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[FTC Standard Disclosure] I have a business agreement with Oklahoma Joe's; however, it has nothing to do with this blog or my social media.  I received no compensation for this post.

A boatload of good grilling and BBQ books have come out in the past few years.  At the time things were busy, and I didn't get to spend the time cooking them.  Now I'm delving back into these books like these ridiculously good pork chops from the book Praise the Lard by Mike Mills and Amy Mills.


The original recipe was Bourbon-Buttered Reverse Sear Double-Cut Pork Chops.  I only had single-thick chops, so I made it work, I just had to adjust the length of the smoking portion of the cook.  We also made the Cheesy Potatoes recipe from the same book and fire-roasted summer squash. 


The Top Shelf Bourbon Butter melts over the smoky chops creating an intense buttery sauce.  
I made the sides in a large Big Green Egg and did the chops and bacon on the Oklahoma Joe's Bronco drum smoker.



The Bronco is new to Oklahoma Joe's lineup.  I need to do a review post on it, but so far I'm impressed.  It's easy to use, holds temps well, and has longer burn times.  

I loaded the fire bowl with Parker's Tennessee Hardwood Lump Charcoal and a few pieces of applewood for the smoke.  The cool thing about the Bronco is that the fire bowl can be in two different positions - down low for smoking or up high for grilling.

First, I smoked some seasoned bacon for the Cheesy Potatoes recipe.


We bought these sweet Cheshire Pork bone-in rib chops at a local independent grocery store and seasoned them with the Steakhouse Shake recipe from the book.  I'm a fan of Cheshire Pork, I've had consistently good quality chops and spare ribs from them for years.  Plus, having a helluva lot of Tarheel in me, I also love their logo.

The first round was smoking the chops in the Bronco.  Double thick chops would do much better in the smoke because they could stay in the smoke longer, but these still kicked butt.

Meanwhile, I made some sides on a Big Green Egg.  I sliced some zucchini and yellow squash and tossed it in about 3 parts oil, 1 part vinegar, a bit of Dijon, and some Thunderbird Chicken Scratch rub.  Oh yeah, I sprinkled some panko bread crumbs over this.  I put them in the Egg running at 400°f.

I used to hate squash as a kid, but I absolutely love this simple preparation.

The Cheesy Potatoes are a hash brown casserole - creamy, cheesy comfort food.

The heat diffuser for the Bronco flips and serves as a stand for the fire bowl to hold it in a grilling position.  That makes the Bronco great for reverse searing.  

Searing off the chops over lump charcoal and applewood.


As soon as the chops came off, I topped them with the Top Shelf Bourbon Butter.  




Mmmmmm.....Cheesy Potatoes.
  
That butter was so freaking luscious and perfect with a pork chop.  Can't wait to try it on steak too.

It all came together for a fantastic dinner, definitely worth buying the book.

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[FTC Standard Disclosure]  I was fortunate to have my travel, food, and lodging for this trip paid for by Certified Angus Beef® Brand.

May is National BBQ Month and Certified Angus Beef® Brand kicked things off by hosting their first BBQ Summit at their Culinary Center.  They brought in amazing pitmasters from legendary BBQ joints across the country to do some hands-on butchery lessons, discuss the science behind the sizzle, light the spark of new recipe concepts, and share their BBQ stories.


The BBQ talent that attended this event was so incredible that if I were to start dropping names, you'd have to put on steel-toed boots!  I was thrilled to be invited to tag along, and I wanted to share the fun and information with you.

Day 1 Travel and Reception DinnerThe first day was a travel day for everyone, but the chefs and crew at the Culinary Center put together one heck of a reception and dinner.

Airport routing is always interesting, I flew into Cleveland from Knoxville by way of NYC.

The Certified Angus Beef® Brand's Culinary Center is located in Wooster, Ohio, adjacent to their corporate headquarters.  It houses a gorgeous meeting room, offices, a newly expanded dining facility, a full-service bar, the Meat Lab, and two commercial kitchens - one front facing and a typical "back of the house" kitchen.

The reception started off with a vast charcuterie table featuring many of their house-made dried beef sausages.  I could have just eaten that and been fat and happy.  

Do you remember The Big Salad episode of Seinfeld?  Chef Brad Parker does! Here he is putting together a huge salad, Elaine would approve.  I'm not sure if that is a paella pan or a satellite dish stolen from a deep space observatory, that thing is gargantuan! 



The kitchen displayed a few live fire cooking alternatives.

Smoked beef ribeye resting before Chef Gavin slices it up.

Chef Brad's amazing Heart of Palm Salad was a crowd pleaser.

Chef Brad using a torch to melt compound butter on a mountain of thick, juicy tomahawk steaks.

Potatoes Anna, a variation of potatoes au gratin, was creamy and my favorite side dish served that night.

Chef Ashley used cap steak to make these spinalis pinwheels stuffed with lobster and spinach.

Chef Gavin slicing the smoked prime rib for the crowd.

The smoked ribeye was dark on the outside and delightfully red on the inside, impeccable!

Chef Peter serving his homemade hominy from a huge Parmesan cheese wheel definitely captured the attention of Mallory Robbins of Evie Mae's BBQ and Chris Lilly of Big Bob Gibson.


Day 2 Meat Lab and Science of SausageThe Certified Angus Beef® Brand had a full day planned in the Culinary Center, especially in the Meat Lab.
The day started off with a brief session on the "State of the Steer."  The Certified Angus Beef® Brand was created as a reaction to the broadening of the USDA Choice designation in the mid-70s and a lousy steak dinner "enjoyed" by one of the C.A.B. founders.

