Monday, July 31, 2006
You really have several options for learning to compete and one of least expensive is to frequently visit bbq web sites, blogs, and discussion boards on the internet and read everything possible about bbq. It's free, but time consuming and besides that, there's a limited amount of information you can learn from a web site without putting some of the instructions and examples into practice.
A second approach is to plop down anywhere from $250-$500 or so and enroll in one of various bbq classes offered by some most excellent instructors that are also successful contest competitors.
A third approach, and one I hope you'll consider, is to come out and cook with us at an actual KCBS event and gain some first hand experience in an actual contest setting. You'll become an honorary team member for the weekend and be able to observe up close and personal exactly what we do at bbq contests. You're welcome to spend as much or as little time with us at a contest as you want. We usually arrive early Friday morning and leave Saturday afternoon following the awards ceremony.
You'll be our guest for the weekend and "learn by doing". I can't think of a better way to learn the ropes at a bbq contest, get all your questions answered, meet some new people, and eat all the bbq you want.
Drop me an e-mail if this idea appeals to you.
Sunday, July 30, 2006
I've written several articles about it here on the BBQ Blog, but this a.m. I ran across another great article written by Elizabeth Lumpkin that is perhaps the best summary of bbq contests for those new to the hobby that I've read to date. It was featured in the KCBS Bullsheet a few months ago and it's full of relevant information.
If you've read other web based sources of great bbq information, feel free to share them here. Just click the comments link below and you can post right here on the blog.
BBQ Secrets Revealed, Click Here!
The post about Billy Bones (below) got me thinking about the articles he's shared through the years in the Barbecue News. Based on his column, I get the feeling he's pretty partial to Holstein Mfg. smokers and bbq cookers.
They've got one that I especially like called the Model 444. It's a 4 x 4 x 4 Stainless Steel Convection Oven, hence the code name "444". This vertical gas smoker is NSF certified and rated at 250,000 BTU. Now that's a serious commercial cooker for serious commercial bbq operations and high volume catering.
BBQ Secrets Revealed, Click Here!
I met Billy at the KCBS cook-off at the Cabela's in Dundee a few weeks ago. It turns out that our favorite FBA contest in Arcadia had a Michigan connection. Billy had stopped through Arcadia to vend at the annual rodeo a few years back and shared some of the goings-on with me.
I'm going to try out the rub and sauce a little and see if I can learn something to use in one of my contest entries. I have one that's started lagging behind the others a little and it might be time for an adjustment.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
It's not a barbecue restaurant, but this restaurant is a throw-back to the era when diners where the "in" place to eat. If you get a chance to stop in and eat a bite at Powers Diner, it's worth your time.
I've always wanted to open a place like this. Who know's, maybe someday I will.
Book about diners
Monday, July 24, 2006
This restaurant proprietor in Nashville started a blog about his new bbq joint and in a short time he's been featured by the local news, several blogs, newspapers, and soon....the Washington Post.
If you're in Nashville, head on over to Berry Hill and check it out.
BBQ Secrets Revealed, Click Here!
Friday, July 21, 2006
Competitors must cook two ribeye steaks and win against a field of 30 other cooks.
If you're in Chicago this weekend, head on down to Wicker Park and check out the festivities.
My teammate and I layed down about 10:30 p.m. Sleeping fully clothed in a pair of Wranglers, a University of Tennessee sweatshirt and white tube socks; the 10 x 20 Hercules tent with all four sides attached shielded us from the weather outside.
It had been much warmer when we settled in for the nap, but the temperature was dropping now. Inside the tent the temperature was very tolerable with the propane heater running, but as I stood up and made my way toward the tent opening it grew increasingly chilly. Of course it wouldn’t be considered chilly by northern folks’ standards, but after living in Florida for awhile, my blood had thinned out and the definition of ‘chilly’ had changed. As I peeled back the tent opening and stepped out into the night air, I was greeted by brisk 40 degree weather. The weather earlier in the morning had been in mid-70’s, but had dropped off during the night as a cold front moved in.
