Let’s face it – things are expensive right now. Everything from the cost of toothpaste to gas has gone up. Unfortunately, groceries and especially less-sold grocery items like the BBQ meat cuts we know and love, have gone right up with them.
If tight budgets have you down, then you’re in the right place! We’re going to show you some simple ideas to make amazing grilled treats on a budget. All fueled of course, by Griller’s Gold Premium Hardwood BBQ pellets!
Enjoying the grill on a budget just involves making the same things you love with some twists. In this edition, we’ll do three things that “mimic” three faves, only on a budget.
We are replacing a big thick Ribeye, Wings, and Baby Back Ribs with substitutes that are just as tasty and more importantly, much less expensive than the originals.
Let’s hit it!
Ribeye on a Budget: Reverse-Seared Chuck Roast
Of all the foods to have gone sky-high, beef is probably the worst one. It’s a combo of poor demand during the pandemic that caused producers to scale back operations and then when demand returned, not being able to scale back up fast enough. Fortunately, there are signs that this is improving, but beef prices are still at a record high.
So, you’ve got a hankering for a big thick ribeye, but that cost is a way off? For about 40% of the price of a bone-in rib roast, you can get … a chuck roast! The ribeye’s tastier cousin.
I know, you’re saying “hey wait a minute … chucks can be tough as nails, they are for braising not grilling.” But we say “nay nay! Don’t knock it until you try it.” The trick to tenderness comes in three ways:
Salt – we use the “dry brine” technique to get some deeper salt penetration and deliver tenderness
Gentle cooking – we use the tried and true fave method of “reverse searing”
Careful carving – We will carefully slice and carve the meat for the optimum tenderness
Now, this all said, a chuck’s “chew” will be more like a New York strip than a filet, so just be ready for that.
Buy and Trim on a budget:
Buy the thickest chuck roast you can find – ideal thickness is 1 ½” to more than 2” thick. Look for chucks that have even marbling and ideally a minimum of hard ridges of gristle. When you get it home, trim off any hard exterior gristle lines, any silverskin, and hard bits of fat on the outside. Leave what is between the muscle sections alone until after cooking.
As you’ve probably learned, great juiciness and tenderness can come from brining. (This is typically done to turkeys and chickens.) As the salt is absorbed into the meat, it “denatures” or untangles the tangled-up protein strands in the meat.
The dry brine technique is simple.
Take the meat out of the package, put it on a plate or a pan, ideally with a rack under the meat to give it some air space, and sprinkle it generously with kosher salt. Then you leave it unwrapped in the fridge overnight. That’s it.
You’ll find that about an hour after the salt goes on, it will have all dissolved. As you check on it, you’ll see that some moisture has come to the surface of the meat, then disappears again. That’s the brining process at work.
So the day before cooking, get the salt on it and put it in the fridge. About 2 hours before cooking, take it out, give a rinse in the sink to wash off any residual brine and you’re ready for the next step!
Now, what if you didn’t plan ahead? No worries – even a 4-hour dry brine at room temp has a good effect.
Key thing at this step – examine the meat and get to know where the muscle divisions are before you cook it. This will help you with the carving later. In this photo, you can see natural divisions between muscles marked with red lines. We’ll split it along those lines after cooking and then slice off any gristle or sinew, leaving just delicious tender meat.
For the cooking technique, we’re going to use reverse searing. That’s the technique where you cook low and slow until just before your meat is the desired doneness, then, you rest it, and then sear it just before serving.
Fire Up: Fire up your pellet grill to 225 degrees. If you like it extra smokey, start at 180F or use the “Smoke” or “Super Smoke” settings, depending on how your grill is equipped. For beef, we like Griller’s Gold Competition Blend or Smokeshack Blend the best. If using a charcoal or gas grill, you want low heat – make a small fire and put it to the side, or only light off one burner on your gas grill. Get it preheated well – at least 15 minutes at grilling temp.
Season, Meat on and Turning: Seasoning: We like to add just a touch more surface salt at this point, plus garlic powder and fresh ground pepper. But you do you on that one. Just remember that the meat already has a salty thing going. Thermometer: if you have a probe thermometer or other style of “insert and leave it” meat thermometer, this is a good time to use it. Depending on the thickness of your chuck, it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 90 minutes to reach your doneness temp. We like to turn the meat every 20 minutes or so just to evenly cook it.
Targeted Doneness: While we like our meat on the rare side of medium-rare, because Chuck isn’t inherently tender like a filet or ribeye, you’ll want to go a bit more done. We like to do the reverse sear to about 130 degrees (this is where we set our probe thermo’s alarm) which is on the low side of Medium Rare (135) but the meat will carryover a bit.
Rest: When the meat hits the target temp, take it off to a platter, cover it with foil (1 layer of heavy duty, 2 layers of regular), then cover that platter with a couple of folded bath towels (we keep several old clean towels for this purpose). This creates a little rest nest for the meat. Rest at least 30 minutes, ideally an hour. This rest helps even out the heat in the meat and helps tenderize it.
Sear: 20 minutes before serving time, fire the grill back up to at least 450, or, one of our favorite methods, heat a heavy skillet, ideally cast iron over medium-high heat on the stove. Sear the meat to a beautiful brown crust – we like to turn it every 2 minutes until each side has had two “rides” on the heat. Time to carve!
Carving: So you’ve already rested the meat before, so you can carve it right when it comes off. First divide the meat along the muscle lines that you so carefully noted when you were dry brining it, then trim off any hard gristle lines or undesired fat. Each piece will likely have a gristle line along the side that connected it to the other piece. Note the red lines in the picture below, those are the gristle areas that you need to trim off. Then just carve those pieces in relatively thin slices, stacking them on a serving platter. Pour any accumulated juice over it, and if you want a “rock star” touch – melt a couple of tablespoons of salted butter and pour over the meat. Bonus points if it’s a compound butter!
This “budget” style of steak will be so good it will make you think you’re royalty! Hint: Don’t share your secret with your guests!
Chicken Thigh “Wings”
Due to the popularity of chicken wings in restaurants, and the labor-intensive process to cut them, wings are inherently much more expensive than good ‘ol chicken thighs.
Chicken thighs are thicker, meatier, and well, most would say, even tastier than the ‘ol chicken wing. Here’s a quick and easy technique to make tasty, crisp-skinned chicken thighs ready to toss with your favorite wing sauce:
Buy budget Friendly:
Simple: bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. Ideally don’t get the ones with the back bone and meat attached (and if you do, look up on YouTube on how to remove that, then save them to make chicken soup).
We like to rinse off the chicken after it’s out of the package then spread it on a baking rack to air dry a bit. This next step will be the kicker step: take all the thighs and dump them into a big mixing bowl, add a couple of tablespoons of baking powder (yes we said that!) sprinkled evenly over them.
Season them generously with salt and pepper, or if you like, a barbecue rub. Then toss them to distribute the baking powder and seasonings. The baking powder aids in crisping up the skin.
No low and slow here, friends, heat is what you want. We like to preheat to 425 degrees for at least 20 minutes, ideally 30 minutes. For Griller’s Gold BBQ pellets, really anything works great for this – we like either Charcoal Blend or Competition Blend for chicken parts on the grill. If you’re grilling over charcoal or gas, well, get the grill good and hot, but ready to cook indirect, which means charcoal on one side, and for gas, one burner shut down.
