SLOW ROASTED PRIME RIB

This is an herb and garlic crusted recipe. Although I cooked this one in my Pitt Boss smoker, the cook times and method works just as well in the oven.

The roast is a 3 1/4 pound boneless prime rib roast. It started out as a 5 1/4 pound roast, but I absconded with two big, thick ribs eyes for last use!

I think it is necessary to apply the seasonings the night before and place in the fridge, uncovered, overnight. The cook went 3 1/2 hours at 250 degrees, until it reaches 125 degrees, then about 25 minutes at 400 to raise the internal temperature to 137 degrees and crusting the outside. Resting it foil-wrapped for 20 minutes raises the temperature to about 137 degrees…a pretty good medium rare. It’s a boneless roast, but a bone-in roast will work but cook times may be a little longer. Just use a temperature probe like I do. Also, a 7 pound roast will required time as well.

Ingredients:

  • 3 to 7 pound boneless prime rib roast
  • Seasoning mix – 1 tbsp garlic powder, 1 tbsp paprika, 1 tsp black pepper, 1/2 tbsp onion powder, 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 3 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled, chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Maldon sea salt

Directions:

  • The night before the cook, tie the roast at least 3 times lengthwise with butcher twine. This helps it maintain its shape doing cooking.
  • Place the rosemary, thyme, garlic, and olive oil in a small food processor and process into a rough paste. Season all over with the seasoning mix then with Kosher salt. Place on a wire rack over a sheet pan and place in the refrigerator overnight.
  • The next day, take the roast out of the fridge about 1 hour before cooking.
  • Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Place the roast in the oven and cook for about 3 1/2 hours, until the internal temperature reaches 125 degrees. Raise the temperature to 400 degrees and cook until it reaches an internal temperature of 135 to 137 degrees and you have a nice crust. Remove from oven, wrap tightly in foil, and let rest of about 20 minutes. The temperature will go up another 5 degrees or so to medium rare. Remove foil and carve. Sprinkle each slice with a little Maldon flaky sea salt before serving. I served it with Hasselback potatoes.
  • Serve with horseradish cream and au jus.

BUFFALO WINGS

O.K., so there are a million “hot wing” recipes. The way the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NewYork made them way back when is this: Fry some “naked” wings crispy, (no seasoning yet…it will fry off anyway). Mix Lawry’s Seasoned salt with Frank’s Hot sauce and butter and slather it on the hot wings. Serve with celery sticks and Blue Cheese dressing and there ya’ go! A million billion hot wing recipes later and you come to how I made them today.

I lightly coat the wings with olive oil spray. Then season them with my Wing Rub (recipe below). Then, I smoke the wings in my Pit Boss smoker for about 1/2 hour of smoke (the Smoke setting), then about 1 hour at 250 until almost done. Place on a wire rack over a sheet pan and place in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes to finish cooking and crisp them up. You can skip the smoker by cooking them on a wire rack in that 400 degree oven for about 45 minutes, depending on how big your wings are. Dredge in the Buffalo sauce and serve with Blue Cheese or Ranch dip. Yummy!

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp ancho chile powder
  • 1/2 tsp granulated garlic or garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp Lawry’s (I used my own Lawry’s clone)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 pounds of wings. separated at the joint
  • 1/4 cup Frank’s Louisiana Hot Sace
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp Lawry’s

Directions:

  • Mix together the first 7 ingredients and place in a small shaker. You will have more than you need.
  • Follow the directions in the description above.
  • To repeat a step described above…if you season wings before frying, the seasoning will just fry off unless you choose to coat them in seasoned flour.

BONELESS McRIB STYLE SANDWICH

McDonald’s McRib is a ground pork sandwich pressed and formed to look like pork ribs. Hey, I love ’em! But, I wanted to try making this home version from real Pork Spareribs. Basically, cook the s***t out of the ribs, either in a smoker, BBQ, or in the oven. Then carefully pull out the bones…and voila! Boneless McRib Style Sandwich.