As I approached the two black barbecue smokers aligned in a row at the rear of the cook site, I was greeted with a boisterous, “Howdy” from the direction of the neighboring cook site. The head cook, a tall 50ish man with a southern drawl and good ‘ole boy approach, had been cooking competitively for many years and had cajoled, helped, prodded and answered questions from most of the Florida based competitors. He was truly an ambassador for the sport.
So as not to wake anyone sleeping, I walked closer to speak without yelling and responded to the greeting from the stranger with a muffled, “Y’all going to win this thing?”
“You never know,” was the response from the neighbor. “We just might sneak up on ‘um this weekend if we’re lucky.”
This scene occurred almost four-years ago, but I remember it like it was last weekend.
BBQ Secrets Revealed, Click Here!
9. If you get your name called in a category at a bbq contest, you spend the entire drive home wondering why you didn't get a call in all the other categories.
8. You dream about bbq contests when sleeping.
7. You can't resist the temptation to walk down the bbq aisle at the discount store just to see if something might be on sale that you don't already have.
6. You plan your family vacations around bbq contests.
5. Your wife can't find space for groceries because you've got 9 different types of bbq sauce in the refrigerator.
4. You read every book and magazine article that you can get your hands on that mentions bbq in the title.
3. You stay up late at night scanning the Food Network programs for bbq programs you haven't seen yet.
2. You wake up in the middle of the night and hurriedly find a scratch pad to write down your latest sure-fire bbq recipe idea/technique.
1. Family and friends e-mail pictures of their children, but you e-mail pictures of bbq contest turn-in boxes.
Monday, July 17, 2006
A quick visit to Amazon yielded 101 books on bbq including:
Ray Lampe's "BBQ All Year Long"
Mike Mills' "Peace, Love and Barbecue"
Dottie Griffith's "Celebrating Barbecue"
Sunset Books' "Building Barbecues and Outdoor Kitchens"
If any readers would like to offer more suggestions for the bbq reading list or even a book review of your favorite bbq book, your contributions are welcomed.
Sunday, July 16, 2006
I was watching college Ultimate Frisbee the other day on DishNetwork; collegiate bbq can't be too far behind.
BBQ Secrets Revealed, Click Here!
Congratulations to Bucky McOinkums BBQ team for their nice showing in Grand Rapids. It looks like the new cooker is working out well. Here's a picture I took when the briskets were being put on the smoker.
If I remember correctly, this proto-type cooker has a 40 inch x 40 inch cooking area and two racks so far (it looks like there's room for a couple more racks at least. The fire box is not visible in this photo, but it's on the fron side of the trailer.
I snapped a picture of this wonderful looking cooker being used by Big Creek BBQ at the Taste of Grand Rapids contest this weekend. This Spice Wine Iron Works cooker is a work of art.
Here are some specs on the cooker from the Spice Wine web site:
60" L x 54" W (101" total length with tongue), 2000 pound torq-flex Axle, tail lights and adjustable jack with wheel.
31" L x 41" W x 48" H , 4 rack- 23 sq. ft. cooking space, 8 gallon water pan, additional 5 gallon automatic water feed system, dual upper adjustable dampers, dual lower adjustable dampers, 2 deluxe thermometers and fully insulated shell.
26" L x 42" W x 44" H Front Storage.
The weather on Friday was pretty good with an occasional breeze and even some clouds for part of the day. We were braced for 100 degree heat, but I think it topped off at about 93 late in the afternoon on Saturday just before the 4 p.m. awards ceremony.
We were some of the lucky teams with cook sites assigned on the ball field--no trees, no electric, no water. It was about a 1/5 mile hike to the ice trailer. I'm glad I only had to make that trip twice. Some shade and enough eletricity to run a fan would have made all the difference, but we enjoyed the cook-off overall.
