Kettle Grilling: #2 ~ Using Water Pans & Drip Pans

Lesson 2

Chefs and Pit-masters use drip pans and water pans for a number of reasons.

First, placing meat over a drip pan helps prevent flare-up and scorching caused by juices dripping down onto the coals as the meat cooks.

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While that action adds flavor, it can be hard to control over the long haul (and get get plenty of it, when you searing the exterior of the meat in advance of the low and slow cook time.

While many outdoor cooks will place the water pan on one side of the coal grate, with the coals on the other side (meat over the pan), I’ve found that I get much more even cooking and browning, by placing the pan in the center, and the coals all the way around it (see: Kettle Grilling: #1 ~ Advanced Charcoal Techniques)

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I also recommend just using hot water in the pan (always start with hot water, or you’ll drop you temps too much, while it heats. Some folks will add wine, beer, herbs, fruit juices, and other flavoring in the water pan, but I haven’ found that this has much effect on the flavor of the food.

It can smell great, but it’s really just water vapor escaping while everything else reduces in the pan.

If I’m cooking something that I know is going to produce a LOT of drippings, I’ll add a small amount of complimenting stock (beef, chicken, or pork) in the pan, to keep the juices from burning off, so I save the flavorful dripping for stocks, sauces, or gravies.

Weber Ribs Beef1

More reasons to use drip/water pans:

  • Water pans create a space for indirect cooking, and will protect meat from excess heat.
  • Water pans create a moisture, which helps cooking food retain IT’S moisture.
  • This moisture traps smoke particles from the air and holds them to the surface of the food, inscreasing its “smokiness.”
  • Water pans help control the temperature and maintain consistent heat between 225F and 250F (ideal for BBQ). The water absorbs heat and the steam stabilizes temperatures.

When using a water pan, be careful not to over fill it, and remember to check the liquid levels often, adding more (hot) water as needed.

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Split FireWater pans work best for low and slow BBQ, so use it with meats such as pork shoulders, ribs, roasts, and briskets.

For poultry, I don’t typically add water to the pan, and only a little stock, as excess steam will keep skin from getting crispy, leaving the best part of the bird flaccid and rubbery.

(And when is “flaccid” EVER a good thing?) 😉

In our next lesson, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of an advanced technique known as “reverse grilling.”

Don’t miss it! Make sure you’ve signed up for email notifications, at the top of the right-hand column!

See you then…

~Chef Perry


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Foil-Pouch Cooking Tips

Foil Pouch Chicken Thighs

I grew up a grub-scout, and we cooked a LOT of foil-pouch dinners over campfires. We called them “Hobo Packs” back then (way before anyone had heard of “political correctness” lol)

MY KITCHEN CookbookNowadays, I make some up and freeze them before leaving for camping trips, to get a delicious dinner, with no clean up!

I have an exhaustive list of foil-pouch recipes and idea in the “MY KITCHEN Cookbook“, but here’s a couple of tips we teach the kid’s before we let them loose on the ingredients table:

One thing I see done a lot, when people are assembling foil-pouch meals, is that they want to place the meat on the bottom, and pile their veggies over that. While they probably think that this will ensure that the meat cooks faster, and thoroughly, it’s actually the opposite of how you want to build your pouch, and will only dry out and/or burn the meat.

The juiciest ingredients need to be placed closest to the foil (tomatoes are best), as they will be the least damaged if burnt, then ingredients with less moisture content on top of those, then your seasoning, and LASTLY the meat (pre-seasoned with salt and pepper.) Top with a little butter or olive oil, and close it up.

The reason for this layering: Fats/oils from the meat drips down to flavor the veggies, while the tomatoes, potatoes, onions, etc., contain water, which mixes with all those natural juices, and steams the meat into tenderness. That excess moisture also helps to keep your veggies from drying out.

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I also like to wrap the pouch, seam side down, in a second piece of foil, to help prevent leaking and scorching.

Personally, I like to brush a thin layer of bacon-fat, or schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) on the foil before I add my veggies.

It adds a little more flavor, and also helps prevent your veggies from sticking to the foil.

Then start cooking with the outer seam down. Try it and see what you think!

Boning HindquartersHome Chef Note: Don’t use boneless, skinless chicken breasts for foil-pouch cooking…just don’t do it.

They dry out too easily in this form of cooking, and they don’t bring any fat or flavor to the party.

Bone-in skin-on chicken thighs and hindquarter work great, though. Slice along both sides of the bones (but don’t remove them) before seasoning and cooking.

This not only gets more flavor into the meat, but it helps the meat cook faster, and more evenly!

Have any foil-pouch cooking questions? Let me know!

Enjoy!

