Category Archives: Beer

Thanksgiving turkey dinner, Kamado style

Up here north of the border we celebrate Thanksgiving a little earlier than in the US – on the second Monday in October. It lets us enjoy the vestiges of warmth before we plunge into winter. And here in Ontario at least, November is typically pretty rotten. Of course, there is the added benefit to those south of the border that recipes we try out can be posted for you to use for your thanksgiving feasts!

This year we had to feed seventeen people for thanksgiving this year, so of course we prepared enough food for 30. The centrepiece was a 10.3 kg (22.7lb) turkey that I was dying to cook on the Kamado grill, along with acorn squash, sweet potatoes, stuffing, and a bunch of things cooked inside as well (which doesn’t involve actual fire, so I won’t go into details here).

The turkey:

  • 1 10 kg (22lb) dinosaur descendent. Air chilled fresh is better than frozen, and free-range is best of all, but usually double the price.
  • Beer brine – I loosely followed this recipe from Traeger Grills, but used only 1 500mL can of Pilsner Urquell, which I quite like using for cooking.
  • injection – 4 oz garlic infused olive oil + 1/2 can Pilsner Urquell, and a dash of creole seasoning.
  • 3 navel oranges, quartered
  • fresh rosemary and thyme

I don’t have a fridge big enough to store a brining bird for a day or two, so I got up early and brined the bird for about 5 or 6 hours in a cooler, with plenty of ice to keep the temperature down. I tilted the cooler so I didn’t have to fill it all the way, and kept the bird breast-side down in the brine, while the back was not submerged. I could have made more brine, but why bother? It’s the breast that really needs brining.

After brining I injected the breast, legs and thighs with the beer and garlic oil mixture, stuffed the oranges into the cavity, and slid sprigs of rosemary and thyme under the skin of the breast as well as into the cavity. Lastly I rubbed a little more garlic-infused olive oil all over the skin of the bird, thus ensuring it was completely impossible to handle.

I set up the Kamado with lots of charcoal (I like to use Canadian maple, beech and birch which gives a nice combination of heat and aromatic smoke), and two good chunks of apple wood. I set the heat deflector to the lower position, and slid in a drip pan. I placed an old cooling rack between the deflector and the pan so the drippings would not burn and produce acrid smoke that would affect the flavour – this is a little thing that can make a big difference.

I roasted the bird at about 350F. I say “about”, because while the Kamado is great at low and slow, or seering heat, but I find sometimes prolonged cooking at medium high temps can be finicky, so I had to make sure to keep an eye on it.

Now here’s the shocker – it cooked completely in three hours.

Yes, 22 pounds of turkey at 350F cooked in three hours, or a little over 8 minutes per pound, and the temperature rose very quickly over the last 15 minutes or so, so I had to be on my toes to pull it out at the right time. In fact, I was a little slow and the extra two minutes it took me to get my stuff together allowed to to overshoot slightly, mostly because I couldn’t believe it was ready so soon. It is important to have a good digital thermometer for this!

Despite the food safety guidelines, I would recommend pulling the bird out before the middle of the breast hits 155F, and I have heard as low as 151F. I tried for 155, but it crept up to 158 by the time I got it out. I tented with foil and drapes a tea towel over it and let it rest for a little over an hour (because I had to cook the veggies on the grill afterward), and during the rest the breast temp crept up to almost 170. So yes, definitely take it out before it hits 155 on a bird this size.

Here is what it looked like just before I pulled it off the grill:

Roast Dinosaur

But wait, there’s more!

While the turkey was resting, I tossed in some more charcoal and laid out the acorn squash (quartered, basted with a little oil and brown sugar) and sweet potatoes on the grill to roast for an hour. Next time I will perhaps start the sweet potatoes in the oven ahead of time, as they take a little longer to cook through. Doing them over charcoal gives them a little extra flavour to make them that much more special. If you have an upper rack (“grill extender”) you can also do a pan of stuffing, to add a little smoke flavour.

This whole meal came out very well, and I was extremely pleased (as were my well-fed guests). I’m not sure why the bird cooks so fast – but the fact that there is not a whole lot of space around the bird with the lid closed is part of it I’m sure. Next time I will be a little quicker yanking it off the heat, but otherwise I would do it again the same.

 

Hops, hops, and more hops.

Let me be clear. I am now, and have always been, a hophead. I love hops. From old classics like Liberty Ale to Amsterdam’s Boneshaker to hyper-hopped beers like those from Dogfish Head and Stone. Love’em.

