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Part 1 – BBQ Tailgating Preparation

It’s the end of July and hotter than hell in most of the US. That only means one thing to the avid sport fan; college football is just around the corner! So it’s time to go through our preseason tailgating list. Just like your favorite college team has to prepare each Saturday, it’s crucial for us tailgaters to prepare as well! To get you prepared in time, here’s Part 1 in our three-part series on tailgating. Now, let’s get prepared!

  1. It’s time to pull out your tailgating list and begin going through all of your tailgating cooking  equipment to make sure everything is working and in proper form. And if you don’t have one you can always get started by using our tailgating checklist in order to create your own personalized list.
  2. Now we need to start planning your menu for the first game. You’ll want to keep in mind what time kick-off is while going over your tailgating menu. You’ll probably want to arrive 4-5 hours prior to the game to give you ample time to get everything prepared in time. Being a chef by trade, I can assure you that proper time management will be your friend come game day. With that in mind are you going to prepare breakfast, lunch, or dinner menu items? What appetizers are going to be involved? What types of beverages?

As I start building a tailgating menu, I build around the center of the plate which is the main course. When considering what to cook keep in mind these following three things.

  1. The capacity of your cooking equipment
  2. How many guests you’ll be cooking for
  3. Preparation and cooking times

Preparation or Prep Work

Having good preparation skills before the big day will help take a lot of pressure off of you come game day. In this section, I’ll outline some basic ideas for a cooking schedule.

Three Days Before Game Day.

  1. Take care of your grocery shopping
  2. Unpack all of the meat and poultry you’re going to need; trim, rinse and store in your refrigerator using Ziploc bags until ready to use.
  3. Wash and clean any vegetables you’re going to use and refrigerate.
  4. Do not wash clean or cut any fruit at this time, store as directed.

Two Days Before Game Day

  1. Begin cooking any hot and cold dishes that will save time on game day. This could include hot food such as stews, chilies, casseroles, soups, BBQ sauces, spaghetti,      lasagna, etc. Cold dishes could include potato salad, macaroni salad, etc and any vegetables that need to be blanched and shocked for trays or appetizers.

One Day Before Game Day

  1. Start prepping any fresh vegetables you need for veggie trays and salads.
  2. Prepare any marinades needed for main course or hot appetizers then fill Ziploc bags with the marinades and the appropriate meat and poultry for next day cooking.
  3. Double check your entire menu and prep list to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything that you needed to do for game day.

Special Notes

  1. Blanch and shocking vegetable is the process of partially cooking them for color and desired doneness then drained and put in an ice bath to stop the cooking.
  2. For ease of packing and cleanup, use Ziploc bags and disposable containers when possible.

Now that we’re heading into the 2013-14 tailgating season be sure to check back for Parts 2-3 in this series as well as more tailgating ideas here at BBQ Like A Pro! You’ll find new recipes to try out for game day along with product reviews and other tailgating surprises this season.

Happy Queing,

The Que Dude

Grill Mats Reviewed

Grilling is a living and a way of life for me. I love every aspect of barbecuing, mostly because of the challenges and the unforeseen obstacles that can occur on a regular basis. One of the biggest challenges everyone encounters is trying to not lose those smaller items your grilling through your grill grates. Luckily for us there are products to help us with this very challenge.

I was sent a sample to review called Frogmats that’s designed to prevent smaller food items from falling through your grill grates. Here’s some background information & benefits for the Frogmats:

Frogmats

We have all experienced the frustration of grilling delicate foods on the BBQ. The food immediately sticks to the grates and tears or crumbles when you try to turn it. The food falls through the openings in the grate and you have one big mess. Frogmats solve this problem. Food will not stick to the Frogmats and is easy to turn without crumbing. Frogmats are great for preparing fish and Ka Bobs. Fish will lift off the Frogmats with ease as does the vegetables in Ka Bobs. The open matrix of the Frogmats will eliminate to a large degree any food from falling through the grates. The Frogmats will not pick up odors from fish; therefore each time it is used there will be no leftover taste. Frogmats are designed to perform in indirect cooking methods. Do not expose the Frogmats to direct flame. Our Frogmats are FDA compliant for direct food contact. These are easy to clean with a warm water spray by the outdoor hose or in the kitchen with sink sprayer. The Frogmats will last for years.

After receiving the Frogmats, a few days later, I found another product called Grill-O-Sheet at one of those big hardware box stores that was similar to the Frogmats. Here’s some background info & benefits for the Grill-O-Sheet:

Grill-O-Sheet

With the Grill-O-Sheet you’ll always have a clean cooking surface. It will keep food from falling through your grill grates. You can eat healthy fish and veggies delicious from the grill. The Grill-O-Sheet will cook your food evenly. It’s reusable and can be used several times over. It’s also dishwasher safe.

 

So as you can see, both products pretty much claim to give you the same benefits so I was eager to try these two grill mats to see which one would be the better of the two products. I purchased the Grill-O-Sheet and decided that I’d do a head-to-head comparison test on both grill mats.

