Sunday, September 30, 2007

Shane's Rib Shack

Linda and I had lunch at Shane's Rib Shack yesterday. We ordered the large sampler platter, which included a 1/3 rack of ribs, about a 1/2 pound of chopped pork, and 6 fried chicken fingers. The large platter also comes with a choice of two side orders. We chose the fried okra and baked beans for our lunch.

Before I describe our impressions of the meal, I'd like to give you some background on Shane's. According to the website, Shane is a real person that used to have a corporate job. He took an old family recipe for bbq sauce and created a chain of bbq restaurants that is spreading it's influence across the country.

Getting back to our lunch was dissapointing.

The bbq sauce was good, but the ribs weren't much more than luke warm. They were charred with some type of black substance that reminded me of steaks that I used to cook on the grill when I was about 13 years old. The ribs were on the dry side and absent of any smoke flavor or smoke ring. The chopped pork wasn't warm at all--actually c0ld--but it did have a nice hint of vinegar flavor. The chicken fingers don't belong on the menu at a bbq restaurant, but I realize that kids like chicken so that probably explains why they are included on the "bbq sampler" platter. When I was a kid, I'd have rather eaten bbq, but I realize most kids like chicken tenders. The fried okra and baked beans were the best part of our lunch. I recommend the fried okra. It wasn't as good as home cooked, but it was close.

I realize that my experience is based upon one single restaurant on one single day, so I'll probably give them another chance sometime, but our lunch experience yesterday was a huge dissapointment.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Famous Dave's Barbecue

CNBC's The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch featured Dave Anderson, founder of Famous Dave's, on tonight's program. His company has expanded from one restaurant in a town of 1,800 people and today it's expanded across the country and reported sales of $400,000 million last year.

The decor reminds me a lot of Logan's Road House and even Cracker Barrel in certain aspects, but it's hard to argue with Mr. Anderson's success in the bbq world.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

BBQ Smoker Surprise

A man purchased a second hand bbq smoker and found a human leg inside. This article explains the details regarding the unusual discovery.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Backwoods Smoker

I spent some time visiting the Backwoods Smoker website today.

The Backwoods Smoker "Party" was my first real smoker. I paid $700 for it five-years ago. They've added some newer models in the last few years including the Jr. Pro, Piglet, Chubby and Fat Boy. The Party has been reformulated to include the previously optional upgraded stainless steel door and upgraded charcoal grate as standard options.

The web site has been redesigned too and now includes an owners gallery.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Virginia Barbecue, in Florida?

While riding my motorcycle near Ellenton, FL this afternoon I drove by Hickory Hollow BBQ on Highway 301 and couldn't help but notice the description on the sign proclaiming something about serving authentic Virgina barbecue. I'm not familar with exactly what makes bbq in Virginia different than bbq in other states, but I couldn't wait to get home and "google it" to see if I could figure it out.

A search for Virginia BBQ returned information about a Virginia bbq restaurant franchise opportunity. For a $20,000 franchise fee they will sell you a franchise for their bbq concept. The Washington Post wrote an article about one of the first franchisees recently.

I found web sites about authentic Virginia hams from the Edwards family and a link to Alicia's Recipes, which has a recipe specifically for West Virginia barbeque. I've got to tell you that if Virginia bbq is like the western variety talked about at Alicia's, I'm not sure I want any because Alicia likes to cover her bbq meat with water, bring it to a boil, and simmer it until tender. Par boiling isn't my idea of authentic anything.

I also discovered the online home for the Silver Pig Barbeque, which has an interesting logo on their web page that reminds me of life on the family pig farm dating back about 25 years.

I tried and tried, but apparently Google hasn't discovered authentic Virginia barbecue yet, because after 30 minutes of searching, I did not find the essence of what makes Virginia so much different than Florida bar-be-que.

I think the folks at Hickory Hollow Barbecue need to review their marketing techniques. I wonder how many others like me don't really know Virginia bbq from any other 'ole bbq sold on the side of the road. Other than the owner being from Virginia, I haven't the slightest idea what it really means.

Can you help a BBQ guy out, and help me understand?

Barbecue Charcoal Trivia

Henry Ford invented charcoal briquettes as a by-product of the automobile manufacturing process. Ford created the briquette from wood scraps and sawdust at his car factory. E.G. Kingsford bought the invention and put the charcoal briquette into commercial production.

Henry Ford is also credited as the inventor of the automotive assembly line as we know it today.