Beef has experienced a raising of standards in the past 10 years, a shift from commodity beef to quality beef.  A decade ago, select beef accounted for 33% of beef, but now it has dropped to 17.7%.  Meanwhile, the availability of Certified Angus Beef® Brand has skyrocketed from 9.2% to 18.5%. 

The Meat Lab is the heart of the Culinary Center.  It is a fully functional butchery chamber complete with walk-in coolers, grinders, cutting tables, and even an overhead rail for handling sides of beef.  People visiting the Culinary Center get "hands on" in the Meat Lab, learning about underutilized cuts of beef, creating signature grinds, experimenting with charcuterie, and examining dry-aging.

Diana Clark is a bonafide Meat Scientist, has her Master's degree in animal science, and even teaches at the Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute.  But more importantly, Diana has a passion for maximizing the quality and use of beef and shares that excitement with everyone at the Meat Lab.  

We broke into six teams, and each team got a half steer to break down.  We started with processing the forequarter.  Diana would demonstrate a specific cut, and then we would perform that method on our steer.
Nick Drumm finishing breaking the forequarter in half.

Matthew Gillett and Nick Drumm of Saddleback BBQ show the beautiful cross-section of the plate.  I enjoyed working with these two and look forward to stopping by their BBQ joint later this year.


This one table is a superb example of the level of BBQ talent at this event.  Here you have Ray Lampe (Dr. BBQ - Tampa/St Pete), Barry Sorkin (Smoque - Chicago), Kent Black (Black's BBQ - Lockhart), and Malcolm Reed (How To BBQ Right). 

Mikey Kay of Man Meat BBQ  showing off the gorgeous plate ribs that we were trimming out.


Matthew Gilbert removing the bone-in brisket from the forequarter.

Mikey getting after that brisket.




Certified Angus Beef BBQ Summit 2019 - YouTube

That is Mikey removing the outside skirt steak from the forequarter.  While we kept working on our steers, the wonderful chefs of the Culinary Center cooked a few of our skirt steaks for us.



Diana shared some short rib secrets. First, despite the popular opinion that plate short ribs are better than chuck short ribs, several blind-tests revealed no preference between the two.  Second, she shared a few alternative fabrications, like the Osso Bucco rib.  Third, she showed how to make a faux-plate rib. 

Next, we worked on breaking out the chuck short rib.

The great thing about this crowd was that everyone was willing to share their knowledge, practices, and stories.  Here Amy Mills of the famed 17th Street BBQ has an exchange about beef ribs with Michael Ollier and John Lewis.  Speaking of which, John Lewis made the best beef rib I've ever had, back in 2017.  That isn't particularly important here....I just saw him in the picture, and once again, I thought about how damn good that rib was.

Diana explains things so well and makes it seem so easy......until you go back to your steer to practice it, and then it's like, "Wait.....what do I do again?" Fortunately, one of the sharp Certified Angus Beef® Brand team members was always nearby with helpful advice, step-by-step assistance, and insights.  They do a great job of making you not feel so incompetent ;)



There were a lot of fascinating stories amongst the crowd.  For example, Black's BBQ is a fourth-generation family BBQ joint.  Here, Kent Black watches his grandson..
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Operation BBQ Relief is one of the best organizations that you can support.  OBR was founded to feed survivors and first responders in the wake of the Joplin Tornado in 2011.  Since then, Operation BBQ Relief has gone on to have 57 deployments and provide over 2.9 million meals to those in need and first responders.  

The organization has released Operation BBQ - 200+ Smokin' Recipes from Competition Grand Champions as a fundraiser and this is a top-notch, rocking BBQ and grilling cookbook.


Let's face it, sometimes community fund-raiser cookbooks are a hodge-podge of hit and miss recipes.  They are often full of lack-luster recipes like Aunt Judy's jello mold or are unoriginal casserole recipes copied from the label on a can of condensed "cream of whatever" soup.

Not this one!  Every single recipe in Operation BBQ comes from a competition BBQ team that has at least one Grand Champion victory to their credit.  The recipes are kickin' and the photography by Ken Goodman is drool-inducing.  For example....

Jalapeno and Applewood Bacon Burgers with Smoked Vermont Cheddar and Crispy Vidalia Onions by Three Men and A Babyback BBQ Team (page 147).  Photo from the book.



Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Jalapeno-Apricot Glaze by County Line Smokers (page 36).  Photo from the book.

Maple Chipotle-Glazed Steelhead Trout by Prairie Smoke and Spice BBQ (page 173). Photo from the book.

Reverse-Sear Cap of Ribeye from Wilbur's Revenge (page 76). Photo from the book.

Grandma Frances W's Calico Beans from the Fergolicious BBQ Team (page 282). Photo from the book.
Cindy's Mexican Street Corn Bake Alexis and I made a batch of Cindy's Mexican Street Corn Bake by Moo Cow.  Moo Cow is a Kansas City area team that, in addition to winning multiple Grand Championships, won the Dessert category at the 2010 Jack Daniels World Championships. 

It is hard to go wrong with elote!



We cooked it indirect on an Egg until golden and bubbly.
This can be a fun Tex-Mex side dish or a killer appetizer for Happy Hour!

Giveaway 


Giveaway Rules

  1. Eligibility - I'm only covering shipping to the Continental US.  If you are elsewhere, feel free to enter but you'll have to pay the cost of shipping.
  2. How To Enter - Leave a comment below during the contest period.  If you use the anonymous comment feature, you'll have to leave me a way to get in touch with you if you win.  You can use email or a social media handle (i.e. "I'm @philwhamblam on Instagram").
  3. Contest Period - The giveaway begins with the publishing of this post and ends Sunday, May 12th at noon EDT.  Once the winner is announced, I will send the winner a message and they have 1 week to respond.  After that, we will re-draw another winner.
  4. Authority - Operation BBQ Relief has nothing to do with this giveaway other than sponsoring the prize.  I am the final judge on the giveaway. 

