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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Smoked Cornish Game Hens

Why wouldn't you want to eat your own mini chicken?  Best method EVER for cooking Cornish game hens!
4 Cornish game hens (about 1.5-2 lbs each)
4 large cloves garlic
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
Baste (melt together in a pan):
2 tbsp butter (or wonderfully decadent bacon fat)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp water
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
Dash of mirin (or substitute white wine or vermouth)

1. Rinse game hens, remove giblets if necessary.
2. Lightly smash each clove of garlic and stuff into bird cavities, then truss each bird with string.  It's no big deal if you can't truss professionally, but at least tie the legs together if you can.
3. Season each bird with a sprinkle of dry rub - mostly on the outside, but also put a dash in the cavity.
4. Set up your smoker with a small batch of coals - the fat from the bird's skin will likely drip, causing flare-ups and heat raises.  Adjust vents to obtain a temp of about 275 degrees F.
5. Get birds on grill.
6. After an hour, check to see if underside is browned.  If so, flip and baste browned side only.
7. Check after another hour.  If other side is browned, flip and baste.  Add more coals if heat is dying.
8. After another hour, check internal temp at leg or thigh.  If 180 degrees F, you're ready to rock.  If not, check every half hour.
9. Remove garlic from cavities, chop up and sprinkle over birds as a garnish.  Fresh oregano would work nicely too.

Game hens, like most poultry, would also make excellent candidates for brining.  Check out this pork shoulder recipe to learn more about brining.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Charitable Beer Event For CT Residents

Hey Connecticut people, want to enjoy a beer tasting while supporting a good cause?  Go to "Doctoberfest" October 22 in West Haven.  It may or may not have barbecue, but there will be authentic Romanian cuisine.  And you'll be helping dogs.  Everyone loves dogs.

Here's more info:

Pups Without Partners in association with
The Greater New Haven Cat Project, Halfway Home Rescue,
Sarah Inc. & Dr. Liubi Animal Wellness Fund Present
a Celebration of the Life of Dr. Liubi Tosici

DocOn April 7, 2010 the animal community lost a great man and wonderful veterinarian, Dr. Liubi “Doc” Tosici. A man who dedicated his life to the care of animals and helping people learn the proper care of their pets. To honor him and help raise money for some of the organizations that were near and dear to him we are hosting a fundraiser with a bit of a Romanian flair.
Friday, October 22, 2010
6:30 PM - 10:00 PM
Westwoods Ballroom
85 Chase Lane
West Haven, CT

Beer Tasting, Romanian Food,
Music and Silent Auction

You may purchase tickets here online, contact one of the charities above or call us at 203‐933‐3607

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Orange Heirloom Tomato Salsa

Heirloom tomatoes come in all kinds of funky shapes and colors, from round little brown and green striated specimens to big, bumpy, teardrop-shaped orange and yellow ones.  Italians love them, organic/natural food advocates love them, farmers' market shoppers love them, and Sizzle Grove loves them.  Many of them have a richer flavor than standard tomatoes, lower acidity, far fewer seeds, and less tomato goo.  You know what I mean.

As you know, we love to serve salsa with barbecue, particularly when we make barbecue leftovers such as pulled pork enchiladas.  Next time you cook up some meat outside and want to serve something other than barbecue sauce, try this vibrant, fresh, spicy orange heirloom tomato salsa.

One large orange tomato, chopped small
One slice of white onion, chopped small
1 small clove garlic, minced or pressed
1 jalapeno (with seeds for hot), minced
Handful of red bell pepper, chopped small
Juice of 1/4 lime
Pinch salt
1/2 tsp dry oregano, or a few sprigs fresh chopped
Very tiny pinch cumin

1. Mix white onion and garlic in bowl, pour on salt and lime juice.  Let sit a few minutes.
2. Add all other bulk and dry ingredients, stir.
3. Refridgerate a couple hours, then enjoy with enchiladas, tacos, smoked beef, or any of your other favorite dishes.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Fellow Barbecuers and NY Times Readers

Well, unfortunately we must have missed this at Sizzle Grove, but we might as well share recipes from fellow grillers and barbecuers from around the country.  Check out these links from grillmasters who read the New York Times.  Not sure how much authentic barbecue they'll have in there, but there are sure to be some great grilling tips and unique dishes...

Around the Grill - Readers' Barbecue Recipes

Thanks to our friend Robin for submitting this link!
We encourage relevant submissions to

All I want for Christmas is a Weber Smokey Mountain 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Grilled Garlic Dill Chicken

Sometimes it's a bit much to light up a batch of coals, trim and marinade a big rack of ribs, and cook for four hours.  Not to mention, it gets expensive, especially when you're cooking for friends.

Anyone who has ever thought these sentiments, here's a recipe for you.  You can use your propane grill for this one (or hey, if you want to use coals, sweet), and it's quick.  You can prep the marinade in the morning before work, or an hour or two before you throw the chicken on the grill.  Bone-in chicken is often inexpensive, and often on sale at big grocery stores, but tastes delicious when cooked right.

Also, don't forget you can still get some smokey flavor from your propane grill.  Just click on the link to see our tutorial.