Here’s my oven recipe for them. Note: You can use Baby Back Ribs, but they are not as meaty and juicy as the St. Louis ribs. Plus, cook the BB Rib a little less as they are much smaller.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium rack of St. Louis cut pork ribs or Baby Back Ribs
  • BBQ rub (your favorite)
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup BBQ sauce (your favorite, I like Sweet Baby Ray’s)
  • 1 tbsp chopped chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
  • 1 tbsp bourbon
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • Soft hoagie or sourdough rolls
  • Diced onions
  • Sliced dill pickles
  • Mayonnaise

Directions:

  • Remove the silver skin from the back of the ribs. Place the ribs on a sheet pan and season both sides with BBQ rub, salt, and pepper.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add some apple cider vinegar to the bottom of the sheet pan. Place the ribs meaty side up on the sheet pan then cover tightly with foil. Bake in the oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Note: If using small Baby Back Ribs, reduce the cooking time slightly as they cook quicker than St. Louis ribs.
  • In a small bowl, mix together the BBQ sauce, chipotle, bourbon, and honey. Set aside.
  • Carefully remove the foil and let cool enough to handle the ribs. Gently remove the bones by pulling them out the side, they should come out easily if the ribs were cook enough. If you cook them too much, they fall apart.
  • Cut the ribs in half, then carefully cut them down the middle the size of a sandwich roll. Spread some BBQ sauce on the top and bottom of the ribs then place back in the oven on an oven-proof plate for about 5 minutes to glaze the sauce.
  • Spread some mayonnaise on the bottom bun then add the ribs. Top with more BBQ sauce if desired. Add chopped onions.

How I Smoked a Beef Brisket on my Pit Boss pellet Smoker

This was my 6th Beef Brisket smoke in my Pit Boss Pellet Smoker. I think it has been about a year since I’ve done one of these bad boys.

Undeniably, the flagship of Texas BBQ, the brisket is highly revered in barbecue circles. Before I describe my method, I feel I should clear up some terminology.

True “barbecue” means long, slow, cooks at relatively low temperatures. Compared to “grilling’ which is fast cooking over very high temperatures. The difference between the two is wide, although they have two things in common: heat and meat. I don’t correct people who claim to be good “barbecuers” because they can grill a steak or a hot dog on the BBQ. And, I do not get into debates with purists barbecuers about method or ingredients. Kind of like religion and politics…I don’t go there!

A few years ago, I got a Traeger pellet smoker. I had it a few years and used it a lot. At some point, I decided to sell it to my neighbor since I wasn’t using it anymore. Low and behold, I got the itch again to “smoke” and decided to buy a Pit Boss pellet smoker. I love it. Very similar to all the other pellet smokers on the market, but, in my opinion, it is built better than some.

By the way, the other topic for barbecuer debate is whether or not pellet smokers are a viable part of the BBQ/smoker community. Most competitions now do allow pellet smokers, some put them in a separate division. But some competitions don’t have a stand alone division, and, believe it or, pellet smokers do just as well in blind taste testing as traditional wood BBQ smokers. Let’s get to my 12-hour brisket smoking journey. The times are approximate.

This is the Austin, Texas style of brisket cooking. No seasoning other than salt and pepper. And no BBQ sauce while it cooks. Savor the flavor of the beef.

Ingredients:

  • One approximately 10-12 lb beef brisket
  • Kosher salt and Coarse black pepper

Directions:

