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June 30, 2022

Ryan’s Grilling Tips: Fuel and Fire

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tomahawk steaks, grilling, fire, summer grilling, steaks on the grill Summer is the time for grilling tips and fantastic food!

In an earlier blog, I suggested several ways you can up your grilling game. We discussed the pros and cons of using a gas grill versus wood or charcoal, and I mentioned that all the grills I personally own are charcoal. Why? Even though there are some advantages to a gas grill (such as ease of start-up and cleanup), it will never match the taste and temperatures you can reach with a charcoal grill. For me, it's worth dealing with the downsides of charcoal in exchange for those deep, smoky flavors!

But how do you get the incredible taste that only a charcoal grill can achieve? It all starts with mastering two things, Fuel and Fire. Oktoberfest, grilling, Culinary Crafts, sausages on grill, lederhosen, smiling chef, German, German hat, tongs, charcoal grill,

FUEL

At Culinary Crafts we always say that great food starts with great ingredients, and when it comes to grilling, charcoal isn’t just a heat source; it’s an ingredient. Unlike cooking in a microwave or oven (or even on a gas grill), the fuel you use in a charcoal grill will flavor your food dramatically, so it’s important to choose your fuel carefully.

Lump charcoal

My favorite fuel—at least for grilling steaks—is lump charcoal.

Lump charcoal is made by burning away all the sap and other volatile impurities in the wood, leaving thick black chunks of carbon. The water and gasses in the wood are also burned off, but not completely, which is why lump charcoal sometimes sparks and pops when you heat it, as little gas pockets expand and explode. It’s not dangerous, but it can get pretty exciting! lump charcoal, grilling, fire, coals, flame, burning fuel The main advantages to lump charcoal are
  • it gets hot quickly (in 10 to 15 minutes).
  • it reaches very high temperatures (up to 1400°F) which allows you to give food a wonderful char.
  • it burns more completely, leaving behind less ash.
  • it gives a clean, flavorful smokiness to your food.
The downsides to lump charcoal are that it’s a bit more expensive and it burns quickly, so you’ll need to keep adding charcoal for longer grills.

Briquettes

The most popular type of charcoal—the kind I use for barbequing or for lower-temp grills—is briquettes. Briquettes are basically crushed charcoal held together with starch. If they have no other additives, they’re called “natural” or “hardwood” briquettes. Briquettes can be made from many kinds of wood, but I mostly use mesquite for its strong, flavorful smoke. Hickory is also great. The bags you buy in the store don’t always list what wood it’s made from, but if the briquettes are dense (i.e. the bag feels heavy for its size), it’s probably good wood. briquettes, coal shovel, grill, grilling with charcoal, grilling demonstration, Culinary Crafts, catering in Utah The main advantages of briquette charcoal are
  • it’s readily available.
  • it’s less expensive than lump charcoal.
  • it’s easy to fit onto your grill and move around to control your fire.
  • it gives a more consistent grilling temperature.
  • it burns longer (100 briquettes ought to let you grill for up to an hour).
The biggest disadvantage to briquettes is that they won’t burn nearly as hot as lump charcoal (briquettes max out around 800°F), but for barbequing and for grilling some foods that’s okay.

Briquettes can also be a little more difficult to light, but using a chimney starter will solve that problem. (See below.) If you want to give your charcoal some help by dousing it with lighter fluid, that’s okay too, so long as you leave plenty of time—at least 30 minutes—for the lighter fluid chemicals to burn away before you start to grill. Don’t ever add lighter fluid after the fuel is hot! Some brands of briquettes are pre-soaked in lighter fluid, but I don’t recommend ever using those types of briquettes. The chemicals will not completely burn away, and they will give your food a nasty flavor.

grilled beef, cutting steak, steak knife, meat fork, prong, cutting board, resting meat, grilled steak

Wood

Unless you’re out in the wild and grilling over a campfire, using raw wood for your sole fuel is not ideal. Wood is full of tar and other contaminants that will produce a thick, dirty smoke when burned. Most people don’t like the flavors it adds to food. Scraps of construction lumber make even worse fuel for grilling because they’re treated with chemicals.

That said, there are ways that raw wood can be used in your grill to add great flavor. Pure wood chips, soaked in water, can be dropped directly on top of your charcoal to add aromatic flavors of your choice. I love the strong smoke from mesquite, hickory, or oak wood chips. Woods like cherry, apple, or plum add a nice fruity flavor, but stay away from soft woods like pine, cedar, or fir. Their smoke tastes terrible.

PRO GRILLING TIP: If you’re using a gas grill, you can still add smoky flavor to your food by burning woodchips in a smoker box or in a tinfoil packet with holes punch in it. Just place the foil packet over a heat source where it will slowly smoke and burn. You can also add dried rosemary or basil for another level of flavor. (Leave the stems on.) For a rich, fruity flavor, save and dry your grapevine cuttings and add them to your fuel.

 

FIRE

wood grill, grilling, flames, barbeque, outdoors, grilling in the backyard Once you know what you’re going to be burning, it’s time to talk about how. The first concern, of course, is safety.

