BBQ ESSENTIALS 3.0

BBQ Essentials, such as the Thermapen Mk4, are featured here on this list!

Another year, another list of must-haves when working the grill. I’ve compiled another list of some of my favorite things I personally love using.

CAMP CHEF WOODWIND WiFi GRILL

Camp Chef has stepped up and added WiFi.

I was fortunate to get my hands on one of these Camp Chef Woodwind WiFi grills and I have loved using it! Most pellet grills are using WiFi capabilities now and Camp Chef has joined the ranks. The WiFi controller has a nice color display and even a protective cover to keep it from getting scratched, rained on, breathed on wrong, etc. Not only can you control temps, but also the level of smoke flavor you impart, too. The ash can below the grill where the auger is makes for very quick cleaning without having to remove all the parts from inside the grill to get to it like you do with other pellet grills. The Camp Chef app is simple, yet very well done. Easy to control and monitor temps while away from the grill.

If you’re considering this grill, I highly recommend the version with the sidekick attachment. Having this burner attached to the grill opens up more cooking options, from simmering a pot of baked beans, to searing steaks, or even cooking pizzas with the artisan oven attachment.

THERMOWORKS THERMAPEN MK4

Quick, accurate temperature readings with the Thermapen Mk4 are quite helpful.

Ever since I jumped headfirst into the world of barbecue, I learned quickly that a quick, accurate digital thermometer is a must. With super fast readings in only 2-3 seconds, I use the Thermapen Mk4 for EVERYTHING that I cook. Every. Single. Time. I swear by it and even though I’ve had my first one for over three years now, it still works like a charm. Haven’t even needed to change the batteries in it yet. I’ve become a fan boy of the Thermapen Mk4. I’ve been collecting other colors in the rainbow. Find your favorite color on the Thermoworks website!

GRILL TORCH by JJGEORGE

The grill torch is my favorite way to light the coals. Because TORCH!

When I’m cooking with coals, my favorite way to get them lit is by using this grill torch from JJGeorge. Using it is simple: attach the torch to a small can of propane, turn the knob on the torch to crank up the gas, then press the ignite button and now you have fire! Coals light up quicker and who doesn’t love holding a stick that blows fire? Check it out on Amazon.

DALSTRONG 10″ KNIFE

This knife is useful for slicing larger cuts of meat…and also useful for getting compliments!

Whenever I use this knife in my pictures and videos on social media, it grabs people’s attention. I think some lose focus on the meat and are mesmerized by the look of this Japanese super steel blade with 66 layers of folded steel, the rock-hollow divots, and curved blade near the tip. This sharp knife is technically known as the Shogun Series 10″ Butcher’s Breaking Cimitar Knife, but I call it my little machete. I love using it for larger cuts, such as brisket, ham, turkey, or even for showing off while cutting steaks. Strong enough for cutting through cartilage and precise enough for trimming fat. Oh, and the handle forms to my hand so well. Wow your friends and family with one of your own!

NITRILE GLOVES

These nitrile gloves come in handy when prepping and cooking food…and cleaning your grill

I have featured nitrile gloves in other BBQ Essentials lists before, but I’m constantly asked what type of gloves I’m using that it bears repeating. Nitrile gloves are great for handling food to prevent the spread of bacteria and you don’t have to wash your hands 12,000 times while prepping and cooking food (I may have exaggerated a little on the handwashing, but still). I prefer to use the nitrile gloves from Gloveworks HD.

LARGE CUTTING BOARD

This 26” long cutting board gave me plenty of room to cut a spatchcocked turkey

When prepping and slicing larger cuts of meat such as turkey or brisket, having a larger surface to prep and finish on is super convenient. Having grooves in the board to catch juices is important, too. There are many good cutting boards out there, but I have chosen this Camp Chef Professional Bamboo Cutting Board because of how deep the grooves are and the little pocket in one of the corners to hold even more excess juices. This board is HUGE, measuring at dimensions of 26.5 x 17.25 x 1.33. I have used this one for over a year and it has held up very well. This board is actually a perfect fit for this patio cart, too.

LOOKING FOR MORE BBQ ESSENTIALS?

Well, you’re in luck! Check these other posts for more of my favorite tools in BBQ:

SMOKED AND SEARED HONEY GARLIC PORK CHOPS

Smoked and seared honey garlic pork chops
drizzled in honey and resting before slicing.

In the world of grilling, pork chops don’t get enough love as they should. They tend to be upstaged by beef cuts such as ribeye, New York strip, and filets. But pork chops do have some things going for them: they’re leaner cuts, they’re usually cheaper, and when cooked right, pack some incredible flavor. This smoked and seared honey garlic pork chop recipe will have you grilling pork more often.

WHAT YOU WILL NEED

To prep these smoked and seared honey garlic pork chops, you will need 2 lbs. of pork chops, a tablespoon of kosher salt, two teaspoons of black pepper and garlic powder, and one teaspoon of paprika. I like to apply kosher salt first and then mix the other ingredients and put on after. Make sure to apply on all sides, especially if you’re using king cut pork chops from Omaha Steaks like I did. These things are about two inches thick and weigh 16 oz. each! You’ll also need some garlic herb butter and honey near the end.

HOW TO COOK PORK CHOPS RIGHT

Smoked and seared honey garlic pork chops done
Pork chops are best to eat when cooked to 145 degrees.

One of the problems some folks have with pork chops is that they turn out too dry and are tough to chew. This is because the pork chops are cooked too long. Some consider pork to be done at the same temps as chicken, meaning that at 165 degrees the meat is fully cooked and safe to eat.

According to the National Pork Board, pork can be cooked to 145 degrees, which is good for medium rare. This is very important when cooking pork chops, especially. This leaner cut will be more juicy and tender to the bite when cooked to 145 degrees.

SMOKING AND SEARING THE HONEY GARLIC PORK CHOPS

Pork chops seasoned with kosher salt, garlic powder, black pepper, and paprika.
Pork chops seasoned with kosher salt, garlic powder, black pepper, and paprika.