  • This first part is pretty subjective, so bear with me. Trim the brisket. Many briskets from grocery stores are trimmed of excess fat already. But, they may need some attention. Try to keep the fat cap around 1/2 inch or less. Also, it may need some trimming to make it more uniform. Check out any number of videos on line and watch a grill master do it. The one I got, a Prime Beef Brisket from Costco, didn’t need a lot of trimming. But, I did take a 12 lb brisket and cut it down to about 10 lb by removing excess fat and some trim for grinding burger meat later on. I also saved the fat to render for beef tallow.
  • Season your trimmed brisket on both sides with a 50/50 Kosher salt and coarse black pepper mixture. Don’t be shy, it’s a thick cut of beef so season it liberally then rub it in. I like to do this the night before and cover with plastic in the refrigerator. Getting up at 5am to start a brisket is hard enough…I don’t want to have to season this beast half asleep!
  • The next steps are what I use to “schedule” my brisket cooking:
  • 5:15am – Start your smoker on “Smoke” setting and letting it run for about 5 minutes to start producing clean smoke.
  • 5:20am – Turn smoker to 250 degrees. The ideal temperature is supposedly 265 degrees, but mine doesn’t not have that option or increment. Let it come to temperature, about 10 minutes.
  • 5:30am – Place the seasoned brisket on the grill grate fat side up. If you are using a traditional smoker, place the thick end closest to the heat source. Insert the temperature probe in the thickest part.
  • Monitor the heat and make sure it stays right around 250-265 degrees.
  • 8:30am – Check that the internal temperature of the brisket is 160 degrees. If not, let it go a little further.
  • 8:30am – Double wrap the brisket in butcher paper. If you don’t have butcher paper, use foil. Place back in the smoker.
  • 11:00am – Check that the temperature is 203 degrees. If it is, turn off the smoker, and let it sit for another 30 minutes.
  • 11:30am – this step seems unusual, but makes for the most buttery tender brisket…and that is what you want. Get yourself 2 old large bath towels. Wrap the brisket, still in the foil, in the two towels.Then, place the brisket is a large drink cooler, Close the lid and let it sit about 3 hours. Here is what happened when I monitored the internal temperature over the afternoon.
  • 12:00pm – 196 degrees
  • 1:30pm – 180 degrees
  • 2:00pm – 175 degrees
  • 2:30pm – 172 degrees
  • 3:00pm – 168 degrees
  • 4:00pm – 160 degrees

Don’t be tempted to open the foil or peak during this period or you will lose some valuable heat. As you can see, by 4:00pm, the internal temperature of the brisket (160 degrees) is still well about the danger zone of 140 degrees.

Before removing from the smoker, check the tenderness. Use a skewer or cake tester and insert it into the brisket. It should be butter tender.

4:00pm – at this point, depending on when you want to eat, unwrap the brisket and place inside on a butcher black, tent loosely with foil and let rest for 45-60 minutes before slicing.

Slice against the grain any way you like. Serve with slices of white bread and your favorite BBQ sauce on the side. Cole slaw goes well also!

HOW TO MAKE THE INCREDIBLE PORK BELLY SANDWICH

There are sandwiches, and then there are SANDWICHES! We all have our favorites, but this just made its way to the top of my list. Knocking the Turkey Club Sandwich down to second place…it’s a Smoked Pork Belly Sandwich on Ciabatta bread with Basil Pesto Aioli, shredded lettuce, ripe tomatoes, avocado, applewood-smoked pork belly, arugula, and mayonnaise.

I applewood-smoked a pork belly the other day, full knowing I was going to attempt this sandwich with the leftovers. Honestly, you really can’t pick it up and jam it in your mouth. Well, you can…but you need to do it in private, as you will be a mess! I went the knife and fork route on mine.

Ingredients:

  • Smoked Pork Belly
  • Ciabatta Roll
  • Basil Pesto aioli
  • Shredded Iceberg Lettuce
  • Ripe, Beefsteak Tomato
  • Arugula
  • Mayonnaise

Directions:

  • Build it anyway you like, but this worked out well for me.
  • From the bottom up:
  • The bottom slice of a buttered, grilled ciabatta bun roll
  • Basil Pesto aioli (1 tablespoon of Basil Pesto mixed with 1 tablespoons of real mayonnaise
  • 1 – 1/4 inch slice of ripe beefsteak tomato
  • Ripe avocado, smashed
  • 2-3 1/4 inch slices of smoked pork belly, grilled to add a crispy surface
  • A small handful of Arugula
  • The top slice of the ciabatta roll, slathered with mayonnaise

Good luck trying to slice it in half (my wife and I split this one). She was adventurous enough to pick it up. I opted for the knife and fork. It’s a great sandwich that puts a bit of a twist on the old BLT.

It may spoil you for other sandwiches! It is just a sandwich…but it is an epic sandwich!

Applewood Smoked Pork Belly

Someone asked me recently, “Just exactly what is pork belly?”. There are individuals who think it is part of the digestive system of a pig. Understandable.

It’s funny, some folks scoff at pork belly when they see how much fat it has. This, while they are pounding rashers of bacon every other day for breakfast!

