Saturday, January 28, 2006

Pork Rub with Chipotle Spice (smoked jalapeno)

Tonight I injected two pork butts with an apple juice/honey mixture and seasoned with rub to marinate overnight for smoking tomorrow.

I'm going to cook one using the standard salt, sugar, pepper, garlic, onion, cummin mixture. I added a teaspoon of chipotle spice (smoked jalapeno) to the rub for the other one. I bought the chipotle a few months ago and have experimented with it off and on. If you ever try it, go easy on it because it's pretty hot.

For comparison, in case you're not familar with chipotle, it's hotter than white pepper, but not quite as hot as cayenne. It also has a smokey flavor that is unlike any other pepper I've ever tasted. I think it would be pretty easy to overdue it.

Smoked Jalapeno

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Barbecue Music

It's no surprise to me that barbecue has been the topic of several popular songs over the years. Most recently my favorite is by Charlie Daniels, "Little Joe and Big Bill", a song about a Texas dance hall and barbecue emporium. I don't know whether the place really exists, but if it does it sounds like just the place I would enjoy going. The song was never a mainstream hit, but it's been a big hit with diehard fans of the Red Neck Fiddlin' Man.

"Little Joe and Big Bill"

They got a dance floor the size of Texas
They got a band seven nights a week
And if you don't show up before the sun goes down
You ain't gonna find a seat

They got some grown up Texas ladies
That's made their papas proud
They like their music country
And they like their country loud

Well, every Saturday night before they turn down the lights
And the band stars pickin' hot
They start dancin' on the tables
Dancin' on the ceilin', dancin' in the parking lot

You start fellin' it flow from your head to your toe
And you sure are glad you come
Down to Little Joe and Big Bill'sDance hall and sugar hill bar-b-q emporium

When it comes to southern cookin'
They know what it's all about
They got some bar-b-q ribs and red beans and rice
Make you tongue snap your eyeballs out

And you don't wanna 'cause no trouble
Buddy 'less you're willin' to die'
Cause Big Bill will stomp a mud hole in you
And Little Joe will walk you dry

Well there's a cowboy's dream in tight blue jeans
Swingin' through the swingin' doors
And there's a long tall cutie scootin booty
Out there on the floor

Well I guess it's time to get in line'
Cause they house is startin' to hum

Down at Little Joe and Big Bill's Dance hall and sugar hill bar-b-q emporium

Well every Saturday night when they turn up the lights
When it's just about time to close
The fiddlin' man takes the bow in his hand
And start rockin' San Antonia Rose

When you're walkin' out
There ain't no doubt that you sure had a whole lot of fun
Down at Little Joe and Big Bill'sDance hall and sugar hill bar-b-q emporium
Down to Little Joe and Big Bill'sDance hall and sugar hill bar-b-q emporium

I attended a concert this past summer in Dearborn, MI and was awed by the talent and longeivity of the man. Ever the entertainer, Charlie Daniels gave the audience all they wanted and more.

Here are a few other songs about barbecue that I could find via a quick internet search:

"Riffin' At The Bar-B-Q"
"Struttin' with some barbeque"
"I Love Bar-B-Q"
"Barbequed Ribs"
"Bar-B-Q Sauce"
"Barbecue Any Old Time"
"Neck Bones & Hot Sauce"
"Beale Street Bar-B-Q"

I'm on a mission to add these songs about my favorite past time to my CD collection. If you know of other "barbecue" songs and want to share them, please post a reply.

Purchase BBQ Music

Iron Chef America

One of my favorite television shows lately has been the American Iron Chef Series on Food Network.

It's not entirely my favorite style of cooking and includes a lot of "grilling" versus "low and slow" cooking, but it's amazing what these chef's are able to accomplish in an hour in front of an audience. If you haven't seen the show, you will surely want to check it out.