Reserve Champion: Bar-B-Quau
9) Baby Joe's BBQ
8) M&M Barbeque
7) Bad Attitude
5) Heavy Duty Smokers
4) Hot, Smoky and Righteous
3) The Slabs
2) Straight Meat BBQ Boys
1) Hoosier Hogs
10) All Day Smoke
9) Cactus Jack Barbeque
8) Big Creek BBQ
7) Charlie's Smokin' Bar B Q
6) Fat Boy and Bert
3) Down Home BBQ
2) Up in Smoke
1) The Slabs
10) Up in Smoke
9) Extreme Roasters
8) Kre Smokers
7) Doctor Porkenstein
6) Cactus Jacks Barbeque
5) Jerry King Midland, TX
4) Apple Baron BBQ
3) Big Creek BBQ
1) Big Moe's BBQ
10) All Day Smoke
9) Big Moe's BBQ
8) The 3 B's
6) Bad Attitude BBQ
5) Bucky McOinkums Barbecue
4) Buffalo Bros. Team Que
3) Hoosier Hogs
2) Down Home BBQ
1) Donnie's Bar-B-Que Smoke
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Just wanted to let you know about another unique West Michigan BBQ opportunity...October 28 will be the Third Annual Grand Rapids Turkey Cook-Off. Our champion from the first two years, Julie Applegate, is moving to the role of turkey tasting judge; paving the way for a brand new champion. Come join us and earn the bragging rights for yourself!
If you are unfamiliar with the GRTCO, it is a non-profit event benefitting Toys for Tots. This year we will have a change in venue as we are moving to the Marine ReserveTraining Facility on Monroe Avenue, Grand Rapids, Michigan. We are looking at this as a great chance to honor our local service men and women while supporting their work for our community's children. All this and turkey too!
There is a new category for competition this year with our under 16 cooks competing for the title of Junior Champion. To reign as the Champion and have your name added to the plaque at Blake's Turkey Sandwich Shoppe, you need to have the highest combined scores from the Open and Whole Turkey Categories. For more information, see the attached rules document.
As an added incentive to register early, there is a free turkey for the first 20 teams to register!
For more information, go to our website at http://home.earthlink.net/~tocsoc/ or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put GRTCO in the subject line so I don't miss your message if it is hung up by my firewall program. (They tell me I need this program, but is sure is a pain sometimes!)
Wishing you each a marvelous bbq season and see you at Silver Lake!
GRTCO Planning Committee
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
I received an e-mail today from Brianna Foote today from Aspen Marketing Services hoping to locate someone in St. Louis to assist with a barbecue contest/Amazing Race-type event.
Give a call if you can assist, or suggest someone that can assist with this exciting event.
I work for a marketing company in New Jersey. One of our clients is U.S. Cellular, and we are doing a promotion for them in September. It will be structured similar to the Amazing Race, where two teams have to participate in challenges to win prizes that ultimately lead the winning team to a significant sum of money. They will be traveling to many checkpoints across the country in just a week!
One of our stops will be in St. Louis, MO for a barbeque competition. The two teams will have to compete to prepare the best food. We were looking to have a barbeque expert provide all the equipment for us to use, guide the teams in making the food, and judge who the winner would be. We would need this person for just a few hours on the day in mid-September.
I realize that this is a unique request, and I believe I saw somewhere on your website that says that you are located in Plymouth, Michigan, which is not very close by. Because it is so unique, I am having a very difficult time trying to find someone who would be able to do this, who would be trustworthy, and has a strong background and affinity for barbeque. If this sounds remotely interesting to you, could you email me what an approximate rate you would require for such an event? Or, I imagine that you are familiar with other barbeque aficionados and organizations, so if there is anyone, especially in the St. Louis area, that you think would be able to help us out, it would be very much appreciated.
Thank you so much for your help! I would be so grateful for any information that you could provide me. I look forward to hearing from you!