This recipe was done on my Pit Boss pellet smoker (a Traeger clone is one way to explain it). Score the fat with 1 inch squares. Kosher salt and black pepper. Then rub with a sweet pork rub I made (recipe below). About 3 hours on the grill @ 225F until it hits 158F. Then wrap with foil and a little apple juice and cider for another 2 hours until it reaches 200F. A 1 hour rest on the butcher block and its done. Butter tender. Slice, shred, or cut in chunks. BBQ or no. Up to you. Me? No…its too good on it’s own!

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup of sweet pork rub (recipe below)
  • 1 cup of apple juice, divided
  • 1/4 cup of apple cider
  • 4 pound slab or pork belly, fat trimmed to 1/4 inch

Directions:

  • Heat your smoker to 225F.
  • With a sharp knife, score the top (fat side) in 1 inch squares. Season lightly with Kosher salt and black pepper. The, rub generously with the pork rub on all sides. Rub it in.
  • Put 1/2 cup of apple juice, 1/4 cup of apple cider, and 1/2 cup of water in a spray bottle.
  • Place the seasoned pork belly on the grill and smoke until the internal temperature reaches 158F (about 3 hours). Spritz with the apple juice every 45 minutes while it is cooking.
  • When the pork belly reaches 158F, remove from the grill and wrap in two layers of foil adding 1/2 cup of the apple juice to the wrap. Seal it up completely and return to the grill until the internal temperature reaches 200F (about 2 more hours).
  • Remove the pork belly from the grill and let it sit covered on the butcher block for about 1 hours.
  • Slice, shred, or cut into 1 inch cubes.
  • You can sauce with BBQ sauce at this point, but this is optional. I don’t because it is too good on it’s own.
  • Sweet Smoker Pork Rub:
  • 1/4 cup of brown sugar
  • 3 teaspoons of paprika
  • 3 teaspoons of granulated garlic
  • 2 teaspoons of onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ancho chile powder

Let’s Talk Brisket…Smoker BBQ’d Prime Beef Brisket

I did a post not long ago about talking religion, politics, and BBQ in mixed company. I am going to break my own pledge and go ahead and talk BBQ! I just did my first smoked brisket and wanted to pass along MY experience doing it. Now, it may not be the best way to cook brisket, it may not be the most flavorful…but, I can’t imagine it isn’t the most tender brisket I have had anywhere. Butter-tender!

Let’s start at the beginning…the trip to Costco the other day. I got there early on a Tuesday on a mission to find a nice beef brisket. There were none out on the floor. Crap! Well, I managed to talk to one of the meat guys already helping someone else, you know, leaning out the sliding window. I’ve stood in that area for long periods of time in the past because most of those guys really don’t want to interact with customers…heavens! But, he was nice and helpful and said the brisket hasn’t been put out yet and I could take my pick from the bunch on this cart he wheeled out from the back. I chose a nice looking, medium-sized (11.35 pounds) brisket and left feeling very anxious to get this thing on my smoker. What I didn’t realize until I got home was that it was Prime Brisket, and, it was only $3.49 a pound! Nice! The game was afoot.

After reading much and watching many videos about brisket cooking over the course of a couple of weeks, I settled on a method that seemed too simple to be true. And this is it…

Ingredients:

  • A nicely marbled, beef brisket, about 10-12 pounds, Choice or Prime
  • Kosher salt and Black Pepper

That’s it! Really. You are certainly welcome to use your favorite rub, one without salt (if you salt and peppered it separately) or brown sugar (on a long cook, it can burn too easily). But I like this style because it really maintains the taste of the beef…and that is what BBQ is all about.

