Yeah, I’m Still Here!

Posted: September 22, 2011 in Cooking, Events

Wow – so much has been going on since my last update! Life has been hectic, meat has been cooked slow and low, adult beverages have been consumed, and competitions have been both entered and lost! Let’s look back on my last post and see if some of our “Future” predictions came true.

  • Practice – yeah, we’ve practiced. And in practicing, we’ve perfected our recipes, if not our processes (still working on that one.) We’ve learned how to cook whole pork shoulders, and I have to say – I like it better than Boston Butts for pulled pork ANY day of the week. Better flavor, prettier…just better. We (ok, I) tried cooking baby back ribs for the first time, and it was a dismal failure. More practice on that will be required, which you’ll find out if you read further. We’ve found an AWESOME rub and sauce sponsor, and with very minor tweaking, we’ve made his product our own and we’re ADDICTED to it. We have our flavor profiles nailed, we just have to work on our process.
  • BBQ sauce – I abandoned efforts to make my own, even though I do from time to time. We use Big Ron’s sauce and tweak it just a bit to make it our own – we call it Paycheck Sauce, because it’s so money!
  • Not only did Todd and I get trained as MBN judges, but we included our team legal advisor Larry as well! Larry is an invaluable addition to our team, because he provides unbiased opinions on our product and takes the judging aspect of it very seriously.
  • Our first competition was entered. More about that below.
  • Football season is in full swing – this week will find us on the campus of Auburn University to see our beloved Tigers play the Florida Atlantic Owls. I’ll be cooking burgers, brats, and hotdogs, and drinking beer the whole time…good times!


So more about the competition…

As I mentioned we might, we entered the First Annual Fire and Feast BBQ Festival in Yazoo City, MS early in September. It was our first competition, we were excited, and we got schooled.

We started out Friday morning with Todd, Juliana, and I headed to Mississippi with the pit, meat, and most of our supplies. Teresa, Brandy, Larry and Paul left around lunch headed to join us. We got a later start than anticipated, and received a phone call when we were about an hour out from the meat inspector wondering where we were – we knew him, and told him we were rushing there. We managed to make it there before the 3PM deadline, got into our spot, and started setting everything up. It was quite hectic getting everything set up, but we were cooking our shoulders (five of them) by 6PM. We enjoyed socializing, and were lucky enough to be parked by one of the teams who had helped with the judging class that we attended in August. We had a great time with them, and they gave us some very helpful advice – many thanks go to the Diamond D BBQ team for being our friends!

Around 5, the concerts started getting warmed up for the night. There were some REALLY good blues singers, some great jazz, and then there was some country and R&B. By the time the country music was in full swing (around 9-10PM) the rest of our team arrived. They left midway through the R&B set (it was painfully loud) and went back to the hotel, leaving Todd and I to tend to the camp for the night. We worked the fire, talked to a few late night cookers, and were joined by tens of thousands of mosquitoes. We put the ribs on around 3AM, and I tried to nap from about 3:30 to 4, but the mosquitoes had other ideas. Around 6-ish, Juliana came back to the camp and saved me (I was FREEZING…huddled around the firebox to keep warm!) by taking me back to the hotel. There, I was able to shower and get presentable and wake everyone else up. We got some breakfast and then all headed back.

When we all got assembled back at the site, it was time to finish decorating and getting ready for our blind box turn-in. At 11, judges started arriving for shoulder competition. We had a great time presenting to them, and all but one liked our sauce. Our shoulders were perfect – I was pulling out clean, white blade bones during the presentation, telling them how we exercise our pigs – just laying it on thick. That went really well, or so we thought. We got the notice that we didn’t get in finals, so that stress wasn’t added – we were disappointed, but not surprised. We sat back and waited for ribs, and then went through the process again. Let me tell you, presentations are exhausting! We had a great time again, but not a great feeling about ribs. We cooked spares, and they just weren’t too well received. The flavor profile was great – our glaze was awesome. They were a bit tough, though, and MBN judges are just looking for baby backs. Oh well – back to the drawing board for that one. We knew we wouldn’t make finals in ribs, and we were correct.

