Category Archives: Smoking

Smoked Chicken Wings

Santy Claus brought me a new BBQ cookbook and I need to show up at a neighbor dinner with appetizers.

Important news

Important news

How about some smoked chicken wings? Easy yum yums.

Everybody likes chicken

Everybody likes chicken

I rigged my UDS for smoking at 200 with about 2/3 a coal chimney’s worth of charcoal. Atop that hot mess I added a mix of hickory chunks and cherry chips with the intent to leave it alone for about 1 & 1/2 to 2 hours.

Who wants wingy wingy?

Who wants wingy wingy?

I figured that kiddos might prefer the drumettes while the adults can negotiate the entire three part wing. I let the whole batch smoke for about 1 hour 45 minutes, all 5+ lbs.

Smoke!

Thoroughly smoked

I got some badass color on these wings, with a single batch of charcoal and wood fuel. The UDS, quite well made if I say so, got up to about 200 degrees and didn’t need a lick of attention while I drank some beers and watched bad reruns on tv.

Two sauces were made: Traditional hot wing sauce comprising a stick of butter and oodles of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, and Honey BBQ sauce comprising a bunch of Sweet Baby Ray’s, a ton of honey, another stick of butter, and a couple dashes of Frank’s.

I tried to roll the wings in butter and flour to fry them, but that failed, since I don’t own a cast iron skillet for frying. Instead, I dropped all the smoked wings into about 3/4″ of hot vegetable oil to fry the skin. From the frying pan, each wing went into a warm foil pan of sauce. Drumettes into honey BBQ and the full wings into the Frank’s sauce.

Hot wings!

Hot wings!

Honey BBQ!

Honey BBQ!

Super thrilling to me was seeing my son’s 7 year old friend crushing the honey BBQ wings. They were really good, with a deep smoky taste and a nice tenderness. Those hot wings grow on you, or so I was told. Truly, they were tasty wings with a nice finish and bite.

In the end, the minimal effort resulted in two kinds of tasty wings full of deep smoke flavor, moisture, and tenderness. Each well-incorporated the richness of their respective sauces. Delicious poultry that everyone enjoyed.

Pro Tip Epilogue:

I received a text from someone with far more BBQ wing experience. Smoked chicken wings don’t like to stick to sauce, unless you augment the sauce with some brown sugar. That explains why the honey BBQ sauce coated the wings well, and why the hot sauce slicked off their respective wings. In the future, add brown sugar for stickiness and perhaps some vinegar to keep the heat when doing hot smoked chicken wings.

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BBQ Joint Review: Adam’s Smokehouse

It’s client appreciation week for my solo LLC law practice, so why not take my longest-standing client and his wife out to a nice meal? In other words, I treated my parents to lunch at a new BBQ place: Adam’s Smokehouse.

Tasty food awaits you inside

Tasty food awaits you inside

We learned an important lesson about eating at relatively new BBQ joints: Don’t show up for lunch the same day a glowing review appears in the local newspaper. The line was out the door by 11:30 and we waited a good 20-25 minutes to place our order.

On the west edge of The Hill, south of where Watson splits off of Hampton (5 minutes from the zoo, for the out-of-towners), Adam’s Smokehouse rests in a small south city storefront strip shared with a dive bar.

As a longtime STL resident, the decor was pretty neat. All the walls were covered in 80s-ish baseball and hockey and olympic nostalgia. All those framed posters surrounded a modest storefront BBQ restaurant with 12-15 tables and minimal seating. It’s been open for two months and ripe for an expansion already.

A diverse chalkboard menu awaited us at the head of the line:

So many choices!

So many choices!

Beef brisket is a good measure of a BBQ joint, and I’ve never eaten tri-tip commercially, so that’s what I ordered (the pick two for $12.99). Amazingly, they were sold out of brisket at 11:45, so we were a good 10 minutes late. Unbelievable. Instead, I ordered the well-reviewed (as of that morning) salami. Sides were pit beans and slaw (which I was assured was homemade), and an unsweetened iced tea.

A person ahead of us asked for french fries, and someone said proudly said that they don’t serve fries. If you want your spuds, it’s going to have to be in the form of potato salad.

Dad reliably ordered ribs (1/2 slab, big boi!) and pulled pork for good measure, as well as beans and slaw, and my mother ordered turkey breast sandwich and slaw and applesauce.

Salami and tri-tip

Salami and tri-tip, with pit beans and slaw

Shredded turkey breast with applesauce and slaw

Shredded turkey breast with applesauce and slaw

Ribs, shredded pork, pit beans, and slaw

Ribs, shredded pork, pit beans, and slaw

As I came back with drinks, my parents were already digging in. Mom tasted her applesauce and fondly said it tasted exactly like her (German) grandma used to make. Dad sampled. He said pretty much the same thing. FYI to nostalgic old tyme apple sauce lovers – come to Adam’s Smokehouse.

