Brisket for Mother’s Day (Trial #6)

I’ve been smoking more briskets since I got a Traeger grill. I’ve been keeping track of what I’m doing and the results, iterating until I get something I like and can work with.

For Mother’s Day 2023, Mrs. Hsoi wanted a brisket. Of course I obliged.


This is not my first brisket, but it’s my first time (in a long time?) writing about this. So I want to give some backstory. If you don’t care, scroll down.

I live in Texas. Brisket is king of BBQ. I have smoked many a brisket on past setups: my heavily-modified Weber kettle, a modified New Braunfels “Hondo”, even the Weber Genesis 330 (to poor results – chips pale in comparison to stick). I resisted the idea of electric and/or pellet grills and smokers for a long time. Then while working for Oven Bits, I helped bring the original Traeger “Wi-Fire” product to market (a short stint on their iOS app, plus firing up the first “water through the pipes” prototype). For a long time I couldn’t justify the price. When we moved out of Austin, for my first birthday in the new house I bought a Traeger.

I picked the Ironwood 650. I didn’t want to go for broke because I wasn’t sure if I was sold on this notion, so no Timberline (top) for me. I also wanted Super Smoke, so no Pro line (bottom) for me. Ironwood (mid) it is then. I always loved the notion of “Super Smoke” since we got the first controller prototype and saw that Super Smoke button. 🔥 I wasn’t sure tho if 650 or 885. Buddy of mine from work is married with 4 kids – he sent me a pic of his 650-sized Traeger full of burgers. OK, I could do that. I did that, and now I have an 885 for more square footage. I mean, if it was just the wife and me, a 650 would be fine. I do like the size of the 885 tho, because well… you really shouldn’t put things all the way to the edges of the grate, because then drip lands not on the tray but the barrel, and fires can be a thing. Ask me how I know.

I must say… I do love the Traeger grill.

I agree the smoke flavor isn’t as deeply intense as stick. However, it’s present and IMHO good (enough). I like that I get wood flavoring without the strong bitters. I find this complements the meat MUCH better. If you have good meat, I find with good pairing this allows much more complementary work between the wood/smoke and food/meat.

I have good meat. I buy from Diamond A Ranch Beef in Dime Box, Texas. I have bought from many a butcher, store, and local rancher. I have never experienced beef as good as Diamond A. The intramuscular marbling, the texture. Just unbeatable. I buy a side.

When it comes to pellets, I’ve learned something. Texas BBQ is in part what it is because of the oak wood used. Texas has mesquite and pecan, but oak is king for BBQ. Around here it’s post oak in specific. But oak in pellet form? Not so much. Also Mrs. Hsoi usually doesn’t jive with mesquite because it can overpowering. In pellet form? It’s not that overpowering and is one of the stronger performers. Hickory too as a solid all-around pellet. I did see that B&B makes a post oak pellet, so I think I’d like to try that to see if there’s any difference in using post oak in specific.

But hey… I love the Traeger. I love the fueling. I love the controlled temperature. I do find the ability to monitor and control via my phone to be useful. I love the results. I love the ability to turn out pretty consistent product.

Trial #6

I haven’t done a lot of briskets on my Traeger because they are expensive. I have done a bunch of other types of meat tho, such as picanha, ribs, turkey, many steaks, tri-tip… I like keeping track of what I do so I can hone in a technique. What you see here is iterative improvements/changes from the prior 5 trials. So let’s see what comes from #6.

Started with a 14 lb brisket from Diamond A Ranch Beef. Full brisket. Took it out of the freezer Friday morning, sat on the counter all day to defrost. By evening it was defrosted so into the fridge it went. Saturday around noon pulled it out. Seasoned:

  • Trimmed excess fat, silver skin. Clean it up. Came in just under 12 lb.
  • Wet the entire surface of the brisket with Worcestershire sauce – don’t drown it, just make sure the surface is damp. It’s more a wetting agent than a seasoning (but if I gotta wet it, might as well season it vs say plain water).
  • Apply dry rub:
    • kosher salt, 3/4 tsp per pound
    • black pepper, 1/2 tsp per pound
    • smoked paprika, 1/4 tsp per pound
  • Wrap in plastic wrap. Put back into the fridge until cooking time. (in this case, 12-15 hours or so)

Started cooking around midnight. Weather was rainy (it’s been rainy, and thus humid), 71º.

  • Traeger Ironwood 885
    • NB: On Saturday, I took the time to clean the Traeger (vacuum out ash, clean grate, dump drip bucket, etc.). A clean grill yields better results and is safer to operate. Ask me how I know.
  • Traeger Texas Beef Blend pellets
    • A blend of mesquite, oak, and pecan.
    • I don’t think they make this any more. I’m using my supply up.
    • If I had to pick one, I’d say go mesquite.
  • Took the brisket out of the fridge, set on counter.
  • Start up the Traeger at 200º
    • Super Smoke ON
  • Once grill temp settles, remove the brisket from the plastic and set on grate.
    • Grate is in the upper position.
    • Fat side up
  • Insert probe (make sure it goes into meat, not fat)
  • Set timer for first checkpoint.
  • Close the lid and let it do its thing.

I usually like doing my first checkpoint at 3 hours. However, because I was attempting to interleave sleep, it went 4 hours. This is the first time I crack the lid since it went on. It looks good, a little dry (4 hours). So I get out the Worcestershire, sprinkle it all over the top, use a silicone brush to spread it around to coat/cover (didn’t flip and do the bottom – not worried about that; didn’t want to lose any more heat than I had to, nor disturb the meat too much). Closed the lid.

Meat temp was about 130-140º depending.

