Outdoor Cooking and Stuck Indoors!

Photos by MJ Klein

I love the outdoors, and I especially love cooking outdoors. Food just tastes better when cooked outdoors! Recently I’ve posted on some Dutch oven style cooking, my wood smoker in Thailand, and of course I’ve blogged on grilling here in Taiwan and Thailand too. Now, I’ve been indoors for 2 days and I’m already whining about it! I can handle wintertime and lots of snow, and that doesn’t stop me from cooking. But this awful typhoon rainy weather is depressing, so I’m going to blog more on one of my favorite topics:

Outdoor Cooking!

Mmmmmmm….. Dutch ovens on the fire! I have these 2 (plus one more) with me in Taiwan. I do miss cooking with them as much as I used to back in New Hampshire. This shot was taken at my friend Kim’s home. I have friends in the US that like to hang out just for cooking!

This is my first gill invention before I designed my first large system. The ring keeps the fire from the center of the grill so you can put something like a whole chicken on the grill and have the heat indirect. But before I get into that, I have to clear up something about the definition of the word “BBQ.” If you are cooking directly over a fire, and the heat is high and the cooking is fast, you are absolutely not barbecuing. You are grilling. BBQ is a slow cooking process using indirect heat. I will show you examples of this later.

The ring in the above shot allows one to do real BBQ on a grill because it allows the heat to be indirect, on the outside of the cooking chamber. The ring can also be used to concentrate a small amount of charcoal or wood in the center for small batches of food.

This is a shot of my wood smoker in my backyard in Derry, New Hampshire. Notice the wood pile. You can buy log wood at any convenience store in NH.

This smoker (just like the one I had made in Thailand) has an offset fire box, which means that the firebox is below the level of the cooking chamber.

Here you can see what I mean. We are looking through the cooking chamber through the hole in the firebox and into the firebox on a lower level. The idea is that the hot smoke comes up from underneath the food, flows past the food and then out the smokestack.

In this shot you can see my tripod leaning on the right side of the table. The tripod is used to hang Dutch ovens over a fire just like in the movies.

There really isn’t any reason for me to post this photo at all. Except that I’m going crazy being indoors and this shot is of something I love to do outdoors! Well you can see in this photo that the smokestack protrudes into the cooking chamber, which ensures that the chamber is always filled with smoke/heat.

Once the fire starts to burn down you can add the food. Many people don’t realize that burning wood is poisonous (like a house fire, duh!) and cooking over burning wood can make you sick unless its charred over. In the case of the photo above, the logs are just about charred over. Only the ends are left to char and then the food can go on.

These are Arkansas style pork ribs. What I wouldn’t give to find a butcher in Taiwan that knows this cut. I’ve tried to find one, unsuccessfully. These are the best smoking ribs, IMO!

OK, the wood is charred over, the meat is on, the damper is down and the process begins. You want to keep the smoker close to 100C. Unlike grilling, cooler is better. Wintertime is the best season for real pit BBQ!

This shot was taken from my back door. People have told me that they can smell the smoked meat for miles around. I’ve made deals with local restaurant owners, trading a plate of my smoked pork ribs for their food! Properly adjusted, the smoke should have a bluish hue to it. When its running in the zone, I call it Barbecue Blue smoke.

A few hours later, this is what you get!

This is the beauty shot. Man, I miss that smoker!

Now, you thought I was joking about cooking outdoors in wintertime, didn’t you?

This is my back door in winter.

A side shot of the yard. That is a car underneath the snow.

This is the cooking area of the yard, in winter. Notice the smoke coming out of the smoker? Yeap, that’s right! We’re smoking pork ribs!

This is how I spent my winters in New Hampshire – out by the smoker and drinking Jack Daniel’s Hard Cola (no longer made I hear). Notice the needle on the thermometer, right where I want it to be, a cool 100C. The smoker runs so cool in wintertime and you never have to worry about it taking off and going out of control with a breeze.

Most of the time I would have a second fire going so I could burn down the wood for adding it to the firebox later. Remember adding unburnt wood is dangerous and makes the food taste bitter.

The parting shot: Snow falling, charcoal fire burning, Chinese wok in the snow, used for vegetables cooked over the firebox, machete handle sticking up out of the snow (behind the wok) used for splitting wood, and the smoker going nicely.

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  1. impatience is a hinderance to great cooking! i have had to endure some bad experiences because of it. for example, i’ve been asked a few times to cook Dutch oven style for someone’s party, only to have my hosts break out the charcoal grill during the last 20 mins, cook some crappy grill fare, and end up too full on junk to eat what i cooked. usually their excuse starts something like “but the kids were hungry so…” so, teach them that the best food is worth waiting for! 20~30 minutes isn’t going to kill anyone. in NH, my guests had to wait for hours for these ribs sometimes (if they came over just as i was starting). those guests knew what they were waiting for and never complained!

  2. DANG! That is making me hungry. Although I never had a smoker like yours, I always loved grilling in winter. Sometimes I try to BBQ… but am not very patient… and end up “grilling”. 🙂 Nice to see some snow, too. I miss that stuff.

  3. Hey MJ. Fantastic pictures.

    That looks like great times. As for the ribs. Wow I would give an arm and a leg for a try.

    Thanks for the great pics and story.

  4. thanks Brunty. that post was a real blast from the past for me. that smoker is about the only think that i miss from the States! take care my friend.

  5. The ribs at the I house. Man those were the days.

    I don’t miss the JD cola. I think you were keeping the product alive. HiHi


  6. “I house” means “international house” which is what our friends used to call the place where I lived in Derry. Colby was my roommate at the time.

    yeah, i heard that JD hard cola went under after i left. it was too sweet, but i really did like the whisky flavor of it.

  7. michael, great stuff! just awesome! i’m thinking about planning a bbq and some beers in miaoli at my uncle’s cabin next month. it shouldn’t be too far from your place. would be great if you can bring the dutch oven. planning for 9/15, i’ll let you know. we can probably round up a couple more folks like turton and carrie.

  8. Andres, it would be my pleasure to bring the Dutch oven(s) along! i will also bring one of my guitars and a battery powered amp. let me know when your plans are firm. we’re there!

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