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So many cookout screwups last night (with pics)

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    So many cookout screwups last night (with pics)

    It has finally warmed up around here, which means it's cookout season again! I have a friend who owns a local watering hole, and I've had him over to my place for BBQ. He was greatly impressed with it (remember that nobody around here cooks out, ever) and wanted me to do it at his place. I said OK, and now I never have to pay to drink at his bar.

    I did this a couple of times last year with burgers and kebabs, and it worked well. Everyone was impressed, etc. I do everything just as close as I can to back home. Even when I have to cut corners and pull stuff that would never pass in America, nobody has the wisdom to notice. So we agreed to do one on Saturday night when the bar would be full. I don't mind doing these because (1) I get to invite all my friends, too, and it's almost just as good as doing it at my house, (2) I get to cook for more people and do a larger scale, (3) someone else pays for it all, and (4) I gain valuable experience. In my introduction I told everyone I'm a novice at BBQ, and that's true. Burgers are one thing but real cookin' is another, and to learn is why I joined this site.

    The plan is to do ribs, but he doesn't order them from online, and so we fall back to chicken. I would prefer to do chicken thighs, boneless or not, but like everything else in China it's completely different from back home. Recently a Tyson brand chicken area has appeared at the grocery store, but it only rarely stocks chicken thighs. Usually I end up with leg quarters fished out of the big pile with tongs. I split them into legs and thighs, brine for 4 hours, season them with salt, pepper, rosemary, and garlic, and cook on the grill for 30-40 minutes. Easy, right? Click image for larger version

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    Meet Boweile.
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    Proudly wear the name.


    Having learned from this website to test cookers before you use them, I do this with the bar's gas grill. I put my on-grill thermometer onto different areas, and try lighting just the leftmost burner, leftmost and rightmost, two middle ones, etc. until I find a good way to get 325F on the grill. The first problem is that the grill's controls really don't control much. High shoots gas out of the pipes without hardly burning it, and the other setting is a stable setting that we'll call low. That's it, you can rotate the knobs all you like and the gas won't go down to little blue nubs. Ugh. This is likely due to the fact that Chinese shaokao BBQ, much like Chinese wok cooking, only uses the 'blowtorch' settings. The faster the mutton skewers cook, the better because then you can sell more of them.
    Click image for larger version

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    Knobs all the way down.
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    This is the lowest setting.


    I also find that the temperature is all over the place. It won't stay steady, every time I pop the lid to check it's different, even though I didn't move the thermometer. It's like there's a hole in the grill somewhere. So, I go hunting for a leak. Click image for larger version

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    Found it!
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    Yup, that's the problem right there.


    Again, we see that the grill has been modified for Chinese shaokao. Heat was just pouring out of this vent. There was no way I was going to be able to cook chicken in here. Did I mention that this was the first cookout of the season, and the owner had invited all his friends to come? And, as I found out later, he told them to come hungry? Click image for larger version

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    My lame attempt at a solution.


    I tried to put foil over the hole, but the real problem was that every time I opened the lid. the foil tore or fell to the ground. As we say in Chinese, mafan, meaning difficult, troublesome, a real pain. Also, heat is just pouring out of this hole, so the aluminum foil gets hot very quickly and you can burn your fingers trying to stuff it in. Well this is going to be interesting, but now I've got to pull the chicken from the brine and start seasoning it. I get a couple of bar girls as helpers (which is annoying because they keep running off) and start pulling the skin. This is when I get my next surprise.

    Some of the skins aren't coming off at all. They stick firmly and there is an odd layer of subcutaneous fat not usually present in chickens. I look at the leg bone, and it looks strangely familiar, not like chicken at all. It's duck! We have unwittingly wound up with around ten duck legs mixed in with all of our chicken legs.

    Now, duck is one of my favorite meats in the whole world. One of the nice things about living in China is the ready availability of roast duck. It is moist, it is always done right much better than I could do it at home, it is cheap, and it is everywhere. I like to pick up an extra whole roast duck from the ready-to-eat section at the supermarket and throw it in the basket with the rest of the groceries. And Beijing duck is my all-time #1 favorite food in the world next to brisket. I have been to Quanjude and have my numbered duck card. But none of this helps now! There are people coming and we've got to get some replacements ASAP. I send one of the bar workers to the store to buy ten chicken legs. Click image for larger version

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    Hole in the bottom of the grill, too.


