Christmas Recommendations

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Recently, I was asked to create a list of some of my favorite things or things that I would recommend for bbq fans for Christmas.  This list contains items that I love, some I’ve had for many years, some I’ve recently discovered.  The list really isn’t in any particular order and I haven’t really thought about it from a price stand point.  There are cheaper items and there some pricey items.  With all of that out of the way, let’s get started.


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Lodge Logic Square Skillet – There are a few standards I think every kitchen needs and a classic cast iron pan is one of those things.  From making corn bread to searing steaks they are just invaluable.  Most people have the classic round pan, but this year I bought this square version and I have found I prefer it to my round pans and I reach for it more often than the others.  This pan is about $27 on Amazon so it won’t break the bank and it is something that will last a life time if you take care of it.  When I bought mine I knew I’d be using it a lot so I added the silicone handle cover as well.  I wondered if I’d really think the extra $4 (pricing depends on color chosen) was worth it, and I’m glad to say it is.


Kick Ash Basket – I love simple solutions to problems.  To me the simplest solution shows the most genius and that is what I think the Kick Ash Basket is.  There is nothing kickashresize2complicated about it.  It is just a metal basket.  It’s not overly sexy, its not even overly pretty.  It is however built extremely well and the beauty is in its simplicity.  If you have a kamado cooker you need this basket.  This basket will save you charcoal and keep you from fighting your dampers as much because of the amount of air flow that is now able to get to each piece of charcoal.  There have been a hundred reviews of this jewel and you can google them and will find blogs like Nibble Me This, Naked Whiz and Big Green Craig love it.  That is all I needed to know.  For around $60 depending on your kamado model this will change your ceramic grill lovers life.


fb_resizeFlame Boss 200 Wifi – Since we are already kind of talking about kamado cookers let me recommend a product that honestly I did not think I would like very much.  I’ve used about 4 different “pit management” devices during my time competition cooking.  Each of them lost favor with me pretty quickly because for all of their benefit they were just a pain to set up and then got rather annoying shortly there after and frankly the cost was prohibitive.  The other reason I typically do not like them on a kamado is that…well if I’m being honest they take the fun out of cooking.  They make it automatic, easy and remove all the “know how” from the equation.  Now that’s one view from my perspective.  On the flip side of that coin from a new kamado owners perspective they would see this unit as greatly shortening the learning curve that is associated with these cookers.  They would feel more connected to the cooking process and more at ease.  In the end I have found I turn to the FlameBoss 200 Wifi when I knew I don’t have time to really monitor the Grilla Grills Kong or Big Green Egg XL.  The unit is bulletproof and works for controlling your pit no doubt, but that was only half the story.  More than control, I turn to it for data logging of just about every cook I do now (yes even on pellet pits).  That’s the real beauty of this device is that it pushes all the cook data to the cloud and saves it for you.  This can become invaluable if you catalog and really review the data after the cook.  I use this as a verifier of other devices because of its data logging capability.  Now let’s be clear this is a pretty spendy item at around $330, but of the various units I’ve used it is my favorite by a large margin. This is yet another thing that both Nibble Me This and Big Green Craig recommended to me personally that were clear winners.


ThermoWorks Smoke – So you want something that tells you when your food is done or img_20161028_152034209_hdr-2what temp your pit is running but don’t want to drop the coin on the Flame Boss and don’t need the ability to data log?  Then check out the ThermoWorks Smoke.  It’s no secret that I love pretty much everything ThermoWorks has made.  From their Thermapens to the TimeStick Trio, to the ThermoPops they just don’t make any bad products in my opinion.  I could go on and on about the Smoke but you can check out my video review which pretty well sums up everything you need to know.  For right at $100 this is a great unit that can be used for everything from cooking in your oven to any grill/smoker out there.  As a bonus let me further plug the ThermoPop, if you always thought the Thermapen was too pricey do yourself a favor and pick up a few ThermoPops.  They live in my apron pocket and I love them.  For under $30 I think anyone who cooks should have at least one.


81-cg54dxelPremiala Meat Injector – So I have a huge love hate relationship with injectors.  Full disclosure I have about 7 various models laying around ranging from $2 to around $130 (looking at you Chops Power Injector) and every single one has left me high and dry (see what I did there…dry) at one time or another.  They clog too easily, break or just don’t have enough vacuum to pull and inject heavier viscosity fluids (looking at you BDI injector).  I never pack a single injector with me because of this.  I keep coming back to my tried and true back up, the Premiala.  This injector just works, is built well and can be used with one hand.  For $25 it works as it should and comes with spare parts and its own carrying case to keep everything together.  If you inject turkeys, pork butts, chicken, whole hogs (your hand will get tired but at least you know it will work) or briskets this has a needle that will work and it will take a beating.  I’m not the only one who thinks so, check out the review over at BBQ Beat as well.


