Chilebrown at home

Friday, September 30, 2016


Extruded charcoal from the the Rambutan fruit tree is in the cooker today. Thaan brand, Thai style charcoal,  are small, tightly compressed logs, about four inches long that promises to burn consistently and persistently with little smoke and ash. These charcoals are sold out of Portland Oregon by the "Pok Pok" restaurant group.This sounded like a fun little experiment for the Mad Meat Genius test kitchen. I think it is time to fire up the grill.

The Thaan brand charcoal arrived in a neat and tidy five pound box. We will cook a 40 ounce aged USDA Choice rib-eye steak for testing purposes. Eight small charcoal logs (aprox 2 pds) were placed in a chimney starter. The charcoal logs have a hollow core that may or may not help in ignition. It turns out these little logs needed an exercise in patience to light. I had to use triple the amount of newspaper to start the logs. I even used a bellows to speed the process. It took a good half hour to light the charcoals. Once they were lit, we had a good consistent heat. The steak cooked as normal. When our steak was done we still had plenty of charcoal left with heat to spare.

Our steak was done to perfection. The Thaan charcoal did burn with little smoke and ash. Flare ups from dripping steak love were minimal. It took a good effort to light these charcoals. Once they were lit they performed decent enough. This was a fun and tasty experiment. Will Thaan brand Rambuten extruded charcoal be my new cooking fuel? I doubt it. The expense with shipping and handling plus the effort of lighting this charcoal just outweighed the benefit. The benefit being of little smoke, ash, longer cooking times and the Rambuten fruit tree are a renewable resource. Bring on the lighter fluid and cheap blue bag briquettes. (The last sentence was; "That's a joke son.")

Tuesday, September 27, 2016


The inspiration comes from the Public Broadcasting System bbq cooking guru Steven Raichlen. Chicken marinated with hot peppers, rum and then smoked with sugar cane sounded unique and a lot of fun. Smoking with sugar cane will be a Mad Meat Genius first. One of the vendors at the farmers market I manage sells fresh sugar cane. It comes in a 4 foot stalk and is inexpensive. (free if you are the friends with the vendor).I have some exotic hot peppers and limes growing in the yard that will be perfect for this recipe I will have to go to the store for some rum. The chicken is marinated eight to 12 hours in a spicy brine. There will be a link at the bottom for the original recipe.


  • 6 cloves garlic smashed
  • 1 bunch of chives or 4 scallions, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 to 6  habanero chiles,thinly sliced
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 branches of thyme 
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice berries
  • 1 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 cup white rum
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
Combine all these ingredients and let chicken marinated for 8-12 hours. I used chicken thighs. Cut sugar cane stalk into strips that will fit on your bbq grate. I also cut several sugar cane chunks for smoking. We used our Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker. The charcoal fire with sugar cane chunks was started. The grate was covered with a sugar cane trivet. The chicken was placed on this trivet. The remaining marinade was strained and boiled for three minutes. This mixture was brushed over the chicken every 15 minutes for 2 hours. After 2 hours the chicken reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees and was browned from the smoke. It looked tasty. Let's give it a try.

This was a fun cooking experience. The chicken was cooked to juicy perfection. The rum and lime juice was a prevalent flavor. It did have a slight warmth from the peppers. There was a smoke presence but had a neutral flavor. I could not identify a sweetness or unique flavor. It was a welcome component in the overall balance. This recipe is a keeper. It is a little involved but worth the effort. Steven Raichlen is an inspiration and bbq hero in my book.

Buccaneer Chicken
recipe by Steven Raichlen

Sunday, September 25, 2016


It was a beautiful day at the picturesque Gold Hill Vintners to hold a fundraiser for the  'Leukemia & Lymphoma Society". This was a fundraiser that was disguised as an informal rib cook-off between nine serious but fun loving bbq competitors.They were supplied the ribs to transform into competition caliber bbq entries. Ms. Goofy and I had the privilege to judge this contest. We would like to share a couple of images with you. Be careful viewing because you may walk away hungry.

