A BBQ blog by Johannes. In my blog I try to share my experiences of BBQ near Arctic Circle through four seasons. I will share some of my favorite recipes, give insights to various BBQ equipment and accessories and share data on my grill and fuel performance. Data is something I would have benefit on early days but I could not find it anywhere. I hope this will help new hobbyists to get started.
Mangalitsa is a breed from Eastern Europe and first appeared some 200 years ago. It is a curly haired pig with unbelievably soft, marbled fat. Their meat and fat are claimed to be healthy and rich with Omega3 and Omega6 acids. Excellent choice for grill!
I have cooked Mangalitsa already quite many times, ever since I found it two years ago. Mainly pulled pork and bacon. This time I had 6,4lb (2,9kg) skinless and boneless pork belly in a freezer. Plan was to smoke it low and slow as a whole.
After defrosting, I cut the pork belly in half. Easier to maneuver and fit in the grill.
Mangalitsa pork belly - YouTube
I seasoned both halves all over with my go-to-BBQ Rub and wrapped them in plastic. Then I placed them in the fridge overnight.
Seasoning mangalitsa pork belly - YouTube
Next day was a big day for smoking the pork belly!
I ignited charcoals in my Monolith Kamado and let the temperature rise to 225°F (110°C). Then placed pork bellies directly on the grill grate on top of indirect heat. I added two chunks of apple wood directly on hot charcoals and closed the lid.
Mangalitsa pork belly in apple wood smoke - YouTube
After 3hrs of smoking, internal temp of the pork belly was 150°F (66°C). I took both halves out and wrapped them in butchers’ paper. Then back to grill for two more hours.
Wrapping mangalitsa pork belly in butchers paper - YouTube
Final internal temp after total five hours of cooking was 198°F (93°C). This time may vary a lot depending on the size and shape of the belly.
Now my Mangalitsa pork belly was ready for dinner table.
Smoked Mangalitsa pork belly - YouTube
The fat is just remarkable. Soft, tasty and keeps the meat so juicy. Apple wood smoke created nice bark for the skin. Next level BBQ!
Mangalitsa is not very easy to find, but worth of looking for.
Go ahead and try!
Mangalitsa Pork Belly
Cooking time300 Minutes
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Grilled lamb is fantastic, and I have cooked it many times. See this post for smoked leg of lamb. No matter which cut you choose, lamb is also easy to succeed with. This time I grilled baby lamb loins.
Lamb is baby, when it is less than one year old. This means cuts are small and you might need few of them to feed whole family. Loins are no exception. I had four loins, each of them weighing less than ½ lb. Well, 0,4lb (195g) to be exact. So, one loin feeds one person.
These lamb loins were already well trimmed. All membrane and fat were cleaned off, so all I had to do was season them before cooking.
For the seasoning I decided to use salt, black pepper, olive oil and oregano. After rubbing all loins well, I wrapped them in plastic and put them into the fridge for 24hrs. See video for instructions.
Seasoning baby lamb loin - YouTube
Next day was grilling day.
I prepared my Monolith Junior kamado grill for indirect cooking. I ignited lump charcoals and placed heat deflector on top of them. Good grilling temperature is 230°F (110°C).
I placed all loins on top of the grill grate and cooked 40 minutes. Internal temperature of the loins was then 130°F (55°C).
Baby lamb loins grilled - YouTube
I took loins out from the grill and wrapped them in foil, while I removed heat deflector and opened all vents. Plan was to raise the heat up to 350°F (177°C) for final searing. After 10 minutes the grill was ready, and I returned loins on top of the direct heat. It took only 3 minutes grilling for both sides, when internal temp of the loins hit 145°F (63°C). Excellent medium-well done.
Carving baby lamb loin - YouTube
Baby lamb loins were served with Port Sauce and roasted potatoes.
Grilled duck breast is often considered fancy stuff served in high class restaurants only. It may be fine dining, but rest assured, it is simple grilling when you know few tricks. First trick is to cook it reverse sear and second trick is to leave it medium rare. Follow these instructions and you will see what I mean. And if you read the whole story through, you will find the third trick at the end!
This is how I cooked duck breast. Grilled, in kamado, reverse sear, medium doneness.
I got two duck breasts, 1lb (450g) each.
First thing to do was removing thin membrane and few hard lumps of fat.
Removing membrane from duck breast - YouTube
Then seasoning. Some kosher salt, black pepper, rosemary and thyme on the back side of the breast (not the skin side). Into the fridge for half an hour.
Plan was reverse sear. First indirect heat on low temperature and then final searing on hot direct heat. This method gives nice even doneness throughout the meat. You might have learned the opposite at school. I think we all did. Searing first to keep juices in? Well, this is kitchen voodoo and obsolete science. Searing does not seal any meat surface and keep juices in. It does wonderful things like flavor and color to meat, but that’s it.