Around 7:00am started raining hard. Also hit about 150º and seemed the stall was starting.


It got to about 9:30am, only like 153º or so. Stalled out. I do like to sit at the stall for a little bit – it’s good for it.

So after about 9.5 hours I wrapped it in butcher paper and put it back on.

Turned the Traeger up to 275º (and Super Smoke automatically switched off).


I pulled it around 12:30pm. I had a probe alarm set for 195º and it hit it. Used about half a hopper of pellets start to finish.

Left it wrapped on the kitchen counter for a little over an hour. No peaking.

Separated the point and the flat. Cut into the flat.

It was quite good. I am upset I didn’t take more pictures, but I know why! It was just too good. I just wanted to savor the food – it was focused on food, not pictures of it.

Deep smoke ring. Flavor from the wood was evident, yet the superb beef flavor shined strong. Tender and moist – intramuscular marbling is fantastic. Just so happy here.


  • I had been forgetting the Worcestershire sauce. I remembered this time. It makes a difference.
  • Texas Beef Blend is really good.
    • Mesquite in pellet has turned out to be one of my favorites.
  • I do like my rub. It’s simple, it works.
  • Landing on 200º Super Smoke, then wrapped at 275º. That’s working well for not taking for years, making it tender, keeping it moist. Hitting stall maybe 6-7 hours in, about 9 hours in wrap it, about 12-13 hours total.
    • Curious how much the weather played a part (70-something and humid)

All in all quite happy with the results.

I think if there’s anything I’d like to poke at next time would be pure mesquite pellets, or if I get those B&B post oak to try that. It would be a slight change. Plus, being only slight it would allow trial #7 to see about ability to replicate results.

How I’m meal prepping this time around…

Meal prepping – if I want to manage my weight, it’s what I need to do. My struggle is finding a sustainable way to prep, and I’ve found a few new things to try to see how well they help.

I love food, perhaps too much. I love all the ways you can combine and put it together to make symphonies – or bring comfort. Too often mean prep gets too “clean” and loses fun, flavor, and interest for me. And it can be a big time and effort investment, when I don’t necessarily have the time to do so. Every time I’ve used meal prepping I’ve achieved fair results, because it makes me monitor and constrain my intake. But it winds up being too much trouble or not enough enjoyment, and eventually it wanes and I fall back into old habits.

What’s different this time is trying to not sweat everything as much. I found this article from Joel McCain of Blacksmith Fitness called “The Lazy Man’s Guide to Fat Loss“. It strips things down even more than I’ve done before, and it may be what helps me.

Basically I figure out my target caloric intake per day. Determine protein at 1 gram per pound of bodyweight, then the remainder of calories is fat and carbs in whatever ratio – that is it, and that is key.

When I would do other plans such as from Renaissance Periodization, while I would have good success, the hard control and reduction in carbs and fats would not only be a struggle, but let’s be real – very soon I’d wind up rather constipated, having to take a supplement like psyllium husk, just to keep things going. That added a layer of irritation (so to speak) to the mix.

But if I can have more flexibility in my carb and fat intake – especially fat intake – I believe that should help me here. Plus if I can enjoy what I’m doing, that can only help me stick with it. More on this below.

In the end, the single biggest factor that affects your bodyweight is calorie balance. If I can keep my protein where it needs to be and my caloric intake lower than my expenditure, I will lose weight. Every other aspect of food, diet, weight management, macros, blah blah blah is secondary minutia (yes it CAN matter, but if you can’t control caloric intake, all that other stuff doesn’t matter so much – cart before the horse).

What I am doing

I determined my caloric take: presently 2300/day. I determined this through some simple formulas, plus leveraging some apps I have to see where they would put me. Again, I didn’t care what plan they were recommending, just calories. 2300 is a good place for me to start (when I plateau, I’ll drop it 10%, recalculate, and continue).

From there, I figure out protein, and the caloric remainder is fat and carbs.

I then use MyFitnessPal – not as a tracker, but as a calculator. I plug the 2300 calorie goal into it. I adjust the percentage dials for the three macronutrients to get protein right, then fat and carbs just to get the percentage to total 100%. I then enter one diary day of meals based on whatever foods I want to eat, focusing on the big things like meats, carbs, and fat sources (I don’t bother entering veggies). Note that I’m choosing the foods I want – the things I want to eat. For example, on my first week I simply made 1/2 lb hamburger patties from 95/5 ground beef and smoked them on my Traeger smoker/grill. I like beef, I love the flavors that result from the smoking on the Traeger. Pasta is a good carb, some fiber too, so I just got a couple boxes of ziti. Simple and things I like to eat. So I enter all the foods into 1 day on MyFitnessPal and adjust the amounts of the foods until it hits my target protein and total calories for the day. I’m not looking at specific carbs or fat numbers (other than to ensure I’m at least getting some of each), I’m not looking at details like saturated fats or sugars or even if I’m hitting the “ratio” of fats to carbs. It’s simply: am I getting the protein I need, then am I totally up everything else to hit my calorie need. I don’t care if MyFitnessPal complains about my choices – I’m not using the app as it wants to be used, it’s just a database and calculator.

That single thing took a big load off my mind because now I’m not struggling to add or remove or find ways to wedge things in just to hit the right ratios. “Oh, I gotta eat 2 spoons of peanut butter to try to get in enough fat” or “No, must eat that toast dry because this meal said only 10g fat and that’s being incidentally brought in by the fact I’m eating meat; in fact, despite being lean meat I max out my fat allowance before I hit my protein requirement so now I have to find some other protein source like 15g of whey simply to get enough protein, but wait that affects carbs slightly so now I have to readjust THAT…”. And that shit just got really old really fast having to try to cram and finagle ways to hit the macros.

