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Sunday
Mar092014

Broil King Keg 4000 - First Impression

Recently, a friend asked for my opinion of the Broil King 4000.  Since I'm a H.U.G.E fan of the kamado style bbq pit I get a request like this every few months when one of the big box stores trots out the latest Big Green Egg Killer.  But my initial reaction to this particular cooker was, "Man, this thing just won't die".  

You see, the original incarnation of this grill was called the Bubba Keg.  These folks started with insulated beer/coffee mugs and coolers and added the Bubba Keg Grill to their product line.  When it was introduced, I was asked to evaluate and review it.  I did a couple of head-to-head comparisons with the Big Green Egg.  And there some things to really like about this unit, but it also had a few issues.  One of the biggest issues was the solvency of the company.  They subsequently spun off the grill and it became the Big Steel Keg.  

You can see my early attempts at their user forum at http://forum.bigsteelkeg.com/  I'm Braddog over there too.

Now apparently Broil King has acquired the product and rebranded it the Broil King Keg to compliment their line of gassers.  I applaud the move, because as I said, I like the unit.  In fact, I still cook on my Bubba Keg regularly.  I leave it setup for grilling and my Big Green Egg setup for smoking and use them accordingly.

So here's what I like about the Bubba Keg/Big Steel Keg/Broil King Keg:

  • It's portable.  The wheels on the back of the unit allow me to tip it back and move it around like a hand tuck.  My Bubba Keg also came with a mount for a receiver hitch, so I can put the grill on my hitch and haul it.  Waaaay more portable and duable that a ceramic Big Green Egg.
  • It's lighter than the BGE (adding to the portability).
  • It's insulated and can be used in all sorts of weather, as opposed to a thin-walled, non-insulated cooker like a Weber (hey, I like Webers so no hate maile please).
  • It has all the cooking characteristics of a kamado style bbq pit, and that's a good thing.

Here's what I didn't like about the Keg but maybe they have solved some of these with this new incarnation.

  • Try as I might, I never was able to get the Bubba Keg to hold a low temperature.  My unit was drafty and leaked air into the cooking chamber, making temperature control nearly impossible.  That's fine if you want to cook hot and fast, but not so much if you want to cook low & slow.  There were lots of folks re-sealing and modifying their pits to address these issues with some measure of success.  
  • Given the frequency of ownership changes, there's been uncertainty and lack of availability for replacements parts.  Again, the advantage here goes to the incumbent.  The support, stability of ownership, active user community, and availability of 3rd party accessories are all significant advantages for the Big Green Egg.
  • At this price point, I'd buy a Big Green Egg.  This cooker should be ~$500 and I believe that they'd sell like hot cakes. At nearly $900, that's too close to ceramic territory.

I hope that Broil King has a lot of success with the Keg.  It's got some real advantages that make it a good choice for a lot of folks.  I wish them well.


Cheers,
Braddog 

 

 

Monday
Feb242014

Review: iGrill Mini

Over the years, I've tried a variety of wireless thermometers.  But they've always left a lot to be desired in terms of reliability of the connection between the probe and the monitor.  Each time I try one of these gadgets, I'm hopeful that this will be the one.

Well, this may finally be the one.  I received an iGrill Mini for Christmas, but only recently got around to trying it out.  I unboxed it and had it set up in a a matter of minutes.  Man!  This thing is really small.  

Next, I simply downloaded the app from iTunes and powered up the Mini and I was all set.

I inserted the probe in a packer brisket in my Backwoods cooker, and used the magnetic base to stick the sending unit to the side of the pit.  Over the next couple of hours, I wondered around the house while the app on my iPhone kept me up to date on the progres of my brisket.

If I ventured outside of the wireless range, the app quickly re-paired itself to the probe when I got back in range.  This took no action on my part.  The app graphed the progress over time and I was able to set a target temp.  When the brisket hit that temperature, the app alerted me accordingly.

One of the other near things about the app is the ability to see other users of iGrill devices via the iPhones location services.