Set Up Safety

  • Set up your grill safely far away from potential fire hazards like structures or low- hanging trees. (Anticipate possibilities like things falling or being blown around by wind.)
  • Position your grill where pets, children, or foot traffic won’t accidentally bump into it.
  • Think about the mess. I’m not just talking about the ash; I’m also talking about the mess from the food itself. For example, if you’re grilling meat, you’re always going to have drippings, so don’t set up your grill on any decorative or porous surface. Stay away from concrete, nice flooring, or patio wood if you can. Grass is good.
  • Arrange your tools and space ahead of time. When you’re holding a scorching-hot chimney in one hand and tending to a sudden flare-up with the other, it’s too late to be thinking about where you’re going to safely put things down.

grilling tools, grilling demonstration, cookbooks, tools for grilling, barbeque toolsFire Safety

  • Don’t wear anything loose like a tie or dangling, long hair while you’re grilling.
  • Keep “helpful” neighbors and everyone else at a safe distance from your fire.
  • If you ignore our advice and use self-igniting briquettes, at least don’t use them in a chimney or with an electric coil starter.
  • Once your fire is going, never leave the grill unattended.
  • Be careful when opening the lid of your grill. When you turn or move meat, be especially alert for flareups from melting fat falling onto your coals.
  • Wear proper protective gear and don’t set hot items near flammables, where someone can accidentally touch them, or where they can be knocked over by the wind.
  • Have a functioning fire extinguisher and/or a water hose nearby, just in case.

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Food Safety

When you’re grilling, you also need to be careful about the way you handle your food.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling food, especially raw meat.
  • Keep your plates and platters clean. Don’t put cooked foods onto the same plate with raw foods or where raw meat has been.
  • Keep your tools clean too. If you use a fork or tongs on raw meat, wash it thoroughly before you let it touch any cooked food.
  • Especially for less experienced grillers, it’s a good idea to use a meat thermometer to check your food and make sure it reaches the recommended internal temperature.
  • Don’t leave uncooked, perishable food sitting out (even to thaw) for more than 2 hours. In hot weather, don’t leave it out for 1 hour.
  • Don’t put grilled food into your fridge until it’s had time to cool off. Putting hot food into your fridge can change the temperature enough to make your other food spoil.

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Planning Your Fire

Once you’ve set up your space to grill safely, it’s time to think about how you’re going to arrange your fuel and build your fire.

A good fire takes planning. Think about what items you’ll be cooking and what temperatures each of them will need. You may also choose to leave room on your grill for wood chips and/or an aluminum pan to catch meat drippings. Personally, I like to let fat drip right onto the charcoal. I love the added flavor from the smoke of the burning fat, and I don’t mind dealing with the flames of an occasional flare-up by temporarily shifting my meat to a cooler zone.

Good Grub sign, signage, barbeque, grilling outdoors, Culinary Crafts, catering event in Utah, outdoor grilling You also need to plan out your grilling schedule. Charcoal takes time to heat, and after you put your hot coals onto the grill, you’ll need another 10-15 minutes to let the grill itself get hot before you start cooking. Coordinate your schedule so that your meats will be well-rested and your other food will be coming off hot and juicy right when everyone’s ready to eat.

Light It Up!

If you’re using briquettes, the best way to light them is to use a charcoal chimney. Open the air vents of your grill, remove the cooking grate, and set the chimney on the charcoal grate. Fill your chimney with charcoal. (One chimney full of briquettes should be enough to grill four thick steaks.) Use lighter fluid if you want, but as I said, a chimney makes lighter fluid unnecessary. Pile a wad of newspaper under the chimney and light the paper. The bottom briquettes will heat up and light the briquettes above them.

When the top coals in the chimney are lightly glowing or are flickering with flames, they’re ready. Using thick gloves and following the manufacturer’s instructions, carefully turn the chimney over to dump the briquettes onto your charcoal grate. Use a charcoal rake to arrange them according to your plan to create your temperature zones.

Replace your cooking grate and wait for it to heat up. By the time your briquettes finish turning ashy white, you shouldn’t have any more tall, yellow flames. You want your flames to be low and blue or red; that means that your fire is burning hotter and more efficiently. You should be seeing only a small amount of clear-ish colored smoke from your briquettes. The hotter your fire burns, the cleaner the smoke will be. Remember, thick, black smoke is dirty smoke, and no one wants that in their food.

grill flare-up, grilling hamburgers, outdoor grill, outdoor cooking, campfire cooking, summer catered event in Utah, orange flame, smoke, charcoal grill After 10-15 minutes, check the temperature. To do the popular “hand test,” place your hand about four inches above your coals, approximately at the height where your food will be placed. (Don’t touch the grate, obviously.) See how long you can comfortably keep your hand there. If you can hold it there only 1 or 3 seconds, your grill is at a high cooking temp. 4 to 7 second means you’re at a medium heat, and 10 seconds or longer means you have a low temperature.

For grilling steaks, pork chops, burgers, or thin veggies you’ll want a high temperature. Medium heat is great for chicken, fish, or thickly-sliced veggies. For larger or tougher cuts like ribs or brisket, you’ll want to grill them at low heat for longer times.

If you need to decrease your heat, try cutting off some of the oxygen to your fire by partially or fully closing the grill’s air vents.

To turn up the heat, try increasing the airflow by opening the vents. Raking the coals or breaking your charcoal into smaller pieces will increase the surface area that can burn, which will also raise the heat. Just be careful not to knock ash onto your food. If those methods don’t work to increase the heat, you probably just need to add more fuel.

grill, trout, santa maria grill, outdoor event, summer party, catering in Utah, SLC caterers Don’t worry if you encounter some difficulties building your fire, creating your grill zones, and keeping their temperatures constant. Learning to master fuel and fire takes practice. But now that you’ve got the basics, it’s time to turn our attention to the food.

That, my friends, is the subject of our next grilling lesson! Stay tuned.

