Thursday, July 24, 2008

Eastern Carolina BBQ Throw Down

The Eastern Carolina BBQ Throw Down is scheduled for October 10-11 in Rocky Mount, NC. The grand champion will earn $3,000 with reserve grand champion earning $1,500. First place in each category will receive $500. The showmanship winner receives $250.

Teams can arrive as early as Wednesday and stay until Sunday. This KCBS sanctioned event will also feature an optional showmanship category.

The contest entry fee is $250 for a 20 x 35 cooking space. Electrical service costs an additional $25, but can be offset by the $25 early bird discount for entries received prior to August 1. The deadline for entries is September 15. For questions, e-mail

Monday, July 21, 2008

Dutch Oven Breakfast

My dutch oven gear.

12 inch and 10 inch dutch ovens.

The bacon has been browned. I'm adding the onions, green peppers, and red peppers.

A close-up after the hashbrowns and chunks of ham were added.

Adding a dozen eggs.

The eggs are cooked. Adding the cheese topping.

Finished "Mountain Man Breakfast" after the cheese melted.

Mountain Man Breakfast

A recipe by Danny Wardle

Preheat a 12" dutch oven

Brown a 1/2 pound of bacon cut into pieces
Add and cook a medium onion chopped
Add green and red pepper
Remove the bacon, onions, and peppers
Add a 32 ounce bag of hash browns
Brown hash browns and stir in bacon and onions back in
Add 12 eggs and poor over potatoes, bacon, onions, and peppers
Cook until eggs are almost solid
Sprinkle top with grated cheddar cheese
Cook until eggs are solid and cheese is melted
Serve with salsa

This recipe is published in Lovin' Dutch Ovens by Joan S. Larsen. I added the ham and peppers based on my personal tastes. The next time I make it I'm going to add more black pepper.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

How to Roast a Whole Hog

If you've ever thought about roasting a pig, but weren't quite sure how to do it, Three Guy's From Miami provide step-by-step barbecue details The website has many pictures to guide you through the process and many more pictures of the final results to keep you motivated.

Besides learning to crack the spine, the hardest part of the entire process might be simply finding a pig. You want one that weighs between 60 and 100 pounds after it's dressed out. Talk to local butcher shops and grocery stores to see if they can order one for you.

The website talks about marinating the pig over night. One word of caution: if you decide to take this approach, make sure you're able to keep the pig cool during this process. If you can't maintain the pig's internal meat temperature below 40 degrees while marinating, you should skip the marinade and proceed directly to cooking.

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

To Garnish, or Not to Garnish

It's not quite Shakespeare, but for some bbq contestants the decision to use or not use garnish can mean the difference between winning and losing. The Florida Barbecue Association has instituted a "no garnish" rule that is growing more and more popular with competitors. The Kansas City Barbeque Society sanctions events that provide competitors the ability to choose whether they think garnish offers an advantage or not.

Greg Rempe, publisher of, recently hosted a BBQ Roundtable Discussion with guests including Rod Grey of Pellet Envy, Kevin Bevington of and Jim Minion of Two Loose Screws about personal bias when judging bbq contest turn-in boxes. The trio also discussed the use or non-use of garnish when turning in sample boxes. I hope you enjoy the discussion as much as I did.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Best BBQ in Texas

This is a short follow-up to an article that first appeared in May about Snow's Barbecue, which was recently named the "Best BBQ in Texas". National Public Radio featured Snow's in a recent program and I wanted to share it with you. It seems business at the restaurant is picking up. Here's a podcast. I hope you enjoy it.

I've only been to Texas once...about 18 years ago. My employer (at the time) let me fly from Sikeston, MO with the CEO and a couple of other managers to Dallas on their corporate jet. My boss and I rented a car and drove to Tyler for a week long training event. We ate some bbq here and there, but I don't really remember any of the names or towns.

I received an e-mail tonight from Chuck Sackman and a heads up about an article in Texas Monthly proclaiming Snow's BBQ in Lexington, TX as the "best barbecue in Texas". Snow's is only open on Saturdays and for only four hours. When the meats gone, Snow's is closed until next week.

Some may be surprised that the best bbq in Texas comes from such unlikely circumstances, but it doesn't surprise me in the least. It's difficult to "mass produce" quality anything and bbq is no exception. You can't program a computer to cook bbq, although some keep trying. A drawer full of gadgets and a bank full of money doesn't qualify anyone as a bbq cook.

