Cooking Burgers Using 73/27 Ground Beef

73/27 burgers on the Blackstone Griddle with caramelized onions and mushrooms

Here are 16 burgers, made out of 73/27 ground beef, that I cooked on my Blackstone Griddle for a birthday party, along with caramelized onions and mushrooms. Notice how none of them puffed up. Note: these are smash burgers.

Whenever I read about cooking up the best burgers one can concoct, it seems that most people use 80% lean/20% fat ground beef for optimal the optimal lean:fat ratio. Just enough fat to keep the patties moist and juicy, but lean enough for the burger to stand on its own. But what about 73% lean/27% fat ground beef?

Burgers are one of my favorite foods, unabashedly so. My family and friends love them, so when they are visiting, I find myself making them quite often. While I agree that 80/20 is a fantastic ratio of ground beef in a patty to cook up, more often than not I’m buying 73/27 ground beef from my local grocery store (Grant’s Supermarket, in southwest Virginia, if you are wondering) — they often feature it on sale for $1.99/lb. in 5-lb. family packs, so the prospect of having that much meat to throw down for the whole family for just $10 is a game changer. Even more mind-blowing is that sometimes this grocery store will price it, on certain days, at $.99 cents/lb., which is crazy to even think about.

A lot of people will shun that style of ground beef and pay a little extra for 80/20 ground beef, because they’ll consider the fat/overall collective ‘weight’ loss (in the mass of the meat) resulting from during the cooking of the 73/27 ground beef as throwing money down the drain, but here’s the kicker: any time you are cooking burgers with high fat content it is fine, because the best burgers in the world that you can create come from not only the finished product being juicy, but also when the burger is cooking in its own fat. There is nothing like eating a burger with a crust formed thanks to the glorious Maillard reaction (caused by overall contact from the exterior of the burger on a scorching hot cooking surface) that is juicy and oh-so melt in your mouth good internally.

Yes, with 73/27 you will experience substantial fat running out of the meat and running wild in the process, but you should never fear this becoming an issue. Again, the best burgers in the world cook in their own rendered fat.

I will offer this one caveat, though: if you are cooking burgers that feature a high fat content like this in a skillet, particularly a scorching hot cast iron that is properly preheated for maximum crust formation, be wary of how many burgers you are playing into the pan. What happens is, say, if you are cooking four medium-to-large burgers in one skillet, there is going to be a ton of fat that will pool out, and when you flip the burgers, there is potential for the crust to not be the best. This is why I recommend buying an outdoor griddle, as they (Blackstone, Camp Chef, Royal Gourmet, Blue Rhino, etc.) feature grease drains that will remove the excessive amount of grease that covers the cooking surface. However, if you are limited to a cast iron skillet, two burgers at a time with some grease poured out between each cook of the batch of burgers you plan on making will help aid you in your quest for making the best burgers possible.

There are, basically, two burger cooking methods, and one I consider superior than the others, but let’s go through both:

1.) The classic, standard patted-out burger: this is the type of burger you shape into a patty yourself. It is great, nonetheless, but here is what can lead to disaster and ultimately a burger that will be smaller than the bun you place it onto: when you form the patty, no matter how much you flatten it out into a perfect circular shape, it is going to puff up as the fat renders and the proteins contract. You can counteract this by making a shallow indention (the ‘dimple’ method) in the middle of the burger before placing it onto a hot cooking surface, about an inch or so wide. When making burgers this way, especially if I’m going to be cooking them on my charcoal grills, I have also experimented with making small slits in the burger patties with a knife along with the indention, and it has never failed me.

2.) Smash burgers (the best burger method, in my humble opinion): this is by far and away the superior method when it comes to making burgers. I wrote about it here. What you do is, instead of patting the ground beef into a patty, you make a meatball out of it, and the size of the meatball is up to you, and I don’t recommend making it too big (you can always make thin double-burgers on a bun). But you lightly pack the ground beef into a meatball, not forming it too tightly and leaving it slightly loose, and afterwards when you place it onto the screaming hot cooking surface, take a burger press or a cast iron press and smash it down. This does not force out any of the juices that you want to remain in your burger, as the internal meat has not began cooking yet. What this does do, however, is flatten the burger out to achieve maximum surface contact with the burger against the surface of the material you are cooking with, which will yield not only the best crust ever but also keep the meat moist and juicy on the inside. Since the burger is flattened properly, it won’t take but just a few minutes to be ready to flip for a sear on the other side of the meat. The finished product is a juicy inside with a delectable crust on the outside.

