Category Archives: Meat

Best, irreproducible pork chops.

Let me tell you a story of some of the best pork chops I ever made, and how the recipe can probably never be reproduced.

It was late spring, about two years ago. We had picked up some nice fresh Ontario pork chops, and I was looking forward to tossing them on the grill. Nothing exotic, just a little salt, pepper, garlic and glazing of sauce. When we got home it was starting to cloud up, so I rushed to get the gas grill started. I didn’t want to grill in a downpour, so I didn’t want to wait for charcoal to get up to temperature.

My wife helpfully suggested that we could cook them inside, but I figured there was time. And besides, grill vs pan? Come on.

So I tossed the chops on medium heat as the clouds darkened. after a few minutes I flipped them, and that’s when it hit.

To be honest, I don’t know what kind of storm it was, but terms like “microburst” and “supercell” come to mind. For about half an hour the weather was so severe I would not risk the 4 metre walk from my back to to the grill. Wind gusts must have exceeded 100 km/h. Rain was horizontal.  Chairs were flying. The grill, of course, went out.

When it passed, I did what any die hard outdoor chef would do – I went back out and re-lit the grill and finished off the chops.

I thought they would be mediocre at best, inedible at worst, but hey, grilled pork chops. But no, they were juicy and tasty. I think by heating, and then removing heat, and then finishing off I pretty much did an accidental reverse-sear.

So my irreproducible chop recipe is as follows:

  • start with 2 thick fresh pork chops
  • apply fresh cracked pepper, salt, and garlic powder
  • set the grill to medium heat, and cook 5 minutes per side
  • get hit by a tornado
  • once severe weather passes, relight the grill. Set to medium-high, cook chops for 2-3 minutes per side, add BBQ sauce of your choice, and grill for another 2 minutes per side or until internal temperature reaches 145F.

 

 

Note to self…

Today I had the Kamado going in the afternoon to cook up a variety of goodies for tonight and for the week – a couple of pork roasts and a beef sirloin roast, and I was going to throw on some potatoes and a squash for the last hour or so. The problem was that I way overestimated the cooking time of the beef. It was done well ahead of when I had planned, so I had to keep it from getting too cool as it rested while I roasted the veggies.

Basically a big fiasco time-wise.

In the end it all came out okay – the beef was more on the medium side of medium rare, but tasted fine, and the potatoes and squash were good, and one pork roast is ready for another dinner, while I pulled the other for sandwiches for the week. But I have to remember this. Note to self: beef cooks WAY faster than pork.

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.

 

Perfect Pork Tenderloin

Pork tenderloin is an almost perfect cut of meat. It is lean, tender, flavourful, and reasonably inexpensive. For the health-conscious, pork tenderloin is comparable to chicken in terms of high protein, low fat content, and low in overall calories (about 40 calories/oz, or 140 calories/100g). The only downside to tenderloin is that it is so lean, it can easily be overcooked and dry. To prevent this, I have been playing with a reverse sear method, and with lots of variation it has not once let me down.

Ingredients:

  • Pork tenderloin (a 1 lb tenderloin will do for 2-3 people, depending how hungry they are)
  • fresh cracked salt & pepper
  • garlic powder
  • barbecue sauce

Pat the tenderloins dry with paper towel, and lightly dust with the salt, pepper, and garlic powder. If you want you can add some extra flavours of your own, like steak spice or a little creole seasoning.

Prepare your grill for indirect heat, and cook the meat for about 25 minutes at 275-300F.

Transfer the meat to direct medium heat, flipping it so bottom is now on top, and baste the tops with a little barbecue sauce. After 5 minutes, flip the meat, and baste the other side with sauce. after 5 minutes flip again, give it three minutes, and then take it off to rest for 5 minutes, tented with foil, before slicing to serve. If you have a meat thermometer, the internal temperature should be between 145 and 150, and not over 155.

