Some food is good. Some bad food is great!

A much requested project finally takes fruition.

Over the years, I’ve grown an appreciation for truly good food. I’m talking gourmet meals that cause a person to sit down and savor each bite as a tear starts to form. But I’m also a blue collar guy that loves his blue collar food. And let’s face it; some of that food is down right unhealthy. Food that will stick to your ribs, and your arteries, as it brings the biggest smile to your face. It’s really good, bad food! This blog will get a little crazy at times. It will hit on some really good gourmet food. It will tempt you with some really good, bad for you food. But hopefully, it will all be great tasting food and a great time!

What can you expect?

  • Gourmet food! We’ll explore some great dishes that will make you cry!
  • Good bad food! Those horrible dishes that clog arteries but are just damn comfortable!
  • Restaurants! I love cooking, but having other people cook for me? Oh hell yeah! It’s the best!
  • Cooking gadgets and tools! We’ll take a look at what’s in the kitchen (and by the grill!) to make some great dishes come together!

I appreciate your support and feedback. Please feel free to reach out and comment on how this is coming together. And of course, THANK YOU for your support!

What Happened to Good Food, Bad Food!?

To my friends and family, and the small percentage of people who don’t fall into either of those categories but have followed and supported me anyways; Good Food, Bad Food! has changed and it’s moving on! Some of you may have noticed I’ve stopped posting new articles on the blog, but I’ve been posting somewhere else.

The great news is I’ve been picked up as a contributing author, of sorts, by the growing culinary social media group FoodTribe! This is exciting for me as my viewership has gone up from the tens and hundreds of views to thousands and tens of thousands of views per article.

This t-bone steak is coming soon to FoodTribe in a future article!

If you’re into food, I highly encourage you to check out and/or download the FoodTribe app for your phone and explore the multiple tribes and authors. As always, I appreciate all of the support and encouragement I’ve recieved since I’ve started making food a hobby to write about. Thank you and I hope to see you over at FoodTribe!

Read about the Hardee’s BFC Thickburger on FoodTribe!

My First Foray Into Sous Vide!

It didn’t exactly go smoothly, but the resulting sous vide tacos were enjoyable!

I jut had a birthday; ughhhhhhhh, my 40th birthday. But birthdays are cool because I like getting presents. And as far as presents for my 40th are concerned, my in-laws Jerry and Ellen got me a pretty damn cool birthday present; a 1000 watt Anova Precision sous vide immersion cooker.

Sous vide is French and translates to “under vacuum”. Typically, a food item is vacuum sealed or placed into a zipper locked bag, submerged in a bath of water, and the water is heated to a desired temperature with an immersion cooker. This is a method of cooking I have been interested in trying for a couple of years now. What appeals to me about the sous vide method of cooking is the ability to be able to prepare a steak to the exact level of finish desired, and then sear it off for a nice caramelized exterior. In other words, you can get a perfect medium rare steak from crust to crust!

What really excites me about sous vide is the seemingly endless variety of other dishes that can be cooked with the sous vide method. And to get myself warmed up cooking with the sous vide method, I decided to start with tacos! I cooked a dish called tinga de pollo; shredded chicken with tomatoes, onions, and chipotle peppers in adobe sauce.

I basically destroyed my kitchen preparing this dish from a recipe found on Cook’s Illustrated. I think it actually took me longer to clean up than it did to prepare the recipe for the sous vide cooking!

Luckily the adobe sauce smeared over almost every surface doesn’t show up that well in the photo!

Once I had the chicken prepared for the sous vide part of the adventure, things started not going that smoothly for me with my new Anova Precision. One of the main features of the Anova Precision is the ability to connect to and control the cooker via an application on a smart phone or tablet. This turned out to be a bit of a headache, and I was unsuccessful at pairing my phone to the cooker. As time started getting tight on getting dinner done in time for the evening I went manual, using the controls on the Anova Precision itself. This also proved a little troublesome due to the lack of detailed instructions and my lack of familiarity with the cooker. For some reason, several times during this cook, the Anova Precision shut off or stopped for no explicable reason (other than maybe I didn’t know what I was doing). However, later in the evening I discovered the Anova Precision isn’t compatible with WiFi networks that are using a network password containing a special character. Adjusting my network password solved the problem, but in my opinion this quirk is pretty damn ridiculous. Come on Anova! Fix this!

The Anova Precision going full steam ahead on some taco meat!

But how was the food, right? It came out pretty good! After three or four hours slow cooking at 175°F (it’s hard to tell how long it went with the issues I was having), the chicken came out of the bag very moist and tender in the tinga de pollo sauce. It shredded very nicely with a couple of forks and was very flavorful on soft tacos.

Tinga de pollo all shredded up and ready for tacos (or taco salad)!

I topped my tacos somewhat traditionally, with cilantro, onion, avocado, and some queso Cotija. While they were good on flour tortillas, I would really like to try them on a corn tortilla!

Very good tacos!

The take aways:

  • Technology can be frustrating!
  • Hopefully patience wins out in the end and I get the hang of this Anova Precision!
  • Tacos are damn good, and these were no exception.
  • I can’t wait to do steak with the Anova Precision!

Christmas Eve Prime Rib

I tackled a bucket list meal!

Growing up, after we moved back state-side from overseas, my family had a traditional Christmas Eve dinner; Surf and Turf. This is something I continued with my wife after I married. I’d cook up some filet and a lobster tail (or two!) for a huge Christmas Eve dinner. This year however, my wife Stacey encouraged me to tackle something I had been wanting to try for a long time; Prime Rib.