Serves 6-9 people, depending on how hungry they are and how many sides you make.
9 lbs chicken thighs (bone-in) and drumsticks
4 cloves garlic, chopped
Juice of one lemon
A handful of chopped fresh dill, or 1.5 tbsp dried dill
2 tsp coarse sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
A drizzle of olive oil

1. Rinse off chicken and place in a large bowl.
2. Squeeze or drizzle lemon juice over chicken, plus a drizzle of olive oil.
3. Sprinkle dill, garlic, salt, and pepper onto chicken.  Mix everything around to coat.
4. Cover bowl in foil, refrigerate if you wanna be extra safe, and let marinade for an hour or two.  Get your grill set to about 300 degrees F.
5. Place chicken pieces onto grill skin-side-up, close lid.  Keep an eye on your heat, as these pieces of chicken will drip a lot of fat and may cause flare-ups.  If so, just move chicken around or adjust heat accordingly.
6. Once the chicken has cooked about 45-60 minutes, turn heat up to 400-425 degrees F in order to finish the chicken and crisp the skin.  Check chicken for internal temp of about 170 degrees F, or once it's juices are clear rather than red or yellowish.

Serve with grilled vegetables or garlic dill pickles, and couscous or garlic bread.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Autumn Curried Chicken Salad

The foliage is glowing in Connecticut, and we're going apple and cinnamon crazy at Sizzle Grove.  This smokey chicken salad combines autumnal ingredients like apples and cinnamon with a few Indian curry-esque spices for a cool dish with a warm flavor.  It may look like a lot of ingredients and a lot of steps, but it's actually way easier than it appears on paper... or on a computer screen.  If you're like me, a lot of this stuff is already on hand in the spice cabinet (except maybe turmeric and smoked paprika... no screw that, you should totally have this stuff!).

1 lb. of chicken thighs
A few slices of white or yellow onion
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp hot smoked paprika, or cayenne
Pinch of salt
A dash of water

1. Wash chicken thighs, set aside in bowl.
2. Mix all other ingredients (except water) in a blender or food processor.  Blend until thick, adding water until it becomes a pourable sauce.
3. Pour sauce over chicken, mix it all up, and let it marinade a few hours.
4. Light a small batch of coals, pour into smoker, and add plenty of soaked wood chips (wood chips, as opposed to large chunks, are useful for faster cooking times).
5. Put chicken skin side down on grill, close to heat if possible, adjusting vents to obtain a temperature of about 375 degrees F.
6. Once skin is seared and crisp, flip over.  Grill for 30 minutes or so until chicken's juices run clear, or until internal temperature of chicken is 165 degrees F.
7. Remove chicken, let rest five minutes.  Dice it up into small pieces.

Diced chicken from Step One
3 celery stalks
1 small apple
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp spicy mustard
Pinch of salt and pepper

1. Mix mayonnaise, mustard, salt, and pepper together in a bowl until it forms a dressing.
2. Dice up celery stalks, mix into dressing.  If leaves are on it, include them - they add great flavor.
3. Dice up apple into small pieces, mix into dressing.
4. Add chicken to the mix and stir it all together.  Refrigerate and serve with fresh sliced bread or ontop of a bed of mixed greens.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ginger-Spiced Spare Ribs

Here's another recipe inspired by Asian restaurant-style spare ribs, cooked with American barbecue methods.  Ginger-spiced spare ribs... not to be confused with the British pop "singer."

Cook time four hours.

1 full rack of spare ribs
1.5 tbsp soy sauce
1.5 tbsp rice vinegar
Plenty of Rob's Ginger-Infused Dry Rub

1. Trim spare ribs according to our guide.

2. Drizzle soy sauce and rice vinegar over ribs and rib tips.  Sprinkle generously with dry rub. Let marinade for 4 hours, or up to overnight.

3. Light up a small batch of coals, pour into smoker/grill. Keep more coals on hand.

4. Put soaked hickory (or your favorite wood) onto coals, set grill grate on, and put on ribs and rib tips.

5. Be ready with another small batch of lit coals to pour in after the two hour point.  Add more wood as necessary.

6. Cook another hour, then wrap spare ribs in aluminum foil.
7. Cook for an additional hour, then open foil and season ribs and rib tips with more dry rub.  Wrap back up, take off smoker/grill, rest for ten minutes.

8. Cut ribs into sections, and chop up rib tips into little pieces - just like the boneless spare ribs we all love from the Chinese restaurant!  Great in lettuce wraps with hoisin sauce or plum sauce.

Rob's Ginger-Infused Dry Rub

You've seen the Butter Basted T-Bone Steak recipe from Sizzle Grove correspondent Rob.  Now it's time to see how this dude whips up a dry rub.  This rub infuses a distinctly gingery, insanely savory flavor into any pork dish, from shoulder to ribs.

Yields about half a cup of dry rub.

5 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp ground ginger
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp powdered wasabi
1 tbsp ground mustard
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp garlic powder
1/2 tbsp Kosher salt

Store in a jar, ready for use next time you light up coals.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

100 Fans on Facebook!

Our Facebook page now has 100 fans!  How did that happen so fast?  Scrumpdiddleyumptious recipes? Sizzling hot barbecue photos? Or obnoxious self-promotion?  Who cares, we're proud.  Thank you all for the support!