On to my plate. I haven’t seen a bowl of beans that appetizing in a while. What a rich, deep color. They had it all in a BBQ bean flavor profile – sweetness, smoke, salt, some molasses and brown sugar. The finish as you swallowed was spice. I could eat a tub of these.

The slaw came in a thin cream base with heartily crisp cabbage and carrots. Whoever made it had a heavy hand with the celery seed, which is fine by me. Very little garlic salt, which I’ve seen in overwhelming proportions in other places’ slaw. I thought it was a nice cool contrast to two hot meats and a hot bowl of beans. Mom didn’t care for it. (“I like creamy slaw; I just prefer Schnucks’ slaw.”)

Tri-tip and I have a strained relationship. I’ve made it twice: once at home for this blog, and another time in a BBQ competition. At home it was decent, but in the field was quite sub-par. I don’t know what they did at Adam’s but this was superb beef. Thinly sliced and lightly pink, they cooked it with a big fat cap on top. Like well-prepared beef from well-fed cows, this was very tender and tasted like butter. It was a revelation, and I wish to goodness that I knew how to make it like this.

Everyone was there for the salami, based on our visual survey of the trays on other tables as we walked in. Our cashier said that it was the star of the aforementioned BBQ review in the newspaper that day.  Having been denied my brisket, I would take this salami as a consolation prize any day.

A quick aside about hot salami. One of my all time sandwiches ever and a Top 10 You Must Eat This In STL foods is the hot salami sandwich at Gioia’s Deli in The Hill neighborhood. I first tasted it in my early 20’s when some girls I new hired me to paint their living and dining rooms in exchange for lunch and beer. Gioia’s was walking distance away and we went there on Monday. I demanded return trips as payment the rest of the week. Recently, Andrew Zimmern and his TV show, Bizarre Foods America, visited St. Louis and stopped by Gioia’s. A somewhat unfortunate behind-the-scenes video explained that the hot salami is really salami de testa… hot tubed head cheese. (There’s a reason you never want to see someone make sausage.)

Gioia’s salami and Adam’s salami have a lot in common, though I’ve only ever had Gioia’s as part of a sandwich. I felt like the Adam’s salami was a little more densely packed, and slightly greasier (maybe they’re the same and the Gioia’s Italian white loaf soaks it up), but it definitely had more complex flavor. You could eat it slice-by-slice, and I must have gotten at least 10 generous slices. I was pretty unprepared for this salami, and anyone who eats it will see why the STL P-D author went nuts for it.

And I stole a couple ribs from Pop.

That's a pretty deep smoke ring

That’s a pretty deep smoke ring

What an impressive smoke ring on those ribs. Deep pink color on both sides. So deep it actually meets at the thin ends of the babybacks. They had a very light bite that pulled the meat in front of your teeth off the rib, but it was smoked well-enough that the remainder of the meat stayed on the bone. I’d consider these perfectly tender, though BBQ competition judges might say they’re just a tad too tender. Whatever. I cleaned those bones and loved every second of it. Get these ribs. I know I will next time.

Our sauce choices weren’t exactly legion like over at Sugarfire, but the three that we had on the table were all really nice and totally distinct from one another.

Tasty triumvirate

Tasty triumvirate

Carolina Vinegar is no lie. It was very thin, a cider vinegar base. It had a great peppery finish and a nice sweet/salt taste. I doused some of my tri-tip and otherwise worthless bread with it and went to town.  Cranberry Cayenne was a thick sauce that balanced sweetness with spice, but I didn’t pick up on any tartness that you might get with cranberries. Nonetheless, it was a nice sauce outside of the mainstream. Sweet Jane Sauce was more like what you’d expect at a local BBQ joint. Nice balance of sweet and spice, with a traditional sauce texture and consistency. My personal bias was towards Carolina Vinegar, but the bottom line of the sauces is that anyone will be happy with at least one of these… or none at all since frankly none of this meat needed sauce.

All that was left was refuse and a sundry half bun. My meal made me quite full, but adding those two ribs got me up to nearly uncomfortably full. I needed a nap badly about 1/2 hour after leaving.

BBQ wreckage

BBQ wreckage

I liked that they served the food, by the way, in a plastic basket lined with a high gauge white Kraft paper instead of butcher paper or something else that either soaks up BBQ meat grease and/or cuts under the serration of my plastic cutlery. A nice touch that enhances the dining experience.

Overall this was a very pleasant BBQ joint experience, and they’ve only been open two months. They need to buy the place next door and knock down a wall for new seating, because it seems like demand is high enough for it. Of course I recommend eating here. I’ll be back soon.

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Stuffed Smoked Wrapped Boneless Beef Short Ribs

Having not experimented with anything off the cuff recently, an affordable package of boneless beef short ribs adjacent in the store to the brisket I was planning to smoke anyway presented me with an opportunity.

