Grilled Chicken Rigatoni Florentine
This dish is Italian-inspired comfort food at its finest. It's a long recipe, but the results are well worth the effort. Although the concept is simple, it's largely made from scratch. You could certainly substitute more pre-packaged ingredients, but the result won't be the same.

8 Chicken thighs, boneless and skinless
1 1/2 lb Dry rigatoni
16 oz Frozen spinach, thawed
16 oz Heavy whipping cream
4 cups Milk, 2%
8 oz Sour cream
1 cup Italian three-cheese blend (Parmesan, Asiago & Romano)
2 Tbsp Butter, unsalted
2 Tbsp Canola or vegetable oil
2 Tbsp All-purpose flour
1 1/2 Tbsp Garlic, minced
2 tsp Garlic salt
2 tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp Black pepper, ground fresh
1/2 tsp White pepper
Dash Cayenne
Dash Nutmeg

Trim any excess fat from the chicken thighs.

Season both sides of the chicken evenly with the garlic salt and the black pepper.

Set aside and let sit 30 minutes at room temperature.

Start your grill and prepare for direct cooking at medium-high heat (400-450º).

Cook the pasta per the package directions until it is just shy of al dente, then drain it well.

Note: You want the pasta a little underdone because it will finish cooking when it's baked.

While the pasta is cooking, brush the chicken with one tablespoon of the canola/vegetable oil and grill it over direct heat for three minutes per side.

Grilled Chicken Rigatoni Florentine

Remove the chicken to a plate and set aside.

Pour the thawed spinach on top of the draining pasta and stir to allow it to drain simultaneously.

Grilled Chicken Rigatoni Florentine

Preheat your oven to 350º.

Heat a large sauce pan over medium-high heat.

Add the butter and the other tablespoon of canola/vegetable oil and let heat 30 seconds.

Add the flour and whisk constantly to make a roux. You want a blonde roux, so cook it until it just starts to give off a nutty aroma.

Add the cream to the pan and bring just to a slight boil, whisking constantly.

Add the milk, salt, garlic, white pepper, cayenne and nutmeg to the pan and bring back to a slight boil, whisking constantly.

Add the cheese and sour cream to the pan and bring it back to a simmer, whisking constantly.

Remove the sauce from the heat.

Grilled Chicken Rigatoni Florentine

Note: The sauce will be a little thin, but that's intentional, as it will thicken when baked with the pasta.

Slice the chicken to 1/4" and add put it in a large mixing bowl.

Grilled Chicken Rigatoni Florentine

Add the pasta and spinach to the bowl.

Add the sauce to the bowl and fold to combine all of the ingredients.

Pour the pasta mixture into a very large baking dish.

Grilled Chicken Rigatoni Florentine

Cover the baking dish with foil, and bake 40 minutes.

Plate the pasta with shaved Parmesan.

Grilled Chicken Rigatoni Florentine

Serve and enjoy!

(Makes about 15 large servings)

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Beans For A Crowd
One of the required sides for a traditional barbecue meal is beans. I occasionally cook for groups, and these are what I've been serving lately. They are simple and easy to make, but they pack huge flavor. They're thick and rich with a great balance of sweet, savory, and tangy.

Another great thing about these beans is that they are a great base for adding all manner of other delicious ingredients. You could add peppers, bacon, diced ham, pulled pork, chopped brisket, or anything else you think belongs in good beans. Doctor 'em up and make them your own!

2 cans (55 oz) Bush's Original baked beans
3 cans (15 oz) Original Ranch Style Beans (or chili beans)
1/2 cup Molasses
1/2 cup Ketchup
2 medium Yellow onions, diced to 1/4"
2 Tbsp Bacon fat (or canola/vegetable oil)
2 Tbsp Plain yellow mustard
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp Tiger Sauce (or your favorite hot sauce)
1 Tbsp Apple cider vinegar

Preheat your oven to 325º.

Heat a medium pan over medium-high heat.

Add the bacon fat/oil and let heat 30 seconds.

Add the onions and cook until they are translucent and just barely starting to brown on the edges.

Remove the pan from the heat.

Add all of the other ingredients, except the beans, to the pan and stir to mix well.

Add the beans (do not drain them) to a large deep baking dish.

Note: I use disposable aluminum lasagna pans.

Add the onion and sauce mixture to the beans, and stir to combine well.

Cover the pan with foil and bake for 90 minutes.

Remove the foil, stir, and bake another 30 minutes.

