Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A guide to smoking a Thanksgiving turkey: Part 2

Posted by on Wed, Nov 25, 2009 at 11:15 AM


The bird has been purchased, brined and brushed with olive oil. It has a healthy coat of rub. (If you need advice on any of these steps, see yesterday's Part One). You are finally ready to smoke your Thanksgiving turkey.

The traditional axiom of cooking something slow and low can go out the window when it comes to smoking your Thanksgiving turkey. Bob Denner of Boondoggle BBQ recommends heating up the smoker to 325 degrees, much higher than you might want for brisket or pork butt.

"Don't be afraid to get the temperature up high. Otherwise, you'll have a dark bird with skin that is all rubbery," says Denner.

A turkey will take about 25 minutes per pound (if you're cooking at 325 degrees), so a 10-pound bird would take approximately 4 hours and 10 minutes. When it comes to monitoring the temperature of the turkey, you want to make sure the thickest part of the thigh is between 170 and 175 degrees and the breast is at least 165 degrees. These temperatures, Denner says, will leave you with a tender bird that isn't dried out.

Here's where you might want to consider investing in a digital probe, which lets you monitor the turkey's temperature without opening your smoker, since you'll lose heat and moisture each time you peek inside.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A guide to smoking a Thanksgiving turkey: Part 1

Posted by on Tue, Nov 24, 2009 at 11:15 AM

The smoked turkey is on the left, a roasted turkey is on the right.
  • The smoked turkey is on the left, a roasted turkey is on the right.

Fat City decided to take advantage of having an American Royal Grand Champion in our backyard and turned to Bob Denner -- who with his brother Don makes up the Boondoggle BBQ team -- and knows a thing or two about the process of smoking.

Denner agreed to walk us through the steps of preparing and smoking a turkey on Thanksgiving. It's the kind of conversation that leaves you hungry and glad that turkey day is only 48 hours away.

If you haven't bought your turkey yet, you'll be spending a bit more (the difference is likely about $1 a pound and the recommended serving size is a pound per guest) because a fresh turkey makes a lot more sense. You could thaw a frozen bird in cold water, but if you've slacked on picking out a turkey, you probably shouldn't pick a method of preparation that requires extra effort.  

"Safety is the first thing that comes to mind. Salmonella is not a fun thing to be thinking about," says Denner.

Once you've got the turkey at home, you'll want to brine it -- the key to having a moist turkey on the table. Denner uses a five-gallon cooler -- the jug that you might use for tea or lemonade -- and fills it with the brining solution (typically some combination of salt, sugar and spices), turkey, and ice. You may have to refill it with ice, but you want to keep the temperature under 40 degrees to prevent bacteria growth.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Time to retire the pomegranate

Posted by on Mon, Nov 16, 2009 at 10:30 AM


Are some fruits just not worth the trouble? I believe that the time has come for us a society to agree to retire pomegranates -- which started popping up at grocery stores over the past two weeks.

The fruit, typically in season from October to January, will be the subject of cocktail recipes and lauded for its antioxidant properties, but the act of removing the seeds makes you understand what life was like with Hades.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Goodbye to salt?

Posted by on Thu, Nov 12, 2009 at 12:00 PM


Salt alternatives aren't common yet, but three new salt substitutes have been launched in an attempt to take advantage of several major food corporations' announced intentions to reduce sodium in their products.

NutraSalt 66, SaltPro and SaltWise are all being billed as salt alternatives -- the kind that may be needed by Unilever and ConAgra if they are to meet their stated goals of reducing sodium content in their packaged goods by 2010 and 2015, respectively.

Reducing sodium intake is likely to be the next major health trend, although that will require a paradigm shift. Most people still associate less

salt with less taste -- when was the last time you saw someone ordering the unsalted

soft pretzels at Kauffman Stadium?

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Monday, November 9, 2009

Yes we pecan

Posted by on Mon, Nov 9, 2009 at 1:15 PM


November is National Pecan Month -- so, it's your obligation to give pecans a try in either all their raw glory or via the traditional intake: pecan pie.

Earlier this year, pecans were the inspiration for a limited-edition Ben & Jerry's flavor, the Obama tribute Yes Pecan! This January featured flavor consisted of "amber waves of buttery ice cream with roasted non-partisan pecans." Here's how you can make your own butter pecan ice cream at home.

Even though they work well in ice cream, pecans feel like they were a nut meant to be roasted. Heat brings out their sweetness and even if you slightly burn a batch, they're still likely to taste good. This recipe for sea-salted roasted pecans can be tweaked with cinnamon sugar or vanilla.    

