Saturday, December 28, 2013

Smoked Turkey!

Turkey is an American favorite.  Unlike a lot of other meats, turkey is usually only eaten once or twice a year. Like other fowl, turkey has a dark and a white meat. The science behind this is in the activity level.  The coveted white meat in the turkey breast for example is considered a fast-twitch muscle. Since turkeys don't fly for long periods of time their chest muscles get large, used for hard and fast contractions.  On the other hand, their legs are small and support a lot of weight constantly.  These muscles turn dark with the need for constant, extended use.  These are called slow-twitch muscles.  Why go into the science you ask? Dark meat, because of its extra fibers and proteins needs a higher temperature to cook through than white meat.  This is the ultimate cause of the ever dry turkey breast.  We will show you how to beat this problem while making the best smoked turkey around.

One of the most popular methods in the last few years has been the "deep fried turkey". This isn't like KFC turkey, it's just a whole turkey dumped into a huge vat of ultra-hot oil. The advantage to this method is that the turkey cooks so fast and the oil is so hot that not a lot of water is able to escape making the meat extremely juicy. Now, everyone has had that dry turkey you have to literally drown in gravy to make it edible so and that's what makes this deep fry method so intriguing. Here's the problem, every year, lots of people are seriously injured and/or burn their houses down trying to make their family great turkey. Ladies and gentleman, there IS another way: Smoked Turkey!

We'll show you a step-by-step method that we use to smoke our turkeys. Smoked turkey tastes great, it's a unique offering at the dinner table, extremely juicy and most importantly won't burn your house down (most likely). We aren't going to give you an exact recipe here but, we'll give you a really good guide to let you go out and make your own smoked turkey.

To start, we need a turkey, obviously. You can go one of a few ways on this, you can buy a store bought turkey from your local grocer or pay an extra premium for a fresh turkey. The differences, basically, are as follows: mass market turkeys are all very similar and will probably be more uniform in taste than not, most of them will also be "self-basted". Self-basted are turkey's that were injected with a salty solution in the factory called a brine. The injection makes the turkey moist when cooking and allows for more uniformity in taste and texture. A fresh turkey is just that, a fresh turkey, if you are feeling adventurous this is the way to go, you can brine the turkey yourself and you will definitely be able to tell the difference. Moving on, most likely, when you buy your turkey, it will be frozen.You'll need to make sure it thaws sufficiently before you try and throw in on the smoker. A good rule of thumb is thawing the turkey for about 24 hours for every 4 pounds of bird you are trying to smoke.

After your turkey thaws pull out all the giblets and set those aside, we'll talk about those later. I usually will trim the bird a little bit at this point, I'll take off any excess skin, the tail and the tips of the wing. Now, you have a few options of what to do with the trimmings and giblets. You can set them aside for gravy, you can throw away the trimmings and just cook up the giblets (they happen to be quite tasty), or my favorite, save everything for smoked gravy!

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Now that the bird is trimmed it's time to throw some rub on, I prefer a wet rub. I won't give away my recipe here because I do it a little different depending on what I want the turkey to taste like. A good rule of thumb is to use a little bit of sugar and some good herbs. Rosemary, thyme and especially sage are pretty basic herbs to start with a basic rub. I usually use a little spice as well, pepper or cayenne are what I usually use. Anyway, mix your rub in the olive oil, preferably you would have done this the night before as the herbs are oil soluble and when rubbed on to the bird will soak into the bird. A little tip here, lift up the skin on the breast side of the bird here, the rub will penetrate the meat better, you won't regret it.