OK, I think we are clear on that…
So, first duck breasts went on the grill grate, on top of the heat deflector. Skin side up. Some pitmasters do this skin side down but when grilling reverse sear, I think my way is better. I like when skin gets crispy facing down on searing stage.
Duck breast grilled in Monolith kamado - YouTube
My Monolith kamado grill was heated up to 265°F (130°C) and duck breasts spent 40 min on indirect heat. Internal temperature of the meat was then 130°F (55°C).
I flipped duck breasts over on top of the direct heat. Pay attention when searing. Duck fat starts to drip on hot coals and flashes over nicely.
Searing duck breasts - YouTube
Searing took only 5 minutes when internal meat temp was 140°F (60°C). That was my target and trick number two. Avoid overcooking. Grilling duck breast much over medium+ doneness turns meat dry and chewy. It is smart to use good quality fast thermometer when grilling duck breast. I like Thermapen as it is fast and precise, but there are others also.
Rabbit is very lean meat and one might think it gets dry easily. Maybe so, but here is a trick. I cooked my rabbit in Monolith Kamado, spinning in rotisserie and it turned out great. There is some magic in rotisserie which I can not explain. Anything I cook with it, gets juicy!
I got 4lb (1,4kg) whole rabbit from my butcher. It was fresh and packed in vacuum bag.
First time cooking it, I needed to do some planning. My kamado grid diameter is 18 ½ in (47cm) and the rabbit was quite skinny and 19 ½ in (50cm) long. It took some work to tie it up to rotisserie skewer and keep it within space limitations. Some steel wire and thread finally did the job.
But first, I decided to marinate it overnight. I washed the rabbit under cold water and placed it in sealable plastic bag. Then poured olive oil based marinade all over.
Here is the recipe for the marinade
Next day I took the rabbit out and wiped most of the marinade off with paper towel.
I prepared my kamado for direct heat with lump charcoal. With rotisserie, I use quite low grilling temperatures. I believe ceramic kamados keep the meat from drying as the air flow through the vents is very low.
So, 300F° (150°C) grilling temp was good and the rabbit went on spinning.
Smoking rabbit in rotisserie - YouTube
My target temperature for the meat was 158°F (70°C). Some recipes suggested lower temps, but I trusted my plan.
I also decided to give some extra flavor with apple wood smoke. One good chunk on top of the burning charcoal was enough.
While my rabbit was taking a spin, I brushed it with the marinade few times. I think this might have also helped to keep the meat moist.
Seasoning smoked rabbit - YouTube
Total grilling time was 50 minutes. I took the rabbit out and sliced it immediately. No rest.
End result was fantastic. Very juicy, a bit chicken like texture and light smoky aroma.
It is not the first time I am grilling deer. In fact, I cook venison quite often. I have also written earlier about cooking deer. This time, however, was the first try in Monolith Kamado grill.
My cut was topside roast from the young deer. It was only 1,3lb (600g), but big enough for three people I was about to feed. Topside roast is one of the most tender cuts from the upper back of deer. It needs to be cooked medium rare. If you go much beyond 135°F (57°C), it gets chewy. So, keep your eye on thermometer.
I prepared the roast by removing all membrane.
Then seasoned it with kosher salt, black pepper, thyme and rosemary. I left the roast in fridge for an hour and started my grill.
Again, I was going for reverse sear method. First indirect heat and then fast searing both sides at the end.
Deer topside roast - YouTube
This topside roast was so small that it was pretty much done in half an hour. 20 minutes indirect 300°F (150°C) heat, 5 + 5 min direct searing both sides.
Deer topside roast reverse sear - YouTube
Before carving and serving, I foiled the roast for 15 minutes and let it rest.
This treat calls for red-wine sauce and root vegetables on the side.
Moose sirloin steaks are fantastic choice for grill. We know that fat is flavor and moose is lean. How do we get it right then? Trick is to aim at young moose. It tends to be tenderer and rewards you with juicy treat. Just remember to cook it medium rare.
I have grilled and smoked moose many times. This time I had 2,65lb (1,2kg) sirloin from a young female moose, thus a calf. With this size of a sirloin, the calf was already more than one year old. Still young, but the cut was sizable. Perfect!
I started preparations by removing membrane and thin layer of hard fat.
Moose sirloin trimming - YouTube
Then cut the sirloin in 1 ½ in (4cm) steaks…
Moose sirloin slicing - YouTube
…and spread kosher salt all over before placing steaks into a fridge for few hours. This is dry brining. While salt penetrates the meat, it helps retaining water inside when cooking.
Moose sirloin dry brine - YouTube
When I took my steaks out from the fridge, I seasoned them with rosemary and thyme.
I like to cook my steaks by reverse sear. This method turns the traditional “sear first, cook then” upside down. In practice, I placed moose sirloin steaks first on top of the indirect heat and cooked them up to 113°F (45°C) internal temperature. Then I moved steaks on top of the direct heat for searing both sides, until internal temp reached 122°F (50°C).
