Category Archives: BBQ

Smoked Tofu: Oh God What Have I Done? (Don’t Try This, Please)

Initial Disclaimer: This was an awful BBQ experience. The purpose of this post is to disabuse you of the idea of ever trying this nonsense. Sweet Lord Jebus don’t do this. Never. No. No no no.

Hey, so I had a vegetarian coming over for a BBQ, and I thought, “Instead of doing the usual BBQ vegetarian routine of portobello mushrooms and sliced yellow squash, why not try something new? Why not try to smoke some tofu?” All aboard the Fail Train.

I went out and bought a large cube of extra firm tofu. I’ve had really, really tasty tofu. I’ve had it on tacos and in numerous Chinese dishes and it’s always been well-prepared.  What is it? Well it’s watery soybean curd, of course.

So the first step is to put a plate or some kind of weight on it and slowly let gravity press out a bunch of the water. From there, I patted the loaf dry and cut it into five rectangular segments. The tofu was rubbed it down with olive oil and a hearty dose of pork belly rub on all six faces. Onto the Weber 22″ it went for indirect smoking with apple wood. Fail imminent.

Smoke each side for a good 20-30 minutes, and then glaze 3/5 of them with some Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce. What could go wrong?

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This actually looks somewhat appetizing. Oh, how looks can be deceiving.

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Little BBQ logs full of smoke and seasoning and this great char. I mean, hell yeah, right?

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OMFG this is heinous. The outside was a bitter hard rubber thing that was like biting into a superball, but underneath was a curdled even-more-bitter rancid pudding. I tried both – basted and unbasted. Neither was good. They were so bad I wouldn’t give them to the dog, who is usually sitting and salivating over BBQ as we slice actual meat off the grill.

I gargled and rinsed with so much high IBU beer, but that didn’t even do it. Full brushing and mouth cleansing was needed to purge this feculence from my face. Sweet lord who thought this was a good idea. This vegetarian friend can eat mushrooms and squash and be happy with that nonsense. Pass me some rib meat.

This belongs in the trash, which is where it went. Never make this. Ever. Eat meat.

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Smoked Chuck Steak and Vegetable Stew

Cold and drizzly outside, with wet, heavy winds whipping leaves out of trees? That’s stew weather, brother. This past Sunday we broke out the dutch oven and Weber Smokey Mountain to put together a hearty, savory stew that’s rich in flavor and textures.

Inspired by a smoked barbacoa recipe from Steven Raichlen, but knowing my crowd (my wife and kids), I substituted a hefty boneless chuck roast for pulled pork and omitted some of the Mexican elements.

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Mirepoix plus garlic

For a base, start with about 2/3 stalk of celery, one big yellow onion, and about a 1/2 lb of baby carrots, all chopped, with a couple minced garlic cloves.

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Full veggie assortment

Add in 5-7 peeled and cubed medium red potatoes, two de-seeded diced poblano chilies, and a large can of diced stewed tomatoes (including all the juice). Finely chop half a bunch of cilantro and toss in a couple bay leaves. Season with generous shakes of sea salt and coarse black pepper, a sensible couple dashes of cumin, and a good dose of Italian seasonings. Mince fresh rosemary as well, and top with a few sprigs of fresh thyme.

Add water up to the 2/3 full mark, which was about 1 liter in this Dutch oven with all the veggies.

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Chuck steak atop the veggie pot

This particular thick cut boneless chuck steak weighed about 2.75 lbs and got a generous coating of sea salt and coarse pepper on both sides, before getting set right atop the heaping pot of vegetables.

It just happened that the length of the steak aligned nicely with the circumference of the Dutch oven. That harmony was a sign of things to come.

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Future stew on the WSM

Put the Dutch oven on the top rack of the smoker, as room allows. I have a 22″ Weber Smokey Mountain, which has a high ceiling lid and permits a tall set up like this.

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WSM prepping for smoke

I loaded the smoker with hardwood lump charcoal and several logs of apple wood. No need to fill the deflecting bowl with any water for humidity since the steak would be steamed naturally from the water as it turns to broth.

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One hour into the smoke

After an hour of heavy smoking, the steak began to get a rosy smoke color.

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Two to three hours in

After nearly three hours, the water level had begun to rise as the meat sank into the veggies and the Dutch oven contents started to soften. A few bubbles percolated from the stew.

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Flipping the steak

After three hours, pull off the steak and check the underside. It won’t have any smoke (obviously – it’s been sitting in vegetables and broth). This is a good time to remove the thyme sprigs and stir up the stew. I noticed that my potatoes and carrots were still quite firm and the broth was not boiling consistently.

After adding some more sea salt and stirring things up, I added the thyme back onto the top of the veggies and put the chuck steak back on the stew. This time, though, put the smoked side of the steak down and the “wet” side up. This will get the steak evenly smoked on both sides and will let the smoky, charred side of the steak soak into the broth and add some more flavor to the soup.

