Charcoal Grills vs Gas Grills- Not the Age Old Question


Fire

I have been getting a lot of questions asking about Charcoal Grills vs Gas Grills…Which is better? Which do I prefer? And Why one or the other?

I decided now is as good of a time as any to finally answer these inquiries. I have touched on the subject here and there, but I thought I should do a bit more elaborate of a break down for all of you out there.

A Brief History of Charcoal Grills

Although humans have been using fire to cook for as far back as one can imagine, the advent of the modern grill that we use here in the United States is much more recent.

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Italian Fried Chicken Cutlet Recipe- So Delicious!


Italian Fried Chicken Cutlet

Surprisingly, I find that there must be quite a few ways to make a chicken cutlet. I know this because I am often astonished when I order one at an Italian restaurant I have never been to, and they have some how managed to really mess it up.

It is so disappointing when this happens, because it is truly one of my favorite guilty pleasures. So, in order to help you all make your own at home and avoid the potential sadness from going out and getting something less than you deserve– I will now share my delicious Italian fried chicken cutlet recipe with you all!

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Celestron Astromaster 114EQ Review- Hot Pepper Astronomy


Stars

Ok, Ok, I know…You are like “What the heck do telescopes have to do with hot sauce?”. Well, let me explain my train of thought.

I was thinking about hot peppers and their South American origins. Ancient peoples, like the Incas, Aztecs, and Mayans used them for all kinds of things (which I may do another article on later).

Then I was thinking about how the ancient Mayans had been astrological geniuses and how they had incredibly Mayan Calendarpredicted eclipses and other celestial events by following the stars. Then I thought I should do a special post in tribute to the upcoming total eclipse. Which made me think I should do the Celestron Astromaster 114EQ review. Which is my telescope that I have actually had for one year this month (best anniversary present ever!).

See it all makes sense!

Just in case you aren’t aware, the first total eclipse visible in North America in 38 years is this coming Monday, August 21, 2017. The Total Eclipse will be visible in 14 states, one of which I am lucky enough to be living in, but the partial eclipse will be visible in all of North America, most of South America, and parts of Africa and Europe!

Solar eclipse

My Telescope

I have wanted a telescope for as long as I can remember. My first passion is the ocean, but my second is space. Both of which I am totally fascinated by, but would be utterly terrified to be deeply submerged in.

Several years back I did actually get a little telescope as a Christmas gift from my Mom. She bought it with the best of intentions, and it looked cool, but it just didn’t have any power. Honestly, my binoculars do a better job (Sorry Mom, I love you).

Wonderfully, however, last year my dream came true. I was surprised by the best anniversary present ever, my first real grown up telescope! I was so excited that I finally had this awesome tool, it made me cry.

It came, what they say was, partially assembled. I had to put together quite a few parts, but it made me feel really cool. I felt like I was some kind of scientist. It was fun, but I definitely had to read and follow the instructions. But once I got it all together it was so awesome! It is truly a thing of beauty!

===>>>>Click here to get information on how to get your Celestron Astromaster 114EQ Telescope<<<<===

Features and Specs

      • It is a Newtonian reflector telescope
      • It has an equatorial mount
      • It is portable- it only weighs 17 lbs
      • It has 10mm and 20mm eyepiece
      • It has a 50x eyepiece magnifier
      • It has a mounted red dot finder
      • It comes with The Sky Level 1 software
      • It has a 2 year warranty in case of any defects
      • Priced very well (around $200)

    (This is a great little video I found showing how to put it together)

This telescope is highly recommended as a starter telescope. With it you can observe the Moon, Saturn and its rings, Jupiter, and even deeper space phenomenon like star clusters, galaxies, and nebulae (that’s more than one nebula).

The tricky part is finding all these things in the vastness of space. I was able to find the Moon… Granted, the Moon looks really awesome and super close up, but that is all that was all could manage to find on my own.

There is a free Celestron Sky Portal app for ios and androids that helps you locate popular celestial bodies, but the app is very large. I have not been able to get it to download. There are other smaller apps, however, that can also give you direction to popular telescope targets, like Star Chart.

