Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Get Your Grilling on

My grilling successes and failures are well documented on Facebook (and my apologies to those who hate seeing my posts).  I thought I'd share what I have learned the first 7 months with my Big Green Egg (BGE).

Like many, I've been grilling for a long time.  I always prided myself on "feeling my way" through grilling.  The food I made was pretty good but I always thought my results were a little inconsistent.  After I bought the BGE, I actually did an "anti-guy" thing and read the instructions, listened to experts, and attempted to use it as a learning experience.  Initially, I was required to give up my "man card" while I was actually reading the directions, but the first time I pulled off a perfect steak, I got it back.

So what have I learned that is worth sharing?  Surprisingly, way more than I thought.  I would boil it down to two concepts.
1. You get what you pay for (YGWYPF).  
2. Treat grilling like school.  You have to learn new things to get better.

So if you are serious about making excellent grilled food, buy decent stuff.  This goes for the grill, the charcoal, the accessories, and the food.  I'm not pimping BGEs as the only way to go, it certainly is a great one, albeit expensive.  Weber makes wonderful grills as does Traeger.  A less expensive option:  Chargriller.  I had one that was great for direct grilling, but difficult to slow cook or smoking.  The point is, don't expect a $50 grill to produce $100 tasting steaks.  These companies research and develop grills to cook food well, last a long time, and generally make their owners very happy.

For charcoal grills, good quality charcoal is the way to go.  Less ash, better, more consistent heat.  I recommend The Good One or BGE.  Cowboys from Lowes will do in a pinch.  Avoid the Sam's Club version... it'll clog your grill by the second use.

Gas grills are fine if you aren't looking to do anything other than direct cooking.  The heat is generally inconsistent and the grills "leaky" of heat.  There are higher end gas grills which do mimic charcoal, but they cost some $$$$.  Again, perfectly fine for direct heat cooking or simple indirect heat dishes (i.e. sautéed veggies).

Finally, the meat... it should go without saying, the best meat will be from your local butcher.  But if you want a balance between quality and economics, Sam's Club meat gives me great results.  I hear Costco's does as well, but have no direct experience.

P.S. Finally, also invest in some good rubs.  Butt Rub or Head Country give me consistently tasty results. Both are very versatile.  Weber's rub are pretty good.  But the best are homemade.  I don't go this far, but probably will at some point.

Grilling 101:
Since I got the BGE, I've documented temps, time, etc. in an attempt to perfect the cooking.  I can tell you, setting aside my pride to begin writing it down, tweaking it, and repeating was the smartest thing I've done.  I make very juicy chicken and "Ruth Chris" steaks.  The pork tenderloin is outstanding (though I'm still working my way through this one as the cook time seems to vary greatly due to the meat/fat content).  And the cool thing is, I get the grill at the right temp, put on the meat, set my timer, and walk away.  It tells me when to flip, and when to remove. 
There are some things I still get to "feel my way" with:  Burgers... bacon... and Pizzas, so I can still feel manly.
To do this, you will need to have the right tools.  Invest in: 
1. Evernote (it's free) or a notebook to make notes in.
2. A good meat thermometer (I recommend an electronic one)
3. A cooking timer app. Preferably one that can start multiple timers simutaneouly.  I have a timer for "flip" and "remove" for grilling.  They start at the same time.  iPad's ClockHD Pro works pretty well.
4. A grill thermometer with actual temp readings.  Not "cold, warm, hot" :).  If your grill has a crappy one, replace it.  If it doesn't have one, buy one you can install (you'll have to drill a hole.)

Then follow a simple method:  Write down everything you can.  I know people who right down weather conditions.  With the BGE, I don't have to worry about ambient temp too much.  With a gas grill, you may have to, but not sure. The things I document are:
- Initial and nominal Grill Temp
- Meat type and thickness
- Time on side 1, total time (you should only ever have to flip meat once, except thick steaks which requires two flips).
- Doneness - temp reading from meat therm.
- Juiciness - subjective

Obviously, you'll have to monitor the time and doneness throughout the last few minutes the first couple of times you cook a particular meat.  Once you get something where you like it, program those timers into your app with the appropriate labeling and enjoy the fruits of your work. It takes a little work, but I've found the third time I cook something, I get it close to perfect. 

Finally, the only problem I have is I sometimes revert to "feeling my way" out of laziness (not wanting to find the damn iPad or wash up the thermometer).  I ruined half the chicken I cooked last time.  Never again :D

Happy Grilling.

Friday, April 20, 2012


Last night, I went to my first concert in over 2 years (over 10 if you don't count DMB concerts).  In an odd way, I was a little nervous... not in a traditional sense.  Instead I was worried it would suck and I'd wasted time and money.  It could never be too bad, since I had Angie along.  Boy, I had nothing to worry about... CAKE delivered in spades and it rekindled the concert lover in me.

Before Ticketmaster and the Interwebz, concert tickets were sold through local music stores (yes, there was such a thing as a music store, with physical CDs, LPs, and cassettes).  Anyway, I had a friend of a friend who worked at the local Turtle Records and Tapes.  He was a jeweler by day and a record geek at night and weekends.  He was confined to a wheelchair, but he made almost every concert in Atlanta (80 miles away).  We became friends and suddenly, I was given a gift of immeasurable value.  See, back in the day, concert tickets went for sale on Saturdays.  People would line up Friday night for the good shows  and camp to get the first tickets coming off.  The ticketing method used was similar to how we buy tickets today.  He logged into a system and when the clock turned 10:00... it was off to the races.  He was fast with the machine (those jeweler hands) and he could poach the best seats very quickly.