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Five hours into the smoke

Refueling with charcoal and apple wood as needed, I kept my fire at about 225 Fahrenheit (as read from the lid thermometer) for the first three hours. To get the vegetables to cook and create that rich stew broth, I amped up my smoker temperature to about 275-300 by opening all three bottom vents and letting the fire really get going before closing the front door of the WSM.

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Six and a half hours – done!

After six and a half hours, I transferred the Dutch oven to a cooking pan with oven mitts and brought it all in to plate.

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Smoked, veggie stock steamed chuck steak

Fabulous color on the chuck steak, served family style on a platter.

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Stew veggies and beef broth

To serve, shred off some super tender beef and set in the bottom of a bowl. Remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs from the Dutch oven. Ladle a bunch of the pot contents right on top. Serve with fresh biscuits, croissants, or sliced sourdough bread.

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Up close with the stew

Great pink color on both sides of the chuck steak, which was beyond juicy. It pulled apart perfectly and had layers of flavor. The poblano peppers, cumin, and cilantro added some depth and a nice Mexican zip as compared to most traditional root veggie stews.

This is a top notch, hearty meal for fall or winter. Labor-intensive with the vegetable prep, but standard grill monitoring thereafter.

We considered adding cubed zucchini and/or butternut squash but, again, decided against because of our audience. My wife suggested mushrooms, but the texture of stewed mushrooms would have thrown this off, in my opinion, relative to all the other ingredients.

Cost-wise, this wasn’t too terribly expensive. The steak was about $10, and all the veggies were another $10 or so, though we had all those laying around the house. Running the WSM hard for 6+ hours did use most of a bag of charcoal and a half bag of apple wood logs, so perhaps another $10+. With a salad and fresh bread, this is a $40 meal that takes 30-45 minutes prep time, 6+ hours to cook.

There was plenty leftover with two adults and four kids eating – enough for two large lunch servings the next day. (It reheats well in the office microwave and the coworkers nuking noodles or frozen stuff will wonder what amazing thing you’re heating up that’s making the kitchen smell so good.)

 

 

 

 

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Bacon Wrapped Smoked Meatballs

When you love bacon, meatballs, smoked food… why not combine those things and celebrate Opening Day of the Cardinals season?

Start with the meatballs. I love meatballs.

2+ lbs. ground (un-tubed) salsiccia
1 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/2 to 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 finely minced medium yellow onion
2 eggs
Generous squirt of ketchup
Slightly less generous squirt of yellow mustard
Few jostles of Worcestershire sauce
Multiple dashes of Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
Handful of shakes of Slap Ya Mamma brand Cajun seasoning
Couple tsp. Italian Seasoning
Sprinkle of sage

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Un-balled meatballs

Turn that bowl of mush into a wad of mush with your well-washed hands.

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Wad of pre-meatball

Form into 1″ or so meatballs. I set mine up on baking paper on a cookie sheet.

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Meatballs, just like your stereotypical Italian grandma used to make

You’re going to wrap each meatball with some bacon. I selected National Champion Bacon from Swiss Meats in Swiss, MO. Have you ever been national champ at something? Probably not. If you were, it was something lame like tennis or chess, not freaking bacon. This stuff is awesome.

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Thick Cut Bacon. America.

Toothpicks were necessary to keep the bacon wrapped. One each per bacon strip / meatball.

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Yes.

Onto the 22″ Weber Smokey Mountain you go, along with the extra bacon and a dozen or so chicken wing drummettes.

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What a lovely day for smokey BBQ.

To smoke the meat, I have some Missouri pear wood. Never cooked with pear wood before, but it was free from a friend who decided a pear tree needed to be trimmed and/or die, so into the fire it went. What a wonderful smell that wood smoke generated.

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About an hour in…

As time passed, I watched a little baseball and drank a little beer.

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Good things coming soon.

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About 1/5 hours in.

The WSM kept at about 200-220 throughout the smoke. Since this is ground meat, particularly ground meat that had been thoroughly churned with my bare hands, I needed the instant bacteria death temperature of 165 for the center of each meatball.

Around the 2.5 hour mark, the BBQed meats were about done.

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My experiment is complete!

Things are looking good here.

I never flipped or turned or moved any meatball. Just the smoke and indirect WSM heat slowly brought each one up to the final temperature.

Since the meatballs varied by size and were in different locations on the grill grate, they didn’t all hit 165 simultaneously. A few went into the 170s and 180s while the last stragglers caught up to the safe temperature. No matter – the BBQ wasn’t so hot as to dry out and burn the early bloomers.

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Bacon-wrapped smoked meatball – final product

They looked good and smelled good. But, were they juicy and flavorful?

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Bisected smoked meatball

Yes, they were! I failed to capture it here in the above picture, but there was a very subtle pink smoke ring around the meatballs.

They had very much of a traditional Italian meatball flavor and texture, but had a robust (yet not overpowering) smoke flavor. They were moist and succulent. The bacon sliced nicely with a dull steak knife and didn’t get tough or crispy. Pretty damn tasty if I say so myself, and I am a hard critic of my own food.

