Friday, May 30, 2008

BBQ Side Item: Black Eyed Pea Cakes

Smoke & Spice has a nice recipe for Black Eyed Pea Cakes on page 265. My compliments to Cheryl and Bill Jamison for sharing this recipe. It's a great side item that goes well with all types of barbecue meats.
Black Eyed Pea Cakes


2 cups black eyed peas
1/2 cup saltine cracker crumbs
2 T minced red bell pepper
2 T minced onion
1 T minced fresh parsley
1 egg yolk
2 Tsp picked jalapeno, mayonaise, yellow mustard
1 garlic clove

1/2 cup saltine cracker crumbs
1 T butter
1 T vegetable oil

Following the recipe, puree 1 cup of black eyed peas and add 1 cup of black eyed peas in cake mixture and refrigerate for one hour. Remove and coat in cracker mixture. Fry in butter and oil mixture in skillet before smoking for 30 minutes.

They are excellent when served with a mustard based bbq sauce.

If you like Smoke & Spice, be sure to visit to learn about their other cookbooks.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Pickin' in the Panhandle BBQ Contest

I received a flyer in the mail today announcing the Pickin' in the Panhandle bbq contest, the West Virginia State BBQ Championship sanctioned by the KCBS.

The contest is being held on September 5th and 6th in Back Creek Valley, West Virginia. With $10,000 in prize money on the line, the $200 entry fee provides a chance to earn $2,000 in first place prize money. A win in one of the four primary meat categories (chicken, ribs, pork, brisket) offers a chance to win $500. Win all four categories and grand champion....and you take home $4,000. It's a long shot, but it's been done before!

Registration ends on August 31, 2008. Phone (304) 264-8801 for more information.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

BBQ Vacation?

When planning a summer vacation destination last summer, I lobbied hard for a trip to Texas for a bbq road trip, but I was out voted. We toured South Dakota, Wyoming, and Colorado instead.

I enjoyed our trip to the Badlands, Mount Rushmore, and the Rodeo Museum in Cheyenne, WY and everything else along the way, but still want to visit Texas soon.

I ran across a video today that provides a itinerary for anyone else planning a Texas bbq vacation.

Slow Cooked BBQ Hamburgers

In my house, the celebration of Memorial Day weekend always includes an afternoon watching the Indianapolis 500 at the Brickyad and an evening watching the Charlotte 600 from Lowe's Motor Speedway. Between the races I cook a little bbq. This year I'm preparing some hamburgers for smoking.

Here's my recipe:
  • Start with 2 lbs. of hamburger.
  • Dice half an onion.
  • Dice a roasted jalenpeno pepper.
  • Mix together and form five or six hamburger patties.
Prepare a simple rub of paprika, garlic powder, Turbinado sugar, onion powder, kosher salt, black pepper, and chili powder.

Sprinkle the rub on both sides of the patties and refrigerate until ready for cooking.

Pre-heat a bbq smoker to 250 degrees. Slow cook the hamburgers until desired level of doneness.

For a step by step recipe, refer to Humdinger Hamburgers in the Smoke & Spice bbq book by Cheryl and Bill Jamison.

BBQ Food Costs Calculation

If you run a bbq restaurant, catering business, or any other type of food enterprise, at some time or another you will probably need to calculate your costs.

Several years ago I managed a popular breakfast restaurant (part of a very large company). The management company calculated food costs for each restaurant in the chain and the overall food cost for the entire company on a regular basis.

To calculate your own food cost percentage, add Beginning Inventory and Purchases. Subtract Ending Food Inventory. Then divide that figure by Food Sales.

For the typical breakfast restaurant, food costs range from 24% to 26%. Food costs for a steak, hamburger, or bbq restaurant will likely be higher because meat costs more than waffles and eggs.

Smoked Pork Chops

What could be easier than simple smoked pork chops? It's difficult to think of anything else so delicious that is this easy to prepare.

For starters, sprinkle the pork chops with a rub mixture that includes 1 tblsp each of black pepper, paprika, and turbinado sugar. Add a little salt, dry mustard, and cayenne to taste. If you'd like an exact recipe for the rub, Smoke & Spice by Cheryl and Bill Jamison has one on page 84. This is one of the few times in bbq where more isn't necessarily better, unless you like your chops hot and spicy. A nice even coating of rub will work fine, but don't over do it.

1. Rub the pork chops, place in a Ziploc bag, and let rest in the refrigerator until ready for smoking. I like to allow at least 2 to 3 hours.

