Reverse Searing 101

Reverse searing steak on a cast iron grill grate.

What is a reverse sear?

In case you need a refresher, a traditional sear is when you start out cooking food at a high heat, which usually begins around at 500F. Once the meat has been seared on both sides, then it is cooked in the oven until it reaches the desired internal temp. A reverse sear is a method of cooking meat at a low temperature first, usually by smoking or sous vide, then finishing off on a high heat surface.

Crust and juices equal a dynamite steak (or tri-tip roast in this instance).

How do you do that voodoo you do?

With smoking, I like to get my grill/smoker to 225-250F using indirect heat and leave the beef or pork chops/steaks in until it reaches an internal temp of 125F (length of time to get there depends on thickness of meat), then move to either a grill above 500F or cast iron pan on the stove (or grill) at high heat. I do about two minutes on one side and then flip the meat over for another two. Doing this creates a flavorful crust on the outside of the meat due to something called the Maillard reaction. The Maillard reaction is a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that gives browned food its distinctive flavor. I like my beef medium-medium rare, so I wait to reach an internal temp of 130F (around 137F for pork) before removing.

This tomahawk ribeye got the reverse sear treatment. Crust=Flavor!

If starting your cook with the sous vide method, you’ll want to seal the meat and seasonings in an airtight bag (usually done with a vacuum seal) and then place in a warm pot of water that is around 125F. Once again, thickness of the cut of meat matters. For a rule of thumb on how much time to spend cooking it, check out this excellent post from Serious Eats.

Searing in a cast iron skillet is another way to finish off a steak.

Why should I reverse sear?

Quality. Flavor. Tender. Juiciness. Crust. Go with the reverse sear and you’ll find your steaks suddenly rival those at your favorite steakhouse. It is more cost effective than going out for steak, nor do you have to put on pants and go out in public. I’m just sayin’.

Smoked Pork Tenderloin

If you haven’t noticed from most of the recipes on my website, I like simple. That means I try to maximize flavor with the fewest ingredients possible (mostly. Every once in a while I like to expand my horizons). Lucky for you, this is another one of those recipes. Pork tenderloin may sound fancy and expensive, but its quite affordable.

Where does the tenderloin come from?

Graphic courtesy of smithfield.com

The pork tenderloin is a cut of meat that comes from close by the mid-to-lower spinal area of the animal. While most muscles are used for movement, the tenderloin is used for posture. The tenderloin is considered the most tender part of the pig because this muscle isn’t used as much as the others.

Tupac? No, I said “two-pack”!

When at the meat department of your local grocery store, don’t be surprised to see pork tenderloins come in a two-pack. It’s quite common. These cuts of pork typically weigh between 3/4 lb. to 1 1/2 lb. each and are relatively cheap, so they put two in the package to make it worth selling.

Removing the silver skin

When taking the tenderloins out of the package, you’ll notice a thin, shiny layer on some areas of the meat. This is what is known as silver skin, which was meant to hold the muscle together while in the pig. Since the pig doesn’t need it anymore, feel free to peel it off. You’ll want to because leaving it on can affect the bite of the tenderloin and the meat’s ability to absorb the seasoning you put on it.

Trimming off the silver skin.

To remove the silver skin, it would be best to use a boning knife. This blade has a little curve to it near the tip as it thins out, making it easier to poke just under the layer of silver skin and push through until it comes out the opposite side of the shiny, filmy stuff. Then you start pushing the sharp side of the blade forward in a gentle, back-and-forth sawing motion until the silver skin is removed. Repeat this with other sections of silver skin until removed. This should only take a few minutes.

Need a visual? Here’s a video of me trimming a pork tenderloin!

The easy part

Now that you have made it past that part, it’s all downhill from here (not the “downhill” as in, it’s gonna suck. But the “downhill” as in, it gets easier. Maybe I should’ve just said “it gets easier” instead of typing all of this in parentheses. Oh well.)!

Next step is to season the tenderloin with your favorite blend of spices. I don’t like to coat it to heavily, but put on an adequate amount until you get the flavor you want out of the seasoning/rub. That’s it for this step!

Trimmed, seasoned, and ready for the smoke!

Take the tenderloin out to your grill/smoker that you have already got up to the 240-250F temperature on indirect heat and place it on there. As far as smoking wood goes, I like apple wood for this one.

With the pork tenderloin being relatively small, it cooks pretty quick. Usually about 45 minutes is all it takes. After 30 minutes of being on the grill, lift the lid and apply some of your favorite BBQ sauce and honey on the tenderloin with a basting brush.

Brushing up these tenderloins with BBQ sauce and honey.

Close the lid and come back in about 15 minutes.

When is it done?

Using a digital meat thermometer, such as the Thermapen Mk4 from Thermoworks, insert the probe in the middle of the thickest portion of the tenderloin to gauge when it’s done. The reason for this is to make sure it doesn’t undercook and you don’t get yourself sick. Look for a finishing temp of 145F.

It’s done!

Why 145F? Isn’t that undercooked? Have you been taught that 165F is when pork is done? If you’re like me, then you’ve been taught this same thing for most of your life. This rings true for ground pork, but for most other cuts, such as pork steaks, chops, roasts, and even tenderloins, the USDA recommends a minimum of 145F, which is good for a medium finish. This keeps the meat juicy and from drying out at the 165F temps. Since the meat has a little carry over temp, feel free to pull off a couple of degrees lower if you wish.