So enter below and good luck!

If you don't trust your luck, go order yourself a copy of Operation BBQ now.  It's just $35 and it goes to a GREAT cause.  Also, if you haven't registered as a volunteer, I would encourage you to do that today.
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The Nibble Me This Grilling & BBQ Team had a fun-filled time at the Sunshine State Eggfest hosted by Wassi's Meat Market this past weekend in Vero Beach.


An Eggfest is a food festival that features mouth-watering grilled delights cooked on Big Green Eggs by teams of "Eggheads" (BGE enthusiasts).  This year there were 41 grilling teams, 8 restaurant teams, and 10 vendor teams participating in the event that raises money for Candlelighters of Brevard.

So much fun, food, and fellowship go on at these events that it is impossible to capture it all in a post.  But here are some pictures from the weekend to give you an idea of what goes on at these food festivals.

For Alexis and me, it starts with loading up the truck with coolers, hotboxes, grilling tools, and whatever else we can fit in the Titan XD.   Our drive for this event was 13 hours thanks to traffic so we got to the AirBnB (actually VBRO?) after dark. 

I woke up the next morning and saw that Sean was fishing at dawn. I rolled over an got another hour or two of sleep, the fish could wait.  Photo credit: Rhonda Hollis

We were on the Indian River which brings back memories of driving to Cape Canaveral to watch Apollo and Shuttle launches.   Rhonda got this fantastic picture from the balcony.
Usually, we do most of the food prep on Thursday at Rhonda's home so we have Friday to goof off and finish up any details.  This year; however, work got in the way and we ended up prepping most everything on Friday.


First up was trimming five beef tenderloins.  I have absolutely trimmed meat in worse places than this!  What a view.  


For each tenderloin, I trimmed the side chain, the small roast, and removed all of the silverskin.  I kept the chain meat and small roasts for the team.  I then cut the roasts in half, tied them, and seasoned them with our NMT Umami Stake Seasoning recipe so they could dry brine overnight.

Then it was time to prep our signature dish - Jordan's Drunk Pickles.  That requires a lot of teamwork and vast expanses of table space.  Fortunately, this rental came with a table that was so long you could land a jet airplane on it!  (But you better move the pickles first!)

That meant cutting pickles in half 430 times, coring out half pickles 960 times and making several steam-pans full of the meat and cheese mixture. 

Then it was on to prepping Mexican Street Corn.  Note to self:  Don't give Sean a big knife when you make him quit fishing and do tasks....he gets cranky and now he's armed! (ha ha)

Peel back husks, remove silks, replace husks.  Repeat until hands cramp.  I can tell this picture was taken before we realized that we were set up near fire ants, mainly because everyone is smiling.  

Prep also included Rhonda making high-protein, amino acid loaded jello to keep us all hydrated during the Eggfest.  [insert halo over my head]
Okay, I'm lying - those are Jello Shots!  She made Creamsicle, Tequila Sunrise, and Cherry Limeade Jello Shots for the team, isn't she a good leader?
We also made:
Red wine and beef stock reduction sauce
Cherry and bourbon sauce
Compound butter
Cilantro lime crema
Fireball caramel sauce
French toast casserole
Green chile breakfast casserole

Rentals typically have really crappy gas grills, like something they bought for $129 from Wally World on closeout sale.  We were stoked to find this rental came with a kamado grill!  It was a Akorn and full of half-burned briquettes that smelled of lighter fluid.....but it was still a kamado grill.

Carson and Sean fishing for dinner while Scott and Laurie mocked them encouraged them.  Later we would enjoy nice chicken sandwiches ;)

The morning of an Eggfest is chaotic, even with planning.  Someone on the team needs to be there when we are first allowed to fire up the grills so they can preheat.  Then we can take time getting our first dishes ready and decorating the team tables.  



A team's table is like their mini-restaurant or food truck for the day so we all want to decorate them to show off the team's personality and to make them welcoming to the "tasters" (the guests).  This is Churrasco Trio's team booth.

Pallets of lump charcoal disappear quickly as the grills get loaded and fired up.  Experienced teams often grab one bag more than you need because trying to get charcoal later in the day can be like pulling teeth.  I'm guilty of doing it. The downside is, if every team hordes coal, it creates an artificial shortage.  It's a fine balance and I know the organizers struggle with how to meet the need without wasting money.  Because money wasted on coal is money that doesn't go to the benefiting charity.

Green Egg Wizard getting ready for the crowds.


Smoke on the Dock BBQ doing their final preparations before the gates open.

I like the early mornings before the gates open.  It gives us cooks a chance to say hello and catch up on what's been going on since the last Eggfest.

Everybody on Nibble Me This is on Pickle Duty!  Time to stuff 960 pickles in one hour.
What are the pink shirts about?  The Eggfest organizers instituted a new rule this year that teams are limited to 4 cooks or less.  I've seen that at a few other Eggfests too.

Since teams are limited to 4 people and we had 8 - 4 men and 4 ladies, we split into Nibble Me This headed up by me and Nibble Me Sis headed up by my sister.


We decided to have some fun with this and have a little friendly wager.

Back of the Nibble Me Sis shirts.

Back of the Nibble Me This shirt.
Back to the other teams....Once the crowds hit the gates, things get a bit hectic and crazy.

Teamwork is vital.  There are a few one-man shows but with 5000 guests, it takes a team to put out that much food.



