Tuesday, March 29, 2011

How-To Tuesday - How to Smoke Ribs

This How To Tuesday post is brought to you by the pork that was in my freezer, and the letter N. Now there is a difference between grilling and barbecue. Grilling is what you do to a steak when you cook it on direct heat for a short amount of time. Barbecue is cooking on indirect heat for a long time so the long "low and slow" cooking process breaks down the tissues inside the meat making it more tender. If you have a hot fire directly under the food, you are not barbecuing, you are grilling. Indirect heating is easy to set up on gas or charcoal. For gas, turn off the center burners and light the side burners. Place the food in the middle and slow cook on medium to low heat until the meat gets to safe cooking temperature. For charcoal, lower the basket to the lowest setting, put a drip pan in the middle, and put the coals on the outside. Put the food in the middle and cook until desired temperature is reached. You can soak wood chips and put them on top of the charcoal to add an extra smoky flavor. Lets not get ahead of ourselves...

The grill is set up for indirect heating. Notice the coals on the outside, with a drip pan on the inside. The drip pan helps keep the food moist. I like to put apple juice or other flavored liquid in mine to spice it up a little.

Step 1. Set up your grill for indirect heating. Light a chimney of charcoal, place a drip pan in the middle. (To make a drip pan, you can take 2 sheets of aluminum foil and fold up the edges.) Lay the charcoal evenly on both outer sides of the drip pan. If you want to smoke the ribs, soak the wood chips in water for 30 minutes, drip dry them off and put them on top of the coals. Put 1/2 cup apple juice in the drip pan. Replace your grill grates.

You can tell when charcoal is lit when you see little flames in between them.

Plastic mushroom trays from the grocery store are perfect containers for soaking wood chips.

World's cheapest drip pan: Foil folded up on the edges.

Step 2. Prep the meat. I use the "Kansas City Barbecue Rub" available here.

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 3 tablespoons seasoned salt
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon celery salt
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground sage
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
Make it ahead of time, put it in a pint jar and you'll always have it on hand. When you rub the meat with any seasoning, give it a little massage, and get the spices worked in well. I used country spare ribs, owing to their cheapness and easy-to-cookness.

Step 3. Put the meat on the grill and set the timer. Once I got it settled, I poked a meat thermometer through the smoke vent, and it registered about 190-200. I set a timer for 1 hour to remind myself to go out and turn the ribs. After half an hour, start a second chimney of charcoal.

Step 4. After an hour, turn the meat. It's important that you don't open the lid unless you are turning the meat, adding coals or other necessities. After about an hour, you will need to add more coals. Add the coals by squeezing them through the grates on the edge. Most grills have spots on the sides for adding more coals.

Step 5. 20 minutes before the meat is done, baste with barbecue sauce:
  • 1 cup your favorite barbecue sauce
  • 1/2 cup honey
Heat the barbecue sauce and honey over medium heat until boiling. Baste the meat with the glaze and turn one last time, basting both sides.

Step 5. Stick a fork in them, they're done. Check the ribs internal temperature with a meat thermometer. Pork should be cooked to 160 degrees.

Step 6. Serve with something tasty, like Grilled Potatoes and Cobbler.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Dutch Oven - Bacon Potato Alfredo

After a long hiatus owing to the fact that we've had no charcoal for a month, I've gotten back in the saddle and cooked up some Dutch oven cooking. These potatoes are easy, tasty and tasty. Did I mention they are tasty?

12" Dutch oven
350 Degrees
30 minutes
6 Servings

  • 6 potatoes, cubed
  • 1 slab bacon, cut in half
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp chives
  • Alfredo sauce (I used a packet, but this recipe is good)

Preheat dutch oven over charcoal, add bacon and onions and brown. Add chives, potatoes and cover with Alfredo sauce. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

5 Stars*

Bon Appetit! The Outdoors Start at Your Back Porch!