March 29, 2019

The Top 15 places to eat lunch in Utah County

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Culinary Crafts headquarters is located in Pleasant Grove, so we are always looking for great places for lunch in Utah County. We polled Ryan, Kaleb, and our chefs to come up with this list of our 15 favorite lunch spots.
  • Pizzeria 712 - 320 State St #185, Orem, UT - This has been a Crafts family favorite since it opened. 712's approach shares many of our own philosophies and values regarding food - simple yet creative, ingredient driven, and house-made. Always delicious!
  • Asahi - 1470 N State St, Orem, UT - Great sushi at a great price. Conveniently located. We go here a lot!Image result for asahi orem
  • Tsunami Restaurant & Sushi Bar - 1616 W Traverse Parkway, Lehi, UT - Not only is the sushi fabulous, there are lots of delicious options to satisfy even the sushi averse, including an impressive sake list.Image result for tsunami sushi
  • Oteo - 139 S State St, Lindon, UT - Tacos, sopes, and empanadas after our own hearts! Innovative and trendy, yet still simple and without fuss. Don't miss the avocado tacos.
  • Black Sheep Cafe - 19 N University Ave, Provo, UT - Southwestern Native American cooking with full bar selections. Upscale and full service, but still casual. Ryan recommends the hog jowl tacos!Image result for black sheep provo
  • Cravings Bistro - 25 W Center St, Pleasant Grove, UT - A modern take on classic comfort dishes (grilled cheese and soup). It's impossible to pick the wrong sandwich, but if you're undecided opt for the ABC (apples, bacon, and cheddar). And it's just a few blocks away from our own office!Image result for cravings bistro
  • The Foundry Grill - 8841 N Alpine Loop Rd, Sundance, UT - Ryan spends a lot of time skiing the slopes at Sundance, and drops in here often for an elegant dinner of modern American cuisine. The Tree Room, and Owl Bar are excellent too!Image result for foundry grill
  • Peace On Earth - 35 N 300 W #200, Provo, UT - Let's be honest, it's not easy to find a great cup of Joe of Utah County. We're so happy to see more places like this coming to town. Great sandwiches and beautiful digs as well!DSC08314.jpeg
  • Taqueria 27 - 1688 W Traverse Pkwy, Lehi, UT - Great food at great prices. Fun for groups. Also featuring an array of specials updated daily.Image result for taqueria 27
  • 180 Tacos - 3368 N University Ave, Provo, UT - Too many taco places you say? There's no such thing! Great to dine in or take. The daily specials are always fun!Image result for 180 tacos
  • Bam Bams BBQ - 1708 State St, Orem, UT - Delicious Texas-style BBQ. And just like in Texas, the best thing is the brisket! Image result for bam bam's restaurant
  • Yamato - 1074 State St, Orem, UT - As much as we like to see new comers in our local restaurant scene, we're also ecstatic that places like Yamato stand the test of time. Excellent sushi as well as other classic Japanese dishes.Related image
  • CHOM Burger - 45 300 N, Provo, UT - Just because you've ditched fast food for good, doesn't mean you can't find a tasty burger out there. We love CHOM. And the milkshakes are killer too (especially the rotating seasonal selection)!
  • Sidecar Cafe - 1715 W 500 S, Springville, UT - In addition to the great breakfast and lunch menus, you can check out the Legend's Motorcycle Museum while you're there.
  • Straptank - 1750 West 596 South, Springville, UT - Across the parking lot from Sidecar, this brewery (yep, you read that right) features pub grub to satisfy all comers.
 

March 8, 2019

Host an Olive Oil Tasting!

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Of course we never tire of hosting wine, cheese, charcuterie, whiskey, and chocolate tastings. Less common, but just as fun, we also love to sample a line up up fabulous olive oils.  It's a super fun experience to kick off a dinner party!  Moreover, slowing down to sample different high end oils will also improve your larger cooking experience as you find your favorite oils and use them in all your dishes.   What you'll need:
  • Extra virgin olive oils. Start with 3-6 oils. Pick premium selections. And look to achieve as much variety as possible - oils of varying itensity, of different colors, and from multiple locales.
  • Wine Glasses.
  • Small Plates.
  • Bread. Something with a great crust. Simple breads sans any flavors or accoutrements (the bread is simply to deliver the oil, not compete or contrast with it).
  • Palate Cleanser(s). We suggest fresh fruit (apples, oranges, berries, etc.) and sparkling water.
Photo Credit: Olive Oil Source
  1. First, pour about a tablespoon of the first olive oil into your wineglass.
  2. Swirl the olive oil in the glass.  Cup the glass in one of your hands and cover the top of the glass with the other.  Swirl gently to release aromas.  The warmth from your hands with help the aromas release as well.
  3. Uncover the glass and smell the oil deeply.  Take mental notes of what you smell.  Is it peppery? Fruity?  Buttery?
  4. Next, take a sip of the oil almost in a 'soup-slurping' fashion.  Allow the oil to run across the palate. Breathe in through your nose. Try to smell the oil again before swallowing.
  5. As you exhale, swallow the oil and concentrate on the flavor.  Think about some general categories such as fruitiness, pungency, bitterness, earthiness, pepperyness, etc.  Write down your observations and then compare them with your fellow tasters!  You can also re-taste the oil by pouring it on a small plate and dipping the bread in the oil and seeing how that affects the taste.
  6. When you are ready to move on to the next oil, cleanse your palate with plain bread, a slice of apple, and/or sparkling water.
  7. Repeat the process for the oils.
Taking notes helps. Putting your impressions into words and discussing them with others will help them take form and become more specific. It also helps to recall your thoughts later on when shopping for oils for unique purposes. Below is a great card that's fun to give each guest to help them take notes.Eat well!

February 13, 2019

Ryan’s Valentine’s Day Menu

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Ryan is at it again, making a special night for his stunning wife. Perhaps this will offer some inspiration for your meal.  Apertif & Appetizer 14 Day Rose & Cherry Infused Valentine 75 Rose & Cherry cupcake Amuse American Ossetra caviar, french toast, creme fraiche, and buttermilk syrup Soup wild mushroom bisque with black garlic crouton and mascarpone Entree tuna, gooseberries, and shaved foie gras Entree chili pepper fried chicken with radish, kumquat and ginger salad Salad winter squash and citrus salad with shaved fennel, local greens, and sorrel rhubarb dressing Intermezzo pomegranate, grapefruit, and herb granita Dessert olive oil cake with poached pear, zabaglione, and warm granola Cheese and Honey local raw unfiltered honey and artisan cheese selections Chocolate flourless chocolate cake with dark chocolate ganache, and chocolate cookie crumble, finished with edible gold flake Wishing you a romantic and delicious Valentine's Day!