Serve and enjoy!

Tip: Of course you can cook these uncovered on your smoker to really take them over the top. You'll probably need to add a little water toward the end to loosen them up.

Makes about 28 six ounce (3/4 cup) servings

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Monster Onion Bacon Burger
Last night I had a request from my wife. She asked for burgers with grilled onions and jack cheese, and with a side of sweet potato fries. I was happy to oblige, and I added bacon. That's very rarely a bad move.

OK, a burger is a burger, right? Wrong! A burger is only as good as what it's made of. My blend of choice is half sirloin and half chuck. I've found this to be a great mix of flavor and juiciness. If you can't find or identify either of these, ask your butcher. The right meat really does make all the difference. I always shoot for a final blend of about 20% fat. Lean burgers are just not good. Sorry, but that's just a fact. Not only does fat equal flavor, but it also equals "Man, this is a juicy burger!"

4 large Burger buns
4 slices Colby-Jack cheese
1/2 lb Ground sirloin
1/2 lb Ground chuck
1/2 cup Cooked bacon, crumbled
1 Tbsp Canola oil
1 medium Yellow onion, diced to 1/2"
2 tsp Garlic salt
2 tsp Black pepper, ground fresh

Combine the beef in a large mixing bowl.

Use your hands to mix the meat well. Yes, it's messy.

Note: You want to mix the meat just enough to combine the two cuts evenly. To avoid tough burgers, don't over-mix it until it goes to a pasty consistency.

Divide the meat into four equal portions (I use a scale) and form them into evenly-sized patties (about 1/2" thick and six inches in diameter).

Sprinkle both sides of each patty with the garlic salt and pepper.

Use your index finger to put a hole in the center of each patty and set them aside.

Monster Onion Bacon Burger

Note: The hole helps the burger maintain its flat shape, and not swell in the center and become a meatball.

Heat a medium saute pan over medium-high heat.

Add the oil to the pan and let it heat for one minute.

Add the onions to the pan and saute them, mixing often, until they are translucent and just starting to brown on the edges.

Tasty Tip: A splash of whiskey added to the onions will add another great flavor dimension.

Add the cooked bacon to the pan, mix well, and remove from the heat.

Start your grill and prepare for direct and indirect cooking (heat to one side) over a medium-hot fire (375-400º).

Grill the burgers over direct heat for four minutes.

Flip the burgers and cook them another four minutes.

Move the burgers to the cooler side of the grill and top each with a slice of cheese.

Toast the buns over direct heat.

Top each burger with a healthy portion of the sauteed onion and bacon mixture.

Serve and enjoy!

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Review: Original vs Competition Kingsford Charcoal

Last year Kingsford® changed the formulation of their Original "blue bag" charcoal, and I posted an in-depth comparison of the two formulations. That review was very well-received, so now it's time to do a briq-to-briq comparison of the Original versus their Competition product.

The Competition briquets are a relatively new product that was released in early 2009. Here's how it's described on their site:
This charcoal combines the performance needed for competition level results with the convenience needed for backyard barbecue. You get the best of both worlds — the high heat associated with lump charcoal plus the unique briquet shape that provides the consistent burn you need for perfect results every time.

3 main advantages:
  • High heat
  • 100% all-natural
  • Ready to cook on fast
Essentially, you can think of the Competition product as lump charcoal in briquet form. You get the high heat of lump with the convenience, uniformity, and predictability of a briquet.

As in the previous review, I wanted this comparison to be as fair and impartial as I could make it. I don't have a laboratory, but I am an engineer, so I did the best that I could in a home setting. I ran side-by-side tests of two brand new off-the-shelf bags of the each product. As you will see, I've weighed and photographed each product so that you can see exactly what I saw.

Let's see how all of this went down.

Review: Original vs Competition Kingsford Charcoal

The pictures above show an Original bag that may be somewhat misleading. A standard blue bag weighs 16.6 pounds, but what's pictured is a larger 20-pound bag from a two-pack.

Note: From here on the Original briquets are pictured on the left, and the Competition on the right.

The appearance of the briquets from each product are all but identical, so much so that I had to make a concerted effort to keep from getting confused about which was which.

Review: Original vs Competition Kingsford Charcoal

I weighed various quantities of the Original and the Competition briquets and here is how they compared:

1 briquet3/4 oz5/8 oz
5 briquets4 1/4 oz3 1/8 oz
10 briquets8 5/8 oz6 1/4 oz

Review: Original vs Competition Kingsford Charcoal

For the burn test, I punched two aluminum pie pans with an identical pattern of holes. I wanted to use a method that would contain the ash for a final weight, as you will see later.