I started at one of my favorite places for sourcing good meat at a good price by going to Sprouts Farmer Market. The Choice Prime Rib Roast was on sale for $7.99 per pound, which is cheaper than the filet we usually get. I’ve always been happy with the quality of the beef from Sprouts and I was excited the roast was on sale.

Choice Rib Roast from Sprouts Farmers Market.

To prep it, I cut the butcher’s string, and carefully trimmed the fat cap off the top of the roast. Some people believe in leaving the fat cap on the roast to contribute to the flavor as some of this fat renders during the cook. But in truth this cut of meat has enough fat through out it to provide ample flavor. Trimming the fat cap off gives you more meat surface to apply flavorful rubs to, to be absorbed into the meat. Once I had the Prime Rib trimmed to where I wanted it, I retied it with butcher’s string to help it maintain its shape through the cook.

Here is my rib roast all trimmed up, and retied!

For the dry rub, I started with dried Rosemary (from my wife’s garden) and dried Thyme. I roughly chopped these and mixed them together before applying them to the whole roast. Then over that I applied a liberal coating of Atlanta Grill Company’s Himalayan Sherpa dry rub. This stuff is ridiculously good and I can’t wait to use it on other recipes! Once I had the rub on the Prime Rib, I wrapped it tightly in plastic wrap to sit in the ‘fridge for approximately 24 hours.

Rosemary from my wife’s garden along with dried Thyme. This was very aromatic once roughly chopped!
Atlanta Grill Company’s Himalayan Sherpa. I can’t wait to use this on a brisket!
Liberally coated in herbs and rub!
Wrap tightly in plastic and allow to marinate in the ‘fridge for approximately 24 hours.

Sometime around 2:45 PM on Christmas Eve, it was time to get the Prime Rib on the smoker. My Vision Professional S Series kamado grill was already prepped up and going from having done seven turkey breast in the morning. All I had to do was add a few pieces of smoking wood (Apple and a little Hickory), set my BBQ Guru CyberQ temperature controller to 250°, place the Prime Rib on the grate and insert a temperature probe into the center of the roast. On the lower grate, I had a pan of carrots, onions, and beef broth positioned to catch the dripping from the roast, for my wife.

All ready to go!

I went back in the house and prepared a spray bottle with 2 tbsp of Apple Cider Vinegar and 1 cup of water. I spritzed the Prime Rib every 30 minutes with the cider vinegar mixture until it was time to remove it from the smoker. This led to the roast having a very nice, dark finish!

Hit it with some cider vinegar and water for a nice rich, dark finish on the outside.

At 5:20 PM, the roast had reached an internal temperature of 128° and it was time to pull it off and wrap it. I was aiming for a medium rare center, but I think the next time I will pull the roast off somewhere in the area of 120° to 122°. I wrapped the Prime Rib in pink butcher’s paper and set it in an empty cooler to rest for approximately an hour.

It’s ready to come off the grill…
…and go into the cooler to rest!

While the Prime Rib was resting, it was a great time to get the rest of the meal ready. My wife made cheesy scalloped potatoes and Caesar salads. I boiled, and then broiled, a lobster tail for myself and prepared some drawn butter. Then, it was time to carve the Prime Rib!

I was a little nervous at this point because I had never prepared one of these and I wanted to carve it correctly, but I also wanted it to be cooked properly. I started by slicing the rib bones out from under the roast; these were set aside to use later. Then, using a knife a good friend made for me, I sliced the Prime Rib to serve and was rewarded with a perfect pink center.

The rib bones were sliced out first.
I was rewarded with the perfect pink center!

I was thrilled with how this Prime Rib came out! It had a very rich flavor from the bark on the outside and was meaty and juicy on the inside. I will definitely prepare one of these again!

It came out perfect!

The meal came out great and was very filling! I can’t wait to try it again!

Caesar salad by my wife, Stacey.
My Prime Rib plated with cheesy scalloped potatoes by Stacey!
This was a great spread!

The take aways:

  • I’m kicking myself for not trying this before!
  • It was actually pretty easy and not all that work intensive.
  • Nothing beats good beef for dinner, unless it’s good beef served next to lobster!
  • I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and/or Hanukkah, and that everyone has a great New Year!

WHAT?! Turkey Burgers?

I still prefer real beef but this will do.

Hands down, one of my favorite meals is a beefy cheeseburger with all of the fixings. Unfortunately, I’m aging and cheeseburgers aren’t that good for me. Well, they are good for me in that they make me VERY happy, but as far as healthiness and cholesterol is concerned…

…I guess I can’t actually just drink more alcohol to thin out my blood.

While it doesn’t fully recreate the experience of a real cheeseburger, ground turkey does provide an almost acceptable substitute. Honestly, it doesn’t make for an awesome cheeseburger, but a turkey burger makes for an okay meal on a weeknight.

I don’t actually make these from any recipe, but I measured out what I used for the purposes of this article; just in case anybody wants to try something similar.

1 lb of turkey meat and some stuff from the pantry.

I started with a pound of ground turkey purchased from our local Sprouts supermarket (great place with really good, CHEAP, produce and even better beef!) and some items from the pantry. Everything gets lightly hand mixed in a medium mixing bowl.

Into the bowl:

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp dried chives
  • 2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
The ingredients go into a bowl…
…and get lightly hand mixed.

There are two things from the ingredients list that I feel it’s a little important to point out here. The first is the Dijon mustard. I add this to help keep the turkey from drying out on the grill. I encourage you to experiment with different condiments to add to the turkey to help keep it moist for grilling and to give your patties some added flavor. But be careful not to add too much our you’ll end up with really loose and mushy turkey burgers! The second item worth mentioning from the ingredients list is the 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs. I feel the breadcrumbs keep the burger from being too mushy by adding some texture and help glue the burger together a little. Just be careful to not add too much of the breadcrumbs or you might see a burger patty that is too dry and wants to break apart on the grill.

