Chex Party Mix

Chex mix one of my favorite holiday snacks.  Thanks to the hot sauce and fresh garlic, this recipe tastes a ton better than the commercial ones and it’s gluten-free.

3 cups gluten-free Corn Chex
3 cups gluten-free Rice Chex
2 cups gluten-free pretzels (Snyder’s Of Hanover or Glutino are both good)
2 cups mixed nuts
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
3 tablespoons gluten-free Worcestershire sauce (Lea & Perrins is easy to find)
1-2 teaspoons Louisiana-style hot sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
Ground sea or kosher salt

Preheat oven to 250°F.

Pour cereal, pretzels, and nuts into a into a large mixing bowl or cake pan.

In a microwave-safe bowl, add butter, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, season salt, and onion powder and microwave until butter is melted. Stir together and taste. Add hot sauce and adjust seasonings as you see fit (I added a more Worcestershire and hot sauce).

Chex Mix

Slowly pour butter sauce over cereal mixture, tossing and stirring as you go.

Transfer mix onto one or two baking sheets (I left mine in the large cake pan that I mixed everything in) and bake, checking and stirring every 15 minutes until mix is toasted and fragrant, about 1 hour.

Chex Mix

Remove from oven. Taste, and if you want to, grind just a bit of sea salt over it. Let cool and store in an air-tight container.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
I’m VERY happy with how this batch turned out – salty and savory with just the right kick of heat. I used less cereal and more pretzels this time and I think it makes for a crunchier mix. As fast as this disappears, I’d double the recipe for a crowd.

Gift Ideas 2014

It’s the gift-giving/getting time of year again. So whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice, Boxing Day, or Festivus – here are some goodies that your favorite foodie might appreciate.

Raven Powder-Free Disposable Black Nitrile 6 Mil Gloves
Great food-handling gloves with enough thickness to protect your hands from hot foods and enough dexterity to handle delicate cutting jobs.

FoodSaver GameSaver Deluxe Vacuum Sealing Kit
When my second FoodSaver V3825 died I was just about ready to chuck to whole works and go back to zip-top bags. Luckily, I called the company and the service rep steered me to the GameSaver model – no bells and whistles, manual sealer, cheap, 10-year warranty, and works like a charm.

ThermoWorks ThermoPop Super-Fast Thermometer
This splash-proof, fast, and accurate thermometer is easy to use and if it saves you from  just one over-cooked roast or under-cooked chicken it will have paid for itself.

Kerr Wide Mouth 8 Oz. Mason Jars and Ball Wide-Mouth Plastic Storage Caps
Together these make excellent individual serving bakeware. I’ve used them for pecan pies, budino, pot de creme, and custards. They work just like ramekins, but once cooled, you can screw the lid on them for storage or transport.

Cafe Bustelo
The secret to the great Cuban coffee I had in Key West – rich and strong and works great in a drip coffee maker. Going to try adding this to some of my barbecue rubs.

Vegetable Starter Culture
I’ve been doing a lot of lacto-fermented veggies – dill pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, hot peppers, etc… This culture provides consistent results every time.

GrillPro 41090 2-Piece Silicone Basting Brushes
Heavier duty and easier to clean than any other brushes I’ve tried. The shorter one is good for cooking indoors and the longer one works great on the grill.

Fat Daddio’s 18 Aluminum Gauge Half Sheet Pan and Chrome Cooling Rack
These guys make some seriously heavy-duty bake ware. This combo is great for roasting in the oven, but I use it mostly for transporting and resting hunks of meat from the grill. The rack lets juices drain away so that the skin on chicken stays crispy and the crust on roasts stays crusty.

Happy holidays to all!

Ten Degree Turkey

It was mighty frigid for Turkey Day this year, so I went with this dead-simple spatchcocked turkey recipe that maximized the tender crispiness and minimized the amount of time that I had to spend outside shivering.

The Bird
1 whole fresh turkey (a 10-pound kosher bird in this case)
2 tablespoons sea or kosher salt
2 tablespoons poultry seasoning or rub (I used Penzey’s)
1 tablespoon raw or brown sugar
1 tablespoon Chesapeake Bay seasoning
1 teaspoon baking powder

Combine the salt, poultry seasoning, sugar, Chesapeake Bay seasoning, and baking powder in a shaker jar.

Clean and rinse the turkey, then pat it dry. Cut off the tail and any large bits of fat or loose skin (save along with the neck, backbone, and giblets for making gravy).

