This past week my wife put her foot down and demanded a vacation. You know those weird things where people/families get time alone together minus distraction, work, phones, email, texts, Facebook…..needless to say I am one of those people who are not good at vacation. I am good at pretty much everything else, but too much down time with nothing productive to do and I start going crazy in a hurry.
So like a good husband who had been voluntold what to do, I of course packed the truck. I was told that there would be internet at this cabin, I realize now in retrospect this was a well played ruse to get me to go. I was fortunate to have cell signal, so internet was pushing it. I was also told there was a grill there, even though it was a gas grill I at least had something to cook on. I gave a few minutes of thought about taking a grill or barbecue pit with us, but I didn’t want to make the boss angry. So I opted for tossing some cherry Mojobricks, a pound of AP Rub and a bottle of Smokin’ Sauce in a bag and away we went to Lake Barkley and our little cabin in the hills.
I will forego the complete retelling of all the madness that was our time on Lake Barkley and instead concentrate on the first meal I had to cook on the grill our first night there.
I remind you I was indeed told that it was a gas grill so I knew going in I would be hampered. I know, I know I risk sounding like a barbecue snob but let’s be honest 90% of contraptions that are fired by gas and also sold at big box home improvement stores are terrible. As soon as I got out of my truck I was greeted with the site of what would become the bane of my culinary existence over the next few days, the Char-Broil Classic C-210L. I knew immediately my chances for turning out non-charred food was minimal. All I could think was that somehow I must be on a Twighlight Zone version of Chopped or something. To a grill lover this was the highest form of culinary handicap and unjust on many levels. Never the less a menu had to be made and food had to be cooked as I refused to cook any of the main dishes inside on the stove during the vacation.
We unpacked and I took a minute to take full stock of the kitchen utensils and the state of the grill. As you can see from the picture above the utensils were lacking severely and I also found that the ignitor on the grill was broken and I had nothing to start a fire with. So I did what any man would do, I turned the stove burner on high and lit a piece of cardboard on fire and carried it out to the grill to see if it would at least light. The burners on the grill at least seemed to be in good working order, it could use a solid cleaning but at least it made fire.
After the dry run it was time to make a grocery list and run out to the store to pick up food. I decided that everything that was to be cooked on the grill would have to be higher heat short cook time foods. I put chicken wings, pork steaks, hamburgers, hot dogs and things like that on my list and I knew my in-laws were coming to visit us and bringing ribeyes and all the sides one evening as well. I already hated the idea of cooking some nice hand cut steaks on this contraption, but it was a bridge I would have to cross later. Unfortunately, the store didn’t have wings at a reasonable price, rather at a price I was willing to pay for these particular wings anyway. So I opted for some nice sized chicken leg quarters that were on sale. I knew these would have to cook longer but decided the savings in the wallet were worth the risk.
Once home it was time to prep the chicken and get ready to start the meal. I tossed several Mojobricks in the grill around the burner. I knew they would burn up somewhat quickly but I needed to at least try to impart some resemblance of real smoke flavor into the chicken. In the pic below you can see the Mojobrick starting to catch fire. You will also notice the burnt cardboard ashes that were used to start the fire and just how dirty this pit was.
I gave the chicken a light coat of AP Rub and tossed them on the fire. As you can see these were pretty good sized leg quarters. I then closed the lid and it didn’t take very long at all for the Mojobricks to start filling the air with a great cherry smoke smell. The pic below gives you a good idea just how much smoke a few Mojo’s can put out.
It was about 20 seconds after the pic above was taken that I learned two things. First, just how fast a small grill comes up to temp. Second, how fast a small, dirty gas grill can turn into a bon fire. I ran and got a large cup of water and kept it on standby from that point on. It was typical to go through two to three glasses of water during each cook. Anything that hit the drip plate and rolled off dripped right onto the gas flame igniting a healthy flare up each time. I couldn’t ever get more than about an arms length away from this pit due to flare ups.
Toward end of this first cook I gave up and decided to put the chicken in a pan for it to finish. This actually worked quite well. I wish I had figured it out sooner and I’m sure the chicken would have been void of the few char spots it had. Truth be told though, I like a little bit of char so I wasn’t complaining that much.
I have to admit that I left my trusty Thermapen at home for this trip and it was sorely missed during this cook. With the flare ups and not knowing what temp the grill was actually cooking at I had no choice but to separate the leg quarter at the joint to get a look at if it was done or not. Thankfully it was indeed done, if not just a touch over done. That’s not to say the chicken was dry, but had I left it on for another 10 minutes it likely would have been.
Once I verified the chicken was done I gave it a nice slathering of Smokin’ Sauce and I shut off the gas to the grill and left the lid closed so the sauce could set.
As you can see it’s not the sexiest yardbird ever cooked, but you know what it was kind of nice to eat good ole “regular joe” barbecue. It had some char to it. It was just the slightest bit over cooked. It wasn’t evenly sauced. It was…..good. It was just good chicken. It was refreshing to be reminded what just good barbecued/grilled chicken tasted like. It didn’t require a muffin pan or a bottle of blue butter. It lacked pretentiousness and fussiness, but it didn’t lack flavor and in the end that is a destination that we should all travel to while on vacation.