Three cheers for Snow's and long live the barbecue spirit in Lexington, TX.

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BBQ Research

Whether you are preparing bbq in the backyard, for a contest, or for a restaurant, the success of the effort is largely dependent upon the foundation you build under the effort in the beginning.

To start a restaurant, you'd most likely begin by researching the competition in the market area where the restaurant will be located. You'd pay particular attention to the menu choices, parking availability, pricing, hours of operation, location, and on and on. As a next step, you'd be wise to prepare a business plan and a pro-forma balance sheet and income statement that projects the first three years of expenses and revenues.

Some seasoned business people might feel comfortable preparing these items on their own, but most would want to seek out the services of a professional. Financing is another consideration. A local bank might be able to assist you, but you might have better success consulting a bank and loan officer that has experience loaning money to start-up restaurant operations. If financing doesn't work out, a long-term lease is another option. A good accountant or CPA with experience in working with small businesses can offer guidance and recommendations for all of these items.

If your barbecue goals are less ambitious and you simply want to learn how to cook some good barbecue in your backyard, you might seek out the advice of a friend that cooks barbecue, or you might take a class from one of the multiple guru's that cook barbecue. Or if you're like me, you'd probably take a trip down to the local book store or visit to read some books on the subject. The Internet also provides an excellent source of information through various bbq blogs, barbecue forums, discussion lists, newsletters, directories, etc.

Here's a few to get you started:

When learning anything new, these preliminary steps are the least rewarding part. It's sometimes dirty work and not very glamorous. Many try to skip these basic steps and simply throw money at barbecue by purchasing a turn key business opportunity they know little or nothing about. Backyard barbecuers might purchase the shiniest, newest, latest and greatest most expensive bbq smoker they can find, before they really even know how to use it and if it will work for a particular application.

Take a deep breath and a step back. You just might save yourself some money.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

How to make ABT's (Atomic Buffalo Turds)

I made some ABT's today. There are several variations of these popular bbq appetizers. Some use shrimp, some use pulled pork, some use cream cheese, but I chose one that favored sausage.
I've seen the peppers cut two different ways, so I tried both as a test. Some were sliced in half long ways and some were cut open long ways to make a pocket, but not in two pieces (see picture above). I prefer the pocket method best for the sausage stuffing.
I cleaned out the jalapenos, stuffed them with sausage, and topped it off with cheddar cheese. Then I wrapped the whole thing with bacon and cooked them on a medium hot grill for 20 minutes.
Things I learned for next time:
1) I prefer a sausage with more flavor. Using a mild sausage leaves the ABT more bland that I thought it would. Next time, I'm using Tennessee Pride.
2) The bacon wrap is unnessary if you use the pocket stuffing method (see above). If sliced in two pieces, the peppers need the bacon to hold it all in place. From now on I'm leaving the bacon off.
3) Instead of cooking on the grill, I'm going to try using the WSM without the water pan to lift the ABTs farther from the flame. This will allow the ABTs cook a little longer without scorching and burning.

Blues Hog Barbecue Company

St. Louis has an article about Bill Arnold creator of Blues Hog Barbecue Sauce that's worth reading. If you've never tried Blue Hog Barbecue Sauce, you're missing out because it makes good bbq a little bit better.

I've been using Blues Hog's Original for several years. Usually I buy the sauce directly from the Blues Hog website and sometimes my parents buy it for me at Snoddy's General Store across the Missouri River from Boonville, MO.

Mr. Arnold and his family could use your support now more than ever. Keep them in your thoughts and prayers and better yet, buy some of his barbecue sauce. Barbecue folks have to
stick together.

Update: Bill was featured on Good Morning America this morning. Here's a link to the video.

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Atomic Buffalo Turds (ABTs)

I'm not quite sure how I've been cooking and grilling seriously for almost 10-years and never made A.B.T.'s. Today I made a quick trip to Publix and picked up the key ingredients for tomorrow.
-Jalapeno peppers
-mild sausage
-cheddar cheese
Most ABT recipes also include Philadelphia cream cheese, but since I have an aversion to cream cheese I've left it out.
I'll post pictures of the results tomorrow.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Rain or Shine: Light the Fire

We spent the holiday cooking bbq. Some might even call it a “Stay-cation” of sorts. It was good eating and it’s a good thing, because we still have some leftovers.