Put the thighs on the grill, skin side up to start, then turn them every 10 minutes until done – which should take about 30-40 minutes at 425.
Done is 185F with an instant-read thermometer pushed down to the bone in the center of the thickest piece you have on the grill.
We love to sauce them three different ways:
Barbecue: For this, you’ll be brushing them with sauce on the grill. When the chicken is done, brush them with your favorite BBQ sauce, flip sauce side down and brush again. Close up the grill for 2 mins, then repeat. Remove and serve.
Buffalo: For medium-hot buffalo sauce, melt ¼ cup butter then add ¼ cup Frank’s Red Hot sauce, 1 tsp brown sugar, and 1 tsp fresh minced garlic. Whisking well. Simmer for 2-3 minutes to blend flavors, whisk up well again and toss with your thighs.
Spicy/Sticky Asian: We love this one! Whisk together ⅓ cup soy sauce, ¼ cup honey, 2T canola or other vegetable oil, 1 tsp garlic powder, ½ tsp ground ginger, ½ tsp dry mustard and 1 tablespoon either Sriracha sauce or Thai Red Curry paste. Can reduce the hot stuff if desired. Toss with the thighs.
Pork Shoulder “Boneless Ribs”
Pork Shoulders and cuts like Pork Shoulder Steaks are a great way to have that satisfying pork rib flavor on a budget. “Boston Butt” roasts or Pork Shoulders (they are the same … yeah don’t ask why a shoulder is also a “butt”) come from the shoulder of the pig and because they are a worked muscle they are super flavorful. Treat them like you’re cooking ribs and you may never go back to baby backs!
We like to buy whole pork shoulder roasts, either bone-in or boneless for this. If you buy bone-in, remove the bone which is a blade-like thing that is usually exposed on one edge.
Just follow it down with a boning knife to cut it free. You can also buy pork shoulder steaks which are steaks crosscut from the shoulder cut. The problem is they are usually cut too thinly. If you’re working with a butcher or have a good grocery store meat counter they can cut them for you. The ideal thickness is at least 1” thick.
Cut and Trim:
Your goal is strips of meat, not unlike “chicken fingers”. They should be about 1” thick and 2” wide and as long as you can cut them from the roast. We like to cut 1” thick slabs and then cut those into 2” wide strips. Cut off any surface fat on any of them.
A good “rib rub” is what you want here – use your favorite!
For extra flavor and moisture, first toss the “ribs” with about ½ cup of yellow prepared mustard until evenly coated. Then throw on a generous amount of rub and toss to coat evenly.
Preheat your pellet grill with Griller’s Gold BBQ pellets to 250 degrees for at least 20 minutes. For this recipe, we prefer Griller’s Gold Hickory, Applewood, or Competition Blend pellets.
Lay the strips crosswise across the grill grate. Turn them every 30 minutes. They are done when they are cooked through and very tender. The internal temp should be about 185F degrees or more – up to 205F. Cooking can take up to 3 hours.
Sauce and Sear:
Remove the “ribs” from the grill then fire the grill up to 400F. Lay the “ribs” back across the grill grate and sauce them on one side, then turn and sauce again. Let run 2 minutes, then turn and sauce again, 2 more minutes, turn and sauce again. Remove and serve!
So … they aren’t the satisfying “meat on a bone” like baby backs. But gotta say these are super tasty and if you have anyone in your family who is “bone squeamish”. This is also an excellent way to get the great taste of ribs without bones. They are also great party “finger food” as well, with no bone mess to deal with.
Brazilians are known for their love of meat grilled over wood and fire – which makes Brazilian-style Barbecue. It’s a great way to enjoy outdoor cooking fueled by Griller’s Gold natural hardwood pellets. So, what is Brazilian-style barbecue?
What is Brazilian Style barbeCue?
When defining Brazilian-style Barbecue there are actually two things to it – the food and the event.
The food is typically a range of meats and sausages grilled over charcoal or wood, accompanied by a number of fresh, cold sides such as green salads, mixed salads, etc. But it’s the event that makes it!
For Brazilians, it’s not typical to cook all of the food prior to dinner time, and then eat at one sitting—that’s more North American style. Instead, a Brazilian Barbecue is a leisurely, grazing affair.
The meats are typically cooked one at a time, sliced hot off the grill, and passed, and everyone takes a few bites for their plates. Then the next one comes out. And the next one. And the next one. AND the NEXT one … and so forth – until you’ve eaten enough protein for two weeks! And each thing is better than the next.
We were recently invited to join some Brazilians for a Barbecue afternoon/evening and it was a 4-hour affair where the food kept coming off the grill, each item more delicious than the next, the grill was right there next to the table on the patio so that the host didn’t leave the party to cook, the copious wines, beers, caipirinhas, and cachaça was flowing, the music was pumping, the dogs and kids were playing and it was an incredible night!
Planning your Own Brazilian Barbecue:
A Brazilian Barbecue is about simple food, simply prepared, enjoyed in an atmosphere of celebration of friends and family. It is definitely an event best enjoyed in the summertime where you can sit outside, the grill is part of the action, and everyone can relax.
In terms of the food – typical grilled Brazilian Barbecue foods are sausages, beef, lamb, chicken, and pork. They are also not shy of game meats, so if you’re a hunter, this is a fun way to prepare your bounty.
When planning one, think about the variety of what you want to serve, and know you don’t need a lot of each thing, but having a nice variety makes the party more fun.
If you drink alcohol, the traditional drink of Brazil is the Caipirinha (cap-ra-hin-ha) – it is a concoction of fresh lime juice, cane sugar and a Brazilian spirit called Cachaça (ca-cha-sa) that is made from sugar cane like rum is but tastes somewhat like a cross between tequila and white rum. And Brazilians also love their South American wines and of course, beer. Keep it flowing! Here’s a great Caipirinha recipe: https://www.laylita.com/recipes/classic-caipirinha-recipe/
The Brazilian barbecue Meats:
There are a few special cuts of meat that Brazilians favor, but you can also just cook the typical meats you can find at your grocery store. That said, the most common “specialty” cut of meat that Brazilians use in a Barbecue is called the beef picanha. (pi-can-ya).
It is a beef top sirloin cap steak with the fat cap left on. The fat cap melts as the steak cooks and delivers an out-of-this-world flavor. Raw, it looks like the photo below, and the traditional Brazilian way to cook it is to spear it on a sword-like skewer in thick slices shaped like a letter “C” – see the pictures below.
Any good butcher should be able to cut you a picanha and there are online purveyors that sell them as well, such as Wild Fork Foods. Our host cut the picanha into 1” thick steaks and grilled them like a typical strip steak.
As you would get from the butcher – it is typically about 2 lbs like this:
You can substitute New York Strip or Top Sirloin steak for Picanha if you cannot get it in your area. Look for steaks with a good fatty edge on them, and leave the fat on for grilling.
Additional beef cuts that are favorites in Brazil are Maminha and of course, filet mignon. Maminha is a bottom-round roast, lean like beef filet, but more “worked” so a more beefy flavor. Delicious cooked to medium-rare over open heat churrasco style, and they do cook beef filet as well. A good stand-in for maminha is a beef tri-tip roast.