Autumn Apple Sauce

Apple sauce is generally pretty boring.  It reminds us of little kid.  Or people with dentures.  That's probably because the stuff we buy at the store usually sucks.

Homemade apple sauce is an entirely different monster.  It is flavorful, cinnamony, heart-warming, and really really healthful.  In fact, much more healthful than the pale yellow sauce at the store where they remove the apple skins.  We have no idea why anyone would remove the skins when making apple sauce.  The skins have tons of vitamins, plus they add color, texture, and flavor.

We love Autumn Apple Sauce as a side dish for ribs.  Here's how we make it at Sizzle Grove:

8 small, crisp apples (washed)
Juice of half a lime, or lemon
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 whole cloves
Tiny pinch of earl grey tea leaves (optional)
1 tsp honey

1. Cut apples into quarters, removing cores/seeds/etc.  Throw each piece into a saucepan.

2. Immediately pour lime juice or lemon juice over apples, then turn heat on medium-low.

3. Add all other ingredients except honey.

4. Simmer about 20 minutes, stirring apples around ocassionally, or until apples begin to soften a bit.  Some will be soft, some will be less soft.  This will give it texture.

5. Bring off heat, remove cloves.  Add honey and stir.

6. Using a hand blender, blend in pulses wherever skin is visible.  Don't go nuts blending, it can have some texture, just try to grind up the skins as much as possible.  If there are some bits of it, that's fine - it's rustic.  BE CAREFUL NOT TO SPATTER HOT APPLE SAUCE ON YOURSELF!

7. Serve warm, or refrigerate and serve cooled.

Of course, you could grill the apples instead of simmering them inside!

This sauce won't last as long as store brands loaded with preservatives, but it should keep for a week or two.  Try using it as a marinade for ribs, mixed with a bit of cider vinegar!  Store ribs overnight, remove excess sauce, sprinkle with your favorite zesty dry rub, and barbecue up!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Trimming Spare Ribs

You've probably seen our article on Back Ribs vs Spare Ribs.  Now we're going to go a bit more in-depth about how to properly trim spare ribs.  Yeah, it's a bit of a process, but its result is delicious smoked meat.  So worth it.

Spare ribs are gigantic.  When you look at the underside, you can see the parallel rib bones, plus a weird looking flap of meat that cover some of them, plus a whole bunch of meat at the top.  That meat at the top makes up the rib tips.

If you buy pre-trimmed St. Louis cut spare ribs, you'll notice that it's fairly even looking and rectangular... not so different from back ribs, right?  Well, we at Sizzle Grove want to teach you how to do that at home.  We recommend buying the whole spare rib package so that, even after you trim down the ribs, you still have those delicious rib tips to throw on the smoker when you're done, either the next day or for a midnight snack.  And that weird looking flap... yeah, that's good stuff too.
Spare ribs untrimmed (left) / St. Louis cut with trimmed ends (right)


1. First off, cut away that flap and set it to the side.

2. Remove any excessive chunks of fat from the ribs.  Spare ribs have a lot of fat on them, which actually keeps them from drying out during the cooking process, but you'll see that there may be some excessive bits literally hanging from the ribs.

3. Cut off the meaty rib tip section at the top.  Cut this piece away from the parallel rib bones, leaving a little bit of slack on these bones in order to make a fairly evenly rectangular cut.
*The rib tip section is large and meaty, and you don't want to throw it out.  It's delicious for putting on the smoker later, or at the same time if your smoker is large enough.  Just cut it up into square-ish pieces.

4. Finally, we recommend removing the silverskin - the thin membrane on the underside.  Insert a knife under the membrane to loosen.  Then, with a paper towel, grip the membrane and pull it off.  This may be tough to do with spare ribs, and you may have to go at it for a few minutes, but get off as much as you can.

Once you've gotten this down, you can try our spare rib recipes, such as Sizzle Grove Mustard Marinaded Spare Ribs, or start making your own awesome ribs.  Don't forget to tell us how you did!  Send your photos, recipes, and questions to

Monday, September 20, 2010

Testing For Steak Doneness

Like almost everything we can think of, steak is infinitely more delicious when cooked over coals.  Sometimes, though, when you're unable to control the temperature easily, it may be difficult to know when your steak is done. And sometimes a meat thermometer isn't handy.  So how do you know when steak is done?

Once again, we hand it to our barbecue mentor Steve Raichlen for bringing the finger poke test into the light.  While he may not have invented this method, he has mentioned it plenty on both of his popular shows.  This test involves comparing the feeling of your hand to the feeling of a steak.

First, put the tip of your thumb and the tip of your index finger together.  You know that little fleshy mound at the base of your thumb?  Feel the side of that.  This level of softness and springiness is analogous to the feeling of a rare cooked steak.

Next, put the tip of your thumb against the tip of your middle finger.  Again, feel the side of the mound at the base of your thumb.  Do you notice it's slightly firmer?  This corresponds to a medium to medium-rare steak - possibly the most popular level of doneness in the beef world.

