My introduction to 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?
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 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.
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!
Pour your mixed concoction 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!
Yield: 8-10 servings
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 Time20 minutes
Cook Time35 minutes
Total Time55 minutes
4 ears of corn
1/2 onion, julienne
1- 8oz cream cheese, softened
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
Shave ears of corn, dice jalapeño, and slice half an onion julienne. Put these ingredients in a skillet and sauté. Set aside.
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.
Pour mixture into greased cast iron dutch oven and cook on grill over indirect heat at 325F uncovered for 30-40 minutes.
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.
6 oz Amount Per Serving:Calories: 260Total Fat: 170gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gCholesterol: 178mgSodium: 477mgCarbohydrates: 24gFiber: 2gSugar: 8gProtein: 9g
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
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.
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!
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!
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!
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 Time25 minutes
Cook Time5 hours
Total Time5 hours25 minutes
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
25-30 corn tortillas, warmed
1/2 onion, diced
2 Tbsp cilantro, diced
1 jar green tomatillo salsa
Saute onion, jalapeno, and garlic in cast iron skillet. Set aside.
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.
Divide chuck roast into 6-8 pieces, season, and sear pieces in cast iron skillet for 1-2 minutes on each side
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.
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.
Chuck roast was used for this recipe. To go more authentic, substitute beef cheek.
To make more spicy, either add more jalapeno or substitute serrano pepper.
2 street tacos Amount Per Serving:Calories: 251Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 5.9gTrans Fat: 0.5gCholesterol: 76mgSodium: 282mgCarbohydrates: 15gFiber: 2.3gSugar: 2gProtein: 22g
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
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.
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!
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 Time10 minutes
Cook Time40 minutes
Total Time50 minutes
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Check noodles after 15-20 minutes to make sure they don't dry out.
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.
1 Cup Amount Per Serving:Calories: 425Total Fat: 20gSaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 8mgSodium: 675mgCarbohydrates: 47gFiber: 3gSugar: 8gProtein: 10g
If you’ve seen other posts besides that popular one here on my blog, then you’ll notice that I love me some tri-tip. My favorite way to cook up some tri tip is to rub it, smoke it, and then sear it in a cast iron skillet until medium/medium rare. No marinades, nothing fancy. That is, until now.
Teriyaki Makes for a Good Marinade
I like to marinade steaks every now and then, but usually buying a pre-made marinade and letting that do the job. Since its always fun to create your own recipes at home, I decided to work on a marinade with teriyaki. After a few tweaks, I made a teriyaki marinade that became a hit in my house!
For this teriyaki marinade, I used mostly items you may already have in your kitchen: soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, onion powder, brown sugar, and an orange. The last item, ginger root, you may need to get at your local grocery store.
Putting it Together
Putting the recipe together is pretty simple. First, get a gallon-sized plastic storage bag and open the top. Second, dump in the liquids, being a 1/2 cup of soy sauce (or low sodium soy sauce if you wish) and 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce. Next, put in 1 tablespoon of brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of onion powder.
The last couple of ingredients, garlic and ginger, can be done in different ways. With the one clove of garlic, you can either mince it (you can buy a jar of already minced garlic for fairly cheap) or smash the clove and put it in that way. I say smash it so the juices inside the clove will come out into the marinade.
The ginger can be done with the ginger root by shaving off the skin (to throw away) and then dicing up about 1 or 1 1/2 teaspoons worth to put in the marinade. If you can’t find ginger root, or don’t want to take the time to shave it and dice it, then using 1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger will suffice. Why the smaller amount of ground ginger? Because ground ginger is more concentrated in flavor than the fresh root itself.
Now that the ingredients have been mixed in the bag, take your trimmed tri-tip and place it in the bag, seal it, and let it sit in the fridge for about six hours. The marinating process is more about adding flavor to the meat and six hours should be good enough for a thicker cut like this.
Cooking the Meat
When it comes to cooking the tri tip, I prefer a reverse sear. In a nutshell, this means slow cooking it first and then searing to finish it off. I like to give it some smoke flavor (usually hickory or pecan) at 225-250F until internal temp reaches about 128F, which takes roughly 60 to 75 minutes. Then I put it in a pan with avocado oil (great for high temp cooking), garlic butter, and rosemary and sear for 1-2 minutes on each side until internal temp reaches 135-140F. While I usually like my steaks medium rare, I like the tri tip on the line of medium rare/medium. Call me crazy, but the body wants what the body wants!
