First Overnight Brisket on the BGE

     Nothing tests the skill of a pitmaster (no I am not calling myself a pitmaster, an aspiring one maybe) more than brisket. Brisket is considered to be one of the Holy Trinities of barbecue, along with pork butt and ribs. But while ribs take less time and pork butt is more forgiving as far as drying out, brisket has got to be the hardest to cook properly. If you were to consider bbq to be a race, then steak would be a short sprint, while brisket would be a tiring marathon….make that 3 back to back marathons. There is no quick and easy way to do brisket. It must be done low and slow. And when I say low, I mean 225-250F. But when done right, you are rewarded with a moist, juicy slice of beef that melts in your mouth,  that emanates that smokey flavor of mesquite, so tender that a knife is not even needed to cut it! Truly a moment to be savored and remembered!

     After having my Egg coming on close to 10 months, I still had not attempted an overnight cook on it. I’d done small packer briskets from calves that weighed in at around 5 pounds, but that doesn’t take the time needed to go overnight. This weekend I finally had the time, the desire and the reason to finally attempt my first overnight brisket. The reason? College football. Good enough reason for me. So with my Sam’s card in hand, off we go to the store to procure our slab o’ beef.

10.30 lb brisket

     Seems like that’s a lot of meat, but for a full packer brisket it really isn’t. Consider that some of the fat still needs to be trimmed off. I like to try leaving about a 1/4 of an inch of fat when I trim one. Then, consider that your brisket is going to shrink as it cooks. I was planning on feeding 9 people on this brisket, and as it turns out, it was too much (but that just leaves more leftovers for me!). Now once you have your brisket, it’s time to figure out how to cook it. I already mentioned that you want to go low (225-250), but what is slow? When doing a brisket, figure that it will take 1 to 1.5 hours a pound and then err on the side of caution giving you plenty of time to have it done when you want it done. There is no rushing brisket, so time management it crucial. So a 10.3lb brisket x 1.5hours = 15.45 hours. (And who said math would never come in handy?)  Now just like steak, brisket needs a resting time. A brisket needs a minimum of 30 minutes to rest, but if wrapped in foil and thrown in a cooler along with some old (but clean) towels, you can let your brisket rest for up to 4 hours. This may not sound like a big deal, but that resting time is crucial to having a moist, tender brisket. This resting time also gives you some flexibility in case your brisket takes shorter or longer to cook than what you planned. Adjust the resting period accordingly so that you are still serving on time. Now count back from when you want to serve it and you have your starting point of when it should be thrown on the pit. With all my math done, I figured I would start the brisket around 11 and we would be good to go for the Baylor game at 6pm the following day. When it comes to seasoning my brisket, I keep it pretty simple. No brines or injections here. I take plain yellow mustard and slather the whole brisket. What? Mustard? Trust me…..you will not taste the mustard at all. The mustard is simply used to help the rub stick. No flavor remains after the time spent on the pit. As for rub, this time I used Dizzy Pig’s Dizzy Dust (coarse blend). I find their products to be very tasty and of high quality and this one pairs perfectly with brisket, ribs or butt. 

11pm Brisket on

     Once your brisket is on, you have plenty of time to sit back and relax…..and I mean plenty of time. My wife doesn’t usually stay up with me when I do cooks like this, so I am left up to my own devices which usually include some reading, playing fetch with the dog, clearing out the DVR or just sitting around listening to how quiet the neighborhood gets in the late hours of the day. This being my first overnight cook on the Egg, I was a bit worried that the temperature of the Egg might fall or spike. So I sat up with it for quite awhile. Turns out I shouldn’t have bothered.  The last time I checked on the Egg was around 2ish and it was still chugging along nicely at 249F. Woke up around 6….still doing fine. 

6am and all is well

Figured this was about a good time to start my BBBQ Sauce that can be found on my Sauces page 

ingredients for BBQ Sauce

     By 12, we have finally passed through the plateau stage of the brisket. The plateau stage is when the brisket reaches a certain temperature and stalls for what can be hours. During this time, the fat and collagen inside the brisket start to break down and melt. The temperature of the brisket will not go up during this time and may even fall a few degrees. It is not something to be worried about, or try to rush through. Do NOT raise the temperature of the smoker at this point. Just go with it and let it do its own thing. It will start to go up again when its good and ready. 

