Don’t have a meat thermometer and need a way to know just the right time to pull the steaks off the grill? Use this simple BBQ Trick that we call the OK Handy method for using the ball of your thumb to determine if your BBQ meat is Rare/ Medium / or Well Done. It’s easy… plus how to use a toothpick to test the doneness of ribs. More on the tip HERE or watch the video here.
The sanctioned BBQ world is serious business. Maybe too serious if you’ve ever seen BBQ Pit Masters on TV. There are pages of detailed rules that are never really reviewed prior to competitions by judges or by cookers. Some rules are regional by nature. Like, meat categories (whole hog is hard to find outside the South). Others – like the rule for only using charcoal or gas as a heat source – is somewhat common. I’ve even seen rules against team members drinking to excess.
If you are looking to get the upper hand and bend the rules a bit here are a few ways that competition cooks quietly get an edge.
First, start with better meat. You can use meat that the tournament provides or bring in your own grain fed premium grade organic – more tasty – better meat. There may or may not be fine print on “only using what the sponsor provides” but the rule is rarely enforced or even checked. It’s more likely your meat cooler will only be checked for food safety reasons (like maintaining a cold enough temperature). I’ve seen teams bring in top of the line Wagyu beef brisket. It’s pricey. But if it indeed tastes better it’s a real edge. Some winning cookers have been known to bring in secret recipe pre-brined chicken.
Next, use electricity to help your cooking efficiency and consistency Many big organizations (like KCBS and MIM) forbid heat sources other than wood or charcoal. Still it’s within guidelines to get a little electric help. So gadgets have been designed to make charcoal (use hardwood lump for best flavor) more reliable and consistent in temperature. Look into retrofitting your smoker with an electric blower with a thermostat to stoke your fire up or down to the ideal temperature while you play Angry Birds in the RV. Most common are the BBQ Guru and the Stoker.
Get the most bark for your buck. Judges like bark, that savory sweet charred crust found on great BBQ meats. Trim your pork so you have the most and best tasting. The “money muscle is a tucked away tube of succulence on the Boston Butt that many cooks are trying to really take advantage of for it’s tender texture and flavor. It’s almost entirely surrounded by other parts of the butt so if you want to combine the great meat of the money muscle and the magic of great tasting bark you’ll have to trim out the money muscle before cooking. In some competitions it’s against the rules to cook large meats in parts so you may want to simply keep it a small portion still attached to the mother ship.
Cheat the smoke ring. It is absolutely expected for brisket and pork to have a nice smoke ring when turned in to judges. This is formed by a chemical reaction to the smoke over low and slow temp. and time. Some say if you put COLD meat on the smoker from the start it will enhance the ring. We say don’t leave it to chance. Cheat the ring by adding some curing salt to your rub like Morton’s Tender Quick. It’s strong stuff so some cookers will coat the meat for a few hours and rinse it off before adding the tasty – bark creating rub.
Microwave friendly. As stated above… cooking with fuel other than wood or coal could be against the rules so why would you need a microwave? Well, judges like to bite into a warm piece of meat. They also judge on smell and warm meat will always be more fragrant than cold meat. A fifteen second zap in the box is sometimes the perfect bump to setting your entry a part. Against the rules? Is 15 seconds really cooking? You decide. Just silence the “beeping” and don’t let Bubba’s team see you doing it.
These rarely policed barbecue tricks may or may not be truly cheating the BBQ Rules. Read the fine print of your rules and let your conscience be your guide. The one rule you can not and should not bend is “marking” a box. This is where a team has a mole in the judging tent clued in on a special trait or “mark” on a turn in box. Don’t try. It won’t work due to rotating judges and will probably get you disqualified or marked down in appearance points. Instead, use care to really “present” your meat in the box. Follow the guidance in the rules on garnish and ask around about traditional layout. Appearance is almost always a big part of your score and it’s surprising how many cooks just plop it in the box. Pull pork (never chop) and lay out pieces in an orderly presentation.
We know preparing the holiday meal can be a daunting task especially when there are a lot of unfamiliar mouths to feed in the house. Well, here’s our BBQ Tricks guide to smoking a mid sized to large bird this was about an 17 pound turkey.
