Welcome to Big Boy's personal journal (we may or may not be using it without his permission), where he lives, breathes, and eats barbecue. Get quick bites of barbecue tips, updated every week.
Entry 12: Time is Everything
People say time is money, well if "money" is another word for "one of the most important metrics that affect the deliciousness of your barbecue," then yes... that would be right.
One time when I had a faulty thermometer that took way too long to read. By the time the tragedy of a thermometer finally had a stable reading, all the heat from my charcoal grill dissipated into the air. It ruined the progression of my cook and it took quite a while to get back up to temperature. Needless to say, I threw it out and got myself a thermometer I can really rely on: the ThermoWorks ThermoPop 2.Oh how life was perfect after that.
Entry 11: Stretch the Dough, Don't Roll
If you're making homemade pizza and you've already let the dough come to room temperature, there's one thing you need to remember: stretch the dough, don't roll it out. You want the dough to retain it's elasticity and keep some of the air bubbles in, so the dough rises properly. Instead of rolling it out, hold the disk shaped dough in the air like it's a steering wheel and lightly stretch it until you form your circle or oval while you let gravity do some of the work. Don't fret over trying to make the perfect circle. Remember, this is homemade, not Delissio.
Entry 10: Traeger's Super Smoke Feature
Getting a Traeger grill and NOT using your Super Smoke is like getting a 6-gear vehicle and never using the 6th gear... blasphemy, if you ask me. Traeger's Super Smoke feature lets you blast your food with hardwood smoke by using coordinated fans to precisely smoke your food. The Timberline and Ironwood Series have this technology and I love it.
Most people make the mistake of thinking the Super Smoke feature will make more visible smoke, but the grill makes more clear blue smoke (the good smoke that you want). The Super Smoke feature works between 165° and 225° F (74°-107° C) and the super smoke icon will show on my Traeger grill and app.
Entry 9: White Smoke vs. Blue Smoke
It makes me sad when people cook with white smoke - and even more sad when their guests say that it tastes good. Either they're lying to the chef or don't know what they're talking about.
To spell it out, thick white smoke is bad and thin "blue" smoke is good. Too many beginner charcoal pit masters think the initial white smoke is good because it tastes smoky, but it's also bitter, makes your food taste burnt, and gives it an oily aftertaste.
To get passed these undesirable tastes, all you need to do is wait and let your charcoal burn longer. Easiest thing ever. Just crack a drink or 10 and wait for about 20-30 minutes. That thick smoke will clear away into thin blue smoke. At this point, your coals will be red hot, burn more thoroughly and evenly, and taste a whole lot better.
Check out the photo. See how the group of people are letting that white smoke billow out of the fully open top vent with the bottom vent completely open too? Also, they have no food in sight - that's because it's not even close to the time for them to start cooking.
Entry 8: 3 Steps to Use a Chimney Starter Properly
I was about six months old when I got my first chimney starter. Dad wanted me to pick between a He-Man and a ThunderCats toy but I went straight for the chimney starter like a true born-to-be griller. That being said, lighting charcoal with a chimney starter is like walking for me, but I see people mess it up all the time. Since I found out Barbecues Galore has been "borrowing" my journal entries, I figured I'd write these steps down so I can finally stop seeing people ruin their food with lighter fluid.
Step 1: Simply fill the space under the wire rack with a few sheets of wadded-up newspaper and/or a MEECO Firelighter Square, and then fill the space above the rack with my awesome Big Boy 100% Natural Hardwood Charcoal.
Step 2: Once you light the newspaper or firelighter, wait for about 20-30 minutes for the charcoal to get burning real good.
Step 3: When the coals are lightly covered with white ash, put on the Big Boy Guardian Grilling Gloves that'll protect your hands from the heat. Grab a hold of the handle on the charcoal chimney and dump the coals where you want them. That's it.
Check out this blog post: How to Arrange Your Coals 6 Different Ways
Entry 7: How Cheap Bread Improved My BBQ
I just got a new Napoleon P500 Ambiance and the first thing I did was check for hot spots. Most grills have them. Of course, the high-quality ones heat the most evenly, but you never know if there could be a manufacturing issue - even if they are reputable brands.
I preheated my grill to medium-high, then laid cheap slices of bread across the whole grill grate. After a few minutes of toasting the bread, I flipped them over to see the results. The darkest bread showed where the temperatures are hotter. With this knowledge in my back pocket, I know my grill like the back of my hand and perfected my grill skills on my P500 Ambiance. I do this with all of my new barbecues, but luckily this grill is exceptional and pretty much heats evenly all the way across.
Entry 6: Controlling My Smoking Addiction
I love smoking. It tastes great and I always feel cool. I'm addicted to smoking meat and I've learned to control my smoke within my grills. There're 2 golden rules about how smoke behaves: it goes up and it takes the path of least resistance. In most pellet smoker grills, the smoke will rise and leave through the exhaust. This is why the hopper and the exhaust vent will be on opposite sides of your pellet smoker, so that the smoke travels across the grills - it's just good engineering. What does this say about where I put my meat on the grill?