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The results

Garnish options abound. I had half of it unsauced, and gave the other half a try with some Sweet Baby Ray’s sauce. I tried another later with some beer mustard. It was all successful.

BBQ leftovers aren’t very common, but a few of these made it to Monday and they held well in the fridge. Warmed at 70% power for 1 minute, they nuked well and needed no sauce garnish – stayed plenty juicy and tender.

This is an easy recipe that produces a unique, flavorful BBQ experience. Everyone who came over for the baseball game enjoyed them (even though the game didn’t go so well).

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Smoked Beef Brisket Pastrami

On a lark, I went to the grocery store to get a brisket to smoke for Halloween, but wound up also grabbing a corned beef brisket knowing that with a little effort it could turn into some tasty pastrami. The brisket was good not great, but I held out hopes for my pastrami experiment.

I’ve never tried to make it before, but amazingribs.com rarely steers me wrong. I found the “Close to Katz’s” recipe and figured it was worth a shot.

For my first attempt, I only debrined it for a little less than 24 hours, switching the water every 6-8 hours, so (spoiler alert) it wound up too salty.

Debrined corned beef, lathered in olive oi

Debrined corned beef, lathered in olive oil

After all the water soaking, despite dabbing with paper towels, the corned beef was still pretty moist from all the water. You can understand why the recipe called for lathering the brisket with olive oil to get the rub to stick.

Corned beef seasoned with rub

Corned beef seasoned with rub

For the trial run, the rub was less peppery and more on the sugary / seasoned salt side with plenty of onion powder and garlic powder.

Corned beef positioned on my new WSM

Corned beef positioned on my new WSM

I own a lot of BBQ gadgets and thingies, but hadn’t bought myself a nice smoker before. I have made a UDS and used my 22″ Weber kettle regularly, but that was it. Finally my wife was sick of hearing me say not to get me anything for Christmas or Fathers’ Day or my birthday or whatever. She gave me an ultimatum and said that she was going to buy me a smoker for Fathers’ Day with or without my input so I may as well pick it out. Without much hesitation I told her the 22″ Weber Smokey Mountain. This is its first big task.

Cherry wood logs in the WSM

Cherry wood logs in the WSM

Amazing Ribs suggested cherry wood so that’s what I went with, along with some hardwood charcoal.

After several hours of cherry wood smoke...

After several hours of cherry wood smoke…

Love the color and aroma as this thing slow smokes.

And plenty of smoke later, the corned beef is pastrami

And plenty of smoke later, the corned beef is pastrami

A good 12 hours after putting this thing on the WSM my corned beef transformed into pastrami. We pulled it and carved and served it up hot.

I should have checked the internal temperature, but failed to. It was close to dinner time, so I pulled it off for a rest.

Giving the pastrami a nice rest

Giving the pastrami a nice rest

By hot I mean of course after letting it rest for at least 20 minutes.

Well damn I have to say that looks pretty

Well damn I have to say that looks pretty

Carved up, I have to admit this is a gorgeous piece of meat.

Kids crushed it without any complaints – major rarity. My lessons here were: (1) debrine longer, (2) get the actual ingredients for the Katz rub from the Smoking Ribs site, and (3) check that internal temperature.

So… we were invited to a Friendsgiving dinner party. I offered some pastrami to our host and he obliged. Second attempt:

Debrined for 36 hours, with lots of water changes.

Two debrined corned beef briskets

Two debrined corned beef briskets

I was told to expect about 50ish people, with everyone bringing something. Hence the two corned beef hunks, though I probably should have made a third. This is about 6-7 lbs total, including the 30% weight added from the brining.

Unmixed Katz' pastrami rub

Unmixed Katz’ pastrami rub

This time I followed the Katz facsimile rub recipe, but doubled it given the amount of meat.

8 tablespoons fresh coarsely ground black pepper
4 tablespoons coriander powder
2 teaspoon mustard powder
2 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoon paprika
4 teaspoons garlic powder
4 teaspoons onion powder

Well-rubbed corned beef brisket

Well-rubbed corned beef brisket

All sides got a heaping helpin’ of rub, after a good lube of olive oil (per the recipe). This is a very pepper-heavy rub. Very.

A couple of pickling spice packets

A couple of pickling spice packets

Each corned beef came with a vacuum pack of pickling spice, which Amazing Ribs said to just sprinkle on top of the corned beef on the grill.

Pickling spice applied, smoke ready to go

Pickling spice applied, smoke ready to go

My gifted WSM is up to the challenge. This time I chose pecan wood because… well it’s what they had in log form at Ace instead of cherry or other fruit wood.

Just 2 hours in

Just 2 hours in

I took pic every two hours…

4 hours in...

4 hours in…

6 hours...

6 hours…

8 hours...

8 hours…

10 hours

10 hours

And I checked that internal temperature and found all around that I had hit 205 or above. Smoking Ribs said it could take up to 12 hours but my WSM was running a little warm today.

