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Ahh, yes, food. Yum. Get in my Belly now! That kinda thing.

Seriously, though, I enjoy cooking. The end result of cooking is getting to eat the wonderful things you've created.

What particular types and styles of cooking? I really don't have any, I'll try anything. Baking, Stir-Frying, Frying, Grilling, Smoking, Saute, Braise, ...

I would classify my cooking into three styles.

  1. The first is baking, which is really more chemistry and science than cooking -- you can't really change the basic processes going on, but you can add different spcies and such to it. There isn't a lot of room for experimentation here, since the chemical reactions need to work right for baking to happen.
  2. The second is sorta like the first -- recipe cooking. This can range from ice-cream, to cajun food, to whatever. Like baking, you really need to follow the recipe and techniques to get the results as they should be. If you don't cook the cajun food cajun style, you just don't get the down-home flavor and taste. The upside of this second class of cooking is that you can use your experience and skill to make small changes to the recipe or to the ingredients -- but usually after you've tried the stock version to see what it is like.
  3. The last kind of cooking is cooking that you just do using your knowledge and skills. I find this the most interesting and rewarding kind of cooking. You can create really great meals just by getting some stuff, some spices and other ingredients, and choosing a cooking technique or techniques, and going at it. To be able to take some random ingredients and make something awesome (or at least edible :) shows that you have some skills and knowledge.
  4. There is a fourth type of cooking -- that of the professional cook. The knowledge and experience these guys and gals have is over-whelming -- in a very good way. You have a problem, mention it to them, and they are telling you that the solution is this technique you've never heard of before, or never thought of applying in that situation. Their knowledge of the ingredients and the type of cooking that applies to them to produce superior results is astounding. Their knowledge of ingredients, methods of cooking, food safety, kitchen organization, stocking, and whatever else ... is something I have respect for. I don't think I'll have enough interest in cooking to be a pro cook, but they and their skills and knowledge are due a lot of respect.

Cooking Hints

On the Grill

I purchased a 22.5 inch Weber Kettle Grill about a year after buying my house. It has been in constant use since, BBQing from the heat of summer to the fridgid cold of Wisconsin winter.

I slowly started to own more and more of the Weber grill accessories. They really let you put a lot of food in the grill. Before I got some of them, I'd have the entire grill loaded with food, and still need to cook inside as well since I needed more space. After getting them, I often can cook everything on the Grill; since now there is room for everything.

Of course, that still led to the same problem -- running out of space on the grill. The other problem is that I Smoke cook a lot, and that eats up about 1/3 of the area on the grill to access the fire/smoke baskets and to leave the area about them clear.

Weber Temperature Control

If you grok a Weber Kettle Grill, temperature control is a breeze.

Kettle Smoking

When smoking in the kettle, I find that it is best to run a cooler fire, with the bottom vents mostly closed.

To keep the temperature up with the cool fire, the top vent is closed a fair bit -- probably about 1/2 to 2/3 closed. if smoke is coming out the vent and around the lid, I'm pretty happy with it. It means that my meat is getting a good smoke.

Temperatures for Kettle smoking are usually around 300 F degrees. That's with two piles of coals on each side of the grill. Smoke wood on top of the coals.

Smoke Wood

I use a combination of sizes of smoke woods. Chips, Small Chunks, Larger Chunks.

What's New?

I'm looking to add some new abilities to my grill. Areas of Interest are

In particular I'm thinking of a Rotisserie -- especially after having been treated to Rotisserie chicken at Dolittles in the twin cities -- they have a big rotisserie right in the restaurant. It had been years since I had rotisserie chicken my parents on their old grill, and I'd forgotten about the wonderful taste and texture of rotisserie cooked food.

The other thing I'm looking to do is to get a more dedicated smoker for doing different kinds of smoking with. This is a weird subject, because there are two or three ways to go here. Also, each of the directions isn't just a choice -- it leads to a different kind of operation, and I'm not certain which way I want to go right now!

