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Friday, August 29, 2014

Best BBQ Smoker Under $400

Weber Smoker Mountain



Hands down the best bbq smoker available in the under $400 price point is the Weber Smokey Mountain aka WSM. It's bullet shape is proven, reliable, and affordable.

I've had mine since 2001 and it's still going strong. It's compact, lightweight and functional. Charcoal goes in the bottom, a water pan in the middle and two cooking grates in the top half of the cooker.










Weber Kettle Grill


Some may argue with me that a kettle grill isn't really a smoker. They would be right - it's a grill with versatility to be used as a smoker too.

Using good fire control techniques, banking the coals on the sides (or purchasing an accessory from Weber that makes that part even easier) will enable you smoke ribs on the grill without an expensive smoker. Get a rib rack and you can smoke 5 or 6 racks at once.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Camp Fire Chicken on the Charcoal Grill

Linda and I stopped by Cracker Barrel last weekend for "lupper" (a meal between the normal time for lunch and supper). They were advertising Camp Fire Chicken on the menu insert and I decided to order it. Their version included a chicken quarter, potatoes, carrots, onions, a piece of corn on the cob, and a small amount of tomato. I enjoyed the meal and immediately decided that I would try to emulate that dish (or a close version) on the bbq grill at home.

There are many ways to prepare this dish. This is my improvised version of Camp Fire Chicken.

Step 1. Prepare the veggies


Celery, carrots, red bell pepper, squash, red onion, new potatoes


 Step 2. Prepare the chicken quarters (put some seasoning under the chicken skin too)


Chicken quarters seasoned with Lawry's poultry blend
 Step 3. Garlic powder


Garlic powder
 Step 4. Butter (or margarine)


A couple teaspoons of margarine seasoned with garlic powder
 Step 5. Pre-assemble the veggies and chicken in foil


The dish assembled in aluminum foil and ready for the grill (before)
 Step 6. Wrap tightly and place on the grill


Wrapped in aluminum foil and placed in the center of the grill with charcoal banked on the sides
 Step 7. Cook at 350 degrees for 60 - 75 minutes or until chicken reaches 175 - 180 degrees


Camp Fire Chicken fresh from the grill (after)
 Step 8. I used chicken quarters, but thighs, drumsticks or breasts would probably work well too


Camp Fire Chicken close-up

I enjoyed my version of the dish. I think this is a nice way to prepare an interesting dish on the grill for a family get together too. I could cook 8 - 10 of these easily in my Backwoods or McCullough upright bbq smokers.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Winter Brisket Cook

Here are a couple of pictures from my brisket cook yesterday. It turned out pretty well with a very nice smoke ring. It was moist throughout, but sliced clean and easy.

 

Sliced brisket

Brisket close-up

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Weekend Pork Butt and Brisket

I started cooking some pork butts and a brisket today. I've got two boneless 5 lb. butts and a 14 lb. brisket on the smoker. Here's a picture from 6 a.m. when I was kicking everything off.

Currently everything is humming along just fine. The smoker is pegged at 230 degrees.

Adding water to my insulated McCullough 2 x 2
We've had 90 something inches of snow so far this year and a month with temps in the lower single digits. This weekend we're close to 35 degrees for highs, but it's still cold enough that cooking all day requires an insulated smoker.

Once I get it up to temp it maintains cooking temps very well.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Brisket Prices

I stopped by the local butcher today to purchase a whole brisket for a cook this weekend. I got sticker shock!

I think back to the good old days when I used to purchase a 13 - 14 lb. briskets for $32-$33. I purchased a 14 lb. brisket today for $71.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

When I'm Not Cooking Barbecue

I like to eat bbq, cook bbq, read about it and blog about it; but in recent months I've been doing a little less barbecuing and a lot more fishing. Not bass or crappie fishing - carp fishing. I can hear the groans as you read this all the way in Michigan, but before you dismiss my "second" hobby because "it's just carp" take a look at these pictures.

16.4 pounds

17.0 pounds
I caught these fish in late October in a 30 minute period. I fished for bass, blue gill and crappie for a lot of years, but never caught anything this big let alone 2 of them within 30 minutes.

I think I can work bbq into this new way to pass the time also. Sometimes it can take a couple of hours to get a bite, so that leaves plenty of time for cooking some barbecue too.

