Tag Archive for ‘food porn’

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.

Caribeque AP Rubbed, Grilled Chicken Wings

I love Caribeque. I’ve tried three of the seasonings/rubs so far, and none of them have let me down.

And damn, that STOK drum grill has churned out some delicious food for my family and I so far. I can’t be more satisfied with it. My only problems are, 1.) the bottom damper vents get easy stuck, and 2.) the ash pan has ash that is pretty much stuck to it! No idea what to do about that.

I’ve played around with the brand new Caribeque AP (All Purpose) rub here and there, but they were fantastic on these wings. Even more so the next day, when I mixed some cheap Louisiana hot sauce and butter and tossed it on ’em.

Like I’ve said, Kurt Halls has something special going on with Caribeque, and I’m glad to be alive in this day and time with the opportunity to try the seasonings and rubs out. They are all terrific.

Grilled Tacos on the STOK Drum Grill

My buddy Brad grilled tacos on his Weber kettle grill about a week and a half ago. The pictures made me pretty hungry, and I knew I had to try it. Tacos might be Dana’s favorite food, which is a plus. I love feeding people, so having the chance to throw something on the grill (as outdoor cookin’ is something I seem to have an affinity for) that is a favorite food of somebody I love is a plus.

I can’t say it enough: I love my charcoal chimney starter.

Those taco shells tasted wonderful after taking on the grilled flavor.

My lighting with food pictures needs work, but it was more beautiful than this.

Old El Paso is a highly used seasoning. Whenever I smell it, it has a blast of cumin, a scent that is well used in the southwestern region of the United States. My girlfriend and I wasted a Chili’s gift card earlier this year; I should have ordered the “Big Mouth Bites” (sliders), but I got some southwestern brisket bowl, which was plain putrid. I say that, because it tasted like all they did was throw a smidgen of an avocado, some onions and other vegetables in there and drenched it in Old El Paso seasoning… hence why I say it’s a highly used seasoning!

Anyway, that’s what I used on my ground beef yesterday when I browned it on my STOK drum grill. After draining the majority of the fat, I added a whole big onion diced fine. I added two packets of Old El Paso sauce as well as a tiny jar of medium Taco Bell sauce I had in the closet. This was my mistake. It wasn’t a mistake to mix the sauces; it was a mistake because I didn’t use enough sauce. I didn’t have enough sauce on hand to make saucy tacos. I typically use Pace picante sauce. I love that stuff and it’s a favorite in my household, but I didn’t have on hand.

The tacos were delicious in spite of what I wrote in the above paragraph, but they could have been better, which is why I say that I’m definitely going to try this again in the future but with a big, whole jar of Pace picante sauce.

Happy grillin’. Have you ever cooked tacos on the grill? What was your method? Comment below!

Building Connections and a Network on Social Media

My family occasionally likes to poke fun at me for posting food on social media (Facebook and Instagram), but I enjoy it. I’ve delved more into Instagram than I ever have in the last few months. Ever since I finally joined the smartphone foray, I’ve occasionally posted pictures of miscellaneous stuff like VPX Bang energy drinks on there. It’s an easy way to keep up to date with news of what’s going on with VPX products (particularly their Bang line).

Their cooking, grilling and barbecue community is pretty damn cool, though.

I’ve made quite a few connections with people in the ‘Q community on Instagram since May. It’s been a fun experience. While I’ve been practicing on my picture taking skills with food, I’ve had fun browsing others’ culinary creations.

Kurt Halls from Caribeque has been nothing short of spectacular towards me on Instagram, whether it’s reposting a couple of my photos or talking it up about his kickass products through DMs/comments. He’s even inquired about the VPX Bang energy drinks.

I just decided to try out a brand new rub, as of today: Reload Rub & Seasoning’s “Fully Loaded”. The company is based out of Knoxville, TN and they just released this brand new product today. I see on Instagram that quite a few folks received early versions to test it. There’s been unanimous praise. I like to support kickass people and kickass products, so I figured I’d do something quasi-kickass myself and get some.

I’ve enjoyed making these connections over on Instagram, because it’s genuine. I’m not following or liking people’s pages and posts in an attempt to bait them into liking my posts or following me. I appreciate what they have to share, and as a food fiend, it’s pure food porn.

