Thursday, May 27, 2021

Chris Sussman's Smoked Spatchcocked Chicken with Spicy Alabama White Sauce

[FTC Standard Disclosure] Chris and I traded copies of our books, so while I didn't pay for this book, I exchanged something of equal value, so I would not consider this a sponsored post.

If a new BBQ or grilling cookbook has a few of my personal favorite types of recipes, then I'm making those first. 

Playing The Hits

Cooking the favorites makes sense for a couple of reasons. First, I have already tried them often and have a wide range of experiences for comparison's sake. Second, I like to see new spins on old favorites. Third, favorites are favorites for a reason; I want to eat them! 

In no particular order, some of my favorite recipes to find in grilling cookbooks are:

  • Meatloaf
  • Any kind of chicken with Alabama white sauce
  • Burgers
  • Wings
  • Steak with compound butter

The Four Fundamentals of Smoking

So when I got my hands on Chris Sussman's (The BBQ Buddha) first book, The Four Fundamentals of Smoking, it should be no surprise that one of the first recipes I cooked was his Smoked Spatchcocked Chicken with Spicy Alabama White Sauce.

Smoked Spatchcocked Chicken with Spicy Alabama White Sauce

This bird really hit the spot. It was lightly smoky, juicy, and mouthwateringly tangy. I knew it would be excellent because Chris Sussman is a skilled live-fire cook. I'll do a full book review later; this post is just about the delicious chicken.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Smash Burger Sliders with Vermont White Cheddar and Canadian Bacon

[FTC Standard Disclosure] We received no compensation for this post.

I had a raging internal battle this weekend, my diet plan said "chicken" but my appetite said "smashburgers".  Guess who won out.

Smash Burger sliders with Vermont White Cheddar and Canadian Bacon
Vermont white cheddar, Bourbon Maple Canadian Bacon, and crispy 3 ounce smash burger patties double stacked on slider rolls. Ahhh yeah!


These burgers were fantastic - cheesy, beefy, salty, and that fresh off the grill flavor. The Canadian bacon brings a welcomed crispy texture, saltiness, and a bit of umami from the cure.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Book Review: BBQ Revolution

[FTC Standard Disclosure] I received an uncorrected draft of BBQ Revolution from the publisher for review. I received no other compensation. The link for the book is an Amazon Affiliate link, which I will receive a small percentage of if you purchase the book via the link. 

They say "don't bury the lead" so I'll tell you upfront that this is my favorite new BBQ and grilling book from the 2021 offerings I have seen.

BBQ Revolution fired up my yearning to get out and grill. After 12 plus years of blogging about BBQ and grilling, I had gotten into a bit of a rut. I needed to shake things up and BBQ Revolution has done exactly that. This book has gotten me excited about firing up the grills again. 

Detailed book review of BBQ Revolution


BBQ Revolution

Innovative Barbecue Recipes from an All-Star Pitmaster

by Mitch Benjamin
$29.85 / Quatro Publishing Group USA
Available June 15, 2021 (Preorder available now)

About The Author

Mitch Benjamin has built his own BBQ empire over the years.
  • He is better known as @meatmitch on social media.
  • He is the founder of the Meat Mitch competition BBQ team.
  • His Meat Mitch brand of rubs and sauces has won awards at World Championships like Memphis In May and The American Royal.
  • His restaurant, Char Bar Smoked Meats and Amusements won best new restaurant in Kansas City.
In addition to those accolades, Mitch has cooked for professional sports teams and on national television shows.

About The Book

BBQ Revolution is a full-sized, hardback book. By a quick count, it has almost 90 recipes in a rather unique organization suited to Mitch's experience and background. Instead of the typical rubs/sauces, beef, pork, chicken, and everything else, BBQ Revolution is organized as such:
  1. Competition BBQ recipes PLUS actual advice, tips, and timelines. Outside of a hands-on BBQ class, this is one of the best primers for getting started in competition BBQ.
  2. Char Bar Smoked Meats and Amusements, Mitch shares some of his best sellers from the popular Kansas City restaurant. I enjoyed this chapter the most, getting the behind-the-scenes recipes.
  3. Revolutionary BBQ - thinking outside of the smokebox. A collection of less-than-traditional dishes like lamb, a wide array of seafood, and sausages. Yes, sausage is a typical BBQ food but not a lot of BBQ books give you recipes for making your own from scratch.
  4. Leftover BBQ ideas - If you BBQ as much as we do, this is a welcome addition to a cookbook. 
  5. Sides, desserts, and other delights - Mitch gets freaky in his "Mitchen".
  6. Featured Pitmasters - Mitch pulls a "wait, there's more" by adding recipes from celebrity pitmasters throughout the book. Pitmasters include Paul Patterson, Jess Pryles, Craig "BBQ Ninja" Verhage, and Matt Pittman. 