Rest, slice, and serve

Now that the meat is off the grill and on a cutting board, let it rest about 10 minutes before slicing. Doing so allows it to relax and let the juices start to build inside. After this short wait, start slicing into 1/2″ to 1″ slices. You’ll notice how tender and juicy it is, as well as the sign of a nice smoke ring inside. These are signs that you have done this thing right. Sample one or two (or five) to ensure they are good enough for your family or guests before sharing with them.

The recipe!

Smoked Pork Tenderloin

Leaner. Cheaper. And when cooked to the right temps, it makes for a tender, tasty meat you can feel less guilty about devouring!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 pork tenderloin
  • 2 Tbsp rub/seasoning
  • 2 Tbsp BBQ sauce
  • 1 Tbsp honey

Instructions

  1. Preheat grill/smoker to 250F over indirect heat with apple wood
  2. Trim pork tenderloin by removing silver skin. Apply rub.
  3. Put meat on smoker and cook at 250F for 30-35 minutes. Apply honey and BBQ sauce with basting brush. Close lid and let cook another 15 minutes or until internal meat temp reaches 145F. Remove and let rest for 10 minutes.
  4. Slice, serve, and enjoy!

Notes

When brushing honey and BBQ sauce on pork tenderloin, it isn't necessary to lift the meat off the grill to get the bottom.

Use a digital meat thermometer for a fast, accurate reading.

When checking temps, put probe of thermometer into the center of the thickest portion of the meat to ensure the whole thing will cook through properly.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

4 oz.

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 167 Total Fat: 40g Saturated Fat: 1.6g Trans Fat: 0g Cholesterol: 82.7mg Sodium: 64mg Carbohydrates: 0g Protein: 29g

Reverse Seared Tri Tip

Smoked tri-tip reverse seared in a cast iron skillet is my favorite way to cook this cut of beef!

If you follow me on Instagram, you will see tri-tip show up on my feed often. It’s definitely in my top three of meats to barbecue. It is the first meat I ever smoked. I’ve prepared it in different ways and my favorite (right now) is to reverse sear it. Before I get into that process, let me answer a question you may have…

What is a tri-tip?

The tri-tip has a triangular shape as seen here.

The tri-tip is a cut of beef that comes from the bottom sirloin on the cow. It is boneless and tender. As with other cuts of beef, you will want to look for some good marbling (small streaks of interwoven fat) in the meat. There are three different grains in this cut, which can make slicing against the grain a little tricky if you only slice it the same direction the whole way.

This cut of beef gets it’s origins in Oakland, California where a butcher started selling it whole in the 1950s. Prior to this, the tri-tip was usually grinded up into hamburger meat or sliced up for steaks. Becoming popular on the central California coast in the Santa Maria area, the preferred method of cooking this cut was to grill over an open flame from red oak wood and finish at medium rare. There are deviations of how it is prepared nowadays and the reverse sear method is one of them.

What is this “reverse sear” you speak of?

Before we get into revere sear, let’s make sure we cover what it means to sear. Searing is when you cook something over direct, high heat to get that nice, browned crust and then put it in the oven to cook at a lower temp until done. Reverse sear is the opposite of that in which you cook the meat low and slow first THEN sear to finish it off.

I prefer to reverse sear by smoking the meat to get that smoke flavor infused and then crank the high heat to finish it off with that nice, flavorful crust.

The beginning of the process

When preparing the tri-tip, you’ll want to take a boning knife and remove any silver skin that exists on the meat. You will usually find silver skin on the bottom. To remove, barely put the tip of the blade of the knife underneath the silver skin and push across until the tip of the blade appears from under that surface. Proceed with a gentle, sawing motion down the length of the silver skin until it is removed. Keep in mind there will likely be more than one spot on the tri-tip with a patch of this filmy substance.

Once that is done, simply take your favorite seasoning/rub and apply. I like to go light on the rub when it comes to tri-tip because I like the flavor of this cut of beef to stand out and not overpower it. Feel free to let the meat sit at room temp for a little while (beef is okay for this) and let the spices sweat into the meat.

Rub and smoke are the two things I do to prep for the sear.

Smoking the good stuff

Now that your grill/smoker is up to 250F (I’m assuming you’ve done this already, but you know what they say about those who assume…), simply put it on the grill, close the lid, and let it ride. Since tri-tip cooks like a steak, make sure to monitor the temp regularly. You can do this by using an instant read thermometer, like my Thermapen Mk4 made by Thermoworks, or by using a wired probe device that will track the temps for the duration of the cook, such as the Smoke (also by Thermoworks) so you can track both temps in the grill and in the food.

Make sure when checking temps in any meat that you go into the middle of the thickest portion. That way, you know it will be thoroughly cooked to the temp you desire.

Pull the tri-tip off when internal temp hits around 125-127F.

Searing time!

When the meat is around 90-100F, start to get a grill or stove top burner going and your cast iron skillet heated. Some folks prefer to sear on the grill grates and get those nice grill marks, but I love to sear in a cast iron skillet. I want that Maillard reaction (the process of amino acids and reducing sugars reacting to form that crust on the food and give it extra flavor) to take place on the whole surface of the meat, not just the parts that touch the grates.

Not only do I like to use a cast iron skillet for searing the whole surface of the meat, but also because I can easily give the crust even more flavor by putting such flavor-boosting ingredients such as butter, garlic, and rosemary in the pan and let it cook in.