One really great thing about this telescope is the equatorial mount. In case you don’t already know, this allows you to naturally track the movement of an object as it appears to drift across the sky without having to try to do adjustments to keep it in your view.

The Celestron Astromaster 114EQ is a really great telescope for someone who doesn’t want to spend a ton, but still wants to see our solar system and beyond! If you would like more information on how you can get your own you can click here.

The Total Eclipse

Safety

Thought I should leave you all with a little more information on the upcoming eclipse. If you are somewhere where you will be able to see the full or partial solar eclipse, make sure you use proper protection for your eyes!

Never look at at the sun or solar eclipse with a telescope unless you have an official solar filter. You can buy a solar filter for most telescopes, or you can buy a sheet of solar film that you can cut to size. You can actually do this even with binoculars or sun glasses. It is very important there are no gaps or scratches in the film.

If you are using disposable eclipse glasses, make sure there are certified, and follow the directions (there are fakes out there, so be sure). And again, no gaps or scratches. No one should look at directly at the sun ever. Apparently, every time there is an eclipse a lot of people get eye damage for doing something they shouldn’t have, so enjoy the awesome celestial show, but make sure to be careful.

Map of Totality (by NASA)

NASA Eclipse Map

The above map shows the band where the eclipse will be total. It also shows the percentage of coverage there will be as you move away that center line. If you click on the image you should be able to see a bigger version of it for closer inspection.

Below is a chart (made by NASA) of some of the towns the eclipse will pass through. If you live anywhere near any of these it will give you a better idea of when you should ready to observe.

Eclipse Times by City

 

Make Your Own Viewer

If you can’t get a hold of any solar glasses then you can easily watch it using the pinhole method. This is something anybody can make. There are a couple variations you can do. Here is the simplest form first.

Take a piece of flat cardboard, or even stiff construction paper and put a small pinhole in it. like literally a pinhole. It needs to be super tiny so no extra sunlight gets through. If your cardboard is too think to get a pin or needle through then you can cut a hole in the box and put foil over the hole. Make sure to tape the edges down well, and then put the pinhole through the foil instead of the thick box.Pinhole Eclipse

Then hold the cardboard over cement or a sidewalk so the sun shines through and you will see a small ball of light on the cement below. That is the sun. As the moon moves in front of it you will begin to see the sun disappear.

If you want the image to be a bit closer for easier viewing, hold another piece of cardboard below it to catch the image. As it you bring it closer the image will get bigger, but it will get less sharp. You can play around to find your favorite compromise there.

You can also build a box. Here is a video I found showing how to do this with a cereal box. This is from a news show in North Carolina, so it has some local information for them, but it is a very informative video.

Enjoy

So, I hope you all enjoyed my little break away from my usual post topics. This website is really about my passion for hot sauce and the foods they go on, but why not share some of my other passions with you all too? I mean it is my website after all, guess I can allow myself a bit of creative freedom.

For those of you who will be lucky enough to see this Total Solar Eclipse enjoy! For many of us this will be our first ever, and possibly our last, so it’s a kind of a big deal.

Even if you won’t be able to see the full eclipse, hopefully you will get to check out the partial eclipse, which is still pretty darn spectacular!

If you have any questions or comments feel free to let me know below. Enjoy the Total Solar Eclipse 2017!

Update

Just wanted to give a little post eclipse update. It has been a little over a month since the event, but I haven;t had a chance to get an update on this post until now.

We were going to drive to see the full eclipse, because we were only about 3 hours from where we could see totality. Sadly, however, the media blew it up so big that we were afraid to go.

We really wanted to, but then decided against it because we we didn’t want to get stuck in traffic. Plus we were having really bad forest fires in the area right about then, and we didn’t want to be stuck in bumper to bumper traffic in a fire.

A few days before the eclipse we heard about traffic jams and towns running out of gas, and we were like, “Uh oh, it’s happening!”

But that was just for one day, and all those people were going to a specific eclipse festival.

So, what ended up happening, was that all the media threats of millions of people flooding our state scared people away. Hardly anyone came. Tons of local businesses in the totality belt lots a lot of money, because they overstocked for the huge amount of people that were supposed to come.

