Drew Bob’s Open Pit Smoke House…

On Wednesday I took delivery of:

Qty Desc Weight
1 17004 Weber Apple Chips – 1.36kg
1 1009 Heat Beads – 4kg
1 16012 Weber Premium Briquettes – 7kg
1 6456 Weber Style Gloves

On Saturday I went to Costco and purchase a ½ turkey breast crown.
Turkey Breast

I removed the bag and nappy, rinsed and dried it was ready for the brine.
Turkey Breast Packaging removed

I do not have a big enough fridge to hold a 5 gallon bucket so I used my little 6 pack cooler. The brine is:

1/3 cup Maldon Sea Salt
1/3 cup Smoked Maldon Sea Salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp garlic granules

Brine Ingredients

Add enough cold water to fill the cooler half way up. Since the cooling method is ice, leave some extra room. Stir until all salt and sugar are dissolved. Add the turkey breast and cover with ice. Top up the ice when the temperature gets above 4° C. It is important to make sure the water does not get warm because this can be a health hazard, so lots more ice before bed and up at 4:00 AM to top up, then back to bed.

The next day remove the breast from the brine, rinse then dry with paper towels. Place the turkey on a rack over a pan to come to room temperature for an hour. Meanwhile try and like the charcoal….grrrr. Now I remember why I went to the dark side and started using a gas BBQ. I was using a new piece of kit from Weber which is a quick start chimney for briquettes (basically a large can with a handle). I was going to use the minion method of smoking, which consists of putting a stoking hot chimney of charcoal in the middle of the smoker and then surrounding them with more unlit briquettes. To smoke the breast it will take at least 4 hours so low and slow is the way forward and the heat should work from the centre to the edge and light the briquettes over time. But you have to get started first 🙁 and I was using newspaper that comes free through the door. Unfortunately it stays out in the rain and then gets delivered through my door and then put in to the recycling in the damp garage, so the best I got out of this was a disgusting smoulder. I was trying to light the Heat Beads which are compressed charcoal so they are even more difficult to light. In desperation after an hour I rammed the chimney with lint from my tumble dryer, and one match we were off. Next time the newspaper is stored in the airing cupboard not the garage.

After about half an hour I had red hot briquettes which were put into the bottom of the smoker. I then put some more briquettes around the outside and put two handfuls of apple wood chips and two chunks of oak in between the lit briquettes and the unlit briquettes. I filled the water bowl with three woks of hot water from the sink and added the smoking rack and turkey breast. Now were smokin…

I started with all the vents open half way (3 on the bottom, 1 on the top) but it failed to get to temperature. So I opened them all up and we were away up to the proper temperature.
Taking Temperature

This was on about 11:00 A.M. after the hour delay getting the coals to heat. So a 7 pound breast should be done in 210 minutes if you cook it at 225° F. At about 4:00 P.M. I tested the temp and it was too low so I decided to finish the turkey in the oven as it was getting dark and I needed to clean up so I pulled the turkey from the smoker.
Finished Smoking

I think this affected the finished product as my oven is a fan oven a we lost quite a bit of moisture to the pan during the last bit of cooking.

Here is the finished product from the top.

Here is the finished product from the bottom.

But the question on everyone’s lips is… What about my ring?
Smoke Ring

Smoke ring that is.

“A smoke ring is a pink discoloration of meat just under the surface crust (called bark). It can be just a thin line of pink or a rather thick layer. A good smoke ring is around 1/4 inch in thickness. The smoke rings are caused by nitric acid building up in the surface of meat, absorbed from the surface. This nitric acid is formed when nitrogen dioxide from wood combustion in smoke mixes with water in the meat. Basically it is a chemical reaction between the smoke and the meat. ”

And mine is well over ¼ of an inch – boooo yaaaahhhh

Meat smells like apple smoke.
Meat tastes sweet and smoky.
Meat has a great bark and ring.
Meat is a bit dry due to finish in fan oven, but what do you expect when you are smokin in January.

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The Smokey Mountains have come to the UK…

I took delivery of my Weber Smokey Mountain today.
Weber Smokey Mountain

Some assembly was required as there a few parts. But all the bolts and nuts were the same size, nice design. It is heavy, the box weighed 15kg. All steel construction and well made as you would expect from Weber.
Weber Smokey Mountain parts

About 45 minutes later it was done.
Weber Smokey Mountain

The reason I bought this smoker is that for most large pieces of meat you need to have 6-18 hours of smoke and you cannot really get that out of a small smoker box in your BBQ, which lasts 2 hours at most. This smoker has several air vents to control the burn of the charcoal. It also has a water pan between the heat and the meat to keep things moist and a low temperature.

