Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Get Your Patio Ready for Cold Weather

The backyard patio is easily one of the most important outdoor spaces in American culture. It is the center of get-togethers, barbecues, bunches, and special events like baby showers and even weddings. There is something special about a private outdoor setting. Unfortunately, as the seasons change and temperatures drop, the patio area may not be as comfortable as it was in the spring and summer.

To get the most out of your outdoor entertainment space, there are a few easy strategies and patio products that will extend the use of your outdoor space significantly. In fact, with the right gear, you will find that the cooler months will be some of your favorite times to linger outdoors with friends and loved ones.

Choose the Right Patio Accessories

Plastic and metal patio furniture may hold up well year round, but they certainly don’t retain heat. Outfit your seating with comfortable cushions that will insulate your family and guests. The more cushions the better. Select cushions constructed from water resistant fabric that complements the overall design of your backyard space. Purchase 2 or 3 soft blankets or throws that are designated for outdoor use. There is nothing quite like being wrapped up in a blanket under the stars on a cool winter’s night. I also recommend that you invest in some quality patio furniture covers to protect your furniture and keep seats dry between uses. Nothing spoils an evening outdoors quite like sitting in a puddle of ice cold water. If you have a barbecue grill, be sure to outfit it was a proper patio BBQ Cover as well. That way your BBQ won't be water logged all winter long.

Install Wind Barriers

If your patio space is exposed to fall gusts and winter winds, you can expect the wind chill to decrease the temperature by 10 degrees or more. Instead of exposing your social space to direct wind, place a barrier on the wind-exposed side or sides. This could be a temporary barrier constructed of bamboo or lightweight wood, or a permanent structure that you can keep up year round.

Invest in a Quality Patio Heater

There are a number of different style patio heaters to fit any entertainment space. The first thing you will need to decide is where the heater will go… which in turn will determine what sort of energy source you will need. If a socket is not nearby (and they rarely are) I recommend an outdoor propane patio heater. These devices are portable, last for years and years and really transform the environment in something special.

Incorporate Lighting Features

As the days get shorter light becomes scarce. You will need some lighting in your outdoor patio area, but it’s important to keep lighting soft and subtle so that it doesn’t distract from the stars and mood. I recommend stringing up strings of large white light bulbs – a classic look that will work year round. Adding an outdoor fire pit not only complements the natural setting, but it provides the perfect amount of flickering light to the space and can act as a visual focal point for the social area.

About the Author: Derrick Riley is a Managing Partner at Patio Products USA, a subsidiary of Neighbors Marketing specializing in outdoor patio products for home or commercial use. As one of North America's largest distributors of outdoor patio products and equipment, Patio Products USA delivers a wide selection of outdoor garden patio heaters as well as a wide selection of patio furniture covers.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Top 10 Turkey Fryer Tips

With Thanksgiving around the corner and Football season in full swing, now is the time to invest in a turkey fryer if you haven't already. We’ve compiled our top 10 turkey frying tips to help you use your fryer to its fullest, most delicious potential.

1. Reuse the oil: Depending on the size of your turkey, you’ll find that you need around 5 gallons of oil to fry it effectively. The good news is that you can reuse this frying oil with a few simple steps.
  • When frying, never let the oil heat above 400 degrees Fahrenheit (oils break down at this heat)
  • Let the oil cool
  • Strain the oil into an airtight container in order to remove the turkey particles
  • Don’t reuse more than 3 times and discard after 6 months of storage
2. Use the fryer to cook other foods besides turkey: Despite its name, a turkey fryer can, and should, be used to fry other foods.
  • Use for fish frys
  • Use water instead of oil and bulk boil seafood like clams, oysters or lobsters
  • You can also throw in cajun seasoning, corn on the cob and potatoes with the seafood and boil a complete meal all at once - so good!
  • For whatever food you decide to fry, make sure it is completely dry before submerging it in oil
3. Measure for the right amount of oil: To avoid wasting oil or over-filling your turkey fryer, use a water displacement method to determine the precise amount of oil you need to fry
  • Place your uncovered turkey into the fryer pot and cover it entirely with water.
  • Remove the turkey and make a mark on your fryer coinciding with the new water line
  • Instead of marking directly on your fryer, you can pour the water out into jugs and use that same amount when filling the fryer with oil
  • Be careful: too much oil is the main cause of spills and fires
4. Use turkey fryer outdoors: Even though we tend to use our fryers during the chillier winter holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Superbowl Sunday, do not move the frying indoors to beat the cold. It's just not safe.
  • Oil above 450 degrees can begin heating up rapidly and cause a grease fire.
  • The oil bubbles and pops often and can be messy
  • You can always use a gas fire pit or outdoor patio heater to help provide warmth against the cold temperatures.
5. Completely thaw out the turkey before lowering it into the fryer: Placing a partially frozen turkey into a pot of hot oil is very dangerous. Give yourself enough time so that you can allow your turkey to completely thaw in the refrigerator before it’s time to fry.
  • Lower the thawed turkey slowly into the hot oil.
  • The oil will be bubbling a little, so wear long protective gloves when lowering the turkey to prevent burns
6. Inject your turkey with marinade: For maximum fried turkey taste, use a syringe to inject marinade into your turkey before frying.
  • The less injections you make, the better.
  • To help oil drip off the turkey when you’re finished frying, make a cut on the skin at the joints of the leg and thigh.
  • You should also rub dry seasoning on the outside of the dry turkey if you want more flavor
7. Watch the temperature of the oil! When cooking with large amounts of hot oil, it’s imperative to have someone constantly monitoring the temperature of the oil to ensure it not exceed 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Don’t let the oil exceed 350 degrees Fahrenheit for safety reasons and for effective reuse of the oil
  • Use peanut oil because it smokes less than other oils and has a higher smoking point
8. Cook the bird 3 – 3.5 minutes per pound of meat: Typically, a turkey cooks to its desired temperature after 3 minutes per pound of meat. However, to be safe, beyond just monitoring the temperature of the oil, you’ll want to also watch the temperature of the turkey.
  • Use a reliable thermometer to check the meat’s internal temperature from two points: the deepest part of the breast and the thigh
  • With the stem of the thermometer at least two inches into the bird, the thigh temperature should reach 180 degrees Fahrenheit and the breast should achieve 170 degrees Fahrenheit.
9. Lay down a pan with paper towels where you can let the turkey rest, post-fry: You’ll always want to give your meat time to finish cooking and finish soaking up its juices before carving into it.
  • Before you begin frying, be prepared and have ready: aluminum foil with which you can wrap the turkey after the fry and a safe place to rest your bird before carving
  • You can put paper towels down on a tray or big cookie sheet for the bird
  • Don’t wait until your hands are full and you’re pulling out the heavy bird and realize you have nowhere to put it!
10. Clean the fryer when it’s cool To have the longest turkey fryer life, make sure to clean it after each use. This also helps eliminate burning and problems with later frys.
  • Wait at least 2 hours for the fryer to cool and make sure the oil is removed and stowed or discarded safely
  • Wash the fryer out with a hose and dish soap, using a brush with bristles to help remove tough spots

We hope these handy top 10 turkey frying tips will help your cooking, entertaining or tailgating experiences.

About the Author: Derrick Riley is a Managing Partner at Patio Products USA, a subsidiary of Neighbors Marketing specializing in outdoor patio products for home or commercial use. As one of North America's largest distributors of outdoor entertaining products, Patio Products USA delivers a wide selection of outdoor fire pits, outdoor heaters and other patio heaters.