uGo Flame Disk

I'm a believer in barbecuing over pure lump hardwood charcoal or just good 'ol wood.  However, I understand why some people like cooking with gas – it is quick to light, and easy to clean.  However, it isn't really that portable, and the design of a lot of gas grills takes away from the smokey taste that comes from juices falling right on the heat source. 

Interesting compromise: Flame Disk from uGo.  It is an aluminum pan filled with solid ethanol…  if nothing else, I"d be curious to try it for curiosity's sake.


Pulled Pork Supreme

Part of the criticism levied against Certified Barbecue Judges who don’t cook competitively (as I do) that we don’t know what it is like to cook all night, dealing with the elements, and not be sure how things will turn out.   To them I say: "ppppplllllbbbtttt." (that is supposed to be a raspberry noise btw)

Back in mid-November, we had a group of friends over to watch the Patriots game and for the food, I prepared two 7.5 lb pork shoulders.  The process took nearly 24 hours, starting with brining the pork with a basic light brine mixed with Goya Chipotle Mojo that I injected into the meat and let soak for a few hours.  Then I slathered the meat with a mustard sauce slather and covered it with a nice, slightly spicy and very flavorful rub.  That marinated for a few hours, and then about an hour before putting it on the smoker, I took it out of the fridge and let the temp come up a little bit.  The pork went on fairly late at night, and through the night either myself or my girlfriend got up every hour and a half to put more charcoal on the fire, spray the meat with apple juice/cider vinegar/Worcestershire sauce mix, and make sure things were going according to plan.

For the first time, I used sand in the the drip pans of my horizontal smoker, which helped with maintaining the temperature during the cold night. For fuel, I used a combination of Royal Oak chunk charcoal and a mix of large apple, mesquite and hickory wood chunks. 

After about 8 hours on the fire, I wrapped it in foil and kept the temp a little lower.  After a total over 12 hours of cooking, the meat came off and I pulled it apart, which required no effort at all.  The bone came right out, all the fat was completely rendered out, leaving the meat tender and juicy with no large chunks of fat, and a great flavorful crust on the outside.  I served it with some Dreamland BBQ sauce and a mustard sauce I made myself.

The pork got rave reviews at the party, but real compliments came the next day at my office, when I brought the leftovers in for everyone to pick at.  It took about an hour for a foil pan’s worth of meat to disappear and I received multiple emails and personal comments from people.  The best one was from a woman who lived in Texas for many years and said it was the best BBQ she had since leaving Texas.

This was the third time doing a pork shoulder and the third time it has come out well, making me feel secure in my abilities to cook it well.  While spending the time doing the shoulder, I decided to try my hand at cooking a small brisket.  Unfortunately, I massively overcooked it, leaving it virtually inedible except for the absolute thickest center part.  However, that part that was edible was quite tasty, tender and surprisingly moist – the rest was just…. well… hard.  LOL


My Birthday Barbecue

As I have previously said, not only am I a barbecue judge, I am also an avid back-yard barbecue chef.  My first time cooking was back in high school when I tried to slow-cook some ribs.  I didn’t understand the whole "smoke ring" thing and couldn’t understand why the meat got more pink the more I cooked it.  By the end, I would up with ribs that were kind of like a pork jerky, they were so overcooked.  I’ve learned a lot since then.

For my birthday on April 30th, I invited friends over for a barbecue.  I did two types of chicken and ribs: dry rubbed and teriyaki style. For the chicken, I did both legs and thighs.

The teriyaki style chicken and ribs were marinated (separately) in one of my favorite marinades from Paul Kirk’s Championship Barbecue Sauces, one of my favorite barbecue cookbooks.  The ribs marinated for about three hours, the chicken for about 5.  I wish I had done them for longer, but I was out the night before, also celebrating my birthday.

The dry rubbed ribs were rubbed with a variation on a few different rub recipes I like to blend together and vary each time. I need to get a digital kitchen scale so that I can more accurately record what I put in.

The dry rubbed chicken were brined with a 1/4 cup of salt, 1/8 cup of brown sugar, 3/4 gallon of water and half a bottle of Goya’s Mojo Criollo, my new favorite "secret weapon" for chicken.  I let them brine/marinate for about 1 1/2 hours, then rubbed them with a super secret combination of spices and herbs.  So secret, even I don’t know what in it – I really need to get that kitchen scale….  But its some sort of combination of Mrs. Dash, McCormick’s Salt-Free Garlic & Herb and a bunch of other pre-mixed spices that when blended together work magic on barbecued and grilled chicken.

The ribs went on the grill first – I’m using my Char-Griller Smokin’ Pro with the fire in the side fire box.  For fuel, I use Nature’s Own charcoal and some apple, mesquite and hickory wood for flavor.

The ribs cooked for about 5 hours total, with about 30 minutes wrapped in foil.  For parties, I like doing this, since most people like their meat a bit more tender.  30 minutes near the end of the cooking was perfect I found – the meat had set, and it tenderized it with the steam, but didn’t come out greasy, mushy or falling apart.  I finished the ribs with some final teriyaki glaze (also from Paul Kirk’s book) for some and a bit more rub that I sprinkled on and then put directly over the flame for a nice crust.

The chicken was put on about half-way through the ribs cooking time, so they cooked for about 2.5-3 hours total.  Similar to the ribs, the chicken was finished off depending on their initial prep: the teriyaki style got a glaze, and then the dry rubbed got some more rub and grilled.  One of my favorite things to do when cooking thighs is to pull the skin back to expose the meat and the fat lying under the skin.  I then put some rub on and put it over the fire with the skin to one side and the meat exposed to the flame. This allows the rub to char a bit giving it great flavor right on the chicken meat and renders out whatever fat is left under the skin.  It makes for a piece of chicken that is not fatty, tastes nicely barbecued and can be eaten in its entirety.   

I was expecting the teriyaki to be more popular among the general public, but it turns out everyone enjoyed the dry rubbed stuff better.  Dry rubbed ribs and chicken are usually the territory of the most hard-core barbecue fans, so I was a little surprised.  However, even though this is me talking about my own barbecue, I can’t blame them – it came out really great.  But I always love good teriyaki style, and this definitely qualified as good!!