Brazilians love their sausages and two typical sausages you’ll find in Brazilian Barbecue are Linguica and Calabresa. Both are simple beef/pork blend sausages with a thin natural casing. The sausages are simply seasoned with salt, pepper, and plenty of garlic, and are often smoked prior to cooking on the grill. Easy substitutions for this would be polish-style Kielbasa or a beef and pork blend, mild Italian sausage.
Pork, Lamb & seafood
Pork and lamb chops also star in Brazilian Barbecue. Again, a nice blend of meat and fat is always desirable. For lamb, get a rack of lamb and it is typically lightly marinated. Here’s a great recipe for it from the famous Brazilian Steakhouse Fogo de Chao. For pork, they use a variety of cuts, but typically either pork loin (again, look for a generous fat cap) or pork loin bone-in chops seasoned with just salt.
The most common seafood you’ll find in a Brazilian Barbecue is shrimp – and size matters here – go for nice big ones – 6-10 per pound size. For chicken, you’re most likely to see boneless chicken thighs, skin on, at a Brazilian Barbecue.
You only need to go to a Rodizo/Brazilian Steakhouse once to understand how Brazilians love their fresh cold sides with their meat dishes. You don’t usually find mounds of hot potatoes with Brazilian Barbecue.
Instead, nice fresh slaw, potato salads, pasta salads, and of course green salads are the stars here. You want things that are light and bright tasting to contrast with the salt, fat, and umami flavors of the grilled meats.
Again, Brazilians love their grills. Most common at Brazilian Barbecues are open grills fired with lump or briquette charcoal, but pellet grills work great for this, as do gas grills.
If you’re using a pellet grill, fire it up with Griller’s Gold pellets – while most any flavor will work, the Griller’s Gold Charcoal pellets will give you the most authentic taste, as well as the Smokehouse Blend.
If cooking over charcoal, as each cut goes on the grill, scatter a handful of Griller’s Gold pellets of any flavor over your hot coals. They will give a burst of smoke that will really kiss the meats on the grill with a pop of wood smoke flavor.
If using a gas grill, consider the “cigar” method – take two pieces of foil stacked, and roll a “cigar” full of Griller’s Gold pellets. Twist the ends and crimp the seam to seal, then poke it in several spots with a knife to let the smoke out.
Cooking Brazilian Barbecue will typically use medium-high heat, so for a pellet grill, preheat it to the highest temperature your grill will go (450~500F is typical) for at least 20 minutes to make sure your grids are good and hot.
Well, this couldn’t be more simple! Salt! And plenty of it.
Brazilians typically only use coarse salt like large grain kosher salt on their barbecue meats – they salt the meats about 10 minutes before putting them on the grill. Some Brazilians will also say a good grind of freshly-ground pepper too, but our friend insisted that authentic Brazilian Barbecue is only seasoned with salt.
The kicker ingredient at Brazilian Barbecues (and in a lot of Brazilian food) is farofa. Farofa is a granular powdered condiment, the consistency of coarse corn meal, and it is made from toasted yucca (also known as cassava) root with additional seasonings like salt, pepper, cayenne, and other flavors in it. It is served as a table condiment and the Brazilians like to dip their meats in it or sprinkle it over their meats on the plate.
Again, as noted, a Brazilian Barbecue is an event – it is a gathering of friends and family around a table, where you sit, eat, drink, tell stories and laugh for hours.
The meats are cooked one at a time in a quantity where each person gets a few bites. The “parade” of barbecue meats often starts with sausages – a few are cooked on the grill until cooked through and nicely browned, then sliced into coins and passed among the guests. The guests often eat this first course with some cheeses and other appetizers, and of course, the sausage pieces are dipped in the Farofa.
From there, it is, however you’d like to pace your meal. Our host started with picanha, in a small quantity so we each got only a couple of small slices, then after a bit of time (and more beer, wine, and Caprahina), out came a fat pork chop that was sliced up.
After that was a Maminha roast that had been slow-cooked over the coals (with Griller’s Gold hickory pellets tossed on the fire) and sliced thin, then more sausage, more picanha, more pork, and … more and more.
Again, each cut came out after an enjoyable pause and wasn’t served in huge quantities. You do eat a lot though! But over a long time.
Our hosts served a delicious Brazilian Flan for dessert, along with a plate of fresh fruit, a delicious cognac, and espresso.
Wrapping it up:
While a Brazilian Barbecue is a long evening of eating and drinking featuring copious quantities of meats, it is really about taking the time to truly share an enjoyable time with family and friends. The concept can be of course extended beyond Brazilian-style food – it is truly a “grazing” meal. Give it a try! Until next time … Grill On!
Doesn’t that phrase just float off the tongue? Make your mouth water? It’s so good a restaurant even made a jingle out of it … “mmm hmmm’s Baby Back Ribs, mmm hmmm’s Baby Back Ribs (barbecue sauce).”
Yet rarely does anything strike fear into the hearts of barbecue enthusiasts like making ribs! (Ok, except maybe brisket …). AND, everyone likes something a bit different – spare ribs, St. Louis cuts, “fall off the bone”, no, with “a good tug”, dry ribs, sauced ribs, auuugh! What’s a barbecuer to do?
What’s to do? Make this recipe of pork baby back ribs. We are positive that a) you’ll love them and b) they will be “better than any restaurant” good. And it’s easy to do.
Easy Pork Baby Back Ribs
First, a caveat – this recipe is for pellet grills. Not exclusively, but … we’ve written it for doing on a pellet grill. If you’re rolling smoke on a charcoal kettle, a bullet or offset smoker, or something else .. well 90% of what we’re going to say applies here, and just know you’ll need to use your knowledge of your gear to do what we’re recommending here. There’s some special notes for you gas and charcoal grillers at the end of the article.
And another thing about this method – you will be shocked by the simplicity of this. You may have heard of “3-2-1” ribs, Texas Crutch ribs, people boiling ribs in advance of smoking (WHAT????) etc., all in the search of perfect ribs. We have found that the best ribs come from a minimalist approach. Set the right temp, season, and rub, onto the smoker, leave them alone until done. That’s it! Aren’t there a few in-between things? Not really!
And a final note: This method delivers ribs that pull cleanly from the bone but do have a bit of “al dente” toothsomeness to them. They are NOT fall-apart, fall-off-the-bone ribs. IF you want that result, follow this method below to doneness, then simply coat them with sauce, put them in a roasting pan with a cup or so of beer or apple juice in the bottom, then tightly seal up with foil and bake in a 300-degree oven for 45 minutes. That final oven run will make them fall apart and will still be the best ribs you’ve ever eaten.
So let’s roll smoke:
Buying Baby Back Ribs
As noted above, there are St. Louis Cut ribs, there are baby back ribs, spare ribs, rib tips, beef ribs, etc. We have found that the easiest, meatiest ribs are pork Baby Back Ribs. As implied, they come from the back of the pig, where the ribs join the spine and they include loin meat along with them – the pork loin is actually cut away from these ribs at the butcher.
Ideally, buy baby back ribs that are minimally processed – you can get these from your butcher, but also Costco sells them that way. Minimally processed means just cut and packaged, not soaked/brined or injected with anything. You can tell if they’ve been more processed if there is some fine print on the package about them containing “up to x% solution” – “solution” is a fancy name for saltwater. Now don’t get us wrong, those are fine – you just need to account for that in your seasoning.