*The only thing my wife said at dinner was "Wow these are good! Wow these are good!"

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How-To Tuesday - How to take good food photographs

My Sister Stie started a meme two weeks ago on her blog, A Few of My Favorite Things. It's called How To Tuesday, where you post on your blog on Tuesdays a step by step, sharing how to do something for others to learn.

Today I am going to teach how to take awesome food shots with any camera.

Step 1. Turn off the flash. It focuses its light too harshly, washing out your image, creating ugly contrast between your subject and the usually out of focus background. It also creates nasty shadows and is generally evil. If your a mobile food blogger, please turn off your flash in restaurants. My wife and I were celebrating our seven years anniversary over some lobster and a party two tables away was snapping photos every 2 minutes with full flash on into my eyes all night. It took all my strength not to start a fight.

Nice contrast courtesy lots of natural light and no flash. The black background of the dutch oven provides great in situ contrast.

Step 2. Open the window. Natural light is the way to go. Especially if you have natural light only on one side. The natural shadows of a side lit shot give the shot depth and good contrast. If you don't have a big kitchen window like I do, get a posterboard and reflect the natural light off the board to your food. Practice angling it to get good contrast without washing out your image.

These Aebleskivers wouldn't look so yummy if they weren't lit by huge amounts of natural light.

Step 3. Know your camera. You don't need the best camera on the market to take nice photos. Lately, I've been using my phone's camera to take the shots. About 5 megapixels is fine for web resolution. When you get into the 10 megapixel cameras on up, it gets pricey. However, you probably aren't shooting photos for a billboard, so you don't need the extra resolution. *Hypocrisy Notice* I use a 10x optical zoom, 10 megapixel camera. It's a Canon SX120IS and it is the best camera I've ever had. It's not a DSLR, so no exchangeable lenses, but it has a lot of manual features that come in handy for specialty shots. I don't do anything more than put it on auto and shoot most of the time. The optical zoom is key here, which brings me to the next step.

This deep fried turkey pr0n was shot with a 5 megapixel camera phone. Looks good, doesn't it? It was.

Moving the camera too close to the food when hot results in this. No, its not out of focus, but the lens has been blasted with steam.

Step 4. Fill the frame. Aerial photographs are for Google Earth, not food shots. Fill the frame nearly complete with the plate. We want to see the saucy food pr0n in all its glory. If your camera doesn't have an optical zoom, move the camera to its closest focal distance that fills the frame. If your camera has a digital zoom, DO NOT USE IT! Digital zoom is a gimmick from the camera manufacturers that solved a problem with software and not actually putting better optics in your camera. That way they can advertise that a camera with no zoom at all has a 10x zoom. This is kinda true, but its super dishonest to the average consumer. If this is the case for you, just move the camera closer and start saving for that new camera.

Zoomed in so close we can see each precious grain of curry spice.

These cucumbers look tasty, and the flowers give the photo perspective.

Look how much more dynamic this shot is. You can actually see the details of the sugar on the edges. Both are good photographs, but this one captures the details better.

Step 5. Make it pretty! Got some fresh parsley? Throw it on the side as a garnish. Use fabric napkins instead of your Disney Cars printed paper towels. Pull out grandma's china. Wipe drippy sauce bits off the edge of the plate to make it look nice. If your going to put it on your blog, you might as well make it look nice. If your at a barbecue, make it look like your at a barbecue... the goblets wouldn't fit in here. Instead, put your paper plate on the standard red and white tartan tablecloth. Keep it authentic.

Showing the candles and cloth in the background fill out the shot. The hand makes it human, personal.

Step 6. Don't take more than 3 shots. You're hungry, the steaks are getting cold, and your family has started eating. This whole process should take less than a minute. Don't set up a tripod unless you're shooting this for a magazine. Get in, get it done, and eat. Don't take more than 2 shots in a restaurant, and NO FLASH!