It’s like one big family. But nobody argues. Everybody is celebrating the taste of delicious foods and the process of cooking them in whatever method it may be. That’s the kind of movement and community I can get behind.

Spicy Jalapeno Cheddar Burgers and Smoked Goodness!

My girlfriend’s family came in to visit us on Friday night. A weekend of cookin’ was planned for both Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, we grilled, and Sunday we smoked. Despite the weather calling for thunderstorms (nothing happened), we were all in.

Kurt Halls and Caribeque released the brand new rub, the “AP Rub” (All Purpose) on Father’s Day. I’d been wanting to try it and mentioned to my girlfriend’s dad, Eric, that we need to try it soon. The thing about mentioning something to Eric is, he’s going to want to do it, 100%, all in the very first time. I felt guilty after I mentioned to him, because he said, “Guess I’ll order some”. As you can see in my previous post, I’d ordered three Caribeque Spicy Calypso Kick seasonings from Caribeque. I gave one to him, as well as an extra container of McCormick’s smoked sea salt.

Yep… not only did he hook me and the little lady up with the all-new Caribeque AP Rub, he got us two more bottles of Caribeque Smack Sauce. Listen, if you haven’t tried Smack Sauce on some French fries or other potatoes, you are missing out, folks. That should be on everybody’s bucket list. That stuff is amazing. We only have a little bit left from our first bottle, but that’s only because we were trying to stretch it out and make it last! We almost finished that bottle in the first couple of days of using it. It is that good.

Happy as hell, running on five hours of sleep. Saturday morning (July 1st).

That morning, we went grocery shopping for the weekend feast!

That evening, I busted out my STOK drum grill for burgers and a slew of smoked sausage. We had a pack of Johnsonville jalapeno cheddar and a family pack of Johnsonville “Beddar with Cheddar”. Everybody fell in love with the “Beddar with Cheddar”. I don’t have pictures of either, but they were awesome.

The burgers, though, man oh man were they good! I was eager to try out the Caribeque AP Rub. For three burgers (for me, Eric and family friend/my quasi-brother Robert), we took a big ass amount of 73/27 ground beef and added Kraft jalapeno cheddar cheese, Mrs. Renfros ghost pepper salsa and sprinkled AP Rub inside and on the outside. To say it was incredible would be an understatement.


The burgers were so flavorful and juicy! We grilled more burgers for our crowd, but these were over the top in flavor! I would love to do these again.

On Sunday, our smoke featured a variety of things. I didn’t take pictures of everything, but we smoked: trout, a pork shoulder, bologna, chicken quarter and bacon-wrapped jalapenos.

I can’t rave about the bacon-wrapped jalapenos enough.

We took another package of Kraft jalapeno cheddar cheese and stuffed it in there along with ground pork sausage. We smoked the jalapenos longer than usual to ensure the pork sausage would be done. This was all Eric’s idea, and holy hell it was good. The reason we get along so well is because we are food fiends. We appreciate damn good food, and I appreciate his ideas!

The 11 lb. pork shoulder was smoked for about five hours before we threw it in the crockpot and made a modified Mississippi roast with it, using a little bit of vinegar and pepperoncini peppers. It wasn’t ready until the next morning (for breakfast), but it was just as awesome.

Caribeque Spicy Calypso Kick-Rubbed Chicken Wings (And More)

Kurt Halls from Caribeque is making magic happen with his seasonings and rubs. Even his smack sauce. I haven’t tried the buffalo barbecue sauce he released over the last year or so, but I eventually hope to.

I bought a 3-pack of the Caribeque Spicy Calypso Kick seasoning.

I’d never tried the Spicy Calypso Kick (nor the original Calypso Kick), but I bought the 3-pack on the merits of Caribeque alone. I love the Caribeque Honey Heat rub for pork and chicken as well as the Caribeque “Honey Heat” Smack Sauce that is incredible with just about anything (but with French fries or potato wedges is my favorite).

I gave one of the seasonings to my girlfriend Dana’s dad, the man who is responsible for giving us the Caribeque Honey Heat rub and Smack Sauce.

