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November 2015

Chapter 6 - Pork Recipes

Grilling Good Eats

by Mike Thayer

Pork Chops Smoked Low and SlowPork is under-eaten and that’s a grill crime. Sure, ribs are popular, but there are so many other cuts of pork that a lot of folks just don’t consider but should. Ribs are fantastic, but so are pork roasts, chops, pork steaks, kabobs and more. They’re all so darn tasty!

My favorite pork cut is the boneless pork loin. You can treat it like a roast, cut it into chops, slice it thin for grilled sandwiches or chunk it up for kabobs. It’s cheap, delicious and a bonus is its flavor versatility. It absorbs marinades/sauces well and works great with just about any chicken recipe. Try using pork loin instead of that chicken breast in your favorite chicken recipe, you’ll like it!

Meat Temp for Pork:  Grill pork until the meat thermometer hits the 140 degree mark.  Remember to let the meat rest after pulling from the grill, it will continue to cook during the rest, peaking at a perfect 145 degrees. 

And now to the recipes....

Teriyaki Pork Loin

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds of boneless pork loin
  • 1 cup Teriyaki sauce
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon ginger powder
  • Half of a medium onion, sliced
  • Juice from half a lime

Directions

Combine all ingredients and place in a large ziplock bag or other sealed container and marinade overnight. Place the pork loin over indirect heat cooking low and slow for about 45 minutes to one hour, or until your meat thermometer reads 140 degrees. Remove from the grill and let it rest about 10 minutes before serving.  Enjoy!

Download Mike's Teriyaki Pork Loin Recipe

 

Grilled Chops

Grilled Pork Chops
Grilled Pork Chops - A personal favorite

A juicy grilled pork chop is a great change of pace when it comes to grilled fare and they are so easy to do and do well. Bone-in tend to have better flavor, but do require a little more cooking time.

Ingredients

  • 6-8 pork chops
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Cookies Flavor Enhancer or your favorite rub
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon dried Rosemary

Directions
Whisk together the olive oil, rub, garlic powder and Rosemary. After placing the chops in a ziplock bag, pour the olive oil mixture over the chops and let those flavors marry, refrigerating for at least four hours. Grill over direct heat, lid off, to get that good sear and great looking grill marks, 3-5 minutes depending on the thickness of the chops. After you’ve got that great presentation side look, flip the chops over to the low heat side of the grill and cover. Grill for about another 15 minutes or until the meat thermometer hit’s the 140 degree mark. In the grill set-up, Apple wood pellets add another layer of flavor. TIP: Trim some of the fat off the chops before marinating or rubbing and save it to create pan drippings. When you’re grilling, put those fat trimmings in a cast iron skillet over low heat and let them render to create the base for a sauce or gravy.

A quick pan sauce for chops…. Combine pork fat drippings with a little flour, some black berries or blueberries - whatever kind of berry you might have on hand for that matter - and some balsamic vinegar. Salt and pepper to taste and you’ve made an excellent compliment to the chops!

Download Mike's Grilled Chops Recipe

 

Low and Slow Ham
Next to bacon cheeseburgers and steak, ham one of my boys’ favorite items off the grill.

Ingredients

  • Bone-in ham (fully cooked), about 10 pounds
  • Cookies Flavor Enhancer or your favorite rub
  • 1-½ cups of orange juice

Directions
Setting your ham in a large cast iron skillet or roasting pan suitable for the grill (line your roasting pan with aluminum foil) place your ham fat side up on/in the skillet/pan and rub it down with the rub. Pour the orange juice in the pan, but NOT OVER the ham. This is going to serve as a basting liquid. When you first put the ham on the grill, we just want the ham’s natural juices to meld with the rub to start things off. Later on, you’ll start basting the ham with the orange juice from the pan. Place your ham over indirect heat, using the ‘Snake Method’ in your grill set-up. Let it cook low and slow for 3 to 3-½ hours (about 20 minutes per pound of ham), basting it with the orange juice every 1/2 hour or so. Heat is important here, LOW AND SLOW, about 225 degrees. We want the orange juice to simmer, not cook. And if your cast iron skillet couldn’t take all the orange juice at once, that’s OK, you can add more as you baste. Because this is a pre-cooked ham, you don’t need to leave it on the grill until it hits 145 degrees. In this case, prime juiciness is achieved at about 135 degrees on your meat thermometer. Let the ham rest for about 10 minutes under an aluminum foil tent before slicing.

Download Mike's Low & Slow Ham Recipe

 

St. Louis Style Ribs

Ingredients

  • Two racks of St. Louis Style Ribs
  • Cookies Flavor Enhancer or your favorite rub
  • 1-1/2 cups apple juice in a food safe spray bottle for spritzing
  • Your favorite BBQ sauce

Directions
Get your coals ready using the ‘Snake Method.‘ Next, remove the thin membrane from the bone side of the ribs if the good folks behind the meat counter haven’t already done so. This allows the rub and the smoke to really penetrate the meat. Rub the ribs with your favorite rub. Grill the ribs meat side up, lid on for about 3 hours, spritzing them with the apple juice every hour. After the third spritz, wrap the ribs in foil nice and tight and return to the grill, lid on for another 1-1/2 hours. After the ‘foil session’, carefully open up the foil and apply your favorite BBQ sauce with a brush as thick or as thin as you like. Wrap the ribs back up and return to the grill for another 30 minutes. Let the ribs rest for about five minutes before serving.

Download Mike's St. Louis Style Ribs Recipe

 

Pulled Pork Roast

Ingredients

  • 4 - 5 pound pork shoulder roast
  • Cookies Flavor Enhancer or your favorite rub
  • 1-½ cups of apple juice and the juice of one lime in a food safe spray bottle

Directions

Set up your grill to use the “Snake Method.” While your charcoal chimney is firing up, generously rub down the roast with the rub (in case your forgot to rub the roast down last night, which could be considered a grill crime). When the grill is ready to receive, place the roast on the center of your grilling grate, fat side up. Grill for about 3 hours, spraying the roast every hour with the apple/lime juice. Transfer to a disposable aluminum foil pan and pour in any remaining spray juice over the top of the roast. Cover with foil and grill for another 3 hours, or until that roast is fall apart tender and that meat thermometer reads 185 degrees. Take the pork off the grill and let it rest for 20 minutes. Trim off any remaining fat and shred the pork with forks, being careful not to poke a hole in the bottom of your aluminum pan. If necessary, take the roast out of the pan and shred it on a large cutting board. Toss or set aside the bone and any connective tissue. Check the pan drippings for any excess fat and remove. Once the shredding is done, season with additional rub (optional). Mix the meat to moisten with those great pan drippings. Add your favorite BBQ sauce (optional).

Pulled pork sandwich
The start of a beautiful sandwich

Get out the hamburger buns and enjoy! I like to serve my pulled pork “naked,” (get your mind out of the gutter....) seasoning it with rub but NOT the BBQ sauce when moistening/mixing the shreds with the pan drippings. I provide a variety of BBQ sauces though as a condiment when serving. People can add as much or as little as they like to their sandwich and it‘s a great way for folks to find out just what kind of BBQ they really like! Excellent additions to a pulled pork sandwich are pickles and/or shredded cabbage.

Download Mike's Pulled Pork Roast Recipe

 

Pork Shoulder Steaks
Also referred to as “Blade Steaks” these are, like pork loin, one of the more inexpensive pork cuts. Cheap and delicious! When purchasing your blade steaks at the store, get some that are at least an inch thick. This recipe is much like grilling up a T-Bone.

Ingredients

  • Pork Steaks
  • Cookies Flavor Enhancer or your favorite rub

Directions
Rub both sides of the steak with your favorite rub. Sear on the hot spot on the grill for about five minutes, rotating the steaks a quarter turn for those diamond grill marks at about the two to three minute mark. Flip after the five minutes of sear time is up, placing the steaks on the lower temp side of the grill with the lid on to finish cooking until the internal temp is 145 degrees. Hit it with the garlic butter just before plating.

Download Mike's Pork Shoulder Steaks Recipe

 

20180322_173050Garlic Lime Pork Tenderloin
Not to be confused with pork loin, pork tenderloin is a more expensive cut, leaner and as the name implies, more tender. The thing I love about this recipe and pork in general, is that the meat pairs so well with citrus.

Ingredients

  • Two pork tenderloins, about 1 pound each
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • One teaspoon salt
  • One teaspoon black pepper
  • The juice from a lime

Directions
Place the pork tenderloin in a large ziplock bag or sealable container and set aside. Whisk together the remaining ingredients and pour over the meat, seal the container and refrigerate for four hours. Grill over direct heat, placing the tenderloins over the hot spot to get that good sear and those great grill marks. Give the meat a quarter turn after about two to three minutes. Repeat until you’ve got good color on three sides of the meat. Move the tenderloins to the lower heat spot of the grill, making sure the ‘not so colorful’ side of the meat is on the cooking grate. Put the lid on and grill for another 20 - 30 minutes or until the internal temperature hits that magic number for pork - 140 degrees. Remove and let rest for at least five minutes, the rest will push that temp to 145. Slice into medallions for plating, hitting them with the juice from the remaining half a lime. Follow that up by brushing with melted garlic butter and serve. Grilling Option: Play around with the citrus flavor, or fruit for that matter. Try substituting lime with orange. Or if you prefer use pineapple juice. A mix is good. Try a mixture of half lime, half apple. It’s all about the layers of flavor!

Download Mike's Garlic Lime Pork Tenderloin Recipe

 

Pig on a stick
Simple and delicious this is a great appetizer and/or tailgate food.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds of pork loin, cut into strips, about 1” thick
  • One package of bacon
  • 1 Tablespoon of Cookies Flavor Enhancer or your favorite rub
  • 16 wooden skewers

Directions
Massage your pork loin strips with the rub and put on the skewers…..which you soaked for about 30 minutes….. right? Wrap each pork loin strip with a slice of bacon and secure with a soaked toothpick. Grill the skewers on INDIRECT heat to start off, place them on the low heat side of the grill, lid on. This is called the ‘Reverse Sear’ method. Starting off low and slow, finishing hot! Rotate the skewers a quarter turn every two to three minutes to ensure even cooking of the pork loin. Finish cooking on the hot spot of the grill, lid off, to crisp up the bacon. Serving option: Just before pulling the skewers off the grill, brush lightly with your favorite BBQ sauce.

Download Mike's Pig on a Stick Recipe

 

Cutlets In Cream
This is an old school recipe that deserves a popularity comeback. Talk about a mouthful of yum!

Ingredients

  • Six pork cutlets
  • One Tablespoon Cookies Flavor Enhancer or your favorite rub
  • One teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • One cup heavy cream
  • Two Tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped

Directions
Combine the Cookies Flavor Enhancer and the garlic power, then give the cutlets a good rub, set aside. Once your grill is ready to receive, place a cast iron skillet over the indirect heat side of the grill to warm it up. Sear the cutlets over direct heat, about two - three minutes on each side or until nice grill marks are achieved. Add the olive oil to the cast iron skillet. Transfer the seared cutlets to the skillet, add the parsley and cream. Put the grill cover on and simmer for about 30-40 minutes, checking often to make sure the cream is NOT coming to a boil.   And don't be alarmed if the cream curdles a bit, it's supposed to.

Ingredient Option: If you don’t like parsley, try substituting with Rosemary, Sage or Oregano, but use less - one Tablespoon should do - as they pack a lot more flavor and you don’t want them to overpower the dish.

Download Mike's Cutlets in Cream Recipe

 

Pork Kabobs

I like to use pork loin cut into one inch cubes to make my kabobs.  This is similar to the beef kabobs recipe, with a little fruit kick. 

Ingredients:

  • Two pounds of pork loin, cut into one inch cubes
  • One green bell pepper, rough chop
  • One red or orange bell pepper, rough chop
  • One medium onion, rough chop
  • About one pound of fresh pineapple, rough chop
  • Small bottle of your favorite Italian dressing

Directions:

After you cube up the pork loin, put it in a Tupperware container or zip lock bag and pour 3/4 of the contents of a small bottle of Italian dressing over the meat. Let it marinade in the refrigerator overnight. The veggies and pineapple don’t need to marinade that long, you can actually get away with dressing them with the remaining Italian dressing just before you start the charcoal. If you’re going to use wood skewers, remember to soak them in water for about 30 minutes prior to loading them up with the meat and veggies. Remember KABOB TIP #1 from the beef chapter: Always put your meat and veggies (and in this case, fruit) for kabobs on separate skewers. A meat and veggie skewer combo looks great in the meat counter display case at the grocery store, but the fact is the veggies on the skewer cook through much faster than the meat. You want tender crisp veggies with a hint of charcoal flavor, not dried out, charred veggies to go with that meat. KABOB TIP #2: Don’t overload the meat on the skewers, leave some space between the cubes. Meat that is packed too tightly won’t cook evenly, won’t look as nice when served and most importantly, won’t taste as good. Place your meat kabobs over hot coals to get a good sear, lid off. Turn a quarter turn after about two minutes, repeat through four rotations and then place over the indirect heat while you cook the veggie/fruit kabobs.  Grill the veggie/fruit kabobs over direct heat and just long enough to get a nice char on the edges, and the pineapple starts to caramelize.  Serve together with rice pilaf and warm pita bread.

Remember, pork is under-eaten and that’s a grill crime.  There are plenty of cuts and varieties I haven't covered in this pork recipe chapter, such as ground pork and sausages.  Why not you ask?  Because ground pork, pork sausages and the like are soooooo good, they deserve mention in their own dedicated chapter!   Chapter 9 has more delicious pork recipes!

Download Mike's Pork Kabobs Recipe

Related:  Pork cuts and how to grill them

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Chapter 5 - Poultry Recipes

Grilling Good Eats

by Mike Thayer

Chicken smoked low and slowPoultry is perhaps the most versatile meat of any group for the grill. You can eat it with the skin on, skin off, brine it, bbq it, roast it, smoke it, put it on a beer can or just grill it with salt and pepper and enjoy the delicious simplicity. And here’s a bonus, grilled chicken and turkey make the best leftovers, the possibilities are just about endless.