For the finish, I like my steaks medium rare. With that in mind, I take the tri-tip out of the pan (after searing on both sides) when internal meat temp hits around 135F. Keep in mind that there will be some carry over cooking going on, meaning the meat will likely rise a few degrees while resting.

Like a steak, medium rare is the ideal way to serve up tri-tip.

Rest and slice

When it comes to tri-tip, I like to let it rest about 10-15 minutes before slicing. Doing this will allow the meat to relax and let the juices build up, meaning more flavor.

Slicing the tri-tip against the grain can be a little tricky. Remember how earlier in this post I said that this cut of meat has three different grains?

Sliced half way because the other half needs to be cut a different direction.

While there are three different grains, one of them is at the very tip of the elongated portion of the tri-tip, so don’t worry about that part. I usually cut that part off as a sample for myself (sampling the meat before serving it is what we barbecuers like to call “pitmaster’s privilege”). The main section to watch for the switch is by the corner opposite of the crook in the meat. You should be able to see the grains switching directions around that way. Slice right down the middle of that as to separate the meat into two and slice against the respective grains.

If you had a hard time envisioning what I was just talking about, this 33 second video by Thermoworks gives a visual explanation much better than I can type. Enjoy.

The recipe!

Reverse Seared Tri Tip

Tri-tip is a roast that cooks like a steak, doesn't take too long to smoke and just might become your favorite cut of beef!
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 55 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 tri-tip (1.5-2.5 lbs)
  • 3 Tbsp rub/seasoning
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/4 t garlic, minced
  • 1 sprig rosemary

Instructions

  1. Preheat grill/smoker for 250F on indirect heat over pecan wood
  2. Trim silver skin off of tri-tip. Apply rub on both sides.
  3. Place meat on grill/smoker. Let cook at indirect heat for at least an hour before checking temps.
  4. Once internal meat hits temp around 90-100F, get cast iron skillet ready for searing
  5. When tri-tip reaches temps around 125F, go to skillet and put butter, garlic, and rosemary in. Remove tri-tip from grill/smoker and put in skillet, searing on both sides for about 2 minutes each or until internal temp hits 135F.
  6. Remove from skillet and let rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing
  7. Feast and enjoy!

Notes

  1. Pecan wood is my preferred wood to smoke tri-tip with, but feel free to substitute for whichever smoking wood you prefer
  2. You can sear in the cast iron skillet either indoors or outdoors, over a stove top range or another grill.
  3. Remember that the grain of the tri-tip changes directions in the middle of the meat. Slice down the area where the two directions meat (usually in the area between the point and crook)

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

6

Serving Size:

5 oz

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 200 Total Fat: 10.5g

Product Review: Pit Hawg BBQ Ash Vacuum

The Pit Hawg BBQ Ash Vacuum from Dustless Tools.

Barbecue is a hobby that provides some good times and even better food. These are the things that drive most of us. But when we think of BBQ, cleaning is the last thing to comes to most of our minds. However, the upkeep is necessary to get the maximum performance out of your grills and yield the best food you can. That’s why when I was offered a Pit Hawg to demo, I jumped at the opportunity.

The Pit Hawg BBQ Ash Vacuum is made by Dustless Tools and is a lightweight, handy vacuum that is made with barbecue grills in mind. Also, it can also be used indoors for fireplaces and wood stoves. It is less than two feet tall and only 13 inches wide. It comes with a handle for easy carrying and the hose is about five feet long, so you can have your vacuum up next to you and reach all angles of your grill with the hose (as you may know, grills come in different shapes and sizes). Just a heads-up that the cord is 10 feet long, you may need to plug in an extension for outdoor use.

The Pit Hawg in action. Also, look at me with a picture on the internet! I’m famous (…is what the 1998 version of me would think)!

I usually clean my grills prior to using them (usually because I’m too lazy to do it the same day or the day after). That means I end up vacuuming up cold ash. Some of you may be eager beavers and like to clean soon after. You need to be careful of hot ashes and the air inside the vacuum creating a bellowing effect, which can cause a fire. If you can’t tell the difference between warm and hot ashes (as sometimes that is difficult), the Pit Hawg has a thermal shutdown feature that will turn off the vacuum if it gets too hot. Speaking of the inside, the Pit Hawg is easy to clean out. Simply undo the three latches on the rim of the vacuum, remove the lid, and dispose of the ash inside.

An “aerial view” of the vacuum.

Sometimes when I’m vacuuming with this, the suction isn’t the best. Thankfully the Pit Hawg has a button you can smash when you need more sucking power. It’s a big, yellow button on the top of the device that is fun to pound. Kids and adults in my house have fun smashing this button (the adults more so than the kids…and by “adults” I mean myself). The aluminum nozzle also has a couple of attachments to help better clean your grill, including a rectangular wire brush for grilling grates.

Not enough suction? Smash the big, yellow button!

Do I like this thing? Let me tell you that I bought a standard shop vac a couple of months prior to getting this Pit Hawg and my shop vac has sat in storage ever since. I like that this Pit Hawg is lightweight to carry, has good suction, and is easy to clean. The attachments to the hose help get the best clean you can. I like using this and think you would too!

Bacon-weaved Breakfast Fatty

This breakfast fatty loaded with all of the good stuff!

