The pellet grill is the “star” of barbecue today and rightly so. Pellet grills have attracted a group of grillers that probably would never think or have a desire to try their hand at barbecue.
So, Why are Pellet Grills so Popular Today:
Ease of operation
No fire management—set & forget
The ability to smoke & grill
Less mess than charcoal or wood
Less clean up
Economical to operate
With Wi-Fi they can be controlled remotely
Accurately hold temp within 10 degrees
Heat up fast
Gas Grill vs. Pellet Grill:
Pellet grills usually cost more than gas grills and may not sear as well as gas.
Grill Grates solve that problem
For busy young couples with kids, it is a much easier alternative to charcoal & wood fired systems.
Pellet grills are no different than any other grill or smoker. They require the same care and maintenance. So, with that being said, here are some tips.
Pellet grills are fairly easy to clean-
- A shop vac works best
- We recommend vacuuming after two cooks (follow the manufacturer’s recommendation)
- Foil the drip pan for easier cleanup
- You can minimize cooking grate cleaning by cooking in foil pans
- Occasionally, wipe off the temperature probe in the cook chamber
- Pellets are like charcoal, they will absorb moisture
- Store open and unopen pellets in a dry place
- If the grill is inactive for a week or two remove the pellets from the hopper and store in a container with a tight lid
- If the grill is stored outside the pellets will be prone to moisture absorption faster than if stored in a garage or shed
- If the grill is stored outside, it is necessary to invest in a cover
- When filling the hopper, pour ¾ of the bag into the hopper then hand fill the remaining ¼. All pellet bags will have dust in the bottom and if moisture is absorbed there is the potential of clogging the auger and throwing temps off
- Over time you should be able to estimate how much it will take to fill the hopper for each cook. This will allow you to use the amount of pellets needed so you don’t have a lot of excess in the hopper
- Clogs will affect temperature consistency. Wild wings in temps are indicative of a possible clog
- If you end up with a clog, remove the pellets and vacuum the hopper
- Check the burn box for any pellets and remove
- Run the auger to remove the clog
- Discard the damp pellets and re-fill the hopper with dry pellets
- Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for start-up
- On initial start-up, it is not uncommon for the temperature to “spike up”. The computer is syncing to the temperature set and auger speed. Give it time to settle in.
- During the cook, you will see 5 degrees or more fluctuations. This is not uncommon. There is no grill, smoker or oven that keeps an exact temp during the cooking process. They will all cycle up and below your set temperature. When you average it all out it should be close to your selected temp.
- We recommend purchasing 20# bags of pellets since they will be used up faster than 40# bags. If you opt for larger bags you will have to make certain they are stored in a dry place when partially open.
- Purchase various flavors and blend them for a broader flavor profile. An easy formula is 60%-75% hardwood to 40%-25% fruitwood. Mix them thoroughly in a separate container
- We rate pellet smoke intensity from the most to the least as follows: 1) Mesquite 2) Hickory 3) Pecan 4) Oak 5) Cherry 6) Apple 7) Maple 8) Peach
These recommendations are suggested due to our experience with cooking on pellet grills. We cook on every piece of equipment we sell so we can better advise you.
Keep your grill clean and follow these recommendations and you should have trouble-free cooks. If you need us, just give us a call.
“May The LARD Be With You”
Meats are done only when they are cooked to the proper published temperatures. No excuses!
For certain meats such as pork butts and briskets once the meat hits its safe temperature then we use feel but only to judge tenderness.
We monitor cooking grate temperature for an indication when the meat may be done and to ascertain if we are cooking too hot or too low. For example, an 8 to 9 lbs. pork butt will take 7 to 8 hours to cook at 275 degrees. Knowing this helps with planning.
General Anatomy of Meat
Meat is made up of 75% water which is myowater.
The reddish liquid you see in pre-packaged meat is not blood. It is myo water (myoglobin). Blood is drained from the animal at the time of slaughter.
There is good fat and bad fat, bad meaning it does nothing to help produce good results.
The fat that is in between the muscle fibers also known as marbling is good fat and for certain meats, it is an indication of its quality. The fat that is on top of a brisket or pork butt, for example, does nothing to help our cook.
What bad fat does is:
It extends our cooking time since we have to cook it along with the muscle.
Seasoning the fat cap does nothing but waste seasoning (I don’t know anyone that will just decide to eat fat because it’s seasoned).
The theory that the fat will “meld” and make the meat tender and juicy is an old wives tale. Fat is grease and the meat is water. Grease and water NEVER mix.