I have also created a new blog to document my fishing and to hopefully raise some money for charity at the same time. Please check it out. It's called Michigan Carp Fishing. With the new fishing blog I am hoping to help raise money for lupus research.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Top 10 BBQ Blog List

A few years ago I was asked to write a guest post on another website listing my Top 10 Favorite blogs about barbecue. I re-visited these blogs tonight to make sure I still agree with my original list. I guess my Top 10 List is now technically a Top 9, because Martin's BBQ Blog is not longer being updated, but I want to leave it on my list as a reference for others thinking about starting a bbq restaurant. Pat Martin, the proprietor shared a lot of insightful information from "behind the scenes" that's worth reading.

All Things Barbeque

This is the blog for one of the winningest teams on the professional Kansas City Barbecue Society cooking circuit. If you're into BBQ contests, this site is for definitely for you. Not too heavy on BBQ recipes, but very large on BBQ contest information, pictures, and all the contest happenings.

BBQ Blog

This blog is an extension of the world reknowned BBQ Forum created by Ray Basso. Contributors include serious BBQ enthusiasts from all areas of the country giving their own unique view of BBQ.

Bucky's Barbecue and Bread

This site is a wonderful source of recipes with a fair amount of BBQ recipes and pictures sprinkled in. I've met the author several times on the contest trail. As we say in the south, he's good people.

Cowgirl's Country Life

This cowgirl knows how to cook. Tons of pictures, recipes, and country cooking - BBQ and otherwise.

Fat Johnny's Front Porch

Wonderful food pictures, recipes and good music. Need I say more?

Martin's BBQ Blog

If you've ever thought about starting a restaurant, or specifically a BBQ-themed restaurant, Pat Martin's experiences chronicled on his blog might make you think twice, or three or four times. He has documented the entire experience from start-up to full operation on his blog.

Old Dave's Po-Farm

Dave cook's just about anything in a BBQ smoker. He provides pictures, recipes, and an overall BBQ philosophy that is refreshing and rewarding. Pizza, corn bread, pork butt, ribs, and chicken. You can tell he loves to cook.

Q Haven BBQ Blog

A documentary for New England BBQ contests, this site is also filled with tasty recipes and pictures. There is a fair amount of KCBS BBQ competition results too.

Ulika Food Blog

Written by a professional BBQ contest competitor, this blog is a reliable source of information for the BBQ community in Nashville, Tennessee. The blog includes articles about BBQ restaurants and competiions in the area with lots and lots of pictures.

WhiteTrashBBQ

I visited this blog initially for the catchy name, but I keep going back for the recipes and insight into the New York BBQ scene. The site features reviews and news about New York restaurants - not just BBQ ones.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Deep Fried Turkey Preparations

I've been frying turkey for 7 or 8 years and Wednesday afternoon I prepared a 13 lb. bird for frying on Thanksgiving Day. I've written a few posts about how I like to do it in the past. Shake's Honey Brine is my favorite brine injection recipe. Lots of honey, salt, picking spice, cloves and Morton's Tender Quick do the trick.

I started thawing the turkey in the refrigerator on Monday and it was still a little bit frozen on the inside when I pulled it out this afternoon for injecting, but it turned out fine. It continued to thaw while the marinating process started. I finished injecting the thighs and breast; then I set the bird into the leftover brine and placed it back in the refrigerator.


I placed the Tupperware container in a plastic bag and return it to the refrigerator overnight.


These are not "food grade" plastic bags, but at least they are not "scented". I would have used clear plastic if I had some large enough, but as Clint Eastwood once said, "improvise, adapt, and overcome".


The things I do in the name of good food.
We had a light dusting of snow overnight and temps were in the mid-20's at turkey frying time.



Warming the oil

Almost ready

Into the oil
I heat the oil to 275 degrees, turn off the fryer, and then lower the turkey into the oil. I continue heating the oil to 300 degrees and then cut the heat back to maintain 300 -325 degrees consistently for about 1 hour or 4 minutes per pound depending on the size of the turkey. If you prefer to heat the oil to 325 degrees prior to putting the turkey in the oil, then something closer to 3 minutes per pound would probably work too. For safety I always prefer to undershoot on the front end and cook it a little longer on the back end.


Crispy skin close up
Sometimes the skin turns out darker than others. I think it depends on the type of oil that is used. I don't eat the skin anyway. I have used sunflower oil, safflower, and peanut oil in the past. I usually settle for whatever is available without searching all over town looking for it and this year it was safflower oil.


Slicing the turkey breast
I like to use an electric knife for slicing. It's quick, easy and efficient for me and usually turns out very well.


