Thursday, April 26, 2007

Charcoal vs. Gas Grilling

I recently told you that I'm considering buying a new gas grill after many years of cooking exclusively over coals. I gave you a couple reasons why I'm thinking of adding a gasser to my arsenal, but I thought I would expand on it a little. Hopefully this will help some folks that are buying their first grill, or looking to expand their collection. It's odd for me to think of somebody buying their first grill. I grew up with tongs in hand since my Dad is an avid griller. He doesn't smoke a lot, but we did have an unmodified ECB and turned out some good food on it. I guess since I learned through observing my Dad that it just comes kinda natural to me. I do know folks that couldn't cook a decent hamburger or hotdog if their life depended on it....and I think that is a cryin' shame.

So, here are my pros and cons for Charcoal vs. Gas.


  • Pros
    • Convenience--Once you figure out the right settings for what you're cooking, it's almost set it and forget it. No charcoal to worry about. No real mess, although you should clean the grill grate after every use.
    • Inclimate weather--If it's nasty outside (cold, rainy), just crank up the gass and let it roll. You can definately spend more time inside where it's comfortable instead of outside tending the fire.
    • Time--You can get your grill up to temp super-fast. No lighting charcoal and coming back a half hour later to start heating up the grate.
  • Cons
    • Flavor-- I'll cover this more in the "Pros" for charcoal, but I don't think gas can match the flavor of charcoal.
    • No smoke!!-- This is the reason the flavor is different with gas.
    • Stigma-- Be cool is it actually light a match and play with burning coals instead of just mashing a button to get your fire.
  • Pros
    • Flavor-- Again, I think food cooked on charcoal tastes better. Especially if it's cooked using lump charcoal. And it's easier to add wood to a charcoal fire compared to a gas fire, too. If you've read my brining posts up to this point you know that I add wood to my indirect cooks all the time. If I was doing it on a gas grill I would have to mess around with foil pouches and wood chips instead of just dropping a couple chunks of hickory onto the coals.
    • Versatile-- With a little experience you can easily cook anything on charcoal. it's easy to cook directly or indirectly and it's easy to add smoke or not.
    • "Manley"-- The opposite of the "stigma" of gas...uggg, me cook meat on fire..ugg. ;)
  • Cons
    • Messy-- Cooking with charcoal can be messy. You've got to deal with the charcoal and dust beforehand and you've got all that ash to deal with afterward. This is just something you have to get used to. If you use lump charcoal you'll cut down on the ash considerably.
    • Time consuming-- Like I said in my "wish list" post, this is my biggest thing right now. One thing I do during the week is light a chimney of charcoal as soon as I get home. By the time I go and change clothes and play with the girls for a minute the coals are getting close to being ready.
    • Fire management-- While playing with the fire is one of the most fun parts of cooking, it can be frustrating, especially for beginners. With experience, though, this becomes less of a "Con"

Well, now you know what I think about grilling with gas vs. charcoal. I really do think there is a place for both on your patio. I prefer charcoal, but can appreciate the benefits of a gas grill. But, if I had to choose only one, it would definitely be charcoal...hands down.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Maple Bourbon Brine, Part II

I promised awhile back to follow up on my maple bourbon brine post. I had some brine from the previous cook that I didn't use, so I stuck it in the freezer for future use. I pulled it out last weekend and brined 4 2-inch boneless pork chops for about 6 hours. I cooked them like I did in the first post; indirect for 30 minutes or so and a minute or two on each side over hot coals to finish them off. They were fantastic....better than the thin chops from before, but about equal to the pork steak. In my admittedly limited experience with brining, it seems to me that thicker cuts do better.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Brisket, Sausage, and ABTs

I did some atomic buffalo turds (ABTs) for appetizers this weekend. These are super-easy and they are fantastic. Just cut some jalepenos in half and scoop out the seeds. Add some cayenne pepper (to taste) to some pre-softened cream cheese and pipe it into the pepper. Top it with a lil' smokie and wrap in bacon. You can cook it at about any temp on the smoker. Once the bacon is done, they are ready to go. Make about twice as many as you think you'll need.

The in-laws are in town for a visit so I decided on an extended smoke session on Friday night/Saturday. I put the brisket on at about 12:30 AM on Saturday morning. I'm glad I did because it took longer than usual to get done....right at 17 hours. This was a strange brisket. It weighed in at 12.5 lbs, which is a little heavier than I like, but there was about twice as much external fat on it than I normally see. I trim the fat down to 1/8 to 1/4 inch, so what I put on the smoker was close to what I like. The brisket reached a plateau of 168 degrees sometime in the morning and then actually dropped in temp to 164 degrees. I'm chalking this up to some fat or connective tissue at the tip of the probe, 'cause that ain't supposed to happen. After 3 or 4 hours she started rising again. When it reached 190 deg internal I took the temp with a different thermometer. There was quite a bit of resistance in the meat so I kept on cooking. I did this a couple more times and finally pulled the brisket off at 205 far the hottest I've ever had to cook one to get it tender.