After the meat is done searing, put it on a cutting board and let rest for 20-30 minutes before slicing. This will let the meat juice up and have better flavor when you finally dig in. I also recommend slicing the meat against the grain to get a better bite. Tri-tip is unique in that the grains go different directions near the middle, so be on the lookout for that. I recommend studying the direction of the grains prior to cooking. The marbling in the meat will help guide you for later.
Keep in mind this teriyaki marinaded BBQ tri tip recipe isn’t exclusive to this cut of meat. Feel free to use it for other meats as you wish!
Yield: 6 servings
Teriyaki Marinated BBQ Tri tip
Prep Time6 hours
Cook Time1 hour30 minutes
Additional Time20 minutes
Total Time7 hours50 minutes
1 tri-tip roast
1/2 Cup soy sauce
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1 clove garlic (smashed or minced)
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Trim silver skin off of tri tip. Set aside.
In a gallon-sized resealable bag, pour in soy sauce, Worcester sauce, brown sugar, onion powder, garlic, and ginger. Seal and mix. Open bag and put tri tip in. Seal bag, mix again and place in refrigerator for six hours.
Preheat grill/smoker to 225F on indirect heat, using hickory wood for smoke flavor. Remove tri tip from bag and place meat directly on grill. Cook for 60-75 minutes or until internal meat temp reaches 128F.
In a cast iron skillet, pour in avocado oil to cover inside of pan. Heat on a separate grill surface or burner at high heat. When desired heat is reached, place garlic butter and rosemary in pan right before cooking the meat.
Sear meat for 1-2 minutes on each side. Remove from skillet and let rest on cutting board for 20-30 minutes on before slicing.
This teriyaki marinade can be used for other meats as well, so no need to limit it to this tri tip recipe!
If using ginger root instead of ground ginger, remember the ground ginger is much more concentrated. Up the ginger root to 1-1 1/2 teaspoons.
Tri tip has two separate grains or direction the muscle fibers go. It's best to check the tri tip before cooking to see where the grains split directions. That way, you can better slice against the grain and have a better bite.
5 oz Amount Per Serving:Calories: 200Total Fat: 10.5gCholesterol: 79mgSodium: 50mgCarbohydrates: 0gFiber: 0gProtein: 25g
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.
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.
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.
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’.
Ever since I got into barbecuing, I’ve wanted to travel to central Texas. More specifically, Austin. It is widely considered one of the barbecue havens of the world. Some folks consider it to be Barbecue Mecca. Either way, I kept talking of going but did nothing about it. That is, until one day I was hanging out with a couple of friends at work who also barbecue and I brought up this trip. We were sitting at our desks at work when one started looking up flights and the other checked hotels/AirBnB and the next thing I knew, we were headed to Austin!
We landed in the late afternoon and we were starving. We had a few places in mind to hit up and first was to drive outside of Austin and go to Driftwood to visit the famous Salt Lick.
SALT LICK (Driftwood)
This place is out of the way and sits on acres of land. It’s pretty much a ranch about 20-30 minutes outside of Austin. You pull up into a big gravel parking lot that has no problem filling up, especially on a Friday night. Between the two indoor dining areas (old side and new), there is an outdoor seating place with benches and a stage for live music. All in all, the place can seat 1,000 people at once!
They have outdoor areas on site for people to have picnics, playgrounds for kids to play on, grass to run around and plenty of trees to take shade on those hot Texas summer days. They also have enough outdoor space to hold events such as weddings.
We sat in the old building where there iconic indoor pit is located. The employees were kind enough to let us come behind the counter and take pictures. Just ask and they will let you back.
The seating, from what I observed, is mostly long wood benches. The walls are made of rock and cement with both normal ceiling fan lights and white Christmas lights draped throughout. This place holds true to their heritage and gives you an authentic experience.
