Saturday, June 30, 2007


"It's only 90 degrees today," said Ames with some surprise. A steamy 90 degrees: it rained last night, and the sun has managed to turn the great outdoors into a sweatbath.

Well, with the Fourth of July on a Wednesday, I decided to just take off Monday and Tuesday too. As a per-hour contractor, I can still do a few hours here and there from home Monday or Tuesday to help pay the bills, but I'm now on a last-minute, unplanned, five-day weekend. Maybe we can get some barbecue and some canoeing in? I hope so...

Last night, after a singularly disappointing visit to a new restaurant we had heard about, we stopped in at Lowe's and I bought some much needed grill maintenance stuff: a can of high-temperature enamel grill paint; some concrete "stepping stones" to build out a fire-proof section on the deck; a grill cover for the Santa Fe (the old one finally wore out); some S-hooks; and another flame-resistant grill pad (one of those little rug-like things you put under a grill to keep the grease and embers falling on your deck).

First order of business was the Santa Fe. It had been getting a little rusty, but a few minutes with sandpaper and the can of grill paint cleaned that up smartly. Here's a before-and-after:

Well... those pictures aren't totally honest. The "before" was shot on a hotter day with my cell phone camera. The "after" was shot with my actual camera. But you get the idea. A little sandpaper and some spray paint make a ton of difference.

Turns out my brother-in-law is interested in my Santa Fe, so I guess the offer of a free charcoal grill is over. But since he has no concrete plans (or at least none that I've heard) to actually claim it; I intend to get some more use out of it until he actually takes it away. So hurry up, bro., if you don't want me to waer it out before you ever see it!

I also cleaned up my Bar-B-Chef a little. It's stainless, so it doesn't require a ton of maintenance, but the hand-crank and the charcoal bed are moving parts. They soaked up a bit of oil today. I also finally removed the vanity cover from the cart, and I can't help but think it's a huge improvement:

I now have a functional shelf under my grill! I'm still thinking of taking the grill off the cart and remounting it backwards: that would let me put the vanity cover back on as a backstop to the shelf. But that grill's heavy, and will require some man-handling.

I also noticed a lot of the grills I see in stores now have S-hooks on towel racks to hang tools. I think that's a brilliant idea. Towel racks on grills are great, but hooks are a bona-fide necessity. I installed the hooks on my Santa Fe (I scavenged the hooks from my gas grill), but my Bar-B-Chef had a few already from the store:

But those hooks are tiny, and too close together. So last night I bought a couple S-Hooks, and they seem to be the barber. Except, of course, I bought them too small. So I'll get some larger ones next go 'round. This one hook took me far too long to coerce over the towel rack:

Still, it's a brilliant idea and a huge improvement.

I also wanted to share thes photos: these are the venturi tubes I melted off my late gas grill. I know I've said several times that I melted them right off the grill, but I think these photos might make that claim more real:

That's the same venturi in both pics. I only ever found one of them, and if you look closely, you can see where there is still a seam from the casting... I can't find a picture of the bottom of the gas grill, but the hoses actually melted from the grill body, and there was a one- or two-inch gap where each venturi had been.

I now treat chicken leg quarters with more respect.


The Family Jewels said...

Have a great 5 day weekend! Your passion for your grills and grilling is apparent in your posts...I just have a hard time with the whole cooking and eating red meat or pork thing.

I must say that your last pictures look a lot like what my cooking looks like and I am not melting plastic. All of our kids know that Hubby does the cooking and I do the fixing. Can we say food poisoning Oct. '97?

clumsy ox said...

tfj, those venturis are actually cast aluminum. True, the hose I melted was rubber; but this particular photo was metal.

You see, I'm somewhat proud of that fireball. I had "adjusted" my grill to try and extend its life and maintain a high temperature level. As it is, I accomplished the one and not the other. Once the fire was out and we were no longer in danger of burning down the house, I took a perverse pride in the epic proportions of the accident.

I am sorry to hear you see similarities to my accident in your cooking. For what it's worth, I pitched a lot of food in the trash when I was experimenting. I remember in particular one wok full of decent-smelling nosh that was so absolutely terrible we ended up ordering pizza.

October '97 sounds like an interesting story. Your description sounds intriguingly ominous...

The Family Jewels said...

It was a very sad October in 1997...we were in the middle of a TERRIBLE snow storm. I was trying to be helpful to Hubby who had already taken to doing most of the cooking and put the left over chicken (cooked by him the night before) into the crock pot with some chicken flavored ramen noodles. (Yes, ramen was day 6 of being trapped and we were getting to the end of our food supply.) I put the crock pot on in the morning and it was smelling rather good...then it came time to actually eat it. We started having symptoms that night and at about 3 a.m. Hubby said that it was just fine for me to stay out of the kitchen because he would do the rest of the cooking from then on.

I have tried to cook since to no avail...I can't even read the pictures on the toaster correctly and set the fire alarm off at about 4 one morning when trying to surprise Hubby with breakfast before he left for work. I have conceded to the fact that I was not made to be cooking in the kitchen...I do use the oven to bake polymer clay beads...extinguisher at the ready!

Shan said...

clumsy, I've been waiting to see whether you'd take any notice of Canada Day, but now I see that you are fully assimilated into the Borg. You must surrender your Canadian passport instantly.

clumsy ox said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
clumsy ox said...

It's refreshingly American of you to cut one off for want of making a patriotic comment on a given day. And Republican at that! George W. and Ann Coulter would be downright proud.

In actual fact, we've had some rather unique pressures on us recently, and it being Sunday, we were pre-occupied with church stuff. Too late did I realize what day it was. But my kids were quick to burst out in "Eau Canada" once they were reminded...

deuceman said...

Love your writing. I am about to purchase a Bar B Chef. Is there any difficulty with indirect grilling? It looks like you grilled directly over the coals. Do you not use the indirect method for smoking? deuceman

clumsy ox said...


Thanks for the kind words.

The Bar-B-Chef is a great grill. As you know, it somes in both the stainless and powder-coat versions. Just from looking at the display models in the store, the stainless has a couple "extras": the thermometer is better, the grill appears to be heavier, and the cart looks more sturdy. I'm not sure that's worth the $400 price difference.

The one reason I love my stainless is, I've burned the powder coat off both the Santa Fe I gave away and the Bar-B-Chef offset smoker's firebox. The stainless steel really doesn't care about how hot you get it, the powder coat as practical limits that I've reached more than a few times.

If I were to buy another powder coated grill (not unlikely), I'd spray it down with high-heat grill paint several times in the first couple weeks, just to try and preserve the finish.

As far as indirect cooking: for truly indirect cooking, I have a Bar-B-Chef offset cooker; but I find I never use it. The Texas is just too good a grill. I've cooked "indirect" on the Texas before, and it works well. In fact, the little charcoal separators on the charcoal bed make controlling charcoal placement very easy, which can't help but make indirect cooking easier.

But in the end, I've found I prefer the taste of food cooked directly over the coals. I can still get the grill down to the magic 200F for barbecuen' low and slow: it just takes some trial and error to figure out how big a fire you need. When I cook the food directly over the coals, I find a better smoke flavour from the fat rendering out of the meat and burning on the coals.

Of course, there's a lot of personal taste in that.

The lack of airflow control in the bottom of the grill makes any low/slow cooking more complicated than it ought to be. That's my main gripe with this grill. Coal placement goes a long way, but air control would be much, much better.

I hope this helps. Feel free to email or comment, especially if my reply falls short of helpful!