Drumsticks, left and right breast, and dark meat complete and ready to eat.
Fried turkey always turns out well. I've never had a bad one. I can't say the same for oven baked turkey. And besides the fool-proof nature of fried turkey, it's hard to beat Thanksgiving Dinner ready-in-an-hour versus the cook-all-morning-oven-baked-method.



Turkey breast, stuffing and peas. The deviled eggs and cranberries wouldn't fit on the plate,
but that didn't stop me from eating them the second time around!

 
Linda made an apple pie for desert



Saturday, November 23, 2013

Slawsa, Recently Featured on ABC's Shark Tank

I am an avid fan of Shark Tank on ABC. For many years, it was my dream to start a food business. Originally I was hoping to vend bbq, then cater it, and eventually open a bbq restaurant; but my dream has changed over the years.

I tested the viability of selling bbq sauce and bbq spice rub at bbq competitions and from my bbq blog. My story has been well documented in a previous article, so I won't rehash it all again in this post.

When I learned that Slawsa would be featured on Shark Tank in the November 15th episode I watched with a lot of interest.

I bought a jar today my local Kroger supermarket
 
As luck would have it, the Sharks didn't share the same vision for the possibilities for making Slawsa a household name. But Julie Busha should certainly hold her head high and be proud for the way she told her story and represented her brand in the prime time national television spotlight.

You win some, you lose some; but I think Slawsa is already a big winner. The product is sold in more than 5,000 stores at this point and is available in more than 1,000 Kroger locations. I actually bought some today at my local Kroger in Canton, MI.

Julie wrote a guest blog post for SharkTankBlog.com providing more insight about what it takes to start, grow and profit from a niche food product business. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did. If you like what you read, I urge you to support a fellow food-preneur and give Slawsa a try.

Here's a clip from her segment on the television show:


 
Julie has written other articles providing insight into the food business also available on Slawsa.com at the following link: Click here.
 
The following quote from Slawsa.com kind of sums up the Slawsa philosophy quite succinctly:
 
SLAWSA breaks the mold of modern condiments, boldly creating a whole new category of food, and standing alone in its realm of flavor. A delicious cross between a slaw and a salsa and far healthier than other toppers, more versatile and is a must-have for your pre-game tailgate, grilling at your backyard barbecue or to spice up your mid-week family dinners. We beg you, don't serve your guests boring condiments.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Cast Iron Skillet Fried Potatoes

This time of year I like to pull out the dutch ovens. Here's a recipe for some potatoes I made today for lunch.


Cast Iron Skillet Fried Potatoes

Ø  8 – 9 small/medium sized red skinned potatoes

Ø  1 medium sized red onion

Ø  2 cloves minced garlic

Ø  3 stems fresh rosemary

Ø  Salt and pepper to taste

Ø  Olive oil to cover the bottom of the skillet

 
Directions:

·         Pre-heat cast iron skillet on low heat. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil.

·         Slice potatoes, onion and rosemary. Mince garlic.

·         Add potatoes and remaining ingredients.

·         Turn the potatoes every 5-7 minutes.

·         Cook until potatoes are soft.

I used about 3 tablespoons of olive oil in the skillet.

Close up of the finished potatoes.
 
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Saturday, July 06, 2013

Sparrow Market - Ann Arbor

We stopped by Sparrow Market in downtown Ann Arbor today to investigate their ability to provide a whole shoulder for a cook in a couple of weeks.

The girl at the counter original replied that they had one in the meat case, but she was referring to a pork butt. I reminded her that I want the picnic, butt, everything before it's cut up. She started to get it but about that time a gentleman walked up and asked if he could help.

He told me they do have whole shoulder in the freezer available on two days notice.

We can't do it next weekend, but the week after is looking promising right now.

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Thursday, July 04, 2013

Grilled Hamburgers w/Sausage and Bacon

I like to experiment with food and a couple of weeks ago I had an idea. I combined the flavor of sausage with traditional charcoal grilled hamburger for something a little different. I liked it so much the first time I tried it, I wanted to share it on the bbq blog. I hope you like it.

Grilled Hamburgers w/Sausage and Bacon

Ingredients:

• 2 lbs. ground CAB 80% lean / 20% fat hamburger
• 1 lb. ground pork sausage
• 1 large onion
• 6 slices of bacon
• Pepper jack cheese (or Swiss if you prefer)
• French’s original mustard

Directions: 
  • Chop the onion.
  • Combine the hamburger, sausage and finely chopped onion in a medium sized mixing bowl and mix thoroughly.
  • Form meat into patties that are the size of half-a-fist
  • Cook on medium hot (350-400 degrees) grill to medium-well (160-165 degrees internal temperature).
  • Resist the temptation to "smash" or "flatten" the patties (you'll release all the juicy goodness) :-)
  • Add a slice of pepper jack or Swiss cheese for each burger.
  • Top with ½ slice of fried bacon.
  • Serve with mustard on a plain hamburger bun.