This approach is so much simpler.

Plus I don’t have to actually track my meals because everything’s already determined and portioned out. Just eat what I made – no more, no less – and I’ll hit things.

Variations and simplifications

I’m trying to keep this simple, but interesting. I think those are key towards long-term success.

I have basically 1 meal, which I vary into 2 meals, tho in a way it’s 4.

The meals are all simple. For example this week it’s all: 1/2 lb lean beef patty, pasta, steamed veggie. That’s the base meal.

The first variation is sauce. Half of the meals get a Prego no-added-sugar sauce. The other half get some beef gravy with mushrooms (salisbury steak!). So now the beef and pasta have some variety in the flavors and mouthfeels, without adding much to the calories.

The second variation is veggies. Half of the meals get green beans, the other half are getting broccolini.

And I can mix and match a little more too: Prego and green beans, Prego and broccolini, gravy and green beans, gravy and broccolini. So now one base meal turns into four different meals. It’s not huge variation, but it’s enough to keep things from being completely repetitive.

A few other things in there to help with prep itself:

  1. I’m not preparing sauce. I’m using Prego jarred sauce, tho I did pick the no-added-sugar version just to keep the added calories down. The gravy is simply a prepared gravy from the store, and the mushrooms are canned and drained. I know it’s not the most gourmet way of things, but it drastically cuts down on the time and hassle of prep so I’m not spending all day in the kitchen – this is important to me.
  2. The veggies are steamed in the bag. I used to try to buy fresh and prepare them in some way, like sauté or something more fancy in the prep. Well, sometimes the only way I can find the fresh veggies I want to eat are in those steam-in-bags at the store – I used to just consider that a container, but I opted this go-round to just throw ’em into the microwave and steam-prep them that way. That has turned into a HUGE time-saver and an unexpected win.
  3. The hard part about working with pasta is there’s the dry weight then the cooked weight: all the nutrition info is by dry, but I need to portion by cooked. I used to weigh all the cooked and portion from there doing all the before vs. after math I could. Ugh. This time I knew how much nutrition I needed from the pasta thus how much I would need. I did the math to portion out how much dry that would require over 14 meals, and cooked that much. Then when it was cooked, I simply eyeballed even distribution into 14 meal containers. I didn’t sweat if today I got exactly 189g of carbs from pasta in this meal: if I consumed all my meals over the week, I’d be getting what I needed over the course of the week. It all works out just fine in the end. Much simpler execution here.
  4. Breakfast is simple. I like cereal. I picked a cereal I like and eat that using plain whey isolate as “milk”. Simple and works nicely for me.
  5. I have an afternoon snack, which is some protein powder (trying a combo of whey isolate and egg right now), some fresh fruit (I’m using fresh pineapple, which I love), and then some nuts (cashews are a favorite; but this week I’m going to try these seasoned shelled pistachios I found at the store) because honestly I wanted to up my fat intake in hitting my calorie goals. This sort of snack makes me happy.
  6. I undercook everything just slightly. It’s all going to get microwave reheated, which will break it down more too… so a slight undercooking now helps it hold up in storage and not become unappetizing upon reheating.

Yes, it’s a little more expensive to buy prepared. For example, when I’ve made the gravy in the past I bought 1 box of stock then added corn starch to thicken. This time I bought the gravy ready to go. The ingredients check wound up resulting in exactly the same gravy but cost twice as much. The couple bucks spent was more than made up for in the time saved. One money-saving trick I like doing is going to the grocery store first thing in the morning. Often you’ll find meat that is good but needs to be sold NOW marked down. That 93/7 or 95/5 beef that people tend to not buy because it’s more expensive? Well now they marked it down 25% to clear it out, so I’m getting extra lean beef at 80/20 chuck prices. You find your ways to trade off.


I’ve only just started on this particular run. It’s been 2 preps and 1 week of eating (just finished prep #2 a few hours before writing this). I don’t know how this will go, but the fact my prep this morning took me 3 hours including hitting the grocery store, the kitchen wasn’t totally wrecked, I don’t have to track every meal and day (since it’s all precalculated by the act of how I assembled each meal), and I am liking what I’m making and eating and actually looking forward to my meals… well, it’s all a good sign.

Smoked Pork Ribs – trial 1

For Thanksgiving 2021 we opted for pork ribs. Wife likes to shop early, and at the time there were no turkeys in stock. I looked around at what was available and pork ribs were plentiful so I picked up 4 racks. Plus, I hadn’t yet smoked ribs on my Traeger (Ironwood 650), so might as well give it a shot.

I’m actually not a big rib fan/cooker. They’re fine and all, but for whatever reason I’ve just not smoked ribs all that much. So this would be an adventure.

I started with Traeger’s “Smoked Pork Ribs by Timothy Hollingsworth“. In case that recipe goes away, here’s the gist of it:


  • 1 Rack pork spare ribs
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 2.5 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1.25 cup molasses
  • 0.33 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tbsp yellow mustard
  • 3 clove garlic, chopped
  • small yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 tbsp Tabasco pepper sauce
  • 1 tbsp crushed chile flakes
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp mustard powder

Now, that’s a LOT of sauce. I had 6 racks of ribs. Mrs. Hsoi prepared a double of that sauce, and I still had a little over half left over. So… adjust as you see fit.

Here’s what I did, which is a combination of the original recipe plus the stuff I did to make it go.

