May 282014

That’s right – May 28th is National Brisket Day. It is also National Hamburger Day, which is an interesting coincidence since the World’s Best Burger Blend just happens to contain brisket.

Funny how that works.

Sliced Smoked BrisketWhen it comes to smoking beef, brisket has no equal. Period. But you don’t need a smoker to get some serious flavour and value out of the cut. A quick trip to the ol’ True North Barbeque archives will get you started with the simplest of equipment and ingredients. A couple of links:

If you have nothing but an oven (and can get your hands on a big-ass roasting pan) try the “Emergency Brisket” – you still get the big beef flavour and all the melt-in-your-mouth tenderness of a traditionally smoked brisket in a fraction of the time. Even if you do have a smoker, this is a great technique to have in your repertoire when time is tight or your cookout plans end up facing last minute changes.

Got a grill, along with the aforementioned oven and big-ass roasting pan? Set yourself up for a big hit of rural Mexican flavour with “Mucho Machaca Beef”. Coated with a super simple three-ingredient rub then charred and then braised, this is a traditional recipe that makes the best damn tacos you will ever have, and lets you use a partial brisket if you don’t have the space or the inclination to use a full cut.

Both make for easy-to-freeze leftovers and have the added bonus of stretching your food budget a long way. Take an afternoon to make one of these and then enjoy quick meals out of the freezer for the next couple of months. Or just invite the neighbourhood over and make a lot of people happy. Enjoy.

Sep 272011

Having roasted or barbeque chicken in the fridge and ready to use for everything from paninis to pasta dishes to a quick quesadilla is a brilliant idea. It’s tasty, healthy, neutral enough that you can go in almost any direction, and versatile enough that you can come up with a whack of different fast and easy ways to eat it and never really get bored. Unfortunately, cooking the actual bird is intimidating for a lot of people – to the point where I have seen suggestions in everything from bad supermarket-checkout magazines (you know the kind, glossy women’s lifestyle mags with a “food” section aimed at idiots like this) to chef-hosted cooking shows that say you should forget about roasting your own chicken and just buy a pre-cooked bird at the deli or take-out section of the supermarket.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Buying and cooking your own bird is always going to be a superior choice. There is no need to be hesitant. Roasted or barbeque chicken – especially if you just want to put the meat away for future use and don’t care about niceties like stuffing or carving presentation – is actually close to foolproof. All you need to do is remember five simple steps:

  1. Spatchcock
  2. Brine
  3. Dry
  4. Rub
  5. Cook

Wait a minute. Um … spatchcock? What the hell is that?

That, my friend, is a time-honoured and (sadly) little-used way to cook a bird quickly and with almost any kind of heat source. And quickly is key – the faster you can cook a chicken, the moister and more flavourful the meat will be. Spatchcocking a bird is akin to butterflying, but instead of taking out both the spine and the sternum you just remove the spine. The sternum helps to protect the breast meat from drying out, giving you all sorts of options for the actual cook. No matter what kind of grill/oven/smoker/roaster you are packing, you are pretty much guaranteed to have a way to make this work.

Ready? Get yourself a really nice bird – forget the supermarket, get a fresh free-range hen from your farmer’s market – and let’s dig in.

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Aug 162011

If you live anywhere in Southern Ontario and have been thinking about buying a Big Green Egg, now is the time. The Niagara Eggfest is this Sunday and – as at all Eggfests – the demo eggs (used once, cleaned, and with a full set of accessories and a full warranty) will be sold after the event for a major discount. There will be large and extra-large models available, and (I think I mentioned this) the prices will be excellent. Or “eggs-cellent” if you find that sort of thing amusing. Either way, if you have been waffling over the purchase of an egg, waffle no more. This is the best deal you will find this year.

Jul 112011

Let’s get right to the point: Bear Mountain BBQ pellets are awesome. Period. There is no sense dragging it out, because any review of pellets is going to be short anyway. Once you get past the burn quality and the flavour – both of which are top-notch – there isn’t really much else to say. If you want you can stop reading right now, add “Bear Mountain” to your shopping list for the next time you head to the barbeque store, and be done with it.

The problem, of course, is that your local barbeque store might not have them. See, pellet smoking is still kind of new – or, I suspect, completely unknown – to most canucks. This isn’t terrible in itself, but it does mean that supplies are sometimes limited. The vast majority of stores in the Great White North that do sell BBQ pellets carry Traeger, maybe Louisiana, and a whole lot of nothing else. This is a shame, because the Bear Mountain stuff knocks them flat.

The big difference is that they are made from 100% hardwood, period. Most pellet manufacturers (including the two above) use flavoured oils to get the necessary aroma and taste from their pellets. Many also use wax or resin as a binder to form the pellets. The upshot is that the Bear Mountain pellets burn hotter and cleaner than either of the “typical” brands you can get around here. You use less for every cook, and you have virtually no ash to clean up afterwards. And the flavour that transfers to the food is real traditional hardwood flavour, with big bright aromas. In fact, as soon as you turn on your smoker and the first wisps of smoke hit your nose you can tell that this is something different – and better – than the brands you have been using.

