Saturday, December 31, 2005

Article about Bar-B-Quau Competition BBQ Team

During the past year we've had the opportunity to cook against some of the best competition cook's in the country and few are better than the team from Illinois known as Bar-B-Quau.

Here are two articles about their competition efforts:

Des Moines Register
Iowa Barbecue Society Interview

The Bar-B-Quau team earns consistent top 5 finishes at contests throughout the Midwest and Southeast.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Dutch Oven and Table

Here's a picture of one of the nice outdoor cooking presents that Santa brought me this year.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

1st Annual Noah's Fork Cast Iron Cook-off

Competitors from as far away as Michigan and Georgia traveled to Noah's Fork in northern Coffee County Tennessee the past weekend to compete in the 1st Annual Noah's Fork Cast Iron Cook-off competition in search of fabulous awards and prizes. Awards were given for various categories including cooking ability and showmanship.

Showmanship winner, a team comprised of Judy, Rick and Gus Huffines from Kennesaw, GA prepared a squirrel stew combination. The stew was served with southern-style cast iron corn bread and an upside-down pineapple cake. The Huffines team went all-out for showmanship; dressing in frontier clothing and building an authentic canvas shelter framed with Tennessee hardwood logs to earn the award.

Cooking ability winner, Brian and Linda Pearcy, from Plymouth, MI presented a pork with dressing dish to judges and walked away with the "Best Cook" trophy. The Pearcy's also prepared a soda cracker pie that was a hit with judges and spectators alike.

Both teams are already making plans to attend the event next year.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Economic Impact of Festivals and Cooking Competitions

Two festivals in Charleston, SC held in 2000 generated $43 million in economic impact to the city and surrounding area according to a study by the University of South Carolina. The newspaper in my local community ran a front page story a few months ago about why they had to squash plans to host a chili cook-off in the city where I live. Without going into the politics of it all, the basic response city representatives gave for not supporting the contest is that the event had become too large for the community and it was drawing too many people into the city.

I couldn't help but equate the growth of bbq contests popularity to the situation.The city executives said that the expense of supporting the event with law enforcement had become too expensive and they simply could not afford to support the event any longer. One thing I think that the city is forgetting, or not giving enough weight to, is the potential economic impact the event could have on the city. Last year was the ninth year for the event and it drew 20,000+ visitors to the downtown area.

The newspaper quoted officials as saying the the expense of positioning 4 police officers at the event exceeded the benefits. I am more familar with potential effects a barbecue contest has on a community than chili contests, but let me go over the potential economic impact of cook-offs in general.

Direct Impacts:

Display booth rental
Advertisement income (from event program sales)
Sponsorship income Vendor booth rental

Indirect Impact:

Grocery Stores
Gas Stations
Discount Stores

Based on some Google research, a published report studying small town festivals list the potential impact of such an event at $150,000 - $200,000 or more depending on the level of support the event receives locally in the form of volunteers who are willing to support the event and to support their local community.

Suppose that the city made some sort of arrangement that they would keep part of the proceeds from vending to offset costs and suppose the 20,000 people in attendence at the one day event each purchased a $2 bowl of chili, that's $40,000 in potential revenue.

If the city kept 20 percent or $8,000, wouldn't that more likely than not pay for the expense of having extra law enforcement on duty for the event?

In the case of my local community, I think the executive may be missing the boat on what could potentially become a long standing tradition and source of pride for the residents.

In Tennessee, near where I used to live, the City of Columbia holds an annual "Mule Day" celebration that is supported by folks from more than 38 states on an annual basis. The economic impact of the event according to published reports totals approximately $14 million. Granted, the event dates back to the 1930's and has been held consecutively since 1974, but the event demonstrates the potential for bbq cook-offs, chili cook-offs and festivals in general to generate considerable economic impact on a city and the surrounding areas.

To keep this bbq related:

According to their website, the annual Memphis in May celebration provides $30 million in economic impact to the City of Memphis and is the largest tourism event the city see's all year.