You can probably guess where this is going... put the tip of your thumb against your ring finger, and the feeling then corresponds to a medium to medium-well steak.  Finally, put the tip of your thumb against your pinky finger, and you can be familiar with the tactile qualities of an overdone steak... I mean, a well-done steak.

Of course, performing this test means touching hot steak cooking on a grill, so be careful.  If you're too sensitive to heat, ask one of your friends to do it, or try to judge by poking with the side of a utensil.  Just see if it's reasonably springy, but not too soft.

Also remember, steak may be delicious when it's reddish pink in the middle, and it's safe to eat because bacteria lingering on the surface will still be killed during cooking.  However, this is not true of burgers; since they are ground, bacteria may be in the middle, so burgers should be cooked through even if you do prefer them on the rare side.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Rocket Fuel Chili Sauce

Autumn and winter are our favorite time to make chili.  We've given you a great "barbecue leftovers" recipe for pulled pork enchiladas... how about leftover brisket chili?  Or... leftover barbecue chicken chili?  Or... leftover smoked turkey chili?  Or any other crazy combination?

The combination of wood smoked meat with the spicy tang of fresh chili peppers and the aromatic earthy zing of cumin and oregano and other spices is unbeatable.  Next time you make a big pot of chili (whether you add barbecue to it or not), use this sauce as your main seasoning component.  This is not a "traditional" recipe, as a "real" southwest chili sauce would not be tomato based.  We like our veggies though.

...This is also not for wussies.

(Best used with 2.5 to 3 pounds of meat, beans, onions, bell peppers, plus one bottle of beer)

28 ounce can "quick crushed" tomatoes
Three to four "red rocket" chilis, or other very hot chilis (may be fresh or dried or both)
2 tbsp prepared chili powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp ground cumin
2 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tsp coarse sea salt
1 tbsp black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil

1. Cut chilis into small pieces to be put in a food processor or hand blender.

2. Put chilis into blender with a few spoonfuls of the tomato pieces (without the juice).  Blend up until thick.

3. Add a bit more tomatoes, plus a bit of juice, plus fennel seeds.  Blend a bit more.

4. Pour mixture into a large bowl with remaining tomatoes and all other spices.  Stir up with a spoon.

**Add this chili sauce after simmered onions, garlic, bell peppers (if used), and meat have been added to your chili pot.  Then pour in beer (any kind, American-style hoppy brown ales work great), simmer an hour or two, add drained canned beans, simmer an hour or two more, test for seasoning, and enjoy!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Minimalist Barbecue: Salt & Pepper Beef Roast

Renowned Argentinian chef Francis Mallmann was once known for serving fine French cuisine in his restaurants.  Soon, a mystical voice as if from the heavens told him to change direction.  In place of foie gras and cuisses de grenouille prepared in a fancy kitchen, he set up wood fires and metal stakes in the ground for cooking beef.  His seasoning was mainly salt and fire.  Gaucho grilling.

Such is the inspiration for Sizzle Grove's salt & pepper beef roast.  We may not have the giant open fire pits like the gauchos used, or the 150 pound beef cuts, but we think we do pretty decent with a bottom round beef roast.

3-4 pound bottom round beef roast
Plenty of coarse salt
Plenty of pepper
Olive oil
Small onions

1. Season the beef thoroughly with salt and pepper.  Truss the beef with string if it's unevenly shaped.

2. Let beef sit in fridge for a few hours, soak lots of wood chips, then start up coals.

3. Peel outer layer off some small onions, to put on the grill with the beef.  Coat them lightly with olive oil and a bit of salt.

4. Pour lit coals into your smoker/grill, add a handful of wood chips, and put beef and onions on.  Try to get a temperature of around 275-300 degrees Fahrenheit by adjusting vents.  Add wood chips periodically as smoke diminishes.

5. After one hour, flip roast over, and drizzle VERY lightly with olive oil.  Turn onions too.

6. Beef will be done in another hour or so, or until internal temperature is about 130 F for rare, 140 F for medium rare, 150 F for medium, and......... yeah don't go past that.  Let meat rest for ten minutes, slice up, and serve with the onions.

**Of course, if you like, you could always serve this with a chimichurri sauce like the gauchos enjoy (which is essentially a Latin American-style parsley pesto).  We'll get a chimichurri recipe down for you guys soon enough, don't worry.  Or you could enjoy with another Sizzle Grove sauce, such as Peppery Tomato Barbecue Sauce or Green Chili Hot Sauce.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Thick, Savory, Herbtastic Salsa

Sometimes we get a little heartburn from eating raw onions when we make fresh salsa and pico de gallo.  However, to take some of that edge off, cooking salsa can help.  The result is a salsa that comes out closer to the consistency you might find in typical jarred salsa... only, you can make it way better at home and tailor it to your tastes.  This one features a lot of fresh herb flavor.