They actually had less business than a typical weekend, because locals were afraid to go anywhere.

Really pretty sucky, and so wish we would have gone. But we didn’t. So, we saw about 93% totality from our backyard. It was incredibly smokey here from the fires, so we were lucky to see anything.

I will post some pictures that I took, but like I said I wasn’t able to get my telescope equipped in time, so I just took pictures with my phone camera.

It was still really awesome. I really loved the coverage on TV. It was super cool to watch it approach and cover each city as it made its way across the United States…I actually just got chills while typing that sentence. It was really an awesome event.

Make no mistake though, when the next one comes across the U.S. in 2024 we will be in the path of totality! I will make my way there no matter what. I am not missing it again.

I have also been using my telescope a lot more since the eclipse. It is really fun, and still highly recommend it.

Also, I would love to hear any eclipse or telescope stories you have. So feel free to leave comments below.

 

 

 

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Easy Seafood Alfredo-Gourmet Meal in Less Than 15 minutes


clam

I don’t know about you, but I really enjoy some good Alfredo pasta! So, today I am going to share how I make this extremely delicious and super easy seafood Alfredo pasta dish.

I have tried different Alfredo dishes at all kinds of restaurants. Some are very good and other times it really just tastes like they poured milk on some noodles. Personally, I like mine to be rich and creamy, not bland and runny. As with everything I make or eat, good flavor is of the utmost importance!

The great thing about this recipe is that not only is it possibly the best Alfredo I have ever had, but it also could not be any easier!

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The Best Charcoal Grills- Part III Back to Basics


This segment of my series on the best charcoal grills will steer away from the more high end and unique styles, I have discussed previously, and focus more on the basics. These next few charcoal grill options are inexpensive and the main focus here is on getting the job done- grilling up some tasty food! So, here we go!

Char-Griller 1224 Smokin Pro 830 Square Inch Charcoal Grill with Side Fire Box

This one looks fun. I have never had a smoker myself. I have had lots of friends with them though, and they love them. I love it when they bring me jerky!

Since I’m in the market for a new grill anyway, I thought maybe I should look into getting something that can do both grill and smoke.

I liked this one because it isn’t expensive, it has at least one side table, and the little chimney is adorable! Also I really like the little wood storage compartment it has. It does not appear to have the adjustable rack, that could be a deal breaker, but this one has some potential. It’s definitely on my list of possibilities.

If this grill/smoker looks like something you might like on the photo above for further details and how you can get one of your own.

Blue Rhino Deluxe Outdoor Barbeque

This one is a bit more my style. It is rectangular in shape, my personal preference. It has the extra rack on top and adjustable charcoal level, awesome! It also has the 2 folding shelves (which I love), and they are plastic. In addition it also meets my other criteria of a removable ash can.

On top of all of this, it is very affordable!

Seems pretty great! It’s very similar to one I have now, but a different brand. There are a couple features it has that mine does not. It has the upper rack, which can be incredibly handy! Also, as I briefly said above, its side shelves are made out of plastic, which would be much easier to clean and set things on than the slated wood like my grill has.

The only concern I have is that sometimes plastic doesn’t end up being as sturdy as wood. I can really see benefits to both. If I were going to buy this style of grill, I would personally probably stick with the brand I have now, which I discuss below- The Americana Swinger. But I wanted to include this one because I think the all black color scheme looks a bit nicer than the Americana. But everyone has there own preferences.

So, If this grill looks like something you might be interested in you can click here, or on the image above for further information.

Weber Original Kettle 22″ Charcoal Grill

This grill is the ultimate classic. Many of you may picture this grill when you think of backyard BBQs from when you were a kid. I’m pretty sure everyone’s dad or grandpa had one of these at some point.

It doesn’t come with a lot of fancy features. It just does it job as it always has and that’s good enough for, I would imagine, millions of people throughout the decades.