Before you prep the pork chops with the seasonings, make sure to get your grill up to 275 degrees on indirect heat. When it comes to pork, I like to use either hickory or pecan wood/pellets. Prepping the pork chops should be fairly quick, so make good use of the time while you wait for the grill to get up to the desired temp.

Once the grill is at 275 degrees, put the pork chops on and keep there until internal meat temps reach 135. The length of time the pork chops are on there will depend on their thickness. Since the pork chops I cooked with are two inches thick, it took me about an hour to reach that temp. But I find it is more important to measure according to temp rather than time. Make sure to get yourself a reliable digital thermometer, like the Thermapen from Thermoworks.

As the pork chops are getting close to the 135 degree temp, get a skillet on separate grill or burner up to searing temps, which start after 500 degrees. That way, the skillet will be hot and ready when it’s time to put the pork chops on. But right before you put the pork chops on, get your garlic herb butter and mix it around the skillet first.

honey garlic pork chops drizzle
Drizzle honey on them pork chops while resting.

Then put the pork chops on there, flipping after a minute. Depending on the thickness of the pork chops, get some of that sear on the sides, too. Pull off the skillet and place on a cutting board to rest. You should have reached the desired 145 temp at this point. While it is resting, drizzle honey on the pork chops and let it rest in while the meat is resting/carryover cooking. Give it about 15 minutes before slicing. Now your smoked and seared honey garlic pork chops are ready!

THE RECIPE!

Smoked & Seared Honey Garlic Pork Chops

Smoked & Seared Honey Garlic Pork Chops

With a kiss of smoke flavor and the sizzle of a cast iron sear, pork chops become the main event for your dish. Season and sear with a little garlic flavor, then drizzle some honey on top, and you've got yourself some epic pork chops!

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Additional Time 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs pork chops
  • 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 3 Tablespoons garlic butter
  • 1 Tablespoon honey

Instructions

  1. Preheat grill to 275 degrees on indirect heat. Season pork chops by applying kosher salt, garlic powder, black pepper, and paprika on all sides.
  2. Place pork chops on grill and cook for an hour or until internal meat temps reach 135 degrees (meat will cook more when searing). When meat approaches this temp, get a cast iron skillet up to searing temps.
  3. Put garlic butter into cast iron skillet right before placing in the pork chops. Sear on each side for about a minute. Remove when pork reaches internal temp of 145 degrees. Drizzle honey on each side while meat rests for 10-15 minutes. Slice and enjoy!

Notes

Pork chops are done when meat reaches 145 degrees, which is good enough for medium doneness.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

8 oz

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 350 Total Fat: 165g Saturated Fat: 6g Cholesterol: 150mg Sodium: 95mg Carbohydrates: 0g Sugar: 4g Protein: 40g
NOTE: Nutrition information isn't always accurate.

BRAZILIAN GARLIC PICANHA RECIPE

Picanha sliced to serve.
Make Brazilian-style picanha in your own backyard!

If you’ve ever been to a Brazilian steakhouse (aka- churrascaria or rodizio-style), chances are you’ve had picanha. The servers that come by your table will bring this beef on the skewer that is shaped like a “C” and slice it off the front and onto your plate. Picanha is my favorite meat at the restaurant! And with your own rotisserie attachment for your grill (or a long metal skewer that you are willing to manually rotate over an open flame), as well as a few simple ingredients, I will show you how to make this Brazilian garlic delicacy in your own backyard!

WHAT TYPE OF MEAT IS PICANHA?

Picanha is made from top sirloin cap (aka coulotte or rump cap) such as this one.

If you live in North America and ask your butcher for meat to make picanha, they may not know what you are talking about. To help you get this cut, tell him/her you want a top sirloin cap, coulotte, or rump cap. This cut of beef will be roughly four pounds. Butchers like to cut this up and sell sirloin steaks, so you may need to convince your butcher to either get a sirloin cap from the back or special order you one for later.

PREPARING THE GARLIC PICANHA

Slice the sirloin cap into thirds and season with kosher salt, pepper, and minced garlic.

Once you have this sirloin cap, take the fat cap on top and score the fat by slicing criss-cross cuts into it. Do you best to not cut into the meat. Take some kosher salt and sprinkle all over the fat cap and meat-exposed sides.

Once that is done, slice the meat into thirds, from the widest side down to the smallest (as seen in the picture above). Apply some more kosher salt to the freshly sliced sides that didn’t get covered earlier. Now apply some black pepper and then some minced garlic, both over all sides of the pieces of meat.

TIME FOR THE SPIN CYCLE

Brazilian picanha ready to cook rotisserie style.
Skewer the sliced Brazilian garlic picanha and cook rotisserie style.

The traditional way to cook picanha is to form the meat into a c-shape form and pierce it onto a big, metal skewer. A rotisserie attachment for your grill is highly recommended, although you could use a large metal skewer to put over the hot coals and rotate ever so often. But seriously, look into getting a rotisserie. The folks at Kamado Joe make a Joetisserie attachement that fits most 18″ ceramic grills.

Picanha cooking up over them coals.
You spin me right round baby, right round… (that song gets stuck in my head every time I use the rotisserie)

Cooking it this way means the meat is basting in its own juices, enhancing the flavor even more. Cook it this way for 20-25 minutes until the meat reaches the desired temp you are looking for. I like to cook my Brazilian garlic picanha to medium rare. Using a digital thermometer, like the Thermoworks Thermapen Mk4, is a fast and accurate way to gauge meat temps.

REST, SLICE, SERVE

Once that is done, put on some heat resistant gloves and place onto a cutting board to rest for a little bit before slicing. I do this to help the meat build up juices and maximize the flavor in every bite. Leave the meat on the skewer for the Brazilian steakhouse effect. Slice the meat by cutting the tops of the cuts of picanha parallel with the skewer. I prefer to cut in thinner slices. After slicing a couple of times, feel free to put the skewer back over the coals for another spin on the rotisserie to cook the fresh surfaces and develop some more crust for future slices.

THE VIDEO!

THE RECIPE!

