Friday, June 25, 2010

Wet Charcoal, Part Deux??

If you are a fan of our web page, you may have run across our page The Myth About Storing Wet Charcoal. You see, every fire department web site seems to warn about storing wet charcoal, but there doesn't appear to be any information or theory that would support this notion that wet charcoal with spontaneously ignite. We have never had anyone provide us with an eyewitness report of this happening. Every news article about it seems to follow a familiar pattern: 1) House burns down, 2) Fire Department gets fire under control, 3) Fire Department investigates after the fire is out, 4) Fire Department says it was caused by wet charcoal. But, never anything like "I was standing there next to this wet bag of charcoal when it burst into flames."

We have also never had any fire official contact us to explain these warnings or provide any justification for them. We have never had any fire official contact us at all.

That is, until now. We have received an email from a Fire Marshal in Washington state who has provided us with a reference that claims a 50 pound bag of charcoal could spontaneously ignite. So, ever the curious investigators that we are, willing to spare no expense to get to the truth, we have ordered a used copy of Kirk's Fire Investigation from Amazon to see what this is all about.

So you can expect some sort of update to our web page in the next several weeks as we look into this new information. We doubt it will change our minds regarding the possibility that wet charcoal can spontaneously ignite. If it were happening as often as the media reports would have us believe, we should be able to recreate this spontaneous combustion ourselves. But we can't. We are considering offering a cash reward to anyone who can provide a step-by-step procedure for making 20 pounds or less of any brand of charcoal spontaneously ignite due to getting wet. Stay tuned....


Burger King "Pieces", followup...

We hope we don't lose all our Facebook friends and fans over this, but we recently found ourselves in a Burger King again (we were getting lunch before heading over to Ft. Bragg for the troop cook last week) and well, we just couldn't believe that Burger King "pieces" could be as bad as the ones we had written about earlier. There we were, standing in line contemplating whether to get a double Whopper or a Steakhouse burger when we noticed that you could add a 3-piece portion to any order for $1.99. Should we give it another go? Since this Burger King was located some distance from the first Burger King, we decided to give it a go. Maybe this Burger King would be better than the other one. What's to lose, except $1.99? After all, this is what we do, experiment!

Yet another reason for giving it another go is the astonishing fact that America is gobbling these "pieces" down at such a prodigious rate that Burger King was about to run out of "pieces"! (This was a limited time offering.) We despair for America, knowing that they are paying so much money for such bad pieces of bone and meat that appear to have been cut out of a pig. But Burger King was close to ending the promotion and this was our last chance to verify our original findings.

Well, of course, you know this could only end in tears. Indeed, these "pieces" were just as bad as the "pieces" we originally tried. The flavor is odd and if you want sauce, you have to find a way to dip these "pieces" into a little tub of not-so-hot barbecue sauce. Nope, these "pieces" were just as bad as the original "pieces" we tried. Experiment over.

So we promise, readers. No more "pieces". Honest. If we want a bad fast food product that appears to have come from a pig, we'll wait for McRibs to return. There's a reason why the pig in the Burger King commercial didn't fly. Let's hope Burger King figures it out and this is the last we see of "pieces".


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Binchotan: The Other White Charcoal

We have finally pulled out the samples of binchotan that were sent to us to do a bit of playing around. What's binchotan, you say? Well, we will cover that in detail in a future web page, but for now suffice it to say, it is a very hard dense charcoal made from oak in Japan. Normally, the "good stuff" sells for between $10 and $12 a pound (yes, a pound!) and is prized for its heat and ability to burn without much, if any, smoke. We have acquired a sample and will be playing around with it in order to bring you a special report on this unique charcoal.

By the way, it is called "white charcoal" because of the slightly white color it attains as the result of one part of the production method. We'll explain more when we produce the final web page. For now, though, we have testing to do!


Ft. Bragg Photos Are Online Now

Just a short update to let you know that you can view the photos from the Ft. Bragg Family Day celebration for the 3 Bn 27th Field Artillery Regiment. You will find them at this link: Operation BBQ Photos


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Supporting The Military With BBQ

On this past Tuesday and Wednesday, we had the opportunity to witness a small miracle in the form of a troop cook put on by American Spirit BBQ (aka Pete Benac, aka Celtic Wolf). We are sure that most of you are aware of these troop cooks which have been held under a variety of names such as American Spirit BBQ, Operation BBQ and BBQ For Our Troops. Essentially, folks that can cook BBQ either contact or are contacted by various military units and they cook BBQ for the troops as a way of saying Thank You to the folks that sacrifice so much to keep us all safe. Often times, these events are being held as a part of a unit either returning from deployment or units about to deploy. We have been documenting the events that we have been able to attend on our Operation BBQ web page: Operation BBQ Event Photos.

