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Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day 2012

Well folks: today is Memorial Day in the United States. It is a day to remember those that gave all for our country. It is also a day to thank those that have served or are serving in the military. I served in the Air Force during the Vietnam era, and I was lucky and served my time during that war in country. I served in Texas and South Dakota. My service to country was making sure the A/C and refrigeration stayed on in the PX. Other than that I spent most of my time trying to find a girl that would give me the time of day.

But I went to  high school and have since met many a man that did serve in that war. Some of the guys I went to school with came back wounded, and a few never made it back. I have a friend that has a Purple Heart that still today, after 40 plus years will want to dive under a table if a loud bang is behind him. I admire these guys for doing what the country needed them to do at that time, and sometimes feel a little guilty about my service and that I didn't do more.

So I'm going to BBQ some Pork Steaks today and I'll drink a few beers. What I'm asking you to do as you enjoy this extra day off of work, is to take a minute and remember those that gave so much  and especially those that gave all.

Monday, May 21, 2012

My Muddy Watter's contest review

Well folks: today I'll talk about my effort at the Muddy Watters BBQ contest this past Saturday. I'll start by saying there were some very good teams there to compete against and overall I wasn't disappointed in my overall finish. That being said there are things I learned and I now know I still have work to do, if I want to be a Grand Champion.

The toughest part of this contest was the heat, Saturday the heat got up to the 90's and we were set up on black top.  By the end of the day I was worn out and my legs and feet were screaming at me. Thankfully I had my brother in law Greg as my team mate to help load back up, he was a real life saver. Speaking of Greg he has really become a great team mate. Greg has been with me in enough contest now to know what I do and he is great at watching pit temps, and keeping me on my time line. There are teams that are a one man show, I've done one contest by myself, but when Greg is with me I'm a better Pit Master, can't say enough how much I appreciate him helping me in this endeavor of competition BBQ.

I started to prepare for this contest on Thursday buying my meat and making up my time lines. This contest was a one day affair, with the first turn in at 4PM. That first entry was Ribs, to be followed by Chicken at 4:30 and then beef turn in at 5PM. So Thursday evening I started to trim by meat, That means turning my spare ribs into St Louis Style Ribs and pulling the membrane. Next was my beef,  for this contest you could do anything beef. Normally a contest is beef Brisket but I decided to do beef short ribs. When these are done right they make a outstanding presentation. The beef pulls back from the bone and you end up with what looks like a beef popcicle. Last I trimmed my chicken, I did chicken thighs and competition chicken is a SOB of a category. It is without a doubt the one category almost every competitive Pit Master hates. Lets just say "I HATE CHICKEN"

Friday afternoon was spent loading up the truck with the pits and everything I need to cook a contest. I have a check list that I use when loading and its a life saver. Without it I would forget something and finding out I forgot my sauce is not what I ever want to do. I have to have my check list, its as important as my pits. Called Greg and told him to be at the house at 7:15 to load the coolers and head out.

(Just a side note even with the check list I still forgot to take a camera. So sorry no pictures.)

Saturday my feet hit the floor at 6AM and I'm excited to get started. Greg shows up right on time we load up the coolers and head out. Arrive at the contest site at 8AM and start setting up. Got the meat inspected this is to insure that we haven't marinated or seasoned the meat at home. Trimming is alright but everything else has to be done at the contest site. Got the okay from the meat inspector and fired up the pits. Next started to set up the site. This is a fun time, get to see some teams we've competed against at other contest and meet some new teams. Competitive BBQ is pretty relaxed even though everyone wants to win, everyone is there if you need a hand setting up. That's what I really like about competing in BBQ the people are GREAT!!

My Beef Short Ribs are going to take the most time so I start by seasoning them and getting the UGLY DRUM up to Temp. and on the pit they go. Followed by the Pork Spare Ribs. Then the Hated Chicken. This is the time to watch the the pits and maintain temps. and follow your time line for turning and spritzing and seasoning each entry. Also a great time to catch back up with the teams you haven't seen in a while.

Now it's 3PM and first turn in is in a hour, Crunch Time. ribs are first so making adjustment making sure they are done but not overdone. I smoked 3 slabs glad I did, one slab was overdone. Falling off the bone. Delicious but not what you want at a contest. The other 2 slabs were spot on sauced and made my turn in box. At 3:57 PM sent Greg with the Rib Box to the turn in table one down.  Now to Chicken. I'm happy with the looks of my chicken had Greg taste one of thighs and said the were good. So start to build my box, you need 6 pieces in a box because there are 6 judges, but I've been told a full box scores better, so I had room for 9 thighs and that's how many I put into the box. I'm happy with the box Greg said they tasted good, so at 4:26 off  Greg goes to turn in the Hated Chicken. Now the beef. I'm so happy with these they look great, probed tender and I couldn't be happier.  Win or lose I'm happy with the product I'm putting into the box. So at 4:55 sent Greg with the last turn in box.