The American Royal website contains a news release stating that the economic impact to Kansas City totals $62 million and revenues from the event increased 6% and attendance increased 11%

Maybe some of this data will help organizers and civic organizations approach their local leaders and educate them on the value of community festivals and competitions to their local economy.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Great American Barbecue

I received a flyer in the mail today announcing the early bird registration for "The Great American Barbecue". Contest features a $10,000 grand prize and $6,000 reserve grand prize. Contestants who register prior to 12/31/05 will receive a $25 discount on the standard $175 entry fee. Each of the four traditional bbq meat categories--chicken, ribs, pork and brisket--pay $1,200 to the winner. Prize money like that is going to bring in a whole heap of contestants from all-across the country.

The contest is scheduled for May 25 - 27, 2006 and will be held at the Woodlands in Kansas City, KS. Besides the traditional KCBS categories, the contest will also feature dessert and side dish entries that pay $750 to the winner. The flyer also included information suggesting that organizers are working on putting together a Kid's Que and a Grilling Contest.

In addition to the entry fee securing the team cooking space, there are additional charges for electricity, ice, wristbands, commemorative pins, side dish contest entry, and an entertainment pass.

If I lived a little closer to Kansas City, I would surely send in my entry fee tomorrow.

Maybe we'll get a comparable contest in Michigan someday.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Kansas City Barbecue Society

I received my membership renewal notice from the Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS) in the mail on Friday.

If you're not already a member of the KCBS, but think you might like to become involved in barbecue competitions such as the American Royal in Kansas City, MO, the Jack Daniels World Championship in Lynchburg, TN, or any of a number of others like the Madison Ribberfest in Madison, IN or the Amazin' Blazin' Barbecue Cook-off in Lebanon, TN; the members of this barbecue society can help make you make a smooth foray into competitive cooking arena.

The KCBS website has a copy of the rules posted that apply to bbq contests sanctioned by the society, a listing of contest schedules, and many of the contest results from past contests posted.

In return for your annual membership fee you receive a KCBS sticker to display on your vehicle and a subscription the BullSheet, the official newspaper of the KCBS.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

BBQ Pork Butt

Rather than adding these pictures to the earlier post about cold weather smoking, I decided to post them separately.

When I pulled these two pork butts from the smoker this afternoon at 4 p.m., the temperature had dropped to 18 degrees outside (not including wind chill). The smoker was holding steady at 235 degrees.

I even managed to do some chores around the house too while the pork was smoking. That's another advantage to an insulated smoker, it's pretty much hands-off. You don't have to babysit it while it cooks. You can spend time doing other things while the cooker just perculates along.

It's worth noting too that, in my opinion, any cooker worth owning doesn't need a thermostat or any other electronic gizmo's to help it function. If the cooker is well-made, you don't need a gadget to make it work. You don't need downdraft, updraft, or any of those so called "minder" devices. In my smoker, you light the fire and put the meat in. It's that simple.

BBQ License Plate

If you haven't figured it out by now, I'm crazy about bbq. I posted this picture of the license plate on my 1998 Ford F-150 to confirm it.

Those that haven't eaten bbq have no idea what they're missing out on. Support your local barbecue establishment, by eating some bbq today.

To take it one step further, learn how to cook your own southern-style barbecue. It's fun, challenging, and a relatively unusual hobby. Anybody can hit a little golf ball around in nice weather. In comparison, it's a small number of people that can take a raw piece of meat, season it with spices, cook it for 7, 8, or 10 hours, slice it up and render it edible. I'm not talking about smothering it in bbq sauce either.

The best bbq doesn't need much bbq sauce. Less is more sometimes and for bbq, less sauce = better bbq most of the time. In contrast, bad bbq needs lots of sauce to make it edible.

Think of that the next time you order bbq in a restaurant and ask yourself, "Just what are they trying to hide behind all that sauce?"

BBQ in Cold Weather

Friday night:

I just finished injecting and seasoning two 6 lb. pork butts a few minutes ago.

