I just got an email reminder for my kids to place their online football picks for week 8. Week 8? Boy has football season gone quickly! Even so, it’s never too late (or too cold) to do some weekend grilling and barbecuing for the big game or a tailgate party.
Recently, I took advantage of our unseasonably-warm-for-Colorado weekend weather to cook up some chicken in our Masterbuilt electric smoker. It’s so easy to smoke a chicken that I don’t know why I don’t do it more often. (It probably has something to do with all that fish and venison in our freezer! Chicken’s a rare treat at my house.)
World Harbors marinades make smoking chicken easy
Using a premade marinade like those from World Harbors® makes the process even easier. This time around I used World Harbors Maui Mountain Teriyaki and World Harbors Maui Mountain Sweet 'N Sour to marinate a couple of chickens. (You can use any variety you like!) Combined with the smoke from the sugar maple wood I used, both birds turned out moist and delicious. If you have a smoker or know how to smoke chicken using a grill, the process is easy.
This Mama’s tips
- Since most smokers are large enough do two or more birds at once, take advantage of the situation and smoke extra chicken(s). Eat one immediately while you’re watching football. The extra chicken is great the next day in salads, sandwiches, stir fry or soups or reheated in the oven or microwave.
- I like smoking fish (lake trout is wonderful) while I’m smoking the chicken. I place the fish under the chicken so the chicken fat drips on to the fish. Decadent!
- If you want your chicken to cook even faster, try spatchcocking it!
Smoked Marinated Chicken
- 1 whole chicken (3 to 4 pound fryer)
- 1 bottle of World Harbors marinade of your choice
- 1 sealable plastic baggie
- Remove giblets, liver and neck from chicken. (Set aside to make stock.)
- Place whole chicken in plastic bag.
- Pour in entire bottle of World Harbors marinade.
- Add some water if necessary so marinade completely covers the chicken.
- Seal bag and set in refrigerator overnight or for 24 hours. Turn bag once to evenly marinate chicken about half way through the process.
- Heat your smoker to 235 degrees F and add your favorite bird-friendly wood (apple, sugar maple, etc.)
- Remove the chicken from the marinade. Place the chicken in the smoker, breast side down to start. After 1 1/2 to 2 hours, turn it over to finish.
- Cook the chicken until it reaches 160 degrees F. Make sure to check the temperature of chicken at the meatiest part of the breast between the bones.
- Remove the chicken from the smoker and let it rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.
- Serving size: 1/2 pounds of meat per person
Disclosure: Mizkan, the parent company of World Harbors, provided compensation for this post. All opinions are my own.
What do you do when you cook up a meatloaf that’s delicious, but falls apart when you slice it? Make meatloaf hash! Just chop up the meatloaf with a spoon and add some healthy mix-ins like rice or vegetables or just a bit of ketchup, like I did above.
That’s what I’m making until I’ve perfected my Smoked Meatloaf recipe. It’s almost there but needs a little more work. I want a meatloaf that slices up perfectly when it’s hot out of the oven – or in my case the smoker. I’ve made it twice – and it’s good enough to share – but maybe you can give me some help on perfecting it by commenting your suggestions below.
How to smoke a meatloaf
Well, you find a big pipe and…
Seriously though, I first heard about smoked meatloaf when my husband came home raving about the taste after sampling it at a local restaurant. I did a search and found My Smoked Meat Loaf Recipe from Smoking-Meat.com. (If you own a smoker, you must sign up for Jeff’s Smoking Meat enewsletter.) I liked his recipe but wanted to combine it with my recipe for Boulder Firefighters Meatloaf.
Also, I wasn’t crazy about how Jeff set up his uncooked loaves. The first time I made smoked meatloaf, I didn’t use a loaf pan. I ended up with a flat, squishy meatloaf that was delicious – thus the Smoked Meatloaf Hash.
The next time I made it, I knew I would have to smoke it in a loaf pan. But how?
Preparing your loaf pans
There’s two problems using a loaf pan:
- The meatloaf won’t get exposed to the smoke.
- It will cook in it's juices and stay mushy.
After discussing it with Paul, he came up with an idea of taking a metal loaf pan and drilling holes in it. He drilled two holes on the ends, three on the sides, and seven on the bottom. Then he sanded off the burs.
You could also do this with a disposable aluminum loaf pan. However, since metal loaf pans were only $6 at WalMart, he went out a bought a couple just to make smoked meatloaf in. (He obviously wants me to make this all the time.) You can pick up few loaf pans for a buck or two at thrift stores or garage sales, too.
Smoking your meatloaf
Now that the pans will drain, I needed something to catch the juices. I decided the easiest method would be to place the meatloaf pans on the bottom rack of the smoker so it would drain directly into the water dish at the bottom. Easy!