Nothing else to do but start to load up to go home and wait for awards. This is when the heat really got me, I didn't want a beer, I wanted water and lots of it and I could use a nice shower. After loading up and drinking a lot of water we went in to hear how we did. The first call are for Ribs they are calling out the top 10. At 5th place I hear " The Man, The Grill, The Magic" not bad in this contest with these teams 5th is not bad. Next is CHICKEN!! again calling the top 10, I didn't hear my name I finished out of the top 10 and was afraid I finished Dead Ass Last, Come to find out I was 11th, I still HATE CHICKEN. Now to Beef again top 10 called and I finished 5th in Beef. Not bad was hoping for better but not bad. Then called out the overall finish and again I get 5th overall even with my chicken failure.

So overall not a bad day for "The Man, The Grill, The Magic." Still have to learn how to do competition Chicken. Actually my chicken is very tasty, just not what the judges are looking for, I'll keep trying.

Next contest is in June, The Route 66 BBQ Challenge at the Meramec Community Fair. Can't wait.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

If you go to a Contest

Well folks: today I'll talk about attending a BBQ contest as a spectator. I'll be honest, going to watch to a BBQ contest as a spectator, is a lot like watching paint dry. NASCAR is left turns with a few car wrecks, Golf has a few long putts being made, Football has touchdowns ,and Baseball has Home Runs. BBQ has Smoke. That being said you can go to a BBQ contest and have a good time.  Most contest are held along with some sort of festival, be it a car show or a community fair, a lot of times they are held with some sort of music theme. So there are things to do and see beside watching people sitting next to a smoker and you smelling smoke.

Now if you go there are a few things you need to know. Find out when turn ins are, most KCBS events turn ins start at noon Saturday. That is when the teams are putting their boxes together to turn into the judges. This is crunch time for the teams, starting at about 11AM teams get their game face on. They are building their turn in boxes and making final adjustment to their pits if any of their meats are under or over cooking. Getting the sauce just right and making sure there isn't anything out of place that will hurt their scores. This is not when you need to be asking them your questions. You may get a pretty rude response. It would be like asking a Pro golfer for putting tips as he's lining up his putt to win a Championship. The time to ask questions is Friday. The teams will have their site set up and will be relaxing with a cold beer. Now is when you can talk to them and ask your question.

Now you will be surprised by how open and willing these Pit Masters are in giving folks there smoking methods. You can ask them just about anything short of their secret rub recipe. Of course some teams will be willing to sell you their rub or sauce. You can ask them about what temps. they smoke at, to how long it takes to cook their ribs. Ask about their pits and smokers, this is how I learned how to make my Ugly Drum Smoker. These people have a passion about BBQ and love to share it with others. Some contest have a people choice category, this is when you can taste some of Pit Masters food and vote for the one you think is the best.

Now about samples from the Pit Masters, unless there is a people choice category the teams can't give out samples. Don't get mad when they say they can't, the local health dept. won't allow it. If they get caught they risk being banned from the contest and fined by the health dept. Most of the time there is a food booth  the organizers are running to make money and they don't want the teams giving out free samples while they are trying to raise money for their event or charity.

So go to a contest, talk to the teams on Friday. You will meet some real nice people and pick up some tips that will make your BBQ better,and you just might get the bug to start your own team and compete. Here's my warning, it is habit forming and a lot of fun.

Friday, May 11, 2012

My BBQ Bucket List

Well folks; today I'll talk about my BBQ bucket list. These are the things I hope to do before I move on to whatever there is on the other side. I have done a lot of different things in my life already. I have drove a stock car, flown in a helicopter and also flown in a open cockpit bi wing airplane, and there are still a lot of things I hope to do and see before I'm gone. But as far as my newest passion of BBQ there is a lot for me to achieve, I like goals, gives me something to shoot for and a reason to get up everyday.

Now in the world of competitive BBQ there are many goals for me to achieve and shoot for. Number one but in no real order is I would hope to win a Grand Championship what a thrill that would be for me. To be judged the best on any one day against other Pit Masters that have the same passion for BBQ as I do would be a feeling I hope to experience someday. Next would be to score a 180 in any category. A 180 is a perfect score in BBQ  like a 300 game in bowling or a hole in one in golf. To BBQ a entry and have it be judged perfect would be another great feeling. I know I have to keep working  on my skills before either one of these can become a reality.