While 80/20 may be ‘superior’ in a sense, because it is widely viewed as the standard for the optimal lean-to-fat content of a burger, you shouldn’t sleep on 73/27 just because of the 7% higher fat content. When I’ve made burgers, whether it is using the indention method on pre-patted patties or smashburgers, I have little to no issues with the meat puffing up during the cooking process. It may thicken up a little bit, but your worries should be far and few between.

As always, though, the temperature of your cooking surface will determine the quality of your burger. If your heat isn’t high enough, it will be lackluster because you aren’t going to create the crust that you want in every satisfying bite you take. Use these tips in this post and I promise you that it will change the game of your burgers.

Carne Asada Tacos With Grilled Flank Steak

Carne Asada Tacos With Grilled Flank Steak

Carne Asada Tacos w/Grilled Flank Steak

Believe it or not, this is my first time ever cooking a classic carne asada meal. Carne asada translates to ‘grilled meat’ in English, which I’m no stranger to, but I’m referring to the classic Mexican dish that features skirt, sirloin or flank steak that has been marinated with Hispanic and Tex-Mex flavors that you will find in the grub at your local Mexican restaurant. First time or not, I knocked it out of the park, and if you give this a try, I think you will be in that same ballpark, knocking one out right beside of me.

I have scoured the web for recipes and have picked up inspiration for this dish. There are a lot of similar recipes to this one, which is no surprise, as ‘carne asada taco recipes’ currently yield over 1.5 million search results in Google. However, I add a little bit of a twist to mine that you likely won’t see elsewhere. Alright, then. Let’s cut to the chase and get on with what you are here for. Here is the Grizzly BBQ version carne asada tacos with grilled flank steak.

Note: if you are going to be cooking with flank steak, I highly recommend marinating it. It is a leaner cut of steak, and when it is ready to be sliced and consumed with gusto, you want to cut it against the grain for a tender bite.

Marinade recipe:
In a bowl, mix up…
— 1/4 cup of soy sauce (use reduced sodium soy sauce if you’d like — I’m a grizzled salt fiend, myself)
— 1/3 cup of either canola oil or olive oil
— 1/2 cup of orange juice, or juice hand-squeezed from an orange
— 1/2 cup of chopped cilantro
— Juice from 1 lime
— 4 cloves of minced garlic
— 1 diced jalapeno (remove seeds if you want less spice)
— 1 diced Serrano pepper (much like for the jalapeno, remove the seeds if you want less spice)
— 1 tsp. of cumin
— 1 tsp. of black pepper
— A few arbitrary shakes of Caribeque Big & Bold Beef Rub (optional — this is the twist of the recipe; Caribeque Big & Bold Beef Rub is an avid go-to of mine for anything involving steak)

Add the flank steak (for the record, I used a 1.5 lb. flank steak) to a Ziploc bag and, after mixing up the marinade, pour it over the steak. Be sure that both sides of the meat is amply coated with the marinade prior to sealing up the Ziploc bag, removing as much air as possible before you close it up. Add to the fridge overnight, preferably, or you can do what I did and allow it to soak in the marinade for four or so hours.

Now, for the second best part: the grilling of the flank steak!

Grilling flank steak

The process of grilling the flank steak

Side view of grilling flank steak

Another shot of the grilled flank steak


1.) An hour to 30 minutes prior to your planned cook, drain the meat from the marinade and allow it to sit out at room temperature so that the internal temperature of the meat will adjust to the external temperature when you grill it.

2.) Preheat your grill. You can cook this in a skillet inside your home if you would like, in a cast iron on heat heat, but hey, remember: carne asada means grilled meat, so bust out the grill if you have it. I used a charcoal grill, but if all you have is a gas grill, set that sucker up on high. The following instructions will revolve around charcoal grilling. For that, if you have a charcoal chimney (I highly recommend using one), fill it up with lump charcoal and light it with paper or a lighter cube. Briquettes work fine, but lump burns hotter, and when you are making this, you want the grill to be as hot as possible.

3.) When the charcoal has grayed over with ash (if you have a charcoal chimney, this is when you will want to dump them into one spot of the grill in one big clump), add your grill grate and close up the grill with the intake and exhaust vents wide open. We want this baby to be piping hot.

4.) Wait about 10 minutes for the inside of the grill to become scorching hot. This allows the grates to come up to temperature in order to welcome that steak.

