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The sun is out so let us set fire to lots of dead animals

I have eased up a bit on “serious” blogging the last few days – I almost felt I had reached the point of mid-summer blog burnout – and have been too busy with other stuff, not least work. But I cannot resist linking to these fine folk who have set up a blog dedicated to the ferociously competitive world of barbecue food. God, I feel hungry already. No doubt those citizens of Jefferson’s Republic are gearing up for 4th of July. In a moment of transatlantic solidarity, may I ask commenters what sort of BBQ’s they will be doing on that day to give me some ideas?

I’ll be back to bashing Gordon Brown and the rest of them later, I promise.

34 comments to The sun is out so let us set fire to lots of dead animals

  • llamas

    Please do not confuse barbecue (cool and slow) with grilling (hot and quick).

    Our 04/07 plans are not completely gelled but the plan for the barbecue is buffalo brisket, for the grill, sirloin burgers.

    Propane – it’s God’s Gas.



  • andyinsdca

    Buffalo burgers. Great American symbol and quite tasty.

    And somewhere (fark if I can find it) is a quote from one of the Founding Fathers about how Independence Day is to be celebrated, something about cooking, drinking, shooting of guns and whatnot. I shall continue my research for the quote and will post it later.

  • Sunfish

    I’ve narrowed it down to two options for after work.

    1) Brats or Italian sausages. A well-hopped ale will complement the spicyness pretty well. Almost any good India Pale Ale would be good. I mean, I love IPAs anyway, but this is where they really shine. (For my fellow Coloradans: Avery IPA. Definitely Avery. If you can’t get Avery, then Stone out of San Diego has a good one. I don’t know what to suggest for my English friends, but there have to be good IPAs in England considering that’s where the style was invented!)

    2) I’m trying to decide if I want to go there: A steak[2], still mooing and bleeding when I take it off the grill. What will make this complicated is, there’s a maker of accessories for firearms that includes his own brand of spice rub(Link) for meat with every order. No kidding, tactical seasoning. I’m thinking to try that out although I can’t decide whether to use it on a perfectly good steak or not.

    Either way, a spinach salad and some corn on the cob is critical.

    Not sure about dessert, although there’s this old Mexican guy with a pushcart selling paletas on my street every other warm-weather holiday.

    And cooking with gas is against my religion. I’m sure that God said something about the one true method of outdoor cooking requiring hardwood coals.

    [1] whoever invented the idea of making the vilest of all vegetables rot, and THEN eating it…he and I need to have a chat.

    [2] Either ribeye or New York strip, I haven’t decided.

  • Sunfish

    Be careful. You may be in San Diego, but it’s still California. I’m pretty sure that drinking and shooting are illegal there and the cooking had better be carbon-neutral.

  • I thought the Americans had ‘bison’ not ‘buffalo’, whatever Ted Nugent has to say on the topic. And as Sunfish points out, barbecues release about three times as much C02 as the vilified patio heaters, which in turn release three times as much C02 as the guests emit from their cars on the way there and back.

  • llamas

    Sunfish wrote:

    ‘I’m sure that God said something about the one true method of outdoor cooking requiring hardwood coals.’

    Sure – if you like your meat to taste of burnt wood. Me, I like my meat to taste of meat – meat tastes wonderful, that’s why God made cows out of it – and so I prefer the flavour-neutral option of propane. This allows me to add the carcinogenic terpenes of my choice and not the terpenes that were incidental to the alleged variety of the tree.

    There’s more lumbermill skiff sold as ‘hardwood’ than you can shake a stick at.

    I realaize, of course, that propane vs wood is a religious question right up there with the Virgin Birth, the nature of the Trinity and the doctrine of Transubstantiation, and will not be resolved here. Or ever. Just getting my vote in.

    Sunfish, how do you keep structure in your buffalo burgers? This has been a hit-or-miss problem for us. Not that I mind buffalo loose-meat sandwiches, but would like to be able to build a reliable patty when called for.



  • James

    I plan to consume standard issue cook-out fare on 4th July courtesy of my neighbor’s generous invitation to dine. Hamburgers, steak, shrimp, and the usual ancillaries like corn on the cob, potatoes, fruit salad, ice cream, domestic beer, soda, and lively conversation.

    Oh — we’re also having some not-so-standard issue deep fried turkey.

    That the 4th falls on a Friday this year will allow the stupidity to continue until all and sundry have passed out.


