End the Tyranny of Barbecue

Barbecue is by definition cheap. It can trace its origins to people doing whatever they could to convert the shittiest cuts of meat into something edible. It was meant to be an affordable no-frills meal.

Now, barbecue is serious business buddy. This list of the Kansas City Barbecue Society’s rules for the 2015 season illustrates that quite clearly. Look at it! No serving alcohol? I quite literally attended a church when I was a kid that served beer at its annual barbecues.

While I am certain that competition cooks can make some delectable pork, I also know that it’s not all that hard at home. These competition types would lead you to believe that only expensive ceramic smokers can render a pork shoulder edible, but I have news for them (and you!) Pork shoulder, aka Boston Butt, is so full of fat and connective tissue that all it requires to be great is time and heat.

And so, I will now share my easy recipe with you. You will need a bone-in Boston Butt, a big pot, a skillet, and just a few ingredients. Oh and one more thing…time. This is easy and relatively hands off, but it will take between 4 and 6 hours. BBQ is easy, but it takes time. Just start it around lunch on a Sunday!

This is a Boston Butt, or proto-pulled pork.

First, take your meat and generously salt it. Don’t be afraid to over season this thing, it’s huge. Then, in your skillet, brown the hunk of pig thoroughly on all sides. Really brown it. Make it black and charred all around. It will only help the flavor. After it’s browned, toss it in your big pot, fill the pot with cheap. cheap beer (I like Miller High-Life for this, because it’s dirt cheap for a sixer of tall boys) and bring it all to a boil. Honestly you could end the recipe here if you want. Just let it simmer for about 4-6 hours. Your pork will be great honestly.

If you want it to be even better, add 1 tablespoon of cumin, a small can of tomato paste, a clove or two of garlic, and a fistful of onion powder to your beer and butt. That’s it.

To serve, remove your butt from the pot into a large bowl. Get a fork in each hand, and just stir the meat.If you cooked it long enough, it’ll shred like…something that shreds easy. Paper? Who knows. Anyway, shred it, add about a half cup of the cooking liquid from the pot, a teaspoon of salt, and stir again. Serve the meat on hamburger buns with bottled BBQ sauce.

If you have good friends or family, they will appreciate the time and effort you put in and enjoy their meal. If you have bad friends, they will bemoan the omission of a smoker. Remove these people from your life, they will only bring you down.



Pancakes Are Surprisingly Easy

Why would anyone do this?

Pancakes rank among the easiest of breakfast foods. Pancakes are, at their most basic level, fried batter. All they require is flour, butter, milk, egg, and some type of leavening agent (baking powder.) They require roughly three tools: bowl, pan, whisk (or a fork.)

Why is it then that so many breakfast or brunch places sell them for so much money? Or why would anyone attempt to “hack” pancakes with a ketchup bottle? Because people are afraid of pancakes. They can be messy, and inexperienced cooks can easily mess them up. I promise, they’re simple. Let’s explore pancakes.

First off, the mess factor. Batter is viscous, and if you let it dry, it will stay there. Which is why pouring it through a funnel into an empty condiment bottle is a nightmarish plan. Secondly, the reason they are easily ruined by the inexperienced is because, as a batter, they can burn easily. Just keep this in mind while reading the following recipe: you don’t have to cook everything on high heat. It doesn’t speed things up enough to justify burning all your food. Now, time for the recipe.

In a large bowl, mix 1 egg, a cup of flour, 1/2 a cup of milk, and a teaspoon of baking powder. Mix until thoroughly combined. Is your batter too thick to pour? Add a little bit more milk and stir. Too thick? More flour. Do this until the mixture reaches the ribbon stage.

Now, to cooking. Heat a nonstick pan on medium-low heat. Spray some non-stick cooking spray on it. Pour a bit of the batter into the pan when it’s good and hot. Pour enough so that the batter forms into the size and shape of a pancake.

You’ll notice relatively quickly that bubbles will form on the uncooked side of the cake. When these have mostly burst, leaving small dents and holes in the batter, it’s time to flip. Get a spatula, slide it under the thing, and flip it. Cook for 3-5 minutes. Repeat until the batter is used up.

Would you like to gain extra points? You can make your own syrup! In a small saucepan, or pot, or whatever you have, throw a handful of chopped berries. Strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, whatever. Add to this a splash of orange juice, the juice from half of a lemon, and 1/2 a cup of sugar. Now, before heating the pan, crush the berries as best as you can with a fork or spoon. Now you can turn the heat on under the proto-syrup. Heat at medium temperature, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens.

Do this for a loved one sometime, and pretend you just know how to do this. See, pancakes are easy.

Let’s Make a Regular Grilled Cheese!

My first post called out recipes that use waffle makers to grill a cheese sandwich. Now it’s time for me to explain why. I understand that it may save you some time…maybe. The link above recommends cooking for 5 minutes total, with a 10 minute “prep time.” This recipe for a regular grilled cheese calls for a 5 minute prep time and 15 minutes to cook. These times are all pretty subjective, and it’s entirely possible that either will be ready before the other.

Here’s the real problem with this little tidbit: it requires a specialized piece of equipment. The idea that you need to buy this thing to save a little bit of time is absurd. Furthermore, when squished between two heavy pieces of cast iron, the bread and cheese become so thin, and so overcooked, that the sandwich becomes sheetlike. Grilled cheese sandwiches are meant to be crisp on the outside and soft/gooey on the inside. So do yourself a favor and make your next grilled cheese in a damn pan.

Why Kitchen Hacks?

We’ve all seen the articles. “30 Hacks to Simplify Your Kitchen,” or “15 Kitchen Hacks Everyone Should Know,” or whatever the Hell. Reading those lists is kinda like shopping at an upscale appliance store, in that you see new things, think to yourself “Oh wow! I could use that!” then mostly forget about them. This is because most of them are useless, overly-complex trash. Why would any sane individual make a waffle iron grilled cheese when they have a damn pan?

The reason, dear reader, is because these kitchen hacking articles make even the most basic culinary maneuvers sound like truly Herculean efforts. If they didn’t, why would anyone listen to their tips? When they make separating eggs sound like running a marathon, they’re manipulating the reader into trying that dumb water bottle trick instead of just using their hands.

Now I’m sure that these little tips help some people. Honestly, there’s a good chance that reading these things on Buzzfeed or Pinterest or what have you has motivated more than a few people to start cooking their own meals. But, these articles are holding you back! These little tricks keep people from learning the correct way to do things in the kitchen. This, in turn, limits a person’s culinary know-how to basic recipes and maneuvers.

And that is why I’m writing this. I hope to use this blog to debunk some of the more maligned kitchen conundrums, and attempt to prove once and for all that no one need stoop to using “kitchen hacks.” Because cooking for yourself is easy! And more healthy! And cheaper than eating out! And, honestly, you might as well do it correctly.