  1. Remove ribs from the fridge, let come to room temperature. Trim off any excess fat, and remove the silverskin on the back side of the ribs. Season evenly with flake kosher salt and pepper. Let sit for a bit while things come up to room temperature and the grill is made ready.
  2. Set the grill at 220º. I turned on Super Smoke. I used hickory pellets. Let the grill come up to temperature.
  3. Place the ribs on the grill. I used one of those “rib racks” that position the ribs upright so you can fit more into the smoker – 5 of the racks went in there, 1 was flat on the grill surface.
  4. Leave them in for 1.5 hours.
  5. After 1.5 hours, baste generously in the sauce. Put them back in, rotated/flipped from how they were.
  6. Leave them in for another 1.5 hours (3 hours total).
  7. After 3 hours, take the ribs out and wrap each rack individually in foil. Return to the grill. Stick the probe thermometer in somewhere.
  8. According to the recipe, it should take an additional hour to get up to temp, but that wasn’t happening. Maybe because it was cool out? I don’t know. But when I first inserted the probe the temp of the meat was about 135º and not moving. So I cranked the grill temp to 275º and sure enough the meat temp began to steadily climb.
  9. When the meat hit 200º I took them off. NOTE: there was a LOT of liquid inside the foil, so had to be mindful when I was removing them because draining happened.
  10. I left them wrapped in the foil and let it rest for about 15-20 minutes.
  11. Unwrap, slice, eat.



This was fantastic.

The meat was cooked and tender. A couple of the racks simply fell apart so there wasn’t any cutting/slicing to do. The sauce didn’t form a layer – it was nice and worked into the meat. There was good caramelization, just not a crust – which I like, because to me sauce should complement, not cover nor be the focus. In fact, I’m generally reluctant to use sauce, but I gotta admit that here it worked quite well.

Cooked way too much. Completely overestimated how many racks I would need to feed 5 people, then adding 2 last-minute guests (picked up 2 racks simply because of that). I think for our family we could get away with 2 racks, maybe do 3 because there will be the grill space and leftovers are always good. If we did just 2-3 racks, I’d want to cut the sauce recipe in half from how it’s written – I don’t know how in the world they figured those amounts, but as written it’s way too much.

Would absolutely do this recipe again.

Random thoughts about it

The recipe itself was geared towards 3 hours unwrapped, 1 hour wrapped, and that should get it up to 202º internal temperature. That was NOT happening. Not sure why, but not sweating it too much. I think the crank to 275º was fine to finish things.

There was a LOT of liquid in the foil, which stands to reason. I wonder what would happen if I used butcher paper instead of foil. I mean, that helps a bit on the smoke side, but might there be so much moisture that the paper “melts”? Or that too much moisture is lost and the meat won’t be as moist and tender?

I think hickory wood was the best/right choice. I’m not sure any other wood would work here.

Kosher flake salt is a wonderful thing. I’ve found being moderate with it on the raw meat (any meat, not just this recipe/instance) for a little bit before cooking to be great. Not too much, not too little either. And not too much time needed – simply putting it on as the meat comes up to room temp and the grill is heating up is generally enough.

I continue to be impressed with the Traeger. Sometimes I still wish for a more pronounced smoke flavor, but the smoke flavor you get is present and not overpowering. The fact you get this flavor coupled with really even and controllable temps, and then the probe thermometer – it just makes cooking go well and product generally great results. I do wish the pellets “drained” a little better, because it just creates a big funnel hole and then the hopper indicator beeps that it’s almost empty when a simple redistribution “fills it” back up; small gripe. Oh and cleaning up after these ribs was a pain – all that sauce drip, pork fat, all baked onto stuff pretty good. Got it cleaned up, but sure was more work. Still tho, the Traeger is great.

on New Year’s Resolutions to lose weight…

With the new year comes all the resolutions. One of the most common is some flavor of “losing weight” or “getting in shape” or other such thing.

I’m no guru on this, but in my time of doing both of those things (and just being an old fart that’s experienced a few things in life) there are a few things I’ve picked up on.

1. You have to really want it

Many new year’s resolutions are made out of some weird obligation to the calendar — because the year has incremented by 1, now we will make changes in our life.


If you really want to make a change in your life, you start “now”. Doesn’t matter if it’s January 1 or July 1 or May 22. If you want to change, start right now.

But it’s more than starting now, it’s starting and really wanting it. I mean, wanting it so bad that you’re truly willing to make the lifestyle changes and the sacrifices needed to make it happen, because it will be difficult, it will be uncomfortable, it will suck at times. That you accept the weird looks, the backlash and flack from family and friends, the fact you’ll be called “obsessive” and that people just won’t understand. That it aches to the pit of your stomach and in the marrow of your bones as to how much you really want this.

Because if you don’t really truly seriously want it, it won’t happen. You’ll be on the train for a few weeks, then somehow will drift away and back to where you started. Been there, done that.

It’s OK if you don’t really want it. Be honest with yourself. This is just like any long-term endeavor: success will take a long time, and will come from consistent application of whatever is needed to accomplish the goal.

2. Weight-loss is all about food — and eating less of it

The thing today is to talk about what food you eat: carbs or not; GMO or not; gluten or not; local or not; etc.. That matters, but not as much as you think.

I mean, you could eat a truckload of no-carb, no-gluten, GMO-free, locally raised, blah blah whatever buzzword food, and still get fat because you’re eating a ton of it. Or you could live on McDonald’s and just eat very small, modest amounts and you will lose weight.

Calorie balance is still the #1 — by a longshot — factor in determining if you’ll gain or lose weight.

I really didn’t want to admit it for a long time. I wanted to lift more weights or find other ways to drop the weight. It just didn’t happen or didn’t happen on the long-term. I had to simply eat less, and continue to adjust my intake to eat even less as my body adapted. It’s a constant downward movement in terms of intake. I did increase my exercise levels too, which has helped (it does burn calories), but ultimately it’s about your food intake and regulating it.