The servers were friendly and fast with bringing out our food, even with it being a busy Friday night. My buddy Corey inquired about their sweet tea and a server named Dixon came and brought him a medium sized cup filled for a sample (not one of those tiny, smaller than Dixie kids cup types). He then asked about lemonade (to make an Arnold Palmer) and Dixon said they didn’t have any but that he would make him a fresh batch because “all I do is mix water, lemons, and sugar.” Excellent customer service!
We had brisket, pulled pork, sausage, Burnt Ends, pork rib, and turkey for meat. The sides were potato salad, cole slaw, baked beans, pickles and onions. The potato salad stood out because they used their signature yellow sauce in the mix. It was divine and I don’t like potato salad that much.
Have I mentioned the place smells like barbecue inside and out? This ambiance, food, and customer service made it feel like barbecue heaven. I would fly back to Austin just to come to Salt Lick!
Us BBQ enthusiasts know all about Franklin Barbecue: the meats, the long lines, the reputation of Aaron Franklin himself. For those who aren’t familiar, Franklin Barbecue has quickly become the Mt. Everest of BBQ joints. It’s quality of barbecue, the limited, four hour window of time it is open (11:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. Tues-Sun), downtown location, and coolness of the pit master himself all drive the demand and make people wait outside in long lines for hours for this stuff.
Being from out of town and connoisseurs of fine barbecue ourselves, we’ve been chomping at the bit to try this place. To ensure we had a chance of getting to eat here, we showed up at 7:30 a.m. and there were already over 100 people in line! The people at the front of the line said they got there at 5:30 a.m.! Remember, this place opens at 11:00. I felt good about our chances of eating here and that was confirmed when an employee came out and starting sizing up the line, giving estimates as to when we were anticipated to eat. Our spot in line was given a 1-1:30 p.m. window. That will make SIX HOURS of waiting! Man, this place better be worth it.
Most people in line were smart and planned ahead by bringing camping chairs and coolers full of drinks. We, the out-of-towners, brought comfy shoes to stand in. While we couldn’t magically produce chairs for our wait in line, if you need a drink there’s a little coffee shack on premise and the inside of Franklin Barbecue opens for beverage and souvenir sales at 8:30, so you can get your drinks and swag while you wait. There are also port-a-potty’s outside and you can use the bathrooms inside before lunchtime.
A little later in the morning the same worker came out to ask people in line what they planned on ordering so they could set expectations. We said brisket, pork ribs, pulled pork, and sausage. She didn’t shoot us down, so I think we have a shot at getting all the stuff we want.
Our time in line was quite enjoyable due to the local folks waiting around us. We talked for hours about everything and even played card games with them. Maybe it’s that Texas hospitality, maybe the bond of barbecue, maybe both. Either way, the long wait wasn’t that bad.
Once we got inside the door, we had another 25 minutes to wait before our turn at the counter. You order your food and you get it right there. Then you pay and find a table. Wasn’t hard to find a table because some folks just took their food and left. The seven of us found a table just fine (we sat with the new friends we made in line).
Here it is: the moment of truth! The years of hype, the 1,400 miles traveled, the six hours of waiting in line, and now we get to FINALLY sink our teeth into the glorious barbecue we’ve been hearing all about. Truth be told? It was worth it! The brisket was the best I’ve ever had, both the point and the flat! In fact, their flat beats out other BBQ joints’ point. The pulled pork was incredible, too. I also think this was the best I’ve tasted. The ribs were fall-off-the-bone style and very juicy. The turkey and sausage were okay. Same with the sides. But their key lime pie was excellent!
Turns out I have a follower on Instagram named Bin who works at Franklin Barbecue and even though he wasn’t working during lunch hours he alerted one of his fellow pit crew that I was there. Braun was kind enough to give me and my friends a tour behind the scenes! How cool is that?
They have three 1,000 gallon propane tanks that have all been repurposed as offset smokers. They are already working on the meats for the next day, so these bad boys keep pumping out that white oak smoke around the clock. Braun told us they do 72 briskets a day! Serving up that many briskets in a four hour window is insane (especially when you remember they sometimes run out sooner than that).
This had already been one of the greatest barbecue experiences of my life, but what made it even better was that I go to meet the man, the myth, the legend: Aaron Franklin!