I'm just hoping there are shorts behind those aprons ;) 

These guys brought our team samples and while I didn't try it (I don't eat anything at these events, I have no appetite), several team members said the teriyaki hanger steak was legit.

Like I said....it gets a bit crazy.

John Churey's team, Risk It For The Brisket It always has a lot of fun during the day.  

I love that so many teams get team shirts these days, it adds a lot of personality to the event. 

I did a bad job of remembering team names this year but this paella looked really good and the skillet serving dishes?  Get outta here!  I love those.

Churrasco Trio had a killer taco.  


How fun are their shirts?

Chad Romzek of Kick Ash Basket and John Youngblood of JJ George were busy showing off their products all day.

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[FTC Disclosure]  I received my Kamander for free from Char-Broil when they first came out.  I do have a service contract with Oklahoma Joe's, a related company; however, that agreement does not require or request that I post about their products on this blog or social media.  Anything I post here is just because I feel like it.

Earlier this week, news outlets reported on Consumer Reports testing of kamado grills and Consumer Reports recommended the Char-Broil® Kamander™ for a low-cost kamado.  The Kamander currently lists at $379, but it is currently advertised as low as $299

I thought that I would share my experience with this cooker after two years of use, for the people who are considering buying one.

Image from Char-Broil.com

Initial ImpressionsI have to admit that I had preconceived notions about this smoker before I got it.  I was expecting to dislike it because of bad experiences using another brand of cheap, metal kamado grills.

When I unboxed and assembled the Char-Broil Kamander, I thought it looked snazzy, I loved the price, and I liked how light it was compared to my heavy ceramic kamado grills.  But my past use of cheap metal kamados made me wary.  I didn't like the weird air intake vent, I assumed that holding temperatures would be an issue, and I thought it would rust out quickly.

It only took a few cooks to prove me wrong.   For the past 2 years, we have used our Kamander in frequent rotation with our other grills and smokers. This kamado became our "on the road grill" because it was so portable.  It even got pressed into severe use, cooking several hundred wings at the 2018 Big Kahuna Wing Festival when our big smoker went down. Our abuse of the Kamander has shown that this kamado can grill and smoke with the best of them.

Here is a breakdown of the Kamander, component by component.

Exterior ShellThe shell is made out of powder coated steel.  The dome lid is double-insulated to maintain steady temperatures, and the exterior stays relatively cool, showing the insulation is sufficient. The base is double insulated by utilizing the internal components and also stays relatively cool.


The advantage of the metal shell is that it is much lighter than the ceramic shell of my Eggs. The obvious concern with steel is rust but two years in and I have none anywhere on mine so far, inside or out. The metal does not have the temperature stabilizing thermal mass of ceramic, but I haven't seen this be an issue even on cold, windy days.  A strength of the metal shell is it doesn't break like ceramic.

GasketThe gasket is the piece that makes an airtight seal.  The stock gasket on my three Big Green Eggs was constructed of felt and two of those gaskets burned out within six months. A "high performance" gasket offered as an upgrade, I believe that is made of Nomex® or another type of meta-aramid.  I chose instead to replace the gasket on my Eggs with a woven fiber gasket, and I have never had to replace those.  Kamado Joe has switched to a woven fiber gasket on their new kamados.

The Kamander features a woven fiber gasket, as well.


Instead of adhesive, this gasket is held on by a series of spring clips.  I was worried that the spring clips would give out, but that hasn't been an issue, I've never had to touch them since installation.  My gasket has held up nicely, it is still fully intact and doesn't leak air.



HingeHinge systems for kamados can be pretty complex, loaded with springs to handle the heavy weight of a ceramic dome.  The complexity of the hinge can lead to the top not lining up with the bottom of the kamado for some brands. The Kamander's double-insulated dome is light, so the hinge is bloody simple and effective.  I've had zero problems from mine.


Dome Exhaust VentThe exhaust vent is a large metal vent with 4 large holes.  The adjustment cap is center mounted, so it rotates instead of sliding.  That means it won't change its position every time that you open the dome lid like some kamados do.


Both vents are marked which makes it easy to be more consistent with your vent settings.


Air Intake SystemThis is the weird thing about the Kamander kamado - the air intake damper is located on the side shelf instead of just a slide at the bottom of the base like most kamado grills.


How does that work?  There is a vent shaft that connects from the damper to the bottom of the kamado.


So the vent system is similar to that of many drum smokers that use a vertical shaft for air intake.

The positive things about this design are that it keeps you from having to bend down to adjust the air intake and the vent is scaled like the exhaust vent.

There are a few downsides.

  • This design makes it near-impossible to use a computerized controller like Flameboss or BBQ Guru.  
  • The design also eats up a good bit of the shelf area.  
  • Because the tube enters at the bottom of the kamado, you can't place this grill in a stock kamado table without making modifications to the table.
  • My biggest issue is that the tube was originally made of some type of plastic.  I was able to take the kamado to 700°f briefly without problems, but one day we ran the grill at 450-500°f for several hours and our tube melted down.  Now the Kamander comes with a metal vent shaft.  If you have an older Kamander with the plastic tube, go ahead and order the metal tube, it will be worth it.  
So, as long as the tube is metal, it doesn't harm anything, and the vent is easy to use.  But if I had my choice between a Kamander with this vent system and a Kamander with the traditional slide vent (no such model, just hypothetically), I'd go with the one with the slide vent.  That's just my opinion.

Ash PanSince there is no bottom slide vent, to clean out the Kamander, you have to remove this porcelain coated metal ash pan.  It sets at the bottom of the kamado below the charcoal grate.  It is large, so you'll never have to empty it during a cook.