I planned on eating some meals out at restaurants with Linda doing the rest of the cooking for the weekend, but Saturday night she pulled a pork loin out of the fridge and cheerfully announced that I was grilling it on Sunday. In the true spirit of a three day holiday weekend, I procrastinated and cooked it for supper.

I put the lump charcoal in the chimney starter and it started to rain. Luckily, it was just a slow moving typical Florida summer afternoon shower. I was able to get the charcoal in the pan before it got too wet and extinguished itself. My second lucky moment of the cook was a convenient break in the rain when it was time to put the kabobs on the grill. The rain picked up a little later on, but a golf umbrella works wonders for shielding a kettle grill.

After cooking barbecue in 20 degrees and blowing snow for two and a half years in Michigan, I didn’t dare wimp out over a little rain. Sometimes those gas grills that Linda calls “outdoor ovens” work well when it’s raining, but a little rain adds that extra touch of excitement when going head to head with Mother Nature.

Linda found the recipe on It was developed by the Culinary Institute of America.

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Ginger Dipping Sauce

1 cup sliced green onions
3 tablespoons Pure Wesson Vegetable Oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons finely chopped jalapeno pepper
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 ½ pound of pork tenderloin, cut into 1-inch pieces

Ginger Dipping Sauce:
1 tablespoon Pure Wesson Vegetable Oil
½ cup chopped red onion
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1 can (14.5 ounce) Hunt’s Petite Diced Tomatoes, undrained
¼ cup seasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons La Choy Soy Sauce
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
10 wooden skewers (6-inch), soaked in water


Prepare marinade. Place pork and marinade in plastic bag. Shake to coat evenly and refrigerate for 4 hours.

Prepare sauce over medium heat. When hot add oil and onion. Cook 4 minutes or until onion is tender. Stir occasionally. Add ginger and garlic. Cook 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 10 minutes. Pour sauce in blender and puree 1 minute. Keep warm.

Place pork on skewers and discard marinade. Cook on a hot grill for 5 minutes on each side, or until the pork is cooked and is no longer pink.

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Memphis Ribs by Gerald Duff

If you're looking for a book to read, what could be better than a barbecue novel? Memphis Ribs is a full-fledged mystery novel with police detectives, murder, and bbq. Sounds very interesting.

I started working on a novel about bbq a few years ago. I've written 19,200 words, but at this point I'm not sure if I'll ever pick it back up and finish the story. Here's the main thesis of the story:

With his import company losing money, an Orlando businessman embarks on a quest to capitalize on the rising popularity of competitive barbecue contests and turn them into America’s new favorite past-time. A chance meeting with a backwoods Georgia redneck threatens to ruin everything he’s worked for.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Future of BBQ Contests

I don't have a Magic 8 ball, or even a crystal ball, but I think I can safely predict that competition barbecue as we've known it for the past 10-years or so, is in the process of changing significantly. Until barbecue contest organizers and sanctioning bodies find a reliable way to incorporate public participation into the events, I think the sport is on shaky ground. We don't have to agree with it and we don't have to like it, but I think the popularity of the Championship Barbecue Series on Versus has offered a glimpse into the future of cooking barbecue for sport.

I can't imagine that my experiences are different than anyone elses, so I'll discuss my own competition efforts as an example to explain why I feel this way.

In 2003 through mid-2005 combined, Linda and I spent nearly $10,000 of own money on barbecue contests, equipment, and part-time business investments. During that time we earned approximately $3,000 in prize money to offset those expenses.

For a typical FBA or KCBS sanctioned ompetition that we attended during 2003 through 2005 our expenses included the following:

--Entry fees $300
--Meats $120
--Supplies $30
--Gasoline $50
--Food $20

Our "pay back" or "earnings" during that time included several category wins in chicken and brisket, which typically represented $300 -$400. For events where we won a category or placed in the top three in a couple of different categories, we were on a break even basis. At one event we placed top five in all four categories and won Reserve Grand Champion, but our total earnings were only $550.

It's now 2008 and our expenses for gasoline and meats have risen significantly. Gasoline prices have doubled and meat prices have risen by at least 50%. So even with a category win, we're in the hole before we even start.

What choices do contest cooks have to combat rising expenses? For most contest cooks, starting a bbq business aimed at capitalizing on bbq contest participation seems viable. The basic choices are as follows:

--Start selling bbq rub
--Start selling bbq sauce
--Start a bbq vending / concession business
--Start a bbq catering service
--Start a barbecue website
--Pursue corporate sponsorship

On the surface, each of those ideas sounded promising to us. They certainly sound simple enough. How hard could it be?