Aspen Marketing Services
Office: (973) 775-6524
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Grand Champion $5,000
Reserve Champion $3,000
1st place each category $700
2nd place each category $450
3rd place each category $300
4th place each category $200
5th place each category $125
Visit Cabelas.com for more information
Charcoal vs. gas
Grilling purists love cooking over charcoal. It takes some work to set up and heat the briquettes (and you have to deal with the used ones at the end), but charcoal gives meats and vegetables a rich, smoky taste. Though gas grills don’t contribute as much flavor, they light with the press of a button and require only brief preheating, so you can start cooking in a matter of minutes—a definite bonus when you have a crowd that’s ready to eat.
Direct heat cooking vs. Indirect heat cooking
Direct heat grilling is best for thin cuts of meat that cook quickly. It gets them nicely browned on the outside in the short time they take to get done in the middle. Indirect heat cooking is best for large cuts of meat and roasts, because you don’t want to burn the outside and dry out the meat before the center is cooked.
Maintaining a constant temperature
For charcoal grills, airflow is important to keep the coals burning. Bottom vents should be open when preheating grill. During cooking, if grill lid is closed, such as during indirect heat cooking, open top vents. We recommend long-burning charcoal briquets; if you buy the fast-burning type, you’ll need to use more charcoal to maintain an even heat throughout the cooking time.
The grill should be placed 4 to 6 inches above the coals. If your grill is closer, cooking times will be shorter.
Always keep the lid closed on a gas grill during cooking. Gas grills lose heat rapidly, so cooking times can be off if they are left open too long. Resist the temptation to turn foods often, especially if you’re cooking on a gas grill or over indirect heat. Turning just once keeps grill temperature consistent and allows for proper browning – what gives grilled foods their unique flavor.
Keep these tools on hand, for safe and easy grilling and clean-up:
-A wide spatula and long-handled tongs for turning (plus an extra pair of tongs for moving briquets, if you’re using charcoal)
-Long-handled brush for basting meats when they’re on the grill
-Heatproof brush for oiling grill
-Drip pans for catching juices and fat while cooking over indirect charcoal heat -Instant-read meat thermometer for making sure thick cuts of meat are cooked to the desired doneness
-Spray bottle full of water for dousing flare-ups when cooking over charcoal
-Stiff wire brush for cleaning grill
-Heavy aluminum foil, useful for cooking certain foods on the grill
-Heavy plastic food bags for marinating
-Wooden or metal skewers
-Grill skillet or basket for cooking small pieces of vegetables
Article submitted by:
Sunday, July 09, 2006
Since we started using this rub at the Carmel, IN KCBS sanctioned event in 2005 it's treated us very well.
Carmel, IN (2005) - 1st place brisket
Grand Rapids, MI (2005) - 7th place brisket
Madison, IN (2005) - 9th place brisket
Carmel, IN (2006) - 6th place brisket
Dundee, MI (2006) - 1st place brisket
I hope to have this listed in the shopping cart at TheBBQGuy.com soon. In the meantime, please send me an e-mail if you'd like to order some.
The event is being held October 13-14 with 50-60 teams expected. It's a State Championship, sanctioned by KCBS, and will have a $7,500 minimum purse.
Saturday, July 08, 2006
Linda and I just returned from Dundee, MI where we spent the day competing in the KCBS sanctioned bbq cook-off.
We achieved a 1st place in brisket and a respectable 10th in chicken.
Overall Contest Results:
9. North Coast Barbeque
8. All Day Smoke
7. Down Home BBQ
6. Great Lakes BBQ & Feed Company
5. Rub Me Tender
4. Motley Que Crew
3. Dr. Chuckie's BBQ
2. Extreme Roasters (Reserve Grand Champion)
1. Dizzy Pig BBQ Canada (Grand Champion)
1st place chicken: Extreme Roasters
1st place ribs: All Day Smoke
1st place pork: Extreme Roasters
1st place brisket: TheBBQGuy.com
Thursday, July 06, 2006
The folks at Cabela's did a great job hosting this event last year. Linda and I have been looking forward to it. They have plenty of room. It's on pavement. Electric is available and water is within reasonable walking distance. This year they've also added several other attractions that should make this year's event even better.