5.) Remove lid and place the flank steak directly over the coals. This was a pretty big, thick flank steak, so your cooking time may deviate from my method, but I cooked the steak for around five minutes on each side.

6.) Remove the steak and wrap tightly in foil in order to rest. Meanwhile, heat some flour tortillas directly on the grill grate over the hot coals. It only took the tortillas 5-6 seconds on each side to be sufficiently heated and browned up. Use corn tortillas if you would like. I would have loved to have used corn tortillas, but all the store-bought tortillas in this region (southwest Virginia) are rubbish (in my humble opinion), and I didn’t have time to whip up a homemade batch.

7.) (Optional) Char up a jalapeno pepper. I like to eat a grilled jalapeno whenever I have tacos. The flavor is a delicious add-on that complements the meal in my personal experience.

8.) Slice up the flank steak (remember: slice against the grain) and serve!

Carne asada tacos with flank steak
*I whipped up a batch of loaded guacamole the day before. If you would like my guacamole recipe, let me know in the comments. The guacamole featured lime juice, diced jalapenos, diced roma tomatoes, a diced red onion, chopped cilantro, salt, pepper and some garlic.*

I’m more than pleased with how well this recipe worked. These carne asada tacos featured classic Hispanic and Tex-Mex flavors that made the finished product taste like it came from a top of the line restaurant. I could only imagine it being made even better if I had used homemade corn tortillas and a touch of Cotija cheese, but as is, I must openly, biased as I may sound, reiterate that these tacos were a home run.

Why Do Food Bloggers Post Their Life Story Before the Recipe?

One of the things I was most excited about when I created Grizzly BBQ was the prospect of writing recipes earlier in my posts than what you see on a typical culinary-based website. I may write a paragraph or two before posting my recipes, but by and large, they are right there in front of you within one quick scroll down. I couldn’t help myself, but I had to write a poem about these culinary bloggers who love to post an overly long story in each of their recipe posts before they, you know, post the actual recipe:

This evening I’m feeling bacon-fried rice

The family agrees that would be quite nice

So I open up my laptop to perform a quick search

Besieged I am to buy lots of merch

So I click several links over here and there

Reading stories of what people smelled in the air

As well as growing up down on grandma’s farm

Where they would cook things like fresh chicken with parm

Growing furious not wanting to read a book

I scroll down the page and continue to look

Why do these people think it is a necessity

To tell their story and not give the recipe

Alas I have found a Google Chrome filter for inspiration

And I have to admit this is a riveting sensation

For recipes only and story prevention

I’ll download and install this new Chrome extension

There really is nothing more aggravating than heading over to Google and trying to find a specific recipe for something, or when you are searching for general recipes for dinner ideas, and you have to scroll through the food blogger’s life story before you can finally arrive at the destination you wanted: the recipe itself.

Thankfully, there is an extension for Google Chrome that filters out the nonsensical stories and brings you to the content so that you don’t have to read about Barbara’s tangents about making potato soup with her aunt June in November 1979. The extension is called ‘recipe filter’ and you can find it here, granted that you are using the Google Chrome web browser.

I just wanted to share, because not only do I love sharing the love of good grub, I empathize with everyone who is agitated when looking up recipes only to have to scroll through 3,000+ words of fluff in order to get to the recipe they want to find out about.

I’m not sure what compels anyone to want to regale readers with these stories. One could argue that a small segment of readers may be interested in reading these big, tall tales, but at the end of the day, by and large, the majority of people who visit your site for a recipe is there for the recipe and that’s that. I feel as though there is an ulterior motive for these food bloggers/recipe creators because they are trying to manipulate the system with more ‘search keywords’ in their post in order to appear higher in the results on Google (I don’t blame them). That’s all fine and well, but most people see through that. We just want the recipe.

Anywho, if I have a story to tell related to the food I’m posting about, I will write it after I post the recipe. Those who enjoy my content will stick around, and those who come for the recipe will bolt. Either/or, that is fine. Perhaps these long-winded narrative-writing food bloggers can pick up on that tip as time ensues, making finding recipes less than a hassle than it can be sometimes.

How to Cook Chicken Wings on the Blackstone Griddle

It seems like you can almost cook anything on the Blackstone Griddle, or any outdoor griddle you can think of that is currently sold in most markets (Camp Chef, Royal Gourmet, etc…), but there are limits. I mean, you can’t smoke a brisket or a pork butt on the Blackstone, nor can you cook Snickers bars on it (on second thought… about the Snickers bars… maybe? Well… nah). However, you can be creative and think outside the box with some recipes you have in mind. Chicken wings, for instance.

