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Three Hacks for Safe Cookouts for Backyard, Tailgate or Campsite!

So you’re camping out and getting your cooking gear together! Or, maybe you’re just going to fire up the grill in the backyard and cook for family and friends. Maybe you’re gathering your tailgate supplies for the College and Pro football season. Whichever version of outdoor cooking you’re leaning towards it’s always a great idea to keep a few food safety tips in mind. Hopefully, there won’t be any problems! But here are three safety hacks that are perfect for the back yard, tailgate or the campsite. ONE – Cold and Hot - Safe Temperatures – Digital Thermometers The general rule of thumb that I mention during my chef demos is this; Keep the cold food cold and keep the hot food hot. Use ice to keep cold foods chilled while serving. Such as a bowl of pasta salad resting in a tray of ice. Never mix ice used for consumption with ice used to store food – especially any meat that could drip raw fluids. Also, cook/grill meats to their proper internal temperature. The only way to do this is with a thermometer. Personally, I use Digital Thermometers for a variety of things. I have a Digital Instant Read Thermometer that’s pocket-sized and perfect for camping and tailgating. And I have a Bluetooth Thermometer which sends the chamber temperature of my barbecue smoker to my cell phone. Plus I have a couple of older plain cooking thermometers for backups in case a battery dies. Use your thermometer to check the internal temps so you properly cook items to the USDA recommendation. This takes care of harmful bacteria that may cause illness. Temps differ from meat to meat so I’ve added the USDA Temperature Chart below. Beef, Pork, Veal & Lamb Steaks, chops, roasts 145 °F (62.8 °C) and allow to rest for at least 3 minutes Ground meats 160 °F (71.1 °C) Ham, fresh or smoked (uncooked) 145 °F (62.8 °C) and allow to rest for at least 3 minutes Fully Cooked Ham (to reheat) Reheat cooked hams packaged in USDA-inspected plants to 140 °F (60 °C) and all others to 165 °F (73.9 °C). All Poultry (breasts, whole bird, legs, thighs, and wings, ground poultry, and stuffing) 165 °F (73.9 °C) Fish & Shellfish 145 °F (62.8 °C) Source USDA.gov If the food you are serving was stored in the fridge then that food needs to be kept chilled during serving. Hot food from the grill, oven, grill or stove should be kept warm. Think [...]

By |2019-09-14T01:27:45+00:00August 18th, 2019|Cooking, Ham, Meat|0 Comments

Easy Grilled Foil Fish Boat

About the Author: Kent Whitaker is a culinary writer and cookbook author. He is the winner of the Emeril Live BBQ contest and winner of an American Authors Association Gold medal. Kent’s books are in bookstores nationwide and are available online. Kent lives in Chattanooga. Visit him online at www.thedeckchef.com Sometimes you want something other than a hot dog or burger on the grill and that’s where seafood comes in to play. Seafood, from simple cod fillets to shrimp, clams, oysters, shark steaks, and more are all perfect for cooking over hot coals or open gas flames. The trick is to understand one important thing… grilling seafood is incredibly simple! And that’s where using something as simple as a foil fish boat comes in handy. Unless you grill all of the time and have a wide variety of non-stick grilling baskets you may be hesitant about grilling more delicate white fish fillets directly on the hot grate. The obvious fear that that the fillet will break apart… which it will naturally flake when it’s done. Flakes can turn into large chunks of your meal falling into to fire.   Why a Boat and not just a sheet of Foil? What’s a foil fish boat? – all you are really doing is providing a nice surface that you can grill thin and delicate filets on worry-free. A splash of butter or non-stick spray is all you really need. I love foil and this is a recipe and technique that I use to cook seafood and shrimp on the grill. T also works with vegetable burgers and turkey burgers. The point is, you have the smooth surface of a skillet with the smoky flavor from your grill! Here’s where a “boat” comes in handy! By forming a boat or bowl type of shape with your foil you can add additional items in without having to worry about things sliding off. Plus, depending on how thin your fillet is, you may not even need to turn it. Just let the heat from the bottom coals and the refracted heat from a closed cover grill, smoke and bake your fish at the same time. And, if the sides of the foil are long enough you can add the ingredients, fold lightly to seal, and then grill. You’ve just eliminated the worry of serving dried out fillets. Serving shrimp? Toss in the shrimp, sprinkle with seasoning, a few dashes of water and some butter, fold slightly, grill and you [...]