We’re using a standard Brinkmann gourmet bullet type charcoal smoker with a large chimney of charcoal briquettes and also watersoaked hickory chunks to add smoke. A weber smokey mtn. cooker or any indirect heat would be similar – hardwood lump charcoal may burn a little hotter so that may speed things a bit if you use that.
Get the charcoal ready by firing up a chimney and waiting until the top coals are burning with some white ash. We’ll have another video here to show you how to do that. Waiting til the coals are white lets you make sure most any impurities are burned out of the charcoal and won’t give the bird an off taste.
While the coals are heating up you can unwrap your bird. Typically large birds like this from the grocery store are already sold as “enhanced” with a brining solution already. It will be labeled on the packaging as enhanced. So really you do not need to brine unless you really want to. And you can. Over brining can actually make the meat kinda mushy,,. So just be aware of that.
All you need to do is give the bird a good rinse and pat dry with paper towels… remove the weird parts of it popes nose at the end , pull out the neck and organs that are stuffed inside and trim off any other excess skin you think is gonna detract from the final look of your turkey. Make sure you remove all the plastic packaging that’s inside too.
Season the bird generously inside and lightly out with your favorite dry rub seasoning. It could be anything. Then you may opt to inject the bird with some melted butter and Cajun seasoning. It’s nice.
The one tip we have is to inject from the INSIDE of the Cavity to keep the outside pristine. Or just do what we did here…. Loosen the skin of the turkey all around the breasts and as deep into the legs as you possibly can and massage some spice rub under the skin and into the meatiest part of the bird. Or as we like to call it getting to poultry third base here. It gets it nice and seasoned.
Next, it’s about time to load the smoker with the charcoal and top with some wood chunks like hickory to produce smoke. Place the bird over the water pan to prevent drips and block the direct heat of the fire just a little bit. Smoker should be 225 degrees – this smoker simply reads ideal – which is fine. Close the lid, leave untouched for two to three hours and reloading with more charcoal after that if you need. Reload wood chunks through that little side door each hour. You don’t want to open the lid if you don’t have to. That just adds 15 to 25 minutes every time you open the lid. By adding wood chunks to the side door you also get a little glimpse of the skin thru the side door to make sure you’re not over doing it.
After about three or three and half hours check the temperature of the bird using a meat thermometer – you’re shooting for minimum 160 to 170 degrees in the breast. Usually we’d hit deepest part of thigh but it’s kinda hard to get to in this smoker
Use gloves to carefully remove the bird and be careful of hot liquid in the carcass… drain that out if you can. Let the bird rest for at least fifteen minutes before carving.
This turkey took just about four hours and fifteen minutes with opening the lid simply once after three hours.
Our biggest tip… always give yourself an extra couple of hours leeway just in case. Because it’s easier to keep that bird warm and rest it a little bit longer than to rush the whole cooking process. It’s really that simple
If you need more turkey tips it’s all at the website – www.barbecuetricks.com.
A good bratwurst grill master – or brattender as some call them – knows there are several different ways to serve the perfect beer bratwurst. But the most important thing to know you need to really COOK it. Bratwurst is almost always sold in stores as a raw meat product. That means, unlike it’s lowly cousin the hot dog, it is not already cooked and safe to eat per USDA food guidelines for pork. Bottom line you don’t want to get sick eating raw meat.
There are three common ways to cook brats:
Hot Off The Fire Brats
The most basic way to cook a brat is to brush it with a light oil and grill it over indirect heat for fifteen to 20 minutes. Indirect heat will allow you to get the internal temperature of the sausage hot enough without over-charring the rest of the brat. You want the final product to appear golden brown with unbroken skin (but don’t worry too much about that). Use an instant read thermometer to make sure you reach the recommended 170 degree internal temperature.
Par Boiling Brats
If you want to be extra careful about under cooked brats or just want to shorten the live grilling time (really?) you can easily pre-cook or par boil the bratwurst in a pan from the comfort of the kitchen. Just add one to two inches of your favorite beer into a pan over medium heat. Add sliced onions and peppers if desired and bring to the lowest possible simmer. Avoid boiling. You don’t want to rupture the skin of the brats by getting the liquid too hot or boiling. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes and finish off on the grill as described above with a shorter grilling time of 3 to six minutes.