Moose sirloin searing - YouTube
Once steaks were in target temperature, I took them out and put in foil for a rest. Internal temperature carries over few degrees, so when I was ready to serve them, they were at perfect 131°F (55°C).
Moose sirloin medium rare - YouTube
Some roasted potatoes and red wine sauce to go with.
Iberico Pork is said to have tender nutty flavor due to its natural diet of eating acorns. In my experience, it sure has. Meat is also somewhat more dense than average pork. I am not saying Iberico is better than some other breed. It is different and unique, and that is why I like it.
I seasoned the rib roast with olive oil, black pepper and salt. This time I decided to cook it in rotisserie in my Monolith kamado.
Rib roast went through the skewer and onto the grill. As I was grilling with rotisserie, direct heat was the method. Temperature inside the grill was 300°F (150°C) and pork temp was close to 40°F (5°C) when I started.
Iberico pork rib roast - YouTube
Total grilling time was about one hour. You can see temperature curves at the end of this story.
Internal temp of the Iberico Rib Roast was 140°F (60°C).
I still wondering the magic of rotisserie. Every time I spin something on it, end result is juicier than ever. Well, maybe I stop thinking and just do it.
Carving Iberico pork rib roast - YouTube
Works. Every. Time.
Cooking time60 Minutes
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Few weeks ago, I got some remarks on my knife work. Not really about my techniques, but the actual knives I am using. I know they are cheap and do not keep sharpness very well, but they have been good enough. Or at least I have learned to work with them without paying much attention. Well, these remarks got me thinking should I do something about the matter. Then it just struck me!
My grills are top quality and I keep them in good shape. I burn very good lump charcoals and I measure temperatures carefully with good devices. I am also selective on raw materials I am cooking, but my knives suck! Quest for the perfect knife started.
Few hours of desktop research got me excited, but also a bit frustrated. There is so much to learn about secrets of knives. I had decided I would settle for exceptional knives only, but then again, I only wanted to cook. How to make sense of all the information available? Then I bumped into The Custom Knives, a small Finnish team designing and forging handcrafted knives for chefs.
I contacted E&M Knives and selected one model from their gallery. Due to Christmas season, they were very busy with orders, but delivery time was still very good. The workshop was only one-hour drive from my home, so we agreed I would pick up the knife when it was ready.
On a date of delivery, I met two blacksmiths Eero Vestala and Marko Blomqvist, who gave me a nice presentation on knife making. It is fantastic to listen enthusiasts who not only master their art, but also have clear vision on where they are going.
I got to make dozens of questions while I tried to understand different phases of production. My knife was almost ready, but few last phases were left to wait for my visit. The knife was completed while I was witnessing its birth.
Fine tuning blade 1 - YouTube
Fine tuning blade 2 - YouTube
Once the knife was handed over, I got instructions on knife-care and how to sharpen it with stone. Sharpening looked quite simple, but I might need some practice to get it right.
Well here it is.
Blade material: High carbon steel 0 – 1
Handle material: Olive wood, Brass and Curly Birch
Picanha is excellent choice for grill. It is very forgiving for the chef and easy to succeed with. Most importantly, it is one juicy piece of beef!
I have cooked Picanha many times before. It can be grilled as a whole, smoked, grilled as steaks or grilled in skewers, with or without rotisserie. This time I sliced it to steaks and grilled reverse sear in kamado. Here are instructions for you.
First thing to do is to trim it.
There is a nice, thick fat layer on the other side of Picanha. Leave it there, when grilling steaks.
Start by removing all membrane and hard lumps of fat, if any.
Removing Picanha membrane - YouTube
Trimming Picanha 2 - YouTube
Turn Picanha fat side up, and trim excess fat away. Leave even fat layer of about ½ inches.
Trimming excess fat from Picanha - YouTube
Then slice it to roughly 1 inch steaks.
Slicing Picanha - YouTube
Dry brine. Sprinkle salt all sides and place your Picanha into fridge for at least two hours. Preferably more and can be even over night. Salt enhances flavor and helps retaining water inside meat during cooking, thus juicier result.
Dry brining Picanha - YouTube
Heat up your grill to 300°F (150°C) and prepare for reverse sear method. This means leaving other half of the grill for indirect heat and other half for direct heat. I use heat deflector in my Monolith Kamado, but you can also just load charcoals on the other half. It works.
Take your Picanha steaks out from the fridge and place them on the grill grate on top of the indirect heat. Grill until internal temperature of the steaks is 110°F (44°C). Flip over once during this phase.
Picanha reverse seared - YouTube
Move your steaks on top of the direct heat and grill until internal temperature is 130°F (55°C). Again flip over once during grilling.
Searing Picanha steaks - YouTube
Be careful during direct heat grilling as fat of Picanha flares up. You might want to invite your dinner guests to see it, because it looks really cool.
Take steaks out and foil for 15 minutes. Internal temperature carries over to 135°F (57°C) while it rests in foil.
Carve and serve with Chimichurri. That is how they enjoy Picanha in Brazil.