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Ok, so, your bird is trimmed, rubbed and ready to go let's talk about gravy for a second. Gravy is a fundamental part of any turkey dinner, seriously though, who serves turkey without gravy? Anyway, this recipe for smoked gravy is adapted from Now, there's a lot of freedom here in what you put in the gravy and usually what I do is start with a base of chicken stock and water... you can go half and half on this or a little more water than stock, up to you. From here, add your turkey trimmings, giblets and you are off to a great gravy base. Now comes the flavor, I add a lot of the same herbs that I use in my rub, rosemary, sage and thyme, also, cut a couple onions in half and throw those in too, skin on (this adds that nice dark color to the gravy). Lastly, a splash of apple cider vinegar some carrots, celery and some fresh apple and orange slices should do the trick. Again, play with this recipe, its seriously one of the most amazing things you'll ever taste and it will definitely set your turkey dinner apart from anyone else's. Remember this gravy is thin, it's not that gloppy thick gravy your used to, this gravy soaks in to the meat and makes an already moist turkey even more moist and flavorful. If you want to throw in a little flour, thicken it up a little for potatoes, that's fine, it's still amazing and you won't regret it. Last thing, DO NOT I repeat DO NOT add salt until AFTER the gravy is ready to be served, the gravy will be underneath the turkey, catching drippings, those drippings are very salty and most likely you will not need to add any extra salt to the gravy.

Time to throw the bird on the smoker, I generally smoke turkey at much higher temps than traditional smoking theory calls for. Why? Because turkey is a very lean meat, it doesn't need hours and hours to break down fat and connective tissue. I smoke turkey at 275 - 300 (with about 4 to 4.5 ounces of wood) for a few hours, until the safe temperature is reached of 165 degrees. Don't forget your pan underneath the turkey with your gravy base, this will cook as you smoke the turkey adding moisture to the air and helping regulate temperature as well!
One quick not on wood, don't use anything too strong, turkey will quickly take on a bitter taste with a wood with too strong of a flavor. I generally use apple, it's light and very hard to use too much.

After the bird is done and ready to be pulled out of the smoker, tip the bird up so the juices inside the cavity fall into your gravy pan, take the bird out and let it rest for a little while so that the juices re-distribute. Take this time to strain your gravy and get that ready to serve. Carve your turkey and enjoy the best turkey meal you have ever tasted!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Competition Tme! Award Winning Ribs and Chicken

The opening debut of the Smokin' Flannels BBQ team is finally out there!  We, the Artisan Bros, entered our first competition and did quite well. Here is what went down. We are still perfecting recipes and the like so little information will be given regarding our methods but enjoy the artisan way!
Funny story, several years ago the Artisan Brothers decided we would buy a motorcycle. Funny thing was none of us knew how to ride one.  Thanks to the internet we watched some videos, read some articles, and we were off.  A couple failed attempts in the ladies driveway we bought it from her and 25 mph down the main road we got it home. This competition felt like bike story all over again.  Borrowed smoker, never cooked ribs before, little chicken experience and we were off!

Preparation made for a terribly long night. We decided to do this competition only a week before it was scheduled... this was not very much time.  We decided that chicken was easy to practice with and that we would just wing the ribs when we got there.  Here is from the night before the competition...

We did chicken thighs for this competition.  We tried bone out.  So we removed the bones, took off the skin, scraped off the fat then wrapped the de-boned thighs back in the "fat free" chicken.  The membrane was stripped off the ribs and those were good to go. One in the a.m. rolled around and it was time to go to sleep!

Car loaded up we were ready to go have some fun and try out our luck with the ribs and chicken on a borrowed smoker!
We rushed in, started setting up our borrowed smoker and little Weber grill and got to work.  We went with a mustard glue and the 3-2-1 method.  This means 3 hours of smoking, 2 hours in a tin foil wrap, and finishing it off the last 1 hour on the heat to firm it back up and add sauce.

 After this we put a brine on our chicken thighs let them sit, put tons of butter in there to braze them and get the skins soft. 
On with the chicken! we put them under the heat, removed them and then put the chicken rub on.

About now the ribs were ready to go to the 2 hour stage explained earlier.  Here is snap shot of the process!! Amounts in tin foil are lessened just to give a preview of what we put in there.

After the two hours in the foil, the meat should pull back and expose the bone.  The meat will also be very soft so be careful taking it out of the foil.  We let it rest for a little bit and and put it back on the smoker (no smoke, don't want to make it bitter) and went for the last 1 hour of the 3-2-1.

On to the chicken submission.

Now the rib submission...


Everything turned out great.  We did really well for working on a borrowed smoker and for never having smoked ribs before.
We got fourth place in Ribs!

