Don’t have a Smoker? You don’t need one !!

Greetings Carnivores,

I have written Blog posts about smoking, and the joy of eating food prepared this way but, I understand not everybody owns a smoker. Like I’ve said before, … smoking meat is a labour of love that takes HOURS and, I’m pretty sure not everybody shares my addiction. For me, it’s a bit of a passion. I read about it, watch it on the food network, and try endless recipes and methods in my smoker. I suffer TERRIBLE withdrawal when the weather turns cold because for every one degree drop in outside temperature I have to add 20 minutes to my overall cook time. Winter smoking (with my water smoker) is NOT very practical. I once put my very first electric (Little Chief) smoker in my living room fireplace, and smoked some ribs in the Winter. I wasn’t very popular at my house since the whole place smelled like a smokehouse for DAYS (I thought it was GREAT!!) My poor, long suffering Marital Equivalent didn’t share my enthusiasm however. Through it all though, … she  has endured all my successes AND even some epic fails.

Ok so, where am I going? Here’s the deal. YOU DON’T NEED A SMOKER!

Grilling with charcoal or briquettes is making a HUGE come back and, if you have one of these obviously you can cook/smoke with indirect heat, thus making your grill a wonderful ‘smoker’. BUT … for those of you who use gas grills, you can STILL achieve the same results.

I’m quite sure you’ve all heard about BBQ’ing Salmon on a Cedar plank. Have you ever tried it?  MAN … you’re missing out if you haven’t. But, … did you realize you can cook pretty much ANYTHING on a cedar plank??  The secret is … you have to use a THICKER plank for extended cooking time.

Seems pretty simple when you think about it but … the planks sold at any home improvement,  or big red box store (starts with a “C” and ends with an “O”) are fine for a nice Salmon filet since the total cook time ‘may’ be as much as 7 minutes but, probably no more that 12-13.

When using a plank for cooking, you must soak it for 20 minutes or so before placing it on the grill. Then, you get it rocking ’till it starts to ‘smoke’ (essentially it’s ‘starting’ to smolder) add your fish and … Bob’s your Uncle. 7 to 10 minutes later … NIRVANA!

The problem is … planks sold at the big box stores are EXPENSIVE! Sure, you get 6 or 8 of them in a pkg., BUT, they’re so thin you really only get (if you’re lucky) 15 minutes of cook time out of them before they REALLY start to burn so, they’re not much good for anything OTHER than fish.

Know what I do?

I go to the same home improvement store BUT … I buy a 10 foot, 1 x 6 cedar fence plank (for about 12 dollars) and cut it to any length I need, depending on what I’m cooking.

PLEASE, … DON’T BUY GREEN, PRESSURE TREATED FENCE LUMBER TO COOK ON … THEY’RE INFUSED WITH TOXIC STUFF TO INHIBIT INSECTS AND ROT!!

Ok so, since the 1 x 6 is SO much thicker than the cedar ‘wafers’ they sell FOR the BBQ … you can cook for MUCH longer. Back ribs for instance … cut the board to accommodate the length of the rack, weigh it down and soak it (use the laundry tub if it won’t fit in your kitchen sink) then, put it on the grill, get it rocking ’till it just starts to smolder (smoke),  add your ribs and Voila! Go pour yourself a nice Summer libation, take a chair (spray bottle at the ready) and enjoy the wonderful smells emanating from your BBQ!

Just so I’m clear … always keep a spray bottle of Apple juice handy (you can use plain old water but … where’s the adventure in that?). This serves double duty. First, it helps to keep whatever you’re cooking/smoking  moist (and sweet) and second, to quell any errant flames that ‘may’ want to caress the wood and burn your planked treasure.

Try your favourite Chicken preparation, Lamb, … you can even cook Burgers like this! The cook time will be much longer so please, make sure you use a good digital meat thermometer to insure the correct doneness … I don’t want any of you getting sick. 🙂

I like to transfer whatever I’m planking (except fish … it’ll fall apart) to the grill for some nice grill marks at the end of the cook … it just looks better.

There you have it Carnivores, now … get out there and smoke something. I love to read your comments and answer any questions you may have.

