Going Viral on Instagram: is it a Good Thing?

Woke up the next morning to see this video at over 170,000 views!

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.

The tri-tip was a big hit with my guests!

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.

Apparently this was way over cooked to some folks. 

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.

A summary of the attention this video was getting.

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.

BBQ Essentials List

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.

Nitrile Gloves

Nitrile gloves in action! Sorta.

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)

Thermoworks Smoke

The Smoke in action.

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

A wireless grill brush will make sure no unwanted wires get into your food.

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.

Find yourself a wireless grill brush HERE

Large Cut Meat & Fish Spatula

This spatula is large and can handle some weight.

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.

Buy this spatula by clicking HERE

Well-insulated Cooler

Built tough and well-insulated…and made in the USA!

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.

Get the best deals on that Pelican cooler HERE

Boning Knife

This 6” boning knife gets used a lot!

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.

You can pick one up HERE

Pink Butcher Paper

Wrapping in pink (or peach) butcher paper helps meat develop bark while accelerating the cooking process.

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!

Get a roll of your own HERE

Headlamp

Shine a spotlight wherever you look during those late night/early morning barbecue sessions.

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.

Check out the headlamps HERE

High-temp Gloves

This coal is on fire…but my hand is not.

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)

Get yourself some Dragon Knuckle gloves HERE

 

There you have it! Stay tuned for other products I have tested and recommend!

What, Why, How: Spatchcock a bird

Spatchcocked birds cook faster!

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).

The bird is face down on the board (can it still be face down if it no longer has a face?).

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.

Using a sharp, sturdy knife (like this chef’s knife) sure is helpful.

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).

Spatchcocked and ready to flip over for smoking! Notice the backbone is removed.

Dispose of the backbone and you are now ready to prep your bird however you like and put on the smoker!

Spatchcocked bird getting some pecan smoke!

Smoked Buttery Shrimp

Smoked buttery shrimp will rock your world!
Smoked buttery shrimp will rock your world!

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

Large shrimp. Ready to be prepped.

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).

Rinsed and seasoned with Q-nami Rub.
Rinsed and seasoned with Q-nami Rub.

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.

Ready to hit the grill for some low n' slow action! (After the Rosemary gets out in there, of course).
Ready to hit the grill for some low n’ slow action! (After the Rosemary gets out in there, of course).

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!

Thermapen Mk4 from Thermoworks.

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.

This shrimp is done!
This shrimp is done!

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!

The video!

The recipe!

Yield: 5 servings

Smoked Buttery Shrimp

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 Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. Rinse shrimp, devein, de-shell as needed
  2. Apply seasoning
  3. In a bowl, melt one stick of butter. Once melted, add minced garlic
  4. Grab an 8x8 foil pan, place shrimp in three rows (see pic above)
  5. 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)
  6. 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.

Notes

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.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

5

Serving Size:

3 shrimp

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 130 Total Fat: 5g Saturated Fat: 3g Cholesterol: 189mg Sodium: 835mg Carbohydrates: 1g Fiber: 0g Sugar: 0g Protein: 19g

Rub of the Month: Q-Nami (Lane’s BBQ)

For the month of April, the Rub of the Month is…Q-Nami (I would hope you already knew that by reading the title of this post)!

Behold...the Q-Nami!
Behold…the Q-Nami!

I’ve been excited to share this one as Rub of the Month for quite a while now. From the moment I tried this rub, my taste buds were in deep like love! Ryan Lane, owner of Lane’s BBQ, has hit a grand slam with this one. It has a flavor that stands in a class all by itself: think Asian flavors infused into a bottle of your favorite rub. As you can see in the texture, there are sesame seeds, chili pepper flakes, and ginger in his blend (I can’t tell what ginger looks like, but I can read the ingredients on the side of the bottle 👍🏼).

The texture provides some unique colors and flavors.
The texture provides some unique colors and flavors.

I love using it on seafood and poultry, but it is versatile enough for beef and pork. For those of you that follow me on Instagram, you might remember my picture of the smoked shrimp I made back in early 2017. The rub I used to help give it the texture it had was none other than Q-Nami!

And they tasted as good as they looked!
And they tasted as good as they looked!

