No Crock-Pot? No Problem…Use the oven!

Ratatouille Recipe
Chef Perry’s Redneck Ratatouille

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Just got a very nice email from Ashley L., who is a little concerned with the slow-cooker beef recipe this week. To quote, “HELP! I don’t have a crock-pot, and I can’t afford to go out and buy one…am I going to ruin this roast is I cook it in the over? Can I use a cast-iron dutch cooker, instead?”

Great news…you can, absolutely, cook your crock-pot recipes in the oven, using a dutch oven, cassoulet pan, or even a cast-iron skillet and some heavy foil*.

Here’s one of our favorites, Braised Lamb Shank Tacos…

Braised Lamb Shank Taco Recipe

Another of our most popular dishes is typically cooked in a smoker, or in the crock-pot, but can be done deliciously by slow-roasting in the oven.

Check out The Best Dang Pulled Pork Sliders for several fantastic methods…

Oven Roasted Pulled Pork

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Lastly, here’s another favorite, “Low & Slow Southern Baked Beans.”

Now, lot’s of folks make stews and bean dishes in the crock-pot, and they taste pretty good.

What makes oven-roasting better? One word: REDUCTION.

There’s very little reduction in a crock-pot, as the whole idea is to seal moisture IN. Slow roasting allows the liquids to slowly evaporate, thickening and intensifying the flavors.

Crockpot time – Oven time

  • 12 hours/Low – 3 hours/325° F
  • 10 hours/Low – 2 1/2 hours/325° F
  • 8 hours/Low – 2 hours/325° F
  • 6 hours/Low – 1 1/2 hours/325° F
  • 5 hours/Low – 1 hour, 15 min./325° F
  • 4 hours/Low – 1 hour/325° F
  • 4 hours/High – 2 hours/325° F
  • 3 hours/Low – 45 min./325° F
  • 3 hours/High – 1 1/2 hours/325° F

*To use a cast iron skillet, follow the same instructions, but (once the food is in it) wrap the entire skillet in 2-3 layers of heavy foil, before putting it in the oven.

Good luck, let us know if you have any questions!

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– Chef Perry
chefperryperkins.com

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Garlic-Mushroom Burger Baste

basting-burgers

This is my secret tip when I’m grilling burgers…

Note: Grilling vs. frying burgers is an existential dilemma for me. I love the smokey flavor from the grill, but I also know that a pan-seared burger is going to be juicier, and have more beef flavor.

That’s a decision that each of us must make for ourselves. 😉

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Garlic-Mushroom Burger Baste

  • 1 lb white mushrooms, cleaned
  • 1/2 lb butter
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tsp. porcini mushroom powder (opt)
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Chop mushrooms, garlic, and shallots.

Saute in 1/4 cup of butter in a large pan over medium heat, season lightly with salt and pepper, and cook until onions are soft and garlic had just begun to color.

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Add remaining butter, and reduce heat to medium low. Keep on a low simmer for 1 hour.

For normal people:

Grill or fry burgers on one side, flip and brush cooked side with baste.

pork-belly-confit-3For the rest of us:

I like to brush one side, as shown above, and then, just before the burger is done on both sides, use a pair of tongs to dip it, completely submersing, in baste.

(Hey, I’m a cook, not a your cardiologist! Your health is not my primary concern.) 😉 

Then, return it to the grill for just a few seconds on both sides.

Lastly, if you want to really take these burgers to the next level, chill the compound butter to near freezing, stirring several time to get the mushrooms and onions off the bottom.

Butter-Burgers_4_Photo-Oct-19-11-21-52-AM_600x400Shave the frozen butter with a cheese grater, and mix (quickly) into the ground beef (1oz of butter for a 1/3rdlb burger).

You can add a little shredded asiago cheese, or crumbled bleu cheese at this point as well, if you like.

Form your patties and freeze before grilling.

Enjoy!

~Chef Perry

Best Butter Burger Recipes
A little double-smoked bacon and Gruyère cheese can’t hurt, either!

For more tips on grilling the ultimate burger, from grinding your own beef blend, to seasonings, sauces, and styles, check out my new Home Chef guidebook: Grilling!

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How to Take the Heat Out of Jalapenos (or Any Chile Pepper)

Jalepeno Pepper Bombs

I absolutely LOVE stuffed and grilled jalapenos, but due to the cruelties of time, my old gut has started rebelling at overy spicy foods. However, as I’m not willing to give up one of my favorite flavors, just because my stomach has turned traitor on me!

Naga Jolokia chili pepper
The Naga Jolokia

Jalepeno Peppers averages 2,500 – 8,000 Scoville Heat Units* (SHU), putting them somewhere between Anaheim peppers (500 ~ 2,500 SHU) and Hidalgos (6,000 ~ 17,000 SHU).

To get an idea of the scale, the average sweet bell pepper comes in at 0, and at the top of the Scoville scale: the fearsome Naga Jolokia peppers are 800,000 to over One Million  SHU’s!

Yes, that was the sound of your esophageal sphincter melting.

What Makes Chili Peppers Hot

The heat-inducing chemical in peppers is called “hydrophopic capsasium“, or what my friend Melanie would call C18H27NO3. Capsaicin and several related compounds are called capsaicinoids and are produced as secondary metabolites by chili peppers, and other vegetables as deterrents against certain mammals and fungi.

AAvH7Kn.imgHigh levels of capsasium can produce a pain-stimulated release of endorphins, causing pleasurable and even euphoric effects (You freakin’ junkies!) 😉

For spice-lovers and pepper-heads, jalapeno’s are the “hot food” equivalent of eating gummy bears, but for NORMAL people, they pack some heat.

Grilling or roasting peppers make them even hotter as you’re cooking moisture out of them, which concentrates the percentage of capsasium.

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Here are some tips we used in restaurants to make jalapenos dishes a bit more “customer friendly.”

Tips for Tongue-Friendly Jalapenos

1. Remove the seeds and membranes from the interior of the pepper. They contain the majority of the capsasium (the hot stuff). An old fashioned potato peeler, the point-end kind, works great for this.

Cleaning Jalepenos

2. Soak the cleaned peppers in an ice-water bath for 1/2 hour. This soaking method will reduce the finished heat by about 50%. To take ALL the fire out, use lemon-lime soda (not diet) instead of water, for 30-45 minutes. Really! Drain, rinse in fresh water, and pat dry.

(Chef’s note: Pour the soda you soaked the peppers in over a tall glass of ice and add a healthy shot of your favorite tequila. You’re welcome!)

Soaking Jalepenos

3. If that doesn’t tame the beast enough for you, blanch the rinsed peppers in boiling water for 2-3 minutes, then place them in a (fresh) ice bath to chill, and stop the cooking process. Rinse and pat dry.

Remember, ALWAYS wear disposable gloves when working with hot peppers, and try to avoid touching your face or eyes.

Oh, and…guys? Try to remember to use the bathroom BEFORE you start your prep! 😉

~Chef Perry
chefperryperkins.com

*The Scoville unit was named for Wilbur Scoville in 1912. At the time, he worked for the pharmaceutical company, Parke-Davis, where he developed a test called the “Scoville Organoleptic Test” which is still used to measure a chili pepper’s heat.



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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)

Lesson2

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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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.

Weber Ribs2

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