We found a co-packer and started selling our bbq spice rubs at contests and to family and friends. If you're thinking of taking a similar approach, plan to spend at least $850 in start-up expenses, add another $300 or $400 if you want professionally printed labels for your bottles. To earn back the start-up costs, plan on selling at least 1,000 bottles of rub in 10 oz. bottles (600 if you decide to start with a larger 13 oz. bottle).

It would be much easier to sell bbq sauce in these volumes, but the start-up expenses are about 400% greater, so increase the sales to 4,000 small bottles (or 2,400 big bottles). After a little research with the health department and state regulators, we crossed bbq vending, concessions, and catering off the list quickly. The start-up expenses to comply with the legal requirements are nearly $20,000, plus rent on a commissary facility to store supplies and prepare foods.

I started two barbecue websites that do generate a small amount of revenue, but not nearly enough to support the cost of contests. If you have technical expertise, this might a viable alternative for you, but based on my "seat of the pants" knowledge level, it's not been the answer to our expense issues.

Which leaves one more option -- corporate sponsorship. I haven't put any efforts into obtaining a corporate sponsor for our bbq team and as difficult as it sounds, it is probably the best option on this list. And that brings us back to the lack of spectator involvement in the events. Without large numbers of spectators at bbq contests (I'm talking thousands), the corporate sponsorship is going to be hard to come by.

Versus found a way to package bbq contests into short snippets of time to hold an audience. Holding an audience generates corporate sponsorship, which in turn makes bbq contests more profitable. But, it's not practical for fifty or sixty teams to compete on a television program like the Barbecue Championship Series. That program succeeded more because if focused on a few teams. So where does that leave the other 3,955 + teams that compete in bbq contests?

If barbecue contests are to survive in their present form, it's up to the contest organizers and sanctioning bodies to find new and exciting ways to involve the public more directly into the tradional bbq contests.

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Saturday, July 05, 2008

Barbecue Blogging

I am taking some time this weekend to update my bbq blog. If you have anything in particular you would like to see featured here in the coming weeks. Feel free to drop me an e-mail.

Later today I'm going to cook some pork loin.

Backyard BBQ St. Louis Ribs

Final results

Honey makes everything taste better

Adding a little hickory wood

Ribs going on the WSM

Trimming the flap off the St. Louis ribs

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Thermopen fast reading food thermometer

In most cases, you get what you pay for. The Thermopen food thermometer is no different. If you've ever grown impatient waiting for your economy digital thermometer to register a final temperature while the temperature in your barbecue smoker heads south, then you need to investigate the advantages of a professional food thermometer from Thermopen. Here's a list of features from the website:

--Read temperature in less than 4 seconds!
--Fold away probe protects from breakage.
--Wide range covers -58°F to 572°F.
--Accuracy meets USDA guidelines in the food range.
--Includes certificate with actual test data to prove your unit’s accuracy.
--Big easy-to-read digits are far easier to read than other pocket thermometers.

And perhaps most important for us bbq folks there's very minimal loss of moisture from piercing the meat to take an internal reading.

"The reduced-diameter needle tip of the Super-Fast model only requires about 1/8” immersion so you can take the temperature of even thin burger patties. And, you’ll only leave a tiny, self-closing hole in your steak instead of the gaping “juice-drain” left by “digital BBQ forks” or the old dial-type meat thermometers." (source ThermoWorks website).

For a lot of people, it's hard to overcome the price on these quality units, but in the end I think you agree they're worth it if you do a lot of cooking.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

July Fourth Menu Ideas

Linda has been reading Dr. BBQ’s Big-Time Barbecue Cookbook again. When I arrived home today, I found the book sitting near my laptop computer. She's planned our menu and even made a trip to the grocery store for supplies and ingredients. I'm sure lucky, aren't I?

Here's our menu for Independence Day:

-Backyard Championship Ribs
-Whole Smoked Cabbage
-Bonesmoker Potatoes
-Sibbie’s Baked Beans (Family Recipe)

There are some items on tap that are not traditional bbq foods, but every once in a while I like to spread my barbecue wings a little. Two of these items will be first timers for me.

We'll post some pictures on July 4th so you can see how it all turns out.

What is one your weekend menu?

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