Ah. Chicken wings. They might just be my all-time favorite food, but that is a discussion up for debate with myself for another time. When I was a child, a picky child at that, whenever I would go to any restaurant with my family, I always ordered chicken wings. To this day, I still love wings. My favorite wing concocting method is deep frying them. Smoking chicken wings is fine and all, but deep frying them until they are crunchy and crispy on the outside is unrivaled.

Deep-fried wings being unrivaled or not in my heart, I’m a natural born experimenter and enjoy trying an odd cooking method from time to time. Enter my Blackstone Griddle. When I purchased the 36″ model in August 2017, the idea of cooking wings on the flat top surface seemed out of the question for me. They wouldn’t be submerged in cooking oil, and given the thickness of wings, I felt that something like wings would take far too long to cook due to having to constantly turn them while trying not to burn them.

Blackstone Betty AKA Desiree Ruberti Dukes, a quasi-Blackstone legend/aficionado and home chef, posted griddle-cooked wings on social media one day, back in 2018 if I remember correctly. I was astounded, but not without skepticism. They looked great, but I couldn’t wrap my head around the prospect of griddle-cooked wings being anywhere close to the exceptional finish of deep-fried wings.

It wasn’t until June 2019 when I finally put chicken wings on the Blackstone Griddle up to the test. Long story short: it was a success.

Crazy Cajun chicken wings on the 36″ Blackstone Griddle.

Should you try cooking chicken wings on your griddle? Yes. An emphatic yes, at that. But preparation is key. There are a couple of culinary tools, tips and tricks that you should be aware of if you are going to given griddle-wings a try.

My personal essentials for griddling chicken wings:
— Paper towels
— Duck fat spray
— Your seasoning/rub of choice
— Baking powder
— Patience (comically optional)
— Basting cover
— Spatula/tongs — you choose; I use a griddle spatula for wings for quick flipping/transitioning
— Instead-read meat thermometer

I did not mention paper towels, baking powder or, er, patience in the post that I linked a couple of paragraphs up. But they are essential if you want to produce the best, crispiest wings possible on your griddle.

Paper towels — you will want to pat the chicken wings dry to remove any moisture from the skin. This will help you obtain a crispy crust during the cooking since minimal water will be playing into the possibilities of a soft wing skin being produced in the final product.

Duck fat spray — You don’t have to use duck fat spray, as it can be a little on the pricey side ($8.86 at my local Wal-Mart is the cheapest I have found it). I presume you could also use coconut oil spray, but I haven’t tested that presumption out, so I’ll leave it up to you, the reader, if you decide to go that route. I recommend duck fat spray because it aids in crisping up the skin when the chicken wings are cooking, as it sticks to the meat well enough and the duck fat itself stands up to higher temperatures than most other fat (coconut oil is great for higher heat cooking as well, if we are talking smoke points). The spray will also help act as a binder for your rub/seasoning to stick to the skin of the meat. If the rub/seasoning contains salt, it will help draw out more moisture as well, which will also deliver — once again — a crispy, crusty skin.

Baking powder — This is a trick I learned when I tried grilling chicken wings. I’m not a scientist in any way shape or form, but there is something about baking powder where, if applied to the skin of the wings, it is another crispy skin assist. Again, I’m not sure how, but it does the trick. What I like to do is, after patting the wings with paper towels, I’ll toss them into a bowl, spray them with duck fat spray, mix them up with a large spoon or spatula, shake my rub/seasoning of choice onto the wings, give them another mix-up before adding a tablespoon or so of baking powder (pending on how many wings you are cooking) and giving it another mix. Usually, I’ll just use my hands to press the rub/seasoning and baking powder into the meat. It is insignificantly messy, but it helps everything stick together. If I had a general albeit adjustable rule, I would say about a tablespoon or so of baking powder per 3 lbs. of chicken wings.

Patience — I didn’t do this the first go-’round, but in the times I’ve cooked chicken wings on the griddle afterwards, after completing the final mix-up of the rub/seasoning and baking powder, and ensuingly washing my hands (hey, I know this is common sense, but cross-contamination and the potential for salmonella poisoning is not a fun thing to think about), I’ll place the bowl of wings in the fridge the day/night before so that the rub/seasoning and baking powder can settle on the meat. This is optional if you don’t want to wait and would rather get straight to cooking (I feel you, homie, if that is the case), but it helps, significantly or minimally pending on your point of view.