Before we get into the recipes, remember that there’s no “medium rare” when it comes to chicken and turkey, you’ve GOT to make sure it’s properly cooked all the way through to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees. Nobody wants a food borne illness.

The key to grilling poultry on the grill is to slow cook them. Chicken or turkey cooked only over high heat means undercooked on the inside. Start your poultry near the hot spot on the grill, but NOT directly over it. We‘re talking more of a medium-high heat to start things off. Don’t worry about grill marks so much as this meat group is an exception to the flip only once rule. Sure, grill marks are great and if you’re new to grilling mastering the presentation grill marks will come with experience but when it comes to poultry it’s more important to get even charring on all sides of the meat, giving you that golden brown look. Poultry that’s done but still juicy inside is the important thing. Try at least 3 minutes per side (depending on the cut) and we’re talking four sides here. With drumsticks for example, give them quarter turns over medium heat before moving them to the cooler spot (indirect heat) on the grill. With chicken breasts and thighs, you may have to stand them on end to cook them through to proper temperature. Poultry should be firm to the pointing finger touch.

And now for those mouthwatering recipes…..

Chicken Breast Simplicity

Boneless/skinless chicken breast is perhaps the most popular cut of chicken to grill and when it’s properly prepared, it’s tough to beat.

Ingredients

  • 8 boneless/skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Four tablespoons of Cookies Flavor Enhancer or your favorite poultry rub

Directions
While your charcoal fire is getting established, coat the chicken with the olive oil and rub and set aside. When your fire is hot, place your chicken breasts near the hot spot on the grill, but not quite over it, presentation side down. Don’t walk away, the olive oil is going to drip so you’ll need to be around in case there are any flare ups. Grill for about three minutes with the lid off to get those nice grill marks and a little caramelization, then flip over to the lower heat side of the grill with the lid on to let them finish cooking to that 165 degree internal temperature and ultimate juiciness, about 15 - 20 minutes. Let the breasts rest for about five minutes before serving. A brushing of warm garlic butter is optional. This dish is excellent paired with just about anything, making it a go-to, ’old reliable’ recipe.

Download Mike's Chicken Breast Simplicity Recipe

 

MMM (Mustard, Milk, Marinade) Chicken

This recipe features boneless/skinless chicken thighs, which in my humble opinion are the tastiest cut of the chicken and is a bargain buy at the grocery store to boot.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (Can substitute with mayonnaise, which actually used to be a featured ingredient rather than the yogurt putting the third ‘M‘ in the name as in 'Mustard, Milk, Mayo', but the yogurt is better)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 4 Tbsp yellow mustard
  • 1 Tbsp Cookies Flavor Enhancer or your favorite poultry rub
  • 1 Tbsp oregano
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp black pepper

Directions
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt, mustard and milk. After that is combined, whisk in the remaining dry ingredients to complete the marinade. Add the chicken thighs, using your hands to thoroughly coat them. Cover and refrigerate for up to eight hours. When ready to grill, place the thighs near the hot spot on the grill. Let those babies sizzle for about three minutes to get those great grill marks. Since this marinade is on the thicker side, it could take up to five minutes. Flip over to the lower heat side of the grill and cover for about 15 minutes. Rest the chicken for about five minutes and serve. Excellent paired with rosemary/dill potatoes and grilled asparagus.

Download Mike's Triple M Chicken Recipe

 

Butterfly Chicken

This is a great recipe if you don’t have a smoker or a pit, because doing a whole chicken on a grill can be a tough thing to do. Many folks who have tried to do a whole chicken on the grill have found their chicken to be crispy good looking on the outside, but ‘medium rare’ on the inside. OOPS!….. That’s no good. It’s GOT to be cooked all the way through. Butterfly Chicken alleviates those, “Is it done inside?” worries because you‘ll be able to lay that whole chicken down flat on the grill, you get even cooking.

Ingredients

  • Whole chicken, about 3-½ to 4 pounds
  • ½ cup Olive Oil
  • ½ cup of Cookies Flavor Enhancer or other dry rub
  • ½ cup of your favorite BBQ sauce for glazing

Directions
Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to rinse your chicken off, it comes pre-washed from the producer, just make sure there are no pin feathers sticking out. Remove the neck and giblets, set aside to make chicken stock or discard. Butterfly the chicken by cutting the backbone out. Use a big knife, perhaps some kitchen shears, cut down along either side of the backbone, remove. TIP: Save that backbone, neck and giblets to make the chicken stock. Flip your chicken over, placing it breast side up in a big baking pan and press down firmly on the breast bone to break it. You should be good to go, you have now butterflied a chicken! Rub it down inside and out, over and under with Cookies Flavor Enhancer or other dry rub. You’ll want to do this at least one hour (four hours is better) before grill time. Cover and refrigerate your chicken. If space is a concern, it’s OK to fold the chicken up. About 30 minutes before grilling, take your chicken out of the refrigerator. Coat it with the olive oil. When your coals are ready, place the chicken on the grill, skin side up - indirect heat is key here, so the grill set-up is the Snake Method referenced in Chapter 3. Place your grill cover on and walk away for 45 minutes. When that time is up, it’s time to baste/mop the chicken with that BBQ sauce and then flip your chicken over to the breast side. Gauge your heat, now is the time to perhaps add a few coals if needed. Baste/mop the ‘inside’ of the chicken and put the grill lid back on. Cook about another 15 to 20 minutes, or until the breast temperature of the chicken is at least 165 degrees. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, check the chicken legs, if you can start to easily pull them away from the chicken, like, falling apart, it’s done. Pull that beautiful butterflied chicken off the grill and let it rest for 10 minutes. This makes for a great center piece served family style on the picnic table.

TIP: After you’re done grilling dinner is an excellent time for making chicken stock, beef stock, lamb, fish or even a veggie stock for later use or to store in your freezer. Take advantage of that leftover charcoal heat. Don’t be afraid to adjust your remaining coals if necessary then just put a stock pot over the heat and dump in those chicken bones, skin or that trimmed off beef fat from prepping steaks. Shrimp shells and tails make a nice fish stock. Cover with water, add your favorite aromatics and/or seasonings and let that residual heat go to work for you.

Download Mike's Butterfly Chicken Recipe

 

Beer can chicken

This is another simple but delicious way to do chicken, unfortunately, not everyone has a grill with enough lid space to do one. This requires a Weber kettle grill or something similar with a good bit of space to allow the chicken to ‘stand up’.

Ingredients

  • Whole chicken (about 3-4 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 tablespoons of Cookies Flavor Enhancer or your favorite rub
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 can of your favorite beer (don't use a light beer)

Directions
This recipe utilizes the charcoal 'Snake Method'. After you light your chimney, remove neck and giblets from the chicken and set aside to make stock with or discard. Check the chicken for pin feathers. Rub outer chicken skin lightly with olive oil then rub entire chicken inside and out with the rub, paprika and pepper. Set aside. Open the beer can and empty it either in a glass or your mouth until a half-can of beer remains, this goes to the chicken. Now the balancing act begins, you're going to create a tripod of sorts. Place the beer can on a solid surface. Then take a hold of the chicken by grabbing a chicken leg in each hand and plunk the bird cavity over the beer can. You now have a beer can chicken. When your grill is ready to receive, place the chicken in the center of the grate, balancing the bird on its two legs and the can. Cook the chicken with lid-on, approximately 1-1/2 hours or until the internal temperature registers 165 degrees in the breast area. Remove from the grill and rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Download Mike's Beer Can Chicken Recipe

 

Bird Bites
This is a GREAT appetizer and/or tailgate food!

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken breasts – cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 lb. turkey bacon – half slices
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon cayenne pepper (adjust to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flake (optional)

Directions

Before you start putting together the recipe, get out some bamboo skewers and soak them in water for about 30 minutes (do this and the skewers won’t burn on the grill). Combine olive oil, salt, pepper, cayenne, garlic powder and optional red pepper flake, stir, set aside. Wrap the bite size chicken breast pieces with a half slice of turkey bacon. Put your ‘bird bites’ on the bamboo skewers – don’t pack them too tightly – you want the flames to crisp up that turkey bacon on all sides. Place your skewered bites in a container to marinade in and pour on the olive oil mixture. Since these are bite size pieces, they really don’t need to marinate all that long, go ahead and fire up that grill! Sear the bird bites on medium-high heat (not quite on the hot spot of the grill) and then let them cook through at a lower temp. Pull them off the skewer and serve as appetizers (great for tailgating), or make a kid happy with meat on a stick! And here's a change-of-pace..... Fix them Buffalo style! Instead of the olive oil marinade, use the following:

  • 8 tablespoons of unsalted butter (melted)
  • 10 tablespoons of Louisiana Hot Sauce
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons of white vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon of Cookies Flavor Enhancer or your favorite pepper seasoning mix
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Pinch of salt

There you have it, Buffalo Bird Bites! You just might like this variation better than the original. Both the original Bird Bites and the Buffalo Bird Bites are real crowd pleasers, go-to recipes for parties. The Buffalo sauce is also great for wings.

Download Mike's Bird Bites Recipe

 

Mike’s Poultry Brine
If you’re looking for something a little different in how to do grilled chicken or turkey, this might just be the ticket for you. Talk about moist and tender poultry! It’s an easy brine and adds a lot of flavor to any cut, chicken breasts or thighs, turkey breasts, turkey drumsticks, in fact, this brine is excellent with pork cuts as well.

Ingredients

  • One gallon of warm water
  • ¾ cup of Kosher salt
  • One heaping tablespoon of Cookies Flavor Enhancer
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup olive oil

Directions
Put the salt, sugar and olive oil into a big pan, add the warm water. Stir until the salt and sugar have dissolved, which the warm water helps to do. After the water comes back down to room temperature (VERY important, we’re brining the poultry, not cooking it), give the brine another quick stir and add your chicken or turkey, letting them brine for at least four hours in the fridge. Overnight is even better. This amount of brine is good for a whole chicken, or up to about 8 pounds of breasts, thighs or drumsticks. This brine is so good, you don’t have to add a dry rub to the meat if you don’t want to. Grill naked…… keep your mind out of the gutter, that means no seasoning. I’ve grilled poultry ‘naked’ plenty of times, just brushing the chicken or turkey with garlic infused olive oil after each quarter turn (about every 2-3 minutes), hitting it again with the olive oil when moving it to the cooler spot on the grill (indirect heat) to finish cooking and then hitting it again with the olive oil just before plating.  The base recipe is good, but adding some additional garlic powder and minced onion to the warm water is even better!

TIP: Don’t pour brine down the sink after you pull the poultry out of it. Use a cup of it or so to cook up some rice. Prepare the rice per the package instructions - and we're talking a traditional rice preparation here, 20 minutes, NOT that minute rice crap - replacing 25% of the water needed, with the brine. Talk about flavor city!  #Ihateboringrice

Download Mike's Poultry Brine Recipe



Turkey Leg Kicks
A recipe with a spicy kick…. Get it, turkey legs…. Kick…. Kick off football tailgating season with this recipe, pun intended!

Ingredients

  • 6-8 turkey drumsticks
  • One cup chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Directions
You can brine the drumsticks (optional) but only do so for a couple hours or so. With salt an ingredient in the rub, you don’t want the meat to get too salty by leaving it in the brine too long. Combine all the dry ingredients in a medium bowl and mix. Apply the rub to the drumsticks (make sure they’re dry) and you’re ready to grill. This recipe requires a ‘reverse sear’ where you start things off on the cooler side of the grill, cooking low and slow and then finishing the drumsticks over the hotter spot to get some color just before plating. After your coals are established, place the drumsticks on the cooler side of the grill and lid, leave them alone for about 30 minutes. Move the drumsticks to a hotter spot on the grill but not directly over THE hot spot, turning them every couple minutes to get that great color for plating. Baste with melted butter and rest those ‘kicks’ for about 10 minutes. For more smoky flavor, add hickory chips or pellets to your charcoal set-up.

Download Mike's Turkey Leg Kicks Recipe

 

Teriyaki Turkey
You’ll be eating a lot more turkey after trying this recipe! The following marinade is good for up to four turkey breasts cut in half, length-wise.

Marinade ingredients

  • Half cup canola oil
  • 1/3 cup teriyaki sauce
  • The juice from a whole lime
  • Tablespoon of dried, minced onion
  • teaspoon of garlic powder
  • One packet of artificial sweetener
  • Couple dashes of cardamom

Directions Cut your turkey breasts in half length-wise, set aside. In a container that will hold all those turkey breasts, prepare your marinade, stir, then add the meat. Refrigerate for four hours. Once your charcoal is established and that cooking grate is ‘ready to receive’….. Place your turkey breasts close to the hot spot but not directly over it for that great sear and those tantalizing grill marks. Since these breasts were filleted in half, cooking time is pretty quick. Turn the turkey after about five minutes, moving them to the cooler portion of the grill and lid. Give them about ten more minutes or until your thermometer reads at least 165 degrees. The turkey should be pointy finger touch firm. Brush with garlic butter and let rest for five minutes before serving. Excellent prepared with pecan wood or pellets in your charcoal preparation.

TIP: If the meat you are going to prepare is coming from the freezer, cutting it to the preferred portion sizes is always easier when the meat is still slightly frozen. It’s way faster and much less messy than trying to cut totally thawed meat.

Download Mike's Teriyaki Turkey Recipe

 

Mike's Balsamic Chicken & Carrots

Here is a nice meal featuring balsamic vinegar that's easy to prepare and tastes delicious, a really nice change of pace kind of meal.   The marinade can be used no matter the method of cooking, be that pan seared, crock pot, or grilling.