Next on the list is to go to the biggest contest's in the BBQ world. On that list is the American Royal in Kansas City, Mo. This is a huge contest with 100's of team from all over the country. Getting a call at this contest is like winning a playoff game in any other sport, and something that can never be taken away from you. The other big contest is the "Jack" this a contest at Jack Daniels distillery in Tennessee. Everyone wants to cook at the "JACK"  Then next is not so much do I want to cook in this but I hope to go and see "Memphis in May" This is a contest that is like the Indy 500 or the Kentucky Derby. This is a event that teams spend all year getting ready to cook. They have big time sponsors and it's as much a party as a BBQ contest. It's still a BBQ competition  and a win here make's you a very special  BBQ Pit Master. Winning here is how a lot of careers are made, it marks you the Best of the Best.

So as you can see I have some big time goals on my BBQ bucket list. I'm not sure how many I'll achieve. I hope to at least attend the big contests and I'll be doing my best to get my personal goals and all the practice is still some good eating while I work to get that 180 score and the Grand Championship.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Stuffed Peppers

Well folks; today I'll give you the step by step recipe on how I made stuffed peppers in the Ugly Drum Smoker.  I love the UDS its a cooking machine that's cheap and easy to make and it doesn't require a lot of charcoal. The drum is almost a set it and leave it cooker, just takes a little practice because each drum cooks a little different, but once you get it dialed in, nothing but goodness will come out of these smokers. For this recipe  I got the heat up to about 280 degrees with 1 cube of MOJO Hickory for smoke flavor.

Now for these peppers I used 1 red  2 yellow and 3 green peppers. Cut off the tops and remove the cores and  seeds, rinse them out and place them in a aluminum pan. Then for the stuffing I used 1 lb. of ground beef and 1 lb. Italian sausage. I browned the meat with a half cup diced onion and 1Tablespoon of minced garlic. After the meat has browned add 1 can dice tomato. I used a Italian blend with Basel and garlic. After this has cooked for about 5 minutes add 2 cups cooked white rice, then add 1 cup shredded Sharp Cheddar cheese letting the cheese melt while stirring to mix. After cheese has melted its time to stuff the peppers. Remove the mixture from the heat and spoon the mixture into the peppers filling to the top.  Then top the peppers with a tablespoon of spaghetti sauce and then top them with some more cheddar cheese. Put 1 cup of the red sauce into the bottom of the pan with a 1/4 cup of water.

Now place the pan on the UDS  that's settled in at 290 degrees and just a thin blue line of smoke coming from the chimney. Close the lid and let the Magic begin. After a hour I checked the peppers they were tender, and the cheese had melted to what looked like pure goodness.

I served these with mash potato's and used the sauce from the bottom of the pan as gravy. To say these were good is a under statement. They had just a hint of smoke flavor that I love. I preferred the red and yellow peppers because the had more sweetness then the green peppers, but overall this was a hit. The wife said it was a definite do again. So when you don't want BBQ here is a way that you can still fire up the  smoker and make some very good eating.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

If it was easy everyone would do it

Well folks: today I'll talk a little about competition BBQ. I'm a rookie and just learning my way in competitive BBQ, but saw something last week that told me this isn't easy. I have been in about 6 contest all non sanctioned but some them have had as many as 28 to 30 teams.  Some of those teams are what I would consider PRO they have the thousand dollar smokers and compete in some KCBS contest. I have done alright in these contest won categories and seemed to always place and get my name called. In other words I'm starting to think I'm not half bad at this BBQ stuff. So I'm stepping up and going to some sanctioned contest and compete against some better teams.

Then this last week I saw just how tough this competitive BBQ stuff can be. First I'll tell you a little about the judging. There are 4 divisions Beef Brisket,Pork Butt, Ribs, and Chicken. There are 6 judges doing a blind taste. They are judging Appearance, Tenderness, Texture, and Taste. scoring on a scale with 9 being perfect. So there is a possible 36 that each judge can score each entry.  The low score is thrown out so a perfect entry  is scored 180. Getting a 180 score is like bowling a 300 game or hitting a hole in one in golf. Something to shoot for but very seldom achieved.

Now back to my story.  There is a team from Washington Mo B&B BBQ and Catering. The Pit Master is Jeff Brinker. I've met Jeff and have been following him as he competes just to see how he does. Well after winning a Grand Championship at the Washington Mo contest on April 21. He went to Rodger AK the following week to compete again. He knocked it out of the park, He scored a 180 in Chicken but he didn't stop there he scored a 180 in Pork Butt. That's 2 180 scores in the same contest. That's like bowling 2, 300 games on the same night or getting 2 holes in ones in the same round.

So you have to believe he won another Grand Championship right,,,,, well you would be wrong he finished 4th!!!  That's right scored 180 in 2 categories  and finished 4th. So if anyone thinks this is easy and its just some people spending  a weekend cooking what you do in the back yard. I'm here to tell you it's not easy. Jeff can attest to that, and I'm starting to wonder what I've signed myself up for. I'll keep you posted on how I do, just don't expect any 180 scores from me.