Each rather large short rib, slightly smaller than my clenched fist, was lightly rolled with a rub comprising: brown sugar, paprika, garlic salt, seasoned salt, powdered sage, cayenne pepper, ground coffee, and coarse black pepper.

Those and the three medium sized brisket pieces (having received the same treatment) were put on the 55 gallon drum smoker, fat sides up, with ample hickory smoke for seven hours at about 190-200 Fahrenheit.

Big Blue back in action!

Big Blue back in action!

I've got all day to smoke these. On the grill at 8am!

I’ve got all day to smoke these. On the grill at 8am!

Hours and hours later (7, to be exact), and a few beers later (not quite 7), the ribs had smoked thoroughly.

Brisket looks pretty good, too.

Brisket looks pretty good, too.

Not even close to done, though

Not even close to done, though

A BBQ ace told me to cook beef with the fat up so as to continuously baste the meat. I never flipped them or the brisket pieces, yet each time I checked on the meat or added coals and wood, it still looked damp from the molten beef fat softening and oozing over the sides of the flesh.

Having learned from my past mistakes, I eased up on both the amount of brown sugar in the rub (by ratio) and the amount of rub total on the meat. This left less char and permitted more smoke penetration.

I pulled the short ribs to let them rest for about 10 minutes on a cutting board. Why rest? So that the hot and excited juices don’t escape and dry out the meat!

Resting. Exhausted from a long day of smoking.

Resting. Exhausted from a long day of smoking.

Once relaxed, the ribs were sliced substantially in half, leaving a hinge at the back.

Tender; smells great

Tender; smells great

I had a half carton of blue cheese left over from some steak salad I had made a few days before, and I put half of my remainder inside each short rib.

Feeling stuffed...

Feeling stuffed…

And since I like to smoke a bunch of bacon as a brisket sandwich topping, why not wrap each of these with three large thick cut slices of pork bacon. Sorry to my Hebrew readership, but this went from unkosher to exceptionally unkosher in just minutes.

Oy vey

Oy vey

Back on the UDS for two more hours of hickory smoke at about 200 degrees.

The finished product is worth the fuss.

9+ hours of effort. Will it be worth it?

9+ hours of effort. Will it be worth it?

Each short rib gave me 3 or 4 generous slices for the in-law family pre-JV football dinner.

Yes, it was worth it!

Yes, it was worth it!

The beef was incredibly tender and had solid smoke color penetration. The blue cheese was present in just the right amount. Unfortunately, the bacon didn’t quite crisp, but no one complained. My father in law said, “Simpson, you should enter this in a BBQ contest. It was great.” As I basked in this compliment, he added, “Although I do love anything with cheese in it.” I’ll take what I can get.

This was a super-simple recipe. Anyone can make this if you have all damn day to cook. Luckily I could work from home that day and I have a large upright smoker. Forgiving that, you could probably make this on a Weber kettle with a keen eye towards temperature control.  Regardless, simple technique and ingredients made a succulent experiment.

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BBQ Joint Review: Gobble Stop Smokehouse

If you take one thing away from this BBQ Joint Review, make it this: You absolutely need to go to this place and try a “Turkey Rib” (which is not really a rib, but I’ll explain that later.) Flat out the best turkey I’ve ever had, including all preparation methods. I was blown away.

Third on my hitlist of relatively new BBQ places that need reviewing, per the STL P-D, is Gobble Stop Smokehouse in St. Louis County on Olive, near Fee Fee. An unassuming facade used by a prior (unsuccessful, apparently) smokehouse, in the midst of a Korean-filled strip mall.

Somewhat inconspicuous and inauspicious

Somewhat inconspicuous and inauspicious

I phoned my father to see if he wanted to duck out of work (we’re both self-employed) to hit this poultry-only BBQ spot.

Managers usually have their hair a little better kept.

It’s hot enough for this so-called iced cream

Their menu did not have a hint of cow or pork or goat or non-winged four-legged animal. All bird – very ambitious.

As someone who BBQs often, I can tell you that making poultry well is hard. It’s lean, so it can dry out. The dark and white meats cook distinctly. Seasoning can be tough with the skin and the depth of the meat. Making good turkey or chicken on the BBQ shows skill. I’m still working on it, and it’s a goal for me.

Many options from few choices

Many options from few choices

I saw an article in the Riverfront Times that said that I needed to order the Turkey Tips, so I did. I added an unsweetened tea and side of beans (home made!). Why not toss in an a la carte turkey rib. This is not a rib, though. It’s a part of the turkey breast carved from the scapula of the bird.

Pops went with the pulled chicken sandwich, along with onion rings, iced tea, and his own turkey rib. (Again… not a rib.)

Looks great!

Looks great!

