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Grilling Tips

How I Won a Virtual Barbecue Competition



These days, we are all are doing things differently due to the pandemic. Live cooking competitions have been on hold for obvious reasons. Video conferencing has become a way to stay connected to family, friends, and co-workers. A virtual cooking competition? I was skeptical at first, but it was a blast! I belong to the Northeast Barbecue Society (NEBS). Recently, it hosted a Chopped-style barbecue competition on Zoom.

There were seven enthusiastic teams participating in the initial Zoom meeting. They had cool team names, and I could tell some of them knew each other from competing at live events. Was I out of my league?

Each team had a day to come up with a plan for four basket ingredients that were revealed via email—ground turkey, cantaloupe, cornflakes, and a chocolate rabbit. The judges were introduced (four were certified Kansas City Barbecue Society judges) and they verified that the mandatory basket ingredients had not been altered. Teams then had 45 minutes to make an appetizer, entrée, or a dessert.

I recruited my wife, Karen, to help me since I didn’t think I could complete everything in the allotted time by myself.

Our goal was to create a Southwestern Pub Burger with a grilled cantaloupe salsa and a cantaloupe and grilled jalapeño-infused margarita. I wanted to use the basket in as many ways as possible and put as many ingredients as I could on the grill since NEBS is a barbecue group.

When the clock started, I immediately placed ears of corn on a kettle grill set up for indirect grilling/smoking. (I had two grills hot and ready, which was within the contest rules.) The gas grill was set up for direct grilling and heated too high. Karen started with our Mexican-inspired Mole-in-a-Hurry— a combination of ketchup, chipotles in adobo sauce, lime juice, shaved dark chocolate, and a homemade Southwestern rub. We used ground cornflakes to thicken the mixture. The mole sauce was used three ways: as a binder for the turkey burgers; as a sauce for the pretzel bun; and as an unconventional rim for the margaritas.

Karen then made cornflake and Monterey Jack cheese crisps for the burger and as “chips” for the salsa. We also dipped tomatillos in egg and crusted them with crushed cornflakes and cornmeal for a twist on fried green tomatoes.

Meanwhile, I grilled the cantaloupe, halved limes, fresh tomatillos, and jalapeños.

The moderator periodically checked in with the teams to ask questions and keep everyone on task. We obsessively checked the clock, and were so focused on cooking, it was hard to answer any questions.

Time was winding down, and we still had to cook the turkey burger, grill our pretzel buns, and plate our food. We thought we were organized before the cook, but when I started grilling the turkey burgers and buns, I realized I forgot the spatula inside. When I returned to the grill, the buns had burned. (Steven’s words, “Never desert your post!” rang in my ears.) Luckily, I had two more buns at the ready.

Too quickly, time was up! Fortunately, we got everything on the plates. The burger came together with the mole sauce spread on each half of the pretzel bun. The pan-fried cornflake-crusted tomatillo went on next, followed by the turkey burger, cheese crisp, and grilled cantaloupe. The turkey burger was served with our grilled cantaloupe salsa, more cheese crisps for dipping, and our grilled lime, cantaloupe, and jalapeño- infused, margarita rimmed with mole.

Each team was required to have a presentation plate and a separate plate to eat from while “selling” the flavors to the judges. Plates were judged based on creativity, presentation, and the drool factor. As judges were not able to taste the food, each team did their best to describe and present their dishes. All the dishes looked awesome—among them, meatballs, chili, salsa, lettuce wraps, enchiladas, tacos, stuffed poblanos, a variety of mole sauces, and cocktails.

During our presentation, I highlighted all the ways we used the basket ingredients, always grilling or smoking when possible. To score points for the drool factor, you had to describe the flavors in the dish so the judges can imagine eating your food. In my first bite, the heat and sweet of the chocolate mole sauces jumped out. I noticed the juiciness of the turkey burger from the sauce and sautéed onions and mushrooms. The pan-fried tomatillo and cornflake crisp provided a salty-cheesy crunch to the burger. The charred and cool cantaloupe helped balance the heat from the mole sauce. The salsa was sweet due to the grilled cantaloupe and corn but had heat thanks to the jalapeños. The grilled tomatillo and onion provided texture and crunch. The acid from the grilled limes and the fresh cilantro balanced out the salsa. The salsa even had a hint of smoke from the corn. The cantaloupe and jalapeño- infused tequila and grilled lime juice margarita was refreshing and the mole and salt rim took it over the top.

We knew we had a chance when the first question we got from one of the judges was, “What’s your address?” The judges deliberated and returned with the results. There was a tie for second place between the “USS BBQ and Crew” and the “Lizzie Borden Choppers.’ Then the winner was announced…the Backyard BBQ! Our team. Karen and I will receive a trophy and a cash prize.

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By: Daniel
Title: How I Won a Virtual Barbecue Competition
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Published Date: 04/02/21

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Grilling Tips

How to Cook With Wood Pellets



If you're a barbecue fan, you've probably considered using wood pellets for your cooking. This type of fuel is a great choice for grilling, since they provide a flavorful alternative to gas and charcoal. You can also use them in a smoker if you prefer a more natural smoke. Unlike gas or charcoal, wood pellets won't void your grill's warranty, and they're very easy to purchase.

Depending on your grill, wood pellets can be used to cook various kinds of food. They're great for bringing out a variety of flavors in meat, fish, and vegetables. And unlike many other types of charcoal or gas, wood pellets don't leave a distinct smokey or smoky taste. This means that they're a great choice for almost any cooking situation.

If you're using pellets for your BBQ, make sure to spread them evenly over the coals. They should ignite in five to ten minutes. To get the best flavor from them, you should also add a few pieces of wood to your grill. But keep in mind that the more you put on the grill, the less smoke you'll get. And don't use wood pellets with too many artificial substances.