We've accumulated close to a foot of snow at my house over the course of the last week, but I think it's time to cook some bbq.

Thankfully, my insulated cooker should have no trouble holding heat in the 20 degree temperatures we've had here lately.

Saturday morning:

Here's the first update on the progress of our first snowy cook of the season.

I got started a little later than expected because I had difficulty finding a store that still had some charcoal left for sale. I had to go to three stores before I found charcoal. GFS had penty in stock. Apparently, charcoal isn't in high demand during wintertime in Michigan. I don't remember having a difficulty finding it last year, but non of the normal discount stores or grocery stores near me had any this weekend.

I know it's hard to see the thermometer reading in the picture above. My digital camera doesn't have a macro zoom on it for close-ups like this and the digital thermometer, which would be easier to see, only registers down to 32 degrees. It was 20 degrees as I started the fire for today's cooking at 10 a.m.

I just took a quick look out the window an the cooker temperature is now up to 180 degrees. It's time to put the water pan in the cooker and almost time to put the pork butts in.

Saturday afternoon:

The butts have been cooking for 4 1/2 hours and I just returned from wrapping them in aluminum foil. The outside temperature is at 23 degrees and there is a hint of sunshine, but it's still pretty cold out. When I pulled the butts out of the cooker their internal temperature as taken on my Maverick thermo reflected 162 and 164 degrees, respectively.

They were beginning to get some good bark formation and look pretty good.

After I wrapped them and stuck the thermo back in and put them back in the cooker, the internal temps on the meat had dropped down below 140 degrees. I guess I shouldn't be too surprised though. The outside temperature is 200 degrees less than the temperature in the cooker.

I'll post more pictures later and post an update on the progress.

Three cheers for insulated bbq cookers. There's little hope of cooking low-and-slow bbq in these kind of temperatures with my WSM, although I did it once last year. Click here to see a picture. Once the insulated smoker is up to cooking temperature, it holds steady in just about any weather. I really don't think it's much different in 20 degree weather than it would be in 80 degree weather.

Just set it and forget it.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

BBQ Pork Picture

This bbq pulled pork scored well for taste and tenderness at a KCBS event, but appearance suffered due to misplaced and out-of-symmetry greenery I believe.

I've been threatening to stop using lettuce for my pork turn-ins, but haven't pulled the trigger yet.

For me, pulled pork is hard to get situated in the box because it's not all the same size and shape.

Chicken on the other hand, is much easier.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Brick BBQ Pit

I came across a link to Mother Earth News plans for a brick barbecue pit on a bbq blog called BBQ Junkie. The plans are to a block-style bbq pit circa-1985. It's kind of cool. I've always wanted to build a backyard brick pit. This article should help.

Barbecue News

I am an avid reader of the National Barbecue News.

Next month marks the start of the 17th year of the newspaper. The bbq newspaper provides coverage of bbq events from the far reaches of this country.

We've had the honor of contributing some articles that publisher, Kell Phelps, printed in the newspaper and appreciate Kell allowing us to share our experiences with others who might relate to what we have to say. Linda wrote a series of articles that described her experience as a bbq wife and I wrote an article about the Florida Barbecue Association.

If you don't subscribe to the barbecue newspaper featuring barbecue product reviews, bbq contest coverage, bbq contest results, bbq announcements, recipes, restaurant information, pictures and much, much more; you owe it to yourself to check it out.

A subscription to the Barbecue News would make a great Christmas gift, Father's Day, Mother's Day, or anytime. I am sure the barbecue enthusiast in your life will thank you for it.

Here's a news feature article that features the publishers' the Phelps family.

Sunday, December 11, 2005


I know this isn't barbecue related, but it's noteworthy nonetheless and perhaps a little therapeutic to write about it.

I arrived at the Detroit Metro Airport at 4: 30 p.m. on Thursday for my early evening flight to St. Louis. Although the forecast was calling for snow there was none in sight.