Review: Original vs Competition Kingsford Charcoal

I arranged the Original and Competition briquets in each pan as similarly as I could. I used 12 briquets in each, in layers of six, four, and two (all with the grooves facing upward). I put a single Weber wax starter cube in each pile.

Review: Original vs Competition Kingsford Charcoal

I lit each cube and took pictures at five-minute intervals. For those interested, the temperature when I started the burn was 38º and the humidity was 82%.

Review: Original vs Competition Kingsford Charcoal

At five minutes.

Review: Original vs Competition Kingsford Charcoal

At 10 minutes.

Review: Original vs Competition Kingsford Charcoal

At 15 minutes.

Review: Original vs Competition Kingsford Charcoal

At 20 minutes.

Review: Original vs Competition Kingsford Charcoal

At 25 minutes. I started taking temperature measurements at this point. I used an infrared thermometer on the side of each pan at the 5 o'clock position. I would have liked to have had more readings, but the Competition sample was burning so hot that it exceeded the 600º limit of my infrared thermometer.


Review: Original vs Competition Kingsford Charcoal

At 30 minutes.

Review: Original vs Competition Kingsford Charcoal

At 35 minutes.

Review: Original vs Competition Kingsford Charcoal

At 60 minutes.


Review: Original vs Competition Kingsford Charcoal

At 90 minutes.


I stopped taking pictures at 90 minutes, but I continued reading the temperatures out to 180 minutes.


Here is a chart that shows the Original and Competition temperatures over time. The horizontal axis is time and the vertical shows the temperatures.

Review: Original vs Competition Kingsford Charcoal

Note: As I mentioned earlier, the Competition sample was burning so hot that it exceeded the 600º limit of my infrared thermometer. Given that, this graph doesn't really depict all of the true temperature profile.

What about ash? As you can see below, the Competition briquets produce nearly half the ash by weight, which is a significant difference. However, as you can also see, the undisturbed volume of ash is the same. I'm not sure that really matters, but I found it interesting.

Review: Original vs Competition Kingsford Charcoal

3 oz1 5/8 oz

In the end, the results of this comparison show exactly what I have experienced firsthand over the past two years. I regularly use both the blue bag and the Competition, and I appreciate what each offers. For low-n-slow barbecue, I primarily use the Original for its long consistent heat. For grilling and higher heat cooks I use the Competition product. It gives my grilled food just the right blast of wood fire flavor. At barbecue competitions I mix them (about 70% blue to 30% Competition) to give me the best of both worlds.

Here are some questions that I posed to the folks at Kingsford, and their answers.

Me: It's been two years since the Competition briquets were introduced. How have they fared commercially?

Kingsford: When we initially launched Kingsford Competition Briquets, we couldn’t keep bags on the shelves! The briquets continue to sell well, especially at places such as Costco, which we attribute to the unique combination of high heat associated with lump charcoal and the consistent burn associated with briquets that allow backyard grillers to barbecue like the experts.

Me: Is it fair to say that the composition of the Competition briquets is pure charwood with a natural binder?

Kingsford: Yes, Competition briquets are 100% natural. They are made up of wood char with just enough natural binder to hold it together.

Me: Does the Competition product use the same charwood as the blue bag product? If not, how is it different?

Kingsford: Yes, our Competition briquets use the same wood char that we use in Kingsford Original.

Me: How do the burning and temperature characteristics of the Competition product differ from that of the blue bag product?

Kingsford: Competition briquets burn hotter than Kingsford Original briquets. They also reach cooking temperature faster than Kingsford Original.

Me: Does the Competition product produce less ash than the blue bag briquets?

Kingsford: Yes.

Me: I noticed that the Charwood product has been discontinued. Will the Competition product remain widely available for the foreseeable future?

Kingsford: Currently there are no plans to discontinue Kingsford Competition Briquets. That said, our research and development team is constantly thinking about how to improve our product line up, so we cannot rule out a line change completely, but we don’t have any immediate plans to do so.

Me: Are there any plans to offer a line of smokewood-impregnated Competition products like you have with the mesquite and hickory lines?

Kingsford: That’s a great idea! At the moment, we don’t have a product like that in development but we are always thinking about ways to improve upon our product. Keep the feedback and ideas coming! We’d love to hear ideas on our Facebook page.