Place the bird on a cutting board with the breast side down and the back end facing you. Spatchcock (butterfly) the bird by cutting through the ribs on one side of the backbone with either a pair of kitchen shears or a sharp chef’s knife. The bottom couple of ribs are the worst to cut through. Once you are through those it goes pretty easily. Repeat on the other side and remove the backbone.

Open up the bird and make a small slice along the center of the keel bone. Press down on the outer edges of the breast until you hear the keel bone crack and the bird lies flat.
Rub both sides of the bird with the rub, making sure to work some under the skin. Refrigerate the turkey for a least an hour (overnight is best) uncovered to let the rub do its job and to dry out the skin a little.

The Cook
Set your grill up for an indirect cook over medium heat (350°F). On the Big Green Egg this means using about half a fire box full of lump charcoal, an inverted plate setter to diffuse the heat, and a drip pan to catch the fat.

Put the turkey on the grill skin side up and close the lid. Cook undisturbed for 1 hour. Check and rotate the grill if necessary to even out any hot spots. Close the lid and cook until the turkey reaches 160°F in the breast. Figure about 10 minutes per pound total cooking time. This 10-pound bird was done in just under 2 hours.

spatchcocked turkeyRemove the turkey to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes.

To carve, cut the back quarters away from the body at the hip joint. Separate the drumsticks from the thighs. Locate the bone that runs the length of the thigh and remove the meat on either side. Leave at least one of the drumsticks intact because there’s something wonderfully primal about eating one of these with your bare hands.

Find the joint connecting the wing and breast, and cut through it. Remove both wings. Cut the breast meat into two pieces, slicing along either side of breastbone. Slice the breast meat across the grain.

spatchcocked turkey

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Spatchcocking is a great way to grill any kind of poultry, but it makes cooking a turkey particularly easy and tasty. The bird cooks faster and more evenly so you don’t have to worry that the breasts will dry out before the dark meat is done.

I added a little baking powder the my rub to help crisp the skin and it worked wonders. The skin was so crisp that it practically crackled when I carved the breast.

Piri Piri/Peri Peri/Berbere Wings

Whatever you call it, this spice mix is hot. Portuguese sailors brought the piri piri (pepper pepper) with them to North Africa. There the locals incorporated it into their cooking and this fiery dish was born. These wings get a double dose of heat both from the berbere seasoning and shot of hot sauce.

6 chicken wings, separated at joints, discard tips
1 tablespoon sea or kosher salt
1 tablespoon raw or brown sugar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon True Lemon Crystallized Lemon
1/2 teaspoon Penzey’s Berbere Seasoning (cayenne red pepper, garlic, ginger, fenugreek, cardamom, cumin, black pepper, allspice, turmeric, cloves, Ceylon cinnamon, and coriander)
1/4 cup Nando’s Medium Peri-Peri Sauce

Make a rub by combining the salt, sugar, garlic, onion, pepper, lemon, and berbere in a small bowl. Dust the wings with the rub, making sure to cover both sides.

Piri Piri Wings

Set a cooling rack on a cookie sheet or jellyroll pan. Lay wings out on a rack and let them sit uncovered in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, and preferably overnight to let the rub do its work and for the skin to dry out a bit.

Set your grill up for a raised direct cook at 350°F. On the Big Green Egg I used an extender to move the grate up to the level of the rim, putting the chicken further away from the heat.

When the grill is ready, put the wings on the grill and cook undisturbed for 30 minutes. Flip and cook for another 20 minutes, or until brown and crispy.

Baste the wings on both sides with the hot sauce. Let them cook for another 10 minutes, then baste again.

Serve with bleu cheese dressing and the reserved sauce for dipping.


New product – I enjoyed True Lemon’s powdered drink mixes this summer and was glad to see that they had come out with powdered flavorings too.

The crystallized lemon gave the rub a nice bite in addition to a fresh lemon taste.

I’m looking forward to trying out their Orange Ginger seasoning next.

XXL Big Green Egg

I final got a first-hand gander at this beast at the Apple Harvest Eggfest. Wow! When I got there they had already taken the ribs off, but at one point they were cooking three racks of ribs, two pork butts, a turkey, an apple crisp, and still had plenty of room to spare.

