competition we started using a commercial injection.  Meat Church Chicken Injection has a lot of the same ingredients as the brisket injection, but with chicken stock and flavor instead.

We have used Meat Church Chicken Injection for a ton of leg quarters and bone in breasts that we smoked to make pulled chicken for the Laundry Love event.  We also used it when making a recipe that we learned in a BBQ class at Dead End BBQ last month.

Final Thoughts

After those cooking trials, the brass tax is this - Meat Church injections work every bit as good as the other commercial injections we have used but cost a third less.  They helped to keep the meat just as juicy and flavorful as our usual injections.  I have not used them in competition yet but I'm happy enough with the results to use them in our next competition.

  • Meat Church Holy Cow Brisket Injection - Good beef flavor, mixes well, and it doesn't discolor the beef. Intended for brisket, this would also be good used with beef short ribs and chuck roasts.
  • Meat Church Pork Injection - It works well.  But honestly, pork needs the least help and I don't always inject.  I have found that Chris Lilly's recipe with a little thickener like xanthan gum (we use Bob's Red Mill xanthan gum) work as good as any commercial injection we have used.
  • Meat Church T-Bird's Chicken Injection - Alexis likes this one more than the commercial one we used and it is her favorite.  It keeps the breast meat luscious and has a good but not overbearing flavor.

People who inject their BBQ meats mainly do it for retaining moisture and adding flavor.  Injecting also increases your margin of error, making it less likely that your BBQ will turn out a tad bit dry.  I think the latter is why most competition BBQ teams use some sort of injection, especially with us cooking hot and fast.  I find it makes the BBQ handle reheating better too, when you have leftovers. Do you NEED to inject?  Absolutely not.  It there anything wrong with injecting? Absolutely not. It's a personal decision.