Ingredients:

  • Two chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • One clove garlic, minced
  • One packet of artificial sugar
  • The juice of 1/2 a lime
  • Salt and pepper

For the carrots

  • 5 - 7 baby carrots, Julienne cuts (like match sticks)
  • One Tablespoon olive oil
  • A drizzle of balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Place the chicken breasts into a large zip lock bag or Tuperware container.  In a small bowl, mix together all the remaining ingredients and pour over the chicken.  Seal the bag/container and refrigerate for at least one hour, four hours is better, 10-12 hours is fantastic.  When ready to grill, place the thighs near the hot spot on the grill but not directly over it. Let those babies sizzle for about three minutes to get those great grill marks. Rotate a quarter turn and go two more minutes for a diamond sear.  Flip over to the lower heat side of the grill and cover for about 15 minutes. Rest the chicken for about five minutes and serve.  While the chicken is resting, heat up a small saute pan over the coals and saute the carrots in the olive oil for about 2-3 minutes.  Hit them with the salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar and saute for another two minutes.  Serve with the gorgeous chicken you just pulled for a delicious meal. 

 

Grilled Chicken Cordon Bleu w/ a Dijon Mustard Cream Sauce

Grilled Chicken Cordon Bleu
Meat on a stick!

I love Chicken Cordon Bleu, it's a classic French dish of chicken that is pounded out thin, which is then wrapped around ham and Swiss cheese.  The whole thing is then breaded and fried or baked until golden, brown and delicious.  This dish packs SO much flavor and why it's so high on my list of all time favorite eats, but it's also a labor intensive dish to make in the classic preparation.  It's not exactly a meal one can prepare in under 30 minutes.  Enter the grill...  I also love just about anything grilled, so it hit me, why not try to incorporate Chicken Cordon Bleu flavors in a grilled preparation and to be specific, a meat on a stick preparation.  Who doesn't LOVE meat on a stick!?

Ingredients: 

  • 2 pounds of ground chicken
  • 12 - 15 slices of deli ham
  • 12 - 15 slices of Swiss Cheese
  • 1/3 - 1/2 ounce of Rotisserie Chicken Seasoning (enough to cover liberally over the top of the chicken)
  • One large egg
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned panko bread crumbs
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 Tablespoon minced garlic

Directions:

Grilled Chicken Cordon Bleu
Cordon Blue ready to be sauced

Place chicken in a large bowl and top with Rotisserie chicken seasoning, drop in the egg and mix until incorporated.  Set aside.  Wrap 3 slices of ham around skewers (moisten in water for about 30 minutes if using wood or bamboo).  TIP:  If you don't have the large flat style skewers, then double the skewers up, this prevents the meat from turning on the skewer when you are rotating the meat on the grill.  Wrap a slice of Swiss cheese around the ham.  This is much easier to do when the cheese is at room temperature.  Cold cheese doesn't wrap well.  Next, divy up about a 3-4 ounce portion of the ground chicken and wrap it around the ham & cheese on the skewer.  Once all skewers are prepared, chill for about a half hour.  While the meat is chilling, fire up the grill. When the grill is ready to receive, place the skewers over INDIRECT heat, ensuring chicken is cooked all the way through, rotating the skewers a quarter turn every 10 minutes.  This is a reverse sear, lid on grill preparation, we want to make sure the chicken is done, with the ham warmed through and the cheese melted.  Break out the butter and garlic into a grill safe pan and place over indirect heat.  After rotating 4 times, place the skewers over direct heat, brush them with the garlic butter and hit them with the bread crumbs.  Let the flame kiss the crumbs to crisp them up a bit.  Remove the skewers from the grill and let rest.  While the Cordon Bleu rests, make the Dijon mustard cream sauce.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 Tablespoon minced garlic
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 Tablespoon flour
  • Two cups milk (half & half is even better)
  • 2 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard

Directions:

Grilled Chicken Cordon Bleu w/a Dijon Cream Sauce
It's another dose of YUM!

In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter, garlic and salt.  Add the flour to make a rue.  Whisk in the milk and Dijon mustard until it thickens (just when it starts to bubble), then remove from heat.  Drizzle over the Chicken Cordon Bleu and serve.

This recipe is SO much quicker than pounding out the classic and "It's another dose of YUM!"Save

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Chapter 4 - Beef Recipes

Grilling Good Eats

by Mike Thayer

Beef
Does that look delicious or what?

Beef, it’s what’s for dinner, or lunch, and yes, breakfast too! Why not cook up a breakfast steak on a weekend? Without question, beef is the most aromatic meat to put over the fire. This chapter does not include burgers, they’re so special, they’re featured in Chapter 9.

And before we get into the recipes, remember Tip #10. How do you know when your steak is done? Give it the finger. No, not the middle one, well, you can use that one if you want….. Poke the steak with your finger. If the meat is soft to the touch and doesn’t bounce back, it’s still pink inside. If it’s got some give but bounces back a bit, it’s medium. If it’s firm when poking, it’s well done.

And for those who like the thermometer:  To get a medium rare, grill beef until the meat thermometer hits the 130 degree mark.  Remember to let that meat rest after pulling it off the grill.  It will continue to cook a bit while resting and come up a few more degrees to a perfect medium rare.

Mike’s Skirt Steak

Have you seen the price of beef these days? If you're craving a good steak and don't want to shell out the big bucks for a T-bone, try a skirt steak. It's a much cheaper cut of meat but packs a lot of flavor. It is a tougher cut of meat, so it needs a good marinade.

Here's a fantastic marinate for about two pounds of skirt steak:

Marinade ingredients

  • Half cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • The juice from half a lime
  • Tablespoon of dried, minced onion
  • teaspoon of garlic powder
  • One packet of artificial sweetener
  • Couple dashes of cardamom

Directions
Mix all ingredients for the marinade in a bowl or big measuring cup, set aside. Cut your skirt steak into four equal pieces (optional), place in a Tupperware bowl or a big zip lock bag, pour in the marinade. Refrigerate for at least one hour, four hours is much better, overnight is best. Skirt steak is great for the grill, remember to take the steaks out of the fridge about 20-30 minutes prior to placing over the coals. You’re doing this to inspect the meat, make sure it‘s well covered in the marinade. It’s not about letting the meat come up to room temperature like you hear some of the cooking show talking heads say, that’s just yada, yada talk to kill air time. The truth is, refrigerated meat won’t come up to room temperature in just 30 minutes, not even close. OK, back to the skirt steaks…..

Putting the steaks over medium high heat, let them sizzle for about five minutes, do NOT cover. This is a thin cut of steak so keep an eye on it and any possible flare ups. Flip after five minutes to a cooler spot on the grill and now you can put a lid on it, for about another five minutes (this is for a medium rare). Remove from the grill and let them rest. This recipe is a real crowd pleaser.

TIP: Never pour remaining marinade over meats or veggies you’ve just placed on the grill. It may sound like a good idea but it’s not. The spillage will cause flare ups - gas and charcoal grills alike - resulting in a blackened meat look and taste you weren’t going for. Spillage can also stir up the ashes down below on a charcoal grill, getting ash on your food. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of flavor in that meat, don’t pour.

Download Mike's Skirt Steak Recipe

 

Mike's Flank Steak Fajitas

Mike's Flank Steak Fajitas
Mike's Flank Steak Fajitas, served up street taco style...

Got a hankering for fajitas? Flank steak is a great cut of meat to use in fajitas. Like the skirt steak, it’s a less expensive cut of meat, a tougher cut of meat, yet packs a lot of flavor when prepared correctly. Try this the next time you fix fajitas or when tacos sound boring:

Ingredients

  • Two pounds of flank steak
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup tequila
  • The juice of a lime
  • 2 healthy tablespoons of your favorite store bought fajita seasoning
  • A few drizzles of canola oil
  • Medium onion, large slices
  • Green pepper, large slices

Directions
Mix the olive oil, tequila, lime juice and fajita seasoning in a measuring cup or small bowl. Pour over the top of the flank steak in a zip lock bag or plastic container. Marinate in the fridge for at least an hour, four hours is better, but NOT overnight, there‘s alcohol in this marinade and alcohol can tend to give meat that mushy texture if over-marinated. Grill over high heat, about five minutes on each side (for a medium rare) first five minutes lid off, last five minutes lid on. Pull the steaks off the grill, let them rest for five minutes. While the meat is resting, coat the sliced onion and pepper with canola oil and season with the fajita mix. Grill over direct heat until you get a bit of a char on both sides. Warm the tortillas on the low temp side of the grill, pull and stack. Slice the flank steak across the grain, plate and serve with the veggies. These are great of course, with Margaritas.

Download Mike's Flank Steak Fajitas

 

Beef Kabobs

I like to use sirloin to make my kabobs, cutting the sirloin into one inch cubes. Don’t buy stew beef for this, it’s too tough a cut of meat, it’s OK if prepared in low and slow cooking, but sirloin is far more tender and packs better flavor, especially in this over the direct heat preparation. The marinade is simple, your favorite Italian dressing.

Ingredients

  • Two pounds of sirloin steak, cut into one inch cubes
  • One green bell pepper, rough chop
  • One red or yellow bell pepper, rough chop
  • One medium onion, rough chop
  • About one pound of button mushrooms
  • Small bottle of your favorite Italian dressing

Directions
After you cube up the steak, put it in a Tupperware container or zip lock bag and pour the entire contents of a small bottle of Italian dressing over the meat. Let it marinade in the refrigerator overnight. The veggies don’t need to marinade that long, you can actually get away with dressing them just before you start the charcoal. If you’re going to use wood skewers, remember to soak them in water for about 30 minutes prior to loading them up with the meat and veggies. KABOB TIP #1: Always put your meat and veggies for kabobs on separate skewers. A meat and veggie skewer combo looks great in the meat counter display case at the grocery store, but the fact is the veggies on the skewer cook through much faster than the meat. You want tender crisp veggies with a hint of charcoal flavor, not dried out, charred veggies to go with that sirloin. KABOB TIP #2: Don’t overload the meat on the skewers, leave some space between the cubes. Meat that is packed too tightly won’t cook evenly, won’t look as nice when served and most importantly, won’t taste as good. Place your meat kabobs over hot coals to get a good sear, lid off. Turn a quarter turn after about two minutes, repeat through four rotations giving you a medium rare kabob. Place your veggie kabobs on the grill after the meat kabobs are cooked halfway through. Serve together with rice pilaf and warm pita bread.

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Rib Eye Steak: This is my personal favorite when it comes to grilling up a steak for a traditional steak dinner. These tender steaks have good marbling of fat throughout and that means great natural flavor. With that in mind, these steaks don’t need a lot of doctoring, no marinade required. I keep it simple, salt and pepper both sides and let that marbling go to work on the grill. Put your presentation side down first and let it sit over the coals for about five minutes. Then flip and move it over to the lower heat side of the grill, lid on until it reaches your desired degree of rare, medium or well done. Just before you plate, brush the steak with melted garlic butter.

TIP: Whether you’re grilling steaks, hamburgers or even hot dogs, keep a small ‘grill safe’ bowl of garlic butter in cool zone corner of the grill. There’s all kinds of uses for it. You can brush it on steaks, apply it to burgers just before you put on the cheese, or brush those hot dogs to add another layer of flavor. Put it on toasted buns, apply it to fish, shrimp and veggies. It’s another dose of YUM! And if you’re not really into garlic, just go with melted butter, it’s still another dose of YUM!

Download MIke's Ribeye Steak Recipe

 

Sirloin SteakSirloin Steak: This is also a more tender cut of beef, but it’s a leaner cut. It doesn’t have the marbling of fat like a rib eye and if you don’t feel like shelling out the money for rib eye, this is a good alternative. You can prep and grill this steak just like you would for a rib eye, but before you hit it with the salt and pepper, dress it with some olive oil. Because sirloin is a leaner cut, it can tend to dry out on the grill and it needs a little help with flavor. Olive oil does the trick, about a teaspoon on each side. Salt and pepper those sirloins up and grill just like a rib eye. Hit it with the garlic butter just before plating.

Download Mike's Sirloin Steak Recipe

 

Filet MignonBacon Wrapped Filet Mignon: Like the sirloin, this is a tender, but leaner cut of meat. Hence, the bacon, which is going to keep the filet from getting too dry and it adds some flavor to boot. Use the standard salt and pepper preparation and then wrap some thick sliced bacon around the outer edge of the steak and secure with a water-soaked toothpick. This steak requires a reverse sear style of grilling. When you put this steak on the grill, put it on the lower heat side of the grill first with the lid on. The bacon doesn’t require the high heat to crisp it up until the finish and if that’s done first, you’ll end up with burnt bacon. So place the steak on the lower temp side to start things off, let that bacon fat slowly seep into the steak as it slow cooks for about 10 minutes with the lid on. Then finish the steak on the hot spot of the grill without the lid and until that bacon is sizzling just right!  You may have to stand the fillets on end to get that bacon crisped up just right.  Brush on the melted garlic butter just before plating.

Download Mike's Filet Mignon Steak Recipe

 

T-Bone Steak: Most people think of this cut when they think about steakhouses. Now you can give your dinner guests a steakhouse quality dinner, in your backyard! I like to put a little kick in my T-Bone. Rub both sides of the steak with your favorite rub. One of my go-to rubs is Cookies Flavor Enhancer. Sear on the hot spot on the grill for about five minutes, rotating the steaks a quarter turn for those diamond grill marks at about the two to three minute mark. Flip after the five minutes of sear time is up, placing the steaks on the lower temp side of the grill with the lid on to finish cooking to desired level of doneness. Hit it with the garlic butter just before plating.

Download Mike's T-Bone Steak Recipe

 

Breakfast Steak: I like to use beef shoulder or “butchers steak” for this preparation. This cut is thin, lean but very “meaty” tasting, great for a quick hot sear on the grill and an excellent partner with a couple of eggs over easy. Simply season both sides of your steak with salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder (red pepper flake is optional). Grill over direct heat for about five minutes like you would a T-Bone or a Rib-eye, flip it over and move to a lower temp side of the grill but not totally off the heat to finish cooking. While that’s happening, crack two eggs into your cast iron skillet that’s been drizzled with olive oil and heating up over the hot coals. Season with salt and pepper, serve on top of the steak (can you visualize that golden yolk goodness?), along with two slices of Texas toast.