Cabela's have added some team biographies to their website at Cabelas.com and they've been kind enough to provide a short feature on TheBBQGuy.com.
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
I cooked them on medium heat to 145-146 degrees internal temperature. They were well received by our guests. We finished off the leftovers tonight for supper!
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
Monday, July 03, 2006
Informal taste tests are pretty good ways to test your bbq out prior to competition. You can use different spices, sauces, and techniques and ask for feedback. It works best though with folks that have eaten a lot of bbq though. You probably wouldn't receive the same quality of feedback from folks who are new to eating bbq, or who have only ever eaten "restaurant" bbq.
The true test is to try it out on folks from the "bbq belt" (i.e. southern U.S.) part of the country -- be that Florida, Georgia, the Carolina's, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Arkansas, Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
Saturday, July 01, 2006
At the risk of boring some of my readers, I'm going to start out with some barbecue basics in the first installment of this 31-day series of articles discussing how-to-improve-your-bbq.
Barbecue = low and slow cooking (think pulled pork, beef brisket, tender and juicy pork ribs)
Grilling = hot and fast cooking (think steaks, pork chops, hamburger and various kinds of kabobs)
Generally speaking, barbecue refers to cooking with wood over a low heat in order to bring the internal temperature of the meat being cooked up to edible temperature slowly so as to avoid losing moisture (i.e. tenderness) from large cuts of meat. For example, cooking a 14 lb beef brisket using the hot and fast method will most likely leave you with meat that is burnt on the outside and raw in the middle. Many barbecue cooks use indirect heat (i.e. fire source is offset from the cooking chamber) versus direct heat (i.e. first source is located in direct proximity to the cooking chamber) to help combat this issue. However, you can definitely cook low and slow using a direct-type cooker. You just modify your method a little bit.
Some examples of indirect-style barbecue cookers versus direct style barbecue cookers are the ever-popular "tank-style" cookers, such as those made by Ben Lang and David Kose; compared to the increasingly popular style of direct-style barbecue cookers like the Primo, Kamado and Big Green Egg, or simply BGE for short. There are many variations and options for cookers other than, these specific manufacturers. I'll be discussing various other cooker options throughout this series of articles, but let's move on for now.
For most folks, the choice of cookers is highly-dependent upon several factors including: 1) availability of wood and the cost of buying wood, versus availability of charcoal (lump or briquettes), 2) room for storing the cooker when not in use, 3) budget, 4) experience, and 5) personal preference, or some might call it "ego".
Someone living in an apartment might find it difficult to justify the purchase of a big offset cooker, not only due to a lack of wood supply, but also for a lack of inside storage space when the cooker is not being used. Offset cookers range in price from the typical $150-hardware store budget conscious variety, to the top-of-the-line pits manufacturered by Jamie Geer that can get real expensive, real fast. Typically, someone with a single-family home with a garage for storage, or a storage shed of some type, would be more likely to own an offset cooker versus someone living in an efficiency-sized apartment in the heart of a downtown metropolitan area.
The compact size of a BGE and ready availability of charcoal might suit someone living in an apartment better. Also, if portability is a consideration, the offset is less of an option, since it takes usually takes two or more people to comfortably move a small offset (without wheels), or even a vehicle to move some of the larger ones with wheels that can weigh upwards of 3,000 lbs.
Anyone can learn to cook some real fine bbq using any of the cookers mentioned above. The ever-popular "kettle" grill can turn-out some good 'que also, with some patience and understanding of proper fire control techiniques. I've eaten some excellent bbq made by cooking a whole hog using a chicken wire framed up with meatal rods and then perched on top of concrete blocks.
Some obvious advantages of using an offset smoker: 1) larger cooking area (generally speaking), 2) horizontal cooking surface and the ability to cook multiple meats at the same time, 3) bigger physical size creates a feeling of "machissimo", 4) "traditional" method keeps you highly involved in the cooking process because you have to constantly stoke the fire (some might also call this a disadvantage).