  • Alas, I fear that this distinction between “barbecue” and “grilling” depending on the speed of the cooking is an American thing. Proper Australians barbecue enormous steaks and beef sausages over eucalyptus smoke, and this may be over hot coals or it may be over an open flame, but the word is barbecue regardless. (Gas and electric barbecues are still generally described using the same word, but real men don’t use them). “Grilling” in Australian terms tends to refer to a source of heat coming from above the meat rather than below it. (Such a grill will usually be electric).

  • llamas

    Michael Jennings – bear in mind that Australia has always had a surfeit of really-good meat for the ‘hot-and-quick’ cooking method. It so happens a I have a reference in front of me that describes the conditions of employment for a ringer on a cattle place in Queensland in 1948 – it includes the provision by the employer of all the fresh beef the ringer cares to buy for 3d a pound.

    Well, you have meat available that way – I’d grill it too!

    The US distinction between fast and slow is the result of an earlier era where good meat of any sort was a rarity and many people had to make do with the worst and toughest cuts of the worst and toughest animals. Until the last 50 years or so, the supply of quality meat in the US has always lagged behind the population. Poor folks (and there were none poorer than those in involuntary servitude) had to figure out a way to make that meat edible somehow – and so you have 24-hours-and-more barbecue.

    Alisa – we have tried the egg approach. Results were -spotty. Cooks Illustrated/the Test Kitchen has taken various tries at this problem (mostly working with beef) that we have tried with buffalo – none were consistently effective. Commercial buffalo patties are generally disappointing – it would appear that they add Elmer’s Glue in an effeort to keep the patties together No Matter What – this is not the effect we aim for.

    If anyone has a surefire approach for a big buffalo patty that will stay together at least to ‘medium’, I would love to hear it.



  • Is the problem specific to buffalo?

  • Daveon

    A repeat of Saturday’s Braii I think. Chicken pieces rubbed in Peri Peri spices, drizzled lightly in Olive Oil and smothered in garlic.

    Left over night and BBQ’d over a medium heat until cooked and a deep crispy brown on the outside.

  • mr_ed


    Like, you sound like prehistoric land bridge immigrants! I’ll bet you even have, like, hides covering the entrances to your caves!

    What you do is, like, go to the grocery store and get pre-marinated tofu. Slap it in, like, a bun of genetically-pure, organically-grown, hand-ground whole wheat.

    Then, like, eat! (Just don’t get the sauce in the bowl of radish sprouts.)

    > I thought the Americans had ‘bison’ not ‘buffalo’

    Americans have Bison bison, otherwise known as buffalo … if you’re an American. If you’re not, shove off! It’s our danged animal, and we’ll call it what we want!

    (By the way, it was named after the Buffalo nickel, which in turn was named for the Iroquois dopers who first made it in Buffalo, NY. So it’s also called the Indian-Head Nickel.)

    > Propane – it’s God’s Gas.

    Methane – it’s People’s Gas. And Buffalos’ Gas. And Swamp Gas! Completely organic, totally natural … make it at home!

  • Midwesterner

    mr_ed has been grazing the flowers off of the hemp again, hasn’t he, Wilbur?

  • Victoria

    Of course, we Texans like our bbq, and thank you to Llamas who brought up that grilling and barbequeing are completely different.
    My family likes to have fish on the grill, tilapia and haddock. A good tenderloin, correctly spiced, tempts even the most discriminating gourmet. Lean pork ribs, again, correctly spiced, are delicious…and messy fun!
    I am all for PETA…People Eating Tasty Animals…
    Though, it’s interesting how so many people have gone over to the dark side of grilling and bbq-ing, aka propane gas. Charcoal makes everything taste better!
    Happy 4th of July!
    Enjoy your grilling and bbq-ing…and of course your tasty animals…

  • andyinsdca

    This is from John Adams…he wrote it before Independence Day was set as July 4:

    “July 2nd, 1776 will be the most memorable day in the history of America. It will be celebrated by the following generations as the greatest anniversary. It shall be done with solemn acts of the admiration of the all-powerful God as the day of the liberation. It shall open be celebrated forever with pomp and parades with shows, games and sporting events, cannon shots and bonfires of an end of the continent up to the other one, from now.”

  • CFM

    Heh. 4th of July is my father’s birthday. WWII Vet. So we do it right:

    Location: Lake Travis, Texas. Breakfast: Jalapeno and Pepper Jack Cheese Omlettes. Bacon about a quarter inch thick. Cajun coffee. Lunch: Buffalo burgers, stuffed with home-grown Jalapenos and cheddar. Big fries. Dinner Course 1: 40 pounds of Albacore caught off Baja and waiting in my freezer, cut in two inch thick steaks, smoked in Dad’s big Texas smoker. Dinner Course 2: Beef Brisket, grilled with chickory in Dad’s big Texas Barbecue. Very, very “bleu”. Fried okra. Taters. Asparagus.

