Friday, August 29, 2008

My BBQ Blog at

Kevin Bevington, creator of , redesigned and relaunched his bbq website earlier this year. If you haven't visited the site for a few months, I'd encourage to stop by and check out the new design.

I've been contributing to as a guest blogger for several weeks now and wanted to share an excerpt of one of my recent posts about our chicken turn-in box:

A few years ago while competing in a barbecue event in Arcadia, Florida the unthinkable happened while preparing our chicken turn-in box. We prepared fantastic turn-in samples and were sure we had a good chance to win, but after placing the samples in the box and closing it I discovered that our box had been damaged.

I froze for a few seconds and wasn’t sure what to do next. Should I turn in the sample anyway and take a chance that the box would be disqualified? Should I throw in the towel for the chicken category and start preparing for the rib turn-in?

Read the rest of the article here

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Pork Tapas, Bell Peppers, and Potato Wedges

Here's a quick and easy recipe for tapas-style grilled pork.

1. Start with 1 pound of pork sliced into 1 inch cubes.

2. Brush with marinade mixture and refrigerate until ready to cook. For best results, marinate the pork in the refrigerator overnight.

3. Place pork on skewers and cook on a charcoal grill for 10-15 minutes. Turn frequently to prevent burning.

Marinade Mixture

1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp cummin
1 tbsp ginger
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
Juice from 1 lemon
3 tbsp olive oil

Roasted bell peppers make a nice side dish.

Just slice and brush with a little olive oil and Sherry Wine Vinegar. Sprinkle with a little garlic and serve.

I also made some potato wedges. Fry for 10-12 minutes in a frying pan and sprinkle with paprika, cummin, and salt.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Improve Your BBQ Results

One of the easiest and quickest ways to improve your bbq is to begin documenting your cooking sessions in a bbq journal. A spiral notebook or three ring binder will work well. Some also use a computer document instead of pen and paper, but it's not quite as portable unless you have a laptop.
At contests, I keep a journal for each meat. I keep track of everything following the arrival at the contest. I pay attention to the time we prepare each meat for marinating. I carefully document the cooking start times for each meat, the weather conditions, the outside temperature, and the cooker temperatures.
I also document the critical times for the various meats. For example, I start my briskets fat side up and document the time I flip them to fat side down. (This particular tip has paid big dividends for me in contest winnings.) I document the times I spray the various cuts with apple juice. I pay particular attention to when I wrap the briskets and pork butts with aluminum foil.
After a few cooking sessions, you'll be able to improve your results dramatically by tweaking your start times, temperatures, and methods based on your historic results. Barbecue is more art than science, but anytime you can add a little science to the art, it will reap dividends in the long run.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Jambo Pits is going strong. Besides offering contact information for its proprietor, Jamie Geer, the website also features a photo album for the works of bbq art that he builds.

I first saw one up close in Brooksville, FL back in 2001. Smokin Triggers used it to win the event. Some of the best bbq teams in the country cook on them and just about everyone else wishes they did.

I'd like to park a Jambo Pit in my own garage someday. But even if I did own one, I'm not quite sure I could make myself mess it up by cooking on it.

Click here for more pictures of Geer pits.

NFL Gameday Cookbook

Monday, August 18, 2008

Naked Chicken Thighs

In the quest to find the perfect bbq spice rub and sauce combination, we barbecue fanatics sometimes overdo them both and end up with bbq "candy".

This past weekend I decided to experiment with chicken thighs without using spice rub and with very little bbq sauce added.

I've been marinating my chicken thighs and drumsticks in Newman's Own Olive Oil and Vinegar since the beginning, but after spending some time thinking about it this weekend I realized that I have never really experimented to identify exactly what the dressing adds to my chicken recipes. I just started using it because I read about it on the web at some point and followed suit.

The thighs in the picture were not trimmed and squared up properly for a bbq contest turn-in, but they were fine for eating here at home.

The thighs and dressing were placed in a 2 gallon plastic bag and were marinated for 4 hours in the refrigerator. I pre-heated the WSM (without the water pan) to 275 degrees and put the chicken on for cooking. The naked thighs were cooked for 1 1/2 hours to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Near the end I brushed on a little bbq sauce for a little flavor, but as you can see from the picture there was very, very little sauce used. That really wasn't the main point of this test anyway.

What did I learn?

The salad dressing helps keep the chicken moist while cooking, but adds very little flavor. The thighs were juicy and tender, but were quite bland. Based on my test, I doubt that it matters what kind of salad dressing is used for a marinade. Anything with olive oil and a little vinegar will probably work fairly well. I don't think the Newman's Own is an absolute requirement.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

On a BBQ Mission

Have you ever met someone that every time you talk to them the conversation inevitably turns into a series of unending statements such as, "When I have more time......I'm going to...(do this or that)" and "One of these days when I get things lined out....I'm going to...(do such and such)" and "When I get some money saved up....I'm going to...(go meet so and so)"? I'm sure we've all met people like this in our travels whether it's at work, family reunions, class reunions, converstions with neighbors, folks at church, or sometimes even our own spouses.

Barbecue is no different. I meet people at bbq contests, on discussion boards, and via e-mail correspondence that use similar phrases and expressions when talking about their infactuation with bbq as a competitive sport.

I mean no disrespect to anyone when I say this, because I've had these same traits myself from time-to-time, but I'm proud to say that for the most part...I'm in the process of doing, or I've already done many of the things "I've always meant to get around to."

Don't sell yourself short on barbecue. Don't let the naysayers intimidate you, chastise you, or "rain on your parade".

If you've always had a desire to purchase a "real" bbq cooker, whether it's a Lang, Klose, Backwoods, Stumps, or one of the various styles of pellet cookers on the market; bite the bullet and do it. If you've always had a dream of owning your own restaurant, or to start a catering company...develop some goals, write a plan, tie them to a definitive time schedule, and get started on your journey.