Getting there

     So when is a brisket done? There is no simple answer. Some will be done at 190, some will need to be taken to 205. So how do you know? When you can take a temperature probe and slide it into the brisket and feel no resistance, then you are done. It should feel like its going into softened butter. This one went to 195F before I determined it was done and was pulled off the pit at 2:30. …just 5 minutes after my predicted 15.45hrs. How’s that for timing? It was then wrapped in foil and placed into a cooler to rest until right before the BU Game.

Done. Ready to be wrapped in foil and into a towel lined cooler to rest.

     Make sure that when you cut your brisket, that you are cutting against the grain, not with the grain.  Here she is all sliced up and ready to eat. 

Ready to eat

     So how did it turn out? Everybody said it was really good. I don’t know if I believe them. That’s what they always say. I know it wasn’t my best one, but I think it was pretty good.  Definitely not my worst attempt. The meat was nice and juicy and I was able to slice it with a plastic fork. Had a good smoke flavor and a little smoke ring.  Maybe I’m just being hard on myself, or maybe I was just too tired. Guess I’ll just have to try it again….but this time I will trust my Egg and go to sleep at a more reasonable hour.

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Argentinian Flank Steak

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted up anything new here or even cooked anything. We’ve been pretty busy lately. We took a short trip to Vegas and then after returning home, less than 10 hours later we had to jump on another plane and fly to Corpus Christi to attend a funeral. So we’ve been on the go 9 days straight. Finally got home Sunday night. Yesterday the urge hit me….that “I got to cook something over fire” urge. A quick inventory into the fridge produced this

Rancher’s Reserve Flank Steak
That sounded like the start of a plan. We haven’t done steak in a while. We like flank steak because it’s a relatively healthy cut of beef, pretty lean and we can get some leftovers out of it. But how to season it? A quick look into our over flowing spice cabinet turned out this
 
Willaims-Sonoma Argentine Rub
This is a rub that my Brother-In-Law gave me for Christmas last year. It’s very aromatic and compliments beef quite well. The only thing I don’t like about it is that they discontinued it, so when its gone….its gone. Then I’ll have to search out a new one or come up with a rub of my own.
 
Got the Egg fired up to about 600 F and threw in a couple of chunks of mesquite to add a touch of smoke flavor and we were ready to go.
 
Flaming hot grill
I cooked the steak for 2 minutes and then turned it 90 degrees for another 2 minutes to try to get some nice grillmarks on the steak. Then I flipped it and repeated on the other side.
 
Cooking away
Did I mention how nice its been outside? After 70+ days of 100+ temperatures, we are finally starting to see some signs of fall.
 
Thermapen showing the outside temperature
After checking the steak with my trusty thermapen to ensure that we had reached a nice medium rare, I pulled the flank steak off and let it rest, loosely covered for 10 minutes. This resting period is very important when cooking steaks. Most people want to take that steaming hot, juicy hunk of beef off the grill and cut right into it. Don’t do this! Fight that urge! When you cook over high heat, that heat causes the muscle fibers to tighten up and forces all the juices inside the steak towards the center. If you cut it right away, those juices will flow out and you will be left with a dry slab of beef sitting in a puddle of juice. Resting it allows the steak to cool off slightly, those muscle fibers to relax and the juices to redistribute throughout the steak preventing that flood of juices when you make that first cut.
 
Steak off the grill, ready to be loosely foiled and rest for 10 minutes
Make sure that when you rest the steak, you loosely tent it with foil. Do not wrap it tightly or allow the foil to touch the steak or it will cause the crust on the exterior of the steak to soften.
  

Sliced up
Still had some pink in the middle, but I think I overshot it just a tad, especially on the thinner end of the steak.
 
Plated up
Here is the final plating along with broccoli in a cheese sauce and some potatoes that Stacie cooked up in the oven. I think it came out pretty well, but next time I might pull the steak a tad earlier as we like it a little more rare than this.  What meal is complete without a little dessert?
 
Dessert
 

King Ranch Chicken on the Egg

King Ranch Chicken going on the Egg

     So, you saw all that chicken we made on Monday. And you might have wondered what we were going to do with it all. I mentioned maybe my wife whipping up some of her King Ranch Chicken Casserole. Well, today’s my lucky day!! King Ranch Chicken it is! And she even agreed to cook it on the Egg! King Ranch Chicken, for those who aren’t from Texas or might not be familiar with this dish, it is basically a chicken enchilada casserole, but it’s creamier than most. Before discussing my wife’s recipe, let’s take a look at the legend of this dish.