December 26, 2018

A Very Special Baby Shower!

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Hope you all had a lovely holiday with your friends and family!  Today we have a VERY SPECIAL Culinary Crafts event to share with you all!  It’s our very own Meagan Crafts Price and Clayton Price’s baby shower - and, spoiler alert, it was GORGEOUS!  Held at The Tasting Room, our friends at Soiree Productions created a picture perfect brunch party.  Check it out! How pretty is this signage?  A perfect welcome to the party and those florals from Artisan Bloom are stunning! The Tasting Room was the perfect venue, don’t you think?  We love the mix of feminine florals with just a touch of blue for Meagan and Clayton’s baby boy, Tristan! Another peek at those beautiful tables!  SO PRETTY! We loved how many fun details were party of this shower as well!  Guests were invited to take a Polaroid of themselves to put in the guestbook with a note for the soon-to-be parents! We knew we had to have a fresh juice bar!  Fresh squeezed OJ, Pomegranate Lemonade, Cucumber Mint Water, and Mango Lemonade were all served.  Yum! Of course, since we hosted a brunch party, we made sure to have a signature Coffee Bar! This action bar with artisan cheeses, salad, crackers, and honeycomb was definitely a crowd favorite! Seriously, how pretty was this event???  I couldn’t help but share one more of this beautiful setup! We love our Ebelskiver action station!  How could you not love these delicious pancakes?  Plus the guests love having theirs made to order! The hand calligraphied menus were such a great addition to the event!  Also we served Eggs Benedict because you can’t have brunch with out Benes.  Our delicious version were also made to order and topped with whichever toppings the guests wanted.  So good! Of course we also had a whole selection of desserts!  Plus, we love displaying some of them in our honeycomb display.  Such a whimsical touch! Thank you to all of the wonderful people who came to celebrate Meagan, Clayton, and baby Tristan!  And thank you to Soiree Productions, Artisan Bloom, The Tasting Room, Logan Walker Photography, and Pepper Nix Photography for coming together to host such a beautiful event for them too!  It was the best day to celebrate the best soon to be parents! Check out more Salt Lake City, Park City, and Utah County catering at www.culinarycrafts.com!  

December 5, 2018

Badass Boards: Kaleb’s end grain cutting board

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An end grain cutting board is the Cadillac of cutting boards. Both functionally and aesthetically, they are tough to beat. Let's talk a little bit about why an end grain board is so special. Think of your cutting board like a paint brush with the wood grain being the bristles of the brush. Lay that paint brush horizontally, and you have a long grain cutting board. Your knife is going to rest on top of the bristles. Functional, but quite hard on your knife. Additionally, these are not quite as durable as an end grain board as scratches will add up over time and pieces of wood fiber can even eventually be dislodged.Image result for end grain vs edge grain Now take the paint brush and hold it vertically and you have an end grain cutting board. Your knife can slide easily into the bristles. In fact the bristles actually make a cushion for your knife. And after each cut the bristles or wood fibers can spring back into position. Scratches are less likely and less visible and the board itself much more durable.Image result for end grain vs edge grain So, if an end grain board is so much better, why don't we see them everywhere? The biggest reason is simply due to the additional work that is involved in making an end grain cutting board, which then makes them quite a bit more expensive. For a long grain board, you can simply glue strips of wood together and voila! Image result for edge grain However, to expose the end grain, you have to then take the completed board and cut it into strips, flip them on end and glue the whole thing back together before sanding for hours and hours to achieve a flat smooth board. So, if an end grain board is definitely the way to go...are all end grain boards created equal? Certainly not. The biggest thing to look for in selecting your new board is the type of wood. We don't want a soft wood or a wood that has an open or loose grain structure. We also don't want an overly oily wood. We are after a nice hardwood with a dense, closed grain pattern. But some woods have a VERY dense grain structure. So much so that even the end grain is still quite hard on your knives. Imagine our paint brush standing on end but being squeezed so tightly the knife still can't be cushioned because the bristles are so tight. Pine and cedar are cheap and easy to work with, but just too soft and open grained. Teak, ebony, bubinga, acacia, hickory and others will make a stunningly beautiful board, however they are just too densely grained. Cocobolo, goncalo alves, purpleheart and other tropical hardwoods are some of favorite woods for certain projects, but just too oily for a cutting board. My top choice for an end grain board is hard maple, often referred to as rock maple. This is the perfect balance of dense grain, that is hard and durable and actually still quite affordable. Now, some of the most beautiful boards out there combine different lumbers to create spectacular contrasting patterns, so a great choice for secondary woods could be walnut, oak, cherry, or others. I decided to make these for my holiday gifts. They were a lot of work but totally worth it! Check out what I have been up to all year!  
Tips for care of your end grain board
  • Utah air is awfully dry and cause wood boards to split and crack. Conditioning the wood will prevent cracking and keep it looking beautiful. A good rule of thumb for treating a new board is to oil once a day for a week, once a week for a month, once a month for a year, and once a year for life. You should also treat wood after washing with heavy soap or anytime the wood looks dry.
  • There are various conditioning oils, creams, waxes and blends available specifically for wood boards. However, the simplest solution is as good as any: mineral oil. Avoid vegetable oils and any others that aren't perpetually stables since they will eventually go rancid and make your board stink.
  • Keep your cutting board on the counter top where it can breath. Avoid storage in places where airflow is stifled and where moisture can get trapped.
  • Always wash your board by hand with soft materials. Only use soap when necessary. Never wash in the dishwasher, and never leave the board to to soak submerged.
Update: You can now purchase one of these amazing boards here!

