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Troy

Hot and Fast Smoked Caribeque Chicken Sandwich

When I began my barbecue journey, Caribeque is the first brand with a line of rubs that I tried. The first time I smoked a pork butt all by myself, with the ‘training wheels off’, Caribeque Honey Heat was my go-to. Ever since, it has been my go-to. It was love at first bite. Despite ‘heat’ being in the name of the rub, it isn’t spicy. It isn’t a sweet rub, but it has a depth of flavor unlike anything else I’ve used for pork. It has a rich umami flavor (the only way I can describe it, so I urge you to try it for yourself) that stands out in the finished product, as it is savory and naturally lends itself to pork more than any other meat. It genuinely is one of the very few rubs that I will use on pork since it is that good.

Caribeque chicken sandwich featuring pepper jack cheese and dill pickle chips on a brioche bun

The finished product: a hot and fast smoked chicken sandwich with pepper jack cheese and pickles (an ode to Chick-Fil-A). Between the Caribeque Chicken Series rub and the cherry wood from the cook, this sandwich was over-the-top amazing and put Chick-Fil-A to shame if I do say so myself.

Kurt Halls, the man behind the Caribeque brand, released a new chicken rub in July 2018. That rub was aptly named, “Caribeque Signature Series Chicken Rub“. This is a full-fledged chicken rub that packs a flavorful punch to poultry. It has a zesty flavor that pumps up the flavor in your chicken whether you are grilling, barbecuing, baking or pan-frying.

When the rub was announced in the early going of the summer of 2018, I felt like a child waiting for Christmas day to arrive. I trust in Kurt’s mad scientist prowess when it comes to throwing together any kind of rub, because each of them from the Caribeque line of seasonings have been phenomenal. There is not a single muted flavor in any of them that fails to stand out. As it were, it stands to reason that I would be excited for the adventure that my taste buds were anticipating with the then-new chicken rub.

As soon as the new Caribeque chicken rub was available, I placed an order, and within a few days (Caribeque always sends its shipments quickly) I had it in my hands. I had a pack of chicken breasts sitting in the fridge, and when I arrived home from the post office, I needed try out the new rub immediately. I was drooling. I opened the lid of the bottle, removed the packaging to smell the rub and get a sense of what it would be, and the strong flavor enticed me more than I can convey. ‘Drooling’ is not a hyperbole in this case.

Barrel House Cooker smoking away

The preheating process of the Barrel House Cooker.

I fired up my Barrel House Cooker 18C with Royal Oak lump charcoal and a chunk of cherry wood, with the exhaust vent wide open, and proceeded to butterfly the chicken breasts by taking a sharp knife and slicing each breast down the middle. I could have pan-fried these breasts, but I wanted to hit them with some smoke. Chicken breasts are delicate, since they are so lean, and typically they do not lend themselves to barbecue, but if you cook them using high heat — in this case I quick-smoked them — then you can finish the chicken quickly, cooking it all the way through while still delivering juicy chicken onto your plate.

The temperature gauge on the lid of the cooker read 350 degrees, but the actual temperature in the cooker was probably close to 400 to 425 degrees as the grate is naturally closer to the hot coals than the lid.

Cracking the lid of the Barrel House Cooker

I sat the lid of the Barrel House Cooker on top of the base, but I left it open by ‘cracking’ the lid off-kilter to allow for more airflow in the cooker in order to reach high temperatures.

When I placed the chicken breasts onto the grate, I did not completely close the lid of the smoker. As you can see in the above photo, the lid is barely cracked, which allows more oxygen into the smoker and increases the temperature by yielding a more fierce burn from the fire produced by the coals and wood. The chicken breasts only took 20 minutes to complete, and I confirmed this by checking each breast with my food thermometer.

One could ask why I did not simply grill the chicken breasts, but the reason is simple: this drum smoker is capable of reaching high temperatures by using a couple of tricks (wide open exhaust vent, cracking the lid, using lump charcoal — which burns hotter than briquettes — and the patience to properly give the cooker a chance to adequately heat up).

Fully cooked chicken breasts featuring Caribeque Signature Series Chicken Rub

Check out the color on this chicken, not only provided by the Caribeque Signature Series Chicken Rub but also from the hot-and-fast smoke that was aided by the additional flavor of cherry wood.

A brief summary of the above, if you want to make this for yourself in a drum smoker (if you are using a different type of smoker, be sure to utilize the hot and fast smoking method by opening your exhaust and intake vents for maximum airflow to achieve high temperatures):

1.) Pre-heat your smoker using lump charcoal. You can use briquettes if you would like, but lump burns hotter. Add the coals into the charcoal base/basket of your smoker. Optional: add a chunk or two of your preferred smoking wood for extra flavor.

