Archive for ‘Recipes’

New York Style Pizza Dough Recipe for the Halo Versa 16

A New York style pizza in the Halo Versa 16 pizza oven

A large New York style pizza with pepperoni, Italian sausage and mushrooms on top of whole milk mozzarella directly out of the Halo Versa 16 pizza oven.

Halo Products Group burst onto the scene earlier this year when they brought the Versa 16 into the outdoor pizza oven world. A few years ago, it appeared that Ooni had a stronghold on the outdoor pizza oven, but these days there are so many options to choose from if you are delving into making pizza at home.

The problem with most of the outdoor pizza ovens on the market is that they are geared towards making pizzas in the range of over 850 degrees. Perhaps that is what you are looking for, which is great if you want to cook a Neapolitan pizza in 90 seconds, but to me, there are two problems with that. Those ovens are one dimensional right out of the box (without some fine-tuning of the heat settings to lower the temperature), for one, and the other problem is a personal one: I like Neapolitan style pizza, but it is not my favorite.

New York style pizza is my favorite. However, up until recently, I have never been able to create it at home. My home oven is inadequate; it is old, the heating is uneven and spotty, and the crust has never come out the way I want it to, despite using a pizza stone (I have never tried to make it with a pizza steel). My outdoor Bertello pizza oven runs far too hot (and is too small) to even bother attempting an NY style pie.

Enter the Halo Versa 16, which entered the outdoor pizza oven market earlier this year. As of my most recent post, I have not minced any words about the Halo Versa 16 being an optimal vehicle for creating New York style pizza.

To make this pizza dough, it is imperative that you own a scale that can weigh flour and water, and a gram scale that can weigh minuscule amounts of yeast and salt. Kitchen scales are inexpensive and will upgrade your pizza game tenfold.

What Makes a Great NY Style Pizza Dough

My first taste of NY style pizza has its roots from my childhood in the 1990s in southwestern Virginia. Raymond Schiano, along with help from his brother Geno, opened a restaurant called The Italian Village about 40 or so years ago. The long, thin slices and the slightly crisp but chewy texture of the pizza was featured in every bite.

New Yorkers might tell you it is in the water. That is absolute hogwash. Countless scientific studies have proven otherwise, and in blind taste tests people have not been able to tell the difference from pizza dough made with water from New York or otherwise. You do not need New York water to make a great New York style pizza. Claiming that, “it’s in the water!” is a slap in the face to all the preeminent pizzaiolos today and the generations of pizza-makers who taught them the craft.

The principle ingredient that gives New York style pizza its taste is the use of high gluten flour. A horde of NY pizza restaurants are in possession of a great deal of General Mills’ bromated All Trumps flour. This flour is made from hard red spring wheat and it features a 14.2% protein content. This is higher than what you will find in a general grocery store, but the high protein is what delivers that classic chewiness, which is what you are looking for in an authentic New York style slice. All Trumps also has diastatic malt in it, which not only achieves more rise in the crust but also aids in browning.

If you are wondering, “what the heck is ‘bromated’ flour?” Hey, I wondered the same thing when I ventured into the use of All Trumps flour. Bromated flour refers to the ingredient potassium bromate, and it is a compound that strengthens dough and provides increased oven spring* and higher rising in an oven.

(*Oven spring: The rapid increase and final burst in the expansion of dough once it is loaded into the oven. The dough expansion will cease as soon as the temperature of the dough reaches about 140℉, at which point the yeast dies. There are many factors that influence the degree and quality of the oven spring when baking pizzas, including overall dough quality (it should not be stiff or overkneaded, and it should have good hydration), the degree of fermentation (it should not be underfermented or overfermented), and oven temperature. The manner in which the pizza is baked, that is, whether using a pan, stone/tiles, or pizza screen, will also be a factor. Source.)

You can find All Trumps flour at, perhaps, a restaurant supply shop. That is where I found mine, at a place called The Stock Pot in Johnson City, Tennessee. You can order it online from various retailers as well. In the event that you cannot find it, elect to use King Arthur bread flour. It has lower protein content (12.7%) but still delivers on the chewiness. I use All Trumps flour with my recipe, but feel free to give bread flour a shot. I have used it in the past for this same recipe, and it is similar enough.

NY style Margherita pizza baked in the Halo Versa 16 pizza oven

A New York style Margherita pizza that was baked in the Halo Versa 16 pizza oven.

Cornicione or crust of a Margherita pizza

This is an example of why I love the higher (65%) hydration of this dough, from the Margherita pizza above. I love that open, airy structure.

Hydration, Salt and Yeast

There is a small debate online over the hydration level of a New York style pizza. Some say that 58% is authentic while others argue that 65% is the way to to go. My recipe is a 65% hydration dough, because that is what I personally prefer. I like the puffy rise of the cornicione (rim of the pizza) and I feel that the higher water content protects the dough from drying out during the longer bake. I say these two things as a pizza enthusiast, as I am not a scientist nor an expert baker, so take my words with a grain of salt.

Feel free to lower the hydration percentage (I will provide a lower value for those of you who want to do so, because lower hydration dough is easier to work with) if you feel more comfortable doing so. Because you can bake a New York style pizza in the Halo Versa 16 in about four or five minutes, I wouldn’t worry about the hydration percentage values as a hard rule.