Sometimes it sucks, but it really doesn’t have to. Part of making it not have to is ignoring a lot of the media messages about “what’s bad for you”. Yeah I know, diet soda and artificial sweeteners are evil and horrible (tho there’s more and more mounting science that is actually moving a lot of this into the realm of: less certain, needs even more research). But if not for diet soda, I’d freak out and fail on this diet, because I have much deeper “stress/comfort eating” and sweet-tooth issues to overcome. I’ve never been a diet soda drinker, and most of them still make me wretch (Diet Hansen’s sodas have been my go-to), but if having a Diet Hansen now and again is what helps me get a fix and stay on the wagon, fine. It sure hasn’t hurt my progress, and long-term I don’t see myself drinking them — it’s just a tool to get me through this period.

Another thing that helps?

3. Get Help

I spent many years trying to self-direct my diet, and it failed. Some people can do this, and while it worked for short-term stuff, it didn’t pan out long-term. Getting on with Renaissance Periodization helped tremendously.

First, I can just listen to Nick, do what he says, and the results come. I mean, it’s been 5 months and I’ve dropped 30 lb. He sends me a spreadsheet, and as long as I follow it, it works. It’s kinda nice to offload that work to someone else. 🙂

Second, it’s an ability to have a teacher. Here’s someone to whom I can ask questions. That if I need a little support, have a concern, whatever, I can go to. That’s invaluable.  Being able to learn so I can start to do things on my own? That’s big, because believe me, there’s tons of chaff out there, and having someone who know what’s wheat makes a big difference.

Yes, make sure you find someone solid. There’s lots of “fitness gurus” out there that don’t know a damn thing. Vet ’em well.

Third, when you get someone who knows what the heck they’re doing, it can actually make for a diet that is manageable. I mean, some of the stuff I’ve tried before was just bullshit that drove me nuts. But this diet approach RP and Nick have me on? It’s really workable. Oh sure, dairy is cut out, and while I miss a good cheese, it’s really not so horrible. A lot of diets label fruit as evil and bad, but pfft… not here; fruit good! Carbs aren’t evil either; in fact, I drink straight-up Tang as a part of my peri-workout nutrition. Really, this is about the most sane and manageable dietary protocol I’ve ever dealt with, and it certainly is one you could adopt for the rest of your life and not go crazy.

4. Be Patient. Be Disciplined.

This is the hardest part.

It takes time. Again, I’ve been doing this for 5 months now, and I still have more to go, possibly another 5 months, before I hit my Defattening goal. Whatever time it takes tho doesn’t really matter; it’s about getting where I want to be, and doing what it takes to get there.

Yes, there are times that it sucks.

But this is where you need that deep desire down to the marrow in your bones to want this. That drive, that hunger (so to speak), is what you need to keep you strong when it gets tough.

For me? Taking off my shirt and looking in the mirror is a serious motivator. In one respect, it’s seeing what I don’t like to see and being mad enough about it (and that I ever let myself get to that point) that drives me. In another respect, I can also see what is emerging, and what will be when I get there, and I cannot wait for that day when I pull off my shirt, look in the mirror, and see this sexy beast staring back at me. I know if I want that to happen, I have to stay focused, I have to stay disciplined and dedicated.

And you just don’t get that from some trite New Year’s Resolution.


I still don’t like chicken, but…

I’m pretty simple when it comes to meat: give me beef.

I do like pork from time to time, fish on occasion (especially sushi). I can deal with game meats, turkey, and so on. But if there’s anything I just don’t like, it’s chicken.

Of course, every “weight-loss” or other types of “healthy” or “low-fat” diet out there involves… chicken.

My dislike is pretty straightforward: chicken meat has no flavor, and it’s dry. Of course, this all comes from the lack of fat (which is, in part, the point in consuming it). So to give it any sort of flavor, you always have to dress it up, but often dressing it up runs counter to the low-fat protocol. Dark meat is passable, but again that doesn’t really jive with the diet protocol. So chicken breasts it is, but ugh. I know, first world problem.

However, I’ve found a way to make it manageable. Thankfully it’s pretty simple.

The grocery store sells bags of chicken breasts. It’s 5 lbs. of de-boned breasts, and they are fully frozen and “ice glazed”. It also seems they brine them, which helps plump them up and meet that 5 lbs. without having to actually be 5 lbs of meat. Sneaky, but whatchagonnado? But in a way, it’s a positive.

All you have to do is throw them — still frozen — on the grill. The grill is at about 350º-375º, and I throw on some oak wood chips. There’s your flavor, from that wonderful smoke. 30 minutes, turn them, 30 more minutes, and done. The brining actually helps because the breast meat is moist with a touch of salt throughout the meat. And the way they cook, they get a good “crust” (not a true crust, but the exterior does “harden” a bit) which helps to seal in all the juices so a lot of the brine is retained within the meat.

And yes, this works out great.

I get about 5 lbs of meat, which lasts me a few days. It’s dead simple to cook. It fits the diet protocol. And best of all, it has flavor. 🙂

Have to find ways to keep the taste buds happy.

Getting back on the losing train

The goal for 2014 was to be less fat. Check that, it still is to be less fat.

I’ve tried to go down this road numerous times, with varying degrees of success — but really, it’s all failure because I haven’t STAYED there. In fact, right now I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been: 265# (more or less). I don’t know my precise bodyfat measure, but if you Google around for body fat estimation pictures, I’m at least 30% body fat. Let’s do some math. That means I’m 185# at 0% body fat, which is unrealistic but it’s math good to know because assuming I maintain that lean body mass, then a 15% bodyfat would be about 215 pounds. 15% body fat is a good goal for me to start with and folks… that’s a 50# difference.