It's time to get off the porch and get fired-up about bbq. Don't let it pass you buy. It's fun. It's challenging, but perhaps most of all, your abilities to learn new things and to meet interesting new people will surprise you.

But, when you really get down to it and boil it down to the brass tacks perhaps the most compelling reason is that there's really and truly nothing stopping you.

All things are possible.

NFL Gameday Cookbook

Monday, August 11, 2008

Florida Chili Cookoffs

For all the chili heads that read the bbq blog, I'm going to pass along some information that was passed along to me today regarding CASI chili events in Florida.

The Florida State Open Chili Championship will be held October 4th this year. So get your recipes ready.

Oct. 4, 2008 - DeLand, FLA. CASI. Florida State Open Chili Championship, 7th Annual Great Bowls of Fire Chili Cookoff. Visit their website: Contact Sally Bohon at or Candace Knight Arevalo at for more information.

Oct 11, 2008 - Homosassa FL CASI. Southeast Chili Cookoff. Held at Natures RV Resort on the waterfront. Contact Candace Knight-Arevalo for more information.

Oct 12, 2008 - Homosassa FL CASI. Sunshine State Chili Pod Cookoff. Contact Candace Knight-Arevalo 561-795- 5888, Visit their website:

Nov 1, 2008- Terlingua TX CASI. Terlingua International Chili Champ Cookoff. Held at Rancho CASI De Los Chisos. Contact Alan Dean for more information.

You can find out more about chili cook-offs in Florida at the Sunshine State Chili Pod website.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Barbecue Food Safety

Nothing can ruin a fantastic day of barbecuing faster than someone getting sick after eating food you prepared. Whether you are grilling in the back yard, catering for a group of friends and family, or preparing bbq food in a restaurant for hundreds of customers each day, you need to follow safe food preparation techniques.

Keeping it cold

When shopping for food, purchase meat and poultry just before you leave the store. Food in the grocery store is stored at temperatures of below 40 degrees and needs to maintained below 40 degrees whenever possible. Food should be referigerated after the drive home as soon as possible. Allowing the temperature of the food to rise above 40 degrees for any length of time increases the possibility of bacteria growth.

Vacuum seal bulk purchases

I often purchase food in bulk to save money. Meat that is not going to be consumed within a couple of days should be frozen. I like to vacuum seal large quantities into smaller packages. For example, if we buy a package of 16 pork chops, I split the chops into packets of 4, vacuum seal them, mark the package with the date, and then place it in the freezer until we are ready to prepare them.

Avoid cross-contamination

As meat begins to thaw, juices can sometimes escape the packaging and cross-contamination can occur. Vacuum sealing is another way to help prevent cross-contamination between meat and poultry when storing or transporting food. When handling chicken, thoroughly wash your hands and any knives and utensils with hot, soapy water before using the utensils to cut other meat.

Marinate Properly

Always marinade meat and poultry in the refrigerator. Contrary to some advice I've read recently on a very popular bbq forum, never, never, allow meat to marinade at room temperature. Meat should be marinated in the refrigerator. When removing marinated food from the refrigerator, place it directly on the smoker or grill for cooking.

Cooking temps

Pre-heat your cooker to ensure that you attain a 140 degree internal meat temperature within 4 hours. Do not allow meat to remain in the danger zone (i.e. greater than 40 degrees and less than 140 degrees) for more than 4 hours.

For more food safety tips and information, there's a nice article on the USDA website that should help.

NFL Gameday Cookbook

Blog About BBQ?

Do you have a bbq blog? In the next few days I'm going to be refreshing my list of bbq links and sites. If you are interested in exchanging bbq links, please let me know.
Please send me a picture of your bbq logo or bbq contest team banner, if you have one, and I'll try to use that as well.

If you don't have a bbq blog, now is a great time to get one started. It's free with Blogger and pretty simple to set-up. You don't have to be an expert in html programming to get started. With Blogger everything is set-up in templates and menus. You select the one you like and you're set to go. All you have to do is prepare the content for your site. Check the menu of blog links in the right hand margin for ideas on what yours might look like if you decide to publish your own.

Jump on in! Let's cook some 'que.

BBQ Appearance Scores

The most effective tool for improving your barbecue contest results is a a digital camera. Forget about the secret rubs and sauces and all the time wasting and money wasting gadgets for sale. If the best barbecue in the world doesn't look good in a turn-in box, it's probably not going to win 1st place.
The Canon Powershot at the left costs less than $260 at Amazon and can be purchased at Wal-Mart and Target too. Linda and I have taken a lot of bbq pictures with it.
If you are not already doing it, take a picture of your turn-in boxes just before you close the lid. When the box is opened for judging, that picture is what they're going to see. After you get your results from the event, whether they are positive or negative, the digital picture can help you make adjustments for the next event. You can download the pictures to you computer at home and then you'll have the entire season of turn-in boxes for reference later. Over a period of three or four contests, I am sure the camera will provide you with ideas to improve your appearance scores and win more prize money.
A digital camera can also help you with your at home practicing. Get some boxes and practice setting up boxes when you do your practice cooks. Take pictures of them and compare them with your next practice cook or to your next contest boxes. I promise it works.
Here's a picture of a first place brisket box.
If you're looking for an all around top of the line point and shoot camera, consider the Panasonic FZ50.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Arizona Barbecue

AZ Barbeque has relaunched their website. They've put a lot of hard work into the re-designed site and they've changed its' overall look. The site now offers discussion forums, a barbecue store, a bbq blog, photo gallery, and a bbq team section. is all about BBQ in Arizona and they're looking for new members. I encourage you to check out their new website.