After lightly hand mixing the ingredients, it’s time to form the turkey mixture into patties. I typically divide the mixture up into four portions (for four patties); gauging it by eye and feel. The four portions are loosely rolled into balls; don’t handle the turkey too roughly and pack it too tightly or the texture of the cooked patty wont be all that enjoyable. I am fortunate to have a simple burger press that my in-laws got me to quickly and uniformly form burger patties. You can just as easily hand form your patties though.

Forming turkey burger patties!
Four turkey burgers, almost ready for the grill

After letting the turkey burgers rest in the ‘fridge for a little, it’s time to heat up the grill! I typically turn my two burner grill up to high (both burners) for most grilling. For dinner this night, I put two of the turkey burger patties in a FoodSaver vacuum sealed container for dinner the next evening. The remaining two patties got brushed with some low sodium (no MSG!) Dale’s sauce to help add a bit of a salt component to the flavor.

Dale’s sauce is soooooo damn good!

Once the grill is hot, it’s time to put the turkey burgers down. I highly suggest using aluminum foil with cooking oil spray when cooking turkey burgers. Doing this will help keep the turkey burgers from sticking to the grill grates and help keep them patty shaped when flipping them. Please, be careful not to use the cooking oil spray near your lit grill unless you want a nice fire!

I highly recommend using tin foil and cooking oil spray to keep the burgers from sticking to the grill!

Once the burgers have nicely browned on each side (after flipping them) and some juices start coming out (just a little), I melt provolone cheese on my patty (my wife doesn’t do cheese on her burgers!) and toast my buns on the grill. I like a fully loaded burger with all of the fixings, so mine get lettuce, tomato, and onion. I also like sliced avocado on my turkey burgers, along with mayonnaise and sriracha!

Fully prepped turkey burger!

The take aways:

  • While a turkey burger wont replace beef cheeseburgers in my book, they are okay.
  • Use something to keep that turkey patty moist and glued together!
  • Why does unhealthy food have to taste sooooooo good!?

Smoked Turkey Breast!

Turkey is a beautiful holiday staple!

I’m sorry, but I seem to have neglected Good Food, Bad Food! as I’ve been very busy with work and the holidays. Life just happens! I’m looking forward to updating the blog with new content though moving forward. Stay tuned, make sure you follow, and share Good Food, Bad Food! with your friends!

Turkey! It goes great with the holidays for some reason! In my house, my wife Stacey lays all claim to preparing the turkey for Thanksgiving. I’m actually forbidden to touch the turkey; it’s Stacey’s territory and I know better than to try to step on that. Besides, she does a phenomenal job with the turkey!

One thing I do enjoy preparing around this time of year though is smoked turkey breast. Smoked turkey breast is pretty easy to prepare in decently large quantities to feed larger groups of people. Recently I smoked six turkey breasts to feed approximately sixty people, and it barely took any effort to prepare!

I have to admit that one of the things that makes the turkey so easy to prepare is cheating. I start with Butterball Boneless Frozen Turkey Breast Roasts. These things come soaked in brine, which seems to turn off most smoking purists that I know, but it saves time and keeps the meat juicy. One of these turkey breast roast typically feeds ten people once all carved up. Something to remember though; you will need to let them thaw in the refrigerator for a couple of days to be able to prepare it.

The day before smoking the turkey breast, the prep begins. Start by opening up the package over a sink to drain out the excess juices. Pull out the gravy pouch and set it aside (the gravy isn’t bad at all and I’ll typically chef it up by adding a little BBQ rub to it). Then pull out the turkey, contained in a butcher string mesh wrap, and set it on a tray (you may need to rearrange and shape the turkey in the mesh, and spin the ends of the mesh, to tighten it up). Next, pat it dry with some paper towels. Then you will be ready for a dry rub!

The dry rub can be pretty simple and still pack a great flavor punch. A simple salt and course black pepper rub is all you really need for flavor your turkey breast roast and it’ll provide a great keyed surface for smoke flavor to absorb in to. Or, you can use your favorite rub! Liberally rub the turkey breast and stick it in the ‘fridge overnight to absorb the flavor.

Twelve turkey breast roasts all prepped up!

The next day, prep your smoker for a three to four hour smoke. I use a kamado smoker so I load up with lump charcoal accented with a smoking wood or two. To provide the smoke flavor, I like to use Apple wood with poultry, and I might throw a couple of small pieces of Hickory wood in too for it’s stronger flavor. Ideally, you’ll want your smoker between 225°F and 250°F (error towards the lower end of that temperature range). Once you feel the smoker has stabilized on that temperature you’re happy with, place your turkey breast on the smoker.

The smoker is all ready to go!

I highly suggest using a temperature probe inserted into the center of the turkey breast for monitoring your cook progress. I use a CyberQ by BBQ Guru. It’s a wireless BBQ controller that let’s you control pit temperatures and wirelessly monitor your cook progress remotely via your smart phone or computer.

BBQ Guru CyberQ! Damn I love this thing!

Once your turkey is on, let it smoke until you see it has reached an internal temperature of 140°F. Once it’s reached 140°F, you will need to pull the turkey from the smoker and wrap it in foil with a half stick of butter. To wrap the turkey, I use a double layer of aluminum foil with a half stick of butter (sliced lengthwise) placed in the middle. Place the turkey breast top-side down on the half stick of butter, wrap in the foil, and return it to the smoker. Re-insert your temperature probe, and continue to cook your turkey breast until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.

The turkey breast roasts on their way to 140°F!
The turkey wrapped with butter and returned to the smoker.

