Okay, I don’t usually brag about food because I’m not a chef. But I grilled twice over the weekend. Normally I only do one meal through the week – something quick and painless, generally, since I get home close to dinner time as it is – and then one day, maybe, each weekend.
We don’t have a gas grill, so it’s charcoal for us. While that sounds like a PITA for a lot of folks, we’ve learned we really enjoy the high, dry heat of the charcoal fire, and we have the luxury of doing things like smoking chicken and beef.
This year, because my work schedule and the pressures of my job have had their toll on me, I’ve sought to make life easier on myself. A couple of months ago, I got the notion to try something I’d not done in a long time – grilling chicken.
Grilling chicken, unless you’re just doing something like wings or legs, isn’t the usual throw-it-on-the-fire-and-flip routine most people think of when they think about barbecuing something. My loving spouse got chicken halves – a whole roaster-sized chicken split down the middle just for grilling – when I pushed for grilled chicken instead of the bland and tiresome roasting we’d had for the last couple of years.
That weekend, without the benefit of my offset smoker grill this time, I had to improvise, and we cooked the chicken using the indirect method. It’s not the first time I’ve done indirect cooking – this ain’t my first rodeo, and I learned by watching one of the best grill masters in the business – but it’d been a long time and I wasn’t confident I’d remember it all. So, I arranged my coals, put down my drip pans, and went after it.
It turned out amazing. Cracklin’ crisp skin, moist and tender meat, not a touch dry. We had to replenish the coals at the midpoint of the cooking process, which is a two-person job for us with this grill, but it wasn’t that hard in the end.
The next time I grilled, I did steaks. Then I did burgers and dogs, the normal summer fare. And then, one day, I got the idea to try something I’d not done before.
I cooked steaks with the indirect method.
It took a lot longer, and it was harder to tell when they were done to the right degree (my love likes rare, the kids want medium, and I’m a medium-rare guy), but we have an instant-read thermometer which helps.
Anyway, when I finished, they looked a bit overdone, and had that distinct pink smoke ring around the edge, but they melted like butter in your mouth and were amazing and tender and juicy. Fantastic.
We had a winner.
We loved it so much my wife is buying wood chips for smoking…without telling me ahead of time. I came home one night to a new bag of apple chips (eh…not impressed), a bag of mesquite chips (oh yeah), and a bag of hickory (but you gotta say “hick’ry” when you say it – and it is far and away our favorite) chips.
Flash forward to this weekend: I’ve got some country style pork ribs on tap for Saturday. No problem…Just peel off the silver skin on the backside of the rib bones and set up for the ol’ indirect routine.
I tossed those suckers over the drip pans and dropped in a couple handfuls of chips (we don’t soak them beforehand, which is incorrect, but it’s working fine for us right now) on the coals, and come inside for about half an hour.
When I went back out to check them, what I saw when I lifted the lid (our kettle grill, despite the flaws, has a nice hinged lid which makes it much friendlier to work with), the sight and smell of what was going on made my mouth instantly water.
Here’s how the ribs turned out (unretouched):
That golden-brown color is au naturel, boys and girls. And the inside?
Not the best picture I’ve ever taken, sorry, but you can see the juices which ran from it when we cut it for the photo. Tender? Yes. Fall off the bone tender?
No. That would mean they were either boiled or steamed first. Don’t let anyone – including restaurants or TV chefs – fool you. Rib meat should NEVER fall off the bone if cooked over fire, period. If you go to a “barbecue” rib joint and the meat has little bite to the texture and falls off the bone, it’s not barbecued, period. It was cooked with a wet method first and finished to provide a barbecue flavor. Ahem.
Okay, so these had all the hallmarks of great, smoked meat. See the pink smoke ring around the edge? Cooked all the way through. Succulent and tender and juicy. GREAT smoky flavor and wow they were good. Best ribs I’ve ever eaten.
So, on Sunday, it was time to try something with just a hair more twist. I’d cooked the steaks indirect, but I’d never smoked ‘em. We’re purists when it comes to steak – give us a well-marbled rib eye and we’re in hog heaven. Cook it over fire and we’re beyond that. So adding smoke didn’t seem like something we’d like to do with steak. But we thought we’d try it once and see how it went.
Here’s the result:
Again, in different lighting:
Again, the thermometer said one thing but the doneness seemed a bit high. Until you put a piece in your mouth anyway, where it melted like a mint.
Beautiful! Just LOOK at that color!
Oh, the joy of food. I read a lot of people like to smoke hot dogs, too; takes a lot longer, but adds an unbeatable flavor to even the cheapest of sausages, never mind the good stuff. We like Boar’s Head Skinless franks or Hebrew National, but it probably won’t matter. If the results are anything like the steaks, chicken and pork ribs (haven’t tried baby-backs yet), it’s going to be amazing. I can’t wait to try it.
And it just doesn’t get any easier.
If you’re a gas grill guy and don’t know about smoke pouches, you should acquaint yourself post-haste. You won’t be sorry.
How was your weekend?