I have found this technique to be both easy and very forgiving, with the end result being tender and juicy every time. Give it a go, and let me know what you think!

Grilled tuna steaks

Tuna is an interesting fish. Most of us have had canned tuna, but fresh tuna is a completely different animal in taste, texture, and of course preparation. While the canned variety is inexpensive, fresh tuna can be quite pricey, upwards of $50 a kilo. But sometimes it goes on sale at our local grocery store, and then it is definitely time for this recipe.

Unlike other fish, I like to treat tuna steaks as actual steaks – I prepare them and cook them in a very similar manner to beef. Grilled tuna is meaty, takes flavours well, and is very nutritious. Depending on how hungry everyone is, I count on 150-200g (5-7 oz) per person, but have had the occasional feast of 1/2 pound or more.

Ingredients:

  • Tuna steaks, about 3/4″ to 1″ thick. 
  • Salt & pepper
  • garlic powder
  • lemon zest

Prepare the tuna as you would steaks: pat them dry, sprinkle both sides with fresh ground salt and pepper, garlic powder, and lemon zest. Lets sit for up to 1/2 hr while you get the grill heated up to let the flavours penetrate, and let the fish warm up to room temperature.

Get the grill hot. On my gas grill I cook on medium high to high, and on my charcoal grill I will cook around 500F. Season the grill with a touch of oil to prevent sticking, and put those bad boys straight on the grill. Unlike other fish, tuna does not fall apart when cooked, so using a topper is not necessary.

Cooking time is fairly short – over charcoal I do about 1.5 minutes per side, then finish off with another 30 seconds per side at a different angle (you know, for grill lines). On the gas grill slightly longer, maybe 2 minutes and 1 minute.

That’s it, serve right away. It does not need to rest like beef. It should be nicely seared on the outside, with the inside retaining some pink colour. Serve as you would steak, with a salad or your favourite veggies. If you want to sauce it up a little you can use just about anything from salsa to BBQ sauce. I quite like it with Danger Sauce myself.

Enjoy!

tuna

Tagliata

Tagliata is something I fell in love with on my trip to Italy a few years ago. Basically, it is a steak cooked rare, sliced thin, laid over a bed of rocket (arugula), drizzled with a little olive oil and topped with shaved parmesan cheese. Simple, elegant, and tasty.

I’ve had my Kamado grill for less than a week, but decided it was time to dry some high-temperature searing of steak – mostly because I found a nice Angus top sirloin on sale at Longo’s… So here’s what I did:

Meat – as I mentioned, it was a top sirloin steak, about 1″ thick, and about 0.63 kg (22 Oz). I seasoned it with salt, pepper and garlic powder, letting it sit for about an hour with the seasonings on it.

Fire – I stoked up the Kamado, getting it up to about 650 F.

Beer – nothing to do with th erecipe, but I had  Red Racer White while cooking…

Other preparations:

following a suggestion from one of Steven Raichlen’s books, I mixed a little olive oil, garlic, and fresh rosemarry sprigs and spread it out on the bottom of a baking dish for the meat to rest on when done. I also washed and spun some arugula and spring mix greens.

Cooking the steak turned out to be quite easy. I gave it about a minute, rotated, another minute, flip, give it a minute, rotate, and shut the vents down to drop the combustion way down, and left it for three minutes. Then a I transferred it to the dish of oil, garlic and rosemary (I just used two or three tablespoons of oil, not 1/2 inch like Raichlen), let it sit for a minute, then flipped it and let it rest for 5 minutes. Then Sliced it thin.

For serving, lay slices of the steak (which was actually more medium rare – have to go hotter and faster next time) over a bed of arugula, drizzle with a little olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar, and shave some parmesan on top. I also had a spring mix salad, with some craisins and pumpkin seeds, which we love, and for fun I threw on some red peppers to grill while the steak was cooking.

I must say, that seared-over-charcoal flavour of the steak is substantially better than the steaks I did on the gas grill, and I used to be really happy with those.