Meet the Iron Chef's

Cat Cora

Bobby Flay

Masaharu Morimoto

Mario Batali

Schedule of upcoming American Iron Chef broadcasts:

Feb 5 Flay vs. Michelle Bernstein
Feb 19 Batali vs. Tamara Murphy
Feb 26 New Orleans Chef Battle

My favorite is Cat Cora. She is able to weave a little down-home into just about every dish she makes on the show. Her unique culinary background includes dishes that range from authentic Southern-American, to what I call "fu-fu" French, to Greek-Mediterranean. And the best thing...she usually manages to include all of these influences at the same time create some unique concoctions. She recently made a "bacon flavored ice cream" on the show.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association (HPBA)

I came across some information today from the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association (HPBA) that illustrates the popularity of grilling and barbecueing. The HPBA is preparing for their annual conference scheduled for March 8 - 11 in Salt Lake City.

  • Based on a representative sample of more than 8,000, the report revealed that over 60 percent of Americans are grilling year-round and nearly half grill during winter months.
  • Grill ownership increased 10 percent from 2003, with eight out of ten households now owning an outdoor barbecue grill or smoker.
  • More than 35 percent of women are now taking the tongs for gas grilling, up six percent from 2003. And 42 percent of women are using electric grills, inching closer to men at 55 percent. However, men and women are on equal footing in the decision of when to grill, at 47 percent each.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Dr. BBQ's Big-Time Barbecue Cookbook

I recently purchased Dr. BBQs Big Time Barbecue Cookbook. If you are looking a nice book about barbecue, I would recommend you check it out.

The book contains a lot of common sense barbecue information that enthusiasts and those new to low and slow cooking can use to improve their barbecue ability.

There are tons of recipes and a lot of nice stories and other tid bits to keep your interest. Mr. Lampe's results on the professional barbecue circuit speak for themselves.

Popular Cooking Books

John Willingham's World Champion Bar-B-q : Over 150 Recipes And Tall Tales

I received John Willingham's book as a gift and have read it cover to cover. It's packed full of bbq secrets from the greatest bbq contest cook to ever put on an apron.

Willingham details basic cooking methods including what wood to use and what wood not to use, temperatures to cook at, and he provides his personal recipes. I especially like the rib recipe and his recipe for pork shoulder.

These recipes can be used as written, or you can tweak them slightly to suit your personal taste. The recipes alone would be worth the price of the book.

Purchase BBQ Books

Monday, January 23, 2006

Dr. Pepper BBQ Sauce

I found this recipe on The Cooking Blog. I haven't tried it yet, but I've seen different variations of this barbecue sauce recipe in the last few years.

If you try it out, let me know what you think.

BBQ spices

Sunday, January 22, 2006

BBQ Restaurant Consultant

I was looking through some old papers today and came across some notes I had taken in 2002 while talking to a restaurant consultant from Texas who claimed to have been in the bbq business for the past 10-years.

As I recall it, the gentleman and his wife opened a 30-seat restaurant in a portable building in a town of 7,000 people. He explained that he had an electric smoker that used wood chips for smoke generation/flavor, a couple of steam tables and a soda fountain. The business was basically a two person operation with a drive-thru window and consisted largely of carry-out orders from working families on their way home from work in a larger community nearby.

He said that the bbq restaurant generated gross revenues of $100,000+ per year and a 70% profit margin. I am guessing that he owned the land previously or at least wasn't paying much rent for the land, although he did not clarify that point.

As a part of his services, he would offer bbq consulting in starting a restaurant for anyone willing to enter into a consulting agreement with him in return for $25,000. The $25,000 purchased three weeks of on-site start-up consulting and 12-months of telephone consultation.

I did not take him up on the offer, but I often wished I lived a little closer to Texas so that I could visit his restaurant and check it out. It sounds like a barbecuer's "dream" situation.

The cynic in me though, wonders if this story is true or not. Funny thing...I wasn't willing to risk $25,000 to find out.

Barbecue Capital of Texas

The January 22-28 edition of American Profile's Midwest Edition featured a story about Lockhart, TX ( population 12,601) and it's four bbq restaurants. The barbecue tradition is so strong in Lockhart that the State Legislature declared the town "The Barbecue Capital of Texas" in 1999.

Malden in May BBQ Contest

The Kansas City Barbecue Society recently added a new sanctioned cookoff to its' bbq calendar for 2006.

The 2nd annual Malden in May BBQ contest is scheduled for May 12-13. A judging class will be held on March 4 in preparation for the event.

