Monday, March 31, 2008

Four Versions of the Same BBQ

MSN City Guides posted an article recently exploring The Four Corners of BBQ. I've eaten bbq in Memphis, but Kansas City, Texas, and North Carolina are still on my list of "to do's".

I've had mustard sauced "chopped" bbq pork in South Carolina, and the combination K.C. and North Carolina-style vinegar flavored bbq that is popular at several out of the way locations in Middle Tennessee. Some were good and some were not so good, but all were distinctive and noteworthy interpretations of this all-American food.

I had ribs at Rendevous a few years ago. For me, Charlie Vergo's place is as much about the "experience" as it is the food. When our friend parked the car and started walking down what almost passes for an alley toward the unassuming entrance, I wasn't too sure I'd follow.

We were there on the weekend of the annual Arkansas vs. Memphis State football game and waited more than two hours for our seat. During the entire waiting period we were treated (or tortured) with the oink, oink, oink that goes with any rowdy gathering of Razorbacks.

I don't really remember many specifics about the ribs, but I enjoyed the visit overall. If you're looking for bbq in Memphis, you have to check out Rendevous.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Weber Smokey Mountain - Bargain Price

During the course of the last three years, I've noticed the price of WSM's inching up little by little on I purchased my original smoker for $179.99 from a local hardware store in Winter Park, FL several years ago.

Just when I thought the days of cheap WSM's were over, Grill Doctor Online Store put WSM's on sale for $179 -- again. The Weber smokers have a 10-year warranty.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Ceramic Insulation for Your Offset Smoker

Are you looking for a method to increase the efficiency of your offset smoker? Want to use less fuel and hold more consistent cooking temperatures? Ceramic insulation may provide an answer.
In my upright smoker, I have 1 inch of insulation around the entire box -- including the cooking chamber. It really works wonders.

Why not insulate the firebox for your offset smoker? I'm not a welder or fabricator, but I'd bet it's possible to modify the existing firebox with some insulation to improve heat retention.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

JR Enterprises Rotary Smoker RS 32-48

JR Enterprises is well known for large bbq pits, but recently the guys from Arkansas introduced a four shelf towable rotisserie smoker that looks very interesting.

The shelves are 10 x 44 inches and, according to the website, are capable of cooking 16 slabs of ribs or 20 pork butts. The smoker has a bottom drain for easy cleaning. Also, I have it on good authority that the smoker weighs 860 pounds and is available with optional 15 inch wheels and tires to make interstate towing a possibility.

You can learn more about it at

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Test Your BBQ Knowledge

1. What temperature is generally regarded as the "low and slow" bbq method?

a. 300-350 degrees
b. 140-165 degrees
c. 225-250 degrees
d. 450 -455 degrees
e. none of the above

2. What is the most popular type of bbq meat cooked in Texas?

a. pork
b. chicken
c. beef
d. lamb
e. both a and b

3. What temperature should meat be stored at immediately prior to cooking?

a. lower than 50 degrees
b. lower than 45 degrees
c. lower than 40 degrees
d. lower than 55 degrees
e. none of the above

4. When should bbq sauce be applied to the meat during the cooking process?

a. as a marinade prior to cooking
b. immediately after putting the meat on to cook
c. immediately after removing the meat from the cooker
d. during the last 10 - 15 minutes of cooking, as a finishing sauce
e. both c and d, depending on the desired effect

Confident you know the correct answers? Feel free to post a comment.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Improve Your BBQ with Aluminum Foil

Aluminum foil is a valuable tool for preparing bbq ribs, pork butts, and brisket. When used correctly, it helps improve consistency and predictability in barbecue preparation.

Some might call it "The Texas Crutch", but I'm not currently aware of any bbq contest winners that do not use it in abundance. I'm not saying you can't win without it, but I'd wager that 95% of all bbq contest champions are using it when they prepare their contest meats.

Here are some examples of how I use it:

For ribs.....I slow cook my baby backs for 2 1/2 hours at 225 degrees. Then I wrap them in a double thickness of foil with the meat side down with three ounces of apple juice or grape juice or a mixture of both, for 1 1/2 hours cooking at 250 degrees. After an hour, I remove the foil, brush on my favorite sauce, and cook for 30 or 40 minutes until the meat starts to pull away gently from the bones.

For pork butts...I slow cook the pork butts and briskets for 5 hours at 225 degrees and wrap in a double thickness of aluminum foil. I cook them until the internal meat temperature reaches 198 degrees as measured with a meat thermometer.

Using a double thickness of foil prevents the rib bones from puncturing the foil and the juice running out. When cooking bigger pieces of meat like briskets and pork butts, there is a lot of juice and aus jous that collects in the foil. A double thickness helps prevent leakage and preserves the juice for basting the meat later on, if desired.

Demon Pig BBQ Sauce

I completed a pulled pork barbecue test last weekend and tried a new bbq sauce from Demon Pig BBQ.