If you ever visit Detroit, MI, take the time to visit the Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI. You'll be glad you made the trip.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Stuffed BBQ Pork Loin

I cooked a stuffed pork loin today based on the Pork Loin Mexicana recipe printed in the Smoke & Spice book by Cheryl and Bill Jamison.
I started with a 3 lb. pork loin. Then I added a sweet spice rub and stuffed the loin with chorizo sausage.
I cooked the pork loin on the Weber Smokey Mountain for 2 hours at 225 degrees and mopped with the Mexican Mop at 30 minute intervals.
At that point I wrapped the pork loin in aluminum foil and let the cooker temperature rise to 300 degrees. I added the fruit salsa topping and cooked the loin for another 45 minutes to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
If you're looking for new way to cook your next pork loin, try the Pork Loin Mexicana recipe.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Why I compete in barbecue contests

There have been some discussions this week on some of the bbq forum message boards about the primary reasons why competitors participate in sanctioned bbq contests. Answers to that question have ranged from learning to cook better, spending time with family and friends, for business opportunities, and to earn prize money. After considering these discussions for a couple of days I have reached some conclusions of my own.

1) Learning to cook better: My quest to learn how to cook southern style barbecue started on the internet almost 7-years ago after a visit to Smokey Hale's website. I used my kettle grill, Kingsford charcoal briquettes, and an aluminum pie pan filled with water to cook some pretty good pork roasts. I still like a good pork roast with a mustard based bbq sauce. Cooking in contests have helped me flatten the learning curve and focus my efforts to improve the final product. My bbq has improved dramatically.

2) Spending time with family and friends: I cook in bbq contests with my wife, Linda. She's been there with me from the beginning. She has been there for all the Saturday and Sunday afternoon practice cooks. She has been there for all the contests we've cooked and she has been there as we have spent a large portion of our discretionary entertainment budget on bbq supplies, equipment, and tools for these past five or six years.

I've met some great friends at bbq contests. Weapons of Mass Barbecuing, ZZ Que, Pork of the North, All Day Smoke,, and Kick the Tire Light the Fire immediately come to mind.

My familly has also been supportive of my efforts. Besides my brothers and mother who have helped me market The BBQ Guy's spice rubs my dad has also spent a lot of time helping me convert a run of the mill cargo trailer into a rolling bbq contest kitchen.

3) Business opportunties: My contest efforts are coupled with promotion of and my bbq blog. I continue to be surprised at the ability of the internet to cross social barriers and territorial boundries to promote bbq to thousands of people across the country and even around the world through my websites. There are many websites about bbq. I'm just happy to have two of them that are somewhat successful. I attribute their success to my participation in bbq contests.

4) Earning prize money: Let's face it, bbq contests are very expensive for the average competitors. The typical team will spend at least $250 on meat, $200 in entry fees, $200-500 on transportation, food, lodging, and supplies to attend an event. These figures can vary a little by region of the country and distance traveled, but they are typical based on my own experience and research. Without the ability to earn prize money and recoup some of these expensives, participation in bbq contests would be cost prohibitive for me and many others. As long as there are entry fees, travel costs, and meat expenses, I believe there has to be prize money. If I don't win some money, I simply cannot afford to compete as much.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Churrasco - Brazilian Barbecue

I made some great tasting churrasco (pronounced shoe-hoss-koo) for Labor Day. It was the best tasting steak I've ever eaten and very simple to make.
According to Wikipedia, a churrasco is a Brazilian term for barbecue and this traditional style of preparing beef appears to be popular in Argentina also. The kind of meat varies and the methods of preparation have slight variations, but churrasco is also widely known throughout Latin America.

The basic gaucho recipe consists of salt, garlic, and water used to baste steak filets. In some countries skirt steak, flank steak, and tenderloin beef are used. The meat is skewered and cooked directly over fire and is turned periodically to prevent burning. After the meat starts to brown it's basted with the salt and garlic mixture. This is typically at least a two hour process.

It's difficult to prepare real churrasco on a kettle grill because the meat is placed too close to the fire. A churrasqueira is a purpose built grill that is often used to prepare churrasco in the back yard. For those a little more ambitious and who want to prepare large quantitites of churrasco for a restaurant or catering operation, JR Manufacturing has a large model that looks promising and has some nice pictures too.

For personal use Fogazzo offers a smaller model that is perfect for backyard use. By the way, Fogazzo also offers some nice looking pre-cast materials that will help you build your own outdoor oven, even if you're not a brick mason.