Grilled hamburger, medium well
You could use almost any type of sausage, but I prefer something with a little heat and heavy sage seasoning. We used Jimmy Dean's for these, but Italian or Polish style sausage would also work. If you prefer to leave out the sausage, you could even use turkey and add some chopped onions to the mix.


Hamburger, pepper jack cheese, topped with bacon and French's mustard
Some of you may be wondering, "where's the lettuce and tomato?" I prepare mine without the "garden" items, but I don't hold it against anyone the prefers a "deluxe" burger. (That's what we called them when I used to flip burgers at the DQ in high school.)

We served our grilled hamburgers with zucchini fries
Here's a link to the zucchini recipe from Health.com. Basically we cut the zucchini into 3 inch strips; prepared an egg and milk mixture; dipped the sticks into the egg wash; rolled in bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese; and cooked at 425 degrees on baking rack on top of a baking sheet. The baking rack helps keep them from getting "mushy" and sticking to the baking sheet.
 
 
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Friday, June 07, 2013

BBQ Hot Dogs Anyone?

I know it's not the type of traditional bbq that I usually feature on this bbq blog, but I've been craving hot dogs all week. I'm on a quest to find two or three killer ideas for great bbq hot dogs.
 
One things for sure, I don't like cheap hot dog meat so first things being first I've got to find some quality candidates. I know hot dogs have a bad reputation, but some are made from better ingredients than others. Quality is realative when it comes to hot dogs I'm sure.
 
Chil or no chili? Beans or no?
 
Stick with basic ketchup, mustand, relish and onions; or try something more exotic?
 
These are the questions that have been on my mind all week. I'm open to suggestions, if you care to share.
 
Check back on Sunday for the three best hot dogs recipes I can find. 
 
Here's a link to some interesting hot dogs. Most of these are out of my price range today, but some of them lower on the list sound interesting. For this week I think I'm going to stick to some of the more traditional thoughts and visions for bbq hot dogs:  ketchup, mustard, relish, onions, green peppers, banana peppers, jalapenos, sauerkraut, chili, etc.  Linda is going to whip up a chipotle sauce later today to try on our Hebrew National and Kowalski brand dogs that I purchased yesterday.

No artificial flavors, No preservatives, No gluten, No fillers and No by-products

Natural casing hot dogs made locally in Metro Detroit

Hot dogs 4 ways

Hot dog lunch spread
Linda made a tasty relish for the hot dogs. Here's the recipe if you want to try it sometime.
 
Pickle and Parsley Relish 
(from the July 2013 edition of Woman's Day magazine)
  • 6 halves of sour pickles, chopped
  • 1/2 medium white onion, chopped
  • 3 TBSP whole grain mustard
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat parsley, chopped
 Combine and mix the ingredients to make a relish for your hot dogs.

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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Memorial Day Weekend BBQ Activities



BBQ Guy prepping brisket

For the holiday I cooked brisket, 2 pork butts and 2 whole chickens. On top of that, it was my favorite day of auto racing all year long, so I thought, "why not make it better by cooking some bbq too?!"

Pork Butt Spice Rub Recipe

1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 teaspoon chipotle powder





BBQ Chicken Rub Recipe

2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon lemon pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon of rosemary sprinkled in the cavity

Weber Smokey Mountain and Backwoods Party vertical water smokers


BBQ Guy seasoning whole chickens

Beer cans firmly seated in the chicken "roosts"

Three hours later, here's what beer can chicken looks like

"Resting" the chicken before pulling

Pulled bbq chicken sliders

It was a fun filled day of bbq and racing. I've never made pulled bbq chicken before, but it turned out very well.

Linda made "white bbq sauce" for the chicken too. It's popular in northern Alabama, but I've never tried it before either. It was unusual, but very tasty. Next time I think we'll use less vinegar to reduce the "bite" a little bit.


BBQ beef brisket close-up
We finished everything off by slicing a nice looking brisket. The picture above was taken after slicing, but before adding a thin brushing of bbq sauce on both sides of each slice. Ummm, good stuff!

And for desert, Linda made a nice looking rhubarb pie.

Rhubarb pie with the crust protector still in place.
The metal ring protects the outer crust from over cooking.

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