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

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

This evening I’m feeling bacon-fried rice

The family agrees that would be quite nice

So I open up my laptop to perform a quick search

Besieged I am to buy lots of merch

So I click several links over here and there

Reading stories of what people smelled in the air

As well as growing up down on grandma’s farm

Where they would cook things like fresh chicken with parm

Growing furious not wanting to read a book

I scroll down the page and continue to look

Why do these people think it is a necessity

To tell their story and not give the recipe

Alas I have found a Google Chrome filter for inspiration

And I have to admit this is a riveting sensation

For recipes only and story prevention

I’ll download and install this new Chrome extension

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

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

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

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

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

How to Cook Chicken Wings on the Blackstone Griddle

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

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

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

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

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

Crazy Cajun chicken wings on the 36″ Blackstone Griddle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honey Heat Spare Ribs on the Barrel House Cooker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Best Mac and Cheese in the World (Recipe)

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

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

Golden brown mac and cheese

Golden brown, bubbly and ready to roll!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flatiron Pepper Co. Hatch Valley Green crushed pepper

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

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

My Advice for Making The Best Smash Burgers Ever

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perfecting a Smoked Thanksgiving Turkey

Yesterday’s smoked turkey

I hardly consider myself a poultry pro.

When I was growing up, I was a picky child. Every time I would go out to eat with my family, when the question of, “Where does everybody want to go eat?” arised, my suggestion was always, “Somewhere with good chicken wings.” When we would go on vacation, it surprised nobody in the family that I was going to order wings everywhere we’d go.

When I grew up, I wanted to learn how to master chicken breast. Not how to consistently produce moist chicken breasts, but how to flavor them in different ways so they wouldn’t become boring. The grocery stores where I live often feature family packs of chicken breasts on sale for $1.99/lb. or under quite often, so it is an easy source of protein to come about. (My favorite method: hot-smoked on the Barrel House Cooker for 20-25 minutes, using lump charcoal, with Caribeque Signature Series Chicken Rub on the breasts — my all-time favorite seasoning for chicken if we aren’t going into the topic of spicy grub).

Turkey is a different beast, though.

I like turkey, but it isn’t something that I crave often. I became so conditioned to having standard, oven roasted turkey for Thanksgiving all my life. Deep-fried turkey is fantastic, but once you get past the skin, turkey still tastes just like regular ol’ turkey.

Fast-forward to last year: my first time smoking a turkey for Thanksgiving. My first time ever hosting a Thanksgiving in my life, at age 27. My mother had a stroke two weeks before Thanksgiving, and it was an emotionally charged time for my family because she was still in the hospital during Thanksgiving. I had my heart set on one ultimate goal for turkey day: I was going to smoke that bird. My method? Hanging the turkey with the EZ-Load Turkey Plus Kit from Barrel House Cooker Co. For the sake of shortening this particular Thanksgiving day story, this method of smoking a bird produced the most flavorful turkey I can recall ever having.

This year, I wanted to outdo myself from last year. This was my preparation for the 15-lb. turkey I smoked for Thanksgiving dinner:

(One caveat: I did not brine this bird, because it was already pre-brined. Keep this in mind if you are planning on cooking a turkey that hasn’t already been pre-brined.)

The day before Thanksgiving, with the turkey being thawed out in the refrigerator for around three days, I sat it out in a pan, removed the giblet package and the neck, and patted it dry with multiple paper towels.

Afterwards, I used duck fat spray (I originally found duck fat spray at Cabela’s, but now many Wal-Mart locations are carrying it for a couple of bucks cheaper) to spray the skin of the turkey. Not only does this spray act as a binder for your rub, but you add an extra layer of fat, yielding more flavor.

Last year, I used the ‘Everything Rub’ by The Killer Cook, which is fantastic, but this year I went a different route: Slap Ya Mama. I wanted to throw down a Cajun smoked turkey. I seasoned the bird liberally with Slap Ya Mama. While it is quite a salty seasoning, I wanted to give the skin enough flavor to where enough would penetrate into the meat by the end of the cook. With the turkey ready to go, I let it sit in the fridge overnight to absorb the seasoning.

I started up my Barrel House Cooker 14D with about half of the charcoal basket with coals while filing a small charcoal chimney up before lighting. After letting the coals burn for 15 minutes, I added them on top of the charcoal basket, placed two chunks of applewood (I used cherrywood last year) onto two separate sides of the coals and placed the base of the Barrel House Cooker onto the bottom charcoal station and closed the lid.

At around 8 in the morning, I added the turkey, hanging it in the cooker using the EZ-Load Turkey Plus Kit. This was about ten minutes after I added the charcoal to the basket.

