Tabañero Hot Sauce – a review

Neat, I reviewed the Tabanero Hot Sauce here back in ’05.  Back then, as you can see in the previous words, it didn’t have a tilde over the n.  Don’t roll that n!  And, back then it didn’t have habanero peppers in it either.  However, today she’s sportin’ a new recipe.

These ingredients would be, Habanero and Tabasco Mexican Peppers, Fresh Carrots, Onions, Key Lime Juice, Agave, Garlic, Salt and Grapefruit Seed Extract.  MmMmmMm, seed extract.  I was lucky enough to have received 2 free 8 ounce bottles for review, I’ve already emptied the first one.  I slathered pretty much everything I ate from lunch to dinner with it during a week.  From delivered pizza, potato salad, sandwiches to Meathenge Lab made Gringo Carnitas, I did it all.

As before, it’s a solid contender and a good sauce.  At first slurp you find the carrots, onions, garlic with a citrussy clue. Then quickly following is an oncoming bite and flavor action from the chile peppers.  It’s not an overpowering sauce, it should be used as a finishing sauce.  Some of the sauces I have in my fridge can be used as ingredients in dishes and hold their own even after cooking, this one would have a tough time with that. Use it for what it was intended, over food you’re going to eat. Now.

xo, Biggles

ps – I just gotta say something. We gringos have a tendency to roll the n in a word that comes anywhere near close to looking Mexicanny.  Tilde or not, the n generally gets rolled.  This is especially true when we’re talking about jalapeños and/or habaneros. There’s no tilde in habanero, do not roll the n. So, Mr. or Ms. Tabañero, would you be so kind as to remove the tilde’d n in Habanero listed in your ingredients? This is all.

Mississippi Catfish – Richmond, CA

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Alright, gather close. Raise your hand if you’ve driven by a restaurant or food truck and swore to yourself that you really need to stop by and see what they’re up to? Yup, nearly all, myself included. Okay, how many of you drive past the same place day after day, week after week, then year after year saying the same damned thing? Oh, comon, tell the truth. Yup, nearly all, myself included.
Back when they started up, in the parking lot of Mel & Son’s Muffler, they were in a stark white catering trailer. Even had tables set up outside for people to enjoy their food stuffs. They spent 7 years there, and a few years ago moved in to a brick & mortar building right next door. I drive past anywhere from 4 to 6 times a day, watching & waiting. What a noodle, why not just stop the hell by and see what’s going on?
It wasn’t until I saw a smoker on a trailer puffing mightily away that I started twitching and biting my lip. Okay, I give up, you got me.
Parking is a little odd what with being surrounded by auto related service stations, not a biggie though. The place is exceptionally bright and clean, very inviting and well taken care of. A few tables in the center with the kitchen facing you in the back. If Pops is there, the conversation is boisterous and all smiley. Earlier in the day his son is in the kitchen, I hear his daughter comes in later in the day. Ordering was easy because the son helped, me. I mentioned I’d never been and looked lost. He suggested the Lunch Delight with 2 pieces of catfish, 3 hushpuppies, slaw or fries for $7.25. And it comes with a soda !!!
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Ain’t that somethin’? The cornmeal coating on the fish is thin, tasty and has a nice toothy crunch. The meat is firm, yet yields, then goes down quickly. I’ve been 3 times now and so far I’ve never just received 2 pieces, it’s always been a bit more. The hushpuppies were perfect in every way, crunchy on the outside, creamy steamy on the inside with nice savory wafty flavors. On the first one I did the fries, having 3 fried things at once was too much. On the second visit I ordered the slaw, was good, had raisins in it, didn’t ask if they make it er not. Oh, make sure you ask for an extra hot sauce packet or two if you’re getting it to go. It comes with 1, 1 is not enough and they’re happy to oblige.
All in all it was an uplifting experience with really tasty catfish & hushpuppies. Heck, I’d pull off the freeway for those ‘puppies! Oh, and the best part? I’ve always been the only white boy in there!
Mississippi has other items on the menu as well, snapper, prawns, wings (I think) and L&D BBQ Thursday through Saturday. Start with the catfish, yes start there and move your way around the menu as you see fit. I’ll get to the que as my budget and time see fit.
xo, Biggles
Mississippi Catfish, inc.
12440 San Pablo Avenue
Richmond, CA 94805
510.682.5377

