It’s Labor Day Weekend, Baby! Backyard BBQ-masters across the country are firing up their grills and getting ready for one of the biggest grilling days of the summer! I don’t know about you, but both my wife, and my home-owner’s insurance agent seem to breathe a little easier if I go over a brief “safety-checklist” before I start playing with fire.
Here are 5 points that every winter-weary pit-master
should take into consideration:
1. If you’re firing up coals this year, check the mesh basket in the bottom of your charcoal chimney. A good chimney should provide many years of perfect service, but they can, over time, start to rust out and collapse. I’ve only had this happen once, and luckily with unit charcoal. Few things would take the fun out of outdoor cooking faster than a pile of burning coals around your flip-flops. Give the basket a couple of tugs, and check for rust––especially at the points where it connects to the wall of the chimney. Jiggle the handle, tightening if necessary, as well.
When BBQ enthusiasts read “low and slow” our minds usually drift to images of deep smoke-blackened pits, seeping lazy tendrils of white smoke, as whole oak and hickory logs smolder beneath.
I mean, grills are made for searing burgers and dogs, or maybe getting some nice marks on a chicken breast or a thick steak…but they don’t do “barbecue”…right?
Well, I’m here to tell ya, you can get some amazing, mouth-watering, fall-off-the-bone tender, low and slow barbecue from your gas grill, too. You just have to change up your technique a little bit.
Why “Low & Slow”
High heat causes rapid moisture loss. Proteins in meat and seafood naturally contain a great deal of liquid, but as heat forces these protein strands to rapidly constrict, much of that moisture, is squeezed out, and meat becomes tough and leathery. Succulent, buttery pulled-pork becomes tender when the naturally tough collagen in the meat is converted into gelatin, with a minimum loss of moisture. This transformation occurs when the pork is cooked at temperatures between 225-250 (I get better results at 225) for 10-12 hours, hence the term, “low and slow.”
Personally, I would recommend using a smoking box to hold wood chips for the first several hours of cooking time, as well. There are many commercial varieties, but a clean tuna can, filled with non-resinous wood chips and wrapped in foil (with a few holes punched through the top) works just fine too.
Sometimes you just need meat in tube form. Here’s a recipe I came up with (and I’m pretty proud of) that incorporates some of my favorite island flavors with a classic tube-steak. The spiral slicing really takes this recipe to the next level!
Some chopped fresh pineapple and red pepper flake would be an awesome sweet/hot topping for this. Next time!
Big Island Dogs
4 Johnsonville stadium bratwurst
1/2 cup Yoshida’s Original Sauce
2 tsp toasted sesame seeds
4 hoagie rolls
1 cup Asian slaw*
Spiral cut bratwurst (see below) and marinate in Yoshida’s sauce for 2-3 hours, turning ocassionally.
Grill brats over medium heat, re-dunking in sauce with each turn, until heated through and crispy.
Toast white sesame seeds in a dry pan over medium heat until golden and aromatic.
Toast hoagies over coals until golden brown. If you like soft rolls, wrap the hoagies in foil and grill a few minutes, flip and repeat until warmed through.
Add 1/4 cup of slaw to each roll, top with a brat, brush with additional sauce, and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
This is a recipe will be included in our Lighter Side menu over at hautemealz.com, soon, and I thought it would be a good one to share here, as well.
Did you know that new research indicates that eating red meat every other day (instead of daily) can significantly reduce your heart disease risk, too…that sounds pretty good, huh? So, unless you’re eating it every single day (which is doubtful), you can stop stressing about an occasional red meat meal–especially when it’s a lean cut, like the one below.
Flank Steak Salad with Fresh Pepper Pico
4-6 slices freshly grilled flank steak*
1 cup mixes greens
1 Tbs balsamic vinaigrette
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/2 small avocado
1/4 cup Fresh Pepper Pico*
The tri-tip is a cut of beef from the bottom sirloin primal cut. It’s a small triangular muscle, usually 1.5 to 2.5 lbs.
In the US, this cut was typically used for ground beef or sliced into steaks until the late 1950s, when Otto Schaefer marketed it in Oakland, California.
Shortly thereafter, it became a local specialty in Santa Maria, California, rubbed with salt, pepper, garlic salt, and other seasonings, grilled over red oak wood, roasted whole on a rotisserie, smoked in a pit, baked in an oven, grilled, or braised by putting a pot on top of a grill.