There’s a chance Q-Nami will change your life. You can order it here and find out for yourself!

...and you can even buy a matching shirt!
…and you can even buy a matching shirt!

BBQ Leftover Ideas: Pulled Pork Mac n’ Cheese

Pulled pork mac n' cheese does not suck.
Pulled pork mac n’ cheese does not suck.

BBQ is a beautiful thing. The hours of work put in to trimming, rubbing, injecting (for some), smoking resting, and slicing (or shredding) pays off when you take that first bite…and second, and third, and so on. You want to get your fill and share your masterpiece with others. Sometimes, you have leftovers. I know this is rare for some, but it happens. The thing that sucks about it is that food doesn’t usually taste good as leftovers, at least in my opinion. However, pulled pork is one of those rare meats that reheats very well, even when frozen. The taste is practically the same as the day it was made. With all of that said, I sometimes like to get creative with leftover BBQ and one idea that I love is putting leftover pulled pork on mac n’ cheese and then drizzling BBQ sauce on top. Mac n’ cheese is a classic side dish with BBQ, so why not mix them together? The math is simple: pulled pork + mac n’ cheese + BBQ sauce = mind-blowing flavor!

MeatMitch BBQ sauce is top-notch!
MeatMitch BBQ sauce is top-notch!

Anyway, thought I’d share this idea and hope you enjoy it!

Kamado Joe

The Joe Jr. from Kamado Joe.
The Joe Jr. from Kamado Joe.

I bought a Kamado Joe (Classic Joe) earlier this month and decided to let my son do the honors of lighting it for the first time. I documented this on Instagram (@learningtosmoke) and was surprised that it received over 11,000 views! One of those viewing and commenting was Kamado Joe themselves. They were touched by the video that they offered to send my son a Kamado Joe Jr. of his very own! I kept it a secret and waited until he got home from school to surprise him with it. The video quality was poor, but the picture of his reaction was priceless.

Thank you, Kamado Joe!
Thank you, Kamado Joe!

Thank you Kamado Joe for your generous gift. You’ve made a lasting impression not only on my family, but those that follow me as well. I’m humbled by this gift and can’t thank you enough. The memories my oldest boy and I will create BBQ’ing together will be epic!

The first thing he made on his Joe Jr. was a reverse seared ribeye steak. And it was awesome.
The first thing he made on his Joe Jr. was a reverse seared ribeye steak. And it was awesome.

 

Tuesday Tip: Lighting Coals

Lighting coals (such as lump charcoal seen here) in a chimney starter is a great way to go.
Lighting coals (such as lump charcoal seen here) in a chimney starter is a great way to go.

Lighting up charcoal isn’t a hard thing to do, but there are preferred ways to do it. Here are a couple that are most ideal:

Chimney starter: putting your coals in a chimney starter is a great way to get them heated up quicker. First, take some newspaper and ball up a few pieces to put under the chimney starter. Place them under there, leaving a little tip of the paper sticking out. Next, put your coals in the starter and fill to the top. When those are done, light that tip of newspaper sticking out of the bottom and be patient. Make sure you have the coal starter in an area where air can flow through easily to help the flames get hotter quicker. Once the coals start to ash over and you don’t see smoke, then you can transfer into your smoker or grill.

Paraffin wax: if using a ceramic grill (kamado), such as a Kamado Joe or Big Green Egg, you can light the coals inside the grill itself. As my son demonstrates in the picture below, you simply place your coals inside the kamado, placing the smaller coals around the bottom center. Then you take a square of paraffin wax (sold at BBQ shops and grill sections of some hardware stores), place in the middle amongst the smaller coals, and light them up.

The square of paraffin wax is the dark brown piece in the middle where the lighter is pointing toward.
The square of paraffin wax is the dark brown piece in the middle.

 

Whatever you do, DO NOT POUR LIGHTER FLUID ON YOUR CHARCOAL. This will alter the flavor of the food you are cooking and not in a good way. If you’re not careful, you could cause a fire you can’t control. Also, if using a ceramic grill, the lighter fluid can seep into the porous clay interior and ruin everything you cook in them.

If you have any other best practices for lighting your coals then feel free to share them in the comments!

