Day 15: Five Things You Should Know About Charcoal

We’ve all had our experiments with wood, charcoal, and even gas when cooking outdoors, but did you know that charcoal was originally used for several other reasons including art, medicine, makeup, and metallurgy?

Image By DryPot – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12649706

Charcoal in Art

Charcoal has been used as a pigment for ages to represent the color black. From the earliest paintings and inscriptions to modern art, charcoal is a favorite among a long lineage of expressionists and artists alike. Furthermore, charcoal is microscopically absorbant and can be used as a pigment for dyes used to create black and grey fabrics.

Charcoal in Medicine

Charcoal is one of a few age old home remedies for dietary and digestive issues. For centuries people of the ancient world all the way to today have used charcoal to settle stomach aches and other digestive issues. It is so popular that charcoal is still used today in pill form to address and treat ailments.

 

Charcoal in Metallurgy

Charcoal is a fairly clean burning fuel when compared to wood and other organic rich fuel sources. That’s because charcoal has been through a process called pyrolysis, which is like fire anaerobics for trees. That means that wood or other vegetation like Bamboo, is heated to high temperatures with the absence of oxygen which consumes the organic matter and water and dries out the vegetation forming a charred black carbon substance we call charcoal. Since the wood has been burned once, the main byproduct, smoke, is cut in half leaving a combustible substance that puts out way less smoke. When you have less smoke, you can forge and weld metals with fewer impurities which allows for a better quality metal. Charcoal has fueled blacksmith forges from the early beginnings of the bronze, iron, and industrial ages throughout today.

Charcoal in Cosmetics

Like the dyes and paints mentioned before, charcoal can be ground into a microscopic powder pigment and used in a wide variety cosmetic products because it is absorbed very well by the skin and has staying power. Maybe she’s born with it? Maybe it’s Royal Oak?

Charcoal in Cooking

Naturally charcoal is a fuel of choice for many barbecue enthusiasts, and it’s American as Ellsworth B. A. Zwoyer… Yep that’s right, charcoal as we know it in the briquet form was invented by Zwoyer in 1897 in Pennsylvania. So 6 years before the Wright Brothers were jumping off of sand dunes with a giant kite, Zwoyer was getting a patent on charcoal, literally one of the most abundant and widely used fuels in the world, because he made it into nice consistent square briquets. And you thought Steve Jobs was a visionary. LOL. This guy reinvented reburning wood and patented it.

It doesn’t stop there though, Henry Ford got into the game and changed it FOREVER. Henry Ford needed a way to recycle and reuse wood byproducts and horsefeed used in his automobile factories so he took the charcoal briquet idea and ran with it. He began producing charcoal and selling it which founded a little company called Kingsford.

So what does all this have to do with Jim Quessenberry BBQ? Well for one you won’t be seeing us using any of Hank Hill’s propane and propane accessories, but furthermore, we prefer to cook most everything with charcoal for a smooth, longlasting, and well controlled fire. I prefer Kingsford, but Royal Oak will do in a pinch. I suppose that makes me a Ford man afterall.

 

Tell you what, why don’t you grab a bottle or two of the good stuff in our shop and share some of your charcoal grilling techniques with us. We’d love to hear your stories.

Day 14: 4 Things You Had No Clue About When It Comes to Apples and Apple Wood

 

Apple Wood Flavors Are Very Similar to The Pome

Apple wood provides a fruity and delightful hint of flavor when used to smoke ribs, chicken, porkchops, or other white meats. It is a goto for many competitors in the competitive world of barbecue. Unlike Hickory which I wrote about earlier, Apple trees and the apples themselves have a ton of wildly varying symbols and meanings throughout mythology, religion, and folklore. The Pome (fruit) of the Apple is associated with many healing recipes and other remedies.

Apples Have Strange Religious and Mythical Powers

The Apple Was Eve’s gift to Adam from the tree of knowledge. Apparently women have unfortunately experienced the gender gap in pay and education since the beginning of time. Eve gave Adam the fruit and well we all know what happened after that. Or do we? Apparently the Apple tree was also the tree of eternal life in the Garden of Eden so I mean, what gives? Talk about a tough test of religious faith.

Apple Blossoms Are Associated with Beauty

The Apple blossom is a symbol of beauty in ancient China. It is used often to depict natural beauty in nature and adorned on gowns and robes for the most beautiful women in China. At least it wasn’t the forbidden fruit that ruined humanity forever right?

Apple Trees Are Sacred in Many Ancient Religions

Apple trees were sacred to the Druidic and Celtic people as well as the Brythonic people of ancient Europe. The tree was often associated with many health benefits as well as immortality and eternity. This makes Apple probably one of the most iconic trees and symbols throughout the ancient world. So far it’s immortality, sin, beauty, and knowledge. I am stoked about apple wood. Get it? Stoked?

BONUS: Apple Wines and Apple Pomes Have Healing Power

Apple wine is an old recipe for healing and ridding the body of illness. I mean don’t go out and get drunk on Apple wine and think you’re going to cure the common cold or cancer, but antioxidants in apples are known to help with many ailments and are solely responsible for the old saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Baked apples have often been used to sooth sore throats and apple juice is a common treatment for other ailments related to the body.