The tri-tip is still often labeled the “Santa Maria steak”.
Most popular in the Central Coast and Central Valley regions of California, it has begun to enjoy increasing popularity elsewhere for its full flavor, lower fat content, and comparatively lower cost.
When grilled properly, pink and tender, tri-tip might just be my all-time favorite cut of beef.
2 (4-pound) tri-tips, trimmed
½ cup fresh lime juice
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup Lawhorn’s Original, or Hickory Smoke Signature Seasonings*
4 whole Balsamic Grilled Onions (recipe below)
Oak wood chips or chunks
Pat meat dry and place in 1 or 2 gallon resealable plastic bag. Sprinkle in the spices, oil, and lime juice. Seal bag and massage until meat is well rubbed and spices are evenly coating.
Refrigerate overnight (8-12 hours minimum) then allow to rest at room temp 2 hours before grilling.
Build a 2-zone fire on your grill, adding oak chips, chunks or pellets to smoke. Place tri-tips on the hot end of the grill. If using a Traeger, bring it to maximum heat.
Cook 5-10 minutes, then turn at a 45 degree angle to establish grill marks. Repeat on second side.
Move meat to “warm” end of the fire and cook about 35 minutes, tented in foil, or until cooked to desired “doneness.” I like to pull them at 120f. (For Traeger, lower temp to “Smoke” for 30 minutes, then follow the rest of the directions).
Remove the tri-tips from the grill and let rest on a warm plate, 10-15 minutes before slicing thinly across the grain. This resting time might be the most important ingredient to a perfectly grilled piece of meat. If you cut into your tri-tip without resting…it will suck.
Slice thinly across the grain, and serve immediately with balsamic onions, grilled veggies, and your favorite potato dish (garlic grilled baby Yukon Golds, for me!)
Renner’s Amazing Beef Rub
Chris Renner is the unquestionable brisket king of our team, and possibly anywhere else on the planet, as well. His rub recipe is as simple as it is wonderful…
For 1 packer briskets (7-8lbs) or 3 Tri-Tips:
1/2 C fine sea salt
1/2 C coarse pepper
1/2 C granulated garlic
1/4 C smoked paprika
1/4 C cayenne pepper (ground)
Smoke brisket(s) with a mix of oak and pecan.
Sweet Balsamic Onions
4 large sweet onions
1 cup quality balsamic vinegar
2 tsp Favorite bbq seasoning/rub
2 teaspoon crushed garlic
Olive oil cooking spray
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lay out 4 sheets of double thick foil, and spray the top of each with oil.
Cut ends off onions, and peel.
Quarter each onion and wrap in foil (keeping the quarters together), leaving the tops open
Sprinkle ½ tsp of bbq seasonings, 1 tsp of garlic over the top of each. Drizzle ¼ cup of balsamic vinegar over each.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and seal the tops.
Place these over the coals 15-20 minutes before the tri-tips go on (coals can still be ashing over), turning occasionally, over the hot end of the fire.
When the tri-tips go on, move onions to toe “warm end” and continue to turn a few times while the meat cooks.
When the meat is done, pull off the onions and (carefully) open the top of the foil to let excess steam escape. Stir onions and allow to rest alongside the tri-tip.
Sweet chili sauce might be my all-time favorite condiment, and brisket is definitely in my top 3 favorite meats. So, a thought stuck me the other day, out of the blue, Hey, those two would be awesome together! And thus, this recipe was born.
Anaheim peppers stuffed with a combination of hot (or sweet) Italian sausage (or chorizo, or even ground turkey), onions, and peppers, wrapped in bacon, smoked, then glazed with a honey butter barbecue sauce. Sticky sweet, spicy goodness…with a breath of fire.
Cinco de Mayo is the kind of holiday that outdoor cooks live for. Grilled meat, fresh tortillas, hot sauces and salsas, and plenty of Cerveza Fria!
Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for “fifth of May”) is a celebration held on May 5 (duh). It’s celebrated nationwide in the United States and regionally in Mexico, primarily in the state of Puebla, where the holiday is called El Dia de la Batalla de Puebla (English: The Day of the Battle of Puebla).The date is observed observed to commemorate the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Contrary to widespread popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day—the most important national patriotic holiday in Mexico—which is actually celebrated on September 16.