I hope that you've found this to be informational and helpful.

Obligatory Disclaimer: This is not a paid endorsement. It's just my honest findings and opinions.

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Barbecued Meatloaf
This is a new version of a recipe that I posted in the early days of this blog back in 2009. It's essentially the same with a few tweaks that I think make it simpler, and better.

Note:You can certainly forgo the grilling and cook this in a 350º oven. You'll need to put the foil pan on a wire rack in a sheet pan, and adjust your cooking time.

1 9" x 13" foil pan
1 1/2 lb Ground sirloin
1 1/2 lb Ground chuck
3 Eggs, slightly beaten with a fork
1 med Green pepper, diced small
1 can (10 1/2 oz) Condensed French onion soup
3/4 cup Bread crumbs
1/8 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp Ketchup
1 Tbsp Dried parsley
1 Tbsp New Mexico chile powder
1 tsp Black pepper, freshly ground
1 tsp Dried oregano
1/2 tsp Dried thyme
1/2 tsp Ground cumin

Prepare your grill for indirect cooking over medium-high heat (350-375º).

Poke 12-14 holes in the bottom of the foil pan. I used a knife and made slots about the size that a penny would fit through.

Wash your hands, and prepare to get messy.

Put the ground beef in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the center.

Add all of the remaining ingredients to the well.

Roll up your sleeves, get your hands in there, and mix everything evenly so that all of the ingredients are well incorporated. Be careful not to mix so much that the mixture turns to a pasty consistency.

Divide the meat mixture evenly into two portions.

Form each portion into a loaf that's about eight inches long and relatively even in thickness. You want it to be solid with no air pockets and a smooth exterior.

Put each loaf in the pan, centered and separated from each other.

Cook indirect on the grill for about an hour, or until the center of each loaf reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees.

Remove the pan from the grill, tent the with foil, and let rest 15-20 minutes.

Slice, serve and enjoy!

Optional: Glaze with your favorite BBQ sauce during the last 10 minutes of cooking.

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Win a trip to Kingsford® University

Win a VIP grilling weekend at Kingsford® University, held March 4-7, at the NASCAR Sprint Cup in Las Vegas.

Three lucky winners will be chosen to receive a VIP race weekend experience, including roundtrip airfare and first-class accomodations.

Head over to the Kingsford® Facebook page for all of the exciting details, and to enter.

I'll be there and I hope to see you!


Baked Mojo Fries
Here's a quick, easy, and no-fuss side that would be welcome alongside any grilled carnage. Not only are these simple, but they are a hearty and relatively healthy alternative to regular fries.

6 small Russet potatoes
1/4 cup Canola or peanut oil
2 Tbsp Your favorite barbecue seasoning (I used Kosmo's Cow Cover)
2 Tbsp Corn starch

Preheat your oven to 375º.

Wash the potatoes, and dry them with paper towels.

Cut each potato in half lengthwise, then cut each half lengthwise into three equal wedges, and put them in a large mixing bowl.

Add the oil to the mixing bowl, reserving one tablespoon.

Toss the potatoes in the oil to coat them.

Combine the barbecue seasoning and corn starch in a small bowl, and mix well with a fork or small whisk.

Add the seasoning and corn starch mixture to the bowl and stir the potatoes to coat them evenly.

Oil a large lipped sheet pan well with the reserved oil.

Pour the potatoes on the oiled pan and arrange them so that they each wedge is sitting on the skin side (cut sides up).

Bake for 45 minutes, or until the fries are golden brown and crispy.

Serve and enjoy!

I served mine with homemade fry sauce.

(Makes about five servings)

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Pressure Cooker Turkey Stock

Stock is an essential ingredient and secret to great cooking. A good stock is necessary to make soups, sauces, gravies (among my other things) that really shine. Sure, you can grab a box or can of “stock” or broth from your local grocer, but it seriously pales in comparison to the real thing. Not to mention that they are almost always loaded with sodium.

It used to be that when I heard or read the word “stock” I would think, “Oh, come on! Who has that kind of free time? I can’t stand around all day tending a stockpot. I have a life, people!” It’s true that making stock the traditional old-school way takes many hours. Yes, the results are worth it, but that doesn’t change the fact that most normal folk don’t have that kind of time.

I recently stumbled upon a method of making stock that reduces the stock cooking time to a mere hour. At first I thought that this would be akin to making a great prime rib in a microwave. Then, once I researched and pondered it further I realized that it actually produces a better product. How’s that? I’m glad you asked.