Once the turkey has hit an internal temperature of 165°F, it’s pretty much done! All one needs to do is slice it and serve! To do this, I pour off the juices from the foil into whatever I’ll be serving the turkey in. I then place a cutting board in a larger baking sheet pan (to catch all of the turkey juice), use kitchen shears to remove the butcher string mesh wrap, and slice the turkey breast with an electric knife. Place your turkey slices in your serving dish and pour the juices from your cutting board on top of the meat, and serve!

All sliced up…
…and ready to serve!
Very moist and juicy with lots of flavor!
It doesn’t last long!
Photo Credit: Danny Lawson

The take aways:

  • If you do this right, you’ll have a really nice, moist and juicy turkey breast!
  • You’ll feel like a hero when you see how fast people eat up your turkey!
  • Smoked foods are great!
  • It doesn’t have to be difficult to be good!

Pepper Chicken Roll!

Let’s throw something fun on the smoker!

During weekly meal planning with my wife Stacey, she asked me if I wanted to make something for dinner on my kamado grill. My mind got to thinking about what we had on hand, and I remembered that Stacey had picked a lot of jalapenos and some sort of long green pepper from her garden this summer that we had stashed in the freezer along with 1lb portions of chicken breast. An idea popped into my mind and a dinner was planned! Sauteed peppers, provolone, rolled up in chicken was going on the menu!

I’ve done these rolls before, and they are great with either chicken or beef. But to start, you need some peppers. I added a red bell pepper to the mix for it’s flavor and to add some color. The peppers, along with some onion, were finely diced and sauteed in butter until the onions were translucent and the peppers soft. I did de-seed the peppers, except for the jalapenos, as I wanted a little heat on them.

Breakfast with my cooking…
Pepper and onion mixture on the stove to saute.
The house smelled pretty damn good after this!

The next item to prep was the chicken. I selected two chicken breast, approximately 1 lb each, trimmed any fat from them, and pounded them with a meat tenderizer until relatively flat. If you do this, make sure you cover the chicken with clear plastic wrap so that you don’t get little bits of chicken and chicken juice splattering all over your kitchen.

Time to flatten some chicken!

Once the chicken was flattened out, I arranged it on some clear plastic wrap, slightly overlapped, so it could be easily rolled up. I then selected a BBQ rub from the pantry to sprinkle on the chicken. I went with Fox Bros. BBQ’s rub; they have a restaurant in Atlanta, and their brisket chili is AWESOME (especially on tater tots). This rub is sold in local grocery stores, but any BBQ rub that suites your tastes would be great to use!

Fox Bros. BBQ rub is pretty much good on anything!
Flattened chicken arranged for rolling and sprinkled with BBQ rub.

Next comes the cheese! Any cheese can be used; I went with provolone because I enjoy the flavor when it’s melted up with the peppers. Simply just slap down slices and try to get some good coverage on the chicken. I left a little space at the top of the chicken free to overlap once it was all rolled up.

Cheesy chicken!

And the last thing needed before rolling up the chicken is the pepper mixture. I simply spooned it over the cheese and spread it out evenly.

It’s starting to look good!

Rolling the chicken up can be a little trying on the patience, but having the plastic wrap to help, and butcher’s string pre-cut and ready, makes it a little easier. Once you have a decent roll, tie it up with the string to help it hold its shape. I also sprinkled the outside with more of the Fox Bros. BBQ rub.

All rolled up and ready to go on the kamado grill to smoke!

I prepped the grill with lump charcoal, and pieces of whisky barrel staves from Jack Daniel’s Distillery. The smoking wood from Jack Daniel’s was a Christmas gift from my wife that I was waiting to use for a special meal. A ceramic diffuser was used to keep the direct heat away from the chicken roll.

Jack Daniel’s makes everything good!
Lump charcoal and Jack Daniel’s smoking wood.
Ceramic diffuser, covered in foil, in place for indirect heating.

I’m using a BBQ Guru CyberQ bbq controller with my Vision Kamado Professional S Series kamado grill. The CyberQ makes maintaining and following your cook super easy. In fact, I was able to monitor the progress, on my phone and laptop, while playing Call of Duty on my Xbox!

It looks like a bit of a science experiment with all of the wires.
The app is set up, and now the chicken needs to go on!

Once the chicken roll was on the smoker, I inserted a temperature into the center, and set my desired temperatures. With the CyberQ bbq controller, the kamado was set to hold around 250°, while the desired chicken temperature was set to 165°. The chicken roll was on the smoker for two hours and forty-six minutes for the duration of the cook.

The chicken is on!
And we’ve hit the targets!
It ran a little on the hot side, but I still got the desired results.
(The top line is the kamado temperature, and the bottom is the peppery chicken roll.)
After nearly three hours, we had some cheese leakage!

I wrapped the finished chicken roll in foil, and then in several towels, before dropping it into an empty cooler to allow it to continue to stay hot for a little. A short time later, it was ready to slice and serve! I made up some cheese rice from Knorr to go with it; it was all great!

Sliced end from the chicken roll.
Plated with the cheesy rice. It was all very good!

The take aways:

  • It’s fun messing around in the kitchen and making something like this.
  • Technology like the CyberQ bbq controller is really neat!
  • Dinner was great!

Fancy Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup

What’s your cold weather comfort food?

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After a ridiculously hot summer down here in Georgia (over ninety days of 90°+ weather and no rain!) it cooled down here, and fast! With the chilly evenings and long work days, it was time to bust out one of our cold weather favorites and fall/winter comfort foods; grilled cheese and tomato soup.

Tomato soup usually isn’t too fancy, and there was a time I would have turned down anything other than condensed Campbell’s Tomato Soup. Hell, it’s what I grew up with! But this week, while needing a quick and easy meal, I rummaged through the pantry and dug out a can of Progresso Tomato Basil soup and a can of Progresso Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper soup. Onto the stove they went with the addition of some of the basil my wife, Stacey, grew and dried.