After the presentations, Teresa and I, along with Brandy and Larry headed back to the hotel for a nap. I got about 2.5 hours of DEEP sleep, and woke up very refreshed. I took a shower (I was filthy) and headed back to the site, donning my lucky Auburn shirt since we’d won against Mississippi State (we toted a lot of grief over our Auburn tent at the cook site.) We went back for the awards ceremony after hearing some really good feedback from our on-site judges. We didn’t expect anything in ribs, but we were looking for a shoulder call in the back of our minds – but it was not to be. We placed next to last in both categories, much to our dismay. Yeah, we were a little surprised over shoulders, but we were told that the blind judging was very close, as was the on-site judging. Sure, we were good, but most everyone else was too. We left the competition dejected, but with heads high because we knew our scores, and they weren’t bad – just not good enough.

We headed out to a team dinner and got a mediocre meal at insanely high prices with the worst service I’ve ever gotten. We said goodbye to that place and headed back to the hotel – we were going to stay up and discuss our performance over some fine bourbon, but we just couldn’t keep our eyes open. The drive home the next day was fun, but long…and we left Mississippi just like we found it, only with lighter wallets and many more mosquito bites (for the record, I was in a conference call on Monday and got bored and started counting the bites on my right arm below the elbow – I counted 23 bites, and that was the least bitten part of my body!)

We’re going to round out the fall with some judging and some football, and cook a few parties along the way. We’re looking forward to our next competition, wherever that might be. In the meantime – practice might not make perfect, but it damn sure makes us fat!

It’s Been a While…

Posted: July 5, 2011 in Cookers, Cooking, Events

Wow. You know, you start a blog with nothing but the best intentions, planning on keeping it updated, and then that big pain in the ass called life gets in the way. My wife has been dealing with a health issue (nothing dangerous, but a major annoyance that has thus far required two reconstructive surgeries) and my work responsibilities keep getting more and more and more and more…it’s rare that I have time to sit down and write anymore. On top of that, we took a week off to go to Disney World in June – can you say “hot?” Anyway, by the time quitting time gets here, I try not to touch my computers until time to work the next day.

At any rate, here’s what I’ve been up to in the cooking world – I can pretty much sum it up by stating “not as much as I would want to.” Sorry, no pictures for this post since I’m working on memory alone. A popular forum that I visit says if there are no pics, it didn’t happen – but just trust me on this one. I won’t steer you wrong on purpose.

You may remember that I was planning a big BBQ for friends and family on Memorial Day weekend. To say we had a crowd was an understatement! I started cooking Friday night around midnight – I put on two packer briskets and four Boston Butts. The butts were injected with the Chris Lilly recipe (you can Google it and find it anywhere) and then slathered with yellow mustard and rubbed down generously with Magic Dust. The briskets were injected with a mixture of beef broth and Worcestershire sauce and then generously rubbed with a mixture of salt, black pepper, and granulated garlic (I won’t disclose my ratios…but it’s easy to tinker with.)  I put them on the smoker around midnight and enjoyed the cool night air while watching my fire. Right before I got sleepy enough to want to catch a nap, my fire climbed really high – around 325°. Try as I might, I couldn’t get it cooled down. I closed every vent except the chimney, and it finally dropped after about 30-45 minutes. I was worried about the meat, but everything seemed OK. Since I was using my new Maverick ET-372 remote thermometer, I set the temperature alarms on it and came into my office and napped on the couch as I could – it would wake me when it needed wood or if it burned too hot. The next morning, I noticed that my very small butt (they weren’t consistent size – grrrrrr) was past the “plateau” and climbing, so I knew it would come off early. It ended up being done around 11, and lunch wasn’t until 3, so I foiled it and put it in the cooler to keep it warm. Around 2-ish we pulled the briskets and separated the point from the flat. We sliced the flat and cubed the point, then threw it back in a disposable pan with some Jack Daniels BBQ sauce and put it back in the cooker. The brisket was PHENOMENAL! Juicy, flavorful, tender, a beautiful smoke ring…my dad told me “son, I’m 60 years old and have never had brisket before. But if it always tastes like that, you can cook it every weekend to feed me.” I considered that very high praise coming from him. All in all, we fed around 60 people, and only received two “complaints” that the pulled pork was a bit spicy. Note to self – don’t add more Magic Dust after pulling for a big crowd. My two sauces (a yellow mustard/vinegar sauce and a vinegar/pepper sauce) didn’t go over too well. I definitely need more work on developing my sauce. My special moink balls were a hit, as were the ABT’s that we cooked.