As this WSM continued to smoke, I found myself checking the fire and temperature regularly. I kept the smoker at about 225-250 degrees, with plenty of pecan logs on the fire. I again used hardwood charcoal as the main fuel.

A few minutes of resting...

A few minutes of resting…

I gave it them a few minutes to rest before checking to see if there were any problems… you know, for scientific purposes.

Turns out this is just fine

Turns out this is just fine

Well this was friggin’ delicious. Kids were picking at it and I had to wrap it up for the dinner party before it got crushed.

After about 20-30 minutes of rest, I wrapped each up tightly in aluminum foil and put it in the fridge.

To carve, just cut perpendicular against the grain with a very sharp knife. I have a very nice custom boning knife gifted to me by a leadfooted friend who have a few too many speeding tickets. I caught someone recklessly slicing bread with it and warned her of the knife sharpness.

I bought a variety of mustards and a jar of sauerkraut, along with some rye bread squares, and served it all up on a carving board. It went quick and was a big hit.

The results of my labors

The results of my labors

I hate to boast but this was as good of a BBQed item as I’ve ever made. The Friendsgiving crowd obliterated the pastrami to rave reviews and I probably should have made a third one. It wasn’t nearly as salty as the first attempt – those extra 12 hours really helped. The rub was extra tasty and peppery – follow the recipe on Amazing Ribs.

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Smoked Bacon Wrapped Pork Steaks

Pork steaks, the 1″ or so slices of a Boston Butt (pork shoulder), are a St. Louis institution. A “true” St. Louisan would cook the hell out of them over direct heat and then chuck them into a bath of Maull’s BBQ sauce and Budweiser to simmer for a while. When I say direct heat, I mean a generous pile of charcoal lit by lighter fluid until the grill surface exceeds 500 degrees, only to be cooled by spritzing Bud Light onto the flames. Serve with corn on the cob, vinegary slaw, and gooey butter cake.

It’s one of those tastes / mouthfeels that pulls you to a time and place in your past. Oppressive August heat and humidity, standing on a zoysia grass lawn in swim trunks while a sprinkler mists you and your siblings and neighbors. Your feet are covered in grass clippings and mud from your trip down the Slip n Slide, half of the spraying nozzles shooting in weird directions. Beer cans still had pull tabs. An ice cream truck is audible but not visible, having stopped off at some other family’s summer BBQ. Your uncle has opinions about unions and urban crime that he only shares once he’s full of light beer. An overloaded wax paper plate barely contains all that food, a swirl of sauce and slaw dressing drips on to a card table with a ripped yellow foam and plastic pleather top. Patterned too-thin napkins do a poor job of cleaning the sauce off your face. The meat is dried out and over tender, but the Mets are pond scum, and dammit it’s tasty. Sip on some orange Vess soda.This is an STL summer BBQ in the late 80s.

Just a few weeks ago at the Webster Groves carnival, I re-sampled the traditional STL pork steak. While nostalgic, it’s an experience best left in the past.

Only the finest pork steaks from Schnucks

Only the finest pork steaks from Schnucks

A couple pork steaks were well-dusted with Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, given a nice sprinkling of dried sage, and conservatively added a few shakes of Slap Ya Mama, a spicy seasoning souvenir from my trip to Florida last year.

Since bacon-wrapping whole pork steaks might be tricky, given their size and shape, I elected to cut them in half before wrapping.

Halved, seasoned pork steaks

Halved, seasoned pork steaks

I experimented both with and without water-soaked bamboo skewers. It turns out that they were unnecessary.

Probably a little more skewer than necessary

Probably a little more skewer than necessary

In a Weber 22″, I set up for indirect smoking with a 1/2 chimney of Kingsford charcoal and apple wood chunks. The lid should be oriented so that the vent is open and over the meat, so the smoke and heat must be drawn past the pork as it leaves the grill. This ensures lots of smoke flavor and even cooking.

Grill set up, ready for smoke

Grill set up, ready for smoke

After about 30 minutes, I checked on the pork steaks and flipped them.

Wonderful color, great smoke texture on the bacon

Wonderful color, great smoke texture on the bacon

I love how bacon will curl and harden after smoking. The temptation to pull of those crispy curls is strong.

Close up of porky goodness

Close up of porky goodness

Once flipped, I left them alone for a little more smoke and tossed a couple more wood chunks on the coals.

The underside of the half-completed pork steaks

The underside of the half-completed pork steaks

Grill-marked smoked bacon

Grill-marked smoked bacon

After another 15-20 minutes, I pulled the meat and let it rest for about 5-10 minutes. I’d hate to cut into one of these and have all the juices spill out.

Finished product

Finished product

Cross section of bacon wrapped pork steaks

Cross section of bacon wrapped pork steaks

For once I managed to get some great color on bacon-wrapped meat. It’s been a struggle in the past, but these pork steaks possessed a wonderful pink ring along the outside.

