Category Archives: Grilling

Smoking Some Garden Jalapeños

For some reason, my husband expanded the garden to include jalapeño peppers this year, so I’ve been thinking of different ways to use them. Sometimes the raw ones are just a little too zippy for my old stomach, but I do like what they add to a fresh salsa. The old standby is to roast, peel, seed, and freeze them, like I do with other peppers and some tomatoes. That left smoking.

Day 1

He’s been picking them green instead of waiting for them to turn red, but you can smoke the green ones. I don’t have a true smoker, but you can do some smoking on a grill, if you can keep the heat low. Too much heat and you are really cooking with smoke. I’m using a snake of charcoal, but not too wide or high. When I cook a roast or ribs or whole chicken with a snake, I usually make it 2 briquettes wide by 2 briquettes high, and that keeps the heat somewhere between 350° and 400° at any given time over 6 hours. This snake is just 1 x 1 with some applewood chips scattered along the length. It’s keeping the temperature at around 200° or below, with the chips lighting up and smoking as that part of the snake is reached. Usually you soak wood chips, but in this kind of slow burn, they would be dry by the time the fire reaches them. So, we’ll see how the peppers turn out and how long the snake will last.

The snake lasted about 9 hours, sending out billows of smoke every few minutes, and now there is a bowl of the smoky peppers in the fridge, waiting for me to figure out what to do with them.

Day 2

Fishing. We didn’t catch a darned thing, which is common when casting for muskies, but we saw one big one.

Day 3

I decided to make some adobo sauce, that slightly sweet, tangy sauce that you get in the canned variety of chipotles. I looked at a lot of recipes for adobo and was surprised that so many of them use dried ancho peppers in the sauce. I was looking for something that highlighted the smoky jalapeños without the interference of another pepper flavor. I found what I was looking for at Old World Garden Farms, where the adobo sauce is made with a few of the smoked peppers pureed in a blender, and the rest are cooked in the sauce, before being packed for freezing. Please visit the link site, which has nice photos in the instructions; here are mine:

Smoked Jalapeños in Adobo Sauce

  • Servings: enough for about 12-16 peppers
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Adapted from Old World Farms recipe:

  • 12-16 smoked jalapeño peppers—I had 14—stems removed
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste plus enough water to make 1 cup
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 teaspoons garlic paste
  • ½ cup cider vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cracked pepper
  1. Cover the peppers in boiling water for 20 minutes to soften them.
  2. Remove 4 of the soaked peppers to a blender with the tomato paste mixture, teaspoon of sugar, and half cup water. Blend until smooth.
  3. In a medium saucepan, combine the blended mixture, the remaining soaked peppers (without the soaking liquid), the onions, garlic, vinegar, salt, and pepper.
  4. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour 45 minutes.
  5. Divide the peppers among 3-4 small freezer containers with 3-4 peppers per container, topping them off with sauce. Extra adobo sauce can be frozen in a container as well.

See this article for ideas of what to do with your gems: “Everything You Can Do with a Can of Chipotles in Adobo

You Can Smash Burgers on the Grill . . .

. . . if you use a griddle, of course.

I hope you haven’t tried it right on the grill grate, but I’d like to see the pictures if you did. 😉

It means my husband won’t be getting his beloved thick rare burgers, but maybe he’ll like the crispy bits on all the edges of the burgers—and smashed burgers are pretty much all surface and no middle. I’m having good old American cheese slices melted all over mine. If you’re confused about the authenticity of American cheese and have time for a long read, see this article on Serious Eats: “What is American Cheese, Anyway?

I divided a pound of 80% lean beef into 8 slightly flattened balls, figuring two thin patties per sandwich—both with cheese (just on mine). I have a large stainless spatula, but it has slots in it, so trying to smash with that would be like smashing on the grate. I thought about wrapping it in non-stick foil, and I still think that would work, but I’m concerned that all the little crinkles in the foil would cause something to go wrong in the smashing. So I’m using a flat-bottomed bowl that is about the size of the buns to do the pressing. I think I can safely get two patties on the griddle at a time. My griddle is cast iron, so it should hold the heat pretty well through the four servings, after it sits over hot coals in a 400° grill for at least ten minutes.

Don’t forget to scrape up all the bits of burger and cheese that stick to the griddle—I ate most of those by hand, but added the rest to the sandwiches. That’s why you need a spatula with a fine, almost knife-like edge. I thought about using my metal dough scraper, but the spatula worked, with a little elbow grease.

Smashed Burgers on the Grill

  • Servings: allow two patties per sandwich
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Be ready to work quickly! It looks like a lot of steps, but you really need to memorize them and have your assembly line ready to go, because there’s no time to read and smash.