I only have 2 complaints.  First, although the battery life is stated at 150 hrs, mine died in the middle of my second cook.  Second, I should have waited for the 4 probe version due out later this year.  I'd also be interested in picking up one of the ambient temperature probes to monitor the cooking temp of the pit.

Overall, I'm optimisitc and will continue to use the Mini to see if the battery life continues to be poor.  I'll provide an update as I learn more.

Cheers,
Braddog 

Sunday
Dec222013

Reaffirming The Big Green Egg

I still love cooking on my Big Green Egg.  Sure, I cook on a large capacity, cabinet-style smoker when I need the capacity.  But I've recently cooked on my Egg a little more than usual, and I'm reminded how much I like this rig.

Anyway, here are a few shots of the world's best grill and smoker that I've captured over the years.

2007 05 27 010

20090127_0401

Cheers,
Braddog 

Friday
Dec202013

Ribs on a Medium Big Green Egg

I've cooked on a large Big Green Egg for nearly 7 years.  I've also had the opportunity to cook on an XL a few times at Grillfest when I've done the Big Green Egg demos for the local dealer.  But until recently, I'd never cooked on one of the smaller Eggs.

Over Thanksgiving, we made our annual trip to Pittsburgh.  My Brother-in-law recently scored a medium Egg off of Craigslist, so while we were visiting I had the chance fire it up for a side of ribs.

Here are my observations about cooking on the Medium vs. my Large.

 

  • I can lay 3 sides of baby back ribs flat across the cooking grate on my large.  You certainly can't do that on the medium.  
  • I'm not sure you could cook overnight without refilling the charcoal.  A full load of Royal Oak lump only burned for ~5 hours (I grilled pork tenderloing when the ribs came off)
  • It sure seemed like the medium cooked ribs quicker than my large.
  • It was cold, but it felt like I had the vents open wider than I'm used to on the large to maintain a 250 dome temp.

There were no complaints with the finished product, but given my choice I'd prefer a large Egg for most things.  However, I admit that I may be biased by my familiarity with the large.

What about you?  Ever cooked on the other size Eggs?  Leave me a comment and let me know what you though of your experince.

Cheers,

Braddog

Friday
Dec062013

Recipe: Grilled Pork Tenderloin Appetizer

IMG_3426

Awhile back, we attended a social gathering where they served drinks and appetizers.  One of the appetizers was toasted baquette pieces topped with a small piece of beef and horseradish.  I filed that away as something that I wanted to try to put a BBQ spin on.

IMG_3448

So last Saturday night, I had a chance to do just that.  I grilled a couple of pork tenderloin on Saturday morning.  I then wrapped them and placed them into the refrigerator to chill.  It's much easier to slice them thin when they are chilled than it is when they are warm.

IMG_3446

I then placed a piece of tenderloin on toasted baguettes, and topped each with a slice of a Harvati Dill cheese that my bride is fond of.  They make a great finger food and were a big hit at the gathering that we took them to.

Feel free to experiment with this.  I think these would be good with a dollop of a spicy or flavored mustard or something simialr as well.

Cheers,
Braddog 

Sunday
Nov172013

Review: AFirepuck Starter


I had the opportunity to try out the Afirepuck Fire Starter recently.  Now, I normally light my charcoal with a MAPP torch but have used lots of other methods over the years.  These starter pucks are individually packaged and sealed in tins.  They should store for a long time and travel nicely for tailgates and the like.

I was cooking some pork tenderloin on the Big Green Egg and had lots of time for puck to burn and get my lump charcoal started.  The puck burned for about 15 minutes (as advertised) and left no odor or noticeable waste behind.  

Here's a link to the product page over at afireinc.com.  A half dozen pucks will set you back $12.99.  They met my expectations and are certainly effecitve fire starters.

 

Cheers,
Braddog 


Tuesday
Nov052013

Operation Hickory Smoke IV

It started a couple of years ago. A good friend of mine asked if I had room on the smoker for some pork butts to feed some of the guys at Scott Air Force Base during a fall exercise. I did, so we sent some BBQ to the base for the team. Four years later, it's become a standing order and we've jokingly named the event "Operation: Hickory Smoke".

