It’s the perfect marriage of his-and-hers shopping: a grilling enthusiast’s paradise, coupled with a boutique home décor and lifestyle store.
Cen Cal Smoke/Smoke & Magnolias in Modesto’s Roseburg Square appears to have perfect timing, too. With the COVID-19 pandemic creating a ‘new normal’ of sheltering at home and a refocusing on dining well in our own kitchens, this dual-sided venture open since December 2019 is offering novice or aspiring grill masters the tools, encouragement, and accessories to create great grilled meals at home andserve them beautifully.
Owners Andrea and Chuck Jones may be new to retail storekeeping—she’s a realtor, he’s a retired Modesto police officer—but they’ve married their personal passions to real life experience.
“This started as helping my friends out,” says Chuck Jones. He’d been a competitor in local fundraising BBQ competitions, becoming the informal ‘go-to guy’ first for grilling advice and recipes, and then, supplies. “After pushing 30 tons of pellets through my garage,” he nods, “it was time.” Andrea Jones interjects, “Then he said to me, ‘I want to do home décor too.’” Chuck grins back. “And she didn’tsay I was crazy.”
Whether you favor the Kansas City, Carolina, Memphis, or Texas styles—or you’ve created a style of your own, Chuck and Andrea have the supplies. They carry numerous competition-level rubs, spices, injection mixes, plus valley favorite Sciabica olive oils and vinegars to craft marinades and mops. For something truly special, treat yourself to a fine, Wagyu beef brisket or plate. Chuck carries vacuum-sealed packs of this heavily-marbled beef, known for its tenderness and rich flavor.
Nor are vegetarians or vegans immune.
“That’s why I started carrying the stones and peels for pizzas,” Chuck says. There’s no limit to the foods that can be prepared on a grill, including vegetables, fruits, and desserts like cookies and cobblers.
Ready to level up your grilling game? Here’s Chuck and Andrea’s top tips:
Points for Accuracy.Regal Wagyu or humble chicken breast, cook foods to internal temperature, not time or feel, for optimum flavor, texture, and safety. Chuck’s favorite is the Thermoworks brand Thermapen M4 at $99.00. Little brother TermoPop sells for $34.00. Wireless and Bluetooth thermometers are also available.
Too Hot to Handle? Grilled meat needs attention, and that means reaching into the superheated environment of your grill. Stay safe with Smoke & Magnolia’s temperature-rated pit and oven mitts starting at $11.99.
Tongs For the Win. Sturdy grill tools with long handles keep hands and arms safe from splashes and flair ups. Tongs are the multitasking tool of choice, while silicone sauce brushes and spoonulas withstand the heat and clean up in the dishwasher. What about those fearsome BBQ forks? “I think we only have one in the store, and it’s part of a set,” Andrea laughs. “Don’t pierce the meat,” Chuck adds. “That lets the juices run out.” Lost juice means dry, flavorless meat.
Rested and Ready. This may be the most frequently overlooked step of all: let that meat rest for at least ten minutes, loosely covered, before serving. This lets the juices redistribute themselves throughout the cut so they remain in the meat instead of pooling on the plate.
Share ‘Em if You’ve Got ‘Em: Grilling is the ultimate inclusive cuisine, with passionate grillers eager to help, share tips, and swap recipes.
“One of my best customers is a 13-year-old girl,” Chuck says, “and she just got her second grill. You should hear the chefs and older guys eavesdrop on what she’s saying when she’s in here!” Chuck leads off with one of his favorite marinades:
Sweet-N-Savory Orange Marinade
½ C Sciabica’s Sweet Peach white balsamic vinegar
½ C Sciabica’s Orange olive oil
1 ‘fat spoonful’ crushed garlic or to taste
Add all ingredients to a zip lock bag with chicken pieces. Push out the air to seal. Place bag in a bowl to raise the level of the liquid over the chicken. Turn periodically so all pieces are exposed to the marinade. Marinate 2 hours to overnight, then grill chicken until done–165 degrees internal temperature.
Whether you’re driving a top end pellet feeder, or dumping charcoal into a kettle on legs, you’re welcome here. “As long as you’re cooking!” Andrea Jones says.
For more information:
Cen Cal Smoke/Smoke & Magnolias Roseburg Square:
819 W. Roseburg Av, Modesto 95350
Visit Cencalsmoke.com for online shopping,
Follow them on Facebook and Instagram @cencalsmoke for recipes and updates.