The Great Ramsey Smokeouts


I have an unhealthy infatuation with gadgets and kitchen implements. Our closets and cabinets are filled with testaments to that reality. However, two of my recent purchases filled our house on a completely different level.

The first Ramsey smokeout happened around New Year’s Eve. Hayley and I are somewhat addicted to one of the greatest video games ever created, Rock Band 2. And by somewhat, I mean stupidly obsessed. We’ve spent money adding songs, new instruments (Hayley has a schweet bass guitar) and, the accessory to beat all accessories:

The Rock Band Stage Kit.

The stage kit was first announced with the release of Rock Band 2, but was priced at $100. Even at that steep cost, I wanted it. Then, a few months ago, I noticed that the price had dropped to only $60. Again, it was expensive, but I still wanted it to be mine. And then, at Christmas, I was looking for something to spend some gift-card money on, and I saw that Gamestop had the kit listed for only $25. It was time.

The stage kit extends the virtual stage into your living room with a strobe light, light show and a fog machine, all timed with music on screen. It truly is a marvel of entertainment engineering.

Unfortunately, this marvel is a little too powerful. As we started to rock out to Kelly Clarkson’s classic “Miss Independent,” the fog machine kicked out its first blast – which promptly filled our small living room with smoke. Then, about five seconds later another blast. Five seconds more, another. By the third blast, our smoke-filled living room started choking Hayley and me up. And setting off our smoke alarm. Which is connected to our ADT security system. And doesn’t stop beeping very easily.

Fortunately, ADT called, we answered and no fire trucks were dispatched to our house. Sadly, I’m not sure when we’ll be able to use the fog machine again.

The second happened just tonight, on Valentine’s Day. Being the romantic type, I thought it would be nice to make a nice dinner for Hayley. So I bought some red-skinned potatoes, asparagus, bread and strip steaks for a delicious dinner at home. I also bought a cast-iron grill pan for the steaks, since it’s 30-degrees outside. And, much like the stage kit, I’d been wanting one for quite a while.

Everything was going swimmingly – the steak marinade smelled great, the potatoes were cooking and the asparagus was simmering nicely – until I threw the steaks on grill pan. Immediately, our house filled with smoke.

Our exhaust hood was powerless to do anything with the amount of smoke that was coming from the steaks. We opened windows and doors and tried to fan the smoke out, but after only about 30 seconds, the ADT smoke alarm started going off. And we couldn’t get it to stop. At all. It beeped, loudly, for at least 5 minutes, which, in ear-spitting-beeping-time, is actually an hour.

Also, we somehow missed the call from ADT. So, we got a nice visit from three very friendly firemen. In a very large red truck, called a fire truck.

On the upside, we were able to throw the steaks in the oven and salvaged the dinner.

But I definitely hope that the future objects of my desire are smoke-free.

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  1. February 15, 2010 at 12:11 pm — Reply

    hee hee hee hee

    Did you get a picture of the fire truck in front of your house? That would be one to hang on the wall.

  2. Larry
    February 15, 2010 at 4:37 pm — Reply

    You guys!!


  3. February 15, 2010 at 11:30 pm — Reply

    You had the grill pan too hot.

    Fats have a “smoke point”. This is relatively low for unrefined fats like your steak has (it’s higher for refined beef tallow, but still not all that high).

    You run into this more with cast iron because you have a lot of thermal mass. You throw a cold steak into a thin frying pan, and the termperature of the whole thing plummets. As the burner brings it all back up to temp, you notice when the steak starts to smoke and you turn it down, getting a near-instant response because (1) you’re barely at smoke point and (2) you don’t have a lot of thermal mass.

    Cast iron is less forgiving… you throw a cold steak in, and the cast iron’s thermal mass means it *stays* at that too-high temp, and even turning the burner completely off isn’t gonna help because you’ve got too much energy in the system already. Best you can do is yoink the food off, turn the burner off, and wait. With your baking soda at hand, because “smoke point” and “grease fire” are really good friends.

    Especially at first, you’ll tend to get the thing way too hot up front, because you’re used to having to compensate for that big initial drop. Once you get used to that, it’s nice because you *don’t* have sudden temperature changes. It’s not “SEAR wait wait wait to get back up to temp OKAY COOK AGAIN.”

    • Hayley
      February 16, 2010 at 5:04 pm — Reply

      Karen, I REALLY wish we’d talked to first. You could’ve saved us some trouble and embarassment, and the stench of steak that still permeates the house. This is why we shouldn’t try to cook above our skill level.

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The Great Ramsey Smokeouts