It started snowing at the airport at about 7:30 p.m. and by 9:00 p.m. it was an all-out snowstorm. The snow in Chicago delayed our plan enroute to St. Louis and our flight was repeatedly delayed until it was finally canceled--at 2 a.m.

I returned home and managed to get 3 hours sleep before returning to the airport the next morning for a 9:30 a.m. flight to St. Louis. That flight was delayed by 15 minutes, but we did finally head out for St. Louis.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

BBQ Brisket Preparation

Here's a break down of the way we've been preparing our competition briskets for the past year or so. We used to do it differently. When we switched to this method, our contest results improved.

Trim Fat (Remember the fat pocket)

Tenderize on both sides by piercing with a fork or with one of the various tenderizer utensils on the market

Spray meat with cooking spray

Sprinkle with meat tenderizer

Sprinkle with BBQ Rub

Let sit for 10-15 minutes for the rub to “settle in”

Use an oven bag, 2 gallon Ziploc, or garbage bag for storage in cooler or refrigerator for several hours

I am not a proponent of allowing meat to sit out unrefrigerated for two or three hours (or more) like I see so many other cook teams doing at various bbq contests. It is a potential health risk for the judges and others who might be eating the brisket later if the meat sits out too long. The longer it sits in the danger zone (internal meat temp higher than 40 degrees and lower than 140 degrees), the bigger the risk of spoilage.

BBQ Rub Exchange

'Tis the season for gift exchanges and what better gift than bbq?

I would like to put together a "rub exchange" for readers of the bbq blog. We can use the blog to put folks together. Just reply to this message if you would like to participate in the exchange.

Here's how it will work:

1. You "raise your hand" to participate by responding to this blog entry.

2. Send me an e-mail at or leave your e-mail in your blog response and I will cooridinate distribution of the mailing addresses for everyone participating.

3. I will contact you to get your mailing address and then share the mailing addresses of the others with you so we can all "exchange" our bbq rubs.

4. You package 2-3 cups of your rub in a Ziploc bag and mail it.

5. Feel free to share the recipe too, although it's not absolutely required.

I would like to do this every 3 or 4 months if we can put together enough participants. It's a great way to sample some great rubs and something fun to do as well.

Monday, December 05, 2005

BBQ Pork Recipe


6-7 lb pork butt
Martinelli's apple juice
barbecue spice rub
cooking spray

Cooking Instructions:

1. Inject pork butt with 5-6 oz. of apple juice.
2. Spray butt with cooking spray (it will help the spice rub adhere).
3. Sprinkle a liberal amount (i.e. gobs) of bbq rub on the outside of the butt.
4. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight in a Ziploc bag.
5. Heat the cooker to 250 degrees with a wood or charcoal fire.
6. Place the butt on the cooker and cook until internal temp reaches 165 degrees
7. Wrap in aluminum foil. A double or triple thickness is best.
8. Continue cooking until internal temp reaches 192-193 degrees.
9. Remove from smoker and allow butt to rest for an hour or two.
10. I like to wrap the butt in towels and place it in an Igloo cooler, which will hold heat.
11. Remove butt and "pull" or "chop" into bite size pieces.
12. Serve on hamburger buns with your favorite bbq sauce.

World Championship BBQ Video

Inside The World of Championship Barbecue, and BBQ Secrets: The Master Guide To Extraordinary Barbecue Cookin’—together as a set—will help you succeed in barbecue competitions, and to become a better barbecue cook.

Inside The World of Championship Barbecue takes you inside a major championship competition. Filmed at the American Royal Barbecue in Kansas City, you will gain solid tips from among the top barbecue cooks in this sport. Loaded with valuable information covering the entire (KCBS style) competition process, this movie is intended to help new competitors chart a winning course to victory.