The owner served us and advised us on the lunch options. Based on the RFT recommendation, I was psyched to get the turkey tips. I’m a zealot for thigh meat (both chicken and turkey), so it seemed like a good choice. Basically it’s like pork tips but poultry. He warned me that each sauce-coated nugget was part gristle and part meat.

From a textual point of view, I wasn’t psyched about sticking a gristle-filled nugget into my mouth to chew off the tasty bits, so I tackled these one at a time with a fork and knife. One of my gripes about this place is the plastic silverware. I get it, as a former professional dishwasher, that the cutlery is nice and disposable, but the turkey tips were hard to navigate with flimsy plastic forks and knives.

With some effort, though, each nugget produced at least a bite or two of smoky, hyper-tender bird. The sauce was thick, sticky, spicy and incredibly wonderful. The meat was juicy and skillfully made. I really enjoyed it, despite the extra work. In the future, I probably pass on this one, given all the work, but I’ve never had anything quite like this before. Tasty tasty turkey.

The best choice I made, though, was getting a turkey rib. What an amazing, succulent, tender, smoky, sticky piece of turkey meat. I was shocked. Literally, though this meat had bite, but fell cleanly off the bone. Solid smoke lines, great tenderness, solid sauce, excellent texture. I was blown away by the turkey ribs, which is a low calorie low cholesterol way to down BBQ and still feel like you’re crushing ribs. A thin slab of bone was all that remained.

This looks big, but it's flat

This looks big, but it’s flat

It’s a genius move, but you still have to do it perfectly. These guys did just that. The sauce was such an awesome pairing with the tender smoked meat. Really a surprising entree. My father ordered one a la carte as well and he decided, based solely on that sample, to come back six hours later for takeout dinner for him and my mother. She told me how much she liked it, too – no shock to me.

Dad’s lunch was also wonderful. He grabbed the pulled chicken sandwich, with a side of onion rings.

Sorry for the blur

Sorry for the blur

Dad’s chicken was really good. It seemed like the chicken was more chunked pieces than shreds. Moist, tender. Hard to beat BBQ good enough to be served without any sauce (served on the side). There was a taste in the seasoning that I was struggling to pick up on… I swear it was some kind of Doritos nacho-y seasoning on the chicken. Really nice chicken, a great lunch.

Onion rings… pedestrian. Thick breading, crispy coating, but probably came from a bag. Not bad but unremarkable.

Beans were great. I got a nice pepper and cumin flavor, with a serious peppery spice aftertaste. Nice thick sauce and tender beans. Great appearance with good red pepper bits throughout. Excellent, particularly if they cooked them without any pork or beef. Getting a nice hearty flavor with no pork grease can be a trick. I’m very curious how these were made.

The place was clean and quaint, and the owner was personable and polite. What’s not to love about Gobble Stop. I tried to buy a cookie after our late lunch… he gave me a lemon sugar cookie on the house. Great cookie. Moist, without any superfluous powdered or crystallized sugar on it.

I 100% guarantee that I’m returning to Gobble Stop Smokehouse. Epic meat. Wonderful service and atmosphere. You don’t always need to eat pig or cow to get top notch BBQ, and Gobble Stop is proof.

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Ugly Drum Smoker

By far my most visited and commented blog post is how to turn a 55 gallon drum into a smoker. I made another one.

Unsightly industrial refuse

Unsightly industrial refuse

Yes, my father again presented me with a 55 gallon steel drum. It contained non-toxic, FDA-approved blue powder pigment that was used on food packaging.

This time, though, I didn’t have a spare Weber 22″ dome cover. What I did have, though, was the original flat lid. This resulted in some design changes. Go to the original post (linked above) for the specifics (bolt sizes, hole sizes, measurements, ball valves for ventilation, etc.). This post really only emphasizes my changes from that earlier design.

First, as usual, I scrubbed the holy hell out of the inside of the drum with 409 cleanser and some CLR and a bunch of brillo pads. Then it was fired out to try and clean it further. Unlike last time, I am NOT going to paint the inside of the drum with Rustoleum High Heat, since that goes against the manufacturer instructions. Instead I am going to clean it thoroughly and cure it with a long hot burn after rubbing the entire guts with vegetable oil.

Fairly clean

Fairly clean

Before we go further, it’s disclaimer time:

If your drum contained anything hazardous or you even remotely think it may have contained anything hazardous, DON’T USE IT TO COOK FOOD. Flat out, if you get some barrel that says Chernobyl or Toxic or Rat Poison on it or it mentions any type of remote health hazard and you turn it into a smoker and get sick as hell, grow a few more ears, or your genitals become inoperable, then you are at fault. Not me. Read my general Disclaimer. Don’t be stupid.

One of the first things I did, as can be seen in the above photos, was add two chimneys to the flat lid. The drum lid had two threaded holes with plugs in them. The plugs are called bungs and the holes are bung holes.