Brat Tub Bath
The most social way to cook brats is by enlisting the help of the legendary BRAT tub. A simple shallow pan filled with an inch or two of beer, butter and onions that acts as the brats warm bath after our first grilling step. Keep the pan just off the fire and barely simmering so a hot brat is always on hand. Plus the grill master gets a pass to take his focused attention off the grill to chat and have a beer.
Some other pointers:
Use tongs. Never a fork. You don’t want to prick the casing. That would diminish the juiciness of the end product and could encourage a crazy flare up.
A brush of light oil before the brat hits the grill can help add a crisp texture to the casing.
You can add a lick of smoke even to a gas grill by tossing a foil smoker pouch under the grate before cooking.
Too charred? Keep it handy some joker always wants the burnt one.
A smoke ring is often thought to be a sign of barbecue perfection. It’s a coveted low and slow cooking phenomenon that looks like a luscious pink edge that boarders the outside border of the meat. It’s vital to competition pulled pork and especially beef brisket. Pit Masters use it as a sign of true craftsmanship but you can achieve this mark of cooking success too.
The smoke ring by itself will not enhance the flavor of your meat. It is not smoke flavor soaking into the meat. It is, in fact, a mark made by a chemical reaction. When nitric acid is absorbed back into the surface of the meat it changes the color of the flesh. Nitrogen dioxide comes from the natural wood smoke and combines with the wet surface of the meat to create this reaction.
Some people say cooking with green or water soaked wood will enhance the color of the ring. Others insist you must put the meat on the grill or smoker while it is still cold and fresh from the refrigerator to get a better ring. One competition team actually fakes the smoke ring by painting the edge of the meat strategically with sauce!
One of the most common ways to “hack” a barbecue smoke ring is by using a curing solution like Morton’s Tender Quick. The package reads, “Tender Quick is a blend of the finest quality salt, sugar and meat curing ingredients. It is perfectly blended for fast cure action and improved flavor and color of the meats.” The secret is that it contains the sodium nitrate/nitrite that you can use to make your smoke ring with no smoke at all. It’s the kind of stuff that makes cured ham pink.
Add some Tender Quick to a rub or dissolve it in a brine and you will see an immediate difference in your meat’s smoke ring. Many competitive cookers will also use products referred to as “pink salt,” Prague Powder or Fab (a meat enhancer).
A spoonful of Tender Quick mixed into your rub before coating the meat should do the trick. For an extreme smoke ring some cooks rub the meat with Tender Quick and then let the meat set for an hour before rinsing and cooking. Use caution with the amount of Tender Quick you use on you meat. You don’t want to end up with corned beef or cured ham.
There are many ways to manufacture a smoke ring on your barbecue but remember using a chemical nitrate like Tender Quick will not add any smoke flavor and that is the true hallmark of great barbecue. Visit Barbecue Tricks to discover more tips to enhance your outdoor cooking.
Over the last decade the popularity of beef jerky has exploded. You see it in every convenience store and gas station. It comes in many flavors from peppered and hot to sweet and smokey. The major problem is that it is exorbitantly expensive. A small pouch that is listed as three or four servings can set you back around seven dollars or more. Just too expensive for an impulse purchase snack with one major ingredient!
The good news is that making beef jerky at home is affordable and easy. You don’t need fancy equipment. However a simple food dehydrator is handy.
It’s important to be aware of general raw meat safety and food handling dangers especially when handling chicken and fish. Check with the USDA for guidance and take comfort in the knowledge that drying beef is much safer than other meats.
To keep things affordable start with a basic cut of beef that is easily attainable at the grocery store. Brisket is delicious when dried as jerky however it is usually packaged and sold whole (too big) and with a large fat cap attached. You will not want to pay for fat you will later discard.
Instead, opt for a lean large cut like Flank or London Broil. Trim off any extra fat. Slice it into strips as thin as you are able against the grain. Pencil thin or quarter inch thick will do. Partial freezing and a sharp knife will help the task.You may also have to cut at a forty-five degree angle to go against the grain on the London Broil (but your jaw will thank you later). The cut will allow for a more tender bite. Want to slow yourself down? Go with the grain (not a bad diet tip).
Lean 90/10 ground beef also works well and creates more of a “slim beef stick” jerky. Ground beef is usually cheaper and the product is also easier to chew. Use a jerky gun (like a cookie press for ground meat) to craft the ground meat into uniform strips or sticks.