Grilled Beef Bacon & Tri-tip Steaks – U.S. Wellness Meat Review

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I received this meat for free, I did not pay for it. I was asked kindly if I wanted some free meat to review on Meathenge. I contemplated this on The Tree of Woe until the answer came to me, “Free meat? Shit yeah!”
These two meats kinda surprised me, first I wasn’t expecting beef bacon and when I see the word tri-tip I think roast. I held these two little guys and giggled, “This ain’t no tri-tip.” And brother, or sister, I know tri-tip, I’m from California. It’s supposed to have 3 tips to the roast and these were little meat logs. Next, I kinda stared at the beef bacon, a little disdain coming forth. You see, both myself and Chilebrown of Mad Meat Genius are bacon snobs. He and I have been through quite a bit of bacon that was not made from a pork product and it’s rarely above mediocre. This isn’t because it was bad or whatever, but it’s tough to beat grilled pork belly bacon. We’ll have to see.
This last week we were lucky enough to have not only a dry week (rain, not booze), but the days got up to the high 60 degree mark. What with the mold problem in our tiny home, I spent each evening grill-side cooking dinner. Even if it was dark and had to cook by flashlight, it was a necessary therapy.
If’n yer interested, click on through to the other side and let’s see how all this came out, eh?

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Tacos Tijuana Taqueria in Denver Colorado

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Editor’s Note: Joe Bob of Denver CO, our ace reporter out standing in his field, checks in with this most awesome taco lead.
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After commenting on the Ice House in Ozona, TX I had to run down the street to Tacos Tijuana for a end of 2009 Meathenge review.
This joint has been here about forever and has the best tacos in Denver. I grabbed 4 pork units to go and it cost me all of $4.28. They serve all kinds of other great Mex food which I have had but for a quick lunch this can’t be beat. The usual double corn tortilla with pork and required pork lube, grease, flowing everywhere. Topped with onions etc.
I provided the hard cider which has a fancy label but is bottled over in Modesto by E.J. Gallo. Taste more like Gallows though. Yikes. Tijuana is open 7 days a week and often runs an outdoor spit under a pop up tent for quicker taco fixes. Complete with ethnic jukebox. A must stop when in NW Denver.
Joe Bob
Tacos Tijuana
4406 Sheridan Boulevard, Denver, CO 80212
(303) 477-0121 (West 44th. at Sheridan)

Applewood smoked, nitrate free bacon! A review: U.S. Wellness Meats

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By “review” I mean that I got this bacon for free to see what Meathenge Labs thought of it. Pretty cool, huh? I spent some time reading through U.S. Wellness Meats web site, there’s tons of decent content in there. Wellness was founded by John Wood, a fifth-generation farmer. In the beginning he used traditional ranching methods, but over time took a sideways look at how he was doing things and thought there could be a better/different way. Starting in ’97 he raised a few of his cuties on a 100% forage diet, rotational grazing and making sure they had the best forage action on a daily basis. By 2000 it was in full swing, the tests proved he could make a better product this way.
I read in their FAQ page addressing how come their not certified organic, made me sick to my stomach. They state it better than I do, so I lifted this from their page without permission:
“All U.S. Wellness Meats pastures and animals have been maintained with organic principles in mind since 2000. Unfortunately, the state of Missouri dropped a state-run organic-certification program and turned it over to a private certifier several years ago. The private certifier wanted 3% of the gross income of the preceding year to maintain the license. We politely said no, and felt if Thomas Jefferson were still alive he would concur. Sadly, greed has infiltrated a noble cause. 50% of the Missouri organic producers have let their certification lapse since this situation was created by the Missouri legislature.”
You read that correctly, ranchers have to give up 3% of their income to maintain certification. Sigh.
Anyway, enough of that it’s making me mad. I had to take another look at the bacon to make myself feel better. Listen up, they got good bacon! The meat is substantial and the fat is creamy, very mild & clean odor upon opening up the package. I preheated an old 14″ cast iron fry pan and set to cooking, used a bacon press. It’s nice and thick, so it takes a bit to brown and finish. Once it was patted dry with paper towels, it went in to my mouth. Excellent meaty texture on the teeth, low on the sweet cure, a good clean finish. For my package, I noticed it was quite lacking in smoky flavors, kinda surprised. A while back I had a chance to get two packages of bacon to try, one was smoky, one was not. So, I can’t say whether the lack of smoke flavors is typical or just something that happened. Maybe it wasn’t rotated and/or flipped in the smoker, that could have been it. I just don’t know.
In any case, I’m going to give this pound of bacon 3.85 out of 5. With good smoky flavors, I would have given it a 4.75 out of 5.
xo, Biggles

