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Archive for November, 2013

Ready for winter.

Ready for winter.

One thing you usually don’t get in November in Seattle: Dry spells.  Which explains why my practically perfect Primo Barbecue table, which came unfinished, started to develop black and green spots of the mold and mildew ilk.

My custom-fitting heavy duty rain cover seemed to be of no real use against the rot. (Swamp Thing fans, you know what I’m talking about.)

Well, I don’t know about you, but I prefer that my food stays at least three cows lengths away from any icky black goo. So I bought sandpaper, stain and a big can of urethane and waited — and waited — about 6 weeks — for two dry days in a row.

And finally, here it is! Looks great, and now we’ll see what 4 coats of ethyl ester of carbamic acid can do against the Northwest elements.

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Smoked Mussels

Now, upon which crackers shall I eat these?

Now, upon which crackers shall I eat these?

Blue State BBQ’s 9 year old, who won’t eat a carrot, apple, or cherry pie, declaring them disgusting, would eat a barrel full of slimy mussels. Even with her older sister nearby pointing out “you’re eating guts, you know,” she can’t be swayed. The kid loves a good bivalve.

So, I figure, you know what’s even better than a barrel full of mussels? A barrel full of smoked mussels.

There’s no particular trick to smoking mussels.  The instructions are basically… cook the mussels, then smoke them.

So, with the help of a few handfuls of wet mesquite chips, I put about three pounds of mussels (already cooked for 7 minutes in boiling butter, dry white wine, mixed with shallots,  garlic, parsley, salt and pepper) on the smoker over indirect heat.  The temperature was at about 175, and I let the mussels smoke for about 20 minutes.

As expected, they came off the barbecue with an orange-ish color.  Then I popped them in the refrigerator, because I happen to love smoked seafood cold.

So how did they taste?

Smoky! And my 9-year-old is pleased.

Apparently, you can cook and smoke the mussels at the same time. And I suppose that’s probably easier overall.  But even so, this has to be one of the all-time simple things to cook on a Kamado.

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This much I know: “New Car Smell” has nothing on the aroma of a pristine, clay barbecue, slow cooking its first brisket.  In fact, I think I should patent a hanging automobile air purifier shaped like a whole brisket, with the scent of smoking hickory, that drips fat on your dashboard.

Mmmm.

Anyway, I’ve had a few folks on the blog and in the mailbag have asked me if I like my new Primo barbecue. The short story: It’s great.

But here’s the full review.

The three best things about the Primo are the size, shape, and the accessories.  The three worst things are the efficiency, the damper and basin.

The good

I’m leaving out the obvious fact: Large, heavy, ceramic cooker equals awesome.  The grill is fantastic, I recommend it, and I’m just nit-picking here. If you’re still using a gassy Weber tin can from  Home Depot, it’s very much worth it to invest in a clay cooker.

I’m also leaving out that I happen to find the Primo really appealing aesthetically. You know, eye of the beholder and all.  But this beholder finds the Big Green Egg to be big, green and ugly.  So, I love the fact that the Primo looks good.

But I think even Egg owners would agree that the Primo Oval XL grill is really big. Really, nice and super darned big.  The brisket I cooked was a 16 pound monstrosity that even my butcher was surprised I wanted.  That conversation kind of went like this:

“That’s a big brisket. Are you sure?”

XL Primo Barbecue holding a XXXL brisket.

XL Primo Barbecue holding a XXXL brisket.

“Yes.”

“You’re sure you’re sure?”

“Yes!”

“Ooooooooh-kayyy then Mister! (long pause). You sure?”

Well, the Primo Oval had no problem accommodating the whole thing with even some room to spare.   I’ll have no problems feeding the waiting hordes.

But even better is the oval shape, which I was skeptical about at first.  Now that I’ve used an oval grill, the round shape of my old Kamado now makes no sense to me at all.  With the oval shape, I can easily move the charcoal to one side, and the space for indirect cooking is much larger.  Begs the question, why aren’t all circular barbecues oval shaped?  Someone check Kepler’s notes.

My favorite thing about the Primo though, has to be the available accessories.  I haven’t yet purchased everything I want, but it’s really impressive what you can add to the Primo to make cooking easier. Next on my list is definitely the basin divider.

The bad

The first thing I learned is that the Primo is definitely less efficient than my old Kamado.  What this means is, somehow, more air is getting in, and the coal is burning hotter and faster.  I’ve had to replace charcoal more often, and the whole grill is clearly burning hotter than expected.  It’s an air issue that I’ll have to just get used to.

Don’t get me wrong: It’s still way (way!) more efficient than a normal charcoal grill.  It’s just not as air tight as my old cooker.

The second disappointment is the damper. Darn it … It looked so cool!  It’s these two metal disks with holes in them that pivot independently allowing a lot of control over how much smoke can escape, and they can also pivot as a unit to make bigger changes.

But, honestly, the system pretty much sucks.  First, the top disk isn’t physically attached to the barbecue in anyway and can literally fall off when opening the lid.  Second, because of the pivoting action, every time you open the lid, both disks fall back into a nearly closed position, forcing you to re-establish their previous position.  And lastly, they’re metal, which means they get hot.  The first time I went to adjust the disks, I discovered that the hard way. So, now, I find myself tapping at the damper disks with my grill brush to adjust air flow.  Lame.

Finally, I don’t love the basin.  For as large as the Primo XL is, the ash basin is actually very shallow. That means I’m going to have to clean the thing constantly, and as my loyal followers all know, I’m lazy.  Secondly, there’s no easy access to the basin during a cook.  My old Kamado had hatch that allowed me to add charcoal.  For me to add lump on the Primo, I had to remove my brisket, remove the grill, then add the coal.  This isn’t an issue most of the time, because most of the time, one isn’t cooking something the size of a elephant’s ass.  But, still, silly design that there’s no easy way to add charcoal.

Meanwhile…

Could be worse. It could be too rainy to barbecue.

Could be worse. It could be too rainy to barbecue.

I also bought a pine table in which the Primo sits. The table was designed perfectly, and makes moving the barbecue easy.

The only unfortunate part is the wood is untreated. So, I went to the hardware store, bought the right brushes, sandpaper and varnish so I could treat the table to endure our Pacific Northwest weather.  All I need now is two dry days so I can complete the job.

Hmmm….

The people in Seattle can stop laughing now. C’mon! Pity me.

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