Ending 2020 with a bang

We all know that 2020 was pretty much a wall to wall shitshow. Between the ‘rona, the idiots running for office, and did I mention the ‘rona?


We here at the Altar of Meat have been cooking at home a lot more than usual. This is good in that it means the grills got used. A lot. Whether it was grilling up some hot dogs for a quick dinner or figuring out how to make a proper crunchburger, there was a lot of wood pellets and propane used to make all sorts of yummy goodness.

First of all, a few good tips.

1) Never discount pecan wood for smoking pork. I had always been a hickory fan, but noticed that pecan was often recommended for pork ribs. Started to use that for Boston butt and the results have been the best pork pork I’ve ever made.

2) Don’t have any “official” turkey blend pellets? Make your own! I used 3 scoops of pecan, 3 scoops of hickory, a scoop each of alder and oak, and added a half scoop of applewood. It worked very well with a savory brine. I’m not a huge fan of the brine kit Traeger includes with their turkey pellet blend, so I think I’ll stick to making my own.

3) Don’t worry about having leftovers from a pork butt. You can always freeze them and use them later. Did that for our (much reduced and socially distant Festivus party) and got no complaints. Also, got rid of the leftovers. Win-win!

Getting to the original point of the post, we decided that since 2020 was so craptacular, we would do a super special NYE dinner. Went to the trusty freezer, pulled out some 6 oz. American wagyu black grade filet mignon from Snake River Farms and also picked up some Maine lobster tails. I’m a big fan of the reverse sear technique, so I loaded the hopper with hickory pellets, set to 225° on Super Smoke, and let it go.

I don’t do a lot to a steak… my go-to seasoning has been the Traeger Winemakers Blend. I’m willing to pay a little more for a quality steak and not have to add a flavor. A judicious use of spices does enough to enhance the flavor while not being overwhelming.

While the steaks were soaking up all that yummy smoke flavor, I got started on the tails. The shells were already split, so I just worked the meat out of the tails, and made some garlic butter. Took a stick of regular salted butter, added some minced garlic – viola – ready to go. Melted the butter, obviously, but once things were ready, brushed the garlic butter on the tails and they were ready to go.

While I was doing this, the steaks reached 110°, so I pulled them off the grill and cranked it to 500°. Luckily, the double wall construction of the Timberline models allows the grill to maintain temperature, even in freezing temperatures.

After it reached temperature and had a chance to heat up, I put the tails on the middle shelf. I opted for the middle on order to get the most amount of heat circulation, plus I had steaks to finish. Speaking of steaks, I put them on the lower grates and got a lovely sizzle.

About 20 minutes later, we were ready to go. I had made some garlic mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli to go along with the dual main course and, miracle of miracles, it was all finished at the same time.

Served with some bread and the remainder of the garlic butter.

Just a few notes… don’t overload the garlic unless you really need to scare away vampires. I’m a believer in “less is more” and if you have quality ingredients, you don’t need to mask the taste under all sorts of extraneous spices or sauces. Probably why I prefer my broccoli simply steamed.

Here’s hoping that life gets back to normal in 2021. That being said, I’m very happy to have had the opportunities to experiment and make good nutritious meals on the grill. Hope I can do more of that in 2021.

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