Monday, September 28, 2009

BBQ Thermometer review

Most important tool for successful BBQ is a good thermometer.  You must know the temperature inside your smoker/grill.  It also makes your life much easier to see the internal temperature of the food your cooking. 

BBQ means cooking low and slow, so you do want a wireless thermometer. It just makes your life so much easier to be able sit at your terrace or even inside and know what's happening in your smoker without having to walk over and see. Some models also lets you set alarms to alert you if the smoker temperature gets too high or too low. This is really useful in longer cooks, like brisket or pulled pork, where you cook easily +12hrs and need to possibly add more charcoal at some point.

My favorite wireless thermometer is the Maverick RediCheck (ET-73).


The Maverick thermometer has everything you need. It has two separate probes, one for the internal temperature of your smoker and second for the temperature of the food your cooking.  It also has timer and alarms for high or low heat.  I can't recommend this thermometer enough, it's just a must have for any serious BBQ'er.

Sometimes when you're cooking different foods at same time, even one Maverick isn't enough.  You could always get a second one (I wouldn't mind!) or have another wireless thermometer.  For measuring just your food temperature, you might consider the Weber Style Audio Thermometer.

The Weber could not be more simple to use. Select your food and select how you wan't it done (raw, medium, well done, etc) with just few clicks. When your food is about to hit the target temperature, a nice female voice will speak to you: It's nearly done, it's nearly done!   That's just amazing and fun.

The Weber is a bit bigger, looks a bit funkier and has a timer function as well.

The transmitters stays by your cooker. The maverick transmitter also has the temperature display, which shows both temps one by one.  This is actually really useful, as when you're at your cooker, you still see the temps, as I can't be bothered to carry the receivers with me.

Conclusion:  If you need just one wireless thermometer, get the Maverick, as it has both smoker and food temperature probes.  For a second thermometer only for food measurements or grilling, the Weber is really nice.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

ABT's, chicken wings and sausages

Fired up my Outlaw smoker and BBQ'd some ABT's (Atomic Buffalo Turds),  chicken wings and a few raw bratwursts.

I made a few ABT's (filled jalapenos with cream cheese wrapped in bacon) , few filled with hot chili con carne  and also 3 vegetarian ones without bacon wrapping  for my wife.

ABT's were absolutely lovely, but the jalapenos were extremely hot this time!! Nice!


Chicken wings and bratwursts still needs another good hour.

Basted the wings with Stubb's Hot Wings sauce and crisped the skin on my Weber kettle for few minutes  each side. Ready to eat!


Very tasty! Had a few more drinks around a mesmerizing fire.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Char-Griller Outlaw review

I needed to get a larger smoker than my Weber kettle.  I was looking around for more than a year for a big enough smoker to cook for about 20 people at a time for nice BBQ parties in the summer.  Here in Europe there aren't too many BBQ smokers to select from. One popular brand is the Smokey Joe's smoker, but they are rather expensive (1000-2000 euros). Searching on the net I found lots and lots of information of Char-Grillers.  They seem very popular both in USA and in Europe and cost about a third of a Joe's Smoker.

I got interested in the Char-Griller Outlaw model (with a side firebox) and soon I ordered one online from a German supplier. Less than 500 euros it seemed like a bargain. Delivery was extremely fast (2-3 days) and it arrived in two relatively small boxes.

Assembly took me a good hour. Good instructions, well manufactured and easy to assemble it. No special tools were needed.

First thing with a new smoker is to season the griddles.  I melted about a pound of pork fat (lard), brushed the fat on the griddles. I heated up my gas grill and put the griddles in it for about 2 hours.  After that I brushed more fat on the griddles and gave them another two hours of high heat in the gasser.

At the same time I sprayed oil inside and outside of the Outlaw and did a dry run with burning just charcoal for 2-3 hours. I added plenty of mesquite and hickory wood for giving nice and strong smoke aroma to the Outlaw.  In the pic below you can see how the the Outlaw got a nice and deep mahogany color from the smoke.

It's ready for the first cook.  Load it up with decent amount of baby back ribs...

... and enjoy the beautiful aromas in the garden!