I’m not including the basting cover, spatula/tongs or instant-read meat thermometer in these explanations/steps, because that will come into play during the cooking process.

For a quick recap of the above:
— Pat the chicken wings dry with a paper towel
— Spray them with duck fat (or coconut oil) spray
— Rub/mix with your choice of rub/seasoning and baking powder onto the wings
— Let ’em rest (again: optional)

So, you are ready to cook ’em up. Now it is time to make the magic happen.

On cooking the chicken wings:
Fire up your griddle on high. This is another general rule, but I feel like the high heat to start the wings is essential for the Maillard reaction to set. Maybe I’m full of it, but the high heat will virtually ‘shock’ the skin of the wings at first. When the griddle is hot’n’ready, add some cooking oil to the surface. I go back and forth between using olive oil and canola oil, but I reckon peanut oil may be optimal, although I haven’t tried it with wings on the griddle.

Add your wings onto the scorching hot griddle surface. Spread them out so that all the wings have an equal chance at meeting that sizzling sear, coming into contact with the oil.

An adjustable rule as well, and keep in mind this is just my recommendation (as you might prefer a different method of time here — it isn’t a hard-and-fast rule), but while the wings are initially cooking, I’ll wait about two minutes and then I’ll give them all a flip and stir to sear the other side.

After that initial flip and when another two or so minutes have eclipsed, I’ll lower the heat to medium/medium-low and cover the wings with a round basting cover. What this does is allow the internal temperatures of the meat to catch up to the external temperature of the wings. This also speeds up the cook in a significant way as the fat renders. You may express fear that the steam that results in covering the wings will soften the skin, but in my subjective experiences that has never been the case, so kill those fears off and let it ride.

As far as times to leave the basting cover on the wings, I’ll wait 3-4 minutes, remove the cover, give them a stir-around and flip and re-add the cover for an additional 3-4 minutes. How often you do this is up to you. Usually after doing this a few times, the wings are rising in internal temperatures rapidly.

This is where the instant-read thermometer comes in handy. Most of my griddle-cooked wings finish in as little as 18 to 22 minutes. I’ll check a multitude of wings in their thickest, meatiest sections — especially the ones that might be bigger than the others — and look out for a temperature of 160-165. I prefer finishing wings at around 170-175 degrees, because I feel like the meat pulls from the bone the best that way. My personal, subjective opinion coming out to play once again. You might disagree, and that is completely fine.

At this point, when the internal temperatures of the wings is reaching that 160-165 mark, I like to remove the basting cover from use completely and crank the heat up back to high to finish, giving the skin a slight touch of char. At this point I’m frequently turning the wings every 15 to 25 seconds so that they don’t overcook on the outside. This may also mitigate your concerns of the skin of the wings becoming soft from the use of the basting cover, but never fear, high heat on the griddle is here. You gotta give them that Mike Tyson knockout to finish them.

I failed to mention this at any point, but what about the sauce, you might ask! What are crispy wings without sauce?! I know, you are right. Forgive me. Use your favorite sauce and toss it into an empty bowl. When the wings are done, immediately add the wings to the bowl that has the sauce in it and toss and shake them up. Afterwards, what can I say? Dig in and enjoy!

My favorite wing sauce in the world is a tie between melted butter’n’Frank’s Red hot and mango habanero sauce. You can do whatever you want, though. Have fun with it.

So, how do griddle-cooked wings compare to deep-fried wings? Hey, I can’t emphasize my bias when it comes to deep-fried wings. I love them. However, there is something veritably fun and enjoyable in a hands-on way about cooking wings on the griddle. Sure, it is ‘easier’ to cook wings in a deep fryer because you are simply submerging them into oil and removing them when they are done, but cooking them on the griddle adds a different flavor, and with me, I like different methods and flavors when I cook.

Note: I have read that some people have taken an aluminum foil pan, filled it with oil, sat it on the griddle and deep-fried wings that way. I’ve never tried this method. I have a deep-fryer in my home that I use for, well, deep frying. However, just for the sake of experimenting, I may try this soon. If anything, such a method removes the smell of oil in your home, which is always a plus since it lingers until the cows come home sometimes. Also, not to sound too much like a Blackstone Products sycophant even though I know I inevitably do sometimes, as I’m a big time advocate/supporter of their griddles and products, they feature a couple of griddle models that have a deep fryer attached to them. I don’t have one, but that is also an option for those looking to deep-fry wings outdoors.