In the meantime, stay tuned and … please click “follow” at the top of the page (Carnivore Confidential). You’ll get an email notice every time I write something new.

Until then, stay hungry Carnivores and as usual, please follow my posts on Twitter @DougieDee and like and share them on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/carnivoreconfidential

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Better with age?? The Wet vs Dry debate rages on …

Greetings Carnivores,

There has been a raging debate going on for years over which method of aging is superior: Wet vs Dry. It’s helpful to understand what happens during the process of aging so, I’m going to attempt to demystify the conflict for you because in the end … it’s going to come down to personal choice.

The truth is, the tenderness of all meat whether it’s Poultry, Pork, Lamb or Beef will improve to a certain degree, from ‘some’ aging. This is because immediately after the animal is slaughtered, natural enzymes begin the job of breaking the flesh down. Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust so to speak. The process is inevitable and unstoppable, unless the meat is frozen but, then we begin to deal with other issues. (I go through those ‘issues’ in an earlier post called “Did it just get chilly in here?”)

When I started in this business years ago, there was no other option for aging meat other than humidity controlled, dry aged hanging. Dry aging basically allows the meat to dehydrate while hanging, and the process of breaking down imparts this earthy, musty, old (Blue) cheese sort of funky flavour … a flavour sought after by the tastebuds of some of the most discerning Foodies and Chefs alike.

But, there’s nothing like progress. Around the time Cindy Lauper, Techno-pop, Men at Work and the Cars were making names for themselves, a new method to age meat, developed by the meat industry was becoming more and more popular too.

Advances in Plastics and the introduction of huge machines used to vacuum seal large primal cuts in the slaughterhouse, allowed the meat industry to totally exclude Oxygen. This radically retards the speed with which a piece of meat breaks down (ages) with almost no moisture loss. The meat still ages in the bag although … it’s different. The downside (there always seems to be a downside to something good) is Wet aged Beef has has lost it’s distinctly ‘earthy’ taste.

Less and less meat was sent to the stores ‘hanging’ because now they were able to break down the carcasses at the plant level, and ship the individual ‘Primals’ to the stores in cases. Profits soared. Can you imagine the dollar signs popping off in the heads of the big meat execs? They figured out how to drastically improve their bottom line by reducing weight loss due to dehydration and trimming.

You can still find Beef dry aged, and hung 21 (or better) days but you’ll pay a premium for it. The ‘Boutique’ shops will be your best place to start but, make sure to ask the Butcher if he is hanging the old dry way. A lot of places just don’t have the time or space needed to accurately ‘Dry’ age on their premises so … it really is becoming harder and harder to find.

If you live in the Toronto area I have to recommend an old friend of mine who runs a beautiful Boutique shop in downtown Oakville called Just an Olde Fashioned Butchery and Seafood. His name is Bill Rechter and he and I go back a LONG way. He actually has a Black and White photograph of the two of us hanging on the wall, working in his shop … taken when we both looked like little kids. Check him out and tell him I sent you.

So, there you have it … Cindy Lauper or the Cars. Wet or Dry … personal choice.

“till next time Carnivores, stay hungry.

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Lamb, Ham or Turkey … HAPPY EASTER!

Happy Easter Carnivores,

Now that the meal has been consumed and the family has returned home, I have been thinking about all the wonderful food that celebrates the Easter Holiday season so today, I present this missive about traditional feasts.

I was brought up in a Christian home but, I want to focus here on the food and not necessarily the worship of any single religion. That said, traditional Easter foods historically represent the coming of Spring and the promise of abundance the new season brings. Whether your feast includes Lamb, Ham, Turkey or something else, this is the time of year when people celebrate renewal, for others Easter is a day to rejoice in the resurrection of Christ. It’s also a day when people gather to enjoy the fellowship of a bountiful feast with family and friends.

As a child I remember fondly the Easter feasts at our house beginning with Hot Cross Buns for breakfast on Good Friday morning. Did you know the cross symbol on the buns is a modern-day reminder of the Crucifixion but, years ago it was a representation of the four seasons by ancient Anglo-Saxons to pay respect to the Goddess Eastre. Hmmm … who knew ???