Aaron was very down to earth and easy to talk to. He’s a busy man but still makes time to come out from behind the scenes occasionally and chat up customers (and even agree to photo ops with fans who geek out like myself).
Was it worth waiting in line for six hours? Yes. Not sure how often I would do that, but you must experience the greatest brisket and pulled pork at least once in your life.
After hanging out on 6th St for a little bit, I convinced my friends we should eat barbecue again and this time try Stiles Switch for dinner. When we first pulled up, it was dark in the parking lot and didn’t seem well lit by the restaurant, either. There were plain, rusty metal doors labeled “ENTRANCE” and my buddy Corey said it looked like the entrance to a strip club. We were a bit skeptical going in, but the inside ambiance was the total opposite of outside. It was a lively, down home rustic feel with wood walls, some neon lights, and the aroma of smoked meats.
The line wasn’t too bad and we got our food quickly. It is the same style as Franklin where they give you your food at the counter and pay there. My buddy and I decided to split a three-meat plate of brisket, ribs, and pulled pork…and a jalapeño sausage on the side. With two sides to choose from, the guy in front of us recommended one called corn casserole. We got that and the pinto beans w/ brisket.
The brisket was pretty solid and the ribs were the best I’ve had. The pulled pork was pretty good. While I appreciate the concept of the different flavor of sausage, it was a bit too spicy for me.
The area where Stiles Switch really shines is their sides! That corn casserole was by far the best side I’ve had. Unlike the usual sides of potato salad, beans, and cole slaw, this corn casserole stands alone and had me scraping my plate for every last morsel I could find. My buddy Matt had the potato salad and he loved it. The pinto beans w/ brisket were pretty good, too.
Unlike most BBQ joints that offer sauces that all look and taste somewhat similar, Stiles Switch goes out of their way to offer flavors unique from each other in style and appearance.The sauce they give you at the counter for dipping your food in is excellent. It’s a little runny, but pretty good flavor. They have a molasses sauce that was really good in small dosages. The mustard sauce was definitely mustard tasting. They had a peach habanero sauce that I wasn’t in the mood to try, but can appreciate that they were going for sauces that stand out from each other.
My buddies and I decided that Stiles Switch is a great place to go for an overall great barbecue meal.
BLACK’S BARBECUE (Lockhart)
While documenting this barbecue trip on Instagram, I received a lot of recommendations to head to Lockhart, TX which is about 30-40 minutes away. It’s a small Texas town with authentic, rustic charm and is known for its barbecue. There are more than a few barbecue places in this town and we decided to go to Black’s. We chose Black’s because it is the oldest barbecue joint in Texas and has quite the reputation. It’s in an old building on an old Main Street looking road, probably been there since they opened.
You walk in and it feels like a barbecue dining establishment that hasn’t changed much over the years. They have the red checkered picnic cloth table tops but covered in old plastic (kinda like how your grandparents cover their furniture in plastic covers, you know?), stained wood walls with pictures of family and celebrities who’ve come by, and traditional country music blaring. I loved how authentic this place felt and almost felt like a true time warp to 30-40 years ago, but in a good way.
As far as the food goes, the brisket was really good (which seems to be a common theme down here in central Texas). The ribs were okay, pork was good, and the chicken (I got white meat) was flavorful but a little dry. We only had one type of sauce on our table, which was good. The pecan pie was also good, not great. Sides were pretty good (potato salad, mac n cheese, beans, slaw). Overall, it might have been my least favorite barbecue place to eat in central Texas, but still better than most places that aren’t in central Texas.
To sum things up, this was a dream trip for me. Austin has a ton to offer and wish I could’ve stayed longer than three nights. Also wish we could’ve hit up more places because I received so many recommendations of other BBQ joints out here. For what I was able to experience, I hope I was able to give you all a glimpse of what barbecue is like in central Texas and the places we hit up. I love the passion they have for BBQ there. Til next time, Austin.
I’ve had my @learningtosmoke account on Instagram for over two years now and have seen my share of highs and lows. I’ve had posts that have done really well and others that get overlooked, I’ve been trolled and praised, I’ve been fortunate to collaborate with some cool companies and critiqued on pretty much every aspect of BBQ that I can think of. And with one viral post, all of these things happened at once.