November 29, 2018

Top picks for the kitchen! Holiday gift ideas from our chefs.

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  With the holidays just around the corner, we put together a list of items our chefs just could not live without in their own kitchens. Here are their recommendations: Ryan Crafts- Burr Coffee Grinder The single most important step to take to improve your home coffee experience is using freshly roasted and freshly ground beans. I find the best beans are almost always from a local roaster (Publik, D'Bolla, and Pink Elephant are some of my Utah favorites). I weigh out the beans for my cup each morning and grind immediately prior to brewing with burr grinder.   Kaleb Crafts- End Grain Cutting Board End grain boards last longer than edge grain boards. End grain boards are easier on your knives, leaving them sharper longer. They're also one of the most beautiful additions you can make to any kitchen. You can buy one of Kaleb's custom made ones here!  Meagan Crafts- Bench Knife and Squeeze Bottle The 2 items I use most in my home are a bench knife and squeeze bottle. I use my bench knife to cut and divide breads, desserts, and candies. It is the way it fits in your hand as opposed to a chef knife that makes it faster to use. I use squeeze bottles for everything—dressings, chocolate, sauces, etc. It makes plating and designing fun and creative! Chef Brandon Roddy- Immersion Blender From soups to vinaigrettes, a stick blender in your home will change a daunting task to the easiest thing to do in the kitchen. Chef Robert Mendoza- Can Opener I recommend a good can opener! I can make do with a lot of other things, but there is really only one way to get into a can!   Chef David Dexter- Vegetable Peeler This is simply for ease. Every home has 3 or 4 vegetable peelers, but only 1 good one. Invest in a quality one and throw the other ones out! Chef James Arnold- Cutting Board My cutting boards are my most used items in my kitchen. I love having set cutting boards for each type of food I am cooking—poultry, red meat, vegetables, etc. Chef Utahna Warren- Quality Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar Drop the money to buy some quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It will change the way you cook. Culinary Crafts put together a box of our favorites here!  Chef Jaden White- Mixing Bowls Mixing bowls are a great addition to your collection. At Culinary Crafts, we have dozens and dozens of bowls and the varying sizes makes the kitchen experience a breeze. Chef Libby Rice- Electric Stand Mixer My KitchenAid is my most precious possession in my kitchen. I don't know how people managed to whip cream and egg whites or hand knead dough endlessly back in the day. A good mixer can change the speed and efficiency with which you cook in the kitchen. Chef Kayde Dexter- Cast Iron Pan A 9-11" cast iron skillet is the most versatile pan I own. It adds a cool level to home cooking. Chef Raquel (Rocky) Ortega- Heat Resistant Spatula Make sure you find one that can withstand the heat, it will ease your cooking experience. Chef Lacy Johnson- Instant Read Thermometer The best way to revolutionize the way you cook is with and instant read thermometer. Getting your proteins to the perfect temperature instead of guessing will change the way you eat. Chef Danielle Mahoney- Chef Knife You cannot even begin cooking without a quality chef knife. If I was going to upgrade any item in my kitchen it would be a good knife first! Chef Madison Oliveira- Rice Cooker As silly as this may seem, my mother-in-law gave us a rice cooker for our wedding, and I am never going back. It is wonderful. Chef Megan Gagne- Off-Set Spatula and Piping Bag As a pastry chef, I love to decorate—especially for the holidays. An off-set spatula and piping bag with tips are key to decorating all those fun desserts and plates for your holiday season. Chef Cambridge Dockendorf- Kitchen Shears If you follow our blog, last week we showed you all the glories of spatchcocking a turkey. The magic of kitchen shears doesn't stop there. I use mine every day and I love not having a pair that has to cross over—they are just for cooking. Chef Jocelyn Gillies- Scale Cooking is a science, the weight of your ingredients is so important, a volume measurement is never as precise as it should be. A scale will change the quality of all your recipes. Chef Hunter Ashton- Microplane A microplane in your home will add a new level to your cooking. Fresh orange zest over your pork loin or fresh nutmeg shaved right into your egg nog is a beautiful addition. Chef Kyle Castillo- Non-Stick Skillet A good non-stick skillet is a great addition to any kitchen. You cannot have too many of these! Chef Dardree McClellan- Serrated Knife I bake bread in my home all the time and having a great serrated knife makes my life easier. Chef Calli Kassel- Hallow Ground Santoku Knife A quality chef knife is important but an Asian chef knife is super cool. Because the blade is ground at a 20 degree angle it is crazy sharp and makes cutting anything like cutting though butter. Chef Allison Parker- Knife Sharpener I recommend a knife sharpener, not a honing steel (although that is a great piece as well), so you can keep your blades crazy sharp. Being able to do this at your home instead of taking it to a shop makes keeping your knifes sharp easy and convenient. Having this addition to your kitchen will surprise you by how dull your knives can get. Chef Megann Brimhall- Bacon Grease I couldn't think of a tool, but I certainly use bacon grease often! Don't be grossed out—I use it to grease pans, fry pancakes and eggs, and sauté vegetables—yummm. A great Christmas gift for me would be a pound of bacon and a wide mouth mason jar specifically for keeping my grease. Make sure to buy a little strainer specifically to get out the little bits of bacon, though, so it doesn't go rancid. Chef Adam Park- Large Flake Salt and a Salt Cellar Most home cooks under season. One of the best ways to finish a dish is with some beautiful seasoning salt. A salt cellar will help you keep your finishing salt separate. Also, salting by hand is more balanced than using a shaker. The salt cellar lets you measure your salt in your palm. Check out our favorite custom cellars here.