FirebowlThe fire bowl is a metal insert that creates the double wall insulation for the base.  It rests on top of the ash pan (see above), and this large fire bowl holds a LOT of lump charcoal.  I don't think I have ever run this smoker until it's empty.


Just like with every other kamado grill that I use, I run the Kamander with a Kick Ash Basket in it.  This makes clean-up easy and significantly improves airflow around the fuel in the firebox.  Because this firebox is so vast, you will need to get the KAB for a Vision Classic B, it fits perfectly.


Grill StandThe price includes the integrated stand. The stand uses large tube legs which are very sturdy.  The back of the hinge is also a handle so you can lean the Kamander backward and roll it like a dolly.


Here's a tip - any time you are putting a grill together, put some Loctite on the threads of the bolts for attaching the grill's legs and handles.  That will help keep you from getting wobbly grills later.

ShelvesThe Kamander includes a side mounted shelf that collapses down to create a smaller storage footprint.  The shelf is made of stainless steel, so it's easy to clean. I find that the air intake vent located here takes away a large chunk of real estate.



The underside of the right end of the shelf is also equipped with a hanging rack for your grilling tools.


Heat Diffuser
The stock heat diffuser that comes with the Kamander is a metal pan which doubles as a water pan.  The Kamander keeps a humid cooking environment, just like other kamados, and I don't find that I need a water pan.  The diffuser does an adequate job setting the Kamander up for indirect heat.


When I use the stock heat diffuser, I wrap it in foil to help keep it clean from all of the drippings.

Most of the time though, I use a ceramic stone as a heat diffuser.  One of the ones that I have for my Eggs fits perfectly on the stock rack.

Oblong heat diffusers are ideal for protecting the ends of long foods, like brisket or ribs.  The one I got for my Adjustable Rig from the Ceramic Grill Store fit like a glove in my Kamander.

ThermometerThis is the stock Chair-Broil thermometer.  Bi-metal thermometers usually aren't wildly accurate, but I have found this particular one to be pretty much spot on.


Cooking GratesThe cooking grates are porcelain coated cast iron.  That means they do a good job searing.  Porcelain grill grates rock when they are new or when they have been maintained.  They are prone to cracking or chipping, and then they start rusting.  So use a nylon brush for cleaning porcelain grates, not a wire brush.

This frowny face cracks me up.  The holes are for where the second level grate mounts.

The main grate has an insert so you can add more fuel or smoking wood.


The Kamander comes with a second tier gate for raised-direct grilling or for extra capacity.


The Kamander has 460 square inches of grilling space, 327 on the main grate and 133 on the upper level. 


Performance
I have cooked a lot on this kamado.  Burnt ends, ribs, wings, brisket, rib roasts, turkeys, chickens, pork butts, you name it.  It has held up well, and after all of that cooking, I think that it works just as good as the other kamados that I have used.  It matches my other kamados for the quantity of food, quality of food, temperature control, and temperature range.


SummaryThe most significant selling point for the Kamander is its value - you get a fully functional kamado grill for $379 or less.  It is better than some cheap, ceramic knock-offs that I've seen and it has proven itself to be solid performing kamado over the past two years.  For me personally, the portability of this kamado is a huge plus.

The biggest downside is the 1-year warranty.  Frankly, now that they use a metal vent shaft, I think this grill is well-built and deserving of a better warranty.  When you buy an upper-end kamado with a limited lifetime warranty for more than twice the price of the Kamander, you are purchasing a grill that will literally last a lifetime.

Who is It Good For
  • First-time kamado buyers who want to try one out before going all in on a $1,000+ kamado.
  • People who want a single, does-it-all smoker and griller without breaking the bank.
  • People who want to have a second kamado without spending the full cost of another high-end ceramic kamado grill.
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[FTC Disclosure] I received the steak knives as a gift from Certified Angus Beef® Brand.  

I have been having some fun with dry-aged, ribeye steaks over the past month.


I had the steaks because I had dry-aged a Certified Angus Beef® Brand whole ribeye to make this dry aged ribeye roast.  It was one of the final recipes that we shot earlier this year for my new book coming out in July 2019.  


I like to use UMAi Dry bags for dry aging because I don't have a dedicated dry aging refrigerator.  These bags are semi-permeable and let air and moisture pass out through the bag but won't let aromas from other foods in the fridge get to the ribeye.

I placed the ribeye into the bag and then vacuum-seal the end with a special membrane (supplied in the kit) in place. One problem we ran into was our vacuum sealer.  After burning through sealer after sealer, we finally found a durable one that we like and has lasted a few years.  The problem is to seal these bags with a ribeye in it, we actually needed one that opens up like a clamshell, so we had to buy another cheap one, just for this.

Ribeye in the fridge. Notice that it is on a raised rack so air can circulate around the entire ribeye.  The sweet spot for dry aging is 33-36°f, so I kept a refrigerator thermometer near the ribeye to make sure that it was staying in that range.  I also kept an eye on relative humidity (65-70%) with a cheap hygrometer and put a small battery powered fan near the ribeye.
I dry aged this ribeye for 30 days.  During that time, a couple of things happen.  Moisture evaporates from the meat, which is going to concentrate the flavor much like reducing a stock.  Also, natural enzymes in the meat break down the meat, making it more tender and flavorful.




After about 2 weeks, the exterior of the meat will start to darken, and by 30 days, it will look like this.  I use a large butcher's knife to trim most of the exterior and then use a small boning knife to get the little bits left behind.

Here is the same ribeye after trimming but with the lip still on.

