Monthly Archives: January 2010

BBQ Field Notes 1/22-23/10

BBQ Test:  Heffron Farms
The sky's were gray.
Temperature between 35-40 degrees.
Winds light
Coals hot
The meat was frozen
Family hungry

Although I have known of Heffron Farms for many years and really admire their entrepreneurial spirit, I have never bought any of their products for the grill.  I have a bias against frozen product.  No good reason. 

However I have become very curious about the entire process of sustainability and agribusiness, especially as it relates to the different meats I buy for the grill.  I was disappointed last summer with some baby back ribs (pork) that I bought at the downtown farmer's market.  Far to lean and not enough meat on the bone to make it worth barbecuing.  But as I continued to read and talk to people about the differences between organic, grassfed, natural and CAFO's, I am convinced that there is a significant difference in products.  So this gets us to where I was at last weekend; time to put the meat on the grill.

First, here is the official Heffron Farm description and philosophy:

We welcome you to Heffron Farms Markets. We take great pride in making available products that are raised without the use of growth hormones, preservatives, dyes and antibiotics on a daily basis (see FAQ) and raised in a humane way. While working with other local farmers, Heffron Farms Markets bring our customers a variety of naturally raised beef, pork, chicken, turkey, dairy products, eggs and much more. Currently our stores are in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area. We also ship products throughout the United States.

All of our meats are USDA or state inspected, vacuum packaged and frozen to ensure freshness that lasts as long as a year or more in a well maintained freezer.

Q. Is our beef grass-fed?
A. Yes. Some may call it grass, farmer terminology is hay.

Our cattle are fed an all vegetarian diet that consist of both grains and roughage. This allows for our cattle to have a balanced, nutritious diet that their bodies are designed to handle.

To continue, I bought:

  • 1 flank steak (approx. $9.99/lb)
  • 1 skirt steak (approx. $4.99/lb)
  • 2 boneless pork shoulders (approx. $3.99/lb)

All the meat products were frozen, so you were limited a bit in selection (I like having a butcher cut my steaks to order.  I also like having the ability to order my pork shoulder either bone-in or boneless and also specify the size)  I thought the pricing was about 10-20% higher than what I could get elsewhere)

I grilled the flank and skirt steak on Friday night.


The flank steak was OK/good. Maybe a little tougher than what I get at a butcher.  The fact I tried to thaw it out quickly so I could grill it that night maybe made a difference (it might not of been completely thawed when I was ready to grill)  

The skirt steak was a different story.  Without a doubt, it was the tastiest steak I have grilled in a long time.  It was also a great value.  I typically have a hard time finding skirt steak on short notice.  Knowing that I can get it anytime at Heffron Farms will put me fajita heaven on a regular basis. 

For the two boneless pork shoulders (about 3.5 lbs each), I used two techniques:  I brined one in a simple salt and brown sugar solution.  The other one, I only used a seasoned salt.  I put both shoulders on Saturday (Weber kettle, Lazzari lump, pecan chips)  around 2:00 and pulled around 6:30.   I did not use an internal temperature gauge, instead relied on my instinct.  A small mistake.  Both shoulders were done, but I never reached the "magical pulling internal temperature" range of approx. 195 degrees. Instead I had to  slice and chop.  I think this had to do with the meat being frozen.  I think the core temperature was still very cold when I put it on the grill.  I could of waited, but in reality, BBQ is a fickle mistress, and she waits for no one.

The meat was terrific.  The brined shoulder a bit moister.  (I used Penzey's BBQ Rub for the first time too; good and a bit spicy)

I attached pictures of this experiment.  Please note the beautiful smoke ring on the pork.  I actually liked the chopped pork better than pulled pork. 


I still prefer non-frozen meat.  Allows for more spontaneity.  However, the pork and the skirt steak were great.  I would recommend Heffron Farms to anyone.

My next post will focus on the differences between natural, grassfed, grain-finished, organic, and CAFO products…from the perspective of a consumer.

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Honest Meat

Barbecue and grilling are ultimately celebrations.   You don't grill solo.  You party.  You enjoy life.  You relax. 

I recently stumbled on a very interesting blog: Honest Meat  Honesty being the core message.  It not only celebrates the feast but the entire process, which I know can many folks uncomfortable.

For me, I am glad to know what is going on behind the scenes and prefer transparency with my foods.  It makes the party better.

Check out the site, let me know what you think.

Photos are courtesy of Linda Ozaki at

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The Ethical Butcher

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Bon Appetit with a little Grilladelic (on the side)


Great kitchen gadgets for sure, but which ones are “grilladelic”?    Which ones contribute to the joys of cooking over an open fire?  The grilladelic opinion in red.

From Bon Appetit

The Best Kitchen Gadgets of the Year

foodpod_02.jpgI’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for kitchen tools. Granted, an awful lot of them are completely and totally useless, but every year a few things come out that I find I can’t cook without. Here are my 10 favorites from the past year.