     Sadly, the history and origin of King Ranch Chicken is unclear. While the name brings that famous south Texas ranch to mind—so large it covers more ground than the state of Rhode Island—the ranch claims no ownership on this recipe. Some believe that perhaps it was a ranch-hand that developed the dish, but this has not been proven. Then there are those who say someone tacked on the name “King Ranch” because that ranch is emblematic of the state itself in both its size and its myth.  Whatever the origins of this recipe are, it can be a pretty tasty dish when done right.

     While I didn’t witness my wife whip up the casserole, she did hand me the recipe (although she had to dig it out of her recipes, she can do this blind folded in her sleep), but I can’t assure you that it is exactly how she did it. 

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of chicken breast, cooked ( we obviously used the leftovers from the beer can chicken, I think she put in about 4 cups shredded)
  • 12 corn tortillas, torn into pieces
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 cups of grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 can of cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 can of cream of chicken soup
  • 1 cup of chicken broth
  • 1 can of Ro-Tel tomatoes
  • Velveeta cheese to top (optional)

Directions

  1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. (in this case we used the Egg, set up indirect)
  2. Combine soups, broth, and Ro-Tel tomatoes over medium high; blend until smooth. Add extra diced jalepeno for more spice
  3. Spray casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  4. Layer 1/2 of tortillas, chicken, onion,soup mixture and cheese.
  5. Repeat layers, ending with cheese. Grate some extra Velveeta on top if wanted.
  6. Bake uncovered for one hour or until brown and bubbling.

Serves 6 hungry Texans, or 8 people 

     We haven’t done a lot of baking on the Egg yet. We’ve done Mac ‘n Cheese and a few other casseroles, but we haven’t worked out all the bugs. Although the recipe said to cook it at 350 for 1 hour, that didn’t quite transfer to the Egg. It was taking longer and the cheese wasn’t starting to bubble and brown like it should, so we did crank up the heat a bit in the end to speed it up. I think next time, we will shoot for 425-450 and see what happens.     

     As for wood, I threw in two chunks of hickory, but it really did not add much, if any smokey flavor to the dish. Might increase the amount of wood next time, but I think with the topping of cheese that it would probably stop the casserole from really taking on any smoke.     

     As for the beer can chickens, it really does add an extra dimension to the dish. We’ve been using leftover bcc chickens in casseroles since we started dating and really think it is a great addition. No more boiling chickens for casseroles. Why would you boil chicken? All it does is leach the flavor out of the chicken and leave you with chicken flavored water. Who wants chicken flavored water? Oh yeah….that’s called broth. Lol     

     Hope you enjoy as much as we did. Keep on grilling and please leave a comment.

Beer Can Chicken

The history of the Beer Can Chicken (BCC from here on out) is a modern legend of the BBQ world. This unique BBQ method first began to show up at college tailgate parties in the late 1970’s/early 1980’s, yet a definite point of origin is unknown. The BCCs popularity was first spread by tailgaters and soon picked up by competition BBQ teams. As the BBQ teams followed the competition circuit across the U.S., more and more cooks picked up on this exciting new cooking method. Most BBQ cookbooks include at least one drunken chicken recipe and author Steven Raichlen wrote an entire cookbook on the subject titled BEER-CAN CHICKEN. There are hundreds of internet videos and websites dealing with the subject.

There is not one, single, accepted name for the BCC. Names vary from State to State and even backyard to backyard. Here are some of the most popular names, found in cookbooks and on the web: Drunken Chicken, Beer Can Chicken, Dancing Chicken, Chicken on a Throne, Thirsty Bird and Beer-Butt Chicken. There are many more interesting and “adult-themed” names out there, but we’ll leave that for you to look into if you so desire.

Ok, that seems like that’s about enough of the history lesson. You have probably heard about or seen a BCC, if not tried one or cooked one yourself. If not, today’s post should get you started.