Put it this way. You go to the gym, and those big plates? The 45# plates? Lug one of those around for a while… I’m wanting to lose a little more than that. I have a little more than that just sitting on my body, weighing me down, stressing my body, my joints, and everything. And that, to me, just sucks. I also get stupid and think about how if I do decide to compete in powerlifting, that’s dropping down 2 weight classes (vs. being in the 275# class when I’m not a guy lugging around 275# worth of muscle). So yeah, I’m tired of it.

I’m tired of being fat. I’m tired of all the downsides it brings. I don’t want a flat stomach because “abz” aren’t a priority, but I do want the ability to carry things on the front of my belt, like AIWB. I want my clothing to not fit me because of muscle, not fat. Yeah, there’s vanity. But there’s also a desire to accept that my 40-something body is only getting older, going to fall apart more, and I have to change a lot of habits to help me manage this “over the hill” thing so I can still kick ass when I’m 70 years old, like Sonny:

The diet has always been my struggle. I eat to manage stress, to find comfort, escape, joy, whatever. All the things I’ve tried, I can manage somewhat, but there’s always some piece of the puzzle I’m missing. I’ve come to accept I cannot do this alone, and that having a coach, someone to direct me, to kick my ass when I need it, to be there to answer questions — well, I stress the value and importance of this in every other aspect of life, so why should it be any different here? It may not work, but at this point, it’s well worth trying.

As I’ve mentioned in some prior posts, I’m trying out the guys at Renaissance Periodization. At this point I’m doing a 6-month plan with them. I’ll talk more about this as I go along, because it’s going to be a journey. But so far, it seems like a lot of stuff I already knew, just well-structured and in a manner that I think should be more consumable with less information overload. We’ll see how it goes.

The other thing is how my lifting will go.

Since the primary goal is fat loss, I know that strength and muscle mass will be lost as well. I want to minimize this, so it seems the best recommended path for me to take is one that builds muscle mass. While a strict bodybuilder approach isn’t what I want right now, because strength is still more important to me, that philosophy is certainly there. So, I’m going to give Paul Carter’s Basebuilding a go. Philosophically it seems the right thing to do. I don’t know how well it will work on the restricted diet, but then I’m willing to adjust and adapt as I go along. I believe I read somewhere that Paul said BBing works out well in a diet phase since you can just adjust your weights (downward) and keep going. I just have to remind myself that the key isn’t to focus on the numeric value of the weight as much as it is ensuring I work to preserve strength and muscle mass. It’s the work I do, not the weight I lift.

The other thing? I have to do cardio. 3x a week I’m in the gym lifting. On my non-lifting days, I have to walk for an hour. That’s part of RP’s plan. Ugh…. not my favorite thing to do. But, I will say for a while there I kinda dealt with it because I listened to podcasts while I was walking and I kinda miss listening to them. So this will be useful. I may try just simple reading too as my reading list is backing up.

RP wants a semi-weekly weigh-in, so the plan is to weigh myself on Sunday and Wednesday. I will also take periodic pictures, probably just on Sunday. I debate posting the pictures. Part of me doesn’t want to because I’m sure you don’t want to see me half-naked, nor do I feel like sharing my half-naked self with the world. But I think about it — that’s in part because I do not like how I look. But 50# from now? Yeah, I’m sure I’ll like it more and be kinda happy to run around with my shirt off. So I dunno… part of me thinks that the public shaming and accountability it would create for myself would be good for me. Plus, look at a guy like John Stone and his pictures. If that’s not some level of inspiration…

So… here we go…. voyaging down this road again.

Looking for something different to drink?

Wife sent me a link to this article about “5 Colonial-Era Drinks You Should Know“.

The 5 are:

  • Flip
  • Stone Fence
  • Syllabub
  • Rattle-Skull
  • Sangaree

Flip sounds most interesting:

To make a basic colonial-style flip, fill a pitcher with two beaten eggs, two ounces of rum and a tablespoon of superfine sugar (or molasses) and beat to combine. In a saucepan, heat eight to 10 ounces of brown ale over a low flame until it begins to steam. Slowly pour the warm beer into the rum-egg mixture, then pour the drink back and forth between vessels until blended. Decant into a pint glass, shave some nutmeg over the top, and serve—it’s sort of like drinking liquified earth, but it has its charms.

On the surface, it sounds a little scary to try. But yet, it’s somehow compelling.

Stone Fence is pretty straightforward, and I’m sure I’d dig it. It’s basically a shot of dark rum then you fill the rest of the class with hard cider. I like both of those things, so I bet this could be good. Of course, the real fun is finding the right cider to pair with the right rum. This requires some serious investigation and research. 😉

Syllabub seems like too much trouble to make:

A syllabub is a sibling to posset, but uses wine or cider as its base and gains visual drama from the cloudlike egg whites that are spooned on top. Want to try it? In a measuring cup, combine five ounces of inexpensive floral white wine (these days, try Torrontes) with two or three ounces of cream, a spoonful of sugar, and the juice of half a lemon. (In lieu of sugar, a nontraditional tablespoon of maple syrup can add sweetness). Stir to combine. In a separate bowl, beat two egg whites with a dash of sugar until somewhere between frothy and peaked. Decant wine mixture into a favorite glass, spoon over thickened egg whites, and shave over some nutmeg. The flavors are akin to lemon ricotta cheese.

Despite all the trouble, doesn’t seem tasty enough to go through the effort. Of course, if someone made it for me and shoved it under my nose, I’d take a taste.