The next two weekends were taken up by that silly Mouse in Orlando, so I didn’t get to cook then. But I did cook the weekend of the 18th – I cooked dinner for the family on Saturday (country style ribs, ABT’s, and corn on the cob) and it turned out very well. It was almost a perfect (albeit short) cook. The week prior, I had gathered all my sauce making tools and went into mad scientist mode. I made a thick sauce (YES!) that had a taste of sweetness and an after bite of heat (that compounded as I let it sit!) In an effort to make a slightly less spicy version, I left out the pepper in the second batch, but alas – I decided to experiment and add cumin – let me tell you, 1 tablespoon of cumin in 2 quarts of sauce mixture is VERY pronounced. Not bad if you like that sort of thing, but I don’t. Pops loved it, though. That Sunday, I cooked for my friends Jennifer and Paul. I injected a pork loin with a simple version of the Chris Lilly injection, rubbed it with Magic Dust, and then wrapped it in thick sliced bacon and put it on to cook. I had a little problem with my fire, as it wanted to stay closer to 200° than 225°, so it took a little longer to cook than I anticipated. I brought it up to 160° internal and sliced it into thick chops and served it with my spicy sauce. The pork loin was as juicy as any cut of meat you’ve ever seen, tender, and very flavorful. But the hit was the sauce – Jennifer is a self-proclaimed sauce snob, and she couldn’t stop raving over it. I think I’m going to duplicate that recipe and make a milder version by not adding the crushed red pepper.

Alas, I didn’t cook on the biggest BBQ holiday of the year. We visited some friends near the beach, and I didn’t feel like towing the Bubba Grill in beach traffic. I knew we would have access to good food, and wanted to leave it here for my family to use – I think Pops has secretly been hoping I’d let him cook on it, so I did. I left them with some tips and tricks on Friday and had some of their leftovers yesterday – and they did a great job. I had a full belly last night after the leftovers, and a happy one to boot! My weekend wasn’t a total bust – I had some of the best burgers ever, some awesome oysters on the halfshell, and one of the most relaxing weekends I’ve had this year.

Here’s what I’ve picked up on and learned in both my cooking and my research:

  • Cooking a brisket isn’t as hard as I was anticipating. I hope I can produce consistent results with the next one.
  • There’s a difference between ribs you would feed to friends and family (and even at a restaurant) and competition ribs. A BIG difference. Moving to that mindset is going to take a lot of thinking on my part.
  • Pulled pork is pulled pork. Fairly simple, and hard to screw up.
  • Any meat you can think of would be good cooked in a Bubba Grill. You won’t oversmoke anything, and the food turns out perfect every time.
  • I want a Thermapen.

Here’s what’s in the future for Little Piggy BBQ –

  • More practice! You can’t get better if you don’t practice, and there’s a certain level of experimentation that goes into it as well. Plus, it’s fun sampling your results!
  • Finalizing the recipe for *my* BBQ sauce. I’m 95% of the way there, I think.
  • My buddy Todd and I are going to become certified MBN judges in August. That’s the plan, at least. We won’t know what the judges want unless we are trained as judges.
  • Our first tentative competition is going to be in September in Yazoo City, Mississippi. It’s MBN sanctioned – we’re going to jump right into the fire, so to speak.
  • We’re gearing up for football season – our fall schedule sees us on the Auburn University campus almost every Saturday, decked out in burnt orange and navy blue. We take tailgating to the extreme, and some of that extreme is going to be served on a Bubba Grill. If you’re reading this and find yourself heading to a game, let me know and I’ll tell you where we are located. We love having people share our food – after all, I cook for two reasons – I love to eat and make my belly happy, and I love to make other people happy.

Sunday Ribs

Posted: May 25, 2011 in Cooking, Events

This past Sunday was two events – my sister had a birthday and I got to cook my first meal on the new pit! We decided on ribs for the birthday dinner, so I had stopped by our butcher shop and picked up six slabs on the way to Georgia on Saturday.

Saturday night, I prepped all six slabs of ribs – they were untrimmed, so I cut the tips off to make a nice square St. Louis cut and then pulled that annoying membrane off the back of the ribs (that thing is slippery!) We then slathered the ribs in yellow mustard and rubbed with Magic Dust. I wrapped them in plastic wrap and put them in the fridge for the night. I also put the “scraps” (tips) in two gallon freezer bags to save for the cook.