 While not totally necessary, I would recommend getting a BCC stand. These can be picked up at the big box hardware stores, bbq stores or online and generally run around $5. Less if you wait till the end of the grilling season (End of the grilling season? Grilling season doesn’t end, especially not here in Texas! But stores think differently and after Labor Day mark down lots of their grilling inventory).  Here are two versions that I have picked up over the years.

BCC Stands

Now don’t just plop your bird down on top of a can of beer and expect to get some great results. There’s a little more to it than that…like opening that can of beer for starters! Can you imagine the results of that? Can of beer under pressure heating up until it explodes, sending chicken parts and shrapnel everywhere? So, you want to open up that can of beer and dispose of half of it, I recommend drinking it, but you do what you want. Next get a church key, or a very sharp knife, and being as careful as you can, cut two extra holes in the top as seen in the following picture. (Yes, yes, I know those aren’t beer cans. All I had in the house was bottled beer, so I improvised.) Now that you have a half full can of beer with two extra holes in the top, pour a bit of your preferred rub, whatever you are seasoning your chicken with into the can.

BCC stands ready for the chicken

Time to move on to your bird. Remove any packet of organs from inside the bird. Wash your bird and pat dry with some paper towels. Either using your fingers or a spoon, separate the skin from the chicken breast. You are going to want to season the chicken with your rub of choice between the breast and the skin. Once you have finished that, rub a small amount of oil over the bird and apply your rub to the outside. Now place your bird onto the beer can and you are ready to start cooking. You can see from the following picture that we seasoned up our birds two different ways. One was Dizzy Pig’s Swamp Venom. It’s a Cajun rub similar to Tony Cachere’s, but unlike Tony’s it actually has some kick to it. The other was seasoned with a mix of Stubb’s and Salt Lick, two bbq joints in Austin.

BCC two ways

To cook your BCC, you are going to want to set up your grill/smoker for an indirect cook. That means that the chicken will not be exposed to direct heat. If using a gas grill, you will want to light the burners on one side and place the BCC on the opposite side. For charcoal, light your charcoal and then place it on one side of the grill and the BCC on the other.

For an indirect cook on a BGE, or other Kamado style cooker, light your lump charcoal and then install the placesetter legs up and then set the grate on top of that as seen in the next picture. You can see I also have some aluminum foil on my placesetter. This is just to catch the drippings from the chickens so that clean up will be easier. You can also see a probe with a wire on the bottom left hand of the picture. That is a pit probe and will give me accurate temperature readings through out the cook, without opening the grill, and will even transmit it up to 100 yards away.

BCC on the Egg

 You are looking to get your grill stabilized at around 350 to cook your BCC. This isn’t a low and slow cook, you are not shooting for 250. Chicken does not have a lot of fat and collagen that needs to break down like a brisket or a butt, so going 250 is not going to do you any good. So crank that heat up.  I didn’t bother to time these BCCs, but you can expect them to take about an hour and half to an hour and forty-five minutes depending on your grill. But NEVER cook to time, especially with chicken, cook to TEMPERATURE! Make sure that you hit 165 in the thigh at least and that all the juices run clear. You do not want to mess with under cooked chicken. You can see in my picture that there is another wire running into one of the chickens. That’s another temp probe so I can monitor the temperature. 

Almost done
 

 

BCC done and ready to be carved up
Sorry, there were no plated up pictures of tonight’s meal. We were too hungry and didn’t want to bother, but the chicken did come out nice and moist and had picked up just a hint of smoke from the apple wood chips we used. Truely a great meal.
 
Now, you might ask why did you cook two BCCs? Isn’t that a lot of food for just two people? Yes it is. But if you are already firing up your grill/smoker to cook something, you might as well take advantage of all the grill space. It doesn’t take any extra effort to cook 2 BCC, when you are already doing one. And it will make some great meals later this week. My lovely Wife already asked me what I wanted, and I’m kinda leaning towards some King Ranch Chicken.

Piri-Piri Chicken Wings in the Style of Nando’s

Ahhhh….foootball season!! What a great time of year! For some, it marks the beginning of fall and cold weather, a time to put away the grill and head inside and get out of the elements. For others, its even more reason to fire up the grill and open a cold one. As for me, I fall in the second group. Not to mention it’s gonna hit 100+ today and I live in Texas where it’s grilling season pretty much year round….at least at our house it is.