By |2019-08-18T21:51:08+00:00July 2nd, 2019|BBQ|0 Comments

Dry Rubs Made Simple

Have you ever taken a bite of something and wondered what spices were used to season it? In the world of barbecue and grilling spice combinations are called rubs because the mixture of spices is rubbed into the meat. I get several emails a year asking about making rubs and how to find combinations for different flavors. The simple answer is that rubs are whatever you want. Heck – salt and pepper is a rub! But, for developing certain flavors combinations it’s probably a good idea to do some research on the spices you like in your favorite dishes. For example, if you want an Asian inspired rub then research oriental spices and Korean barbecue. Tex-Mex rubs include spices found in South of the border cooking. The same goes for Greek and Mediterranean cooking, Italian foods etc. If you like that “flavor” learn the basic spices associated with that style of cooking and start playing with spice combinations. Or, you can cheat! More on that below. Here’s a few things to keep in mind when developing your own spice combinations – AKA, rubs! Add Before Long before Cooking The secret to using a spice rub on any meat is getting a head start. I apply my rib rub on my ribs a day before they hit the smoker. This allows the spices to dissolve as the meat soaks up the flavor. At the very least, apply your rub several minutes before cooking. Allow the rub to turn from dry to moist – you’ll see a notable difference over the course of ten to thirty minutes. If you plan on more than a few minutes, then cover and place in the fridge. But don’t go crazy with the above suggestion when it comes to delicate items like seafood. A few minutes to allow the seasoning to sink in will be perfect. Watch the Sugar and Salt! Going healthy is a great thing when you start mixing up your own batches of rubs. Don’t get me wrong – you can add a pinch of salt – just don’t go overboard. Avoid doubling up on sodium when you use salt and then another ingredient such as Garlic Salt. Suddenly you have double the salt! I include dashes of brown sugar, and even table sugar, in several of my rubs and seasoning blends. However – if you use a lot of sugar in your mix and heat things up too quickly you could end up with a bitter [...]

By |2019-03-13T21:48:20+00:00February 1st, 2019|BBQ, BBQ Recipes|0 Comments

Winter Survival Tip for Summer Grill Masters – Beer Mustard!

Winter temps are dropping across the land and this probably causes outdoor cooking angst for those who consider themselves grill masters! Yes, some will trek to the grill or smoker no matter how deep the snow is or how cold the temperature may drop. This is especially true for die-hard tailgate fans watching NFL playoff football. But, for many others… it’s just to dang cold to fire up the charcoal or gas in order to grill a couple of burgers or steaks when you can cook inside or dine-out. So, what’s a grilling junkie to do? You can either go for it and invest in a heavier coat… or, try some new things in the kitchen that can be moved outside when the temperature rises! Even if it’s just one warm day in the middle of January or February. Here’s my suggestion for surviving the winter season – turn your attention to a dish you’ve always wanted to try but were afraid to do for a crowd. Chances are your outdoor cooking parties are limited so a first shot a new dish can be cooked, taste tested and perfected before you next official cookout party with guests. Take on a few quick and easy recipes that can be easily tweaked for both indoor and outdoor use. I like trying to perfect new sauces or rubs during the winter, so I can serve them up in the Spring and Summer months. Here’s a suggestion to get you started starting with a tasty mustard that would be perfect for hot dogs and brats broiled in the oven for the Big “Super” Game! Homemade Beer Mustard Making your own mustard is easier than you may think. It’s a simple four step process that requires added time for the finished mustard to rest. You need some mustard seeds and liquid. Most people use a combination of vinegar and water. Here's where you can begin to play with things. Beer can replace the water! Here's the four basic steps: They are the same if you are using water, beer, wine, etc. as your liquids. Step 1 – SOAK your mustard seeds with enough liquid to cover the in a covered, non-reactive bowl. Soak for 2-4 days in the fridge. Check every day or so and stir slightly. Step 2 – BLEND the soaked seeds in a blender or food processor. Short bursts produce a chunkier mustard. Longer makes a creamier mustard. Step 3 – FLAVOR your mustard using additional ingredients. How about [...]

By |2019-03-13T21:51:37+00:00January 15th, 2019|BBQ, Beer|0 Comments

Three Alternatives to Tailgate Hotdogs!

By Kent Whitaker Football season is here! Highschool, College and the National Football League are kicking off. And, when you ask a cookbook writer what the most important part of the game is – you’re probably not going to hear “Defense” or “Offense” when I make my picks. What you may hear me talk about its tailgating! In case you’re not familiar with the term – tailgating is when fans of a sport come early, set up grills, cook some great food, play games, probably consume adult beverages, and then make their way into the event. But, the fun is not only relegated to football, NASCAR and other sporting events. Musician Jimmy Buffet is known for his style of tropical inspired music as well as the daylong parties that take place in the parking lots of his concerts. One of the most popular items to grill are hotdogs when it comes to tailgating. The reason being is that hot dogs are cheap, easy to cook, require only small grills, and can feed a crowd. But, if you get bored with hotdogs there are some alternatives. The bratwurst is a given, tasty and becoming as common as dogs! – so I’m including those meaty links in with hotdogs just for this article. Here’ three great hotdog/bratwurst alternatives for your tailgate this football season. These are great for if you’re grilling at the game or just enjoying it on TV in your back yard. KNOCKWURST Ok, I admit that I tried to throw you off with the bratwurst comments above. But this sausage cousin to the Bratwurst is worth tossing on the grill! The knockwurst combines spices, garlic, veal and pork for a very easy to find sausage selection. The major generic difference between the two is the the knockwurst is often not as spicy as a bratwurst. That makes it amazing for a wide variety of toppings. And, of course bring on the sauerkraut, the grilled onions, and some serious mustard. If you're bold - make up a batch of horseradish infused beer cheese for a drizzle! CHORIZO A crowd favorite with Argentine and Spanish roots! This wonderful link is making serious inroads into the tailgate world. Bold flavor, meaty texture, a wide variety of cooking options make the Chorizo a winner with your grilling guests! You can choose from a slightly spicy version to an "GOOD HEAVENS HAND ME A BEER" version – and everything in between! Grill slowly and allow some of the excess grease [...]