Yield: 20 servings

Brazilian Garlic Picanha Recipe

Brazilian Garlic Picanha Recipe

Brazilian steakhouses (or churrascarias) are known for their sirloin on skewers cooked rotisserie style, known as picanha. Combining this sirloin cap with kosher salt, black pepper, and minced garlic, this recipe will replicate that same flavor in your very own backyard!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 top sirloin cap (about four pounds)
  • 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic

Instructions

  1. Preheat grill. Set up rotisserie attachment.
  2. Score the fat on top of the sirloin cap by cutting into the fat (but not the meat) in a criss-cross pattern, with cuts being an inch apart. Sprinkle kosher salt on top of the scores fat.
  3. Sliced meat into thirds, applying rest of kosher salt, black pepper, and minced garlic on all sides. Skewer meat by forming cuts into a c-shape form and poking skewer through as seen on the recipe card photo.
  4. Cook meat on rotisserie, make sure it is spinning. Cool this way for 20-25 minutes until internal meat temp reaches 130-135F. Remove, rest for 10 minutes and slice off tops of meat, parallel with the skewer.

Notes

  • after slicing, put remaining picanha (still on skewer) back on grill to cook if you want to get more crust
  • Picanha also goes by top sirloin cap, rump cap, or coulotte. Your butcher should know one of those terms.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

20 servings

Serving Size:

1 piece

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 120 Total Fat: 6g Saturated Fat: 2g Trans Fat: 0g Cholesterol: 40mg Sodium: 430mg Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 0g Sugar: 0g Protein: 16g

The Top Tomahawk Ribeye Steak Recipe

Tomahawk ribeyes are essentially steaks on a stick. Giddy up.

Tomahawk ribeye steak is becoming more popular thanks to an increase in folks who like to grill and BBQ influencers (such as myself) on social media promoting these magnificent cuts of beef. These steaks are a bit pricey at the butcher and that alone can make it intimidating for a newbie who is afraid he/she will screw it up. Don’t worry about screwing it up. I’m here to make sure you won’t screw it up.

What’s the difference between a regular ribeye and a tomahawk ribeye?

The main thing that makes the tomahawk ribeye steak different than a regular ribeye is the giant rib bone attached, measuring about 18-22 inches long. It definitely brings a “wow factor” to the meal. It drops jaws, turns heads, and makes some grown men cry (don’t judge me).

Another element that makes the tomahawk ribeye different is the thickness. Since the rib bone is attached, the ribeye will be around 2 to 2.5 inches thick. Some butchers can cut a regular ribeye this thick for you if you special order them that way, but right off the shelf you end up with an inch of thickness or less so they can sell more steak to more people. Expect a tomahawk ribeye to be around three pounds: two pounds of beef, about a pound of bone.

Prepping the Tomahawk Ribeye

Simply apply a savory, salt and pepper based rub before smoking.

Getting the tomahawk ribeye steak ready for the grill is just like prepping any other steak. I prefer mine with a simple salt and pepper-based rub. The main ingredients I use are equal parts kosher salt and ground black pepper, then a little less of garlic powder (feel free to mix in a couple more ingredients such as onion powder or paprika). Sprinkle the blend of spices over all sides of the meat portion of the tomahawk ribeye steak. Feel free to let it sit for a little while at room temperature to let your seasoning sink in a little. It is okay for beef to sit out a little while, not so much for poultry or pork.

Reverse Sear = Smoke then Sear

The end result is worth it. Trust me!

You may be familiar with searing: the process of grilling the meat at a high temp (usually 550F and above) to start off and then moving to the oven at a lower temp until done. Reverse searing is the opposite of that (hence the name) because you start off by cooking at a low temperature and then finish it off with the high heat on a direct surface.

Why reverse sear instead of traditional sear? Because you can infuse smoke flavor into the tomahawk ribeye steak first and then sear to lock in that flavor AND those juices from the meat! I like to use smoking woods such as hickory, oak, or pecan for beef. Smoke it between the 225-250F range until internal temp reaches about 125F. This can take about an hour.

While the tomahawk ribeye steak is smoking, make sure to get another grill surface as hot as you can for searing. As you gauge temps inside the meat, like I do with my Thermapen Mk4 from Thermoworks, you will have a better feel for when to get the sear going on the other grill.

NOTE: don’t feel ashamed if you sear on a skillet on the stove burner in your house. As long as you have a hot surface to cook on you’ll be fine. But there’s a chance you may set off the smoke alarm in your home.

Searing with a Cast Iron Skillet

Turning the cast iron skillet upside down covers the entire surface of the tomahawk ribeye steak.

While some folks like to sear on the grill grates, I prefer on a cast iron skillet. Reason for being is that the hot cast iron will cover the entire surface of the steak so you get more of that savory crust as compared to the lines where the grates are. Also, you can throw ingredients such as butter, garlic, and rosemary onto the cast iron to add flavors to that crust.

Are you ready to hear a cooking hack? Turn the cast iron skillet upside down! Do this so you can get the entire surface of the tomahawk ribeye steak seared. You’ll notice if you try to lay the steak in the skillet, the bone keeps the bottom portion of the steak from hitting the surface. Turning the cast iron upside down gives you a perfectly even sear on each side. Sear for 1-2 minutes on each side or until internal temp reaches 135F, which is good for medium rare.

Rest, then Slice

Resting 20 minutes and then slicing is optimal for flavor.

Once the tomahawk ribeye steak has reached your desired finishing temp, remove from the heat and let it rest for a good 20 minutes before slicing. This way, you let the juices build up and the meat will stop cooking inside. Slice against the grain and feel free to devour right off the cutting board!

Goes well with corn pudding on the side!

The Recipe!

Yield: 6 servings

The Top Tomahawk Ribeye Steak Recipe

The Top Tomahawk Ribeye Steak Recipe

Tomahawk ribeye steaks can be intimidating to cook in large part due to the size and price. You want to make sure you cook it right and don't waste your money. Following this recipe will make you look like an expert right away!