I wanted a piece of 6″ pipe to fit into my bung hole… uh, let me rephrase that… I went to a plumber supply store to buy two 6″ long pipes, one each at 3/4″ and 2″ in diameter, to screw into the threaded holes on the smoker lid. I bought a ball valve for the 3/4″ chimney for about $5 or $6. The 2″ ball valve is a whopping $45+ and that’s with a phony plumbers’ union discount they were willing to give me! No thanks – I’ll invert an old ravioli can onto the 6″ chimney.

Once cleaned, I used the steel drum drill bit to perforate the hull of my new smoker for all the hardware I planned to bolt on, including on the lid.

Specialty tools cost $$$!

Specialty tools cost $$$!

Burrs

Burrs

The drilling left jagged steel burrs on the interior of the drum. I have big washers that I plan to bolt over these, so no need to remove them. You could get a Dremel tool and cut them off, but I didn’t bother.

Once all the holes were drilled, I painted the entire exterior with Safety Red paint from Rustoleum.

Painted!

Painted!

It took a few coats using a foam roller, but the whole thing took less than a quart of paint. Once dry (and it took a little while), I bolted on all the hardware.

A new feature this time was my fancypants bottle opener.

Practical

Practical

In hindsight, it might be dangerous to try and open a chilled bottled beer on a hot metal opener like this. I’ll keep you posted if I injure myself. It’s highly likely.

Having a flat lid meant less clearance between the grill surface and the inner portion of the grill lid. That meant lowering the grill support bolt holes several inches to allow larger meats (like a couple pork shoulders or a turkey) to be smoked.

Grill grate

Grill grate

This means the food is closer to the fire and the fire / smoke needs to be managed more carefully.

The lid received a metal handle, and I painted the chimneys (but for the ball valve).

Completed lid

Completed lid

The rest of the assembly is nearly identical to the earlier Big Blue model. The interior coal cage is pretty much the same.

Coal Cage

Coal Cage

I like the red color. It’s distinct and makes it visible to thieves in the country house where we left it. There’s nothing ugly about this Ugly Drum Smoker (UDS).

Home

Home

Once completed, I lubed the entire inside as well as the coal cage and grill grates with vegetable oil and lit a hot fire to cure the whole thing. I’m probably cooking something on it this weekend. The next UDS will be a little different… something my kid’s been asking me about for a while. Stay tuned.

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Smoked Cod Tacos

Cold and raining?! Ain’t got no time for that. It’s taco night.

A little crapola weather can't keep me down

A little crapola weather can’t keep me down

It doesn’t have to be a Friday in Lent to enjoy fish at the end of the work week.

Fish tacos are quick and easy. Clean flavors, loaded with lean protein, and widely-appealing.

I put a couple cod filets from Schnuck’s on a water-soaked cedar plank, and gave each a sprinkle of Lawry’s Seasoned Salt and a light dusting of Old El Paso Taco Seasoning Mix.

Alaskan Cod makes good tacos

Alaskan Cod makes good tacos

By “light dusting” I really meant light dusting. That taco mix can be overpowering, and I want to taste the fish and the smoke. The taco mix is really meant to be a complement to the taco theme of the meal.

Instead of quickly cooking the fish by using the plank to steam and smoke the fish, I am going to let the cedar plank provide a clean platform for cooking and only some moderate smokiness. I have in the past put planked fish over semi-direct heat and let the plank char. Not this time.

How are smoked jalapenos? I guess I'll find out.

How are smoked jalapenos? I guess I’ll find out.

Instead, I offset the fish to completely indirect cooking and put a few chunks of dry mesquite wood on the coals.

After about 45 minutes, the fish was done and looked pretty amazing.

Smoke color looks great!

Smoke color looks great!

For service, I warmed some flour tortillas and made small 5 bite tacos out of the fish, along with some black beans, taco cheese, cilantro, light sour cream, and some amazingly awesome Frontera tomatillo salsa. Finish with 1/8 lime drizzled over the plate.

To warm but not toast the tortillas, I just tossed some foil over the fire and quickly flipped them around until each was ready. I just stacked them up and wrapped the pile in that same foil until service.

They taste as good as they look

They taste as good as they look

These were spectacular and the entire thing took less than an hour from start to mouth. The rich smokiness of the wood melded with the flaky fish. Cod can be oily and dry, but these morsels were far from it. Amazingly delicious.

Next time, I’ll pass on the black beans because their flavor rose up a little more than I wanted to interrupt the fish. One decent-sized filet made three heaping tacos.

Simple, easy, tasty: Three things that make this dish a winner.

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BBQ Joint Review: Hendrick’s BBQ

Since my law firm CFO ledger says that my father had some legal fees due, I figured he could settle up his account with a lunch out – his treat. We put on our Friday BBQ best…

The Simpsons Dapper

The Simpsons Dapper

… and crossed the river into St. Charles to visit Hendrick’s BBQ.