Who doesn’t love a good breakfast? If you’re cooking up breakfast at home and want some sort of pork product to go with your pancakes and eggs, most folks make a choice between sausage or bacon. But why not both? You can have a complete breakfast all-in-one with this epic breakfast fatty! If this concept is new to you, just know I’m not the first to make these. In fact, they seem to be a common staple amongst avid barbecuers. Put a slice of this breakfast log in between a biscuit and you’ve got an even more epic breakfast!

The breakdown

The ingredients used for this breakfast fatty are as follows (in no particular order):

  • bacon
  • ground sausage (or chorizo if you want to spice it up)
  • hash browns (cooked)
  • scrambled eggs
  • chopped onion
  • diced green bell pepper
  • cheddar cheese
  • rub/seasoning
  • BBQ sauce (for the last 20 minutes of the cook)

The bacon weave

Behold, the bacon weave!

The outermost layer of the breakfast fatty is a bacon weave. It’s like a tasty safety net for the rest of the ingredients to stay in. Granted, the ground sausage should keep it all in, but is having all that bacon as part of the meat cocoon such a bad thing? I don’t think so.

Anyway, some of you may wonder how to make a bacon weave. To lay it out in a simple way, I’ll do numeric bulletpoints:

  1. Put down a strip of parchment paper or clear plastic wrap
  2. Lay five or six strips of bacon vertically, each strip close to the other
  3. Take the even numbered strips and pull back part way
  4. Lay a new strip of bacon horizontally, across the odd numbered strips of bacon (the ones that aren’t folded back)
  5. Flip the folded over strips back (look! You’ve made the beginnings of the weave!)
  6. Now take the odd numbered vertical strips and lay and pull up to fold over, up by the horizontal strip already weaved in
  7. Lay another horizontal strip down next to the other horizontal one
  8. Pull the flipped over bacon strips back down
  9. Now that you’ve come this far, just alternate between flipping over the even and odd vertical strips to lay down the horizontal ones until the weave is complete!

The next layer: ground sausage

Flatten the ground sausage on the bacon weave.

Now that you have woven a blanket o’ bacon (good job, by the way!) take a 16 oz. package of ground sausage and flatten it out in a square-like shape over the bacon weave. If it doesn’t reach the edges of your weave, it’s okay. Just make sure you have flattened it out enough to put your other ingredients in and roll it up. Speaking of…

The rest of the ingredients

Put the other ingredients (sans sauce) in like this.

For those of you keeping score at home, we have scrambled eggs, hash browns (cooked), cheddar cheese, diced onion, diced green bell pepper, and rub remaining to put in this thing. Lay out these ingredients in a straight line, layering on top of each other. When doing the cheese, you can use either shredded or long, skinny rectangular cubes. The advantage of the long cubes in the log is that the cheese is centered in one spot and has that cheesy, gooey look when it’s sliced and served. And as far as the rub is concerned, you can either apply it on the ground sausage or on the bacon part. I usually apply it on the bacon (because I forget to put it on the sausage).

Rollin’ up a fatty

Rollin’ up the breakfast fatty.

Remember how I mentioned to lay down a sheet of parchment paper or clear plastic wrap? I hope you did because rolling up this meat cocoon is a lot easier this way. As you have laid the inside ingredients on top of each other in one direction, take the parallel end and start rolling. The goal is to roll as if you want to make one end of the ground sausage touch the other end. No tight rolling, just roll to where when you eventually slice it the meat will have enclosed the inside ingredients.

Finishing up rolling the opposite side. Getting one side to kinda overlap the other.

Pull back the parchment paper or plastic wrap and put toothpicks into the loose bacon tips at the ends of the rolled up fatty to help keep its form rounded on the ends…and to keep stuff from oozing out.

 Put it on the grill

Placed on the grill with indirect heat.

When cooking this thing, I put the breakfast fatty in at 275F and leave it in for about 90 minutes. I like to use my digital thermometer to check the temps inside. When it is around 150F, I apply the BBQ sauce on the bacon. Close the lid and then remove the log when the internal temp hits 165F. Let it rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing.

Checking temps with my Thermapen Mk4 from Thermoworks.

The recipe!

Bacon-weaved Breakfast Fatty

Good for breakfast or tailgating, this BBQ staple is great any time of day!
Prep Time 20 minutes
Active Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 50 minutes

Ingredients

  • 10-12 strips of bacon
  • 1 lb. ground sausage
  • 2 Tbsp rub
  • 3/4 C hash browns, cooked
  • 3 eggs, scrambled
  • 1/2 C shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/8 C diced onion
  • 1/8 C diced green bell pepper
  • 3 Tbsp BBQ sauce

Instructions

  1. Preheat grill to 275F on indirect heat
  2. Lay down sheet of parchment paper and create the bacon weave.
  3. Apply ground sausage on top of bacon weave and spread into a square-like shape. Apply rub onto ground sausage.
  4. Spread cooked hash browns in a horizontal line down the center of the ground sausage. Place scrambled eggs, cheese, onion, and green bell pepper on top in similar fashion.
  5. Take one end of the parchment paper (parallel to the line of hash browns and other ingredients) and loosely roll the fatty. Remove parchment paper and secure ends with toothpicks.
  6. Place on grill (275F at indirect heat) and cook for 70 minutes.
  7. Brush BBQ sauce on the bacon, close lid and cook for another 20 minutes.
  8. Remove, rest for 10 minutes, then slice and serve.

Notes

For crispier bacon, turn grill up to 325F during last 20-30 minutes.

If you want to make this spicy, substitute jalapeños for green bell peppers, pepper jack cheese for cheddar cheese, and even add some chorizo.