~Chef Perry
chefperryperkins.com

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Kettle Grilling: #1 ~ Advanced Charcoal Techniques

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Home Chef Techniques for the Weber Grill: Part One

Advanced Charcoal Techniques

(Excerpt from Grilling: A Home Chef’s Guide)

I started out with a good old fashioned Weber Kettle (you’ve already read that story), the most popular charcoal grill in American since…well, ever. 😉

Sadly, these marvels of simplicity rarely get used to their full potential. Sure, you can grill up endless burgers, dogs, and brats…and they’ll be awesome, but let’s look at some advanced (dare I say Home Chef?) techniques to take this old classic to the next level!

I have used the Weber to make everything from jerky, to smoked salmon, to traditional Southern Pulled Pork, to authentic Texas-Style Briskets and Pork Bellies, and I’m going to show you how to, as well.

Over the next few posts, we’ll take a look at:

  • Advanced Charcoal Techniques
  • Using Water Pans
  • Real “Pit-Smoking” with a Weber Grill
  • Turning your Weber Grill into the Ultimate Pizza Oven
  • The Perfect Steak: Reverse Grilling
  • Amazing Mods YOU can make to your Weber Grill

So, let’s start with:

4 Advanced Charcoal Techniques

Direct Grilling 3

Direct vs. Indirect

There are two basic styles of grilling, direct & indirect.

Direct Grilling cooks your food “directly” above the hot coals. Best for searing and charring foods that you want to grill quickly.

Of course, with this higher heat, you have to be more watchful to ensure that foods, especially those with sugary marinades or glazes,, don’t burn before they’re cooked through. A double layer, direct fire on a standard kettle-style BBQ can get as high as 500F.

Rule of thumb: Thin foods, with low sugar and water content, and that cook quickly, cook best over direct heat:

  • Steaks
  • Fruits & Veggies
  • Chicken breasts
  • Hamburgers
  • Fish fillets & shellfish
  • Pork tenderloin

Indirect Grilling uses an area of the grill that doesn’t have coals directly beneath it. By placing your food over this “cool” zone, and covering it with the lid, your kettle becomes an oven, allowing you to bake, roast, or BBQ, foods that take longer to finish, without burning the exterior. Temperatures typically run in the 225f-250F range, making this method ideal for BBQ and smoking.

Rule of thumb: Thicker and sugary foods, and tougher cuts (especially of beef) that requires longer cook times at lower temperatures:

  • Roasts
  • Ribs
  • Whole chickens
  • Large whole fish
  • Pork shoulders, and loins

Direct Grilling 3

Single Zone Grilling

Single Zone grilling is your basic, direct heat method. Coals are layered evenly across  the coal grate, the number of layers dependent on the amount of heat you need.

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2 Zone Grilling

As we saw above, 2 Zone grilling is best for “low & slow” techniques.

Prepared coals are spread over one side of the coal grate, while the opposite half (or more) is left clear. This let’s you “roast” thick cuts of meat with burning, though you’ll typically need to rotate large cuts at some point, so they cook evenly on both sides.

Another common technique for 2 Zone Grilling is to caramelize (char) the exterior of the meat over direct heat (all sides), then move it to the indirect area to complete cooking.

Tri-tip roasts, steaks thicker than 2″, and bone-in chicken peices grill best by this method. Caramelization (the technical term is the “Maillard reaction*” adds tons of flavors to foods, and some believe that it can help deal in the juices of meats, to help prevent any unnecessary moisture loss. It’s a fantastic method for roasting whole (brined) chickens, as well.

You can even serve grilled “baked” potatoes that will drive your guests crazy!

*Maillard Reaction: A chemical reaction between the amino acids and the reducing sugars that gives browned and grilled food its distinctive flavor.


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Waterproof
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Bonus point’s if you’ve signed up for blog notifications (see below!)

 

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Split Fire3 Zone Split Grilling

This is the method I use most often, as it finds it provides the most consistent results (and is most forgiving of my ADHD forgetfulness!) 😉

Prepared coals are split evenly along the opposite sides of the coal grate, leaving a place (cool zone) between, large enough to move the meat to once the outsides are browned. This allows medium to thick cuts to finish cooking, while providing even heat from both sides, and save you the trouble of having to rotate the meat, halfway through cooking.

There are also times when you might prefer a three-zone “split” fire, where the coals are separated into two equal piles on opposite sides of the charcoal grate.

Split Zone Indirect Grilling
3 Zone Split Grilling

This gives you two zones for direct heat (high, medium, or low) and one zone between them for indirect heat. This also works nicely for cooking a roast over indirect heat, such as pork loin or beef tenderloin, because you have the same level of heat on either side of the roast.

You can also use this method to create “High, Medium, and Low” zones in your kettle. By stacking two (or more) levels layers of coals on one side (high), and single layer on the opposite side (medium), the middle section, with or without a water pan*, becomes the “Low” zone.

*We’ll talk more about water pans in a future post.

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Ring o’ Fire (low & slow/smoking)

Ring of Fire Smoking Method
Setting up for slow smoking

The ring of fire is…awesome! By layering your coals in a semi-circle around the outside of the coal-grate, and then lighting one end of the “ring”, you create a domino effect, as each coal lights the next, working it’s way around the ring for hours, and provided low, even heat.