Digging through the pantry can reveal some treasures!

Then it was time to consider the grilled cheese sandwiches. I could have done the simple and quick thing; using regular white bread, butter, and American cheese, but I wanted to “chef it up” a little.

Once more to the pantry, and I found we had a loaf of White Mountain Bread from the Publix grocery store bakery (we love the Publix bakery!). When I hit the fridge, I found we had a lot of different cheeses. From our refrigerator, I selected sliced provolone, American cheese, and shredded Parmesan. This along with some margarine, sliced tomato, and garlic powder and we were going to have some fancy grilled cheese sandwiches!

Scraping together a quick dinner!

A grilled cheese sandwich without American cheese isn’t right. I recently read an article about American foods that people from other countries just don’t understand or like, and American cheese was the number one disliked American food product on the list. Texture and flavor were cited as why non-Americans dislike American cheese, but hell, that’s what makes it so good! American cheese melts like no other cheese! The emulsifiers in American cheese keep it from separating out into an oily mess, and this is why it’s so good on cheeseburgers and grilled cheese sandwiches! American cheese is an integral part of any grilled cheese I’m going to be making!

Just like for any other grilled cheese, I spread margarine onto one side of each slice of the White Mountain Bread, but then I sprinkled a little garlic powder onto each slice. And to really up the flavor, I sprinkled the Parmesan cheese onto the buttered side of the bread and pressed it in so it wouldn’t fall off on it’s way to the griddle. Then it was time for the grilling; slapping the bread margarine, garlic, and Parmesan side down onto a hot griddle, and then layering with provolone cheese, American cheese, and then sliced tomatoes before finishing with the other slice of bread (margarine, garlic, and Parmesan side out).

Building up the fancy grilled cheese!
Grilling away!

Once sufficiently toasted on each side; plate, slice, and serve with the hot soup and enjoy on a cold evening!

Gooey, melty, fancy grilled cheese!
Gotta love comfort food!

The take aways:

  • Anyone can “chef up” a simple meal by looking at what they’ve got on hand!
  • Grilled cheese sandwiches don’t have to be plain or boring!
  • Comment below with what you like on your grilled cheese sandwiches.
  • Comment below with your cold weather comfort food.

The Best Grill Ever!

My most favorite cooking tool!

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When I get an idea, I seem to not be able to shake it. One day, I had the idea that I wanted a roller grill for my house. I don’t remember what day it was or exactly how long ago it was; but several years ago, while standing in a QuikTrip gas station at the hot dog roller grills with my good friend Jimi Koury, I decided I would have a roller grill.

Jimi and I would meet up at the QuikTrip in the area we worked on a nightly basis. It was our opportunity to get out of our patrol cars and stretch our legs, drink coffee, and get something to eat gas station style. And we ate well! QuikTrip always has a variety of interesting items rolling away through the night, slow roasting to perfection. Hot dogs, buffalo chicken rollers, roller burgers, spicy sausage, and corn dogs are just some of the items that were always going on the roller grill, guaranteeing a (un)healthy variety of food to choose from. It was on one of those nights, biting into a hot dog that had probably been rolling for four hours or more, I decided I would have a roller grill.

Fast forward many years, and I was fortunate to come into some play money. The BBQ team I’m on won Grand Champion at an event, and after all expenses where paid, I had a little money to spend on something fun. That itch that started may years prior was still there, and I decided I needed to scratch it! It was time to get on Amazon and order my roller grill!

I hit Amazon and started researching, and after a couple of days reading product specs and reviews, I honed in on the Olde Midway Pro30. It has the perfect combination of capacity and power. It’s not too small, but it’s also not so large that it was going to lead to my wife divorcing me. It was as easy as clicking “Buy Now” and my dream was in route to my house!

A couple days later, I came home to find a LARGE box on my front porch. I was very excited! I had a plan, and I needed to get this thing in the house, down in the basement, and set up on the bar before my wife, Stacey, got home from work. We were going to have a special, romantic dinner this night!

The Olde Midway Pro30 was pretty easy to unbox and set up, coming mostly assembled. Once I had the main part of the roller grill on the bar top, all I had to do was assemble the glass sneeze-shield on top of it and slide the stainless drip tray in place. Using the Olde Midway Pro30 is also pretty easy. After plugging it in, you hit the big power button on the front of the unit and the rollers start turning. The Pro30 is divided into two separate cooking zone from front to back. All the roller chef needs to do is set the front and/or rear zone dials to the desired temperature and load the rollers with tasty processed meat products and wait for them to cook to the desired done-ness.

The Olde Midway Pro30 is pretty easy to set up and use.

Dinner on that particular night consisted of Ball Park Grill Master Hearty Beef Hot Dogs, taquitos, and a carrot for Stacey. I found the Ball Park Grill Master Hearty Beef Hot Dogs came the closest to the size and flavor of dog I was getting from QuikTrip, and I was excited to see how they were going to be coming off my own roller grill. And I learned a lesson about taquitos and roller grills; you need to pay attention to how you load them on the roller! If you load them with the flap of the taquito facing the wrong way, the flap stops the taquito from rolling sometimes and they start to take a walk on the grill! It was time to set the table for a romantic dinner; paper plates and solo cubs seemed to for the bill for this awesome meal!

Yes, that’s a carrot. Stacey likes to eat healthy.
The table is set for a romantic basement dinner of roller grill goodness!