I use 2.1% salt (fine sea salt) in my dough. I feel like this is the best of both worlds. The salt is not too low nor is it too high. If your salt is too low, the yeast can go crazy and your flavor will be lacking. If the salt content is too high, the yeast can be inhibited from doing its thing and you will have a tough time stretching the dough because the salt will cause it to become more elastic. Salt provides flavor and aids in the fermentation.

You can use whatever kind of yeast you want, but this recipe is geared towards instant dry yeast. It is easy, can be mixed right into the flour and — unlike active dry yeast — you don’t have to activate it in water to get it ready.

But What About Sugar and Oil?

If you are making this dough for your home oven, you might want to consider using both sugar and oil, which aids in the browning of the pizza, but the Halo Versa cooks at temperatures over 600 to 700 degrees. I feel that sugar is unnecessary completely for that reason. Furthermore, not every New York pizza restaurant is using sugar in their dough.

Oil is up for more of a debate. Oil can not only help your pizza be more chewy but help you stretch the dough when you get to that point. However, I am leaving it out, at least for now. If you do decide to use oil, do not use more than 2% of the total flour weight.

Troy’s NY Style Pizza Dough Ingredients for the Halo Versa 16

I have droned on for far too long, but I feel like the above explanations are necessary to get to this point. One more thing to know before you get started: this dough is meant to be used as a 72-hour dough. You can use it after 48 hours, but I prefer the flavor of a 72-hour cold ferment.

This recipe is meant for two dough balls weighing 425g each, which results in 15-16″ pizzas.

Flour (100%): 507g
Water (60-65%): 305-330g
IDY (0.4%): 2g
Salt (2.1%): 11g


Mixing/kneading by hand:
1.) Place water in a large bowl
2.) Add flour and yeast
3.) Using a wooden spoon or your hands, mix to combine thoroughly for a few minutes
4.) Add salt and continue to mix
5.) Dump out onto surface and, once the dough comes together, knead for five minutes.
6.) Place the dough into a closed container and allow it to sit on the counter for an hour at room temperature.
7.) Divide the dough into balls, place each into a 6-cup plastic Gladware (or similar) container and toss it into the fridge to cold ferment.

Mixing/kneading with a mixer (my preferred method):
1.) Place water, flour and yeast into the bowl of a mixer
2.) Using the dough hook attachment, mix on low for 1 minute
3.) Add salt and continue mixing/kneading on low or medium-low for four minutes.
4.) Place the dough into a closed container and allow it to sit on the counter for an hour at room temperature.
5.) Divide the dough into balls, place each into a 6-cup plastic Gladware (or similar) container and toss it into the fridge to cold ferment.

48 to 72 hours later, when you are ready to bake, remove the dough balls from the fridge for at least an hour or up to two hours to warm up. I like to begin stretching my dough into skins when the dough temperature reads 55 degrees.

If, after the mixing stage, the dough is crumbly/shaggy or not coming together, allow it to rest — covered — for about 15 to 20 minutes to autolyze or otherwise allow the flour to absorb the water.

You might be thinking, “Wow! That is a short kneading session!” You would be correct. One thing you need to know about using All Trumps flour is that it can quickly be overkneaded. This is more of a worry when it comes to using a stand mixer than by hand, but this point still stands.

A high gluten flour like All Trumps lends itself to a long cold ferment in the refrigerator.

I don’t even bother checking for the windowpane test with this dough. I will do a simple ‘poke test’ to see if the dough springs back when I poke it, which indicates that there is even the slightest gluten development happening, and then stop kneading.

You typically knead to develop gluten, but in a recipe like this, with All Trumps flour, the gluten development happens in your refrigerator more than anything, through the act of biochemical gluten development. The dough strengthens as it sits.

A New York style pizza in the Halo Versa 16 pizza oven

A New York style pizza cooking away in the Halo Versa 16 pizza oven.

NY style pizza that was baked in the Halo Versa 16 pizza oven

A large New York style pizza with pepperoni, Italian sausage and mushrooms on top of whole milk mozzarella after being baked in the Halo Versa 16 pizza oven.

Halo Versa 16 Heating and Bake Settings for a NY Style Pizza

To make a 16″ pizza on the Halo Versa 16, I recommend using a screen. I use this one from LloydPans. I mean, you can build your pizza on a 16″ peel, but it is difficult to launch a 16″ pizza on a 16.5″ stone. Asides from assisting in launching a large pie onto the Versa 16, the screen protects the bottom of the pizza from burning. You have more control over how brown the bottom of your pizza will be.

In addition to that, I do not use a screen for the entire bake.

My cooking process with the Halo Versa 16 when making a New York style pizza is as follows:

1.) Preheat the Halo Versa 16 on low for 20 minutes. I have found this to be the ‘money’ point in which to get the stone temperature to 652 degrees. Be sure to have the stone rotating during your preheat.

2.) While the Versa 16 preheats, I’ll build my pizza and, once adequately stretched, lay it onto the screen. If your screen is brand new, spray it with a little bit of oil so that the dough will not stick.

3.) At this point, after the preheat, I will launch the pizza onto the stone and cook it for about two and a half to three minutes while keeping the heat set to low.

