Smoking Hot! Smoking Bacon On Your Home Grill

Smoked BaconIs smoking really a healthy habit? If it involves a home grill, a little pork belly and Prague powder #1, then yes, it sure is!

We recently discussed smoking at home, but only touched upon the finer points that will lead you down the garden path of homemade bacon glory. If you haven’t already had a look at the previous article, (Smoking Hot! Turning your home grill into a smoker,) please do. It will help you understand the basics behind converting your grill into a smoker, and hopefully will inspire you to join the bacon making trend sweeping the nation.

As you may well know, I’m a huge advocate of thinking outside the box when it comes to your grill. There are endless ways in which to manipulate the average outdoor barbeque, and a range of recipes that is limited only by the cook’s creativity. One skill that sets a grill master apart from the crowd is smoking. The ability to control heat, and to utilize the subtleties of smoke is an art. While it may seem daunting, rest assured, this is something anyone can learn.

A brief word of caution before we begin: Take care to follow safety instructions when it comes to the handling of meat, curing salt and temperatures for smoking. While it is a great hobby, home smoking is not without certain risks, all of which are easily managed with careful attention to detail.

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Grilling for Passover

passoverGrowing up Jewish on the East Coast, Passover represented one of the most joyous times of the year. Members of the family gathered around the dining room table for the Seder, the service celebrating the journey to freedom of our people, and, of course, a suitably festive meal. Like the service, much is proscribed for the meal, but there is still room for individual additions and subtle changes. As part of the service, the following things are required to be served:

Matzoh- The traditional Jewish unleavened bread. They are placed within the folds of a napkin, a reminder of the haste with which the Jews fled Egypt, having no time for the bread to rise. Two pieces are consumed during the service, a third is hidden during the ceremony, to be found later by the children as a prize.

Maror- Bitter herbs, usually horseradish, symbolic of the bitterness of slavery.

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Creating Unique Foods on the Smoker

smoked_chilesFor some of us, there is something strangely magical and, indeed, addictive about standing over a smoker to create what we hope will be edible art.  I have fond memories of my first restaurant, where on Thursdays, we did serious barbecue.  This, of course, involved getting outside at five in the morning to fire up the smoker, the meat having been carefully set to marinate in my barbecue sauce the night before.  I knew that by six, my good friend Christopher would join me over the smoker, and we would have wonderful conversations fueled by the ingestion of a hallucinogenic combination of crisp early-morning air, dangerously strong coffee, and copious amounts of hickory smoke.  For those of us with the love of smoke flavoring, there is nothing for it but to move beyond the limits of smoking meat and search for other foods which, eaten either solo or along with other dishes, extend the range of our eating pleasure.  Here I will share with you some of my favorite discoveries and experiments in smoke-flavoring of foods, ranging from simple salt to more complex, combined products.  For each of the following foods, unless otherwise mentioned, I tend to favor the use of hickory wood, and I smoke at a temperature of 200-225 degrees.

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The Art of Asian Tea Smoking on your Grille or Barbecue/Smoker

looseleaf_teaMost of us have grown accustomed to smoking with our favorite wood, but for something truly different, I highly recommend the Asian technique of smoking with loose tea.  The tea provides a relatively mellow, herbaceous taste, and has the advantage of working with any style of outdoor cooker from a covered hibachi or bullet-style grille to a large smoker.  It works best if you set your grille for direct heat.  Temperature and times will be the same as you would use when smoking with wood.  You have two options here, either sprinkling loose tea directly onto your coals or heat source, or you may concoct your own tea-spice blend to wrap in a perforated foil packet.  Virtually any full-flavored black or green tea will work here.  If your palate is reasonably good, you WILL be able to taste the difference.   Use a good quality tea, one that you would want to drink on its own, much like cooking with wine.   It’s fun to experiment with different varieties of tea  for subtle differences in results. Because it is a surprisingly delicate flavor that the tea imparts in the smoking, I find that this technique works best for smoking poultry , fish or pork, rather than red meats.  Working with direct heat, with a quicker cooking time, you have the option of choosing leaner, as well as more marbled meats.   Also, because of the relative delicacy, this technique can work well in a small smoke chamber.   One of my favorite recipes utilizing  this technique is for tea-smoked chicken thighs, which I then dip in a ginger-sesame-soy sauce.   Have your grille preheated and ready to go.  The preparation goes as follows:

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Grilling Naan (Indian Bread) at Home

naanongrilleExploring ethnic cuisines is one of the great joys in my life, and I am one of those who, having discovered a new dish that I love, immediately has to go home and try and recreate (and often revise) it.  One type of cuisine which has risen to the top of my list is Indian cuisine.  Over the years, having now eaten at Indian restaurants at least 100 times, I have grown to appreciate the complexity and regional variations presented by this country.  Although we rarely order the same combination of dishes twice in a row, there is one constant in our order: Garlic Naan.  This form of Indian bread has many variations, and can best be described as a cross between a puff pastry and a flatbread.   And while my wife and I are addicted to garlic naan, this bread is versatile, and can be seasoned with virtually any combination of herbs, spices and flavoring agents which suit your fancy.  Indian cuisine will often utilize dried chiles, seeds such as onion seeds, cumin seeds and  fenugreek seeds  in their breads.  Italian seasonings such as basil, oregano and parsley work well here also.  I like to think of naan, chapatis, wraps, etc. as a blank palate, to be painted with your favorite foods and seasonings.  Being a barbecue/grilling fanatic, a typical “morning after” ingestion for me includes firing up the grille to make a grilled meat and veggie dish accompanied by these tasty and unique breads.

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Three Ways To Grill Corn On The Cob

Grilled Corn on the CobI remember the first time that I ate grilled corn on the cob. It had the most intense flavor; it wasn’t watered down like boiled corn, and the light char combined with roasted garlic butter awakened my taste buds like never before.  Corn on the Cob is simple to grill, but the results can be amazing. There are three basic methods to grill corn on the cob. Each has its pros and cons. How much attention you want to dedicate to grilling, the desired taste, and your type of grill will dictate the best method to use for your next barbecue.

In The Husk

This is the most natural technique to grill corn. For this method will only need a large bucket or cooler of water and half a dozen or so ears of corn. Leave the husk on the corn and let it soak for 30 minutes to 1 hour in the water. This will give the husk time to absorb a good amount of water so that it doesn’t burn on the grill.

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Grilled Desserts: Going Beyond S’mores

Grilled dessertsIt’s the end of the meal, the coals are settling, and the fire’s dying down.  It must be time for dessert!  Sure, you could break out the marshmallows and graham crackers and chocolate bars—no one would mind—but why not expand your repertoire?  Why not serve up something that’s a little unexpected?  Something that’s simple but sophisticated?  Something like one of these grilled fruit desserts that exploit fruit’s natural sweetness in a whole new way.

Grilled fruit recipes are cooked over mellow, medium heat, which means that just about the time you’re taking that last bite of burger or barbecued chicken, the grill’s ready to go.

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Win a Big Green Egg Cookbook from Outdora – just give us your favorite Big Green Egg Recipe!

Outdora wants your Big Green Egg recipesDo you have a favorite Big Green Egg recipe?  One that makes your barbecue guests go bonkers and your mouth water just thinking about it?  If so, we want it!

Outdora is proud to be the sponsor of Sonoma’s first annual Big Green Egg festival!  In honor of this EGGciting event, Outdora is holding a Big Green Egg recipe contest.  The winner gets the Big Green Egg Cookbook, a $50 retail value.  Also, the winning recipe will be featured by one of our celebrity chefs at Outdora’s  Big Green Egg festival in Spring of 2011.

Submit your original Big Green Egg recipe by email to  Please include your name, city/state and any pertinent  information you’d like to include about yourself in the blog post.  If you have a picture of either your dish or yourself, send it!  We’d be happy to include it in the post with your recipe.

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Add Some Sizzle to Your Steak

Barbeque the Perfect StateBarbecue.

It’s a noun.  (I’ve just bought a new barbecue.  I could go for some barbecue tonight.)

It’s an adjective.  (Pass me some of those barbecue beans.)

It’s a verb.  (I’m going to barbecue some burgers for dinner Saturday.)

In its simplest form, to “barbecue” simply means to cook something with fire.  It can be as primitive as roasting a hot dog on a stick over a campfire or as sophisticated as throwing Kobe beef steaks on the grill of a high-tech, state-of-the-art, freestanding Lynx grill.

In the US, “barbecue” is often considered merely a summer pastime while globally, it’s just another method of food preparation that ends in year ‘round yumminess like kalbi (Korean barbecued short ribs); South American asado (considered the national dish of Argentina); or African braai.

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White Wine Pizza Dough recipe compliments of Mario Batali

White Wine Pizza DoughHere in Sonoma, we like wine with everything, even in our pizza dough.  Celebrity chef and media personality, Mario Batali’s recipe for white wine pizza dough is an interesting and delicious alternative to traditional pizza dough.   While the official name of the recipe is “white wine pizza dough”, it can actually be made with red or white wine.  Outdora carries the full line of Mario Batali outdoor  pizza ovens to help bring a unique cooking experience to your outdoor space.

  • 1/4 cup light red wine or white wine
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1-1/2 packages yeast
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 1/2 cups double zero flour and 1/2 cup AP flour, sifted together

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