  1. One is to get something like a Weber Smokey Mountain, or to build a UDS -- an Ugly Drum Smoker. They have decent grill area and are good for longer duration smoking. They are big enough to do two turkeys at once, or a whole mess of flat meats -- though you might want to get a grill stack to put more layers of meat in. Water-bath option for moisture and temperature moderation. A rotisserie is an option for smoking in the WSM, and the same tool can be used on my weber grill (if both are 22.5 inches).
  2. Another direction would be going towards a offset-firebox smoker as I've considered doing in the past. The offset firebox means that it is easy to stoke, and you don't have to let the smoke out of the cooking chamber to do so. The firebox is at a manageable level -- no getting down on your knees like with a Smokey Mountain. The grill is 100% accessible as you stand there, for basting and for brushing sauces, etc onto the meat -- you don't have to pull a whole grill layer out to do that. Lastly, if you need a big grill, you can just cook directly in the cooking compartment with the extra fire grates, and have 18" x 36" of grill area. The flip-side is that smoking temperatures are going to tend to be higher than a WSM. The other downside is that the offset smoker setup is about 60 inches long or so, and it takes up a lot of storage space. Almost the same as a motorcycle -- they look small until you want to put them in a corner of the garage, and they you realize that they just look small compared to an automobile!
  3. Lastly, there is the gas option. A nice large gas grill would be a great tool too. Operation in wintertime would be a lot easier, without having to run in and out of the house to feed the fire. Smoking is a bit easier with gas, since the wood lasts a lot longer in the smoking box, instead of directly burning and being consumed. A big gas grill has a nice amount of grill area, and it is easy to get a wide range of temperatures, and to easily switch from a wicked-hi searing temperature to a lower long-term cooking temperature.

XXXX this should be charcoal in winter notes

A third direction I'm thinking of moving is towards adding a gas grill to my facilities. Charcoal works great and is just as fast as gas if you have the right tools and approach it with the right mind-set. However, in the middle of winter when it is cold out, it is harder to get the temperatures you need to cook. The cold air has to be brought warmed up by the coals so they can burn, and the kettle looses more heat to the outside. So the fire is colder, and the kettle runs colder. The other thing is that if you need to run outside a lot to keep it stoked, oh boy, do you get cold (and let a lot of cold air into the house). A gas grill, OTOH, can just sit there doing its thing. Even smoking in it is a bit easier, since the wood chips don't need to be replaced as often -- they only produce smoke, they aren't consumed like they are smoke-cooking with charcoal.

And yet another direction is that I'm thinking of adding Rotisserie capability onto my grilling equipment.

Smoking & Smoke Cooking


If it wasn't for these guys, I'd be a real hack cook. I'd followed recipes and made good food with handling technique, etc, but that was all it was -- recipe cooking, with me as a recipe robot.

I'd watched cooking shows on TV, but the problem with them is that they only show you how to do things. How to make this complex recipe and the techniques needed to do so -- but not how to cook. Wonderful meals, but ultimately its just a recipe on TV.

Emeril Lagasse

Watching PBS on WI Public TV, I stumbled across this old goofy show, with this guy I didn't know, Emeril Lagasse. I think it was Essence of Emeril, but I'm not certain. Watching this show was a jewel. Emeril was teaching you the fundamentals of cooking. Things like bases -- even something like a Mirapoix, or a Trinity. Sauces -- a Roux. Even when he'd do different recipes, he'd always emphasise all these important basic points. In modern TV that would be boring and probably wouldn't make it. To someone who wanted to learn how to cook, this repetition and emphasis of the primary elements caused Learning to happen, and I started to learn how to cook.

Later, I found a new TV show by Emeril Lagasse, Emeril Live. Yes, it was live with comedy and an audience and such. Emeril though, kept on teaching (for a couple of seasons) really good basics and what was going on. I kept learning. Later on, the show sorta started not emphasizing them so much, using them as fait-acompli tools. But still, when something new came around Emeril would teach you how to make this new sauce base, or whatever you needed, or how to use and understand this new cooking technique. Awesome!

Alton Brown


Foods & Techniques

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