It has 363 square inches of cooking space and an ash pan. It has its signature dome shaped structure that just seems to cook perfectly. It also has a 10 year limited warranty. It has a cover that is sold separately, and don’t forget the fun and unique Pizzaque attachment I talked about in The Best Charcoal Grills- Part II (my previous post).

On amazon right now this grill has 832 reviews and a 4.8 out of 5 star rating! That is possibly the best rating I have ever seen!

So, if you are in the market for a charcoal grill, or want to try one for the first time, this one is highly recommended. Its design and quality have stood the test of time. With a bit of research I found that this grill was invented in 1952 by a man who worked at a metal factory making marine buoys. He was tired of his flat grill getting harassed by wind and rain and decided to fashion a grill with a lid.

This seemingly simple concept changed grilling for ever and allowed it to become one of america’s most cherished ways to spend time with friends and family.

If this pioneering American classic sounds like the grill for you, you can click here, or on the picture above.

Americana The Swinger

This grill is great. It is actually one of the grills I currently own. I really have no complaints about this grill. It’s isn’t very stylish, but it works great.

It meets all my standard needs. It has adjustable rack height and a removable ash pan. It has a side table on each side that also fold down for easier travel.

Although the round shape of the Weber, mentioned above, has always been the norm for charcoal grills and works great, I prefer the square shape of The Swinger. To me it makes it easier to get items off the heat when necessary. I am sure there could be an entire article written about the debate between round vs. square, but for me square wins.

For most of my adult life I took a little Smokey Joe portable Weber grill with me when I went camping. For a few years I even used that little guy for most of my grilling when I lived alone. These are great grills. They are inexpensive and they get the job done!

But then a few years back I got introduced to this square grill with the side tables and the other fun features mentioned above, and I got spoiled. Now we pack this thing with us even when we go camping, instead of that little portable one that did me right for all those years. Well, I guess things change.

With all that said I do have to give the Americana Swinger grill my highest recommendation if you aren’t looking for anything fancy, but still want some added features beyond the old standard.

I am still deciding if I should just get another one of these or if I should upgrade. But the more I think about it, there really isn’t anything more that I could ask for in a charcoal grill than what the Swinger offers, except maybe outward style and flare. I think I am going to stick with what I like and get another one of these.

I am sure I will have to cave sometime soon and buy a gas grill to experiment with. Maybe I will get something with a little more modern feel to it when I venture there. Look for upcoming articles about gas grills coming soon, but for now if you too would like to get an Americana you can click here or on the picture above.

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, I would love to hear from you! Also, you can click on any of the pictures of the BBQs above for more info on the product and how to buy them if you are interested. And feel free to check out the previous review in this series, The Best Charcoal Grills- Part II Unique Styles.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Best Charcoal Grills- Part II Unique Styles


These next few reviews are going to be options I found that stand out from others due to some interesting quality they have. With this post I hope to continue in my series and bring you a selection of some of the best charcoal grills I have found. And with no further ado, please enjoy these unique styles!

Pyro Tower Steel Fire Pit Charcoal Grill

This one obviously caught my eye because of its very unique design. Right away I thought, “Sure, it looks cool, but how the heck do you use it?” After some digging I found out that it has an optional accessory kit (additional $250 or so) that turns this fire pit into a charcoal/wood grill and/or smoker!

The chimney shape leads the smoke up and out the top, which is nice. Also, it seems it is fairly easy to assemble, but the parts are a little heavy.  Put together it weighs 200 lbs and has a lifetime warranty.

This would be really great if you have a lot of guests and want to show this thing off. I would love to go to someone’s house with one of these…However, I’m looking for something a little more practical. But if you are interested in getting a little more info on this fire pit/grill on the picture above.

If anybody out there has one of these, or ends up buying one, please let me know how you like it!

Blackstone 3-in-1 Kabob Charcoal Grill (and cover)

Do you love to grill Kabobs? Well if you do, this is the grill for you!

This grill has a super cool feature…a kabob rotisserie! It also comes with 11 of its own 23 inch skewers. I don’t know about you, but I have had some kabob issues in my past. We did finally buy a set of metal skewers after several failed attempts with the bamboo version.