TIP: Lightly brush your Texas toast with melted butter prior to putting on the grill for toasting.

The breakfast steak meal is a great way to start off a Saturday morning, especially when you’ve got some other grilling in mind, like enjoying brisket, a roast, or ribs later in the day. After you are done grilling your breakfast steak, you can re-arrange your coals for low and slow cooking.

Download Mike's Breakfast Steak Recipe

 

20181225_105843-2-1Roast Beef: Yes, you can do a roast on the grill! Crock pots are for non-grillers. If you’ve got a grill big enough to accommodate a roast with the lid on, this will be some of the best roast you have ever eaten. It doesn’t matter what cut of roast you have, whether it’s a chuck, top round, rib or rump. The key here is a great dry rub and low and slow cooking using the “Snake Method” style of arranging your coals. The night before grilling, rub the roast down with Cookies Flavor Enhancer or your favorite rub. If you don’t have a favorite rub, here’s a quick and easy rub to try.

Dry Rub Ingredients

  • One tablespoon Kosher salt
  • Two tablespoons of granulated garlic
  • One tablespoon onion powder
  • One tablespoon dried oregano
  • One tablespoon paprika
  • One teaspoon dried mustard
  • One teaspoon black pepper
  • After rubbing down your roast, put it in a big zip lock bag or plastic container and refrigerate.

Directions
Your grill set-up is going to use the ‘Snake Method.‘ After you’ve lit your charcoal chimney with about 15 starter briquettes in it, pull your roast out of the refrigerator, inspect, dab off any excess moisture (if any) with a paper towel, let that roast air out, reapply some rub if needed. Once your charcoal in the chimney is ready, pour those hot coals at one end of the snake, making it the head of the snake. This is good for about a 225 - 250 degree temperature and up to six hours of cook time (depending on the size/length of the snake) as the snake burns from head to tail. Don’t forget to add a few chunks of fruit wood, chips or pellets, as they really do add to this preparation! To keep the roast moist, nestle one of those disposable foil pans into the open space at the bottom center of the grill. Add two cups of hot water to the pan. The pan serves two purposes, not only keeping the roast moist, but also catching the roast drippings during the cooking process for an Au jus. Get your grilling grate in position and place your roast, fat side up, in the center of the grate and put the lid on. That roast fat (flavor) is going to slowly sizzle down the sides of the meat adding to the texture and flavor of that roast, before it drips into the pan of deliciousness below. You want that, if you did fat side down, you just won’t get as good of a final product. Check your roast - do NOT turn - after about two hours. When your roast hits that magic 145 degree internal temperature mark (155 degrees for well done), about 4 to 5 hours depending on the size of the roast, it’s ready to pull and rest. Slice thin and ladle some of that Au jus over the top. Enjoy!

Download Mike's Grilled Roast Beef Recipe

 

Beef Short Ribs: Ah, meat on the bone, cave man style…. There’s just something special about meat, fire and then forgetting about the knife and fork, taking pleasure in eating meat right off the bone. Make no mistake, bone-in meats means built-in flavor. That’s why this recipe does NOT call for BBQ sauce. There’s no need for it, as short ribs tend to render a good amount of fat and marrow. Besides, we’re grilling after all, not barbecuing. How to BBQ is covered in another chapter and will be featured in my second book, along with more great recipes.

Directions
Prepare the ribs the same as you would for a roast, applying your favorite dry rub or the simple rub mentioned in that Roast Beef recipe (add a tablespoon of chili powder) the night before and refrigerate. And also like the roast recipe, set up your grill to use the “Snake Method.” Cook for about two hours. This is the halfway mark. At this point wrap the ribs in foil and cook for another couple hours, until tender. Remove from the grill, and let those ribs rest, still wrapped in the foil. Carefully unwrap the foil, hit them with some of that Au jus, serve and enjoy. Excellent with iron skillet baked beans and grilled corn-on-the-cob!

Download Mike's Beef Short Ribs Recipe

 

Beef Short RibsMike’s Asian Flare Short Ribs: These are cross cut short ribs and VERY tasty! The marinade is similar to the one used in the skirt steak recipe, with a little more Asian influence.

Ingredients

  • Three pounds of crosscut beef short ribs
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • The juice from one lime (if you don’t have any limes handy, substitute with 2 tablespoons of rice vinegar)
  • Two fresh green onions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions
Make the marinade, then pour over the ribs and refrigerate overnight. These ribs are cooked over direct heat, lid off (consider adding some pecan wood, or pecan pellets to your charcoal), about three minutes per side or until done to your liking.  These are a thin cut style rib, so they grill up quick. Excellent paired with rice and sautéed snow peas.

Download Mike's Asian Flare Short Ribs Recipe

Related:  Beef cuts and how to grill them

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Chapter 3 - Is it grilled, or BBQ’d?

Grilling Good Eats

by Mike Thayer

When you hear somebody say they’re going to fire up the BBQ and put some burgers on, chuckle.

Doing up some burgers is grilling, not BBQ. Grilling is hot fire, searing meats, quick cooking tasty morsels over direct heat like, you guessed it, burgers! Hot dogs, kabobs, pork chops, chicken breasts and steaks are all excellent fare for grilling.

Real BBQ isn’t about burgers or hot dogs, BBQ is about a method of cooking - low and slow - it’s about infusing smoky flavor into meats over a long period of time. Usually done in a smoker (not to be confused with a typical grill) or a pit, larger cuts of meat like beef brisket, pork shoulder, ribs, whole chickens or turkey are barbequed for hours at a time using indirect heat, they‘re not close to the fire. Sausages are great done BBQ style as well. I’m sure you’ve had what’s been called a BBQ burger, but it probably wasn’t prepared in a smoker or over a pit, BBQ style. Your burger was prepared on a grill or even a frying pan and BBQ sauce was slapped on it. Traditional BBQ preparation involves indirect heat, dry rubs, mops and yes, that most popular accompaniment for a variety of meats - BBQ sauce!

BBQ can be intimidating to the new or occasional holder of tongs, because in addition to knowing about the typically larger cuts of meat, how long to smoke the meat, you have to learn about the types of wood, the dry rubs and perhaps the best part, the sauces! The thing to take from this chapter is, you don’t need a fancy smoker to smoke meats or make great BBQ. Believe it or not, your charcoal grill will work just fine. What gives barbequed meats their base flavor is the wood, that BBQ smoke. Some folks like to use charcoal, but most prefer to use wood and they tend to stick to one or two types. I‘ve covered woods in Chapter 1, but the more common types of wood used in BBQ are mesquite, hickory, oak, cherry and apple. Each have distinct flavor profiles and like fine wines getting paired up with certain foods, BBQ masters have paired their preferred woods to their secret ingredient dry rubs and sauces.

Dry Rubs
Dry rubs can be simple or complex, but basically, they’re a mixture of spices that are literally rubbed on the meat before putting it on the grill. Not sprinkled on, rubbed on. They add another layer of flavor to that brisket, whole chicken or St. Louis style ribs. There are all kinds of dry rubs available out there at your local grocery store. If you’re just starting to experiment with rubs, I recommend purchasing a few at the store and find a favorite. One of my go to off-the-shelf rubs is Cookies Flavor Enhancer. It’s a great all purpose seasoning, does justice on a variety of meats and heck, it’s even good mixed with a little mayonnaise for a bologna sandwich. And when in doubt, simple is good. There’s nothing at all wrong with simply rubbing your brisket or ribs with good old fashioned salt and pepper, especially if you’re just getting into BBQ and want to taste a new cut of meat or the flavor of that wood you’ve never cooked with before. You’ll really get to know your food this way and what cuts of meat you prefer, what kinds of wood deliver a flavor to your liking.

BBQ Sauces
It’s true, the most popular thing to add to the plethora of meats cooked outdoors is BBQ sauce. If you had guessed ketchup, believe it or not, you would be wrong.

The person who invented BBQ sauce is unknown, but whoever he was, he was a genius! References to the sauce started appearing in 17th century English and French literature about the formation of the American colonies. The rest is history and boy has BBQ sauce been kicked up a notch with all kinds of flavors and varieties created over the last 400+ years!

A traditional flavoring for pork, beef and chicken, sauce can range from watery to thick, from being heavy on the vinegar to being loaded with spice. Heck, there’s even mustard and mayonnaise based BBQ sauces. It’s a regional thing, there’s Carolina BBQ; Tennessee whiskey BBQ; Texas BBQ; and the favorite of yours truly, Kansas City BBQ.

Kansas City BBQ Style: This is a thick, rich tomato based sauce that’s got some spice but is heavier on the sweet. Tomato, brown sugar and vinegar are the base ingredients. It really doesn’t penetrate the meat and is more like a frosting than a marinade. It glazes real nice though when put on the meat about 10 minutes before pulling off the grill, a beautiful finish. This is the most popular style of BBQ sauce in the U.S. and what you see the most of in the bottled varieties on the grocery store shelf. Be careful with the store bought stuff though! The high sugar content of the ‘ready’ varieties tend to burn real quick so keep an eye on your dinner.

Texas BBQ Style: This has more kick than Kansas City style. It has less tomato, less sugar and a lot more spice such as cumin, black pepper, chili pepper and even chili powder. Meat drippings and hot sauce - Tabasco - are always part of this style and fresh veggies like green bell pepper and onion are often added.

East Carolina Mop: This simple but tasty sauce was pioneered by the African slaves of Scottish settlers in the region. It’s a straight forward combination of hot pepper flakes, ground black pepper and vinegar. The reason it’s called a mop is because this thin concoction is literally mopped - basted - on the meat throughout the cooking process, the flavor really penetrates! With little if any sugar and no tomato in this style, East Carolina Mop is a sharp contrast to other sauces.

Western Carolina Dip: From the hilly areas of North Carolina, most American sauces can trace their roots to this one. The recipe usually consists of a base of black pepper blended with tomato paste or tomato sauce, or ketchup, with vinegar added to balance it out. Like the East Carolina Mop, this is a thin sauce that is mopped on the meat throughout the cooking process.

South Carolina Mustard Style: This is a whole new BBQ sauce experience. Early German settlers developed this one and while good on chicken, it’s tailor made for pork. A little thicker than its Carolina cousin sauces, a simple recipe consists of mustard, vinegar, spices and a little sugar. It’s fantastic on a pulled pork sandwich topped with coleslaw!

Tennessee Whiskey Style: Made famous by the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Barbecue Invitational, this method of flavoring meats is also referred to as ‘Memphis Style’ has become so popular it now deserves its own category. This combination of vinegar, whiskey, molasses, spices, and Worcestershire sauce gives BBQ a whole new flavor profile.

There are all kinds of variations and morphing of styles out there, have fun and play around with it all. And BBQ sauce isn’t just for pork, beef or chicken anymore! Try the West Carolina dip on grilled chicken or fish. Put some Tennessee Whiskey Style on a pizza instead of traditional tomato sauce. If lamb isn’t your favorite, try it again with the East Carolina Mop. And here’s a personal side dish favorite, toss some grilled cauliflower florets, baby carrots, baby portabella mushrooms and bacon bits together with some Kansas City style sauce. Delicious!

Now that we’ve covered the rubs and basic sauces, let’s talk about the featured meats. The great thing about BBQ is that you can make a less expensive cut of meat taste great, those tougher, less valuable cuts benefit from the low and slow method of BBQ style preparation. Beef briskets and tri-tips, ribs and shoulders (either pork or beef), all fit into the less expensive, ’tougher cut’ meat category and need low and slow cooking in order to get tender. Oh, and when you hear ‘pork butt‘, it’s really pork shoulder, it’s not meat that comes from the behind. Chicken and turkey, although less expensive meats compared to melt-in-your-mouth rib-eye steak and filet mignon, aren’t in the ‘tough meat’ category but still taste great in a BBQ preparation. They just don’t need to be in the smoker or pit as long as say, a brisket. And like the sauces, what kind of meats get that BBQ attention are a bit regional. In Tennessee and North Carolina, it’s all about pork ribs and pulled pork sandwiches. In South Carolina the signature BBQ is pork butt or ham. In Texas, it’s about beef, namely brisket. In Kansas City, a meat packing hub, every kind of meat is featured. And then there’s the great debate about what kind of ribs are the best, St. Louis style ribs vs. baby back. Don’t get me wrong, you can get other meats with great BBQ flavor just about anywhere, but know that certain regions are best known for particular meats and preparations, particularly in the south. That’s a good tidbit of information to know when you’re looking for a new BBQ recipe to try. It’s not like Oregon is known for its unique style of BBQ and if you see a ‘great BBQ recipe from Chicago‘ online, it‘s probably a knock off from the south.

You don’t need a smoker or a pit to do BBQ, you can do low and slow on your grill. This isn’t something you can really do well on a gas grill, as they’re truly designed for fast cooking over direct heat and then there’s the biggest drawback of gas grills…. Propane does not deliver any flavor! And running out of gas in the middle of a four-hour job would not only be a bummer, but cost prohibitive. Forget the gas, this is a job for a charcoal grill setup and some wood chips!

Snake methodGoing low and slow is easy. For this style of cooking, you’re going to use what’s called the “Snake Method” for the coals. Ideally suited for a Weber kettle or circular grill set-up, what you want to do is put a semi-circle of briquettes about four briquettes deep and four briquettes high around the inside edge of the grill. Do NOT connect the starting and finish points (head and tail), we‘re building a snake, not a circle. You can also do this with square or rectangular grills, just line the outside walls with your briquettes and remember - DO NOT connect the head and the tail. After making your ‘snake’ put about 15 briquettes in your charcoal chimney and light. When you see that orange glow, add them to one end of the snake. This is also a great time to add wood chunks, dropping them in spots along your ‘snake’ lined coals. Put on your cooking grate and place your meats in the center of the grill, there shouldn‘t be any coals underneath it. There you go, indirect heat and the grill’s lid is going to do the work for you. Put the lid on and keep it on, only take it off to turn your brisket or whatever you decided to BBQ about half way through the recommended cooking time for example. Don’t lift the lid to check it after just 30 minutes, don’t lift the lid just to get a better whiff of what’s cooking, you’ll release all the low and slow heat the lid has built up to put that great smokiness into the meat.