Sunday morning came too early for me, but I got up and cleaned out the firebox from the Saturday burn. I then loaded it with a few dry pieces of wood and some small sticks – with that fuel load, the gas fire starter worked like a charm and I had a roaring fire going in about 5 minutes. After a few coals, I put in another stick and then attached the BBQ probe of my Maverick ET-372 to the bottom rack of the cooker. It got up to around 225° easily, and I went inside to get the meat.

At this point, I figured out that the propane fry burner area of the cooker was going to be a perfect work area. I was able to put all my supplies (tray, roll of paper towels, spray bottle, tongs, thermometer transmitter, etc.) on that platform. It was also at this point that I realized how nice the slide-out grills were on the smoker. I pulled out the lower grill and put six slabs on there, then slid it back in. I slid out the top grill and loaded it down with rib tips and scraps – snacking for later! Then I closed the doors and ignored it for one hour, keeping an eye on the temps – after opening the door, the temps come back to what I want in about 3-5 minutes, which is impressive.

Here’s a terrible quality pic of the ribs on the smoker – I was snapping these with my cell phone, and a dirty lens combined with the smoke makes for a terrible picture. You can easily get the idea, though:


At the one hour mark, I opened the door – it takes considerable restraint to keep from wanting to look at the meat as it cooks, but as I’ve been told, “if you’re lookin’, you ain’t cookin’!” So at one hour, I spritzed with apple juice to keep the moisture. I added a log to the fire and then closed her back up for two more hours.

At the two hour mark, I started my experiment – I wanted to see if foil helps or hurts the cooking of ribs. They had a great look and color by this point, so I took three slabs and wrapped them up in foil and liberally sprayed them with apple juice. I left the other three slabs alone, just sprayed them good too. At this point, I also put three Vidalia onions cored out with butter and Magic Dust and fresh garlic wrapped in foil on to roast. For good measure, I threw ten fresh ears of corn on the top grate  still in the shuck to cook. While I was in there, I pulled a few tips off for munching. I then closed the doors and forgot about everything for another 2 hours.

At the five hour mark, I opened back up to unfoil the foiled ribs. Again, I spritzed everything and noticed a GREAT pullback from the bones with the foiled ribs. My gut told me that they were done at that point, but I went by the times and put them back in for an hour. I did notice that the color was still perfect, which was surprising.

At the six hour mark, it was time to eat! I pulled everything off and prepped the ribs for dinner. They were just a tiny bit too done – not by public rules, but for competition rules…see, the meat shouldn’t actually fall off the bone. Sure, it’s a tender rib, but it’s a crappy presentation. They sliced like BUTTER – they were as tender and juicy as they could be.  Here are a few pics of the final product:









All in all, everything was a hit – even the corn! Dinner was great, everyone left fat and happy!

It’s Home!

Posted: May 24, 2011 in Cookers, Info

On Saturday, my dad and I woke up early and hit the road for Haddock, GA to pick up my new pit. We started off the trip with Robert Earl Keen on the iPod playing his “Barbecue” song to set the mood. We made our first stop in Roanoke, AL at our favorite butcher, Clark Brothers Quality Meats to pick up some ribs to cook on Sunday (more about that later!) We got there right at opening, so service was speedy, and we were back out and on the road within minutes. My GPS (Jane) took us out a county road to LaGrange, GA where we stopped for breakfast at McDonalds. I should note at this point that a) the McDonalds southern chicken biscuit is tasty, but still not on par with Chik Fil A, and b) Apparently, nobody in the entire world has ever ordered a latte at that particular location with no flavoring. I like my coffee two ways – STRONG and with milk. No other flavorings need apply. They looked at me like I’d asked them to make the coffee out of sewer water!

Back to the trip – this is where we went off the beaten path. See, no matter what road you take from here to there, it ends up being within 20 miles of 200 miles. Pop used to drive a truck, and had an idea of which way to go without Jane’s help – and this is a good thing, because Jane went all berserk and took me north on I-85 toward Atlanta – that’s NOT in the direction of Macon! After looking, it wanted me to go north to Atlanta, then back south to Macon, which was very much out of the way. So we hit some state roads and cut across to Griffin, then down to Macon, which is what we had thought to begin with. We made it into Macon and then over to Gray and out to Haddock with no further issues. I had already scoped the area out on Google Earth, so I had a great idea of what to look for.