In Retrospect, I Love Apples and Apple Wood

When cooking with Apple wood it is often times recommended to mix it with a mild hardwood. I prefer to blend my smoke between Apple and Hickory for a sweet smoky flavor. Apple when used by itself for too long or with a lot of smoke can be overpowering and provide a bitter taste. Use it with a water pan to get a fruity steam/smoke mix that allows your meat to stay moist will attracting a hint of sweet fruity flavor. I prefer to use Apple shavings or Apple wood chips rather than large logs so that I can control the amount of Apple smoke used for cooking and smoke flavoring. Apple works best with a lower temperature around 225 fahrenheit for longer cooking times. I recommend pairing with an apple cider vinegar baste while cooking chicken or pork. It gives you a little acidity to break down the meat and permeate with flavor. Top it off with a mixture of Sauce Beautiful and your vinegar baste and you’ve got a glaze that will delight the senses.

Day 13: How to Make Your Burgers Go from Ordinary to Extraordinary Using One Simple Ingredient

First, get your fire started. I like to build a fire on one side of my grill to have a side for fast cooking and a side for slow cooking, or a holding area. I will share why later. I usually do my grate cleaning once the fire is lit and everything is warming up as the heat makes it easier to clean.

Next, get a bowl or pan to put your meat into, and then take your meat (preferably 80/20 ground beef) and spread it out by separating it into smaller clumps.

Season your meat by sprinkling salt and pepper on it and mixing it about. At this point many people will mix in a raw egg or breadcrumbs, you can do that if you like, but it is not necessary. The idea is to use the raw egg and/or breadcrumbs as a binder to help make the meat stay together, and the breadcrumbs also make the meat go a little further.

What makes this burger so good is the secret ingredient I use when seasoning and patting them out. My secret ingredient is none other than Sauce Beautiful, I like to mix about 1/2 cup per pound. I mostly just eyeball it. You want the sauce to act as the binder you are looking for, but don’t use too much or the sauce will do just the opposite, and make the meat fall apart more easily.

Then, roll up your meat into balls about the size of the palm of your hand. Then smash the balls into disc being careful not to let the discs split around the perimeter as the patty spread out. I like to make 1/2″ to 3/4″ patties. Some people like them thinner.

When you get your burgers patted out take your thumb and indent each patty right in the center, this will help to prevent the patty trying to return back into a ball shape as it cooks.

At this time, it should be about time to grill these awesome looking patties. you wanna put the burgers directly over the heat. Let the burger cook with a closed lid for about 5 mins per side for medium, and little longer for well done. If you have flare ups be sure to have some water handy to tame the fire. If you try to turn a burger and it is sticking to the grate, it probably hasn’t cooked on that side long enough. once the patties are firm and not falling apart, you can move them to the indirect heat, and add your favorite slice of cheese. I am a pepper jack fan myself. The burgers will continue to cook on the indirect side, and also the cheese will melt.

Once the cheese is melted onto the patty the burger is ready to go onto a bun. I like to toast the buns and then take a burger patty fresh off the grill and place it on a bun. Serve with your preferred condiments, and enjoy! The burgers will be really great tasting and not dried out as the Sauce Beautiful also helps to retain the moisture as the burgers cook. I call it the Quessenburger!

Day 8: 5 Ways To Improve Your Indirect Heat Cooking Skills On A Small Grill.

So, you wanna improve your skills on cooking indirectly, but you don’t have a fancy offset smoker, no worries. There are a couple of tools and tricks you can use to get the desired results of indirect heat.

#1: Charcoal Basket and Drip Pan:

I often use this method on my Weber kettle grill. The basic idea here is to partition your fire to one side of the kettle using a charcoal basket. Then place a foil pan or sheet fashioned into a pan on the charcoal grate at the other side of the kettle. This will not only catch the drippings of the meat above, but it will also shield direct heat from hitting the meat by providing a buffer between it and the burning charcoal. This method is great for slow cooking ribs without a true smoker. Water can be added to the pan to make the cook chamber atmosphere more humid to aid in keeping the meat moist while cooking.

#2 Build a Brick Wall:

Let’s say you don’t have a charcoal basket for your kettle grill, or you have a different type of grill. No worries the same idea can be applied by setting the coals up at one side of the grill, and building a wall up to the cooking grate with bricks. The wall will provide the buffer between the meat and fire that is desired, and also once the bricks are warm, they will provide consistent heat as it slowly permeates through.