These events are paid for by donations, and the military only has to provide drinks for these events. The cookers, the cooks, the food, the plates, you name it, are provided by the group doing the cook. And needless to say, in these "tough" times, groups that do these troop cooks are struggling for funds and volunteers. The folks running these troop cooks often times end up making up what they don't have to pay for the supplies out their own pockets. We don't mean to sound maudlin, but if every fan of these groups on Facebook were to donate $5.00 or $10, quite a number of these events could be paid for totally out of donations. (You can visit the BBQ For Our Troops and American Spirit BBQ Facebook pages if you are interested in donating your time or money to this effort.) Pete calculated that he spent $1.05 per attendee to put on this event. As you can see, it doesn't take much of a donation to support a large number of troops!

But back to the minor miracle we witnessed. As we said times are "tough" and donations of both time and money have lagged. We went down to Ft. Bragg to document Family Day for the 3d Battalion 27th Field Artillery Regiment. We expected to see Pete pull up with at least a couple of helpers. We wouldn't have been surprised if a second truck hauling a cooker behind it had shown up, too. But nope. Pete showed up hauling his trailer and Pete had no help with him. No other trucks hauling cookers pulled up. This was going to be a one man show.

Pete got some of the soldiers to help him unload his six large Big Green Eggs and the monster coolers which held all the meat, slaw, potato salad and beans. During the event, soldiers helped to serve the food. But the cooking was all Pete. He started the cookers up, prepped the meat (18 pork butts, 6 beef briskets), tended the fires, pulled and chopped the pork, chopped the brisket, all by himself. This was a one-man effort and truly shows the desire on the part of American Spirit BBQ to says thanks to our troops. We helped now and then, but of course, our job was taking photos to document the event. It was hot and humid and at the end of the event, we were exhausted. We can only imagine how tired Pete was after the

So, we just wanted to express our admiration for American Spirit BBQ and their drive and energy to get some of these events completed. We hope you will think about the individuals making these events happen and will possibly monitor their Facebook pages, looking for opportunities to donate your time or your money. It's a worthy cause and one that needs your support.

By the way, if you are wondering about the photo, as a part of Family Day, the unit put on a live fire demonstration. The photo shows one of the HUMARS launching a rocket that traveled about 7.5 miles before coming down who knows where. (Actually, the Army knows where it came down. They spent a whole lot of time making sure they knew EXACTLY where these rockets were landing!) It was pretty impressive, and just another reason to attend one of these events. There is often an opportunity to view some of the "neat toys" the military uses as a part of their mission.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

So, How Did The Weekend Go?

We didn't get as much done as we would like, but we did get the damp charcoal experiment kicked off. Since this one is going to take at least a month to complete, it was important that we get it started. So, we now have a couple of T/RH data loggers logging the temperature and relative humidity in our garage and inside of a bag of charcoal in our garage. We have some charcoal sitting out, uncovered, in the garage and we will see if it picks up any moisture as a result during the hot humid days of summer!

We did narrowly avert a real disaster, however. If you have read our reviews of extruded coconut charcoal, you will know that we bake the charcoal in our oven at 300 degrees in order to drive all the moisture out. We have even done that with some Royal Oak lump charcoal. We won't name the brand since we feel it is irrelevant, but we were lucky to notice that the charcoal we were drying this weekend had actually ignited in one small place! We figure in another 10 minutes, the whole tray might have been glowing red. So lesson learned! Next time, 250 and more frequent monitoring.

Incidentally, we will be travelling to Ft. Bragg, NC on Tuesday to photograph a cook for the troops being run by American Spirit BBQ. This will be for the 3-27th Field Artillery Regiment. We can't say enough how important this is to the troops, so if you can find a way to donate money or your time and talents to this effort, please take a look at American Spirit BBQ's Facebook page and do what you can!