No Name Bacon – a review

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Lordy, it must have been 3 weeks ago when Chilebrown of Mad Meat Genius gifted me more than a few pounds of No Name Bacon. It wasn’t long after when he posted his review of No Name Bacon. He and Ms. Goofy are a machine, they can get it done. I’m not a machine, I’m lucky to find clean underwear and get my wagon gassed up on a weekly basis.
After going through 2 pounds ourselves here at Meathenge Labs and 1 pound to my sister and husband Meathead, we’re giving the No Name Meat Company more than a few thumbs up.
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It’s a good, solid commodity bacon. Good fat to meat ratio, great smoke flavor while cooking, good smoke flavor for eating, a nice semi-low sugar content with an easy finish.
If you see it, and want good bacon, buy it. This bacon is Meathenge Approved.
xo, Biggles

Butterball’s Table-Top Turkey Deep Fryer, made by Masterbilt – A Review

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Earlier this year I received an email from a large ad agency, a man wanted to know if I was interested in reviewing Butterball’s new table-top deep fryer for turkeys. Hmm, free fryer and it’s large enough for a turkey? Duh. We’d chatted via email a few times for over a year, wasn’t just some nameless droid in a cubicle somewheres, actually had a personality and seemed to get Meathenge. Butterball’s version of the Masterbilt turkey fryer wasn’t out yet, was going to have to wait a few months, no big deal.
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It finally arrived! Pretty darn large box, pretty darn large fryer. I opened it up and peered in. I looked, crooked muh hillbilly neck a bit and exclaimed, “Dang, no turkey is going to fit in that basket!” You see, I had a 5.2 lb chicken in the fridge and compared sizes, using just one eye ball. No way. I pulled and checked the instructions, up to about a 12 lb turkey, maybe 14. 11-12 lb was optimum, and it showed the little bird laying inside the basket. I wasn’t seeing it in reality though.
Those of you who know, finding a turkey under 12 pounds is nigh impossible in the off season, this being not Thanksgiving. Birds that small are a special order and even then youse takes yer chances. So, over the next few weeks I stalked the local mega marts, searching for my tiny bird. I finally found one, just under 12 pounds. Set to the fridge to thaw for the next week.
I could have gone fancy here with a brine, herbs, bacon stuffing or whatever, but I wanted to do a test run and see what the scoop was. Once that’s taken care of, then one can move on to some fancy steppin’. I got a real shocker on my next stop to my local grocery, 10 dollars a gallon for inexpensive cooking oil! And this cooker requires a full tub of oil, that’s 2 gallons to deep fry a turkey. While that is a lot of oil, that’s about 3 gallons less than the outdoor propane powered situations. Of course they’ll do a 14 pounder with ease, I’m still not convinced this table-top model will do a 12. I had my turkey, I had 20 dollars worth of cooking oil and I had the time, it was deep fry turkey day!
Translation: It was Thursday night (a work night), after a week in the fridge it still wasn’t thawed, it was dark out and I was having second thoughts about having 2 gallons of 375 degree oil on my counter and nobody around to call 911 for me. I’d just got over putting a burning ember hole in my left foot and the thought of deep frying myself wasn’t making me feel very good. So, I called my sister and brother inlaw over.
30 minutes later they were here, the oil was at 375, the turkey was thawed (soaked it in cool tap water), then thoroughly dried inside and out. It was time. I’ve deep fried things quite a few times and know now that one wants to lower the food slowly, s-l-o-w-l-y. With the instructions in my left hand, I lowered the turkey with my right, set the timer for 48 minutes and closed the lid.
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The fryer has a filtered lid, so while there was quite a bit of steam, the smell of cooking oil was really minimal. After the 48 minutes went by, this is what I got. Um, not a bad looking bird, eh?
As expected it was moist, juicy from one side to the other. The breast meat was a little over done, would cut the cooking time down to 40 minutes next time. I rarely have over done breast meat, so I was kinda shocked at that. Still more than perfectly edible and it was consumed right there in the kitchen.
One can probably guess the bird fit just fine in the basket, I would not recommend anything over 12 pounds though. It’d be stuffed too tightly in the basket and would not allow the oil to completely cover the bird, and this is what you want for the best possible golden brown results. The machine seems to be built well enough, everything removes easily for cleaning. It’s got a drain pipe for the oil and it’s large enough so you don’t have to wait 20 minutes for all the oil, nor does it get clogged with bits. I left the machine on my counter for 2 days with the lid closed to see how smelly it might be and I have to say it was nearly undetectable. I did wake up the next morning with the Deep Fried Kitchen Smell, but it was easily dissipated with a few hours of open doors. No oil spray on cabinets, thank goodness. A cool feature I noticed while fumbling with the power cord, it’s held on to the unit with magnets. Which means if something happens, all you have to do is give it a gentle whack and the power is separated from the unit. As for clean-up, the oil tub and basket fit in my dishwasher with the top rack removed. All in all, I give this fryer two greasy thumbs up.
I did notice the box and instructions boasted that you could also use this fry for steaming and boiling food. I haven’t tried it, but I do know something about table-top fryers, once you use them as intended, they’re a dedicated machine. Getting that fried oil smell out is near impossible and any steamed or boiled food would have a fried oil flavor, so I wouldn’t actually plan on using it as such. You can try of course, but don’t be surprised when your taters come out tasting like yer oil.
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All that said and done, I’m not hip to the deep fried turkey thing. 20 dollars worth of oil, gone. While the clean-up was “easy”, it’s still a pain in the ass. And now I have 2 gallons of waste oil I have to drive down and dispose of properly at our local hazmat dumping site. No waste cooking oil can be put in our recycling bins. But Biggles, it was oh so tasty, isn’t it worth it? Um, I like my turkey roasted in the oven, it’s a personal thing.
If deep frying a turkey is something you want to try or something you enjoy regularly, this rig will do it and with far less oil than the larger outdoor method. It’s safer too! No 911 call was made.
xo, Biggles
Author’s note a day later: I understand I can filter and reuse the oil. The issue is that I wouldn’t get around to using it for 3+ years. Annnd, just because I reuse the oil 2, 3, 4 times doesn’t mean I still don’t have to have it properly disposed of. Cheers!

