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Cooking With Will

WARNING: INCOMING CHILD BRAG POST!!

I guess you could say that the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree.  A chip off the old block. My own little mini – me. All those corny sayings that imply that a child has taken on, or was born with a passion and love for something the parent has a passion or skill for. This would be the case for me with my youngest boy William.

Will has always had a love for food.  He loves to eat and will try anything you put in front of him at least once.  Anytime he can help in the kitchen, he runs for his apron and dives right in.

He will also sit down with me and watch the Food Network, good thing since it’s on the TV in my house basically non-stop.  His favourite show is Food Factory.  He loves watching how things are made.  He went through a phase about a year ago where we were having to DVR Food Network for him.  This probably explains what happened next.

The family was in the kitchen together and we decided to set out some fruits, yogurt, juices etc. and create a make-your-own smoothie bar.  We let the kids pick what they wanted in the smoothies and experiment.  William started verbalizing all of his decisions and steps.  He was explaining why he wanted each item and how many to use.  He was basically putting on a cooking show at this point, so, we encouraged him to keep talking, we taped it and we put it on YouTube.  Voila, Cooking With Will was born.

He was so blown away with seeing himself on YouTube he immediately had to make a second video that same day.00001_CaptureHe caught the bug and we’ve been making videos ever since.  He has shown the videos to family, friends, classmates, teachers and pretty much anyone who will watch.  I’m more than happy to be his camera man and post production crew and sit back and watch him be the star.

Will picks the dishes he wants to make and when he wants to make the videos, hence the gaps sometimes in the releases.  So far there hasn’t been a BBQ episode, but I’m sure it’s in the works if I can convince him!

As a Dad who loves to cook and BBQ it’s amazing to see my kid take such an interest in something his Old Man is into.

Here are his Episodes if you want to check them out.

Cooking With Will – Click the Titles Below to Watch!

The most amazing part of all of this is watching how much he is learning doing these videos.  In just 6 episodes he already remembers the names of most ingredients he has seen before and knows most by sight.  He understands when to ask for help and when he can try something out on his own.  And most important to me, he is developing a love and appreciation of all types of food.

Watch out Bobby Flay, here comes the next Food Network Star!

M.D.

 

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Is It Done Yet?

Temp vs Time.  A battle as old as time.  The epic struggle between gut feeling and instruction.  The quest to understand that not all things are created equal and it is these differences that define it.

Now I’m not talking about any epic moral dilemma here, but simply the idea that not all recipes are created equal and not all items we plan to cook (especially proteins) can be “recipized”.  I just invented a word I think (autocorrect’s red underline lets me know!).

Let’s look at some facts.  Almost all recipes in existence will note a time till completion.  These road maps to our current culinary adventure give us something concrete and solid to hang on to and guide us.  For most recipes, you can follow them from stem to stern as written and end up with a wonderful dish.  Here is the exception: Meat.  Have you ever come across a turkey that was cooked for the recommended time per pound as suggested and still need 17 cups of gravy to get through it?  Have you ever cooked 2 pieces of chicken, one over done and one still pink?  Ever cooked a steak for 4 minutes per side and not end up with that perfect medium rare the website you were referencing promised?  Wanna know why?

Time is not king when it pertains to meat.  The key to successful protein perfection?  Temperature.

An investment in a decent temperature gauge for internal meat temperature will instantly improve your success with meat.

Beyond just the gadgets and tools we use to monitor our meat’s progress we also require an understanding that meat has a mind of its own, so to speak.  I present for your consideration a small tale of two beings, locked in unending struggle.  The epic story of meat’s fight to be unpredictable and one man’s journey to understanding. Enter our protagonist; a BBQ enthusiast with over 7 years of competitive BBQ experience.  A BBQer who has cooked more than a thousand pounds of pulled pork in that time period.  Behold the nemesis; pork shoulder.  In that 7 years our hero has been in a constant battle to put these pork shoulders in a cooker and have them cook at a relatively consistent rate.  The result?  Pork taking as little as 12 hours and in one extreme case just under 24.  The morale of the story? Don’t fight the meat.  It is boss.  It decides when it wants to come off the cooker.  It calls the shots.  All we can do is show it the path to completion and give it gentle pokes and prods here and there to speed it on its way.  This applies across the board in the world of meat and is by no means unique to pork.

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Introducing the Thermapen by Thermoworks.  The thermometer of choice by almost every serious competitive BBQer I know.  The reason? It is super accurate, has a small needle which creates a super small puncture hole in the meat and it is actually instant.  You have probably come across temperature reading products that boast “Instant Read” on them, especially meat thermometers.  Thermapen actually delivers on that promise.  The ability to lift a lid, open a door, remove a cover (or however you access your pit) for as little time as possible is just awesome.  The less time the lid of your BBQ stays open the more heat you retain and minimizes the amount of time required for the cooker to heat back up to the proper cooking temp.  When working with charcoal especially this is crucial.