 Even the nephew couldn't get enough!

Look forward to our next competition next month at the Utah State Fair!!
Artisan Bros

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

How to Spatchcock a Chicken

Yeah, probably thinking the same thing I am... what a weird name... and if you are not already familiar with it, what is a spatchcock chicken?!
Said to have come from 18th century Ireland area, it is a combination of the words "dispatch" the "cock." A tradition of cutting out the backbone of the bird to create a flat easy to use bird. Chickens are roundish, hollow (when innards are removed) and harder to grill or smoke when they still in that cylindrical shape.  In fact, a spatchcocked chicken cooked traditionally in an oven usually takes 15 minutes less to cook through than a whole chicken. 
It has a weird name but it is very easy to do.  Take your chicken, if you are smoking (especially for a competition) try and get a bird around 4lbs.  A little easier to manage.

Find the back bone (feel inside if you cant tell from the outside).  Using 
chicken shears, cut along both sides to fully remove it from rest of the bird.

Traditional spatchcock methods will not remove the breast bone or keel bone from the bird.  We like to because it is easier to manage the bird once cooked.  You don't have to cut through a bone to get a full half chicken.  We are bigger boys and like a whole half to ourselves (and competition BBQ sometimes requires a half chicken). Some will tell you that you might as well cut the chicken into two halves if you do it this way. We disagree. Looks beautiful and it's easy to manage. No special way to do it just dig around the bone and pull it out.  Careful not to cut all the way through chicken.
Turn bird over, push down, and flatten.  Here you have a spatchcocked chicken!

Throw it on the smoker!

A couple hours later you have the best full chicken of your life!
 OH and while your at it... throw a couple potatoes down in the smoker... they come out to die for.  Make a smoked mash potato if you want! AMAZING!

The Artisan Bros


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Buffalo Wild Wings - Hot Wing Eating Challenge

This past weekend, it was my privilege to take part in the East Lansing Buffalo Wild Wing Hot Wing Eating Contest sponsored by Buffalo Wild Wings and our apartment complex owners.
I am pleased to announce that I took 3rd place in that contest and received a gift certificate to Buffalo Wild Wings.
Check out the video and photos!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Choripan Argentino - Gringo Translation: Sausage Sandwiches

So, when you say the word "chorizo" it probably means something different to everyone. The problem is there are a whole heck of a lot of different types of chorizo from a lot of different countries. For example, Spain's chorizo is actually cured so it can be eaten without any further cooking, it's generally served with cheeses and other meets as part of a Charcuterie spread. Mexican chorizo is generally eaten in a taco or in accompaniment with a lot of other ingredients. It generally has a much stronger taste, saltier and has a very deep red color from the paprika.

Anyway, you get the point, lots of chorizo's out there, but when it comes down to it, chorizo is just a term that encompasses a lot of different types of pork sausages. With that being said, we grew up eating lots of Argentine Asado in our house, one of our favorite dishes was Choripan, which is basically a pan (bread in spanish) and chorizo squished together. Argentine chorizo is course ground pork often mixed with beef, super tasty, but also super hard to find in the states. We didn't really have time this past week to make our own authentic argentine chorizo so, in the interest of time, we bought a bunch of really good, fresh sausages from a local butcher. We decided to go with Hot Italian sausages. We set up our grill on indirect heat (charcoal on one side, food on the other) and got the temperature to about 350 degrees. We also threw a little cherry wood on the coals for some extra flavor.

Sausages are tricky business when you try and cook them, whether on the grill on in a fry pan, they can be very picky. I know everyone has had experiences of exploding sausages, hissing and spewing out grease that either makes a mess of your kitchen or throws out huge flames on the grill. The trick to cooking sausages is cooking LOW AND SLOW, hence the reason for us using indirect heat on the grill. If you are cooking sausages inside the best method I've found is to use a cast iron pan, sear one side of the sausage, flip it and then put it in the oven at 350 degrees until you reach 165. You will turn out great sausages every time with no fuss using any method.