Recipes

Recipes that I Have Made

I jumped right into making recipes when I got my hands on a draft copy of BBQ Revolution and there was not a single dud in the batch. I enjoyed each and every one of these. 

Deep South Smokers GC36
I rolled out my big gravity-fed pit to try out some of the brisket, pork, and chicken offerings from BBQ Revolution.

Competition Brisket, Burnt Ends, and Competition Whomp! Sauce

I'm a sucker for brisket so of course, that was one of the first recipes that I tried. Solid recipe whether you are cooking brisket at home or for competition. 

Sliced smoked brisket

Brisket Burnt Ends


Competition Pork 

I sort of followed Mitch's recipe. I varied the recipe a little bit because I was making this for eating at home and not a BBQ competition. It was still fantastic served with a golden mustard BBQ sauce.

Chris Grove seasoning pork butts for the smoker

Shredding smoked pulled pork

Smoked pulled pork with golden mustard sauce


Alabama White Sauce Chicken

Another perennial favorite of mine, I had to try his Alabama White Sauce on some smoked chicken. Winner, winner chicken dinner is an overused saying but it does apply here. 

Two bbq sauces from the book, BBQ Revolution

Alabama style BBQ chicken from BBQ Revolution


Brisket Esquites 

My family was in town and we included this TexMex dish in our buffet. It was a big hit but we made a lot and there were 4 other dishes, so we had some leftovers. I took a cue (I guess I should say "Q") from the Leftover Q chapter and reinvented this as Smoked Brisket and Charred Corn Chowder. I just made a cream soup base and stirred in the leftovers. Talk about amazing. 

Brisket Esquites from BBQ Revolution


Smoked brisket and charred corn chowder
Smoked Brisket and Charred Corn Chowder using the leftover Brisket Esquites was some of the best comfort food I've had. We topped it with fajita seasoning, crushed corn chips, and cotija cheese.


Charred Bits and Grits, Pickled Jalapeno and Shallot, BBQ Butter

Wow. This was the recipe that put the biggest smile on my face. It kind of looks like a mess here but the tastes were out of the world. It has candied bacon (aka pig candy), burnt ends, jalapeno cheese grits, pickled jalapeno and shallots, and BBQ butter. It sounds like you are having sex when eating Charred Bits and Grits because you're moaning so much and calling out to higher powers (OMG). Yeah, I just said that. 

Charred Bits and Grits
Not the prettiest dish but the flavors in this combined for a religious experience.


Recipes that caught my eye

So many recipes, so little time, am I right? But here are some of the recipes that I haven't made yet but want to.
  • Candy Sauce - I want to try this on my competition ribs
  • Jerry's Sugar Smoked Sausage 
  • The Burnt Heaven - sandwich with brisket, sausage, spicy slaw, BBQ ranch, and fried jalapenos? Shut up and take my money.
  • Cheesy "Hushpuppies" made from leftover cheese grits and served with a beer blanc sauce. Oh hell yeah.
  • Peach Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce - Alexis never turns down bread pudding.
  • Jess Pryle's Smoked Garlic Sauce - Can't wait to try this on a steak.
  • Smoked Brisket Smash Burgers - Chopped smoked brisket mixed into your burger grind? Genius.
  • Grilled Corn and Dungeness Crab Dip - I want this so badly, the next time I get some Dungeness crab you can bet I'm making this.
  • Charred Sous Vide Cauliflower Steaks - Speaking of out-of-the-box cooking.
  • Homemade pop tarts - What what what? I want to make an adult version with something like bourbon bacon jam on the inside.