Here is my brisket rub:

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3Tbsp paprika
  • 1 Tbsp garlic salt
  • 1/4 cup onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp oregano
  • 1 Tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tbsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

The Final Product!!!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Pork Butt

Here is the pork butt recipe from my smoke last week.


  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 3 Tbsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp dried basil
Sauce (this is authentic Eastern NC vinegar based sauce...they put this in our bottles as babies):
  • 1/2 gallon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cup white vinegar
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 5 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 4 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 5 Tbsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • 5 tsp kosher salt
Bring this sauce to a simmer, but don't boil it.

A lot of folks rub their butts the night before and wrap them in saran wrap. I've done it that way, but can't tell any appreciable difference to doing it 30 minutes to an hour before I smoke. I usually coat the butt with cheap yellow mustard (you won't taste it; it just helps the rub to stick) and put a liberal coating of rub on the butt. Then I go fire up the smoker and when it gets to 200-225 I put the butt on.

Depending on when I need the butts done I cook them at anywhere from 225 to 275 degrees. I shoot for 190 degrees internal for my butts so they will pull well. You occasionally get one that needs 195-200 to be really tender. I assume this is due to the amount of connective tissue. With a little experience you can tell when you put a thermometer in the meat whether it is done or not.

For this cook I pulled one of the butts and chopped one of the butts. I add just a smidgen of my sauce when I pull the butt, then have it on the side for folks to add as they please.

Writing this post has given me a hankerin' for some pulled pork. Lucky for me I have some in the freezer I can pull out for lunch tomorrow. It freezes very well. If you vacuum seal it it'll keep for months, but mine usually doesn't last that long.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

BBQ Linkage

Sorry about the lack of posts in the last week. Things have gotten busy in real life. I went a week without looking at my blog feeds in google reader and there were several posts I thought I would share. Enjoy.

  • The BBQ Guy links to this article about aging beef. I've often thought about purchasing a small fridge for the garage and wet aging my briskets. I may have to pull the trigger.
  • Get Your Grill On talks about skinning ribs. I, too, have heard of restaurants leaving the membrane on ribs to hold everything together. I take it off every time. One thing the folks at Get Your Grill On left out was to use a dull knife (an oyster shucker works great, too) and work it under the membrane on the 2nd or 3rd rib. Then, like they said, grab it with a paper towel and pull. The membrane will come off very easily on baby backs, but the spares will take a little work sometimes.
  • Jason's BBQ Blog links to the gadget of the day. Some folks just have too much time on their hands.
  • Plowboy's BBQ talks about bamboo cutting boards. I've been using a variety of synthetic cutting boards for a long time, now. I've been thinking of buying a wooden one just for veggies to save the edge on my knives a bit. Frankly, I haven't wanted to spend the money on a quality end grain board, though. I may have to give one of these bamboo boards a try.
  • Speaking of cutting boards, Men in Aprons tells us how to take care of them.
  • I agree with WhiteTrashBBQ, calculating the time to cook a steak would just ruin it for me.
I haven't forgotten about getting some recipes up from my cook last weekend. I'll post up my butt rub, etc. in the next couple of days, but I wanted to get these links up today. My In-Laws are in town this weekend, so I'll be firing up the smoker again. I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

To my email subscribers

I just wanted to let you know that I've been having issues with Feedblitz. I apologize if you've gotten multiple emails of the same posts. I think I have it worked out, but I would appreciate if you would email me to confirm you have received your feeds. Hogwild60 [at] gmail [dot] com


Sunday, April 1, 2007

Dedication to BBQ

Well, not really dedication, because if we weren't having folks over yesterday I would have just cooked today when the weather was nice. Early in the week I looked at the weather and it was going to be a nasty week, but Saturday was supposed to be beautiful. Evidently the front was slower than the weather folk thought, so it was windy and rainy all day yesterday.

I had to move the smoker around to the side of the house to get it out of the 35 mph gusts and I rigged up the umbrella to keep most of the rain off.

I smoked up two butts, 3 racks of baby backs, a stuffed fatty, and a stuffed onion for supper. I smoked up a few jala penos because I'm working on a brisket sauce. I'll post recipes later in the week when I have more time.

I also took the time to vacuum seal the loin, ground beef, and sausage from my meat run the other night. I froze the brisket in the original cryovac and cooked the rest.

Check in later this week for a few recipes.