  • Start by making sure your brisket has about 1/4 inch layer of fat on it. Some people strip almost all of the fat off. IMHO…bad move. Moving on…
  • The Costco brisket I got was not only Prime, it was trimmed to these specs and ready to roll.
  • Mix together a 50/50 mix of Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. If you have a shaker, that’s a good thing. If not, use you fingers.
  • Give your brisket a good coating, not too much like some rubs, on both sides. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours or overnight.
  • I found there was no need to bring the brisket to room temperature before cooking, just not necessary as this is a long cook.
  • Preheat your smoker to 250F. I use a Pit Boss pellet smoker with their Competition Blend pellets (maple, hickory, and cherry). I also got up at 5 am to start this process as I was a expecting about a 12 hour smoke/cook. If your brisket is larger, it will take longer, of course.
  • Remove the plastic from the brisket, insert your food temperature probe, stick it on the grill, close the lid, and go back to bed for a couple hours.
  • Try to refrain from checking the meat too often. The old saying goes, “If I’m lookin’, I’m not cookin’”. Opening and closing the lid causes the temperature to fluctuate, and you want to maintain a steady temperature for best results. If you choose to spritz with some sort of liquid, ie, apple cider vinegar, try not to do it too often.
  • The idea here is too cook the brisket to an internal temperature of about 160F, it took mine about 4 hours. I use the Texas Crutch method…at this point, remove the brisket to a surface where you can fully wrap it in foil, tightly, and completely. Take advantage of this part to spritz the brisket again before wrapping. Reinsert the probe and place it back on the grill, close the cover.
  • When it reaches an internal temperature of 199F, mine took another 2 hours, turn off the smoker, leave the lid closed and let it sit about 30 minutes. The temperature will continue to rise to about 205F.
  • Remove the brisket from the smoker. At this point, you can add some more spritzing liquid of choice to the package. Seal it back up and place in a good portable beer/soda cooler and wrap it in a couple of large (old) towels. Close the lid and take a nap or something. You can leave the probe in, but it is not necessary. I did so I could record the progress over the next 4 hours. After that time, the temperature was still 170F.
  • Note: Safe food handling practices dictate that the temperature of food must be below 40F or above 140F to remain safe. After 20 plus years in the food service industry, I had those numbers hammered into me many times. If the food goes into that danger zone (40F to 140F) for more than 2 hours (some say 4 hours) it will be susceptible to growing bacteria, and that can make people sick. This cooler method has been known to hold brisket (or other hot food for that matter) for up to 12 hours, but I’ve never left it that long.
  • This extra-long “rest” period really completes the cooking process to make the brisket butter-tender. So, my 11.35 pound brisket took 10 hours to get to where I wanted. And, yes, it was indeed very, tender…fork tender, butter-tender. Try the poke test: Use a toothpick or heat probe, stick it in the widest spot. It should go in easily like pushing it into butter. If it is over cooked, it will be dry and crumble too much.
  • Remove from the cooler. Remove the foil wrap and just tent loosely for about 30 minutes or so.
  • Slice against the grains, about 3/8 inch slices, just enough for serving. The grains do run in different directions depending on which part of the brisket you are slicing. It should slice easily and not crumble (too much). The pull test: Hold a 3/8 inch slice between your thumb and index finger and pull down on the lower end of it. It should pull apart in two pieces easily.
  • Serve with your favorite sauces on the side, BBQ or otherwise. Typically, most traditional BBQ places serve it on butcher paper with a few slices of white bread…and any number of sides like cole slaw, beans, or potato salad.
  • You will undoubtedly have a lot of leftover brisket. My suggestion is to cut it into several large pieces (do not slice), cool, then wrap tightly is plastic or, like I do, seal it in a Food Saver bag. Then freeze it.
  • To reheat brisket, bring to room temperature (thaw it), place it in a flat bowl or baking dish. Add some beef stock and cover tightly with foil. Place in a 325F oven for 30 minutes or so. You may want to slice it before reheating, it’s up to you.

Porcini Mushroom Sauce for Pork or Chicken…Beef version follows

I made this to go with my Smoked Pork Tenderloin. The beef version for beef changes up a few things (see below).

You can use almost any mushrooms, but porcinis really provide a funkier, umami kind of note. Shallots work better than onions. A cornstarch slurry to thicken works better than a flour roux. Can’t wait to try this with Chanterelles…just kind of not available right now, and more expensive!