26 oz. box chopped tomatoes
A few slices of red onion, chopped
One roasted poblano, diced
One large clove garlic, minced
One jalapeno, chopped fine... or two jalapenos...
Handful chopped cilantro leaves
Handful chopped oregano
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp coarse sea salt
Pinch of black pepper
Pinch of cumin

1. Heat small saucepan over medium.

2. Add tomatoes, then add everything else.  Go ahead.  Do it.

3. Allow to bubble for a minute or two.

4. Reduce heat, simmer on low for fifteen minutes or so.

5. Fridge, cool, serve the next day.

**If you like a smokey flavor, find roasted tomatoes or use chipotle jalapenos instead of regular ones.  If using canned chipotles, add a dash of the adobo sauce too!

Why You Should Barbecue

Allow me to get philosophical here...

Barbecue is a really difficult art to pin down.  Then again, every art is a difficult art to pin down.  The problem with not pinning down barbecue the first time is that it can result in a ruined dinner.  I think that's why people don't want to barbecue.

It's a time consuming hobby too.  Some barbecue takes all day.  Is that how you want to spend your weekend?

Well, for me, hell yeah!  Sitting outside with the smell of wood smoke, having beer with my friends, listening to music, cooking up some tasty sides, then dining on delicious smokey meat... I really can't imagine what could possibly be better, other than a trip to the puppies and candy and fireworks factory.

It's not only a hobby, it's a hobby with purpose.  You need to eat.  All cooking allows you not only to rationalize the result of your hobby, because you're gaining sustenance, but allows you to control what goes into what you're eating.  Granted, we love to eat out, but we never really know what's in the food; how much salt, how much butter, how the sanitary conditions are behind the scenes.  Not that barbecue is typically incredibly healthy, but it sure can be if you want it to be.

Barbecue not only lends the ability for creative expression, but it brings about camaraderie and conversation.  It also, of course, hearkens a sort of primal instinct that we all innately harbor.  Live fire cooking is the oldest type of cooking out there... it's what we picture when we imagine a caveman diet! And people have a mystical magnetic draw to all things rustic and ancient, especially if they can eat it.

Well, at least I sure do.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cross Promote With Sizzle Grove!

Hey fellow bloggers and website owners, wanna drive more traffic to your site?

Contact Sizzle Grove (either in the comment box or and we'll put you in our "Friends" box on the main page.  All you have to do is put up a link to our blog on your site... somewhere people might actually see it, of course, as we'll do you the same courtesy.


Lesser-Known Barbecue: Beef Shoulder

Though Sizzle Grove is centered on producing unique recipes and methods learned from experience above all else, we do also take tips from the barbecue gurus out there.  One of the names you've seen us mention often is Steven Raichlen, who has two television shows and several books on grilling/barbecuing.

On his show Barbecue University, Raichlen describes beef clod, which is a shoulder cut of beef, as being superior to brisket.  If brisket is what Texas barbecuers serve to their customers, beef clod is what they keep to themselves, as Raichlen explains.  Both are gigantic cuts with high fat contents, though it appears that clod is a bit more well-marbled.

This link describes how to make beef clod, which is spiced and sliced very similarly to brisket.  In Texas, at barbecue joints such as Kreuz Market, these big beef dishes are usually served with white bread, pickle chips, and jalapenos.

Unfortunately, as Raichlen explains on his show, there are not a lot of supermarkets where beef clod is available, so the best bet is to become friends with your local butcher to obtain this meat.  And if you do find it... make sure you got a BIG smoker!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Smoker/Grill Maintenance

Autumn is coming, which means we'll soon be putting our barbecue equipment away...............
.............................................. pfft......................pfftchk..................................

No we won't.  We just need to make sure we keep it clean, that's all.

We at Sizzle Grove use relatively small, non-competition, backyard smokers, because we prefer it that way.  Either that or we are still poor and can't afford giant smokers.  Either way, make sure that at least once a year, you cure your smoker.  Probably more than once a year is best if you use it as much as we do.

Why cure your smoker?  So it will last longer.  And so that the metal inside the smoker and the lid won't chip off and burn into your food or something.  I feel like that would suck.

So here's what to do:

1. Rinse your smoker thoroughly with water.

2. Clean your grill grate.  We like to use those brillo-ish pads that already come with soap on them.  You know, those ones.

3. Allow to air dry, or dry with a towel.

4. Rub the inside of the smoker and the lid with vegetable oil or canola oil.  Do not rub the charcoal pan, and no need to rub the grill grate.

5. Set up your smoker with the charcoal pan at the bottom, light a batch of coals, and pour them in.

6. Close lid, and make sure the heat stays up for about 2 hours.

Man, I wish I could buy a Weber Smokey Mountain. Way bigger than it looks in pics.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

BREWERY SPOTLIGHT: Cavalry Brewing Co. (Oxford, CT)

Sipping on a flavorful, but not yet carbonated, porter sample straight from the fermenter, I asked Cavalry Brewing Company's owner Mike McCreary how he got into making "English-style session ales."  It turns out, I hadn't properly done my homework when I asked that.
So what was at the root of this debacle?  Well, I had assumed that, as an IPA drinking hophead whose average beers clock in around 6% or 7% alcohol, any beer that was lower than this could be referred to as "sessionable."  This term has been coined by the fine citizens of the United Kingdom, referring to those styles of beers which could be consumed pint after pint with minimal negative effects.