Close up bite with smoke ring detail

Close up bite with smoke ring detail

Tender, juicy… lots of pork flavors and crispy bacon texture. These are not your classic St. Louis pork steaks. No Maull’s, no beer bath, no shredding over tender dried out pork.

I repeated this on a larger scale on a UDS a week later.

Love my country house UDS

Love my country house UDS

These came out just as well as the trial versions I made at home.

Hungry family members were pleased

Hungry family members were pleased

Classic childhood food experiences have a place. In the case of bad pork steaks, that place is firmly in the past. Slow smoking pork steaks is the way to go.

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Smoked Chicken Bacon Cheesy Fajita Wrap

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

A few weeks back, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that SugarFire Smokehouse had placed in Memphis In May for some kind of smoked chicken bacon cheesy sushi dish. I gave it a shot a couple weeks ago on vacation as an appetizer for our fajita night, and we were met with rave reviews.

The wife told me to “take it easy” and “not go crazy” on the BBQ this 4th of July, so I made fresh salsa, grilled a bunch of gourmet sausages, and made the smoked chicken bacon cheesy fajita wrap for my extended family.

Step one is the bacon weave, this time a full pound of Tyson pork bacon (since it was on an insane sale of $2.99 for a 1 lb. pack), hosting at its center a pounded-flat boneless skinless chicken breast (this one being a little over 1o ounces).

Bacon weave and flattened chicken breast

Bacon weave and flattened chicken breast

On that went a washed, seeded, and thinly sliced Anaheim pepper, and a quarter of a sweet yellow (Vidalia) onion, cut into liberal long slices.

Peppers and onions round out a fajita

Peppers and onions round out a fajita

And on top of all THAT went some pulled mozzarella string cheese (two sticks) and a couple slices of pepper jack. I didn’t want too much heat, since a variety of people would be eating this – including a couple people who aren’t down with the hot peppers.

Cheesy does it

Cheesy does it

When wrapping this contraption, I pulled the bacon edges nearest to me into the center of the cheese slices and then rolled the whole thing forward. This may allow the cheese to slide around two sides of the bacon.

I didn’t bother closing up the edges since they went so far beyond the ends of the chicken and other contents.

Wrapped and ready for smoke

Wrapped and ready for smoke

My weave / wrap went onto a Weber 22″ set up for indirect smoking with large hickory chunks.

Time to drink some beers

Time to drink some beers

While this smoked, I drank some amazing beers that I muled back from Florida. That we can buy neither Oskar Blues nor Dogfish Head in St. Louis is ridiculous.

After 45 minutes, I rolled it over. After barely over an hour, it was fully smoked. Importantly, the digital temperature probe read well over 165 in all locations that I tested. It’s ready to rest.

OMG that looks nice

OMG that looks nice

After about 10 minutes of resting, I sliced it at an angle and rang the appetizer bell.

The middle pieces are nice, but the ends are excellent

The middle pieces are nice, but the ends are excellent

Cleaning up the scraps of smoked crispy bacon was hard work. I barely hat time to get pictures.

If you make this, here’s a tip: In addition to getting a center piece, make sure you also get one of the ends. It’s more bacony than cheesy, and it’s gluttonous.

The meats of my labor

The meats of my labor

Everyone who had it loved it, and I offer my sincere thanks to SugarFire for inspiring this slight variation on their idea. Make this – you’ll not regret it.

I hope you had a wonderful and save Independence Day, full of beers, meat, family, and fireworks.

Happy 4th from Webster Groves

Happy 4th from Webster Groves

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BBQ Joint Review (kind of): Busch Stadium

I spent my afternoon in a Busch Stadium party suite to watch my underachieving Cardinals earn a win over the pitiful Cubs.

A good vantage for complaining about balls and strikes

A good vantage for complaining about balls and strikes

Lunch was the best kind – paid for by someone else. Even better, it was bratwurst, hot dogs, and Busch Stadium’s BBQ brisket. The party room was big enough that there were two buffet lines. I hit up the first and snagged a brat and some brisket.

WTF happened here?

WTF happened here?

… or at least it was once brisket. The tongs struggled to grasp an appropriate amount of the stringy mess of beef. It wasn’t sliced at all – someone just shredded it whole, so there were long strands of meat randomly attached to other long strands of meat via fat and other sinew. I either got one strand of beef or a bird nest of beef. A frustrating buffet experience.

The string beef was not tender at all and had no smoke flavor or colors. Tough, dry beef does not make a good beer/baseball accompaniment. I was sad to report to a friend via text that this was inedible.

How was it made? My guess is someone over-baked it in an oven until they thought it was done and then beat it apart with a wooden spoon before pouring some pan drippings and BBQ sauce on top. Then the chef returned to his regular job of slicing potatoes silently in a dimly lit room under the stern gaze of Bill DeWitt III.