Photography

BBQ Revolution is loaded with color photography by Isaac Alongi. Almost every recipe has an eye-catching, mouth-watering photograph. The photos are mostly final plating pictures and some in-process or how-to photos.

Summary

Whether you are new to grilling or a seasoned grill master, BBQ Revolution is sure to fire up your grill or smoker this summer with flavorful recipes, cooking strategies, and helpful advice. It got me excited about grilling again.

Rating

5 stars – an absolute resource, I will refer to it frequently
4 stars – very good cookbook with value-added tips, photos, guides, and other content
3 stars – Good, average cookbook, glad to have it on my shelf
2 stars – a recipe collection
1 star - destined to gather dust on the shelves of a second-hand book store

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Email Subscription Changes Effective May 2021

If you are subscribed to get my blog posts emailed to you, there is a slight change this week.

Google is shutting down the Feedburner email subscription service to which you subscribed to receive Nibble Me This posts by email. 

We are transitioning our active subscriptions to follow.it this week so you should see uninterrupted service. 



For those who would like to subscribe to receive our posts by email, you can sign up here.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Taco Tuesday - Fajita Chicken Tacos

 [FTC Standard Disclosure] I received no compensation for this post. I do get a small percentage if you purchase any Amazon Affiliate links in this post but it's minuscule, I promise you.

Here is just a quickie for Taco Tuesday because this marinade was so delicious - Fajita Chicken Tacos.

Fajita Chicken Tacos on the Big Green Egg

This has quickly become our preferred fajita marinade after just one time using it because the flavors were amazing on the grill. We have had a different fajita marinade that we've used for chicken for years and it is good but the green chile powder in this one makes it an order of magnitude better.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Steak, Over Easy Potatoes, and Eggs

 [FTC Standard Disclosure] We received no compensation for this post.

You must think that I messed up with the "over easy potatoes", right? Nope. We call these Over Easy Potatoes because they are skillet-cooked Honey Gold potatoes tossed in butter and Over Easy Seasoning.  So. Freaking. Good. 

NY Strip Steak, Over Easy Potatoes and Eggs featuring Girl Carnivore's Over Easy Seasoning

Over Easy Seasoning

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Chef Edward Lee's Pork Chop with Bourbon Mustard Sauce

[FTC Standard Disclosure] We received no compensation for this post. However, in full disclosure, I have contracted with Oklahoma Joe's in the past. 

This past weekend, I made Chef Edward Lee's recipe for Grilled Pork Chops with Knob Creek® Bourbon Mustard Sauce on the Oklahoma Joe's® Rider DLX. It was succulent, smoky, and delicious.

Grilled Pork Chops with Knob Creek® Bourbon Mustard Sauce on the Oklahoma Joe's® Rider DLX


The James Beard Award-winning author, chef, and television personality loaded up his Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX (just like mine) in an old Chevy truck and went trailgating through bourbon country. What is trailgating? 

Trailgating is a journey. A journey down the bourbon trail to discover the flavors and stories that make bourbon and BBQ American traditions.  ~Chef Edward Lee

Oklahoma Joe's tagged along and created a well-produced and inspirational docu-series about Chef's journey. It's only about 10 minutes per episode, and they are absolutely worth the watch. You can find the four installments HERE. In each episode, Chef shares a recipe inspired by the stories that he found.

The Grilled Pork Chop with Knob Creek® Bourbon Mustard Sauce is the first such recipe.  Here is how my cook-along went.

The Prep

After watching the video, I didn't want my pork chop to be a run-of-the-mill pork chop, so I went on a journey of my own to Hen + Hoc in Knoxville's Old City.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Brisket Cook on the Deep South Smokers Gravity-Fed BBQ Pit

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

This isn't a recipe post, just notes and thoughts about the brisket cook I did last weekend.

Sliced smoked brisket flat with a beautiful smoke ring
Here is the sliced flat from the smaller of the two briskets.

About 10 days ago, I got a text from my friend, Kim, letting me know she was at a store that had whole brisket for sale about $3 less per pound than the local going rate. By the time I got there, there was only a single brisket left and it weighed in at 12.3 pounds. It wasn't exactly what I wanted but I wasn't going to say no to a USDA Choice whole brisket for just $24.