Ribs (baby backs and other cuts) when butchered have a tough membrane adhered to the inside of the ribs. If buying from a butcher, ask them to remove it. Generally, Costco ribs have already had the membrane stripped off but grocery store ribs usually do not. Not to worry, we will show you how to remove it if it’s there.
Also, a great time to stock your freezer with ribs is the week after either Memorial Day, July 4th, or Labor Day – those are all traditional rib-cooking weekends and the stores usually have overstock specials after the holiday. In fact, the ribs pictured in this article were purchased the week after July 4th at only $2.99/lb.
Set up the Smoker!
Again, this recipe is optimized for a pellet grill or smoker, and of course, for best results, use Griller’s Gold Premium BBQ Pellets. In terms of which variety of Griller’s Gold pellets to use – we suggest using your favorite. That said OUR favorite for baby back ribs is good ‘ol Hickory. Griller’s Gold Hickory will deliver that hearty and smoky flavor that we all associate with great barbecue.
Fire up your pellet grill or pellet smoker with an initial temperature of 180 degrees – or, if so equipped, set it on the “SMOKE” setting or “Super Smoke” setting (these are particular features of certain brands/models of pellet grills – don’t sweat if you don’t have that – just set it for 180 or whatever you have close to that).
This initial temperature setting will deliver the most smoke for a great initial flavor shot on your ribs. The meat absorbs the most smoke flavor right at the beginning of a cook.
That pesky membrane …
This is where you learn how to remove that membrane – and it is way easier than you think. It does require a special bit of gear – a standard table butter knife!
Working in the middle of a rack on the inside and holding the knife flat, slip the rounded end of the butter knife under the edge of the membrane by about an inch or so, then lever it up gently (so as to not tear the membrane) to pry up the membrane.
Push it under another inch or two and repeat the levering action, then put your fingers under the membrane, pull out the knife and pull upwards working from one end and then the other – that membrane will pull cleanly away in one piece. The first time we learned that technique, our barbecue minds were blown!
Rub those baby back Ribs!
Now we get into some fun – here, use what you like. If there’s a commercial BBQ rub that you’ve used on pork or ribs and enjoy, well, use what you know. If you’re not sure what you’d like, we suggest using “Memphis Dust” from Meathead Goldwyn.
This peppery rub is fantastic on ribs and other pork. Note, it does NOT have salt in it – so if using it, be sure to season your ribs well with kosher or large grain sea salt as well.
Why kosher salt? It is more minerally-tasting, it doesn’t have the metallic taste of iodized table salt, and the larger nuggets or flakes are easier to control when applying. To apply the rub, first, give your ribs a quick rinse in the sink with cool water and then leave wet – this helps the rub stick and dissolves the sugar in the rub, helping make the bark.
Then, generously sprinkle or shake your rub evenly over the ribs. Note, the game is NOT to hose the ribs down with rub – just use enough to flavor them. Refer to the pictures below to get a sense of how much. If you’re a measuring type, about 2 tablespoons of rub per rack is good.
ONTO THE SMOKER!
Ok, your ribs are rubbed, and your smoker is 180 degrees. Put them on the grate meat side up, close it up, and walk away!
If are doing more than will fit on your grill laying flat, a commercial rib rack works great to hold them edgewise, OR, another good trick is to coil them meat side out – just make sure there is airspace between the racks or coils using either method.
Again, close it and walk away for an hour. After 1 hour, without opening the smoker, increase the temperature of your pellet smoker to 225 degrees – this will increase the rate of cooking without a big penalty in smoke flavor.
Why shouldn’t you open the smoker? Simple rule our grandma always told us: “If you’re lookin, it’s not cookin’.”
The beauty of a pellet grill or smoker is that they run beautifully unattended for hours as long as the pellet hopper is full of Griller’s Gold Premium BBQ pellets. So go away again for 3 hours at this point.
Walk the dog, watch a movie, go grocery shopping, whatever you want – but don’t open that smoker! (Ok, if you do peek the world doesn’t end, but what happens when you do that is your grill’s thermostat will sense a drop in temp and will seek to compensate.
What we’ve found is that the longer stretches of unfluctuating temperature (other than the normal 10-20 degree swings that any pellet grill will do) gives better results.
When are they done? Learn the “Bend Test”!
Baby Back Ribs typically will take between 3 ½ and 5 hours to get to perfection (more about that in a minute). Baby back ribs and other pork ribs are done when they split when doing the “bend test”.
What’s that? Simple – you’re going to pick up a rack of ribs with tongs, with the end of the tongs at the 4th or 5th bone down, and you’ll bounce them – if they are done, the meat will split right at the tongs.
Pro Secret – The Rest
As much as we love the idea of our guests coming to the smoker with empty plates and slicing off part of a slab for them, hot from the smoker, the reality is the best meats, and ribs are right in this club, benefit from a post-cooking rest.
Therefore, if you’re cooking ribs for a 6:30 PM dinner, you’ll want to get them on the smoker around lunchtime. Because ribs aren’t particularly thick, the rest doesn’t have to be long. But when your ribs are done based on the bend test above, remove them to a platter, take them into the kitchen and wrap them with a layer of heavy-duty foil, then place them in a picnic cooler that is lined with a folded towel and place another towel on top of the package of ribs and close up the cooler.
If you need to cut them to make them fit, go ahead and do it but don’t cut them into individual ribs or other serving sizes just yet. This is called the “Faux-Cambro” trick – a “Cambro” is an insulated food service container that restaurants use to hold hot food at serving temp.
A standard picnic cooler or even a cheap styrofoam one will work just fine for this. Let the ribs rest for a minimum of 30 minutes, and ideally an hour or so. We’ve found they will stay hot (and hot enough to be in the “safe” zone for bacteria growth, so hotter than 165 degrees) for up to 4 hours this way.
To Sauce or Not to Sauce? That is the question.
There are some folks that think sauce is an insult to perfectly cooked barbecue and then there’s us: we have barbecue sauce running in our veins!
IF you’re in the first group, well, your ribs are done. Go enjoy. For the rest of us? Let’s get saucing!
There are a million sauces out there, and a million sauce recipes out there – we say “use your favorite”. Seriously – if you like the sweet smokey taste of Chicago, the vinegary peppery taste of North Carolina and Memphis, the peppery tomato flavors of Kansas City – great, use what you want. But here’s a method that’s great for that final touch.
While your ribs are resting, crank your pellet grill to 450 degrees and let it preheat at that temp for at least 15 minutes past when it hits that temp – you want all that metal in there to be radiating heat.
Take your ribs out of the “Faux-Cambro”, unwrap them, and one thing we like to do here is cut them into serving-size pieces – we like 2 bones per piece. Spread them out on a sheet pan or platter and brush both sides with sauce, then put them on the hot pellet grill, meat side down.
Let them go for about 4 minutes then flip them meat side up and brush the meat side again with sauce and let them go for about 6 minutes. At this point, if you want to serve your guests ribs hot off the grill, this is a great time to do it, otherwise platter them up and serve!
What this step does is caramelize the sugars in the sauce, gives the ribs some grill marks (see the picture below), and cooks off some of the moisture in the sauce so the ribs are glazed with sauce.
And that’s it – you’ve made the best ribs of your life, AND you know how to do it.
Finally … sides and pairings
Sides: We love baked beans with ribs, au gratin potatoes, french fries, coleslaw, you name it.
