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Hill Country Brisket Burger

Hill Country Brisket Burger

Clean the grill grate of a kettle grill well with a stiff wire brush. Build a hot charcoal fire on 1 side. Leave the other side empty. This provides a cooler zone to finish cooking the burger. While the grill is heating, prepare the patties. Shape the ground beef into 6 square patties that are slightly larger than the bread and a little thicker around the edges than in the center — about 1 inch on the edges and ¾ inch in the middle. The center of the burger will expand during the cooking process and result in an even thickness. Don’t overwork the meat or pack it tightly. The loose consistency may make the grilling process bit more challenging, but it yields a super-tender burger.

Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the Basic BBQ Rub on both sides of each patty. Grill for 2 minutes per side, uncovered. Carefully move patties to the cool side of the grill, baste generously with Pit Sauce, and cover the grill. Let patties cook 2 to 3 minutes for rare (125 degrees internal temperature), 3 to 4 minutes for medium-rare (130 degrees), or 4 to 5 minutes for medium (135 degrees).

Remove the burgers from the grill and rest on a platter, loosely tented with foil. Lay the bread slices on the grill just long enough to get a light char, a minute or so. Using tongs turn the bread over and char the other side. Remove and brush 1 side of each slice with softened garlic butter.

Place a patty on one buttered piece of toast, heap generously with onions, and lay another piece of toast on top.

Slice in ½. Repeat for the remaining burgers. Serve with lots of napkins.

Sara’s Weeknight Meals: Season 5

Just 5 ingredients and cooked outside too? What’s not to love about Sara’s Scallop, Basil and Prosciutto Kebabs? Especially served with her Quick Pink Sangria. And, since we’re barbecuing, we decided to go to the master. Carolina Cue To Go’s Elizabeth Karmel joins us with her definitive Texas Hill Country Market Style Barbecue Brisket. Sara cools it off with Watermelon Lemonade. And finally we’ll visit with Bob Ahlgreen and the BBQ Pit Boys, a You Tube sensation.

Where does the show air in your neck of the woods?
Click here to find out!


  • 1 beef brisket flat ( 6 to 8 pounds ) with—very important—a cap of fat at least ¼ inch thick
  • 3 tablespoons dry mustard
  • 3 tablespoons Coarse salt (kosher or sea)
  • 3 tablespoons cracked or coarsely ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire powder (optional, see Note)

You’ll also Need

  • 6 to 8 cups oak or hickory chips or chunks, soaked for 1 hour in water to cover, then drained a heavy-duty aluminum foil pan

The Brisket-on-Brisket Burger Is Another Tasty Reason to Visit Davila’s BBQ

The Seguin barbecue joint is famous for its sausage, but don’t miss this surprisingly affordable sandwich.

Davila’s BBQ in Seguin is as classic a Texas barbecue joint as you’ll find. It’s run by son-and-father team Adrian and Edward Davila. Edward’s parents, Raul and Geronima, opened the place sixty years ago serving brisket, lamb ribs, and house-made beef links smoked over mesquite. Like so many other small-town restaurants, the menu has grown to provide wider options to the locals. Those include fried catfish and burgers. So when I saw the brisket burger on the menu, I assumed it was a regular burger topped with brisket. Adrian Davila set me straight.

The brisket burger ($8.99) should be called the brisket-on-brisket burger. It begins with a half-pound of ground brisket that’s hand-formed into a patty. The ground brisket gets a dose of barbecue seasoning and goes into the old smoker, which is designed like a lazy Susan. “We get it to about 60 or 70 percent, then pull it off,” Adrian said. When a customer orders the burger, the par-smoked patty goes into a skillet to get a good sear before hitting the bun. At this point, it’s more like a beef sausage without the casing than a regular burger patty, but they’re not done yet.

On top of that half-pound smoked patty go several slices of smoked brisket. “We put about another quarter-pound of brisket on top, as opposed to bacon,” Adrian said. He’s right that there’s a similarity. The brisket comes from the fatty end and is thinly sliced. That allows for a full layer of brisket that’s tender enough to offer little resistance to each bite. Much like bacon, it also adds plenty of smoke and salt. The patty’s edge brings a crisp texture. Unlike the perfect disk shape of a burger from a packing plant, the circumference of the patty undulates like a rocky coastline. Between the smoker and griddle, the edge gets a bit dry, while the interior is juicy, making for a nice texture variation.

