Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What I'm learning from...

Since the beginning, I've considered this venture in the world of BBQ as a continual learning process as I experiment, play, try, read, learn, watch, try something else, etc.

So I thought I'd post about some good resources to learn from:

1) The BBQ Brethren is one of the best online sites I've found for exchanging ideas, recipes, swapping stories, looking at meat from my desk at work while I'm eating the salad my wife made for me for lunch, etc. Go to: http://www.bbq-brethren.com and look specifically at the Q Talk section in the discussion area.

2) Amazing Ribs. I really can't find a better site reviewing products and giving advice on some of the old-time traditions of bbqing including a great write-up on soaking wood. http://amazingribs.com/.

3) Twitter. I have developed a great list of people I follow in Twitter -- mostly companies, professional teams, a few backyarders, and a couple of people who publish daily newspapers on BBQ. If you follow me on Twitter at @SuburbSlicker, then you can click on my picture and then click on Following and you'll find the people I follow. It's a good list -- 300+ tweeters. 

4) The Smoke Ring (http://www.thesmokering.com/) is actually a number of other BBQ-friendly sites all connected together (including this blog) that have great information (sometimes you have to hunt a little bit), as well as any number of products. 

5) Cookbooks. I have a bunch and sometimes even look at them. Generally, I get most of my recipes online now. I do like Prophets of Smoked Meat (http://www.amazon.com/The-Prophets-Smoked-Meat-Barbecue/dp/0062202928) which is more of a travel book on bbq in Texas than a cookbook. But if you want some bbq pron, there's no better place for it. 

6) TV. I have to admit, I started some of my fascination with cooking by watching all of the BBQ Pitmasters, American Grilled, Man-Fire-Foods, etc. shows that I could find. I'm now finding almost all of them to be so repetitious and copycatting one another. I still like Restaurant Impossible and Bar Rescue, but more as entertainment than learning. The one exception to my TV rule though is Steven Raichlen's Primal Grill on Public Television. That's the only BBQing show, in my opinion, worth spending any time with. AND, he posts all of his recipes online! http://www.primalgrill.org/. Go check it out.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

KCBS Certified Judging Class

Wife and kids sent me to school for Fathers' Day -- actually one class to make me a Certified BBQ Judge with the Kansas City BBQ Society. And though I wanted to go, I also had a million things to do around the house on Saturday -- other than driving 2 hours to go to Gettysburg, PA to spend the next several hours thinking about KCBS BBQ Competition rules.

So I was torn, but got up at 6 on a Saturday morning and headed north on U.S. 15, through Frederick, Emmittsburg, and into Harley Hell (a.k.a. Bike Week) in Gettysburg. I entered the room with  25 others who almost all looked largely like me -- middle to upper-middle class, generally chunky, white, middle aged men with circle beards. There were a couple of spouse-like female critters as well. Most of them went without the circle beards.

Once there we had the usual PowerPoint-driven lecture with stories of BBQ contests of the past sprinkled in. There was a heavy focus on the KCBS rulebook and a lot of explanations of permitted vs. non-permitted lettuce as garnish. Then we got to test our new-found skills by eating! Chicken, ribs, pork, brisket. Wash your tastebuds with water only. Don't eat too many crackers. Don't lick your fingers and then touch more food that your neighbor judges will have to eat.

At the end we had to take a semi-hokey pledge to defend truth, justice and the BBQ way.

And then we were told to go find some competitions to judge. Seems like their might be a database of judges that organizers could tap into to make that process a little more automated, but such is life...

Good class, interesting class. I learned a lot about competitions and what judges look for. Not sure I'm ready to jump into that work yet, but it's always good to be prepared. And now I have something new to add to my Linked-In and FB profiles! ;)

Monday, July 7, 2014

Plankies: Epic BBQ fail

So I'm going to be honest, I've not been blogging too much because I've been too busy cooking. And I'm getting pretty good at it, IMO. But this was a fail for me.