We pulled down a dusty dirt road to a beautiful shady house and the lingering smell of something cooking – a line of finished cookers were along the drive going down the fence, and I spotted mine pretty easily. I went and knocked on the front door, and Mr. Lonnie’s wife, Shannon, answered the door. Apparently, his parents were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary and they were going to throw them a party. The womenfolk were in the kitchen making copious amounts of cupcakes, while the menfolk were right where I would expect to find them – under a tree in the backyard cooking for the party! I got to shake Mr. Lonnie’s hand, as well as the hands of his two sons (and assistant cooks!) He then took me inside to look beside his fireplace to see his Memphis In May (MIM) rib championship trophy, which is truly a thing of beauty.  We then walked around front so he could show us our smoker. We went over it with a fine toothed comb, he gave me some pointers on cooking, and welcomed me to the Bubba Grills family. We then hooked it up to the family truckster and took off for Alabama.

On the way home, we took a slightly different route, following US 80 the entire way. Around Phenix City, AL I found out two things – a) locking down the brakes on the family truckster with the new smoker in tow makes it want to pass you on one side, and b) My gas gauge is well aware that I have a new smoker. After stopping for gas and a quick trip in Walmart, we finally arrived home at 3:33, 3 minutes later than our planned arrival (not too bad, huh?) We were both exhausted for various reasons, and Pop went home to take a nap. I wanted to, but my excitement got the better of me and I went over the smoker again, learning all the nooks and crannies. I noticed a very strong propane smell (it is a recycled tank) and knew that I would want to burn that out before cooking on it. Knowing I had to cook the next day, I  split up some hickory and gathered up some dry wood to burn later that evening.

It burned perfectly, and the propane-assist fire starter is absolutely awesome. I ran a hot fire for about 4 hours, and the smell was all gone Sunday when I woke up (along with a few ashes.) I quickly built another fire and got ready to cook – more on that later!

Now, for some pics of the smoker – drool if you must, but save some for the next post, which involves FOOD!


The new cooker!


Front view – nice storage area!


Front propane burners and propane baskets. This also doubles as a nice work area, provided you’re careful and don’t get anything in the burners. I’ll be covering most of this with an acrylic cutting board.


Feed me! Two slide-out grills.


Very spacious fire box!


Gas-assist fire starter in the firebox.


Somewhat off-kilter shot of the inside of the firebox. Hey, I was on my knees taking this pic!


Two front propane burners/work area. For boiling peanuts, cooking jambalaya, french fries, etc.


You know you want to call and order one…

Less Than A Week!

Posted: May 17, 2011 in Cookers, Info

Well, the time is drawing near – on Saturday, my dad and I are taking a trip just past Macon, GA to pick up my new smoker. 400 miles round trip isn’t too far to drive to pick up something like this, is it? My tentative plans are to fire it off Saturday evening to cure it and then probably cook some ribs on Sunday. I need to get used to the way the cooker operates before I try the big cook on Saturday.

In the meantime, some other news:

UPS delivered me some neat cooking toys – the Spitjack Magnum injector was one. I’m excited about this one, because it allows me to inject my meat without the wrist crippling pain that the cheapo Walmart injectors provide (I have severe carpal tunnel in both arms.) I don’t think I was really expecting something quite this substantial, even for the $50 that I paid for it – wow! It’s heavy duty! I can’t wait to try it on my butts (yes, I inject my butts, just like Chris Lilly.) I’ll definitely put it to good use when Thanksgiving rolls around at the Fire Department – we smoke turkeys for a fundraiser, and injecting 30-40 of them at a time can be work.

My other toy is the Maverick ET-732 wireless thermometer – this thing is awesome! It has two probes, one for your meat and one for your smoker temperature. Two probe leads run out to a wireless transmitter, which transmits to a pager-sized receiver that instantly shows you your smoker temp and meat temp. I can also set an alarm to warn me if my smoker temp gets too high or too low, and alert me to when my meat reaches the correct temperature. This is going to be handy for SO many reasons – I can set the smoker up at night and sleep on the couch in my office with the receiver beside me and have an alarm go off when I need to wake up to stoke the fire. I don’t have to hang right at the smoker all the time, I can go inside without worrying about it. But the most important thing – I don’t have to open the doors to check on my meat. A famous saying when cooking low and slow is “If you’re lookin’, you ain’t cookin’!” I want to trap that heat and that precious smoke in my cooker so it will do the job.

