I like to think that my culinary journey began about 22 years ago in the tiny kitchen of my family’s two bedroom apartment. I have vivid memories of my father teaching me how to appropriately season ground beef with salt and pepper to make juicy hamburgers. Maybe it was my cousin Cedric who taught me how to cut potatoes into enormous steak fries and shake them in a brown paper bag of salt and pepper
I first fell in love with BBQ after tasting some of the goodness from the guy across the street from First Baptist Church in J-Town Kentucky. After out Saturday morning basketball games this guy would be across the street with the biggest BBQ pit that I’d seen at the time serving two inch pork chop sandwiches for $3 a piece. There was something about the deep charcoal smoked taste that until this day I have not managed to forget. I’d be lying if I were to say that I haven’t spend a sizable number of years trying to replicate that very taste in my own BBQ endeavors, to no avail.
Fortunately in trying to replicate some of the best BBQ I’ve ever tasted I’ve managed to develop some methods and strategies for creating some of the best BBQ I’ve ever tasted. So in the end it’s turned out to be a win-win situation for myself and those closest to me.
Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of bumps and roadblocks on the way to coming up with something satisfying. There were the lighter fluid infused steak burgers that me and my football team mates cooked up in high school. I can’t forget about the Montreal and Poultry seasoning mix years. For some reason I couldn’t figure out why my turkey burgers always tasted so salty. There were the multiple health infractions in regards to the undercooked whole chickens before I managed to discover the thermometer.
I must say I’ve only tasted bad BBQ on a couple of occasions throughout my life. Most of the time I’ve had the luxury of experiencing good to great BBQ. My personal crowning achievement came a few years ago when I managed to conjure up some of my own life changing BBQ. Now that I’m fully engulfed in BBQ food and culture I couldn’t think of a different category of food that I’d rather be eating on a day in and day out basis. There’s something about life changing BBQ that touches your soul. Sauce or no sauce, beef or pork, smoked or fried, all of BBQ is such a paramount culture.
I still remember when my mother first allowed me to use the gas grill in our backyard all by myself. Turkey burgers, chicken breast and pork tenderloins used to be the staple menu items of my earliest BBQ adventures. For years I would beg my mom to buy a charcoal grill since I swore up and down that I could taste a faint hint of propane in my turkey burgers. Although we ended up purchasing a cheap charcoal want-to-be smoker the fuel taste was still ever present. I used to be one of those individuals who would douse the charcoal with lighter fluid and throw a match on it. After the flame died down I would douse the coals with even more lighter fluid all the while hoping I didn’t start a massive explosion.
I must admit that I thought that the food was supposed to cooked over an open fire and not gray coals. It wasn’t until one day when I went out to check on the grill after I had finished cooking a few things that I discovered that the grill was hotter after my cook than it was when I was struggling to get a whole chicken up to temperature. For some odd reason it tends to take me a few more instances to process some things in regards to BBQ but once I do I hold on to that valuable information forever.
Over the past five years I’ve seen my level of BBQ cooking explode in effectiveness and I must say that most of it has been brought on by continually refining my core processes. The core processes include fire, smoke, flavor, timing and temperature. I find that whenever I am able to dial in on each one of these processes I produce some of the best BBQ known to man… at least this man!
As for fire I try to adapt my methods depending on the type of weather we’re experiencing at the time. The effectiveness of my fire is usually a direct byproduct of air temperature as well as the overall moisture in the air. I’ve found smoking meats to be the most difficult in cool and rainy weather. Of course this never stops me and I always tend to find a way to muscle through the process.
When it comes to smoke my flavor of choice is true and tried hickory wood. Hickory tends to work with just about anything that you’re smoking. Of course you wouldn’t want to cold smoke cheese or fish with hickory wood but if its all you have and you’ve got a 15 pound brisket to get done it will do the job and a fabulous one at that. Speaking of brisket, I tend to prefer white oak for just about anything beef related. Although I’m liable to use hickory on just about anything I think that the best fit for it is pork. Fruit woods such as cherry, apple, orange or peach are great for fish and poultry. The various fruit woods tend to impart a more subtle smoke flavor and they’re also very aromatic. Nut woods such as almond and pecan tend to do well with just about all meats. Pecan imparts a flavor similar to hickory wood, just not quite as strong. Almond imparts a pleasant sweet smoky flavor.
Throughout the years I’ve come to understand many of the properties of various flavor profiles and how specific ingredients work together to create magical and mouthwatering results. Pork and ginger were made for each other much like beef and simple salt and pepper are a marriage made in paradise. Poultry, extra virgin olive oil and fresh herbs go together seamlessly just about overtime. All of these flavor profiles kissed with a good bit of smoke and occasionally finished off with a few minutes in the deep fryer tend to produce the highest level of BBQ fare found anywhere in our great country.
My favorite BBQ tends to vary based on the day of the week. Not literally but that is what it sometimes feels like. On most days I’d have to say that nothing beats the deep oak smoke flavor of beef brisket. When it comes to pork, there are a myriad of wonderful smoked options. The most common would of course be pulled pork from the shoulder of the pig. Sometimes referred to as Boston Butt, pulled pork makes up what most folks know as “BBQ”. Outside of pulled pork I’ve smoked more parts of the pig than any other variety of smoke-able meats from other animals. From baby back ribs to spare ribs to pork tenderloin and even pork belly I’ve done just about everything with the exception of the whole hog. In my own personal opinion almost all poultry should be smoked whole. Whether its chicken, turkey or duck the whole bird usually soaks up the smoke flavor the absolute best. I find that brining poultry is the magical component. Chicken and especially turkey always turn out better with a little extra flavor from a brine. Whether its beer or some sort or salt infused solution the brine will add immense flavor and personality to poultry.
Now that we’re on the subject of smoked poultry I can go into the specifics of where SmoFried came from. This past Thanksgiving a good friend of mine suggested that we smoke a few turkeys for our office the day before the holiday. We debated within ourselves whether we wanted to smoke the turkeys or fry them. After weighing the pros and cons of each method we came to the conclusion that there were only pros for each method. At that exact moment we thought out loud, maybe we should “smo-fry” the turkeys. And so we did, as well as smofried chicken wings. Needless to say Thanksgiving 2015 yielded some of the best turkey I’ve had in my life. There are are about 6 other close families who can say the same. Thus the term smofried was born at least in our world. It wasn’t until the day after Christmas that things started to get official. For the past eight years I’ve been heavily involved in the multi billion dollar domain industry. Bascially I know how to do my home work when it comes to prospecting potential branding opportunities. On the evening of December 26, 2015 I found myself online looking for other potential smofried ideas and or recipes. Instead of finding any edible gems I found the ultimate gem. After a quick Google search I noticed that there really wasn’t any official properties where I could find smofried information. My domaining background kicked in with the quickness and I went over to Godaddy.com and looked up the availability of smofried.com… and to my amazement the domain was available to be registered. Not only was the domain available for registration, the Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest handles were all available to be owned by someone. It was at that moment that I realized the trajectory of my culinary past time was on the up and up.