For all you Eggheads out there, here are all the nerdy details:
29 inch grill diameter
672 square inch cooking area
424 pounds
You can fit 35-40 burgers, 14-16 chickens, 18-20 steaks, or 20 stacked racks of ribs on it – about three times the capacity of my large Egg.

XXL Big Green Egg-924

While this monster is way too large for this humble home grillmeister (although I wouldn’t say no if someone wanted to give me one), I can sure see a grill/smoker this size appealing to some of the big competition barbecue teams, as well as caterers and restaurants.

XXL Big Green Egg-487BTW – the Apple Harvest Eggfest was a hoot. Perfect fall day filled with the smell of apples and barbecue. Can’t beat that. Will definitely do it again next year, maybe even as part of a cooking team.



Peach Pork Chops

I used the absolute last peaches of the season to make this sweet and tangy dish. I really like this grill and baste technique to keep the meat moist, particularly with leaner cuts of pork and chicken.

2 pounds thick-cut pork chops
1 pound of peaches, quartered and pitted (2 -3 peaches)
1/2 large red bell pepper, quartered
1 small onion, quartered
2 tablespoons fresh herbs (whatever is in the garden, I used thyme and rosemary)
1/4 – 1/2 cup water
2 cups barbecue sauce (Pomegranate Pig in this case)

Combine peaches, pepper, onion, and herbs in a food processor or blender. Add just enough water to float everybody’s boat and then give it all a whirl until well-combined, but not pureed. You want it a little chunky.

Pour peach mixture into a large saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer until it has reduced by about half (about 10 – 15 minutes depending on how much water you used). It should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Remove from heat. Add the barbecue sauce and stir to combine.

Set your grill up for a direct cook at medium high (400°F) heat. On the Big Green Egg is used an extender to raise the cooking grate a bit to give me a more even heat.

Pour about half the peach barbecue sauce into a shallow, flame-proof pan (a disposable 9×13 foil pan works great). Set the pan on the grill and heat until it starts to bubble. Remove from heat and keep warm (I nestle mine right next to the grill).

Season the chops with a little salt and pepper on each side. Grill for about 5 to 10 minutes on each side to give them some nice grill marks and a bit of char.  Remove the chops to the pan and turn to coat each side. Put pan full of chops on the grill and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the chops hit 145°F internal.

Peach Pork Chops

Let rest 5 minutes then serve with remaining sauce on the side.

Perfect BBQ Tek Chimney Cap – Review

The fine folks over at Perfect BBQ Tek recently asked me try our their new chimney cap on my Big Green Egg and I was happy to oblige.

The cap, which fits a variety of kamado-style cookers, is designed to keep rain and/or snow out while working with the existing top vent controller. With the Big Green Egg, the chimney cap goes on first and then the dual-function daisy wheel top goes on top of that to hold it down.

When I first opened the box, I thought someone had sent me a mailbox. The cap really isn’t much more than that – just a simple u-shaped aluminum box that is open at both ends. It’s wide and tall enough to get at the daisy wheel controls, but deep enough keep any stray precipitation out of the Egg.

Chimney cap

Seems simple enough, but as the owner told me, “I know it’s simple, but it takes work to get things back to simple.”

I wasn’t able to whip up any nasty weather for my tests, but the following video shows what the cap is capable of withstanding:

It looks to me that if it got any worse than that, I’d be manning the sump pumps or gathering animals two-by-two and barbecue would be the least of my worries.

Aside from the simple-yet-practical design, I also really liked that the cap didn’t change how the draft/temperature controls worked on the Egg. I could set up my bottom vent and daisy wheel opening just like I would if the cap weren’t there.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
All-in-all, the Perfect BBQ Tek Chimney Cap looks to be a great solution to keep stormy weather from ruining your cookout.

Damn Near Perfect Pulled Pork

I’ve been playing around quite a bit trying to find the tastiest/fastest/easiest way to do pulled pork. I’ve done the traditional low ‘n’ slow method – 250°F for 16-20 hours until the meat hits 210°F internal and starts to fall apart. The results are always good – smoky and tender with a crispy bark – but I seldom have the time or inclination to do overnight cooks anymore.

I’ve also gone the “turbo butt” route – smoking at 350°F until the butts hit 160°F internal, then wrapping in foil and braising until done. The results have been good and expedient, but the butts seems to come out drier with too much bark.

This time I split the difference and did a slightly hotter and faster cook without any foiling/braising. The end result may very well be the best pulled pork I’ve ever made – tender and juicy with good smoke flavor and plenty of pliable bark.