Anker SoundCore – I know it’s not technically cooking/bbq/grilling related but I seldomanker-1 ever cook without this thing.  It has great sound quality, last for hours and takes a beating.  It goes with me in my backpack right long with my camera and knife roll.  I love this little speaker and frankly I say if you aren’t dancing around the kitchen and enjoying yourself while your cooking then you are missing out.  Much like ThermoWorks, I have yet to find a bad Anker product.  From their battery packs to their charging cables they are all top notch and always 4 star plus rated products on Amazon.  For $40 (I’ve seen these as low as $25 on sale) you have a great unit that pairs with your phone sans cables and keeps your hands and phone free to do the chopping, prepping, etc that you should be enjoying.  There is an updated version of this unit (SoundCore Sport XL) that is supposedly even better and even more rugged but I have not personally tried it so I cannot comment on it, but I don’t doubt that it is equally fantastic but it is more expensive.


pixelGoogle Pixel XL – So while I’m talking tech let me plug the new Pixel from Google.  Earlier this year I invested about $1000 in a Canon Rebel T6i, lenses and a lav mic set up for recording.  I’m glad I did, but about a month ago I also bought a Pixel XL and I am astonished at the pictures and vids that come out of this phone.  For us blogger types or Twitter/Instagram nerds who take a pic of everything we eat before we eat it, this phone is amazing.  I’m not saying it’s for everyone, I’m just saying I love it and even at its $600+ price tag dare I say it was worth it…..yeah I do.   Even though its on Verizon this phone will work with all carriers.  I settled and got the 32GB version and yes it would be nice to have the 128GB version but I have not found the smaller size to be an issue because of the unlimited storage with Google Photo’s.  And let me tell you the phone is one part of the story but the ability to back up, share and easily edit photos within Google Photos makes the phone even better.


Zelite Infinity Knives – This summer I was able to shoot a video with Jack Scalfani of zelite2Cooking with Jack.  His YouTube channel is great and he reviews a ton of kitchen products.  Jack handed me the Zelite Inifinity Chef’s knife and I fell in love instantly.  I am a Miyabi and Victorinox fan and recommend the Victorinox Fibrox line to just about everyone who asks what is a great knife for a great value.  I have to say there are days where I don’t want anything in my hand except the Infinity.  The pinch and balance on it are fantastic and it is crazy sharp because of the angle these knives are sharpened with.  These are not the cheapest knives you will own, but they are not the most expensive either.  They typically run about $120 for the chef’s knife on Amazon but I have seen them with 20% off codes listed from time to time.  The paring knife is awesome in this line as well and it is one the best paring knives I’ve picked up.


griddle2King Kooker Cast Iron Griddle – This piece is great for kamado cookers or any round grill for that matter including the Grilla Grills Grilla.  You can also use it direct over a fire while camping or tailgating.  It absorbs heat like a champ and produces some serious sear marks on a steak or burger with the ribbed side.  You can do pancakes and pizzas with the flat side.  This one is great for the pitmaster who has everything and for $25 you can’t really go wrong.  We have used one for a couple of years now and it still looks like new.


Half Ceramic Stone – If you have a kamado or Weber kettle style cooker you know the value of 2 zone cooking.  Using a half stone like this one makes it much easier to do and stone2manage.  I love using the half stone when cooking something that needs a bit of low and slow but benefits from a higher heat finish.  Chicken wings, chicken leg quarters and chicken halves all fit into this category for me.  Ceramic Grill Store has about everything you need if you have a kamado.  I have my eye on one of their woks as well that fit the Grilla Grills Kong and Big Green Egg.  I haven’t bought one yet so I can’t comment on how good the wok is, but based on reviews I’ve seen they look pretty fun and do a great job over the direct heat of lump charcoal.  I’m betting they would work on a round pellet pit as well with some testing of course.  Looking at you Ceramic Grill Store if you want me to test one those out 🙂  If you buy this half stone (or even two if you want to use it as a full heat diversion system) you will need one of the spiders to hold the stone(s) in place.  One stone and a spider will set you back around $50.


