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Everything posted by MikeRobinson

  1. I also have seen little difference in lump charcoals. (Sorry, Henry Ford, I will never again buy "briquettes ...") I do prefer to find bags that are of a single wood such as mesquite or hickory, but cannot always find them. Some bags obviously contain sawmill scrap. As long as the wood is dense enough to burn without sparking, I've consistently had Jark's experiences: it just settles in and burns for hours. (Although you can spend just as much money as you like on "Big Green Egg®" charcoal.) I don't rely on the charcoal to impart flavor, instead using wood chips in a punctured aluminum-foil envelope to provide "smoke."
  2. Basically, what I would do is to once again repeat your tried-and-true kitchen oven technique, in the kitchen oven, but with a remote reading food thermometer inserted the entire time – including the two-hour "rest." Take oven temperature and food temperature readings, say every half-hour. (Of course, some "very computerized" models will do this for you, and even draw a graph ...) This will give you another set of data as to what your technique is actually doing in terms of the food. Measure and record both temperatures, both during the cook and then during the rest, because both periods are equally important. (Some say that "the rest" is even more so ...) This will tell you what your "tested rule of thumb" actually, objectively, means. Then, you should be able to accomplish the same thing reliably, whether or not the kamado temperature was "500ºF." (Which I predict is not actually essential.) In reproducing the technique, you would first cook the food on the kamado, then "rest" it in your kitchen oven (turned off ...(?)) for the remaining time. watching the temperature as it gradually declined. (It may decline more quickly since there is no "declining oven temperature" surrounding it, but the thermometer will not lie.) The cook needs both steps.
  3. Obviously it would have been much cheaper and simpler for them to simply ship you a complete new unit ... or, at even less cost to them, to give you a magic piece of paper that you could print and then hand to the cashier when you went to a local store to pick a new one up for free. Shipping costs are not trivial when the thing being shipped is heavy or bulky or fragile ... and maintaining a back-stock of "last year's parts" is also expensive. I don't own a ceramic unit, but I'm still amazed that a piece of ceramic could just crack off like that . . .
  4. YUM!! Now, please remind me, where is your restaurant located?
  5. I think the essential observations of the article are sound: mold likes moisture, grease (, and leftover coffee). I make sure that air can always freely circulate while rainwater can't get in, and don't use a cover. I'm also religious about thoroughly cleaning after every cook, with ordinary soap, water, a scrubber and a cotton rag. Simply stated, "there's nothing there for mold to eat."
  6. Yes, I think you're right: the front lip appears to be broken off. (How did they manage that?) Looks like the manufacturer site "chargriller.com" has every replacement part you could wish for, organized by model. The "inner" and "outer" grates are sold separately, and nothing's expensive. Just look in the top menu under "Parts." I'm sure that you could burn anything if you had to. In the low-oxygen environment of a kamado, the wood might turn into charcoal. (I don't know for sure.) Also note that I find the Akorns to be extremely stingy with fuel: just shut both the top and bottom vents after a cook and, tomorrow morning, most of the charcoal will still be there, ready to be gathered up and put back in the bag. It's crazy how little fuel the darned thing uses. I've now run "low and slow" for an entire day and still had "leftovers." Vents "barely open," but the thermometer told me that the fire was still in there, burning steadily along. And it just stays there, mostly without intervention. I've never seen anything like it.
  7. "My cow just ate your Vegan ... now, I wonder if "that bit of indigestion" will spoil the taste of the meat ..."
  8. I sorta think that grease from the food is going to smoke no matter what you do . . . The charcoal fire itself, once well-lit and properly ventilated, probably will not.
  9. Well, my Akorn (Junior ...) today simply sits outside, covered with nothing. (Northwest Georgia, USA.) (Full disclosure: I lived twelve years in Scottsdale, Arizona ...) The bottom half of the firepot is removed and turned upside-down, propped-up by a couple pieces of wood, vents open. The top vent, slightly open, is covered loosely by a pet-food bowl. In this way, "air can very-freely get anywhere and everywhere," but "rain has no easy way to get in, and, if it does, it has nowhere to stay." After every cook, I religiously remove (recycle ...) the charcoal, discard the ash, and then, with soap and water and a light scrubber, wash and scrub-down the grill and all the metal surfaces inside and out, then wipe dry. A five-minute ritual. Years later, it all still looks "as good as new." I briefly used a cover, but quickly observed that (in the naturally-wet conditions where I now live ...) moisture was often hiding under the cover. So, I got rid of it and never missed it. In the desert, I submit that you have little practical use for "a cover." Simply make sure that water, whenever it occasionally comes, cannot linger. The desert sun will not affect paint. Store it under the edge of the porch ... just in case.
  10. I actually suspect that it doesn't matter much which oil/fat you use, because it probably won't impart any flavor at all when used in a "sear" step. Coconut oil is a reliable, high-heat tolerant oil that's also great for popcorn. There are, of course, many "smoke-point charts" ... like this one.