Cook until the ground sausage has hit a temp of 165F.

Place slice of breakfast fatty in a biscuit or English muffin to make an ultimate breakfast sandwich!

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

6 oz.

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 325

Easy Pulled Pork

This pulled pork recipe is quite the crowd pleaser…and simple to make!

If you’re new to learning how to barbecue (that rhymed), I highly recommend smoking a pork shoulder. Also known as a pork butt or Boston butt, this cut of meat comes from the shoulder of the pig. Hence, I like to call it the pork shoulder. While it is a popular meat at barbecue joints, don’t be intimidated. Pork shoulder is a very forgiving meat in that you can make some mistakes and it will still turn out pretty darn good. I have a simple recipe I use often and it yields incredible results.

The ingredients

Pork shoulder, rub, and mustard. That’s it for the prep!

One aspect that makes this recipe so easy is the number of ingredients: four. All you need is a pork shoulder, spicy brown mustard (or regular mustard), your favorite bottle of rub, and a can of Dr Pepper for spritzing during the cook.

Is there trimming involved?

Start by taking your pork shoulder out of the packaging. I like to give it a gentle rinse and patting dry with a paper towel before using the other ingredients. Once that’s done, put it on your cutting board or whatever sanitary surface you plan on using. As far as trimming goes, pork shoulders usually come trimmed up pretty well out of the package with no other work to do. There may be a random flap of fat hanging off somewhere and you are free to trim that off and go on your way. Now, you’ll notice a layer of fat on the top part. Every barbecuer I know leaves it on. Some like to score the fat side with cuts about a 1/2 inch deep and do so in a crosshatch pattern (cuts about 1 inch apart) because they feel the fat (and other seasonings on top) will render into the meat better. I am going simple here and leave the fat side alone.

Applying mustard and rub

Next, get your bottle of mustard and start squirting over the meat. Make sure to smooth it over all sides of the shoulder, not just front and back. After you’ve finished rubbing that mustard on, grab your bottle of rub and start shaking, covering all sides of the pork. I like to be a little generous with the rub here as the pork can be bland without it.

The smoking process

On the grill getting that smoke sauna!

Hopefully you’ve had your smoker outside getting up to smoking temps. I like to go 275F, which is on the edge of going from smoking to baking. When smoking pork, I like to use either a fruit wood (such as apple, cherry, or peach) or go with my favorite: pecan. Once I am near temps, I put the pork shoulder on the grill and let the smoke do the rest…and the spritz. Which reminds me…

How often do I spritz?

This is a question that is bound to get a different response from pretty much every barbecuer out there. Some say spritz every hour. Others may say once every two hours. There are folks who don’t spritz at all. Not only that, but you will get feedback of blends to make for your spritzing, usually with the main ingredient of apple juice or apple cider vinegar (I’ve mixed both). Since I’m keeping it simple here, I use a can of Dr Pepper. Not only does it provide a little bit of a sweeter flavor that pork mixes well with, it also gives a richer, darker color to the outside of the meat. I like to spritz about two or three times during the smoke session. TIP: open the can of Dr Pepper a few hours beforehand and let it sit out and get flat. It will spritz better that way.

To wrap or not to wrap?

Wrap or no wrap, the end result is tasty!

Some like to wrap their meat in foil when the meat hits around 150-165F range because its usually at that spot that the meat stops progressing in temperature because it starts to sweat to cool down. This phase is commonly known as the stall or Texas crutch. Wrapping helps trap the heat to help the meat cook hotter and faster. I haven’t been wrapping during cooking lately because I am giving myself plenty of time to finish. But do what you want in this regard.

When is it done?

Why do I keep using my headlines as questions? Yep, I asked another question. *insert facepalm here* A lot of recipes give you a set number of hours to tell you the meat is officially done. I don’t buy into that. I’ve had similar sized pork shoulders cooking side by side in the same grill at the same temps and have had one finish before the other. This experience happens to me often. The reason for being is that, as BBQ pro Chad Ward told me once, “every animal has lived a different life.” Meaning that some animals have used their muscles more than others, making their meat tougher. Some may have been fed differently than others, eaten more than others, etc.

One way to tell if the pork shoulder is done is by using a digital meat thermometer, like this Thermapen Mk4 by Thermoworks, and seeing temps in the 195-205F range.

There are two ideal ways I can tell when the pork shoulder is done: by internal meat temp, which shredding temp is between 195-205F, or by using the meat thermometer to simply probe the meat. If the probe goes in and out smooth like butter, then it is done.

Rest and serve

After cooking, I like to let it sit out for 30 minutes and then wrap and rest.

When the pork shoulder is done cooking, you will want to let it rest. This helps the juices build up and the meat cool down. Let it rest at least 30 minutes before tearing into it. I like to let it rest and then wrap if I plan on serving it later. I then put it in a well-insulated cooler and remove when I’m ready to eat.

Shredding the pork only takes a matter of seconds!

Some folks like to shred the meat with some sort of bear claw-type meat shredding tools. I like to put on two layers of gloves and shred with my hands. The underlying layer is a pair of cheap worker gloves you can get at a gas station or hardware store. The outer layer is a pair of nitrile gloves (I like to use Gloveworks HD). That pair of worker gloves underneath helps acts as a bit of insulation to protect from the heat of the meat. If the meat is done at the ideal temps, then shredding only takes about 30 seconds. Shredding the pork this way is seriously one of my favorite things to do in barbecue! There’s something gratifying about making quick work of something that took hours to finish. Serving soon after shredding is prime time for texture and taste so you and your friends/family/strangers should eat up quick!