Apparently it’s owned by the same people who run Cathedral Square Brewery. Try their Belgian-Style Abbey Ale. If they BBQ like they brew, then we’re in for a treat.

We were tipped off about this place by a recent column written by Evan Benn for the STL Post-Dispatch online, one that listed five local BBQ joints worth a visit. That’s basically a checklist for me.

According to the article, I needed to get the (1) brisket, (2) cheesy grits, and (3) peppery slaw. Yeah, no problem.

As we walked up from the parking lot to the door, we saw an A-frame sign that let us know about the “soup of the day”.

Looks like my kind of restaurant... from the damn curb!

Looks like my kind of restaurant… from the damn curb!

Oh, yes… looks like we’ve come to the right place.

Busiest Friday lunch ever? 20+ minute wait for tables? Would we like to have a beer at the bar? No problem!

Back in the day, when I was a small child and money was tight, we went as a family to Po Folks country restaurant on Manchester near Hanley in south central St. Louis County. It’s not there anymore, but you could get your kid a chicken leg basket dinner for $1 and it included a soft drink in a mason jar (mine was always orange soda). This takes me back:

Unconventionally-served beer

Unconventionally-served beer

Pop ordered some kind of rye IPA and liked it just fine. I was in the mood for something lighter and asked for a wheat ale. The bartender, who was semi-distracted with familiarizing himself with the ever-growing wall of whiskey (er… soup?) behind the bar handed me a Civil Life German Wheat. Holy cow that’s a good beer.

As we sipped our beers and waited for a seat, we admired the decor. Everything here seems very deliberate, thoughtful… almost intentionally shabbily chic junkyard. Here’s a mason jar light fixture:

This is nothing. You should see the mussel basket lights.

This is nothing. You should see the mussel basket lights.

The bar tap handles look a little dangerous… possibly designed by Tim Burton.

You have to wonder if their Workers' Compensation liability carrier has seen this.

You have to wonder if their Workers’ Compensation liability carrier has seen this.

Yes, those are butcher knives, cleavers, etc. as bar handles. No drinking while working!

While we drank our beers and refills, amazing blues music poured over the speakers. What an enviable atmosphere.

Finally, after two beers apiece and 30 minutes, we were escorted to seats. The waiter (helpfully) reminded us that this was their busiest day ever, likely related to the aforementioned article. Food was running at a 40! minute delay. We ordered quickly.

Appetizers: Fried green tomatoes, Onion rings, & Pork Cracklin’ (whatever that is… hell, it’s $2). Oh, and refill these Civil Live beers, please.

2/3 of our apps

2/3 of our apps

I’ve never had fried green tomatoes. Without knowing what they are, in the picture above it looks like fried polenta. They were firm and flavorful. The main impression from this dish is that I should begin to experiment with making these on my own. The onion rings were solid, and I swear they used a chicken fried steak batter. The sauce was a nice complement.

Now… Pork Cracklin’

ww... www.....what?

ww… www…..what?

Fried cubes of pork belly. If there’s a simple-yet-genius pork-related innovation I’ve seen since starting this blog, the Pork Cracklin’ is that. As I chowed, my father (literally) regaled me with a story about his open heart surgery.

On to lunch… let’s see… what’s the first thing on the lunch menu:

Meat & 3. Simple, subtle.

Meat & 3. Simple, subtle.

Sounds great. Brisket, cheesy grits, slaw, and baked beans. Dad had that but sub collard greens for baked beans. Can we get a refill?

Thanks. Shadows creeping in. How .long have we been here?

Thanks. Shadows creeping in. How .long have we been here?

Our entrees eventually arrived, on metal trays that were just a colored paraffin layer short of high school biology.

Will this be worth all the fuss?

Will this be worth all the fuss?

Bonus: Ramekin of hot blueberry cobbler. Not a Bonus: Four slices of brisket? Yes, it’s a lunch portion, and yes I am full of appetizers and beer, but I expected more meat. Regardless, here’s my impressions.

Baked beans: Sweet, absolutely perfect balance of sugar and onion (not easy to do), with superb bean tenderness. Great bacon flavors. Just about the best classic baked beans I’ve ever had. Bravo.

Collard greens (one bite stolen from my dad after he oohed and aahed them): Shit, I love collard greens and didn’t know it. Amazing bacon flavor, great bite to the greens. Like a less tart spinach that got blasted in pork flavors.

Blueberry cobbler: Nice touch to the plate, not too sweet. The blueberries have a nice bite, but aren’t tart. Somewhat mealy cobbler topping, but it mixed well with the compote/filling. It was a perfect amount and accent to the plate.

Slaw: Peppery as advertised, and I got major hints of something… onion salt? Dad swore up and down that chopped green onion was in there, but I didn’t see any. The sauce was thin, and I really enjoyed the slaw. Thanks for not having a heavy hand with the celery seed.