The last (and really not least) news is that my buddies Todd and Juliana made the trip to Memphis in May this past weekend. While there, Todd got bit by the BBQ bug – he met Mr. Lonnie of Bubba Grills and took a “behind the scenes” type of tour where he met even more teams. At this point, you just have to understand their personalities – I don’t know how they do stuff like this, but they got invited back to one of the team tents for dinner (whole hog!) As Todd is known to do, he started talking and got interested and now he wants to start a team. So with absolutely no knowledge of how these things work (other than what I’ve read online) we’re thinking about trying to make a few competitions this summer. His goal is my mecca – he wants to compete next year in the Patio division at Memphis in May. You have to hand it to him, he does set his sights high! Looks like we have some practicing to do!

By the way, a HUGE congratulations goes out to Team Bubba Grills, who took first in ribs this past weekend at MIM and first in mustard sauce too!

Not Much Cooking

Posted: May 11, 2011 in Cookers, Recipes

Sorry I’ve been away for a week or so – Mrs. Stick Burner and I took a vacation to the beach and then had some personal business that needed taking care of. But while we were at the beach, we had a feast to die for, and I cooked it! We met a group of friends down there and decided that we were cooking out Friday night – I cooked ribeyes for 12 on the hotel grill, made Italian Grilled Shrimp skewers, and grilled a few oysters. OK, more than a few. We picked up a 50lb. box of oysters – we shucked most of them and ate them right out of the shell on a cracker with homemade cocktail sauce…recipes below for both!

On good news, my new cooker is ready – Mr. Lonnie called me last week telling me that he had finished it. Due to scheduling (his and mine) I’m going to pick it up the weekend of the 21st – I had the beach to see and he’s cooking in the Memphis championship. I can’t wait…I’m planning on cooking the Sunday after I get back with it!

So here are the recipes – both very easy!

Italian Grilled Shrimp Skewers:

I prefer jumbo shrimp – the bigger the better. Head off, preferably. Put them in a bowl, shell on, and pour a bottle of Italian salad dressing over them. Let them marinate for about an hour, then put them on bamboo skewers. Put the skewers on the grill and cook until the shrimp turn pink. It’s really easy to overcook them (I did…)

Homemade Cocktail Sauce:

All of this is to taste – no measurements at all: ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, fresh ground horseradish, and hot sauce. I prefer a LOT of horseradish, but a lot of people can’t handle it. Just a dash of Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce – don’t want to overpower it. I can eat this on a lot more than just seafood…

Off topic–tornado aid

Posted: April 29, 2011 in Info

Folks, this is a cookin’ blog, dedicated to good food and good times, and I intend to keep it as such. However, unless you’ve been living under a rock or been out of country this week, you’ve heard about the tornado devastation in the Southeastern US.

I’m fortunate enough to live in the great State of Alabama, and many areas around me were destroyed Wednesday evening. Our family and friends were lucky enough to escape unharmed, but I personally know many who didn’t. I have friends whose loved ones are now homeless with nothing left and I have friends who lost loved ones completely. Having been an emergency responder for many years, I know what my brothers and sisters in fire and EMS are going through right now as they move from rescue to recovery mode – they will see things that then can’t un-see and will never forget.

Our state needs help, from all over. However, help needs to be organized. I’m here to ask for help from the Smoke Ring community – please visit this website and donate anything that you can spare to help the citizens of Alabama. This isn’t a scam, this goes straight to our Governor’s Faith Based and Community Initiatives page. You can also text REDCROSS to 90999 from your mobile device to instantly donate $10 to the disaster relief effort.

For anyone that can donate – thank you.

