Sweet tea brined chicken

Smoked chicken is a favorite ’round these parts. In fact, if I was to rate our favorites, it would be:

1a)Brisket

1b)Chicken

3)St.Louis style spare ribs

4)Pulled pork

This chicken is pretty simple, really. Brine for 24 hours. Smoke for 1-1.5 Enjoy! Of course, there are a couple of decisions to make with regard to a couple of those steps. Tonight, I changed up the norm, in that I smoked with cherry as opposed to hickory. And I added crushed garlic and onions to the brine, much to my wife’s chagrin. She asserts that there’s nothing wrong with the chicken, and when she’s found how she likes it, she wants to keep it the way she wants it. But, I like change. I think I’m going to have to do it again, though, as the cherry wood changed the product more than I expected. Sorry, dear. 😉

Sweet tea brined chicken
Recipe type: Sweet tea brined chicken
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Brine with a southern accent delivers a bit of personality to your chicken.
Ingredients
  • Chicken (I prefer pieces, mostly because my family prefers dark meat)
  • 1 gallon iced tea
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup kosher salt
  • 3 lemons
  • Handful of rosemary
  • Thyme
Instructions
  1. Using whatever method you choose, make iced tea. I, personally, only make iced tea using Luzianne tea if I have a choice. Using my iced tea pot, I make iced tea WITHOUT THE ICE. I usually make two pots, which is probably around a half gallon of stronger, hot tea.I do this so that the temp is up and it's easier to dissolve the salt and sugar. Once the salt and sugar are dissolved, I add ice, in order to reduce the concentration of the tea and bring the temperature down quickly. I then add rosemary and thyme, fresh if available, and then I'll halve the lemons and squeeze them into the brine. Add chicken and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Preferably, I remove the chicken from the brine an hour or two before preparing to put the chicken on the smoker. This gives the meat a chance to dry out a bit. I also like to let the meat come up in temperature a bit before adding it to the smoker.
  3. Bring the temperature up as close to 300 degrees F before adding the chicken. This helps you avoid the smoked chicken skin being tasty, wood smoked flavored bubble gum.
  4. Smoke wood can be a bit of a holy war. To date, I still prefer hickory. Tonight, I smoked my chicken using cherry, and wasn't prepared for how sweet it seemed to make the chicken. It was still tasty, just different from my normal hickory characteristics.
  5. Smoke the chicken to 165F, or a little better if you prefer.

 

Hardwood grilled steaks

Duh.

This weekend, I had a duh moment when it occurred to me that I wanted to try grilling on my Weber Smoky Mountain. I knew that I wanted to make steaks, which I wasn’t interested in smoking, but I wanted that hint of hardwood regardless. My glee was hardly contained when I figured out that I could make that happen with nearly no modification to my WSM.

  • Remove the bottom rack and the water pan.
  • Bend out your brackets for the water pan slightly.
  • Move charcoal grate up to the water pan brackets.

Voila!

Just that simple, folks.

So, for the evening’s meat, we bought some NY Strip from the local supermarket. Sadly, not quite as thick as I may have liked, but not too bad. I rubbed them down with my version of this rub, which has become my favorite rub for beef thusfar.

 

From there, I lit a half chimney or so of charcoal, and once they were nice and hot, I added a half dozen chunks of hickory into the charcoal.

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Remove the lid for a while, and I found that i could get the chunks to catch flame. I liked this, as I was able to use the flame to sear the steaks. This picture is obviously from after I moved them, but you get the idea…

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I like my steak medium at the most. So, we didn’t leave them on for very long. Probably 8-10 minutes. But we still had a delicious combination of spice, smoke, and meat.

Beef Rub
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Basic rub for beef.
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons kosher or coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
Instructions
  1. Combine all spices.
  2. If I'm using this rub on brisket, I usually use 2 or 3 times the amount of cayenne. But, on a steak, two teaspoons of cayenne was a bit much for my wife. I, on the other hand, thought it was delicious!

My steaks will never touch the gas grill again.

Gift from a friend

Many moons ago, at an employer far, far away, I had the good fortunate of meeting a gentleman that became my friend. Though he was many years my senior, we always found things to talk about. Beer, technology, and family (I was a new and proud papa) were among the topics that I discussed with him as I worked on their Citrix Metaframe server. Millions of dollars were lost for every however many hours it may have been down, at any given time. At least that’s what the manager of the department liked to tell us.