So to kick off football season this year, my Baylor Bears will be taking on their oldest rival TCU. A rivalry that stretches way back in time to 1899, when TCU was located in Waco and was called Add-RanChristianUniversity(bet y’all Horned Frogs didn’t know that!). And what better way to kick off the football season then firing up the Big Green Egg and cookin’ some wings! I gotta admit that wings might be one of my favorite things to grill up. So much so that my lovely wife, Stacie, once said, “Wings are a 5th food group as far as my husband is concerned!” I really can’t argue with that, except maybe to say BBQ is the 5th food group.

Now I have a bunch of wing recipes and cooked them plenty of times before on the BGE, but this time I wanted to try something different. A) Because I like to experiment and b) about a month ago I bough Steve Raichlen’s newest book “Planet BBQ”, and have sadly only cooked one thing out of it. What a shame! Looking through the book, the Piri- Piri Chicken Wings had caught my eye and I remember thinking to myself, “Self, you are going to make those and they will be one of the first things out of that book you make and they will be great!” (Yes, I talk to myself a lot, and sometimes I even argue with myself but that’s another story) So that is what I have decided to grill for opening day.

Here’s the raws (minus the cilantro, which somehow we forgot to buy, but we picked up on a quick run to the store and added later).

Marinade ingredients (**Update 7/15/14 Please do me a favor and do NOT use that bottled lemon juice crap. Use REAL lemons. And the zest from them. Thank you)

 

Ingredients

For the Marinade

  • 4.7 oz bottle of Nando’s piri-piri sauce
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 1 small onion, peeled and quartered
  • 3″ piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup canola oil or vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice +zest of one lemon
  • 2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 lbs chicken wings

For the Glaze

  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
  • 3 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbsp Nanado’s piri-piri sauce
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice + zest of one lemon
Pulse the ingredients for the marinade in a food processor
Pulse the ingredients for the marinade in a food processor

Directions

  1. Place the ingredients for the marinade in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Place the chicken in a large 1 gallon Zip-lock bag, pour the marinade over. Place the Zip-lock bag in a large bowl or casserole dish (in case of leaks) and allow to sit 6 hours or up to 24 hours in the fridge. Flip every once in awhile.
  2. Pre-heat your Kamado style grill to 425-450F and set it up for a raised direct cook. For other grills, set up two zones. One side leave fire-free and for the other, set it up to about medium (This will allow you to move the chicken around in case of flare ups)
  3. While the grill is pre-heating, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the cilantro and garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Do not let the garlic brown. Stir in the hot sauce, lemon juice and zest. Allow th glaze to simmer for another 2-3 minutes.
  4. Drain the wings and discard the marinade. Place the wings on the grill and cook until they reach a temperature of 170 and are crisp. They should take around 15 minutes per side depending on size of wings.
  5. When done, place the wings in a large bowl, drizzle on the glaze, stir to coat and then serve.
I lit the Egg and let it stabilize at 450 F. I set up the Egg for a direct cook, but then used my BGE grill extender, so that even though I was cooking directly over the flames, the grate was raised high enough that I would not have to worry about flare-ups from the fat dripping off my wings burning my wings into a charred inedible mess. Here’s a pic of that set up.

 

Wings going on the Egg

I find when you are grilling, its always good to have something to do to keep you occupied, whether its friends and family, a good book, a simple chore (you don’t want something too difficult that will distract you) or sometimes Man’s best friend.

Oliver’s getting pretty good at catch

Don’t get too distracted, though. Wings do have to be flipped and rotated, not to mention there are other things going on the Egg. Some nice corn and some sausage with cheese.

We’re starting to get there, time for the sides to go on

 When the wings are done, remove them from the grill and drizzle on the glaze.

Piri-piri chicken wings (updated pic 7/15/14)
Piri-piri chicken wings (updated pic 7/15/14)

 

My brother stopped by just in time to eat and watch the game, that’s him on the left.  Sic ’em Bears!

While these wings are a bit labor intensive on the front end, the results are well worth it. They aren’t like most wings that tend to have a one note flavor…heat. They do bring some heat, but they also bring some citrus flavor from the lemon and a bit of herbaciousness from the cilantro. I would say that they are my wife’s favorite wings by far and when it comes to wings, she always asks for these ones. Of course, you have to plan ahead and get them in that marinade the day before, but you won’t be sorry you did.