Today, revelers mark the occasion with parades, parties, mariachi music, Mexican folk dancing and traditional foods such as tacos and mole poblano. Some of the largest festivals are held in Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston.
Here’s what dinner’s gonna look like at my house, this year…
Carne Asada is a Mexican recipe for marinated, grilled beef served in in tortillas. This is not your run of the mill taco. This is a flavorful and delicious meal that is great for any occasion, and, for my money, skirt steak is one of the best cuts of meat you can ever toss on the grill!
Okay, I’ve done oysters and clams, both on the grill, and in the box. If you want a real “bake”…here’s what I would do:
Place a couple of disposable 1/2 sheet baking pans in the bottom of the caja, and put the Over Size Grill, 21″ x 40″ (http://www.lacajachina.com/over-size-grill-21-x-40/) on top. Fill the pans 1/2 way with boiling water, and close up the Caja China. Start you coals, as usual, and burn until ready to spread (you’re “pre-heating” your caja), carefully remove the lid and place your clams/oysters/lobsters, with split yams, par-boiled potatoes, shucked sweet corn, etc, on the interior grill.
Close her up, and roast 45 minutes to 1½ hours.
Be ready with your favorite melted butter recipe!
Now, let’s talk about oysters. I love oysters…I love ’em so much, I’ve written two novels and a cookbook about ’em (okay, so there was other stuff in the novels, but plenty about oysters, too! lol) Here’s my favorite grilled oyster recipe…
Twice Grilled Oysters…and a Little History
Chinook Indians gathered for centuries along Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula to harvest oysters and other seafood. They called it “tsako-te~hahsh-eetl” or “place of the red-topped grasses.”
In 1854, while thousands were streaming into California in hope of finding gold, a young sailor named R.H. Espy was searching for his own treasure far up the northern coast. He became lost while navigating Washington’s then uncharted Shoalwater Bay and, in a heavy fog, Espy and his men feared they would paddle out to sea and never be seen again.
Lucky for them, the local Indian Chief spotted them and led them safely to shore.
On that shore, Espy found his treasure…in the form of vast clusters of native oysters, growing along the unclaimed mudflats of the bay. In San Francisco, hungry treasure-hunters paid fifty-dollars a plate for oysters, and soon Espy staked his claim and hit his mother-lode.
The oystermen were paid in gold, and Oysterville became the second richest city on the West Coast.
Today, tiny Oysterville is a National Historic District, and fresh oysters can still be found in Shoalwater (now Willapa) Bay. A number of small, family owned farms spurn the use of dredging a pesticides used by the larger corporations, and harvest fresh, deliciously organic oysters daily.
My family and I visit Oysterville often, and we love everything about this tiny town that time forgot. So much so, in fact, that two of my novels are based there. We get our oysters, hand-harvested, directly from the bay.
Here’s a favorite recipe of mine for those who truly love oysters…
Twice Grilled Oysters
2 dz med-small fresh oysters, in shell
¼ cup Tillamook butter
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp lemon pepper
Combine butter, garlic, and lemon pepper in pan. Heat until simmering, stirring often, remove from heat and set aside.
Heat grill to med-high and scrub oysters under cold water with a wire brush.
Place oysters, cup side down*, on grill and close the lid.
Cook oysters 5-8 minutes, checking periodically. When an oyster has “popped” (the lid of the shell has opened, remove the oyster from the grill and set aside until cool enough to handle.
Reduce heat to med-low.
Remove the lid of each shell, cutting the oyster loose if necessary, and place cooked oyster in cup of shell, with about ½ of the remaining liquor.
Drizzle on teaspoon of seasoned butter over each oyster and return to the grill. Cover and allow to cook 10-15 minutes. Finished oysters will be a deep grey with browned and blackened edges.
Remove from grill and allow to cool until the shells can be handled. Serve.
Re-grilling the oysters at a low heat with butter infuses them with a rich, nutty flavor that is completely unlike the taste of a “once cooked” oyster.
Tip: To make a unique and delicious spread, use chilled slow grilled oysters in your favorite cream-cheese based oyster spread recipe.
*To keep oysters upright on the grill, roll tinfoil into 1-inch diameter tubes and make a ring for each oyster to set in.