The bottom line: It sounds like a lot of work to cook chicken wings on the griddle, but it really isn’t. These are just my personal, subjective steps that I follow to get the job done. They are easier to cook using this method than how I may have made it sound. If you give them a try using this method, please do not hesitate to let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Honey Heat Spare Ribs on the Barrel House Cooker

Ever since I got my hands on my first Barrel House Cooker in April 2018 and smoked a rack of ribs by hanging them for the first time, it has become my favorite way to cook pork ribs. In a drum smoker environment, when the lid is closed and the intake vents are set to achieve an inside temperature of anywhere from 275-325 degrees, without a water pan the juices and rendered fat from the meats you are smoking are going to drop onto the hot coals below, which causes a resulting vapor to rise and flavor the meat above, creating a beautiful cocktail of unique flavors you don’t get in other forms of smoking meats.

Don’t get me wrong — I still love my other two smokers, but the enhanced smokey flavor of using a drum cooker is unrivaled to me as far as maximum flavor is concerned. I like a deep, smoke flavor to penetrate my grub; others prefer a lighter smoke. It is all preference.

We experienced some major flooding in my hometown this past Thursday. Probably the worst flood I have ever seen in my life (at least around here). On Friday, it wound up snowing, and since I was paranoid about the power potentially going out, I decided to get out in the conditions and smoke a rack of spare ribs for supper.

Recipe & Instructions:
1.) Prior to firing up my Barrel House Cooker 14D, I removed the membrane from the undercarriage of the ribs and subsequently rubbed both sides of the rack of spare ribs with Caribeque Honey Heat Pork & Poultry Rub*.

2.) Filling the charcoal basket of the Barrel House Cooker to the top, I removed about 10 to 12 briquettes and added them to a small charcoal chimney and began a fire with a lighter cube. I used trusty ol’ Kingsford blue bag briquettes. I know that fancier, more expensive charcoal is becoming more popular online, but I have never had a single issue with Kingsford. I would rather spend the money on food to smoke than I would otherwise spend on more expensive charcoal.

3.) While waiting for the charcoal to fire up, I added three small chunks of hickory wood, two small chunks of apple wood and a couple of chips of cherry wood on top of the unlit charcoal in the basket of the cooker. This isn’t all that much wood, honestly, but it does provide the deep smokey flavor that I enjoy in my barbecue. I’m a lover of bold flavors. If you want less smoke, add less wood. Meanwhile, after 15 or so minutes, the charcoal in the chimney should be appearing to ash over in gray whiteness on the surface. This is when you should dump it into the base. I assembled the top part of the drum cooker, with the lid closed. Note: I left the intake vents wide open for about 30 minutes since it was around 18 degrees outside here.

4.) Applying a hook down after the first couple of bones in the rack of ribs, I added it to the hanger in the cooker and closed the lid while also adjusting the intake vent to where it was barely cracked open.

5.) I started this cook at around 11:52 a.m. and finished it up at roughly 4:20 p.m. I did not open the lid during the cooking process except for one time, which I’ll explain why in the following step. My temperature was rolling between 275 to 300 degrees.

6.) During the final 20-25 minutes of the cook, I opened my intake vents completely and removed the ribs onto a sheet pan, adding a liberal amount of BBQ Rook BBQ sauce* to the undercarriage and meaty top of the ribs, brushing the sauce all over the ribs. There is 20 grams of sugar in one serving of the BBQ Rook sauce, which is perfect, because I wanted that sugar to caramelize on the surface of the meat when I added it back into the pit.

7.) Remove ribs from the pit after 20-25 minutes, allow the rack to rest for five to ten minutes, cut ’em up and dig in!

8.) I served these ribs with Bush’s Southern Pit Barbecue beans. I prepared them in a pot on the stove, but here’s a fun trick: I doctored them up by frying two slices of bacon, cutting them into strips and adding the bacon and rendered fat from the cast iron skillet into the pot of beans. The beans are good by themselves, sure, but even better with bacon and the added fat.

*Full disclosure: I am not affiliated, in any way, with Caribeque or the mentioned rub, nor with BBQ Rook and the mentioned sauce. I use both the rub and the sauce because they are among my favorites for smoked grub, especially pork. Caribeque is one of the first seasonings/rubs I tried when I began my barbecue journey due to the recommendation of a good friend of mine who was avidly posting about it on social media. I’m just an advocate. I’m providing the links in case anybody reading this wants to get their hands on this goodness.