 

silverbac-product-1Grilla Grills Silverbac / Kong – I saved my last two picks for two products that really surprised me this year.  Many of you know that I consult for Grilla Grills and help them with videos, marketing, product testing, etc.  So know that this recommendation comes from two vantage points.  First of course I do receive compensation from them, but that’s not why I recommend these two.  The more important reason I recommend these two is because I have seen all the good and the bad from an insiders perspective and I am still amazed by both these grills.  The Silverbac has been a big surprise to me just how well they have been received and how well they cook.  I frankly thought “great…another barrel shaped pellet smoker” and was not really excited by it, but appreciated the price point that Grilla Grills put on the unit.  For $699 delivered it still represents the best bang for your buck for cooking surface and build quality of any pellet pit out there.  The Kong I also kind of dismissed as an “also ran” product since I have a lotkong of experience with the Big Green Egg XL.  I have to say though from the first time I fired it up, it reminded me why I loved kamado cookers but also why I was so disenchanted by BGE.  Grilla Grills took the time fix my complaints about the BGE (price, assembly and nest) and deliver them to customer at a price ($799) that is nearly half of that of BGE.  You just can’t say enough about that and their commitment to their customers.  I have experienced the company from the inside and I am proud to be associated with them because they are a company that still loves the people they do business with.  They have not lost sight of the fact that at the end of the day the business is about the people and not the bottom line and it shows day in and day out.


That about covers some of my favorites from this year and years past.  There is a fair mix of stuff for just about every type of grill lover on this list.  And if you are still looking for stuff, never underestimate how much us pitmasters love a good cook book.  Diva-Q released a great one this year as well as Meathead Goldwyn.  Both are great and ring in at or around $20 and will provide a whole years worth of recipes and stuff to try out.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year my friends and stay saucy 🙂

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Smoked Dressing

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So you have decided to go against the grain and you want to do something a little different for the southern stalwart side dish of grandma’s dressing.  No, not stuffing, this is the south, its never “stuffing” its dressing and it wouldn’t be the holidays without it.  Grandma has her way that has been perfected over literally generations, but maybe you want to do something different.  If that is the case then let me recommend this version that I came up with that you can do on your smoker / grill.

The thought process is simple.  Most people (at least the grilling fans I know) are taking the classic Thanksgiving/holiday turkey and moving it outside and grilling it or smoking it.  Some are still deep frying but between you and me I think that is a fad that is dying out a bit as people realize they can get just as good, if not better of a result with much, much less danger and effort by grilling their birds.

With that thought I wondered, “what would some dressing taste like with some light smoke on it?” and I thought I would give it a try.  Low and behold it is a bonafide winner in my book.   Since I was already tossing this classic dish on the smoker I also thought “why not throw some other stuff in it and see what happens.”  With that my Smoked Dressing was born.  So here is how I did it with a lot of pics and commentary along the way.

Ingredients:

  • 1lb Sage Breakfast Sausage
  • 1 loaf French Bread cut into 1in cubes
  • 1 each Red, Orange & Yellow Bell Pepper Diced
  • 1 medium Onion Diced
  • 16oz Fresh Mushrooms Sliced
  • 3 stalks Celery Diced
  • 2 Jalapenos Diced
  • 3 boxes of Jiffy Corn Bread Mix
  • 7 eggs
  • 1c Milk
  • 48oz Chicken Stock
  • Dried Rosemary, Thyme and Sage
  • Salt and Pepper

About a day or two before you need the dressing you can complete the following steps, they can be done the day of, but letting the flavors marry together and letting the bread stale a bit helps.

First cut your French Bread loaf into 1in chunks and set on the counter in a bowl to let them stale at least over night.  You can toast them if you are rushed for time.

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Next make your cornbread according to the directions on the box combining all three boxes into 1 batch of cornbread.   Before you pour the mixture into your baking dish you are going to add 1.5tbs of of Thyme, Sage and Rosemary into the mixture and stir.  Bake the cornbread as directed by the instructions and set aside to cool.

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Now, in a large skillet cook your sausage until it is almost done and then add in all your chopped ingredients (celery, mushrooms, peppers, jalapenos and onions) and cooked them until soft.  Remove this mixture from the heat and put in a sealable container and rest in the refrigerator.

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The following day combine the french bread cubes and your cornbread.  Mix this well until each are broken down.  Now add in your meat and veggie mixture and stir to combine.  Now add your chicken stock to this mixture and re-season this mixture tasting it to see if you want any more salt, pepper or herbs, now is the time to add them.  Also if you like your dressing a little looser add more chicken stock or water to get it to the consistence you want.

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Once you are happy with this, add 4 eggs and mix well and then add to your baking pan.  This mixture will fill a 13×9 pan just about to the top.

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I lined an old metal pan with wax paper to keep this from sticking.  You can certainly use a aluminum pan, but do yourself a favor and dont use the wife’s nice pans here lol.img_3554 img_3559

Trim away any excess wax paper if you used any.