"Mash" saying hello to our friend Mark
"Americans think anything 5% alcohol or lower is session ale," explains Mike.  "That would mean that everything made by InBev was a session ale" (note: InBev owns Budweiser).  In actuality, session ales are distinct, flavorful-but-balanced English (or UK) style beers which are generally closer to 3% or 4% alcohol by volume.  Cavalry's four ales all clock in between 4% and 5% alcohol.  Not technically all session ales by definition, but still very drinkable.  "I don't like to taste alcohol in my beer," says Mike.  "If I want to taste alcohol, I'll drink a scotch."  Such sentiments are not too surprising. Mike actually mastered the art of brewing in England, a country where strong ales are generally limited to a few English barleywines, a couple old ales, and the occasional imperial stout.

Well, we like all kinds of beer at Sizzle Grove, and Cavalry's contributions are included.  While we enjoyed trying the coffee-flavored Big Wally Porter, the pale, earthy Hatch Plug Ale, and the crisp golden Dog Soldier Ale, what we mostly went nuts for was their Irish-style Nomad Stout.  The stout, which boasts a somewhat coffee-like, lightly smokey-spicy flavor, is made with very traditional ingredients, in order to keep it easily drinkable and nothing over-the-top complex.  I still had to compliment him on making a beer that, while indeed very drinkable, boasted many distinct nuances with a simple recipe.

Obviously we had to order growlers.  This beer could pair perfectly with our next barbecue... whenever and whatever it is.  Its flavor would match beautifully with any dish brushed with a peppery tomato-based barbecue sauce.  Hey, don't we have a recipe for that?  Actually, this beer would probably go great in a beer-based barbecue sauce.  We'll have to come up with one of those for you guys soon...

We got the chance to discuss the quickly discovered success of Cavalry, which has only been a reality since January 2010.  They already have a bottling line, they have casks at several Connecticut restaurants, and they're featured in local liquor stores.

If you're in the Connecticut area, you can try Cavalry's beers at My Place Restaurant (Newtown, CT), 121 Restaurant (Oxford, CT), GW Tavern (Depot, CT), and many other locations.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Wood Smoke 201

 You've learned all about what types of woods are best to use on your coals in this tutorial.  Now let's get a little bit more advanced...

When you go to the store and purchase bacon or certain cheeses, you may be pleased to see the word "smoked."  Is this the same thing that barbecuers do?  Well, no.  Barbecuers practice smoke cooking, whereas items like smoked cheddar or American bacon are actually cold smoked.  In a cold smoking process, items may continuously absorb smoke due to the fact that they're not being cooked with heat per se.  Food remains more porous and the surface stays permeable.

Some barbecue chefs allow their meat to smoke for 3 to 4 hours, then wrap in foil afterward.  This is because meat is most porous at its raw stage, and therefore it absorbs the most smoke when it's first put on your grill.  After a few hours, the meat tenses up and the skin forms a crust.  The pores are, for the most part, then closed.  Therefore, wood should be added at the beginning of the cooking process and replenished when smoke diminishes.  Of course, many barbecue establishments cook with wood the entire time, whereas at home, we put wood pieces over charcoal.

What do you do before adding wood?  Soak it in water, of course.  But why do you soak it in water?

Soaking for an hour or two does not actually make the wood moist all the way through... moisture probably only goes about half a centimeter deep.  However, this is still helpful, as it allows the wood to smolder when it is first put over hot coals.  Once you cover the grill, the wood is less likely to catch fire, even when the moisture-infused layer is cooked through.  If you neglect to soak the wood, it may just catch on fire before you have a chance to put on the grill lid.  The wood will then burn off very fast, not to mention scald the underside of your food.

Class adjourned.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Wood Smoke 101

Getting a deep red ring around the edge of your brisket slices... cooking ribs that are pink to the bone... Steve Raichlen refers to the smoke ring as the "red badge of honor" in barbecue.

You've probably heard it discussed before; you generally can't call it "barbecue" if there's no wood smoke involved.  So how do we decide what kind of wood imparts the best flavor on what kind of meat?

Well, the answer is always hard wood, but even that leaves our grills open to dozens of possibilities.  Hickory tends to be the most popular wood used by professionals, with oak probably making second place.  Maple, alder, and mesquite are a few other possibilities.

Hickory offers a sweet, very bacony flavor.  It's been noted that pecan wood is actually quite similar to hickory, perhaps a bit more elegant.  Some barbecuers even use pecan nut shells on their coals.  However, pecan may be difficult to find.  Most of the time you can find wood chunks or wood chips at a hardware store or a department store with a grilling/barbecuing section.

Fruit woods, such as apple and cherry are popular as well.  We tend to hope that some of the flavors of the fruit of the tree actually come through in the smoke flavor.  While this may occur to a certain degree, it won't make your barbecue taste "like apples" or "like cherries."  Pear wood, peach wood, and plum wood are lesser used, but still good fruit woods.  Even lemon wood is available at some stores, though this is a rare barbecuing wood which we have not had much chance to experiment with.

