In The Trenches

How to cook up a winner

Published on September 13, 2021 Back to blog

This Summer (and actually, through most of this pandemic), I’ve been doing quite a bit of outdoor cooking. Aside from using our “go-to” Cuisinart outdoor products, I’ve more recently been trying to master the art of smoking food with a charcoal grill (a Father’s day gift from my wife). As I learn how to moderate/maintain the temperature and use the appropriate “fuel,” I’ve experienced a few big wins (baby back ribs and smoked chicken), but also a few failures (my most recent brisket was a very tough loss, pun intended).

Of course, with plenty of time closely monitoring my smoked meats, I couldn’t help but see the parallels between smoking food and coming up with smoking ideas.  The similarities are quite compelling:

  1. Give your ideas some air. Without any air, the fuel just doesn’t burn. Great ideas need air to catch fire and cook a bit. And the best ones typically consume the air of multiple people, who collaborate together to make it really hot. 
  2. Be careful of too much air. Of course, if you let in too much air, the coals will burn so hot, everything will get destroyed. So be careful of having too many cooks in the kitchen.
  3. Let it sit for a bit. Once you start feeling good about what you’re cooking, let it sit for a while. But check in on it regularly and adjust as needed. Sometimes, it is just those small adjustments over time that can make it great.
  4. Reveal your ideas with caution. Although you may have been cooking something up for a while, there may still be a lot of residual heat and smoke in the cavity. If you open the lid too quickly, it could scorch someone (including yourself). So be cautious and thoughtful as you reveal your creation to others. 
  5. Don’t dump good nuggets. In the process of cooking up something great, many great nuggets often remain unused. Be sure to clear out the ashes, but don’t toss unused nuggets as they can certainly help fuel your next masterpiece.

Of course, there are many variables that can impact the outcome of your cooking (i.e., who/what you’re cooking with, available time, ingredients, etc.). But, with lots of practice–and following these basic guidelines–you will be certain to have much greater success with each attempt. Whether you’re cooking up some great ideas for business, or a nice smoked brisket for your family and neighbors, I hope your next one is a gem.

Jeff Freedman
CEO/Managing Partner
Small Army | Finn Partners