I recently posted a video of me showing how to properly slice a tri-tip. This isn’t the first tri-tip slicing video I’ve done. I have at least two or three others on my account and have seen some moderate success in views. On average, a good video (for me) will get about 10,000 views in the first 24 hours. Not bad, but still not getting the reach I hope for. The tri-tip video you see in the screen shot above was shared on 4/2/2018 ended up getting over 320,000 views in 24 hours! I was shocked. I don’t understand why this video, out of all of the videos I have posted up to this point, has far and away gained more attention than I could’ve imagined. It doesn’t make sense to me: I shared it on a Monday night. I wasn’t doing a giveaway. It wasn’t the first time sharing a tri-tip slicing video, either. No fancy cameras were used. No elaborate background or sound effects. Just me using my iPhone, a cutting board, knife, and of course, the meat.
At first, I was thrilled. Seeing my work being viewed all around the IG barbecue world was a dream come true. I finally made a video that was getting a lot of attention. I was famous. Internet famous. Instagram famous. If only for a few minutes. I felt on top of the world, but then I learned that there are two sides to fame. I was getting a lot of positive comments from friends and followers and seeing my new followers grow more in 24 hours than I typically see in two weeks. It seemed unreal! And then, the ugly side of social media reared it’s head.
As the video went viral, it continued to expand its reach to more and more Instagrammers. And when a post goes viral, the trolls come to pay a visit. After my followers within the BBQ community had made their encouraging comments and moved on, others started coming in and critiquing every little thing I was doing. It seemed like the negative comments were pouring in one after another. I was being trolled by vegans and carnivores alike. I way overcooked it. I didn’t cook it long enough. I should’ve used a Japanese style knife to cut meat and not the European one I had used. I used the fork wrong. I shouldn’t have used a fork at all. Meat is murder. I’m going to get cancer from eating meat. I shouldn’t use a wood cutting board for meat. It felt like every little move I had made in the video was getting scrutinized. I ended up deleting some comments and blocking a few people (which I maybe block one person a year). After being proud of the video, I was now growing frustrated with it. I actually debated whether or not to delete it. I love to engage with my followers and strive to reply to every comment. In this case, I didn’t feel like I had to justify everything I did to every negative commenter, nor should I have to. The video is what it is and I’m proud of it so I have kept it up.
I try to be a positive person and created my website and social media pages to encourage and help others not feel inadequate in their barbecue journey. But the incessant trolling on my page was making me wish I could kick a comment in the nuts. But that isn’t me. If I let them get to me, then I become like them. I would lose my identity I have worked hard to create and they win.
The reason I share this with you is because most of us using social media strive to have our posts be recognized by others and we hope our hard work reaches the masses, but we sometimes overlook the downside of going viral. Just remember that its you who is in control of how you react. Keep working hard for your success and don’t let the haters discourage you from you goals. Remember (again): haters gonna hate while winners keep winning.
Now that I’ve been barbecuing religiously for a while, I’ve experimented with a variety of tools and accessories to make this craft more enjoyable and the end product more gooder better. There are always the variety of rubs and various cuts of meat, but this list is focused on the non-edible items (hence, the “tools and accessories” reference in my last sentence).
Without further ado, I present to you this list of BBQ Essentials that, in my opinion, are must have’s for barbecuing.
If you’ve been following me on social media (namely Instagram) at @learningtosmoke you will notice me handling food while wearing thin, black gloves. These nitrile gloves are powder free and have three times the puncture resistance of latex. They are also ambidextrous and disposable. I like using them when prepping meat (especially poultry) to keep raw meat juices from getting on my hands, rub and other items from getting under my fingernails, and I don’t have to wash my hands as much. I typically go through two or three pairs with each smoke I do.
You can find these nitrile gloves HERE (NOTE: they offer other colors besides black)
If you don’t already have a digital thermometer, I highly advise you buy one. Like, right now. While I swear by the suite of Thermoworks products, the one I want to highlight for this list is the Smoke. I actually did a product review on this at the beginning of 2017. The Smoke is made specifically for BBQers like us (that’s you and me). It has a dual probe thermometer for BBQ that monitors both the temperature of the food and the pit. You can also set alarms to go off when temps either exceed or fall below your specifications. The Smoke comes with a wireless receiver that has Bluetooth and, as of recently, now offers a Smoke Gateway (aka Wi-Fi adapter) to improve the range to wherever you go (sold separately). I’ve had mine for a year now and still use it often!