The Most Difficult Meat

Posted: April 25, 2011 in Info, Recipes

For all my improvements cooking low and slow, I have major problems cooking hot and fast. Mrs. Stick Burner has, in the past, actually forbidden me to cook certain meats on our Weber charcoal grill (chicken and burgers, to be precise.) Why? Because those meats have to be well done, and I don’t do well done well on a charcoal grill. By the time I finish cooking something like that over charcoal, it ends up LOOKING like charcoal. Because of this, I end up cooking a lot on my indoor electric grill – you get the grill marks, but not the flavor of the charcoal, and it makes do in the winter (hey! I didn’t say I LIKED it!)

So on to the most difficult meat (to me, not to you…) To me, it’s steak. Now I’m a fine steak connoisseur – I’ve eaten at various chop houses all over the US, and love a good steak. My favorite cut of steak is the ribeye – the marbling gives it such a great robust beefy flavor. I like my steaks cooked like a man likes his steaks cooked – on the rare side of medium rare. I guess you could say that I like the pink center to be room temperature – not cool, not warm. I’ve had many steaks that were works of culinary art, and melted on my tongue like butter. And, on the other hand, I’ve had many steaks that were such meat atrocities that I wouldn’t feed them to the neighbor’s dog, and I HATE that dog.

With all that being said, I absolutely LOVE steak – it’s my favorite meat, and always has been. I’ve studied (haven’t tried, but have studied) many different mad scientist ways to enhance steaks – an acquaintance once told me to marinate steaks in a mixture of Worcestershire sauce and cheap scotch to impart a charcoal flavor to gas-grilled steaks. My initial thought was  “Hey, I don’t buy cheap Scotch!” and then “Hey, I don’t WASTE Scotch!” I’ve never tried that recipe, because there’s some short circuit in my brain that would not stop me from drinking the marinade. It’s a curse, I know. Some friends told me a way to make tougher cuts of steak fork tender – put them in a freezer bag with sliced kiwi fruit. Crush it up and rub the kiwi all over the meat, and leave it for an hour – anything more has been reported to give you steak mush. I really want to try a method I’ve read about on that involves a lot of salt. Why do I want to try this one? Just because the process makes scientific sense to me (as I type this, I’m reminded of one of my all time favorite xkcd cartoons – Science. It works, Bitches!)

That brings me to the reason for this post (other than needing content…) This past weekend, one of my buddies in the meat department of Winn Dixie cut me some nice ribeye steaks. They were beautiful – and I decided to cook them over charcoal. I know, it was a big mistake – I’ve perfected my steak cooking on my little indoor electric grill and can get GREAT flavor and consistent results there. Not to mention, I was cooking for friends…and of course, they wanted their steaks a little beyond medium. Mrs. Stick Burner wanted hers well done (see “meat atrocity” up top…) Now, I can cook a steak to medium rare perfectly, and by God, I did. My steak was the best that I’ve ever eaten. But anything beyond medium may as well be ordered as “charcoal.” The two friend’s steaks turned out a little more done than they liked, but the well done one? Oh, it was awful. I considered calling that dog next door, but it wouldn’t have liked it.

So let that be a lesson to you – if you come to eat with me and we decide to cook steaks – I hope you like it medium rare, because you’d better not order it well done.

More Experimenting and Learning

Posted: April 19, 2011 in Recipes

On Sunday, we had a great time visiting with our friends Todd and Juliana. These particular friends hail from the great state of Louisiana and tend to be where I gain a lot of my cooking knowledge. We all enjoy experimenting with food, and even held a “great pork loin cookoff of 2010” one Saturday in our back yard – in case you were wondering, they were all so good that a clear winner was never declared.

Todd and Juliana both cook very well – but Todd is known in our group of friends for his jambalaya. This stuff is legendary – he imagecooked it at an Auburn/LSU game last fall and it was a huge hit. That was where I heard the best food compliment ever – “My stomach is full, but my brain won’t let me stop eating!” I’ve watched Todd cook jambalaya and I’ve even assisted – I know there’s a lot of stuff that goes into it along with some voodoo and special cooking secrets. Now, I’ll never, ever, ever share the recipe for this jambalaya, but I will say that Todd let (made?) me cook it yesterday. He provided the tips and instructions, and I cooked it all by myself. On the left, you can see it during the initial cooking process – right after I added the water to the rice. It looks good here, but the finished product looks much better. This jambalaya had chicken, pork, and sausage in it, along with someimage vegetables, spices, and rice. I never realized that a dish as good as this was influenced by the way it was cooked…it almost seemed sloppy to let the meat stick to the bottom of the dutch oven (yes, this is cooked in a cast iron dutch oven over an open flame…I don’t think it’s real if you do it any other way.) But you want a little of that browning to help color the dish, apparently. Folks, forget BBQ, there’s an ART to making jambalaya. And let me tell you – this isn’t a side dish. This is your meal. You grab a bottle of this, Louisiana Hot Sauce to taste, maybe some french bread just to help get the rice on your fork, and a cold beer, and you’re in culinary heaven. I know in my heart that no matter what I do with this recipe, it’ll never be as good as if Todd had made it, but I do hope to fool some people who have never had Todd’s jambalaya. I was honored to have the recipe passed on to me, and hope to make this again in the near future (I have everything written down…)