Besides the aroma, wood pellets have several other benefits. They're easy to carry and come in convenient 20 or 40-pound bags. They're also much denser than logs, which means they'll take up less space in your barbecue. They also add a special flavor to your food. While skeptics might question whether pellets have an impact on the taste, the smoky flavor will be noticeable and will add an extra dimension to your grilling.

The flavor and smell of wood pellets is far superior to those of charcoal. You'll get a smoky flavor without having to worry about the smell of charcoal. As long as you don't plan on using it for other purposes, wood pellets will give your BBQ a rich, smoky taste. So if you're looking for a natural and sustainable fuel source for your barbecue, consider using wood pellets.

Although charcoal may give your barbecue a distinctive taste, wood pellets are more enjoyable than coals. You can cook with wood pellets on a charcoal barbecue for hours without any smoke at all. As the flavor of pellets increases, the wood pellets will become more attractive to smokers. You can use the charcoal-pellet mixture for all your grilling needs. A small amount of charcoal is all you need to start smoking.

Wood pellets are more sustainable than charcoal and wood chips, and they don't produce as much ash. In addition to being more environmentally friendly, wood pellets can also deliver a unique smoke flavor. They are also more affordable than charcoal and are available in a wide range of flavors. And while they're more expensive than charcoal, they're well worth the price. The price difference is not worth sacrificing the quality of these fuels.

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Grilling Tips

The Different Types of Smokers



When it comes to choosing a smoker, there are many types to choose from. There are UDS (ugly drum smokers), electric, gas and propane box types. Which is best for you? Let's explore these different options and find one that suits your needs! There are also portable and offset smokers to choose from. Each style will have its benefits, so it's important to do some research before buying. Here are some factors to consider when purchasing your new smoking machine.

A good quality smoker will have a large hopper that holds wood pellets. These pellets are made from compressed sawdust and are a great choice for beginners. These units use a fan system to heat the food and smoke it. They are also perfect for grilling and baking, and are beginner-friendly. The best part of a pellet smoker is that you can use it for multiple purposes. This versatility makes them the perfect option for people who are new to smoking.

An offset smoker is different from a box smoker. An offset smoker has a side heat source that sits on top of the cooking chamber, while a box smoker has a bottom heat source. The latter will cook your meat faster, but you'll have to constantly monitor the temperature, which will lead to overcooking and smoke rings. These smokers are generally more expensive than their counterparts, but they can be easily modified to produce the same results.

If you're looking for a smoker for your backyard BBQ, consider buying a cabinet-style one. These models use gas bottles or refillable cylinders, which you can purchase from your local grocery store. They feature a chimney and dampers on the upper part of the smoker. A gas bottle or cylinder moves through a manifold to fuel the burners. They are similar to electric smokers, but instead of using gas, they use wood chips to generate smoke flavor.

There are two main types of smokers. The first one is a wood pellet smoker. This is the traditional type of smoker. It produces excellent barbecue and is easy to clean. A gas smoker, on the other hand, requires a propane tank. A natural gas line is cheaper than liquid propane, so it is a great option for home BBQ. In addition to the firebox, there is a side chamber with shelves. There is also a chimney for the cooking chamber.

The second type is the gas smoker. It uses natural gas or propane to cook food. This is a great option if you have access to gas and propane. You can also get refillable gas bottles for a gas smoker. It's easy to find refillable bottles at a local gas station. It's also easy to use. A gas smoker is a great choice if you need a smoker that can handle large amounts of smoke.

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Grilling Tips

Charcoal Vs Pellet Grill Comparison



A charcoal vs pellet grill comparison is a must-read if you are looking for the best cooking grill available. Both types of barbecue cookers offer different pros and cons. Using a charcoal grill adds a smoky flavor to your food, and it is more versatile than a pellet grill. However, the charcoal smoker has a disadvantage: cleaning up is difficult, and you won't be able to use it in pools.

A charcoal grill has many advantages, including a larger cooking area and larger pellet hopper capacity. On the other hand, a charcoal grill has a smaller cooking area and less room to store fuel. This could limit your options when cooking large quantities of food. Furthermore, a charcoal grill will use the fuel source directly inside the grill, which limits its ability to maintain a high temperature. Moreover, a charcoal grill is smaller than a pellet-grill, making it harder to cook large amounts of food.

A charcoal grill is the most common choice for people who like to cook burgers and steaks. However, if you'd like to cook other items as well, a pellet grill might be the better option. Its temperature range is between 180-500 degF, and you can adjust it as required to suit your specific needs. But the charcoal grill is better for searing and smoking because it can easily reach 800 degF or even more.

A charcoal grill is more convenient for outdoor use. The coals are usually easy to light and ready to use. On the other hand, a pellet grill requires a chimney starter to start. You can cook up to 12 hours on a single load of charcoal. The downside to a pellet grill is that it can burn through its charcoal in two hours. It is also difficult to set the right cooking temperature. For this reason, a pellet grill should be used for low-heat cooking or smoking.

A wood pellet grill uses an electric power source and charcoal pellets. It also allows you to choose various flavors, such as maple, alder, and cherry. A charcoal grill can reach a maximum temperature of 1200 degrees Fahrenheit, and this depends on the type of charcoal used. Lumpy charcoal gets hotter than charcoal briquettes, while a pellet grill uses a smaller amount of fuel. Ultimately, your preference will depend on your specific needs.

A charcoal vs pellet grill is a great choice for home cooking. It's easy to use and has very little maintenance. Both grills produce great flavor and can be used for both indoor and outdoor cooking. A wood pellet grill will be more difficult to clean, but its low cost will help you save money. A wood pellet smoker is also a better choice if you want to smoke large pieces of meat. It is more expensive, but it's worth it in the end.

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