This is not some austere burger experience. The Davilas add mustard, lettuce, and tomato to the top, while pickles, onions, and barbecue sauce go beneath the patty. It’s like combining everything you’d expect on a brisket sandwich with the toppings for a great burger onto a buttery, griddled bun. I may have come to Davila’s for the famous sausage, but I’ll return for the most affordable three-quarter pounds of brisket I’ve ever found at a barbecue joint.

Mushroom, Onion & Swiss Burger

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a medium skillet. Add mushrooms and onions. Cook until tender, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add ¾ tsp. salt and ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper. Keep warm.

Preheat gas or charcoal grill to 400°F. The fire should be quite hot you should barely be able to hold your hand 3 or 4 inches over the grates. After the coals are gray, spray grates with cooking spray or brush with oil to help keep burgers from sticking. Combine Ground Beef, Worcestershire sauce, ¾ tsp. salt and ½ tsp. black pepper in a large bowl, gently mixing until fully incorporated. Be careful not to over mix. Shape Ground Beef into 8 patties.

Place patties on grill and cook about 4 minutes per side for rare, and another minute per side for each increasing stage of doneness. Top each burger with Swiss cheese the last 2 minutes of cooking time or until melted.

Place burgers on bottoms of buns. Evenly top burgers with sautéed mushrooms and onions. Drizzle 2 Tbsp. of barbecue sauce on each burger. Top each burger with ¼ cup arugula.

Nutrition Information

Based on 90% lean Ground Beef

Nutrition information per serving: Calories 490 Total Fat 23 g (Sat. Fat 9g Trans Fat 0 g) Cholest. 95 mg Sodium 970 mg Total Carb. 36 g Fiber 3 g Total Sugars 15g Protein 34g Vit. D (2%DV) Calcium (30%DV) Iron (30%DV) Potas. (22%DV)

Making Texas-Style Brisket with a Pitmaster

Chef Ash Fulk of Hill Country thinks that Texas-style barbecue is truth on a plate.

The sprinkler in the center of the ceiling in Hill Country&rsquos test kitchen in Brooklyn has already started dripping water by the time we arrive. Chef, pitmaster and Culinary Director of Hill Country restaurants Ash Fulk has one eye on it as he rubs down a 13-pound black Angus brisket with salt, pepper and a dash of cayenne &mdash the traditional rub for Central Texas barbecue. He works each side of the meat with the ease of a guy who&rsquos spent plenty of time around brisket, and he has: collectively the two Hill Country restaurants in New York go through 60 briskets per day, and there&rsquos another 40 going down in Washington, D.C. That&rsquos about 1,000 pounds of meat, all told.

&ldquoThat&rsquos quite a bit compared to a lot of the Texas people,&rdquo Fulk says. &ldquoWhen I tell them that number they start to cry. They&rsquore like, really? And we sell all of that brisket.&rdquo

For me, hanging out with Fulk is a bucket list event. I enjoy eating meat more than most, and 10 years ago I became an amateur pitmaster. On break from college, I built a rudimentary smoker (since demolished) at my parents&rsquo home at the time I knew nothing about cooking, but barbecue became my gateway drug to eventually working the line in a few restaurants. I wasn&rsquot concerned about tradition &mdash it was usually a big piece of pork smoked with applewood, which I could get locally &mdash as much as I was interested in playing with fire and getting drunk on the lawn. It was fun. And the reward for the hours of cooking was always more than worth the effort. All pitmasters, whether amateur or professional, share an outsized enthusiasm for their trade. Fulk is no different.

Brisket comes from the chest of the cow, Fulk explains as he points to the still-raw piece of meat. Because the proteins run in a variety of directions, it&rsquos physically a tough piece of meat, in addition to being a very large cut. Both of these characteristics make it difficult to cook.

&ldquoWhen you&rsquove got a tough meat, you want to do things that make the meat less tough&rdquo, Fulk says. Smoking is one of those things. It takes the meat and sort of denatures the proteins &mdash loosens them up &mdash and that&rsquos why brisket loves to be smoked.&rdquo

Have Brisket? Make Beans

Sides are second-class citizens in the the world of Texas barbecue, where it&rsquos all about the meat. But that doesn&rsquot mean you can&rsquot make them. This recipe, from Austin-based Aaron Franklin&rsquos forthcoming book, Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto, incorporates chopped brisket into the beans.

