Hey everyone. Jason here in The City of Chicago (not the burbs). I'm going to give you way too much of an introduction.
43 years old; totally cool dude. Tomorrow will be 9 years married. Wife and I married after "dating" for 13 days. About the time we were together for a year, I saw a BGE in a hardware store. I'd only ever owned (several) of the little Weber grills, and I had never seen a grill that cost as much as the egg. I was intrigued. I started to lust after them. For years I kept telling myself that I'd get one when we finally settle in somewhere. We've lived in 4 states. I moved from here to Albuquerque, NM where we met. 6 months later we packed up the dog (a sweet and loving blue nose APBT named Ryno (after Ryne Sandberg, of course)) and we moved to Portland, OR because that's what all the cool people were doing. Then I figured out I'm not cool. Well, not in the way those guys are. As a huge coffee lover and die-hard bicycle kind of guy, it was sort of paradise. But I'm cool in the badass DJ, car-free, hip hop, City Boy kind of way. They're cool in the be all weird and sensitive and drink over-priced cocktails kind of way. Which is cool for them, but I just didn't click there. Our first son, Theodore, was born there. (He just graduated kindergarten today!) Man oh man I miss the weather and the insane amount of green, but it was time to move on.
Wife (Erin) was really growing as a pastry chef, getting kind of famous, and we decided that she needed to take a bigger role in her company and we relocated to Denver where she was one of the team to open a second location of her Portland restaurant. That was kind of a rough patch for us. Opening a new restaurant is brutal. 18 hour days, 7 days a week for the first six months. Salaried, of course. So while I was home alone with Theo the whole time she was getting burnt out. Eventually after 2 years of compromise and frustration and no work/life balance, she decided to leave the job. Finally, it was going to be my turn to leave our crappy, over-priced apartment get back to work! (I'm a career waiter) While I was out looking, she decided to come here to Chicago to do a "stage" (which is sort of like either an audition or apprenticeship in a kitchen) at Alinea, just for fun, as it's one of the top restaurants in the world. She did such an awesome job (of course) that the offered her a job immediately and two weeks later we packed up the boys and headed back to my sweet home, Chicago (not the burbs).
That job was a terrible idea. Very toxic, this industry can be. She quit two weeks later. But then we both wound up finding jobs that suit us just fine, and we started to settle in. Lots of Cubs games with the kiddo, reconnecting with all the old crew, and just generally feeling a sense of wholeness, belonging, home… and I started thinking about that BGE again. Got the boy in kindergarten, and just when things start looking good, BOOM we get news that baby 2 is on the way. So Simon was born last November.
Once everything finally got settled I started lusting again. Grill… GRILLLL my brain would say. I would spend endless hours researching all the types, brands, and styles of Kamado grills. I started telling Erin about all the great stuff I would make her, how she would be Done With Dinners Forever. She couldn't get over the price. Then, a couple days after getting a vasectomy, she must've felt sorry for me (or was just tied of hearing about it) and told me to go ahead and get the grill. I already knew just what I wanted, and ordered to a KJII with a DoJoe.
I had already spent so much time on this forum, lurking, that when the special day came I knew just what to do. I have not had a "bad" cook yet (there were a couple learning experiences), and really feel I got the hang of this, or that I'm comfortable beginning my learning journey. I have already done things I've never tried on a grill before: ribs, packer brisket, smoked fish, pizza. While I wouldn't say I nailed restaurant quality BBQ yet (ribs and brisket) they were still pretty good and thanks to you guys I'm pretty sure of what I need to do next time. The wealth of knowledge here is so helpful. My steaks, burgers, sausages, and veggies are better than any other grilling I've done before, not so much because of the grill (it's only one part of the reason), but because of your shared experience teaching me how to do things proper. Reading about cooking methods, wood varieties for smoking, science of grilling/searing/smoking etc has, in very short order, elevated my game. No more am I throwing a half bag of soaked mesquite chips on the tiny Weber kettle to cook two burgers, marveling at how intensely smokey it tasted. Now I'm understanding the chemical reaction of a smoke ring, moderation, patience. I owe it all to you. I feel like this is 50/50 introduction/thank-yous.
To close out, here are a few notable pics from my first 14 days as a KJ owner. (Nobody needs pictures of burgers, brats, corn, peppers etc). Got some pizza made with naturally leavened (no commercial yeast) sourdough crust (I roast tomatoes after cooks before shutting the grill down to make my own sauce). Smoked steelhead was delicious. The ribs…there are a lot of differing opinions on how to do them so I went with the method with the least variable: unwrapped for the entirety of the cook. They were just slightly dry, but great texture and super tasty. Definitely felt proud of them for my first try. The brisket… I started it at 06:30 thinking it would be done in time for dinner. It wasn't. 15lbs at 225° (I love how this thing dials into a temperature and just holds!). Probably need another half hour+, and I cut the cooler time short as well; it came out a little toothy. But, again, spectacular flavor. Tomorrow night is reverse-seared filet with a cambezola and cherry tomato sauce with grilled asparagus.
Anyway, that's it for me. Thanks for being here, and sharing all the great insight and creativity. You guys rock!