Ya, ya, all you have to do is soak the sticks and everything is fine. Not. Well, I do usually end up with couple that some how, miraculously do not burn away. The other thing I seem to do is overstuff the skewers so I don’t have enough stick to hold on to to flip them over.

Which brings me to the next issue…flipping them. You either reach you fingers into the danger zone and try to grab that little stick (or burning hot metal), or you try to grab it with tongs. In my experience, trying to pick up a tiny stick with tongs is not the easiest task. So, I end up grabbing the whole, fragile kabob with the tongs, which needless to say, does not always stay in tact.

Basically, I think I am saying, this grill seems awesome! Wouldn’t it be neat to see your little colorful, artistic food expressions gently spinning around in unison? Sounds magical!

I guess I should also mention this grill does other grill things. It can be used as a charcoal grill and/or a smoker.

It has adjustable vents and charcoal levels, and the black powder finish that makes it look really nice and stand up to the elements. It also comes with a properly fitted cover for the shape of the BBQ to help keep it clean.

All in all, I think this grill would be a lot of fun if you like kabobs, or are thinking about really getting into kabobs. If you would like some more info on this grill or think you might one of your own on the picture above.

PizzaQue Deluxe Kettle Grill Pizza Kit

This nifty little thing isn’t actually a grill, it’s an addition to a charcoal grill that you may or may not already have. It works with most standard 18″ or 22.5″ kettle grills. (To check out the grill pictured here without the attachment click here).

I have included this in my Unique Styles post, because this is definitely something I have not seen before. Recently, at local sporting good stores, I have seen several products or appliances trying to get me to make pizza while camping. I actually giggled at first, but then in the back of my mind I did have a “What if” moment.

The Pizzaque is better than those other products I saw though because it just converts what you already have, and because it is just darn right amusing to see a pizza coming out of a BBQ grill.

I must say, I guess I understand the interest in cooking a pizza on a grill. It is really just the easiest, least expensive way to have your own wood-fired pizza oven.

When I was a kid my Sicilian grandparents had an outside kitchen. They had lots of people over all the time, so it totally made sense to have an outside kitchen. I bring it up though, because they had a pizza oven out there, along with the other normal kitchen stuff. Well, I assume it was a pizza oven…I don’t think I ever actually saw them use it. As I remember it they mostly just made spaghetti, chicken cutlets, and barbequed steak (they lived in Brazil for a long time).

Well, my point was that it must have sounded like a great idea when they put in that huge pizza oven, but if that is something you have longed for maybe you should just try converting your grill. Way less money and work, and it’s portable!

So, if you have the apparently somewhat common urge to cook pizza on your BBQ maybe you should get one of these! If you’re interested click here to go its listing on Amazon. They also have a video of how to use it that I found informative.

I will keep adding to my BBQ reviews in the future. So, keep coming back for more cool options. If you would like to check out Part I of this series you can click here. And as always, if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions please comment below.
 

 

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Hot Sauce Reviews- 4 of My Favorites


Hot Sauces

Today I am going to try something a little different than what I have been doing up till now. I am going to do hot sauce reviews on four of the best hot sauces I currently own and love on a regular basis.

The Chosen Four

The hot sauces I chose for today’s reviews are Melinda’s Habanero Hot Sauce, El Yucateco Hot Sauce, La Anita Hot Sauce, and Marie Sharp’s Habanero Pepper Sauce.

These are all on the list on my home page of my personal (in stock) hot sauces. I have had several requests for a breakdown and information on how to find the hot sauces on my list. So, today, I will start chipping away at that list and hopefully give the people what they want.