2.) While the smoker heats up, unless you are using pre-thin sliced chicken breasts, butterfly the chicken. This helps for quicker, even cooking so that the chicken does not dry out. Thoroughly season and rub both sides of the chicken with Caribeque Signature Series Chicken Rub.

3.) Once your smoker temperatures are at around 350 degree degrees, add the chicken. If you are using a drum smoker, crack the lid (see above). It won’t take very long to cook.

As for the construction of the sandwich, you can use whatever bread that you would like, but I used a brioche bun. I say that you can use whatever bread you prefer, but the bottom line is that the bread is the heart of any sandwich. I mean, who wants to eat a sandwich with soggy bread? Not this grizzled foodie.

Here is the way I constructed my sandwich. You are free to use any combination you would like, but I wanted mine to be in the spirit of a spicy chicken sandwich from Chick-Fil-A, and my promise to you is that this is delicious:

— Brioche bun (toasted with butter spread on it)
— One thinly sliced chicken breast
— One slice of pepper jack cheese
— Four dill pickle chips

You are now ready for an unprecedented flavor journey that may incite irrational dancing on your behalf.

Kurt personally told me over the phone that his ultimate goal with his new Signature Series line with Caribeque is to go back to the basics. He expressed concern over how too many of these seasoning/rub companies are coming out with bizarre flavors that are kinda mucking up (my words here; paraphrasing) the cabinets of kitchens, and how he wants to go back to the basics. For example, if you want to season up your chicken with something, it’s a no-brainer to go with the new chicken rub, because it is tailor made for chicken.

When I spoke to Kurt from Caribeque over the phone in the summer of 2018, he expressed that his ultimate goal with the Caribeque Signature Series line of rubs is to go back to the basics. He emitted concerns over how too many seasoning and rub companies are coming out with bizarre flavors that don’t lend themselves all too well to a wide variety of grub (think of, say, blackberry chipotle java or something off the wall like that). His desire to go back to the basics is motivated by wanting to reach for a seasoning in the kitchen without having to place too much time in doing so — imagine if you are about to cook up some chicken; rather than slinging some kind of artsy blackberry chipotle java seasoning on it, you can reach for the signature series chicken rub and avoid second guessing yourself on whether or not your guests will like it, as the rub lends itself to chicken by not containing any ‘ostentatious’ flavors or a pretentious combination of notes that could repulse the taste buds of a guest.

One more tip about the chicken rub: I have added it to diced, fried potatoes as an experiment, and in that same ‘experiment’, I wound up cooking up several batches for five people. Over 10 lbs. of potatoes were gone in minutes. This rub is not only delicious on chicken, but it is perfect for fried potatoes. Since then, I have made French fries and sprinkled the chicken rub over top of them when they are fresh out of the fryer, and it is always well received by hungry guests.

Yes, I am biased when it comes to Caribeque. Not only is its founder a super nice guy and a good friend of mine, but everything featuring the Caribeque label has been off the charts. I would never spend my time championing the brand if I didn’t believe in the products.

Classic Double Bacon Cheeseburger

Double bacon cheeseburger

Do these burgers make my bun look big? “Uh, no, honey.”

If we are talking about plain ol’ good grub, there are few things I enjoy more than a cheeseburger, and even more than a cheeseburger? Make that a double bacon cheeseburger. I said “plain ol’ good grub”, but when it comes to flavor content, your taste buds’ perception will be disagreeing with that.

“Double bacon cheeseburger” is a string of words designed to scare the life out of a vegan. Double the meat, double the tears. Double bacon cheeseburgers might as well be the garlic to the vampire that is a vegan. Hey, vegans, if you happen to be checking out this post, frowning and readying yourself to write a self-righteous comment, allow me to humbly let you know that I am merely half-joking with what I just said. Actually, wait, what are you doing on a barbecue-based website if you are a vegan? Where am I?

Right. There are thousands of food blogs on the internet, and for good reason. Food is the gateway to any human being’s heart. Very rarely have I met someone who has the weak mentality of, “food is fuel, and that’s that.” We eat delicious, fatty, chock-full’o’carbs, calorically dense grub because it spikes our dopamine receptors as soon as it hits our tastebuds. There are fancy recipes to share, secret recipes that your great grandma April that become unconcealed with the world and unique ideas to be emitted to the world. But sometimes there is a time and place to post a classic.

Enter the double bacon cheeseburger. Without looking, I surmise that there are thousands upon thousands of blogs that feature a post about them, so what is my intent in sharing mine? Asides from having a naturally inclined penchant for sharing good grub with the world in the guise of the internet, these burgers are sure to knock your socks off, so enough with the bloviating and onto my version of not only a double bacon cheeseburger, but a grilled double bacon cheeseburger.