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Additional Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 tomahawk ribeye steak (about 36 oz of meat)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 sprigs rosemary

Instructions

  1. Preheat grill to 225F on indirect heat with either hickory or oak wood
  2. Combine kosher salt, pepper, and garlic powder and apply on all sides of tomahawk ribeye steak. Place steak on grill for about an hour or until internal meat temp reaches 125F.
  3. On a separate grill (or stovetop) get cast iron skillet up to searing temps (starts at 550F) Place butter, garlic and rosemary in skillet right before moving tomahawk ribeye steak to the surface for searing. Sear steak for 1-2 minutes on each side, with internal temps reaching 135F. Remove and rest for 20 minutes before slicing.

Notes

1. To sear entire surface of tomahawk steaks, turn the cast iron skillet upside down. This way, the bone doesn't keep the lower portion of the steak from touching the surface.

2. Feel free to sear in a cast iron on your stove top if you don't have another grill accessible.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

6 servings

Serving Size:

6 oz

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 460 Total Fat: 32g Saturated Fat: 14g Trans Fat: 0g Cholesterol: 132mg Sodium: 108mg Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 0g Sugar: 0g Protein: 42g

Southern Corn Pudding

Southern corn pudding is the comfort food you never knew you needed.

My introduction to Southern corn pudding came when I went up to the From the Ashes BBQ festival up in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Anthony DiBernardo, of Swig & Swine in South Carolina, had this side dish he was cooking in a large cauldron and immediately caught my interest.

Combining ingredients such as cream cheese, jalapeño, and, believe it or not, corn, this side dish became one of my favorite things I’ve ever eaten! And with permission from Anthony himself, I now share with you this side dish that will rival your main course at your next cookout!

How do I get started?

The sautéed corn, onion, and jalapeño are key to this recipe.

First things first, make sure to get an 8 oz block of cream cheese and let it sit out long enough to soften. Now to get started on your corn pudding, take four ears of corn and use a knife to cut the kernels off. You can either set them aside or put them right into a skillet. Next, slice about half and onion and cut it julienne, meaning long thin strips. Then dice a small jalapeño (whether or not the seeds are left in is up to you). Put these ingredients in a large skillet on medium heat for sauté-ing. You’re gonna want that little bit of char on there because the flavor and the crisp of it will stand out. Once you have sautéed the corn, onion, and jalapeño, set aside.

The rest of the ingredients

For the next steps of this Southern corn pudding, you’ll need a hand mixer and a medium or large sized bowl. Mix the softened cream cheese and three eggs together until smooth. It may take a little while to mix until smooth depending on how soft you got the cream cheese.

Mix it all together…but don’t forget the shredded cheddar cheese!

Once the cream cheese and eggs are blended together in smooth harmony, pour in a cup of heavy cream, 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup of self rising cornmeal, two teaspoons of salt and one teaspoon of pepper. Oh, and the shredded cheddar cheese. You’ll want at least two cups of that. Mix all of these ingredients together, folding in the corn, onion, and jalapeño from earlier.

Time for the dutch oven!

Cooking outdoors in a Dutch oven is ideal, but this dish will also turn out just fine in your oven, as well.

Pour your mixed concoction of Southern corn pudding from the bowl into a greased dutch oven. Since I’m putting this on the grill over indirect heat (or hung about a foot above a fire as seen in this picture), I’m doing this in the cast iron dutch oven. Cook uncovered at 325F for 30-40 minutes. You can tell when it’s done by digging a spoon in and it comes out mostly clean. Pull off the grill and let it sit out for a few minutes before serving. This will serve about 8-10. Feel free to double the recipe for a bigger group. In fact, you may want to double it anyway so you can have seconds…or leftovers!

The recipe!

Yield: 8-10 servings

Corn Pudding

Corn Pudding

Corn pudding is the comfort food you never knew you needed. It is the perfect compliment for any BBQ main dish. Combining ingredients such as corn, cream cheese, and jalapeño, you may just want to make a batch to eat by itself!

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 ears of corn
  • 1 jalapeño
  • 1/2 onion, julienne
  • 1- 8oz cream cheese, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 Cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 Cup sugar
  • 1/2 Cup self-rising cornmeal
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 2 Cups shredded cheddar cheese

Instructions

  1. Shave ears of corn, dice jalapeño, and slice half an onion julienne. Put these ingredients in a skillet and sauté. Set aside.
  2. In a mixing bowl, use a mixer to combine softened cream cheese and eggs until smooth. Add heavy cream, sugar, cornmeal, salt, pepper, shredded cheddar cheese. Mix until incorporated. Fold in sautéed corn, jalapeño, and onion.
  3. Pour mixture into greased cast iron dutch oven and cook on grill over indirect heat at 325F uncovered for 30-40 minutes.

Notes

1. If you can't find self-rising cornmeal, combine almost a 1/2 Cup of cornmeal with a teaspoon of baking powder and a pinch of salt. Makes the ideal substitute.

2. You can make this in your oven and not even use a dutch oven.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8-10

Serving Size:

6 oz

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 260 Total Fat: 170g Saturated Fat: 10g Trans Fat: 0g Cholesterol: 178mg Sodium: 477mg Carbohydrates: 24g Fiber: 2g Sugar: 8g Protein: 9g
Nutritional information isn't always accurate.

Backyard Barbacoa Tacos (on the grill)

These backyard barbacoa tacos made on the grill are a big hit any day of the week (not just Taco Tuesday)!

Do you love tacos? Do you consider yourself a grillmaster (or aspire to)? Then this Backyard Barbacoa Tacos recipe is a must try! Using your braising skills on the grill, you’ll look like an expert and wow your friends over on your next taco night (which should be every night, am I right?)!

WHAT IS BARBACOA?

Barbacoa is a form of cooking meat that has its origins in the Caribbean, but the style we are most familiar with is the one from Mexico, which originates with meats steam cooked underground. Some recipes call for beef from the head of the cow (such as beef cheeks), others call for goat meat (aka- cabrito). Since this backyard barbacoa tacos recipe comes from a gringo and his grill, I’ll be using a chuck roast because this cut of meat is much easier to find in the US.

