In practice cooks, it came out delicious. The taste-testers (my extended family) loved it.
Unfortunately, at the competition it did poorly. The judges commented it was too cold (I failed in my attempts to keep it warm) and too salty. The saltiness came from excess sauce I hastily dumped on top the chicken. (Note to self: don’t try to manage a BBQ competition and bring food…it’s too hectic)
As part of our ongoing series interviewing the competitors, below are my answers and recipe.
What type of grill/smoker do you have? Currently, I have an XL Big Green Egg (bought from Barbeques Galore; egg table bought from Premier Grilling), and an Akorn Jr. The one used more often is the XL Big Green Egg, which I find to be the most efficient grill/smoker I’ve ever used. Several of the benefits include
- It’s easy to set a desired temperature (once I got the hang of it).
- With just a little charcoal, the egg can maintain temps for hours without any issues.
- It’s extremely versatile – the egg is a grill, smoker, and convection oven. I have even cooked brownies in it. Recently, I posted my experience with making naan in the egg, and I love making pizza in it too – gives it a wood-fire flavor similar to pizza restaurants.
I have noted only two issues with the egg: it takes a while to drop temperature when I overshoot; and it’s not as good of a smoker as a true offset wood-burning smoker. It’s no surprise the winner of our first competition cooked his brisket on an offset stick-burning smoker – achieving superior flavor and smoke rings.
The Akorn Jr is a small kamado-style grill, although it’s not made from ceramic like the egg. Given it’s compact size, it’s useful for small cooks. Honestly, I hardly every use it. So far, I’ve had a hard time keeping the temp on the Akorn Jr from going crazy – it wants to get up to 600-700 degrees regardless of vent settings.
What grills/smokers have you had in the past? Weber kettle, Ducane propane 3 burner, Masterbuilt 2-door propane smoker, several other cheap gas grills, and several other portable charcoal grills. The best of these was the Weber kettle.
What is the favorite grill/smoker you’ve ever had and why? The Big Green Egg for the reasons stated above
At what age did you start grilling/smoking meat? In my teens. My mom was actually the pitmaster in our house (Yes, Muslim women can be pitmasters too!). She was grilling over charcoal and propane for as long as I remember. Her chicken tikka skewers remain the best I’ve ever had.
What do you enjoy the most about grilling/smoking? I enjoy several things:
- playing with heat and fire
- the feeling of finally getting the cook right after failing multiple times.
- cooking something my entire family – even the picky middle child – enjoys eating.
What’s your signature dish? Sish-tawook. I’ve tinkered with the recipe for years.
Give us one tip/hack to make improve our grilling/BBQ skills. I have two tips actually:
- Learn how to cook with indirect heat. I notice allot of grillers anxiously flipping and moving their meat, trying to make sure the food gets even cooking. They won’t need to worry so much once they learn how to setup 2 zones – one for searing and one for cooking the meat to doneness (without burning it to a crisp). I’ll be posting about this soon.
- Get a cooking thermometer that includes multiple probes and a remote unit (or wifi/bluetooth connectivity). I have had the Thermopro TP20 for about a year, and I find it invaluable. Such devices are good for monitoring temperature of the grill and the meat. I can be confident the grill stays at the temp I want, and I know when the meat has reached the desired temperature.
Crispy Chutney Chicken Bites Recipe
- 2 cups buttermilk
- chicken tenders – 2 packets
- 10 garlic cloves
- 6 serrano peppers, deseeded.
- 1 bunch fresh cilantro – about 1 cup
- 1 bunch fresh mint – about 1/2 cup
- 2 tablespoons Kosher salt
- Panko bread crumbs
- All-purpose flour
- Make marinade: In a blender, combine buttermilk, garlic, serrano peppers, cilantro, mint, and Kosher salt and purée until smooth.
- Reserve some of the marinade to drizzle over the chicken just before serving (optional).
- Add chicken tenders to marinade and let it sit for 18-24 hours in the fridge.
- Shake off excess marinade and coat chicken with mix of 3:1 ratio of Panko to All-purpose flour
- Grill indirect at 400 degrees (medium-high heat) until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. This will take 20-40 minutes. Half-way through, I usually flip the chicken and spray (both sides) with oil to add a little fat and make sure a crunchy external surface develops. At around 160 degrees, I moved the tenders to the direct side for just a few seconds/side to get a little more crispiness (be careful not to burn them, though).
- I cut up the tenders into bite size pieces.