You can decorate the top with some fresh sage leafs if you wish.  Be warned this may cause the dressing to be pretty strong with sage, so you may want to remove just befor serving.

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Prepare your grill and get it up to 325 degrees.  This can be done on a kamado cooker, pellet smoker, or just about any other type of grill.  Just be sure you have even heat and you may want to wrap the top of the dish because the dressing may take on too much smoke.  In this instance I used the Grilla Grills Kong and set it up more for heat and light smoke.

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The Flameboss 200 Wifi was used for temperature control for this cook.  It really does a great job of pit management.

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Cook the dressing for about an hour.  You can cook it more or less depending on the texture you are looking for.  In this case I cooked this dressing until it was pretty firm and I liked the color.

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If you love dressing…and who doesn’t give this twist on an old classic a try.  It is a much meatier and chunkier version of grandma’s classic southern dressing.  It is also very herbaceous, but you can dial that back if you want something a little less in your face.  The addition of the jalapeno, the sage sausage and tri colored peppers make this a full meal in on pan and will complement any turkey, ham or is great just by itself.

 

 

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Prime Time For Prime Rib

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So we are in a downward spiral to all the big Christmas meals and gift giving, but you are too tired of turkey and have a hatred for ham at this point.  We all get there, I mean let’s face it there are only so many ways that you can make turkey or ham.  That is why so many families are looking for new culinary go to’s for Christmas.  We want something great, something that can feed a gang of people but also something with some WOW factor to it.

To that end I recommend Prime Rib.  YES, I know it is a bit expensive and it can be intimidating but with the help of a friend or two on the internet and a few recipes to follow you can knock this one out of the park.  Prime Rib really is not that difficult to make and it lends itself to fantastic results whether you roast in a oven or smoke on a grill/smoker.

If you unfamiliar with prime rib I recommend you spend awhile over at AmazingRibs.com and check out Meathead Goldwynn’s Secrets of Cooking Beef.  I can go over every secret to cooking great beef, but honestly Meathead does such a great job of laying it all out the best I would do in this post is echo back everything he has said.  I also recommend bookmarking AmazingRibs.com, it is seriously one of the most comprehensive sites on the internet concerning cooking.

So you are back after getting schooled up at Amazing Ribs, now let’s get to the meat of the matter.  I know you are still probably still wondering about the cost of the prime rib itself.  Let’s be honest, a good prime rib is going to run you about $150 for 15-16lbs of meat.  That is a heck of a lot to throw down on a hunk of beef for sure.  In our family we defray the cost by splitting it 4 ways for the big meal.  Basically the grown up kids split the cost 4 ways and I cook the prime rib.  This allows us all to take credit for the meal but it also allows each of us to give back to the parents and grand parents for all those years of hell and chaos that we caused :).

Keep in mind also, that for this meal we are feeding about 14 adults and about 6 smaller children.  So we buy a pretty good sized prime rib.  If you are feeding a smaller crew then feel free to dial back the size of the prime rib you buy.  I like to cut the meat in about 1in thick cuts so I basically look more at overall length of the prime rib than I do the actual weight per person.  The reality is that only the most severe of us gluttons can put away a solid pound of prime rib along with all the side items without going into a food coma.  So dont be afraid to figure somewhere closer to 8-10oz of cooked meat per person.  That number will cover most families with no problems.

When picking out your prime rib dont fret too much, the prime rib is a very forgiving cut.  When looking for a prime rib, first off I skip the bones.  Frankly, they are just a hassle and dont add anything in my opinion other than more time preparing and trimming.  Next I look for a good red color and I like to find one that is round in shape when I look at it from one end.  The rounder the shape typically the less trimming I have to do in order to achieve that rounder profile referenced in Meathead’s write up.  It also keeps me from having to bother with trussing up the prime rib with butchers twine typically.

I wont get too far into trimming because Meathead breaks it out very well on his site.  I will say this though, beef fat that feels in anyway hard or waxy needs to be removed.  It will never render and if left in tact leaves your guests with pieces they are going to eat around and looks unsavory on their plate.  My basic rule of thumb is, if it doesnt look like red well marbled steak it get’s removed and that includes any fat I can reach with a knife and any silver skin I find.  I know, I know…it’s hard to take a knife and trim away 2-3lbs of something you just paid $8-$10 a pound for, but why would you not?  I mean would you buy caviar and serve it with cheap crackers?  My buddy Mike says “in for a penny, in for a pound” and here that definitely applies.  I mean you have already paid the price for a ticket to the big show, now is not the time to get squeamish, now is the time to do it up right.