Every fall, we send some BBQ to the folks involved in this exercise. This year I was able to visit the team and participate in the delivery. It was pretty cool to meet a few of the folks who were going to enjoy the meal. I also received a nice note from one of the officers.

Veteran's Day may be next week, but I'm honored to have shown my appreciation in a small way with this annual event. To the team working the exercise and all those who serve or have served, I say thank you. 

Cheers,

Braddog

 

 

Monday
Sep232013

Teed off!

That's what we did on Saturday. As I mentioned in "Que for a Cause - Round 2", I cooked BBQ for a fundraiser this weekend. It's amazing what a group of volunteers can do when they come together for a cause.

On Saturday afternoon, ~90 golfers teed off in a scramble format. The plan was to feed them pulled pork around 5:30 or so. Little did they know that I began the process of feeding them at 2:00am. That's when the pork butts went on the smoker. They were finished and resting in the Cambros by early afternoon. I knew that I'd have the meat done well before serving time, but I also had to allow for travel time and time to pull them when I arrived.

Up until then, the plan was right on track. But when I arrived, I discovered that the golf round was running long. I mean waaaay long. We didn't begin to feed the golfers until nearly 7:00pm. Thankfully, the Cambros did their job and I had piping hot BBQ that was still too hot to handle. Disaster avoided.

Here are a few random shots of the cooking process and the event. Special thanks to my bride for assisting with serving.

 

Cheers,
Braddog 

 

Sunday
Sep012013

BBQ Tip - Freeze the Scraps

If you're a serious backyard BBQ cook like me, you probably cook at home.  In my neighborhood garbage pickup only happens once a week, and to make it worse it's on Friday.  That means this time of year, rib or brisket trimmings can sit in a garbage can in 90 degree heat for an entire week before the trash truck comes.  Trust me, they can get pretty ripe in that time.

So I picked up this tip from some folks I know who are serious boaters.  They have much the same problem when trying to manage garbage while underway for a few days at a time.  It turns out, that all you need to do is make room in your freezer for the garbage that is likely to spoil or smell before it can be disposed of.

I've taken to double (or triple) bagging the trimmings and storing them in the extra refrigerator in my garage.  Works like a champ, and now all I have to do is remember to put them in garbage on trash day.  

cheers,

Braddog

Tuesday
Aug202013

Que-for-a-Cause - Round 2

I'm firing up the smoker to cook for a cause again next month.  This one is to benefit a friend of mine whose daughter is battling cancer.  If you're in the area and would like to play in the golf benefit or donate to the cause, the information on the event is below.

Alaina Grace Bickhaus Golf Benefit

Saturday September 21st, 2013

1:30pm Shotgun Start

Norman K. Probstein Golf Course

Forest Park, St. Louis, Mo

314-367-1337 (Golf Course #)

12 noon Registration / 1:30pm Shotgun Start

4 Person Team - 18 Hole Scramble

Best Ball Tournament Format

4 Person 18 hole Scramble Event benefiting Team Alaina Grace Fund to offset treatment expenses associated w/Alaina’s Battle against Ewing’s Sarcoma.

Please show your support for this brave 14 yr old. Ewing’s Sarcoma is a rare, malignant bone cancer which often affects the pelvis, humerus, femur and ribs most often in teenagers and young adults. Aggressive Chemotherapy treatment is both prolonged and repetitive as this disease often reoccurs and can cause impairment of growth, hearing, vision and development of the heart and respiratory system. Alaina’s Mom has had to take a leave of absence from her job & the tumors have made it difficult to walk but Alaina battles on during her rounds of chemo.

Greens Fee are $100 includes golf/2 person per cart, beverages and snacks on course; prizes for long drive, closest to the pin and flight winners; swag bag and picnic dinner immediately following at Mt. Calvary Pavilion Ball Field (9321 Litzsinger Rd  Just east of Tilles Park on Litzsinger in Brentwood). Checks for fees or donations can be made out to “Team Alaina Grace Fund”. For more info please contact John Freund freundjohn@hotmail.com.   

Cheers,
Braddog