A PLETHORA OF INGREDIENTS

Adobo and beef together. The barbacoa tacos begin!
Adobo and beef together. The barbacoa tacos begin!

While I tend to post recipes that involve less than 10 ingredients, this one is worth the exception and you’ll taste why. For starters, I dice onion, jalapeño, and mince garlic then sauté in a cast iron skillet on the grill (you can also do this in a frying pan on your stove). Once those are done, I put them in a blender with apple cider vinegar, lime juice, chicken broth, cumin, oregano, black pepper, salt, and cloves. Blend until smooth, which shouldn’t take long since we are using a lot of liquid. This mix you just made is called an adobo, which is a special marinade that consists of peppers, vinegar, and spices.

NOTE: if you’re keeping track at home, that’s 11 ingredients so far.

…AND THEN THERE’S THE MEAT

Now that the above ingredients have formed your adobo, it’s time to take your chuck roast and cut it into sections. We are using a 3 lbs. cut of chuck roast for this recipe, so you’ll either want to cut it into six or eight pieces. I like to put a simple rub of salt and pepper on these pieces to add additional flavor to the meat.

Sear the chunks of chuck roast in a large cast iron skillet (preferably the one you already used to saute the onions, garlic, and jalapeno.
Sear the chunks of chuck roast in a large cast iron skillet (preferably the one you already used to saute the onions, garlic, and jalapeno.

Once you have divided the roast into chunks, place them in a heated cast iron skillet and sear each side for a minute or two. If you have seen other recipes on my website regarding steaks such as tri-tip or New York Strip, you’ll know how much I value the reverse sear. It does feel a little weird to sear first and then slow cook after, but with this recipe it is worth the exception. Make sure all pieces are browned on each side.

Now that the searing of the chunks of chuck roast has been done, place them in a foil pan. I recommend using an 8×8 pan or something a little bigger, depending on how big of a cut of chuck roast you have. Pour the adobo in the pan. I like to add a couple of bay leaves for flavor.

SMOKE AND BRAISE ON THE GRILL

With the meat and the adobo together in the foil pan, place on the grill at 275 degrees over indirect heat. I used my ceramic grill which came with deflector plates to put over the lit coals to create this indirect heat. I put a couple of chunks of hickory wood in there with the coals for some extra smokey flavored goodness. Cook like this for four to five hours or until the meat is shreddable with a fork. The wait for these backyard barbacoa tacos will be well worth it!

At least 200 degrees is a good temp for shredding beef.
The barbacoa reached 200 degrees after almost five hours on the grill. Reaching an internal temp of at least 200 degrees is good for shredding beef. Using my Thermapen Mk4 by Thermoworks.

Since every animal lives a different life and some cows use their muscles more than others, each cut of beef may cook differently. If the meat is still not shreddable after four to five hours, then cover the top of the pan with aluminum foil to help expedite the process.

It’s also worth noting that you may want to flip the chunks of beef over during the cook so the chunks of beef are easier to shred since they have been braising in the adobo.

SHRED IT UP!

barbacoa shredded and ready to eat.
Make sure to let the beef you just shredded sit in the adobo for a little while before serving. That way, the juices soak up into that barbacoa.

Once the beef has been removed from the grill and sat out for a moment, start shredding the chunks of beef. I used a couple of forks, but you can shred with your hands (wearing some insulated gloves) or even a hand mixer if you wish (but that can get messy, so beware). Let the shredded beef sit in that juicy goodness of the adobo for a little while before serving.

Speaking of serving, I recommend offering up this backyard barbacoa on some warm corn tortillas and topped with diced onion, cilantro, and some green tomatillo salsa. Even give a freshly cut lime a gentle squeeze over the top and you’ve got yourself some amazing backyard barbacoa tacos you cooked up on the grill!

barbacoa yes!
Warm up them corn tortillas before you paint a masterpiece with your backyard barbacoa (and toppings).

THE RECIPE!

Backyard Barbacoa Tacos

Backyard Barbacoa Tacos

Tired of having ground beef tacos? This barbacoa recipe will transform your taco night from average to extraordinary! And it can all be made on your grill (or oven/stove if you prefer).

Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 5 hours
Total Time 5 hours 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 chuck roast (3lbs.)
  • 1 jalapeno, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 C apple cider vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp lime juice
  • 3/4 C chicken broth
  • 3 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • FOR TACOS:
  • 25-30 corn tortillas, warmed
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp cilantro, diced
  • 1 jar green tomatillo salsa

Instructions

  1. Saute onion, jalapeno, and garlic in cast iron skillet. Set aside.
  2. Create adobo (marinade) by combining apple cider vinegar, lime juice, chicken broth, cumin, oregano, black pepper, salt, and cloves in a blender. Add sauteed onion, jalapeno, and garlic. Blend until smooth.
  3. Divide chuck roast into 6-8 pieces, season, and sear pieces in cast iron skillet for 1-2 minutes on each side
  4. Place meat in 8x8 foil pan and pour adobo in. Add bay leaves. Place on grill at 275 degrees over indirect heat for 4-5 hours, turn chunks of beef halfway through the cook. Done when beef at or above 200 degrees internal temp or when beef can be shredded with a fork.
  5. Shred beef and let rest in adobo before serving. Serve on corn tortillas warmed on a skillet, top with diced onion, cilantro, and green tomatilla salsa.

Notes

  1. Chuck roast was used for this recipe. To go more authentic, substitute beef cheek.
  2. To make more spicy, either add more jalapeno or substitute serrano pepper.

Nutrition Information:

Serving Size:

2 street tacos

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 251 Total Fat: 12g Saturated Fat: 5.9g Trans Fat: 0.5g Cholesterol: 76mg Sodium: 282mg Carbohydrates: 15g Fiber: 2.3g Sugar: 2g Protein: 22g

Smoked Jalapeño Pepper Jack Mac and Cheese

This smoked jalapeño pepper jack mac and cheese is ready for its closeup.