Stock is literally all about creating a flavorful liquid by wringing flavor and nutrients from the ingredients. This usually entails simmering bones, veggies, herbs, and seasonings in water for several hours. You have to simmer it long and slow in order to allow all of the good stuff to be released. You should avoid boiling a stock because the violent bubbling breaks down the ingredients and produces an overly cloudy product.

Enter the pressure cooker. The magic of a pressure cooker is that the sealed environs allow the boiling point of water to be raised significantly above the usual 212 degrees. This causes foods to cook much quicker while retaining more of their nutrients. Additionally, because the water never boils, there is no violent bubbling. Think of it as turbo-boiling in still water. It’s a beautiful thing.

Here, let me show you how this works.

Caution: Pressure cookers can be dangerous, so please make sure you read and heed the manufacturer’s instructions and warnings.

Pressure Cooker Turkey Stock

First, we need to roast the turkey parts. Sure, you can use a carcass of a previously-roasted bird, buy I find this to be far easier, better, and more consistent. I use one package of wings (about three pounds).

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Using a cleaver or large knife, carefully cut each wing at each joint. I discard the tips.

Season the wing pieces with kosher salt and pepper.

Roast the turkey parts on a sheet pan for 90 minutes, then remove them from the oven and let cool to room temperature, or refrigerate for up to three days.

Pressure Cooker Turkey Stock

Clean the carrots (there’s no need to peel them), celery, and peel the onions.

Rough chop all of the vegetables. The size doesn’t really matter, just chop them up.

Pressure Cooker Turkey Stock

Dump everything in your pressure cooker.

Pressure Cooker Turkey Stock

Add the water.

Pressure Cooker Turkey Stock

You want to just barely cover the ingredients, so add more or less water as needed.

Pressure Cooker Turkey Stock

Seal your pressure cooker per the directions, and bring to 15 pounds of pressure.

Reduce the heat as needed to maintain a pressure of 15 pounds and cook for 45 minutes.

Pressure Cooker Turkey Stock

Remove the cooker from the heat and let it cool until the pressure is completely relieved.

Open the cooker and remove the large pieces of meat, bone and vegetables with a large slotted spoon.

Pressure Cooker Turkey Stock

You can see what a great job the pressure cooker does. The meat completely falls off the bone with almost no effort. Our dog really appreciates this part (the leftover meat, not the bones).

Pressure Cooker Turkey Stock

Filter the stock through a very fine strainer and cool immediately. If you want a clearer stock, filter it through a colander that is lined with a clean kitchen towel. I used this batch to make gravy, so I didn’t care about it being a little cloudy. Now that I think about it, I rarely care.

Once the stock is cold, you can easily remove the solidified fat from the top.

Store in the refrigerator for up to four days, or freeze for long-term storage.

Pressure Cooker Turkey Stock

Use as needed.


  • You can use this recipe to make other types of stock, like chicken or beef. Just use those meats and bones in lieu of the turkey. For example, you can use a cut-up roasted deli chicken to make chicken stock, or use cut-up beef back ribs (roasted just like the turkey) to make beef stock. When making beef stock I would add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste for added richness.
  • If you don’t have a pressure cooker, just use a large covered stock pot. Bring it just barely to a boil, then move the covered pot to a 180-degree oven for six hours. There is no need to stir or tend it at all.

I am greatly humbled and honored to have had this recipe featured today on the Tasty Kitchen blog. As I mentioned in February, if you appreciate great recipes from passionate cooks, head on over, become a member (free), and thank me later.

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It's hard for me to believe that today marks the two-year anniversary of the launch of this blog. I started it as an online cookbook and creative outlet, not knowing what would come of it. As I look back I'm humbled and amazed at how far it has come.

I thank all of you for your tremendous support and encouragement. This year is already shaping up to be very exciting.



P.S. My first post was chili. A quick look at the URL shows what a blog newb I was.

Herr's® Baby Back Ribs Chips

Looky what I recently found at a local grocery store.

These were dirt cheap and they were also some of the best "BBQ" chips
that I've ever eaten. No, they don't taste like ribs (could they, or should
they, really), but they have a great BBQ flavor.

If you see these at your local mega-mart, I encourage you to give 'em a shot. I just wish that I could get my grubby mitts on the kettle version.

Note: Please excuse the cell phone picture.


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