Friday, October 28, 2011

Dirty Smoke & Party Rock Tebowing

In the spirit of Halloween, love for BBQ, and the latest Internet craze...

Updated: I made it on the "official" Tebowing website. LOL!

Yes, those are purple pants

Monday, October 24, 2011

What's a Minion Method?

By Dru Chai

Photo and stoic-faced minion courtesy of Universal Pictures

No, not that Minion (although those guys always crack me up in the movie).

If you're just starting out BBQ smoking, you might have heard of the term "Minion Method" once or twice. If you're already familiar with the term and have used the method, you know that it's far superior to what the manual tells you to do (if you're a Weber Smokey Mountain owner). If you're serious about smoking your own BBQ and you've read about it on this blog, you definitely know the Minion Method.

The Minion Method is basically a way of setting up the charcoal so that it burns longer, more steady, and more consistent. In general, you won't have to keep adding more fuel during the cooking process, so it's perfect for overnight cooking sessions. To top it all off, you can start cooking relatively quickly. If done correctly, it should last anywhere from 6-18 hours at around 225-275 degrees F--perfect for the low and slow meats like brisket and pulled pork. The Minion Method is not meant for smoking at temps of higher than 300 degrees F.

Basics of Setting Up the Minion Method:
  1. Fill the WSM charcoal chamber to the top with unlit charcoal briquettes
  2. Spread several fist-sized chunks of wood at the bottom (and/or the top) of the charcoal
  3. Fill the chimney starter about halfway with charcoal, light up
  4. When the burning charcoal starts to turn white ash, dump on top of the unlit charcoal
  5. Voila, there you have it. The Minion Method.
Now of course, as in the case of BBQ Philosophy (as I like to call it on this blog), everyone has their own ways of doing things. I like to put a few chunks of wood on top of the charcoal, because I feel that the wood flavor penetrates the meat a lot more at the beginning stages vs. towards the end of the smoking process. Since charcoal is relatively cheap, I much rather put more charcoal at first vs. having to end up re-filling down the line.

As he explained in his class, Harry Soo from Slap Yo Daddy BBQ likes to make a "crater" with this Minion Method. He piles as much charcoal on the sides, almost playing a little game of balance, while leaving a hole in the middle. Then he fills the hole with fully-lit, ash-colored charcoal. That way, the charcoal slowly burns from the inside out. At the second picture below, the charcoal chamber is pretty much max'd out--so there's plenty of cooking/smoking time with that bad boy.

There are also those with distinct taste buds, who say they don't like the idea of smoking with unlit charcoal because it gives off a weird taste. They also say that it's unhealthy because unlit charcoal briquettes has that chemical taste that needs to be initially burned off (thus turning into the ashy, grey-color). Personally, I've smoked BBQ in all different methods and I really can't tell the difference in taste. That's part of the fun about BBQ -- there is no right or wrong, whatever works for you, just go with it.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Review: Slap Yo Daddy BBQ Pitmaster Class

By Dru Chai

I felt like a giddy grade school kid, eagerly awaiting snack time of graham crackers and milk. Only this time, it was brisket, pulled pork, ribs, tri-tip, chicken... the list goes on. I had waited about 3 months just for Harry Soo's BBQ pitmaster class (and even wrote about it on this BBQ blog), so I sure as heck could wait another few minutes. But after 6 hours of talking BBQ nonstop, I was about to faint. My stomach had been eating itself up.

Harry Soo's love for BBQ is infectious. You can feel it by the way he talks about BBQ and his techniques--the way he demonstrates how to properly trim the excess fat from a brisket, the way he shows you how to properly check if the bark has hardened using a fingernail, or the way to properly load up the charcoals using the Minion method. There's a reason why he uses a particular ingredient, and it's through his own research and blind taste tests over the years. In person, he's exactly the way I've seen him on television--humble and willing help anyone out.

Within just a few years, Harry's Slap Yo Daddy BBQ competition team has racked up awards all over the country. I wondered, just how does he do it? For Harry, BBQ is the ultimate stress reliever from the real stress of his day time job. I couldn't agree more--it's just you and your thoughts, the meat, and the smoker. Only this guy travels thousands of miles around the country and enters BBQ competitions to compete against some of the best pitmasters in the world... and wins.

As a BBQ enthusiast and writer of a BBQ blog, I learned a few tips, hints, and tricks. Sometimes, it's the little things that make a big difference. For the BBQ newbie who's just starting out, Harry covers a lot of material in just a short amount of time -- it could be overwhelming, but Harry is easy going and down-to-earth. There are no dumb questions in his class. For those who have had prior experience, the class focuses on techniques for someone who's interested in entering a real BBQ competition. Harry said that many of students go on to enter competitions and end up beating him. Now that's the ultimate compliment.

Ready to spread BBQ joy

Harry really loves his BBQ
Harry showing us how to properly trim the fat off a brisket
Harry's family of WSM's

Harry explaining how to light up his smoker
The Minion method
Using lots of foil is good
Ready to eat what we made - finally!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

When The Urge Hits: Overnight Smoking

Note: Check out my review on Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill at Irvine Spectrum.

You know you're a certified BBQ smokin' enthusiast when you suddenly find yourself standing in front of the meat section (freezing, by the way) looking at all the different Cryovac-packaged briskets around 8pm on a weekday, thinking about a possible overnight smoke-out. On one hand, you think -- it's going to be some work to apply the rub on the brisket, and get the charcoals lighted up.

But then, you think of the juicy, mouth-watering slices of brisket at the end of 12 hours of low-and-slow smoking and you're sold -- the heck with it, let's just do it. Back at Costco, there was actually a really good selection of briskets. I eventually picked a really good one at around $16.

Back at home, I started applying the usual rub. This serves as the base of all my rubs, and I think it works pretty well. Here's a tidbit -- I go pretty heavy on the black pepper, as I think it just goes really well with brisket.

- Kosher salt
- Black pepper
- Garlic powder
- Paprika
- Cayenne pepper
- Brown sugar

After applying the rub and getting the charcoals properly lighted up in the chimney starter, I used the Minion method and called it a day, err, night. This time, I made sure to fill up the water pan to keep the temperature low and slow throughout the night at around 200-225 degrees. Right before I went to bed, I checked the temperature and it was a steady 225. That night, I plopped on my pillow with visions of BBQ brisket dancing in my head.

Gotta love that ultra-black meteor look = good bark

The next morning, I didn't even check on the brisket -- the temperature was around 200 degrees. I went straight to work but then returned home for an early lunch (benefit of a 10 minute commute). When I opened the lid, it was pure joy -- the deep, dark, and black colored bark was exactly what I was looking for. When I sliced it against the grain, the smoke ring was beautiful.

Not overflowing with juices, but nice smoke ring and flavor

If I had a chance to do things differently, I would have wrapped the brisket in aluminum foil when I woke up in the morning. I think the last several hours dried up the brisket just a little bit. I want juices to be overflowing when I slice into a brisket. But after putting on some Phil's BBQ sauce, I was in brisket heaven.