Photo courtesy of www.hsn.com

If you prefer to monitor the meat during the entire cooking process get your hands on an internal meat probe. These beauties provide you with the ability to leave the probe in the meat throughout the cooking process.  I would recommend the Maverick Redi Chek brand available at www.bbqs.com.  Other cheaper brands of meat probes are available at almost every big box department store and some of the larger grocery stores.  They usually consist of a base unit with a display and a probe for the meat.

Of course there is always the old school method to meat reading….touch it.  There are countless web posts talking about how meat should “feel” when it is at a certain doneness.  This takes a tremendous amount of trial and error and experience.  Sure, I’ve tried it, however I will say this…I have been wrong just as many times as I have been correct.  I prefer my new fangled gadget thank you.  This is by no means a knock to those of you who prefer this method, but for me, why ride a bike when you can drive a sports car?

The ultimate conclusion would read as follows.  Timelines given to recipes that include large or tough cuts of meat should be viewed as simply a guide.  A suggestion really.  A rough idea on how long you can expect to be committed to your current culinary adversary.

Investment in an accurate temperature measurement tool can save you not only heartbreak at the dinner table but also give you a tool that you can use to ensure you get the results you desire.  Steaks cooked to the exact doneness you prefer.  Chicken that is both fully cooked and full of moisture.  Pork tenderloin wonderfully charred on the outside but still slightly blushing with a hint of pink on the inside.  It is by far my most relied upon BBQ tool beyond the cooker itself.  Get one.

If you have any questions about these products please do not hesitate to leave a comment below and I will do my best to help you out!

M.D.

La Caja China

Here is my next toy. The La Caja China #2.

It is a box primarily design to cook whole pigs. However the box does have the versatility to cook large quantities of other meats as well. The thing that makes this box special is the fact that you can cook an entire pig in less than 6 hours.

I hope to be getting this box and testing it out thuroughly within the next month or two.

Of course I will be posting pics and updates when I get this box and will provide all information about the injections, rubs, sauces etc.

MD

My Gear

One of the things I am asked about most is what type of bbqs and smokers I use when I make my food.

I have a variety of smokers, a propane and a charcoal grill and am always on the lookout for a new toy.

Here is a rundown on the current Smoker arsenal….

The always versatile Weber Smokey Mountain

And yes, I have both the small and large variety.

These are probably the best bang for your buck entry level charcoal smokers.  You can do anything from whole chickens, ribs, pulled pork, turkeys, desserts, whatever.  And yes, I have done all of those.  These bad boys will force you to learn the art of controlling air flow, charcoal and water pans.  I doubt there is a smokey mountain owner alive that doesnt know the distinct smell of a water pan run dry in one of these.

These guys run on charcoal.  Wood chunks are added to give  smoke flavour to the food.  Charcoal alone also has the ability to impart some flavour especially if you spend the extra couple bucks and get a good kind like Basque.

The Masterbuilt Extra Wide Propane Smoker

There are going to be those out there who will tell you that I am a sell out for using a propane smoker.  That it doesn’t make “true” bbq.  That this is for lazy people.

My response……so what?!  I really honestly could care less.  BBQ snobs be hatin’

This thing rocks.  To be honest, I probably use this 95% of the time I have to cook anything.  Why?  Its easy, its huge and it makes good food.

This thing is my #1 smoker now.  Yes, charcoal does feel more “real” when I use it and produces a slightly different product but notice I used the word different and not better.

Of course this is purely my opinion.

This can do anything and everything you can possibly think of including acting as a spare oven for Christmas or Thanksgiving by not adding wood, or moonlighting as a warming cabinet once everything is cooked.

This thing works on a standard propane tank and wood chunks or chips.  I prefer the wood chunks as it gives a longer and easier to control smoke than wood chips.  Wood chunks can be harder to find, especially in London Ontario but they are worth the effort.  I know Lowes carries hickory wood chunks.

I have been asked very recently what smoker I would recommend to backyard enthusiasts and I would go with the Masterbuilt every time.  I know of 2 people who have purchased these on my recommendations and both of them love it.  In fact a 3rd has purchased as well but I am still waiting on a verdict and a 4th person is in the near future.

Any questions, let me know!

Welcome!

Well….

Here is something I never in a million years thought I would do; create a blog.  I mean really, who could possibly be that interested in reading what I have to say or to be honest; how could I possibly think anything I have to say could be that interesting?!

This blog exists as it is now because of one specific reason.  I have been asked multiple times over the last few years for recipes, tips, tricks, advise, etc. on all things food, cooking and bbq.

So, I am going to en-devour to log all things creative, new, interesting and whimsical here on this page for all to see.  If you come here once or come here a million times that will be up to you.

What I hope is that this is a page to share what my friends and family have enjoyed and how I went about creating those items.

With all that said….welcome!

Look around and who knows what you might find!

MD