Skirt Steak: Part 1

Skirt steak comes in two varieties: outside and inside.

Outside skirt steak comes from the plate section, below the rib section and between the brisket and flank. It’s said to be the cut of beef that started the fajita craze years ago. It’s got good flavor and tenderness, but it’s very hard to find. Most outside skirt steak is shipped overseas to consumers willing to pay top dollar for it.

Inside skirt steak comes from the flank section. It is thinner and narrower and tougher than outside skirt steak. This is the cut you’ll find at most supermarkets and on restaurant menus.

Inside skirt steak comes as a single, long piece of meat. I cut this skirt into three pieces so it was easier to work with and marinated it in Korean barbecue sauce. If you were making this for fajitas, you’d substitute an appropriate fajita or carne asada marinade.

img_2416-1024

img_2419-1024

I grilled the meat at high temp on my Weber Summit 450 gas grill. All skirt steaks benefit from very intense heat, either on the grill or on cast iron. You want a good crust on the exterior and medium doneness. Any more or less done than medium and the meat is tough and chewy.

img_2421-1024

img_2424-1024

After cooking, cover loosely with foil and let rest for just a couple of minutes before slicing the meat thin across the grain and on the bias.

If you ever see outside skirt steak at the supermarket, give it a try. It’s a real treat! Otherwise, inside skirt steak will have do and makes for a great meal, too!

Gas Grills Rule

img_2356-1024According to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, in 2013 the grill industry shipped nearly 14 million grills and smokers in North America.  That number breaks down as follows:

  • Total Gas Grill Shipments (58 percent of sales) – 8,053,000
  • Total Charcoal Grill Shipments (40 percent of sales) – 5,590,000
  • Total Electric Grill Shipments (2 percent of sales) – 302,000

Gas grills continue to dominate as the most popular type of grill sold!

Learn more about 2014 grilling trends from the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association.

TVWGG Hot Dog Taste-Off: Stray Dog Division

Welcome to the TVWGG Hot Dog Taste-Off!

This is the fifth and final round of our summer hot dog taste-off for 2014. If this is your first visit to the taste-off, make sure to read the first installment for details on how we’re selecting and judging the hot dogs.

Last time, Applegate The Great Organic Uncured beat three rivals quite easily in the Organic Division. This time, we taste three mutts that did not fit easily into our previous division contests.

The Stray Dog Division

The entries in this division include:

  • Bar-S (Sigma): $4.99
  • Armour (Armour-Eckrich): $2.79
  • Kirkland Signature (Costco): $10.99

Bar-S claims to be the #1 best-selling hot dog brand in America. The most popular varieties found in supermarkets in San Jose, California were chicken/pork/beef and chicken/pork, but we kept shopping and eventually found an all-beef variety for our taste test. At $4.99, it was a bit pricey compared to better-known brands like Oscar Mayer and Ball Park.

Armour is an iconic American brand, and those of a certain age will remember the famous jingle about Armour being “the dog kids love to bite”. We searched high and low for this dog and finally found it hiding in a Mexican supermarket. The hot dog itself was on the small side, weighing in at just 1.5 ounces. This is 1/2 ounce short of the 2 ounce criteria we established for hot dogs in the taste-off, but the judges granted a waiver to this classic dog so we could taste it in the competition. At $2.79, Armour was one of the less expensive dogs in the taste-off.

Finally, Kirkland Signature is a popular hot dog brand sold at Costco. Not to be confused with the 1/4 pound version sold in the food court, this is a standard length, 2 ounce hot dog that comes 12 to a package, 3 packages in a bundle. We had to buy 36 hot dogs just to taste 2 samples! However, at $10.99 for 72 ounces of meat, Kirkland Signature represents the best dollar value of all hot dogs in our taste-off.

(Note that in these photos, the hot dogs are always shown in the order listed above.)

The Stray Dog Division – Front view
The Stray Dog Division – Front view
The Stray Dog Division – Rear view
The Stray Dog Division – Rear view
The Stray Dog Division – Without packaging
The Stray Dog Division – Without packaging

The hot dogs were grilled together and served to the judges.