On its surface, this blend of dark beer, rum, lime juice, and nutmeg doesn’t seem to differ much from the other rum-based drinks of the day. Yet it packed a wallop from its proportions: three to four ounces of hard liquor (usually an equal split between rum and brandy) are dropped into a pint of strong porter, tarted up with the juice of half a lime and then showered with shaved nutmeg. This bad-ass drink is a dangerously smooth and stultifying concoction.

That sounds like it will live up to its name.

Sangaree perks my interest too:

Instead of Rioja or some other Spanish red, this wine-based punch drew on fortified wine such as Madeira or port. Combined with lemon juice, sugar, and nutmeg, it was served singly in its own glass, rather than from a communal bowl. Using fortified wine lends the drink a slightly more brooding quality than sangria.

I love a good port. Alas, the recipe lacks proportions so…. will have to research more before trying this one.

Because you know… life isn’t always about guns, lifting weights, and heavy metal music. Sometimes you gotta relax. 🙂



I’m burned out. Taking a couple days off work for a long weekend to help me recoup a bit.

Working on my backlog of things to do, and one is some online shopping.

Ordered some 7-round magazines for my M&P Shield from Botach Tactical. I’m fine with the smaller mags, since that’s the whole point of such a gun.

Ordered various Fox Labs OC sprays from CopsPlus. Wife needs to replace hers, and I’ve been wanting to have a can for my gym walks — had a couple potential 4-legged interactions during my gym walks where OC would have been welcome. Never used Fox Labs’ stuff before, but Tom Givens commented they’re the best, so let’s give it a try.

Ordered a lot of fish oil (Meg-3) and some caffeine capsules from

Wife wanted 30# of einkorn flour from JovialFoods. If you haven’t tried einkorn flour, and you’re not in a dietary mode that would prohibit it (e.g. celiac’s, paleo, etc.) give it a try. Wife reports the switch to it has helped her feel better (vs. “traditional” wheat flours you buy at the store), and I’ll vouch that it tastes really awesome. I’m still waiting for her to make that beer bread with the Moose Drool Brown Ale. The beer bread with that ale was awesome, and I imagine it will be even more awesome with the einkorn.

Wife is also out hitting the H.E.B. grocery store, and the Sprouts. I finally got to visit Sprouts a couple weeks ago; neat store, I like.

Just a little peek into life… and I’m sure the NSA is minding all my credit card transactions and wondering something. 🙂

2013-07-05 training log

Carbs! Sweet… sweet… glorious carbs!

Wendler 5/3/1 program, cycle 21, week 1

  • Work Set – Bench Press (working max: 210#)
    • 2x5x45 (warmup)
    • 1x5x85
    • 1x5x105
    • 1x3x130
    • 1x3x150 (work)
    • 1x3x170
    • 1x5x190
  • Assistance – DB Incline Press
    • 5 x 10/10/10/10/9 x 50
  • Assistance – DB Rows
    • 3 x 10/10/20 x 50
  • Assistance – JM Press
    • 3 x 15/12/10 x 95
  • Assistance – Face Pulls
    • 3 x 20 x 45

After 10 days of essentially no carbs, last night I got to finally have some. More on diet stuff below. It made a difference, as you’d expect.

I slept like a rock. Solid 8 hours of sleep. Woke up and just didn’t feel it. I felt… zoned… out of it. I couldn’t kick my brain into gear. Not sure why. But I just trudged along and figured lifting would make it all better. Physically I felt alright. The noticable part for me was not feeling like I was out of gas half-way through things. I distinctly remember my body saying “stop, out of gas, on the reserve tank, so preserve energy and stop”. But no such feeling today. I pushed and felt alright. I do not feel as strong as before all of this diet change, but that’s to be expected.

All in all tho, the session went fine. Nothing glorious either way.

As for diet….

I’m going to essentially follow Carb Back-Loading. So I finished my 10 day start up. Before I started, I was about 240#. I say “about” because the bathroom scale is old and crappy, but good enough. It’s hard to sometimes read where the needle is pointing on the dial, and I honestly don’t recall taking an official “before I start” measurement. So I’m going based upon the last known weigh-in, and even then I know I rounded a bit. It might have been 241 or 242, maybe even 239. But 240 is good enough. And weighing myself this morning (always weigh first thing in the morning, no food), I reckon 233? 234? So I’m rounding it to a simple 5#. I’m sure most, if not all, of this is loss from glycogen exhaustion, the water that goes with it, etc.. Might have lost a hair of fat, but I’m chalking it up to just dietary manipulation at this point. I don’t really count true loss until I’m down about 10# because then you know you actually lost something, not just water weight. I mean, I can flux 5# in the course of a day from just eating, food, and taking a good dump. But from weighing myself during the past 10 days, it’s solid weight loss, just I expect most isn’t fat loss.

So re-reading the CBL book and browsing the forums again, I think the plan will start something like this.

I’m targetting 200# for weight. Is that actually what I’ll weigh? Well, I don’t know because it’s not so much about weight as it is about composition. But I need numbers to go on, so 200# seems good. Why? Well, if I’m 240#, I estimate my body fat is probably 25% based upon some tape measures and looking at some of those visual charts I’ve found online. So, that’s about 60# of fat (gah!), so that’s 180# of lean body mass, and so if 10% body fat is about good, that’s 200#, right? So, a fair target, if nothing else.

With that in mind….

Every day, strive for 200g of protein. No compromise here. Oh sure, maybe some days it’ll be 190 and others 210, but essentially 200. I have to be mindful of just inhaling lots of protein because 250g, well, that’s 50g more, that’s 200 calories more, and given my goal right now, that 200 cals will add up. Basically, I’m going for 1g of protein per pound of target bodyweight.