Information about the judging class can be found at the Malden Chamber of Commerce or by contacting Dottie Phelps.

Rules for the barbecue contest are available at the KCBS website. A listing for other KCBS contests is also available.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

BBQ Safety

According to this article published in the Slidell Sentry-News, a Louisiana man was badly burned when trying to light his barbecue pit.

The article servers as a reminder to everyone that participates in the barbecue hobby whether using a charcoal barbeque grill, a charcoal bbq smoker, or a gas powered grills and smokers; safety is always a concern.

Barbecue Safety Tips:

  • Avoid using lighter fluid to light your fires. Use a charcoal chimney and fire starter sticks instead.
  • Don't wear baggy or loose fitting clothing that might catch on fire while cooking.
  • Don't stand too close to the flames.
  • If you have long hair, be careful not to get it too close to the fire.
  • If using propane powered grills and smokers--check the connections to the tank before igniting.
  • Never use gasoline, kerosene, or diesel fuel to ignite charcoal or wood for cooking.
  • Don't set your cookers, smokers, or grills too close to the house. It just might set your house on fire.

South Carolina Barbeque Association

The Garden City Barbecue Cookoff sanctioned by the South Carolina Barbecue Association is scheduled for Friday, January 27 and Saturday, January 28 in Orangeburg, SC. According to an article by the Orangeburg Time Democrat, the contest already had more than 20 teams signed up.

The South Carolina Barbeque Assocation via their web site or by mail at SCBA P O Box 5841 Columbia, S.C. 29250.

The barbecue sanctioning body publishes a Calendar of Events on their web site with more than 15 barbecue contests currently scheduled for 2006.

Event more information about South Carolina barbecue is available at Carolina Q Cup, a web site detailing an annual barbecue event held at the South Carolina State Farmer's Market in Columbia, S.C. in October. Contest rules are also available on the web site.

How to Build a Whole Hog Cooker

The link above to "How to Build a Hog Roaster" is from Mother Earth Issue # 69 - May/June 1981.

Suggestion: Rather than using a fuel tank, propane tank, oil tank, or any other kind of tank that contained hazardous materials, you should consider using an air compressor tank. They come in various sizes and offer an alternative source for tanks of the 250-300 gallong variety.

Pork Ribs

(The picture of my neice, Savannah; father-in-law, Doyle; and their prize winning hog, was taken shortly after Savannah earned Reserve Grand Champion honors at the Tennessee State Championship 4-H Market Hog Show in 2005).

To many people, bbq pork ribs are the Holy Grail of bbq. The National Pork Board provides an interesting perspective to the pork production industry

Baby back, loin back, St. Louis cut, spare rib, rib tips, and country-style ribs are some of the various classifications of pork ribs.

Ribs are measured in the following terms:

  • 4 1/2 and down....refers to a slab of ribs weighing 4 1/2 lbs. and less (generally an older hog)
  • 3 1/2 and down....refers to a slab of ribs weighing 3 1/2 lbs. and less (generally a younger hog)
  • 2 1/2 and down....refers to a slab of ribs weighing 2 1/2 lbs. and less
  • Slab....generally refers to 12-13 individual bones depending on the butcher
The Rib Man discusses ribs in detail on his web site and provides a graphical depiction of various ribs and the areas of the hog producing the particular types of ribs.

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Thrill of the Grill and The Agony of De-Meat

A friend of mine asked me today about why I go to "all that trouble" to cook bbq. Besides the obvious reason--bbq tastes good--it's also a pursuit that offers me a lot of personal satisfaction.

I'm reminded of the opening sequence to ABC's Wide World of Sports that I watched every Saturday afternoon from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. as a kid where the skier is flying down the snow covered ramp and then, just before leaving the end of the ramp, loses his balance and tumbles off the side of the ramp and into the spectators. I was a sports nut and where we lived we could only access the network channels close enough to be picked up on the antenna, so it was something I looked forward to all week.

Similarly, after a stressful week of working my day job, weekends spent barbecuing are relaxing. I look forward to it all week long. Whether it's cooking bbq in the backyard or competing in a sanctioned bbq contest all weekend, it's all good.