Chugging a Budweiser (also free) in an effort to forget the abomination beef, the guy next to me had a brisket sandwich. He raved, telling me all about how great it was. Rather than insult his malfunctioning palate for being impressed with shoe leather noodles, I just nodded at him. Sure thing, Buddy. He’s probably the same guy that votes for Olive Garden in the annual “best pasta” RFT diner survey.

Back inside, I got another free beer from the other side of the party suite and snagged a sub-par (but free) cookie. Glancing into the brisket tray on that side, something caught my eye…

How did I miss this?

How did I miss this?

More brisket, but (1) it’s sliced, and thinly at that, (2) it has pink smoke color on both sides of the slice, (3) it looks appetizing, and (4) I can recognize it as beef brisket. Can’t say that about the other tray.

How was it? Tender and tasty. No sinewy pull in the bites. It was flavorful and delicate and the sauce balanced well against the meat. Some non-incompetent person made this. An actual BBQ person. Amazing, considering the crud I’d just eaten on the other side of the party suite.

For the sake of comparison:

One good, one... not so good (or worse)

One good [right], one… not so good [left]

Something terrible happened in the BBQ kitchen at Busch. I hope that apprentice who made the fiasco was fired and sent back to whatever menial job he normally has. Sell felt pennants on Clark Avenue – just never touch the food intended for humans again. Clydesdales might even turn their gigantic noses up at that beef.

The well-made brisket was well made and I ate a bunch of it. If this was a restaurant, I’d probably get it again on a future trip. If you find yourself a guest in a party room at Busch, have a keen eye on BOTH buffet lines and don’t settle for bad brisket.

Stuffed Jalapeno Smoked Fatty

Spring is back in STL, which means I’m not grilling/smoking in snow or ice anymore.

On my list of BBQ dishes is the smoked fatty. Some Google searches will reveal that a fatty is a weave of bacon that’s wrapped around a meatloaf that’s stuffed with something. There are as many fatty recipes online as stars in the sky.

I like stuffed jalapenos, so…

Stuffed jalapenos

Stuffed jalapenos

… why not stick them in a fatty?

I took a 50/50 mix of pork salsiccia and ground chuck, plus an egg, totaling just under 2 lbs, and used 1/2 of it to make a boat atop my bacon weave. My stuffed peppers went into that boat.

Pork belly weave

Pork belly weave

Soon to be wrapped...

Stuffed peppers, stuffed in meat…

The boat was itself covered in the rest of the meat.

About to wrap

About to wrap

Once wrapped up, the whole thing was over three pounds. 1 lb. of pork sausage, 1 lb. of ground beef, 1 lb. of bacon, over half a brick of cream cheese (1/3 the fat!), and 5 veggies for health. This is not, uh, what’s the phrase… not good for you. But it’s hopefully yummy.

Maybe all the fat is why it's called a fatty?

Maybe all the fat is why it’s called a fatty?

 

Indirect heat in the Weber 22″ grill with a few hickory chunks.

Fatty fatty fat

Fatty fatty fat

After barely an hour, the bacon was nicely charred, so it got a 180 degree turn.

It's hard not to pick charred bacon chips off of this

It’s hard not to pick charred bacon chips off of this

After about 3 hours total, I pulled it and was ready to carve.

Fully smoked datty

Fully smoked fatty

A nice slice of fat(ty)

A nice slice of fat(ty)

I got a nice pink from the smoke and bacon, plus the meat stayed juicy from all the basting provided by the pork grease from the bacon. For my first effort, it wasn’t too bad. Probably just a little overdone, and maybe peppers and cream cheese wasn’t the best choice, but it was still pretty good. My picky son who likes some BBQ crushed it.

I’ll try another one soon… maybe mushroom and swiss? Philly cheese?

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BBQ Joint Review: The Salted Pig

Mid-morning I received an email from a friend that he wanted to try a new place called The Salted Pig and he wondered if I was game. Never heard of it, but he had me at “Salted Pig”.

Some Google searches revealed that this is the BBQ venture of Mike Del Pietro, who owns Sugo’s, which is my parents’ favorite pizza place in STL not owned by my uncle. That’s a strong resume.

Occupying the immediately-former Frontenac Grill site, a place better known as the former site of Coco’s (some breakfast place), The Salted Pig sits in a large out lot building at the corner of Lindbergh and Conway in the central STL county city of Frontenac, where stuff’s expensive. I waited tables in Frontenac for a few years and made bank. Big houses with gates and big retail sticker prices. So I planned to pay the municipality standard upcharge… the BBQ had better be worth it.

A welcome sign

A welcome sign

Quick anecdote that is relevant here: Some of us have noticed that when *ahem* larger people frequent restaurants, then the food is probably pretty good (the Sams Club cafe notwithstanding). For example, I once waited 20 minutes for some fried chicken at a local hotspot, but there were no fewer than 6x 400 lbs. people quietly, patiently, gleefully awaiting their carry out chicken. It occurred to me that the chicken is probably pretty damned good. Turns out it was really delicious.

Why is that relevant? My dining companion texted me from the parking lot (since he got there a few minutes ahead of me): “A big fat guy just walked out looking happy. That’s a good sign.”

