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"Nothing can teach you better about quality than attempting to produce it." Meathead
Good cooking needs more than good recipes. The best chefs have developed tricks and techniques that can make major differences in the outcome. Here are some of my favorite tips and tricks that make cooking easier, and the outcome better.
The most important technique an outdoor cook needs to master is how to control the cooking temperature by using 2-zone and indirect heating. You need to control the temperature of your oven because the solids and liquids in the food react differently to different levels of heat.
The first step to becoming a great outdoor cook is to master your instrument, and the best way to do this is to calibrate it with dry runs. No food needed.When you are done with these dry runs, you want to know what to do when a recipe calls for cooking at 225°F or 325°F on the indirect side of the 2-zones and 425°F on the direct side.
The Smokenator may be the best accessory for the Weber Kettle ever, making it a very effective smoker, but there are some things I strongly disagree with in the Smokenator manual. Here are my tips for success.
You may have thought you left physics and chemistry behind when you left school, but if you want to eat well, you need to understand that cooking is all about physics and chemistry, with a little magic mixed in. Here are some broad concepts every outdoor cook needs to know.
When heat is applied to food, the chemicals in the food change. A lot. Heat is powerful energy. Some changes are obvious, some subtle, some invisible. The most important of these changes are the Maillard reaction and caramelization. Together they make miracles. Together they make GBD: Golden Brown and Delicious.
When do you cook hot and fast, low and slow, and do you do both (reverse sear)? Not all food should be cooked at the same temperature. Sometimes hot and fast is best. Most of the time low and slow is best, and more often still, a combination of low and slow with hot and fast, a vital technique called reverse sear, is best of all.
Just because you have taken food off the heat, doesn't mean you are done cooking. Cooking can continue for 15 minutes or so, even at room temp. This is called carryover cooking an it can really screw things up.
Contrary to what your neighbor says, greasy grill grates and carbon buildup on the lid do not improve the flavor of your food. Rancid grease garnished with scale is not something I see on restaurant menus very often. And scale on the hood can reduce the heat of your grill. Here's how to clean and maintain your grill and smoker year round.
It's pretty shocking when the rip off the cover off your cooker in spring to discover the interior is covered in white fuzz. Weber Smokey Mountain owners are especially vulnerable to this jolt. Here's what to do.
It's French and it means, roughly, "everything in its place", and it is the best thing from France since the Pinot Noir grape. It can prevent disasters. The basic concept is to get all the ingredients out and ready first. Chef Anthony Bourdain calls it his religion. The Boy Scouts have a similar motto: "Be prepared".
When the whole fam damily is coming over, you might want to cook more than one pork butt or brisket, or a shoulder and a brisket and some ribs. If you have the space, it's no problem. The question is, how does this impact cooking times? But beware of those vertical rib holders.
The problem with outdoor cooking is that the temp isn't as easy to control as indoor cooking. So you can never be 100% sure when things will be ready, especially when you're cooking low and slow. So here's the solution. Get it done early and hold it in a faux cambro, aka beer cooler.
One of the most frequently asked questions I get goes something like this "I agreed to serve pulled pork for 50 people at the company picnic on Sunday. I plan to cook it on Saturday at home and bring it to the park on Sunday. What's the best way to do this?" Here's the answer.
Take notes! Whenever you cook, keep a log. Make notes on the meat, the prep, the cooker temp, ambient temp, the wood you used, how it tasted, and what improvements you need to make. Here's a printable version of my cooking log.
The problem is chicken breasts have a big bulge on one end, and a thin narrow tip on the other. So if you cook the fat end to 165°F, when it is safe, the thin eng is way overcooked and dry. There is a solution. Pound the breast until it is uniform in thickness.
It is a widely accepted shibboleth, appearing in practically every barbecue book ever written: "If you're lookin', you ain't cookin'". The message is that when you open the lid of your grill or smoker, cooking slows or stops. Our resident mythbuster, Dr. Greg Blonder busts this myth.
Beginners are often baffled after 2 to 3 hours of cooking pork shoulder or beef brisket. The temperature of the meat stops moving. It sticks. It stalls. and stays unyielding for hours. Pitmasters think it is fat rendering or collagen denaturing. It is not. Here is an exclusive explanation by physicist Dr. Greg Blonder about what is happening and what to do about it.
The ribs the world loves best are from the American South, barbecued, with a perfect balance of porcine flavor, silky mouthfeel, springy texture, and juiciness framed by a kiss of smoke, hugged by the sweetness, acidity, and spiciness of sauce, and licked by fire. Here's my definition of what Amazing Ribs taste like.