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Archive for May, 2014

The Mr. Grill brush, and a similar, dirt-cheap one I found at the drugstore.

The Mr. Grill brush, and a similar, dirt-cheap one I found at the drugstore.

I admit there are nastier things than a crud-covered grill. Like anything found under my daughter’s bed, for instance. Was that cheese … or meat?

But given we tend to cook meals on our grills and not under the beds of our children, it’s a fairly crucial thing to keep our grates clean. (One quick tip: I will on occasion take the whole grill grate, put it in my oven, and set the oven to CLEAN. The grill comes out good as new.)

Mr. Grill must have seen too many disgusting pictures of my grate, because they were kind enough to send me their super-deluxe grill brush in exchange for “an honest review posted on your blog.” My new friend Rizzi asked me to say this:

Mr Grill’s grill brush features brass bristles and a solid oak handle.

Check! I can confirm that it does. Although, I confess, I wouldn’t know oak from birch. Or maple. Or anything Ikea might sell as flooring.

Anyway, since we are a barbecue of science – more specifically, shoddy science –we put on our lab coats and put Mr. Grill’s brassy brush to the test.

The first step of course was to cook chicken wings. While delicious, wings make a horrifying mess on the grill grate. (On a separate note, I made a pretty terrible batch of wings. Right after shoddy science, we believe in honesty here at Blue State BBQ, and if/when we make crap wings, note we are willing to admit it.)

To test the Mr. Grill brush, which Amazon is currently selling for about twelve bucks, I purchased a very similar looking brush at Walgreens for $1.99 so we could compare. Was it really better? Or just super duper shiny?

I did two tests.

For Test One, I applied 10 (and only 10) firm strokes against the dirty grill grate with each brush, and compared the results. I’m sorry to report that the cheap-o grill brush, which I found between folding picnic chairs and bug repelling Tiki torches at Walgreens actually did a better job. I was really rooting for those sparkly brass bristles.

For Test Two, I decided not to count strokes, and just clean as I normally would, scrubbing until the grate was as clean as it was going to get. I’d say I put in equal effort and got equal results. As much as I’d like to, because I really like free stuff, I can’t say the Mr. Grill brush was any better than the other.

Good, yes. Better? Well...

Good, yes. Better? Well…

So it seems to me the main reasons to buy the Mr. Grill brush are 1) it’s definitely nicer looking, with its long oaken handle, and glistening gold brush, as if it were forged by Elves, and 2) just holding it, you can tell it’s a better made, presumably longer lasting piece of equipment. I’m guessing I’ll still have the thing next year, which is more than I can say for any grill brush I’ve ever owned. (I usually find them rusty, corroded and half buried in dirt in my garden somewhere.)

I would bet that I’d go through a few of those inexpensive brushes before the Mr. Grill brush shows any wear at all. But that’s what we call a long-term study, and you know what that means! I’m just going to have to barbecue more, and more, and more….

Thanks again Mr. Grill. I like your brush. It remains to be seen if I like it for 5 times the price.

Meanwhile, don’t forget my tip about putting the grate in your self-cleaning oven.

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Mesquite-os. Blech.

Mesquite-os. Blech.

Mesquite is an innocent, plain looking tree that can grow in really dry climates. Mesquite is also a corporate patsy, wrongfully associated with salty, sugar bombs in the snack aisle that claim to be BBQ.

A quick note to any beginners: Mesquite isn’t a powder on your chips, it’s a type of wood. Once you finally graduate from cooking with despicable grocery store briquettes in favor of quality lump charcoal, you’ll find cooking with just plain wood (mixed with lump or entirely) will be your next milestone.

I don’t know how Mesquite got confused with that very artificial flavor of barbecue. If I were a botanist, I’d be outraged, Lorax style. What did Mesquite trees do to deserve this kind of treatment? Well, besides plaguing the interior of Hawaii, proving to be nearly impossible to eradicate, and producing creepy, practically poisonous bean pods?

And what’s especially confusing: I’ve always thought Mesquite kind of sucks. There are so many other, better choices of wood. Hey Frito Lay — Why go with Mesquite?

But this is one of those questions that you keep to yourself. Barbecue people can be so judgmental. Not me of course. OTHER barbecue people. I’m very, very, very open minded all the time. Like a bear trap.

So thank goodness for Cook’s Illustrated.

The editors of Cook’s Illustrated did a wood smoke taste test pitting (ha!) eight different types of wood against each other in a cook-off. They tested each on pork, fish, chicken and beef.

Of the eight woods tested, only one was unanimously disliked: Mesquite. Our favorite label-friendly wood, Mesquite wasn’t just bad, it was by far the worst. They described it as “harsh” and “acrid” and “reminding some of burnt rubber.”

I finally feel vindicated.

Their favorites (a tie) were Apple, which I do use regularly, and Cherry, which I confess I’ve never tried. And my personal favorite, Hickory, came in third place, which the editors described as “generic, but good” and “balanced.”

A note to Locals: You can get large bags of Apple wood at the Golden Steer butcher in Bellevue. I’ve used Apple off and on over the past year or so, and I do really like it. But my only complaint is it’s over-powering when used by itself. I think it really needs to be mixed with ordinary lump charcoal.

I don’t know if Cook’s Illustrated wields enough power to put an end to the Mesquite Madness. And maybe it doesn’t matter. If you’re scarfing down Mesquite flavored Pringles, chances are you either don’t care about barbecue, or you’re partying in Washington or Colorado, if you know what I mean.

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We believe in public service here at Blue State BBQ, so here’s a quick, educational piece on some silly mistakes you can probably avoid this holiday weekend.

(On a serious note, for any beginners:  Don’t open your grill lids too fast. Fire starved of oxygen is just dying to flare up … wildly. If you religiously open your lid slowly, it becomes a habit, and you’ll forever keep your eyebrows. Don’t use lighter fluid, period. It’s dangerous and it makes your food taste terrible. Use a sawdust firestarter, available now in almost any grocery store.  Or if you don’t mind shopping online, I love these. Never put your face over the grill, even if you think there’s no way it can flare up.  Fire happens. And also … if you’re seeing your friend do something stupid around a grill, here’s a tip: put the camera down and tell your friend to cut it out.)

Oh and speaking of customer service, here are the top three links on my blog from past Memorial Days:

How to Barbecue a Duck

Ribs as easy as 3, 2, 1

How to Make Cheeseburgers that Don’t Fall Apart

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Steak time

Just noting that it’s really nice outside, so these steaks simply had to be cooked.

Feels like summer around here.

Feels like summer around here.

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