Really hearty wood flavor may come from trees such as oak, walnut, and mesquite.  Oak is commonly used for wood-fired ovens, such as those used in the Italian culinary world, though American barbecuers use it as well.  Walnut wood can add a heavy-handed pleasing punch to your meat, though it is often mixed with other wood to avoid it becoming acrid.

Mesquite is a strange wood.  Some barbecuers find it harsh, and some complain of the hard-to-clean residue it leaves on their pits.  Sizzle Grove has done some light experimenting with mesquite, and we found it to be fairly tasty for use on a home smoker.  Establishments such as Green Mesquite in Texas prefer to stoke their pits with young mesquite wood, to give some extra oomph.  Any wood described as "green" just means that the tree came down within the past year.

So, to follow up one of the first things we said in this post, wood smoke is "generally" what separates barbecuing from grilling, in addition to proximity from a heat source.  However, in Asian barbecue cultures, they may use tea leaves, uncooked rice, and certain spices on their coals in order to add smoke flavor to duck or other meats.  This will give an intense flavor totally unlike American barbecue.  We hope to experiment with this soon at Sizzle Grove.

What do you guys use at home?  Tell us at

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

BBQ SIDES: Peppery Beans

Alright, so a lot of barbecuers don't specialize in health food.  Well, believe it or not, we at Sizzle Grove do think about our health, and developed our own variation of baked beans made extra healthy with extra veggies and a vegetable juice-based sauce in place of a ketchup-based sauce.

3 15 oz. cans beans (whatever you prefer, we like to mix types), rinsed
1 cup tomato-based vegetable juice
1 small onion (or equivalent), fine chopped
1 green bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, coarse chopped
3/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground mustard
1 tsp oregano
Tiny pinch of thyme
3 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp hot smoked paprika (or mix of paprika and cayenne)
1 tsp low sodium soy sauce
Olive oil

1. Heat a saucepan to medium with a couple tablespoons olive oil & add onions.

2. Simmer 15-20 minutes, stirring until onions are reduced and well browned.

3. Add green bell peppers, garlic, and vegetable juice.  Let simmer until juice reduces to a sauce-like consistency.

4. Add all other seasonings, sugar, and soy sauce.

5. Put on low simmer, close lid for about an hour until everything softens.  If liquidy, just simmer with lid open for the last 15 minutes.

**For an extra awesome flavor, cook these beans in a cast iron skillet or pan right on your smoker!!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Labor Day Cherry Ribs

Check out these cherry glazed / cherry smoked back ribs we made for Labor Day!  We smoked them for about 2.5 hours over coals and wood and then finished them off on the gas grill with cherry glaze.  You can do it the whole time in the smoker, of course, but sometimes if you like a glaze or sauce with a light crust, some high heat is helpful.

Ribs marinaded overnight with coffee/pepper/salt/brown sugar rub

Cherry glaze
Ribs being glazed on the gas grill

Monday, September 6, 2010

Chinese-Style Spare Ribs

You've seen our recipes for Sizzle Grove's Chinese-Style Dry Rub and Chinese-Style Barbecue Sauce... now we're gonna tell you how to use them.

Think about spare ribs from the Chinese restaurant... flavorful, slightly sticky, but not completely slopped up with sauce.  Our sauce recipe yields just over 1/2 cup of barbecue sauce, closer to about 3/4 of a cup.  This should be enough for two racks of spare ribs.

However, Chinese restaurant ribs are cooked quick, and we smoke our spare ribs for about four hours here at Sizzle Grove.

Two racks spare ribs
Plenty of Asian-Style Dry Rub
Plenty of Asian-Style Barbecue Sauce
Rice wine vinegar

1. Trim the ribs. This tutorial will help.
2. Start a chimneyful of coals to set for indirect cooking, and soak your favorite wood chunks in water.
3. Drizzle spare ribs lightly with rice wine vinegar on each side, and sprinkle ribs generously with dry rub.
4. When coals are ready, pour them into the coal pan, along with a few soaked wood chunks.
5. Place the ribs fat side up on the smoker, overlapping slightly if necessary.  They can be shifted later during cooking.  Close the lid, and adjust the vent for a target temperature of about 250 degrees.
6. After about an hour, start another full batch of coals, to be added at the 2 hour mark.  Once these coals are added, shift the ribs around, in case they overlap.
7. After about 3.5 hours, turn the ribs fat side down, and begin brushing the underside with sauce.  Close the lid 15 minutes, then repeat on the other side of the ribs. Wait another 15 minutes.
8. Ribs should be done after about 4 hours, or until the bones are protruding and the ribs can be cut very easily with a knife.  Let rest about 10 minutes, chop up, and enjoy!

**Don't forget, if you still have heat over your coals, throw some dry rub onto your trimmed rib tips, and get them on the smoker!  They should take about less than an hour, and can be sauced up during the last 10-15 minutes.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Uncommon Barbecue

Pork ribs, brisket, pulled pork, chicken, and sausages... we love them, but sometimes we almost become obnoxiously tired of reading their names on every barbecue menu and in every barbecue blog post.  Fortunately, as variety is the spice of life (not that we need more cliche), there are some barbecuers out there thinking outside of the box when they cook outside of the kitchen.