The meat, equipment and settings to be used:

Testing Procedure

Both mats were loaded into the smoker at the same time with the internal smoker temperature at 238 degrees. As I checked on the progress, the Grill O-Sheet appeared to be cooking the food faster, though it was unevenly cooking the food. However, the Frogmats were lagging behind in the cooking department though that allowed the food to cook more evenly.

Grill-O-Sheet

The wings on the Grill-O-Sheet finished in approximately 75 minutes with an internal temperature of 165 degrees. I attribute the fast cooking time due to the fact the Grill-O-Sheets are made out of aluminum which is a heat conductor.

Frogmats

The wings on the Frogmats were a little more than halfway cooked at the time I removed the test wings on the Grill-O-Sheet. After just under 2½ hours, I removed the wings that were on the Frogmats so you can see the discrepancy in cooking time for these grill mats.

Here’s what I learned from this head-to-head comparison testing:

Frogmats

Frogmats Pros Rating: ★★★★½

  • It is 10”x13” in size and only costs $8.99 + shipping & handling.
  • The wings were evenly covered with color and took on a nice smoke flavor.
  • It was easy to clean & could do so in a matter of a minute or less.
  • It’s very durable and should last you for many uses.
  • The holes in the mat are smaller totally eliminating loss of food between the grill grates.
  • It’s able to be rolled up for butts or roasts.
  • It can be cut to size with standard scissors.

Frogmats Cons

  • It has a smaller cooking surface, although they’re possibly available in different sizes.
  • It’s for indirect cooking only.
  • Its cooking time was longer, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Grill-O-Sheet

Grill-O-Sheet Pros Rating: ★★★½☆

  • You get 2 sheets that are 12”x20” in size and only cost $6.99.
  • It can be used for both direct and indirect cooking.
  • It’s able to be rolled up for butts or roasts.
  • It can be cut to size with standard scissors.

Grill-O-Sheet Cons

  • The cooking time was too fast, compromising quality in color, smoke and tenderness.
  • It doesn’t clean as easily as the company claims. It took some hard scrubbing to get all the skin off of it.
  • It’s actually only good for a couple of uses and then you have to dispose of them.

Our Conclusion

If you’re a every once-in-a-while backyard griller or just need a grill mat that you can just throw out afterwards, Grill-O-Sheet would get the vote for which one to choose ONLY due to its cheaper price. However, if it were me, I would still use Frogmats no matter what due to how superior they were to the Grill-O-Sheet based on our tests.

We rated the Frogmats hands down the better buy than Grill-O-Sheet as it is far superior in all categories. Even the extra time the wings on the Frogmats spent on the smoker was well worth the wait. They had great color, incredible smoke flavor and by far those wings were the tenderest to the bite.

Happy Queing,

The Que Dude

BBQ Grilling For One

My wife and kids recently went out of town for the weekend and in doing so I was afforded some well deserved me time. The first thing that came to my mind was dinner, but what would I have exactly? I felt like a grilled rib eye, but didn’t want to fire up the Weber for just me.

I didn’t let that stop me from having my grilled steak dinner, I simply pulled out my chimney starter, threw about 7 or 8 briquettes in it and lit it like you would for any other BBQ. Second, I grabbed a rack to put on my chimney starter. Keep in mind that it doesn’t really matter what size as long as it covers the chimney plus a little room to move your food around in the event of flare-ups.

The Dinner Menu
Rib Eye Steak
Corn on the Cob
Potato Wedges

I quartered the potatoes length wise, oiled them up with olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper to taste and placed it on the chimney grill.

While waiting for my coals to get to the proper temperature so that I could cook my steak properly (about 500°), I took my corn on the cob peeled back the husk without removing it all the way. I then cleaned the silk from the corn and re-covered the stalk of corn completely with the husk and soaked the corn in water making sure it’s completely submerged for about 15 minutes.

I drained the corn of most of its moisture and set on the grill next to the potatoes, rotating frequently both the corn and potatoes to prevent any burning. Potatoes take longer to cook so I left them on while I pulled the corn off to the side to keep it warm, while yet stopping the cooking process.

Meanwhile, the star of the dinner would be my rib eye and I seasoned it then put the steak directly on the center of the chimney grill for about 4 minutes on one side and 2-3 minutes on the other side leaving me with a perfect medium-rare steak.

Overall, my dinner cost me less than $6.00 and if you don’t already have a chimney starter, this little set-up would only cost you between $20 and $25 at your local hardware or BBQ store. It’s great for college students, going to the park; I’ve even used it at work. Anyone can grill whether you’re on a full size grill or find yourself alone when you can just pull out a trusty chimney grill.

Note: All chimneys are bottomless, thus creating a major fire hazard. To prevent any kind of fire hazard problems, make sure you place a baking sheet or something metal underneath your chimney starter and be aware of where you place it as the baking sheet will get hot.

Happy Queing,

The Que Dude