Makes about 8 cups serves 8 to 10
&bull 1 pound dried pinto beans, picked over and rinsed
&bull 1/2 cup diced yellow onion
&bull 1/2 cup bean seasoning (recipe follows)
&bull 8 cups water
&bull 1 cup chopped brisket bark and shredded meat

Combine the beans, onion, bean seasoning and water in a large pot and let soak for 4 to 6 hours, or for up to overnight, which is what we do in the restaurant. Add the brisket bark and meat to the soaked beans and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a slow simmer, cover and cook for 3 to 4 hours, until the beans are tender.

Bean Seasoning

Makes about 2 cups
&bull 1 cup chile powder
&bull 1/2 cup kosher salt
&bull 1/4 cup coarse black pepper
&bull 2 tablespoons onion powder
&bull 2 tablespoons garlic powder
&bull 1 teaspoon ground cumin

Combine all of the ingredients and mix well. Store in an airtight container. &ndash Aaron Franklin

Brisket also has a large casing of fat around the meat. At Hill Country Fulk doesn&rsquot trim that fat, which he says helps protect the meat. The fat renders out while cooking to keep the meat juicy and moist. Fulk contends that this is consistent with a traditional approach of Central Texas barbecue &mdash whereas now a lot of places, including the very popular and highly regarded Franklin Barbecue in Austin, trim the fat in favor of developing more chewy and crunchy bits or &ldquobark&rdquo.

&ldquoWe really have our own kind of unique take on it&rdquo, Fulk says. &ldquoIt&rsquos a nod to all the traditions. They are traditions that are kind of going away, or at least being forgotten and being thought that the new guard is the only guard. So we&rsquore like the Led Zeppelin of barbecue.&rdquo

Hill Country serves a region-specific food, as the name alludes. Hill Country is a region in Central Texas where barbecue has a rich history. &ldquoEuropean meat smoking was brought to Central Texas by German and Czech butchers during an era of intense Germanic migration that began in the 1830s and reached its height around 1890&rdquo, writes Robb Walsh, author of The Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook, in a history of barbecue on Southern Foodways Alliance. &ldquoThe German meat markets sold fresh meats and smoked their leftovers in enclosed smokers, as they had done in the Old Country.&rdquo According to Walsh, the traditions of cooking over open fire date back 10,000 years ago to the Caddo Native American tribe, and Mexicans in the Rio Grande Valley have been cooking barbacoa, meat wrapped in maguey leaves and buried in hot coals, for several hundred years. And while cooking pork was common elsewhere in the south, beef became the preferred meat in Texas after the Civil War &mdash especially the brisket.

Fulk is sort of an unlikely candidate to run the pit. Born in California and with family from Georgia and North Carolina, he cooked at the W and Cafe Chloe in San Diego before moving to New York and becoming the Chef de Cuisine at Trestle on Tenth, a Swiss brasserie in Chelsea. But he&rsquos been at Hill Country for nearly a decade and he lives and breathes Central Texas barbecue, especially the brisket. He knows all the Central Texas places, the rivalries and where to go for the best stuff (Terry Black&rsquos is his favorite right now). And if you want Texas-style brisket in Yankee country, Hill Country is where you go.

The restaurant earned two stars in 2007 from New York Times critic Peter Meehan and another deuce in 2012 from Pete Wells. And it&rsquos not just northern city folk who like the place. You can find Yelp and OpenTable reviews by native Texas admitting it&rsquos possible to get good &lsquocue from a slicker, and Texas Monthly, which features some of the best and most fanatically in-depth barbecue journalism (Katy Vine&rsquos &ldquoOf Meat and Men&rdquo is an essential read), offered a decent review, though the &ldquoBBQ Snob&rdquo complained of unrendered fat.

Just as we&rsquore finishing up our lesson in beef musculature, the sprinkler situation escalates rapidly. I grab the tray of beef and move it as far away from the water, which is now streaming rather than dripping.