Thursday, June 10, 2010

This Weekend At The Naked Whiz Publishing Empire

Time for another update on plans for this weekend's playtime. These posts usually help us sort our mind out and make a plan for the weekend. There are two things we definitely want to get started on.

First, we really really need to get started on an article on binchotan charcoal. What's binchotan charcoal? We'll if we had a short and simple answer, we wouldn't have to do an article, would we? Seriously, binchotan, also know as white charcoal, is a traditional charcoal of Japan. It appears that it's primary strong point is that it burns with no smoke and thus does not add any flavor to the food. But we have a lot of information to get straight in our head before writing an article. We also have a small sample of this precious material that we plan to play around with. We have been putting it off and really need to get started on this!

Second, those pesky little data recorders are now on a UPS truck out for delivery. We will be using them as part of some experimentation in the area of damp charcoal. We exposed the Myth of Storing Wet Charcoal, but what about damp charcoal? This one will take a period of time to complete the tests, but it should be interesting. Ever wonder what the humidity level is inside of a Harris Teeter? We're going to find out!

Finally, this weekend we hope to continue some of the leg work for doing a review of Charcos Coconut Charcoal. We'll see how it all goes, and of course, keep an eye out on our website's What's New box, and you'll be the first to know!


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Rustic Savory Galette Recipe now posted.

We just finished posting our recipe for the rustic savory galette that we teased you with a few days ago. You will find it on our website at this web page.

We must say, it took us most of our free time this weekend to put the web page together and it took most of an afternoon and evening last weekend to make the gallete and do the photography. It certainly makes us appreciate all the effort that goes into putting together entire cookbooks!

In any event, we hope you enjoy the recipe and if you enjoy it, you will find more recipes like it in Wood-Fired Cooking: Techniques and Recipes for the Grill, Backyard Oven, Fireplace, and Campfire by Mary Karlin, which was the source of our adaptation.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Our Latest "To Do" List

We have a number of items on our "to do" list. If you are waiting for any of this information, here's what we have in store:

  • Review of Kebroak Mayan Lump Charcoal -- We have done all the testing and are in the process of writing up the review. Then we go through the process of updating the database so all the rankings pages reflect the new addition. We hope to post this before the end of the week.

  • Review of Charcos Coconut Charcoal -- Like many of our reviews, we were contacted by the manufacturer who asked us to do a review of their product. While strictly speaking not lump charcoal, coconut charcoal has always caught the attention of ceramic charcoal cooker owners for its slow and even burning characteristics. This makes it desirable for those low and slow overnight cooks. Coconut charcoal was first introduced to the BBQ world by Kamado back in 2002 or so, but since then Kamado has switchd to shipping some really dreadful coconut charcoal. As a result, we are always on the lookout for a decent replacement. We have had time to run one quick test on the Charcos charcoal and let's just say that it has piqued our interest for now. Stay tuned....

  • Review of Primo Lump Charcoal -- This one is sort of low on the list since it was not sent to us by a manufacturer requesting a review, but we'll get to it eventually.

  • Everything else -- Sigh, we have a list of about 20 things to do. We have a couple of test projects almost in progress (whatever that means!) and we have some ideas for other interesting but essentially useless tests (the best kind!). One biggy we'd like to get concluded is an article bringing together all the cold smoking techniques into a summary article to help you decide how best to do cold smoking.
So, as you can see, there's lots to do, and there will be lots of updates to the Naked Whiz web site coming up in the next few months. Keep your eye on the "What's New" box on our front page to keep up to date on the latest features!


Rustic Savory Galette

Another tease for you! Last weekend while the wife (yes, the wife who...) was up in Vermont, we got cooking. We made this rustic savory galette. We'll be publishing the recipe on our website when we get a chance, but here's some basic information.

We adapted/modified this galette from a recipe we found in Wood-Fired Cooking: Techniques and Recipes for the Grill, Backyard Oven, Fireplace, and Campfire by Mary Karlin. The crust is made from fresh corn, goat cheese, flour, corn meal and lime juice. The filling consisted of basil, oregano, fontina, heirloom tomatoes, fresh corn kernels, goat cheese, garlic, and thinly sliced bulb green onions. As we will note in the recipe when we publish it, this galette cried out for a bit of crumbled bacon and we will use some next time we make this.

So be looking for the recipe on our web site in the next week or so!

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