Before and after comparison of another ribeye that I aged.
The price of a dry aged steak at a butcher shop or restaurant can be a bit shocking, but it ultimately makes sense when you look at the loss due to evaporation and trimming.  Look at this ribeye as an example.

Weight (lbs) Percent of original weight
Starting weight 16.83 100%
Finish aged weight 14.55 86%
Post trim weight 11.94 71%


After trimming out the ribeye roast, I had enough dry aged ribeye leftover for seven thick ribeyes and one little deformed one from the end piece.  These are the steaks that I have been enjoying.


I've been using my BGE Mini-Max a lot for these steaks.  Now that it's often just Alexis and me at the house, a small kamado grill like this is perfect for cooking one or two steaks, chops, or chicken breasts. It burns a lot less fuel to run a smaller grill.

My set up for steaks on a small kamado is one of two ways.  For either way, I start with a full Kick Ash Basket of hardwood lump charcoal.  A fully loaded Mini-Max doesn't leave much room between the coals and the cooking grate.  One setup that I use is to raise the cooking grate using a Woo rig.  Then I just put a cast iron grate on top of that.  

For the first steak that I did from the batch of dry aged ribeyes, I lightly oiled it with avocado oil before seasoning it with my NMT Umami Steak Seasoning recipe.


I grilled this steak and the end-cut until they were an internal temperature of 124°f, right at 4 minutes a side at 500°f.  

I always rest our steaks on a rack so air can circulate.  If you place a steak on a plate to rest, the heat is trapped between the steak and plate.  This creates a steaming effect that results in the loss of more of the meat's juices.


I hit this ribeye with some more finely ground NMT Umami Steak Seasoning as a finishing seasoning.  I always try to finish my steaks with one last seasoning.  It can be as simple as popcorn salt (extra fine), finely ground steak seasoning, compound butter, or a board dressing.
The next night, I grilled us
The next night, I grilled us a dry aged ribeye steak about the same way except.....

I made a blue cheese compound butter for the finishing seasoning.  I did about equal parts of butter and blue cheese and then seasoned it to taste with my NMT Beef Rub v.2 recipe.

I put the butter on the steak right after I flipped the steak and then closed the dome lid. I wanted to get the blue cheese warm enough to soften.  I was worried that wouldn't happen if I waited to put the butter on when the steak came off the grill.

On the third night, I went the sous vide route.  I opened the vac bag, oiled the steak, seasoned it with the NMT Umami Steak Seasoning recipe, and resealed the bag.  I used the Anova Culinary Sous Vide Precision Cooker to cook the steak in a 124°f water bath for 2 hours.

The other set up that I use for grilling steaks on a small kamado is using a set of GrillGrates.  This is an aftermarket accessory available for just about any grill.  It prevents flare-ups, converts more of the fire's heat into infrared heat, and lays down some serious cross-hatch marks.

Alexis used a stand mixer attachment to spiralize a Yukon gold potato for a crispy side dish.


Dry aged, sous vide ribeye steak with a loaded crispy potato nest.  I love the new Certified Angus Beef® Brand Chophouse Steak Knives that they sent me.

All three of these steaks were fantastic and perfectly cooked to "just below medium-rare."  Sous vide is fun to play with, but for me, I'll take a grilled steak any day over a sous vide/grilled steak.

So even doing it at home, dry-aged steaks are still rather expensive per pound but I think they are well worth it.  They are noticeably more tender and richer in flavor.  I still love regular steaks and that's what I eat more often.  But a few times a year, I love to treat myself to a whole ribeye for aging!
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[FTC Disclosure]  I received no direct compensation for this post; however, I am attending an expenses-paid trip to Certified Angus Beef® Brand's BBQ Summit later this month.  Also, if you end up buying one of my books, obviously I get compensation there.

The Stockyard Spud is my latest creation from leftovers.  It is a mammoth-sized Idaho spud fire-roasted on a kamado grill and then stuffed with chopped, smoked prime rib, beef jus, cheddar cheeses, and caramelized onions.  



If you don't have a slice of prime rib roast lying around, some chopped up leftover steak would be just as good in this.  Heck, this will let you split one steak between 3 or 4 people and still leave no one hungry.

I'm not going to write up the recipe, this is more of a "take the concept and run with it" kind of thing.  If you have any questions, just shoot me an email or reach out on social media.  I had to turn off comments because of the ridiculous amounts of spam comments per day made it too hard to manage.

I happened to have a slice of this dry-aged, smoked rib roast leftover from the last photo shoot for my second book -  The Offset Smoker Cookbook (releases in July 2019).

I dry aged an 18-pound Certified Angus Beef® Brand ribeye roast for 30 days using a Umai Dry bag. 



Then I trimmed off the lip and exterior for a beautiful rib roast and cut the rest into ribeye steaks.


I picked 3 of the largest and most uniform-sized baking potatoes from the bin.  We rinsed and dried them.  Next, we lightly rubbed canola oil on the surface, seasoned them with coarse sea salt and wrapped them in foil.  Finally, we baked them on a large Big Green Egg set up for indirect heat (platesetter/conveggtor in "legs up") at 350°f until soft, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

The chicken breast in the back right corner was for Ramsay.  I put it over one of the gaps of the platesetter, so it cooked more like direct heat.

I decided to not re-heat the roast beef because I didn't want to lose the medium-rare texture.  So instead I let it sit out at room temperature for about an hour.

I chopped up the roast beef.  The pieces were small enough that the heat from the potatoes and jus would heat them through. 

For the caramelized onion, I peeled and thinly sliced a large sweet onion.  I put a few tablespoons of oil in a preheated skillet over medium-low heat and cooked them for an hour, stirring occasionally.  Yes, you can saute onions way faster, but I like to take time with caramelized onions to fully develop that sweet, rich flavor. 

