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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Know your Meat Man

Well folks; today I'm going to talk about some things I've learned since I began working for Schnucks Market at the meat case. The number one thing is that you should get to know the person behind the meat case where you are buying your meat. This person should become your friend. Learn their name and make sure they know yours. This person should be able to help you find the best cuts of meat, and just as important they know where the deals are.

Sounds like common sense, we like dealing with people we know and like, so making friends with the person you're buying meat from just makes sense.  Now to rule #2  buy from the meat case as much you can. The meat that is in the meat case is going to be the best cuts and is often the freshest. The cut that are less then perfect are wrapped and put in the self serve case. It does not cost more to buy from the meat case and you will get personal service and advice for free, also you can get items wrapped for the freezer just for the asking.

Rule #3 ask for advice. Be it how to cook a certain cut of meat or which cut is the best. The person behind the case should be able to guide you to the cut that will provide you the best tasting and also the best value for whatever you are preparing. Now not every meat case will be manned by a expert on how to cook every dish, but they should know enough if you tell them what you are trying to cook to guide you to the best cut, or know where to get the answer.

Rule #4, ask where are the deals? Thats right ask for a deal, the person on the case knows what they are overstocked in and has been marked down to sell quickly. If they know you and you are a regular  they are happy to share this info to their best customers. Also ask if you don't see what you want in the case. Often space in the meat case is limited so some cuts may not be on display and are only in the self serve case. Ask for a fresh cut to your specs. for a regular it isn't a problem and they should be happy to provide you what you want. Remember you have become a friend, and a regular to their case.

Last but not least when you get the extra service, be sure to say THANKS, a smile and a Thank you, will only make them want to give you that extra service next time.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Most Important BBQ Tool

Well folks, today I'm going to tell you what I think is the most important tool everyone needs to be a good pit master.  It's a thermometer. I'm asked a lot for advice on how to make good BBQ, and every time I end up talking about temperature. I'll talk about the temperature of the fire and at what temperature you need to turn the meat or the temperature you need to foil. Every time I grill or smoke I always need to know the temperature of the grill or the meat I have on the pit.

Now there are a lot of different thermometers on  the market. The most important thing with any of them is they must be accurate. The easiest test is boiling water or melting ice water test.  Water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit and ice melts at 32 degrees. To test your thermometer boil a pot of water and see what the thermometer reads. It should read 212 degrees if it doesn't and the thermometer has the ability to be adjusted you should adjust it to read 212. The ice water test is just as easy. Get a glass of water with crushed ice and place the thermometer in the glass being careful not to have the probe touch the side or the bottom of the glass. It should read 32 degrees. Again if it doesn't, adjust until it reads 32 degrees.

Now there are many different types of thermometers on the market, at all price points. The old adage you get what you pay for holds true here. The cheaper the thermometer the chance of it giving a false reading increases. The cheaper thermometers are also slower in response time. I have a Thermapen that I won, and have to say it is wonderful. But at $90.00 retail it better be, fast and accurate. I also have a remote that I purchased at a big box store for $16.00. It is great for keeping track of the temperature of the  big meats when doing a long cook. When it works its great but I have went though about 4 of them and I'm starting to think I need to spend the extra dollars and get one that last longer and has a longer distance range. There are also the simple probe thermometers that are on the market ranging  price from under $20.00

Whatever you chose is up to you and your budget, just make sure its is accurate and use it. You must know the temperature of your grill /smoker and the temperature of your meat to have a successful cook. Guessing will only lead you to under cooked meat or over cooked dry and tough meat. Because when you know the temperature you can concentrate on seasoning and smoke flavors, and injections and all the other things that can make your BBQ taste great. But first you have to know the temperature.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Sauce Review

Well folks, I'll start this post with a disclaimer. Frank Schmer is a customer and a friend so when he introduced his new sauce Frank's Freedom Sauce he gave me a bottle to try. I'll tell you the truth, if I didn't like this sauce I wouldn't say anything negative, I just wouldn't say anything. Luckily I get to tell you about a great sauce that I truly loved. There is one problem and I'll tell you that at the end of this post. I have told Frank and he is working to correct it.

