Monday, June 30, 2008

The Bigger the Better, Right?

I pondered the answer to this question while watching a neighbor cooking on a small kettle bbq grill this weekend. The grill was a very generic "BBQ Pro" and measured no more than 18 inches in diameter. Did the size of the kettle grill make the bbq automatically inferior to 'que cooked on bigger grills? To borrow a phrase from my 14-year old niece -- NOT.

When we started competing in BBQ competitions using our small Backwoods Party and Weber Smokey Mountain, we dreamed of purchasing a bigger cooker and custom built trailer. We talked constantly of what we could do with a little extra money. Then we bought the big red cooker. We bought it before we even had a way to carry it to competitions. How smart was that? But it was big and we were going large.

Then we purchased a bbq trailer to haul our equipment to contests. Somehow the planned flat bed single-axle 10 foot trailer constructed of expanded metal became an enclosed tandem axle 16 foot trailer with an RV door, catering window, insulation, lights, electric, and a three compartment sink. We were living in Michigan and at that time Michigan had only 2 bbq contests, but we reached our goal of going big and we continued thinking big. Once we had the trailer, we needed a bigger truck to tow it with, and it was inevitable that we now needed an even bigger cooker.

Here it is two years later and gas prices have doubled. We often talk about how well we actually cooked when we were traveling like modern day hillbillies in the short-bed Ford F-150. We’d like to start competing again, since we’ve moved back to Florida, but we need to find a more economical way to travel. The big trailer has now been sold, so the big red cooker won’t be traveling with us to future competitions.

Recently we realized that the WSM is the best cooker we’ve ever owned for the money. For the money invested, we have won more prize money with cheap equipment than with the larger ones.

Bigger isn’t always better after all.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Caldera Tall Boy Smoker

BBQTV has several nice bbq videos posted on You Tube. There's a nice video of Rib Ranger preparing chicken and a some from the Jack Daniels cook-off among others. There's even one for the Caldera Tall Boy from the BBQ Guru folks.

Weber Smokey Mountain Video

For anyone reading the bbq blog that hasn't had the opportunity to see a WSM in action, I found the next best thing -- a video. It's not exactly step-by-step how I use mine, but it covers the basics and will get you started cooking with your WSM.

Start a Catering Business

BBQ Trailer

I appreciate all of you that inquired about the bbq trailer we had for sale. It went home with its' new owners today. So if you're at a bbq contest in Michigan (or Canada) and you see a Doolittle trailer that looks familar, don't be surprised. It might be ours.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

BBQ Smoker Buyer's Guide

I've put together some links to bbq smoker trailer manufacturer's below. I don't own any of these units listed and don't endorse a particular manufacturer over another one, but I thought it might be nice to list links to all these manufacturer's in one place.

Cookers and grills This manufacturer from Union Point, Georgia has designed some nice looking smoker trailers that incorporates reverse flow design.

Lang I cooked with a Lang Model 84 several times with another competition team when I was just getting started. It's a popular offset for a reasonable price and it will cook large quantities of bbq. They're now building a twin Model 108 for those that need to cook massive amounts of 'que.

Peoria Custom Cookers They make them big, small and every size in between. From backyard to professional, they've got a cooker for almost every cook. Take a look at their Meat Monster cooker. It packs a lot of nice features in a small package.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Cooking Pork Butts in the Weber Smokey Mountain

These pork butts were larger than the 6 lbs I prefer, but it's all Sam's had available. I injected, seasoned with spice rub and let them marinade in the refrigerator overinight.

I use lump charcoal when it's available. It's a better quality charcoal that burns cleaner, hotter and with less ash than briquettes. This bag of Royal Oak was purchased from Gordon Food Service and cost me $9.55 for 20 lbs. For comparison, 40 lbs of Kingsford briquettes costs about $11.35 at Sam's, but in this get what you pay for.

I never use lighter fluid when starting charcoal. The lighter fluid can leave a bad taste on food. I prefer a charcoal chimney and a fire starter stick. You can use newspaper, but the starter sticks work better for me.

I line the water pan on the WSM with aluminum foil to make clean-up a little easier. You don't have to line the pan, but if you don't it gets pretty greasy from the pork fat melting as the pork butts cook.