June 28, 2018

Grilling 101: Ryan’s favorite tips and tricks

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Ryan Crafts, Grill master, Grilling 101, Ryan's favorite tips and tricks, Culinary Crafts, barbeque in Utah, catering BBQ in Utah, smoke, BBQ, burgers on the grill, Jen Crafts

Welcome to Grilling 101: Ryan’s Favorite Tips and Tricks.

My love for the grill runs deep. In our family catering business, there were an array of tasks I was assigned at early ages. Most were forgettable (or unpleasantly memorable). Grilling was the first job that I actually enjoyed and felt I excelled at. I remember being 15 years old, carting around our rusty old barrel drum grills, breathing in dangerous amounts of mesquite smoke, singeing off all the hair on my hands and arms (and sometimes eyebrows), blistering my fingertips, shoveling out bucket after bucket of ashes every night....and loving every minute of it.

For me, lighting a row of 18 chimneys full of lump charcoal or searing 5000 fillets of trout is a pleasure, even an indulgence. I grill to eat—I love the flavors. I grill to feed others—it’s my favorite role as a host. But I also grill just to get right—you could say it’s how I ponder and pray. Mastering the grill can be a long process, but it’s also fun and exciting. Whether you already have an elaborate outdoor kitchen with many grills under your belt, or whether you have never so much as roasted a hot dog over the campfire, I invite you to up your grill game. And start today.

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What Is and Isn’t Grilling

Many outdoor cooking terms are often confused or misused, so my first piece of advice is to learn basic grilling terms and use them properly.

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Grilling refers to a very specific type of cooking: cooking directly over an open fire, usually with a grill/grate/gridiron at a relatively high heat. Hence, a "grill" is a device that allows you to cook directly over a high heat open fire. These three elements are necessary conditions of grilling: direct heat, open fire, and a potential for high heat.

Smoking ribs in your pellet cooker (like the very popular Traeger models)? Delicious, but NOT grilling. Brisket for 18 hours in your offset barrel cooker? Wonderful, but NOT grilling. Pan searing a skin-on chicken breast in duck fat and herbs? My mouth is watering, but still NOT grilling.

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What about cooking burgers over briquettes in your Weber kettle? That’s grilling! Tossing vegetables in a wire mesh basket over a log fire? Yep! Reverse searing a garlic- and chocolate-rubbed, dry-aged Wagyu ribeye over mesquite charcoal? That’s not only grilling, that's my personal idea of paradise!

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How to Choose Your Grill(s)

There are lots of factors to consider when choosing a grill, from size and portability to brand, cost, and dozens of possible bells and whistles. But the first question you need to answer is "Gas / propane versus charcoal / wood?"

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Pros and Cons of a Gas / Propane Grill

  • Easy startup. Turn on the gas, hit the igniter. Even if your ignition system is broken, a stick lighter gets you going quick and easy. No lighter fluid, no chimneys, no heating coils, very little forethought and waiting required.
  • Easy heat management. Need it hotter? Turn the dial up. Cooler? Turn it back down. Very little practice and finesse is required to adjust and control your heat.
  • Easy cool down / cleanup. Turn the gas off. Done.
  • Clean burning. Less smoke and fumes for you to breath and to float off into your local environment.
  • Limited temperature. Admittedly gas grills can get hot. And certain features (infrared burners) can ramp up the heat. But even the hottest gas grill can’t reach the temps you can achieve with a hardwood charcoal fire.
  • Limited flavor. True, gas grills create a wonderful Maillard reaction with your food, and juices that drip below generally burn off into tasty vapors. It's also true that wood chips can be burned in a smoker box to create flavor in a gas grill. Nonetheless, even the best gas grills employing all these measures can’t match the wood flavor of a charcoal or wood burning grill.
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Pros and Cons of a Charcoal / Wood Grill

  • Demanding startup. I use a chimney starter(s) for nearly all my fires. These are basically a fool proof method that require only a little newspaper and a match. Lighter fluid can also get a fire going quickly and easily. Nonetheless, these are more work and require more forethought than simply starting up a gas burner.
  • Demanding heat management. Need it hotter? You might need to add fuel, increase the airflow, sweep the ashes, or some combination of these. Need it cooler? You might have to reduce the airflow, remove some of the fire, or even spritz your fire with a little water. Eventually, the finesse to manage your fire will become second nature, but it requires significant practice.
  • Demanding cool down / cleanup. In general I prefer to let the fire burn itself out. This takes patience. Sometimes I need to actively extinguish the fire using suffocation or even ice / water. This can make for a big cloud of steam and soot. Either way, after the fire’s died, there will be ashes to deal with.
  • Dirty. More smoke and fumes for you to breath and to float off into your local environment. Although I’m a huge proponent of charcoal and wood fire cooking, I also support measures to protect our environment, especially improving air quality here in Utah. I think grilling on bad air days should be legally prohibited. Until we get there, I strongly encourage local readers to only grill with charcoal on clear days with no inversion.
  • Very high temperature. This is where charcoal grills really shine. Searing is a joy and at its best on a grill that is crazy hot. Gas grills just can’t compare.
  • Very rich flavor. Once you’ve had a burger cooked over mesquite coals, you can’t go back to one cooked over a gas grill or in a cast iron skillet. It just tastes better. A lot better.
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As you read these lists, you might get the impression that gas grills win out. After all, they best their charcoal counterparts in 4 of the 6 key factors considered here. But it's up to each individual to decide how much weight each of those factors should be given. For me, when I fire up the grill (as opposed to sauteing on the kitchen stove), it’s because I’m after the highest heat and deepest wood flavor I can get. So for me, the two areas where charcoal grills win are the ultimate trump cards. At my house, I have 3 grills (also 2 smokers and 1 wood oven) and they all use charcoal or wood.