&ldquoIs that a problem?&rdquo an employee asks, walking by. &ldquoOr that&rsquos &mdash &rdquo

&ldquoNo, that&rsquos a problem,&rdquo Fulk says.

Somebody needs to deal with the escalating flood situation, likely from a burst pipe, but our immediate future is much more sanguine. We head to the smoke room to check out the briskets nearing the end of their 12 to 16 hours at 200 degrees Fahrenheit inside a massive Ole Hickory pit filled with the smoke and fire of Texas post oak, the fuel de rigeuer of Central Texas barbecue.

Inside the smoker, the briskets sit on metal racks and circulate around the interior, rotisserie-style, with no basting or swaddling of any kind, which would rinse off the rub and eliminate the crust. Fulk opens the pit doors to a cloud of sweet smoke. He sticks his finger into one of the briskets, which is now as dark as fossilized carbon, and encourages me to do the same. It feels soft and loose to me, but Fulk thinks it needs a bit more time.

&ldquoThere are three things you&rsquore looking at&rdquo, he says. &ldquoIt should look like a brisket, crusty and beautiful on the outside. It should feel loose and jiggly. And we cook it to about 180 degrees. All of those are indicators to how much longer you want it to cook.&rdquo

As we close up the doors to the pit and wait for the briskets to finish cooking, I start to get that familiar feeling &mdash excitement, bordering on elation &mdash that you only get when a piece of meat that&rsquos been cooking for the better part of a day is almost ready. Even though I didn&rsquot have a hand in creating this one, a good piece of barbecue is a masterpiece and I&rsquom enjoying some vicarious pride.

A short while later, when the brisket has finished cooking and resting, Fulk puts it on a large wooden butcher block and starts slicing. He separates the lean portion of the brisket from the fattier section (known as the &ldquodeckle&rdquo) and deals with them individually. They&rsquore sold as &ldquolean&rdquo and &ldquomoist&rdquo, respectively, at Hill Country, so the customer can get his ideal combination of food.

&ldquoTexas has many problems, but their barbecue is like truth on a plate&rdquo, he says, stacking up a pile of both lean and moist meat for me on a piece of butcher paper. &ldquoIt&rsquos a real celebration of meat. Smoke and seasoning &mdash and that&rsquos it.&rdquo

The lean is a little chewier and has a crunchy bark, while the moist is unctuous and melts in my mouth. All of it is smoky, earthy and deeply beef. This brisket is certainly some of the best I&rsquove ever had, and as I shovel it into my mouth I think about how right Fulk is: finding the truth in life, as in brisket, is a product of hard work. Sometimes there&rsquos a disaster or two along the way, and it always takes lots of time. But once you&rsquove got it there in your grasp, it sure is satisfying.

Smoked Brisket Burger

&ldquoThe Salt Lick Cookbook&rdquo calls for this recipe making 12 (2/3-pound) burgers we've added additional buns and based the nutritional values on the recipe making 24 (1/3-pound) burgers. The smaller burgers will need less grilling time.

21/2 pounds extra melt cheese (Velveeta is fine)

5 pounds ground beef (80/20)

3 pounds lean chopped brisket

6 ounces Salt Lick Lauren's Spicy Recipe Bar-b-que Sauce

For Roasted Peppers: Heat oven to 375 degrees. Slice and combine peppers. Place on baking sheet and lightly drizzle with olive oil. Roast in oven until medium roasted. Set aside in container. Slice raw red onion, and add to peppers.

For Cheese Sauce: Cut cheese into small chunks and place in saucepan over medium low heat or in a slow cooker. Be careful not to scorch. Add half-and-half when cheese is melted, and stir well.

For Smoked Burger: Combine ground beef and chopped brisket in large mixing bowl. Add barbecue sauce, salt and pepper. Form into 12-24 burgers and grill on a hot grill. If making the 12 larger burgers, they will need to grill 5-7 minutes on each side, depending on your preference for doneness. Smaller burgers will take less grilling time. Remove from heat, and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve on buns with Roasted Peppers and Cheese Sauce.

Per serving (based on 24): 690 calories (53.1 percent calories from fat), 40 g fat, 165 mg cholesterol, 1,320 mg sodium, 29 g carbohydrates, 1 g dietary fiber, 50 g protein.