Grilling the hot dogs
Grilling the hot dogs

Once the hot dogs were grilled but not overly cooked, they were brought indoors and immediately judged on appearance, then sampled and judged on taste and tenderness/texture.

Hot dogs ready for judging
Hot dogs ready for judging

The Results

Kirkland Signature swept the warehouse floor with both of its rivals, beating Bar-S by 4 points and biting Armour by 12.6 points. With it’s sub-50 point score, Armour is sent to the doghouse as our second-lowest-scoring hot dog in all five rounds of taste testing.

Here are the weighted scores:

  • Bar-S: 57.1428
  • Armour: 48.5372
  • Kirkland Signature: 61.12
Judges’ Comment Cards
  • Bar-S: Pale color, above average taste, decent texture
  • Armour: Very good appearance, odd baloney-like taste, bland, too soft, virtually no texture
  • Kirkland Signature: Excellent color and sheen, good smoke and spice flavor, snappy texture, hard bits in sample for one judge

So Kirkland Signature wins big in our final round of the TVWGG Hot Dog Taste-Off! Next week we’ll summarize our findings across all 16 entries and offer some closing comments about the hot dogs we tasted.

All Taste Offs

Repainting The Firebox

Weber gas grills are notorious for flaking, peeling paint on the firebox. The gas grill warranty covers the paint for two years, which is about how long it takes to start flaking and peeling on your grill! But to be fair, the firebox does get very hot and paint is no match for those high temperatures.

So what to do? You repaint the exterior surface yourself. You do not repaint the interior. The process is pretty straight-forward.

2013-05-06110752_zps6165a2d1-1024

Start by using a wire brush to remove any loose paint. Hit the flaky spots with fine-grit sandpaper to make them ready for painting.

You don’t have to remove the firebox as shown here…this is part of a full-blown restoration. You can simply mask-off the surrounding surfaces with newspaper and masking tape and paint in place.

2013-05-06110807_zps80167607-1024

Use flat black high-temp spray paint to repaint the firebox. Two thin coats of paint is usually better than one thick coat.

2013-05-06122200_zpsd648760c-1024

Depending on your particular grill, you can even repaint the lid end caps using the same process.

2013-05-06153050_zps3b5ca980-1024

The results are pretty satisfying. A fresh coat of black paint will make your Weber gas grill look good as new. Just remember to save that leftover spray paint…because you’ll be repainting again two years from now.

2013-05-07154924_zps027ddd29-1024

These photos are from a 1992 Genesis 1000 restoration by Bob U. You can see more photos of this restoration on The Virtual Weber Bulletin Board.

The HotBurger

The HotBurger
The HotBurger

What do you do when you want to grill hamburgers and you don’t have any hamburger buns or sliced bread, but you do have leftover hot dog buns?

You make The HotBurger. An elongated hamburger patty that fits perfectly on a toasted hot dog bun. Season with salt and pepper, top with ketchup and mustard and one of those Stacker pickle slices and you’re good to go. Cheese is optional.

That’s The HotBurger™. Ask for it by name at participating Weber gas grills near you!

TVWGG Hot Dog Taste-Off: Organic Division

Welcome to the TVWGG Hot Dog Taste-Off!

This is the fourth round in our summer hot dog taste-off. If this is your first visit to the taste-off, make sure to read the first installment for details on how we’re selecting and judging the hot dogs.

Last time, Oscar Mayer Selects whipped Open Nature in the Almost Organic Division taste-off. This week, we take on the most sincere hot dog category of all.

The Organic Division

These hot dogs are labeled “uncured”, meaning that they’ve been cured using the sodium nitrate that occurs naturally in sea salt and celery juice or celery powder. They contain certified organic, grass-fed beef from cattle that have never been administered antibiotics or hormones and have been humanely raised.

  • Applegate The Great Organic Uncured: $8.69
  • Organic Prairie Organic Uncured: $8.99
  • Applegate The Great Organic Uncured Stadium: $8.99
  • Wellshire Organic Uncured: $5.99

(Note that in these photos, the hot dogs are always shown in the order listed above.)