2. Sear the chops on both sides in a hot cast iron skillet for 30 seconds or so.

3. Cook for an hour on the smoker at 225. Pork chops are done when the internal temperature reaches 160-165 degrees.

For sides, try the Smoke & Spice recipe for Black Eyed Pea Cakes on page 265. They are excellent when served with a mustard based bbq sauce.

Cooking Ribs on a Kettle Grill

You don't have to buy an expensive bbq smoker to begin cooking your own mouth watering ribs in the backyard (or in the front driveway in my case). Traditional style charcoal grills like those manufactured by Weber, Charbroil, and numerous others, are perfectly capable of producing excellent barbecue.

To get started, go to Sam's Club, or your favorite other source, and purchase a three-pack of baby back or loin back pork ribs.

Rub both sides of the ribs with your favorite bbq rub mixture. Pat the rub into place to make it adhere to the meat. The meat should be completely covered with rub. Wrap each rib in several layers of plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for 10 to 12 hours until ready for cooking. Overnight works well.

Start warming up the kettle grill, when ready to cook, by placing a large fist-sized amount of charcoal coals on one side of the grill and heat them until they turn grey.

Check the temperature of the cooking surface with a meat thermometer poked through the air vents until you achieve a stable temperature between 200 and 250 degress.

Fill an alumimum pie pan with water and place it in the bottom of the kettle grill, or partially over the coals. Refill as needed.

Cook the ribs on the opposite side of the grill away from the charcoal coals. Using a rib rack, you can fit all three racks of ribs on the grill at one time.

Once the cooking process starts, just monitor the temperature and water levels. Add charcoal to maintain 200 to 250 degrees and maintain water levels in the alumimum pan.

To check for doneness, gently tug at the bones of the ribs. If done, the bone and meat should separate with minimum effort. Using this method, cook times should vary between 4 to 5 hours depending on the heat of the fire and outside temperature.

Brush some bbq sauce on the ribs prior to serving.

Friday, May 23, 2008

How to BBQ Chicken

If you want to barbecue chicken there are three basic methods you can use.
1) direct grilling
2) low and slow smoking
3) combination of direct grilling and slow smoking
The choice depends largely upon personal choice and type of equipment you have available to use. If the only barbecue equipment you own is a gas grill, then you are limited to direct grilling. If you own a kettle grill then your choices are wide open. If the only equipment you own is a low and slow smoker, direct grilling is probably not going to work for you.
Direct grilling:
The fastest way to cook your chicken in an outdoor setting isn't always the best choice for moist and tender bbq chicken. When cooking chicken at temperatures above 400 degrees you risk chicken that is crisp or slightly burned on the outside skin, but undercooked on the inside. Or as is often the case, chicken that is raw in the middle. The high temperatures associated with grilling will result in "drying out". However, if you like crispy chicken skin this is probably the best choice.
Low and slow smoking:
The slowest way to cook chicken outdoors is the best way to ensure your chicken is tender and juicy. You can use a bbq rub on the skin without burning it and you can ensure the chicken is cooked throughout without the risk of overcooking. This method often results in chicken skin that is a "rubbery" texture. If you don't like the skin, simply remove it before biting into the juicy and tender chicken.
Combination direct grill and slow smoking:
Lately I've been favoring a combination of the two methods. I cook my chicken over direct charcoal heat for 4 - 5 minutes turning it often to prevent burning. This helps render the fat on the underside of the skin and helps prevent the "rubbery" effect. I then finish it off on my smoker for about an hour at 225 degrees. This combination offers the best of both crisp skin and tender and juicy meat.
Secret tip #1:
Whichever method you chose, make sure you put bbq rub under the skin prior to cooking. This will help add flavor throughout the piece of chicken.
Super secret tip #2:
After placing the spice rub under the skin let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator for a couple hours prior to cooking. The rub will penetrate deeper into the chicken. If your spice rub has a lot of salt in it, marinating longer than 2 - 2 1/2 hours might create an undesireable "salty" flavor. If your rub is hot with a lot of pepper, marinating longer than 2 - 2 1/2 hours might create "spicy" flavor.

Weber Smokey Mountain on Sale is currently advertising Weber Smokey Mountain smokers for sale at $179.00. If you're in the market for a WSM, this is a good price.

For the money, the WSM is hard to beat. You can smoke ribs, chicken, pork butts, pork loins, briskets, and even a turkey.

