On June 28, 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed legislation declaring Labor Day a national holiday. It would be observed the first Monday in September. It is a product of the American labor movement that would soon be responsible for unionizing labor from coast to coast across this great nation.
Labor Day is an interesting concept to me. It’s like your nation saying, “Hey, there are 365 calendar days in a year. You can have this one off!” Today, it’s not even the norm to have Labor Day off. If you work in a hospital, there are no such thing as holidays. If you work for a public utility, people still need water, electricity and gas service. If you work at a restaurant, not only are you likely working, but you should expect increased customer traffic! Are you a department store employee? Labor Day’s an excuse to have a sale!
Truly, holidays are becoming a thing of the past. If you are fortunate enough to actually have off on yesterday’s “national holiday,” it’s pretty much become an excuse to sit around, eat BBQ and drink beer. Me, never wanting to miss out on an opportunity like that, decided to fire up the offset smoker.
Offset smokers are the granddaddy of all smokers. And boy, can they get expensive. You can spend anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to several thousand. I’m an intermediate level BBQ’er at best, and I really lucked out with this purchase that I made on a whim. Picking up this Char Griller for the bargain basement price of $199 was one of the best investments I’ve made to date. If you are the kind of person that loves cooking for a crowd or loves to bulk cook but don’t want to spend a lot of money, this grill cannot be beat. I say this with all honesty – I am completely a “you get what you pay for” kind of guy, but this is one of those rare exceptions. The quality is incredible for the price, and it works fantastic AS LONG AS YOU SEASON IT AS PER THE INSTRUCTIONS AND YOU BUY THE GRILL COVER! This is a cast iron grill, not a stainless steel grill. You have to maintain it. Spray it down with olive oil cooking spray after each use, let it cool, then cover it back up. If you leave a cast iron grill exposed to the elements and don’t continuously oil it it’ll fall apart.
Smoking meat is an interesting hobby. It is a lot of work – you have to pay very close attention to monitor temperatures. It is dirty – between the charcoal, wood and smoke, you will be dirty and smell like an old chimney by the time it is all over. It is expensive. It takes nearly a whole bag of charcoal and several pieces of wood to get the job done. Because of that, I like to use all the grill real estate to get maximum return for my time invested (there’s got to be an investment application in there, somewhere). And it takes a lot of time – but it is a labor of love. But you will be handsomely rewarded in the end.
A few tips:
1.) NEVER USE LIGHTER FLUID. Or instant charcoal. Use only natural charcoal. Pick up a charcoal chimney starter, stuff some magazine paper under it, fill it up with charcoal and let it smoulder for 15 mins to get the coals nice and hot. You don’t want to be smoking your food with petroleum fumes. Nasty. Once hot, toss on a few more charcoal briquettes. Get your temp to around 180 degrees F, then add your wood. I use a mix of hickory and mesquite. Be careful with mesquite. The flavor is heavy.
2.) If you’re using bacon, grill your bacon first, then cook your meat where the bacon was sitting. My pork roast had to be started well ahead of the wings. After the bacon was done cooking, the wings were transferred to the now well-greased foil surface.
3.) Get creative. Grills aren’t just for meat.
4.) Always roast fat side up.
So what’s with the post-Labor Day celebration?
Leftovers, of course!
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