By Phillip Morgan
If it’s summer time in Texas, it is HOT! Although we North Texans know how to keep cool – we also know how to celebrate our heatwave months by firing up the smoker. I could sum up my summer plans in cooking with three words – equipment, eclecticism, and enjoyment. Without those three concepts in the epicurean equation, summer could stay hot – and get really bland. Thankfully, understanding some basics on the right rig, variance of meals, and passion for what you want to cook can carry you a long way in the food game.
So, first, let’s talk equipment. Though the grill gets a lot of action in most homes, some folks have turned to the smoker – specifically, pellet smokers, for an addition to the outdoor kitchen for summer BBQ favorites. Though our traditional ‘stick burner’ (wood smoker) enthusiasts will taunt me with assumptions to an affinity for skinny jeans, Starbucks lattes, and a passion for craft beer – I really just love the convenience of my pellet smoker. Though the initial investment is pretty hefty ($1,199), the range of culinary options that a smoking oven (essentially) gives you far outweighs the investment. Additionally, the new models of pellet smokers frequently come equipped with WiFi technology, allowing you to ignite and prep your equipment from miles away, with simply the touch of your smartphone – heresy to traditionalists, but man it’s convenient.
Consequently, home cooks that are new to the market or may not have upfront funds can always finance their gear through a myriad of options from Recteq to Traeger. I, myself, am a card carrying subscriber to the Reqteq family of grills. I use the RT-700 for a majority of my cooks, and am in the process of acquiring the RT-B380 “Bullseye” ($399) for steak and standard grill cooks. If you’re looking to up your backyard cooking game, this equipment is certainly something to check out as summer approaches.
Eclecticism is a fun SAT word that sums up my encouragement of all cooks to branch out and experiment with some summer menus that mix, match and mysteriously mesh cultural dishes with traditional Texas barbeque treats. I’ve combined traditional pulled pork sandwiches with various blends of salsas to ramp up the heat on standard summer fare. I also experiment with various sauces and meat rubs to test flavor combinations and create new flavor profiles on my smoked meats, from pork shoulder and loin, to brisket and roast. A recent local favorite for pork and brisket has been Waxahachie’s own, ‘Four Escobars Barbeque Sauce’ (www.fourescobars.square.site). Local, award winning sauce that’s easily accessible at our local H-E-B stores.
Finally, it’s critical to get the enjoyment out of what you cook. Even if it’s just a hot dog and burger kind of summer, always make sure you love what you’re cooking. I mean, my Recteq can crank out twenty burgers per sitting and ensures that I can feed the crowd at our get togethers – but half of the fun is getting to prepare the food for the folks I love the most. As summer descends upon us and temperatures start to rise across Ellis County, make sure that you check your rig, your resourcefulness and your readiness to have a great time while smoking up great eats at home, by the pool or by the lake! Eat up – you know we will.