Welcome back to MBQ&A, where the combined knowledge of our grilling die-hards comes crashing down like the hammer of Thor on your questions of food and beer. Now that we’re emerging from the shadow of winter, shit is getting real, and we’re here to help. Send your questions to our Facebook page, Twitter account, or the comment section below.
This week’s cast:
JB Mays – Food editor, Malort apologist
Death Toll Scholl – Social media harassment specialist, wing scientist
Tomax – Your newly-crowned Chicago MEATing champion for March
How do you gauge the heat of the coals?
Tomax: To judge the heat of coals, I usually just put my hand just over the grill grate. If I have to pull it away in under a second, it’s probably around 500 degrees, 1-2 seconds it’s probably around 400 and anything longer than 2 seconds its probably around 300. If you can put your hand against the grill and leave it there your coals went out hours ago.
You can also tell by looking at them. Bright red with a light covering of ash is the hottest. Full ash and crumbling is probably around 300-350. Don’t be fooled, ashes will stay hot for hours.
Death Toll Scholl: First off, use a chimney starter. Second, use a chimney starter. Now, reference Luke’s directions on how to judge the temperature with your hand. If you’re afraid of losing knuckle hair like Luke, get an infrared thermometer.
JB Mays: Seconded on the infrared. I use one for almost everything. They’re a contractor’s tool that we soft-handed food writer types have appropriated to better feed you piles of delicious meat. They work by reading the backbody radiation emitted by an object’s surface. Most of them have lasers to guide the user and encourage “pew pew pew!” sounds. It’s measurement from a distance, which is the opposite of the hand test – itself a good (and much cheaper) way to achieve the measurement.
If you’re wondering “how can you tell the internal temperature of food with a laser?” then I have bad news. You cannot. This isn’t for food, it’s for your cooking surfaces. In addition to tracking the coals, you can test the food-readiness of any cooking surface – especially cast iron. Dark surfaces give the most accurate readings – it doesn’t like steel a whole lot. You can measure the temperature of liquids with some simple conversions. You can check a baking stone for hot and cold spots or your smoker for heat loss. But no, you can’t check your steak with it. I own another thermometer for that, because this is America and I can do such things.
This is the one I use – it has excellent battery life and a insane range of -20 to 932 degrees. If you need a bigger range than that, then I suspect you are either terrible at cooking or participating in mad science.
Let’s talk soup. How about a kickass meaty soup for the end of winter. Got a recipe to share?
Death Toll Scholl: Potato Bacon Leek Soup, who doesn’t love meat that you don’t have to chew? Plus this recipe is made with leeks – and that’s a fun word to say. Plus there’s an entire pound of bacon in it.
Tomax: A meaty soup? To me, that means chili. If I’m making chili, I am using my buddy Chris’s recipe – Chris’s Magic Chili – he pretty much nailed it.
1 onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, sliced
2 green peppers, chopped
3 lb ground beef
2-3 habaneros, minced
8 oz canned jalapenos, drained and diced
1 12 oz. bottle of beer (something good)
12 oz. tomato sauce
Tabasco, to taste
Cayenne pepper, to taste
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp oregano
6 oz. tomato paste
40 oz. canned chopped tomatoes, with juice
48 oz canned chili beans
32 oz. canned mushrooms
3 tbsp chili powder
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tbsp Worcestershire
2 tbsp sugar
1 cup water
Salt and pepper, to taste
Step 1: Brown meat with chili powder, cayenne pepper and salt.
Step 2: Add all ingredients to crock pot
Simmer for 6-8 hours
Add cornstarch if thickening is necessary
Step 3: Get a big-ass bowl and some cheddar cheese and go hog wild.
What beer is a good pairing for a Bacon Sundae? It’s pulled pork, baked beans, mashed potatoes, sweet and sour coleslaw, more pulled pork, more mashed potatoes and a cherry tomato. It’s heaven in a cup.
Death Toll Scholl: It would probably be safer to replace the beer with a defibrillator. I can only assume that you’re eating this at some fair along with deep-fried everything and walking tacos. Since the beer at state fairs isn’t the finest, I highly recommend sneaking something good but easy-drinking in with you. Wisconsin has a good fair for those looking to add some pounds and also a great brewery. I would recommend New Glarus Moon Man to wash that colon cleaner of a sundae down.
Tomax: The best beer pairing for a Bacon Sundae is a second Bacon Sundae. Maybe a 40 oz. serving of fine malt liquor.
JB Mays: I like a man who looks at KFC’s bowl of fried chicken and wallpaper paste and says “Pssh. Diet food.” You didn’t really ask my opinion on it, but so long as you’re piling everything into the feedbag, a little heat in there will do wonders for the richness and the general feeling that you’re dying.
And with that, I’d recommend a clean, easy-drinking beer. I like a good Kölsch, myself. It’s a callback to the days before brewers decided to perform a hopkakke on all of their lighter beers. It’ll cool those meat-sweats right down. Happy shoveling!