Pairings: Our favorite wine with ribs is a big fruity red Zinfandel. Ribs also pair beautifully with your favorite beer, our favorite pairing being a session IPA – there’s something about the easy hops and maltiness of a session IPA with the barbecue sauce that sends us to heaven.
And finally, after dinner – a fantastic choice is a smokey, peaty single malt scotch whiskey. The smoky flavors that you’ve had in your mouth and nose through dinner will pop with this final touch.
Quick notes for those not using pellet grills:
If using charcoal, set up for low and slow, and use either a smoke tube or a “cigar” (foil package poked with holes) filled with Griller’s Gold Premium BBQ pellets to get that good smoke flavor. Because temp changes are hard in a charcoal grill, don’t sweat the “180 degrees” step above. When you’re saucing, use indirect heat otherwise the sauce will burn.
If using a gas grill, preheat the grill on high, then shut off all but one burner and run that one on medium to low to get to the desired 225-250 degrees. Don’t worry about starting at 180F – that’s a pellet grill thing. Use a smoke tube or cigar package loaded with Griller’s Gold pellets to get your smoke on.
The days are longer. The sun is higher in the sky, the grass is greening up, and the crocus, daffodils, and tulips are starting to pop out of the ground—time for renewal and rebirth.
Spring also features the twin religious holidays of Easter and Passover. We won’t get into the religious meaning, but it’s a time when families get together to celebrate and EAT! So here are some fun things you can cook outdoors, fueled with Griller’s Gold Premium 100% Hardwood barbecue pellets!
Easter – every family has its own traditions, but we’re sure they include lots of great eats! Here are some fun ideas for you.
Smoked Deviled Eggs:
What’s traditional with Easter? Coloring Easter Eggs. And doing colored Easter Eggs with the kids means you’re making lots of hard-boiled eggs. Rather than having to eat egg salad for lunch the next two weeks, this is a great appetizer to use up those eggs for your family’s Easter dinner party after the kids finish hunting for them.
Most people we tell about this recipe go “huh?” with a healthy bit of skepticism, but we gotta say, this one is “don’t knock it till ya try it!”
Here we go:
Make in advance:
1 dozen or more hard-boiled eggs (again, use up those colored eggs!)
4 slices of bacon, cooked, crisp, and crumbled
Preheat your pellet grill using your favorite flavor of Griller’s Gold pellets at 180 degrees to make the smoked deviled eggs. While the grill preheats, peel your hard-boiled eggs, and when the grill is at temp, put the peeled eggs on the grill and smoke for 30 minutes.
After 30 mins, take the eggs off and cool them in the fridge for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes in the fridge, cut the eggs in half the long way and pop out the yolks into a mixing bowl. Return the egg white “shells” to the fridge to continue to cool.
For a recipe using 1 dozen hard-boiled eggs, add a half cup of mayonnaise, 2 ½ tsp of dijon mustard, ½ tsp of Worcestershire sauce, ½ tsp of hot pepper sauce, ¼ tsp of cayenne pepper, and ½ tsp of salt to the eggs in the bowl and mix – making sure to mash up the yolks well.
Arrange the egg whites on a serving platter. Scoop the egg yolk mixture into a zipper bag, squeeze the contents into one corner, press out the air and seal the bag. Cut ¼” off the corner of the bag where the eggs are and “pipe” the eggs into the cavities of the shells, distributing evenly. You can also scoop the egg yolks in with a spoon, but the bag method is easier.
Dust the tops of the eggs with a shake of paprika for color, then top each with a little crumbled bacon and perhaps some snipped chives or green onion tops.
Serve. Take a bow to the thunderous applause.
These can be made up to a couple of days in advance, just keep them sealed from the air in a container.
The Main Dishes
Easter dinners are often known for a couple of traditional dishes – ham and lamb. Here are two great recipes that will make your family say “Ahhh!” as they push back from the table.
Double Smoked Spiral Cut Ham
Hams are the upper part hind leg of a pig and come in a variety of ways – boneless, bone-in, cured, smoked, etc. One of our favorites is the spiral cut ham – these beauties are typically cured, then smoked, then placed on a machine that cuts the meat on a spiral making it easy to serve.
They come fully cooked, so getting them ready to serve is just a matter of heat and eat. They recommend heating over a gentle heat, so what could be more perfect than the thermostatically controlled heat of a pellet grill set up for low and slow cooking.
A spiral cut ham – “half” hams are most popular. They run between 6 and 9 lbs and are distinguished by the one end that is flat. A whole ham weighs anywhere from 10 to 20 lbs and is twice the size and somewhat oval-shaped. Either works for this recipe – just vary the cook time!
Remove the packaging from the ham and place the ham in a large disposable roasting pan. The ham will give up quite a bit of liquid as it heats, and you won’t want that in your grill. The cook time will vary by size, but you’re seeking an internal temperature of about 150 degrees near the bone for your ham – that will typically take 2-3 hours at 250 for a half ham. The packaging should have heating instructions that you can interpret.
Most hams come with a glaze mix packet. (We like to make our own!) But feel free to use theirs – just follow the directions on the package. After your ham hits the heating temp, move it inside and fire your oven up to 500 degrees (if yours only goes to 450, that’s fine).
In a medium saucepan, heat up 1 cup of brown sugar, ¼ cup of apple juice, 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon of dijon mustard, ½ cup of honey, ½ tsp ground cloves, and ½ tsp ground ginger.
Bring to a gentle boil and simmer for a minute or two. Brush this all over the outside of your ham, then slide the ham into the oven. Heat at 500 for 3 or 4 minutes, then brush with more sauce and give it 3 or 4 minutes more. If it starts to burn at all, remove it quickly – you just want to caramelize the sugar on it.
Have a long, narrow knife and a meat fork handy for guests to free up the slices of their ham. If you have any glaze leftover, mix it with a few tablespoons of the liquid from your roasting pan and serve it on the side as a sweet gravy.
Super easy grilled Rack of Lamb
Lamb is so traditional for Easter dinner, but legs of lamb can be a bit intimidating and, frankly, tough! But a rack of lamb on a pellet grill is easy to do, usually super tender, and is done quickly.
Here’s our favorite recipe:
We buy pre-frenched, ready-to-go lamb racks from the warehouse stores. Costco almost always has these for a pretty good price. We always buy at least one on every trip to have them in the freezer ready to go. One rack will usually feed 2-3 people. For a hungry crew, have one rack for every 2 people.
For two lamb racks, mix up ½ cup extra virgin olive oil (canola works too) with the juice of 1 lemon, 2 tablespoons of dijon mustard, ½ tsp dried thyme (or 1 tbs fresh), and 1 tsp dried rosemary, crushed or 2 tbs fresh, finely chopped, plus about 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp freshly ground pepper. Spread the marinade on the lamb on the meaty side and the ends, and marinate for about an hour.
Preheat your pellet grill using your favorite Griller’s Gold pellet flavor (we like Competition Blend or Smokehouse Blend for this recipe) to 250 degrees F. If you have one, put a probe thermometer in the lamb racks and set the alarm for 125 degrees.
We like our lamb bright pink, medium, so adjust accordingly. It will take the lamb racks about 30-45 minutes to get to that temperature. When they do, remove and cover with foil and a towel to retain the heat and boost the grill temperature to 400 degrees.