What I Look For When Buying a Brisket

So if this wasn't exactly what I wanted, what do I normally look for when buying a brisket? It is a blend of things that I have personally found to make for a more consistent product.

What to look for when buying a whole beef brisket
  • Grade - I prefer a USDA prime or at minimum, USDA choice. Wagyu is fantastic and I'll get one for time to time, especially competitions. But I'll be honest, I can't afford to drop $200 for briskets all the time. Those are for special occasions for me.
  • Brand - Certified Angus Beef® Brand has been consistently excellent for me. I'd use them all the time if I could but they aren't the easiest thing to find around here.
  • Marbling - Sometimes, this is difficult to judge in the vac-sealed packaging, but I try to look for one that has moderate to abundant marbling.
  • Size - I prefer a 17-20 pound brisket.  The exception is if I'm using one of my large Big Green Eggs and smoking whole brisket, then I'll drop down to something 18" or less in length so it will fit. That generally turns out to be about 12-13 pounds.
  • Shape - I like the flat's end to be mostly even in thickness and for the brisket to be "rectangular-ish" except for the point.I like a big point section, however, I am suspicious of extremely bulbously shaped points because some packers like to leave flaps of side meat attached, which really aren't part of the brisket and don't cook the same way.
  • Color - I like a medium-red color, not too purplish and dark but also not pale and pink.
  • Flexible flat - All things else being equal, I opt for the brisket with a more flexible flat end. 

Strategy and Schedule

I offered to smoke Kim's brisket (16.93 lbs) while I smoked mine since she was the one who tipped me off about the sale. I used my usual competition brisket timelines but modified it a few ways.
  • I time-shifted the whole thing to shoot for a 3-4pm finish time.
  • Kim's brisket was 4-plus pounds heavier, so I put it on an hour earlier than anything else.
  • I lowered the cooking temperature by 15 degrees (from 290 to 275f) to allow for a longer smoking period.



Brisket Prep - Friday 7pm

Ideally, I would have done this about 12 hours before smoking (about 2pm), but life happens and you roll with it. Kim wanted burnt ends (who wouldn't?), so I planned to split the briskets like I do in competitions.
  • Trimming - For each brisket, I separated the point from the flat. I trimmed the exterior fat from the points. I trimmed the exterior fat on the flats down to about 1/8 to 1/4". It's not just the thickness, it's the shape. I try to trim the fat so that the shape is smooth and aerodynamic. That's so the smoke will flow smoothly over the brisket, maximizing contact between the smoke and meat. I use a large butcher's knife for separation and coarse trimming, then I clean up behind that with a semi-flexible boning knife.
    • No Point - The point on my brisket was the thinnest I have ever experienced. So much so, that for the first time ever, I decided not to smoke it for burnt ends and threw it in the grind pile instead.
  • Injection -I used 1/4 cup of Kosmos Q Reserve Blend Brisket Injection with 3 cups of beef stock (this is a watered-down, errr "stocked-down", version from what we would do in competitions) and used that to inject both briskets every inch or so.
  • Dry rub - I used Moo'd Enhancer, the highly popular beef seasoning from Flavor Anonymous. I wiped the briskets dry from any leaking injection and spritzed them with peanut oil Then I seasoned all surface areas rather heavily with the rub.  
  • Dry brine - I had the briskets on rack/tray combos and loosely covered them with food bags to keep the surface moisture from drying out in the refrigerator. I left them in there until it was time to go on the smoker, so they are cold and damp when they go into the smoke because smoke sticks better to cold, wet surfaces. The briskets got to brine for about 6 hours.
  • Pork Butts - We also were doing 2 pork butts. I injected those with apple juice and dry brined them using my NMT Southern Sweet rub.

A pack of spare ribs, two briskets and two pork butts with the Deep South Smokers GC36 in the back ground
From Left to right, 4lb spare ribs, 17lb brisket, 12.3lb brisket, and 2 8lb pork butts.

Briskets and pork butts prepped for the smoker
Trick question, which brisket flat/point was the 17lb one, top or bottom? It was the top! It looks smaller in this pic but it was 1 1/2 times as thick as the 12lb one on the bottom.