I cross sliced each potato three ways on the top...

And pushed from the ends to cause it to burst open, creating a nice starchy bowl for our ingredients.

Then I added a "five finger pinch" of a shredded cheddar cheese blend, a tablespoon of softened butter and mashed that down into the potato for the base.  Next, I added more cheese, about 1/4 cup of chopped smoked prime rib and about the same amount of caramelized onion.

To finish it off, drizzle two tablespoons of hot beef jus over the potato.  If you don't have leftover beef jus, put 2 cups of beef stock in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Let it simmer until the volume reduces to 1 cup, about 20 minutes of a steady simmer.   

I topped all of that with some finely chopped green onion and about 1/4 teaspoon of finely ground NMT Beef Rub v.2
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[FTC Disclosures]  I received a free sample package of Kingsford® Flavored Briquets.  I didn't sign up with Certified Angus Beef® Brand this year (logistical reasons only), but I am attending an expenses-paid BBQ seminar with them later this month.

Think about the best burger you have ever eaten.  The best burger that I have ever had is from Melvin's in Elizabethtown, North Carolina.

Photo Credit: BladenOnline

Elizabethtown is a small town, about 3,500 people today and even fewer people back in the 70's when I had my first Melvin's burger.  Melvin's was also known as the Pool Room because that's what it started out as.  Today the pool tables have been replaced with dining booths, but the burgers are still amazing.  The food is so good that at lunch, the line stretches out of the back door.  But the crew is lightning fast, and you never have to wait for long.

For me, the only way to get a burger at Melvin's is ATW (all the way) - topped with chili, creamy slaw, diced fresh onion, and yellow mustard.  You can get a similar burger at Cookout, there it is called "Cookout style."  I was craving a Melvin's burger the other day so made a homemade version. 

A Carolina-style ATW burger is absolutely a messy burger!



Melvin's used to have the local Red and White Store grind their beef, but now they do it in-house.  My grandmother once told me that they grind white bread in with their beef.  I heard another rumor that they put breakfast sausage into it, but that would make more sense for the chili. I will experiment with that this summer.  All of my ground beef blend (brisket and sirloin flap) was frozen, so I ran to Food City and picked up a package of Schweid and Son's The One Percenter, which are made from USDA Prime Certified Angus Beef® Brand chuck.  

For this cook, my weapon of choice was my PK Grill.  I just felt like grilling old-school, and this grill is about as basic as you get, in a good way.  I used a chimney full of Kingsford® pecan flavored briquettes

Melvin's burgers are cooked on flattop griddles, so I flipped a set of GrillGrates to create fire powered griddle.  Inverted GrillGrates are quite effective at transferring heat, so you have to cut your cook times by about 10-20%.  I did these about 3 minutes a side.  As soon as they were done, I seasoned them with finely ground NMT Beef Rub v.2

I used the chili recipe from our Chorizo Chili Cheeseburger recipe for this burger.  Melvin's uses a creamy mayonnaise-based chopped slaw.  I was out of mayo but I had a bottle of Lane's Sorta White BBQ sauce so I used that as my coleslaw dressing.  
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[FTC Standard Disclaimer] This is not a sponsored post, as I have taken a break from sponsorships this year.  However, in the spirit of transparency, we still have a close working relationship with the folks at Certified Angus Beef® Brand.

Many of my friends scoff at the notion of "grilling season" because most of us grill and barbecue throughout the year.  But I still think that there is a "grilling season" that starts for me with Daylight Savings Time.  "Grilling season" to me means that it is the optimum conditions for grilling:
  • Lighting - The sun starts setting later in the evening, and for our deck, that means beautiful rays of golden sunlight boldly shine through the trees in our backyard.
  • Warmth - It feels good to be outside, with warm breezes and pleasant temperatures.  
  • Wildlife - Birds, frogs, rabbits, squirrels, and other critters are out and about, and their chorus of animal Tinder ads fill the air.
  • Greenery - Winter's fifty shades of grey is over.  The grass is vibrantly green, flowers are bursting open like fireworks, and trees have leaves, once again.
To celebrate the first day of Daylight Savings Time this year, I went to Food City and picked up the prettiest Certified Angus Beef® Brand porterhouse steak they had.  I cooked it in a skillet over hardwood coals and basted it with a mix of compound butter and beef tallow.



When I was posting about this while cooking, one of my followers asked a good question:

@nibblemethis , this may be a dumb question, but what’s the advantage of searing a steak in a cast iron skillet over coals vs. a hot gas or electric stove? Does the meat acquire extra smoke flavor? Gas seems so easy compared to coals. Thanks
The answer is that I did it solely to enjoy the experience.  With an open grill like this, you aren't going to get any smoke flavor.  If I used the skillet as the sear part of the reverse sear technique, then yes, I would get that smoky taste. 

Gear and Set Up
I decided to use a skillet for this cook.  I love uniform cross-hatch marks, but it is hard to beat a cast iron skillet seared steak.  But more importantly, I wanted to butter-baste our steak.  My weapon of choice was a PK Grill, a simple clam-shell type grill and I used Tennessee hardwood lump charcoal.  Notice two things.  
  • First, the skillet is empty.  Don't add food, oil, or anything until it is preheated - when you start to see slight wisps of smoke come off the surface.  
  • Second, notice the gap with no charcoals, that is my escape area if the skillet gets too hot.  


