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The Basics of Grilling vs. Barbequing
Grilling is a quick method of cooking by a direct source of heat. Note - the term “quick” is applicable when discussing grilling. To prevent it from being dried out, the meat needs to cook much quicker, therefore requiring a much higher temperature. Because it is also place directly over the heat source, the possibility of burning is much stronger and turning the food frequently is required. The grilling method should be used on foods that take less than 25 minutes to cook such as steaks, chops, fish and vegetables.

Barbequing is a method of cooking food with an indirect heat source of fire, heated wood or hot coals and may include the use of marinades or bastings sauce. Barbequing requires three essential ingredients, a low cooking temperature, generally from 200-225 degrees, a smoke cloud from wood and time. Barbequing is ideal on larger cuts of meats such as whole chickens and turkeys, brisket and baby back ribs.

There is no right method to enjoying outdoor cooking.
Each has its merits and is nicely suited for cooking different types of food.
Gas Grills

There are two types of grilling. Grilling with gas or grilling with charcoal. Choosing which the better method is is a matter of choice and lifestyle. For people on the go and who want to cook quickly, gas certainly has its advantages. Turn on a few valves, raise the lid, and light. For the sake of convenience, it cannot be beat.

With so many types of gas grills available, the real challenge is choosing the grill that is right for you. You should always focus on performance vs. beauty and convenience. If you want all the bells and whistles, add them once you determined the must haves. We recommend that you focus on size, performance and construction/durability.

For Size, you should choose a grill that can cook for a nice size backyard party. There is nothing more frustrating than being unable to fit all meats on your grill for that family get together, and gas grills will easily cook small portions just as well.

For Performance, you will want a grill that comes with at least dual separate burners and is capable of producing 35,000 BTU’s. A BTU is a measurement of the amount of heat created by the burner. You will be disappointed in the performance if you cannot generate enough heat. However, you do not have to buy a grill because it has the highest BTU. BTU is only a factor of the heat created and works in conjunction with the size of the grill and how well it holds and distributes the heat. Keep all of these factors in mind when looking for a grill.

For Construction, gas grills are made in sheet metal, cast iron, cast aluminum and stainless steel, which is the preferred material of cooking professionals and the most expensive. However, both stainless steel and cast aluminum are resistant to rust and can last many years if maintained properly. There are some stainless steel grill manufactures that still use plain painted steel when constructing the frame. Over time, this is susceptible to rusting so you will want to make sure and ask. If money is no object, stainless steel is strong, durable and the most impressive but cast aluminum will perform and last just as long and is priced more reasonably.

Some of the Gas
Grill highlights are:

Easy to Start

Push Button Ignition

Temperature Controls

No Messy Charcoal

Wind is not a
Major Concern

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Charcoal Grills

Many would argue that charcoal grilling is more beneficial when looking for that true grilling flavor and is worth the extra effort and time. For these folks, grilling is much more than just food – it is a passion. As with gas grills, there are several charcoal grills to choose from. Knowing what type of cooking you will be doing and how much you will want to spend will help determine the grill that is right for you.

Make sure your grill has an adjustable cooking surface. As the temperature changes, you will want to be able to raise and lower your meat as needed. Also make sure you can add charcoal easily when needed.

Charcoal grills should be able to hold heat to allow for both direct and indirect cooking. The base of the grill should have adjustable holes in the bottom or sides to allow controlled air flow so the fire can burn adequately.

For ventilation, the lid should have holes. If you experience an out of control fire, this is the best way to extinguish the fire – short of dousing it with a hose.

Finally, make sure you purchase a grill for all your needs. A small grill for the table top is great for a burger or two but you won’t be able to barbeque a full chicken for the family.

Types of Charcoal...
There are basically two types of charcoal, briquettes which are made from a combination of charcoal, sawdust or low quality woods, starch and a few other ingredients which are burned to a carbon state and then compressed with a starch binder. Read more...
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Types of Charcoal

There are basically two types of charcoal, briquettes which are made from a combination of charcoal, sawdust or low quality woods, starch and a few other ingredients which are burned to a carbon state and then compressed with a starch binder. Because this type of briquette is dense, it has a tendency to burn longer and more consistent. Some manufactures add additives to help it burn longer or start quicker. All though there is no indication of health concerns as the additives burn off quickly, many believe the flavor of your meat will be impacted.

The other is lump charcoal which is a better quality charcoal and more expensive. This is created using a hardwood and will burn hotter than other types. Because of the increased temperature, it will leave less ash then standard briquette charcoal.

Woods have also become very popular and are used to create the smoky flavor when grilling rather than barbecuing. Woods meant for grilling have a heavier smoke flavor than those used for smoking. Because grilling is for a short time, usually 20 minutes or less, the smoke flavor required needs to be stronger to give your meat that smoky flavor. Just lay the chips (less than 7” sticks) or chunks (3”x3”) over your base of starter charcoal and if you require heavier smoke, soak the chips for 12-24 hours prior to using.