Now to the sauce, Frank's Freedom Sauce is  only available in pint size jars. The label is something from the 1960's with the Hippy Peace symbol  and smiley faces. I liked it since the 60's are when I grew up.Woodstock happen along with the anti war movement and free love was the theme. Checking the label  it states that it is a cherry and apple blend bbq sauce. A check of the ingredients and the first ingredient is cherries, along with light brown sugar. So this sauce has something different from the norm. as cherries are leading the way. For the Apple part Frank is using applesauce. The applesauce make this sauce a little thick, not too thick but it is thicker than most bbq sauces on the market. The sauce has a nice dark red color and I found it to make my food look good when applied.

The first test for the sauce was when I got home and opened the jar. I took a spoon and tried just a small taste. I could tell the sweetness right away and noticed the thickness. It was good by itself but the  real test is will it make my bbq taste better. Next my wife grilled some bone in chicken breast while I was at work. I asked her to baste them with some of Frank's Freedom Sauce for our first taste test.WOW were we happy with what this sauce added to the chicken. I really couldn't get enough of this flavor. The next morning I fixed bacon. I LOVE BACON,  Bacon doesn't need much help in my book, but this time I added some of Frank's Freedom Sauce to my Bacon sandwich. Again this sauce made my food taste better. The next test was my ribs, I take a lot of pride in my ribs. I feel they are what I do best. I love cooking them and I have a routine that I use to produce what I think are some great ribs. So to be my go to sauce Frank's Freedom Sauce had to add something to my ribs. Got to say it did, great flavor, It added something to everything I tried the sauce on.

Since talking to Frank I found that a few competition teams are using the sauce in competitions. That means a lot. Because people that compete want to win.  A contest will cost a team anywhere from $500.00 to $1000.00 to enter. That is the cost of entry fees, travel expense,cost of meat and supplies. Teams spending that kind of money wants to hear their name called and get a check to help pay for the hobby of competition BBQ. Teams using a sauce in competition is a heck of a endorsement

Now to my only complaint. Frank's Freedom Sauce is not cheap. At $7.99 for a pint jar that puts it in the high priced area for most backyard pit masters. I know producing a sauce in small batches is going to be costly and using top ingredients add to the cost.  Frank is working reducing the cost and by producing larger batches he is hopeful that he will be able to reduce the retail price.

Bottom line,I found that Frank's Freedom Sauce is worth the price and I would urge you all to stop by St Louis Home Fires and pick up a jar. It will make your BBQ Better.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Helping People

Well folks it's been awhile since I have written anything to this blog. The truth is I have been busy with a new job and I had run out of things to say that I thought you may enjoy. But for those that have read this blog or follow me on facebook know I still have the passion for BBQ and I still lean to left in my politics. I believe we all owe our fellow man help when they find their self in need. So with that I had a idea for a new post. That is to ask you to support an new  non profit called Operation Barbeque Relief.

Operation Barbeque Relief came about after the tornado hit Joplin Missouri. You see people that BBQ at competitions can set up in a open field or a parking lot and start producing great tasting food quickly. We don't need electric and we can bring our own water supply.  So when a disaster hits a area BBQ teams can go there and set up their pits and be feeding people that have lost their homes, and also those that are volunteers that are there to help clean up. We very often have our pits and equipment ready to go and can hit the road in a short period of time.  So while the Red Cross is known for responding to areas that have been hit by disasters to help those in need find shelter and help them start the plan to get the aid they need. Operation Barbeque Relief can start feeding them and offer their encouragement.