Learning to cook barbecue is a challenging pursuit that takes some effort. You have to be able to regulate the cooker temperature, choose right bbq spice rub, bbq sauce, wood for smoke flavor, charcoal, marinades, etc.

When it's done right, there's few things more fulfilling to eat for lunch or supper than a bbq pork sandwich sauced with just the right amount of sweet bbq sauce. Some people go fishing, some do wood working, some play golf--I cook barbecue.

Likewise, it's dissapointing when the cooking process doesn't turn out as expected. The agony is short lived though, because there's always next weekend.

Most of the time the worst cooked bbq is better than the best hamburger anyway.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

BBQ Sponsor

There was a nice article in the KCBS Bullsheet a few months ago about the importance of securing sponsorship for competitive bbq efforts. I you have a copy of the Bullsheet, be sure and check it out. Another idea that goes along with sponsorship is developing cooperative marketing efforts with businesses or other bbq teams that market similar products to yours as a 'value added' marketing opportunity.

Understandably if you market a bbq sauce or a bbq spice rub, it might not make much sense to team up with someone that is also marketing bbq sauce and bbq spice rubs, but what if you approached someone marketing bbq grills, or bbq smokers?

Do you think there are people marketing smokers and grills that would feel that having a bbq sauce or spice rub to offer their customers is a value added opportunity? From another perspective, do you think those marketing smokers and grills might find it valuable to approach others marketing bbq sauces or spice rubs? They might find that the bbq sauce and spice rub marketers are eager to cooperate.

For those that promote bbq web sites, it's kind of like exchanging links. A cooperative effort helps get both products seen by more people and, over a longer period of time, it should benefit both sides.

I am thinking out of the box at this point, and may be way off base, but what about a bbq sanctioning body teaming up with a chili sanctioning association? Do you think both organizations have some common goals? I can think of several non-barbecue examples right off the top of my head and so can you if you give it some consideration. When someone like Toby Keith 'endorses' or becomes a spokesperson for Ford Trucks, do you think it helps his record sales?

Now if I can just get Harley Davidson interested in my bbq spice rub (LOL).

BBQ Cooperative

My wife Linda and I compete in barbecue contests sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society and Florida Barbecue Association.

To assist with funding our competitive cooking efforts, we also market our own original recipe barbecue rub at cook-offs and via our web site about competitive barbecue at

If you or someone you know also markets a barbecue product and you would like to form a cooperative effort to help both of us potentially increase sales, please contact me at to discuss it further.

To explain a little more about what I have in mind....For example, if you have a barbecue sauce (or other barbecue product) to sell and would like to 'trade' me for an equal dollar amount of my original spice rub, I believe we could mutually benefit from this type of arrangement. Companies like Home Depot, Eddie Bauer, Wrangler, and Wal-Mart have proven that "cooperation" of this type is mutually beneficial and have been doing it for years.

Again, if you have a barbecure or other product that might fit this mold, please contact me.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Sammi Smith - Country Music Star, Dead at 61

I have been a fan of country music my entire life. As a young boy I remember one of the biggest things we did each summer was attend the Missouri State Fair and remember seeing concerts by Charley Pride, Ronnie Milsap, Tom T. Hall, Barbara Mandrell, The Statler Brothers and others. I remember seeing Billy Walker at the Moniteau County Fair and listening to country music radio stations a lot. The radio was always on around our house, in the car, in the truck, and even in the garage. I spent hours listening and singing along and trying to memorize the lyrics to my favorites.

I remember listening to 78 rpm recordings of Ernest Tubb and Johnny Cash at my grandmother’s house and remember that I always wanted to learn to play guitar, so I could be on the radio some day. I even went so far as to write a story about how Johnny Cash was going to come to my house, pick me up in his tour bus, and take me to Nashville with him, so that I too could be a big star and be on the radio. I was envious of the rhinestone suits, cowboy boots and cowboy hats worn by the stars of the era.

I watched the country music awards on television and tuned in to Lee Mace’s Ozark Opry and The Porter Wagoner Show every chance I got on Saturday afternoons.