McBee’s Bar-B-Q – Hondo Texas

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Editor’s Note: This just in directly from Hondo Texas. Joe Bob and JLee are meandering their way through Texas as we speak. Texas Barbecue is on the menu and Shiner’s Mesquite Smoked Lager Beer is the grail. Will let you know when the holy grail is discovered.
Meal was great! some of best brisket we ever had. Really good Polish sausage too. chicken was chicken but amazing skin like turkey and rub of some sort. we kept leftovers for later and they did not last long. Brisket had killer smoke ring and crusty outer layer. Most….not that tired dry stuff you normally find on the tour de Texas.
This is brisket country no doubt. No pork yet but we keep searching. Tried another place in Del Rio but that come over tonight. We in Marathon now at cool hotel, RV park and got last room. Now we off to James Evans gallery and French Grocer store. Searching hard for Pearl Beer !! (Search for Shiner you knob!)
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Joe Bob
McBee’s BBQ
1301 19th St
Hondo Texas 78861
830-426-4045

A Review: Truffled Cornish Game Hen

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Eeek! The chicky is leaking!


Laurel of Mire Poix sent me some fancy Perigord truffles for review, what do to? Maybe I should ask Tinker and Tanker? They knew what to do! (Odd Richard Scary reference, sorry!)
I checked their web site and they had a nifty recipe for using the truffles under the skin of some game hen action. That’s something I could do, enjoy and complete without causing myself any undue grief. But where to find decent game hens? I didn’t want to buy the ones at my local grocery and my other haunts just don’t have them. I rested on my laurels for a few days and decided I was going to actually have to drive a distance to find what I was looking for, or did I?
While picking up the boys out in Lafayette, I remembered and spied Diablo Foods across the street from where I was idling at a traffic light. Diablo Foods isn’t for the feint of heart or the low in wallet funds. Their meat department is vast and well staffed, and breathtakingly expensive. I found what I wanted, good game hens, right there in the middle! Just in case I flubbed a run, I bought 4. Only came to 28 bux, sigh. I succeeded though and was on my way.
I’d had such great success with Kevin of Seriously Good‘s gastrique recipe, i decided to try it with apricots (there were in season at the time). And instead of actually following Mire Poix’s recipe (rules are meant to be broken), I decided to smoke the birds instead of roasting them or using their sauce.
I shaved the truffle and slid it under the skins, rubbed with salt-free butter, then a little bit of kosher salt over all. Install to smoker after the temp has settled, easy peasy. When dark meat has reached 160, pull and let rest. The gastrique recipe is dead simple and comes right together. J was lucky enough to be able to attend that evening and we dined like a king and queen on this exceptionally tasty meal. The truffles lend a nice earthy flavor, so delicate, so nice. The gastrique however, was a complete miss. It didn’t pair with the dainty truffled bird whatsoever. Don’t get me wrong, the apricot simmered with butter & vinegar was amazing, but it completely missed its mark. Oh, we suffer so. All things said, it was a great way to dress up those little birds and we enjoyed the meal greatly.
Thank you so much Laurel for thinking of me and my staff here at Meathenge Labs. Your gift was most certainly enjoyed and appreciated!
Biggles