The video!

If you don’t eat it all, no worries. Another great thing about pulled pork is that it reheats very well, even after freezing. It is the only meat I freeze leftovers of and eat at a later time because it is still quite tasty.

The recipe!

Easy Pulled Pork

Smoked pulled pork is a favorite in the barbecue world and is surprisingly easy to make. Using only three ingredients (four if you count the Dr Pepper for the spritz), this recipe is super easy and yields tasty results!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 hours
Total Time 10 hours 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 pork shoulder (aka- Boston butt), 6-8 lbs.
  • 1/4 C spicy brown mustard
  • 4 Tbsp rub
  • OPTIONAL: Dr Pepper for spritzing

Instructions

  1. Preheat grill/smoker to 275F with indirect heat, using smoking wood of your choice
  2. Place pork shoulder on cutting board and apply spicy brown mustard, then the rub
  3. Move pork shoulder to grill/smoker and cook for about 10 hours, spritzing on occasion with Dr Pepper
  4. Remove when pork hits between 195-203F internal temp
  5. Rest for 20-30 minutes before shredding

Notes

  • For the spritzing, its best to open the can/bottle of Dr Pepper hours beforehand and let it get flat. The soda will spray better this way.
  • Finishing times for meat can vary. Keep track of temps throughout to make sure it finishes at the temp you want.
  • While pork is technically edible at 142F, pulled pork needs to be finished cooking around 195-203F to make it more shreddable and still juicy
  • Regarding smoking wood, I prefer to use pecan or a fruit wood such as apple, peach, or cherry. Pork does well with these flavors.


Nutrition Information:

Serving Size:

6 oz

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 496

Smoked Candied Pecan Pie

Smoked candied pecan pie will rock your taste buds!

If you’re a fan of watching reruns of the show Parks and Recreation like I am, you may recall an episode in which Andy Dwyer (played by Chris Pratt) was giving advice to Tom by saying, “‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.’ I read that one on a can of lemonade.  I like to think that it applies to life.”  While I’m not going to go that deep in thought on you, I like to think when life gives you pecans, you make pecan pie.

The Best Way to Eat Pecans

As you may recall, I have a recipe for smoked candied pecans here on the website. It’s my second favorite way to eat pecans. My #1 favorite way is to take those smoked candied pecans and make a pecan pie!

I have a not-so-top secret recipe I like to use that involves things like sugar, more sugar, corn syrup, salt, and butter. But don’t worry, there’s also a touch of orange zest in there, so you got your fruit category covered. Seriously, pecan pie isn’t known for being healthy, but it is known for being delicious and now you can see why.

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 Cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon corn starch
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 Cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup butter (aka- 1 stick), melted
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 Cups smoked candied pecans
  • 1 pie crust

Directions

  1. Take a medium mixing bowl and put in brown sugar, granulated sugar, vanilla, corn starch, orange zest, salt, light corn syrup, melted butter, and three eggs. Stir ingredients together.
  2. Lightly grease a pie tin (or pie pan, pie plate, or whatever you prefer to call it)and put your rolled out pie crust in. Make sure pie crust conforms to the pie tin (or pie pan, pie plate…you get the deal here).
  3. Take half of your pecans and scatter them on the pie crust.
  4. Pour ingredients from mixing bowl into the pie crust.
  5. Take remaining pecans and place on top, making sure to spread them around.
  6. Cover pie in foil and put on your grill with the heat at 350°F for 30 minutes, using pecan wood chunks (or pellets of using a pellet grill) for flavor. NOTE: you can always bake this in your oven as an alternative, but keep in mind you won’t get that extra pecan smoke flavor infused.
  7. After 30 minutes, remove foil from pie. Bake uncovered for another 20-25 minutes.
  8. Let rest until pie is at room temperature.
  9. Dive right in!
Great tasting pie doesn’t need your fancy plates!

Notes

  • When zesting the orange, start at one spot and zest lightly on the surface, spiraling around the orange. The reason for this is you get the best zest from the outmost part of the peel. Going further into the peel in one spot makes the zest more tart.
  • Corn startch helps thicken the pie’s consistency.
  • When baking the pie, you can tell it is done by giving the side of the pie tin a tap and watching how it moves. If it sloshes around, it needs more time. If it jiggles just a little bit, then it’s done.

I hope you enjoy this pie recipe and serve it up for holidays, parties, family gatherings, Tuesdays, etc.!

Product Review: Joetisserie

The Joetisserie fits the Kamado Joe Classic 18” grill (and other similar sized grills) as seen here. Also seen here, meat not included.

I’ve been cooking in a ceramic grill religiously for the past 18 months, mostly going low and slow for barbecue. I’ve been using the Kamado Joe Classic, Classic II, and Joe Jr. I love how these things hold the heat for hours and hours (especially in the wintertime) and how they capture the moisture in at the same time. I’ve used the regular grill grates, cast iron grates, and the half moon griddle. While I recommend using all of these, my favorite accessory to use is the Joetisserie.

What’s in the box?

What comes in the box.

The Joetisserie works like a regular rotisserie and is fitted for the 18” Classic. The packaging includes a steel spit rod (or skewer), two adjustable forks (or claws) to keep the food firmly in place for spinning, a large, wedge-shaped ring to keep the skewer in place, and the motor for spinning the steel spit rod. The motor comes with a plug because it requires electricity, so you’ll want to make sure your grill is close to a power source. Also worth noting is that the motor is strong enough to spin up to 40 lbs. of food.