Pretzels (although I didn’t know this either) were once shaped like a person praying with arms folded in front. Made of unleavened bread, they made it to the list of Traditional Easter foods.

Growing up, Ham and Turkey were the usual suspects at our dinner table but Lamb is also a huge favourite. The lamb is traditional to many because it represents the sacrificial Lamb eaten at Jewish Passover.

It always seemed odd to me that (for obvious reasons) Ham is a food eaten at Easter however, the reason for this goes way back to the time before refrigeration. Pork was slaughtered in the Fall, the meat smoked and cured over the Winter months was ready to eat in the Spring … around Easter. Pork is also considered to be lucky in some European cultures.

The Turkey is a bit of a mystery to me. As far as “traditional” goes, it is a very popular food eaten at Easter but, it seems to be only a North American thing so … I suspect it’s because the bird is indigenous to the Continent and usually represents a food served at celebrations here on this side of the pond.

What ever you ended up having at your house this year, I hope it was a wonderful get together with your family and friends.

As for me, I’m still looking forward to the sandwiches …

Happy Easter Carnivores and … stay hungry.

Follow me on Twitter @DougieDee and please ‘like’ and ‘share’ my posts http://www.facebook.com/carnivoreconfidential

Pooped ??? I prescribe … RED MEAT !!

Greetings Carnivores,

My wife related a story to me the other day … one I thought would make a good Blog subject, and it goes something like this:

One day last week she was catching up with her girlfriend Rosalind on Facebook. Over the course of the conversation Ros related that she had been feeling “like death”. Run down, lethargic, out of breath, no energy, in general … pooped. She was at her ‘wits end’ when something crazy happened. She had made herself a steak for dinner and, much to her surprise, she felt SOOO much better after she ate. Her question to my wife was … “is it possible that all that was wrong with me was I needed some Iron?”

Was eating steak the magic potion she required???

Biology and Chemistry classes taught me that Red blood cells contain iron. This is vitally important because this is how these cells transport oxygen around the body. If you have an Iron deficiency, your red blood cells don’t have enough iron to carry oxygen to your body efficiently. This is the reason you feel fatigued, breathless and tired, appear pale, … in other words … pooped.

I’m not a nutritionist but I do know that Beef is an excellent source of Iron. This just happens to be wonderful news for Carnivores since Beef and most other animal proteins contain PLENTY of Iron. The darker the flesh, the higher the Iron content. Example: Beef is higher in Iron than Pork and, dark Poultry meat is higher that white.

You can of course get Iron from non-animal sources (but where’s the fun in that???) Green leafy vegetables like Spinach, Kale, Broccoli … the list is quite long. Try adding nuts to your diet too but … here’s the craziest way to add extra Iron to your diet: cook with a cast Iron skillet. Yup … Iron actually leaches out of cast Iron cooking utensils.

So, there you have it folks … feeling down? Lethargic? Out of Breath? Grab yourself a nice big 2″ thick Strip loin and put it to the flame.

Dr. Dougie says you’ll be ship-shape in no time.

C.C Jan. 29 2013 005

Load up those Red Blood cells with Iron … EAT BEEF!!

Stay hungry Carnivores

’till next time, follow me on Twitter @DougieDee and don’t forget to ‘like’ and ‘share’ my posts at http://www.facebook.com/carnivoreconfidential

You’ve been Slimed

Good Morning Carnivores,

I’ve been thinking about this for some time. There are quite often ‘Hot Button’ topics I’m asked to explain, this is one I’ve been asked about a LOT lately.

What I’m about to write will come as a surprise to some of you, some of you are already aware of this ‘Process’.

Controversy.

It makes headlines, sells newspapers and leads off the evening news. Sometimes it’s good for careers, sometimes it shatters them. Often it provokes an angry reaction.

This topic is one of those that provokes an angry reaction.

You’ve all heard the term “mechanically separated”. If you haven’t, take a look at a package of Hot Dogs.