Now that your meat is trimmed follow Meathead’s steps 1 -12 under “How We Accomplish Our Goals.”  In step 8 though let me throw a little bit of twist on things.  Meathead doesn’t really mention a specific rub in this step.  So let me throw one at you that is easy to make and toss a little “rub philosophy” at you.

Most folks make rubs 3 ways.  First one is they take a little bit of everything they have in the cabinet that sounds good and mix it together with a hope and a prayer and that is that.  The second will find something that sounds good on the store shelf and hope for the best.  The third will search the internet and find a great recipe and order in all the specialty herbs and spices and end up making a rub that ends up costing them $30 that will get used once if they are lucky.

Frankly, I am a fan of all 3, but let me shed some light on all three.  Rub maker 1 loves to dabble and mix stuff and invent.  Most of the time he can make some good stuff, but he can seldom recreate anything he’s ever made and seldom really has the spices/herbs needed on hand.  I was this guy for a long, long time, but I kept a heck of a stocked pantry of spices.  Rub maker 2 realizes how hard it is to make something great and would rather hit the easy button and just grab something off of the big box store shelf.  That is great as he likely saved money and ended up with an ok product.  The reality though is that most of the rubs on those store shelves frankly are terrible as they are mostly just salt, cheap pepper and preservatives.  Rub maker 3 is the perfectionist.  He may not be inventive, but he has plenty of time to dabble, plan and wants to crush the taste buds of all who sit at his table.  I like this guy as he and I are very similar as well.

But what happens if you combined the three?  What would happen if a guy who constantly dabbles and tests products and also makes rubs from scratch were to make a rub for a prime rib with products that are easily sourced?  Well…it would look at lot like what I’m about to share and exactly what I put on our prime rib today that goes on the smoker tomorrow.

Shane’s Easy Button Prime Rib Rub

1/4 cup Weber brand Steak ‘N Chop seasoning
1/4 cup Tone’s brand Rosemary Garlic seasoning
1 Tbs Ground Cumin
2 Tbs Fine Ground Hazel Nut Coffee

So now the why on what I chose for this rub.  When I think of a rub I immediately try to think of a theme or flavor profile for it.  Since this is a Christmas meal featuring beef the rub needs some good strong herb elements that speak to both requirements.  Rosemary quickly came to mind as it makes people think of the holidays and is typically non offensive to most taste buds.  Rosemary can be pretty strong and any strong elements like that need a solid base to ride on.  When I think of flavors I think of music.  In this case your herbs are going to be hook or the nice guitar solo.  Those elements in a song are only great if there is a great bass/rhythm line supporting them and providing the backdrop by which they can stand apart from.  Weber’s Steak ‘N Chop is a solid mix of salt, pepper, onion, garlic and has a hint of citrus.  So while it is good on its own, honestly its fantastic as a base rub to build other elements on top of.  It has a good mix of earthly, umami elements without being over the top for beef.  So we have a bit of a bluesy bass line kind of bubbling in the background with a bit of a kick drum and high hat accompanying.  Now time for some guitar or horns to bring it together and that is the Tone’s Rosemary Garlic.  This seasoning is loaded with nice whole rosemary and packs a punch flavor wise.  It’s name does not lie, its a shot of straight rosemary and garlic, nothing held back.  In fact I think its a little too punchy if you get heavy handed with it.  But put that on top of a good bass line and you have something.  So now we have something that sounds a little bit like Hendrix playing the blues, fine in it’s own right, but maybe missing a little something.  So that is where the cumin comes in.  The cumin amplifies all those beefy flavor profiles, its there just to make the beef taste more like itself.  Then comes the wah peddle kind of out of left field with the hazel nut coffee.   Why add coffee to a rub that is already good?  Well because you want it to be great.  I happened to have hazel nut on hand and it is a good medium roast so nothing over the top.  The coffee when mixed in with what is already going on just adds that swagger, that funk, that attitude that is needed.  It takes a song that was good and turns into Stevie Ray Vaughn covering Voodoo Chile and takes it to the next level.  For this rub the coffee does not have to be hazel nut, but I do recommend keeping with a medium roast coffee as other can be a bit bold and biting.  Use what you have though and adjust the recipe to dial it in to your liking.

When applying the rub I will do it one of two ways.  The first I will take some olive oil and coat the prime rib with it and then put the rub on and massage it in.  This way the rub sticks to the meat better.  If I am in a hurry I have been known to rub the meat and then take a high quality cooking spray and coat the meat after the rub goes on.  The end result is very similar, but the preferred method is definitely using enough oil that promotes the flavor transfer from the rub ingredients to the meat.

