Sunday, September 9, 2018

Getting into BBQ and Smoking

We both grew up with families that used propane grills for outdoor cooking.  So naturally when we got married and had our own home we bought propane grills and loved them.   Some conversations with friends piqued Dave’s curiousity about smoking.   The great experiment started this summer.

Holly received a work service award catalog that contained a variety of useless gifts to choose from.  We narrowed her options down to a power washer and a bullet smoker.   The smoker was our final choice because 1) we could try one for “free” 2) we are scared of taking the paint off our house with a power washer.  When the smoker finally arrived we were in the middle of our major deck remodel project - fixing sunken joists, refacing everything, new railings, and animal abatement (to prevent other things from dying underneath the deck).   The project was completed by July 4th weekend giving us a chance to take the smoker out of the box.  

Our “free” smoker required an investment in charcoal, a cover, wood chips, and some firestarter things.   For our first attempt we went with baby back ribs.  We thought we followed the instructions right for telling when the coals were ready.... but maybe not.   We could not maintain a temperature over 225 degrees and for the most part it stayed near 200 - we were supposed to be at 250.  We toyed with the coals about every three minutes.   The ribs were to cook for 3+ hours but two hours in we checked and they were charcoal and burnt.   Apparently something went wrong.  Getting beyond the burnt taste, we could taste the wood-smoked flavor of the hickory chips and the meatier end pieces were pretty good.   This was enough to convince us to look at other options.  

We have a few friends that were into smoking/BBQ and asked them about their equipment. This is when we learned about pellet grills.  These grills are fueled by wood pellets (they look like Kashi cereal) that go into a hopper and are fed into a fire pit by an auger.   There is a fan to move the air around and create convection.   Temperature is maintained electronically.   Set the temperature and it theoretically stays there.   The pellets come in different varieties of wood.   We were trying to pick between brands such as Traeger, Pitt Boss, and Green Mountain.   We picked Green Mountain’s Daniel Boone model based on price, WiFi control via iPhone app, and the add-on pizza oven attachment which allows us to create Naples style pizzas.

We decided to take it slow and cook easy things first.  Our first dinner was jerk pork tenderloin using Dave’s favorite jerk sauce and marinade recipe.  Since it’s like a roast we knew we just had to cook to the right temperature.  After about two hours the pork was done.   We did not have to mess with the grill at all.   Wonderful!  

Our pizza experience has been ok.   We love the way it comes out with all the bubbles and wood-charred crust, but the doughs (store bought) are rising too much in the cooking process.  We may try making our own dough soon.

Other items from the grill:

We’ve been occupied the last few weekends and have not used the grill in a while.  Looking forward to experimenting with more recipes and new meats like tri tips and a brisket.