I have not done any modifications on it, except turned around the large charcoal tray in the smoking chamber to distribute the smoke more evenly and added a large metal water pan to the right side for more even heat distribution.  

I am more than happy with my Char-Griller Outlaw BBQ smoker. It really must be the best bang for the buck as there is really nothing else available in this size for this price category. Sure the steel is not as thick as in the expensive smokers, but what the heck - it's cheap, it works really well and I think it even looks nice.

I can highly recommend this smoker for anyone who wants a good size smoker for under 500 euros.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Perfect BBQ ribs

My favorite BBQ food is definitely ribs.  Nice smoky flavor, sweet and spicy aromas and the meat just about falling of the bone - heaven!

How to make perfect BBQ ribs in a Weber kettle?

Easy.  Get some baby back ribs from your local meat supplier.  Pull off the membrane (rubbery film on only one side of the ribs) with a dull butter knife or similar.

Apply the rub.  I often smear some mustard on the ribs before applying the rub.  The mustard makes the rub stick better and gives you a thicker crust. It's really optional. The mustard won't affect the taste whatsoever.

Set up your grill (Weber kettle in this case) and ignite the charcoal. As you see in the picture below, the kettle is divided more or less in to four sections.

1. Under the griddle I have a drip pan below the food. This just makes cleaning the grill afterwards so much quicker and easier.

2. On the other side is the heat source, charcoal and the wood for the smoker.

3. On the top of the griddle on the other side are the ribs.

4. Directly over the the charcoal is the water pan. The boiling water gives enough moisture for the food to keep it from drying.

Hardest part of the process is to control the temperature.  On a One-Touch Gold Weber kettle I use about 2 fist fulls of hot charcoal.  Any more and the temperature will be too high.  On a warm calm day even a good fist full might be enough. You just have to experiment with this to learn how much charcoal is needed to keep the temps between 110 and 140 °C (225-285F).

Place the ribs on the griddle or in a rib rack, add a chunk of apple or cherry tree on top the charcoal, put the water pan directly over the charcoal and close the lid. Enjoy the nice smoke pouring out of the grill.

I usually open the lid every 45min, turn around the ribs and spray some apple juice or apple cider vinegar on the ribs.  This again helps to keep them moist and gives you more flavor.  I prefer the apple cider vinegar to juice for the extra flavor it adds. You might need to add 1 or 2 pieces of charcoal and an other piece of wood.

Usually after approx. 3 hours the ribs starts to be ready.   When they have a nice mahogany color and the meat feels firm, not mushy and the bones pulls cleanly off the meat, they are definitely ready.

I still prefer to mix some BBQ sauce with running honey, glaze the ribs with the mixture and close the lid for another 5-10 minutes.  The sauce then really sticks on the ribs and they look just beautiful.

Serve with extra BBQ sauce on the side or maybe some potato salad and BBQ beans.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Basic BBQ rub

Secret of a tasty Barbecue dish lies often in the rub.  The food is marinated in a dry spice rub usually for a couple of hours before it enters the smoker.

In the States there is plenty of choice for ready made rubs for pork, chicken and beef.  Here in Europe there's hardly any ready made rubs available, so we have to make our own.

I never measure the exact amounts when I make my rub, but below you see my rough estimates which will work just fine. Adjust to your own taste.

Basic rub for baby back ribs (pork):
  • 1 tbsp of salt
  • 1 tbsp of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp of brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp of white sugar
  • 1-2 tsp of granulated garlic
  • 1-2 tsp of onion powder
  • 1-2 tsp of cayenne pepper and/or chili powder 
This is more or less my regular rub for ribs.  Nice sweet and spicy flavor which goes so well with pork dishes. Sometimes I add some mustard powder (Colman's) for an extra kick.

Basic rub for chicken:
  • 2 tbsp paprika powder
  • 4 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp onion powder
Again that's a basic rub which works nicely.  You could add oregano or any other herbs you like with your chicken.

Apply the rub generously on the food 2-4 hours before cooking.  I often wrap the food in clingfilm after applying the rub and keep it refidgerated untill smoker is ready.