Assembly

To help attach the food to the skewer, one side has a dull point on the end to help move the food down the stick (but not too sharp as to impale…unless you are running full force with it at someone/something). Make sure to first put one claw on the skewer facing the food, then the food itself, and finally the other claw to keep things in place whilst spinning.

Here’s a video of the unboxing (a re-enactment if you will) and assembly of the Joetisserie:

Using the Joetisserie

You can cook a variety of meats, veggies, and fruits rotisserie style. Two of my personal favorites are chicken and pineapple. I’ve also attempted al pastor and have had some success with it. The advantage to cooking food this way is that as it’s internal temp starts to rise, the juices don’t usually drip off. They keep rolling around as the food spins, meaning the food is basting in its own juices. In fact, the best, most juiciest whole chickens I’ve made have been rotisserie style using my Joetisserie.

Chicken spinning on the rotisserie…or should I say, Joetisserie.

One tip I’ve learned after charring the skin on a few of my birds is when lighting the coals, try to keep your hottest ones to the outer portions as opposed to directly under the meat. That way, you can get a more even cook for both the outside and inside of your food. Another option for those with more patience is to let the coals burn past their peak and then use those cooler coals to cook with.

Some al pastor being sliced to put into tacos!

While the Joetisserie is great to use, one super minor issue of how to store it comes after you are finished using it. You could always try to put it back in the original box it came in, but the custom cut styrofoam will eventually come apart. No custom bags or storage bins are available, so you’ll either have to find the right size of box to put it in or be like me and put some parts one place and the rest on top of your fridge in the garage.

With that said, here’s my pros and cons:

Pros

* Simple to assemble
* Food becomes self-basting
* Fits most round, 18” ceramic grills (including large Big Green Egg)
* Easy to use

Cons

* Limited availability to purchase
* No storage kit available

Conclusion

I could watch the rotisserie spin around all day. It’s a bit hypnotic in a way. If you check my social media posts, you will occasionally see me sharing videos of spinning chickens and other foods. I can’t help it. I could watch those videos on repeat! Even though there are no storage bags available (at the moment), I highly recommend the Joetisserie to add yet another style of cooking to your kamado!

 

Smoked Candied Pecans

One taste of these smoked candied pecans just might make you sit up and slap yo’ mama!

Growing up, I was never much into pecans. I found them too bland to the taste and not as good as a can of salted cashews. As an adult, I have only craved them in pie form thanks to all that sugar and butter at Thanksgiving. I hadn’t thought of trying smoked nuts until one day I was browsing Instagram stories and saw that two of my favorite follows, @emberandvine and @vindulge, had shared pictures of being at an event and selling smoked almonds, among some fine smoked meats like tri-tip. The smoked almonds got me thinking I should be like Sean and smoke nuts too. I like sweet treats and I guess I associate pecans with that due to that delicious pie. So why not make up some recipe combining sweet and smoke? After a few tries (and one burnt offering), I think I got it down!

Getting started

The ingredients. Pretty simple.

The recipe and steps are pretty simple. For starters, get your grill going to 275F, using pecan wood. I used pecan wood because I figured since I am smoking pecans I might as well stick to the pecan’s roots.

Pouring that Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel Rub in the bag.

Shake it up!

Next, simply put the pecans, melted stick of butter, and Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel rub altogether in a gallon-sized ziplock style bag. This dessert rub from Lane’s BBQ is a game changer for desserts! I love this flavor profile! Shake up the bag to mix ingredients together. Once it has been mixed well, pour a half of cup of maple syrup in, reseal, and mix well again.

…and don’t forget that maple syrup!

Spread and smoke

Now that all of the mixing action has taken place, spread the pecans in a single layer on a cookie sheet (I like to lay down a layer of foil for easier cleanup) and take out to the grill/smoker for that pecan smoke bath. I like to leave it in for 25-30 minutes. Be careful of overcooking as the maple syrup and butter can burn to the cookie sheet, as well as burn on the pecans. I only know this because some guy I know told me it happened. Okay, maybe that guy was me. And maybe that guy is now wiser for it.

Spreading pecans in a single layer…ish.

After 25-30 minutes, remove the pecans and let them cool. It’s important to let them cool for a few hours because it will give the ingredients time to gel onto the pecans and make them less messy and more flavorful.

The YouTube video!

That’s it! You’ve just made pecans into a delicious sweet treat! My teenage self would definitely choose these over that can of cashews!

The recipe!


SMOKED CANDIED PECANS

INGREDIENTS

  • 3/4 lb pecan halves
  • 1/2 C melted butter (aka 1 stick)
  • 2 T Chocolate Salted Caramel Rub (from Lane’s BBQ)
  • 1/2 C maple syrup
  • Pecan wood (for smoker)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine pecans, melted butter, and rub in a gallon-sized storage bag. Seal bag and mix together.
  2. Open bag and pour in maple syrup. Reseal and mix.
  3. Spread pecans on cookie sheet in a single layer and place in smoker at 275F degrees over pecan wood for 25-30 minutes.
  4. Let rest for a few hours to solidify the cooked butter and maple syrup.
  5. Serve and enjoy!

 

Simple St. Louis Style BBQ Ribs

    A rack o’ St. Louis style ribs.