4.) Afterwards, I crank the heat up to high and I’ll remove the pizza from the oven and slide it onto my peel and back into the oven so that the bottom of the pizza is browned while the high heat assists in the adequate browning of the top of the pizza.

You can experiment with removing the screen earlier or later in the cook, but I have had great success with the method above.

If the top of your pizza is not as browned as much as you prefer it to be, then dome the pizza to the top of the oven. By this, I mean lift the pizza with your peel and hold it towards the top of your oven so that the heat radiating from the top of the Versa 16 will reflect back onto the top of your pie.

I sincerely hope you give this recipe a shot. As a lifetime student of pizza slinging, I am forever experimenting and trying to improve, so I may update this recipe in the future, but as of now I have found this recipe to be an absolute winner for the Halo Versa 16 pizza oven.

All feedback is welcome, especially criticism, as long as it is constructive and friendly in nature. If you have any questions, ask away.

Grilled Stuffed Poblano Peppers

Grilled stuffed poblano peppers and a bell pepper

Two grilled stuffed poblano peppers and a grilled stuffed bell pepper on a bed of yellow rice.

Stuffed peppers were always a common meal that my mother cooked up while I was growing up. She would take green bell peppers, cut off the top of them, remove the inner part and ‘veins’ along with the seeds, roast them in the oven until the peppers would be partially cooked and then stuff them with an assortment of toppings.

Usually, those said toppings included the ground beef that she would brown up in a skillet with a diced onion, tomato sauce and shredded cheddar cheese. She would turn these into a meal, sometimes paired with a pan of fresh cornbread (my parents were veritable bread fiends who always seemed to feature some kind of bread as a side item for most meals).

I didn’t begin cooking until I was nearly 21-years-old in 2012, and the idea of cooking up a batch of stuffed peppers never occurred to me until well after my mom’s stroke in November 2018. While taking care of her, she asked if I could cook some for dinner one evening. I couldn’t believe that, after nearly seven years of cooking, I had never thought about cooking them since they made for a fairly quick and easy dinner during weeknights when I was a child, so I recreated her recipe, except I incorporated white rice that I cooked in some chicken broth and Italian seasoning to go along with the browned ground beef, diced onions and tomato sauce.

These days, I have what I will declare as a way better version of stuffed peppers: grilled stuffed peppers. I have thrown down some grilled, stuffed bell peppers multiple times at this point, but recently my local grocery store has begun to sell poblano peppers. Poblano peppers are just about as mild as bell peppers, but I prefer the flavor. Today, I want to offer you guys the prospect of grilling stuffed poblano peppers, which I believe you should include in your future grill meals this summer (or in the spring, fall and winter if you are a year-round outdoor griller like me).

For the grilled stuffed poblano peppers, I want to mention that I left out the tomato sauce. I didn’t have any on hand, but they were just fine without them. If you want to use them, then fair game! Add what you see fit. I made some with browned ground beef and some with leftover pulled pork that I smoked in my recently purchased Po’Man Grill. As much as I would like to call this a recipe, consider it to be more of a guide. Without further ado, let’s roll on to it.

Ingredients

How to Grill Stuffed Poblano Peppers

In this recipe, I grilled a couple of stuffed bell peppers as well, for the picky crowd, so keep this in mind if anybody requests that variety.

  1. Cook the yellow rice according to the package instructions (I used a family pack of the yellow rice — boil 3 and 1/2 cups of water, add the package of rice, reduce heat to medium low and cover for 20 minutes or until done).
  2. You can do this on your grill, but I was in a hurry, so I browned up the ground beef and diced onions in the taco seasoning in my cast iron skillet on my stove.
  3. Using a charcoal grill (if you are using a gas grill, fire it up to 350-400 degrees), I lit a small chimney of charcoal, allowed it to burn for 20-25 minutes and added them to the grill before adding my grates and procuring the lid on top. Both the intake and exhaust vents were set to being wide open.
  4. Preparing the poblano peppers — I removed the tops, sliced them into two sections and flatted them (seeds removed). This is my method that I find to be the most efficient: I applied a liberal amount of cooking oil (I used canola oil) to my hands and rubbed the skin and innards of the peppers. This is to create a thin layer of fat on the peppers in order to help the roasting process and keep them from sticking on the grill grates.
  5. I placed the peppers skin-side down onto the grate over the hot coals and cooked them for a couple of minutes before flipping them over to cook the inside of them for an additional minute or two before removing them.
  6. I added a spoonful or two of rice to the peppers followed by the pulled pork on some of them and ground beef and onions on the others before topping them with the cheese. This allows the cheese to melt down on everything.
  7. I re-added the peppers to the indirect side of the grill, closed the lid and allowed the cheese to melt for five to ten minutes.
  8. Remove and enjoy!

I highly recommend giving this recipe a shot. If you choose to use bell peppers, give them the same treatment with the coking oil and blemishing of the skin and innards on the grill for that classic grilled flavor. If you try this recipe (er, guide), let me know what you think in the comments.

Chipotle Chicken Fajitas on the Blackstone Griddle

Chipotle Chicken Fajitas on the Blackstone Griddle



Believe it or not, this was my first time making chicken fajitas on the Blackstone griddle. I do have an excuse for that, which is one of my family members not being a fan of chicken, but still! After nearly three years of use, this was my first go-’round with them on the flat top.

