Archive for the ‘Construction/remodeling’ Category

Summer Time…. And The Living’s Easy…

That’s right folks, its summer time.  The outdoor temperature yesterday was 92 degrees.  Today, the official temp was 93. The  National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ( is predicting 94 for tomorrow.

That makes it bar-b-que time.  

Since everyone has their own favorite recipes and techniques, let’s discuss how to get your bar-b-que ready for the season.  I’ve been working for the past few days on my gas grill and my box smoker, so I’ll share what I’ve done in a hope that you find something useful to get your summer off to a good cooking start.

First, I completely replaced my knock-off table top kettle grill with a proper Weber Smokey Joe.  It certainly is better built, has upper and lower vents, and a proper charcoal grate.   Sometimes, you just can’t fix things and it’s just better to buy new.

Second, my gas grill.  Not an expensive one by any means.  It’s a four or five-year old Fiesta Grill I picked up at Target when I could no longer repair my old no name gas grill.  I’ve replaced some of the parts over the years, the main burner, igniter, grates, lava rocks, the usual things that wear out on a cheap grill.  The first thing I replaced even before I was finished unpacking it, was the lava rocks.  I don’t like the way they distribute the heat in a gas grill.  I’m not a huge fan of those sheet metal “vaporizer” plates either.  The briquettes are ok, but in my opinion not really optimal.  I had found a set of honeycomb patterned fire brick tiles that worked really well, unfortunately after a couple of years they became very brittle.  They broke at the slightest bump and needed replacing.  So today, I had what I consider a brilliant idea.  I had some marble tile in the garage.  They not only added a wind break inside the grill box, but also a whole lot of thermal mass to hold the heat.  That means the grill heats up faster and hotter, then stays hot longer.  After using the grill tonight I can say this for sure, I’m sticking with the marble tile.  I would suggest that if you’re not satisfied with your cheap gas grill, replace the burner with a stainless steel or cast iron burner and dump the lava rocks and get yourself a box of unsealed marble or granite tiles.  You don’t have to completely cover the coal grate like with the lava rock or briquettes, the box I had held 9 tiles, and that was plenty, 4 in front and 4 in back with an extra just sitting off to the side.

Just to show the difference.  With nothing in the grill to control the flames from the burners, my grill would heat up to 400 degrees give or take 20 degrees.  Any thing more than the most gentlest of breezes would blow the burners out.  The original honeycomb tiles I had in there allowed the grill to get to 600 degrees, but it would take somewhere in the realm of 45 minutes to get there.  The marble tile I put in today helped to  pin the thermometer at over 600 degrees in ten minutes.  Faster than my kitchen oven, which takes twenty minutes to get to 400.  The conclusion is that the heavier, solid stone, tile holds and distributes the heat far better.  If you can find these kind of tiles on sale, they’re usually anywhere from $1.50 to $3.00 each.  So for the 9 tiles in the box, it would be anywhere from $13.50 to $24.00, which in the upper price range was what I paid for the honeycomb bar-b-que tiles.

The last thing I did to the grill was add a cast iron cooking grate.  Not as a replacement for the wire one.  I bought a small, expandable, one that I can put right on the wire grate.  I can put it across the whole thing and have a great surface for searing meats, or close it down a bit and put it off to one side for searing then moving the meat over to the other side of the grill for slow cooking.  And at over 600 degrees in there now, that iron grill sears fast and deep.    A definite must for any grill, is to get yourself a cast iron searing grate that you can just put on your wire cooking grate.  I can move this one from the gas grill to the charcoal grill easily and always have fantastic grill lines in my food.

Lastly I’m working on the smoker.  Again, its an inexpensive Brinkman box smoker.  The sides are thin sheet metal and the bowl that holds the charcoal will put the fire out quickly because the ash has nowhere to go.  The result, regulating the temperature of the smoker is very difficult.  First remedy was to drill holes in the pan, dozens of holes.  It helped some, but not nearly as much as buying a replacement charcoal grate for a smaller Weber grill.  That helped make the fire burn better, but if its not a hot day with the sun blazing down on the smoker it looses heat like crazy because of the thin sheet metal walls.  Last year in an attempt to get it to retain more heat, and give me a platform to start the charcoal chimney on, I placed a 2 inch thick concrete paving stone on top.  That helped, but if the smoker is in the shadows, and there’s a good stiff breeze like this past weekend, temperature management is a nightmare.  Since my idea for the grill worked so well, I’m going to line the inside of the smoker with tile.  The thermal mass that offers should go a long way toward regulating the smoker’s temperature.  That will be my project for Saturday.  I’ll have to see if I have any tile in my garage that will work for this.  I’ll keep you all posted on how it works out.

So, there you have it.  Some ideas on how to make older or less expensive bar-b-que grills work far more efficiently.  If you’re buying a new grill, there are inexpensive things you can do to make your new grill even better.

I’ve decided what I’m doing with my cabinet doors…

I’m in an extended planning stage for my kitchen.  Ok, I’ve been in this stage since I bought the house.  Anyway,i think this would be a great idea for the cabinet doors.