Return the lamb racks to the grill (and stay by the grill for this – lamb fat is notoriously flammable! If a ton of smoke starts coming from the grill, check for fire!) put them fat side down and sear for 2 minutes. Keep turning every 2 minutes until the internal temperature is between 135 and 140 degrees.
Bring them in, cut them into individual “lamb lollipops,” and serve!
Passover is the holiday that celebrates the Jews escaping the slavery of the Pharoah in Egypt. Jewish people have a standing joke about Jewish holidays that goes “They were persecuting us. We prevailed! Let’s eat!” and Passover is no exception! Here’s one of our favorite recipes:
Smoked Passover Brisket:
A traditional Passover dinner dish is a braised beef brisket. These are usually slowly braised with a savory liquid, often smothered with onions, and cooked until the meat is pull-apart tender. This recipe takes that traditional preparation and kicks it up a notch by starting the cooking out on the pellet smoker to kiss it with some tasty smoke flavor prior to finishing in the oven. This is super easy and fun to make.
A Kosher note: You can decide whether you use kosher ingredients for your family based on your own traditions and observance. This recipe is kosher-style which is to say it follows basic kosher rules but does not specify kosher products.
Buy and Trim:
We like to use a brisket flat for this recipe – which is also known as a “first cut” brisket. It’s the flatter lower muscle. We like to trim the fat cap of these to about ¼” thick and trim back the thin edges to the point where the meat is at least ¾ thick – save that trim. It makes amazing burgers!
For this style of brisket, rather than our usual BBQ rub, we first like to wet the meat with some Worcestershire sauce, then season it liberally with salt, pepper, and garlic salt – that’s it!
Fire up your pellet smoker for very low and slow – 180 degrees. For this one, our favorite pellet is Griller’s Gold Premium Wood BBQ Pellets SmokeShack Blend, but really, all of them are suitable. Put the brisket on, and set a timer for 2 ½ hours. If your grill has a “max smoke” or “super smoke” setting, use it. This is about the ONLY recipe you’ll see from us where we cook using time versus temp! All you’re doing is infusing the meat with smoke flavor.
Take your brisket off the grill and put it in a big roasting pan.
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.
Mix up a braising liquid consisting of 2 1/2 cups of beef broth, 1 cup of red wine, 1 cup of prepared Chili sauce (see Kosher note above), and ½ cup of dark brown sugar. Pour over the beef, then slice up at least two large, sweet onions into thin slices and bury the meat in the onion slices. This is one of those “more the merrier” things!
Cover the meat tightly with foil (or if your roaster has a lid). Put the meat in the oven and cook it for between 2 and 3 hours – the meat is done when it is at least 200F degrees internal and pulls apart easily at the edges. Remove from heat to a large platter, cover with foil and a towel to retain the heat, and rest at least 20 minutes – that will firm the meat up for slicing. Slice crossways to the grain in nice thin slices and serve with the onions and the liquid in the pan as gravy.
By the way … you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy this delicious brisket!
So there ya go! Three amazing main dishes and one killer appetizer. From our families at Griller’s Gold to yours, wishing you happy springtime wishes and warm memories of these holidays!
Ah, “March Madness” – ostensibly that, of course, refers to the big college basketball championship series and its exciting “gotta win to advance” format. But when we think of March Madness, we think of the weather getting more springlike and our MAD desire to get out there and GRILL SOME STUFF! Right?
So, this post is about how we combine those two – here’s some March Madness-worthy bites you can make right on your grill using Griller’s Gold Premium 100% Hardwood pellets to give everything that tasty wood-grilled flavor!
If you’re like us, you’re camped out in front of the big screen watching sports, you need to have some good snacks, and some good beverages handy – good friends also make it more fun. We’ll revisit some of the snack items we’ve written about before AND give you three great recipes for classic “watching sports munchies.”
smoked Chicken Wings Three Ways
Seriously, is there a more perfect food than a chicken wing? There are three or four good bites of tasty meat, usually either fried, grilled, or baked, and tossed with some yummy sauces. So we’re going to take you through how to get great wing results on your pellet grill and some outstanding sauce ideas to go with them.
Expert Wing Tips
Buy: We like to buy our wings at Costco or Sam’s Club in the big bags of frozen raw wings. Be sure to purchase raw – you want end-to-end control of the product. If buying fresh wings at the grocery store or butcher shop, by all means, go for that – we like the flats and drumettes separated, and no tips, but whole wings can be cooked this way as well.
Prep and Season: Thaw your wings and drain them, then spread them on a rack over a sheet baking pan and let them dry at room temp for about 30 minutes – this step helps the skin get crispier. For 4 lbs of wings (about 30 pieces in total, split between drumettes and flats), mix:
1 ½ Tablespoons of baking powder (yes, this helps the wings crisp up as they cook)
1 ½ Tablespoons of a seasoning mix of your choice – we like Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, but Morton’s Season-All, or just about any other seasoning mix works. If you want to go old school, mix up 1 tsp each of salt, pepper, and sugar and ½ tsp each of garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika.
Toss the wings in this seasoning mixture in a large bowl to evenly coat the wings. Spread them back out on your rack and let rest another 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat your pellet grill to 425F degrees. Yup, we’re comin’ in hot!
Cook: Put the wings on the pellet grill, spreading out evenly, so there’s a touch of air space between them – it’s the convection air that makes these crisp up. Cook for about 30-40 minutes at 425F degrees, turning every 10-15 minutes – you’re looking for 180 degrees at the bone of one of the thicker drummettes.
A note for non- pellet grill owners: This recipe works great on a charcoal or gas grill as well – just cook the wings over indirect heat (so shut off a burner, or bank your coals to one side). And if you want great wood-grilled flavor, prepare a “cigar” of Griller’s Gold pellets by taking a cup or so of the pellets and rolling them in a sheet of aluminum foil. Twist off the ends and poke several holes in the foil with a skewer. Place directly on the coals or your “flavor bars” over the lit burners on your gas grill. Use the same heat – 425F degrees.
wing Sauces X3!
We promised three sauces, and these are easy, so here you go:
1 stick of butter
1 cup of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
1 T of Brown Sugar
1 T Minced Garlic
Melt 1 stick of butter and whisk up with 1 cup of Frank’s Red Hot sauce. Place back on low heat until it bubbles a bit, then whisk in 1T brown sugar and 1T minced garlic (Ok yeah, technically this is garlic Buffalo, but don’t bust us. It’s fantastic!). Toss with the wings hot off the grill and serve. Don’t forget the ranch or blue cheese dressing for dipping!
Korean Sticky Heat
This one is so yummy – hot/sweet umami bomb!
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup ketchup
2 T Canola Oil
1 T Goshujang or Sambal Oleek
2 cloves of garlic mashed (or 1 tsp minced garlic)
1 1/2 tsps of ginger paster puree
1/2 tsp Asian Fish Sauce
1/2 tsp Asian sesame oil
In a saucepan over medium heat, mix ½ cup soy sauce (we like the low sodium variety), ¼ cup honey, ¼ cup ketchup, 2 tablespoons canola oil, 1 tablespoon Gochujang or Sambal Oleek – both of these are Asian chili pastes that add heat and flavor, 2 cloves of garlic mashed (or 1 tsp minced garlic), 1 ½ teaspoons of ginger paste/puree, ½ teaspoon Asian fish sauce, ½ teaspoon Asian sesame oil.