    Sunfish, you’re right. I think if you use gas in a barbecue in Texas, you could be deported as a Yankee. Michael Jennings, you teach us about eucalyptus, we’ll teach you about grill vs barbecue. mr -ed: my family is a strange mixture of French and Creek Indian (yes, Cajuns) – how would you like to relax on our local fire-ant mound? Johnathan, send Brown over here. We have plenty of fire-ants.

    All day: Fresh Tortillas, tortilla chips, homemade salsa with Ro-tel, jalapenos, homegrown tomatoes, lots of onion, cilantro, and (to add a little spice) Habanjeros. Also some fresh homemade Artichoke dip.

    Between meals, water skiing, and the rifle range. My brother has a new rifle chambered in .338 Lapua. Yee-hah. 9 p.m. Fireworks show on our side of the lake, and if he does it this year, we can see Willie Nelson’s fireworks on the other side of the lake. Also have our own stash of explosives. We have lots of little kids to teach about blowin stuff up (safely, of course). Oh yes, lots of beer and scotch (for AFTER the shooting), accompanied by a big pile of cigars fresh rolled by a Cuban fellow down on 6th street in Austin.

    We got some fine women too. But they don’t want me talking about them on the internet.

    It’s gonna be a good day.

  • Sam

    When the A/C comes on in our household the majority of our cooking moves outdoors. So that means steaks of many sorts (I like sirloin, she likes rib eye), pork chops, chicken breasts, brats and sausages, and the usual hamburgers and hot dogs. Sometimes the steaks and chicken is marinated in Yoshida’s, sometimes sprinkled with a good steak rub, and sometimes grilled naked. Along with that we will grill up potatoes and veggies in foil packets with appropriate herbs and seasonings. Add a green salad, potato salad, or chips as available from the pantry. Serve with a cold Coors Light, Ironstone Symphony, or vodka tonic depending on mood. Then sit and contemplate the bounty of God under the setting sun as the sound of firecrackers and the smell of smoke bombs fills the senses.

    BTW, we also cook frozen pizzas on the grill. Just place it frozen on a greased pizza pan and place it on the grill with all burners on low. When the edge is golden and the cheese is bubbling, you are ready to go.

    I gave up on charcoal many years ago when I got tired of the time and mess involved in cooking with it. I haven’t looked back.

    Oh, and when we want real barbecue we go out to eat.

  • Sunfish

    Thanks for the links. The Nethergate notes look interesting, and especially the Old Growler. I haven’t thought of porters as being especially hoppy, but I imagine that if that works it all it should work very well indeed.

    The problem is not so much that the meat is buffalo as it is that it’s just very lean and a little dry already. I get the same complication with elk.

    Eggs work okay for me. I haven’t gone all the way to medium, though, since I tend to prefer meet still complaining about being eaten.


    Sunfish, you’re right. I think if you use gas in a barbecue in Texas, you could be deported as a Yankee.

    To think that all this time, I was watching this TV show where the archetypical Texan was a seller of propane and propane accessories…

    And don’t send Gordon Brown to Texas. Send him here. When he wakes up with an empty wallet in some motel on East Colfax Ave next to a 400# drag queen, maybe that’ll lighten him up a bit. And if it doesn’t, we release the pictures to the papers only someone needs to photochop Dave Cameron’s face on top of the transvestite’s.

  • veryretired

    llamas—try a clamshell metal food holder that locks down on the item(s) and is itself turned to cook both sides while it holds the meat or fish or veggies immobile inside.

    I started using it for fish many years ago, but its also good for other fragile or crumbly foods.

  • Sunfish, that image shall haunt me for the rest of the day (if I am lucky).

    it’s just very lean and a little dry already

    Then why would you want to eat it in the first place? I tried it once, and wasn’t impressed. But then, how about adding some quality olive oil? Can’t hurt.

    BTW, it may not solve the shape problem, but try mixing in some baking soda (start with about 1/2 tsp/lb, and see what happens). It tenderizes the meat, and makes the burgers fluffy.

  • The baking soda should be tried w/o the eggs first – I have no idea what they might do to each other…

  • RobtE

    The secret to making your buffalo burgers hold together is easy. It’s “fat”.