A Review: Brined, Smoked Duck Chop with a Peach Gastrique

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As everyone knows, I can cook. I do cook, but I don’t consider myself someone who cooks. My mettle hasn’t been tested in way too long, sad really. So when Laurel of Mire Poix the premier site for foie gras, truffles & caviar offered to send me a bevy of fresh fancy pants ingredients to review, I jumped in with both feet.
Then I spent a week losing sleep and fretting about every little angle. In my cooler were fresh duck chops, fresh truffles, truffle butter & rillettes du perigord. I decided to break it up in to a few posts so I didn’t lose all my marbles (don’t have many to begin with).
My first email, then a phone call was to Kevin D. Weeks of Seriously Good, “Halp!” He and I have been online buddies for quite some time and I needed a little reassurance and guidance. Given he does this kind of stuff both in the kitchen, teaching and in written word for a living, I figured he’d calm my squirrelly ass down. He did and I was on my way with a list for a 12 hour brine and a peach gastrique (French sweet & sour sauce), hot smoke that duck!
All seems simple, right? Ha! Yeah sure, later that same day I came home with a few pounds of absolutely amazing FREE cherries. Peaches? Cherries? Duck, oh my. It was then I remembered that Rick the retired butcher used to make a cherry & apple brine for his fowl and it was fricken amazing, I wanted THAT brine. See, if I’m going to take the time to brine something, I want more than just salt and sugar, seems like a waste of time to me.
Ain’t it fun taking something simple and throwing a wrench in to it? It’s what I do best. Hell, I could have just salted the duck and grilled it. But I felt I should pay some respect to the duck and Laurel for sending over free food.
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I really took my time and was careful with it all, got the duck in the brine without any mishap. It was halfway through the brining that I realized, Rick still makes money off this brine. But then I thought, anyone who gives me a recipe or has their picture taken of me surely has to know it’s going to be on the internet for all to see. But out of respect (this doesn’t happen that often) I called Rick back and talked to him about it. Sure enough, he wasn’t comfortable letting his labored over brine recipe hit the streets. Figures. Here I am, Meathenge and I can’t give you the exact recipe. I love my life, and what I’ve done to it.
So, let’s just say I brined the duck and leave it at that, eh?
Next up the gastrique, eeek! French cooking oh my! As I found out pretty darned quickly even an anxiety ridden hillbilly with no hair can make one of these sauces. I had planned on doing a test run, but in my traditional way of doing things, I didn’t. It was dead simple and can whip one up without even giving it a second thought today. And if you haven’t made or tried one? You need to. The absolutely amazing flavors will astound you. The rich bright flavors of the fruit, then the tiny bite of the vinegar muted with the rich love of the butter and shallot cannot be matched.
Oh! I have a funny story! Kevin sent me a link to his recipe, which when I needed it, could not locate. I did what I hate to do, pull one off the net, look over the ingredients and procedure and make it in my mind to see if it might do the trick, I found one! A few days after I’d made it? I noticed it was Kevin’s recipe at about.com. Dang.
Fruit
Butter
Shallot
Sugar
wine or cognac
vinegar
salt
See? What part of that doesn’t totally rock, here’s his recipe for: Gastrique – French Sweet and Sour Sauce
When the sauce was done, I waited for the duck to get to 160 and pulled it. Truly smoked it in the traditional sense with a hunk of peach wood for flavor that Chilebrown gifted me. I let it rest a bit, sliced and poured some sauce over it. The duck was fork tender with a solid but not nearly overpowering waft of smoke. The gastrique was a compliment and didn’t even remotely over power the duck, oh lovely duck meat!
But now the true test, would my picky 14 and 9 year old boys dig it as much as I did? The 4 chops never left the cutting board in the kitchen, oohs and ahhs were heard during the entire time. They talked to nearly everyone they saw over the next few days saying how good the smoked duck with a peach gastrique was. The look on people’s faces, then staring at me. Oh yeah baby, I can cook.
Thank you to Laurel, thank you Kevin, thank you Rick and thank you Chilebrown for an outstanding meal. If you can’t get such things locally, then Mire Poix of Napa California can get you what you need.
xo, Biggles
ps – There’s more to come from Mire Poix, stay tuned!