Remember the wood chip tip from Chapter 1:  Do NOT soak your wood chips in water!  You want clean smoke flavoring your food.  White smoke is a BITTER smoke, which means food with a bitter taste.   Personally, I think wood chips are a waste of money, I buy wood chunks.  They have a much longer burn time and deliver a better smoke flavor than chips.

I’ll tease you with a couple BBQ recipes here, but you’ll find many more to your liking in the meat chapters.

Mike’s ‘Quick Whiskey BBQ Sauce’
This is really more of a convenient cheat rather than a bona fide recipe, but it’s time saving, easy to put together and rather tasty!

Ingredients

  • One cup of KC Masterpiece BBQ sauce (or whatever brand might be your favorite)
  • ¼ cup of water
  • One tablespoon of dried, minced onion
  • 2 shots of your favorite whiskey/bourbon (reserve a 3rd shot for yourself)
  • 5 generous shakes of Louisiana Hot Sauce
  • One tab of butter

Directions
In a medium sauce pan over low heat, melt your butter. Let it coat the bottom of the pan and once it’s coated, add all remaining ingredients and just let it all simmer to marry all that flavor for about 15-20 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. This is a great sauce to use just before plating.

Download Mike's 'Quick Whiskey' BBQ Sauce

Here’s that veggie recipe mentioned earlier in the chapter:

Mike’s Sauced Grilled Veggies

Ingredients

  • Equal parts of cauliflower florets, baby carrots and baby portabella mushrooms
  • Tablespoon of olive oil
  • Pre-cooked bacon pieces (leftover from breakfast works great)
  • ¼ cup Kansas City style BBQ Sauce (warmed over indirect heat with the bacon bits)

Directions
In a small bowl, drizzle the veggies with the olive oil, toss lightly. Using a veggie tray over the coals, grill the cauliflower, carrots and mushrooms until the cauliflower and carrots are tender crisp and just start to caramelize. Toss in a serving bowl with the bacon pieces and the BBQ sauce. Salt and pepper to taste. Delicious!

Download Mike's Sauced Grilled Veggies

 

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Chapter 2 - Grilling Tips & Essential Tools

Grilling Good Eats

By Mike Thayer

20190720_163657-1Got a craving for a juicy brat? A rack of baby back ribs? How about a perfectly grilled medium rare rib eye steak? Summer time means grill time whether it’s a backyard BBQ or a picnic in the park. Grill up some real crowd pleasing dishes by following these grilling tips for an easier, tastier, more relaxing grilling experience.

Grilling Tips: Whether you’re a novice to grilling or a weekend grilling warrior, the following thirteen tips are essential to putting you on the path to becoming a grill master.

Grilling Tip #1: Take your chicken breast, chops, and/or steak out of the refrigerator about 20-30 minutes prior to grilling to let them air out. This does NOT apply to something you’ve been marinating. This is for something you’re taking directly out of the package from the store, or something you’ve given a dry rub too. Inspect the meat, you want to make sure there is no excess moisture on it, especially if you‘re going to rub some olive oil or the like on that steak, chop, or breast. Even if you’re just applying salt and pepper, that meat should be dry. Pat the meat down with a paper towel if necessary. Letting chicken/chops/steaks and such air out, gives the meat a better sear when it hits the grill. Leaving excess moisture on your meats can cause unnecessary flare ups and the real benefit to a properly prepped cut of ’aired out’ meat is that it’s going to cook more evenly, locking in that flavor and delivering you a much more tender, tastier mouthful. Ground meats are a different story! They should be cold when putting on the grill. If they’re at room temperature, ground meats tend to fall apart or droop through the cooking grate.

Grilling Tip #2: Oil the grilling surface. After your grill is hot, brush (do NOT spray!) some vegetable oil on the cooking grate. I use a squeeze bottle of canola oil, squirting oil on a folded paper towel - cover it well but not to the point of dripping - then I use my long handled steel bristle brush to move the oiled paper towel over the grill surface. This isn’t to add flavor or to keep food from sticking (Tip #5 below), this is to make clean up much, much easier when the grilling is done. When it’s clean up time, brushing the grill surface clean takes half the time if you pre-oiled the grate.

Grilling Tip #3: Generally speaking, the “Presentation side” of any meat or grilled item (how you’ll see the item on the plate) is the first side you put on the grill. Choose the better looking side of the item to put down first. This is the side that needs to have those beautiful grill marks. And with most meats and fish, you only want to flip once. Yep, you read that right, flip it just once.

Grilling Tip #4: Some people like to get fancy grill marks on their food. In fact, some grill manufacturers are even making their grates fancier in design - to include logos - with their upscale models to sear those fancy marks in. If you ask me that kind of takes the mastery and fun out of it, but kudos to the grill makers and successful marketing nonetheless. If you don’t have a fancy grate, here’s what you do. For simple but still a delicious looking presentation of straight line grill marks, leave the item sit in position for at least two to three minutes. Don’t move it, don’t touch it, don’t rearrange it to make room for something else. Once it’s down it’s down, so pick your spot well, let it sit and sear. Depending on your coal stack and temperature, steaks and thick burgers can go a good five minutes, chicken and pork, slightly less. With fish, stick to two minutes. The key is to not touch the meat once you put it down and not until you flip. If you want the ‘diamond’ look (don‘t try this with most fish), give the meat a quarter turn after two - three minutes. Then let it cook for another couple minutes before you flip.

Grilling Tip #5: If you did your coals right, when you go to flip the meat over and it’s sticking to the grate, it’s not ready to flip yet. The meat literally lets you know when to flip. If it’s sticking, try again in another minute or two.

Grilling Tip #6: When grilling those pre-made frozen hamburger patties, the packaged ‘fresh’ ones from the grocery store and for folks that like their hand made burgers well done, you should only flip your burger once. After putting your burgers on, when you see red juices flowing to the top, it’s time to flip. After the flip, when you see the juices running clear, you know the burger is well done, the burger is cooked through. This is especially important for the pre-made stuff purchased at the store, you don’t want to see a strip of pink running through those. And generally speaking, remember Grilling Tip #3, most all meats and fish should only be flipped once, well done or not. It preserves those great grill marks and delivers a juicier, evenly cooked, more flavorful piece of meat.

Grilling Tip #7: Do not press the meat on the grill! Place your meat on the grill and do NOT take your spatula and press it hard into the grate thinking that helps to sear it or give it better grill marks. It does neither. You’re cooking on a grate, not on a flat top like at the diner or in an electric griddle in the house. Pressing meats down into a grill grate means loss of juice, loss of flavor. OH, and it makes it harder to flip. Seeing meat drop through the grate and onto the coals is a grill crime.

Grilling Tip #8: Don’t cut the meat on the grill to see how done it is! This is a cardinal sin, another grill crime. When you cut it at the grill, the meat’s juices come out, leaving you with a very dry piece of meat to eat and all that great flavor is gone. If you’re following all these tips to the letter, you don’t need to cut the meat to check for ‘doneness‘!

Grilling Tip #9: Do NOT use a fork of any kind to grill! Forks pierce the meat, letting those juices sizzle down into the charcoal and once those juices are gone, they’re gone, leaving you with the same situation as tip #8 - eating a dry piece of meat lacking great flavor. Avoid grill crime.

Grilling Tip #10: If you’re grilling two kinds of meat like chicken and steak for dinner, put your chicken on the grill first. There’s no “medium rare” when it comes to chicken, you’ve GOT to make sure it’s properly cooked all the way through. Put chicken near but not directly over the hot spot of the grill first, get that good sear on the presentation side of the chicken and then move it over to the lower temp side of the grill to finish off. Once you’ve moved your chicken to the lower temp side of the grill, put your steaks on the hot spot. By the time the steaks are done, so is the chicken. This method also works well when preparing meats at varying degrees of “doneness” like steaks or handmade burgers. Put steaks to be well done on the hop spot first, get a good sear and then move them over to the low temp side to finish cooking. You can then put your medium rare steaks on the hot spot and by the time those are done, so are the well done ones. The same thing goes for burgers, some people like a little pink running through the middle of a good home made, hand crafted burger. You want everyone sitting down at the same time to eat, so timing is everything and you’ll come off like a real pro pulling medium rare, medium and well done steaks off the grill, all at the same time. You don’t have to deliver that dreaded line of, “People eating chicken, yours will be done in a few more minutes…… Sorry.” And how do I know that steak is done you ask? Give it the finger. No, not the middle one, well, you can use that one if you want….. Poke the steak with your finger. If the meat is soft to the touch and doesn’t bounce back, it’s still pink inside. If it’s got some give but bounces back a bit, it’s medium. If it’s firm when poking, it’s well done.

Grill Tip #11: When to lid and when not to lid….. Unless you’re grilling in the rain, high winds or in frigid cold weather, you don’t need to use the lid for burgers and hot dogs. The only time you really need to lid is when it’s time to melt the cheese. Burgers and ground meats in general, pick up enough smoky flavor in a no lid preparation due to the high fat content in the meat, absorbing the extra smoke that’s created when those meat juices hit the flames. You can also better monitor flame flare ups with the lid off and there will be fewer of them. Regarding hot dogs, they are a quick cook food, the packaged varieties most folks put on the grill are already pre-cooked from the factory (you can actually eat them right out of the package like bologna but you’d get a scolding from the food police and I’d much rather put them on the fire) and they’ll absorb plenty of charcoal flavor with the lid off. Putting a lid on hot dogs is actually a bad thing. What you’re looking for in the All-American classic are those great grill marks and an even temperature throughout. You want that casing to snap when you bite into it and that bite needs to be juicy. Putting a lid over hot dogs not only fails to deliver more smoky flavor, but can actually shrink and dry out the hot dog because the casing split open spilling all the juices (a.k.a. flavor). Worse yet, a lid-on preparation of hot dogs makes the casing too charred to eat from that flare up you didn’t see going on under the cover. Most folks don’t like ‘blackened’ hot dogs. For other meats and food items, it really becomes a matter of personal preference. How smoky do you like your flavor? Leave the lid on for more smokiness. Fish easily takes on a great smoky flavor in a lid on preparation. Steaks should be lid off to minimize flare ups until you flip them and do the finish cooking on the lower temp side of the grill. Pork chops can be cooked lid on the whole time to get that great smoky flavor and they can handle a lot of it. Chicken needs an almost all lid preparation to ensure it’s cooked all the way through. A key to remember: If that marinade you’re using has a lot of oil in it, that can lead to a lot of flare ups. In that case, a lid is NOT your friend. Bonus tip: If you have a large grill surface and are cooking a variety of meats and don‘t want to cover it all with that one big lid, consider using a smaller lid to cover only those meats that need one. I ‘borrow’ a lid from a small portable grill I use to picnic with, using it on my big grill at home when firing up a batch of meats.

Grilling Tip # 12: Let your meats rest after pulling them off the grill. Yes, really, meat needs to rest before serving and slicing. I know you are tempted to bite into that steak or burger right away, but you want those meats to rest for five minutes after pulling them off the grill to let those flavorful juices redistribute themselves throughout those spice rubbed T-bone steaks, the marinated center cut pork chops, the BBQ sauced chicken breasts or whatever dinner might be. Thicker cuts of meat can rest even longer, up to 10 minutes.

Grilling Tip #13: Don’t wait until the next time you grill to clean the cooking grate. No, putting a lid on things thinking you’ll burn the food off just isn’t enough and if you’re a gas griller, all you’re really doing is wasting fuel. Clean your grilling grate when the grill is still warm. If you’re a gas griller, that would be after you shut the grill off and before you sit down to eat (clean the grate while the meat you prepared is resting). If you’re a charcoal griller, clean the grate after you’ve enjoyed that delicious meal. It’s easier to wire brush the grate clean when it’s warm, vs. trying to brush it clean when it’s cold, when the flame is high or when you just fired the grill up that next time…. And who wants smoke in their eyes right? Besides, a clean grill grate extends the life of it. Leaving the charred remains of burgers, steaks, fish, whatever, on the grate prematurely ages it, leading to rust. Yes, rust, even if you cover your grill or store it in the garage when not in use.

Essential Tools: Assuming you have a gas or charcoal grill to work with, you’ll also need the following items, these are essential, the basics needed for anyone serious about cranking out a great meal from the grill.

Charcoal chimneyThe charcoal chimney: For me, there’s really no better way to light charcoal, lump coals or small chunks of wood for the bigger log fire. They’re easy to use and can be found most anywhere grills and grilling accessories are sold. The best chimneys out there are made by Weber and can be purchased for around $15 to $17. Weber chimneys are better quality with thicker metal construction, to include a heat shield and a two handle grip for safer handling. I recommend having two.

Grill gloves: Even if you don’t use a charcoal chimney start to light your coals, you still need a mitt or grill gloves. You may need a mitt to lift a hot lid (some of those handles do get hot to the touch!), lift or reposition a grill grate, move a warming basket of food, or maybe you left a spatula a little too close to the fire and the handle got a bit warm. Get a mitt or gloves that are made for grilling. That oven mitt your wife or mother has in the kitchen with the pretty little flowers on it won’t cut it. Some gas grills can heat up to 600 degrees at grate level with all burners on high and grills equipped with infra-red for searing and my preference - the charcoal grill - can get even hotter. Weber makes an OK mitt with a heat resistant liner for about $10. Good grill gloves go for $25 and up.

