Last weekend Carla and I went to Boise to attend the wake for my good college friend Craig – The Chief – Eldridge. It was wonderful to spend and afternoon late into the night remembering our friend. Along the way, someone asked why I haven’t posted about cooking recently. Let’s rectify that today, shall we?
A few weeks ago I bit the bullet and bought a new Mak 2 Star pellet grill. I had one back in the day – 2011 to about 2015. It was fantastic at pulled pork, ribs, and brisket; but it just did not shine at grilling because it didn’t get hot enough; I got tired of cleaning up the mess; and I stressed out about it when cooking. My Weber gas and charcoal grills were great at the grilling, but I just wasn’t happy with the barbecue.
Last year Mak Grills changed their design which allows the temperatures to get hot enough to grill on. I went back through my cooking logs and blog posts; read on-line; and talked to the manufacturer and experts down in Dallas, Oregon to see if I could remediate the other two problems I had with it. I determined that if I liberally use aluminum foil – without blocking the air flow – the clean up would be easier. Since the new model gets much hotter the grease that isn’t caught in the foil would be cooked off at higher temperatures.
As for the stress, I figured out I was making myself crazy. My old cooking logs had columns for the set point, the temp the grill was reporting, and the temp from another probe. I think it was Lewis Carroll who said “A man with one watch knows what time it is; a man with two watches is never quite sure.” Stressing over the “actual” temperature was a fools errand. And especially now since the Mak thermocouple probe can be moved around, I’ve decided to set it and forget it.
I picked up the grill and my older son Jeff helped me put it together a couple of weeks ago.
This weekend I finally got a chance to try it out. I’m going to work through some recipes I’ve cooked on the gas and charcoal grills to determine if the Mak can hold up. Barbecued chicken thighs would be a good place to start.
I made a rub based on one Mike Vrobel at Dad Cooks Dinner created. Except I left out the salt. I also made a very quick BBQ sauce from that same recipe – except I heated it up to a low boil when mixing everything together.
I changed the rub by not including the salt. Instead, I sprinkled some kosher salt on the trimmed thighs a few hours before cooking to dry brine them.
Then 30 minutes before grilling them, I added the rub.
It was time to set up the grill. The Maks have a “Flame Zone” where you can remove one or both of the covers to create a direct heat source. I uncovered the back half and laid some foil over the front half. Look closely at the back half of the grill and you’ll see a series of holes to allow better contact with direct flame.
I then added an upper grate just a little higher than the foil to hold the chicken – similar to what you would do in an oven. A number of experts recommend this set up in that it allows for better air flow around the meat. Once the grill reaches 400° the chicken goes on.
The grill chugged along nicely for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes the thighs were up to 175° internal temperature and coming along nicely..
At this point I removed the aluminum foil tray and transferred the thighs to the lower grate to grill them. I slathered some of Dad Cooks Dinner’s quick BBQ sauce and tossed some corn on the cob on the back.
Because the sauce has sugar in it, it will burn if grilled directly over the heat for anything more than a few seconds. Using the indirect heat the sauce set nicely without burning. I removed the ready thighs to the warming box while the corn finished.
Dinner is served. A very simple dinner – chicken and corn – no salad as we would normally have. It was beautiful outside and after a few weeks of rain we didn’t want to spend any time inside preparing food.
They were very good. Next time I’ll try bumping up the heat to 450° to get the skin a bit crisper. Often with pellet smokers the skin gets rubbery. These were not rubbery at all but could have been a bit more crunchy. Of course you can’t let it turn over to burned.
These were very good and tells me that t I may not need a gas grill any longer. I still have a few more recipes to try.