I don’t recall ever hearing Sammi Smith on the radio during this time period, but she must have been on the radio a lot. I never really knew her music until discovering it several months ago while listening to the Roadhouse channel on Sirius Satellite radio, which I can pick-up on DishNetwork. After hearing her sing for the first time, I wondered why I was just discovering her. How had I missed her music?

One Saturday afternoon, I researched her career, her music, and read everything I could find on the Internet about her, which wasn’t much. I’ve told many people about her music and urged them to listen to her recordings. They’re so different from anything you’ll hear on the radio today, but very familiar at the same time. I received a Greatest Hits CD as a gift recently and listen to it a lot.

Gretchen Wilson and Martina McBride have both recorded tributes to her songs and Waylon Jennings had a hit with one she wrote for him. In all, Sammi Smith had 37 hits on the charts during her career and none were bigger than the Kris Kristofferson penned hit titled “Help Me Make It Through The Night”, which earned her a Grammy Award and CMA award in 1971. She also recorded “City of New Orleans”, “Today I Started Loving You Again”, “Long Black Veil”, “You Walk In” and “My Window Faces the South”, which are some of my favorites.

I sat down today to do some more searches on the Internet hoping to find out more about Sammi Smith. I was shocked to learn that she had passed away this past weekend after battling a long illness.

If you’re a country music fan like I am, you owe it to yourself to find out about Sammi Smith and listen to her recordings. I believe her music and her career are underrated. From my perspective, her contribution to the country music genre is under appreciated by us all.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Propane Powered Cookers and Steamers

If you're a caterer, restaurant, or serious back-yard cook and you're looking for a propane powered cooker or steamer that's easy to use, transport, and maintain, you need to check out Outdoor Culinary Supply.

Various cooker models include the Behemoth, Bare Bones, and Patio. The company also offeres two kinds of steamers: Steamer and Mini-Steamer.

  • One dedicated 40“ burner – 46,000 BTU’s
  • Double side “warming” burner with individual temperature controls
  • Professional grade stainless steel grill – 42” by 48” cooking surface
  • All aluminum, I-beam constructed trailer
  • Aluminum hood includes hydraulic lift springs for easy opening/ lifting
  • Easy to read 5” diameter thermometer dial
  • Two propane cylinder racks
  • 13” tires with galvanized rims
  • Aluminum storage box on side

Bare Bones

Different modifications were made to the original Behemoth, creating a streamlined model featuring a shorter trailer, smaller tires and fewer overall accessories. This “Bare Bones” model still features the same cooking surface and burning element as the Behemoth.


Made of the same quality materials as the Behemoth and Bare Bones cookers. Dimensions: 26” Wide, 54” Long, 42” High and Grilling Surface: 28” x 19”

BBQ Tow Vehicle

Here's a picture of the Ford F-150 Harley Davidson Edition pick-up and accompanying Fat Boy on display at the NAIS auto show.

When I started competing in bbq contests three years ago, I took a very budget minded approach. We hauled our bbq supplies to contest in my 1998 Ford F-150 short bed pick-up, and sometimes there was barely enough room for the driver and passenger.

I've been driving an F-150 for eight years now and recommend it highly, if you're in the market for a pick-up.

We have an enclosed trailer that we tow to contests behind our Ford Explorer, but I'm still a huge fan of the F-150. It's the ultimate bbq tow vehicle in my opinion. With a towing capacity up to 9,900 lbs, and 300 hp, the 5.4L Triton V-8 will get you there on time and in style.

Our last vehicle purchase, the Explorer XLT Sport, replaced Linda's 11-year old SUV, so in three more years it's my turn again. The F-150 remains my first choice.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Quote Worthy Thought of the Day

I'm not sure of the publication where this quotation first appeared, but ran across it again today. It kind of sums up bbq contestants in a nutshell.