Today, the prevalent bbq cooker was the U.D.S. (Ugly Drum Smoker). I did spy a Weber and a BGE in this mix. This contest was very informal and we were encouraged to fraternize with the cooks. This is verboten in KCBS contests. This contest was more about the fun and ultimate goal to benefit charity.It was a very pleasant morning chatting with the cooks and fellow judges. It was time to judge.

We had nine fantastic entries of ribs. It was very hard to pick a winner. I would like to share the auxiliary categories entries with you. In the auxiliary category there are no set rules. The purpose is to impress the judge's with anything but competition meat. The competitors did their jobs with; lemon custard tart, A.T. B. (Atomic Buffalo Turd), an Asian style slaw, ginger molasses cookies, faux ice cream sundae made with mashed potatoes and the overall winner; a cheesecake apple parfait. The cooks sure know how to spoil the judges.

A raffle was held Yours truly walked away with some mouth watering English toffee.What a beautiful day for a fundraiser. We enjoyed Gold Hill Vintners hospitality and house made beer and wine. We got to sample, taste and score fantastic competition barbeque. Best of all, this benefited the  'Leukemia & Lymphoma Society". It does not get any better.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


Today I would like to share a personal accomplishment. I am happy and proud to say the Expedition Half-Dome was a success. Team members David Miles, Rebecca Redding, Laura, andTed Gillette completed a 19 mile with elevation gain of 4,800 ft round trip hike from Camp Curry to the top of Half-Dome in Yosemite park. It was the most challenging and spectacular hike I have ever done. Climbing the cables was scary and an experience to never forget. Below is a video to give you an idea what we experienced. Wow! 

To reward this accomplishment we dined at the Ahwahnee hotel. A New York Steak was in order. This may of been the best steak I have ever eaten. The euphoric feeling I was experiencing may have influenced this opinion. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016


The Racing Honda burned some rubber on the way to Feather Falls Casino to partake in the festivities and bbq competition;"2nd Hot Q's & Cold Brews. This event was a fundraiser for local charities with Feather Falls Casino as the host. This event had a full fledged KCBS sanctioned bbq competition with 61 teams battling for a purse of $31,000. dollars. This large purse brought out a lot of heavy hitters with plenty of bbq cookers and charcoal to do battle. A motorcycle rally  also took place on this fantastic day. We would like to share a couple of images with you.

These were some shiny barrel cookers. They are nicknamed "U.D.S" cookers for ugly, drum smokers. This was not the case for these spit and polished beauties. Below is the hugest cooker on the property. They must of had a semi-truck to roll it to the site. I have so much fun checking all of the various cooker used to create championship bbq.

Mother nature was kind to us with a very warm embrace of temperature in the high 80's. It was a good idea to stay hydrated. Feather Falls casino just so happens to have a fantastic micro-brewery on the premise. Ms. Goofy can attest that this was some sudsy nectar of joy.. The live band entertained the guests as they sampled and chose a "Peoples Choice" bbq offering. We had a cool tent for our judging duties. It is a tough job to sample and score such fantastic bbq. We love our job.

The award ceremony was held and the winners declared. A lot of the teams, judges and festival goers made their way to the casino for some cooling relief. We played some adult games and some people walked away with cash. Even though we sampled some of the best bbq in the nation we still had room to partook of the buffet. This was no ordinary buffet. I had a grilled to order New York steak that was fantastic. Later that evening a "Boston" tribute band entertained. This was a party to remember.

Congratulations to the bba team "Lootin N' Booty BBQ' for winning Grand Champion. Thanks to the Feather Falls Casino for sponsoring this event. They rolled out the red carpet today. I know Feather Falls is a fun place to relax and let your hair down. What a great weekend. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


We continue our journey to sample Cobra Chilli bbq sauce This Australian based company creates “Premium All Natural Sauces” that are “Made with 100% whole foods”. There are no artificial preservatives, artificial flavors, artificial colors and no water added (label quoted).  We will be sampling their ‘2016 Scovie Award Winning” Ultra Hot bbq sauce which is fueled by the Carolina Reaper pepper. The medium label has habanero peppers to ignite their flames. Some chicken wings are on the bbq right now. Let’s give these sauces a try.