The Demon Pig bbq sauce is very good. It contains a mixture of catsup, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, tomato sauce, Worchestershire sauce, a little yellow mustard, and a few other choice ingredients.

It's good on bbq pork sandwiches, on plain pulled pork, and I can attest that it's pretty good straight out of the bottle. I think I'd like to try it on chicken also the next time we cook some thighs. I suspect it might just be my new favorite sauce for bbq chicken -- a little tangy, not too sweet, and a hint of Worchestershire sauce.

If you live near any of these locations in Minnesota, Iowa, Maryland, or Wisconsin, you can purchase it direct from the following retailers, or purchase it direct from the Demon Pig website:

Northern Food King, Pequot Lakes, MN
Schaeffer's Foods, Nisswa, MN
Shamp's Meat Market, Pine River, MN
Reed's Market, Crosslake, MN
Pelican Square, Breezy Point, MN
Chef & Company, Baxter, MN
Ye Olde Butcher Shoppe, Rochester, MN
Holmen Meat Maket, Holmen, WI
Northwoods Country Market, Sparta, WI
Gordy's Farm Market, Hermantown, MN
Flamingo Flats, St. Michaels, MD
Theilen Meats, Little Falls, MN
Hawgeyes BBQ, Ankeny, IA
Corner Meats-n-More, Stewartville, MN

I've also tried Demon Pig's Blaze Orange bbq sauce. It's a little hotter than the original and would work well on chicken wings.

Friday, March 07, 2008

BBQ Pork, Beef, or Chicken- It's All Good

A newspaper columnist for the Sun-Sentinel, asked me to join his bbq discussion at Mr. Cruz has a long standing feud with his friend Greg Lewis about the finer points of bbq and whether brisket wins out over pork for bbq supremacy.

Here's a re-print of the e-mail I received today from Ralph De La Cruz:

Hello, Brian.

My name is Ralph De La Cruz and I'm a Lifestyle columnist with the Sun-Sentinel newspaper in South Florida.

I wrote a lighthearted column about a local barbecue place that's trying to create a little peace on Earth by offering a mix of styles such as Texas beef and North Carolina pork.

That led to a fun blog item asking folks to weigh in on which style is best. So, when I came across your excellent barbecue site, I thought I'd invite you and your 'cue-versed readers to take part in the discussion.

If y'all care to educate us on the fine points of Memphis ribs versus Carolina pork or Texas brisket, come to and sound-off.

Read my comment here, and feel free to share your own opinion.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Sixteen bottles of bbq rub and counting recently posted a survey about the number of open bottles or bags of bbq rub. I quickly responded without actually counting them and chose "six". My wife was reading the bbq forum this afternoon and asked me if I had responded to the survey.

I quickly said, "Yes."

Next, she asked, "How many do we have."

I quickly said, "Six, or seven. I didn't count them."

A few minutes later she counted them all and came up with the following list:

The BBQ Guy Original
The BBQ Guy Southern Rub
Smokin Guns Mild
Bad Byron's Butt Rub

Head Country
Willingham's Mild
Billy Bones
Blues Hog
Home BBQ Beef Rub
Home BBQ Rib Rub
Home BBQ Sweet Orange Habernero
Chef Paul Prudhomme's
Watkins Grill Seasoning
McCormack Grill Mate St. Louis Style
McCormack Grill Mate K.C. Style
Lawry's Chicken and Poultry

And a few others that may or may not be used for bbq cooking.

Wow, I had no idea. Truth be told, I'd like to try a few more!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Get started cooking BBQ contests

Do you have BBQ contest fever? In some parts of the country, the contests are in full swing and in others they're going to gear up in the next few weeks.

If you've every considered competing in a bbq contest I would encourage you to jump in and try it out. You'll have fun, you'll meet a lot of people, and you'll challenge yourself to improve you bbq cooking abilities. Best of'll give an excuse to cook more often, because you're going to need to practice a lot. The neighbors will love you for it because there will be lots and lots of leftovers from the practice cooks and from the contests.

You don't have to spend a lot of money to do it either. A Weber Smokey Mountain and a kettle grill or two will get you started. A low budget set-up would be to purchase 2 WSM's and use your kettle grill for chicken, or if you're already an avid qu'er, you could purchase a Backwoods Party or Competitor Model if you prefer.

I've used a Backwoods Party and a WSM with pretty good results. I doubt that the cooker has very much to do with the quality of my contest results anyway.

My wife and I got started with a total cash outlay of about $1,500 and then budgeted about $500 per contest for entry fees, gas, meals, and contest meat. In the beginning, the odds of winning grand champion are not very good unless you're on top of your game, should have some fun and learn alot. Best of all, you'll meet a lot of really nice people.

With the price of gasoline, our current budget is closer to $650 per contest depending on how far we're driving to the event, which explains why we've had to cut back on the frequency. During one particular stretch in 2004 we cooked five contests in five weeks and loved it.