This worked pretty well until we realized that as the ground meat cooked, it would expand and block the holes. About half way into the cooking process, I had to tip to the pans and empty out some of the juices from the top and sides. Maybe we need more drill more holes in the pans. Or maybe just emptying the juices a few times will do the trick.
The other issue was cooking time. If I put all the meat (2 pounds) into one loaf pan, it would take three to four hours to cook. Since I didn’t have time, I opted to divide the recipe in half to cut back the cooking time to about 90 minutes. Smoking food is all about planning, so next time I’ll make sure I have enough time to cook just a two pound meatloaf in one pan. I’ve a feeling a bigger loaf will be more solid and sliceable.
Smoked Meat Loaf
- 2 pounds ground venison, lean beef or turkey ((The leaner the beef, themore likely the meatloaf will fall apart. But the lower the calories and fat grams!)
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup carrots, grated
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 pieces whole wheat or gluten free bread
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup egg whites
- 3/4 cup ketchup
- 1/4 cup ketchup or barbeque sauce
- Set smoker for 250 degrees.
- Soak the bread in warm water in a small bowl – enough to moisten the bread but not too much so it turns into mush
- Place the ground meat in a large bowl.
- Add softened bread, onion, carrots, garlic, egg, egg whites, and ketchup. Mix with your hands until all the ingredients are incorporated.
- Put meat mixture into a specially prepared loaf pan (see above).
- Place loaf pan on lower rack, just above the water pan.
- Add mesquite wood chips and smoke for 3 to 4 hours until the center registered 160 degrees.
- If necessary, pour off extra juice that gathers on top of the loaf pan every hour.
- You can finish the top with ketchup or barbeque sauce about 30 minutes before the meatloaf is finished smoking. Some people like to use bacon instead.
- Serving size: 1 slice
- Calories: 190
- Calories from Fat: 18
- Total Fat: 2.0g
- Saturated fat: 0.1g
- Unsaturated fat: 1.9g
- Sodium: 393mg
- Total Carbohydrates: 12.7g
- Sugar: 8.2g
- Fiber: 1g
- Protein: 28.2g
- Cholesterol: 23mg
If you’ve been paying attention, you may have noticed that I’ve become a little bacon obsessed here at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet. It all stems from a friend’s annual bacon themed party, where I made Goat Cheese and Bacon Pops. While I loved the idea of bacon wrapped Tater Tots, and the bacon jam was fabulous, my favorite was the Bacon Caramel Popcorn.
Creating a healthier bacon
I know you’re wagging your finger at me, saying, “Anne-Marie, bacon’s not healthy! Why are you blogging about it?” Well, I’m all for indulging, in moderation of course. After all, I’m NOT telling you to consume a pound of bacon in one meal. Honestly, there IS such a thing as too much bacon. After my friend’s party, I woke up with a bacon hangover the next day and felt pretty crappy. So glad his party only comes once a year.
Making my own bacon let me work around my food sensitivities. If you have food allergies or sensitivities, making food from scratch like bacon lets you control what’s in it.
Also, with the trend in buying local and organic, many people are harvesting their own food through hunting, fishing and gardening, or buying from local, small family own farms. I also have friends who are raising their own chickens for eggs and pigs for pork, and a few are even foraging for wild plants and mushrooms. Making your own fruit preserves, pickles, jerky and cured meats is part of that trend, too.
Finally, making your own bacon means you can limit the nitrates and nitrites in your diet, though culinary expert Michael Ruhlman says that The “No Nitrites Added” Hoax is, well, a hoax. He writes in his For Charcutepaloozians: Food Safety and Common Sense post:
Nitrates and Nitrites are naturally occurring chemicals that our bodies rely on for a number of reasons. Green vegetables such as spinach and celery are loaded with them. Of all the nitrite in our bodies, as much as 93% of it comes from the nitrate in vegetables. Our bodies naturally convert nitrate into nitrite, which works as a powerful antibacterial agent, particularly in an acidic environment (such as in our stomachs).
In the 1970s, concerns arose that nitrites could be carcinogenic. Current studies conclude that large quantities (as in contaminated water) can do serious damage, but that the quantities added to food do not.
The pinking salt used in making bacon is sodium nitrate. Michael says it’s “by regulation 93.75% sodium and 6.25% nitrite” and that it kills bacteria that cause botulism in smoked and ground meat. As you can see from the recipe below, it’s a very small amount. However, if you’re still freaked out about nitrite, I’d advise you giving up bacon. Easy said than done!
Making bacon is easy
Those are a few reasons why I’m sharing my recipe for homemade bacon. Another is because making bacon to your tastes and dietary specifications is incredibly easy to do and the end result is so much tastier than the stuff you can buy at the store or even at your local butcher.