    We have enough chicken to fill the grill, so I start cooking. It's about 9pm now and people are arriving. It's at this point I find out that my bar owner buddy has been telling people not to eat before they come. Aaggh! I wanted this cookout to be a kind of bar snack, not a full meal! So I have all these hungry people waiting. And it shouldn't have been an issue, if the grill were working properly. The first batch of chicken takes 80 minutes to finish, and by then people have gone next door to get noodles because they were starving. The chicken isn't cooking because all the heat is going out of the back vent even with my foil in place. I've got a lot of chicken and a lot of people, and this is shaping up to be a long night.

    The worker comes back with chicken from the supermarket...skinless breasts. Frozen solid. These are totally unsuitable for my recipe and they won't taste good without the skin, but I butterfly and season them anyway because there are people to feed. Due to thawing time they won't get very long in the brine, either. Sigh. And then I go and dry them out by cooking them at the same time as legs. Duh! Another problem, thighs and legs are finger foods but breasts need knives and forks - which, of course, the bar doesn't have too many of. They've got plenty of chopsticks, but there just isn't much call for silverware. Click image for larger version

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    I bet if you call that 800 number, you can find out which company this Boweile grill was ripped off from. They likely copied it and didn't bother to change it.

    Well, to make a long story short (too late!) I didn't finish cooking until 2am. I eventually rolled up enough foil into a kind of baffle that I stuffed into the vent and it worked reasonably well, but by time I discovered this it was midnight. The Harley club showed up at one point looking for BBQ, but there wasn't any so they roared off into the night. I finished small batches which were then snapped up by hungry guests. The cool part was that since it went on so long, most guests went home and then the bar staff got to eat my BBQ. Usually it's all gone by the time they get the chance. I like to give these kids some exposure to foreign culture, they're all low-level service workers so the amount of good foreign food they are able to eat is very limited.

    Everything went wrong. People went hungry. The default black pepper in China is dust, ground to the consistency of talcum powder. I can get coarse ground, but of course the bar didn't have any. I put too much of it on the chicken and made it "too spicy", according to the Chinese who ate it. My macaroni salad that I had proudly made went uneaten on plate after plate with the comment "too spicy". When I finally ate mine, I understood as I had put too much purple onion and yeah, it did seem to have a little heat. There are duck legs in the fridge that I don't know what to do with. People left the party and went to get food outside. So I did all this work and it didn't really have any effect.

    Me and my buddy are going to go out this week and get a plate of metal fitted to block off the hole in the grill from one of the many local machine shops. And then we'll try again.
    Attached Files
    Last edited by Lost in China; March 22, 2015, 11:17 PM.

    #2
    LiC that's an entertaining story. Next time you need to put a few rules in place before you cook for your buddy's bar.

    Comment


    • Lost in China
      Lost in China commented
      Editing a comment
      So, what do you think about that grill? Should we try to stop up both holes, or just the top one? Or is it a lost cause? And how about the gas dials? Maybe I should tell the guy just to buy a new one if he wants me to cook again.

    • David Parrish
      David Parrish commented
      Editing a comment
      I don't know why but several of your photos won't display for me, so I'm not 100% sure what the issue is with the grill.

    #3
    The only pics that load are "
    My lame attempt at a solution.

    and down.....

    Comment


      #4
      Ohhh! I swear, this is the oddest forum software, I've never used anything like it before. Especially for a technical user like me, I actually use the features here. They were displaying fine on my machine...I've reuploaded them. The photos were kind of important, too......they provide important technical basis for my post. Please read it again with the photos and let me know what you think. Is this grill usable, am I going to be able to do ribs and other masterpieces on it?

      Comment


        #5
        LiC you might be able to use that grill, but it's going to be tough. Check out Meathead's article on gas grill setup. Once you get the holes covered you might be able to use only one or two of the burners to hit low and slow temps. Check out the article and let us know your plan of attack (which of MH's techniques you think will work for you).

        Comment


          #6
          Also, you have to be VERY careful when you restrict airflow on a gas grill. Now that I think about it, I'm not sure I'd recommend restricting it. If this is a custom grill modded from an assembly line brand name perhaps you can restrict the airflow... but I would find the specs for the non modded version and try not to restrict airflow more than is in the non modded design.

          Comment


            #7
            Seriously, all the stuff made there and sent here and you can't find a company to sell you a grill? I give you huge credit for persisting and trying to make it happen. Too many would have thrown their hands up and went home. Well done!

            Comment


            • chudzikb
              chudzikb commented
              Editing a comment
              Well, that's just not right. Nah, nah, you can't have this...

            • Lost in China
              Lost in China commented
              Editing a comment
              Oh, you CAN...you just can't buy it from the store. It's a lot more trouble than usual.

            • chudzikb
              chudzikb commented
              Editing a comment
              "Fell off a truck" stuff? That would not surprise me. I hope the job is good to give up the food you love!

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