Gary West Smoked Meats in Jacksonville Oregon

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Well now, it looks as though Meathenge has turned in to Jerky Review Henge. Gary West Smoked Meats in Jacksonville Oregon sent me a good sized box filled with jerky treats. Doin’ the jerky dance!
As you can see, the jerky comes in thickish round sticks, not in sheets nor is it in flat strips. They have bison meat, elk meat, beef meat and all the flavors are represented. It’s one of the few jerkies we’ve had here that are on the softer, juicier side. Just take a look at the picture above and you’ll see, ain’t it nice?
I rate Gary West among the top, the meat is natural and well cared for. The recipes are solid and taste great. The standout though were the Cajun Steak Strips. If I were to order, I’d get a gallon of those. The pungent flavors that this flavor brought forth are worth a ninth trip!
While this post is short, Gary West is long on flavor and quality, did I mention I really, really liked the Cajun Steak Strips?
Gary West Smoked Meats
Biggles

For the Weber kettle – A Cast Iron Grate Replacement by Craycort

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Big D emailed me more than a few weeks ago and had stumbled on this new product (came out in June). This new product is a cast iron grate that is a replacement for the old chrome grill in a Weber kettle. Cool, eh? He emailed the guy extolling Meathenge’s virtues and said I just had to have one for review. Who am I to argue about such things?
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It showed up directly and I monkeyed with it, figuring on dusting off my old kettle and seeing what this new fangled thing could do on a Meathenge Review. The deal was, the following weekend the boys and I were due up in Calistoga for fun and merriment. I usually cook in a hole in the ground, makes things so much simpler and less expensive. Not only do I not have to haul a grill up, but Jeffrey doesn’t have to buy one just for me to have when I’m there. Just toss an old grate on a few rocks and we’re done. An epiphany, I’ll bring the cast iron grate and use that over a hole in the ground! Duh.
I’m glad I thought of it. Sunday afternoon found me cleaning out my hole, the rocks were in fine shape. A fire was started, let it mellow a bit and set the grate down. It’s pre-seasoned, all ready to go. I grilled sausages, chicken parts, country style pork ribs, bacon directly and a beef tri-tip roast and all came out perfectly. It was a dream to cook on, although squatting next to a fire pit for 3 hours does have its drawbacks. Ouch!
The inventor contacted all the major players for distribution of this grill and had no takers. Personally, I believe they really screwed themselves. Now it’s being sold directly, bypassing all the major corporations, go man go!
I will be doing another review wherein I install this to my kettle, but I felt this product really needed to hit the street sooner than I could get that ready. And this was a perfect opportunity to test its mettle, heh. It performs exceptionally well, the build quality is high and it’s a joy to use. I know the 2 guys that have weber kettles at the party will be ordering this very soon. Don’t even remotely wait to order yours, you need it. Remember, you’re not sending your hard earned money to some large corporation, you’re sending it directly to the guy who invented it.
Craycort’s Cast Iron Grate replacement for the Weber kettle grill. Price is approximately 85 bux for the 22.5″ one.
Biggles
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Orion Cooker – It’s a cooker.