Fat will be at least 100g a day, maybe up to 200g depending, but then probably only that much on non-carb days. So this is essentially about 0.5 to 1.0g per pound of target bodyweight.

Carbs will be cycled. I will only ingest carbs the night before going to the gym. One possible exception is Friday night, if I know I’ll have a long and hard day at KR Training on Saturday. Using the 5# of initial loss as a guide, I look up in the CBL book chart, then use the formula I read on the CBL forum which says to take that number, multiply by 1.5, then divide by the number of backloads you get in a week (3 in my case). Comes out to about 225g per backload session. And 5# is low. But I’ll explain this in a sec. But basically, it comes out to about 1g of carb per pound of target bodyweight.

Frankly, that sort of simple math I like. If I have to make this a science experiment every day, I’m going to go nuts. Part of why I’m doing CBL is because I think it’ll be something I can manage on a daily basis. Be it this, Mountain Dog Diet, Renegade Diet… lots of the shit is the same. Heck, the latest video from Brandon Lilly and Paul Carter was talking about this very stuff. So point becomes… yeah, I think this is a route that might work for me.

My numbers are low. Do the math. 200g protein is 800 cals. 100g fat is 900 cals. So that’s like 1700 cals a day on my no-carb days. Shit, that’s low. If I throw in the 200g carbs, that’ll be 2500 on those days, which is a bit more normal. And really, if I was training to get bigger, I’d probably have that 2500 every day, maybe 3000. And while I’ve always minded things like protein, I haven’t minded carbs and fats as much. Heck, last night when trying to figure out my carbs to get 200g, I realized that’s a LOT of carbs, at least from the sources I was trying to get it from. But then I also realized how quickly carbs can get out of hand.

Case in point. Wife found this awesome recipe for a “chocolate mousse” thing that was just cocoa powder, maple syrup, a little vanilla, and then avocado as the base. Oh, this is totally awesome stuff. Thing is, I looked at the syrup bottle (real maple syrup, not that corn syrup artificial flavor shit). The serving size was 1/4 cup and you got like 53g of sugar. 1/4 cup isn’t much, and I’d reason most people put at least that much tho probably more on their pancakes and waffles. Now you’re also eating pancakes and waffles on top of that, which is just carbs out the wazoo…. and you wonder where and why we get fat.

But then when I was trying to eat carbs this morning with my breakfast, post-workout, a peach, a banana, and some greek yougurt… and that was enough. And somehow a lot more satisfying not just to my stomach, but also my palette. But yet, that’s all I needed post-workout. Yet trying to cram another 150g or more? Shit… that’s almost work! Maybe I should just drink maple syrup. 🙂

Nevertheless, I know these numbers are low. I want to see what they do for me. Again, I expect to lose some muscle and strength, and I begrudgingly accept that, so long as I do drop the fat. I’m hoping these levels will get me there, and I will adjust if and how I need to.

I figure if I can stay the course until the end of the month, that should be a good time to fall back and assess if this is working for me or not. If so, Labor Day will probably be the next big milestone checkin to see how it’s going. If I can drop 1-2# week, gee… 15# or so dropped by Labor Day? That would be awesome and be a noticeable difference.


Dehydrator – Any Advice?

Finally got ourselves a dehydrator!

It’s an Excalibur 9-tray with timer. Enough people recommended this brand as tops, so it’s what we went with. Also figured we might as well get all the trays… what would it hurt?

When we started getting our weekly CSA veggie boxes, we’d get things we just could not use in time. One of the biggest culprits was herbs, basil especially. Of course, the fresh herbs were awesome, but we just couldn’t use them in time and they wouldn’t keep well enough so we’d be throwing them out. Of course, they are prime for drying and keeping. In fact, there’s a lot about the weekly boxes that make sense to get now and somehow preserve for later. Doesn’t have to be 5 years of storage, but perhaps just the ability to have some summer vegetables in the winter and vice versa. Between the vacuum sealer and the big chest freezer, now the dehydrator, we can keep things pretty well.

But where to start?

And what advice can you — oh experience dehydrator user — bestow upon us n00bz?

As of this writing, we have tried two things: drying basil, and beef jerky. 🙂

We got our CSA box and it had a HUGE bunch of basil in it. Wife washed it, snipped off the leaves, and into the dehydrator it went. Alas, it also happened to be a very wet and humid day, so it took quite a while. The timer already paid for itself, because we just cranked things up and let it run overnight. Woke up to… basil chips. 🙂  It’s possible we over-dried them because they didn’t have a very strong basil smell (even after crushing a leaf and comparing to some store-bought basil). Of course, it could just be that particular basil, but… it was what it was. We’ll see how it pans out after Wife uses this dried basil the first time.

Of course, I couldn’t resist trying out some jerky. When we ordered the dehydrator, we got a special deal from the company and it included a bag of their jerky seasoning. So I figured to try it their way. Took a sirloin out of the freezer, mostly defrosted it (easier to slice when slightly frozen), sliced it somewhat thin, then sprinkled their powder on it. I was skeptical, and rightly so. It tasted like dried beef with some seasoning on it. I used to make jerky long ago when we had a gas oven and I could get the temperature low enough. I liked wet marinades, and no question that’s the way to go. But it wasn’t a total loss. I did slice some against the grain and some with, and with slices that thin I think with the grain is more to my preference. Also had some variations in the thickness of the slices and thinner is going to work better; not “wafer-thin” but thin. It’ll be fun to experiment with jerky making. Especially nice that it only takes a few hours to dry.

Open to hearing anything you’re willing to share!