Now, here’s a little bonus with this recipe: go light on the steak, with lots of salad, throw on the grilled veggies, and you have a super-tasty, grilled delight which is actually healthy for you. Sure, once in a while it’s great to really go for glory with the meat, but not every day. That 22 oz. of steak fed a family of four, with leftovers.

Danger Sauce

Why do I call this Danger Sauce? Well, because I can. Try it, and tell me if you don’t think it’s dangerous!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups Orange Juice
  • 1 cup tamoato sauce
  • 1 1/4 cups beer (I Barking Squirrel, a malty lager)
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
  • 1 tbsp cider vinnegar
  • 3 tbps guava paste, or 1/3 cup guava jam
  • 1 tbsp raw (turbinado) sugar
  • 1 tsp salt – I like non-iodized sea salt or pink salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp roasted cumin
  • 1 tsp grainy mustard

Measure out the OJ, beer, and tomato sauce into a saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, get the dry ingredients ready. Chop the chipotle with it’s sauce. I have a hand-blender, so I add a touch of orange juice to the chipotle and whirr it up, making a nice paste I can add a bit at a time.

Once the liquids have reduced by about 1/4, add the dry spices, vinegar, guava sugar and mustard. Stir thoroughly, particularly if using guava paste – you want it to dissolve fully.

Let it simmer (stirring occasionally) for another 5-10 minutes, then taste to see if more orange or guava is needed, or more salt or pepper, then add about half of the ground chipotle. Stir, and after 5 min taste again. The hotness is up to you, add the rest of the chipotle if you like a kick to it, leave it out if you like a slow simmer from your chipotles. Or add more if you are a real hot pepper lover.

Simmer for 10 minutes more, then cool, and store in the fridge. Keeps for several weeks.

This sauce is great for glazing as well as a little dipping on the side. Goes great with poultry, but also darn tasty with pork. I would love to know what you think, so if you decide to make this sauce, leave a comment below. Enjoy!

My Standby Rub

If you barbecue frequently, you probably have a few different rubs. But if you are like me, maybe you have one basic rub that is tasty, and good for almost anything, particularly when you have to slap it together at short notice. If not, then feel free to steal mine, which I refer to as 4-3-2-1.

  • 4 parts paprika
  • 3 parts coarse black pepper
  • 2 parts sea salt
  • 1 part garlic powder
  • Plus, optionally, anything else I feel like at the moment, such as celery seed, onion powder, cayenne, or whatever I have at hand.

It’s a simple recipe to remember, and flexible. It can be used straight up as a spicy rub, or mixed about 1:1 with brown sugar as a sweet rub.

I’d be curious to hear what others use as their standby, all purpose rub.

 

To Spice or Not When Grilling Steaks

In many things, I tend to be a bit of a purist. I don’t want lime in my beer, I don’t want soda in my scotch. I want whatever it is to stand as it is. So it was with steaks. I liked to grill steaks with nothing more than a sprinkle of salt or pepper, so I could taste the steak, not the spice. But recently I have changed that stance. I have decided that adding a little spice to a steak adds more to the experience than it detracts from the “purity” of the cut of meat. And when done right, it tastes damn good.

I have by no means perfected a spice mix – but here is a typical combination that I might use. Sprinkle both sides of the steak with, in decreasing order of amount:

  • Fresh ground black pepper. If you don’t have a pepper grinder, then course black pepper, not fine.
  • Coarse sea salt, or other coarse salt
  • Cajun spice, such as Tony’s or Slap ya Mamma
  • Garlic or onion powder

Basically, I am a little heavy handed with the pepper, gentle (just a soupçon) of the cajun and garlic to give a little complexity to the flavour without it being obvious (in other words, cheating). And the salt somewhere in between.

This simple combination, particularly on slightly cheaper cuts of meat, really elevates it from steak to Steak.

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.