Now a group like this needs to have some help paying for the food and supplies needed to feed those in need. It takes a lot of pans and charcoal, plate and utensils to put out a good meal to folks. That is the reason I'm writing this blog. When you see  people in need and wonder how you can help, this group is doing a great job and can use your help. Go to www.operationbbqrelief.org  and make a donation, you will be giving to a group that is doing a great job helping those in need.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Weekend Recap

Well folks, the weekend is over and I have recovered from working and cooking enough to share how everything went. I have to say it was a beautiful weekend, weather wise, and I had a ball talking BBQ with a lot of people that have the same passion as I do for making great BBQ. The weekend really got started on Thursday when I met up with Arthur Aguirre and Al Bowman, who were teaming up to cook as a team under the banner of Baumann Meat. I met them Thursday afternoon to load in at the St Louis Home Fires BBQ Bash. I helped them unload their gear and start to set up. These guys weren't only going to cook in the competition but also going to sell their BBQ. They were hoping to sell enough to help to pay for their trip to the American Royal this weekend.  They are cooking both the open and invitational; the American Royal is the Super Bowl of competition BBQ. I also unloaded my stuff, the plan is pass out samples of Mojobricks to introduce them to more folks in St Louis and make them a staple to everyone that BBQ's in St Louis.


Saturday morning I'm up early and out the door arriving at the site at 8AM and already there was a lot of smoke in the air. Teams were starting their pits and getting their meat prepped. The teams that are selling are setting up to handle the mass of people that attend this event. Last year estimates of 40,000 people attended the event and with the weather being perfect there were sure to be that many if not more this weekend. I start by talking to the teams I know. I made sure to stop by and talk to Bill and Anne Grenko of "Lock Stock and 2 Smokin Barrels" and then go around to visit all the teams and offer them a sample of Mojobricks. With about 100 teams this takes the rest of the morning and I was ready for some lunch. With no shortage of  booths selling I knew I wasn't going to go hungry, but my loyalty to Art and Al means I head back to their booth for a pulled pork sandwich. Great choice; they fixed me up with a huge sandwich and even shared a beer with me.

Now the crowd was really packing in and I was getting a lot of folks wanting to learn about Mojobricks so many in fact that by 4PM I was out of samples. So my day was over and it was time to get ready to go home and start to prepare for the Dan Donnelly Back Pack Rib Contest at the Pacific Eagles club in Pacific MO. on Sunday.

Sunday morning and I'm up early and finish loading the truck. I have done enough contests now that I have loading for a contest down pretty well. Still some work but since I will only be turning in ribs I feel pretty confident about handling this contest solo. Stopped at the store and got ice and some beer and arrive at the site at a little after 8AM.  Start to set up the site and and fire up the ugly drum. This contest is a little different in that included in the entry fee they supply 2 slabs of ribs. Good deal and I had picked up another slab to cook and take home for supper.

Since this wasn't a sanctioned contest  I decided to change up a few things and see how they would be received. I used a different rub and sauce combo. The cook went well and I was following my set time line that has been working for me. While I was there had some friends stop by and visit. They have never been to a contest and wanted to see what it was I was so wrapped up in. They were wanting to see everything that went into cooking a contest. I had fun answering their questions and showing them what it is I do to compete in a contest.

After they left it was time to get ready for turn in. The ribs were doing nicely and I was happy with how they were turning out. I sliced the first slab and had nice ribs not so tender that it was falling off the bone but tender and  had nice bite though. I used a cherry rub and I liked the flavor that it gave the ribs. Time to turn them in and see what the judges thought.

Time to hear who the winners were and they called the top 3 ; I did not hear my name. So the question was answered, the judges did not like the flavor I had in my ribs. I saw the finish list and out of 27 teams it looked like I was in the middle of the pack, at least I wasn't " Dead ass last".  Had a good time and the ribs were good at supper even if the judges didn't like them.