Compound Butter and Beef Tallow
I didn't use JUST compound butter for my fats/oil.  I used a combination of beef tallow and compound butter.
  • Beef Tallow - I started off with beef tallow as fat because it has a significantly higher burn point than butter.  Mixing a higher temp cooking oil (canola or peanut) with a lower temperature cooking oil (olive oil or butter) doesn't raise the smoke point of the lower temp oil, that's a myth.  But I started with the tallow and then added the butter, later in the cook, so it didn't have as long to burn.
  • Compound butter - I added the compound butter for lusciousness and flavor.

My compound butter was a quarter cup of butter, some parsley and rosemary from the front yard, a clove of finely minced garlic, and a pinch or two of salt.

The cook
I patted the Certified Angus Beef ® Brand porterhouse steak dry and lightly coated it with about one tablespoon of avocado oil (peanut, canola, or other high temp oils would do).  I seasoned it on top and bottom with an Easy Steak Rub recipe.


Once the skillet was preheated, I added the beef tallow, let it melt, and then added the steak.  I added the compound butter about 2 minutes later.
Once I flipped the steak over, I added more butter and then started basting the steak.

It took a total of about 6 minutes to cook the steak.  Normally I would expect about 8 minutes, but the fire was running pretty darn hot.


What a delicious way to kick off the long evenings of Spring and Summer!
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[FTC standard disclaimer]  I received no compensation for this post.  Some of the links are Amazon affiliate links.  I do have a business relationship with Oklahoma Joe's, but none of that involves promoting them on my blog or social media.  

My first career was in the retail grocery industry, and I started in high school.  I loved working in the produce and meat departments because there was so much to learn as a teenager.  Back then, for a chicken to be considered a fryer, it had to be 3 1/2 pounds or less.  These days, most fryers start about 4 1/2 pounds and can run over 6 pounds.

I was happy to find a 3 1/2 pound Gerber Amish Farms Chicken at my Food City* this past weekend. I didn't know what I was going to do with it until I got home and rummaged through the refrigerator.  I found some Tropicana Pineapple Mango with Lime drink and thought it would make a good poultry glaze.  I was right.


The glaze is sweet with the citrus tang you would expect.  It is mouthwatering good on grilled chicken and tastes like Summer.  It also creates a beautiful golden color on the chicken.


Golden Pineapple Mango Glazed Chicken
Makes about 1 cup


Ingredients
  • 1 cup Tropicana Pineapple Mango with Lime drink
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

Instructions
  1. Reduce the stock and juice.  Place the stock and juice in a medium saucepan over medium high heat.  Bring it to a simmer and cook until it is reduced down to 1 cup.  This should be right at 20 minutes of simmering.  If you use a smaller saucepan, it will take longer because there is less surface area for evaporating.
  2. Add the seasonings.  Whisk in the sugar, ginger, salt, and chipotle.  Simmer for 5 minutes.  Taste and adjust salt if needed.
  3. Thicken the sauce.  Whisk the water and cornstarch together to make a slurry.  Whisk this into the sauce and simmer until thickened enough that it coats the back of a spoon.  That took less than a minute for us.

Next, I prepared the chicken.  I decided to spatchcock the chicken.  Spatchcocking makes the chicken cook faster and more evenly.  Plus, I think it just looks better.  Here is how to spatchcock a chicken.

Use poultry shears to remove the backbone.  Place the heel of your hand on the center of the breast and forcibly push down.  You will hear rib bones breaking, don't freak out. Finally, tuck the tips of the wings back behind the chicken.

Then I preheated a smoker to 275°f.  My weapon of choice for this cook was my Okalahoma Joe's new drum smoker - the Bronco.  I will do an initial review post about this new cooker later but so far I'm liking it.


You could do this on any grill set up for indirect heat.  
  • For a kamado grill, set it up with a heat diffuser.  
  • For a kettle grill, bank the coals on each side and place a half-sized steam pan in the center, cook above the steam pan.  Or you could use a Slow and Sear in the kettle grill. 
  • For a gas grill, turn 1 or 2 burners on to get your heat.  Then place the chicken over burners that aren't on and shut the lid while cooking.


I patted the chicken dry and lightly oiled it with some peanut oil.  Then I seasoned it on the front and back with one tablespoon of Baida Adobo with Pepper.  The adobo seasoning is a balanced general-purpose seasoning with salt, garlic, pepper, turmeric, sugar, and citric acid.  It also has a brilliant yellow color.


To build on the pineapple flavor profile, I spritzed the bird with pineapple juice at the beginning and about an hour into the cook.  Tip:  When using citrus juices for spritzing, strain them through a fine mesh sieve to avoid jamming the spray trigger mechanism with pulp.


It took about 1 hour and 30 minutes to hit an internal temperature of 145°f. 

Once the chicken was at 145°f, I brushed the glaze onto the bird and then spritzed it rather heavily with pineapple juice. 

The total cook time was about 1 hour and 45 minutes.

I pulled the chicken from the cooker when it hit 160°f in the breasts.  I was using a Thermoworks Chef Alarm to monitor the internal temperature while it was cooking. Ignore the max temperature reading, I had also used it as an air temperature monitor for a bit during this cook.  A chicken cooked to an internal temp of 289°f would be a bit....crispy, right?  

Golden and delicious!

This sauce is fantastic on grilled chicken so I couldn't wait to try the Golden Pineapple Mango Glaze on wings.  That's coming up.

*I call it my Food City because I have shopped at that particular store for 19 years.  I started shopping there when it was a Bi-Lo in 2000.  I shop at other grocery stores too, Butler Bailey, Fresh Market, Publix, Whole Foods, Earth Fare, Costco, Kroger, and Sams.  But if I'm going to "the store", it is going to be Food City #694.  Yes, I know the store number because I'm a grocery store geek!
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