Now you have all you need to make a great prime rib.  You have the instructions, you have a fantastic rub and you hopefully have the confidence to pull it all off.  There is still one thing missing though.  Many will say a well cooked piece of beef needs no sauce whatsoever.  Other’s will insist on wrecking your perfectly cooked prime rib with A1 or heaven forbid….KETCHUP.  So to keep you from spending New Year’s in the pokey after stabbing an in-law for dipping $10 per pound meat into Heinz serve up some amazing horseradish sauce.  I am one of the people on the side of fence that says great beef needs no sauce, but I am sucker for a fantastic horseradish sauce with my prime rib.  The sharpness and heat cuts through all that butter fat tastiness and really does complement the dish perfectly.  Now again Meathead has beat me to the punch with a really good recipe called Secretariat Horseradish Cream Sauce.  I make mine a little different but I thought for sake of this post I would combine what I do with what Meathead does since his is a little easier to make.

Shane’s Sorta Secretariat Horseradish Sauce

1/4 cup sour cream
2 Tbs prepared horseradish in vinegar
2 Tbs milk
2 Tbs mayonnaise
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 Tbs minced garlic

Let’s talk about the changes.  First off I think most of Meathead’s ratios are spot on, but I like more Mayo in my recipe.  I also caution you to try your horseradish first before adding it to the recipe.  I’ve had some jars with little heat and some with A LOT of heat.  So adjust the ratio accordingly and to your taste buds.  I like to add some garlic to my sauce for some depth of flavor.  You can use fresh or even dried minced.  I wouldn’t use the powder though as it has bit of a bitter element to it that can be picked up in such a simple sauce.  You also may want to add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to your recipe.  I’ve had with and without and like it both ways.  I also recommend making this at least 24hrs in advance and letting it sit covered in your refrigerator so the flavors can build.  And remember when you are making this, what you taste when you first make it will be a touch weaker than what the final result is as it sits.

In a nutshell this is exactly what I do for prime rib.  While it is not fool proof I will say it is as close as it can be.  Armed with this info, a little bit of confidence and some testicular fortitude I promise you can create a meal with will rival even the best steak houses in the country.  And when you can do that for about $10 per person instead of $40+ then you are sure to wow your guests and ensure a Merry Christmas for all.

God bless you all my friends and may the holidays bring happiness to you and your’s.

Shane

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Turkey Smurkey…..Answers For Turning Out Top Notch Turkey

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This time of year Draper’s BBQ cooks a lot of turkeys we also answer a ton of questions about how we do our turkeys.  Unfortunately even if we told you exactly how we turn out top notch turkey goodness not everything would easily translate to how you are cooking your turkey.

With that thought in mind I thought I would cover some basics that will make you the hero of the big day, which is tomorrow, so these are last minutes tips based on things you likely already have in your pantry / fridge.

The single biggest question we get is “what is your brine recipe?”  Well to be honest we dont use a traditional brine recipe any longer.  There was a time I swore by wet brines for turkey but as my proficiency grew with cooking them I found my need for them greatly decreased.  The reality is that brines do not penetrate deep into the meat like we think it does and wet brines can be a hassle when you are doing more than one bird.

What we adapted to replace wet brining is a process called dry brining.  It accomplishes the same task, but is much easier to deal with overall.  Now you maybe asking yourself, “what is this crazy meat magic you speak of?”  Dry brining is little more than sprinkling the turkey with salt about 12hrs before you cook.  Doing this accomplishes the same thing as a wet brine BUT it does not compromise the ability to create crispy skin like a wet brine.  It does not take a lot of salt, literally just a light sprinkle and pat dry and let sit in the fridge and that is it.  You can of course add more herbs and spices to the dry brine if you wish.  Just remember to wipe off any excess moisture and dry brine before cooking.

We also employ a process of using herbed butter to bring flavor to the party.  A few hours before the dance of the turkey begins we soften a stick of butter (not completely melt, just soften) and add our favorite herbs, spices etc to the butter and then reform into a log using wax paper and toss that into the freezer.  Once the butter has set again or just before you put the bird in the hot box you want to slice this roll of butter into about 12 pieces so it looks like coins.  Then you can work these coins under the skin of the bird.  I like to put 3 per breast and at least 1 per leg and thigh.  I like doing this because the butter is typically frozen and acts like a first baste but it is under the skin so the meat itself gets the benefit of the flavors.  Now I know it might sound a little primal working your hand up under the skin of the turkey, but its very easy.  If you work from the cavity end of the bird and start with the breast and slowly work forward you will easily make the pockets needed.  Once you are done feel free to use some tooth picks to stretch the skin back so it fully covers the breast again.