Ingredients:

  • 1 ounce of dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 medium bay leaf
  • 2 cups of low-sodium chicken stock, reserve 1/4 cup for thickening
  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oilk
  • 1/4 cup shallots, 1/4 inch dice
  • Kosher salt and white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic, thin sliced
  • 1/4 cup of dry Marsala wine
  • 14 cup of dry Sherry
  • 1/2 teaspoon of fresh thyme, minced
  • 1/2 tablespoon of fresh parsley, chopped
  • About 1 tablespoon of cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons of reserved chicken stock/mushroom liquid

Directions:

  • Combine the dried porcinis, bay leaf, and 2 cups of hot chicken stock in a bowl, makes sure they are all covered. Let sit for 20 minutes. Remove mushrooms from the liquid, squeezing excess liquid back into the bowl. When they mushrooms are cook enough, roughly chop.
  • Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute for about 3 minutes. Season with salt and white pepper. Add the chopped mushrooms and cook on low for about 7 minutes. Add garlic for 30 seconds and stir.
  • Add the Marsala and the Sherry, increases heat and bring to a simmer. Cook uncovered for about 7 minutes until the liquid is almost gone.
  • Add the stock/mushroom liquid and bring back to a simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes until reduced to about 1 cup. Turn off heat, cover, and let sit for about 30 minutes.
  • Bring the mushrooms back to a simmer. Mix together 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with the reserved stock/mushroom liquid, stir well. Stir in the cornstarch slurry, stir, and cook until it thickens. Add the chopped parsley. Taste. Reseason if necessary.
  • Spoon over Pork Tenderloin medallions or sautéed chicken breasts with pasta.
  • FOR BEEF DISHES: Substitute beef stock for the chicken stock. Sub 1/2 cup of brandy for the wines. Add cream to finish, no need to thicken. Sub chopped chives for the parsley.

I Never Talk Politics, Religion…or BBQ in Mixed Company!

Those first two, politics and religion, are a given for me to never discuss in any social environment…that goes for a cocktail party, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. If you want to open up a can or worms, mention Trump or the border wall on Facebook with an opinionated statement.

As I delve further into the world of BBQ, ie, traditional smoker-type BBQ, I haven’t found a more passionate cast of characters as I have on BBQ forums. They really are a vehement group when it comes to their love in life…slow-cooking BBQ!

To set some things straight…here’s the deal with with BBQ’ing and Grilling. BBQ’ing is low and slow…grilling is hot and fast. In other words, the first thing BBQ people will correct you on is this difference. Just say to an Old School BBQ guy or gal, “I love to BBQ steaks, hamburgers, and hot dogs”. And they will correct you immediately…grillers are not necessarily BBQ’ers. And, by the way, some BBQ folk are not good grill people. So, put that in your smoker and…ah, smoke it!

To me…its’s all good…slow-smoking on a BBQ, or grilling. And both take some skill and a lot of practice, at least to get it right. I have been to many a BBQ at friend’s houses in my life. I can’t tell you how many of my buddy’s wives whispered in my ear when I got there, “Skip, please help (name withheld to avoid embarrassment) cook the chicken, it’s never cooked enough”. So, these things just take a little practice, some failures, and an understanding of what you want your end product to be…just like any cooking.

Back to “the pit”. One of the differences you will find amongst BBQ people is whether or not pellet wood smokers are relevant in the world of classic BBQ. Some competition BBQ folk have been known to say, “Hmmm…look, Marge, that guy has a pellet smoker, an Easy Bake Oven!”. Though smoking food on a pellet grill/smoker is, admittedly, much easier than on straight wood pits, it is just as exacting to get the ultimate result right…and that is flavor. I’ll repeat that. The ultimate result with cooking on a BBQ or any cooking, is the flavor, right?

A word or two about grilling. It involves a very hot fire and, typically, a tender cut of meat since you are cooking it very quickly. Obviously, burgers work very well grilled…so do ribeyes, NY Strips, Sirloins, and so on. If you try to cook a brisket, ribs, or a pork shoulder (butt) high and fast…well, you won’t even be able to chew it. They need a low, slow cook (just like braising in the kitchen) to break down the fibers and make it tender. Chicken can be grilled quickly, or slow smoked. Seafood should be grilled hot and fast. The list, and the arguments, go on and on. Try discussing seasoning techniques with BBQ people. Season way before cooking…or just before cooking. Dry season, wet season, salt first, salt after. And saucing! Wow, this is where the BBQ Civil War really rages. Sauce or no sauce? Sauce before or after? Sauce during? Generally speaking, Texas BBQ is a no sauce deal. Kansas City, slather it on. Again, it’s all good. I prefer a dry rub, no sauce cook. Depending on the meat, maybe a small dip or two after cooking. As far as seasoning goes, I have my own seasoning mix and it is salt-free (recipe below). I prefer to season before cooking with that then use a little sea salt flakes after it is sliced. That way, you get just the right amount of sodium for flavor and for health reasons. They say salting before cooking makes the meat juicier, some say it dries it out. Not a given, it depends on the cut and the cooking technique.