There are many more options available to the consumer when looking at grills. The end result is the ideal grill is the one that works best for you. You do not need to spend a tremendous amount of money to become a backyard chef. Again, know how much you want to spend, how much time you want to invest and what you want to use it for. If you do not know, ask around. Barbequing and/or grilling are a passion that people enjoy discussing and you would be surprised at all the information they are willing to share.

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Wood Smokers

Since the discovery of fire, people have been gathering around the open flames and have savored the tender flavor of slow-roasted meats. It is still today a favorite of outdoor cooking fanatics everywhere.

There are two types of wood smokers: wood burning and the more modern water smokers. Traditional enthusiasts still favor the technique and taste that wood burning smokers provide. Wood burning smokers use charcoal, wood, or wood pellets to slowly cook a variety of meats, ideally larger cuts of meat, such as rib slabs, briskets, pork roasts or butt and shoulder cuts. Both beef and pork are popular choices to cook in a wood burning smoker - as are whole chickens and turkeys.

Wood burning smokers can weigh as much as 200 pounds or more and are made of various metals - some are as simple as 50-gallon steel drums converted into smokers, while the high-end wood burning smokers are stainless steel with all the high-tech components. Regardless of the type of wood burning smoke, all have three basic components: the cooking chamber, the firebox and the smoke chimney.

The source of heat used to cook the meats is called the firebox. It is located to one side or the other of the cooking chamber. This is important as the fire does not come into direct contact with the meat and this method of cooking is called, indirect cooking. When meats are grilled, they are placed directly on flames, so it takes less time to cook. When meats are smoked in wood burning smokers, they take longer to cook due to the indirect heat, but the result is more tender and flavorful meat.

The cooking chamber is the closed area and where the cooking takes place. Most BBQ chefs move the meat to the far end, away from the firebox to allow for maximum indirect cooking. The smoke and heat circulates around the meat and creates that smoky barbeque flavors during the cooking process.

Located on the opposite side of the firebox is the smoke chimney. The smoke chimney is designed to retain the heat needed to keep the temperature constant while allowing the flow of air that helps keep the fire stoked. This also allows the smoke to circulate leaving the desired smoky flavor.

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Water Smokers
With the friendlier price and ease of use, water smokers are becoming increasingly popular. They run on electricity or charcoal and require less time to maintain the cooking temperatures.

Because of the fuel source, there is no firebox as in the wood smokers. The heat source is located directly beneath, adjacent to or just beneath the meat. Water soaked chunks of wood near the source of fire will smolder and circulate around the meat, giving you the optimum smoke flavor.

The other component is water. The water is located near the fire source and will begin to boil, creating steam. The steam will circulate along with the smoldering wood creating a moist cooking environment.

Smoking & Grilling with Wood
The smoke flavor in barbeque comes mainly from wood. Using different types of hardwoods provide unique flavors and very different results. Following is a list of woods and their flavor characteristics. Remember, only hardwoods work. Do not use soft, resinous woods like pine, cedar or spruce. These woods contain too much sap which makes their smoke harsh and bad tasting. The best way to determine what you like best is trail and error. Try different woods with various dishes and measure the results.
Wood Description Use With
Apple A slightly sweet mild fruity flavor Poultry and Pork
Alder Sweet mild flavor Poultry and Seafood
Almond Sweet smoked flavor All Meats
Cherry A sweet fruity mild flavor Poultry, Pork and Seafood
Hickory A strong, heavy bacon flavor Beef, Poultry, Pork and Fish
Maple A smoky, mellow, slightly sweet flavor Poultry and Pork
Mesquite A strong, spicy, earthy flavor Beef, Chicken and Fish
Oak A nice heavy smoke flavor Red meat, Fish and Pork
Pecan A mild, sweet flavor similar to Hickory Beef, Poultry and Pork
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One of the most difficult questions to answer in barbecuing is “Is it done yet?” Barbequing has been called an inexact art and there is some truth to this. Adjustments may need to be made due to cool or windy weather, lifting of the lid or an inconsistent heat source but knowing a few simple rules and practice can answer this.

Know the meat you are cooking and its thickness and size and maintain the temperature as consistent as possible. This means not opening the lid unless necessary for added coals, rotating foods, adding mops and so on.

Use a thermometer as a fool proof and safe method to determine doneness. This is something every barbecue fanatic, whether a novice or expert, should have as a basic barbecuing necessity.

• Use an instant-read food thermometer to check the internal temperature about the time you think the meat should be done.

• The food thermometer should be placed in the thickest part of the food and should not be touching bone, fat, or gristle.

• Compare your thermometer reading to the USDA Recommended Safe Minimum Internal Temperatures to determine if your food has reached a safe temperature.

Make sure to clean your food thermometer with hot, soapy water before and after each use!

Because there are so many types of food thermometers, it is important to follow the instructions for your food thermometer. Always be sure to calibrate your thermometer.

