First US Style BBQ

There are times when I wonder whether the subtitle of this blog should be: "Making mistakes so you don't have to!", although in the case of my first US style bbq nothing major went wrong, it's just that the things that went wrong were those irritating things that, had I been wearing my "thinking head", wouldn't have.

That said, I produced a decent plate of food. There's pork ribs with a rub and sauce from the amazingribs.com website. Chicken, Boston baked beans and coleslaw. Oh, and a bit of pork cracklin' off the bellies that I cut up for the ribs:

Ribs, chicken, Boston beans and coleslaw

"Shurrup and tell us about the mistakes; that's more fun."
OK dear reader, I'll get to that! The first thing I did was to (deliberately) leave the full belly, less the skin, on one set of ribs.

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Smoking and Barbecue (BBQ) options

On a previous post I said I'd give further detail of the options for smoking, grilling and barbecuing food. My health and other factors have delayed this, but here goes.

Let's start cold and get hotter!

Cold Smoking

So to cold smoking.
What's that?
It's a method of smoking food at temperatures below 30°C/86°F (approx) so that they are uncooked. It's the method that produces smoked salmon that when thinly sliced and nicely presented sells for silly money. The cold process also allows items that would otherwise melt, such as cheese and butter, to be smoked.
Surely, I can't make that?
Well here's news for you, you can.
In fact it's easy; all you need is one of these cold smoke generators. . With this, you can smoke fish, meat, cheese, eggs, salt, the list's as big as your imagination. Just find a suitable container: a cardboard box, old fridge, barrel, large bucket etc and you're away. You can even buy a ready made cardboard smoker - it may seem expensive and hardly durable, but the one I road tested in 2010 is still being used regularly by a friend of mine.

Cold smoking

There are many other methods of cold smoking; I've tried many of them. None are as cheap, easy, and produce smoke for as long without intervention as this.

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The next big thing?

UK BBQ = US Grill: US BBQ = UK ???

An oven smokerWasn't it George Bernard Shaw that said: "England and America are two countries divided by a common language"? Barbecue, abbreviated to BBQ, really goes to prove this.

What we know as Barbecue or bbq is generally referred to as grill or grillin' (g) in the US. Their BBQ is a method of cooking meats for a long time at low temperatures. It often includes smoking the meat for part of the cooking time. Times of 10 or 20 hours are not unusual in this type of cooking.

BBQ guys take their hobby seriously and hold competitions where the prize-money can be 1000's of dollars. Although on the face of it the same as hot smoking, the temperatures are usually higher.

I can see this type of cooking being 'the next big thing' in the UK. We've already seen slow-cooked meats increasing in popularity with slow-cooked pork belly featuring on virtually every menu you see nowadays! Pulled pork, a classic BBQ standard, is featuring more and more in blogs and among the celebrity chef circuit. We've also seen a move towards better quality in burger joints and vans and an increase in general in the quality of street-food. This, accompanied by a number of TV programmes featuring US BBQ joints, such as Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, makes me think that this'll be the next culinary craze... ...Oh, and also look out for the currently trendy use of brioche buns to be upstaged by buns cooked like pretzels.

I'm sure that this will also feed through to the home market - old and new suppliers will hurry to jump on the BBQ bandwagon. There'll be terms and equipment that we're not (yet) used to in the UK: Offset Smokers, Water Smokers, Oven (or box) Smokers and even Ugly Drum Smokers.

I'll write further about the options currently available in UK for both smoking, grilling and BBQ shortly.

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A Tale of Cold Smoked Salmon

I've written before about cold smoking food and there's even a full review of the smoker that I use - it's simplicity itself. However, I realise that there can be a tendency to worry or even panic the first time you smoke something like a salmon. Questions like, should I brine or dry cure it? What brine or cure should I use? What strength should it be? How long should I cure it for? So, here's a breakdown of what I did with the salmon I smoked for Christmas.

I bought a side of salmon, ready filleted, from the local 'trade wholesaler', Makro. It's a 'bog standard' farmed salmon, nothing fancy, most supermarkets have it 'on promotion' around Christmas. If you can only get a whole fish you'll need to fillet it. The filleting-fish.com website has excellent instructions and a video tutorial on how to do this. I will say though, it's a lot easier with a good filleting knife. I use a very good, and very reasonably priced, Victorinox. My salmon fillet weighed 1160gm. I decided to dry cure it rather than put it into brine, it's a lot simpler that way.

I started my salmon by covering a plastic food grade tray with salt, placing the salmon skin side down on top of it, and covering the salmon with 200gm of salt. You can add all sorts of fancy things: sugar, whiskey, beetroot, all sorts of stuff, but I prefer to keep mine simple.

Salmon Salting

The salt I used was a medium sea salt. 'Ordinary' salt's fine if you can't get anything better, but try to use one without any additives. Anyway, it shouldn't be difficult to get some decent salt. Maldon Sea Salt's fantastic and widely available from most supermarkets.

The salmon was put into the salt for 10 hours. Then I rinsed it and put it to dry on a cake cooling rack in the fridge with a tray below it to catch any drips. It weighed 1080gm at this stage.

Salmon drying

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Making Hot-Dogs

Hot Dogs

It's a while since I've done any sausage-making, what with trying to convert a bedroom into a work-space and not feeling too good. We really need to make a trip to buy meat but in the meantime I raided the freezer to make some hot-dogs.

"Hot-dogs", you ask, "Why would you want to make horrible fast food?". Well, my dear reader, there's a vast difference between what you buy on a Friday night when the clubs close and a good home-made hot-dog in a quality bun; ask any American! They virtually have wars over there as to which style is the best!

Now, I'll not make any bones about this, the process isn't easy; there are certain rules that have to be obeyed to get a good product (and the one pictured isn't a good product - but more of that in my next post). That said, it isn't too difficult if you obey the rules. Yes, it's more time consuming than you'd think, but the result is worth it.

A word about equipment: as well as the normal sausage-making equipment that I've talked about before, you'll need a food processor - the more powerful the better. Emulsifying sausage-meat to a paste will soon take its toll on an under-powered machine.

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