Needless to say, Stacey was shocked when she got home and she saw my roller grill spinning away on the bar top. After she face-palmed, she asked, “What’s wrong with you!?” She wasn’t too interested in dinner, but luckily, she didn’t divorce me! As for the hotdogs, after they had been on for a couple of hours at a high heat, they tasted just like the slow roasted ones from the QuikTrip. Unfortunately, I ate all of the taquitos before Stacey got home, so she didn’t get any. #SkinnyStacey

Face palm!

The roller grill has been a great addition to our basement bar and has helped make entertaining a little easier and a little more fun. For our yearly Super Bowl party, food prep has become as simple as loading a selection of all beef dogs, bratwurst, roller burgers, and buffalo chicken rollers on the roller grill and setting up a condiment bar. Small crock-pots make great additions to the toppings bar with hot, melty, liquid yellow cheese and chili!

The set up for the Super Bowl.
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This is my design.

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Super Bowl food in action!

Sourcing food for the roller grill has actually been very easy. Obviously, one can purchase any hot dog they have a preference for, for the roller grill. I’ve also found that the Johnsonville Fully Cooked Links, usually sold in the same section of the grocery store as the hot dogs, are perfect on the roller grill. Because the Johnsonville Fully Cooked Links are made in a uniform manner, they roll very nicely on the roller grill without getting stuck and burning on one side (this would be a concern with a real bratwurst). Taquitos can be sourced from pretty much any grocery store’s frozen food section. There is no need to thaw them out as they can be plopped onto the hot rollers while still frozen and they cook up quickly if the heat setting is high enough. Just be careful how you drop them on, or like I already mentioned, they’ll get stuck and try to hop off the rollers. For some of the more, shall we say, exotic roller items; look to your local roller grill equipped gas station! Fortunately, I’ve been able to walk into local gas stations and ask to purchase cases of the roller cheeseburgers and buffalo chicken rollers. I have gotten some damn strange looks when I make my request, but once I explain I have my own roller grill…

…people actually think it’s pretty neat!

Roller cheeseburgers!
Whoever invented the cheese filled roller cheeseburger; you’re a damn genius! A burger that fits on a hot dog bun!
Would you look at that! Would you just look at that!

The take aways:

  • I swear I’m not weird!
  • Roller food is definitely bad for you, but sooooooooo damn good!
  • The roller grill is great for big parties or for just throwing on a few items for a small college football game day.
  • Slow roasted, gas station style, is the way to go with the hot dogs. They need to have that snap when you bite into them!
  • I love my roller grill!

An Answer to a Question No One Asked!

Which country fried chicken frozen meal is not garbage?

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Back when I was single, I had a favorite frozen meal; Claim Jumper’s Country Fried Chicken. It had a good size REAL chicken breast in great tasting mashed potatoes and white gravy with a half of a corn on the cob. Sadly, the Claim Jumper line of frozen meals was discontinued. But all turned out okay because around the same time, I ended up getting married and my wife made me start eating real food!

Recently, while working night shifts, I found myself awake all night on my days off from work, sitting in the basement playing Xbox and drinking Jack Daniel’s. I’d eventually get hungry, and I needed something quick and easy to eat that I could prepare without waking my wife up. Much to my delight that meant frozen dinners, in the microwave, in the basement. While trolling the frozen food aisles at the local Kroger grocery store, I loaded up with dinners that I liked, and Country Fried Chicken is a common meal made by several different frozen dinner brands. What I found though is that not all Country Fried Chicken meals are created equal. Some of them actually suck, a lot! Read on to see what meals I tasted and how they were.

A selection of frozen Country Fried Chicken meals ready for testing!

Healthy Choice Country Fried Chicken

Is it healthy? Is it good?

I have to say, I was very surprised with this selection. I figured it was going to absolutely suck! While it didn’t exactly knock my socks off, it was okay and I didn’t feel like I was going to throw it back up. The chicken patty was very obviously processed meat but it had an okay texture. The mashed potato and gravy mixture was a little too thick and had a paste like consistency. Over all, the entree section of this frozen meal wasn’t that bad, but it was a little on the bland side. The corn was a little rubbery and also very bland. It needed the addition of salt and pepper. It also had a side of spiced apples. The spiced apples were actually very good, but the serving size was absolutely pathetic, leaving me wanting more! Overall, it would have taken two of these meals to have satisfied me. But compared to the competition this meal is a healthier, albeit, bland choice.

Healthy Choice Country Fried Chicken.
  • 330 Calories
  • 3g Sat. Fat
  • 500mg Sodium
  • 10g Total Sugars

Stouffer’s Fried Chicken

Stouffer’s Fried Chicken.

I was a little excited with this once based on how it looked on the box. Whoever Stouffer’s hired to photograph the food for their boxes did a great job because the chicken turned out to not look anywhere near as appetizing in real life as it is on the box! Using a fork to cut into the chicken patty reveals an extremely processed chicken product that is very crumbly and sponge-like. When I describe it as sponge-like, I mean this chicken patty looked like a pale, white sponge. The texture wasn’t that great and it was on the dry side. However, the mashed potatoes were actually pretty good, as was the gravy. It could have used more gravy. More gravy would have offset the horrible, dry, sponge-like chicken! There were no additional side items in this meal and it would have taken three or four of these entrees for me to have felt satiated after eating them. On paper this one doesn’t look to be all that bad for you, but once you eat enough to feel full you’ve consumed some major calories and sodium!

Looks okay on the outside, but not that good on the inside!
  • 350 Calories
  • 4.5g Sat. Fat
  • 950mg Sodium
  • 2g Total Sugars

Marie Callender’s Country Fried Chicken & Gravy

Marie Callender’s Country Fried Chicken & Gravy.

