12 BBQ Tricks and Tips from Pitmasters

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Summer’s in the air, and that means the smell of barbeque should be too. Break out your tongs and hone your skills with these BBQ tips from the experts.

1. DON’T USE A GAS GRILL.

There are a lot of different ways to cook barbecue—direct heat, indirect heat, with charcoal, with wood chips, with split logs—but one thing that most experts agree on is that a gas grill isn’t the way to go. “The smoke is an ingredient in itself,” writes chef and TV personality Valentine Warner. Without it, you get the heat, but you’re missing out on the nuanced flavor.

2. USE WOOD FROM FRUIT TREES FOR EXTRA FLAVOR.

Speaking of nuance—to change up the usual flavor, try adding fruit tree wood chips to your charcoal. Fruit woods are “mild in flavor and high in sap, and generally have fewer impurities in them,” writes Myron Mixon in his book Everyday Barbecue: At Home with America’s Favorite Pitmaster. “You can choose from whatever is easiest to find near you: apple, cherry, grape, and my personal favorite, peach.”

3. SOAK WOOD CHIPS IN WATER BEFORE COOKING.

Another tip from Mixon: soak wood chips in water for “at least an hour or, even better, overnight” before draining them. Then wrap them in an aluminum foil “burrito” and put them in your grill. The water content makes the chips produce more smoke, which increases your flavor.

4. “IF YOU’RE LOOKING, IT AIN’T COOKING.”

The proper technique for cooking barbecue can be summed up with three words: “low and slow.” Be patient. “Try not to check the temperature more than every half an hour at most since it cools things off when you do,” writes John Shelton Reed and Dale Volberg Reed in Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue. “There’s really no reason to open the cooker for the first couple of hours unless you think things are going too fast. As the saying goes, if you’re looking, it ain’t cooking. After that, every hour or so you can mop the meat with your sauce and check the temperature while you’re at it.”

5. LET THE MEAT SIT BEFORE EATING.

After removing your meat from the grill, let it sit for a few minutes. “This seals the juices and keeps the meat from drying out,” writes Mixon. “Do not cut until you are ready to immediately serve and eat.” Another juice-saving tip, from the Academia Barilla Barbecue: 50 Easy Recipes: don’t poke holes in your meat while it’s cooking. Instead, “to turn meat, do not use forks, but barbecue tongs or spatulas.”

6. AVOID LIGHTER FLUID-FLAVORED MEAT.

If you’re using lighter fluid to get your charcoal fire started, says fiery foods expert Scott Roberts, make sure that the fire is completely out before you introduce meat into the mix. If the fire’s not out, then there’s still some lighter fluid that hasn’t been burned away, and you do not want that taste on your food. You’ll know it’s time to start cooking when “the charcoal [is] mostly an ash-gray color with a little bit of glowing red underneath.” It should take about a half an hour.

7. LAY DOWN ALUMINUM FOIL FOR EASY CLEAN-UP.

You may like cooking, and you may like eating, but nobody likes cleaning up afterward. To expedite the process, Roberts suggests to “line the inside bottom of your cooker with a couple of sheets of aluminum foil before you put your briquettes in. This will give you a quicker and easier clean-up of the gray coals and ash once you’re done barbecuing.”

8. KEEP YOUR EQUIPMENT CLEAN.

This one’s for barbecue newbies, or those who have just invested in a new smoker. Before you use it for the first time, explains award-winning Texas barbecue master in Aaron Franklin in Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto, build the biggest fire you can and let it rage for 45 minutes to an hour. Doing so “seal[s] up the pores of the metal and incinerate[s] any remains and by-products—oil, grease, metal shavings, and any other gunk—of the manufacturing process… This is also a good thing to do if you haven’t used your cooker in a long time and don’t clean it regularly and the inside is covered with rancid grease or mold.” 

9. SOAK WOODEN SKEWERS IN WATER TO AVOID BURNING.

If kebabs are on your summer menu, make sure to soak them in cold water for at least 30 minutes before use to keep them from burning. That tip comes from Brazilian Barbecue & Beyond, by the minds behind Brazilian barbecue joint Cabana, who add: “If using metal skewers, wipe them with a piece of paper towel dipped in vegetable oil to stop food from sticking to them.” Jamie Purviance, author of Weber’s Way to Grill: The Step-by-Step Guide to Expert Grilling, notes that if you’ll be doing a lot of cooking, you can soak a bunch of skewers for an hour, drain then, freeze them, and pull them out a few at a time as needed.

10. PROPER AIR CIRCULATION IS KEY.

Meat shouldn’t touch anything—other than the surface it’s sitting on, of course—while it’s cooking. Other meat and the sides of the cooker are both a no-no. “Before you buy your smoker, take a look at how big a full 12-pound brisket measures and then think about how many you can get on the cooker you’re looking at,” suggests Franklin. “And you don’t want the meat smushed up against the edges either. It needs to have space around it for airflow.”