After prepping everything, we cover each tray in large 18 x 24 food-safe bags. We buy them by the roll and they come in so handy around the house. They fit perfectly over a brisket on a tray or pork butt in a half steam pan. They are ideal for storing baked bread and bulk items. 



Smoker Set up Friday 9pm

The Deep South Smoker is a gravity-fed pit, meaning that there is a vertical chute of coal that slowly drops down into the firebox as it burns through the coal. It has insulated cooking and firebox chambers, making it extremely efficient. I like the concept because it lets me load the chute with charcoal and then add wood chunks or cubes to the firebox for smoke as desired. So it lets you apply smoke in doses. 
  • Lump Charcoal - Usually, I like to use Kamado Joe Big Block, BGE Brazilian, or something like those for this cooker. 
    • The last time I used the Deep South, I used a sub-par bag of charcoal that had a lot of small pieces. It ended up causes air-flow issues which results in temperature control issues. 
    • This time, I went through 2 bags of regular Big Green Egg charcoal (Ace didn't have BGE Brazilian in stock) and handpicked out the medium and larger pieces to use. 
  • Controller - I hooked up a Flame Boss 300 to run the smoker. It constantly assesses the temperature inside to cooker and runs a variable speed fan as needed to stoke the fire. A pit like this can be run manually with natural airflow but it is sure a lot easier with a controller.

Deep South Smokers GC36 ready for action
Whether I'm going to smoke on this Deep South Smokers or a Big Green Egg, I like to set the cooker up in advance so all I have to do in the early morning hours is light it.


Smoke - Saturday 12am - 7:30am

  • Preheat - I fire the pit an hour before cooking, to give it time to preheat thoroughly. I lit the cooker and turned on the Flame Boss at midnight.
  • 1am - I put the larger brisket flat on the smoker an hour early because it was so much bigger. I spritzed it with quality apple juice and put it on the second rack. I added a 
  • 2am - I put the other flat and two pork butts on after refreshing their rub and spritzing them with AJ. 
  • From 2 to 7:30am - I spritzed the meats and added a MojoBricks hickory Bar-B-Qube in the firebox about every hour. Mojobricks have been around for years and the owner, Fred Grosse, was on our team at Memphis in May several years ago. If you haven't heard of them, check out their web page, many top competition teams use them.
    • Normally, I only use the Mojobricks at critical smoke times, like the first 2 hours and the last hour. I'll use chunks of wood between those times because that's a lot cheaper. But for this cook I was out of wood chunks.




I used Mojobricks exclusively for this particular cook. They are compressed blocks of various hardwoods, fruitwoods, and exotic woods made food-safe for use as smoking wood. On the left is a mini-qube and the right is a bar-b-qube. I use the minis on my Big Green Egg and the bar-b-qube on my bigger smokers. I especially like using these with the Deep South Smokers since I get to time my dosing of wood by adding a bar-b-qube to the firebox about every 45 minutes to an hour.


Braise - Saturday 7:30am - 10:30am

I'm not ashamed to admit that I use the "Texas-crutch" more often than not when I'm smoking briskets. When the briskets were over 160°f  I wrapped them in foil, with a small amount of beef stock (about 1/3rd cup) and some dried onion (maybe 1 tablespoon). 
  • I put them back in the smoker and let them braise until the briskets hit 200°f. 
  • Once they hit 200°f, I check them for tenderness about every 30 minutes by sticking them with a thermometer probe to see how tight or loose the meat is. 
  • I pulled the point when it was tender about 10am.
  • I pulled the larger brisket at 10:30am when it was an internal temperature of 206°f.
  • I pulled the second flat (and pork butts) at 11:30am when it was an internal temperature of 208°f.

The smaller brisket flat ready to get wrapped and go back in the smoker.

I used my Thermoworks Smoke to monitor my pork butts and my Thermaque to monitor the briskets.
Whenever I'm smoking two butts or two briskets, I play this game in my head that they are racing, and I watch the difference in internal temperature as they cook. It is interesting to watch how it diverges and converges. These two butts were only 1/10th of a degree apart after about 6 hours; it was a nail-biter, haha. I used Thermoworks Smoke for the butts and my ThermaQ to monitor my briskets. One day, I'll get a Signals or a FlameBoss WiFi Thermometer, either of which could have monitored all 4 meats on one device.