Thermopop Giveaway!

thermopop_1

Good news! I have teamed up with the good folks at Thermoworks to do a Thermopop giveaway! Three lucky people will win a Thermopop of their very own! The promo is a quick one and comes just in time for Father’s Day. Contest starts today, Wednesday, June 9th and runs through Monday, June 13th at noon Mountain Standard Time. Winners will be announced shortly thereafter.

Participation in the contest can be done in one of three ways: 1) like the Thermopop giveaway posts on my Instagram account @learningtosmoke; 2) like the Thermopop giveaway posts on the Thermoworks Instagram account @thermoworks; or 3) leaving a comment on this post with your Instagram account name (one per post, one entry).

Good luck!

 

Smoked Chicken Wings

 

Smoked chicken wings...and drumsticks!
Smoked chicken wings…and drumsticks!

I’ve been looking for an excuse to smoke chicken wings because my family isn’t big on eating them. Wings always remind me of watching sports with friends and family and I figured the best time to make these is when we gather for a big game. But it’s March and being a baseball and college football fan, neither of my favorite sports are in season.  Fortunately, the NCAA basketball tournament came to the rescue! Since most of us who fill out brackets pay little attention to college hoops and suddenly think we’re experts and tune in once March Madness begins, this would be a great time to have people over and cook up some wings. I had those intentions, but life’s been a little crazy ever since my wife and I welcomed our newborn twins into this world earlier this month. After a little bit of effort, I convinced the Mrs. to let me do a food experiment with them. I’m sure it had nothing to do with her being exhausted at all. I followed a chicken wing recipe of Jeff Phillips at www.smoking-meat.com and deviated just a little from it.

Meat: 3.5 lbs. Chicken wings (and drumsticks)

Ingredients (marinade): 1/3 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup rub

Ingredients (glaze): 1/2 cup BBQ sauce, 1/2 cup ginger ale, 2 Tablespoons of honey

Wood: Pecan

Smoke Temp.: 240°F/115.6°C

Time: 2 hours

Broiler (optional): 2-3 minutes each side

Finish Temp.: 170°F/76.6°C

When looking for chicken wings, I just went to my local grocery store and picked up a package of Tyson brand, although any brand should do. I like the meat on drumsticks and they are easier for me to eat, so I picked up a pack of those, as well. All in all, I have about 3.5 pounds of meat.

As long as they're not expired, any brand of wings will do.
As long as they’re not expired, any brand of wings will do.

I brought these home and tossed them in a gallon-sized ziploc bag, which fit all the meat with room to spare. Next, I tossed about 1/3 C olive oil and 1/2 C of rub, which I did a mix of both Plowboys Yardbird Rub and Loot N’ Booty Gold Star Chicken Rub because…well, because I can. I zipped up the bag and put it in the fridge overnight.

These wings are in the bag.
These wings are in the bag.

Next, I went out to the smoker, heated up some coals, threw on some pecan wood, got it to about 240°F, and put the wings in.

Ain't no thing but a chicken wing.
Ain’t no thing but a chicken wing.

At about the 90-minute mark, I made a glaze that was a simple mix of BBQ sauce, honey, and ginger ale.

Here are the three amigos I used for the glaze.
Here are the three amigos I used for the glaze.

Thirty minutes later (two hours total), and moving them a little closer to the firebox, the wings got to the temp I was looking for, which is between 170-180°F. This is a little warmer than the 165°F that poultry is considered done at, but heating it up to the 170-180°F range gives it more of a fall-off-the-bone chew to it. Even though these are now technically done, I pull them off the smoker and put them in the broiler to get more of a crispy skin that wings usually have.

On the tanning bed ready to get a little crispy.
On the tanning bed ready to get a little crispy.

I put them in for a couple of minutes on each side to get more crisp. However, it didn’t seem to do much. I’ve come to learn that smoked wings won’t get the same crisp that good old-fashioned wings do, but the flavor of your favorite wood infused into your chicken will more than make up for it. I chose pecan because I love that mild, tasty flavor it brings. Feel free to use your favorite, but I do recommend at least trying the pecan.

Smoked chicken wings...and drumsticks!
The finished product tasted just as good as it looked!

Give it a shot and feel free to share what you think!