But…

Yes, there is a but.

There are many many styles of beer that are fabulous without being super bitter and more floral than my rose garden. And I fear that these beers and styles are being overlooked in the mad rush for ever-hoppier IPA’s. While the classic styles may face little risk of displacement in their home markets, being displaced from the North American market (where the hyper-hop trend is strongest) means reduced sales for these breweries, but also that the NA drinking public will miss out on a wide range of styles and really excellent beers.

So here’s what I do, and feel free to join me. I’m not going to boycott hoppy beers, far from, I will continue to enjoy them, but (and yes, another but…) I will make a conscious effort to by a craft beer of a more traditional style for every supper hoppy IPA I buy. That way when I am sharing beer with friends I can expose them to styles they might not otherwise encounter. So I’ll pick up some Musoka Summer Weiss when I get Mad Tom. Or Mill Street Organic when I buy Amsterdam’s Boneshaker. Or – and here’s the real winner – I’ll pick up a Beau’s Beaver River I.P.Eh. Because even though it’s an IPA, it is more traditional in it’s hopping – well balanced, delightful, and not over the top.

So who’s with me?

Defining Beer

In some places, people refer to “Beer and Ale”. In others, they refer to “Beer and Lager”. And, sadly, in some they refer to “Beer and Malt liquor”. So what is beer? Apart from wonderful I mean.

At it’s simplest, beer is a fermented beverage made from grain. Under this definition, many things (including Sake) count. But for purposes of not getting way off track, let’s call beer “a fermented beverage made from grain, primarily barley but also wheat and other adjuncts, and usually flavoured with hops, but may contain other herbs or spices.”

Beer comes in many, many styles, not simply lager and ale. There is also porter, stout, wit, lambic, abbey, weiss, alt, kolsch, schwarz, Saison, bière de garde, barley wine, bock, maerzen, and a host of other styles, with brewers adding new styles all the time.

I could ramble on about these styles, but it will be much more fun for you if you just go out and try some to see what they are like for yourself. As this site grows, I will post my own thoughts and reviews of beers, brewers, and styles, so check back to learn more.

 

On Meat, Fire and Beer, or Why I Started this Blog

So, show of hands if you don’t like grilled food.

Thought so.

Growing up in Toronto, barbecued steaks, burger and chicken meant summertime, outdoors, relaxation, and all the good things in life. I don’t know if this is why grilling and barbecuing mean so much, or if it is just hard-wired in our DNA (possibly taking up a significant portion of the Y chromosome…), harking back to meat and fire meaning nourishment and security. But whatever the reason, there is something special about meat and fire.

I grew up enjoying outdoor cooking, and I could grill up some mean food, but it was only a few years ago that my eyes were opened to really, really good grilled food, and the difference between good and exceptional food. I was in Florence, Italy, and watched the chefs carefully preparing the fire for Florentine steak, and ate those steaks whole, as well as sliced thin over arugula (called “tagliata”). That’s when I decided I needed to learn to up my game on the grill.

The following year, we had a family reunion and I got to spend some time with my cousin Patrice, aka Chef Juke, and I learned a fair bit from him about low-and-slow smoking. So last spring, when I had some birthday money burning a whole in my pocket, I bought myself a smoker, and have been putting it through its paces for the last few months, to the point where I can reliably make excellent pulled pork and other delectables.

Over the last few years I have learned a lot about outdoor cooking, and much of that I learned from other enthusiasts online. So  wanted to give back, and share what I have found works for me, what doesn’t work for me, and generally help others along the path to mastering the art of meat and fire. I am by no means an expert yet, I still have much to learn, but learning is much more fun when you do it with others.

So there you have it. The back story of Meat, Fire, Beer.

Oh wait, the beer part…

Going back again to my youth, I was fortunate to be raised in a family that appreciated different types of beer, so sampling different beers and learning to appreciate the styles was part of my upbringing. I had the opportunity to try cask-conditioned ales in the UK, and exotic imports from all over the world. Eventually I tried my hand at homebrewing, and became an accomplished all-grain brewer and certified beer judge. I had to give up brewing when I moved to Europe for a few years, but the proximity to so much good beer made up for that (when I came back to Canada, two small children meant little time for brewing, but I am feeling that itch again, so I suspect it won’t be too long before I am at it again). And good beer is a natural companion to grilled meats and barbecue, so naturally it is part of this site as well.