The Best Mac and Cheese in the World (Recipe)

It is fine to to be skeptical if you are reading the title and thinking, “Yeah, I’ve heard it all. Mac and cheese. There’s nothing to it. Best ever? OK.” You would be correct by saying there is nothing to it, so ditch the boxed Kraft mac and other types of off-the-shelf fake cheese pasta, and make it from scratch. It really doesn’t take all that much time, and it is oh so rewarding.

First things first, I have to pose a question: asides from bacon-wrapped cheese stuffed jalapeno peppers, is there any side dish that is better than macaroni and cheese, particularly for a barbecue? I don’t think so. If you disagree, let me know your thoughts in the comments so that I can test out your counter recommendation. Mac and cheese is an almighty comfort food that warms the hearts of many people, including mine. My recipe is not particularly unique, but it is a formidable one that I believe you should give a chance. It is caloric dense due to the fatty nature of it, but hey, it is mac and cheese. There is no rhyme or reason to skimp on the ingredients. Go big or go home.

Golden brown mac and cheese

Golden brown, bubbly and ready to roll!

First things first, the main tool used as well as the ingredients:

— 6 quart Dutch oven
— A whisk
— 1 lb. of pasta (elbows)
— 20 oz. of sharp cheddar cheese (cubed or grated)
— 4 cups of milk
— 1 stick of salted butter
— half a cup or a touch more of flour
— Liberal sprinkle of smoked paprika (optional)
— Shredded Fiesta blend (Monterey Jack, cheddar, queso quesadilla and asadero cheese — optional)

Before I continue, I urge you to check out the video posted above. Check out the crust as well as the sound of the bubbling of the rendered fat from the cheese. If that doesn’t make you hungry, I don’t want to meet you.

Instructions:
Cook the pasta in a separate pot other than the Dutch oven. This is fairly cut and dry. Follow the ingredients on the back of the box. Drain.

— Heat a Dutch oven over medium low heat and add the stick of butter
— Once the stick of butter is melted, crank up the heat to medium high
— Add the flour and whisk it with the butter until it browns to your liking, clearing any clumps, creating a roux
— Reduce heat to medium/medium-low and add the milk
— Sprinkle in the smoked paprika (again, optional)
— Allow the mixture to thicken as it simmers for five to seven minutes.

Important step regarding the cheese: I used two 16oz. ‘blocks’ of sharp cheddar cheese (only 4oz. of the second block) that I bought from a local grocery store. Rather than shredding it with a grater, I cut it up into tiny cubes. It doesn’t take very long, and it accomplishes the same job as grating it, as it will melt just fine when cooked. This is my personal method.

— Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
— Add a handful of cheese on top of the roux’n’milk in the Dutch oven
— Begin folding in the pasta into the Dutch oven in layers. What I did was, I added some of the pasta before adding more cheese and so on and so forth
— Save a few cubes of cheese to top the pasta after you add in all of the pasta
— Top with a big ol’ handful of Fiesta blend cheese
— Add the Dutch oven into, well, your oven and allow it to cook for 18 to 25 minutes until golden brown and bubbly on top

Some people like to top their mac and cheese with breadcrumbs prior to cooking it in the oven. I’ve never tried it that way, because I love browning the cheese for a perfectly brown crust.

Flatiron Pepper Co. Hatch Valley Green crushed pepper

I like to top my mac and cheese with Flatiron Pepper Company’s Hatch Valley Green blend of crushed pepper. It adds an incredible depth of flavor on top of what is already a karate chop to the tastebuds.

If you give this a go, let me know what you think. I ate this mac and cheese as a side item to some Nashville hot fried chicken.

My Advice for Making The Best Smash Burgers Ever

Blackstone Griddles and smash burgers are synonymous with each other, and it’s no surprise as to why: a smoking hot griddle and a sizzling ball of ground beef being smashed into a burger patty, influencing the maximum amount of surface contact for the Maillard reaction to occur, when the amino acids in the meat come into contact with the heat of the griddle, creating the beautiful brown crust and the delicious flavor we all enjoy out of a burger.

I’ve taken better burger photos in my time, so I apologize for how lackluster it is, but take a look at how thin the patty is, with the caramelized crust. I topped this one with cheddar cheese, bacon and caramelized onions & jalapenos.

Big ol’ fat burgers are nice (and I say that because I have a genuine penchant for burgers in general), but in my humble opinion, smash burgers are the best way to prepare a hamburger. When you smash the meatball, you flatten out the created-by-action patty to allow more surface area for the Maillard reaction to build a crust. The outside is given its color and flavor, and the inside stays juicy if not cooked for too long.