The Best Brisket in Texas? Franklin BBQ! Plus, Make Your Own Hill Country Brisket

If the barbecue trail guides your travel plans like it does mine, heading to Austin, Texas, in search of the most exquisite brisket has to be on your bucket list. You'll head to Franklin BBQ, and line up at 8:30 in the morning outside a turquoise cinderblock building on a nondescript street corner. If you go in summertime, you may endure triple digit heat. Regardless of the time of the year, you'll stand in line with 400 other barbecue addicts (doesn't anyone in Austin work?) for 2 1/2 hours until the restaurant opens at 11 a.m. And if you arrive much later than that, you risk encountering the dreaded sign: "Sold out."

Once at the counter inside, you'll watch a server unwrap a grease-stained butcher paper package the size of a Manhattan phone book (remember those?), extract a glistening black slab of meat, and carve it into 1/4-inch thick slices, which he'll serve on more butcher paper with a sliced loaf that looks suspiciously like Wonder Bread.

On closer examination, just below the "bark" (crusty exterior), you'll see a reddish pink band perhaps 1/4 inch wide -- the smoke ring. Press the meat with a fork and it will squirt fragrant beef juices and brisket fat. Take a bite and you'll taste a synesthetic symphony of beef, salt, spice and wood smoke. You won't even notice that you've devoured it in less than a tenth the time you stood in line waiting. You'll experience such an intense rush of pleasure, you may well line up again the next day.

By now the story of how Aaron and Stacy Franklin got their start has acquired the aura of legend. Aaron grew up in Bryan, Texas, where his father ran a restaurant, Ben's Bar-Be-Que. (The young Franklin spent most of his time chopping onions and lemons for the barbecue sauce, he says, but learned virtually nothing about cooking meat.) He also did a stint at the legendary Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor, Texas, but there he worked as a cashier. Eventually, Aaron moved to Austin, where he spent several years "playing music (he's a drummer), swinging a hammer to pay the rent, and drinking beer."

One day, a friend who owned an abandoned Texaco gas station urged Franklin to open a barbecue joint. The 31-year-old bought a turquoise blue Aristocrat trailer to use as a kitchen and built a pit from an old propane tank. "The goal was simple: to make really good barbecue," he says. His wife, Stacy, kept her day job to pay the bills. "When we opened for business, we had 28 cents in the bank."

Word of Franklin's barbecue spread like Texas brushfire, and so did the waiting lines. A year later, the couple signed a lease on its current digs, a defunct barbecue joint on 11th St. Bon Appetit magazine pronounced Franklin's the best barbecue restaurant in the U.S. and he even inspired a story in the New Yorker.

To come to Franklin's solely for brisket would be to miss spare ribs of uncommon succulence, smoked turkey that's as rich as ham, beef sausage so juicy, it oozes when you cut into it, monster beef ribs (smoked for 8 hours and available only on Saturday), and pulled pork shoulder that could pass for authentic in North Carolina.

Sides (coleslaw, potato salad, pinto beans) cover no new territory, but they're homemade and tasty. A local baker, Melissa Brinkman of the Cake and Spoon bakery bakes the buttermilk lemon pie and bourbon banana pudding with vanilla wafer crust served by way of dessert. "We only serve Texas beer," Franklin says -- a selection that includes locally brewed Live Oak, Hops and Grain, and a porter made with malt that Franklin smokes in his pit.

Even if you can't travel to Austin, I can help you get your hands on a succulent brisket. Try my recipe for Hill Country Brisket with Coca-Cola Barbecue Sauce.

Terry Black’s Barbecue

Terry Black’s Barbecue is located at 1003 Barton Spring Road. With the mucvh publicized lawsuit between Terry Black’s Barbecue and their residential neighbors, what better way to show your support than with a couple pounds of smoky brisket?

Following the long-standing tradition of great Lockhart BBQ the Black family brings their delicious trade to Austin.

We all know that the ATX is no stranger to great BBQ but there’s always room for one more, especially when it’s done as well as Terry Black’s does it.