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Monday, November 2, 2009

Comparing apples to apples

Posted by on Mon, Nov 2, 2009 at 11:15 AM

​This time of year you can't help but end up with too many apples. And your first instinct is going to be to bake or cook with them before they go soft or mealy. But not all apples taste better after a go in the oven. A recent National Public Radio story set to find out which are your best bets.

The first lesson, which might be the most important, is that a mealy or rotten apple (unlike some other fruit) can't be saved by cooking it. In fact, sometimes heat will only intensify bitter flavors.

NPR sampled five varieties and not surprisingly, the Jonathan fared well in tests for maintaining its appearance and having an enhanced flavor. The winner was the honeycrisp, which has a sweet, tangy flavor, even when raw. It's the kind of baked apple that makes you forget about chocolate cake. 

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Infused vinegar is the hot new condiment

Posted by on Wed, Oct 28, 2009 at 12:00 PM


As a potential topping or finishing drizzle, vinegar is the forgotten sister. But because it has the potential to be infused in as many different ways as oil, it's about time we started looking at the other half of the caddy on Italian restaurant tables.

Herb-infused vinegar is delightfully straightforward to make. You just need your herbs of choice and a jar or container that can be sealed. After about a week, you pour the vinegar through a strainer and you're done. It will keep for several months stored in a ceramic or glass container, and you'll know by the color or smell when it has gone bad.

You want to stay away from white vinegar or distilled vinegar -- the taste is too harsh to pick up an infused flavor. Champagne, white wine and red wine vinegars are all good choices as the base. After that, don't try to combine several herbs to create something fantastical; instead, use a good quantity of one strongly scented herb like tarragon or basil.

You can also use fresh fruit to add sweetness and create a really simple, clean dressing. The flavor of pears goes well with balsamic vinegar and can be used with sliced avocados or pan-seared scallops.

It's also a way to rescue slightly over ripe fruits. While pears, grapes or plums just require the same steps as herb-infused vinegar; peaches and raspberries tend to call for a process similar to canning. You boil the fruit and vinegar together before adding the liquid to a sealed container.

Infusing vinegar is a way to create some interesting flavors without blowing your grocery budget. But be careful kids, it's a gateway to home brewing and canning. 

[Image via Flickr: AdamJackson1984]   

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Ingredients: a moral dilemma?

Posted by on Thu, Oct 1, 2009 at 9:10 AM


It's a weird time in product advertising. Corporations are trying to reinvent products for a new kind of consumer -- the one looking for "natural" goods. Natural is to right now what eco-friendly was to the marketplace over the past decade. And since "natural" is currently undefined, it's interesting to see how marketers are hoping to frame the discussion.

For the moment, it seems to be through championing the virtue of ingredients. Whereas previously eggs and sugar were just part of a label, they're now being given front-and-center treatment. McDonald's introduced "See What We're Made Of" in 2008; it turns breakfast into egg, cheese and sausage components, and a burger into the sum of vegetables and meat. Pillsbury recently introduced its Simply ... Cookies line -- which shows the ingredients directly below the cookies on the front of the package. Haagen-Dazs now has seven flavors in its Five line of ice creams that contain only five ingredients. 

We're also talking about the freshness or the local suppliers of specific ingredients. And that makes it easy to forget that we're eating cookies or double cheeseburgers for lunch. 

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Parmesan hacks

Posted by on Fri, Sep 25, 2009 at 11:15 AM


If you have fresh parmesan in the fridge, you invariably end up with a piece of hardened crust that seems unusable. But through the magic of the microwave, Food Geekery suggests there is a window of opportunity for bringing back your parmesan crusts.

The key is to let it puff up in the microwave, sort of like popcorn, until the popping stops somewhere between 30 and 90 seconds. If you've done it wrong, it will either be too hard or burnt. After a brief rest period, the parmesan is ready to eat or be used in a dish.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Love, one orange square at a time

Posted by on Thu, Sep 24, 2009 at 12:11 PM


They're in your fridge right now, just begging to be added to a burger or turned into a grilled cheese. They look the same as they did when you were a kid, although ideally you've been through a few (hundred) packages in the interim. I'm talking about Kraft Singles.

And I'm not the only one who understands their joys. Just ask Leo Rodriguez of Gourmet Magazine, who wrote an Ode to American Cheese that is as sweet as any middle-school love letter. No, seriously, he loves the packaged slices: 

When the grilled cheese pulls apart supernaturally in a Kraft Singles commercial, and the hot, melty interior stretches between the two sides of buttery, golden-brown bread -- that, friends, is food porn at its most convincing.
It gets less awkward from there. Rodriguez feels compelled to defend his habit of topping burgers with American cheese to foodie friends, and qualifies his support of Kraft Singles by noting that he's a bachelor who prefers food with longer expiration dates.

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