Tongs: You can grill without them, but you really shouldn’t. NO grill master is without a good pair of metal tongs. Buy what suits your grilling needs. If you have a small portable grill, you don’t need long handled tongs. It’s not like you’re having to reach through of wall of flame to flip burgers when using a small grill, so buy a size that suits the grill. A 9” pair of tongs works fine for small grills, a 12” pair performs well with medium grills and for larger grills, get a 16” pair, that’s when you’ll need the reach. Anything larger than that can’t be handled well. The smaller pairs of tongs give you greater control than the longer pairs do, especially with big steaks and things like baked potatoes. For added control and gripping power, be sure to buy a pair with some kind of scalloped edge in the tip end, a pair that can grip something as small as a scallop or as large as a rack of ribs. Stay away from ‘scissor’ style tongs with the loopy ends, they’re practically worthless for grilling anything besides hot dogs. Don’t bother with the oversized but fancy looking wood handled varieties - the varnish on the wood wears off from the heat and the soap and water used to clean them…. and who wants that varnish stuff flaking off onto the food? You want locking metal tongs with spring action. When unlocked they naturally stay open to grab items easily and can be locked in a closed position for easy storage.

A good spatula: A metal spatula for the grill is a MUST have. And the same thing applies here for spatulas as they do with tongs. Size matters. Get something appropriate for your grill. You don’t need a 16” spatula for a 15” patio grill. Pay the extra buck or two for quality, a metal spatula with a rubber or silicone grip. Some folks like to have two spatulas on hand, one that’s stiff for things like burgers or to aid the tongs to flip a bigger cut of meat. Having a second spatula that is flexible and with holes or slots is useful when flipping more delicate items like fish or for stacking those all beef patties to create that mouthwatering double cheeseburger on a garlic butter toasted bun.

A basting brush: This is a must have if you like to add a little more flavor to the meat, like a garlic butter sauce for a big thick steak or a BBQ sauce for a chop or a piece of chicken. Stay away from the wood handles and the traditional boar’s hair brushes. The varnish wears off and with use/age the brush hair falls out, most of the time falling out in the food. Get the newest brushes made out of dishwasher safe silicone. They don’t grab as much sauce like the traditional brushes do but they last longer, the brush ‘hairs’ don’t fall out and they clean up much easier. You’ll have to do a little more dipping, but that’s OK.

Meat thermometer: An instant-read meat thermometer is a good thing to have, especially if you want reassurance that what you've prepared for family or guests has hit the right temperature. Safe eats are good eats. Insert the thermometer into the center of the thickest part of the meat, stay away from the bone if it has them. Recommended temperatures are as follows: Beef should be at least 145 degrees; poultry at least 165 degrees; pork at least 160 degrees; and lamb at least 145º. Check the temp near the end of the cooking time and away from direct flame.

A good quality wire brush: It’s simply the best tool for keeping your grilling surface clean. I wrote earlier that a clean grate extends the life of the grate and that bears repeating. Get one made for grilling, one that has a scraper blade on it. Brushes with short, stiff, compact bristles are better than brushes with the longer, stringy type bristles.

A good quality cast iron skillet: It can take the heat, they’re versatile and a well seasoned skillet, like charcoal, delivers another layer of flavor. You can use your skillet to sauté veggies, scramble eggs, make corn bread or create a fantastic grilled dessert like an apple crisp or peach cobbler!

Tools you don’t need:
NO FORKS! I’ve already covered why. Don’t bother with grilling tool sets that include forks, most of them are overpriced for what you get and educate your wife to prevent a bad gifting idea.

Squeeze bottles: You don’t need a squeeze bottle if you’re filling it up with water to put out flare ups. If you stack your coals right all you have to do is move the meat to the lower temp side of the grill and the flare ups cease. Squeeze bottles of water are for rookies and prematurely age your grill. Water and high heat = rust, quickly. If you’re putting oil or marinade in a squeeze bottle, that’s OK.

 


Chapter 1 - The Grill Setup

Grilling Good Eats

by Mike Thayer

How much charcoal should I use? How long does charcoal stay hot? What kind of grill should I buy? Which is better, gas or charcoal? Do I put the lid on or leave it off? Are those wood pellets any good?

These are all great questions. Whether you’re new to grilling or are looking to expand on your grilling expertise, you’re reading the right source. The answers are here.

Any kind of grill is better than no grill. A grill can be a piece of scrap metal and two cinder blocks standing over a small pile of charcoal, or it can be the latest stainless steel propane gas model with infra-red heat for searing and two side burners. Grills vary greatly in size, shape, fuel source, cost and most importantly, the ability to deliver flavor.

That last reason - flavor - is why I’m a charcoal grill enthusiast and this ‘how to‘ grilling book is written with that in mind. Don’t worry, you’ll get plenty of useful information, recipes and tips from this book if you’re a gas griller, but I’m here to tell you, charcoal grills deliver better flavor every time. Don’t get me wrong, gas grills have their place, but along with the great flavor charcoal delivers, charcoal has other advantages like the flexibility of using it to give big steaks that high heat sear, or using it to cook ribs low and slow. Another advantage charcoal grills have over gas is that you can easily add wood to the fire, putting another layer of flavor on that great looking piece of meat. You can add wood to a gas grill, but you’re pretty much restricted to using wood chips and you have to keep those chips away from the gas burners, almost forcing you to buy one of those gas grill accessories - the wood chip box. In my experience, the gas grill and those little wood chip boxes just don’t measure up to the flavors you can add using a charcoal grill setup. Here are some more advantages to the charcoal grill:
Grill advantage
You may have noticed, I left out electric grills in that breakdown. That’s because electric grills suck. Don’t buy one. They don’t deliver the heat they promise, you’re restricted to where you can plug it in and like the gas grill, they don’t deliver any flavor. Durability with electric grills is also an issue. I used to have an electric grill, I converted it over to charcoal after the element burned out.

“What about smokers?” you ask. This book focuses on grilling, smoking is a whole different level of backyard-cooking-meat-with-fire-experience. I’ll be covering smokers, pit BBQ and those green egg shaped contraptions in my next book. Yep, you read that right, a teaser for a second book.

So now that I’ve covered the advantages and disadvantages of the two main grill types and you now know that charcoal is the way to go, let’s talk about the charcoal grill setup.

You can start your charcoal several ways, you can use lighter fluid, you can buy those ‘Match Light’ briquettes, or you can do what I think is the best way to go and that’s fire up your charcoal using a charcoal chimney. I don’t like lighter fluid for several reasons. I don’t like to store it, I don’t like running out, the smell can get on your hands and clothes, and inexperienced grillers tend to put too much on or start grilling over charcoals that aren’t really ready yet, giving your food that nasty fuel taste. Those ‘Match Light’ briquettes are OK, they’re very convenient, but they are more expensive and like the traditional charcoal/lighter fluid starting method, can put a fuel taste on your food if cooked over before the coals are really ready. Avoid the fuel taste risk completely and start your charcoal by using a charcoal chimney.

Charcoal chimneys are fairly inexpensive and all you need are a few sheets of newspaper to get those charcoals heated up. They’re easy to use:

Step 1: Turn the chimney upside down, crinkle up about three double-wide sheets of old newspaper into three softball sized rounds and stuff them into the bottom of the chimney.
Step 2: Turn the chimney right-side up and fill with the amount of charcoal you need. TIP: If you’re only grilling like eight burgers, depending on your grill size, you don’t need to fill the chimney to the top, try half-full, even less for small portable type grills.
Step 3: Ideally, you’ve got your charcoal chimney placed where your coals are eventually going to be placed for grilling, the bottom of the grill, cooking grate off. Light the newspaper, stay in one spot with your flame, count to 10 and watch for smoke to come out of the top of the chimney. Holding the starter flame (butane wands with the flame setting on high work great for this) in one place on the newspaper ensures the newspaper gets lit and stays lit. Lighting the newspaper in more than one spot can prematurely flame out the newspaper before the coals catch that fire.
Charcoal chimneyStep 4: Check your chimney after about 2 minutes, it should be building up heat. Depending on conditions like the quality of your charcoal, how much of it you put in the chimney and if it’s windy or not, your coals should be ready in 10 - 15 minutes.
Step 5: When you see an orange glow coming from the bottom of the chimney, flames coming out the top and the edges of some of the coals starting to turn gray, your charcoal is ready. Because you’re not using lighter fluid, you don’t have to worry about a fuel taste, these coals are just about ready to cook with!
Step 6: Using a grilling mitt, dump your coals into the grill. Place your chimney somewhere ‘heat safe’ to let it cool down, these babies stay hot for a bit after dumping the coals.
Step 7: Place the cooking grate on the grill to get it heated up, about five minutes is all it takes, then you’re ready to throw the meat on!

TIP: On windy days, lightly coat the newspaper with some cooking spray before stuffing it in the charcoal chimney. This will extend the burn time of the paper and prevent those little ashes from blowing around.

Arranging your coals matters
This may sound trivial to somebody new to grilling and even to some ‘experienced‘ grillers…… How you stack your coals, matters! Do NOT spread your charcoal out evenly. That’s right, you read that correctly, do NOT lay the coals out evenly. Doing so kills the life span of the heat. Your fire simply won’t last as long. Another reason not to spread your charcoal out evenly is flare ups. If you get flare ups - and you will - especially if you’re doing burgers, you’ll have no ‘cool spot’ on the grill for the meat to escape to. Flare ups with no escape often lead to burnt food, or food that’s crispy on the outside and not done on the inside.

Recommended stacking:

Charcoal center stackCenter Stack: You can stack your coals higher in the middle of the grill, a pyramid or mountain shaped pile, creating a center stage hot spot for searing. The center stack arrangement of coals concentrates all the high heat and possible flare ups in the middle, leaving all the sides of the grill at a lower temperature. No big flare ups everywhere on your grill, there’s plenty of space on all sides for your meats to escape to. Sear your meats in the hot spot, let them finish cooking or keep them warm in the lower temp side areas. This stack style works best in Weber kettle grills, or other circular shaped grills.

Charcoal back stackBack Stack: You can stack the bulk of your coals in the back of the grill, leaving the front of the grill only sparsely covered with coals. This keeps the high heat and the flare ups in the back of the grill, away from you, making the turning and flipping of meats a little easier. The low temp front of the grill gives your meats a place to escape to in the event of a flare up. You can also use this space to finish cook meats or keep them warm. If you’re new to charcoal grilling, this might be the way to go. This method and the Left/Right Stack highlighted next, also work well when party grilling, when guests arrive and eat at various times. It allows you to cook and ‘hold’ the good grilled eats.

Charcoal left right stackLeft/Right Stack: This is my preferred method of stacking coals. I personally like to have a hot side of the grill and a “Keep it warm” side. I stack my coals tall on the left for giving meats that really good sear. On the right, I have just enough coals to cook meats through or keep warm. This arrangement works especially well in square, rectangular shaped or shallow basin grills. The same thing can be done on gas grills with two burners. High or medium flame is used on one side, low flame or even no flame is used on the other side.

As you gain experience in grilling, how you stack your coals (or use your burners if you’re a gas griller) becomes a personal preference thing. The key is having a hot section and a warm section on your grill, some people call this ‘zone grilling‘ or ‘zone cooking.’ Here’s an added plus to using one of the three stack styles mentioned above: Having your coals ‘stacked’ rather than evenly laid out really comes in handy when you’re grilling two or three different kinds of meat for dinner. You’ll be praised by family and friends for your grilling prowess because you had a hot spot and a lower temp area on your grill. I’ll provide details on that later in the book as well as stacking your coals for indirect heat zone cooking such as for smoking and real BBQ.

“Mike, how much charcoal should I use and how long is it going to stay hot?” Most people use way more charcoal than they really need to. If you’re grilling for one or two people and using a smaller, portable type grill, try a quarter chimney of charcoal. This will provide more than enough fire for grilling four cheeseburgers, a dozen hot dogs and then smores if you want for dessert! I use a half-chimney amount quite a bit, satisfying the hunger needs of my three boys and I usually have enough heat leftover after doing steaks or chicken to do some lower and slower cooking like a dessert pizza. Having guests over for a party? Fire up two chimneys. On a Weber kettle grill that will get you through a box of frozen ¼ pound hamburger patties (40 count) and 36 hot dogs. You can toast the buns too! If conditions are right (not too much wind) and you stacked your coals well, you can cook for hours. I’ve gone back to my grill the next day after grilling to clean the charcoal ashes out and have carelessly burned myself. A good grill and quality charcoal can really retain some heat so be careful.

My preferred brand of charcoal is Kingsford and I buy the competition briquettes when it’s available. They tend to burn a little hotter and a little longer. I like briquettes because they also deliver a more consistent burn vs. lump coal which comes in different shapes and sizes, doesn’t stack as well and perhaps most importantly, quality lump coal tends to run a bit higher in price. Pro-lump coal enthusiasts say it provides better flavor, but if that’s the case, then you might as well just throw the real wood log on the fire.

Wood: You can really add a whole other dimension of flavor by using wood in your grilling. Fruit woods are excellent for adding some sweetness to meats, and all woods suitable for grilling give you that nice smoke ring of flavor that is craved by grill masters, weekend grillers and food enthusiasts alike. Some woods are better with certain meats than others, experiment with different woods and have fun with it. Below is a list of the more commonly used woods. You can use logs to grill or smoke with exclusively, or mix them with charcoal briquettes or lump coal. I like to use a combination of charcoal briquettes and wood logs when grilling low and slow for bigger cuts of meat, and a combination of charcoal and wood chunks when grilling thinner cuts over direct heat, lid-on preparations.

Apple and Cherry woods: Probably the most popular of all the fruit woods, both giving off a mild sweetness. Excellent for poultry and pork, with cherry being particularly good when grilling or smoking ham.

Hickory: The most popular wood for smoking meats, delivering a strong flavor. Don’t overdo it if you haven’t grilled with it before and use with the bigger cuts of meat, it can be overpowering. Good for all meats, but better with beef and lamb.

Mesquite: The trendy wood right now. It burns hotter and faster than hickory so it’s an excellent choice for the weekend griller. It delivers a nice, lightly sweet flavor. Good for all meats, fish, vegetables, especially good with ribs.

Oak: The second most popular all purpose wood. Like hickory, it delivers a strong smoky flavor but not as overpowering. It’s good with beef, fish and pork butt.

Pecan Smoked Brats
Pecan Smoked Brats

Pecan: Doesn’t burn as hot as other woods, delivering a more subtle smoky flavor. Excellent for all meats, good with just about anything you want to grill or smoke.  On a personal note, if I had to grab just one type of wood, this would be it - pecan is my go-to.