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What to Look for In a Charcoal Grill

If you do decide that a charcoal grill is for you, here are the key features you look for when choosing one.

  • Airflow. The ability to control the flow of air to speed up or slow down your fire is crucial. You want vents below the fire and a lid above the fire that allows you to control airfow.
  • Charcoal grate. Elevating the fire off the floor of the grill container allows the fire to burn efficiently as the ashes to fall away. Some grills have adjustable charcoal grates which allow you to move the fire closer to or further away from the food.
  • Food grate. Cast iron grates are wonderful to cook on. Just like your grandmother’s cast iron skillet, these season in, become naturally nonstick, retain heat wonderfully, and with care can last a lifetime. That said, other grate materials can also cook wonderfully. Most important is a gridiron pattern that prevents small and delicate foods from slipping through, and thick gauge materials that can take the high heat without warping and wearing out.
  • Ash removal. This is important, but it doesn’t need to be complicated. In fact, simpler is better. A tray or bucket that ashes fall into that is easily removed and dumped is great. You just don’t want to have to shovel or vacuum out ashes after every cook.
  • Quality of materials. You want all the grill components to be thick gauge and heavy duty enough to last for years with reasonable wear and tear. Powder coat is better than paint, and enamel coating is even better than powder. It’s awfully frustrating to buy a grill with fancy bells and whistles that looks great in the store but is dented, rusted, and falling apart a year or two later.
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A wonderful charcoal grill does not need to be fancy or elaborate. The kettle grill (a bowl with domed lid sitting on a trio of metal pipe legs) has become an iconic grill image precisely because it has remained basically unchanged for so long, and because the design works so well. Indeed, if I could only have one grill and it needed to be at a moderate cost, my choice would be easy: a Weber Original charcoal grill.

Tools of the Trade

Walk into the outdoor cooking section of your local hardware store and you’ll likely be inundated with an array of grilling tools, gadgets, and assorted accessories. It can be overwhelming to decide which ones are necessary, which ones are a luxury, and which ones are a waste. Listed below are how I like to break out and consider these items.

I set out these must have tools every time I grill:

  • Chimney starter - the best way to start charcoal. Avoid all the fumes, mess, and volatility of lighter fluid.charcoal grill, smoke chimney, grill chimney, flame, fire, coals, grill, Utah BBQ caterer, outdoor cooking in Utah
  • Gloves and apron - You want a 100% cotton, heavy canvas, or leather apron (any poly or poly blend will melt onto your clothes when you get your grill really rolling). You'll also need thick lined leather or cotton gloves. Pro Tip: Buying welding gear in the tool section is often cheaper than the nearly functionally identical gear in the cooking section.Utah catering outdoors, Grilling, oysters, lemon wedges, leather gloves, leather apron, grilling equipment, gas grill, Utah catering event
  • Oil & onion - Don’t use cooking spray on your grill. Don’t use a paper or cloth towel. Dip the onion in the oil, and use this to lubricate and season your grates.
  • Tongs - I like tongs that are springy enough to release quickly, but not so springy that my hand gets tired using them. I like enough teeth on the ends to firmly grasp the food, but not so sharp that they bite into and shred the food. Most important, I like thick metal tongs that won’t go soft and flexy when they get hot.Kaleb Crafts, barbeque, BBQ, tongs, chef Crafts, apron, red shirt, outdoor event in Utah, cooking outdoors in Utah, catering event in Utah
  • Spatula - Just like the tongs, you want a thick metal spatula. Thin metal will flex, bend, and break if it gets too hot while cooking.outdoor grilling, cooking in utah, grilling burgers, charcoal grill, spatula, gloves, flames, fire, Utah premier events, catering events in Utah, outdoor caterers
  • Fork - Again, thick and sturdy. Built to take the heat. I use this primarily for the oil and onion listed above.Kaleb Crafts, chef master, grill master, oiling grill, onion, olive oil, grilling in Utah, grill fork, blue apron, chefs grilling, black hat, white shirt, Culinary Crafts, BBQ in Utah County, caterers who BBQ
  • Rake - A tool dedicated to breaking up, moving around, and sweeping the fire. I used to use my spatula, but a rake is so much better. I use it all the time.coal rake, raking coals, grill, white coals, ash, sparks, briquets, ash, grate, BBQ, Weber grill, Utah catering, BBQ catering
  • Basting brush - I prefer a silicone brush and / or a cotton mop. Natural hair brushes don’t last, especially when used over heat, and start to fall apart shedding hair into the food.BBQ chicken, basting brush, basting chicken, BBQ sauce, grill, gas grill, cooking outdoors in Utah, Utah caterers, barbequed chicken
  • Thermometer - You want something digital with a fast / instant read. You’ll see units ranging from $10 - $100, but you should target the $20 - $50 range for solid quality and good value. My Lavatools thermometer is my favorite I’ve tried.
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Although not necessary, these convenient accessories see a lot of use on my patio:

  • Grill basket - simply an alternative to your grate. This allows you cook smaller items that don’t work on a flat open grate, while still exposing them to the open fire and smoke.grill basket, BBQ, grilling equipment, spatula, red peppers, yellow peppers, green bell peppers, grilling in Utah, outdoor catered event, summer catering event
  • Wood chip soaker - this keeps your chips under the water while soaking, so you don’t have dry chips floating on top.wood chip soaker, grilling equipment, grill master, wood chips, soaking wood chips, BBQ setup, catering equipment, catering in utah
  • Meat hook - I use this as an alternative to tongs when I’m grilling large cuts or large amounts of meat. This allows me to quickly move food on, off, and around the grill without the constant squeezing of the tongs. Very handy in certain situations.grilling chicken, meat hook, Weber grill, charcoal grill, grilling techniques, outdoor catered event in Utah, summer grilling in Utah,
  • Meat claws - great for shredding pork butt or beef brisket. Also really great for moving very large cuts. Since these don’t have a long handle, you just have to be aware that your hands and arms will be close to the fire if you use these over the grill.meat claws, BBQ cooking in Utah, knuckles, food preparation, Utah caterers who BBQ, Utah caterers who grill
  • Dedicated grilling knives and scissors - you can certainly use the knives from your kitchen. But I love having a simple set (only includes a carver / slicer knife, a flexible boning knife, a small utility knife, and a pair of meat shears) that I keep in my grilling table always at the ready.
  • Spray bottle - using water on your coals is a last resort and short term fix for flare ups and other mishaps. But sometimes a quick fix is all you need and super handy to have ready.
  • Wood grill scraper - after grilling, I use this to scrape large bits of food off the grates, and let the fire burn everything else off. I try to avoid using wire brushes and cleaning chemicals on my grills.charcoal companion, safe scrape. wooden scraper, grill scraper, clean grill, gas grill, catering in Utah, grilling tips and hints
  • Wood planks - a great way to infuse extra flavor and/or keep delicate food (like a whole salmon) intact while moving on and off the grill.
  • Kerchief - soaking this down and tying around your neck or over your face can be a lifesaver when the heat and smoke get too intense.grilling in Utah, outdoors event in Utah, Utah catering, grill, charcoal grill, grilled fish, bandanas, cowboy hat, chefs, spatulas, summer BBQ catering, aprons, grilling without gloves

Additional tools that I only use occasionally / rarely:

  • Grilling stones - fun to use, but easy to crack if you’re not careful. Also, since these create a barrier between the open fire and the food, they limit the flavor impact you get from a great wood fire.
  • Silicon mat - similar to the grilling stones. Handy for certain situations, but I rarely use these.
  • Extra lighting - great if you travel with a grill and/or don’t have enough light in your yard.
  • Grill Brush - like I said earlier, I try to avoid using these (I prefer a wood scraper and the fire itself to clean the grill). That said, there are a few occasions where a little extra grit is required.
  • Skewers - I prefer flat and wide skewers to the round style. This way, the food doesn’t roll around on the wire.
  • Cast iron pan and wok - Can open options for you over your grill, but like the stones, they create a barrier between the open fire and the food, which kind of misses the point.
  • Smoker box - especially handy for gas grills that don’t have the flavors of wood and charcoal. Also useful in a lot of indirect cooking recipes.
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Finally some of my favorite grilling (and BBQ) cookbook references include:

  • Weber’s Charcoal Grilling, The Art of Cooking with Live Fire by Jamie Purviance (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. If you only buy one grilling book, feel confident about making it this one).
  • The Cook’s Illustrated Guide to Grilling and Barbecue by Cook’s Illustrated Magazine Editors (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. In depth and exceptionally reliable information that helps you understand why certain techniques succeed, which helps you expand your own skill set and personal innovation.)
  • Charred and Scruffed by Adam Perry Lang
  • Essentials of Grilling by Williams-Sonoma
  • Feeding the Fire by Joe Carroll
  • Franklin Barbecue by Aaron Franklin and Jordan Mackay
  • Smoke & Spice by Cheryl and Bill Jamison
 

Hopefully there’s enough here to get a new griller started and to make a seasoned griller excited to jump back in and learn something new. In both cases, stay tuned, I’ll be back with more favorite tips and tricks for becoming a Grillmaster!

Ryan

March 15, 2018

March Recipe of the Month: Guinness Braised Short Ribs

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Guinness Braised Short Ribs

Serves 4 to 6 people, depending on the number of ribs you make.

Ingredients

  • 4 to 6 bone-in short ribs (about an 8 ounce piece, trimming fat if necessary)
  • salt (kosher) and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 4 thyme sprigs
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • 1 bottle Guinness Extra Stout (or your own favorite dark & malty Irish Beer)
  • 1 1/2 cup beef stock (or 1 cup beef stock and ½ cup brewed coffee)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Season all sides of the short rib with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat a heavy, oven safe pan over high heat. Add olive oil to pan and let it heat for a moment. Sear all sides of the short rib about 1-2 minutes per side. Remove from pan and set aside.
  4. Add onion and carrot, sauté 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 1-2 minutes more.
  5. Deglaze with beer, scraping up bits from bottom of pan. Bring to boil.
  6. Return short ribs to pan. Add beef stock, thyme and rosemary.
  7. Cover pan and bake for 2.5 to 3 hours, until meat is tender.
  8. Separate the fat from the drippings, and use the remaining drippings (thickening with a roux or by reduction if desired) as a sauce at service.

Eat well!

March 9, 2018

Friday Instagram of the Week!

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Today's Friday Instagram of the Week comes from, Heather, one of the fantastic guests from our Annual Penny Party!  We had SOOO much fun unveiling our new foods and trends and seeing all of your wonderful faces too!  This pic is of our charcuterie station and it was one of the most popular of the night!  We loved it because it married 3 of our FAVORITE local vendors fine offerings in perfect harmony; High West Whiskies, Beehive Cheeses (including a Culinary Crafts creation), and Creminelli Meats.  Yum!  Thank you to Heather for sharing this pic!  And remember, for your chance to be chosen next, tag your photos with @culinarycrafts or add the hashtag #culinarycrafts to your post and then check back next week to see who is picked next!  Happy weekend, everyone! Check out more Salt Lake City, Park City, and Utah County catering at www.culinarycrafts.com!

20x winner Utah’s Best of State

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