When it comes to cooking outdoors, my Weber charcoal grill is my go-to. If you're cooking pork chops or steak, nothing puts a fabulous sear on meat like a charcoal fire. But I am also partial to ribs and other cuts that have to be cooked low and slow at a very steady temperature. For the last 12 years I've been using a Cookshack electric smoker to do that. The drawback of that machine is that it is a one-trick pony...it only does low and slow and cannot cook above 275º
When I'm going to add any kind of equipment to my cooking arsenal, I spend dozens of hours researching my options. Pellet grills have been all the rage for the last few years, so that is where my journey took me. What I found so interesting about pellet grills is the good ones really function just like an oven. They can cook low and slow...they can bake....they can braise...and they can do high-heat roasting.
After all of my research, I ended up laser-focused on the Camp Chef Woodwind Pellet Grill. It's list of features are nothing short of astounding. It can cook at any temperature between 160º and 500º. You can infuse your food with variable levels of smoke (smoke settings of 0 through 10). The grill can be managed from my phone as it has both WiFi and bluetooth. And one thing that really sold me was the ease of cleaning. It has an ash removal system that works just like my Weber, dumping ash into a small cup at the bottom of the grill.
So I handed the results of my research to Becky, who had generously offered to buy it for my 68th birthday. So she placed the order in early June, but of course we got snake-bit by the Coronavirus. Seems that with everyone stuck at home, the demand for pellet smokers had gone through the roof. Take that sky-high demand along with reduced manufacturing ability because of social distancing...orders were taking 6 to 8 weeks to get filled.
Arrive it did towards the end of July. I was told that a person with average assembly skills would have the grill ready to go in an hour. The fact that it took me nearly 4 hours is a fine tribute to my own extraordinary mechanical abilities. But holy shit, once that grill got fired up...it was like a dream come true. My first meal was to bake a Papa Murphy pizza in glorious mesquite smoke...and it took what had always been a good but pedestrian pizza to all new heights...as if it had come right out of a wood fired pizza oven.
I also smoked 4 giant racks of St. Louis ribs and they were, without a doubt, the best I have ever made. And I was quite impressed at how fuel efficient the grill is. The hopper holds 20 pounds (which is a full bag of pellets). I have found that it burns about a pound of pellets per hour, which means an operating cost of roughly $1.33 per hour.
So the first pellet grill recipe I am going to share with you is the easiest. No prep. No dirty kitchen. Just order up a pizza from Papa Murphy's. Becky and I are partial to their signature Cowboy Pizza. It's a 16", regular crust with traditional red sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, Italian sausage, mushrooms, black olives, cheddar and herb & cheese blend. It will set you back $17.50. We spice ours up by adding a little garlic and red pepper flakes. Toss it on your smoker and you will swear with every bite that you have a Tuscan, wood-burning pizza oven in your back yard.
1 Papa Murphy Take and Bake Pizza
- Preheat smoker and pizza stone to 425º. Set Smoke Level to 10.
- Keep pizza on baking tray and place it on the pizza stone. Close grill and bake for 10 minutes.
- Open grill and slide baking tray out from under pizza, keeping pizza on the stone. Bake, covered, for another 2 to 5 minutes to your desired level of crispness.
- Remove pizza with a pizza peel. Let it cool for 5 minutes, then slice and serve.
Wine pairing: Chianti
Grogs and Goldie, 1956