Everyone needs a smoker

This is what I’ve been telling my wife Carmen for years now. I’m not sure why I believe this – maybe because my barbeque sucks or maybe I’ve watched too many BBQ competition shows or maybe I just had too much empty space on the deck. I do have some prior experience. As a kid I smoked fish with my parents at fly-in fishing camps and when I worked at a butcher shop in high school I loved to smoke sausages and hams.

Recently we tracked one down a unit that met my demanding requirements: electric programmable, able to use any type of wood chips and on sale for 50% off. I added some hickory wood chips to my order, packed it into the subaru and figured I’d soon be eating large.

I admired the shiny chrome racks and stainless steel interior as I assembled it (it’s never looked that shiny since). Eager to get started I cracked the minimal intsruction manual to find an initial smoke-in was required.

The next weekend I did the smoke-in and that’s about it. Time has a funny way of slipping away and it wasn’t until our friend Steve was staying with us a month later that the stars aligned for the smoker christening.

When trying something for the first time conventional wisdom says start small. I say go big or go home so I bought chicked legs with backs attached, pork side ribs and some nicely marbled pork steaks. I made the default rub listed int he instruction manual and let the meat maninate for 2 hours. Everything went in at the same time and I tested the results every 30 minutes. This wasted heat and smoke so next time I’ll add things in a staggered fashion. I feel a little sorry for the neighbors becasue it’s not really fair to make someone endure 6 hrs of smoking smells and then get none of the product.

For a first try I was very impressed with the results. The chicken cooked the quickest and could have come out a little sooner but it was moist and very flavourful. The ribs ricked but the true star was the pork steaks. The meater steaks worked best with the spicky rub and the marbling kept the meat very juicy.

I’ve used the smoker box and infoil pouch with wood chips in all of my BBQs. While I got asome smoke flavour the BBQ isn’t able to maintain the constant low temperature and flow of smoke required for really good results.

Like my quests to make the perfect rissotto or pie crust, I expect smoking to be a lifelong series of experiments that I force my friends and family to evaluate with me.

The best thing I did was to start smoking diary.  I found the perfect leather bound notebook with a kettle BBQ and the words “Let It Marininate” embossed on the cover. I record everything I try (products, dry rubs, marinades, times & temperatures) and log both sucesses (more) and failures (less). Honesty in cooking is very inportant – no one ones to make the same bad meal twice.

What next? I’ve tried salmon since and it was nice but once again I left it in a little too long. Tomorrow I’ll be cooking ribs and fish with a different rub but I expect ther esults to be just as tasty.

So go out and buy a smoker, you’ll never look at your gas BBQ the same again.

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Review: Plane Food by Gordon Ramsay

Airports are not generally know for the quality of their food, but like everything else at British Airway’s new Terminal 5 at Heathrow, the term ordinary doesn’t apply.

As one of the newest restaurants to sport the Gordon Ramsay badge, Plane Food is a pleasant alternative to the usual airport cafeteria fare. Located on the 3rd floor, nestled behind Harrods, its decor is both contemporary and comfortable, with views extending to both inside and outside the terminal.

Servers are formal, grey suits and ties, but the client dress code is casual; a must given how most people dress for travel. Service was precise and not rushed. Expect to spend 90 min on a full meal. If you’re worried about missing your flight, there is a flight information screen above the expansive main bar. They also offer a Plane Picnic alternative where they’ll bundle up food for your flight in a reusable carryall bag. The Picnic menu is varied and comparatively cheap – 3 Courses for £11.95.

The bread basket to start was warm and included a sweet butter. The beetroot and goat’s cheese salad with toasted walnut dressing (£7.50) was tasty but sparing. Pasta and risotto dishes come in both appetizer and main sizes. The wild mushroom oricchiette with smoked bacon and sage (£7.50/10.50) was very good and the white onion risotto with dolcelatte cheese and spring onions (£7.50/10.50) was excellent – a testament to why Ramsay grinds Hell’s Kitchen contestants about properly cooking Risotto. Both mains were generous portions for a fine dining restaurant and unfortunately we didn’t leave room for dessert.

They offer an extensive wine selection and of course you can browse and purchase a copy of Gordon’s books while you eat.

The menu is pricey but this is a Gordon Ramsay affair after all. It’s not Three Star Michelin but they do serve excellent food that’s a class above anything else you’ll find in an airport. If you’re looking for best value, try the Picnic option or go to the * Pret A Manger * on the 2nd level – great sandwiches at reasonable prices.

Open Monday-Sunday 5.30am – last flight (approx 9.30pm)

Contact Info:

 Plane Food

Terminal 5, Wellington Road, Heathrow Airport

HOUNSLOW TW6 2GA

http://www.gordonramsay.com/planefood/

T: 020 7592 7964

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