During one of these discussions, my friend Curt and I were discussing either beer or bratwurst. I forget which. But we ended up discussing how they come together most beautifully.

And a fire was started.

You see, my friend turned me on to cooking with Guinness. Lots of people boiled their brats in beer, he shared. But, what kind of flavor does that really provide? By boiling in Guinness, he explained, you add a very definitive, unmistakable character to the sausage. A character which was further enhanced by adding a few cloves of garlic to the beer as you were boiling them.

My friend retired from our mutual employer shortly after 9/11/2001. To my recollection, I have not made bratwurst any other way since. A couple times, I may have experimented with another good beer, but I no longer was satisfied with some American macrobrew. He’d opened my eyes to the world of cooking with Guinness, which is now a staple in our kitchen. Just like salt, pepper, and hot sauce.

A couple of years ago, I started looking for him, so that I could share this information with him. Let him know that he’d started me down a path to foodie-dom. But sadly, I learned that he’d passed away in 2008. Not until after he’d gotten to spend a few years in retirement with the his wife, daughters, and his grandchildren.

And thanks to Curt “Please don’t call me John”, I will never hear the word “HORRIBLE!” again without smiling.

 

Guinness Brats
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Delicious, flavorful sausages. Intended to be eaten with mustard and onion.
Ingredients
  • Bratwurst- Raw. Do not buy the variations. What they do to them is not as good as what you will do to them.
  • Guinness
  • Few cloves of garlic
  • Onions
  • Buns
Instructions
  1. In a saucepan that's JUST large enough to hold all of the sausages that you're looking to cook, pour some Guinness into the bottom of the pan.
  2. Add the few cloves of garlic to the beer. Personally, I'll slice it thin, but pressing it is fine.
  3. Add sausages.
  4. Cover the sausages with more Guinness
  5. Personally, it's important to me to keep the pan as small as possible. I want to make sure that I don't cook with more Guinness than necessary, as I can drink what I don't cook with!
  6. After you get the beer boiling, it probably cooks for ten minutes or so. As long as the brats are fully submerged, the sausages should be cooked for the most part. Pull them out of the beer, and put them on the grill.
  7. Warning-Keep the flame low, and watch them. They're' going to swell up after they were boiled, and will likely split. When they split, they WILL flare. And they're just not as good overdone. You're only adding them to the grill to brown them up a bit.
  8. Take 'em off, throw 'em on a bun with some chopped onion and good mustard, and enjoy. And maybe give a thumbs up to my man Curt for showing us the way.

 

Brisket: The day after

Every now and again, after we make a brisket, we’ll have leftovers. It’s not common, mind you. Usually, the brisket is simply gone, or close to it. Often, we’ll send it home with a friend, who I believe is brisket’s biggest fan. But, it does happen sometimes. And when it does, it’s pretty easy to find stuff to do with it. New Year’s Day 2013, we made brisket hash. Simple. Delicious.

Brisket: The day after
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Simple yet delicious breakfast out of leftover brisket.
Ingredients
  • potatoes (recommend Yukon Gold)
  • onion
  • butter
  • brisket
Instructions
  1. Add enough butter to cover the bottom of your skillet. Chop your potatoes and onions. Add to the skillet over medium heat. Cover and wait, to make sure that your potatoes become soft. Like with cat food, er canned corned beef hash, I like to flip the potatoes infrequently, to allow them to brown as much as possible. Best part, after all.
  2. Once the potatoes are close to done, add the cubed brisket and recover. Let it cook together for a few more minutes, and then remove the cover to add a bit of browning.

Yum.

 

Brisket, delicious brisket.

If you’re thinking of BBQ in Carolina, you’re probably thinking pork. But, when you think about BBQ in Texas, you’re probably thinking of beef. And what kind of beef are you thinking about? Brisket.

Nearly inedible unless cooked correctly, it become a nearly unanimous favorite that can melt in your mouth. So, here, I’m going to share the brisket that is current the favorite of myself, my family, and all of my guests.

I prefer to start with a “packer’s cut”. A good guide to brisket selection can be found at the Virtual Weber Bullet.