Advantages of the ceramic-type grills like the BGE, Primo, and Kamado: 1) easy to store, 2) ceramic construction holds heat very well, 3) ability to maintain higher temperatures allow use as a grill or smoker, 4) a little charcoal goes a long way, 5) with a little practice, temperature control requires very little effort/monitoring.
Which cooker you choose is really a matter of personal choice and largely a factor of one's individual personality.
If you would like to share a picture of your personal cooker, whether it's an offset or direct-style cooker, BGE, WSM, Lang, Kose, Geer, or whatever else you may have, please feel free to e-mail me and I'll post it here.
Stay tuned for the next installment.
Read the previous post in the series.
And for those that want to "roast" rather than "bbq", here's an alternative cooking box from La Caja China.
There is a popular mantra that has become a rallying cry for American business--"if you're standing still, you're falling behind." Or, stated another way, "If you're not getting better, you're getting worse." I definitely don't want my bbq to fall behind. I've worked to hard to achieve current levels and want to keep the momentum going.
In preparation for the upcoming competition season, I've decided to embark on a concentrated, focused, all-out assault on improving the consistency of my bbq. I do not profess to know everything there is to know about barbecue, but I know more now than I did when I started. I've learned a lot of things the hard way, but some experienced cooks have also shared some very beneficial insight from time-to-time that have helped to flatten out the learning curve.
I am going to attempt to use this series of posts to validate everything I've learned about competition bbq in the past 4-years and, at the same time, test out some new theories and tweak my current methods. I'll call the series: "31-days to Better BBQ".
I do not know and will never know everything there is to know about barbecue, but I'm sure that collectively, readers of this blog do. There are three ways that you can assist me in this journey, if you are willing:
1) If you see me discussing a topic or specific dilemma that you've experienced and know a better of tackling the task, by all means please share your knowledge by posting a comment on the post to allow all readers to benefit from your experience.
2) If you have documented your own set of bbq tips on your own website or bbq blog, let me know about them. I'll help spread the word.
3) If you would like to see specific types of tests and comparison's feel free to submit your suggestions and I'll test them out and share the results here in a future post.
If you have some theories that you'd like to share privately, please send me an e-mail.
Get ready, get set, Barbecue!
To read a historical perspective of commercial bbq restaurants, click here
This recipe is a variation of Ron's Gorgeous Legs that I found on the International Dutch Oven Society web site.
I cook this in a 10" Dutch Oven using charcoal for heat, but it also works well in a larger 12" Dutch Oven or a medium sized crock pot.
8 chicken drumsticks (Thighs will also work well.)
8 small to medium sized potatoes (Large potatoes should be quartered.)
1 can of chicken broth (I use the entire can.)
1 medium onion (Use two if you like a lot of onions.)
1 TBSP poultry seasoning (You may use less if desired, or omit this altogether.)
Heat the dutch oven or crock pot to a high temperature. Add a stick of butter. When butter is melted, add the chicken. In the dutch oven, brown the chicken in the butter until it begins to become crisp. In the crock pot, cook chicken for 45 minutes on high temp turning chicken occasionally. Remove chicken, add the potatoes, chicken broth, poultry seasoning. Place chicken back in the oven/crock pot on top of the potatoes. Spread the onion rings on top of the potatoes and chicken. Continue cooking until the potatoes are done. This could take varying lengths of time, but plan for at least an hour. In the dutch oven I use about 6 briquettes for top heat and 10 for bottom heat.
Potatoes should be cooked to desired tenderness (I like them a little on the mush side) and chicken should be cooked to at least 165 degrees internal temperature when checked with a meat thermometer.
Adding several more fresh briquettes to the lid for the last 15 minutes of cooking will help further darken the chicken to a golden brown color.
If you try this recipe, let me know how it turns out.
Place a few towels in the bottom of cooler first before putting your 190+ degree meat directly in the bottom of cooler. Perhaps this will help protect your cooler. I haven't been doing that and my coolers are suffering a lot of wear and tear as a result.
I first cracked a 120 gallon a few years ago and now my brand new 60 gallon is cracked too.