  11. Full disclosure that I only live about thirty miles from "the Lodge Cookware Mother Ship," but I will freely say that a cast iron wok was one of the most versatile and useful pieces that we ever bought. Almost as frequently used around here as a cast-iron Dutch oven or a cast-iron skillet. We were given an electric wok as a wedding present which almost-immediately failed ... and it never performed very well anyway. There seems to be something about wok cooking that needs the hefty and consistent thermal mass of cast iron – whether you use it on your grill or on your stove. "No hot spots."
  12. "You came out like a bandit with this one!" Looks like you got about $200 worth of perfectly serviceable gear for nothing! Yes, it truly is amazing what some people will simply throw away. (Who knows: maybe the owner didn't pay the rent ...) You should have no problem locating the center insert for the grill plate – on the internet someplace, or maybe with the manufacturer – and in the meantime you can certainly cook without it. I can't see what else "in the front is missing," but it's not anything that you might need. - - - I'm a computer-geek by trade, but when it comes to cooking I like things very simple. (Maybe because I know a little too much about how all that "computerized wizardry" actually works!) However: "to thine own geek-self be true ..." Gadgets can be a lot of fun. Bottom line easy: As long as you have any thermometer device which will allow you to continuously monitor temperatures – firebox, and food – without opening the lid, you should be set. Bonus points if it comes with anything that you can conveniently carry around in your pocket so you can sit down to first-course dinner without wondering "what's going on out there." The probe wires should be wrapped in temperature-resistant mesh. When you unwrap it, put both probes (wear oven mitts!) in a saucepan of rapidly-boiling water without touching the bottom of the pan, and confirm that both of them read exactly 212ºF or 100ºC when exposed only to the boiling water. If they both do that, you're good to go. (If not, note the difference, as you decide whether or not to return it.) You can spend as little or as much money as you want on stuff like this, as long as you buy quality. Keep the manual in the bag. (Also keep the receipt ...)
  13. Umm, to repeat myself ... Here is an a web page on "cast iron seasoning" (including "the science of seasoning") published by Lodge in the context of cast-iron skillets. (Which they now "pre-season" at the factory. Your grate was not pre-seasoned.) The process is simple. Lightly spray the grate with canola oil spray and wipe off the excess with a paper towel: "no runs, no blobs." Place it in your kitchen oven at about 450º for about one hour. You may observe smoke: this is normal. Then, turn off the oven and allow the grate to cool down naturally. You're ready to go. If you ever observe rust, which is highly unlikely, lightly sand it off and re-season. After each cook, gently wash remaining food residues off the grate with water and a bit of dish soap, and a soft scrubber pad. Get all the residues off. Allow to dry. Over time, a natural layer of seasoning will continue to accumulate. Nothing(!) sticks to properly-seasoned cast iron, and it only gets better with time.
  14. For me, the "guiding light" is the internal temperature of the food. However, once you get to know your equipment and your preferred process, experience does begin to take over. And, Kamado(!) grills are indeed predictable and repeatable. ("Can your Smokey Joe do that?" No.) A Kamado grill is, in fact, a charcoal-fired convection oven. The food is cooked by hot air, not radiant heat from the fire. That inner liner is the "secret sauce" which creates the air path. As I've said, I find that I use continuous, outside reading, food-temperature measurement all the time now: Kamado, kitchen stove, "turbo" (convection ...) toaster oven, stovetop. The same little unit gets an awful lot of use. But, it replaces "educated guesswork" with data. As long as I'm paying attention, I know what's going on in there, and how it's going to turn out ... every time.
  15. The first thing that my temperature probe taught me was that the built-in dome thermometer is completely useless.
  16. @jark87 "To Thine Own Self, and to Thine Own Technology, Be True!" As long as you reliably wind up with "another delicious cook," 150% of the gee-gaws are secondary. Experience is always the best teacher. You very simply need: "A Process." I think that the essential idea is simply: that: "Yes, you do need an external-reading 'lid-closed' thermometer to inform your [grilling] process." Without which you are "flying blind." Only if you know(!) what the Food is right-now doing, can you possibly predict ... nor anticipate ... nor ever hope to control ...the outcome. You need a device that does not require you to open the grill lid, nor the kitchen stove, nor even the stovetop cast-iron skillet, in order to know ... in real time ... what is actually going on in that hot box.