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I don’t know where to start with this one. I am proud of myself for waiting 24 hours to post this though, gave me a chance to calm down and catch my breath.
What is an Orion Cooker? It’s a stainless steel rig that cooks your food by convection, the heat source doesn’t see the food. The food is placed inside, on racks or hanging from racks, the match-lite charcoal (manufacturer’s spec) is placed in the tray that surrounds the outside bottom of the cooker and in a little tube pot thing up top. Smoking chips are placed inside between the drip tray and the cooker’s outter wall. Once all that is done, put the lid on and light the charcoal.
For 3 racks of baby back ribs, you do nothing for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Pretty neat, eh?
Since I knew a real wood fire wouldn’t be introduced to the food directly, I had an idea as to what kind of smoked product to expect. It’s really good, juicy, smoky, but lacking the character only a real fire can introduce.
Um, I didn’t get that. I spent nearly 40 bux on 3 slabs, I didn’t get that. What I did get was steamed meat. MmMmmmm, steamed meat. No browning, no smoky flavors, an odd texture and they were over-done. Over-done steamed meat! Oh joy !!! The boys opted for Top Ramen instead. Even a dry rub of 2 kinds of pepper, dried basil, garlic powder and salt produced a very bland product.
After 24 hours of mind numbing reflection and a few conversations, I don’t think I added enough smoking chips and I think I should have pulled the meat at an hour or even 55 minutes. Even so, the looks of a pale rack of pork ribs, all funky with moisture, really turned my stomach upside down. I buried a few ribs in some jarred sauce and it was 100% better, so I tossed them in the trash. Even at 100% better they weren’t worth keeping.
All that aside, it’s an excellent cooker. The damned thing is all stainless steel, built well and built with good thoughts behind it. The screws, washers and nuts are all stainless as well. It went together very easily, every hole matched up and all the threads were perfect.
Considering the briquettes are exposed, small children and pets need to be kept at a safe distance. The instructions say you need about 15 pounds of match-lite, which is about 12 some odd bucks. So, if you’re going to fire this sucker up, fill it up. There’s no damned sense in putting a 3 pound chicken in there. If you have food that flourishes in steamy heat? This cooker just can’t be beat.
I took a handful of pictures of the Orion Cooker and they came out really great. Come for the pictures, leave when the food arrives.
xo, Biggles

New Toy Day – Descoware 5 Quart Danish Oven

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I’ve been monkeying around on ebay since no later than ’98. And, only 4 years ago put myself on an absolute rule, don’t go unless you’re actually looking for a specific thing. Don’t go, don’t do it and never, ever after 6pm. Man, the crap that’s shown up on my doorstep! I’m not the only one, am I?
Been wanting another enameled cast iron oven for a long time, years. Odd that I only have 1, but there it is. To be honest, the cost has kept me away. Rarely, if ever, do I buy anything new. Cameras and kitchenware can be had used, in great condition, a great price and usually of higher quality than I can afford new.
Last week, after my other Descoware Danish Oven developed a chip during some over-heating abuse, I decided just to look on ebay to see what there was. I still use the old oven, but can’t store leftovers in it over-night, gets all rusty. Other than that, it’s still in weekly use.
That’s when I saw her, an unused Descoware 5 quart oven, in the original box with the original sticker on the front from 40 some odd years ago. The starting bid was 1/4 what a new Le Creuset is, I put in my bid of just a tad over. My first bid is my only bid, I gauge what I’m willing to pay and not a penny more.
I won.
Check that sucker out! You may or may not have heard about the ol’ Descoware name. They started out in the 1940′s and through the 1960′s were plugged by famous chefs world-wide. Julia Child made mention of them and plugged them quite frequently on her cooking show way back when. The attention to detail, the quality of the cast iron and enameled coatings are unsurpassed, even today. Everyone’s favorite color for enameled cast iron is Flame, that’s an easy one right? Yeah, that was created first by Descoware. The signature dark grey interior of yore? Yup, Descoware first.
I tried it out last night and it was quite similar to using a non-stick combined with cast iron, flippin’ amazing. I’m glad I decided to take a quick peek in to ebay, only if to look and see.
xo, Biggles