So that was my BBQ weekend. It was full and I was tired Sunday evening and slept like a baby with the sweet smell of BBQ still in my nose.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

It's a Fun Time in BBQ

Well folks this time of year is a fun time in BBQ in St Louis, MO, and I'm having a ball. You see when the weather gets cool it is time for the St. Louis Home Fires BBQ Bash. This year the Bash is next weekend, Sept 29 /30. The bash is the biggest BBQ event and contest of the year here in St Louis with upwards of 100 teams competing. There are teams that work all year on preparation for this event. They may only compete in this one event but they spent the summer in the backyard trying different recipes and techinques all with the goal of winning "THE BASH." Other teams will spend their time entering contests in the spring and summer getting feed back from judges and adjusting their cooks all in trying to win "THE BASH." Then there teams that treat this as a fun time to get together and have fun with family and friends enjoy the event, win or lose. They just want to have fun at "THE BASH."

It is also the time of year that the Grillin' Fools have their "Grillin' Fools Backyard Bash." This is the 3rd year for this event and many backyard pit masters look forward to this event. This event is aimed at the true backyard pit master only small grills allowed no big trailer pits can be used. All aimed at staying true to the backyard cook. The other plus is all the enter fees go to the Wounded Warriors fund.

Then there's the Pacific, MO, Eagles  Rib Challenge. This is a yearly contest event that benefits the Backpack program in Pacific. This ensures that every child in Pacific that needs a backpack for school gets one. The event was started by Dan Donnelly and is held along with the Pork Steak contest in Feb. and has continued to grow, this year having 30 teams competing.

So yesterday was the kick off for me. The Grillin' Fools contest was held and I was there not as pit master but to visit the teams I know and passing out samples of Mojobricks . It was a great time visiting with pit masters just having fun and supporting a  great event and raising funds for the Wounded Warriors. By the way the Grand Championship went to Bill Grenko of " Lock, Stock and 2 Smokin Barrels" a user of Mojobricks. Also 1st place in Ribs went to Big Al Bowman of  "Canadian Bakin" fame and also a user of Mojobricks.

So next weekend I will be at the St Louis Home Fires BBQ Bash and I will be working the event passing out  some samples of Mojobricks, talking to the teams and trying to learn any secrets that might help me in my quest to be a better pit master. Then on Sunday I will be at the Pacific Eagles Rib cook off cooking some ribs and supporting  the Backpack program.

I'm having a lot of fun in BBQ right now and hope if you get a chance you will attend one or all of these events. If you aren't in the St Louis area, I'll bet there is a BBQ event close to you that is supporting a charity in your area that you could attend. You will get some great BBQ and maybe learn a trick that will make you a better pit master and support a worthy charity.

 So come on out. The sweet smell of BBQ is in the air.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Is BBQ a Sport?

Well folks, today I'm going to go on a little rant and give my opinion about whether BBQ is a sport or not. Those of you that know me aren't surprised that I have a opinion and I'm willing to share it with you. I'm not shy about sharing my opinions, sometimes to my detriment. So here's my opinion about some calling competitive BBQ a sport. It's Not!!

Come on people, look at my picture. Do I look like an athlete? Of course not, I'm an overweight 60 year old man that likes to cook BBQ. Competitive BBQ is an activity that is enjoyed by people of all ages, genders and abilities. That may be what makes competitive BBQ so great. You don't have to be a athlete to be in  competitive BBQ.  The only thing you need is the guts to go out and cook BBQ and have a independent group of people judge your product. You can be a man ,woman, young or old. You can have  thousands of dollars in a trailer pit or a homemade ugly drum smoker and you can still be part of competitive BBQ.

So there you have my opinion, Competitive BBQ is not a sport. It's an activity that can be enjoyed by everyone.  So if you ever wanted find out how your BBQ stacks up against others that have the same passion for good BBQ, don't think you need to start working out. All you need to do is practice on the grill, learn a few simple rules and get out there and turn your food in to be judged. It is addictive and you will meet some really great folks that are willing to share their knowledge and help you along the way. I found that since I started competing I have become a better pit master and my food is better.

So come on out, the smoke is fine and there's always room for another pit.