After the sausages were done, we split them length-wise threw them on some good french bread and slathered the inside with Chimichurri. Chimichurri is a condiment popular in Argentina that is served with Asado. There are a lot of different recipes for Chimichurri, mine is made with equal party parsley and olive oil. I also add garlic, vinegar, and red pepper flakes to taste. Trust me, it makes the best steak even better, and it's amazing with Choripan. Try it, you won't be dissapointed!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Homemade Wet Cured Pecan Bacon

Bacon is one of the oldest cuts of meat. Believed to have started as far back as the great Roman Empire bacon has satisfied its eaters for centuries. Displayed by peasants back in the day, it was token of pride if they could afford even the smallest cut. After you read this post you might be doing the same! Thanks to our friend Oscar Meyer, bacon has become commercialized and pre-sliced for the home consumer since early 1920's.  The cut of bacon is part of the belly of a pig.  More commonly referred to in the butcher world as "pork belly."

This is a pork belly. As you can see, the skin is still on the belly. This needs to be removed.  With this skin you can make chicarron or fried pig skin.  The skin can be tough sometimes to remove. Grab a corner, start cutting and as you are going keep pulling back the skin trying to stay as close to the skin as possible.

Now its time for the cure. This was our first attempt at curing meat so we will explain what we have learned so far.  Curing is different than smoking, barbecuing and other forms of cooking because no heat is actually needed.  To cure, nitrites or the store names, pruegue powder, pink salt, curing salt, are used to enter the meat and kill any bacteria that might have a chance to grow. There are several levels of pink salt that we will eventually use. For this bacon we used #1, the least aggressive of the salts because we are doing a smoked bacon.  Follow the instructions on your pink salt about how much to add per pound of meat.

 (for 2 lb pork belly)

2 Tablespoons brown sugar
4 teaspoons black pepper
2 Table spoons Maple Syrup (and don't be cheap, use the real stuff!)
Follow your directions for "curing salt"
1 cup water
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cayenne

Combine all the ingredients into a bag big enough to hold your belly.  Add the pork belly into the bag removing as much air as possible.  Now, massage the meat pretty well to try and help the brine to enter. It will sit in the brine and cure for at least a week. We did a week and a half.

After a week or so it is time to smoke it.  We decided to go with a pecan wood this time.  For more info on smoking check out our Smoked Pulled Pork! post.  We tried our hand at charcoal smoking this time which so far has been the way of our future. Jay will be posting more technique and info on low and slow cooking with charcoal soon. 
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First you need to set up the grill.  You will need a basket, a chimney starter, and we use Kingsford charcoal and the Pecan wood chips   You will put half the basket full of charcoal in the bottom of your grill with a hand full of wood chips (we used pecan). Then start about 10 brickets in your chimney starter.

  If you are not familiar with the chimney starter it is the column on the left. Charcoal goes in the center and a flame is lit underneath to light the coals. Gets a better burn with no after taste from fire starter. We use Weber fire starter cubes to get our coals going. No clean up and gets the job done!

After a good burn on the charcoal, add it over the top of the half basket and hand full of wood chips, add another hand full of wood chips to the top.  The lit charcoal will burn, creating a smoke.  The basket of unlit charcoal in the bottom will pick up the heat.  This will make it a low and slow burn releasing smoke for hours.  

After the set up is complete close the lid.  You want to adjust your airflows so that you are maintaining a constant temperature of 250 degrees. We want our bacon to reach 150.

Now, grab your slab o' pork belly and rinse it off very well.  Pink salt is very salty. Want most of it to be off the meat. 

Pat the meat dry, insert probe thermometer and stick on the grill.  You will place the meat on the opposite side of the charcoal and wood chips, with the vent on the lid over the meat.  This will make the smoke circulate perfectly over the meat.

If you maintain your heat around 250 this will take about 2 hours.  After 2 hours or when it reaches 150-155 degrees pull from the grill.

Perfect Smoke!!!

Grab your trusty BBQ gloves and remove your bacon

 This is truly the Artisan Way!!!

Cut the bacon, fry and enjoy! If the curing salt did its job the meat should be pinkish. 



All you need to know about barbecue