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We know that to make Santa Maria BBQ there are very few “must haves”. Tri-Tip, Salt, Pepper…and nicely seasoned Red Oak. Even thought these requirements are few, true Santa Maria BBQ cannot be accomplished without these basics.
To those of us on California’s Central Coast, the Red Oak and many of it’s cousins are plentiful. However, to my friends around the country, Oaks are either of a less flavorful variety or nonexistent. These Oaks of California are not “furniture grade”, they have many twists, turns, knots and kinks…not to mention bark that can approach an inch thick on older trees. These Oaks are meant for Sublime Beauty and BBQ. We don’t take the bark off like other BBQ cultures practice; we treat it the precious maker of fine BBQ coals – the wood and bark give a coal bed of unique texture, burn and smoke rates.
In order to find the wood – several commercial wood companies contract to “prune” in the case of the California Live Oak – and cut the Red & White Oaks…It’s illegal to cut down a California Live Oak without a permit….so ask before you buy, exactly what kind of Oak you’ll be getting.
Visiting local newspaper websites will generally provide contact for people that are selling the Oak wood by the cord – these guys typically are for the local customer, and don’t have the ability to box & ship to a customer…this will however be a great way to get lots of wood much cheaper than “by the box” retailers.
I’ve found a great website for locating Oak BBQ woods near you – many will ship directly to you in boxes or bags.
This is a very complete list and incorporates the major regions of California.
After you get your Oak BBQ wood coming, try this BBQ seasoning…
The Rub Co. – “Santa Maria Style” – purchase it at www.greenleafbbq.com – AWESOME rub for this genre of BBQ – and others – The Rub Co. and their BBQ team just won Reserve Grand Champion (2nd place) over all at the Wild West BBQ Bash…using this line of BBQ rubs!
Best of luck to you in obtaining the BBQ woods that made the Santa Maria Style, the equal of every other BBQ culture in the world.
Carrie & I were shopping the other day – grocery shopping – our favorite pastime. We were trying to decide what to have for dinners in the week ahead. Understanding that we are in the BBQ industry, we typically choose an assortment of meats that might either provide a learning experience, or perhaps fresh material to share. Cornish Game Hens came up last night, and indeed – produced something to share.
Most folks LOVE BBQ Chicken, in one or more of it’s many forms. We serve lots of BBQ Chicken to clients and make many of recommendations to customers looking for a new way to prepare it. One complaint we’ve heard often,” The chicken breasts are just too big” or “We cooked a whole chicken and now we have to store the leftovers – that never get eaten.”
Cornish Game Hens don’t have any of those problems. One hen, split in Half will comfortably feed two people with no leftovers. Even better “SpatchCock” (or a hen with the back cut out and butterflied), but straight hen halves are wonderful.
Here are the Basics of what we did:
Frozen Game Hens – cut in half just like a chicken. One half per person is the appropriate portion.
- I tossed (3) Halves in a 2 gallon Zip Lock bag & poured a “Mojo Criollo” Marinade – this is a wonderful citrus based marinade that is traditional in Cuban or Mexican cooking.
- Let the hens soak in the marinade for (4) hours – that’s all the time I had in order to get them cooked on time. Let them soak longer if you can.
- Get a BBQ or Smoker set up with some BBQ Smoke Wood and plan for “Indirect” heat; adjusting your temps to the 250 Degree range. When the temperature stabilizes, put the hens on the BBQ. I add a water pan to the grill if I am worried about moisture – this is just a metal bread pan filled 2/3 with water & set on the same side as the hens. The pan will steam and add humidity to the cooking chamber. This can be done on ANY BBQ.
- I lay the hens on the BBQ grate – setting the thickest (breast) side of the hen towards the fire – I don’t like burnt wing and leg tips.
- Let the hens cook for 20 minutes – shake on a mellow BBQ rub once the skin has started to sweat a bit. I used D-Dog’s Maple Rub – very complimentary to poultry.
- An hour later, baste on some olive or canola oil, balsamic vinegar & honey mixture that you’ve prepared in the house…this will dilute & emulsify the dry rub that was applied earlier. The color will really come out and begin to look glossy.
- Another hour into the cook, your hens should have been on the BBQ for about 2 1/2 hours now – baste with a final BBQ sauce or glaze. Mine was simple sugar, mint, sage & a touch of brown mustard – all mixed together nicely prior to painting the hens…you can use a bottled sauce at this point too…
- Things should be VERY close to done – ensure now that the BBQ doesn’t get much hotter than the 250 degrees we’ve talked about – that sugar will burn if it does.
- The hens will be done now – and can be pulled off the BBQ. I like to put mine under a foil tent on a platter or other type of “steamer” – this allows the hens to rest while other parts of the meal are finished off.
- Enjoy those nice Cornish Game Hens – they should be super juicy & tangy sweet.
We used a Traeger Pellet Grill for this recipe, you can easily replicate this on a Charcoal or Gas grill. The Traeger Pellet Grill is easy & low maintenance – we recommend them.
Thanks for checking out our BBQ blog – I try to come up with stuff that anybody can try with success – We have many of the items mentioned in our online BBQ shop at: www.greenleafbbq.com
Best of luck,
I know – this is a shameless plug for our BBQ shop. But, sometimes the information being delivered demands some attention – even if it is from within!
Our BBQ Shop is located at: 21 South Livermore Ave. Livermore, CA in the Historic Blacksmith Square. We regularly have Big Green Eggs on sale and offer prices significantly under retail. Please visit our website for more information at: www.greenleafbbq.com – We can drop ship special orders as well!
Here are 10 of the best reasons ever to invest in a Big Green Egg…
1. They can hover at the magic 250 degree mark for almost 24 hours with a good lump charcoal fire – making the “Low & Slow” style a reality.
2. They are supremely efficient users of fuel – Good charcoal is expensive and getting more so.
3. They can really do a great job as a grill – those temps can easily get to 500 – 700 degrees and stay there for over an hour – if you have a “steak night” for 15 folks, this will come in handy.
4. They look cool.
5. They make you cooler!
6. They will last forever & include a limited LIFETIME warranty – Parts are commonly available and easily replaceable.
7. The array of ceramic accessories will allow perfect indirect heating & a wonderful brick over flavored pizza on a Big Green Egg Pizza Stone.
8. There is nothing that cannot be cooked to perfection with a little practice of fire management & technique – a VERY forgiving BBQ.
9. Air flow is managed at both ends and the adjustments actually work, unlike junk grills that have air flow vents more for cosmetic reasons.
10. Cooking technique that is learned in a kitchen can easily be applied to this charcoal fired porcelain oven – learn fire technique & the world will be your oyster.
I don’t really need to go on any more – “Backyard Nirvana” is possible and now within reach.
Seriously, these are wonderful BBQ units that will be enjoyed for years…a true investment. Consider renting one from us for $50 a day – we’ll take the rental expense off of your bill should you decide to buy.