To ensure a longer shelf life you’ll want to use a curing salt like Tender Quick ( 1 tablespoon per pound of beef). Then add your favorite dry spices like black pepper, cayenne and garlic. For a wet marinade on steak strips you can rub the cure into the surface of the meat and then soak in marinade. You can find dozens of fun recipes online. Let the meat marinate for around three hours. Longer for stronger flavor.
Food dehydrators are an easy solution for doing the rest. Just place your meat and set on the machines highest temperature for four to fourteen hours or until dry and leathery. A flip and a light brush with an unflavored oil can add a nice sheen to exceptionally dry slices of meat. Conversely use a paper towel to blot any collecting oil on the surface of your jerky.
If you are new to making jerky you can also use your home oven. It’s easy to space out your strips of wet meat directly on the oven grate with a drip pan directly underneath. A cake rack over a foil lined cookie sheet also works just as effectively.
Preheat oven to 160 degrees (officially the USDA would like the meat to get to 160 to kill any potential bacteria) and allow jerky to dry for 30 minutes and then lower the temperature to 140 degrees for three hours or until totally dry. Some cooks will crack open the oven an inch or two to keep the oven from getting too hot and to encourage airflow.
Once dried allow the jerky to totally cool before storing in air tight containers (this will also avoid any condensation inside containers.)
The great thing about jerky is that you can create unlimited flavors by using different rubs and marinades.
I first heard of a SMOKE fried turkey about a year ago when Jack Waiboer mentioned it in discussions on frying turkey. It went something like “You wanna try something REALLY good ya gotta smoke fry a turkey.”
I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind so I set up shop for us to demo the making of what Jack calls a “SMO-Fried” turkey for http://GrateTV.com. I now know it’s as good as it sounds and – although it may be double the work – it’s not really very difficult.
It’s worth another reminder – don’t burn down the house… ask Jack about his old garage door.
Here’s the Deal:
Smo-Fried turkey is a natural progression combining 2 of the most popular ways to cook a turkey. It?s really quite simple, smoke or grill the bird then drop it in hot grease to finish off the cook and crisp up the skin. Please be very careful. Hot grease, liquids, and fire mixed together can spell disaster if you don?t put safety as your top priority! Trust us we call it the garage door killer from personal experience.
10 bs. Turkey, completely thawed.
23 Gal Oil
Equal parts butter, hot sauce (we used Texas Pete wing sauce), white grape juice,
Rub: Tony Chachere’s,
Inject turkey breast from inside cavity, legs and thighs from outside. Rub under skin, on top of skin, and inside of cavity.
Smoke over hardwood coals and chunks at a settled temperature for at least 2 hours.
Finish turkey in a 325- 350 degree, preheated turkey frying apparatus, until done. 170 degrees in deep thigh. Takes about 30 mins. Let rest, carve, then serve.http://barbecuetricks.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/turkeya.jpg
To a lot of foodies and backyard cookers “barbecue” means “smoke kissed” meat. The succulent and flavorful meat just isn’t quite right without a lick of Hickory (in the South) or a hint of Mesquite (in Texas) or even flavors of whiskey barrel Oak (ala Lynchburg, TN). Smoke flavor in grilling and barbecue isn’t too hard to achieve. You don’t need a huge wood stoked smoker on a trailer like the super serious competition teams or even a specially built upright smoker. The only thing you really need is real hardwood.
Hardwood chips or chunks for barbecue are fairly easy to find. Watch the country roadsides to buy good dry wood in full logs or split. Wood chunks – about the size of a lemon – can be found in outdoor and cooking centers. And smoking wood chips can be found bagged in many supermarkets right along side of the charcoal. When buying make sure the wood is nice and dry and with little bark attached (bark and insects can emit unpredictable scents).
If you don’t have a true smoker you can still add that real smoke flavor to your outdoor gas grilled foods. Smoker boxes are made to contain about a fist full of your favorite wood chips. The box controls the intake of oxygen to help keep the wood from burning too fast and, instead, smolder with a slow stream of flavorful smoke lofting up to the meat. The boxes come in lots of shapes and sizes. Some are even triangular to set nicely inbetween grill grates or wedge next to a gas burner. Most all smoker boxes are short enough to fit UNDER grill grates to set next to or on top of gas burners. Place the meat directly in line with flow of smoke (usually between the box and an open chimney).