I let it roll until around 11:45, when the thigh and legs were reading 175-180 and the breasts were reading about 163-164. I removed it from the cooker and allowed it to rest in a foil pan for 20-25 minutes before tenting it with foil. The temperature gauge read 250-255 for the majority of the cook, so I imagine the turkey was cooking at around 300-325.

This was, hands down, the best turkey I’ve ever eaten, and not one complaint was uttered by the guests (maybe they were just being nice). I have no shame in calling this, ‘perfecting’ a smoked turkey. It was incredibly juicy and absolutely tender.

Some may describe the skin as being too dark, preferring more of a brown skin for their bird, but that also has much to do with what kind of rub you use. Again, I used a liberal amount of Slap Ya Mama Cajun seasoning, and I’m sure that is the reason for the darker skin, as it certainly was not burnt in the slightest.

Drum smokers like the Barrel House Cooker are perfect for poultry. I did not use a water pan. One of the reasons drum smokers are so formidable at producing flavorful grub is that the juices from the meat will hit the hot coals and the vapors resulting from that action will rise and baste the meat during the cooking process. I owe the juiciness of the turkey to that mechanism of the cooker.

I highly recommend giving this method a shot if you have a drum smoker. Your family, unless opposed to smoked grub, will thank you for it, especially on a day to be thankful.

Something to Consider Before Purchasing a Pit Barrel Cooker

When I make a decision on an investment in a product, the first thing I consider is the value of the product versus the price being asked for it. Secondly, and this coincides with ‘value’, I look into the quality of said product: is the brand reputable? Is it durable enough to last? With the time I’ll invest in using it, through enjoyment will I basically receive my return of investment through years of use?

My most viewed post is this one: Is Barrel House Cooker Going Out of Business?

When it comes to already-constructed, available-to-buy drum smokers, the two most talked about options are these two: number one, the most popular, is the Pit Barrel Cooker. Second, it is the Barrel House Cooker.

If you have been following my site, you will notice how often I have posted about Barrel House Cooker. I own both of their models, the 14D and the 18C. I have not held back from posting criticism when I’ve written about the cookers either, so while I’m an advocate, I’m no stranger to avoiding pulling punches in that side of things.

I don’t know what is going to happen with Barrel House Cooker. I am not knowledgeable enough about the legal side of things to comment abou what happened between them and Pit Barrel Cooker. All I know is that the legal conclusion to such matters resulted in portions of the proceeds of the sales of all Barrel House Cookers will fall into the pocket of Noah Glanville, creator of the Pit Barrel Cooker. Using Google, you can find more information about this that can expound on it better than I can.

For the majority of this year, I have noticed that Barrel House Cooker has not had their smokers on sale.

When I considered purchasing either the PBC or BHC, I went with the BHC because I felt it was a bigger bang for my buck. I have found it to be a superior piece of equipment for getting the job done as a drum smoker in comparison to the BHC. I listed my reasons why here.

I have stated in multiple occasions that, if my Barrel House Cookers ever fall apart, that I will likely go ahead and buy a Pit Barrel Cooker, because.. well.. I’m not sure if Barrel House will ever come back. Until they fall apart, I’m happier than a Texan surrounded by smoked beef brisket with using my two BHCs.

Pit Barrel Cooker has a much larger following than Barrel House Cooker. Asides from being available for a longer amount of time than BHC, one of the PBC’s main selling points is that it is a veteran owned operation.

As an American, I’ve been glad to support veteran owned businesses, but I can’t help but feel irked whenever certain companies try to over-emphasize that point when they are trying to gain business. It feels cheap to me. If your veteran-owned company is making a product that I feel is subpar compared to a competitor that isn’t veteran owned, I’m rolling with the the superior competitor. See the first paragraph of this post to consider why I say that. I am not interested in debating the moral compass guidelines behind these two companies, and neither should anybody else asides from those involved in the legal matters, yet if you Google the comparisons between the two cookers, you will find a horde of people stating their opinions while it is all hearsay.

Speaking of hearsay… onto the matters of the title of this post: Something to Consider Before Purchasing a Pit Barrel Cooker

If you take a look at the PBC website, while you will see the big, bold text in the site’s headlines, A VETERAN OWNED BUSINESS, this may mislead you to believe that the PBC is made in America while apparently the cookers and accessories themselves are made in China!

YIKES.


This information is allegedly only reported on tiny print on the packaging according to David H. from this site.

Others have confirmed. Consider what jfmorris from the Amazing Ribs forum said:


Interesting.

It is sheepish of consumers to lambaste Barrel House Cooker in one breath and place Pit Barrel Cooker on a pedestal in another. Two wrongs don’t make a right, but if you are a consumer who looks at a brand and pretends they can do no wrong, you are the problem. I am culpable, too, in a way, because I will choose the design of the BHC over the PBC any day of the week, but we should all aim to hold companies to higher standards and not give them a free pass just because its creator touts his military service history.