One of the many great things about having an outdoor griddle, whether it is a Blackstone or a Camp Chef or a Blue Rhino or Royal Gourmet, is the versatility of it, and when it comes to versatility in cooking, fajitas — much like stir-fry — are something you can do anything with.

Traditionally, when you go to a Tex-Mex restaurant and order fajitas, what you are likely to receive is your choice of meat mixed together in a blend with cooked sliced bell peppers and onions, served with warmed flour tortillas, refried beans, rice and a little bit of greenery in the form of a tiny salad with tomatoes and a dollop of guacamole. However, at home, you can use whatever the heck you want. You can even make vegetarian fajitas with sliced portobello mushrooms if you would like. (A vegetarian dish being suggested on Grizzly BBQ? You don’t see that too often.)

At the same typical Tex-Mex restaurant, the fajitas comes out while sizzling on an oval cast iron skillet that is sitting on a wooden trivet. Truthfully, that is just for show, but you can’t deny the hunger augmenting effects it has on you and the others around when the dish is brought to the table, especially if your appetite is voracious and you are waiting to satiate it. At home, you could do the same for your guests by sitting a cast iron on the flat top until it heats up, adding your cooked meat and vegetables afterwards, and ensuingly walk into your home like a boss, but maybe I’m just boring, because I added these fajitas to a large bowl.

There are no rules when it comes to fajitas. Do what you want. If a culinary elitist tries to jump down your throat over the technicalities of fajitas, pay them no mind while you stuff your face with incomparable deliciousness. Let’s roll onto the recipe.

Chipotle Chicken Fajitas on the Blackstone Griddle

How to Make Chipotle Chicken Fajitas on the Blackstone Griddle

Do keep in mind that you can make these in a grilling basket (or cast iron skillet) on a gas or charcoal grill, or you can make them indoors in a cast iron skillet (I recommend cast iron for a proper sear of the meat). I enjoyed cooking them on my 36″ Blackstone griddle due to the overall cooking space.

As stated above, you can change up any ingredients you would like. One thing I would recommend, that I did not do, is cooking a combination of both chicken tenderloins (or butterflied chicken breasts) and boneless, skinless chicken thighs. The reason for this is that you will feature the best of both worlds: the lean white meat chicken from the breast along with the juicy flavor from the fat content in the dark meat from the boneless, skinless thighs. I had chicken tenderloins on hand. Keep in mind that if you cook with chicken breasts, you should butterfly them so that they are thin enough to cook so that the internal temperature of the breasts reach 165 degrees without burning the outside of them, which can happen if the breasts are too thick.

Furthermore, if you want to, you can slice and dice up the chicken prior to cooking, but in the past when I have cooked meals similar to this, what happens is that the meat does not brown as well. I cooked the chicken tenderloins first, and then I sliced/shredded them up before mixing them together with the sauce.

I used raw flour tortillas that I bought from Kroger and cooked on the griddle. I believe they taste better, with a higher quality texture, than precooked tortillas, but you can use whichever you would like. Whatever you have at your disposal is a solid general rule if I had to make one for these.

Ingredients Used

  • A couple lbs. of chicken tenderloins
  • 1 stick of salted butter (cut in half)
  • 1 diced yellow onion
  • 3 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 habanero pepper, chopped and de-seeded (optional)
  • 1 red bell pepper sliced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper sliced
  • 1 can of Embasa chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • Sazon (I used La Preferida)

Step-by-Step Instructions

1.) After slicing and dicing up the vegetables, fire up two of the burners on the griddle to medium-high heat
2.) Once thoroughly heated (about seven or eight minutes), add one of the halves from the stick of butter and spread it around around before placing each piece of chicken onto the flat top cooking surface
3.) Cook the chicken for around five or six minutes on each side, or until the internal temperature of the respective chicken pieces reach 165 degrees, and place it on a cutting board.
4.) Lower heat to low, add the other half of the stick of butter (spread around, again) and the peppers and diced onions to the cooking surface, occasionally stirring.
5.) Slice up the chicken during this sequence
6.) Turn the heat back up to medium high and add the minced garlic, stirring frequently for about a minute
7.) Re-add the chicken to the mix and liberally season with Sazon
8.) Add the can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
9.) Mix together for about two or three minutes
10.) Add to a serving plate for a bowl. Cover with foil or whatever you have on hand to keep warm
11.) Scrape the griddle surface from anything that was potentially stuck to it
12.) Cook the raw tortillas for about a minute or so on each side
13.) You are ready to eat. Enjoy! Serve with sour cream, guacamole, refried beans and rice, or whatever you would like.

Cooked chipotle chicken fajitas on the Blackstone Griddle

If you decide to give this recipe a shot, and I highly recommend it, let me know what you think in the comments.

Enchilada Tacos with Smoked Beef

Enchilada tacos with smoked beef on the Blackstone Griddle

Over the last year on social media, I keep seeing videos from food trucks pop up featuring tacos, made from corn tortillas, being dipped in an enchilada-like sauce and cooked on a screaming hot griddle surface prior to being topped with a variety of toppings, folded over, crisped and served to customers. This intrigued me, so I figured I would whip up my own recipe in an experiment by making tacos in this manner on my 36″ Blackstone griddle.