Cheesy grits: My first impression was that they were a little too cheesy, but I still ate the whole thing. In the end, it was quite delicious. The beans are the side dish star without question, though.

My zeal for brisket brought me here. How was it?

Brisket, king of BBQ beef

Brisket, king of BBQ beef

You immediately notice the very nice and distinguished smoke ring, deep in color and surrounding each slice’s edge. The meat has a very light sear on the outside, and a part of the fat cap was left on the meat during smoking. I usually serve my brisket carved with no further seasoning, leaving that to the diner. Hendrick’s added some coarse cracked pepper-based seasoning.

Smoke line

A blurry smoke line close-up. Thanks, iPhone

Really an impressive smoke line. Even, colorful. I wonder what wood they use.

From a moisture standpoint, this was exquisitely moist and tender. Not overly tender, as I have done in the past, but pretty much perfect. I haven’t been able to get this level of tenderness and moisture into my brisket yet, but I’m working on it. This is one of the best I’ve ever had. Absolutely no sauce was needed, though we did try a little STL and Hot.

But… the one thing that bothered me about the brisket was the very powerful coarse black pepper sprinkling that they put on the finished meat. I really wanted to taste the smoke, but it was overpowered by the pepper. I got great beef flavors, but not smoke, and that’s a damn shame because you can see from looking at the meat that incredible amounts of time and care went into getting it that color, consistency, texture, etc.

So we finished our meals, and the waiter asked about dessert. None for me… until my father quite aggressively peer-pressured me into pie.

Yes, apple pie a la mode

Yes, apple pie a la mode

Yes, it was delicious. No, I didn’t get anything done the rest of the day.

So we spent about 2.5 hours and a bunch of tax-deductable money on BBQ, beer, and pie. Not a horrible way to spend your Friday. Would I go back? Hell yes, in a second. Maybe next time I get the pulled pork. Affordable, delicious, worth the wait, great beer selection… how could you not return here?

Dreams Do Come True

You’re undoubtedly familiar with this item:

Many McCalories

Many McCalories

I’m not much of a McDonald’s fan, unless we’re in a pinch on a long road trip and low on options. Despite the utterly non-realistic and highly deceptive name McRib, I strongly doubt any actual pork rib meat makes it into this sandwich. Let’s remediate that atrocity.

Start with some baby back pork ribs, smoked for four hours with apple wood. Pre-smoke, I added a bunch of brown sugar, pepper, garlic salt, paprika, etc. rub and removed the concave membrane.

REAL rib meat, sandwich-bound

REAL rib meat, sandwich-bound

After four hours of smoke, the ribs were set for a three hour tenderizing foil wrap, enveloped in some PBR and Pappy’s BBQ sauce.

Well on the way to glory!

Well on the way to glory!

Finally, I let the unwrapped ribs rest for about 10 minutes. I flipped it over onto the convex side and gently popped the rib bones out of the very tended pork rib slab.

The boneless sheet of rib meat went on to a sourdough hoagie that had been loaded on both halves with Gates BBQ sauce. I diced half a sweet onion, and layered on some lengthwise-cut dill pickles.

If this doesn't win the Nobel Pork Prize, I don't know what will.

If this doesn’t win the Nobel Pork Prize, I don’t know what will.

Fold. Cut. Consume.

(gasp!)

(gasp!)

It was exceptionally messy and delicious.

I plan some variations in the future. Perhaps I’ll toast the bread, add some cheese, and maybe a few scoops of slaw on top of the pickles. Who can say. I’ll let my conscience decide.

Messily devour

Messily devour

I should have made more than one sandwich – it went fast.

No, it’s not a McRib. It’s infinitely better. If you’re down with shoulder, heart, and tripe reprocessed into meaty loaves that are shipped to McDonald’s and re-heated by some teenager who flunked the Taco Bell entrance exam, doused in over-sweet sauce from a plastic jug on a mass-produced bun… power to you.

If, instead, you want real rib meat on your sandwich… , not a McRib but a RealRib, then give this a try. Worth the effort for sure.

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Moo Moo on the BBQ

Bluebell the Cow… remember her?

Moo?

Moo?

Bluebell was kind enough in her passing to leave me a special cut of beef called the Brisket. Thanks!

Brisket is merely one of many delicious Hunks O’ Cow

Besides the two rib steaks we tried on a cedar planked fish night, the brisket is my first real beef treat from Bluebell. It’s a favorite of mine, and I’m super excited to sample some local grass fed beef.

Bluebell beginning her journey to my tummy

Bluebell beginning her journey to my tummy

I started the brisket not with my usual mustard-based paste, but with something a little milder that will let me taste the grassiness and richness of the beef. The rub was simple: brown sugar, garlic salt, italian seasonings, seasoned salt, cayenne pepper, and paprika.