Now I need to procure some fruit or nut wood and some clean charcoal, by Christmas. I want to try some smoked turkey. I also want to try the House-Cured bacon recipe (3-182) from the Modernist Cuisine which needs 7 hours of smoking to finish the dry cured belly pork; it is supposed to be to die for.

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Interviewed by my niece…

My niece is a talented writer (in English and Spanish) at University.

Currently, I am taking a feature writing class, and we have to write a food related feature. I was wondering if I could interview you about your blog and your experiences with “Modernist Cuisine.”

And here it is my responses.

-What is “Modernist Cuisine?”
Modernist Cuisine is the “The Art and Science of Cooking”. It is created by modern chefs and scientists using tools and ingredients that were normally not thought of to be in the kitchen. The goal is to make the “perfect” recipe for what ever you are working on, and make it repeatable so it is perfect every time. The name was created to entitle a set of cookbooks:

Modernist Cuisine

This has been a real interest of mine over the last year or so.

-How did you discover it?
One of the authors is Nathan Myhrvold who was the Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft, where I work.


He came to the Redmond campus to give a talk about his books and I saw his net show recording. I was also sent a link to the books by several friends.

-Why did you decide to work through it? When did you decide to do it?
I was posting my cooking exploits on Facebook and a friend at work said “you need a blog” so I decided to start writing my cookbook by writing a blog, which was March 2011. In April I decided to purchase the books as it seemed like the ultimate set of books for cooking. I had to order them in the USA because there was no stock in the UK, and in fact it was not until about September there was stock in the UK.

-What are some of the positives of this experience? Negatives?
Well the positive things are the food. The taste and quality of the food is fantastic. I also think it is fun, and provides new ideas for my blog. The books are not just cookbooks, but delve into the “why” of cooking using thermodynamics, cryogenics, chemicals and laboratory equipment in a scientific manor.

The negatives are that it costs quite a bit of money to “tool up” to do this type of cuisine. It is also difficult to get some of the ingredients that the Modernist recipes call for, liquid nitrogen for example. This is starting to change though as some chemical companies are starting to put together Modernist starter packs, although they are also quite expensive.

For example, a kit I just purchased this week which would be about $75:
Molecular Gastronomy

-What is your favorite recipe? Why?
My favourite so far has to be sirloin steak in the Sous Vide, with home made chips. The reason I like it so much is the flavour and texture is consistent throughout the steak. I like mine medium rare so instead of just the middle of the steak being pink and juicy, the whole steak is the same and so tender. A little béarnaise sauce on the side is also very nice.

-What do you do with the food once you cook it?
Eat it and share it with friends. As I say on my blog, cooking is the way I can make things that makes other happy.

-Why did you decided to start the blog? When did you start it?
See above 🙂

-What is your following like?
I use Google Analytics, and I get about 10 hits a day. Although some of them are probably WordPress comments spam.

WordPress Spam

-How do you like writing compared to cooking?
I really like to both as much as the other. I really like writing, but it is time consuming since I also include photography with the text. Planning the meal and then picking the moments to take pictures is good fun. I think that editing photos and editing my writing take the most time, as I am not very good at grammar and spelling (I just had to go back and correct grammer, thanks Word).

-What would you like to do after you complete “Modernist Cuisine?
I have a stack of new books that I have purchased and are waiting in the wings:
Heston Bumenthal at home
The Hairy Bikers Perfect Pies (the pie-ble)
Tagines and CousCous
River Cottage Veg, everyday (I eat too much meat)

-Any advice for novice chefs and/or bloggers?
With the blog – keep it simple.
For chefs – save up for a Sous Vide.

-Is there anything else you think I should include?
If you have hard water in your area then steam your vegetables using bottled/filtered water, the difference is significant!

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Mostly Modernist Thanksgiving

-Turkey Breast
-Bread stuffing
-Roast Potatoes
-Mashed Sweet Potatoes
-Cranberry sauce
-Bread machine rolls/buns
-Pumpkin Pie with whipping cream

Day N-2
Make large loaf of bread in your bread machine.
It seems like a crime, but you are going to take this lovely soft bread….
Large Load of Bread

and butcher it by removing all the crust and cutting it into slices to let go stale,
Stale Bread

which is why you need to make it two days before. Bread made from the machine does not have any preservatives so sitting out for two days will make it very hard on the outside and soft indside which is what you need for great bread stuffing.