I haven’t been able to find a conclusive name for this type of taco. In my Googling research, I have found a specialty dish that was founded in Jalisco in Mexico, called ‘Birria’, which is a spicy stew. However, this isn’t birria or close to it. So I can only refer to these as ‘enchilada’ tacos.

If you have been following Grizzly BBQ, you will find that I recently posted about smoking chuck roast in the last week. As an alternative to brisket, I highly recommend giving it a go, because generally it is going to be cheaper than brisket — not per pound, but by being a smaller ration of meat. When cooked correctly, it stands almost next to brisket in terms of flavor. Don’t get me wrong: that sounds like a touch of hyperbole in that sentence, but hear me out; a properly smoked chuck roast can achieve a level of a smoky beef flavor that will impart a delicious level of smoke in whatever dish you feature it in. That is what I used in these tacos, and if you decide to make these for yourself, you won’t be kicking yourself at the end of the day. You will be happy you have given this a try.

First things first, buy a pack of corn tortillas from your local grocery store. I used Chi-Chi’s white corn taco style tortillas. They come in a pack of 18. For the enchilada sauce, I picked up the store brand — Food Lion — of the sauce. You could make your own, which would likely wind up better tasting than what you would find in a can, or you can pick up a premium brand, but the store brand worked out well for me, because all you are doing with the sauce is dipping the tortillas in it prior to cooking. Keep in mind that you don’t need a Blackstone griddle to cook this recipe, but I love griddling outdoors so I rolled with that particular method. You can use a hot cast iron skillet to make these as well in your kitchen.

Overall, you are going to want these base ingredients:

— Corn tortillas
— Cooking oil
— Enchilada sauce
— Your choice of toppings

I stuck with the basics in making these: the above, smoked chuck roast that I had chopped up into bite size pieces of optimal tenderness, Great Value Fiesta blend cheese (cheddar, Monterey Jack, queso quesadilla and asadero cheese) from Wal-Mart, chopped cilantro and diced caramelized onions. You may prefer different ingredients, from a cut of pork or some kind of chicken. These were incredible with the smoked chuck roast that I cooked in my drum smoker, the Barrel House Cooker 18C, so I can’t help but recommend my method rather than others.

My preparation involved dipping the corn tortillas in some warmed cooking oil in a cast iron skillet. I had made chicken and cheese taquitos the day prior to cooking this, so I still had about a half inch of oil in my cast iron pan. I heated it up on medium for about ten minutes and dipped the corn tortillas — one by one — in the oil for about two or three seconds on both sides before adding them to a bowl. I find this step to be crucial, because you aren’t cooking the tortillas this way, but you are making them more pliable by adding them to the hot oil for just a moment. This does not make the final product greasy, but it will help allow the corn tortillas to crisp up enough after it is dipped in the enchilada sauce and subsequently cooked.

In another bowl, I dumped two cans of Food Lion brand enchilada sauce in, which is what you are going to want to dip your corn tortillas into before cooking them.

I fired up the burners on my Blackstone griddle to medium and quickly cooked up the diced onions in order to caramelize them. Different strokes for different folks: you might prefer diced raw onions, but I prefer the flavor of caramelized onions on my tacos. One of my guests that I was cooking for has difficulties eating raw onions due to digestion issues, so cooked onions are more palatable to them, and hey, caramelized onions are delicious, so there is no problem with that. I turned off one of my side burners and moved the caramelized onions over to the far side of the griddle where the burner was turned off. If you are making these inside your home, just remove the onions and place into a bowl or plate.

Afterwards, I added some oil to the hot griddle surface, dipped the corn tortillas — one by one — into the enchilada sauce and added them to the cooking surface. As they cooked away, I topped each tortilla with the aforementioned Fiesta blend cheese, added the smoked beef, spooned out some of the diced onions onto each tortilla and followed that up by topping each tortilla with a smidgen of chopped cilantro, which added a level of freshness in each bite of the finished product.

At this point, I bumped the heat of the burners to high and folded the tortillas over to crisp them up for about one minute on each side before removing them. Now it is time to eat.

18 enchilada tacos with smoked beef

Step-by-Step Instructions

1.) In a cast iron pan, add half an inch of cooking oil, heat for 10 minutes before dipping the corn tortillas, one by one, in the oil for three to five seconds on each side. Remove and add to a bowl.
2.) Dump your enchilada sauce into a separate bowl.
3.) Fire up your griddle or cast iron to medium heat, add a bit of oil and cook the diced onions for a couple of minutes. Remove the onions from the heat source.
4.) Dip the corn tortillas in the enchilada sauce and add to the cooking surface.
5.) Add your toppings.
6.) Bump up the heat and fold the corn tortillas over into tacos. Cook for about a minute on each side in order to achieve a substantial level of crispiness
7.) Remove and eat!

Poor Man’s Brisket: Smoked Chuck Roast

Juicy smoked chuck roast
When I first began my barbecue journey, one of the first meats I attempted to smoke was chuck roast. It is nicknamed ‘poor man’s brisket’ because it is a fatty, collagenous cut of beef, much like brisket, that requires a cook time that allows the tissue within to soften and break down to render it into a tender, edible finished product. While you may spend upwards to $40 to $50 or more on a big hunk of brisket, chuck roasts are smaller and in the range of two to five pounds, and you spend less in comparison to what you will on brisket.