    For really juicy, to-die-from beef hamburgers you need to skip the extra-lean, minced steak stuff at the grocery store and to go instead for the cheap stuff, the stuff that’s about 20% fat. The flavour, as the TV chefs say, is in the fat. The lean stuff just gives you hockey pucks.

    Also, don’t mash the burgers together too hard when you’re shaping them. Just enough to make them hang together.

    With buffalo, the problem is, as Sunfish points out, that it’s very lean. There just isn’t enough fat to make it hang together. And the lack of fat can make for a very dry, unpalatable burger. Get some pork fat (fatback is good) and grind it. A sausage-grinder is ideal, but a food processor will work if you don’t grind it to a puree. Add about 15-20% by weight to your ground buffalo. And don’t mash the burgers together.

    It’s not the healthiest way to do it, but the result is barbecue bliss.

  • Barbecue? Grilling?

    When you live down south, you get exposed to something even more divine.

    Meat Smoking………

    Here’s most likely what I’ll be doing…(Link)

  • mr_ed

    > East Colfax Ave

    Would that be the Colfax that lies between 14th and 16th and runs past a shiny gold dome just east of Broadway?

    I live in that metropolis. Nice dinosaur footprints at the west end of that particular Colfax Avenue.

    I used to spend 4th of July weekend backpacking up to Hunky Dory Lake at 12,000 feet, contemplating during the day the nightmares I had at night when I didn’t get enough oxygen while I slept.

    There were the remnants of a tiny stone cabin up there, dating from the days of square nails and now-purple and -broken bottles.

    Someone left a bit of coal, and I burned some one year. I don’t have any idea how people cooked with it! The smell gave me such a headache!

    Of course, I wasn’t getting that much oxygen….

  • llamas

    Thanks for the suggestions regarding cooking buffalo burgers.

    We know it’s a question of the fat content – buffalo burger from the locker (where they grind in beef suet) gives better results than burger from the fancy buffalo meat store, which is marketed on the basis of its extreme leann-ness.

    Eggs makes hockey pucks.

    We’ll continue to experiment with ways of getting fat into the meat without destroying the flavour.

    Sunfish – your mention of East Colfax Avenue indicates that it is a small world. If I mention that you are likely well-aware of a recent felo-de-se in the parking lot of one of the arms of government in your area, you may deduce that we have some common areas of interest.



  • Julian Taylor

    Re tofu. How do you shoot it and will PETA (a.ka. People Eating Tasty Animals) object to its killing, thus making it all the more worthwhile?

  • Well, you wanted them to stay in one piece – hockey pucks do that, don’t they:-) Try just the yolks. Freeze the whites, you can use them in some pie or something another time.

  • tdh

    I missed the hecatombs at the Phantom Gourmet’s (phantomgourmet.com) Barbecue Beach Party; the Red Line to Boston was down. Supposedly they had intercontinental participation. But they trashed their website, for a while at least, to promote it.

    The bison burgers at the Living Earth (lefoods.com) in Worcester haven’t been crumbly. For a while they were serving a spaghetti dish with “bison balls” that were, fortunately, merely meatballs, also of normal coherence.

  • ajh

    llamas –

    Another Coloradan here. This may not be a meat-purist’s favorite recipe, but I mix ground buffalo with shredded cheddar cheese, cumin, a little cayenne and maybe some barbecue sauce. Serve with A-1, not ketchup. The cheese adds the missing fat and saves the bother of a slice later.

  • blaytor

    Llamas –

    I have the same problem with lean turkey. I found that mixing in a good handfull of panko crumbs and some olive oil (along with any other seasonings you fancy) helps keep the burgers in one piece.

  • Carl H

    In the best American tradition it’ll be fatburgers, bratwurst and italian sausages on the (charcoal) grill. Along with grilled red bell peppers for bruschetta, + fire-toasted baguettes and pita. German potato salad, hummus, tabbouleh, bbq beans, marinated cucumbers + vidalia onions, melons and home-made vanilla-bean ice cream w/fresh strawberries and blueberries marinated in fraise des bois and chambord. Zinfandel, my own ‘vatted’ bourbon mixture and various local microbrews.

    “Think globilly, drink hillbilly”.

    If the range isn’t closed on the 4th, I’ve got a new-to-me Yugoslavian mauser 24/47 and a K98 that are crying out to bruise my shoulder, and a recently purchased W. German police trade-in Sig P6 (225).
    My kind of fireworks.

  • notaclue

    You guys at Samizdata almost make me regret the unpleasantness of 1776-83, and again in 1812-14. I will mostly likely celebrate our unfortunate separation by grilling slabs of ground beef. Nothing fancy at our house.