While the BBQ meat is the main event on the plate, you can’t overlook the supporting cast: the side dishes. I’d like to think the sides you make should be good enough to eat on your own after the BBQ is all gone. This smoked jalapeño pepper jack mac and cheese has been a hit with my friends and I think it’s worthy to share.

MAKING THE MAC

Mixing it up in the Instant Pot!

You may be wondering if you cook the smoked jalapeño pepper jack mac and cheese all on the smoker. While there may be some recipes out there that call for it, this one does not. You can cook this indoors either on the stove or in the Instant Pot. For the Instant Pot, take a 16 oz bag of elbow macaroni (I prefer the large elbows), four cups of water, three tablespoons of butter, and two teaspoons of salt. Set the Instant Pot for four minutes and when you are done with the venting afterward, remove the lid and switch to sauté. Then add 1 cup of heavy whipping cream, 1 1/2 cups of medium cheddar cheese, 1 1/2 cups of pepper jack cheese, and a diced up jalapeño. Mix until cheese is melted.

SMOKING THAT JALAPEÑO PEPPER JACK MAC AND CHEESE

Now that the mac and cheese is done cooking, it’s time to add that smoked flavor! Pour your jalapeño pepper jack mac and cheese into a foil pan, preferably a little larger than 8×8 (I’ve tried that and not all of it fits. But if you want something to snack on while the rest of it smokes…). Feel free to top with something like bread crumbs to give it a little more texture. I used some jalapeño cheddar pork rinds and crumbled them up and poured over the mac and cheese in the foil pan.

Substituting bread crumbs for chicharrones (a variation of pork rinds) can alter the flavor.

Put the soon-to-be smoked jalapeño pepper jack mac and cheese on the grill at 225 degrees over indirect heat. We keep it that low because the mac and cheese is already cooked and you don’t want to dry out the noodles. For the smoke flavor, I prefer to go with hickory wood on this one. Let it cook for 30 minutes. Remove from grill and dig in!

THE RECIPE!

Smoked Jalapeño Pepper Jack Mac and Cheese

Smoked Jalapeño Pepper Jack Mac and Cheese

Kick your basic mac and cheese up a notch by adding some jalapeño and pepper jack cheese. Top with jalapeño cheddar pork rinds and give it a kiss of hickory smoke to complete the side dish!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes

Ingredients

  • 16 oz large elbow macaroni noodles
  • 4 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded medium cheddar cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded pepper jack cheese
  • 1 jalapeño, diced
  • OPTIONAL: handful of crushed pork rinds for topping

Instructions

  1. Place water, macaroni noodles, butter, and salt together in Instant Pot. Seal vent and set on Manual for 4 minutes. Preheat grill/smoker to 225 degrees on indirect heat with hickory wood.
  2. Once the Instant Pot beeps when the 4 minutes is up, turn the top knob from sealing to venting. Once venting is completed, remove lid and set to sauté. Pour in heavy whipping cream, both cheeses, and diced jalapeño. Stir until cheese is fully melted.
  3. Pour mac and cheese into a foil pan (preferably something a little bigger than 8x8), top with crumbled pork rinds (optional) and put on grill for 30 minutes. Remove and serve.

Notes

  1. The pork rinds (or chicharrones if you prefer) are optional, but do add to the flavor and provide some texture. Substitute bread crumbs if you prefer.
  2. Check noodles after 15-20 minutes to make sure they don't dry out.
  3. If you want to kick up the heat, you can do one of the following: include the seeds from your diced jalapeño; substitute pickled jalapeño; or substitute for a serrano pepper.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

10

Serving Size:

1 Cup

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 425 Total Fat: 20g Saturated Fat: 5g Cholesterol: 8mg Sodium: 675mg Carbohydrates: 47g Fiber: 3g Sugar: 8g Protein: 10g

Spatchcocked Lemon Garlic Chicken

This Spatchcocked Lemon Garlic Chicken using this seasoning packet from Twist’d Q makes prepping chicken a cinch!

I enjoy BBQing up a variety of proteins and chicken is one that gets much love in my household (even though it may not on my social media accounts). I love cooking chicken spatchcocked and this Spatchcocked Lemon Garlic Chicken is a simple recipe that packs great flavor. I have partnered with the folks at Twist’d Q to come up with this Spatchcocked Lemon Garlic Chicken recipe using their Crazy Chick Lemon Garlic seasoning.

CHOOSING A CHICKEN

You can find a whole chicken at pretty much any grocery store. They sometimes are labeled as “fryer”, “broiler”, or “roaster”. What’s the difference? Mainly, the size. Fryer and broiler-labeled chickens are smaller, usually around 2-4 lbs while roaster chickens are 5-7 lbs.

You may see birds that are labeled as “natural”, but that is a very loose term because the USDA does not regulate it. In other words, every chicken can be labeled as natural. The organic ones are naturally raised (no antibiotics, hormones, etc.) in a free-range environment and fed organically. This also means the organic ones will cost about three times as much, too. Choose how fancy (and healthy) you want the bird to be.

WHAT DOES ‘SPATCHCOCKED” MEAN?

Using kitchen scissors is a good way to cut the backbone on the chicken.

If you could filet a whole chicken, spatchcocking it would be the closest way to do it. Spatchcocking is fairly easy, you turn the bird onto it’s front and cut out the backbone. This can be done using some sharp kitchen scissors (and a tight sqeeze of the hand). Don’t have kitchen scissors? Using a chef’s knife and cutting along the sides of the spine should do the trick. For more about how to spatchcock a bird, check out my blog post about…well, spatchcocking a bird.

PREPPING A SPATCHCOCKED CHICKEN

Now that you have the chicken flattened by spatchcocking it, get some olive oil and rub enough on the chicken to lightly coat it. This will help the seasoning to stick to the bird and also help give it a little crispier-looking skin while it cooks. Once that is done, take your Crazy Chick Lemon Garlic seasoning packet and use most of the packet to coat the skin.

Separating the skin from the breast meat and putting butter and seasoning in between them.