The fat cap will prevent the process of developing a smoke ring.
Many of us only think of grilled vegetables, fruit and seafood when entertaining in the backyard. It is truly a great way to prepare these foods but it is not the only way. Did you ever think about smoking them? Probably not and rightly so. Most foods that can be grilled can also be smoked.
Why smoke them? Well, smoking adds another element to the flavor profile of the intent food. Also, the flavor profile can be altered to “change it up” when you want to try something different.
Do you have to have a smoker? No, you can get very close to the flavor of a smoker on a gas grill. Since a gas grill only uses propane or natural gas you will have to use one of the many smoke generators available.
Here are just a few of the foods that lend themselves to smoking:
Cheese attracts smoke real well. Place the cheese on a cookie rack, place in your UNLIT grill and place the smoke generator on the grill grate. Usually 15 mins. to 1 hour is sufficient. Softer cheeses, reduce the smoke time to your desired taste. Fruit flavored smoke works best.
Potatoes do real well in a smoker. Keep the skin on and rub with vegetable oil and coat with Kosher or Himalayan salt and place in the smoker and cook till tender. Hickory and pecan works best.
Oysters are simply delicious when smoked. It is best to have moisture (water pan) under the oysters if they are closed. If you open them the moisture source is not necessary. Smoke until the oysters open but leave them on for 15 minutes longer so the smoke gets to the interior. If open allow 15 minutes on the smoke. Peach, apple and alder are perfect for oysters. Take the same approach with scallops, fish (cook to internal temp 145) and shrimp.
Hard Boiled Eggs-
Who would even think it wise to smoke hard boiled eggs? Well, they are very tasty. Boil the eggs, peel and put in the smoker for about 25-30 minutes with sugar maple, peach or apple smoke.
Smoked peaches are great by themselves or over ice cream as a desert. Half the peaches and remove the pit. Peach or apple smoke is the best. Allow the peaches to smoke for about 20 minutes.
These are just a few to start with and the only limitation is your own imagination.
When we were doing our due diligence for opening GrillBillies Barbecue Supply, we reviewed most of the gas grills on the market which proved to be a confusing task. If it is confusing to us avid grillers, it must be that much more confusing to the homeowner. Below are some basics to consider when purchasing your next gas grill.
A quality gas valve is one that will work properly on any setting and especially on low eliminating “flame out”.
By the same token, when turned on high it should get blistering hot.
Manufacturers of lower quality grills will usually “skimp” on these.
Unfortunately, price dictates the longevity of the cookbox.
The cookbox is usually the first thing to go on less expensive grills.
Now, you may think you got “ripped off” when you bought your last grill but in most cases you pay for what you get.
Better quality cookboxes are made of cast aluminum, stainless steel or heavy duty porcelain coated steel.
A better quality cookbox can extend the life of a grill 5 to 10 years.
Some are warrantied for the life of the grill.
Another thing to look for is a deep cookbox.
It helps to eliminate flare ups and makes for better heat retention.
Less expensive grills usually have thinned walled burners that are subject to corroding quickly.
Also, they may burn unevenly lacking uniform heat distribution in the cookbox.
Better burners are made of stainless steel, cast stainless, thick steel or cast iron.
Side ports on the burners avoid fat and juices from clogging them.
Plates covering the burners play an important part in creating better results by capturing more of the juices rather than having most fall to the bottom of the grill and requiring more frequent cleaning.
Capturing most of the juices on the plates/bars creates vaporization of the juices and adds flavor back to the meat.
Usually a good quality 4 burner gas grill will be $450 and up.
From there price is determined by the size of the grill, accessories, how “flashy” it is etc.
Manufacturer warranties are an indication that the product has been built to last and last as long or longer than stated.
Look for warranties that apply to the burners, cookbox, gas valves and pedestal/stand.
Less expensive grills will not come with any meaningful warranty.
Select a knowledgeable dealer.
One that just doesn’t sell grills but also cooks on the grills he sells.
The better the dealer knows his product the better he can fulfill your needs.
“The best relationships are those that are based on trust and integrity”
“Difference between a great one and an OK one”
Hamburgers appear to “reign supreme” when it comes to outdoor cooking. We may eat 10 million hotdogs per year but the average American eats 150 hamburgers per year or a total of 50 billion per year. Everybody cooks them and therefore there doesn’t seem to be much forethought as to what they’re comprised of or how they are cooked.
We tell customers that when it comes to brisket, butts, ribs etc. half the battle of getting good results is the quality of the meat. Low quality meat low quality results. It is the same with hamburger meat.