I smoked mine in our Masterbuilt Electric Smoker, but you can cook it in your oven like my friend, Barbara of Creative Culinary, did in her Maple Bourbon Bacon. I based my recipe on Barbara’s, but changed a few ingredients that I can’t eat due to my food sensitivities (the sugar and the maple syrup). I also followed Michael Ruhlman’s smoking advice in his book, Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing.
Barbara, who lives about an hour from me, had a tough time finding her pork belly and pinking salt. I was fortunate that my local butcher had a couple of pork bellies in stock in their freezer when I called to check. While I was picking it up, I asked they butcher if he carried pinking salt. He didn’t but he told me that I could get it at the local Ace Hardware. It seems that the guy in charge of Ace’s extensive grilling section makes his own bacon, so always keeps it in stock.
Agave & Bourbon Smoked Bacon
- 2 ounces kosher salt (about 1/4 cup)
- 1 tsp pink curing salt
- 1/4 cup Sweet Tree Coconut Palm Sugar
- 1/4 cup Madhava Raw Agave Nectar
- 1 5 to 6 pound pork belly
- 4 cups Maker’s Mark bourbon whiskey
- If necessary, defrost your pork belly in the refrigerator. You cannot cure frozen pork!
- Combine the salt, pink salt and sugar in a bowl and mix well.
- Rub this mixture over the entire surface of the belly.
- Place pork belly in a 2 gallon Ziploc bag or shallow container. (The salt will make the pork release water creating a brine).
- Pour the agave nectar over the pork belly. Make sure it’s distributed evenly on all sides of the pork belly.
- Refrigerate, turning the pork, and redistributing the cure every day for seven days.
- Remove the pork from the cure, rinse thoroughly, and pat dry.
- Place it on a rack set over paper towels in the refrigerator and allow to dry, uncovered for 12-24 hours.
Smoking your pork:
- Set your smoker to 200 degrees. I used maple wood pellets for smoking. Hickory, apple, or pecan would work, too.
- Fill your water dish with four cups Maker’s Mark or your favorite bourbon or whiskey.
- Place your pork belly in your smoker and cook it until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 150 degrees, about 3 hours. (I used the meat thermometer that attaches to our smoker, which is why my bacon has a hole through it. No biggie.)
- Remove from smoker and let cool slightly when it’s cool enough to touch. If your pork belly has skin on it, cut it off leaving as much fat as possible. (The piece I bought already had the skin cut off).
- Allow to cool, then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze until ready to slice and use.
Tips on cooking homemade bacon
- It’s very challenging to thinly slice homemade bacon. Partially freezing it, then using a very sharp knife helps. Even so, your bacon slices will be much thicker than commercially made bacon.
- A little of this bacon goes a long way. It’s very “hammy” and thick. So if you usually have four pieces of bacon with your Sunday breakfast, you may want to only have one or two pieces instead.
- Fry your bacon on low heat otherwise it will quickly caramelized and burn.
- You may want to bake your bacon in the oven at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes instead of frying. It doesn’t get crispy this way, just warm and juicy.
- Remember, this bacon is already cured and cooked. When you’re frying or baking, you’re just warming up the already-cooked bacon, so don’t worry about it being raw or undercooked if it’s not fried to a crisp.
Holland House recently announced their summer sweepstakes “Grill of Your Dreams” on Facebook. The grand prize winner will receive a $2,000 Visa® Gift Card, which may be used to purchase a new grill. All you need to do is go to the Holland House Facebook page, “like” it, then register with your info. Then you play a round of the Gulping Grill Game to win an instant win game prizes, a Holland House bottles gift pack. You can enter once a day. The Grill of Your Dreams goes until August 5, 2011.
Get grilling with Holland House
Holland House vinegars are a wonderful way to create marinades and sauces for summer grilling. Here’s a recipe for healthy chicken skewers that uses Holland House Balsamic Vinegar that would be great with grilled corn on the cob or veggie kabobs at your next grilling party.
Skewered Chicken Balsamico
- 1-1/2 pounds chicken tenders
- 1/3 cup Holland House Balsamic Vinegar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce or gluten free tamari sauce
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried
- 3 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse-ground black pepper
- 6 (8-inch) skewers
- Place chicken in sealable gallon plastic bag.
- Combine remaining ingredients (except skewers) in a bowl. Stir to dissolve salt.
- Pour over chicken and shake bag gently to coat. Seal bag and refrigerate 8 to 10 hours, turning bag over once.
- If using wood skewers, soak skewers in water 30 minutes. Preheat grill to medium-high heat.
- Drain chicken well.
- Thread chicken onto skewers.
- Grill over low flame until cooked through.
- Serving size: 1 to 2 skewers
Disclosure: Mizkan, the parent company of Holland House, provided compensation for this post. All opinions are my own.