Step 7. Process your photographs. I do all my processing in Google's Picasa. It's free, simple and powerful. The "histogram" that is generated from your photograph is the key here. This graphs the exposure of the shot, and a perfect exposure spans completely from left to right.

This screenshot shows the histogram prior to processing:

And the after shot:

Notice the gaps. This is because the software has to stretch the available pixels over the complete range of color. If you try to process a really dark photo, it will be very grainy. It's trying to interpolate the missing pixels, and it does its best.

The tool inside Picasa is called "I'm Feeling Lucky". It works most of the time. A few other things to change are the contrast, color and fill light if needed. Look at the photo, not the histogram. You'll know when it looks "right". If you use Picasa, make sure to hit the save button before uploading or your edits don't make it to the uploaded image.

These guidelines will help you take nice photos, but remember--they're only guidelines! Except that one about the flash. Seriously, put some duct tape over that flash bulb! Enjoy, and post up any other tips that you have about photography in the comments!

Bon Appetit! The Outdoors Start at Your Back Porch!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Deep Frying - Fried Turkey

Last Thanksgiving, I won a Masterbuilt Turkey Fryer over at Larry's Blog. We hadn't been able to use it until now. Frying a turkey on the weekend is a big commitment. You have to actually remember to pull a turkey out of the freezer 4 days before the weekend! This turkey is great year round, and frying it in oil keeps the moisture in the meat, where it belongs.

375 Degrees
Deep fryer
40 minutes
6-8 Servings


  • 9-10 pound turkey
  • 2 gallons oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • garlic salt
Thaw turkey completely. Dry inside and outside with a paper towel. Heat oil in fryer to 375 degrees, about 20 minutes. Rub turkey with spices and place in basket. Slowly lower turkey into hot oil and fry for 30-40 minutes, 3-4 minutes per pound. Remove from oil and hang on drain clip. Let stand 10 minutes and serve immediately.

5 stars

Bon Appetit! The Outdoors Start at Your Back Porch!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Grill - Chicken Cordon Bleu

3 chicken breasts
Swiss cheese
Bread crumbs
Garlic powder

Cut chicken breasts in half across the grain. Butterfly the meat, leaving the two halves connected. Stuff with ham and swiss, roll in bread crumbs and spices. Pin with toothpicks if necessary.Grill 7 minutes on a side until well done. Top with cordon bleu sauce and serve immediately.

Cordon Bleu Sauce:
1 stick butter
1/2 cup flour
3 cups milk
1 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
1 pinch salt
1 pinch pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder

In a large saucepan, melt butter. Add flour and stir to a blond roux. Add milk, cheese and spices. Blend and bring to a boil. Stir in lemon juice and add milk if too thick.

5 stars

Serves 6

Bon appetit! The outdoors start at your back porch!

Grill - Marinated Chicken

1 part soy sauce
1 part oil
1 part root beer
Garlic powder

Marinate chicken overnight. Grill chicken on medium high heat flipping 7 minutes on a side.

4 stars

Bon appetit! The outdoors start at your back porch!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Grill - Grilled Potatoes

Source: Foodnetwork.com

6 large russet potatoes, cut into 3/4 inch slices
1/2 stick butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon house seasoning

House Seasoning:
4 parts salt
1 part black pepper
1 part garlic powder

Preheat and grease grill. Boil potatoes in water for 6 minutes, until slightly cooked but raw in center. Strain in a colander. Place potato slices on grill. Using a pastry brush, apply butter and sprinkle each slice with house seasoning. Grill potatoes for 4 to 5 minutes and flip slices, repeating with butter and house seasoning. Cook until grilled through.

I wanted to grill potatoes this weekend and I had never done it, so a quick google search brought me to the cooking queen, Paula Deen. I'm not big into the celebrity or big name chefs, but these potatoes are good. I'm going to use this season on everything now.

When grilling vegetables, turn them often enough to avoid burning them.

5 stars
Bon appetit! The outdoors start at your back porch!