Approaching the door, wafts of aroma from unseen smokers let us know we had probably made a good lunch decision.

Close up of the menu attachment mechanism

Close up of the menu attachment mechanism

The menus are single pieces of printed cardstock attached to a thin plank of stained wood via a pair of rubber bands. In fact, dark stained wood and earth tones dominate the decor of the restaurant, both inside and out. I quite enjoyed it.

From a bevy of appetizing options, I ordered the brisket chili, a half slab of baby back ribs, and a Sofie.

A complaint: My chili and entree arrived simultaneously. You’d think that the chili would have been an appetizer, or at least the waiter would have asked if I wanted it out first. Neither was the case, and I was handed a lot of food at once. Coursing is nice. Having to shift my ready-to-eat rib platter aside so that I can get going on my chili while it’s hot is not.

Mike got the pulled pork, which came on a bun (probably uselss) with fries. He wisely asked for an extra side of sauce.

Though not mine, an enviable plate of food

Though not mine, an enviable plate of food

The pulled pork plate looked simple enough. Minimalist generic fries, no pickles(!), and a heapin’ helpin’ of lightly sauced meat on a toasted bun.

My chili looked pretty good, deep red and chunky in a deep bowl atop a dishrag on a large plate with a single crouton.

Brisket chili

Brisket chili, w/ towel garnish

My ribs looked even better, paired with ceramic ramekins of beans and slaw. I’m psyched.

Yes, I'm that asshole who photographs his food at a restaurant

Yes, I’m that asshole who photographs his food at a restaurant

Pulled Pork:

Mike’s going to have a nice afternoon balancing the books at Frankenfoods, Inc. with a belly full of this pork. He slid me a few generous shreds in exchange for a rib and a chunk of brisket from my chili. I have to say it was pretty solid pulled pork. This piggy was not particularly salted, but the seasoning was restrained and well-balanced. As I suspected, the bun/bread was useless. In fact, it just soaked up valuable, valuable sauce.

On to this sauce… it reminded us both of a sauce I used to to make. Basically I would boil down a gallon of cider vinegar with oodles of seasonings and ingredients. Their sauce was vinegary, sweet, salty. It coated the meat perfectly and complemented the seasoning of the pork. Really a nice job with the sauce.

The feedback on the pork is that it’s impressive and filling and satisfying. I enjoyed my two big bites for sure.

Brisket Chili:

Chunky and flavorful. Large pieces of onion, loads of tender red beans, and huge chunks of hyper-tender brisket. Plenty of salt, but the spice is perfect. I swear I picked up on some green bell pepper flavors, but couldn’t find any pieces. It’s a great bowl of food. Everything is tender and velvety, with a nice presence in the mouth around the tongue. My only gripe with this chili (if I have to pick one) is that some of the beans were a little mealy instead of melty, but overall this was a really nice chili. Brisket is a solid chili ingredient, more so than pork in my opinion.

The crouton that came with the chili was apparently garnish not to be consumed. It didn’t taste like a typical crouton. This was clearly a slice of bread that accidentally went 80% stale and someone spritzed butter on it. I scooped some chili on the breadly wafer and took a bite and immediately regretted wasting chili on this greasy stale styrofoam display disguised as bread. It needed a silica gel warning – desiccant: do not consume.

Otherwise the chili was epic.

As amazing as the brisket chili was… I’m typing this review several hours later, and, well… I’ll let Coleman from Trading Places explain it.

"It gives me the wind, something terrible"

“It gives me the wind, something terrible”

Baby Back Pork Ribs:

Very tender with a nice smoke flavor. Some places put on too much rub before the smoke, or put on a bunch unnecessarily after the smoke, or the rub is too damned salty. None of the above here. What I liked about this rib was the tenderness. Nearly too tender, since there was very little pull back on the bite into the ribs, but the bite was better than anything I’ve ever made.

Great smoke color

Great smoke color

I’m not sure how they smoke these so that all the pink is on the convex side of the ribs, with a very deep ring.

What impresses me about these ribs is that the seasoning is modest and restrained, but done very well. The pork is respected during the cooking process to the point that the meat is the star, not the clever rub.

This shocked me: These ribs can hang with the top tier pork ribs in STL.

Sides: Beans and Slaw

The slaw was a solid cabbage and vinegar mixture with a generous portion of celery seed with paper thin slivers of carrot. It was just a tad oily, but really refreshing and a nice pairing with the ribs.

The beans were good, not great.  Lots of shredded meat in the beans, and it was a thick ramekin of beans. Not too spicy or salty, but pretty decent. The least impressive part of a great meal. Slightly above average beans. I didn’t come here for beans, though; I came out for salted pork.

The result was a clean plate.

Compliments to the chef; Apologies to the dishwasher

Compliments to the chef; Apologies to the dishwasher

The bottom line from this meal is that we were blown away in terms of reality vs. expectations.