Ted Reader's Plankies: http://www.tedreader.com/recipe/desserts/plankies


serves 4-8


1 regular cedar plank, soaked in water
8 Twinkies (4 pkg.)
3⁄4 cup (175 mL) Nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread)
6 Oreo cookies, smashed into chunks
1⁄2 cup (125 mL) mini marshmallows
1⁄4 cup (60 mL) chocolate toffee pieces
Preheat grill to medium-low heat. Arrange the Twinkies on the plank. Slather the top of the Twinkies evenly with Nutella. Sprinkle with mini Oreo chunks, marshmallows and chocolate toffee pieces.
Place plank on grill and close lid. Allow Twinkies to heat and smoke slowly for 15 minutes, until marshmallows are golden brown and everything is heated through.
Remove from grill and serve immediately with a big glass of milk.
So you can imagine: looks good huh? 
I followed the directions precisely. Everything looked spectacular -- but the taste: yuk! The cedar planks I purchased completely overpowered any other flavor. I'm not sure if it was the brand (Western from WallyWorld) or if I left them on too long, or what. But the woodsy flavor was just too much to enjoy the rest. 
If I ever do again, I'd just do on a foiled tray on the grill with maybe a couple of chunks of something lighter for smoke. Maybe oak or a fruitwood.  Also, one of my guests had a tree nut allergy and Nutella apparently drives him on a non-stop trip to the ER. I'll check for allergies next time too.

Oh well. Live and learn.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

You need to buy this stuff

Not BBQ related, but this is the best stuff on Earth for getting baked-on crud off pots and pans. It's sometimes hard to find. Try Wal-Mart. I just bought the last two bottles for $2.68 each.

BBQ Photos -- Summertime is coming!

Butch with new WSM 22.5

I know a cure for the summertime blues
Butch with Famous Dave!

Haven't blogged, but have been smokin!

It's been some time (almost a year!) since I posted, but that doesn't mean my grills have been quiet. No, in fact, in the interim, I've picked up a 22.5-inch Weber Smokey Mountain (called WSM for short) along with a variety of tools. (I also bought a handy little Aussie grill from Home Depot which is my go-to beach grill.)

Let's start with my most recent cook -- 48 lbs of pork shoulder (six butts) on the WSM, and two large pans of baked beans on the Char-Griller COS. Why so much? Every winter, our church opens its doors to host homeless folks in the community through a program run by the county. And for the past two years, my buddy Dave and I have volunteered to do a big cook to treat our guests to a special meal on their last night with us. That was Saturday. Saturday was also cold. And windy. I was getting low 20s on my ambient air thermometer and the wind was pushing between 10 and 20 mph, so I knew I'd have some issues keeping the COS hot without burning through my entire firewood pile. So I opted for the WSM for this cook.

 This WSM held all six butts, three on the top and three on the bottom, fat cap side up. Temp control was tough given the cold and wind. I tried to block the wind as much as possible, but wasn't very successful. I also put my new Pitmaster IQ110 into service for this cook. The IQ110 is a handy little tool which is basically a thermostatically controlled fan which attaches to your bottom vent (see the mental cone thing at the bottom of the second picture) and blows air across your charcoal when it needs to stoke the fire. I found the IQ110 very easy to use, but I think it was struggling in the temperatures I was facing. I think on a warmer day it would have been better. The instructions caution over and over that the smoker must be tight for it to work. Mine's tight, but I don't think it was enough to overcome the cold and wind. I ended up setting the temp around 240 to keep it at about 230, but it seemed to be struggling to keep the temps hot enough to cook. I blame that on the WSM and the outside temps more than the IQ110. I'll try again when it's a little warmer.

The pork took longer than expected and I eventually had to throw it in the oven to get it above the 175 mark, but it was supremely tasty. Here's some pics:

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Quick tip on brining a turkey

I love turkey, smoked or fried doesn't matter. But I grew up with overcooked and dry birds and decided to change that paradigm and found the art of brining to keep turkey moist.

I use a cup of sugar and a cup of salt like every other recipe. I used to add spices but I haven't found those do much. But here's my trick: you should be brining overnight in a non-reactive container and I had been using clear plastic garbage bags like a leaf bag until I found out I'd been poisoning my family and friends for years with chemicals from the bags.

But I found a better and much safer and honestly more convenient way!



Ziploc makes a food safe bag big enough for two birds. I found mine at Target, so they're probably available widely. Here's a link: http://www.ziploc.com/Products/Pages/BigBags.aspx?SizeName=XXL. Costs a few cents more, but saves time and possibly later illness.

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