I scored the fat cap on the butts every inch or so, then seasoned the butts with a heavy coating of Plowboys Yardbird Rub. I stashed them in the fridge while I set up the Big Green Egg for a 8 hour indirect cook at 300°F. This meant filling the firebox with lump and using a plate setter and drip pan to diffuse the heat. When the cooker was up to temp, I added some chucks of apple wood for smoke.

I cooked the butts for about 7 hours at 300°F, turning occasionally, until they hit 210°F internal.

Pulled Pork

At this point the meat was starting to fall apart and it was all I could do to get the butts off the grill in one piece. I loaded them into a large roasting pan and let them rest for an hour before pulling the meat.

First I broke down the major muscle groups, removing them from the fat and connective tissue. Then I worked the meat over using a pair of bear paws to shred the meat and to remove all the remaining inedible bits. I added a little finishing sauce (50/50 Pomegranate Pig and apple cider vinegar) while  working with the meat to help keep it moist.

Root Beer Ribs

My love for a good root beer goes back to my childhood when we would pull into the only drive-in diner in town and the carhop would bring out a big tray of frosty root beer floats.

2 racks baby back ribs
1 (12-ounce) bottle root beer (get the good stuff without any ingredients that you can’t pronounce)
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 (4-ounce) can tomato paste
1/2 cup raw or brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon sea or kosher salt
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

In a medium saucepan, bring the root beer to a boil and cook until the volume is reduced by half (about 5 minutes). Add the vinegar, paste, sugar, honey, salt, and Worcestershire. Wisk to combine. Return to a boil and then reduce the heat and let simmer for 1 minute. Taste and adjust for sweetness, acid, umami, and salt.

Turn the heat off and add the paprika, pepper, onion, garlic, chili powder, pepper, and cayenne. Wisk to combine. Bring to a boil again then reduce heat and simmer for 1 minute. Reduce heat to lowest setting and let sauce cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Bottle and store in the fridge.

Set your grill up for a raised direct cook at low (300°F) heat. I set the Big Green Egg with a Woo2 extender to raise the cooking grid up about 4 inches further from the heat.

While the grill is getting up to temp, season both sides of the ribs with your rub of choice. Toss in a chunk of smoking wood (sassafras this time), and when the smoke changes from white (bad) to blue (good), put the ribs on bone side down for an hour.

Flip the ribs bone side down and let them go for another hour. After 2 hours total, start checking for doneness. The slabs should bend and crack when you pick up one end with a pair of tongs and the meat should have also started to pull back from the bones.

Root Beer Ribs

When the ribs are showing signs of being done, sauce the meat side with the Root Beer Barbecue Sauce and let them cook for another 10 minutes. Flip them and sauce the bone side and let them go for another 10 minutes. Flip them meat side up and give them a final coat of sauce and let them cook for a final 10 minutes.

Remove the ribs from the grill and let them rest for about 10 minutes before serving with more sauce on the side.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
The sauce is a winner and I really like the way the sassafras added to the anise flavor. The end result was very rich, sweet, and spicy. The bark ended up being a little too thick and dry for my tastes, probably from flare ups caused by cooking directly over the coals.

Grilled Lemon Tarragon Tuna

Tuna is the perfect fish for grilling – firm and lean with a meaty flavor that goes with just about anything.  Here I’ve bumped up the taste a little bit with an herby marinade.

1 1/2 pounds yellowfin tuna steak
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
2 cloves garlic, peeled (pickled, in this case)
2 teaspoons dried tarragon
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 cup olive oil

Make the marinade by combining the lemon juice, honey, peppers, salt, garlic, herbs, and olive oil in a food processor and giving it a whirl until everything is well-blended and has started to thicken, kind of like a thin mayonnaise.

Put the tuna in a lidded container, cover with the marinade, and turn to coat. Stash in the fridge while you get the grill set up.

Set your grill up for a direct cook over high (600°F) heat.

Grilled Tuna Steak

I treat tuna steaks like beef steaks – grill them hot and fast to just medium-rare. Grill the tuna steak for about a minute per side, checking for doneness often. The tuna should yield gently when you press on it with the tongs. Not too firm, or you’re headed toward cat food territory. It’s best to pull the steak off the heat just before it’s done and let the carry-over heat finish cooking it.

Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Tuna is a nice change of pace from steaks and chops and a great fresh and light taste for summer.

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