"It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

Theodore Roosevelt

Venison Chili or BBQ Chili

If you're looking for a new recipe to use in conjunction with leftover bbq, you might want to try this one for venison chili:

1 large minced white onion
4 tsp minced garlic
3 lbs venison (substitute bbq pork or beef brisket)
3 cans (15 oz) tomato sauce
12 oz of water
1 can beef broth
4 tbsp chili powder
4 tsp ground cummin
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp Worchestershire sauce
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground red pepper
1 tsp ground chipotle powder (omit or cut back to 1/2 tsp if you don't like heat)

Grill venison shoulder and slice into 1/4 - 1/2 inch cube pieces, or use some left over brisket or bbq pork butt. Saute in sauce pan with garlic onion and a little olive oil. Mix in remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chili reaches the desired consistency.

(I got this recipe from a co-worker.)

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Backwoods Smokers

I have been cooking with a Backwoods Smoker (the black smoker on the right in the picture) for three years now and am often asked for opinions about them. I received an e-mail today asking for insight about them and thought I'd also post my response with hopes others will find it useful.

I have the Party model without any of the optional upgrades. I have the standard door, magnet latch, charcoal pan, and removeable exhaust outlet that attaches with magnets. The standard Party model is fine, but it's not the ideal way to go. At a minimum, I would get the upgraded door and latch with the upgraded charcoal pan/grate (similar to the Competitor model). If the Party model is your "dream" smoker and you don't think you'll outgrow it for the forseeable future, I would suggest all of the upgrades offered by Backwoods.

The Fat Boy model incorporates most all of the desireable upgrades (commercial door latch, charcoal pan, door seal and offers a little more room than the standard Party.

If portability and price are not a concern, the Competitor is a nice alternative that offers the space and upgrades. However, the Competitor is too heavy for one person to move around and is awful heavy for two people to move around very much. If it's being mounted in a trailer or will not need to be portable, and your budget can stand it, by all means I recommend the Competitor. I wish I had purchased the Competitor instead of the Party, but the Backwoods dealer near me at the time did not have the Competitor in stock and the Fat Boy was not available from the manufacturer.

One thing to consider is that once you make all the desireable upgrades to the Party, you could very nearly purchase a Fat Boy for a comparable price.

If you are thinking of doing more than a few bbq contests a year, you may want to consider getting two Party's or a Party and a Fat Boy. The Party alone isn't quite big enough to cook the quantities of meats needed for serious competing at bbq contests.

I competed for two years with a Party model and a Weber Smokey Mountain and did quite well. I cooked brisket in the WSM and everything else in the Party.

Hopefully my experiences with the Backwoods Party will help answer some of your own concerns if you consider purchasing one.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Smokey Bones or Famous Dave's

I've heard some recent debate about the pro's and con's of Famous Dave's versus Smokey Bones for barbecue.

I definitely have some biased opinions based on my own experiences, but first I want to share a little history of both restaurant operations.

Smokey Bones is part of the Darden Restaurants (DRI) chain that also operates hundreds of Red Lobster, Olive Garden, and Bahama Breeze concepts in locations across the country. Smokey Bone's locations are primarily in the eastern United States. The company's common stock price has risen from the $28 range in January 2005 to a current price near $40 in January 2006.

Famous Dave's is a part of Famous Dave's of America chain of restaurants with locations that started in Wisconsin and expanded into most of the 48 contiguous states. In 1994 the chain was started by Dave Anderson, a popular humanitarian and businessman, in pursuite of a life-long passion. The company's common stock price traded in a very narrow range throughout 2005, starting in the $11 range in January 2005, reaching a high near $14 and then falling back into the $11 range near the end of 2005.

It's difficult to compare the two companies directly because Famous Dave's operates primarily bbq restaurants will Smokey Bones is part of a larger company that also includes non-barbecue restaurants.

In my opinion, a recommendation for choosing which restaurant to go eat at varies according to your personality and your "mood" at the time.

If you want to go have a beer or two and watch a football game, then I'd go to Smokey Bones. They have more of a sports bar atmosphere and have a lot of televisions.

If you want to go eat at a neat restaurant that has a lot of reproduction signs and simulated old looking stuff hanging on the walls and plays some pretty good blues music in the background, then I'd recommend Famous Dave's. The restaurant I've visited had more of a road house atmosphere, contrasted distinctively compared to Smokey Bones.

If you want to eat bbq the way you like it, tender, juicy with the just the right amount of sauce and rub, then I'd recommend you fire up your smoker and cook your own.