If you live in Calgary or Hamilton-Burlington-Oakville, you can now get these pellets at Barbeques Galore. Otherwise, you are going to have to ask around. But if local BBQ store isn’t carrying Bear Mountain, then you owe it to yourself – and your food – to ask them why. Bug them incessantly if you have to. This is a product that is worth the effort.

May 112011

Some nameless guy wrote:

I looked at your rub recipe. It looks like it will cost about a dollar to make a tub full. Rubs at the barbeque store cost 6 bucks for a little jar. What are you leaving out?

Dude. Here is the dirty little secret of virtually every specialty retail store on the planet: They sell their main item – grills, bicycles, computers, guitars, whatever – at pretty much cost, and make all of their profit on insane markups on all of the ancillary crap. In the case of Ye Olde Local BBQ Retailer, it means the tongs and grill baskets and planks and charcoal and especially rubs with fancy names and bright happy labels.

The only thing I am leaving out is the screwjob.

So. I already gave you a heads up on how to save some coin when you are planking. Consider the rubs the same sort of gift. Use my yummy rubs instead of those six dollar jar dealies and you will keep enough dough in your pocket to pay for at least a case of beer over the course of the summer.

Mix up some rubs and enjoy your free beer. You’re welcome.

Apr 222011

In the first installment, I seasoned a nice chunk of prime rib and put it in the Big Green Egg. It was started at 210C / 500F to put a “sear” on the outside. Once the meat was in the egg, I immediately closed the vents to get the temperature down to a nice low roast. After four hours of cooking at 150C / 300F (and filling the neighbourhood with a killer aroma) the chunk of prime was ready to come out of the egg.
Note the temperature probe in the side of the roast. When you cook like this you need to work by the internal temperature of the meat and not just do the ol’ “so many minutes per kilo” thing that our mothers loved. Prime rib works best when you cook it to 60 degrees C (135 F) and then pull it from the heat, tent it with thick foil, and let it rest. While it rests, you can gaze upon the glory of the beef and let your mouth water a bit.
After covering with foil and letting rest for a full 20 minutes, the temperature had climbed up to 63 C (144 F) and it was time for slicing.
All hail the meat.
And yes, it is as tender and as moist and as packed with flavour as you would think. This is the only way to cook prime rib, and yet another reason to invest in a Big Green Egg. The ability to sear it way up in the high heat and then drop the fire down and roast for hours at a rock-steady temperature for hours is just something you are not going to get from any other rig.

Bon appetit!

Apr 202011

Barbeque on a budget. Real wood and charcoal cooking, low and slow, without investing a full week’s pay into a giant piece of specialized hardware. Meat and fire on the cheap. Can it be done? The question was raised last week, a plaintive wail in the comments about the Big Green Egg. And yes, it can be done. Some of the best barbeque I have ever had was done in an upright freezer that had been fitted with a firebox and had a gas-fitters ball valve jammed into the old drain plug. Since the freezer was found dead by the side of the road and the owner built the firebox and fitted the valve himself, the total cost was under 20 bucks.

With that in mind, I’ve come up with three options here, all under the magic 500 dollar mark. Two are items you can go out and buy right now, and one is a bit of a frankenstein project. You might have to limit yourself to just how “low and slow” you can go, you might have to invest some sweat and battered hands, and none of the options here are going to give you the full range of cooking styles you can pull out of the Egg, but at least you have a choice.

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Apr 142011

My friend Shawn has some issues with food. If something has flavour or texture or any sort of culinary interest at all, he won’t touch it. No way, no how. Slabs of rubber and piles of sawdust would be his ideal menu. So these meatballs are like kryptonite to him – packed with flavour and perfect tender texture, they would have him cowering in the corner with his cape over his head.

If he had a cape.

For everyone else – even people without capes – these meatballs were created to be the filling of a nice meatball sandwich or sub. You can obviously use them however you like, but you are cheating yourself if you don’t try these in a sandwich at least once. Fresh bread, fontina cheese, and maybe a few grilled peppers on top. Trust me.

And finally, yes, I know that this one was a long time coming. I promised the final recipe months ago, but I kept dicking with it, assuming that there must be some way to improve on the original. After a number of variants, however, I have always gone back to the “beta test” version so I present it to you here in all of its original glory and with profuse apologies for keeping you waiting. Enjoy.

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Apr 052011

So it’s April and it is still snowing at random and vaguely vexing times. Specifically, when I am trying to smoke the season’s first batch of ribs. The forces of light, justice, and meat prevailed, however, and at the end of the day I was rewarded with some killer racks and an absolutely sublime batch of cornbread.

What does this mean to you? Good question! It means that you will get two different techniques for ribs and a stupidly good cornbread recipe this week. Stay tuned!