Make Cranberry Sauce in the Sous Vide.
The Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking have a really interesting recipe for cranberry sauce. You first wash and sort through the cranberries then weigh them. Then weigh out 10% each of water and sugar. Coat the cranberries in the sugar and then put them in a sous vide bag and add the water. Hang the bag off of the end of the counter and vacuum seal.
Cranberries in Sous Vide bag

Note: The family decided that the amount of syrup was correct but the next time use 20% sugar.

Then cook Sous Vide to create sweet sugar syrup on the outside of whole cranberries. It is kind of wild to eat because first you get sweet of the syrup and then when you bite into a cranberry is explodes with sour.
Cranberry Sauce

Day N-1
Make Pumpkin Pie.
I use Libby’s Pie filling and recipe (amended of course)…
The one on the tin has you bake the pie crust blind first, then add then add the mix and bake which I agree with as no one wants a soggy crust (anywhere).
Pumpkin Pie Crust baking blind

You can get all the ingredients at Waitrose in the UK so there is NO excuse not to (that was for Guy).
Pumpkin Pie Ingredients

Pumpkin pie by itself is pretty (ok very) bland so we need to pimp it up with some spice! This is my change to the recipe because I love nutmeg so I include a whole grated nutmeg to the rest of the spices in Libby’s recipe.
Pumpkin Pie Ingredients

Watch you fingers toward the end of the grating and in fact I lied it is not a whole nutmeg it almost a whole nutmeg I stop grating when it nears adding skin to the mix.

There are two reasons you make pie a day before. The first is that by sitting for a couple of days in the fridge it allows the spices and other flavour to mix together into a smoother tasting pie. The second is that you have enough to do on the day.
Pumpkin Pie

Oh and BTW whipped cream is not optional… it rules! Don’t even think of using that UHT stuff from a can you have in your fridge. This requires proper whipping cream and powdered/icing sugar to give it that little bit more.

Thanksgiving Dinner (TD)
TD (when you finally get up)
The Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking books have a type of recipe they call “parametric recipes”. They are designed to make any quantity and have one ingredient that is 100% by weight. For brown poultry stock the 100% ingredient was water. Now I had two packages of meat the needed to be ground for the recipe that were 1 kg combined weight. So I extrapolated the water up to be its correct percentage which was 1.33 kg of water which I used to determine the amount of the other ingredients. The Modernist chefs do all of their recipes by weight, and here is why: Tipping the Balance. I wanted to make some stock from the book since I purchased my pressure cooker, and Thanksgiving is all about the gravy so I thought today I would take the time (and money) to make some Brown Poultry Stock.

Here are the ingredients for Parametric Brown Chicken Stock for Gravy
Ingredient, kg
Water, 1.33
Chicken Breast and Turkey thigh, 0.99
Chicken Wings, 0.63
Leek, 0.07
Shallots, 0.08
Carrot, 0.07

All in this cost about £10 which is a lot for ingredients you are going to throw away in the end, but from what I had read the stock was worth it. I put the chicken wings in the oven to roast for ½ hour at 190°F.
Roasting Chicken Wings

I then cut up the leeks, shallots and carrot into very thin slices.
Vegetables for Stock

I got out one of my favourite toys – the Fleischwolf!!!

To grind the chicken breast and turkey thigh. The reason you slice so thinly and grind the meat is to increase the surface area and decrease the penetration distance to the centre which produces more flavour in a shorter amount of time.

With a little oil in the pan of the Pressure Cooker brown the ground meat. Then remove the meat with a slotted spoon and add the vegetables and cook until soft. You may wonder why we are cooking the meat and vegetables before putting into the pressure cooker which is going to cook them anyway. The answer is flavour, which is due the Maillard reaction (or caramelization to you and me).

Everything goes back into the Pressure Cooker and then we need to add the water. After spending £10 on the ingredients I think that I can spare another quid for some quality water.

The water in my area is very hard so I do not steam or cook with it anymore and I can notice the difference in flavour and texture, especially of vegetables. Oh and no my pans are not coated in white gunk either.

After 1½ hours in the pressure cooker, turn it off and let the pressure reduce without venting. This is supposed to concentrate the flavour even further. When you can open the lid then strain through a fine sieve into a plastic container that has a lid. To facilitate removing the fat from the stock I then put the plastic container into a iced brine to cool it quickly. This was accomplished by putting the plastic container in a washing up bowl, adding ice and salt then topping up with cold water. By the time I was ready to use the stock in the afternoon I could skim off the fat easily.

Take the Cranberry sauce out of the fridge to get to room temp.

You need to make some rolls because they are great for:
Gravy bread – just ask my son
Butter and strawberry jam on the day (yah I mix sweet and savoury in a big way)
Leftovers – bun+butter+lettuce+turkey+salt oh ya bring it on!!!!!
See previous posts for how to make rolls in the bread machine.