Word got around, so our outlet was always busy as hell for the big concerts.  Now here is the immense gift I was given.  Of course, he wanted the best seats for himself but for some reason, I made his short list of friends to whom the next best ones went.  At first I didn't believe it, but when I showed up for my first concert and they walked me to the 3rd row, I was in awe.

Genesis.  Yes, Phil Collins and his band Genesis.  3rd row.  At 15 years old.  It was an unbelievable show.  (Note: this was the awesome version of Genesis - "Abacab, Turn it On Again" not the "Land of Confusion" bulls---).  It only got better.  7th Row for INXS (when Michael Hutchence was alive), 5th for Van Halen, 10th for Madonna (girlfriend), 2nd row for Whitesnake, and 8th for Bon Jovi... that one was me and 4 girls (smile).  I knew I was lucky, but at the time I had NO idea how lucky.  People can go their entire lives and not experience great tickets at a major concert.  I saw a dozen before leaving high school.

Unfortunately, shortly before I graduated, the system changed and his skills no longer guaranteed great seats.  The last few concerts were still awesome, but I started experiencing the bleacher sections instead of the floor.

Def Leppard - Hysteria tour
Bullet Boys
and many I can't remember.

The only tickets I ever declined were for Pink Floyd.  Boy do I regret that one.

Oh, and one other little known fact about me.  I actually saw Elvis live at the Omni in Atlanta with my mom.  I'm 42, so do the math and verify it was possible.

So, my concert history is long.  CAKE rekindled my desire to see great music.

If you don't know CAKE, but love sarcasm... check them out.  Every song is full of it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

10 Things I Wish I Could Say at Work

I love my job.  I really do.  No sarcasm at all.  I love the people I work with, but there are things that drive me a little crazy sometimes.  To allay some of that craziness, here is a compilation of things I wish I could say at work:

10.  "No I don't watch American Idol, Big Brother, Survivor, or the Amazing Race... please don't explain last night's episode to me."
9. "If you ask me about my weekend and I say 'it was fine.', that is not an invitation for you to give a 40 minute debrief on yours."
8. "No, I'm not on a conference call.  I wear this goofy headset because it makes me feel cool."
7. "Please stop IM'ing me to find out if you can call me, to tell me you sent me an email."
6. "Why are you asking everyone around you what the name of that guy in that movie you saw 10 years ago?  GOOGLE IT!"
5.  "I know your weekend was epic, but it's after lunch on Monday and the statue of limitations for you talking about it has expired."
4.  "Yeah, you're great at sales, but you suck at parking."
3.  "Why yes, I do think a well timed f-bomb is strong motivator."
2.  "I hope you enjoyed those beans on the way in because I'm not enjoying them on the way out."

and the one I really would like to say to a few people:

1. "Where can I learn to kiss ass like that?  Wait...nevermind, I actually know how to do my job."

Monday, April 16, 2012

Top 10 Things Going Through Someone's First WOD

The first WOD at Crossfit can be a very stressful time.  Between the gasping breaths, your mind may have a moment for fleeting thoughts... in order it goes something like this:

10. WTF is a WOD?

9.  What do you mean you want me to scale and only do half of the my first WOD?  Hmmmprh.

8. All right, let me show these folks what I'm made of.

7. Holy s--t..

6. This is crazy.

5. These people are crazy!

4. Nasties? Cousins?  BJs? What kind of place is this?

3. My God, I still have to do 35 more of these?  This is SCALED?

2. <                                              >... what just happened to me?

and finally...

1.  Who the hell is Pukie and why do people keep congratulating me on meeting him?

5 Greatest (and Worst) Moments in My World of Crossfit

I wasn't sure how to title this because these are a mix of my personal moments along with my witnessing other moments that warrant attention.  So I did the best I could.

The Top 5 Greatest
5.  Meeting people from every walk of life, only sharing 1 thing in common... at first, and then becoming friends beyond the gym.

4.  Watching people grow up in front of your eyes.  Mind you, I'm talking about people of all ages.  People finding their way and staying in town because they find their way... people coming back because they know where home is... and people simply finding a new person inside of themselves... one more confident and tenacious than they'd imagined.

3.  Accomplishing more than I dreamed:  The first time I got a Rx pull-up, the first time I Rx'd a pull up WOD.  The time I ran a 5k in under 24 minutes. I haven't come within 3 minutes of again...

2.  Watching people set PRs on weight WODs, or getting their first MU or PU.  The excitement they display is unparalleled.

and my favorite moment:

1.  Getting to walk around all day saying "I did Diane (Elizabeth, Karen, Angie, Fran, etc.) today!!!"  All day... to clueless people.

Top 5 Worst Moments:
5.  Ripping my hands, badly on pull up # 98 of a 100 pull up WOD.

4.  Being constantly reminded that people seem to be most gassy at 5:15 in the morning.

3.  Watching a wall ball fall just short of the white.... again and again.  I've decided I'm wearing platform shoes next time we do Karen.

2. Really crowded WODs when finding a pull up bar is like a game of musical chairs...

and the worst moment:

1. Last week as the reality hit me... I have to cut back on some movements due to a nagging injury.

What are your top moments?  Good or bad?