Check it out by clicking here. You can also click on my banner ad at the top of the page.
Wireless Grill Brush
Keeping a clean grill is important so flakes of burnt crust from previous cooks don’t stick to your food. While it is quite common to use the traditional wired brushes, I’ve been hearing stories of the metal wires coming off, sticking to the grill, getting into someone’s food, and causing intestinal pain because the metal wire is poking their insides. Don’t believe me? Here is a CBS News article speaking to it. With that said, I prefer wireless brushes. They don’t scrape as powerful, but the cleaning is much easier on a warm grill. These wireless grill brushes can also be used on porcelain grates for those using pellet grills.
I saw someone else using this on social media and knew I had to have one. I have not been disappointed. This spatula is efficient in size and strong enough to hold the weight of meats such as whole chickens, large steaks, pork shoulder, and filets of fish.
If you spend way too much time following barbecue enthusiasts on social media like I do, you will begin to see folks using some heavy duty coolers. They do this because they keep drinks (and other items) cold for days, and can also double as a place to keep food warm for hours. I mainly use my coolers for keeping barbecue warm and have kept it that way for hours, so I don’t have to worry about being finished to soon before I need to serve it. I use Pelican coolers because they do an excellent job at the previously stated activities, but are built tough, made in the USA, and come with a lifetime warranty.
As you become more familiar with prepping the various meats you smoke, you’ll learn more about the importance of trimming them. In my experience, a boning knife works best. A more narrow blade that curves at the tip to help get more precise slicing done. They also tend to be quite sharp, which is helpful when trimming off that annoying silverskin. I picked one up at my local BBQ shop for about $20 and have considered it a great investment.
Explaining why I prefer pink butcher paper over foil 95% of the time is worthy of it’s own blog post. But to summarize, wrapping meats in butcher paper while still in the smoking process allows the air to flow through while still holding in heat. This way, you develop a better bark on the meat and it doesn’t turn out soggy like with foil, which creates steam inside. It also is great for food presentation. I like to use it as a liner on a tray when serving up the sliced/shredded product. Try it once and you’ll be hooked!
Why on Earth would I choose a headlamp as something essential to BBQ? Because when you do longer smokes for brisket or pulled pork, for example, you are likely tending the smoker early in the morning and even late at night (and sometimes through the night). Using a headlamp, like the Pelican 2740 that I use, makes seeing things a whole lot easier. And with it being darker sooner (and longer) in the wintertime, I see the headlamp as a must.
Being around the grill means you are dealing with coals, hot grill surfaces, and large pieces of meat at temps of upward to 203F. Unless you are the Terminator, then I recommend getting yourself some high-temperature gloves. I have been using Dragon Knuckle gloves for this past year and they have saved me many times! Using a ceramic grill with a deflector plate underneath the grill for low and slow cooking, I remove the plates so I can get the grill up to searing temps to finish off my cook, known as the reverse sear. I don’t feel a thing with these gloves on when I remove the plates. I’ve handled burning coals in them and have been protected, too. These things protect your hands from heat past 500F! Although don’t hold on for too long, for you will begin to feel the heat eventually. (NOTE: I don’t recommend pouring hot liquid on these things for they are not water/liquid resistant)
When it comes to smoking a bird, you may of heard some people mention spatchcock. It’s a funny word for sure, but what is it exactly mean? Well, you’ve come to the right place. I’m going to explain the what, why, and how of spatchcocking.
What?Simply put, spatchcock is the method of flattening the bird by removing the backbone (some also remove the sternum).
Why? Flattening the bird helps it cook faster and for smoking reasons can help get that smoke flavor to the inside meat better.
How? To effectively remove the backbone of the bird, you’ll want to lay the bird chest side down (NOTE: make sure you have at least brined the bird before putting on the grill).
