Sunday, May 25, 2008

Flavor Injection

I haven't much reason or time to make anything of note lately. However, Memorial Day presents a golden opportunity to fire up the crockpot. A friend of mine is having a BBQ and what better way to celebrate than with some pulled pork.

Flavor injection is not something I have tried yet, but the concept in and of itself makes a lot of sense to me. It is hard to get the flavors of your rubs and sauces deep into your meat. Even after long periods of marinating you will not get all the way to the core of your pork butt or brisket. This is where I'm hoping flavor injection can help. Basically, I am going to get a syringe type device and inject my pork with some of my spices and marinating ingredients.

I seem to recall one of those late commercials for this rotating oven being pitched by Ron Popiel. One of the giveaways I remember was a flavor injector. In the ad, they used it to deposit garlic and spices deep into a roast beef. It seems logical that if you want your meet to have a lot of flavor that you should inject the center of the meet with the same rubs and sauces that you are using on the outside of it.

Here is a picture of Ron with the Showtime Rotisserie Grill. Can't say I have ever bought one of his products, but he certainly introduced me to the concept of flavor injection.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Sweet Inspiration

Although I enjoy making my own BBQ at home, it is also nice to go out for BBQ sometimes and see what other folks are doing. There are definitely some big differences between crockpot BBQ and restaurant BBQ. For one thing, a traditional BBQ restaurant will cook their meats (pork, ribs, brisket etc.) in a smoker for anywhere from 12-24 hours using a variety of woods (hickory, apple etc.) to give the meat difference flavors. The pinkness that you may notice when you are eating pulled pork or chicken is a result of the smoking process and a sign that you are having quality BBQ. Going out and enjoying BBQ food prepared properly always inspires me to get back in there and make something new.

I went home to Boston this past weekend and no visit there is complete without stopping in to Blue Ribbon BBQ. I remember going there for lunch as a senior in high school and it hasn't changed much since. I got a Burnt Ends sandwich (this is the ends of the beef brisket which are chopped up) with coleslaw and black eyed corn for under $7. I think it may have been about $6 when I was in high school, but still an incredible value today.

I could really taste the variety of seasonings that they incorporate into both their BBQ rubs and sauces. There are other BBQ restaurants that make claims of being the best but Blue Ribbon is still hands down the best BBQ I have ever had. A 10 out of 10 in my book! If anyone reading is ever in Newton, MA, Blue Ribbon is a must eat (

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Quick & Easy BBQ Sauce

Saw a recipe on epicurious for BBQ sauce that looked pretty good. I made a few modifications to it and overall am pretty pleased with the results. Camera is on the fritz so no photos this time I'm afraid.

2 tablespoons of butter
1 medium onion (chopped into small pieces)
2 garlic cloves (minced)
16 oz ketchup
1/3 of a cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
4 tablespoons Dijon Mustard
1 teaspoon hot sauce

Melt the butter down in a saucepan and saute the onion for about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic in and cook for about another minute. Add in everything else except for the hot sauce and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the hot sauce and give one final stir before transferring to a bowl.
Put the bowl in the fridge for about an hour to allow the sauce to thicken up an serve over your favorite meats.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Sweet and Smokey Pulled Pork

I have to say this is my favorite creation so far. I really enjoy combining sweet and smoky flavors. You really can't go wrong using ingredients such as honey and brown sugar, which lend themselves especially well to pork. I think that using the pork butt (shoulder) also makes a big difference because it has just the right amount of fat to baste itself throughout the cooking process. If there was ever a meat that the crockpot was inspired by, it would have to be a toss up between pork butts and stew meat.

1 2lb Pork Butt
2 tablespoons liquid smoke
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons honey
2 table spoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons of BBQ rub (I used Northwest Fire from Penzey's)
1 bottle of sweet and smoky style BBQ sauce (I used NOH Hawaiian BBQ sauce)

In a bowl mix together the liquid smoke, water, Worcestershire sauce, honey, brown and brown sugar until evenly mixed.

Place the pork butt in a large bowl and pour the liquid mixture over it, turning the pork a few times to ensure that it is fully covered. Pour out any excess liquid that has collected on the bottom of the bowl. Sprinkle the BBQ rub evenly over the meat and rotate until the meat is evenly coated. Pour about 4 tablespoons of BBQ sauce over the meat and once again (sorry for the repetitiveness here, I promise it will pay off) rotate the meat until it is fully covered.

Wrap the pork butt in 2 plastic bags doubled up so that nothing leaks out and leave in the fridge overnight to marinate (you do not have to do this, but marinating the meat for a few hours really will pay off).

Place the meat in the crockpot and cook for 10 hours on low (I just let cook while I was at work). While in this photo there appears to be some burning, the meat as just fine as you can see below.

Remove the meat from the crockpot and place in a large plastic container or bowl. Use two forks to shred the meat and add the rest of your BBQ sauce and give it a stir.
Serve on your favorite bread with some BBQ sauce and you are good to go! I wish I had picked up some coleslaw and pickles to go with this but the meat was delicious on it's own anyway.

Wrap Up:
I've come away from this recipe with a few thoughts.
1) for pulled pork, the pork butt is the only meat that should be used.
2) if you have the time to marinate, by all means marinate.
3) while I do still want to make my own BBQ sauce, if you look around the store a little bit and don't mind paying a little extra, there are plenty of good BBQ sauces out there.

Happy Cooking!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

I must make sauce!

The time has come for me to make my own BBQ sauce. For the last few months I have purchased store bought sauces that undoubtedly are made from many artificial additives and preservatives. I have the tools to make something myself and BBQ sauce be frozen so it will keep indefinitely. The next question is what type of sauce to make. I have always been a fan of ketchup based sauces with a sweet, smoky flavor. I have tried vinegar based sauces before and while I think they go pretty well with pork, Sweet and Smokey is the way to go in my book.

If anybody has had any success or recommended ingredients or recipes please let me know. I will work on this weekend. Tonight I will be making some pulled pork. Recipe will follow tomorrow!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Beef Basics

Up until this point I have been relatively naive when it comes to the various cuts of beef and what their best uses are. With a slow cooker the general rule of them is that the slow cooking will tenderize even the toughest cuts of meat. However, my inclination would be that the better cut of meat you start out with, the better your results could potentially be. I think the main thing is you want to make sure you are using meat with a decent amount of fat in it which will allow it to become moist and tender during the cooking process.

The breakdown of the different cuts of meat and what they are used for can be found on Wikipedia and is a handy reference guide for what cuts of meat are best for what types of purposes. When I look back on what I have made so far I have found that my best results have come when I have used brisket and plate steaks (such as hanger or skirt). A lot of this has to do with the amount of fat that these cuts have, which compensates for them not being very tender and lends them so handily to slow cooking. Long story short, make sure that your meat has some fat on it to ensure you get a nice moist, tender result. Same holds true for pork where the pork butt (of the shoulder) has a pretty good amount of fat on it which helps baste and flavor the meat throughout the cooking process. Just talking about this is making me hungry!