I think the name ‘poor man’s brisket’ is a bit of a misnomer, though. Over in my neck of the woods, chuck roast is often more expensive than brisket (per pound), coming in at $5/lb. while a choice brisket from my local Wal-Mart can be purchased at a price point of $2.96/lb.

With that said, one of my local grocery stores recently ran a sale for chuck roast at $2.99/lb., and I picked a couple of them up for a big barbecue dinner I planned for my family and friends, because for chuck roast that is quite the bargain. Poor man’s brisket or not. Maybe we should start calling brisket, ‘poor man’s chuck roast’ for now on.

When you think of barbecue, you probably don’t think about chuck roast. When you think of a chuck roast, I’m sure you are likely to think of a big pot roast consisting of the meat, carrots, potatoes, onions and maybe mushrooms cooked up low and slow in a slow cooker. Well, sure, that is its most common use in the realm of the culinary world, but it is a sneaky, delicious cut of meat in the barbecue world and I think it is time that pitmasters everywhere begin accepting it as a veritable element in the game of smoked grub.

Smoking a Chuck Roast

2 Gringo's Chupacabra Brisket Magic

I want to share with you how to go into ‘next level’ mode when you smoke a chuck roast.

As I stated, I purchased two chuck roasts while they were on sale at the aforementioned local grocery store. One was around 2.6 pounds while the other weighed in at just shy of 3 pounds. The night before I began the cook, I took the guesswork out of the preparation by applying my rub of choice for these chuckies. I sliced both of them down the middle to create four equally sized pieces. There were two reasons I did this: for one, doing so meant a quicker cook time, and two, more surface area to create a nice, dark bark on the outside of the meat so that when it was time to cut up the finished product, there would be more bark in more bites for my guests to enjoy, and if you are into barbecue, you know that the bark is everyone’s favorite part of the meat.

I rubbed the four hunks of chuck roast with
2 Gringo’s Chupacabra Brisket Magic. I had them sitting on a sheet pan that I then placed in the refrigerator to sit overnight, allowing the rub to settle onto the surface of the meat.

The next morning, I fired up one of my drum smokers, my Barrel House Cooker 18C, with a combination of Kingsford’s charcoal briquettes, two chunks of hickory wood and two chunks of pecan wood, and when the smoker’s internal temperature gauge read 200, I added the four pieces of chuck roast to the middle grate and closed it up. This was at around 9 in the morning.

The reason I added the chuck roasts to the cooker at 200 rather than waiting for the temperature to rise even further is because I wanted to go ahead and allow them to hit some smoke, as the heat was coming up quite nicely, and the actual temperature of the middle of the grate was probably at 250 degrees since it was closer to the fire source. In a drum smoker, the cooking environment is hotter than other smokers since one is typically not using a water pan, so there is no type of heat deflector between the meat and the cooking source.

Bark from smoked chuck roast

Just take a look at the bark on this smoked chuck roast!

Sliced and cut-up smoked chuck roast

I began checking my temperatures at around three hours into this cook. However, the total cook time was about five and a half to six hours, as I finally removed all four pieces of the chuck roast at about 2:30 p.m. when the internal temperatures of the pieces of meat were reading 200-204 degrees by that time.

I allowed the meat to rest for fifteen minutes before slicing it up like a brisket and subsequently cutting it up into bite size pieces. This was by far and away the juiciest chuck roast I have ever smoked up to this point. Serve on a bun, eat by itself or make tacos with it, like I did.

Reverse Seared Tomahawk Ribeye on the Grill

Reverse Seared Tomahawk Ribeye on the Grill

Ribeyes are my favorite cut of steak, by far and away. I love the marbling, the tenderness of the finished meat and the overload of flavor that comes from this cut, so it stands to reason that I also love tomahawk ribeyes

A tomahawk ribeye is a cut of steak that has at least five or more inches of extra rib bone. I suppose this is for presentation purposes, because when you see one, it is going to command your attention and seduce your steak-loving heart, and it has ‘tomahawk’ in the name because the long bone resembles an axe, but to me it reminds me of how one could eat it ‘caveman’ style by holding the bone while eating the meat, just like a caveman. This cut of beef virtually speaks to your inner primal instincts.

I have heard of tomahawk ribeyes being preferred to as simply ‘bone-in ribeyes’ (you will see these classified as such as a menu item at LongHorn Steakhouse chain restaurants) or ‘cowboy steaks.’ In order to call these a tomahawk, bone-in or cowboy ribeye, the butcher preparing the meat will trim off the meat around the bone, exposing it. It is all about the total presentation, so when you see these steaks in the meat department at a grocery store, they stand out among the rest. I cannot forget to mention how incredible they taste when reverse-seared, as well, so presentation aside, tomahawk ribeyes make for delicious steaks.

Living in rural southwest Virginia, with farmland everywhere around me, the only time I ever saw a tomahawk ribeye in person before a couple of years ago was at a Sam’s Club, which is an hour away from where I live. I’m not sure why, but it isn’t popular around here, and it could be due to the smaller population, but that’s a shame. In 2017, a local meat shop opened up, called Appalachian Meats, ran by a husband-and-wife tandem, and they started advertising for tomahawk ribeyes. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to cook one for the first time, to finally have the experience of tasting one.