Ingredients: (Ultra Hot & Medium)

Ultra Hot…..Fresh tomatoes, sugar , malt vinegar (barley & wheat), fresh Carolina Reapers chili (5%), garlic, onion, spices, Worcestershire sauce, molasses, mustard powder, sea salt, citric acid (330) and contains barley & wheat.

Medium…. The same listed ingredients except Habanero replaces the Carolina Reaper pepper.

Aroma & Texture:

I smell tomato’s and molasses when I open our sample bottles. This is a thick puree with no seeds present.


Tomato’s and onions with a splash of vinegar for freshness is my first impression. The ‘Medium’ label has a pleasant warming effect with its habanero pepper heat.  The Ultra-Hot has similar tastes but has a heat that sneaks up on you with a powerful punch. The Carolina Reaper pepper demands attention with its potent sting. I like this heat. I also believe this sauce is a little heavy handed on the tomato flavor.


Medium:   The Habanero heat pleasantly warms this sauce to two stars out of 5 on the heat meter.
Ultra Hot:  The Carolina Reaper heat needs to be respected by the heat meter going to 3 stars out of 5


We love chicken wings and this would be our food test. One batch would be cooked and sauced with the Ultra-Hot and the other batch with the Medium. The Medium was sampled first. The Medium has a healthy kick with its habanero heat. This is a tomato based sauce and tomato is the predominate flavor.. We tried the Ultra-Hot which is fueled by the Carolina Reaper pepper. I personally liked the heat and flavor of the Carolina Reaper pepper. This sauce too, was heavy handed on tomato flavor.


Cobra Chilli Sauce has offered their version of bbq sauces fueled by the Habanero and Carolina Reaper pepper. The Ultra-Hot delivers a big bang of heat. The Medium has a very nice heat fueled by habaneros. Both of these sauces are heavy handed in the tomato flavor department. If you like a tomato centric bbq sauce these sauces may be for you. My wife and I are certified KCBS bbq judges and have tried many a sauces in our career. This sauce in our opinion was a little one dimensional. It was pleasant but leaned on the flavor of tomato.  In this humble reviewers opinion, I loved the heat but I believe these sauces are a little to one dimensional and would prefer a more balanced flavor.

Cobra Chilli Sauce

Thursday, September 8, 2016


The good people of Kingsford Charcoal contacted me with the subject line  of "Do you know it's time to tailgate?" They offered the suggestion; 'Tailgate season is here and it’s time to beef up what you throw on that grill'. We love to tailgate and our 'Tailgate Season' runs all year. Kingsford offered some tasty recipes and threw in a bag of their 'Professional Charcoal'. Today we are going to make a side dish with sweet Vidalia onions. We will also discuss Kingsford's Professional charcoal. I have been a fan of their original 'Blue' bag charcoal and have been curious of this new charcoal. Let's fire up the grill and have a tailgate.

I contacted the Kingsford representative, Samantha Haerti to ask her about the "Professional Charcoal". She replied; "It’s made with premium wood char that delivers a hotter and more consistent burn than Kingsford original. The high heat it achieves is good for searing and smoking! It also produces less ash, and is made of 100% natural ingredients. The briquets light quickly, so that food can be placed on the grill within approximately 13 minutes.". Let's give it a try.

Our first cook was with a stuffed pork chop from a specialty butcher. This chop was stuffed with a savory bread stuffing. We filled up a chimney and lit a couple of newspapers. I took a closer look at the unlit charcoal and compared it to an original Blue Bag charcoal. The Professional is a little lighter and seems to be a little thinner. The fire was lit. I have to concur the fact that these charcoals do light quickly. I even noticed the higher heat even though I was wearing my heat proof gloves. This fire was hot. The high heat seared and caramelized these chops very quickly. They were seared quickly and placed to an indirect area and covered with the kettle top to finish  off. The heat was amazing. These chops cooked quickly and even oozed a little stuffing out the side. This was one tasty meal.