Rest 10:30am (for up to 4 hours)

As each item finished, I put them in a hotbox (I like Cambro UPC 300) that I preheated by pouring a pot of boiling water in a hotel pan on the bottom rack. This keeps big meats warm for hours. 

I used to do the "FauxCambro" or FTC (foil-towel-cooler) method where you use a dry, warm cooler as a hot holding box.  You put the foil-wrapped meat in a cooler, cover with a few beach towels and keep the cooler closed until ready to remove the meat.

Two Cambro UPC 300 Hot Boxes on a set of wheels
My two Cambro UPC-300 hotboxes on a wheelset. Each one will hold 8 half-sized steam pans and keep food hot or cold for hours. I used to use coolers for this but after we were catering a dinner at Memphis in May and lost 3 steam pans of food when they collapsed inside a cooler, I spent the money and upgraded to these. Some of the best money I ever spent.

Burnt End Power Braise Saturday 11:30am - 12:45pm

I learned this technique from a competition BBQ class from a KCBS Team of the Year winner. I slice the rested point into 1" cubes and put them into a half-sized steam pan. I pour in enough beef stock to cover them about 1/2 to 2/3rds the way up the sides. Then cover tightly with foil and put them back into a hot spot of the cooker for 75-90 minutes. 







Finish Saturday 1pm

  • Au jus -  The wrapped flats and braised burnt end packages will have a good bet of stock and rendered fat. I pour this into a fat separator and then strain it into 2 cups of warm beef stock. This gives me a ton of smoky, delicious au jus. I used this to store the slices and keep the rest for later use. 
  • Burnt ends - Strained out the au jus as noted above, seasoned with a little more Moo'd Enhancer and lightly brushed with sauce. My sauce was 1 1/2 cups Blues Hog Original, 1/2 cup Blues Hot Smokey Mountain Sauce and 1/2 cup apple juice. Put a fresh Barb-B-Qube in the firebox and about 5 minutes later, I put the burnt ends back in the smoker for 10 minutes, just to set the sauce.
  • Brisket flat - I poured the au jus from the pack into the fat separator and put the whole flat back into the smoker with the burnt ends just long enough to reset the bark, about 10-15 minutes. Slice and place into a half-sized steam pan. Add about 1 cup of the warm au-jus. 



Burnt ends after their final glaze and smoke. You don't want them dripping in sauce. Coat them lightly so there is just enough to cook onto the meat.

Another gratuitous shot of burnt ends because they are that good.


The larger of the two briskets about to go back in the smoker to give it one last kiss of smoke and to reset the crust which gets soft during the braising and rest portions of the cook. It only takes 10-15 minutes.

The larger of the two brisket flats, smoked, sliced and ready to pack up.

Sliced beef brisket in a steam pan
For each brisket cook where I split the point and flat prior to the cook, I will get 1 half-sized steam pan full of burnt ends and 1 half-sized steam pan of sliced brisket. I put the sliced flat in the pan, sprinkle with a little more brisket rub and then pour about 1 cup of the beef jus into the steam pan. Then we'll either serve it this way or wrap it tightly and keep it warm for service.

Ramsay eagerly provides "security" while we process the briskets and pork butts. We "pay him under the table", don't tell the Feds.



Sliced beef brisket
The smaller of the two briskets, sliced.

Nice and flexible but the slice doesn't fall apart from its own weight, just about perfectly cooked for me.

Tip for Leftover Beef Jus

When I do multiple briskets, I usually end up with leftover jus from the wrapped foil. I had an idea this time that I came up with from a similar process that I do with pesto. I froze the jus in silicone ice trays (dedicated for this purpose so you don't get brisket tasting ice cubes) and then saved the jus cubes in a zip bag. Now whenever I want to fortify a soup, make a gravy, or just want some beef jus, I just thaw them out. Clever, eh? 



Trick for saving leftover beef jus


Want more inspiration, ideas, and recipes? Please check out my two books from Ulysses Press: 
The Kamado Smoker and Grill Cookbook and 
The Offset Smoker Cookbook.