The ones on the left are my lunch for the next few days, and the ones on the right are for the day.

TD-4H Turkey Breast Sous Vide 147°F for 3 hours
Get the Sous Vide up to 147°F and bag that turkey breast with some butter.
Turkey Breast in a Sous Vide Bag

I have to admit the next section is lacking pictures, but my son came home early and wanted to play the new Call of Duty (Duty or Cooking, Cooking or Duty). OK, so were really doing well on survival because we were working as a team. I think the only reason that the dinner was on time and not a mess was that later my daughter arrived and slid into my spot (and she is better at it than me, OK anyone is :-)).

TD-2H Make stuffing
I use a tried and trusted recipe for stuffing from Betty Crocker, but I use my own bread. Please note you can never have enough stuffing, ever. This stuff rocks, and rocks the next day too! No added extras because it would be just wrong to say you pimped Betty Crocker.

This is sweet potatoes or yams or what ever you want to call them. Give a good scrub up and put them in a pan to bring to a boil, and then let them simmer until you are ready to smash them up.

TD-1H Roast Potatoes 45 minutes in ActiFry
I have done the Tefal ActiFry so many time is past posts you can look for pictures. It is not just for chips as it does sauté and roast potatoes to perfection (see the plated up picture to check it out). Peel, quarter and wash several potatoes and then dry with a kitchen towel. Just 45 minutes and 5ml of groundnut oil produce the most perfect roast potatoes. I know that traditional TD utilizes mash, but I like roast potatoes since moving to the UK they are now traditional to me.

Put your stock into a pan and bring to a boil. Put about 25g of butter into a frying pan and heat until just bubbling. Cover the flour with regular flour and stir in until smooth, repeat 2 more times. Now add a ¼ cup of hot stock and stir until it is all incorporated. Now add two ¼ cups of hot stock and stir until incorporated, repeat doubling the amount of liquid until you have the desired consistency for gravy. Season with salt and pepper to taste. I like to make the gravy a bit runny then let it simmer for a while to reduce and intensify the flavour, plus it gives you time to do other things….

The first thing to do is to get the sweet potatoes out of the water and onto a chopping board, and then in my case forget about them totally (oops).

Next is to extract the turkey from the sous vide and slice.
Cut the rolls in half.
Get the stuffing out of the oven.

Finally cut a slice in the skin of the sweet potatoes and remove the skin. Then put them back into the pan with some of the whipping cream for the pumpkin pie and a couple of teaspoons of Allspice and smash them up with potato masher BTW that is the gold/brown stuff in front of the roll on the plated picture, it is great!

Here is a Mostly Modernist Thanksgiving Dinner plated up
Thanksgiving Plated

My son said it was “The best meal he has ever tasted” which made all the work worthwhile.

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Street food my way…

Just got 15 minutes to put together dinner, well there is nothing better than my egg fried rice. A few store cupboard items are required as we have no time for shopping and I am hungry NOW!

Egg Fried Rice Store Cupboard

So crack a couple of eggs into a bowl and add a good slosh of Soya sauce and give it a good stir and set aside. Chop 3 green onions into rings and add to the egg and Soya sauce.

Dice two shallots. Get your cheats garlic and ginger out of the fridge and put a heaping teaspoon of each into some olive oil in your wok. Add the shallots and fry on low heat until the shallot is soft and the garlic and ginger are slightly browned.

Shallot Garlic Ginger

Add the pre-cooked rice and heat until you can smash it up into individual grains

Rice and Spice

After about 2-3 minutes when the rice has separated and warmed through add the egg mixture to the wok and give it a good stir.

Rice with Egg Mixture

Cover with a lid to retain all the moisture.

Rice covered with a lib

Leave it cook for two minutes then give it another stir. Now turn the heat right down and leave the lid on. We want to cook it for another 3-5 minutes to get a nice brown crust on the rice. Then turn off the heat and leave it to rest for another 3-5 minutes to cook through and make rice and egg clumps.

Here it is plated up with a couple of steamed Cha-Siu buns from my local Chinese supermarket. Dash on some more Soya sauce depending on how salty you like your rice.

Street Food My Way

This is the basic recipe but any of the following make nice additions:
– frozen peas added with the egg mixture
– cooked ham or gammon cut into cubes into the egg mixture
– cooked prawns right at the end to warm through
And anything else you have lurking in your fridge except of course sweet corn.

P.S. put what you don’t serve into a container and squirt some washing up liquid into the wok along with some hot water, so by the time you finish dinner the soap will have loosened the burnt rice and the wok will be ready for cleaning.