By |2019-03-13T22:57:58+00:00August 30th, 2018|BBQ, Chorizo, Knockwurst, Loukaniko|0 Comments

Hot Diggity Dog! Hot Dogs, Bratwursts and Sausages

By Kent Whitaker The Great American Grilled hotdog is all grown up! In fact, the classic weenie is not really all that American! Hot dogs, and other sausage style items eaten on a fluffy bun, have international roots! And, hot dogs vary as you travel across the country! Consumers have demanded specialized “dogs” for regional tastes. There’s the famous Chicago Dog, the Fenway Frank and even versions for West Virginia, Tennessee and more. Granted, a good amount of the difference is what toppings you put on your dog but don’t forget… you can have bratwursts, sausages, Chorizo’s and many other varieties. The options are endless as differences in consumer tastes change as you travel from the East coast to the South, the Midwest, Southwest on out to California. Even professional sports venues, such as tracks in NASCAR, baseball and football stadiums cater to their local cliental. Chefs and menu planners at these venues are always looking for ways to impress their customers with new takes on hot dogs, bratwursts, and sausages. Martinsville Speedway caused a stir in the world of NASCAR when news spread about a change in suppliers for their famous “Martinsville Hot Dog.” Fenway Park, a baseball stadium in Major League Baseball, has long been known for their “Fenway Frank.” Don’t forget the menu options when you start including food trucks, specialized restaurants, and of course on back yard grills. Some Dog Gone History! Before I start naming regional versions of links served up on a bun I think some information about the history of the hot dog is in order. According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council (NHDASC) the history of the term “hot dog” is not clear. Legends about the name are far ranging. Here’s the official explanation from the pros! The name “hot dog” is often attributed to cartoonist who observed the carts selling “red hot dachshund dogs” on the New York Polo grounds and was unable to spell dachshund, so he printed “hot dogs” instead. However, this cartoon has not been found, prompting many historians to question the legend’s accuracy. The immigrant vendors of the time also brought their dachshund dogs, prompting their carts to be called dog wagons. Possessing good humor, these vendors were known to tease that their sausages were made from their dachshunds. Certainly, this was nothing more than a friendly joke, but this may be where the term “hot dog” was coined.  – Source: National Hot Dog and Sausage Council That’s fine for figuring out [...]

By |2019-03-13T23:03:06+00:00July 14th, 2018|BBQ, Bratwursts|2 Comments

Spooky Halloween Shrunken Head Sliders

By Kent Whitaker Have you ever eaten a shrunken head with melted Colby and Pepper Jack cheese? Who says that Halloween is just for handing out candy and popcorn balls to neighborhood kids? It’s time to toss in some fun foodie ideas that are well suited for the kitchen or grill. And, why not make it fun, kind of gross… and yet packed with flavor? For any other article this recipe would simply be for a burger with some spicy seasoning, steamed onions, a tangy jalapeno mustard BBQ sauce and gherkin pickle wedges. For Halloween, this recipe transforms into something a bit more fun. Tell your family, or guests, you’re serving up Shrunken Head Sliders with tape worms, zombie sauce and alien fingers… with cheese! Remember, you’re having fun and getting into the Halloween spirit, pun intended, but that’s no reason to forget about making a great tasting dish. I suggest that you make a blended burger for extra flavor. I suggest combining ground beef with ground Italian sausage. Or, ground turkey and black bean burgers. If you break up the beans your ground turkey will have a creepy purple tint to them – perfect for Halloween! The “zombie sauce” mentioned above is one of my standard quick and easy “cheater junk sauces.” That’s where you have some sauce in the fridge and you add some extra “junk” to it for bonus flavor. For this I combined a mustard based barbecue sauce with a splash of honey and store bought chopped jalapenos. Use these recipe as a starting point for your creative ideas and have fun! Easy Beef & Italian Sausage Burgers 1 pound lean ground beef, 80/20 1/2 pound Italian sausage, ground Salt and pepper to taste Steak sauce Cajun seasoning Cheese Combine the beef and ground Italian sausage in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Form into equally sized meatballs about the size of a golf ball. Next, flatten each ball while pinching one side into a thinner piece forming a skeleton head type of shape. Next, season each side with a light brushing of steak sauce and a few dashes of Cajun seasoning. Grill, bake or broil as you normally would. Use tiny slices of cheese for x’s representing stitched eyes and for the mouth. I used pepper jack. Serve hot on toasted slider buns covered in cheese with zombie sauce, steamed onion slices and gherkin pickle wedges. Serve open faced. Kent “The Deck Chef” Whitaker is the former winner of the [...]

By |2019-03-14T23:29:54+00:00October 4th, 2017|BBQ, BBQ Recipes, Halloween|1 Comment