The smoker boxes are an inexpensive addition to a gas grill and can also be used in charcoal grills to keep floating ashes down off the meat.
If you are looking to buy a smoker box look for the most solid construction you can find. Ideally a cast iron box will last the longest in the high heat and corrosion. Pit masters will bigger grills sometimes resort to using cast iron pans for long term chip boxes.
If you are only adding occasional smoke in your back yard gas grill you can easily achieve great results by constructing a simple “smoker pouch” out of heavy (or double layer) aluminum foil. Simply fold the foil into a makeshift envelope, add chips of your liking, and fold to seal tight. Poke just a few air holes into the foil to release the smoke and then set the pack under the grill grate and on top of the burner. For longer cooking time (like four hour ribs) you can have a second or even third “smoke bomb” set aside from the start to quickly toss under the grate after the first pouch smokes out. Discard the pouches when the grill is fully cooled. You could even soak half the chips in water to slow down the smoking process. BBQ masters will typically soak wood chips and chucks for at least 30 minutes before they put coals directly on hot charcoal to allow for a smolder instead of a sooty hot fast burn.
Wood chips and a smoker pouches can really help make your next batch of home cooked barbecue taste like the competition champ’s. Experiment with wood varieties like hickory, apple wood, mesquite, and cherry. Avoid pine and resin heavy woods that can leave off flavors and never use pressure treated lumber that could give of toxic fumes. See our Wood Smoking Guide HERE.
The signature sign of a great grill master is those perfect diamond or square grill marks. To keep your bbq cred they gotta look good on on a steak or a piece of chicken or a chop. Here’s how to do it:
First, start with a clean gril. You don’t want grime making the mark. You want it to be a true sear. With the grill clean it’s time to look at seasoning. Basically, with the seasoning you don’t want too much sugar. Sugar will simply burn on the surface of the meat. low sugar on the surface. Use turbinado suger when you must. It has a higher burn point.
Then, it’s pretty simple. Place the meat on the grate and make sure it has good surface contact. Then, don’t touch it for one fourth of the cooking time. Again don’t touch for one quarter of the cooking time. After you’ve exercised your patience give the meat a 45 to 90 degree rotation on the grill (remaining on the same side) forthe rest ( the second quarter) of the cooking time. Again, don’t move it. You’ll want to allow the sear to do it’s thing and actually release from the grill. If it is still sticking you may need a bit more time. Once the whole piece is half cooked you can flip and check your results (repeat for the 2nd side. Inevitably one side will look better than the other. Present that side up on the plate.
The method also works well with indoor grill tops. Looks nice on veggies and best on lighter colored meats.
It’s a BBQ secret weapon. If you’ve ever judged a BBQ contest you may be familiar with what’s called “the money muscle.” Using it in a judged box is a bbq trick that has become well known.
It’s named “money muscle” because a lot of competitive cookers think it’s the best tasting part of the Boston Butt (or pork butt) and is essential on winning the top level money in pro cook-offs.
How do you find the money muscle? Look at the opposite end of the bone. It’s tube shaped (with striations and stripes). You’ll see the bands of fat evenly spaced along the muscle. When fully cooked that fat should easily melt away and render to provide almost a mini loin that cookers will slice and present in a blind box for competition. It’s located high on the pork shoulder (read “high on the hog”) and is the beginning of the loin.
That muscle just doesn’t get worked much so it’s super tender.
Cookers will also promote bark creation around the money muscle by trimming around the muscle and using a good rub. Some competitions will disallow full separation from the rest of the but while cooking so often it is carved so it is still connected.
“You have to trim it up so it’s nice and round and it’s kinda like a little loin. The great cooks really use that muscle to really showcase their meat” according to champion Pitmaster Jack Waiboer.
The money muscle will cook faster than the rest of the butt (shoot for 180 degrees for the muscle 195 for the rest of the butt). Once done, the log shaped muscle can be sliced into medallions and presented beautifully in the turn in box. The addition of a good bark on the succulent meat is a combination that wins over judges (especially in the tenderness category).
See more about the money muscle on THIS Episode of GrateTV