Next, you’ll want to grab a chef’s knife or whichever knife you feel is sturdy enough to cut through bone (while I do own a Japanese-style Santoku knife, I refrain from using it to cut bone because the blade is so thin and this style has been known to chip when cutting harder objects). You will want to feel for the backbone by rubbing your fingers down the middle of the back and cut close to the left and right of the spine, respectively.
If you’re having a hard time finding the spine, you can always look in the cavity of the bird to help guide you. Not only do you want a decent sharpness to the blade, but you’ll need to apply some pressure on the blunt part of the blade to help crack those bones so you can cut through completely (NOTE: if you’re like me and have a spouse who cringes at the sound of breaking bones of a dead bird, then you may want to give a warning. Not that I speak from experience or anything).
Dispose of the backbone and you are now ready to prep your bird however you like and put on the smoker!
This smoked shrimp recipe is one I have been longing to post ever since I first made it. I usually like to try the recipe out a few times to make sure I’ve got the best taste possible. I love this smoked shrimp recipe so much, as well as the folks I made it for did too, that I decided to share it now. Pair this with my smoked prime rib recipe for an epic feast!
Six ingredients, starting with the shrimp
I bought these large shrimp at Costco from their Seafood Road Show they were doing. They came deveined (as well as without the heads), so all I had to do was remove the shells. When removing the shells, I make sure to leave the tip by the tail on. It makes them easier for me to hold while eating and I think provides a better aesthetic.
Since I had never prepped shrimp before, I called a friend of mine who is experienced with this to make sure that gray stuff that was on the shrimp was supposed to be there (the pic below will help you know what I’m talking about).
The five remaining ingredients
Yep, it’s common for that gray stuff to be on there. It will turn orange when it is finished cooking. Now that it’s been peeled, rinsed, and patted dry with a paper towel, I rub it with the Q-nami Rub from Lane’s BBQ.
Next up, I grab a small bowl and melt a stick of butter (you can do more to make it extra buttery if desired, but I thought one stick was good enough for 15 shrimp). After it has melted, I mixed in the minced garlic in the bowl and stirred.
After I have laid the shrimp in the 8×8 foil pan, I pour that liquid gold (the melted butter and garlic, that is) over the shrimp and into the pan. I then cut and quarter a lemon and squeeze a slice all over. And finally, as far as ingredients go, I place two sticks of rosemary in, one inbetween each row. Now this smoked shrimp recipe is ready for cooking!
The smoking/braising process
Now that my grill is up to 275F with my pecan wood in there, I place the tray in and check it after 20 minutes. Your ideal finish temp is 120F internal. If you overlook, it will be rubbery. Using my Thermapen Mk4 from Thermoworks has been my handy guide with checking food temps. It’s the best around!
As mentioned earlier, you will know when the smoked shrimp are done by the orange color they have. Be careful not to leave them in too long or they won’t have as firm of a bite, but instead be slimy and squishy. If this happens, the flavor will still be good, so no worries there. But the texture won’t.
I have a confession to make: I don’t like seafood much. I originally tried this smoked shrimp recipe as an experiment to help me grow as a BBQ’er. And you know what? It did! I sure did LOVE using this smoked shrimp recipe and am now willing to try other smoking other types of seafood!
Yield: 5 servings
Smoked Buttery Shrimp
This smoked shrimp recipe is super easy to make and super tasty too! Only six ingredients and less than one hour for prep and cooking!
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Total Time40 minutes
15 large shrimp
1/2 Cup (aka- 1 stick) butter
1 clove garlic, minced
2 sticks Rosemary
1 Tablespoon seasoning of your choice
1/4 lemon, squeezed
Rinse shrimp, devein, de-shell as needed
In a bowl, melt one stick of butter. Once melted, add minced garlic
Grab an 8x8 foil pan, place shrimp in three rows (see pic above)
Pour butter and garlic mix onto shrimp. Squeeze 1/4 of a lemon into pan and place the two sticks of rosemary inbetween the three rows of shrimp (again, see pic above)
Get smoker up to 275F with pecan wood. Once ready, place pan in grill over indirect heat for 20-25 minutes. Shrimp will turn an orangish color when finished.
The prime internal temp for shrimp to be done is 120 degrees fahrenheit. It will have a firm bite and will be orange. Going too much over that temp can turn them rubbery to the bite.