I was so eager to try out the Caribeque Spicy Calypso Kick seasoning that I cut up three chicken breasts, liberally seasoned them with it and pan-fried them in my cast iron skillet with coconut oil. To my tastebuds, the seasoning isn’t very spicy; it’s more sweet than anything (even though it’s sugar free). I don’t know what kind of flavors are at play, but it has a delectable flavor profile that is generous to the tastebuds.

We made chicken tacos/burritos. I should’ve added some diced onions to mine, but I forgot (at the time) because I was so impatient, wanting to try this kickass seasoning! For some spice (I’m a spice fiend), I added Mrs. Renfros habanero salsa to the mix. What a great combination right there ~~ Mrs. Renfros habanero salsa and Caribeque Spicy Calypso Kick. One company is based out of Texas (Mrs. Renfros) and the other is out of Florida (Caribeque), but they should collaborate on something!

Indoor cooking, using Caribeque Spicy Calypso Kick: a success!

Firing up my STOK drum grill!

This past Thursday, I fired up my STOK drum grill!

I’d purchased a 14-ct family pack of chicken wings from Food Lion since they were a manager’s special item at about $7 bucks.

I’d planned for Thursday to be the day I’d do the grilled wings. You might think it’s blasphemy to grill wings instead of deep frying them, but who gives a shit? Good food is good food! I added some cherry wood to my coals for extra flavor.

I also cooked for my mother and my aunt. My mother despises chicken, so I grilled some burgers for them.

What happened was, I ended up being the only person eating the wings! That was fine by me. They turned out to be delicious. The cherrywood worked out perfectly with them. The Caribeque Spicy Calypso Kick gave it a nice flavor all over the skin. It was some fine bird eatin’.

I love Caribeque products. Kurt Halls knows what he’s doing. I’ll be doing another post about them soon.

Spareribs, Baby Backs, Pork Shoulder, Chicken Thighs, Mac’n’Cheese, Oh My!

I finally had the chance to smoke again on Tuesday. It was heavenly.

I received my Thermapen Mk4 from Thermoworks on Monday. I’m still undecided about it. I’ll write more about it in a future post.

I smoked two racks of spareribs, two racks of baby back ribs, a 4.5 lb. pork shoulder, bologna, chicken thighs, mac and cheese, corn on the cob and cabbage.

A couple of the pictures aren’t great, but I never claimed to be a professional photographer!

Uncle Yammy’s Memphis style chicken & rib seasoning was sprinkled liberally on all the racks of ribs except for one, which I used the KC Masterpiece habanero rub… dry rub that could have also doubled as a sauce if I would have mixed it with beer. I’m not much of a sauce guy, so I used it as a dry rub by default. It was OK… I’ll give it another shot. It tasted like the Lays barbecue potato chips, something I crave every now and again, and reminds me of summer school from my elementary school days.

Tony Chachere’s Creole was sprinkled on the bologna. So good. Don’t write off smoked bologna until you’ve tried it. It’s fantastic.

Garlic Jalapeno by Weber on the chicken thighs. I’m just about out of my favorite — Garlic Habanero — so I went with the jalapeno option. I may have slightly overcooked them, but they were still juicy and flavorful, so it wasn’t the biggest deal in the world.

I used Caribeque Honey Heat on the pork shoulder. I love that stuff. I ordered some Calypso Kick seasoning from Caribeque the other day, and I can’t wait to hot’n’fast smoke some wings seasoned with it on my Weber Smokey Mountain.

Nothing but salt and pepper on the corn on the cob (not pictured). It was a favorite.

I added butter and Tony Chachere’s Creole seasoning to the cabbage.

The mac and cheese was pretty good, though that needs some experimentation in the future. I only left it in the smoker for a little over an hour.

It was a successful smoke, albeit I’m still learning the ins and outs of the Weber Smokey Mountain. It ate up my Royal Oak charcoal (briquettes) pretty quickly, but the guys over at TVWBB (The Virtual Weber Bulletin Board) said that I didn’t use enough charcoal to fill the ring completely, and to try a different variation of the Minion Method. Their points were noted.

I used applewood for this smoke.