3 pound tomahawk ribeye

A perfect amount of fat and marbling in this beautiful tomahawk ribeye from Appalachian Meats.

The tomahawk ribeye I purchased from Appalachian Meats was just shy of three pounds, unless you want to round it up.

This cut of steak isn’t one where you can flash-sear in a pan for two minutes on each side. Nope. Pending on how you like your steaks cooked (medium rare, right?), you have to figure out a way to make sure that you cook the inside of the meat adequately while still achieving the seared crust that you will ultimately desire. Enter the reverse sear method.

Reverse Searing a Tomahawk Ribeye

‘Reverse sear’ and ‘slow-cooking’ go hand in hand. It simply means to cook the meat at a temperature that is low enough where the outside layer of the meat isn’t overcooked, while high enough in temperature to cook the inside of the meat enough to reach your preferred doneness.

You can certainly reverse sear by using an oven and a cast iron pan on the stovetop, but this is Grizzly BBQ, and I wanted to grill it.

I loaded up my faithful, trusty Weber kettle grill with a charcoal chimney full of scorching hot lump charcoal and closed the lid to allow the grill to heat up. I left the exhaust vent on the lid halfway open and only had a quarter of the intake vents open for a lower temperature, in which the temperature gauge on the lid was reading 300 degrees by the time I brought the tomahawk ribeye out to place on the grate. Keep in mind that I shuffled the charcoal to one side of the grill so that I could use the other side to cook the steak on indirect heat. I placed a chunk of pecan wood over the coals for an extra smoky flavor that embedded itself into the steak.

You can use whatever type of seasoning you prefer. With most steaks, kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper is sufficient, but I like to play around with flavors, and one of my favorite steak rubs/seasonings is Hardcore Carnivore Black, which not only has a delicious flavor that it imparts on beef, but it featured activated charcoal in it, which is purely superficial because it gives the meat a near blackened look, which is beautiful to look at when the meat is finished cooking.

As the grill was hitting 290 to 300 degrees, I placed the tomahawk ribeye on the side of the grill as to where it would cook indirectly and closed the lid. I didn’t use any ‘fancy’ equipment to monitor this cook. I do own a Thermoworks Smoke thermometer, which is amazing for monitoring long barbecue cooks like smoking a brisket or a pork butt, but I stuck with my trusty meat thermometer for this one.

Searing a tomahawk ribeye
After 35 minutes, I opened the lid of the grill and checked the temperature of the ribeye, and it was reading 115 degrees. I was overly eager to finally take it inside to cut into and eat, so I saw this as the perfect opportunity to finish it.

I removed the lid of the grill, opened the intake vents wide open for maximum airflow in order to increase the temperatures of the hot lump charcoal, waited around three to five minutes and ensuingly placed the steak directly over the coals and seared it on each side for three meats a piece.

Reverse seared tomahawk ribeye Rare tomahawk ribeye
Everybody has a different method for how long they will sear a steak, but with a thick steak like this, this amount of time to sear it ensured a phenomenal crust that wasn’t ‘burnt’ in the least.

I usually prefer medium rare steaks, but I wound up cooking this tomahawk ribeye rare, about as rare as finding one around this part of the country if Appalachian Meats did not exist.

The flavor was on point. Hardcore Carnivore Black naturally lends itself to beef with notes of garlic, onion and chili that don’t overpower the meat to detract from the beefy flavor we seek from a flavorful cut of steak, not to mention it produces a beautiful color on the crust.

Me and a tomahawk ribeye bone

The look of satisfaction after devouring this tomahawk ribeye.

Can You Smoke Burgers?

Can You Smoke Burgers?

When I first began my barbecue journey, I never considered the prospect of smoking burgers. Usually, in a low and slow cooking environment, you will find yourself smoking big cuts of meat like brisket, pork shoulders and racks of ribs low and slow, because these are generally tougher cuts of meat that need time for the collagen within these types of meat to break down, which results in juicy, tender bites of flavor in the guise of edible goodness that all but melts in your mouth.

When I purchased a Barrel House Cooker in the spring of 2018, this was my first tried and true experience with hot-and-fast style barbecue, a veritable art form in the realm of cooking that I took to and fell in love with quickly. Drum smokers, like the Barrel House Cooker, naturally lend themselves to hot-and-fast barbecuing, as usually you aren’t using a water pan in most cases and the meat is closer to the fire source than in traditional low-and-slow barbecue. In hot-and-fast smoking, rather than cooking meats at a temperature range of 225 to 275 degrees, you are rolling along with temperatures along the lines of 300 to 325 degrees. In my Barrel House Cooker, if the thermometer on the lid is reading between 250 to 275, I know that the meat inside the smoker is likely being cooked between 300 to 325 degrees since it is closer to the heat source.

But that is based on smoking in a drum cooker. What about in an offset stick burning smoker? Can you smoke hot-and-fast barbecue in one of those contraptions? The answer is an emphatic yes.

A few days ago, a local grocery store around these parts ran a monthly sale, and one of the things on sale was a 5-lb. family pack of ground chuck (73% lean/27% fat*) for $1.79/lb. Regardless of your feelings on ground beef with a rich amount of fat, that is an undeniable great price.