My Method

It was suggested to me by someone (you know who you are), that I try using some basic staple food items with each sauce and compare them based on how they taste and pair with each of those items. I thought it sounded like a great idea, so here goes…

The Constants- Food Items

After digging around in my kitchen, these are the items I came up with:In The Fridge

  1. Juanita’s Tortilla Chips (These are the best tortilla chips ever!)
  2. Leftover Steak (from grilling two nights ago)
  3. Mashed Potatoes (also leftovers- I heated them up)
  4. Totino’s Pizza Rolls (I know, but I’m trying here)
  5. Ranch Bacon Pasta (also leftover- this is a cold dish)

Obviously this isn’t the best 5 items in the world, but it does give a good sample base for a variety of items that I would normally eat some kind of hot sauce on. (I would also like to add, I will be doing very small bites of each of these. Please try not to focus on the strange meal I have concocted here, just the results)

The Variables- The Hot Sauces (as mentioned above)

  1. El Yucateco Chile Habanero Hot Sauce (The green one- there is red one with the same name)
  2. La Anita X hot Grilled Pepper Sauce
  3. Marie Sharp’s Habanero Pepper Sauce
  4. Melinda’s Original Habanero Hot Sauce

Ok, I’m off to do my experiment! I’ll be back…

The Results

Well, I’m back. That took a while. In retrospect I would make a few alterations to the experiment.

For one thing, a couple of these hot sauces are fairly spicy, and after a few bites it gets hard to really taste the differences in sauces when the heat from the last one is still lingering. (Just to clarify for all those people who think hot sauce makes us not be able to taste our food- I could still taste the food, but it gets difficult to taste subtle differences in heat and hot sauce flavors)Oops

Second mistake I made- too much food! I started getting a stomach ache on the second round, with three more rounds to go! I think I need to either do less hot sauce options, (which would mean less bites total) or less variety with the food, but I think that was actually good.

Lesson learned- Back to The Results

I realized as I began the experiment I needed to decide to either a) try each hot sauce on the same food item- telling me which hot sauce goes best on the item at hand. Or b) try one sauce on all of the items- telling me which item that sauce goes best on. I chose to do option “a” for this trial run.

Item #1- Tortilla Chips

  • El Yucateco- It is nice and spicy, but I didn’t really care for it on the chip
  • La Anita- This has smokey flavor that can be delicious, but it didn’t seem right on this chip
  • Marie Sharp’s-This was the winner in the chip category for me, has a little bite and a great flavor
  • Melinda’s- This was also good here, it was light and tangy, not really any heat though

Item #2- Steak

  • El Yucateco- This sauce has a pretty bold (and spicy) flavor that did not mesh well with the steak
  • La Anita- This has actually became one of my go-to hot sauces for red meat, smokey and spicy! Nice!
  • Marie Sharp’s- This did not go well with the steak to me (but I do like it on tacos!)
  • Melinda’s- This was just too mild in flavor or spice to stand out on the steak, it’s a no go here

Item #3- Mashed Potatoes

  • El Yucateco- Again, the strong flavor of this hot sauce just didn’t jive with the mashed potatoes
  • La Anita- This was the winner for me in this category…it really is a good tasting hot sauce!
  • Marie Sharp’s- This one again, just didn’t seem right here
  • Melinda’s- Too weak…couldn’t even tell it was on there (but I do like this on other things)

Item #4- Totino’s Pizza Rolls

  • El Yucateco- This just tasted down right weirdTabasco
  • La Anita- Not right at all
  • Marie Sharp’s- Nope
  • Melinda’s- No good
  • Tabasco!–Still the reigning pizza roll (and hot pocket) Champion of the World!

Item #5- Ranch Bacon Pasta

  • El Yucateco- I must say at this point in the experiment nothing was tasting right to me…all the sauces were a fail on the pasta. I will have to include the pasta salad (and probably my recipe too) on an upcoming review. Sorry about that folks, bit off more than I could chew here- literally.

The Winners!

  • Juanita’s Tortilla Chips- Marie Sharp’s
  • Leftover Steak- La Anita
  • Mashed Potatoes- La Anita
  • Totino’s Pizza Rolls- Tabasco (still on the hunt for something as good or better)
  • Ranch Bacon Pasta- Everybody loses

 

In case you would like to try these hot sauces for yourself (they really are all good with the right meal) click here to go to my hot sauce shop page where you can read more about or buy any hot sauce you choose. Some of the brands have other flavors too, some I have tried, and some I have not yet.

As always, if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please feel free to comment below! I would be happy to hear from you, and I will get back to you asap!