The remainder of the seasoning I like to put under the skin where the breast section is. To get under the skin, you will want to take your fingers (preferably with a nitrile glove on) where the cavity of the head is and start separating the skin from the meat by wiggling your fingers around until you get an initial break in the fascia that keeps the skin and muscle together. Once you get through that, you can move your hand down most of the white meat. I like to take an icing spatula and put a tablespoon of butter on it and spread it around on one side of the chicken breast. Then I take another tablespoon and spread it on the other side of chicken breast (left side or right side). Then I take the rest of the seasoning packet and pour the remainder in between the skin and the meat. Massage it in there if you need.

FIRE UP THE GRILL!

Before prepping the spatchcocked lemon garlic chicken, it would be best to get your grill up to temp. For this bird, I’m using my pellet grill and getting it up to 375F with pecan smoke. Once the grill is up to temp, take your flattened bird and lay it on the grill with the front of it facing up. Cooking times can vary on the size of the bird: if the bird is 2-4 lbs, it should take about 45 minutes to an hour; if 5-7 lbs., try 90 minutes.

This spatchcocked lemon garlic chicken is ready to be removed and rested.

Ultimately, using a digital thermometer to check the middle of the thickest portionof the white meat is the best way to determine doneness. The USDA recommends internal temps for poultry to be 165F, but there are chefs out there that usually pull off the grill a little under that because thicker meat tends to cook internally a few degrees after it is removed from the cooking chamber (in this case, our grill).

REST, THEN SLICE

With most meats, it’s important to let it rest before digging in. A couple of reasons why is 1) the meat will most likely continue to cook a little more internally and 2) as the meat cools down the juices build up. In the case of this spatchcocked lemon garlic chicken, let it rest about 20 minutes before slicing into it. If you want to add a little more lemon-y flavor, squeeze a quarter of a lemon on top while resting.

Hope you enjoy this recipe and feel free to either comment (which I will likely not see because I’m bombarded with spam) or send me a message on either Instagram or Facebook!

Spatchcocked Lemon Garlic Chicken

Spatchcocked Lemon Garlic Chicken

Looking to cook up a whole chicken on the grill? This simple recipe only takes five ingredients and pleases the family! This recipe is sponsored by Twist'd Q.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Additional Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • - 1 whole chicken, 2-4 lbs.
  • - 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • - 1 packet Crazy Chick Lemon Garlic by Twist'd Q
  • - 3 Tbsp butter
  • - 1/4 lemon, squeezed

Instructions

  1. Remove whole chicken from packaging. If not brining, rinse bird. If you want to brine, check notes for a simple brine recipe.
  2. Preheat grill to 375F on indirect heat. Back to the chicken, cut backbone out of chicken by placing bird front side down on the cutting board and using either kitchen scissors or a chef's knife, cut along one side of the backbone all of the way down Repeat on other side. Remove backbone and pull the two sides apart. Turn chicken around and push down to help flatten the bird a little.
  3. Pour olive oil on the chicken and spread around with either your hand or a food brush. Open packet of Twist'd Q Crazy Chick Lemon Garlic and use 3/4 of packet to spread across the outside of the bird.
  4. Using hand, start to dig your fingers under the skin of the bird on top the cavity where the head used to be. Wiggle fingers to separate skin from the chicken breast meat and slide down on left side of the chicken breast. Repeat on the right side. Once done, use an icing spatula with a tablespoon of butter and slide in between skin and breast meat, massaging in from the outside of the skin. Repeat process on other side. Pour remainer of packet under skin.
  5. With grill up to temp, lay chicken on grill front side up and cook for an hour or until internal temp on thickest part of white meat reaches 161F. Remove from grill and let rest for 20 minutes before slicing. Squeeze 1/4 lemon on turkey to taste (optional).

Notes

  1. Brining the bird is recommended, but not mandatory. You can create a simple brine by using one cup of kosher salt and one cup of sugar per one gallon of water. Brining in a five gallon bucket is ideal.
  2. To keep tips of wings and bottoms of legs from burning, wrap them in foil
  3. Spritz with apple juice and/or apple cider vinegar once during the cook to help keep meat from drying out.

Product Review: Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco drum smoker

Putting the Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco drum smoker to work by smoking some pork shoulders for this product review.

When I first got into barbecue, my very first smoker was an Oklahoma Joe’s Higlander. It’s considered a “stick burner” because you can feed it smoking wood logs for your heat source (I would use a mix of charcoal and wood chunks). Fast forward to 2019 when I was approached with the opportunity to use the Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco drum smoker and write an honest product review, gotta say I was pretty excited! Kinda comes full circle. Here’s my breakdown:

The features

  • Unique airflow control system and sealed lid allows for precise temperature management
  • Cooking grate and meat hangers enable a custom smoking setup
  • Oversized, eight-pound charcoal basket holds enough fuel for over 10 hours of smoking time
  • Removable ash pan and porcelain-coated components make clean-up easy
  • Heavy-gauge steel construction ensures durability you can trust
  • Rubber handle grip is easy to grab and stays cool to the touch
  • Professional temperature gauge with glow-in-the-dark accents
  • Large, wagon-style wheels for easy mobility
  • Easily converts to a charcoal grill for added versatility

The airflow control has a simple numbered dial on both dampers to help keep temps consistent.

(FYI- I totally did a copy and paste here. But I saved you from going back and forth between their website and mine. Yep.)

What I love about the Bronco

The Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco drum smoker stands about 43 inches tall and has a grill surface diameter of 18 inches.

I’ve used some barrel cookers in the past and liked them, but I gotta say this Bronco blows those other drums away! First off, I love the heavy-gauge steel construction of this thing. Helps with the insulation and makes it a durable smoke to use for years to come.

Second, I love the quality of the cooks that I get on this drum smoker. The flavor it imparts to the meat lets the smoking wood shine. If you follow me on social media, you know I love to smoke tri tip. If you don’t know, it is a triangular cut of beef from the lower sirloin of the cow and packs so much flavor and is fairly tender. Anyways, the first cook I did on the Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco drum smoker was hanging tri-tip. I smoked it using charcoal briquettes and hickory wood chunks. Smoked it at about 250F for an hour before reverse searing in a cast iron skillet. I’ve done this method many times before and folks love it. But this time cooking it on the Bronco it tasted so good that my wife told me it was one of, if not THE best tri-tip I’ve done to date! The meat had that hint of hard wood smoke smell and it added to the effect. This is a smell and a flavor that I don’t get on my pellet grills or ceramic grills.

