It's hard to believe summer is winding down. It seems like just yesterday I was waiting for the leaves to fill in on the backyard trees and for the tulips to burst through the warming spring ground. While this summer has been crazy hot, I'm not exactly looking forward to wearing layers and shoveling snow.
Labor Day weekend is my way of bottling up the fun of summer. It's one last hoorah.
Anytime we have friends over, there are two solid certainties: Plenty of BBQ and plenty of beer.
BBQ is the ultimate party food. It can be prepared well in advance, both out of necessity and convenience, and it's relatively inexpensive to feed the masses. In years past, I've thrown chicken into the mix, but no more. Chicken isn't as forgiving, and its extra work is time I would rather spend drinking beer. Priorities and all.
My meat trifecta is brisket, pulled pork (Boston Butt), and back ribs (baby-back).
Two Boston Butts and one flat cut brisket are perfect for the 22 1/2 inch Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker. Anymore, I almost always do an overnight cook.
Yes, I may be stumbling around the deck a bit more, but I prefer to get the smoker up and running at night versus waking up at the crack of dawn. Also, an overnight cook allows me plenty of time to not rush the meat and ample time to rest and slice, or pull, prior to serving.
Peace of mind in temperature maintenance comes from my iGrill devices. I use probes to not only monitor the meat but the ambient temperature of the grill. While you can buy ambient temperature probes, I find a normal probe slid through a sliced in half potato works just as well. Best yet, if something goes incredibly awry overnight, my iPhone running the app is right next to my bed. It's my grilling assistant who never sleeps.
The ribs take an easy 5-6 hours, and I have no problem fitting 5 racks on the Weber Summit Charcoal Grill. It really is my go-to smoker for most everything. The only time it's not my dedicated smoker is when I'm preparing a lot of food.
Towards the end of the cook, I remove the rib rack (which I always use) and spread out the ribs to other grills. I like to move them to a horizontal position to sauce. I also love to enlist the help of friends to "lay down the red."
For chow time, I cannot recommend enough how awesome pop-up chafing dishes are. With squeeze bottles for sauce, it's the perfect, and cheap, mass serving solution.
With the food out of the way, let's concentrate on the beer.
Although it doesn't insulate the ice, my unused 26-inch Weber kettle bottom is not only mobile, but the perfect height to store several cases of beer. The ash catcher system was removed, and the ash holes were covered with Gorilla tape. The center shaft holds a cork to ease in draining water post party. With a bottle opener attached to a handle, it's the ultimate beverage holder.
Yes, beer in a bottle or can is great, but I always like to have something on draft. Whether homebrew or 1/6 barrels of Samuel Adams Summer Ale & Warped Wing's Flyin' Rye, my outdoor beverage dispensing station has a major role.
For a long time, I made new labels for custom tap handles. No more. Instead, I used my smaller grilling planks so there was no mistaking not only what the beer was, but where it came from.
Great food, fantastic beer, and awesome friends make any party.
Even though it's sad to see summer wind down, days like these only make us look forward to next summer or more aptly, this labor day weekend.
We've worked hard all summer, it's time to go out with a bang...and a beer.
Note: Prior to Weber's acquisition of iGrill, I had my own devices. Now I have more. This post is all me and not sponsored by Weber.