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I have new favourite food…


Cholla from the Paradise Bakery in London.

I have been following a thread on French toast at eGullet. They suggested using challah which is the same as cholla, it appears to have several names depending on the country. I thought yah, where am I going to find that in the UK. Yesterday I was at Costco and looked down to see a pallet of the stuff, French toast here I come!!!! BTW this is eggy bread to the people in the UK.

You need to top and tail the cholla and try to get rid of many poppy/sesame seeds as possible.

Cholla tops and tails

Crack and egg into a bowl and then add a couple of glugs of milk, then beat with a whisk until it resembles scrambled egg batter. Pour the egg mixture into a pie plate and set next to the stove. Then get some butter just sizzling in a pan – not to hot, just so you can barely hear it. Then quickly place the cholla in the egg mixture and then turn over and coat the other side and place into frying pan. This is kind of an art as you need to cover the whole surface, but not so long as to soak up too much egg. Cholla is a dense bread and also a little sweet which is why it makes ideal French toast.

Cholla being fried

Now is the time to get your butter and syrup out.

Cholla being fried

I love this marketing gag, “Organic” Maple Syrup, its tree sap, doh of course it is organic!

When the toast is lightly browned on both sides plate it up with lots of butter and syrup.

Cholla French Toast

This made my daughter go yuuuummmm this morning, and she exclaimed that she had a new favourite bread too.

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I’ve gone all spiritual…

and started to read the Pie-ble


Come on, 140 pie recipes for £9, you gotta get one or two even (it is a great gift idea with Christmas just around the corner). Right now I am about ¼ the way through having my first thumb and came across deep fried apple pie, now that is rocking my boat for sure!!! Especially since it is apple season in the UK.

This looks to be a great book and I will let you know what recipes I cook from it and how they come out. Just for a taster here are the contents:

double-crust pies
handheld pies
top-crust pies
open-topped pies and tarts
plated pies
potato-topped pies
party pies
raised & freeform pies
fancy pies & suet puds
sides, salads & sauces
the basics

How cool is that – they have a section on leftovers… I always say sometimes the leftovers are better than the original meal.

PIE PIE PIE, Eat it Learn!

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I think this is the last…

BBQ of 2011. I snuck one more BBQ in this weekend as I wanted to try the proposed changes to Brined Chicken on the Rotisserie. I used the original recipe with the change of smoked sea salt and then let it sit for about 45 minutes after the brine to warm up to room temperature. I also rubbed some smoked paprika into the skin before cooking.

I started to cook at about 4:30 as sunset is about 6:15 here in the UK at this time of year.

Towards the end of the cooking it would go around a couple of times and the you hear the juice coming out of the skin.
Chicken Starting

And then you would get the light show.
Chicken Starting

I had to eat this at the sink in the kitchen as the juice from the chicken was over running the channels on the cutting board. Man was this nice; I ate half of it before I knew what was happening – caveman styling!!!!

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Huh, what are you sick…

dude you are talking about meat glue! I was reading Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking (which is now in stock at Amazon.co.uk after a 6 month wait) and they were doing some construction again. Not wood and nails, but meat! I keep coming across this stuff they use to reconstruct food. While reading about a Modernist Fried Chicken which takes the skin from the whole chicken and wraps it around a two chicken thighs before deep frying I decided to investigate what it is and see if I can get some. This meat glue is called Activa RM which is a brand name for a transglutaminase . I am not sure what this stuff is but I have sent an email to the company to ask where I can get some in the UK.

I was going to have a laugh and mark this vegetarian, but I need all the readers I can get 🙂

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Man sometimes leftovers ROCK…

Sorry I don’t have any pictures of this one, but it was so good I had to blog it. On the weekend I cooked some Costco Sirloin steaks sous vide to a perfect 134F medium rare. The steaks were fantastic and we had a great meal. I could not eat all of mine so I put half away for later this week. Tonight I got the steak out of the fridge and cut the 1 inch thick steak in half the long way making two ½ inch thick medium rare medallions. I sliced two shallots into strips and melted a knob of butter with some garlic infused olive oil in a pan. Set the shallots to slowly cook for about 20 minutes. When the shallots were just soft, put the buns into the grill to make them golden brown. Push the shallots off to the side and added the steaks, then tip the shallots onto the steaks and add some slices of cheese. Cover with a lid until the cheese is melted, about 2 minutes. A little mayo on the bun lid and then lift cheese and shallot covered steak onto the bun. OMG this just melted in my mouth it was so good… and my me go yuuuummmm.

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