Hanging tri-tip in the Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco yielded some smoky, savory results.

Third, the versatility of being able to hang meats is awesome! You can hang meat such as steaks, roasts, and ribs in this thing and let the juices roll down the length of the meat and baste in it’s goodness during the cooking process.

Finally, the price point. At a retail price of $299.99 (US dollar), the Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco drum smoker makes for a great first smoker or even an excellent addition for those who want to try something different that the pellet grill or kettle they’ve been using.

If I had a magic wand…

That’s basically my way of saying, “what I would change” or even “cons”. To be honest, the two things I wish I could change aren’t too big of a deal. If this drum smoker had was easier access to adding more coals/wood during a longer cook. I did a couple of pork shoulders on it and was able to use the handles on the grill grate to remove the pork, then remove the deflector plate, and add more fuel to the fire. It can kind of be a hassle, but it’s worth it for the flavor.

The heat control is good, but the temperature gauge isn’t always accurate…but it does glow in the dark.

The other thing is the temperature gauge on the outside isn’t completely accurate, especially if you are hanging steaks or roasts in there. I used my digital thermometer probe for ambient temp and placed it at the same level of the gauge. I had a discrepancy of about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. However, if you are cooking things on the grill surface, which sits above that gauge, then the temp is pretty close to accurate because the heat lessens the further you get from the coals/wood at the bottom of the drum.

The final verdict…

Truth be told, I love this thing! It is my favorite drum I have used to date and I love doing short to mid-range cooks on them. The flavor I get on the food I cook in the Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco drum smoker is outstanding and produces that authentic barbecue taste you find in the better BBQ joints out there. With the price point of only $299, the Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco drum smoker is definitely one to add to your collection!

BBQ Travels: BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef ® HQ

Certified Angus Beef  ®  tomahawk ribeyes reverse seared to perfection at the BBQ Summit.

For those of you that follow me on Instagram (@learningtosmoke), you may have seen my IG story back in late April/early May when I made the trip to Wooster, Ohio for the BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef  ®  headquarters. To be honest, initially I was indifferent on going to this event. I’m traveling to Ohio in April? I’m going to tour facilities? Yay.

But then I spoke with my friend Christie Vanover at www.girlscangrill.com and she filled me in on some of the details I was missing: 1) we get to go in their lab and get hands-on with butchering a quarter cow, and 2) the lineup of folks coming to this event. I thought it was just a few social media folks, but that was the tip of the iceberg. Big names in barbecue such as Kent and Barrett Black from Black’s Barbecue in Lockhart, TX, Chris Lilly (Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q), Amy Mills (17th Street BBQ), Anthony DiBernardo (Swig & Swine BBQ), Ray Lampe (Dr. BBQ), and John Lewis (Lewis Barbecue, previously from La Barbecue in Austin) were gonna be there. So, I GET to travel to Ohio in April? YAY!

Group shot with fellow BBQ social media folks: Malcolm Reed and Rachelle Ross (How to BBQ Right), Mikey May (Man Meat BBQ), and Christie Hanover (Girls Can Grill).

The event was a blast! Not only do I get to hang out among these legendary pit masters and fellow BBQ bloggers such as Christie, Mikey May (www.manmeatbbq.com), and Malcolm Reed (www.howtobbqright.com), but we get to eat some of the tastiest meals served up by some chefs who are passionate about their craft. Tomahawk ribeye? Check. Prime rib? Check. Cowboy fondue (sirloin steaks cooked on pitchforks) with doughnuts for breakfast? Check. Braised beef with bone marrow and Asian-infused split shank on steamed bao buns? Check. They had salad too, but whatever.

Asian-infused split shank on a bao bun at the BBQ Summit.

Another highlight was going to the meat lab and being instructed by meat scientist Diana Clark on how to cut up a quarter cow. We were divided into groups and each of our groups were given a quarter cow (front quarter), some boning knives, and a saw (as well as lab coats and gloves to stay sanitary) and taken to school. Doing this helped me better understand where certain cuts come from, why they get their tenderness (or toughness in some cases), and which cuts I should definitely try out when I get home (such as the chuck eye steak).

Learning about the different cuts on the quarter cow from beef scientist Diana Clark.

I feel I should also note that we went back to the meat lab the next day and learned about some cuts in the hind quarters of the cow. Some I am familiar with (such as the tri-tip), and some I need to try (such as hanger steak and ball tip steak).

Butchering a quarter cow in the meat lab at Certified Angus Beef HQ.

Another thing we did in the meat lab was make beef sausage. I teamed up with the likes of Greg and Kristina Gaardbo from Chicago Culinary Kitchen and Kent and Barrett Black (Black’s Barbecue) to make a “hamburger sausage” using a blend of ground brisket, ribeye, and chuck. We also had cheese, pickles, and onions in there to make it taste like a classic cheeseburger. It. Was. Awesome!

Kent Black (Black’s Barbecue) and Greg Gaardbo (Chicago Culinary Kitchen) grinding up some brisket, ribeye, and chuck, as well as some other ingredients, to make the sausage.

On the last day we headed out to a Certified Angus Beef  ®  farm and got to meet the farming family, see their Angus cows, and hear about how their practices to help the cows grow and live healthy lives. This is also where we were treated to the Cowboy Fondue and doughnuts all cooked in their cauldrons on site. Hot and fresh and oh so delicious!

Visiting a Certified Angus Beef  ®  farm while at the BBQ Summit.

Cowboy fondue with some Certified Angus Beef  ®  sirloins.

I can’t believe I was able to be in attendance to learn so much about the many cuts of beef and rub elbows with some of the best in the world of barbecue. Many thanks to the folks at Certified Angus Beef  ®  for inviting me!