The brisket began fat side down to try and drip off a few extra fatty bits, though the rural butcher did a really good job of trimming the fat. If I wanted, to baste it instead, perhaps the fat would begin on the upside.

After four-ish hours of smoking indirectly in the Weber 22″ kettle with a bunch of cherry wood chunks, the brisket was ready for its foil wrap.

Smoky goodness!

Smoky goodness!

My son actually wants the family to open a BBQ restaurant, and for us to call it Moo Moo on the BBQ. That’s certainly not happening, but he gave me a clever title. The simple wonders of the mind of a 6 year old.

Foil, do your magic

Foil, do your magic

Within the foil, all over the brisket, is some mild Kansas City style BBQ sauce and a little dash of PBR for steaming and tenderizing. It needed about three more hours, with some 180 degree rotations for good measure, and a probe thermometer inserted.

Though the meat was technically “done” a couple hours into the smoking when it reached 150-ish, the foil wrap brought the meat to a steady 190-ish for the final hour or so.

For good measure, since I am making big brisket sandwiches, I smoked a pound of bacon.

Nearly 2/3 made it inside!

Nearly 2/3 made it inside!

Bacon finished, I prepared to assemble my brisket sandwiches. I have some whole wheat buns, provolone cheese, pickles, the aforementioned bacon, and some spicy BBQ sauce I bought from Ace Hardware that morning when I had to buy a toilet auger (don’t ask; total child-related nightmare).

First, the brisket had to rest for at least ten minutes. The muscle had to relax, and all the excited beef juices needed to remain in the tissue when I cut the meat, instead of spilling all over the cutting board.

Voila!

Voila!

I’ll state with a little hubris that I am getting pretty good at making brisket on the grill, and this might be my best one yet. Yes, you could credit the cow and/or cattle farmer. And, yes, this would probably pale in comparison to some actual competitive and/or professional brisket, but give me this little victory.

It was delicious, for the record. Thanks, Bluebell (and mom, for the XMas gift)!

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Marinade Injected Pork Shoulder

Experimentation is at the heart of this blog, or at least as close to the heart as beer and meat. I’ve never used a marinade injector before, but I’ve heard good things.

I’m now officially a hypodermic needle user.

Don't share this needle

Don’t share this needle

Lots of BBQ blogs espouse their own special marinades. Most include lots of liquid, with saltiness, sweetness, some kind of liquor or beer or wine, and often some pureed spices and perhaps fruitiness (like juice).

I went simple: PBR and some honey apple BBQ glaze my wife bought for me on impulse. I made a 50/50 mixture and liberally injected the shoulder all over from all angles – down to the bone, through the fat, along the sides, through the top… everywhere. I also consumed the rest of that PBR, then several others.

As I injected, bulbous sections of pork protruded. Each puncture wound oozed marinade, some more than others. In all, I injected the hell out of this meat. This butt got stabbed more times than a [insert horribly tasteless joke here].

Onto that went a simple rub of brown sugar, paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic salt, seasoned salt, & Italian seasonings.

Will we see the wonders of a marinade injection?

Will we see the wonders of a marinade injection?

And the whole thing went on a Weber 22.5″ kettle over indirect heat with cherry wood chunks. I put a thermometer probe through an onion near the meat to get an idea of the grill temperature. Even a conservative amount of coals gave me a hot grill, at or near 300 degrees. That’s a full 100 degrees higher than my typical drum smoker runs.

The answer to "What, what, in the butt?" is apparently: Syringe full of sauce and beer

The answer to “What, what, in the butt?” is apparently: Syringe full of sauce and beer, and a thermometer probe

About 3-4 hours later (who can say with any specificity – it was an 18 pack of PBR), the shoulder was foil wrapped with some BBQ sauce and a sprinkle of some more beer.

Percolating pork

Percolating pork

What a wonderful smell comes from a wrapped pork shoulder. Lots of bubbling, cracking going on in there.

Finally, a few more hours later, perhaps after 7 total, I pulled the meat off the grill and opened it to let it rest.

The fruits of my labor

The fruits of my labor

The end result, as usual, looks wonderful. Great smell & color. I’m excited.

What I notice in trying to shred the shoulder was that the meat was separating in chunks rather than typical shreds. I figure what happened was all the injected moisture boiled and steamed and percolated within the meat, which not only tenderized, moistened, and flavored the flesh itself, but also broke down fat and connective tissue. This lets the meat break into hunks of succulent sweet pork, instead of shreddings.

Chunks of shredded pork

Chunks of shredded pork

It was delectable! I’m thrilled with how it turned out, and I’m definitely making this again. Flavor injection is part of the BBQ regular rotation. Yes, I’m now a habitual needle user.

Leftovers? BBQ pork pizza the next day.

Enjoy the same meat twice

Enjoy the same meat twice

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