Let simmer for a few minutes to blend flavors, then toss with the wings. Extra napkins and maybe some wet wipes for the sticky hands on this one!
This recipe is so simple but so good.
1 stick of butter
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp seasoning salt
3-4 T of grated parmesan cheese
Melt one stick of butter to bubbling, add 2 tsp minced garlic and simmer for a minute or two to “bloom” the garlic. Add 1 tsp seasoning salt, then remove from heat. Toss the wings in the butter and garlic mixture, add 3-4 tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese, and toss well. Serve!
By the way, if you decide to make the wings in the oven or deep fryer, of course, these sauces will work well there, too!
smoked BBQ Baloney!
Yeah, we said that. You may know this recipe by a few other names like “Redneck Ribeye” and “Poor Man’s Prime Rib,” but what it is, is simply delicious! And ridiculously easy to do.
BUY: Go to your local grocery’s deli counter and ask for a 4 to 6-inch piece of their slicing bologna (or baloney if you prefer) whole – people call this a baloney “chub.” You don’t want it sliced! They might look at you funny but roll with it! We have found that the Eckrich brand works really well but just buy whatever you like.
PREP: Fire up your pellet grill with Griller’s Gold pellets of any kind and preheat to 250 degrees F. Take your “chub” and split it in half so that you have two “half-moon” shaped pieces, then using a sharp knife, cut a ¼” or so deep crosshatch pattern into the round surfaces of it. Slather it with yellow mustard (just good ol’ hot dog mustard is fine) to give your rub something to stick to, then cover it well with your favorite barbecue rub.
COOK: Onto the pellet grill it goes – we like to smoke it for 3-4 hours at 250. There really is no “done” point on this – it’s ready when you decide to pull it off and eat it!
SERVE: Cut the BBQ Baloney into bite-sized cubes, making sure that each cube has a bite of bark on the outside. It’s a bit of a geometry puzzle, but we’re sure you’ll figure it out!
Lay them out on a platter with some toothpicks. We also like to offer a few dipping sauces – BBQ sauce, some spicy, grainy mustard, maybe a hot sauce! And this is way good with the leftover Korean Sticky wing sauce above.
NEXT LEVEL: These are fantastic when made into sticky burnt ends – just mix ¾ of a cup of your favorite barbecue sauce with ¼ cup of honey. Toss together with the cubed-up baloney and then put in a foil pan (if using the grill) or baking dish (if indoors) and bake at 325~350F degrees for 20 minutes to caramelize the sauce.
Beef Jerky, smoked the easy way!
Beef Jerky is SO easy when you have a thermostatically controlled pellet grill – and you get that fantastic wood flavor from those Griller’s Gold 100% Hardwood pellets. Usually, when we make this recipe, we make it from scratch, but this is a faster recipe that uses some commercial products to get the job done. Now that said, this does require an overnight step and a relatively lengthy cook but, well worth the reward!
BUY: 2-3 lbs of beef flank steak
PREP: Remove the beef from the package and lay it out in a single layer on a platter, plate, or baking sheet. Next, put the pan into the freezer for about 20 minutes to make it easier to cut the meat up.
After the freezer rest, cut the steak into serving-sized strips with the grain of the meat. Marinate overnight in a good-quality Asian teriyaki-style sauce. Our favorite is Soy-Vey Very Teriyaki, but feel free to use your favorite.
COOK: Preheat your pellet grill to 180 degrees for 15 minutes. Place the strips of meat on the grill crossways to the grid bars (don’t want them to fall through!), close the lid, and go away for 2 ½ hours. At 2 ½ hours, go check them – you’re looking for well-dried strips of beef that still have a bit of tenderness on the bite. They will be a bit sticky. This cook usually takes us between 3 and 4 hours.
Remove from the grill, cool to room temp and serve. Don’t be surprised if your friends snarf them all up! Save any leftovers (IF there are any!) in a zip lock bag in the fridge for up to a week.
This is a super easy smoker recipe! Toss one bag of Goldfish crackers or a regular-sized box of cheese crackers with a ¼ cup of cooking oil mixed with 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon each of garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika. If you want heat, add ¼ t of cayenne pepper.
Spread in a foil pan and put in the smoker for an hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Temperatures are ok from 180 to 250 on these as well. Absolutely delicious!
Smoked Nacho Cheese Tortilla Chips
These are even easier! Spread a bag of nacho cheese flavored tortilla chips out on a sheet pan and slide them into your pellet smoker at 180 degrees – let them go 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.
You’ll never eat another “straight from the bag” nacho cheese tortilla chip again. It also works great with potato chips, especially cheese flavored.
Smoked Queso Dip
This kind of dip has been quite the rage of late in the BBQ social media forums and it’s quick and easy to prepare, too.
There are a thousand different recipes for this online.
Here’s the one we’ve found to be the best combo of easy and tasty:
Taco Meat or Chorizo smoked Queso Dip
Using a prepared taco seasoning and ground beef, prepare 1 lb. of taco meat to the instructions on the package. You can also substitute crumbled chorizo sausage, browned and drained. For this recipe, use a ½ pound of the taco meat or browned chorizo.
1 can Rotel tomato/chile pepper mixture
1 cup diced raw onion
1/2 cup diced pickled jalapenos (can be omitted if desired)
20 ounces of Velveeta cheese cut in 1” cubes (note – regular cheese like cheddar will not melt evenly enough for this, you need the pasteurized process cheese to work right)
⅔ cup of sour cream
Mix together the prepared taco meat, the Rotel, onion, and jalapenos or chiles and spread out in a foil pan, then scatter the cubed cheese over the top. Smoke for 45 minutes at 250 degrees, stirring every 15 minutes, then stir in the sour cream and smoke 15 minutes more. Serve hot with tortilla chips and enjoy!
Anyone who has cooked a decent amount of time may know the basic technique of searing a cut of meat, fish, or poultry. The way to seal the outside, color it, and give it flavor – then cook it until done.
It’s a simple technique – and probably the way we all first learned to do the two-zone grilling. Cold meat on hot fire, a couple minutes on each side to “seal it” and brown it, and then move it to a cooler part of the grill to slow down the cooking and allow control of the heat to perfection.
The problem with the sear-first method, is that you wind up with meat that has a nice pleasing crust on the outside, but when you slice it open, you’ve got a pretty deep overcooked “gray zone” and the only part of your cut of meat that’s perfectly done is the deep center, like shown below.
If you like your steaks medium-well to well done, that’s probably not something you care about. But if you like it from rare to medium, don’t you wish there were a better way?
There is a better way
The better way is “reverse sear” and it’s a simple concept when you break it down. All you’re doing is reversing the process – you cook slowly over indirect/more gentle heat, then when the meat is ALMOST done, you crank the heat up or move your meat over the direct heat source, give it a fast sear, and boom, you’re done!
The result is nothing less than spectacular – you still get your crust, but your “perfect zone” is basically edge-to-edge. It looks like this:
Doesn’t that look AMAZING?
First, You may ask…
So the first question people may ask is if searing overcooks the meat, should we skip that step?”
Oh, no, no, no, NO!
Some cooking science here – that searing and the pleasing browning on the outside is called the Maillard reaction, and yeah, that’s a fancy French term. The science is pretty simple – it’s the caramelization reaction of proteins with carbohydrates. Toasting bread is actually a Maillard reaction and of course, is delicious.
So yeah, we’re going to sear it. But only when it’s just about ready to serve.