The chicken from the Marie Callender’s Country Fried Chicken & Gravy had a great, realistic texture and flavor. The gravy was okay, but tasted like it was loaded with black pepper. The gravy and mashed potatoes were on the thick side, but overall not that bad, minus the load of black pepper. The corn was great! It had a nice buttery flavor and texture. When I first started eating the Marie Callender’s Country Fried Chicken & Gravy, I felt the black pepper flavor was way to much and made the meal crap. Over time, I got used to it, and it doesn’t bother me as much. It takes two of these meals, a combined 2300mg of sodium, to make me feel not hungry.

Loaded with black pepper!
  • 460 Calories
  • 8g Sat. Fat
  • 1150mg Sodium
  • 3g Total Sugars

Banquet Chicken Fried Chicken

Banquet Chicken Fried Chicken

I am thankful the Banquet Chicken Fried Chicken meal wasn’t anything like portrayed on the box. Is that Elmer’s glue running off that chicken in the photo on the box? It certainly doesn’t look natural or appetizing to me! The chicken patty is very processed and is a little too soft in texture, but not awful. The mashed potatoes are VERY thin; this becomes a small issue because they are separate from the meat and gravy. When you use a fork to scoop them over to mix with the meat and gravy, the mashed potatoes run through the tines of the fork. The corn was also okay, just a little on the salty side. It will remind you of how loaded with sodium these meals are! Speaking of sodium; it takes two of these to feel full. That’s 2200mg of sodium!

You could almost drink the mashed potatoes with a straw. Ewwww.
  • 330 Calories
  • 3g Sat. Fat
  • 1100mg Sodium
  • 5g Total Sugars

Banquet Country Fried Chicken Bowl

Banquet Mega Bowl Country fried Chicken.

This one was absolutely disappointing. It had such promise; a bowl of fried chicken pieces, mashed potatoes, corn, cheese, and gravy. But they used the wrong gravy! The gravy was weak thin, and flavorless; not the thick country style gravy it should have been. The gravy was so bad that my wife actually bought me little packets of white gravy to make and pour on this meal (probably so she could stop my complaining). I had to carefully spoon out the gravy it came with to replace it. A pain in the butt, but it made the meal more palatable. What a disappointment! I’d only eat one of these in a sitting, with something smaller to go with it. It’s a good thing because the sodium in these is off the chain!

  • 450 Calories
  • 6g Sat. Fat
  • 1380mg Sodium
  • 3g Total Sugars


None of these meals come close to holding a candle to the Claim Jumper Chicken Fried Chicken frozen meal with it’s real chicken breast, flavorful mashed potatoes and gravy, and real corn on the cob. I’d definitely categorize all of these in the Bad Food category, but if ranked, I’d say the Marie Callender’s Country Fried Chicken & Gravy and Banquet Chicken Fried Chicken are the better of the five frozen meals. After eating enough of them, I got past the over peppery flavor of the Marie Callender’s Country Fried Chicken & Gravy meal and it became my preferred version of this frozen dinner. But the bottom line, they’re all Bad Food. They’re all pretty unhealthy and overly processed. I’m glad I’m back on day shifts with my job, eating dinner at home with my wife again, and not eating frozen meals in my basement at 3:00 AM. Who knows; maybe in a future article I can detail how to make this dish from scratch the right way instead of the frozen meal way?

The take aways:

  • The Claim Jumper Country Fired Chicken meal was damn good!
  • All of these meals left a lot to be desired.
  • The Marie Callender’s Country Fried Chicken & Gravy meal was the best of these, even though it was loaded with pepper.
  • These meals have probably contributed to my arteries hardening in the worse way!
  • Have you seen those sodium numbers!?!?!
  • If it tastes good, it’s garbage for you. If it’s good for you, it tastes like garbage!
  • Does anybody actually care? Probably not, but know you know what I think about Country Fried Chicken frozen meals!

The Best Sandwich In the World!

Yo! The best sandwich in the world is a Philly Cheesesteak and I’ll fight whoever says otherwise! Oh, and I’ll also show you how easy it is to make one!

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Okay! I’m not going to really fight anyone over this, but I will tell you this; some people from the region of the country where the Philly Cheesesteak originates can be damn passionate about a cheeseateak. I’m one of those people!

In fact, I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that the Philly Cheesesteak ties for first place, in a three way tie with French Fries and cheeseburgers, as my most favorite food of all time. In some respects, the cheesesteak may actually slightly edge French Fries and cheeseburgers out as my favorite! This is a pretty big claim for me because there are a lot of different dishes that I absolutely love. But the Philly Cheesesteak is just that important to me!

My beautiful wife, Stacey, at By George, in Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia, PA.

I did most of my “growing up” in New Jersey, just a 15 minute drive from downtown Philadelphia. A big part of that childhood was the corner Italian eateries that exist in almost every neighborhood of that region, turning out the most awesome pizzas, calzone, hot wings, cheese fries, and of course, Philly Cheesesteaks! Friday or Saturday nights usually meant carry out Cheesesteaks and cheese fries from Cafe Antonio’s in Collingswood, NJ; a place I will always have fond memories of as there food was sooooooooo damn good.

Cafe Antonio’s; my “cheesesteak home” through high school.

My first semester at college was spent at the then named Philadelphia College of Textiles and Sciences (now apart of the Thomas Jefferson University). It was my first experience out in the “real world” without home-cooked meals and a refrigerator full of food in the kitchen. I had a meal card and ate twice a day during the week at the school’s dining hall. It was buffet style with a single long serving line, and a short order cook. In time, the short order cook would see me in line, hold two fingers over his head, and I’d give a nod in return. And when I got to his station, I’d have a fresh cheesesteak and fries waiting on me. Two times a day. Five days a week. How am I still alive?

Me killing the By George cheesesteak in Reading Terminal Market.