While making smash burgers on my Blackstone griddle is my favorite method for preparation, you can make them in a cast iron skillet as well. When I cook them on the griddle, I use high heat during the entire cook, but if I’m making them in a cast iron skillet, while I may preheat on high I will modify the heat to being between medium high to medium. The griddle, to me, is more forgiving than the cast iron on my indoor glass top stove, and maybe it is because the glass top stove, and perhaps that can be attributed to electric glass top stoves not being optimal for the very best cooking methods (debatable, but that is my limited anecdotal $.02 cents for you), so your mileage may vary pending on the equipment used.

When selecting your ground beef for smash burgers, choose a higher fat beef. An 80/20 protein to fat ground beef is the most commonly agreed on superior ratio for burgers, because there is enough fat to deliver premiere flavor in a burger, but not too fatty that a great deal of fat will render out during the cooking process. I go a little extreme, oftentimes, I suppose, because my local grocery store features amazingly cheap prices for 73/27 protein to fat ground beef, as I can usually buy 5 lbs. for $10 — there was even a special one day where it was $.99 cents a lb. and I scored 5 lbs. for $5. Even if you think 73/27 ground beef is too fatty, that was an amazing bargain. With this high fat content, I typically make larger meatballs to account for the rendered fat loss during cooking. However, 3 to 4 ounces of ground beef for smashburgers is typically recommended for 80/20 or 85/20 ground beef, though I must now admit my laziness when it comes to bothering with weighing out the meat when I prepare them. I just measure it by feel and by the judgment of my eyes.

When you have preheated your stovetop or griddle and the meatballs have been placed onto the skillet or griddle, use a heavy duty cast iron press to smash the meatball flat. I use the Blackstone stainless steel press-and-sear burger press. One tip that I recommend for this: use parchment paper under the press to smash the meatball flat in order to prevent sticking. You don’t have to, but it saves a moment of aggravation if some of the cold meat from the top of the beef sticks to the press. You may be wondering if you can use your spatula to smash the meatballs into burgers. Well, you can, I suppose, if you have a spatula that can handle the task, but most spatulas don’t have the weight to properly smash the meatballs, and in my one experience using a flimsy kitchen spatula, it created an absolute mess. Just buy yourself a press and thank me later.

Here’s a better look of the same burger from the first photo. Just admire the crust that was formed on this smash burger.

As for when to season the burgers, I’m typically known for being a guy who loves bold flavors with seasoning on both sides of the meat, but my method involves a bare meatball to begin, and after I smash it into a patty I will liberally season the upfaced side with my choice of seasoning (salt/pepper/garlic sometimes, Caribeque Big & Bold Beef, Reload Rub Fully Loaded, Blackstone All Purpose — just my four favorite methods that I switch up from time to time), and that is the only side I season. I feel that there is no need to season the other side once flipped, because by making the burger patty thin and by generously seasoning the one side, you give it enough flavor that you can taste throughout the patty versus overpowering it.

You may be wondering, “What about adding seasoning into the ground beef and mixing it up before forming the meatballs?” Salt has the potential to dry out meat by drawing out moisture. You want the inside of the patty to be juicy while the outside is properly browned. I will make a loosely packed meatball, because according to the food scientists, that is the way to go, and to my unscientifically inclined taste buds, they agree with said food scientists.

Typically, with my smash burgers, I will flip them after four to five minutes once I see the top of the burgers becoming wet from the rendered fat, as well as observing the edges browning nicely. Three to five minutes once flipped, and you are ready to go.

Brown/toast your buns for even more flavor, and add your favorite toppings. You are good to go from there. Create it however you want it. Plain? With cheese? Loaded with toppings? It is your burger — do how you please.

For my burgers, I like: American cheese or cheddar cheese, bacon, sauteed mushrooms & onions & jalapenos (or habaneros if I can easily find them here). Sometimes I like mixing up mayonnaise with a little ketchup, mustard and dill relish. Occasionally I add hot sauce.

“Troy, you just spent a thousand words writing about how to make a burger, which is one of the most simple things a person can concoct.” Hey, smash burgers are a delicacy in my book and should be considered to be their own food group due to how delicious they are. Homemade smash burgers are way better than any burger you will buy from a restaurant. Methods and techniques are important. Utilizing the right amount of heat is the most crucial variable of the cooking process in churning out the best burger you can potentially make. I’m just adding my personal method, because I want you — the readers — to give it a go and let me know what you think, because I think it will become your favorite burger concocting method.