To turn your Weber Kettle into the perfect smoker, just pre-soak a few chunks of your favorite hardwood, and space them evenly atop the first half to three-quarters of the ring.

Meat will only accept smoke for the first three hours or so, so there’s no point in wasting the extra wood.

Plus, over smoking can leave meat with a bitter, acrid flavor, and a nasty tar-like coating.

I used this method for many, many years, with great success, until I discovered the A-Maze-N Smoker products, which are even simpler to use that this method. (I’m all about the “idiot-proof!” LOL) Here’s a quick video on how I use them in my roasting boxes, and it’s the same method I use with my Webers.

chefperryperkins.com and/or lacajachinacooking.com are not affiliated with, endorsed by, or sponsored by the product manufacturers of any products mentioned in this post, or any of their affiliates or subsidiaries. We declare no affiliation, sponsorship, nor any partnerships with any registered trademarks.

 

In our next lesson, we’ll take a look at how (and why) to use water pans and drip pans in your Weber Kettle.

Be sure to subscribe to this blog (top of right column), to make sure you’re notified when the next post in this series is live!

See you then!

~Chef Perry

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The right way to cut with a Chef’s Knife

Here’s a quick video covering the correct way to hold a chef’s knife, and how to grip the food with your other hand to avoid cutting yourself.

Be patient with yourself, many beginners find that this new grip takes some getting used to, but it definitely provides extra control over the blade.

Go Cook!

~Chef Perry

Organizing Your Kitchen Like a Pro (AM Northwest appearance)

Free Printable Shopping List Reminder

If, like, me, you have the memory span of a brain-damaged goldfish, keeping one of these list reminders on the fridge is a HUGE help in having the ingredients you need, when you need them.

Just right-click on the image and save this PDF to your desktop, for a handy list reminder that you can print as needed!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Oh, and if you tuned in to AM Northwest this morning for my segment on Kitchen Organization (I’ll post the link to the clip here, this afternoon), thank you!

UPDATE: Here’s the link to the video…(click on image)

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing and indoor

And here’s some notes on what we talked about (and a couple we ran out of time for…)

The “two step” kitchen plan

  • The tools and utensils you use most for cooking should be within two steps of the cooking area
  • The tools and utensils you use most for prep should be within two steps of the cooking area

Your Knives

  • Have them sharpened (honing is NOT sharpening)
  • Magnetic holder vs. knife block.

Your Spices

  • No spices, oils, or vinegars over the stove
  • Write your purchase dates on bottles
  • Buy in bulk, and refill bottles (squeeze bottles for oils)

Cupboards

  • Middle (eye level to counter): Items you use most
  • Upper (eye level and above): Items you use frequently, and/or hard shelf life (cookies, crackers, cereal)
  • Lower (Counter and below): Items you use the least, bulk storage, etc.

The Fridge

  • Meat on the bottom shelf
  • Leftovers on the Middle shelf
  • Names and dates on kitchen tape
  • Packaged, unopened on the top

The Freezer

  • Names and dates on kitchen tape
  • Vacuum sealers
  • Have a defrosting schedule

Make a List

  • Checkbox shopping list & pen, on fridge
  • Download mine (above)
  • Make your own
  • Pre-print the items you get every time you go to the store
  • Organize list for a single path through the store
  • Never shop hungry, or without your list

Or, check our my FREE 52 Weeks of dinner plans, and weekly shopping lists.

Available in Classic, Heart Healthy (Diabetic Friendly), and Gluten Free!

~Chef Perry
chefperryperkins.com

Home Chef Cookbooks

Special deal for readers…

Prelaunch

Hey, as we count down to the release of “BACON! A Home Chef’s Guide”, I have a deal for all of you who have read either of the first two books.

If you would use the links below to leave a review on Amazon.com, I’ll send you a special 20% discount code to pick up the new book when it releases next month!

Thanks!

~Chef Perry

The Home Chef

Frugal Fine Cooking

The Home Chef's Guide to Bacon!

Best Seasoning for Cast Iron

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Facebook friend Paul asks:

What type of oil would you recommend for seasoning cast iron?

Hey Paul,

I season my cast iron with a 50/50 mix of Crisco and peanut oil (for the high smoke point.) Of course, if anyone in the family has nut allergies, I’d switch straight Crisco or a good quality lard.

Make sure to cook lots of bacon, and other high fat foods (a nice batch of fried chicken in peanut oil is great) in your pan for the first several times you use the pan after seasoning.

Avoid highly acidic foods (NO tomato products, no citrus), as they pull our the oils from the pan.

You can also go old-school and use bacon fat, but you need to REALLY strain it (several times) to get out any solids.

Oh, and here’s one of my favorite skillet recipes…

Pan-Seared Filet Mignon with Garlic-Mushroom Cream Sauce

Cast Iron Filet Mignon Want to help me feed hungry families, teach at-risk & special-needs kids to cook for themselves and their families, and change lives?

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