So you are probably asking “what spices we use” in our herbed butter.  Well to keep it simple I would recommend either of the two listed below.  Both are easily found in your local big box store and both bring a good mix of flavor to the party.  
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So the bird is brined, butter under the skin now take some good cooking spray and give the bird a nice spray.  Everywhere you spray the cooking spray you are promoting a nice tan color on the bird.  Some say go ahead and coat with herbs after you have oiled or sprayed the bird, I recommend not doing that just yet.  Adding the herbs too early to the exterior of the bird can cause them to blacken too much.

So how do you cook your turkey?  Well most are going to use an oven.  Some an electric smoker.  Other perhaps a grill or big barbecue pit.  Here are some ideas that work no matter what method you opt for.

  1. try not to cook a 20+lb bird.  They are just hard to get done correctly.
  2. understand you probably need to cook this bird at 300 degrees or better.  This is more for the smoker guys out there.  Lower and slower actually do not produce better results here.  Hotter and faster is better for poultry in general.
  3. Do not use a high sided pan that causes your bird to sit down in its own juices or hides the thighs and legs from heat.  This will prolong your cook time on your dark meat and destroys the texture of the skin on these cuts.
  4. If cooking at 275-325 degrees your cook time will be 15-18min per pound as a rough guide.
  5. DO NOT OVER COOK THE BIRD!  Most people torture their turkey by pushing it to 180 degrees and there is no need for this.  Once all parts of the bird have reached 165 degrees internal temp then pull it and let it rest for at least 30 minutes before slicing.

Now lets talk injections.  I really like injections for turkey because it allows me to put flavor exactly where I want it and where it may be needed.  Our injection is a riff of the “injectable butter” you see in all the big box stores this time of year.  It is really simple to make.  Take 2 cups of high quality chicken broth, melt in 1 stick of butter and add a table spoon of seasoning salt and a teaspoon of granulated garlic.  You want to heat this up and have it right near boiling.  If you do not and you inject this into your cooking bird you will actually slow down your cook time!   Now the beauty of this recipe is that you can add literally any seasoning here that you can fit through a needle and even get crazy and add different seasonings to different parts of the bird if you wish.  The options are limitless.

As a generalized rule for injecting, I like to inject at the 2hr point of the cook process and then again each hour to hour and a half after that until done.  This ensures lots of flavor, plenty of moisture and a great final product.

Now about the herbs and spices I told you wait on for the exterior of the skin earlier.  Once your bird is about 20min from being done grab that cooking spray again.  You are going to mist a light coat on the bird and then sprinkle your herbs and spices on.  If you dont have a blend in mind I personally like the Montreal Chicken from Grill Mates.  Its a great herby seasoning that looks good on the turkeys.

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That is about as easy as we can make cooking turkey and what we have learned after cooking literally hundreds of them.  Turkey does require some preparation, but they are not the culinary crusade that they are made out to be.  In general terms keep it simple, have a plan and you will turn out a great product that the family will love.

 

Shane

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Contest is Live!

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Ok for those who have stumbled on to our page looking for how to sign up for our huge contest give away here is the direct link:

https://www.facebook.com/DrapersBBQ/app_190076381016644

Entry is as easy as hitting that link, filling out the info so we can get you your prizes if you win and hitting Submit.  We surely would appreciate you sharing out the link though and asking your friends, family, the neighborhood dogs, etc to sign up as well.

As we stated in the beginning we are very honest about the motives, we need Likes and Facebook followers to help launch several other projects coming up and if it takes us giving away nearly $600 worth of gear, then so be it.  If we get the number of Likes we are aiming for, which is 2500, then we will do the contest again next quarter.  We believe in having fun and rewarding our fans, friends and customers whenever we can.

So help us help you by sharing much, sharing often and keeping all things Draper’s BBQ out in the forefront.  We appreciate each of you who already have!

 

Shane

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Draper’s BBQ Contest

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As the world well knows companies can live or die with social media.  We at Draper’s have been solid at social media when we really push at it and frankly terrible at it when we do not.  Case in point, we have over 2500 Twitter followers but only 850 likes on our Facebook page.  You can probably guess from those numbers were we spent our time over the past couple of years.

Given that Mike and I sat down and pitched a few ideas back and forth on how we can convert our Twitter followers into Facebook likes.  We quickly settled on the idea of giving something away as a membership drive of sorts for Facebook.  Everyone likes a good giveaway and honestly we like giving stuff away making people happy.