As bbq restaurants go, either one is acceptable, but nothing can replace "homemade".

Friday, January 06, 2006

Restaurant Review

Box Bar & Grill
777 West Ann Arbor Trail
Plymouth, MI 48170
(734) 459-7390

Linda and I decided to head on over to the Box Bar & Grill in downtown Plymouth tonight. We generally go out to eat at least once during the week and after several days of playing catch-up at work following the holiday break we looked forward to a nice stress free dinner.

We've eaten at the Box Bar & Grill several times during the past year, but up until now I've never really considered eating bbq there, but tonight I decided to try out the beef brisket entree with a side order of baked beans and something they affectionately call Bubble and Squeak comprised of a mixture of sauerkraut, bacon bits and bite sized potatoes.

The restaurant is decorated with a festive arrangement of beer signage and mirrors in honor of the 650 different varieties of beer (give or take a few) listed on the menu. They serve 41 verieties of draft beer and an assortment of other beers from around the world including beers from all over the U.S., Germany, Romania, Slovakia, Thailand, Holland and England. I did not order one, but an English beer called "Fiddler's Elbow" caught my eye as I glanced through the list. I'm not a big beer drinker, but it's the most extensive list and variety of beer I've ever seen.

The restaurant was busy with Friday night diners, but the waitress seated us within a minute of our arrival. We were seated in a booth near the rear of the restaurant in one of the side alcove's adjacent to the main dining room. From our location we couldn't view the big screen or any of the smaller televisions, but we were there to eat anyway. When we watch television, we usually prefer our own sofa anyway.

The food menu lists four bbq dishes including a southern pork sandwhich, a brisket sandwich, and entrees for bbq pork and bbq brisket. The menu said the brisket is slow smoked for 16 hours and mentioned that they use hickory smoke, if I remember correctly. I didn't try the pork, but if it's anything like the brisket, I'm kind of glad.

The brisket was served in wide slices (greater than pencil width), sliced perpendicular to the grain and lightly sauced. I searched and searched for signs of a bbq rub, but didn't find any. The brisket was also absent of a discernable smoke ring or bark of any kind. It was not tender enough to cut it with the edge of my fork, but did tend to flake apart if "mashed" with the fork. The thin layer of fat through the middle of the brisket slice might have made cutting it more challenging, but I definitely expected a brisket "cooked for 16 hours" to be more tender.

Most of the brisket I cook at home (10-13 lbs Certified Angus Brisket trimmed and cooked whole) do not take anywhere near 16 hours to cook thoroughly and usually come out very tender. Pehaps the brisket was over cooked. It definitely wasn't over smoked because I didn't taste any detectable smoke flavor whatsoever. The two slices I had, were "dry" and lacking "moisture".

In our next visit to the Box Bar & Grill we'll stick to the usuals: steak, salad, hamburger, etc. and leave the bbq to other folks.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Florida Barbecue Association

I recently renewed my membership to the Florida Barbecue Association, the predominant promoter of sanctioned bbq contests in the State of Florida.

If you live in Florida, or even if you don't, you need to check out the benefits of membership. Members of the Association also receive a subscription to the National Barbecue News.

The website provides details of bbq contests scheduled for 2006 in Florida, Georgia and Alabama. The site also includes contact information and some web site links to official contest websites. For some of the contests you can print the entry forms and mail them in and for others you have to call or e-mail the organizers, but the contact information is available for those that are interested.

There is even a link to the "official bbq rules" that govern sanctioned FBA events.

Monday, January 02, 2006

New Year's BBQ Resolutions

I've never been one to make a lot of formal New Year's Resolutions that I may or may not be able to keep, but I'm a big believer in goal setting.

BBQ Goals for 2006 Competition Season:

1. Learn to cook chicken thighs with "bite through" skin
2. Become more consistent in preparing KCBS turn-in boxes
3. Compete in more competitions
4. Compete in at least four KCBS events that are State Championships
5. Keep better barbecue records of recipres and results
6. Practice more
7. Expand our bbq business by adding new spice rub and bbq sauce products

I'll update our progress toward these goals periodically throughout the year.