Prep:

These days, I don’t do much trimming on my brisket before cooking. Why? Because  that fat melts over the meat, and it’s delicious! Besides, you can certainly trim after it’s cooked. However, one thing that do pretty reliably during prep is that I score the brisket before I apply the rub. This is because carving the brisket incorrectly can make it much tougher than it would have otherwise been. Carving a brisket across the grain is important, and it can be pretty tough to recognize the grain once it’s all dark and beautiful. So, before you rub the brisket, turn it fat side down, and score the meat across the grain. As close to 90 degrees as you get it is good. As you can see, I wasn’t that close this time. 😉

 

Now, it’s time for the inappropriate meat rubbing innuendo. It is sometimes necessary to do it yourself, but it’s always better when you can find someone else to do it for you! My current favorite beef brisket rub is the #1 beef brisket rub from Food Network. I do doctor it a bit, in that I use close to equal parts sea or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, I also add cayenne. The recipe calls for a teaspoon. I usually do a bit more than double that, so probably 2-2.5 teaspoons of cayenne.  Before applying the rub, I always rub the scored brisket with olive oil, and then apply the rub. Cover the rubbed brisket with cling wrap, and allow it to sit in the refrigerator. I usually hope for twelve hours or better.

As far as the smoke of the brisket itself? There are only two things that I personally strive for.

Keep smoker temperature as close to 225°F as possible.

Get the brisket to 190°F if at all possible. It makes a difference.

Beyond that, there is room for experimentation. My personal preference, is to use hickory as my smoke wood. I’m looking forward to trying some stuff that I haven’t tried, such as oak, pecan, and walnut, which are all said to be similar to hickory as a smoke wood, but a bit more gentle in flavor. This isn’t a problem in this house, though, as we all like hickory.  Beyond that, I personally prefer chunk wood as opposed to chips.

Do you have any tips or tricks that you like to use when smoking brisket? I’d love to hear about them.

Brisket Rub
 
Original recipe found at http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-challenge/beef-brisket-rub-1-recipe/index.html
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons kosher or coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons coarse black pepper (use fresh cracked pepper)
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon oregano leaves (dried)
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
Instructions
  1. Combine ingredients.

 

Mmm…Meat.

If you’re here, chances are good that one of the reasons that you’re here is meat.

Yes, Meat. It’s not unlikely that the meat is one of the things that drew you in to the abyss. There are a few things that I make that have been exceptionally well reviewed. One of them, is pulled pork. But, as an open source kind of nerd, I’m more interested in “standing on the shoulders of giants”, so I’m likely to share everything I’ve got. It’s not particularly likely that I’m going to compete with you over BBQ, and if I do, at least I know that I had a hand in beating me. 😉

So, I’m going to start with my favorites. And my favorite pork rub can be found right here. Chicago Style Ribs. I first saw this as an episode of Cook’s Country on PBS, but you can get the actual recipe at upyourflavor.com. This tends to be my “go to” rub for pork. Doesn’t matter what cut, this is the first thing that I consider. Now, in fairness, I take a few liberties with this particular recipe. First, I tend to be a lot heavier handed with the cayenne. I like my food to have a bit of a bite to it. So, I tend to crank up the cayenne from 1 tsp to 1 tbsp per recipe of rub. Obviously, it’ll take a lot more rub for pork shoulders or Boston butts than it will for a rack of baby back ribs. Plan accordingly. But, I’ll usually make three or so recipes for a shoulder. And then, I’ll often times make more for the sauce. The sauce is delicious of its own right. But, put them together with the pork? Heavenly. In fact, I was advised when I first moved in here, that I would not be permitted to compete in the Snob Hill Rib Off. Cancelled this year. Coincidence? 😉

 

A couple more important tips about pulled pork. I understand that you don’t like dry meat. You still need to cook it to over 190°F. Otherwise, it’s going to be miserable to pull. I like my meat smoked primarily over hickory. Yum.

 

Another tip? Pick up a “RoMan Pork Puller“. After making, and manually pulling, NINETY pounds of pork over a span of three weeks, I had NO interest in pulling any more pork by hand. So, I got this nifty little contraption that does it for me at the end of my cordless drill. Leaves me more time for my other love. Currently, I’m enjoying the hell out of some Great Lakes Burning River, which is a Pale Ale style brew. Full of hoppy goodness.

What’s on the menu for you this week? I want to do some chicken up a bit differently than normal. I’d love to hear suggestions, if you’ve got ’em. Otherwise, stay tuned, and I’ll fill you in on what I decided.