These days I don’t get back to the Philly area or New Jersey that often, but when I do a cheesesteak is the first thing I seek out, followed by good pizza and then a Wawa sub. So where does one go in Georgia for a good cheesesteak? There aren’t too many choices for a truly exceptional cheesesteak! A couple places that come to mind for a good cheesesteak are Jersey Mike’s (not bad for a chain!), Philly Connection (an okay chain cheesesteak), and Roy’s Cheesesteaks in Smyrna. But the best cheesesteak I’ve had in my area of Georgia is at Saporito’s Pizza, in Canton. They use quality bread, good meat, and the cheese comes out molten lava! The owner of that joint is a true Jersey dude who knows how to do a cheesesteak up right!

Saporito’s menu. They have a damn good cheesesteak and their pizza is great!

A good Philly Cheesesteak isn’t that far away though, for anybody. You can make a damn good cheesesteak in your home with very little effort and no special equipment. All you’ll really need is a frying pan or griddle, and a handful of ingredients.

The foundation to a great sandwich is the bread. In my house, we love the rolls from the Publix grocery stores’ bakeries. The rolls are always soft and fresh, and they taste great. Use whatever hoagie/sub roll you like the most!

You’ll also need the right meat. Shaved ribeye is the most desirable for a good cheesesteak, but if you can’t source that, shaved shirt steak or shaved top sirloin will do you well. It’s important you get the meat shaved though, as anything thicker cut will be just too thick. Kroger sells a conveniently packaged shaved beef that is perfect for cooking up some Philly Cheesesteaks. It turned out to be good for three good sized sandwiches. The next ingredient, however, can be a bit of a contentious topic; the cheese!

Kroger sells this convenient, packaged shaved beef. It was good for about three cheesesteaks. Photo credit: Stacey Battersby

Some of that passion some people have for a good Philly Cheesesteak can really come out when it comes to a discussion on what cheese goes on a cheesesteak. I will tell you, in my opinion, that hands down the only cheese to go on a cheesesteak is white American cheese. I may have been influenced by my upbringing, doing a good portion of my growing up in New Jersey and with parents that preferred white American cheese on their Philly cheesesteaks. Other will tell you that American cheese on a cheesesteak is blasphemous, and only “Whiz” should be used. Whiz, or Cheese Whiz, is that awesome, liquid yellow cheese product that is melty gold! At some cheesesteak places this is the go-to cheese, and large cans of it are often heated on the grill so the liquid goodness can be ladled onto the meat moments before the cheesesteak gets scraped from the grill and put on the roll. I am not a big fan of whiz on a cheesesteak though, and I prefer my whiz on cheese fries or chili-cheese dogs. Just not on my Philly Cheesesteak! Another popular choice is provolone cheese. I’m okay with provolone melted on a cheesesteak, although white American cheese is my first choice. American cheese just melts perfectly, without separating into oily nastiness. It keeps a very nice creamy consistency due to the emulsifiers that are in the cheese. Ideally you’ll have three to four slices of white American cheese per Philly Cheesesteak. I source mine from the deli section of the grocery store, and only buy enough slices for the cheesesteaks I’m making.

Lastly, you’ll need toppings and condiments. Some of these items are best thrown on the grill with the meat, while others go on after everything is cooked. On the grill you can add onion, mushrooms, and peppers as the meat is cooking. Some people like fixing their cheesesteak as a “cheesesteak hoagie”, topped with lettuce, tomato, and onion. Most people will agree that mayonnaise is an acceptable condiment to have on a cheesesteak while ketchup is just WRONG. Bannana pepper rings or a pepper “sub topping” are other great choices for a good Philly Cheesesteak.

To cook your cheesesteak, you’ll need a flat surface like a frying pan or griddle. I use a stainless griddle insert for a grill that I can use in either my gas grill or my kamado charcoal grill. I wipe my griddle with a little bit of vegetable oil as it starts to heat up, just to help the meat not stick to it. After that, just dump your meat on and break it up with a metal spatula.

My griddle grill insert coming up to temperature with some vegetable oil wiped onto it.

As the meat cooks, you want to use a metal spatula to continually break it up and move it around the griddle or frying pan, to keep it cooking evenly. As the meat begins to brown, it’s a good time to throw on whatever toppings you want cooked with the meat; like onions, mushrooms, and peppers. I prefer my Philly Cheesesteak with fried onions.

My preference is for fried onions on my Philly Cheesesteak.

After the meat is cooked thoroughly and your veggies are soft and cooked through, form your pile of meat into servings for individual cheesesteaks. Then place your cheese on top and wait for it to melt.

This is shaping up to be a great dinner!

Once your cheese is melted, use your spatula to scoop the meat and cheese mixture onto your sliced roll. Spread it out evenly on the roll so each bite is packed with awesome flavor. At this point, I like to wrap my hot cheesesteak in aluminum foil, and let it sit to rest for a few minutes. This makes it really come out like a “take-out” Philly Cheesesteak. The roll will get gently steamed in the foil with the hot meat.

Wrapped in foil and resting for that authentic take-out flavor!

Once it’s time to eat your Philly Cheesesteak, top it to your preference. I love mine with extra mayo, a few dashes of hot sauce, and a good pepper sub topping like Cento Cherry Pepper Hoagie Spread. If I don’t have any sub topping, I’ll use banana pepper rings to give it that extra bite it needs. Then, all that’s left is to enjoy!

This is a most beautiful sight! I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!

The take aways:

  • The Philly Cheesesteak is a gift from God!
  • White American cheese is the way to go!
  • A good cheesesteak is easy enough to make in your own home.
  • Don’t put ketchup on your cheesesteak in Philly or you’ll get some sideways looks!