#3: Ring of Charcoal or The Snake Method:

This method is some what new to my bag of tricks, but i have found it to be very useful when I want to smoke a Boston Butt, but don’t want to break out the huge smoker or don’t wanna spend lots of money on tons of charcoal to smoke one butt on a larger smoker. If you have a small smoker you won’t need this method, but again if you have a Weber kettle grill or even a cheap burger and hotdog cooking tailgater, you can use this method and put some delicious slow smoke on a Boston butt or turkey or any thing that can fit in your small grill. So here is how you set it up. Take charcoal brickets and neatly stack them around the perimeter of the charcoal grate where it meets the side of the kettle. Leave space between the start and end of the ring so you don’t accidentally burn both ways at the same time. Start your fire on one end and it will slowly burn around the perimeter for many hours, at a nice low and slow pace. You can also sprinkle your favorite wood chips over the ring of charcoal to keep a steady regimen of smokey goodness cooking into the meat. I like to start my fire so that it burns clockwise, it helps indicate what hour of cooking I’m in. After you start your fire. place the cooking grate over it and place your meat in the center of the cooking surface. I like to place Boston Butts it in an aluminum pan, but leave the pan uncovered. It lets the Butt get the flavorful smoke, stay moist because it cooks in it’s own juices, and it acts as a buffer between the fire and the meat.

#4 The Stack Add-On:

There are a few different extensions you can add on to Weber kettles that move the cooking surface higher above the coals for a slower cook. In this type of situation the coals are still under the cooking surface, but not close enough to flame kiss a steak. If you are like me you like the idea of having the versatility of an add-on like that, but never think to buy one. I think it’s funner to create indirect heat using the methods mentioned above.

#5 Electric Smoker:

If you have access to electricity this is one of the easiest and consistent ways of smoking and using indirect heat. The heat is provided from a heating element much like an electric oven, and the smoke is typically created by feeding wood pellets or pucks via an auger or conveyor into the heating element creating smoke. These smokers are nice to have when cooking at home, but are generally not permitted in BBQ contests, as they make things way to easy and consistent. Taking the skill out of it.

I hope you enjoyed this article, as you can see the basic idea is to move the food away from direct heat to slow down your cooking process, and add that wonderful flavor we all love. Come back tomorrow for more BBQ tips, tricks, and stories!

-Michael Q

Day 3: Why We Love Smoked Pork (And You Should, Too!)

There are many delicious forms of barbecue, but our favorite is very obviously pork. There are a lot of good reasons for this and you will probably agree that they are all worthy of your attention.

Whole Hog

One of the most ambitious cooks you will ever try is the whole hog. It is a lesson in patience, skill, and technique that few have experienced, but it is worth every minute of experience. When you smoke a whole hog, you better set aside at least 2 days of going nowhere and staying on top of your assignment.

The whole hog is very rewarding and will feed dozens of people. The meat is very tender throughout the shoulders, ribs, and ham areas. When cooking a whole hog it is good to remember that you have time to get it done right. Always set aside 24 – 30 hours of time including prep and serving so that you can enjoy the fruits of your labor.

The whole hog has a distinct and mouthwatering flavor that is unlike any portion of the hog that you might have otherwise cooked separately. You haven’t lived until you’ve eaten a baby-back rib cut directly from the animal. It is absolutely the freshest, juiciest, and most flavorful way to eat baby-back ribs. Follow Michael’s instructions here for an experience that is like none other. Be sure to pick up a few bottles of sauce or rub beautiful to go with the hog.

As a child I remember seeing my first whole hog cook at a BBQ competition. To me it looked like something you would see a tribe cook on some island far away from Arkansas.

Michael Quessenberry
https://jimquessenberry.com/going-whole-hog/

Ribs

My favorite barbecue dish has to be baby-back ribs. Sure there are spare ribs and St. Louis style ribs, but my favorite are baby-back ribs hands down. Let’s break it down. Spare ribs are from the belly and are meatier, larger in size, and often times tougher than baby-back ribs which come from closer to the loin. Because of this, baby-back ribs are more tender and take less preparation and cooking to get a wonderful and flavorful entree. St. Louis ribs are basically just trimmed and squared spare ribs. They’re uniform in appearance and have less grissel on them, but don’t be fooled, they aren’t “back” ribs.

Some folks like “dry” ribs, which when done properly, I LOVE, and some folks like to get messy with saucy wet ribs. I like something a bit more in the middle. My ribs tend to have the chew of a dry rib with a glazy candy shell similar to my shoulders or butts. Using Rub Beautiful and Sauce Beautiful as a glaze, the ribs come off the smoker with a very thick and satisfying bark that will leave you wanting more even if you’re full.

For more information on how I prepare ribs, see Lock and Load Ribs.

Pulled Pork

Ah the classic pulled pork sandwich, an American staple. Although the best sandwiches are often a mix of pulled pork from a whole hog, the traditional pulled pork sandwich is made from the shoulder, butt, or picnic ham portion of the hog cooked on its own, pulled and/or chopped, and placed between two buns with a dollop of homemade coleslaw topped with a squirt of Sauce Beautiful to complete the perfect BBQ sandwich.

 

When cooking a butt or shoulder, I generally season and coat the meat with a very liberal amount of Rub Beautiful and place the meat with the fat side down (to prevent bitterness and greasy meat) on the grate with an indirect heat source. Then I smoke the meat about 4-5 hours to get a good smoke ring in the meat. I do this at about 225-250 degrees. After 4-5 hours, wrap the shoulder or butt in aluminum foil and finish it off to about 195 internally. The bone should wiggle free without hassle when the temp hits 195 to 200.

Pull the meat and/or chop it and serve on sandwiched. Your mouth and friends will thank you.