11. STAY AWAY FROM GROCERY STORE LOGS.

Prefer smoking meat over wood fires to charcoal? It may be convenient to use the firewood sold in your local grocery store, but, Franklin cautions, it doesn’t produce the best results: “A lot of it is kiln dried, meaning that even the most pyro-challenged among us will have no trouble starting a fire with it, but the pieces will burn so fast and with so little smoke that you won’t get anywhere when you cook with them.” To tell if a piece of wood has been kiln dried, pick it up and feel how heavy it is; “if the log feels unnaturally light in your hand, it’s going to burn like gasoline.” Craigslist and the classifieds, Franklin argues, are better options for those serious about finding logs for their ‘cue.

12. USE ALUMINUM FOIL AS A GRILL BRUSH.

If you’re not quite so serious about the craft of barbecue, to the point where you don’t have all the tools on-hand, don’t worry. In place of a grill brush, writes Taming the Flame author Elizabeth Karmel, you can just “crumple a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil until it’s the size of a navel orange and pick it up between locking chef tongs. The tongs will act as the handle. Holding onto the ball of foil, brush away.”

All images via iStock.

Nearly $100,000 in Instant Ramen Was Stolen in Georgia Noodle Heist

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It's not easy to steal a small fortune when your target is instant ramen, but a team of thieves in Georgia managed to do just that a few weeks back. As The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, the criminals made off with a trailer containing nearly $100,000 worth of noodles, and the local police force is still working to track down the perpetrators.

The heist occurred outside a Chevron gas station in Fayetteville, Georgia some time between July 25 and August 1, 2018. The 53-foot trailer parked in the area contained a large shipment of ramen, which the truck's driver estimates was worth about $98,000. Depending on the brand, that means the convenience food bandits stole anywhere between 200,000 and 500,000 noodle packs.

Some outlets have connected the truck-jacking to a recent string of vehicle-related robberies, but the Fayette County Sheriff's Office told the AJC such reports are inaccurate. Any potential suspects in the case have yet to be revealed.

The outlaws join the list of thieves who have stolen food items in bulk. Some of the most ambitious food heists in the past have centered on 11,000 pounds of Nutella, $75,000 worth of soup, and 6000 cheesecakes.

[h/t The Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

Are Millennials Really Killing Mayo? An Investigation

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If the headlines are to be believed, then Millennials have killed chain restaurants, beer, bars of soap, cereal, diamonds, marriage, marmalade—and now mayonnaise.

Philadelphia Magazine ran a story earlier this week under the headline "How Millennials Killed Mayonnaise," and judging by the reactions, people have some pretty strong opinions about their preferred condiments, and whether or not said condiments are "literally dead," as a Millennial might say.

As evidence of the eggy mixture's untimely demise, the article's author, Sandy Hingston, cited BuzzFeed headlines outlining why mayonnaise is the "devil's condiment" and pointed to her personal experience of having to bring home potato salad and deviled eggs that went untouched at a family cookout.

Hingston went on to write that 20-somethings "would sooner get their news from an actual paper newspaper than ingest mayonnaise."

But does the data support this claim? Business Insider did some digging and discovered that mayonnaise sales are, in fact, down. In the U.S., sales fell 6.7 percent between 2012 and 2018, according to Euromonitor. To sell their products, Hellmann's and Kraft have been forced to lower mayonnaise prices, which fell 0.6 percent from the beginning of 2017 to 2018. And, Millennials tend to get blamed when sales numbers tank in particular industries because, as of 2018, they are the largest generation alive and also account for the most spending power.

According to Hingston, Millennials' distaste for mayo could be because it jiggles, it looks like a gross bodily fluid, and it seems like "a boring white food," as opposed to something more exotic, like aioli (mayonnaise with garlic). Also worth noting, though, is the rising popularity of healthy, vegan diets, as well as the availability of egg-free "mayonnaise" products.

So, while Millennials may have "deeply wounded mayonnaise," according to Business Insider, it probably won't disappear from store shelves anytime soon. Instead, companies are getting creative and releasing new mayonnaise products, like Heinz's new Mayochup (mayonnaise and ketchup) and Real Mayonnaise, made from cage-free eggs, lemon juice, oil, and vinegar. Many supermarkets also sell garlic, herb, hot and spicy, and lime variations.

As to whether Millennials will continue on their killing spree, Jason Dorsey, who researches Millennials at the Center for Generational Kinetics, tells the BBC, "The real issue is not that Millennials are not killing industries or businesses, but businesses aren't adapting." Jeff Fromm, the president of consulting firm FutureCast, agrees: "Millennials are the canary in the coal mine regarding trends. Innovation is going to be required."

[h/t Business Insider]

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