In any case, one must experiment. Try different things until you get the result you are looking for. Salt before, salt after. Sauce, no sauce. Cooking times and temperatures. Mix it up, have fun…isn’t that what it is all about?

Below is my list of Do’s and Don’ts, some suggestions for BBQ’ing success you may find useful. It is by no means the definitive guide. But I have read and tried…read and tried…read and tried many times. By the way, you may notice I have not mentioned gas or electric grills. I have owned many gas and electric units. I love them all. I just prefer cooking with wood. And, yes, pellets are real wood! They are made by compressing the saw dust from all the favorites: Oak, Mesquite, Hickory, and so on. I am a “pellet-head”. I love my pellet grill. I have owned several, including Traeger. They are all good, some better than others. And pellet frills do not use propane, they are electric-fired, ie, the wood is kept burning at a temperature-guided rate with an electric probe and auger. Right now, I have a Pit Boss (820D), purchased at Lowe’s (10% discount to veterans, btw). So far, it has performed the best of anything I have owned. It is far superior when it comes to hot grilling as some smokers just do not get hot enough for that…this one does. But, that’s just my opinion of course. Do I support a border wall? LOL…not gonna go there!

  • Some Do’s and Dont’s:
  • First, decide whether you want to go through the routine. Are you willing to put in the time to research, then practice? Know this: if you do decide on a pellet grill, you will find find it is easier to manage the fire, temperature, and times. It’s not quite an Easy Bake Oven, but more fool-proof than whole wood smokers.
  • Buy a grill you are comfortable with. Read about them online in forums. And, by all means, take everything with a grain of salt (pun intended) as this is where you will find varying opinions on both ends of the spectrum with every model and cooking technique.
  • Own a reliable, remote meat thermometer, one that has a probe you can leave in the meat and monitor from the outside of the grill. This is very convenient and reduces the amount of peaking at your food, ie, opening the grill and letting out the heat. I have one that also has a wireless unit I can monitor from inside the house. You must also have a way of checking the cook box temperature if using a whole wood BBQ. Pellet grills already have a probe and digital read out for that.
  • When the meat is done, let it rest. With any meat cooking, inside or out, let it rest for at least 15 minutes before cutting it, especially the larger pieces like pork shoulder or Prime rib. Cover loosely with foil. Then, slice just enough to consume at that meal. Save the rest whole, wrapped tightly in plastic after cooling and place in the refrigerator for a few days or freeze for up to 3 months. I use a Food-Saver sealer for freezing.
  • Don’t let your pellets or wood stash get wet. they must remain dry to burn properly. Keep the pellets in a sealed plastic container next to the grill. Speaking of the wood, choose your wood depending on the food you are cooking. This list goes on and on but generally, Oak works well with most meats, Alder goes well with fish, pork, and poultry, Apple as well. Hickory is great for pork and ribs, especially pork belly. And Mesquite has a strong flavor and burns hotter than most, good for most red meats.
  • Don’t get discouraged initially if something doesn’t turn out right. Adjust and try again until you get it right, just like kitchen cooking.
  • Buy a grill cover.
  • Don’t let the pellets run out. No major thing, you just have to start the process all over, and that takes time.
  • If you are using a whole wood BBQ, the smaller the wood pieces the hotter the fire.
  • Try different seasonings. Or, like I do, make your own (recipe for my salt-free mix is below). A little birdie told me that the best Austin, Texas BBQ place seasons their brisket with Kosher salt and black pepper, 50/50 blend before smoking. I use this on occasion.
  • Do have fun and enjoy yourself.
  • Salt-free BBQ Seasoning Mix: (great for most everything you will BBQ or Grill). Add 2 tablespoons of sea salt if you don’t want it salt-free.
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons granulated garlic
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ancho chile powder