Well, I always put it on the top rack of my smoker and an equal distance to my smoke stack. I wouldn't put my meat right above the heat source or on the lower rack because it would travel diagonally from the burner pot to the exhaust. Putting it in between the path of smoke allows the smoke to roll along the meat as it seeps into the food.
Speaking of a well-engineered grill, Louisiana Grills Bull Pit 1000 Ambiance pellet smoker has small holes spaced evenly across the back of the grill which does 2 things:
- Distributes heat and smoke more evenly across the length of the cooking chamber
- Releases smoke slower than it can be made, the chamber becomes pressurized which brings more smoke down to the grate where my meat is. This also helps it cook faster.
Entry 5: The Pellet Brands I Use in My Smokers
After smoking for what feels like forever, smoking meat that is, I've learned a lot about which pellets work in which smokers. Not only that, I know what voids which brand's warranties.
For Yoder Smokers pellet grills, I found that you can use any pellets as long as they're 100% natural wood, but BBQr's Delight pellets are the best for these smokers. That's because YS themselves do their testing and cooking with BBQr's Delight pellets. That pretty much means the combo is optimized for the best burn time and overall performance for my Yoder Smoker.
For my Traeger, their high quality smokers can use any brand of pellets that are rated for food without voiding the warranty. What a beast of a smoker.
Entry 4: I Finally Made My Own Charcoal
I did it. I finally did it. I finally made my own charcoal. After grilling for what feels like a lifetime of buying charcoal, a few years ago I decided to just make my own charcoal. Now that I’ve perfected the process, I should really write some notes about it. Lord knows my brain is filled with smoked meat recipes, so there’s not much room for this complicated stuff:
My butt-kickin Big Boy charcoal is mostly pure carbon made by super-heating wood in a low oxygen environment. This process takes a few days while it burns off the stuff I don’t want, like the water, tar, and other gasses in the wood. The process has to have almost no oxygen or else the wood will just burn up like a giant campfire. Never do that again - R.I.P. to my eyebrows… I really hope they grow back one day.
When I make my charcoal, I need to gather a ton of wood and I also have to plant a bunch of trees to replace it. The final net weight of usable charcoal comes out to 25% of what I put in the giant cooker! It’s a shame but they say greatness takes sacrifice - and let me tell ya Big Boy, I make some great charcoal. Thanks me.
My charcoal is great because it burns steady, super hot, makes less smoke, and less dangerous vapours. Great for cooking all my deliciously smoked recipes.
Entry 3: How Different Smokers Perform
I've been smoking meat for as long as I can remember. Back when I was just a wee bald boy 'til now. I may have not been blessed with hair myself but I've had more barbecues than hairs on most peoples heads. Anyway, over the years of barbecue experiments, I've learned how they perform in the Canadian cold and figured it's time I record my findings.
It's obvious that my thin metal-bodied Weber Kettles and Smokey Mountains have a hard time getting up to and maintaining temperature in the extreme cold. Kamado Joe's do much better, but needs more charcoal to get up to temperature since their ceramic bodies absorb a lot of heat. That being said, the ceramic kamado-style smokers are better at maintaining temperatures. So what does this mean?
When I do hot and fast charcoal grilling in the winter, my Master-Touch Premium Kettle does wonders in the winter for searing a couple steaks over charcoal for a few minutes. If I want do a low and slow smoked brisket or pork belly burnt ends, my Big Joe is what I need. I also use my Thermoworks Billows, Signals, and Adapter Kit with it to make sure I can maintain the temperatures from indoors.
Entry 2: Keep the Lid Shut
I was cooking an overnight brisket while watching the game and went to check on my internal temperature of it with my Scroll Control Digital Thermometer. It was right on track to perfection... except the Leaf's scored and I got distracted, which made me forget to close my smoker lid! Leaving the lid open messed up all my temperatures. Even though I left it open for just a couple minutes, it took a while to get my temperatures back up since we're in the middle of a Canadian winter. I swear I'll never do this again.
Next time, I won't be lazy and I'll just stick my Barbecue Brain Jr. 3.0 probes in it before cooking. That way I can just monitor the temperatures from the app on my phone while I keep my butt on the couch.
Entry 1: Stock Up on Fuel
Last week I burned through more fuel than I normally do because it was cold outside and almost ran out - rookie move. I never want to risk a drop in temperature the next time I cook a brisket. I'll have more than enough ready to go right through the night, with more to spare. I'll do this by getting more bags of my favourite charcoal from Barbecues Galore. Take advantage of their free Ember Members Loyalty Program where I can save $25 for every $250 I spend on charcoal or pellets.
P.S. No more rookie moves.