Monday, March 28, 2011

Halls Hill Charcoal Review Posted

We were contacted by the manufacturer of this charcoal recently about doing a review and we just got the review done this past weekend. We have just posted the review on our website at this web page. The charcoal is essentially made by hand in small batches. It is made from 100% shagbark hickory wood, and while expensive, this charcoal has a smoke that is divine. Feel free to read the review, and if you have ever used Halls Hill Lump Charcoal, you can leave your comments or give it your rating on the survey page.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Oh, no! It's Beer Can Chicken Again!!

Sorry, Mr. Bill. But we came across something that we just couldn't resist posting. As regular readers will know, we did a lot of research on beer can chicken and concluded over and over that the only reason for using a beer can is to get the chicken upright. Beer and other flavorings in the can do nothing to add flavor or juiciness to the chicken.

Well, we just came across a recipe for "Beer-can chicken: 'Modernist' cuisine for tailgaters" in this week's issue of The Week magazine. We'll just quote the article:

"The beer can’s principal contribution is that it holds the chicken in an optimal roasting position. It also lets the juices “drain away, so they don’t accumulate and make the skin soggy.”

Notice anything missing? Like flavoring the chicken? Making the chicken more moist? In fact, the instructions in the recipe direct you to:

"Empty a beer can (“the fun part”), and insert can into cavity of bird. Adjust can so chicken sits upright."

Empty a beer can. As in take all the beer out. It does not direct you to add any other liquids or flavorings. Just use the empty can as a prop to hold the chicken up. Which, as anyone who has done beer can chicken can attest, is sometimes rather a dicey proposition as the chicken isn't exactly stable sitting on a beer can.

But then comes the punchline, so to speak:

"But the real key to the technique is that the skin is pulled away from the meat before slow cooking begins, then crisped quickly with high heat."

The REAL secret to beer can chicken isn't even the beer can.

So, there you have it. Yet another vote that beer can chicken isn't about flavor or juiciness. And we'll take it a step further and suggest that you get a proper "chicken sitter" type of device to hold your bird up and avoid the tippy bird on a can. And yes, we have to admit, we enjoyed this. Forgive us. We have this weakness when it comes to setting the record straight on beer can chicken and wet charcoal. We promise. No more beer can chicken posts for at least a week. So sorry, Mr. Bill!


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Improvement to the Charcoal Reviews

We are close to publishing a new lump charcoal review and thought we'd alert you to a change in the format of our upcoming reviews. Those of you who are familiar with our lump charcoal reviews will no doubt recognize the image to the right which shows the "Quick Stats" section that appears in every review. As you can see, this section of the review provides a quick overview of the charcoal and it includes the results of our tests related to burn time and ash production.

We decided to make a small improvement to this section, in keeping with the changes we made to our ranking pages some time ago. We were constantly getting emails from readers who were confused by the terms we used when categorizing the performance of the charcoal. For example, if the ash production graphic in the Quick Stats section said "Low", did that mean that it produced a low amount of ash, or did that mean that its performance was low compared to other brands? One is good, while the other is bad. We tried to assist by color coding the graphis (green is good, red is bad) but we still received emails from folks having difficulty with our graphics.

As a result, on our ranking pages, we switched to using stars, where 1 star was poor performance and 5 stars was superior performance. This resulted in a big drop in the emails asking us to clarify the way we reported charcoal test performance.

We are now going to move this improvement into our reviews by doing two things. First we are taking the ash production and burn time graphics out of the Quick Stats section. Instead we are now going to include a new section at the beginning of the review labeled "Key Performance Indicators." You can see a sample in the image at right. This new section will appear just below the Quick Stats section.

Second, this new section will use the 1 to 5 star graphics from our ranking pages to indicate the performance of the charcoal, and for the first time, reviews will now include the performance graphic for all 5 of our key tests:
  • Chips and dust content
  • Lighting performance
  • Maximum temperature
  • Burn time performance
  • Ash production

As far as all of the existing reviews, we won't be going back and updating all 86 reviews with this new section, but we will replace the old graphic indicators with the new 1 to 5 stars graphics to try to make it easier to understand which brands did well and which brands did poorly in our testing of burn time and ash production.

We hope this little improvement will help you as you read our upcoming reviews.


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Review of the Auber Instruments Controller

Most of you are probably already familiar with the barbecue temperature control devices such as the product line from The BBQ Guru and The Stoker from Rock's Barbeque. Well early in 2010 there came a new player to the market, Auber Instruments. They have produced a low-cost simple controller that probably should be viewed as competition for the BBQ Guru NanoQ since, like the NanoQ, it only controls the temperature of the cooker and it doesn't monitor the meat temperature like the higher-priced models.

We put it through all the tests that we have performed on the other brands (plus a couple more!) and have written a review for your enjoyment. You can read the review at our Product Reviews web page. The review contains a side-by-side feature comparison with the BBQ Guru NanoQ to help you decide which controller may be right for you.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Big Green Egg Company Unveils New Brand Identity, Logo and Tagline

Well, after over 30 years of existence, Big Green Egg is changing their logo and tagline. Many of you probably know that the Big Green Egg bills itself as the "World's Best Smoker and Grill™", but now that is all changing. Big Green Egg is now calling the Egg "The Ultimate Cooking Experience™". We suppose this is a long overdue change since anyone who owns an Egg knows that it is far more versatile than just smoking and grilling. (For those of you interested in seeing just how versatile, here's our Ceramic Cooker Thermometer.)

And in addition to the new tagline, Big Green Egg is also changing its logo. The old logo featured an image of their older cookers with the little roller cart and the scissor hinges. This new logo includes an image that, while not an exact rendition of a Big Green Egg cooker, is more up to date and representative of their current cookers.

You should start to see this new log and tagline appear in advertising materials throughout the month of March. You can read the full text of Big Green Egg's press release here.

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