You’ve become famous for your grilled meats. What is your best grilling tip?
Don’t be intimidated. People tend to get scared when they think about grilling. But really, the worst that can happen is - well, nothing bad is going to happen. It’s not something that should be too stressful. It’s about trying and practicing. If you try something and it doesn’t turn out the way you like it, just try it again. Don’t rush it. You have to wait for the meat to be ready. The slower you cook it, the better it’s going to taste. The whole point is creating an atmosphere and that’s part of the fun. Grilling is really what Freedom Farms is all about, coming together and celebrating food and fellowship. I’m certainly not a pitmaster yet but I have a feel for it and I enjoy doing it. You just learn as you go.
What’s your favorite thing to grill?
I think it’s definitely pork. I just really like barbecued pork. It’s delicious. The skewers that I make are making my mouth water just thinking about them. My skewers are uncured pork belly. Once I’m done with them, they really melt in your mouth.
What’s the hardest thing to grill?
I guess chicken can be tricky sometimes. But nothing is too hard. It’s all fun for me and if the chicken presents a challenge, it just makes it a little more fun. The fire is the really challenging part. It’s not about the meat or the cut of meat, but the controls and variables in using a real fire. I love the flavor of the cherry wood and smoke in general. But when it’s rainy or cold, it makes it hard to keep track of the temperature of the fire and the meat. Weather and wind are huge factors when you’re cooking over a fire. But I prefer it. It’s something fun and different. I don’t know too many people who use fire to grill.
Can you explain a little more about grilling over a fire?
I use a dry, dry cherry wood. You start with those dry chunks of wood and make sure the fire is nice and hot. The cherry wood works the best when grilling meat. It gives the meat a little extra flavor. Once you get a good fire going and start grilling, I like to flatten it out a bit, but still keep a good flame. Then I start shoveling coal into the roaster. I use the same fire to grill the meat and to fuel the roaster. You can buy charcoal and get the same result, but it can get expensive and it’s not really necessary in my opinion.
What’s your favorite thing to use for flavor?
I really can’t be too biased. I like thyme for chicken and rosemary for beef. I stick to the sweeter flavors for pork like brown sugar and apple cider. If you ever have leftover apple cider, take it and use it on the pork. That’s what I do. The combination of flavors makes the pork great. And you have to have that diversity too.
Do you ever grill at the market?
Yes, we grill every Saturday at the market during the summer. I like to do chicken halves, ribs, and my pork skewers. It’s a really good time. You get some smoke and some smells going and people start to get excited about food and about summertime. Again, it’s all about creating an atmosphere. I get to talk to people and tell them all about how our product is the best around. They see it and smell it while I’m grilling and it makes them want it.
Any final grilling thoughts?
My grilling guide is not real. It’s not specific. You just have to roll with it. Use what you’ve got and make do. That’s the farming mentality. Just work within your means and don’t try to be too fancy with it. I like using all homemade. It works just fine. Great, actually. Our meat is dark red and marbleized. It’s beautiful. I’ve seen the difference in commercial pork. If it’s white, it means the pigs weren’t raised outside in a good environment and then it’s not as good of a product. Of course, I get to use the best raw product, so it makes it a huge difference in the final product.
Guide (disclaimer - all on open fire)
Favorite cut: Ribs
Average prep time: For ribs, I don’t marinade. I just put a room temperature piece of meat on the grill. So I guess prep time would be however long it takes for the meat to defrost. You don’t want to put a piece of meat on the grill right out of the fridge.
Average cook time and directions: I use a two step process. I let it touch the flame or sit in high heat for maybe 5 minutes at the most on each side, until it crisps up on the outside and is a nice brown. I’m talking 400-500 degrees. I use apple cider or vinegar to keep the meat moist and to keep the flame down. That will end up crystallizing on the meat. I like to season it as it’s cooking, before the smoker. After that, I take it off the heat and put it in the smoker over coals at around 250-300 degrees to slow cook it. We have a 250-gallon fuel tank that we converted into a roaster. I leave it in there for an hour, maybe two sometimes, until the meat is nice and juicy and falling off the bone.
Flavors that pair well: Brown sugar, black pepper, paprika, cinnamon, garlic, onion
Favorite cut: Halves
Average prep time: As long as it takes you to halve a chicken
Average cook time and directions: Chickens are easier. You just cook them on high heat. As long as you keep turning them, you can get them done in an hour.
Flavors that pair well: Vinegar, olive oil, garlic salt. I don’t do a lot of marinades, but those pair well. Marinades are a lot of extra work for not that big of a difference in the end.
Favorite cut: Steak
Average prep time: Same as the pork. As long as it takes your meat to defrost. All meat should be placed on the grill at room temperature. It lets the meat b
reak down better and gives you time to get the fire going.
Average cook time and directions: A steak takes about 5-6 minutes on high heat. 3 minutes on one side, three minutes on the other side and you’re done. I season a steak when I pull it off the grill and then let it stand for five to ten minutes. I like mine crispy on the outside and rare on the inside.
Flavors that pair well: Sage, rosemary, garlic, salt, black pepper. I don’t season my steaks ahead of time.