To understand the quality issue is to understand what you are buying. There is hamburger meat and there is ground beef. The USDA allows processors of hamburger meat to add fat. Fat is not allowed to be added to ground beef. With that being said, you may elect to purchase the ground beef over the hamburger meat but remember you still need a certain amount of fat to make a good burger.
We recommend the following, NEVER purchase either one! With either one you never know what part of the cow you are buying, how old it was, was the meat frozen etc. Remember, the USDA does not inspect meat unless it travels over State lines. Some States have State inspectors but that doesn’t necessarily guarantee high quality meat. You can be getting anything from the head to the a-s. Most butchers have scruples and will grind up better parts of the cow than a processor but again some can take their scraps mix in some fat and you have hamburger meat.
How do you avoid this problem and buy high quality hamburger meat or ground beef? First you buy the meat and have it ground. Doing so insures you have control of purchasing high quality meat and the cuts that you prefer. You determine the amount of fat content that you prefer by selecting a cut with a lot of fat or not so much.
Which cuts should you buy? There are several choices based on taste and price. The main cuts are chuck roast, short ribs, brisket, sirloin and skirt steak. The most flavorful and economical are chuck and short ribs with short rib being a little more expensive. We prefer chuck. So, purchase your chuck roast and while at the supermarket ask the butcher if he would be willing to grind it up for you. You’ll have to tell him the fat content you would like for example 15% or 20%.
The best burger we found are those where the chuck is coarsely ground, only ground once and has no less than 20% fat content. The coarse grind allows for more places for the juices to collect during cooking and has much better texture. The 20% fat content adds great flavor and a lot of moisture to the burger.
When you make the patties don’t over form them. Keep the meat packed just enough to hold the burger together but loose enough so the juices can collect. Cook to your desired temperature. Medium rare is 135 degrees and well done 165 degrees. It is important to know that a burger whose internal temperature is cooked below 160 degrees runs the risk of having e-coli. Now does this happen frequently, no, but people do die each year from hamburger meat that has become contaminated. If that’s the case, why don’t we eat our steaks well done? Because if e-coli is present it is only present on the surface of the steak. When you throw the steak on the grill the surface heats quite rapidly to 160 killing any e-coli that may be present. The difference with ground beef or hamburger meat is that during the grinding process the e-coli gets mixed in with the meat and is spread throughout the entire patty including the center. If you don’t cook the center to 160 you can be exposed to active e-coli. Most people prefer to have their burger cooked below 160 degrees internal temperature to avoid drying the burger out to the tenderness of a hockey puck. If you still want a well done burger then increase the fat content. Some will increase it up to 30%.
So, take control and “up” your burger cooking by purchasing good quality meat instead of leaving it up to the processors. You and your guests will notice a big difference in the taste, juiciness and texture.
Grilling is a great way to spend time with family and friends. If you grill enough, there are times when somethings can go afoul. When this happens it takes away from the wonderful grilling experience.
So, hear are some things to avoid:
Meat sticking to the grill:
Don’t-oil the cooking grate
Do-oil the meat
Don’t-grill all meats direct
Do-learn which food requires direct and indirect grilling
Don’t-throw fatty meats over direct heat
Do- an indirect cook for these meats
Do-season but still taste the meat; season to compliment the meat
Don’t-assume you know when the meat is done
Do-use an instance read thermometer
Don’t-get the entire grill the same temperature
Do-set aside a cool area on the grill as a safe zone
Don’t-avoid cleaning the grill
Do-thoroughly clean your grill a couple to 3 times during the season
Don’t-sauce in the beginning of the cook
Do- sauce when the meat is fully cook, put back on, low heat, to set sauce
Don’t-use lighter fluid to light charcoal
Do-use one of the many natural fire starters available
Cooking a variety of foods:
Don’t-throw them all on at the same time
Do-determine the timeline for cooking each item
Don’t-skewer different variety of foods on one skewer
Do-food on a skewer that have the same cooking time
Don’t-let thin cuts of meat rest
Do-let thicker cuts rest to redistribute juices
Don’t-skimp and have only one propane tank or bag of charcoal
Do-keep spare available so you don’t end up in an embarrassing situation
Don’t-put cooked meat on the same platter that was used when it was raw
Do-cover the plate with foil, place the raw meat on the foil, when the meat is cooked remove the foil
How is corn used in making corned beef? It’s not! The closest that the beef comes to corn is that which the cow may have eaten. “Corn” is an old English term used for the word grain. As per AmazingRibs.com, it was used in the phrase of that era “A corn of salt” so it became synonymous with salt. So, what is happening is the meat is being cured with salt. At that time they didn’t have the luxury of refrigeration and so the corning process was used to preserve meats.