The Organic Division - Front view
The Organic Division – Front view
The Organic Division - Rear view
The Organic Division – Rear view
The Organic Division - Without packaging
The Organic Division – Without packaging

The hot dogs were grilled together and served to the judges.

Grilling the hot dogs
Grilling the hot dogs

Once the hot dogs were grilled but not overly cooked, they were brought indoors and immediately judged on appearance, then sampled and judged on taste and tenderness/texture.

Hot dogs ready for judging
Hot dogs ready for judging

The Results

Applegate The Great Organic Uncured beat its sibling Applegate The Great Organic Stadium by 4.5 points, mowed-down Open Prairie by 9 points, and took Wellshire Organic to the woodshed with a spanking of 14 points. In fact, with a sub-50 point score, Wellshire Organic holds the distinction of being our lowest scoring hot dog in four rounds of taste testing to date.

Here are the weighted scores:

  • Applegate The Great Organic Uncured: 61.7028
  • Organic Prairie Organic Uncured: 52.5372
  • Applegate The Great Organic Uncured Stadium: 57.1428
  • Wellshire Organic Uncured: 47.3828

It’s interesting to note that in terms of appearance, taste and tenderness/texture, the Applegate The Great Organic Uncured hot dog did as well or better than many of the big brand and premium dogs we’ve tested in other divisions…but at a cost of $5-6 more per package.

Judges’ Comment Cards

  • Applegate The Great Organic Uncured: Plump, shiny, very good flavor, very good texture
  • Organic Prairie Organic Uncured: Plump, good sheen, springy texture, sausage flavor
  • Applegate The Great Organic Uncured Stadium: Pale, chewy texture, above average flavor
  • Wellshire Organic Uncured: Thin, bland, chewy, texture a bit hard

So Applegate The Great Organic Uncured is the winner of the Organic Division! Stay tuned for our last division contest of 2014: The Stray Dog Division.

All Taste Offs

Weber 6620 Stainless Steel Spatula

Weber 6620 Stainless Steel Spatula
Weber 6620 Stainless Steel Spatula

If you’re in the market for a new spatula (and who isn’t), this one’s for you. It’s the Weber 6620 Stainless Steel Spatula. Top-rated by Cook’s Country magazine (June/July 2014), they write:

“Testers loved this spatula’s slim, rounded, offset handle, remarking on the agility, sense of control, and confidence that it inspired. Particularly when the grill is really packed, this is your spatula.”

Agility. Sense of control. Confidence. Sounds more like a BMW than a spatula!

The runner-up was the OXO Good Grips BBQ Turner. It took second place in the ratings because it does not feature the offset design of the Weber, making it less maneuverable on the grill.

The Weber 6620 Stainless Steel Spatula is available at Amazon.com.

SYD Tri-Tip

Here’s a tri-tip I grilled on the Weber Summit 450 using Harry Soo’s tri-tip method from his Backyard Pitmaster class.

1798452_10153881418545013_378055417_n

Season the tri-tip with granulated garlic, white pepper, and then some Slap Yo’ Daddy All-Purpose Rub. Refrigerate for 8 hours.

Grill to 125-135*F internal temperature. Remove from grill, tent with foil, and let rest for 5 minutes.

Brush with Slap Yo’ Daddy All-Purpose Easy Sauce, slice, and serve.

1888597_10153881418635013_1844876593_n

You get layers of spice from the white pepper and the SYD rub, and from the cayenne & hot sauce in the SYD sauce. Really delicious!

1912188_10153881418910013_130994255_n

Flaking Inside The Lid

Flaking carbon inside lid
Flaking carbon inside lid

A common complaint from new Weber grill owners goes something like this:

It looks like the paint is peeling inside the lid of my new grill. WTF? I expected more from Weber!

OK, just chillax, Grasshopper. Weber does not paint its grills. They use a baked-on porcelain enamel finish that cannot peel. What you’re seeing is grease and smoke that builds-up during normal use, turns into harmless carbon, and eventually peels off in flakes or sheets.

Before grilling, use a grill brush or a balled-up piece of aluminum foil to remove any loose flakes. If you really want to be fastidious about it, each time you finish cooking, while the lid is still warm, wipe the inside surface with paper towels or a soap and water solution to prevent the build-up.