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Whenever you cook a recipe, it is a good practice to read it through all the way before you start, making sure you have all the ingredients and tools. In the same way athletes visualize the race, you want to do a mental walk through.
I know you want to play with your food, but I strongly recommend that you follow my recipe closely the first time, no substitutions, no improvisation. You will then know what it is supposed to taste like. Then, on your second go round, you can customize it and riff on it by adding and subtracting and substituting. You may not like rosemary so you will be tempted to leave it out of Meathead's Memphis Dust, but I'm here to tell you that you'll never taste it on the final product because it is just on instrument in an orchestra. You may want to substitute honey for molasses, but the sulfur in molasses interacts with beans differently, making the meal less, shall we say, noisy? I know you think you can amp it up with a bit more chipotle or sugar, or by substituting cider vinegar for distilled vinegar, but I have worked really hard to get it right and there is a good reason for each and everything in a recipe. When there are good and safe substitutions, I list them. Try it my way the first time.
Then, when you change a recipe, it is a good idea to change only one thing at a time so if something goes wrong you know what the cause was. Change the rub and the cooking temp and if the chicken skin is flabby, you won't know for sure which was the culprit.
One of the most important keys to success is mise en place, a basic technique practiced by all professional chefs. Basically it means, before you fire up, get all the ingredients and tools out and do all the measuring, chopping, and blending. Trim the meat, chop the onions, peel the carrots. Scurrying to chop an onion at the last minute can mean disaster to a sauce. I help you by listing the ingredients in the order they will be used and the numbered steps in the recipe are the order in which I strongly recommend you work.
Prep and cooking times are based on my experience but your mileage may vary. As I have tried to make clear, you must cook with a thermometer, not with a clock. A turkey breast that took 90 minutes last week might need two hours this week. Thickness of the meat is the most important factor in determining cooking time, not weight. Ambient temperature and humidity outside are also important factors. Click here to read about what influences cooking time. Also, meat is made from animals and some just tougher than others, some are fattier, some are crankier. No two are precisely alike.
Because there are so many different grills and smokers out there, I cannot get detailed in each recipe about how to set up your cooker if you have a charcoal grill, gas grill, charcoal smoker, gas smoker, pellet smoker, egg/kamado, etc. Instead I specify temperature and whether you should cook over direct heat, indirect heat, or use a 2-zone setup. I have discussed how to set up each of these devices for these cooking methods elsewhere on this site. Unless otherwise noted, almost all the recipes in this book require you to cook with the lid down.
Here's a growing list of my favorite recipes, tested many times by me, my sous chef, and my readers. I work hard to perfect them, always striving to figure out the best techniques. Trust me and stick close to them the first time.
Throw out everything you know about burgers. In this section we learn about the history of hamburgers, the regional styles from the Jucy Lucy to the New Mexico Green Chile Cheeseburger, and the absolute best way to cook the dream burger, the 8 ounce Steakhouse Steakburger. And the best technique is nothing like the way you do it now.
Sitting on a flat rock by the campfire, a trout splashing on reentry, a cormorant drying its wings, ribbons of hot pink as the sun hauls itself out of the water, songbirds seeking sex in he most melodic way, and breakfast on the grill. Before you brush your teeth.