USDA Recommended Safe Minimum Internal Temperatures

Steaks & Roasts - 145 °F
Fish - 145 °F
Pork - 160 °F
Ground Beef - 160 °F
Egg Dishes - 160 °F
Chicken Breasts - 165 °F
Whole Poultry - 165 °F

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Marinating and Brining

People are always on the lookout for new and interesting ways to prepare old standards like chicken, turkey and beef. Several methods have become popular in recent years, which involve the use of a liquid to change or improve the flavor, taste, tenderness, or texture of the meat. Various liquids can be added, especially to poultry by many different methods such as injection, marinating, brining, or basting.

The verb "marinate" means to steep food in a marinade. A marinade is a savory acidic sauce in which a food is soaked to enrich its flavor or to tenderize it. That’s great knowledge for a trivia contest, but the bottom line is: Marinating adds fun and sometimes exotic flavors to meat.

At Famous Dave’s we marinate the chicken breasts used for our chicken breast sandwich overnight in Dave’s own secret Chicken Marinade. This is the same method used by most people at home with their own favorite family recipe or one of the many retail options now available.

What happens overnight to get the flavor in the meat? Well, there’s no hanky panky goin’ on if that’s what yer thinkin’. It’s really quite simple, if you are a food scientist, you see the acid in marinades causes meat tissue to break down and thus has a tenderizing effect. The breaking down of the tissue also causes the meat to hold more liquid, making it juicier. Too much vinegar or hot sauce in a marinade can have the opposite effect, causing the meat to be stringy and tough. What if I’m in a hurry? Some Marinades suggest 20 minutes will get the job done, but that is not enough time to really let the acids do their thing. There is one way to marinade in a hurry and it’s the same way the big supermarkets and butcher shops sell pre-marinated meat and that is with a vacuum marinader. There is now a home use vacuum marinator that does a good job called the *Reveo MariVac.
*Reveo MariVac. This can be purchased at numerous online outlets and also right here at famousbbq.com
order from us and receive some free marinade.

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The verb "brine" means to treat with or steep in brine. Brine is a strong solution of water and salt. A sweetener such as sugar, molasses, honey, or corn syrup may be added to the solution for flavor and to improve browning. How brining works is straightforward, meat placed in a saltwater mixture will absorb the mixture, sweeteners, herbs and spices added to the saltwater will also be absorbed.

The proper mix of salt to water for a brine solution is ¾ - 1 cup salt (sodium chloride – table salt without iodine) to 1 gallon of water. We suggest determining how much solution you will need to completely submerse the meat you plan to brine before starting.

Take about half the water you plan to use to a boil and add salt so that salt dissolves, if you plan to use sugar add it at this point as well so that it also dissolves. Once dissolved other spices and herbs along with the remaining liquid can be added. We suggest adding chilled water so that the hot water is brought back to a cool temperature.

Add any juice or other ingredients and place brine without meat in refrigerator to bring to cool temperature before adding meat.

Add meat once cool and place back in refrigerator for recommended time based upon chart (about 2 hours per pound). Be sure entire piece of meat is submerged in brine.

Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts 2 – 4 hours
Whole Chicken (5lbs) 10 hours
Pork Tenderloin 12 – 16 hours.

Brining is great for all types of meat, but poultry tends to benefit most.

Quick Notes

• For best flavor, use sodium chloride–table salt. Add sweetener if desired.

• Place brining solution in food-grade plastic, stainless steel, or glass containers.

• Totally submerge poultry in solution and store covered in the refrigerator.

• Remove skin on poultry from brine a few hours before cooking.

• Discard brine after use.

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The verb "baste" means to moisten meat or other food while cooking. Melted butter or other fat, meat drippings, or liquid such as a stock is spooned or brushed on food as it cooks to moisten it. A bulb baster can also be used to drizzle the liquid over the food. Basting adds flavor and color, and prevents poultry from drying out.

Meat Rubs

Next time you stop in to a Famous Dave’s Restaurant try ordering your ribs naked (that means without sauce).  All of Famous Dave’s Award Winning Ribs are dusted with Dave’s own secret recipe Rib Rub before goin’ in the smoker.  That’s how real ‘que is done.  In fact, from our Country Roast Chicken to our Hamburgers, almost all the recipes Dave created start with a meat rub.

Not only are meat rubs popular with Dave, they are gaining in popularity with backyard Barbecuers everywhere and it's easy to understand why.  Rubs are a fantastically simple way to add flavor and nuance to everyday meals.

Basically, a rub is a mixture of spices and herbs that are applied directly to meat before cooking.  What makes a rub different from a marinade is that you apply the flavoring directly to the surface of the meat itself.  This gives you a different way to control the intensity and distribution of the seasonings.

There are two categories of rubs: Dry rubs (which we use most often), are made with spices and seasonings only; and wet rubs, which contain some moist ingredients.  Many chefs prefer dry rubs for grilling because they won't burn, which also makes them perfect for meats that require long cooking times, like briskets and ribs.

To help you along, we’ve put together some tips and tricks:

Use one to two tablespoons of a dry rub for each pound of meat.

Rubs using lemon juice or vinegar also change the food’s texture because acids cure meat.

Most rubs can be used just before cooking however you can apply the rub and be set to go before guests arrive by wrapping the meat in plastic and placing it in the refrigerator.

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