Best Damn Smoked Chicken Recipe, period

Mon, Jan 9 • 0

This may be the best thing that could ever happen to a chicken.

I get a whole lot of compliments on this one. There are some members of my extended family who insist I bring this to any family gathering, regardless of the time of year. The technique of putting lit coals over top of unlit coals ensures a nice, long burn, and will provide enough heat for the 2-hour long cooking time. This recipe specifically relies on using a Webber kettle grill. You’ll need to further experiment in order to come up with the proper technique for a different kind of grill.

2 whole chickens, 3 to 4 pounds each
2 fist-sized lumps of chunk fruit wood
1 aluminium drip pan, 10×14
20 – 30 charcoal briquettes
cooking spray
1 cup salt
1 cup sugar
7 quarts of water

Take two chickens and cut them each into 8 pieces — 2 breasts, 2 wings, 2 drumsticks, and 2 thighs. Save the rest for chicken stock. Brine the chicken in 6 quarts of water that you’ve dissolved a cup of sugar and a cup of salt for 30 minutes to an hour. Remove the chicken from the brine and dry with paper towel. Season it with pepper, and spray both sides with cooking spray.

Soak wood in water for 15 minutes. (I’ve tried both apple and cherry wood, and can’t detect any difference in flavor, but do avoid mesquite because it’s just too strong a flavor.)

Light half a chimney full of briquettes and let burn in chimney until the top is white with ash. In your kettle grill, put an aluminum pan on one side and fill it with a quart of water. On the other side, put in 20 unlit briquettes, and nestle the wood chunks in it. Close the top and bottom vents of the grill to the halfway point. Pour the lit charcoal over top of the wood and the unlit charcoal, and put on the grill, and let it heat for 5 minutes with the lid on, then clean the grill and put on the chicken, skin side up, and putting the breasts around the outside, over top of the pan of water, furthest from the heat. Put the cover back on, and let the chicken cook undisturbed for 90 to 120 minutes.

Pan-roasting the Best Steak

Sun, Jun 28 • 6

My wife and I have pretty much stopped ordering steak when we go out, since I seem to be able to cook it better than they can, for less money… granted, I can’t say how my steak compares to the really expensive steak houses. They probably have access to better cuts of meat than I can get, so they might have an edge in that department. Still, I’m sure we’re saving money, even if it is an extravagant meal, but since I only do it about once a month, it’s bearable.

First off, you need to buy the proper steak. It won’t do to go to the Safeway, and buy whatever red meat they’ve got on sale. The cut of steak that you choose is important. It boils down to three, as far as I’m concerned : filet, strip, or ribeye. My wife prefers the filet mignon, but I usually always go for the strip. I’ll only buy ribeye if it’s on sale, since it’s a substantially fattier cut.

You’ll also want to find the best butcher that you can. For me, that ends up being at Whole Foods. Look for good marbelling — little lines of yellow fat flowing through the  deep red of the meat. I also like to get one that’s an inch thick.  I’ll sometimes go for the dry-aged steak, which costs $4 more per pound, but most times, I’ll just go for the prime. Recent prices peg that at $17 a pound, with one steak usually coming in at one pound, and one strip steak like this will feed both of us for one meal. Pricey, yes, but if you went to a fine steak house,  there’s no way we’d both eat for $17.

45 minutes to an hour before you’re ready to start cooking, take the steak out of the fridge and to let it start coming to room temperature. 20 minutes before you start cooking, set your oven to 300º and let it preheat. 5 minutes before you start cooking, turn a burner on high, and put a cast iron frying pan on it, and let it start getting hot.

Meanwhile, unwrap the steak, and dry the surface off with a paper towel, then liberally coat the steak with salt and fresh ground pepper. You can also put a couple drops of canola oil on one side, and rub it all over that side.

Now turn on the exhaust fan, and open a window a little bit, because there may be a little smoke. Put the steak(s) in the pan, oiled side down, and let it cook for 4 minutes. Then turn the steak over, and cook another 4 minutes. Then move the pan into the oven, and let it roast. The amount of time you let it roast really depends on how thick the steak was. I’ve found that for a 1 inch thick steak, roasting it another 8 minutes seems to give a good medium-rare.

