Q: Mike, what’s the deal with this sous vide tool you use and what is your recommendation?
A: Sous vide means “under vacuum” in French and refers to the process of vacuum-sealing food in a bag and then cooking it to a very precise temperature in a water bath. This technique produces results that are impossible to achieve through any other cooking method.
My pick for the wand is direct from Anova - the Wi-Fi or Bluetooth version running at 800 watts.
Q: With the sous vide, what kind of bags do you find are best?
A: Vacuum sealing is the best method; however, Ziploc bags can do the trick. The danger with Ziploc bags is water leaking in the bag (double sealing the bag provides an extra layer of security). My pick for a vacuum sealer that offers the best value is a “FoodSaver” which can be ordered from Amazon.ca.
Q: What type of container should I be using for sous vide?
A: To put it simple, really any container can be used to sous vide; however, my preference is to use something that is insulated and has a lid. A plastic container with a plastic wrap cover and tinfoil works well or for heavy duty jobs, a cooler with a hole cut out of the lid to insert the wand in will help with large and long cooks.
Q: What is the most important tool you use when you’re grilling?
A: I use my digital probe a ton and it’s a must for any Grillmaster. My choice is a ThermoWorks MK4 (Barb says that the pink is the fastest) - choose your own colour! A less expensive option would be the ThermoPop.
Q: I know you made the joke about propane grills, but how can I get the most out of my propane grill?
A: You’re right! You won’t get the “Best Steak in the World” with your propane grill, but there are ways you can elevate with it. You can make a smoke pouch or use a smoker box to get some great BBQ smoke flavour on your gas grill. To do this, add some soaked wood chips to a pouch made with aluminum foil and poke some holes in it. Use your smoking tray if you have it. My preference for a smoke tube is a nice round stainless steel tube.
Q: If I were to get into charcoal grilling, what do I need to know?
A: A few key things would be to always use lump charcoal over briquettes, never light with lighter fluid – use a paper towel with some cooking oil on it, and ceramic grills are often the best. The ceramic grills can be expensive, heavy, and fragile, so some people go with steel, double insulated air tight smokers as a secondary option.
Q: I’ve heard about pellet grills a lot lately, what’s the deal with them?
A: When it comes to pellet grills, bigger is often better and you get what you pay for (but sometimes just getting in the game is OK too). These work well for electronically controlled temperatures! Some important tips are to
always keep them covered when not in use (wet pellets can cause serious damage to the machine) and always clean the ash pot before each use.
Q: Are there any other unique options out there?
A: Well, there are stick burners as well as The Ugly Drum Smoker (UDS). Stick burners are considered the traditional BBQ with a low and slow cook. You build a fire in an offset box, usually attached to a round cylinder body -
think of a large 400lb propane bottle, the preferred model is a reverse flow offset. These grills require continuous monitoring but are considered the best BBQ and are favored by purists. The UDS is a 50-gallon vertical oil drum with some minor modifications. These cooking vessels have become popular again with fancy air flow valves and top vents. Don’t discount these grills as they are turning out some serious competition BBQ.
Q: What are your favourite types of wood to use?
A: I keep it pretty simple with a cherry or other fruit wood – never a soft wood. I sometimes use a hickory or mesquite for a heavy smoke like a Texas Brisket, but you have to limit it or your guests may say they feel like they are licking an ashtray.
Q: What are some just general BBQ’ing tips:
A: 235F is the low and slow sweet spot target temperature. 205F internal temperature for pulled pork. 203F internal is for brisket. 161F internal for chicken breast and 181F internal for the chicken thigh. Also, never sauce until the last 15 minutes! Always grill with the fat side down (protects the meat), and spritz every hour if you like (apple cider, brown sugar and bourbon… did I say bourbon?).
Q: Mike, can you provide your five keys to the perfect ribs?
A: Rib perfection can take more than five keys, but here are my five most important:
• Use side ribs over back ribs, St. Louis style is preferred (centre cut)
• Always remove the back silver skin
• Rub before you cook (leaving the rub set overnight works great with ribs)
• Use the 3-2-1 method (smoke three hours at 235F, two hours in the
wrap to braise, and one hour to tighten, sauce and honey)
• Remember to use the bend test to check done-ness
(if your ribs are fall off the bone, the meat is over cooked)
• An extra, and the most important - DON’T EVER BOIL YOUR RIBS!
Q: When you decide to cook a steak, what are you going with?
A: I prefer a ribeye; Barb prefers tenderloin - so we grill tenderloin! All joking aside, use the best product you can find such as AAA or prime steak. Kobe Beef is the Wagyu brand called Tajima-Gyu and raised in a method in Kobe, Japan. Real Japanese Kobe is highly marbled and very, very expensive - usually $100 a pound and up. You could also consider Australian or American Wagyu for a reasonable compromise of cost. My most important tip, make sure your steak is 1 ¾ inch thick – that is the perfect steak to grill.
Q: My spouse will not eat medium-rare steak… what should I do?
A: If you want well done meat, consider a fattier cut like short ribs and cook low and slow. If you really, really want well done-steak, cook medium rare, slice into pieces, and then sauté in pan with garlic butter so it remains tender.
Q: Can seafood be done on the grill?
A: Seafood is actually awesome on the grill! Some keys are to make sure the grill is well oiled and hot (temperature of 500F-600F so the skin does not stick). You can also use a perforated pizza pan for easy access on and off (again, make sure it’s well oiled). For seafood, you don’t want to over flip – the skin will release when cooked.
Q: What’s your choice for seafood on the grill?
A: U10 scallops are a serious winner on the grill. I also enjoy skewered shrimp as well as cedar plank or cedar wrapped salmon.