So how do you follow up such a gastronomic treat? If you guessed bacon, then you were exactly right. We made imagePig Candy after the jambalaya. What is Pig Candy, you ask? Well, I’ll be happy to share that bit of goodness with you. It only requires two ingredients: thick sliced bacon and dark brown sugar. You take a cookie sheet and cover it in foil. Trust me on this, if you don’t cover it in foil, you’ll end up kicking yourself – this is a promise. Lay out your bacon strips on the cookie sheet and liberally coat with dark brown sugar. Then turn the bacon strips over and do the same. Put this cookie sheet in the oven and bake on 350 for maybe 20-30 minutes – you don’t want this very crispy – the sugar will take care of that for you. Take it out of the oven and IMMEDIATELY put it on a plate. You can even scrape up some of the excess molasses and drizzle over the bacon. But trust me on this one: DO NOT LET THIS COOL ON THE FOIL. If you do, I hope you enjoy eating foil. You can see the end result over on the left. It’s even better than it looks.

Note: Please excuse the photo quality – all the pictures were snapped with my cell phone. I’ll try to keep the Nikon on hand when I cook in the future.

BBQ–It Ain’t All Smoky Meat!

Posted: April 18, 2011 in Recipes

This past weekend was a lot of fun, storms aside. Little Piggy herself was in a beauty pageant and had fun, and I got to do a little kitchen science – more about the science in the next post!

After spending Saturday night around other kid’s parents and grinding my teeth (I’m a bit neurotic that way,) we went to a local restaurant for dinner. Apparently they didn’t plan for the local prom combined with race weekend (we live 30 minutes south of Talladega, home of the Talladega Superspeedway and NASCAR.) Due to this, they were sold out of almost everything, were packed, and service was terrible. At the one hour mark, I spoke with the manager, and what she said did not make me happy. I’m not one of these people who search for things wrong to get something for free – I wasn’t asking her to take anything off my bill, I just wanted to take a minute to let her know that this wasn’t the type service we expected nor deserved. She blamed everyone but herself for the service. 15 minutes later and still no food, and we walked out to go to McDonald’s. Yes, it was that bad. After that, I needed a drink – and I had a recipe that I wanted to try…Coronaritas! I had seen several recipes floating around the internet, so I took the simplest one and bought ingredients for a more complex one – sound about right? Here’s what I came up with:

  • 1 six pack of Corona. Extra, not light. We don’t want no steenking light beer around here.
  • 1 can of frozen limeade concentrate
  • 1 bottle (size your choice) tequila (I picked up Jose Cuervo Especial Silver since I didn’t want to spend a lot in case this sucked.)

Directions for mixing: in a one gallon pitcher, empty in the limeade concentrate. Open the tequila and take a swig to test it’s freshness – sometimes this takes more than one swig. After you are satisfied that the tequila is of good quality, pour some inside the limeade can – when it’s full, pour it in the pitcher too.* Now open six Coronas and pour them in the pitcher. Stir well. You can add fresh limes if you want, but I didn’t – the limeade was VERY pulpy, and served my tastes well. Add ice to a glass and pour over. Store the leftovers in the fridge. BE CAREFUL DRINKING THIS! You don’t taste ANY alcohol, and they go down very very easy. Me & My Liver are seasoned professionals, and even I felt a buzz after two small Tervis Tumblers full of this heavenly elixir.

*Note: One can of tequila is what the recipe calls for – however, you can’t even begin to taste it. PERSONALLY, I would consider ramping up the tequila if I was drinking this in a party atmosphere. As it stands, it’s a great sippin’ drink for cooking!