There’s a way to tell how your steak is cooked by touch. Hold your left hand out, relaxed, and feel the section of skin at the base of your thumb and forefinger. This is how a rare steak will feel when you press it. Now flex your hand, stretching your fingers and thumb out. Press your finger at the fleshy base of your thumb near the palm. This is how a medium steak will feel when cooked correctly. (I can’t tell you how to figure out what a well-done steak feels like because I’ve never done it, and think it’s a bit of a sin.)

Once your steak is of the proper doneness, you’re still not ready to eat. You have to let the meat rest. Let it sit on a plate for 15 minutes, loosely covered with foil. This lets the piece of meat relax a little, and allow all the juice that’s been forced into the center of the cut to redestribute.

Bonus : You can do this same method on a charcoal grill. Follow the instructions for preparing the meat, but instead of preheating the oven and the pan, prepare your charcoal grill as you normally would, but keep the coals only on one side of the kettle. (In a gas grill,  if you only light one element, you should be able to replicate the same cooking conditions.) Grill the steak over the hot side, similar to above, at 4 minutes a side. (You could even cook it 2 minutes, then turn the steak a quarter turn, and cook it for another 2 minutes. This will give you those professional looking grill marks.) Once that’s done, move the steak to the cooler side of the grill, and put on the lid. There’s no telling how long you’ll want to cook it this way, since it really depends on how hot your coals are. You can try telling by touch, or by using an instant read thermometer.

On an instant-read thermometer, your rare steak should read about 110º in the center, before resting. Medium rare, 120º, and medium, 130º. If you must eat your steak well done, you’ll be ok if you get it up to 145º.

Char-Broil Patio Caddie Electric Grill

Fri, Jul 25 • 0

Not half as good as a real gas or charcoal grill, but considering most apartment complexes won’t allow those on high-rise balconies, this is the best you’re gonna get.

I mentioned before that I got an electric patio grill for my birthday earlier this month, and based on some reviews on Amazon, I deviated slightly from the assembly instructions that came with it. Specifically, I added a little mass. Reviewers on Amazon mentioned that the grill just doesn’t get up to any real temperature. So, underneath the heating element, I added a round wire rack and a layer of lava rocks designed to be used with a gas grill. The real payoff with this mod is that the more I use the grill, and the more food juices fall and stick to the lava rocks, the more smoke. And smoke is what gives flavor.

I’ve been pretty happy with this, even though it’s just a glorified electric broiler element in an enameled steel encasement. It gets plenty hot — easily climbing to 500° — and it does it pretty quickly. It did blow the electric circuit when I tried plugging it in on one of the more heavily used circuits in my apartment.

It costs about $200 with shipping (though Amazon will ship it for free if you’re willing to wait a couple extra days), and it’s fairly easy to assemble with a screwdriver and a crescent wrench. Although I can’t say if it will last many, many seasons. If it lasts two or three, I’ll be satisfied.

Amazon : Char-Broil Patio Caddie Electric Grill, $159.

Kefta Kebobs

Tue, Apr 1 • 1

Mix a pound of ground lamb (or ground beef) with finely diced leeks (or onions), 2 tablespoons softened butter, chopped garlic, smoked paprika (I’m addicted to this stuff), chopped fresh rosemary, chopped fresh mint. Form the meat mixture around a metal kebab skewer, about as thick as your big toe. I cooked them on a hot cast iron grill pan, but I’m sure they’d be better on a grill, turning frequently until cooked on all sides. I served it on a whole wheat tortilla, with a little salad mix, some chopped red onion, and mayonnaise, but yogurt and pita bread is much more traditional.

Grilled Beer Brats

Sun, Dec 23 • 0

Here’s a recipe my brother makes for cookouts. It’s pretty simple, but surprisingly flavorful and a nice change from hamburgers and hot dogs. These go better with a crustier roll than a regular hot dog bun, but those would do in a pinch.

2-3 lbs. bratwurst
2 large onions sliced
1 big bottle of cheap beer
2 bay leaves (optional)

Pierce the wursts with several times with a fork and marinate the wurst in the beer and onions for a couple hours or overnight. Then grill them until done. You can also save the onions from the marinade and fry them up in a pan while you’re cooking the wursts and then serve them on top.

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