Other woods to consider: You really can’t go wrong with just about any fruit wood, most of them are mild and sweet. Citrus woods are all good, don‘t hesitate to use them. Peach, pear and mulberry all deliver another dimension of flavor. Maple, birch and ash are nice changes of pace and even seasoned grape vines or lilac branches are nice flavor enhancements for the grill.

Woods to AVOID: Anything in the Pine family (terrible flavor, burns too fast and hot), walnut (heavy, bitter smoke flavor, can be used with other woods but why bother…), elm, cypress, redwood.

TIP: The best smoke comes from the coals of the wood, so when grilling, let the log or logs burn down. Wood in smokers is a different story.

Wood chips and chunks: Wood chips and chunks are great because not everybody has a big backyard to store a cord of wood in. You can store a smaller size bag of wood chips or chunks on an apartment balcony, you can mix chips/chunks in with charcoal briquettes and they are readily available most anywhere grills and grill accessories are sold. Many of the wood flavors previously mentioned are available, apple, cherry, oak, hickory, mesquite and my personal favorite, pecan.  TIP: If you're a gas griller, go with the wood chips, this is what those smoker box accessories are designed for.   If you're a charcoal griller, then go with the chunks, throw a couple chunks on your pile of charcoal.  DO NOT SOAK either fuel type in water!  Soaked wood can smother your fire and reduce heat.  Besides, you want clean smoke in your cook, a good smoke is thin, blue and almost invisible, this is what puts quality flavor in your food.  Soaking wood, wet wood, generates a thick, white smoke and that's not a good smoke, or a good taste for your food.  White smoke is a bitter smoke, wait for a clean smoke before putting your food on the grill.

Wood pellets: I love these things. They are truly versatile, add another layer of flavor and they’re so easy to use. They are an excellent addition to charcoal briquettes, or mixing with wood logs, kicking that great taste level up another notch. You can add a handful, or two depending on how heavy you like smoke flavor.  Pellets last longer than wood chips - another plus - but also like wood chips, you’re not going to want to try and cook with pellets as your lone fuel source (you'll burn through them too quickly) in a typical patio grill setup if you‘re just doing a couple burgers or hot dogs. They‘re best used in a mixed fuel source preparation. TIP: If you only have one type of log wood to grill or smoke with, say, oak, pick up some apple wood pellets to add to the fire. Layers of flavor! I really like this mix when grilling pork, cherry is excellent as well.

Venting: No, I’m not talking about being able to rant at someone about how bad your day went……. I’m talking about giving your charcoal grill set up a chance to breathe. This is believe it or not one of the most under performed but vital task in grilling. It impacts the heat, the level of smoke (and hence affecting the flavor of the food), and the burn time. Whether you are using charcoal, wood, or a mix of fuel types, don’t forget to vent your grill properly. You’re creating a fire, and fires need to breathe. Vents are your friend. Most grills have at least two sets of vents. There’s typically a set in the lid and a set, if not two, in the base. The vents in the base are essential for letting your fire breathe, the vent in the lid is there for two reasons, to regulate smoke and to work as a draw. Opening that lid vent lets the hot air escape, allowing the lower vents to draw in the cooler outside air with fresh oxygen for the coals to breathe. I’ve seen guys grilling with all the vents closed and they wonder why their fire never really got hot enough, the food took longer to cook and in some cases, the fire prematurely burned out. They didn’t let the coals breathe, the only oxygen the fire got was when the lid was off or opened. If there’s no wind and you’re just grilling burgers and hot dogs, leave your vents wide open. I personally like to leave the lid off in that case until it’s time to melt the cheese for the burgers. If it’s windy, you want to shut your vents a bit, perhaps nearly closed all the way depending on just how windy it is, but never completely closed. If you want a little more smoky flavor on whatever you’re grilling, shut the lid vent a bit. If it’s raining and you don‘t have the luxury of being in a covered area, you may want to close that lid vent a bit. If it’s raining a lot, get out the umbrella. If you don’t have an umbrella, it sucks to be you.

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Chapter 13 - Accessories & Gadgets

Grilling Good Eats

by Mike Thayer

I already covered 'must have' essential tools in Chapter 2, but let's do a quick recap of the basics needed for cranking out a great meal from the grill before we get into accessories and gadgets.  

The charcoal chimney: For me, there’s really no better way to light charcoal.  They’re easy to use and there's no foul lighter fluid smell or residue. 

Grill gloves: Get a good glove for working with charcoal chimneys, re-positioning a grill grate, lifting a hot lid or even pulling some hot baked potatoes off the grill. 

Tongs: NO grill master is without a good pair of metal tongs. For added control and gripping power, be sure to buy a pair with some kind of scalloped edge in the tip end. 

A good spatula: A metal spatula for the grill is a MUST have. Pay the extra buck or two for quality, a metal spatula with a rubber or silicone grip. Stay away from wood handles!

A basting brush:  Get the newest brushes made out of dishwasher safe silicone. They don’t grab as much sauce like the traditional brushes do but they last longer, the brush ‘hairs’ don’t fall out and they clean up much easier. You’ll have to do a little more dipping, but that’s OK.

Meat thermometer: An instant-read meat thermometer is a good thing to have, especially if you want reassurance that what you've prepared for family or guests has hit the right temperature. Safe eats are good eats.

A good quality wire brush: It’s simply the best tool for keeping your grilling surface clean.

A good quality cast iron skillet: It can take the heat, they’re versatile and a well seasoned skillet, like charcoal, delivers another layer of flavor.

Grill Accessories & Gadgets ~ going beyond the basic tools

Skewers:  There are two types, metal and wood (usually bamboo).  I have both, as they each have a unique purpose. 

Skewers metalMetal skewers are fantastic because you don't have to spend time soaking them to avoid burning, they're washable, excellent for everyday grilling.  When preparing a meal for myself or family they're perfect, everybody can have their own skewer or you can pull the good eats off the skewer for family style plating.  The price range for a decent set of 6 metal skewers runs between $15 and $25.  Go for flat blades, not round - avoid food spin.  

Wood/Bamboo skewers are something you should always have on hand.  If you're into food on a stick or are grilling for a party, this is the way to go.  Perhaps the best thing about them is there's no washing Skewers  woodrequired, once the grilled eats are eaten, throw the skewers away or put them on the fire.  There are a few downsides to wood skewers.  You need to soak them for about 30 minutes prior to loading them up with eats.  If you overload a wood skewer with eats they can splinter.  Most wood skewers are round, so food can spin on you when you're trying to turn that meat or veggie on a stick when on the grill.  It can be frustrating turning that beautiful skewer of lamb kabob, you try to rotate the meat a quarter turn for even cooking and two of those six kabobs on that stick spin in place, those two kabobs 'refuse' to cook on another side.  The answer to avoiding food spin is to double up on skewers.   Wood/bamboo skewers are inexpensive, easily found at your local grocery store for $1 or $2 in 50 - 100 count bags.

Veggie Fish Grill TrayA Fish/Veggie Tray comes in real handy when grilling up delicate foods like fish and smaller foods like shrimp, peppers or veggie slices.  A tray or pan prevents smaller bites from falling through the grates and onto the coals - a grill crime!  A good grill pan or tray provides you an easy flip/rotate surface, raised edges and slots to allow smoke through.  Weber makes a darn good grilling tray that runs about $20. 

Grill lightFlashlights just don't cut it for grilling at night, besides, they take away a hand that could be holding an aluminum can.  If your grilling area is not well lit, then a grill light will come in handy for those after dark eats!  A quality grilling light will have LED bulbs, a flex tube so you can adjust the direction of the light and a base that can attach to your grill area with either a screw clamp or magnetic base.  Quality grill lights go for $25 and up.

Grill coverProtect your grill with a grill cover.  If you're like me and keep your grill outside on a permanent basis, then a grill cover is a must.  It not only helps to keep your grill clean and outdoor dust/bird poo/bug free, but it extends the life and shine of your grill.  Water and grills just do not mix and a grill sitting out in direct sun all day everyday fades the finish.  Whether your grill is charcoal, gas or electric, invest some money in a grill cover.  And don't go cheap here, buy a quality cover that will fit properly and last.  Most grill manufacturers make covers to fit for their grills, try to stay away from anything 'universal' or off-brand.  Quality covers go $50 and up.

Charcoal CaddyKeep your charcoal, wood and/or wood pellets dry with a charcoal caddy.  Not everyone has a garage or shed to store their charcoal, grilling wood or wood pellets in.   And for guys married and living in an apartment, I bet your wife isn't letting you keep grilling fuel in the living room.  A charcoal caddy is multi-purpose.  They not only keep your fuel safe from the outdoor elements, they are portable and travel well too.  A quality caddy can store an entire large bag of charcoal or pellets and feature a snap on lid that can also open up and pour.  A lid like that means you can store several small bags of chunk wood in their bags, just snap off the entire lid and choose from and assortment of apple, mesquite or hickory for example.   Or, pour in a large bag of charcoal into the container and when you're ready to fire up the grill, just flip open the pour lid and dump charcoal into your chimney.  No charcoal dust on your hands!  I have three of these.  One for charcoal that I can pour.  One for pellets that I can pour and one holding several small bags of chunk wood. Kingsford makes a nice caddy for around $12.

Grill mat Protect your deck, patio, hard surface with a grilling mat.  Let's face it, grills create greasy messes and some of that ends up on the deck/patio/surface where you grill.  Grill stains are unsightly and nasty to step in.  Keep things clean and stain free with a grill mat that is oil, flame and UV resistant and has a non-skid surface to prevent sliding.  And mats are MUCH easier to clean than wood, brick, stone or concrete.  You can even get a 'Fan Mat'!  Quality mats go for $20 and up.

Grill organizerDon't have enough space to put everything you need for grilling?  A grill organizer is great for campsites, small patios or any grilling area where you just flat out don't have any counter space.....  Yes, there's a pun in there..... counter space, as in flat out of?.....  Maverick puts out a decent organizer for around $25.  The concept is smart because it goes up, rather than flat and out, excellent for tight/cramped spaces.  The screw clamp base easily attaches to any grill or table.

There are a lot more accessories and gadgets that I could cover here and look forward to reviewing in the future, but the above will surely put you on the road to grill mastery!

Have you checked out the Grilling Good Eats Online Store yet?  Shop Now

 

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Chapter 12 - Sauces, Marinades, Seasoning, Pantry Items

Mike ThayerGrilling Good Eats

by Mike Thayer

Even if you aren't an experienced griller, there's no excuse for food that's underseasoned.  That's why I'm starting off this chapter with what to stock in your pantry.  You might wonder what a pantry has to do with grilling.....  FLAVOR!  Remember, we're talking creating layers of flavor, cooking over a fire is one layer, a type of wood is another layer, and sauces, marinades and seasonings enhance and add to those great grilled layers!  With a well stocked pantry, you can create virtually any kind of sauce, marinade or dry rub you can think of. 

The whole key here is to stock a grill pantry and fridge/freezer with items you really like.  Don't buy things just because it's THE trendy thing to do right now.  Don't purchase items that are just "OK" but you really don't eat that often.  If you're not a cayenne pepper kind of person, there's no sense in having a lot of that in your pantry, buy a larger amount of something you really like instead.  When it comes to dried herbs and spices, they can get pricey, so don't buy a large variety just because it might impress somebody or you think you'll try it..... but it just ends up getting old.  Buy what you know you like and if you want to experiment, great, but go small.

A pantry set up for the grill

Basics for the Grill Pantry ~ Items you need for just about whatever you're grilling or smoking

  • Kosher salt
  • Regular table salt
  • Black pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Some kind of vegetable oil
  • Vinegar ~ you could go crazy here, there are a lot of vinegars out there, regular, red wine, rice wine, balsamic, champagne, sherry...  go with what you know and like.  I keep regular, rice wine (it's mild), apple cider and balsamic on hand

Baking Basics for the Grill Pantry ~ most notably for grilling desserts in cast iron or on skewers

  • Baking chocolate
  • Biscuit and/or cornmeal mix
  • Cocoa powder (unsweetened)
  • Corn meal
  • Evaporated milk
  • Oatmeal
  • Pancake/waffle mix
  • Vanilla extract

Sweetener Basics for the Grill Pantry ~ for desserts, sauces, marinades

  • Granulated sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Powdered sugar
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses ~ a must have to make BBQ sauce!
  • Honey

Dried Herbs, Seasoning and Spice Basics for the Grill Pantry ~ remember, go with what you know and like

  • All purpose seasoning salt
  • Bouillon cubes and/or powders or pastes, beef & chicken
  • Basil
  • Bay leaves
  • Cardamon
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Chili powder
  • Crushed red pepper
  • Cumin
  • Dill
  • Garlic Powder
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Ground ginger
  • Ground nutmeg
  • Ground pumpkin spice
  • Italian seasoning mix
  • Minced onion
  • Mustard powder
  • Old Bay, regular ~ excellent with fish/seafood
  • Onion Soup Mix
  • Oregano
  • Paprika ~ sweet and smoked
  • Parsley flake
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Taco Seasoning
  • Thyme

Beverage Basics for the Grill Pantry

  • Beer
  • Bourbon
  • Tequila
  • Vodka
  • Wine, red and white

Egg and Dairy basics for the Grill Refrigerator

  • Butter, unsalted
  • Eggs ~ I like to buy the 18 count containers and I've always got two on hand
  • Heavy cream
  • Milk
  • Sour cream and/or plain yogurt
  • American cheese
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Parmesan cheese

Fresh Produce for the Grill Refrigerator

  • Apples
  • Broccoli and/or cauliflower
  • Carrots
  • Mushrooms
  • Lemons/limes/oranges
  • Lettuce
  • Seasonal fruit

Must-have Condiments for the Grill Refrigerator

  • BBQ sauce ~ I prefer to make my own, but hey, sometimes you need a "quickie"
  • Jellies/jams
  • Italian dressing ~ an excellent impromptu marinade
  • Ketchup
  • Louisiana Hot Sauce
  • Mustard ~ keep a variety on hand, yellow, brown, Dijon, it's a change of pace and it keeps well
  • Mayonnaise
  • Pickles, relish
  • Ranch Dressing ~ an excellent burger condiment 'cheat'
  • Sriracha 
  • Soy sauce
  • Teriyaki sauce
  • Thousand Island dressing ~ can you say, "special sauce?"
  • Worcestershire sauce

Basics for the Grill Freezer

  • Bacon
  • Beef, ground
  • Beef, steak ~ your favorite cut
  • Chicken ~ breasts, thighs, drumsticks, wings, whole chicken
  • Pork sausage
  • Pork chops
  • Dough ~ pizza crust, pie crust, puff pastry
  • Vanilla ice cream  ~ topped with some grilled fruit, yum!