‘Mechanically separated’ … it’s been going on since processed meats have been available, and it refers to a “heat-treated method” the industry uses to extract every available ounce of usable meat from a carcass, once an animal has been slaughtered and cut down. All of the leftover scraps of fat, sinew, tendon and bone are sent to another ‘stage’ where they go through a heating process (just over 100 degrees F). This produces an end result that is then spun in a centrifuge. The resulting product from the centrifuge is called (Click here:) Lean Fine Textured Beef (LFTB) and, it resembles pink tooth paste. The LFTB is then treated with Ammonium Nitrate gas to kill any potentially harmful bacteria that is inevitably present.

I know all of this sounds disgusting but, the process has been approved, is monitored by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and determined to be safe for humans to consume.

LFTB has been added to ground beef and ground beef products for years. If you’ve ever eaten burgers from your favourite fast food joint, chances are very good you’ve already eaten your fair share of it.

Now, … if that’s not controversial enough for you, add to the mixture one celebrity Chef named Jamie Oliver, his school lunch crusade and a nickname given to LFTB: Pink Slime.

I’m here to neither endorse nor discredit the use of LFTB in ground beef products, but I can tell you that since (Click here:) Jamie Oliver made this issue front and centre on his syndicated TV show the topic has gone viral. Since originally airing, the use of LFTB in MANY major fast food restaurants and big chain grocery stores has been completely discontinued.

Controversy. It gets the blood moving.

As for me, … I still love a Hot Dog at the Ball park. Everything in moderation folks.

Stay hungry Carnivores
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Marinating for tenderness and flavour ? The Sky’s the limit !!

Greetings Carnivores,

Anything can benefit from a marinade whether it’s Fish, Poultry, Beef, Chicken, Wild game, you name it. The reasons for marinating are many though. Marination will build in layers of flavour, add moisture and for tougher cuts, aid in the process of tenderizing. You must keep in mind the ‘Cut’ your using to determine how far you want to go with the process. Let me explain: some marinades have natural tenderizing enzymes like Pineapple and Papaya, others have acids like vinegar and citrus. In addition, an oil (your choice) and a selection of fresh herbs and spices will add to flavour building. There are TONS of recipes out there but, as long as you have the two basics: acid (or enzyme)  and an oil, you can pretty much add ANYTHING else you want to your marinade. Experiment, take notes and have fun with it!!

Remember, the thickness of the cut to be marinated determines how long it should be left in the liquid. For example: over marinating a delicate piece of fish will result in ‘cooking’ it.

Safety is a concern also: always marinate in the fridge so that any nasty bacteria has less than a fighting chance to ruin your day. And, NEVER use the left over marinade for a sauce or basting while cooking. You COULD use it for the basis for a sauce as long as it heated to kill anything harmful that may have been transferred from the raw product to the liquid but, I’m a big fan of reserving a portion of the liquid, untouched by the raw meat instead.

Home use Vacuum storage machines (I use mine ALL THE TIME) will actually ‘pull’ the marinade into the meat, and seriously cut down the amount of time needed to do the job with wonderful results.

One final thought on food safety regarding the ‘vessel’ you use to marinate your meat. I always use glass or plastic (food safe) rather than metal or pottery for marinating because, if there is lead in the vessel your using the acidic component of the liquid will, over time leach out. There are enough things out there waiting in the wings to harm us people, let’s at least control the things we can to keep us and the food we eat safe.

So there you have it, add moisture and flavour to any cut to take your meal to the next level.

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Smoke ’em if ya got ’em

Greetings Carnivores,

Whether you’re smoking fish, poultry, beef, pork, lamb or even wild game, it’s important to “brine” the meat to be smoked first. This is an ancient secret that works with the meat, chemically bombarding the proteins with a supersaturated salt solution. This process renders the meat very susceptible to the curing/smoking process with DELICIOUS results.

2 CUPS of SEA SALT to every 2 GALLONS of fresh water in a bucket (4 dollars at Home Depot) mixed well. Submerse meat for up to 6 hours, remove and RINSE WELL (very important).

Smoke (low and slow) accordingly, … enjoy.

Until next time Carnivores stay hungry and as usual, please follow my posts on Twitter @DougieDee and like and share them on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/carnivoreconfidential