The smoker has two racks, a charcoal grate, and a water pan. There are websites devoted entirely to the WSM and it's use.

If you are new to bbq or relearning the craft, the WSM is an inexpensive way to get your feet wet.

Friday, May 16, 2008

BBQ Rib Eye on WSM

I'm late in posting these pictures of the of the Drunk and Dirty Rib Eye (see original post below). These 1 lb. rib eye filets sprinkled with black pepper, white pepper, and marinaded for three hours. I cooked them at 225 degrees for an hour and a half and were removed from the WSM at 150 degrees internal. They were medium rare and could have used another fifteen for my tastes, but die hard steak eaters swear by medium rare steaks. (I'm just not one of them.) I solved that problem with 30 seconds in the microwave.
I highly recommend this Smoke & Spice recipe the next time you're craving a big ole' juicy tender slab of beef.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Pictures of Caldera Tall Boy

Here's a picture of my neighbor's Caldera Tall Boy.

It's a nice, well thought-out design with a real "finished" look. The powder coat is real slick and the metal was cut with precision tools made to exacting standards similar to what you'd expect to see in the automotive or aircraft industry.

I know I'm going out on a limb here since I don't own a Caldera or a pellet cooker, but I believe the construction is as good or better than the pellet cookers I've seen.

Based on Linda's reaction to it when she saw it, I think there might be one of these in my future. She likes the knockdown design and lightweight aspects of the construction. I think I'd favor the original Caldera version due to the increased cooking capacity, but for back yard cooking and light competition duty, this one fits the bill.

I'd be proud to add it to my cooker collection.

Here's a picture of the electronic control mechanism that makes the Caldera function in true "hands-off" mode. Just set it and forget it. This unit is called "The Competitor Power Draft". As I understand it "The Competitor" is the middle-of-the-road model sold by BBQ Guru.

BBQ Secrets Revealed, Click Here!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

BBQ Beef Tenderloin and Rib Eye

Smoke & Spice, by Cheryl and Bill Jamison, has a nice looking recipe for beef tenderloin I thought I'd try.

Not knowing anything about beef tenderloin, I went to the local grocery store and asked at the meat counter. The butcher pointed to the display of filet mignon in the meat case and said, "Right there." I was speechless for a few seconds, but finally said, "Wow, that's expensive."

I had to pass on the $18.99 / lb. filet mignon, but the butcher suggested that I try rib eye steak as a substitute for $5.99 / lb. I specifically asked for two pounds, but before I could stop him he sliced off two 1 lb. slabs. I'm going to try them anyway.

The Drunk and Dirty Tenderloin is on page 115 of the Smoke & Spice book and calls for a marinade of soy sauce, worchestershire, sour mash whiskey, brown sugar, ginger, and garlic cloves. The rub is a very basic mixture of black pepper and white pepper applied just prior to putting on the smoker.

I'll let you know how the Drunk and Dirty Rib Eye turns out and post some pictures later today.

Monday, May 05, 2008

National Barbecue Month

According to the NBBQA and the HPBA, May is National Barbecue Month.

Barbecuers and grillers around the world are gearing up for summer time cooking. In preparation for the season, I spent some time cleaning my Weber Smoker Mountain this weekend.

It's surprising how a little elbow grease and some hot water can change the inside of a barbecue cooker. Periodic cleaning of your grill or smoker can prolong it's useful life. I use plain old dishwashing liquid, hot water, and a couple of clean rags to wipe down the inside and outside of my smoker. I avoid harch solvents and cleaners because I don't want that stuff near the food I eat.

When all the dirt and grime was gone, I placed the smoker in the direct sunlight for a couple hours to dry before reassemblying the smoker.

Sunday, May 04, 2008


If you have a Weber kettle grill and want to use it for low and slow barbecue cooking, the Smokenator makes it easier. The Smokenator is an insert tool for the 22" Weber kettle grill.

You can see it's a sheet metal partition, enclosing charcoal briquettes and shielding the food from direct heat. The other innovation is the proximity of water to the coals. The cooking environment is controllable from 100 percent humidity to completely dry. The unit will hold fuel for 6 hours and will hold 230-240 deg f dome temperature in a steady state condition for hours (210 deg f at the food support grill.) The directions are superb and a complete novice can low and slow cook without much effort saving following the instructions.

The inventor of the Smokenator also provides a 17.75" diameter collapsible grill that effectively raises the total cooking surface to about 550 square inches.