First things first, I used 73% lean/27% fat ground beef. Before you scoff at that, vociferating that it is too fatty, check this resource out on how to make the best burgers with 73/27 ground chuck. I often buy 73/27 because the family packs (5 lbs.) at my local grocery store wind up at a $1.99/lb. price point, and that is too good to pass up. One could argue that the shrinkage from fat being rendered from the meat as it cooks is too costly, even at that price, but I disagree. What yields from the cook is a juicy, flavorful burger with a nice crust if your heat is optimal.

Grilling cheeseburgers, featuring bubbly cheeseRecipe:
— Ground beef
— Your choice of seasoning
— Bacon
— Cheese (I used American)
— Buns

That’s it. Look, I like burgers in all types of ways, from a classic burger featuring iceberg lettuce, a thin slice of a tomato, a slice or two from an onion and cheese, but sometimes a grizzled man wants a double bacon cheeseburger as is, and that’s the route I went with this simple, ‘so easy a caveman can do it’ recipe.

1.) Preheat your grill. I always use a charcoal grill, so I start off firing up a large charcoal chimney almost full of briquettes. I’m usually rolling with classic Kingsford Original, because I would rather use my money on buying food that would otherwise be spent on more expensive charcoal brands, and Kingsford does the job just as well as anything else, not to mention its price point is more attractive than other charcoal brands, asides from Royal Oak.

2.) Form your patties by creating a ball from the ground beef. I never weigh my patties so I can’t give you an exact estimation of the weight; part of this reason is because, for the friends and family that I cook for, some members of that group want smaller burgers while others want larger burgers. For me, I say, go big or go home. After you create the ball, smash it flat with the palm of your hands and create a couple of dimples (indentations) in the surface. Some folks recommend making one big dimple, but I make a couple of dimples in the center of the burger. With fatty ground beef, when you cook it, it tends to puff up as the fat renders and the protein contracts. The dimple(s) aid to minimize the burger shrinking and prevents it from turning into a grilled meatball. Not that there is anything wrong with a grilled meatball, but in this case you want a burger, not a meatball. Note: when I form my patties for grilling them, I make them as thin as I possibly can, even with the dimples, because they will cook faster and more evenly. If you are having trouble with this, don’t worry: practice makes perfect.

3.) Rub both sides of the patties with whatever your favorite burger seasoning is. Salt and pepper is fine, but I used Caribeque Big & Bold Beef Rub. It is the best seasoning/rub in the game for any kind of beef. I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t believe it.

4.) Once your fire is hot and ready, when the coals have grayed and ashed over on top, add them to your grill. I like to use 2-zone cooking 99.9% of the time. Even with burgers, this can be beneficial, which I’ll explain why. Add your grate, close the lid and allow your grill to preheat for about fifteen minutes. Note: I like to add a competition blend of wood chips (oak, apple and hickory are my preferences) to the fire for extra flavor in the meat. This is purely optional.

5.) Once the grill is preheated, remove the lid and place a cast iron skillet (with bacon in it, of course) onto the part of the grate that is directly over the coals. The bacon will cook in no time if your charcoal is hot enough. When the bacon is finished, remove it and place it onto a place with a paper towel before setting the cast iron aside on a surface that can adequately handle the residual heat of the skillet.

6.) Add your burgers directly on the grate over the coals. The sweet spot, for me, is five minutes on each side. I usually never have any issues with this. Sometimes I will go five minutes on the first side, and after the flip I will go three minutes on the other side. You will know when to flip your burger when you see the bottom edges browning up nicely and when remnants of juices are pooling on top of your burger. The juices is an indicator that the middle of the burger is being thoroughly cooked and a sign that you need to flip them over. After the first flip is when you should top the burgers with cheese.

7.) Once done, plate them up. Be sure to toast up some buns. I like to give burgers a rest before I chow into them, as this allows the juices to reassimilate into the meat. I would be lying if I said I’m not tempted to immediately dig in. Assemble your burger the way you want to, and you are ready to chow down. Always close the intake and exhaust vents of your grill in order to choke the fire. Doing so allows you the ability to reuse the charcoal for the next cook (if you are grilling; I don’t recommend reusing charcoal for barbecuing/smoking, which is something I will cover in a later post).

Important: with fatty ground beef, you may find that the rendered fat dripping onto the hot charcoal causing an excessive amount of flames kissing your burger. Of course, you do want some of the fire to shoot up and French kiss these burgers, but if you are having trouble and finding that you are experiencing way too much char on the outside of your burgers (“taste the meat, not the heat” as Hank Hill would say), then close the lid as the burgers cook. This will be fine, as long as you have your intake and exhaust vents wide open. Some people recommend spraying the coals with water as a method to reduce the flames, but I’m not big on that, as this can reduce the heat of the coals which will not only effect cooking times but also the crust you are aiming for. A formidable crust is what transcends an average burger into an exceptional burger.