Ground beef, 80/20% lean to fat—allow 2 oz per burger, 2 burgers per sandwich

Salt and pepper mixture in a small bowl, ready to season burgers

American cheese slices—allow one slice per burger

Buns (obviously)

  1. Divide ground beef into 2 oz servings. Shape into balls, lightly flattened with straight sides. This is a good shape to ensure a round shape (if you care) after pressing.
  2. Have the burgers, cheese, seasoning, pressing device, and spatula lined up and ready to go next to the grill.
  3. Set up grill for direct heat at about 400°
  4. Place griddle on grill grate over direct heat at least 10 minutes before cooking burgers.
  5. Place two burger balls on hot grill (it better sizzle). Immediately press down evenly on each burger to flatten—or smash—to a paper thin patty. Season with your salt and pepper mixture
  6. It will only take a minute to char. It’s probably ready to turn after you season it.
  7. Scrape up the burger as well as you can and flip. You want to get all the crispy bits, but if you miss some, just keep going and get the rest later.
  8. Add cheese right after flipping. If using American cheese, it will melt incredibly fast.
  9. Scoop up the burgers and all the cheese that melted onto the griddle. Stack them in twos on a serving plate.
  10. Before you put the next two burgers down, scrape up any bits of burger and cheese and toss onto your serving plate to go into the sandwiches (unless someone eats them).
  11. On my square griddle, I alternated between opposite corners with each pair of burgers.

This is my favorite kind of burger, all surface crispness and very little middle. Although my husband likes a thick rare burger, he enjoyed these very much, because the resulting beef is full of flavor, even without cheese (lactose intolerance). I made a quick burger sauce with mayo, lime juice, chili garlic sauce, cumin, maple syrup, and salt.

Patty Melt on the Grill

Personally, I think the term patty melt is stupid, well, maybe not stupid, but not very creative. Wikipedia doesn’t seem to know its derivation, but does trace it back to the 1940s, at least. I’m guessing it was developed in some diner one day, when someone insisted on giving the sandwich a name, and the cook just yelled out “Patty Melt” from the kitchen. Its obvious relationship to a grilled cheese sandwich makes me wish that grilled was part of the name. I suppose the patty part is always beef, isn’t it? But why patty instead of burger? I’m sure the French could come up with a better name—I can’t think of one myself. What would you call them?

Anyway, I didn’t want to wash the griddle, so I figured out how to make one on the grill. It’s all about getting the process in the right order, whether using the griddle or the grill, but I like those grill marks, and the dripping cheese just gets burned/scraped off later.

Toasting both sides of the bread is key.

Patty Melt on the Grill

  • Servings: makes 1 sandwich
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Set up a charcoal grill for two heat zones, direct and indirect.

  • Seedless rye bread—try to find one with a good texture, not too soft. I used “Al Cohen’s New York Open Rye” from Buffalo, NY
  • Thin sliced Swiss cheese—I used about 8 slices
  • Ground beef, shaped in patties, not too thick
  • Olive oil or melted butter for brushing on bread
  • Sliced onions, grilled until soft and browned
  1. Grill your vegetables first. We had asparagus, as well as the onions for the sandwich. Grill those over direct heat, then move off to the side to keep warm.
  2. Grill the burger(s) for the patty melt over direct heat. I will eat a medium rare burger, but prefer one that is cooked longer in this kind of sandwich, because I only want cheese dripping down the sides, not blood. Set aside the burger. Clean the grate.
  3. Prepare the bread by brushing some oil or butter on the inside of each slice. Grill over direct heat until toasted—probably less than 1 minute per side. Remove to area where you can build the sandwich.
  4. Build the sandwich on the toasted side of the bread—lots of cheese, burger, onions, lots more cheese. Cover with the second slice of bread, toasted side on the inside.
  5. Brush the outside of the sandwich with oil or butter. Grill both sides of the sandwich over direct heat until nicely toasted and the cheese is melting.

I like Swiss cheese, but you could obviously use any other cheese that melts well, like American or cheddar, and a hearty white bread would work well, too. My rye bread was already sliced, or I would have sliced it a little thicker.

The last step of the meal for me was grilling my husband’s burgers, which he likes very rare—that’s why you have to figure out the order of steps.

Carne Asada with Skirt Steak, Pt. 2

Finishing up the Carne Asada I started this morning with the previous post’s salsa marinade, I moved to the grill just before dinner. My almost-1 lb of skirt steak made four small pieces, which I grilled over very hot direct heat on a charcoal grill, 2 minutes per side.

I had been worried about getting a nice char, but it was pretty easy, maybe because of the good salsa marinade, or maybe just because I carefully followed the suggestions in the Serious Eats recipe—and gave a wink and a nod to the summer rain gods to hold off a little. We were impressed with our first skirt steak and ate it all up in tortillas with more of the salsa, lettuce, and guacamole. I just hope our grocery will have skirt steak more often.

Wow! Crispy, juicy, spicy. Thanks to Serious Eats for this recipe.