Next up was a beautiful bone in rib-eye and a side dish of Atlanta's Sweet Vidalia Onion Bloom. This recipe was very simple to make. It had few ingredients and promised to deliver big taste. Once again I noticed the high heat the Professional Charcoal produced. I liked the quick lighting time because this Mad Meat Genius was one hungry tailgater. My wife, Ms. Goofy loved this side dish. She loved the crunchy cheese topping of the sweet Vidalia onion. This was another touchdown of good eats.

   Atlanta's Sweet Vidalia Onion Bloom

Recipe created by chef David Larkworthy of 5 Seasons Brewing
on behalf of the makers of Kingsford Charcoal

"Vidalia Onions were named after a town in Georgia, so this side dish is a perfect taste
of Atlanta flavor"

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Serves; 4

  •  2      medium Vidalia or other sweet onions
  •  1/4   cup butter
  •  1/4   cup bread crumbs
  •  1      tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  •  4      slices Swiss cheese
  •          salt and pepper to taste
Light grill using Kingsford briquets.

Cut onion in half across the middle. Then cut crosswise three times without slicing through the sides of bottom of onion. Remove two cross sections of onion to create small cups.

Place onion halves sliced side up on aluminum foil and evenly distribute butter, bread crumbs and parsley in the onion cups. Top with cheese ad salt and pepper . Fold aluminum foil around onion until all ends meet ot make a tight seal

Place onion packet on covered grill over indirect heat for 30 minutes., rotating occasionally. Onion shouuld be soft and 'melted ' with the bottom caramelized when done.

Serve as a side dish with grilled steak.

To answer the burning question of "Do you know it's time to tailgate" I reply a resounding; You better believe it. Thanks to the good people at Kingsford for the suggestions and bag of charcoal. The Professional Charcoal works great when you need higher heat for searing. This works perfect for chops and steaks. I think it is time for another tailgate.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016


Turkey Bacon? This is not the first time we have tried a similar product. This turkey bacon comes from Butler Meats located in Carson City Nevada. Merriam Webster defines bacon as; "a side of a pig cured and smoked". We are trying this so called 'bacon' with an open mind.
This cured meat was very lean and needed a little oil to prevent sticking in our black iron pan. It never really crisped like traditional bacon. It did brown up nicely. The bacon had a flavor of ham. It was salty with a slight hint of smoke. There was a little sweetness to make a good balance of flavors. Overall it was pretty tasty. Would I call this bacon? No, but a label of processed turkey parts might not sell as well.

Saturday, September 3, 2016


Best In The West Nugget Rib Cook-Off is a destination festival. It is called a contest but in reality it is a week-long festival devouted to the all popular pork rib. Ms. Goofy and I spent several days soaking in the fun and festivities at this huge event. Our judges badges were left at home because we would be spectators at this event. We like to arrive midweek to avoid the massive crowds. The weather could not of been nicer with pleasant 80 marks on  thee thermometer. Stroll down the midway with us and enjoy some ribs.

One of the highlights of this festival for us is the rib eating contest. Ms. Goofy is a Joey (Jaws) Chestnut groupie. We always arrive early to claim our spot up front to experience the show. Sometimes it can be a little hazardous because last year Ms. Goofy got hit in the head by a wayard rib. We were not disappointed with the fierce competition provided by Joey's arch nemesis Matt Megatoad Stony..They had 12 minutes of time to consume as many ribs as possible. Joey Chestnut was victorious with eating a total of 9.6 pounds. Ms. Goofy escaped without injury.

There is more than just ribs to experience. We loved the deep fried pickles served with ranch dressing and a spicy Sriracha sauce. We also spied some very meaty looking beef ribs that impressed. Prehistoric turkey legs filled the need for meat on a stick. There was just so much food to experience. Ribs were king this week with the lines to prove it. 

You would think with all the ribs and fixings we would be finished. This would not be the case today. I still had room for this beautiful New York steak consumed at the steakhouse inside the Nugget casino. We did not need reservations tonight because everybody was outside enjoying ribs. The Best In The West Nugget Rib Cook-Off is a destination festival. I highly recommend going midweek. Maybe we will see you in row one to witness Joey Jaws Chestnut protecting his title next year.