Now, not the regular salt we use everyday at the dinner table, but curing salt. The curing salts are either Prague #1 or #2 also know as Insta Cure. Prague #1 is more commonly used for the “corning” process. It should be noted, NEVER use any curing salts at the dinner table and do not mistake them for pink Himalayan salt. If used for anything other than curing, they will be hazardous to your health.
What part of the cow is used to make corned beef? The brisket. Other parts of the cow can be used but none is as delicious as the brisket. When you are celebrating St. Patty’s Day, chowing down corned beef, it is brisket. Most BBQ’ers know what the brisket is but for those that don’t the brisket is the pectoral muscle (chest) of the cow. When it is not corned but smoked, the smoking process can take up to 10 hours since this is an over worked muscle and is very tough. When it is corned the salt breaks down the muscle fibers and transforms the brisket into a piece of tender meat. Oh, have you heard of pastrami? Well, it is a corned brisket that has been lightly smoked and seasoned with liberal amounts of pepper and coriander.
So, when seated at the St. Patty’s Day dinner table, exhibit your worldly knowledge and see how many know the origins of corned beef. Most probably will say “who cares” but you know!
Happy Saint Patty’s Day!!!
Meat selection is one, if not, the most important detail to turning out great barbecue. Why with all the hard work and hours that go into making barbecue would one select inferior cuts of meat? It makes no sense. Doing so puts you behind the “eight ball” right from the start. Sure, purchasing better meats will cost more but if you keep a look out for store sales or just have a good eye (and know what look , for) may be not.
So, what to do?
If your time is limited, and you don’t want to put the energy into searching around, then establishing a good relationship with a reliable butcher may be best. With his expertise and knowledge he should able to guide you and offer good cuts.
Beef is rated by the USDA as Select, Choice and Prime. There are lower grades than Select but they aren’t worth mentioning. AVOID SELECT!! Your greatest selection will be Choice grades especially when purchasing from a supermarket. Certified Black Angus is an industry standard not a USDA Grade but it is usually a better cut of Choice. Butchers can supply you with Prime but it may have to be ordered.
So what differentiates a superior cut of beef verses a marginal one? Intramuscular fat or “marbling”. Marbling is the fat that is interwoven with the muscle fibers. The theory is, the more marbling, more tenderness and flavor. Prime cuts will have the most marbling. The fat around the outside of a steak is inter-muscular fat and does not help flavor or tenderness. In fact, most of us will trim this away when chowing down. Below are examples of good marbling.
Most chicken in the supermarkets are “shot up” with all kinds of stuff to make them bigger and help make them grow faster. Usually you can notice this be the yellowish skin color. This is an indication that the backside of the skin is harboring a lot of fat. This fat does absolutely nothing to enhance the cook. Many Pro Pitmasters when competing will many times take the skin off chicken thighs and scrape the fat off. After they do this to a dozen thighs they will have a large pile of fat. Besides not being healthy the fat causes flare ups on the grill and keeps the skin from becoming crispy.
Buy chicken with nice white skin and where the label indicates it has not been “shot up”. Candidates are kosher chicken and a brand we like a lot, Springer Mountain Farms.
Pork is a little harder to distinguish. But one of the first things you should look for is how much “purge” is in the cryovac. “Purge” is the reddish liquid. It is many times construed as blood. It is not. The animal is bleed thoroughly at the time of slaughter. This reddish liquid is “myowater” or myoglobin, the natural liquid in our muscles. If there’s a lot of “purge” you should continue to look further. So, less purge is better.
Next, look at the color of the meat. It should have a nice light pinkness to it. Check the sell by date. Are you buying a lot of fat or meat? Most pork that we find in the stores today comes from “commodity” pigs. Remember years ago the saying, “pork, the other white meat”. Producers have leaned out their pigs to meet the demand.
If you want to purchase pork the way it was produced many years ago you will have to buy what we call Heritage Pork. Heritage pigs are raised with more intramuscular fat. There are many but the most common are Berkshire, Duroc and Cheshire. You will most likely have to order these breeds off the internet. Google Heritage Pork. A pork chop from one these breeds looks like a ribeye steak with all the marbling.
So, don’t cheat yourself. Go and get a good cut of meat. You’ll be happier and so will your guests.