1. Cuisinart Elite Collection 4-Cup Chopper Grinder

This mini processor is powerful, easy to clean, and great for everything from grinding nuts to chopping onions. Grilladelic. Certainly good for sauces, salsas and marinades.  Easy to clean is critical!

2. The FoodPod

This funny looking silicone bag is remarkably useful. I use it to make boiled eggs and to blanche vegetables. Interesting.  Wish I would of thought of it..but don’t see it around the pit.  You might even get laughed at.

3. Adjustable Rolling Pin

Removable rings and inch/centimeter markings mean that you can roll pie, pizza, or cookie dough to the right thickness and width every time.  Nice but nah.

4. Measuring Flour Sifter

I’d more or less given up on sifters until I found this product. The attached cup means there’s no mess, and you can measure your dry ingredients before and after you sift.  Nope

5. Zip and Dry Apron

With a removable terry-cloth towel zipped to the bottom of this apron, you always have a dish towel within reach.  YES.  Very much grilladelic.  A lot of food handling goes on at the grill:  prepping ribs, saucing, turning, pulling…very cool.

6. Apple Peeler

These Rube Goldberg-like devices have been around for years, but I finally broke down and tried one and I’m now a convert. You can get through enough apples for a pie in no time, and the attached corer/slicer makes prep even faster. Not grilladelic, but I want one for my kitchen.

7. Microplane Cut-Resistant Glove

Now that I use this one-size fits all glove, I suffer from many fewer grated fingers and I’m much more comfortable using a mandoline. Made by the people who are responsible for the amazing Microplane graters, these gloves aren’t cut proof (you still need to take all safety precautions), but they will make grating cheese, chocolate and veggies a lot more pleasant.  Grilladelic.  Trimming and prepping made a little safer.  Slaw is critical with pulled pork.

8. Portion Control Bowls

These are ideal for things like pasta and cereal where it’s so easy to take just a little bit more than you mean to.  Good idea but BBQ is not about portions.

9. The Granny Fork

Julia Child loved this tool, and it’s easy to see why. It costs less than $10 and it does a multitude of things from stirring to serving.  OK.  if Julia loves it, so do I.

10. Reusable Produce Bags

buy a few of these light, fine-mesh bags and you’ll never have to use those impossible-to-open, flimsy plastic bags in the produce aisle ever again. Need greens for turn in…yes, it is grilladelic.

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How green is grass-fed beef? Debate ongoing – Winnipeg Free Press

*This article can also be accessed if you copy and paste the entire address below into your web browser.

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Tales from Winter Coals and a Summer Throwdown.

Here is a turkey recipe from a grilladelic friend,  vanilla entrepreneur.  and serial griller; Mr. Brent Reame.   The book he references is outstanding too.  In fact, if someone is looking to learn more about grilling, Weber has a terrific series of cookbooks.  Highly recommended. 

Brent and his twin brother Brandon are both avid barbecuers who apparently have not fallen to far from the tree! After posting these photos on his Facebook page I made a few comments about the benefits of winter grilling. Next thing I know his mother is challenging me to a rib cookoff in the summer!  That’s a throwdown in my book!   

Anyone else want a piece of this action!

Folks…don’t let a little snow keep you from the joys of cooking over an open fire!

Thanks for sharing Brent!

Hi John,

For this I pretty much followed a recipe within Weber’s Real Grilling cookbook.

  • Set bird on kitchen counter for 4 hours before gilling to bring up to temp
  • mixed together: zest of 2 oranges, 12 cloves organic garlic (chopped finely), full handfull of homegrown dried parsley, chili powder, pepper, and 1 stick melted butter. This combination had an incredible aroma. I stuffed 2/3 of the concoction under the skin on top of the breasts. Remaining third was used around exterior of bird. 
  • Stuffed bird with remaining 2 oranges (quartered)
  • Placed bird in roasting rack, breast side up, within roasting pan. Added about 4 cups chicken stock and 1/2 an onion (chopped) to bottom of the roasting pan.
  • Banked charcoal on opposite sides of grill for indirect medium heat. Placed roasting pan with turkey in center of grill. Cooked covered for 1 hour before checking. At 1 hour mark, I started more charcoal and added it at approx. 1.5 hours in. Also added 2 pieces hickory (soaked for several hours). 
  • At 2 hours tented the turkey with foil to prevent breasts from becoming too brown. Checked again at 3 hours, temp was 145 in breast. Pulled turkey after 3.5 hours cook time and breast temp of 155. Foiled and allowed 20 minutes to rest. 

Overall: Amazing flavor. The orange zest really came through in the breast meat. The fairly light smoke of the hickory paired very well with the orange as well. Breast meat was slightly dry, however dark meat was done to perfection. I probably could have pulled 15-20 minutes earlier. 

Your right, nothing beats cooking with a Weber while it is snowing!

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