I put the butts on at 10:30 a.m. and will rotate them top to bottom after about 4 1/2 - 5 hours. I also wrap them in aluminum foil at that point. It keeps the moisture in and seems to help prevent oversmoking the meat. It also speeds up the cooking process.

Starting a BBQ Rub Business

Since I've been marketing bbq rubs online for several years, I'm sometimes asked for information about how it's done and how to get started.

Like many bbq enthusiasts that start competing extensively, I began searching for various opportunities to earn back some expenses. I'd seen several of my friends start selling bbq rubs at contests and it seemed like a good business opportunity to promote at .

I started with a Google search, and it just grew from there. First I found a co-packer that would sell in smaller quantities and then I learned about labeling regulations. (You generally have to buy in quantities of 15 cases or more for an initial order size.)

I started selling a 13 oz bottle and it's still the more requested size. Due to changes by my co-packer, I am now only able to offer my rub in 8 oz bottles. I've also discovered that the bigger the bottle the more profitable it is. The difference in the cost of goods is not that great, but the profit margins are considerably different. I've also learned that BBQ enthusiasts prefer to buy in bigger quantities. Hobbyists and those just starting to learn low and slow cooking seem to want to purchase the smaller bottles.

So, therein lies the predicament in starting a bbq rub business. What you want to sell isn't what most people want to buy. And as I learned in business school....that's why they call it marketing.

But perhaps most of all, I've learned that plain old word of mouth is still the most effective method for bbq rubs when you're just starting out. Friends, family, and neighbors are loyal customers who will keep coming back for more. As with any new venture it's always nice to get some regular customers when you're starting out.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Learn to make pulled pork bbq

Who says you can't cook a pork butt on a kettle grill? You definitely can. However, it takes patience to learn good fire control techniques.

1. Start with a charcoal chimney full of burning briquettes (I prefer Royal Oak).

2. Place in kettle grill, banked to one side, and put the lid on.

3. Monitor temperatures in the kettle grill using a meat thermometer through the top vent.

4. Every thirty minutes, add an additional 10-12 briquettes to maintain a consistent temperature of 250 - 275 degrees (less if you can). Try to keep the lid closed as much as possible. Add more or less charcoal to maintain temperature.

5. Place a pork butt on the grate of the grill, fat side down, on the opposite side of the burning briquettes. I like to pre-season the butt with bbq rub the night before and let it sit in the refrigerator (in a plastic container).

6. Place an alumimum pan 1/2 filled with water over the fire side of the grate, if it's needed to keep the temperatures steady in the cooking chamber.

7. Cook the pork butt for 5 hours.

8. Check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer. It should be around 160 degrees.

9. Wrap the pork butt in a double thickness of aluminum foil and place back on the cooking grate.

10. Cook until the internal meat temperature reaches 198 degrees.

11. Remove it from the kettle grill. Wrap it in a towel, place it in an aluminum pan, and let it rest for 20- 30 minutes keeping it warm.

12. "Pull" apart for bbq sandwiches.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

KCBS Power Rankings is now publishing bbq team rankings for the top twenty-five overall in each of the four KCBS meat categories and the top twenty-five overall combined.

The site has developed a widget also that you can display on your personal website to display how your own team stacks up against the "big boys". For example, if your combined finishes calculate to 35th out of 450 ranked teams, the widget will display the rankings on your page. The widget changes the rankings based on the KCBS contest results, and it changes throughout the season. Pretty cool! publishes a similar list using a 104 week rolling time period. This method displays who has performed consistently over a longer period and in a potentially larger number of bbq contests. These rankings include a variety of sanctioning bodies.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Geer Pits: A work of barbecue smoker art

The Pellet Envy Blog is reporting that Jamie Geer, the world's foremost bbq pit builder is going to start building barbecue smokers again. I've seen the Geer pits used by Smokin' Triggers and Lotta Bull up close and the attention to detail is awesome. There are very few pits available in the marketplace today that can match the quality of these smokers. There's also a very long waiting list to purchase one of these pits -- in case you're wondering. And, I think there's a waiting list just to get on the waiting list.

Here's a link to some more pictures of pits Jamie Geer has put together.