Jamie Oliver, famous British chef, often cooks in an outdoor wood oven, doing an Italian-inspired higher heat style of barbecue.  One recipe from his BBC show Jamie at Home that stood out to us at Sizzle Grove was for a roast of game birds.  You can see the recipe includes sausage (just for the hell of it), and plenty of herbs as is his trademark.  Game birds make for great barbecue, as they can be done faster than whole turkey and whole chicken due to their small size.  Smoke is absorbed deep into items such as game hens, partridges, and even pigeons.

Though pork ribs are most common in American barbecue (maybe beef ribs in Texas), some menus in the Middle East or Mediterranean might include lamb ribs.  Lamb tends to be particularly popular in Greece, Morocco, and India, though many Indians are vegetarian.  In Steven Raichlen's cookbook Raichlen on Ribs, Ribs, Outrageous Ribs, and on his Primal Grill show, there are lamb rib recipes, such as one done on a spit with Moroccan rub.  The ribs are finished with a spicy Moroccan harissa sauce.

You might not see a lot of vegetarian dishes on barbecue shows, blogs, or menus, but veggie 'cue is certainly out there.  One of the most popular non-meat items for grilling and barbecuing is portobello mushrooms, for their large size and steak-like thickness.  However, as I (Nick, Sizzle Grove founder) have never been a mushroom kind of guy, you might not see such recipes on this blog.

In all likelihood, however, some eggplant recipes will be included in the future.  Eggplant is perfect for grilling.  It can be grilled until firm and topped with whatever you like perhaps tomatoes, basil, and Italian cheeses as a "deconstructed eggplant parm."  Eggplant can also be barbecued to tenderness with wood smoke, then pureed with oil, garlic, tahini, and parsley into a smokey baba ghanoush. Raichlen includes a recipe for such on his Barbecue University show.  Here is a nice rundown about grilling eggplant, courtesy of

Have you tried barbecuing any unusual items lately?  Send your recipes, photos, and success stories to

Photo licensed by Creative Commons

Thursday, September 2, 2010

BBQ DEBATE: "Silverskin" (Rib Membrane)

To remove or not to remove... that is the question.

You've probably read about it in various rib-related posts on Sizzle Grove, or if you watch either of Steven Raichlen's cooking shows (Primal Grill and Barbecue University), heard him explain why it's important.  When cooking ribs, many barbecuers remove the "silverskin," which is a thin, but tough membrane on the underside of ribs.  The reason this is done is twofold: one, this membrane supposedly impedes the absorption of rubs/marinade/smoke, and two, it's basically inedible anyway.

Underside of back ribs

However, there are some barbecuers who intentionally do not remove this membrane.  Is it laziness?  Is it time constraints?

No to both.  Some say that the membrane is actually useful in maintaining ribs' moisture.  Back ribs in particular may run the risk of drying out, as they are not quite as thick or fatty as spare ribs.  This membrane may keep moisture from dripping out.

Additionally, the membrane may be removed quite easily after the ribs are cooked.  And it is a bit tricky to remove it before cooking.

So, what do you all think?  Is it more helpful to keep the silverskin on to keep ribs moist, or is it better to ensure plenty of smoke and spice absorption by removing it?  We at Sizzle Grove tend to remove it, and then baste back ribs to maintain moisture.  Send your success stories (or your non-success stories and questions) to

(Photo licensed by Creative Commons)


Hurricane Earl is hitting more of the eastern coast of the United States today/tomorrow/Saturday, so remember to bring your grills and smokers indoors.  And your precious items, pets, loved ones, all that nonsense.

Hope everyone is safe and doesn't lose power, but at least if you do lose power, you can still cook outside.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Greek Yogurt Sauce

Tzatziki, a Greek yogurt sauce made with diced cucumbers, garlic, and herbs, is popularly used on gyros.  We think it goes great with barbecue as well (barbecued gyros? blog post soon? maybe?).  Next time you grill or barbecue up some chicken, try cutting it up and putting it over a mixed greens salad with grape tomatoes, feta, and a generous amount of  Sizzle Grove Greek Yogurt Sauce.  This makes a healthful, high protein, high calcium, vitamin-rich dinner... yes, we think about that stuff.

1 clove garlic, crushed or minced
Juice of 1/4 lemon
Dash salt
Dash pepper
A few sprigs of chopped flat leaf parsley
A few sprigs of chopped fresh oregano
1/4 large cucumber (or equivalent)
16 oz container of Greek yogurt
1 tbsp olive oil

1. Start with garlic in a mixing bowl with salt, pepper, and lemon juice.  Mix up.

2. Pour in greek yogurt and olive oil, mixing well.

3. Remove seeds from cucumber, and dice up into tiny pieces.

4. Add diced cucumber and herbs, mix well.  Refridgerate a few hours to let the flavors blend.

Also Check Us Out on THE MERCURIAL

Sizzle Grove is now featured on The Mercurial, an online publication dedicated to news, arts, and entertainment around the greater Danbury, CT area.  Our first article to be published is our review of Newtown, CT's One Eyed Pig restaurant.  We hope to have plenty more features on their site!

The Mercurial was founded in 2009, and has since gained notoriety quickly throughout Fairfield County.