There’s also one great advantage of reverse searing, and that’s timing. If you’re like us, you like being a guest at your own dinner parties – rather than being tied to the grill. With reverse searing, you can “pause” the action because you only sear right when you’re about to serve! You can hold the meat up to an hour prior to serving as long as you have it covered up.
One key thing about reverse searing – you’ll need to be able to measure the temperature of your meat.
Remote probe barbecue thermometers are ideal for this, as are the “onboard” probes that some grills come with (just know how accurate yours is before you trust that $75 prime cowboy ribeye to it!). And of course, instant reading thermometers work great for this. If you’re a “by touch” barbecuer, this may not be the technique for you. Learn more about bluetooth thermometers here.
So, how do I reverse sear, and what should I reverse sear?
Well, as luck would have it, chances are if you’re reading this blog, you own a pellet grill, and pellet grills are tailor-made to make it easy to reverse sear because they have thermostatic control. And, as luck would also have it, pellet grills, especially when fired up with Griller’s Gold 100% premium BBQ pellets also give your food a delicious wood-fired grill flavor. You’ve got the perfect combo for reverse sear glory!
What to Reverse Sear:
Reverse sear works best with thicker cuts of meat – think 1 ½” or more in thickness. And honestly, the thicker the better.
In terms of which meats, we’ve found that this works best with pork, beef, and lamb, as well as game meats like venison, elk, and exotic meat like ostrich. Because you need to thoroughly cook poultry, this is not a recommended technique for chicken, turkey, and the like. Also, fish don’t do great with this technique either.
Using a pellet grill, performing this technique couldn’t be easier.
Start with your nice, thick piece of meat – a pork loin roast, a 2 ½” thick ribeye steak, thick New York strips, Picanha, lamb racks, leg of lamb, etc. You’ll season it and whatnot (see below for Reverse Seared Ultimate Ribeye Steaks). Fire up your pellet grill with your favorite Griller’s Gold pellets (we love Smokeshack Blend for cuts of meat like this!) and let it preheat at least 15-20 minutes at 250 degrees.
Put your meat on the grill, and close the lid. For the best, most even results, you’ll need to periodically turn the meat, since the heat from pellet grills radiates upwards – how often will depend on how thick your meat is.
We like to turn big chops, steaks, and lamb racks about every 10 minutes. For 3” or thicker pork loins or things like legs of lamb or smaller beef roasts, we turn them about every 15 minutes. And for something like a prime rib, if it’s bone-in, we don’t turn it, and if it is boneless, we turn every 15 minutes or so.
You’re cooking until your meat is just short – 5 to 10 degrees – of the ideal doneness temperature.
Here’s a quick temperature chart as a guideline.
Final Internal Temp
Reverse Sear Temp
How long does this take?
The answer is “well, it depends!” and it does – on the thickness of your meat, whether it’s cold and windy outside, etc.
Some rules of thumb though – we find 2 ½” thick ribeyes take about 40 minutes to reach about 120 degrees (we like our steaks on the rare side of medium-rare), a 3-4” thick pork loin will take more than an hour to get to 138, and lamb racks (which we like just short of medium) take about 45 minutes to get to 130F. But again, you have to cook by temperature here, not by time, and not by feel.
When your meat hits the desired temp, take it off, put it on a pre-warmed platter (doesn’t have to be hot, but shouldn’t be ice cold either), put foil over the meat, and then we like to cover it with a doubled towel. We want that meat to rest but also to stay cuddly warm while you get ready to sear.
Whether you stay on your pellet grill for searing depends on if your pellet grill will hit a good searing temperature (at least 450 degrees) and if you have a good searing surface.
We have found that pellet grills, with their indirect heat nature, do a better searing job if you use something like a cast-iron skillet, a cast iron griddle, or, our favorite searing surface, GrillGrates searing grates. Those will concentrate the grill’s heat and deliver a better, darker crust for your meat.
Many pellet grillers don’t like to crank the heat that high on their pellet grills – if that’s you, then you have a lot of options – preheat a cast-iron skillet in a 450-500F oven and sear it there, fire up your gas grill and sear it there, and if you’re a real purist (and especially if you’re already fired up and cooking other things on it) … nothing beats a good charcoal sear.
Expert Searing Tips:
The searing is easy – with few good hints:
Only start searing when you’re within 15 minutes of wanting to sit down to dinner. We like to have everything ready to serve, then we start searing. We want to serve hot off the sear.
When using a grate like GrillGrates, your standard pellet grill’s grates, or the grates on a gas grill, keep turning the meat every 2 minutes and each time you do, turn it ¼ turn as you flip it. That will get you those nice cross-hatched grill marks.
If you’re using a cast iron skillet, whether on your pellet grill or inside the oven, again turn frequently but also don’t be afraid to press down on your meat a bit to ensure the surface really flattens against that hot metal.
If you’re using the “cast iron in the oven” method, return the pan to the oven in between turns.
Generally speaking it will take a pellet grill about 15 minutes or so to go from 250 to 450 or 500 degrees. If you’re in a hurry, do this in the oven with the cast iron skillet – and just have it preheated and ready to go.
Fats and oils – if you’re doing a cast iron reverse sear, dip thickly folded up pad of paper towel (or a cotton kitchen towel) in some cooking oil, and give the surface of the pan a fast wipe – you want a bit of oil but not so much that it will catch fire. There WILL be smoke, so be sure to have your vent fan running if you have one.
When is it done?
Well, of course, you can check the temp, which is what we do. But a good rule of thumb is pretty simple – between 5 and 8 minutes total time – you’re looking for a nice dark surface and beautiful appearance.
And because your meat is already rested, you’re ready to serve right off the grill or out of the pan.
As promised, here’s our recipe for ultimate reverse-seared Ribeye Steaks:
Buy: Bone-in or Boneless Ribeye steaks, at least 2” thick, 2 ½ inches is best. Buy the best you can afford – choice or prime grade works great for this.
Trim: Trim the edges of any large amounts of hard, white fat. Ribeyes will generally have a pocket of it between the cap and the center meat and that’s fine. That’s flavor!
Seasoning: Our secret method is to “dry brine” the steaks 24 hours before cooking. Take them out of the package, put them on a rack on a large baking sheet, give them a generous coating of coarse-grained kosher or sea salt and then put them in the fridge unwrapped overnight.
Take them out about 1 hour prior to cooking and let them rest on the counter (but make sure the dog won’t get them! Ask us how we know!). Then just before cooking, we like to rub them with a tablespoon or so of Worcestershire sauce per steak, then sprinkle on a generous hit of freshly ground pepper and a shake of granulated garlic powder.
Cook using the reverse sear method outlined above.
Compound Butter: While the steaks cook, prepare a compound butter using a stick of softened butter, 2 cloves of fresh garlic – minced or pressed, 1 ½ t fresh thyme leaves (or ½ tsp dried), and ½ tsp freshly ground pepper. Mix up well and set aside.
Sear using one of the sear methods above.
As it comes off the grill or out of the pan, top each steak with a generous spoonful of the compound butter and let it melt over it.
Then slice across the short dimension of the steak in ¼ inch thick slices and serve! For sides consider creamed spinach, roasted mushrooms, and gratin potatoes for an ultimate steakhouse feast!
And that’s it! Now you’re ready to be a pro reverse sear chef!