* – If you are wondering whether or not 73/27 ground beef is optimal for burgers, allow your reservations to relax and take a look here, where I break down my opinion on the fatty, delicious burgers.

However, another item that was marked down was not only chicken leg quarters for $.55 cents/lb, but chicken thighs for $.50 cents/lb. I picked up a pack of the ground chuck, the chicken leg quarters and chicken thighs. Upon making it back home, with time to spare for the day, I fired up my vertical offset smoker with intentions of only smoking the chicken leg quarters and thighs.

In order to cook hot-and-fast in an offset smoker, you want both your intake and exhaust vents wide open. When I began this particular cook, I filled up a big charcoal chimney with original Kingsford charcoal briquettes, using two lighter cubes, and waited about 20-25 minutes for the coals to completely ash over before dumping them into my firebox. Directly afterwards, I added a log of hickory wood, a log of cherry wood and an extra chunk — chunks that I typically only use in my Weber Smokey Mountain and both Barrel House Cookers — of cherry wood.

It didn’t take long for the smoker to fire up to 350 degrees as the wood caught fire pretty quickly, and this is when I added the chicken leg quarters and thighs. After around 35 to 40 minutes, I probed each piece of the chicken with a meat thermometer and they were all in the 170-180 range (perfect for dark meat chicken) and removed them from the pit. By this time, my smoker’s temperature gauge was still reading 325 degrees, and I didn’t want to close it up and choke the fire just yet, and as I was considering what I wanted to do next, a voice inside my head emitted, “Burgers, Troy! Burgers!”

Some may consider it a sin straight out of the grilling and barbecue Bible to cook burgers in any other way than on a scorching hot cast iron pan, a flat top griddle surface or directly over a fire in a grill, so forgive me for this sin, but if it is a sin, I recommend you try committing this sin as well, because it is a delicious act of barbecue blasphemy if I have ever tasted one. Now, I love grilled burgers and smash burgers cooked on my griddle as much as the next pseudo-pitmaster and burger fanatic, but smoked burgers should have a place in the hierarchy of barbecue directories.

I have heard detractors of smoked burgers speak of their firm thoughts and feelings about how burgers should be cooked directly on a hot pan or over a fire, as they will defend this traditional method of cooking by stating that smoking will dry out a burger. My retort to this would be to say that their point of view is only valid if you are smoking burgers that feature a fat content of more than 80%. Remember: I had just purchased a fresh pack of 27% fat ground beef.

Smoked cheeseburger
With a high fat content, unless you allow a burger to sit in your smoker for longer than an hour, it is next to impossible to dry it out. You would have to blatantly try your best to dry it out.

When I form my patties in order to shape ground beef into a burger, I form a ball and rarely measure it out. I usually make bigger burger patties than most people, because not only will a great deal of fat render from such a high percentage of it embedded in the ground beef, I am biased in favor of bigger burgers, especially one that will fit on a nice sized bun, like a brioche bun, which is what I ate this smoked burger on. Anyhow, after I form a ball, using both hands I smash it flat into a circle to the best my abilities (arguably questionable ones at that) and form multiple dimples underneath and on top of the burger to account for the shrinking that is inevitable when the meat is cooked. I seasoned the burgers on both sides of the surface with Caribeque Big & Bold Beef Rub.

Before I added the burgers to the smoker, I added a smaller log of hickory wood, which bumped my smoker’s temperatures back up to 350 degrees. As for when I ultimately placed the burgers onto the pit, I placed them as close to the fire source as possible. Again, I wanted to smoke these burgers quickly. Another thing that a smoked burger detractor might say is that this is tantamount to cooking a burger in an oven. Well, sure, I will accept that claim, as instead of an oven, the burger is being ‘baked’ in a smoker and infused with delicious smoky notes of heaven. That is not something that should deter anyone from giving this a try.

You could move the burgers further away from the heat source and smoke them longer, but closer to the heat source in my smoker? They cooked to 155 degrees in 20 minutes. They developed a beautiful, red-like color (from the cherry wood, I assume, as it is one of my favorite smoking wood sources for most grub, and it imparts a color I am all too familiar with, with other barbecued food) with a formidable crisp along the edges from being close to the fire.

I topped both burgers with a 4-cheese blend of cheese slices that I picked up from Kroger (their brand), which featured a mix of cheddar, Monterey Jack, Colby and mozzarella cheese. On one burger patty, I forgot to top it with cheese while it was still in the smoker, so I added it afterwards, but with the other burger I topped it with cheese while it was still in the pit and closed the lid for 30-45 seconds until it adequately melted.

I must not fail to mention that I had some apple wood smoked bacon sitting in the fridge that I also added to the smoker, so you can consider it ‘double smoked bacon.’ This is something that bacon pundits might holler at me over, saying that bacon should be cooked in its own rendered fat in a pan, but I will ignore them after it is cooked when I devour the salty, smoky piggy sticks of glory.

Smoked double bacon cheeseburger
Consider the above to be a smoked double bacon cheeseburger, held together with a brioche bun.

Don’t write off smoked burgers just because it is an unorthodox cooking style. It is a tasty treat, and not only will your taste buds wind up being pleased with the result, but your family will undoubtedly thank you after they bite into one.