So, we all hide in the apartment, wash our hands dozens of times a day, and only I go out for grocery-shopping errands. That way we hope to minimize the chance of giving Vivi a flu before she is ready. Even with all those precautions, I went out one time to meet with a board member at a bar, and I came back with the flu! Vivi won't have much of an immune system until about 6.5 months old. Until then, we are hermits.
Normally, we go to our friend's house in Portland, for grilling. They have a huge deck, a huge grill, and a 200lb smoker-oven with bull horns for handles (see below). Their children are delightful, and it's a great excuse to hang out :) However, they were all fighting the flu for a month straight. :(
uuni-2 Wood-pellet-fired Pizza Oven
I remember many evenings, huddled dangerously close to the little hibachi grill, with charcoal briquettes glowing. There are much more modern versions now, including high-tech ones from Japan. If you have any balcony space or outdoor parking space, there is no excuse for not bonding over some quality grilling time.
These days, we find we need a small grill for Japanese-style, sliced beef-tongue or Korean bulgogi. We use a little butane stove like some people use for hotpot. If we were grilling more different foods, then the next step up would be a hibachi grill. Instead, we plan our grilled meals for the weekend, marinate our meats, then drive everything over to our friend's house and do it there. The only grilling we do in our apartment are small, specialty foods. Which brings us to the amazing uuni-2 pizza oven we discovered.
This thing is very compact. We used to fold ours up and store it in a 12-inch space next to our washing machine. It gets hot. Insanely hot. 1250 degrees F hot. Our original version 2 has small thermal mass, so I incinerated a couple pizzas trying to time the spiky heat curve. Even with an IR-laser temperature gun, I needed to use notes and timers to get it right. The new version, the uuni-2S, has a pizza stone built in. If you are constrained for space, then this is $300 very well spent! Here are some pictures of the older version.
I usually use a smoker box, filled with wet wood chips, for smoking. We need a large enough grill surface for 2-dozen chicken thighs, since the meal reheats well. We need an upper grill deck for smoking and roasting. We need 3 burners, for high-heat and indirect smoking. A side burner is optional. I rarely use them. A cast iron grill surface is better than wire. Wire grills don't sear well and inevitably rust. A good brand name ensures spare parts and accessories are available. Ideally, we want the smallest grill which does all this. In my life, I've gone through over a dozen grills. I know what works. What I did not know is that the grill designers at Weber have re-invented the humble gas grill. You can even get it at Home Depot, assembled (for free), with bitcoins!
Behold, the Weber Spirit E-310 with Gourmet BBQ System!
This is not your father's grill. This is not your college grill. If you grill lots of different kinds of dishes, this will change your life. For less than 2 bitcoins, here's what we got:
- Enamel-coated, cast-iron, wide-bar grill surface sears perfectly.
- Upper wire rack smokes and roasts.
- Inverted, V-shaped, "flavorizer bars" vaporize fats and guide excess away from the burners.
- Two (or more) triangular smoker boxes fit perfectly in-between the flavorizer bars, accessible entirely through the round center hole.
- Pizza stone insert can make wood-fired pizzas.
- Enameled, cast-iron korean BBQ insert, traps grease, and can make beef tongue, (beef or pork) bulgogi, or galbi gui (beef short ribs).
- Enameled, cast-iron griddle insert can pan-carmelize shrimp, lamb chops, and fillet mignon, without fogging the house.
- Enameled, cast-iron sear grate can cook thin veggies, fish, shrimp, clams, and small sausages.
- I modified mine to fit either a standard 20lb fuel tank, or a 30lb tank.
- I removed the left-side work surface, to smoke against the balcony railing.
- The right side work surface is stainless steel, so I added a magnetic, plastic meat temperature table. A dedicated Thermapen Mk4 rests there too (don't buy these on Amazon! 2x-4x more expensive!).
- The three hooks on the right side are just enough for cleaning brush, mitts, and tongs.
This system sets up faster, cooks faster, adds more flavor, smokes and sears more, and cleans and stows faster. It replaces four or more different cooking systems, and keeps the smoke outside.
Here you can see jerk chicken we cooked for dinner tonight. We set some kind of speed record tonight. That's key, because little Vivi can wake at any minute! :)
Wow! Problem solved. Now we just have give away all of our old grilling gear.