Being a native St. Louisan, it’s a given that I love St. Louis style ribs. I like the length of the ribs and how meaty they are. I’ve made baby backs before but they just weren’t the same. There’s nothing wrong with baby backs, it’s just my biased preference to go for St. Louis style.

What’s the difference?

Baby back rib courtesy of amazingribs.com

Baby back ribs come from the part of the rib cage closest to the spine and have more curve to the bones while shorter in size (hence the “baby” in their name). The meat also tends to be leaner and a little better for you.

Layout of the St. Louis style ribs.

St. Louis style ribs are longer and go around more of the belly of the pig. The bones are longer, flatter, and have more fat and meat. They come from spareribs which have some cartilage and breast bone, but cutting that section off and squaring or, in this case, rectangularing (?), takes those portions away and makes it St. Louis style. NOTE: these ribs are also referred to as St. Louis style spareribs.

Now that I’ve dropped some knowledge on you (which some of you probably knew the difference anyway, but still) about St. Louis style ribs, there are various methods on how to cook them. I’ll just give you one simple, easy, delicious recipe and call it good. Cool? Cool.


Simple St. Louis Style Ribs

Ingredients

  • rack of St. Louis style ribs
  • 4 Tablespoons spicy brown mustard
  • 8 Tablespoons rub (your choice because they’re your taste buds)
  • a fruit wood for smoke flavor

Directions

  1. Get smoker to 250F with pecan wood (or whichever wood you choose)
  2. Rinse ribs and pat dry
  3. Flip ribs to top side down and remove membrane
  4. Apply spicy brown mustard on both sides
  5. Apply rub on both sides
  6. Place ribs in smoker for 4-5 hours (optional: wrap after three hours)
  7. If you want saucy ribs, apply sauce 45 minutes before finished
  8. Remove and let rest about 10-15 minutes before slicing

When removing ribs from the packaging, I like to rinse and pat dry with paper towels. I like to think since the meat has been suffocating in a cryovac bag for who knows how long, they could use a little breather and rinse off the juices they’ve been sitting in.

Front and back of a rack of spareribs cut St. Louis style.
The back of the ribs where you can see the shiny white membrane.

Removing the membrane

Once I’ve done that, then I remove the membrane from the back side of the ribs. The membrane is that thin, slick white film on the back of the ribs that, if left on, can make for a tough, chewy bite. I’ve actually met a couple of folks who like to leave it on, but only a couple. I like to remove the membrane by taking my digital thermometer probe (in this case, my Thermapen Mk4 from Thermoworks) to the bone furthest to the edge and start to dig that probe under the membrane and lift up the probe at an angle to which it starts to tear across that bone. Because it is slippery and difficult to grab, I take a paper towel, get a good, wide grip on the membrane, then pull straight across. Ideally, this pulls off in one clean shot. But if you’re like me, then you’ll occasionally need to pull the remaining strips off by grabbing with that paper towel.

Now you apply the spicy brown mustard and rub. I like to apply the mustard on the back side and then the rub right after so I don’t have to flip back and forth because I’m lazy. Once that’s done, then I flip over to the top side and repeat.

Mustard applied…
…and rubbed!

Commence the smoking process

The ribs are now ready to hit the grill. Hopefully, you’ve followed instructions and did step one, which is get your smoker ready. Once you are around 250F, place the ribs in, grab a drink or two, and hang out for a few hours. Some like to spritz the ribs occasionally to keep the outside of the ribs from drying out. Sometimes I use apple juice and apple cider vinegar, other times I use Dr Pepper. Either way, spritz once an hour (if you decide to go that route).

Spritzed, but question at this point is: to sauce or not to sauce?

If you want to wrap the ribs, I suggest doing so after three hours. Wrapping is usually done to speed up the cooking process and get the meat past the “stall” (point at which the meat stays at temps around 150-165 for what can take hours). Lately I haven’t had any problems with time so I let it ride as is.

Also, if you want your ribs sauced,  then wait until the last hour of the cook to sauce them. That way the sauce cooks in just the right amount of time and does not burn on the surface of your meat. It’s all a matter of preference for folks, but to me it all depends on what I’m feeling.

I like to use my Thermoworks digital thermometer, the Thermapen Mk4, to make sure I get the right tips. My ideal finish temp is between 180 to 190°F internal. That provides a clean bite through. Other folks like fall-off-the-bone ribs and if that is your thing then you’ll want to cook to between 190 to 205°F. I know some folks like to do the “bend test” where you pick up the rack of ribs in the middle and see how they fold over when you lift them up. They say they’re done when they bend, don’t break…as in don’t start falling off the bones. But if you want fall off the bone anyway, and that’s probably what you’re looking for.

Ribs done within the temp range I like them at, using my Thermapen Mk4.

Rest and slice

Once finished and off the grill, I like to let them rest for about 10 to 15 minutes. I do this because as meat rests, juices start to build up inside and that provides an excellent burst of flavor when you bite into them. Let them rest, enjoy the aroma, and exercise your patience a little longer and you will be rewarded.

As far as slicing goes, I prefer to turn them face side down and and slice parallel between the bones. Turning them upside down I can see where the bones are and don’t have to worry about slicing into them.

Rested, sliced, and ready to eat!

I hope this simple, yet detailed, recipe helps you on your journey to becoming a pitmaster. Do you have any tips or tricks you like to share? Feel free to either leave a comment or reach out to me on Instagram at @learningtosmoke.