Bacon and grilled cheeseburgers
While I believe smash burgers cooked on a griddle (I’m shouting the good name of Blackstone Products every single time I say this) are superior to any other burger cooking method, sometimes I crave burgers cooked over a scorching hot fire, and this was one of those times. I love the smoky flavor imparted into a burger from being cooked over charcoal. The juices that drip onto the hot coals, creating a vapor that rises and bastes the meat, is out of this world delicious.

I highly recommend that you give these double bacon cheeseburgers a shot. In doing so, I have to toot my own horn and urge you to use not only the dimpling method when forming the patty, as well as the Caribeque Big & Bold Beef Rub, but also to give the aforementioned variety of wood chips (oak, apple and cherry) a shot because it adds an entirely new dimension of flavor that you are otherwise missing out on.

Grilled Peaches with Bourbon Brown Sugar Sauce

Grilled Peaches with Bourbon Brown Sugar Sauce

I like desserts as much as the next guy, but I don’t find myself preparing them too often, or any sweet dishes in general. I usually stick to entrées and side dishes. However, from time to time I surprise myself with a hankering for cooking up a unique dessert.

Enter grilled peaches with bourbon brown sugar sauce.

grilling peaches with bourbon brown sugar sauce

I didn’t come up with the idea myself, unfortunately. That credit goes to one of my old, good friends on social media. She wrote about growing up in South Carolina and how her family would prepare grilled peaches that featured a glaze made with bourbon and brown sugar for dessert. This enticed me, because it sounded delicious, and I knew I had to make it for my friends and family. I have cooked a multitude of vegetables over the years, but grilling fruit was not something I had ever considered before this interaction, but I was ready to give it a shot because I had no doubts about these peaches being delicious. So, after my inquiry, she gave me the basic rundown on how her family prepared them, but I went with my own twist, not without a little bit of side research in the process.

The night before I decided to toss some peaches on the grill, I searched the web for recipes, just as an idea of what other people were doing. It turns out, what I had in mind for what I was going to do was different than what others had to do. You will see why, but first, the recipe, because I know that is why you are here.

You only need a few things to make grilled peaches with bourbon brown sugar:

— Grill
— Peaches (I used 8 peaches since I was feeding a group of people)
— Chef knife
— Basting brush
— 1 cup of any type of bourbon (I used Fighting Cock Straight Bourbon)
— 4 tbsp of butter
— 4 tbsp of brown sugar
— Ice cream for topping them (optional, but highly recommended)

That’s it. It is a simple recipe and the steps to get it going are outrageously simple.

1.) Preheat your grill. I have only ever made these on a charcoal grill, not minding whether or not the temperature is too high. You may be different in me in that department. See, I like a little bit of charring; not too much, but enough to where the flavor of the fire is ample, because the sugar present in the peaches as well as the brown sugar on the surface is going to caramelize and become perfectly brown. If you are using a gas grill, set the heat to medium/medium-high. Using a charcoal grill, I recommend using a charcoal chimney to begin your fire. I used a mixture of briquettes and lump coals.

2a.) While your grill is preheating or as your charcoal is graying over with some ash, this is when the magic happens. You can do this earlier, but I like to get things going during the preheating process. When I researched other grilled peaches featuring bourbon and brown sugar, many of them recommended making the sauce to coat the peaches afterwards, but that is no fun in my humble opinion. I highly prefer my method because of the additional caramelization that happens on the surface of the peaches. Cut the peaches in half and remove the pits.

2b.) Add the bourbon, brown sugar and butter to a saucepan over medium-low heat until it begins to simmer. Stir occasionally, but be sure to allow the sauce to simmer for about five minutes until it adequately thickens. Afterwards, use a basting brush to brush the sauce onto the peaches. I prefer brushing them all around, but you can brush the ‘inside’ parts only if you prefer.

3.) If you are using a charcoal grill, dump the coals into one section of the grill for 2-zone cooking. Add your grill grate & allow it to preheat for about 15 to 20 additional minutes.

4.) Remove the lid and add the peaches to the grill. My method is to add the peaches facedown for three minutes before flipping them over and grilling them on the skin-side for an additional three minutes. After this time eclipses, move the peaches over to the side of the grill for indirect heat, close to the fire but not over top of the coals/heat source. Close the lid for five minutes to allow the inside of the peaches to soften up.

5.) Bring the peaches in and serve. Allow guests to serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream if they wish to do so.

grilled peaches with bourbon brown sugar sauce
It is a simple, tasty treat to make, especially during the summer. Peaches, especially, are so refreshing with just the right amount of sweetness where you aren’t overloaded. When I made these, I had grilled some ribeyes for dinner, served with baked potatoes, and the crowd wound up going wild for the peaches more than anything else. I want you to read that sentence again, because yes, I just admitted that people favored the peaches more than the ribeyes. I’m still surprised.

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.