Fresh Produce for the Grill Counter (a.k.a., kitchen counter)

  • Garlic
  • Onions ~ store in your pantry if you've got the space
  • Potatoes ~ another item for the pantry if you've got the space and have fun with this one, there's russet, Yukon Gold (a personal favorite), red potatoes, fingerlings, new potatoes, purple/blue potatoes (great for grilling)
  • Tomatoes
  • Bananas

Another basic item to keep at the ready and fresh on your counter, a good loaf of bread.  Get away from the mass produced sliced stuff, spend the extra buck here and get a whole loaf, it tastes better.  TIP Don't store bread in the fridge thinking it will extend its shelf life, it won't.  Putting bread in the fridge actually dries it out which means it won't hold up in a sandwich like it's supposed to and there's the loss of flavor thing.... 

So there you have it, a nicely stocked GRILL pantry, fridge, freezer and countertop.  The nice thing is, you can build this up a little at a time.  Whenever you make a grocery list, refer to this article and add a few items from it to your grocery list.  You'll stock your pantry in no time.   And remember the best benefit:  Properly stocking a pantry for the grill leads to more grilling, which means eating out less, eating better and saving money!

Rubs & Marinades

Rubs and marinades turns ordinary into......  wait for it.....  ANOTHER DOSE OF YUM!  You can go subtle, bold, sweet, savory, spicy, whatever you want!  And when in doubt or you just don't know what kind of flavor profile you're craving, you can't go wrong with a simple treatment to what you're grilling using just good 'ol salt, pepper and olive oil.  When in doubt, use this.  It never disappoints. 

 

Mike's Spicy Chicken Rub

Turkishusaflags This is a great dry rub with a little influence from Turkey.  Apply it to your favorite cut of chicken for grilling.   

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Mix all ingredients to incorporate.  Best when rubbed on the meat at least four hours before grilling.  Store excess in an air tight container.

 

Basic Cajun Spice Rub

It says it in the name - Cajun - excellent on chicken, pork, seafood

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tablespoons cumin
  • 3 Tablespoons oregano
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 Tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon basil

Directions:

Mix all ingredients to incorporate.  Best when rubbed on meat at least four hours before grilling.  For fish/seafood, go for one hour before grilling (you don't want the fish/seafood getting mushy).  Good for 4 serving portions.

 

Mike's Sweet Heat Rub

Excellent on beef!  It's good on chicken and pork too, but excellent on beef!

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt

Directions:

Mix all ingredients to incorporate.  Best when rubbed on the meat at least four hours before grilling, good for 4 serving portions.

 

Chicken Shwarma Rub

A nice little Mediterranean flare, best on boneless chicken thighs.

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons allspice
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried yellow mustard
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon tumeric
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

Mix all ingredients to incorporate.  Best when rubbed on the meat at least four hours before grilling, good for about 6 chicken thighs.  TIP:  Always mix your rubs in a separate container before adding to the meat.  You get a better incorporated mix that way and because the seasonings didn't touch the meat, you can store any excess in an air tight container for later use.

 

Roast Beast Rub

If you don’t have a favorite off-the-shelf rub (I like Cookies Flavor Enhancer), here’s a quick and easy rub to try.

Ingredients

  • One tablespoon Kosher salt
  • Two tablespoons of granulated garlic
  • One tablespoon onion powder
  • One tablespoon dried oregano
  • One tablespoon paprika
  • One teaspoon dried mustard
  • One teaspoon black pepper

Directions: 

After rubbing down your beast to roast, put it in a big zip lock bag or plastic container and refrigerate overnight..

 

Korean Style Ribs Marinade

If you're looking for something a little different than BBQ, here it is.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 3 Tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 minced garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon black pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 Tablespoon red pepper flake
  • One medium onion, chopped
  • The juice from one lime

Directions:

In a large bowl, mix together all the marinade ingredients.  Add the meat and marinade for at least four hours before putting on the grill. 

MARINADE TIP #1:  If you've got too much marinade and it hasn't come in contact with raw meat, save some back for a dipping sauce.

MARINADE TIP #2:  Something else you can do with excess marinade that hasn't come in contact with raw meat is add a small ladle of it to the water you use to cook rice with.  And oil based marinades are excellent brushed on roasted potatoes, adding some zest to that potato bite!

 

Mike’s Asian Flare Short Rib Marinade:

If you don't like the Korean style above, try this one.  VERY tasty!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • The juice from one lime (if you don’t have any limes handy, substitute with 2 tablespoons of rice vinegar)
  • Two fresh green onions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions
Make the marinade, then pour over the ribs and refrigerate overnight.  Good for about three pounds of ribs.

 

Mike’s Poultry Brine
If you’re looking for something a little different in how to do grilled chicken or turkey, this might just be the ticket for you. Talk about moist and tender poultry! It’s an easy brine and adds a lot of flavor to any cut, chicken breasts or thighs, turkey breasts, turkey drumsticks, in fact, this brine is excellent with pork cuts as well.

Ingredients

  • One gallon of warm water
  • ¾ cup of Kosher salt
  • One heaping tablespoon of Cookies Flavor Enhancer
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup olive oil

Directions
Put the salt, sugar and olive oil into a big pan, add the warm water. Stir until the salt and sugar have dissolved, which the warm water helps to do. After the water comes back down to room temperature (VERY important, we’re brining the poultry, not cooking it), give the brine another quick stir and add your chicken or turkey, letting them brine for at least four hours in the fridge. Overnight is even better. This amount of brine is good for a whole chicken, or up to about 8 pounds of breasts, thighs or drumsticks. This brine is so good, you don’t have to add a dry rub to the meat if you don’t want to. Grill naked…… keep your mind out of the gutter, that means no seasoning. I’ve grilled poultry ‘naked’ plenty of times, just brushing the chicken thighs or turkey legs with garlic infused olive oil after each quarter turn (about every 2-3 minutes), hitting it again with the olive oil when moving it to the cooler spot on the grill (indirect heat) to finish cooking and then hitting it again with the olive oil just before plating.

Download Mike's Poultry Brine Recipe

 

Sauces ~ Ketchup and mustard are great, but here are a few recipes to really compliment your grilled fare

Mike’s ‘Quick Whiskey BBQ Sauce’

This is really more of a convenient cheat rather than a bonafide recipe, but it’s time saving, easy to put together and rather tasty!

Ingredients

  • One cup of KC Masterpiece BBQ sauce (or whatever brand might be your favorite)
  • ¼ cup of water
  • One tablespoon of dried, minced onion
  • 2 shots of your favorite whiskey/bourbon (reserve a 3rd shot for yourself)
  • 5 generous shakes of Louisiana Hot Sauce
  • One tab of butter

Directions
In a medium sauce pan over low heat, melt your butter. Let it coat the bottom of the pan and once it’s coated, add all remaining ingredients and just let it all simmer to marry all that flavor for about 15-20 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. This is a great sauce to use just before plating.

 

Tzatziki Sauce

Tzatziki isn't just for gyros....   The sauce is actually a fantastic change of pace addition to just about any grilled meat or fish.  It's also excellent used as a chip or veggie dip, salad dressing, put it on a cracker, a sandwich and more.  You can pretty much substitute Tzatziki sauce with anything you might use mayonnaise for.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 an English cucumber, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • One Tablespoon dried dill
  • One Tablespoon lemon juice (citric acid is a nice alternative)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mix until thoroughly incorporated, cover and chill for about 30 minutes or until ready to use. 

 

Chipotle Aioli

This is a nice add to just about any kind of burger or grilled sandwich for a nice little kick, heck, it's good just spread on a piece of grilled bread!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 Tablespoons finely chopped green onion
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
  • The juice from half a lime
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mix until thoroughly incorporated, cover and chill for about 30 minutes or until ready to use. 

 

Easy Peasy Pan Sauce

Meat fats and fruits make for delicious sauces!  Try this before you grill up some pork chops:

Trim some of the fat off the chops before marinating or rubbing and save it to create pan drippings. When you’re grilling, put those fat trimmings in a cast iron skillet over low heat and let them render to create the base for a sauce or gravy.

Easy Peasy Pan Sauce…. Combine pork fat drippings with a little flour, some black berries or blueberries - whatever kind of berry you might have on hand for that matter - and some balsamic vinegar. Salt and pepper to taste and you’ve made an excellent compliment to the chops, chicken or beef you've been grilling up!

 

Quick Dipping Sauce/Condiment Cheats

  1. Combine 3 parts Ranch dressing to 1 part Louisiana Hot Sauce
  2. Combine 3 parts Ranch dressing to 1 part Sriracha

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Repurposing that old file cabinet - turn it into a grill

Grilling Good Eats

by Mike Thayer

File cabinetSo I had this old file cabinet on hand, just sitting in my garage no longer being used for its intended purpose....

"How can I re-use this?" I asked myself.

I was thinking about storing power tools in it, but came up with a better idea!

A Sunday project, I turned an old four-drawer tall metal file cabinet, into a charcoal grill!

Here's the "How To" laid out like a recipe:

Ingredients

  • An old metal vertical filing cabinet (four drawers, three drawers, doesn't matter)
  • Black auto engine paint (it can take the heat), about three cans
  • About one dozen metal screws
  • Grill grates

Tools

  • A drill and drill bits

Instructions
Remove all drawers and clean all cabinet parts, inside and out with warm soapy water. After it's dry, paint all parts black (or whatever color you wish). I used auto engine paint because it can take the heat. It's a bit more expensive, but you won't have to worry about paint peeling and flaking off later. After all parts are dry, you're now ready for assembly. Set the cabinet on the side with the drawer cavity openings facing the ground. You may want to do this where you're actually going to use the grill. I would recommend having it set on concrete blocks, decorative bricks or a bed of rock. Next, screw the cabinet drawers side-by-side to the 'new top' of the cabinet, with the tall end of the drawers being the 'back' of your grill area, two screws for each drawer to secure them to the cabinet base should do it. You're almost done. If you pre-measured your drawer size and bought some of those universal grill grates like I did, place those grates on your "new" charcoal bins - the drawers. The grates should fit snugly on top of the drawers at the tall end (the grill back), but you'll have to drill a couple holes and strategically place some screws to hold the grates in place at the business side of the grill. Do NOT drill the screws all the way in, you just want to keep the grill grates from sliding left to right and you'll want to be able to easily remove them for cleaning purposes.

File cabinet grillThat's it, you're done! I like the flat-top style layout of the grill. I can fire up one drawer when I grill for one or two, fire up a second drawer for family or small get-togethers or fire up the third and fourth drawers for parties! And the beauty of this design is, you don't have to put a grate over every drawer. For one of the drawer spots I purchased a stainless steel grill pan to use for veggies and fish, it didn't need any strategically placed screws to hold it in place either. You can put a butcher block cutting board over one of the drawers, it's easily placed and removed.

Or, you can set up a permanent cutting station/counter space over one of the drawer spaces using a more permanent material like a couple tiles of marble or granite. My cost for this grill was just $60. I'm real pleased with how this project turned out, it grills nice and should last for many a grilling season! In breaking it in and only using one drawer, I grilled up four pounds of skirt steak, a dozen hot dogs, five burgers and I still had plenty of heat left, I could have grilled more!

File cabinet grill 2

 

 

 

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About the author, Mike Thayer

Mike ThayerI started grilling at a young age, with my father teaching me some of the basics of grilling on a 1970’s era Charmglow gas grill in the backyard. I really enjoyed helping Dad turn those burgers and the wonderful meat-cooking-over-the-fire smells that a grill provides.

While in the military during the 80‘s and 90‘s, I was always the “Grill Guy” for backyard parties and get-togethers. During one of those get-togethers, an all-nighter, three of my closest buddies and I grilled and consumed about 20 pounds of deer meat from a hunt earlier in the day. We were eating it straight off the grill, meat in one hand, a beer in the other. That Weber grill got quite a workout!

But I really got bitten by the grilling bug working for one of the nation’s top trucking companies as a member of the ‘Driver Appreciation Team.’ The team would travel to the company’s various terminals across the country to hold ‘Driver Appreciation Days’ events throughout the year. Along with recognizing drivers for jobs well done with certificates, plaques and various prizes, I was grilling up hearty fare for lunch and dinner. Time spent flipping burgers, getting those perfect grill marks on all beef hot dogs and serving up delicious bratwursts for hundreds of drivers a day were good times, I loved every minute of it. Great feedback from the drivers about the food soon turned into adding breakfast to those Driver Appreciation Days events, so I quickly became skilled at grilling up scrambled eggs, bacon and sausage at those events as well.

Those smelltastic experiences on the Driver Appreciation Team motivated me to experiment with a much greater variety of foods, trying new meats like lamb, honing skills with fillets of fish, cooking entire meals on the grill to include veggie sides and dessert! Coupled with my experiences of being a certified competition BBQ judge and a member of the Kansas City BBQ Society, grilling and BBQ has become much more than a weekend or event thing, it is now a serious hobby. So here I am years later, having developed techniques, seasonings, rubs, recipes and writing my first grilling ‘how to’ cookbook!

I take great pleasure in grilling good eats!

~ Mike Thayer

P.S. The BBQ book is in the making, yes, grilling and BBQ are two very different things.....