  17. @jark87: "However internet-y you care to be" is, in my view, is entirely up to you. Being a software consultant by trade, the only thing that I really care about is "an accurate, remote-reading temperature reading of the food." Instinctively, I look for the very simplest way to achieve this. (At this point in my very long career, I am not looking for anything new to "debug." The Internet™ no longer impresses me at all ...) But, as you gain experience with how you like to cook, yes, you rely less on technology. Bon appetit! - - - As far as "being lazy," I am a bit "anal-retentive" about post-cook procedure. The temperature probes are wiped down before being stored in the bag(s). Tomorrow, the ashes and coals are thoroughly removed. The cast-iron grates are washed and scrubbed (softly) and checked for seasoning. The firebox is wiped down inside and out, and the bottom section is turned upside-down and placed on small pieces of wood. The top vent is left slightly open and covered with a pet-bowl. It has become a five-minute ritual. (The grill sits outside, and still today it is "as good as new.") - - - FYI: "I don't do 'high temps.'" If I want "sear," I have a stove and a cast iron skillet and a bottle of coconut oil. To me, my Kamado is simply a charcoal-fired convection oven. And it cruises along at 350º-400ºF while my thermometer tells me what the food is doing. "High temperature processes" are not going to be done here. - - - I first discovered "convection" when I bought a toaster oven with a "Turbo" feature. "Okay, so what could a fan possibly do?" I very quickly found out! The food is cooked ... not by radiant heat, but by recirculating hot air. The apparently-simple addition of "a fan" turns the thing into a much more versatile kitchen appliance. Go figger. The "secret sauce" of the Kamado process turns out to be ... that the firebox has an inner lining around which hot air(!) can circulate.
  18. I feel strongly that you need a unit that does not require you to open the lid. "No, your friend's cheap dial thermometer won't do ... that's a good tool but for a different job." I found a perfectly-satisfactory unit at Home Depot for about $35. It is very nice because it is wireless: the unit sitting beside the grill transmits its temperature readings to a unit that you can carry in your pocket as far as 400 feet away. (Both of them show both of the temperatures.) The cables that reach into the firebox are covered in metal mesh. There are two probes: one which measures the firebox temperature, and the other which measures the temperature of the food. (The food sensor, so the manual says, is 3/4" from the end of the probe.) I use it both on my grill, and in my kitchen stove, and sometimes on the stovetop. "What you can measure, you know." And, by the way, you now know that the thermometer on the lid is basically worthless ... (I do remove the batteries when not in use, since I observed that it will otherwise drain them. I keep it, batteries and all, in a gallon Ziploc® bag, with one of the probes in another smaller bag inside so they don't get tangled up.) I personally think that an external-reading thermometer, which allows you to continuously monitor temperatures without opening the grill lid (or, oven door), is probably the single most important cooking tool that you can have. It makes cooking into a process. I use it to tell me exactly when I should remove the food – 10ºF below the target temperature – then "tent" it in aluminum foil off-fire (temperature-probe still in ...) to rise the remaining 10 degrees in less than fifteen minutes. (The thermo tells you precisely when to unwrap and "plate it.") With this approach, you get: repeatable results. Something that your "Smokey Joe" could never do. One Thanksgiving, I used it to deliver "rare, medium rare, medium, and (ick ...) well done" simultaneously to various family members. And I didn't need to ask them whether the meat was to their liking: it was simply a matter of food temperature, and adding the meat to the grill in stages as the thermometer indicated. But I came out looking like a "grill-meister rock star." The Kamado grill – whatever model you prefer – gives you the same predictable temperature-stability that you see with your kitchen stove. It will do the same thing every time. If you shut both vents at the end of the cook, tomorrow as you do cleanup you'll find that most of the charcoal is still there. It's the darndest thing I've ever seen. I run it at temperatures around 350ºF – so I'm never pushing any "temperature extremes" – and I do any requested "sear" ahead of time on my kitchen stove in a cast-iron skillet with coconut oil.
  19. I have a friend who swears by a little propane grill that can sit on a tabletop. He uses it for searing. Turn on the gas and within less than a minute you've got as much temperature as you may want. Do the job, then turn it off. I don't know if this is better than my skillet, but I guess it would also do things like "char." I haven't pursued the idea because personally I don't like sear or char or "bark." But it did sound interesting and practical.
  20. Last year was "the year of the hornets." They invaded an out-of-service beehive and the eaves of my house. "Wasps are bad, but hornets are b&stards." They will actually "fly combat air patrols" around their nests and pour out in large numbers to attack you before you get there. I had to put on my bee suit in order to blast them, which of course poisoned the beehive box. (I had to burn it.) I could see them aiming directly for my face, only to be stopped by the hood of the suit. I sprayed the entire contents of a room fogger through a piece of PVC pipe to take out the nest in the eaves. Then I washed the suit three times.
  21. Interesting. I had heard of "dry brining" beef, but never before onions ,,, Off to the grocery store to try it!!
  22. I sear steaks in a hot heavy cast-iron skillet on my kitchen stove. Before the cook. I take the ironware stepwise up to high temperature, do the searing, then wipe the skillet down and let it cool down naturally in the oven while the steaks move on to the grill. Personally, I use coconut oil because it is known to be a high-temperature tolerant oil. (It's the secret ingredient of great popcorn.) There is no hint of coconut flavor in the final product. Grapeseed oil is another option. ("Smoke Point charts" are everywhere on the internet.) I'd expect things like "bacon/duck fat" or "bone marrow" to be used as basting or marinating ingredients. But that's just me. Once they encounter the high temperatures of the searing skillet, I fear that any flavors would be long gone.
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