In BBQ Secrets: The Master Guide To Extraordinary Barbecue Cookin’, 3 world champion barbecue competition cooks, and restaurateur’s, share their unique approaches to barbecue cooking. Learn how to apply the authentic “low and slow” methods to making pork ribs, shoulder, chicken, whole hog, beef brisket, and more. Master the art of making spice rubs and marinades, and how to use different woods for proper flavoring. This award-winning DVD offers a wealth of expert knowledge not readily available from other sources, and includes the champion’s own private recipes.

I have arranged a special purchase price for these two videos for visitors to my web site. To purchase the videos for a package price of $44.90 plus $7 shipping, send me an e-mail. View my BBQ Catalog

The videos make great gifts.

One little tip I learned in these videos earned me more than $1,500 in prize money last year on the bbq circuit.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

BBQ Web Site

Most who visit my blog about bbq probably know this already, but for those that don't....I'd like to invite you to check out my other bbq web site. It's got barbecue recipes, links, pictures, contest listing, etc.

I hope you enjoy it.

If you have questions about bbq, feel free to post them here, or send me an e-mail.

If you have suggestions for articles or links you'd like to see on the blog, please let me know.
Pork Pie

This week's edition of American Profile Magazine listed a recipe for Tourtiere Pork Pie. The main ingredient features 3 lbs of ground pork.

I tried my grandmothers' minced meat pie once as a young boy and recall that I didn't really like much. The idea of pie containing meat instead of the traditional apples, cherries, peaches, black berries, raspberries, etc. intrigues me, but probably not enough to give it a try.

I think I'll stick to traditional pie for now, but I'll confess that if I do decide to try a "meat pie", I might try this one out of shear curiosity.

Has anyone that reads this blog had a piece of Tourtiere Pork Pie?

I'm interested to know what you thought?
Fantasy Barbecue Team

I've been playing a fantasy football league via CBS Sportsline for four seasons and really enjoy it a lot. I won the league championship the first year in the league, but with fantasy team members Hines Ward, Peyton Manning, Peerless Price, and Marvin Harrision; I couldn't lose.

For most of that first season these four players as a group garnered more points than any other combination of players in the NFL. Of course, I'd like to say that I ended up with them on my team as a result of many hours of analysis, study and calculation, but in the end I have to admit that I picked Peyton Manning because he was my favorite player when he was in college at the University of Tennessee and Peerless Price was his favorite receiver during those years, but the others were just purely lucky selections. With the exception of Price, these players have consistently been some of the best performers in fantasy football for the past four years.

Likewise to win a competitive barbecue contest, luck does play a part at times. (1) The judges that end up judging your barbecue are completely out of your control as a barbecue cook. (2) The weather for the weekend, which will have a profound effect on your cooking times and ability to gain consistent performance from your barbecue smoker, is out of your control. (3) For the most part, the meat that you select from your meat supplier is purely happenstance. Sure, you can purchase your meat from a particular supplier and purchase a particular cut of meat or a cut prepared by a certain packing house, but you have no control over the particular cattle, pigs, or chicken that produced your barbecue entries and you certainly have no control over the guy in the slaughterhouse that processed it.

Don't get me wrong....I'm not saying that the top barbecue teams that consistently rise to the top at nearly every contest they enter do so because they are lucky. I submit to you that exactly the opposite is true. Barbecue cook teams like Bar B Quau, Lotta Bull, Smokin Triggers, Boys from Tornado Alley and Parrothead Smokers win a lot because they are able to take all the aspects where luck of the draw does come into play and consistently overcome them better than other cook teams.

If there was a fantasy barbecue league, those guys would certainly be at the top of my list come draft day.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

It's cold here today and the weather forecaster are predicting three inches of snow by morning.

For those that are suffering through the cold weather with us, here are some warm weather pictures from the Winchester bbq contest last April. The picture on the above bottom is my mother-in-law, Sylvia Stepp of Beech Grove, TN and Petti Groth, from Cookeville, TN, working on cleaning the chicken thighs just before marinating.

The big picture above top is "The BBQ Guy's Wife", Linda enjoying springtime with her friend Petti.

It's a long, long way from short sleeves here in Michigan tonight.