Let’s talk about the Menu. Starting with the moist brisket that is perfectly prepared with an amazing spicy bark and a deep smoke ring, few do it better. The cheddar jalapeño sausage has a good heat without burning your face off and the pork ribs fall off the bone. Everything is cooked and seasoned well. If you get a chance you should try the beef ribs. Well maybe just one beef rib. Weighing in at over a pound a piece one rib can easily feed a couple people. (See beef rib pic below)

The picture just doesn’t do the massive rib justice, it’s ginormous! Ok on to the beverages and most importantly the brew!

Terry Black’s has a good selection of beers, everything from your typical big breweries to our fine local stock like Austin Beerworks and Hops & Grain. For those folks who like their brisket with a little vino they also have wine available.

Terry Black’s Barbecue, the lines are minimal, they never run out of meat, they have a great patio and they serve excellent food and brew!

The story and recipes behind the Salt Lick

The Salt Lick, a legendary barbecue joint at Camp Ben McCullough, near Driftwood, has long been a favorite of Austin and Hill Country residents. It's packed most weekends.


DRIFTWOOD &mdash Barbecue fans were treated to an early Christmas gift when Scott Roberts, owner of The Salt Lick, published &ldquoThe Salt Lick Cookbook: A Story of Land, Family and Love&rdquo (UT Press, $39.95) last month.

In the 300-plus page behemoth that's as much coffee table book as cookbook, Roberts, and writer Jessica Dupuy, tell the story of how The Salt Lick became the beloved Central Texas barbecue destination it is today, one that seats 700 and sells almost 1 million pounds of brisket annually.

&ldquoI just had to get it off my chest,&rdquo Roberts says of the writing process that took more than a year to complete.

The book dives into the story of how his great grandparents, James and Bettie &ldquoMammie&rdquo Howard, settled in Driftwood how his grandmother Roxie and grandfather Bill eventually purchased 88 acres of land that would be the future home of The Salt Lick and how in 1967, his father, Thurman Roberts, marked the spot that would turn into the restaurant's fire pit.

The Salt Lick history lesson is coupled with breathtaking photographs by Kenny Braun, who spent more than six months capturing images of the food and workers at the Salt Lick.

&ldquo(Braun and Dupuy) became enamored with the project and really got the feel of what I was talking about,&rdquo Roberts says.

Procuring the recipes for the book proved difficult until Roberts found his grandmother's and mother's handwritten cookbooks. The process also included testing the recipes and changing measurements that called for &ldquoa lump of butter the size of a chicken egg,&rdquo or heating a fire-burning oven for an hour and a half.

Recipes in the book come with their own tales, but don't expect to find the recipe for the signature barbecue sauce that's used at the restaurant as well as bottled and sold.

For obvious reasons, that's one that Roberts would choose to keep private.

&ldquoThere's many recipes we didn't include because it would have been thousands of pages long,&rdquo Roberts says. &ldquoWe wanted to give people a sampling of recipes that really reflect the story of Salt Lick.&rdquo

Recipes include family favorites such as daughter Maile's Grilled Cheese Brisket Sandwich, grandmother Roxie's Chicken 'n Dumplings and his mother's Lemon Chiffon Pie. Barbecue buffs can find an eight-page brisket 101 section, where Roberts walks readers through brisket selecting, seasoning, searing, slow cooking and carving.

The book also serves as a retrospective for Roberts on his upbringing in Driftwood, which gave him an appreciation for hard work and people who care for their land. It also details his realization that food is used more than just for eating.

&ldquoI became aware that food is not just sustenance. It's a common ingredient in social gatherings like Sunday lunches after church at my grandmother's house,&rdquo Roberts says.

&ldquoThe Salt Lick Cookbook,&rdquo with a glowing foreword by &ldquoMan vs. Food&rdquo host Adam Richman, gave Roberts insight into how many people care about the sprawling Hill Country restaurant that draws guests from around the world. He also points to a photo of dozens of staff members, which he calls the restaurant's &ldquosecret ingredient.&rdquo

Going forward, Roberts plans to focus on the family's growing vineyard Sunday brunch at Thurman's mansion, one of the special events facilities lodging projects and other restaurants.

Roberts doesn't take all the credit for his family's success. The book dedication is made out to all the women in his family because, as he points out, &ldquowithout strong women like them, there wouldn't be any Texas.&rdquo

Watch the video: Fresh Ground Brisket Burgers On The Charbroiler #grilled (October 2021).