Kingsford’s new Competition Briquets

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I was looking at putting this together last week, but couldn’t come with an angle that pleased me. Me & briquets parted ways over 10 years ago and I never looked back. I found that mesquite gave me what I was looking for in grilling and smoking. Plus it didn’t have that telltale sign of a sulfurous smell during and after cooking. Why am I worried about what my smoker smells like after the fact? Grills aren’t so fussy, but if your smoker gets tainted by creosote (smoldering fire ((brown smoke)) or similar nasty smells, it’ll wind up on your food! Don’t believe me? Take some oven cleaner, spray your kitchen’s oven, turn it up to 350 and put a chicken in there. See if your chicken and house doesn’t smell like a chemical factory coming to pay a much feared visit? Heh, no drama here, eh?
A few weeks ago a really nice woman working for one of Kingsford’s PR companies contacted me, wanted to know if I wanted a bag of their new Competition Briquets. Fewer ingredients, burn hotter and longer. Sure, what the hell. Besides, she’s contacted me before over the years and wanted to finally take part in something fresh.
Up until this last Friday, still couldn’t come up with an angle. I googled a few things and read other people’s reviews of charcoal, lump or briquet. Man, these people are nuts! In a good way though, they really go all out. Gram scales, infrared thermometers, timed images, comparison to older versions of the same. It was crazy, I sure as hell wasn’t going to embark on such a journey. I just don’t care that much. There is something I care about though, and that’s how my food tastes. Let’s see how these new briquets cook and what I can come up with in the arena of flavors, or lack therein.
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I ran off to Joya de Ceren for my meaty choices, they have the best flank steak around and it doesn’t cost 9 dollars a pound. Flank steak tacos for lunch and figured maybe a smoked whole chicken for dinner. I used a chimney starter and a few pages from my local phone book (really, who uses these things anymore?), and the briquets came right to life. They smoked a bit and smelled like charcoal briquets. It didn’t take long, about 10 to 15 minutes before they were ready to dump in the firebox. I let it go a bit longer, I was in no hurry and wanted to give them some severe heat for a little while longer.
Plus, as it turns out, a wasp was building a nest in the flue of my smoker. I figured this was a great opportunity to play! I got the kids in the house, made sure I had my escape route set up and dumped the briquets in the firebox. I gently closed the smoker and ran in the house. The boys and I spent the next ten minutes with our noses pressed up against the windows attempting to see what was what. The wasp finally came out, lit on the little hood of the flue. He kept trying to fly back down, but couldn’t due to the heat pouring out. After a while the little hat over the flue was so hot he couldn’t rest on it. Another 10 minutes rolled by and it was clear this wasp wasn’t leaving. So, I snuck out to the barn and found my wasp death in a can. It didn’t take long to take care of business and check on the briquets.
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These are the new generation briquets from Kingsford. They have these grooves on the back that supposedly allow them to light faster. More surface area, don’t ya know. They could very well do that, it makes sense, in a scientific way. And these Competition Briquets are supposed to burn hotter, last longer with less ingredients. This could all very well be true, I don’t know. I’m more interested to see what they do to my food. I would also think they’d be very spiffy for camp dutch oven cooking, hotter would be nice!
The flank steak cooked right along, done directly over the hottest coals. Good colors and as you can see, pulled when ready. Tasted just fine to me, the odor I usually associate with briquets wasn’t there. After the steak was done, let the coals cook down a bit. Played with them, seemed to hold together just fine. I spent the next few hours adding more (cold, not pre-burned), playing, poking and seeing how they lit when added to a waning fire. As I remember, it used to take a bit to get the fire back up to snuff so you could add the food. That was one of my complaints versus their mesquite or hardwood lump counterparts, adding cold fuel with food on the grill is a nono. They seemed to fire up and gray over pretty quickly.
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After a few hours of goofing off, started prepping the fire for smoking. Added more briquets, got them gray, spread them out and closed the lid on the smoker. After the fire simmered down a bit, tossed on a whole, trussed and salted chicken to the side. Added some hickory chips, got them good and going, closed the lid. Came back about every 30 minutes, stirred the briquets and added more hickory.
I added some briquets halfway through, pre-burned in the chimney so the temp in the smoker didn’t dip any further. In about 3 hours I had myself a whole, smoked chicken. Set the sucker aside for 10 minutes to cool. It smelled as it should, nothing that would have lead me to believe briquets had been used. I sniffed the firebox, not too close you knob, to see if I could get the sulfurous smell I remember so well. It wasn’t there, eeeenteresting. Of course it didn’t smell like mesquite or hardwood leavenings, but it didn’t smell bad either. And that my friend, is a good thing.
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Z and I sliced up the chicken to see what was what. Damn, that was one fine smoked chicken! And you know what? The breast meat was juicy. Ha! I say, “Ha” to you. Nyah. This chicken totally didn’t suck, I’m impressed.
To sum it all up, Biggles used charcoal briquets for the first time in over 15 years, now that I think about it. While I found the briquets performance to be as good or better than I remember, and not quite as stinky, I’m not a convert. I’ll still be using mesquite or hardwood lump, it’s my preference. But I have to give it to Kingsford, this briquet is not my grandfather’s briquet.
Biggles