I figured it was going to be another fancypants attempt at modern BBQ, which is a nice way of saying some idiot’s interpretation of pork and beef. No no no. This was a very impressive assortment of well-made, traditional BBQ. I’m happy to have gone, and we’re probably heading back on Friday with a friend from out of town (as in China) who wants to chow on some USA BBQ.

I recommend you give this place a shot. Frontenac or not, the price wasn’t outrageous, but the BBQ was top notch.

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BBQ Joint Review: Bogarts Smokehouse

Happy Fat Tuesday!

What better way to celebrate than with a lawyer buddy over some BBQ, followed by some beer. My long-overdue trip to Bogart’s Smokehouse in Soulard finally happened.

Line not out the door yet?

Line not out the door yet?

Every time I’ve been by this place, the line has been out the door. Usually it’s midday on a weekend to visit the adjacent Soulard Farmers Market, but on this chilly late STL morning, the line was only about 15-20 people deep.

This place doesn’t need hype from me. Since it opened about three years ago, it’s become regarded my many as the best BBQ in St. Louis. Friends who know I am trying to review all STL BBQ places worth reviewing cannot believe I haven’t yet been to Bogart’s.

Bogarts sits in a typical Soulard corner store with a narrow, colorful, welcoming facade. Like its restaurant cousin, Adam’s Smokehouse, seating is at a premium at Bogart’s.  Apparently burnt ends are a premium, too… at 11:30 in the morning!

Dammit. I love burnt ends.

Dammit. I love burnt ends.

Prices are reasonable for premium BBQ. I like to go with two meat combos so I can maximize my meat sampling.

This is seriously the most difficult part of my day

This is seriously the most difficult part of my day

For my Pick 2, I of course went with the brisket and paired it with more beef – tri-tip sirloin, and selected pit beans and cole slaw as my sides, all with an iced tea.

Lots of good stuff w/ useless bread

Lots of good stuff w/ useless bread

Pardon the blurriness of this photo, but we were packed into seats like sardines. I’m literally elbow-to-elbow with both of my neighbors.

Lunch buddy Pete, who picked up the tab with the promise that he’d turn in the receipt for reimbursement from Mr. Huge STL Law Firm, also went the Pick 2 route, but got tri-tip and pork ribs, and opted for potato salad over slaw.

Good choices

Good choices

Everyone gets a packet of Heinz Horseradish Sauce. Why? There’s four BBQ sauces on the table, and the meat is amazing as a stand alone product. Why take mayo w/ horseradish puree made in a metal vat in Pennsylvania and present it as an accompaniment to handcrafted elite BBQ? Maybe it was put there ironically…

Finally some expertly-made brisket that’s actually BBQ-style brisket (and not the stuff they slung me at Wild Smoke House).

Real beef brisket

Real beef brisket

What can I say but that this was expertly tender and just generally perfect. Exact balance of smoke and spice, amazing color and smoke ring, nice little ribbon of fat, generous portion for a 1/2 serving, reasonably restrained hand at the seasoning. Try this and attempt to appreciate the heightened skill and years of experience that went into making this food.

Bottom line is this is the best brisket in town (that I’ve tried to date, taking into consideration that day-to-day meat sampling may vary, and I haven’t been everywhere yet,  etc.).

The tri-tip was also amazingly epic. I haven’t seen many places serve up BBQ tri-tip, which I’ve only managed to make very, very poorly. Adam’s Smokehouse makes an impressive tri-tip, but Bogart’s is elite. The two are 1 and 1A.

Bogart’s tri-tip was thinly sliced and loaded with ribbons and marbles of fat, nicely pink internally. It cut smoothly and each bite was velvety, buttery. Just a spectacular job on this meat. I need to reinvest myself in making this.

Pit beans were among the best beans I’ve ever had. Sensing a theme here? They were rich and thick, with a hearty spice finish. I got a few nice hunks of brisket as well as lots of little brisket shreds. You can taste the BBQ drippins in these beans. Manly legumes.

Cole slaw… meh. It was creamy but not too rich. I thought it was too sweet for me, but I’m a vinegary slaw fan. This is a personal preference thing, although I think there were cooked chilled apple slices in there? Maybe next time I’ll follow Pete’s lead and get the deviled egg potato salad.

Good Guy Pete passed me a rib. What are friends for?!

I was full... until he handed me one of these

I was full… until he handed me one of these

Perfect tenderness and bite. Excellent flavor, smoke, finishing crust & seasoning. Maybe I’ll just get these next time and really indulge myself. But this was one amazing pork rib.

A truly successful Mardi Gras lunch. How best to finish this gluttonous holiday? Maybe a lead-footed friend who wanted to pay some legal fees?

Legal fees

Legal fees

Urban Chestnut, Rogue, and PBR? I hope this guy keeps speeding all over Rock Hill! I drank a bunch of fees and fell asleep on the couch, which is why I’m posting this on Ash Wednesday and not Fat Tuesday. (And, no, I’m not giving beer or BBQ or anything for Lent.)

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