So from there we came up with a few things that might fit the bill.  I kept thinking back to the question I get asked via email the most “what is the best bbq/smoker on the market for a new team or for my backyard?”  With that in mind Mike and I thought it would be great to give away some sort of “pitmaster in a box” kit where the winner would get essentially everything they needed to either start competition barbecue or at least have a heck of a leg up to starting a team.

The hunt was short for what bbq/smoker/grill would fit the bill.  We naturally went with the one we recommend to 90% of the people who send us that email.  We turned to Pit Barrel Cooker Co and their Pit Barrel Cooker for this contest and new pitmasters.  And here’s why:  First it rings in around $300 which is a solid value given that most complete pieces of bunk from Lowe’s will cost you that much.  Second it has a good cooking capacity.  Third while it is simple to use it does introduce the budding pitmaster to fire and air flow management.  Fourth it helps the cook to learn the valuable trait of trusting time, fire and smoke to do the job without messing with the meat too much.  Fifth, its made in America and I can’t think of another complete functioning pit at this price point that is also made here.

Many people would recommend a pellet pit for a first pit but I just don’t think pellet pits or any device that controls the airflow and fuel for you helps make you a pitmaster.  That’s not to say you can’t create great food on them, but there is no way to learn the essentials of being a pitmaster if you are not actively managing that fire in my opinion.  I know I will get hate mail over that statement, but remember I come from a family who did barbecue for many, many years without the use of a thermometer or fans and burned down wood into coals.  The only tools my grandfather needed to be an amazing pitmaster was his trusty shovel and his old cinder block pit.  Never once saw him use anything else.  His lack of tools (read crutches) helped him develop those instincts that are so crucial to a pitmaster.  That my friends is being a pitmaster to me.

Don’t get me wrong, the PBC is dead easy to use.  Essentially you light the fire and walk away,  but it at least gets the pitmaster introduced to good old charcoal as a fuel and forces them to not rely on a temp gauge or digital control.  PBC will run at 275 degrees for 7hrs on a basket of charcoal without much fuss at all and turns out a fantastic product.

I could go on and on about the PBC and why I recommend it, but I think Meathead Goldwynn over at Amazing Ribs.com does a pretty comprehensive job at covering it:  http://amazingribs.com/bbq_equipment_reviews_ratings/smoker-pizza-oven/pit-barrel-cooker  and John Dawson with Patio Daddio also has wrote extensively about the PBC: http://www.patiodaddiobbq.com/2012/07/competition-bbq-pit-barrel-style.html

With that we called up Noah and Amber at PBC and placed the order.  They graciously decided to sponsor part of the contest with us.  The ordering process was dead easy and Noah and Amber are great people to work with.

Next to be a pitmaster in training you need a good temperature reading device.  I love my Thermapen even though my grandfather would have quickly laughed at how much I paid.  I now have learned to cook more by feel, but I always check my competition meats with a high accuracy thermometer.  So given that, the fine folks at Thermoworks gave us approval to give away one of their top of the line Chef Alarm units.

I won’t completely steal Mike’s thunder as he is doing a review of the unit as we speak.  But I will tell you this, no tricks were missed in the development of this beauty.  It’s a professional piece of gear all the way and all a budding pitmaster needs to help him dial in that time and temp aspect of cooking.  For $60 its a great value and worth the investment.

After some more discussion Mike and decided we should give away this awesome kit live at the Kentucky State Barbecue Festival in Danville, Ky on September 7th.  This is the last day of the event and we figured it would be fantastic to do the announcement on stage there since it is one of our favorite events each year.  This is our favorite event because we get to feed about 50,000 of our closest friends, fans, family and cook right along side the likes of Brad Simmons, Carey Bringle, Craig Kimmel, Mike Mills, Moe Cason and Shelly Fritch.  All superstars in their own right and we are humbled each year to cook with them.

This planted the next seed of what we should include.  The Danville area is home to one of my favorite snacks, Pap’s Beef Sticks and Pap’s CEO Rick Waldon.  So I called up Rick and asked him if he wanted in.  He was quick to pull the trigger and offered up a bevy of beef snacks to keep any pitmaster satisfied on those long cooks.  Go check out the Meat Maniac on the Pap’s site.  Seriously if you have not tried Pap’s, go order some or go tell your favorite store to carry some.  It’s seriously the best beef jerky around.  My personal favorite is the Pitmasters Barbecue, it is a awesome mix of smoky, sweet and heat.  Not to mention Pap’s ensures only the highest quality US beef is used.  Pap’s is legit and if you win this prize pack you will know why.

By now you have to be asking, well that is all fine and good but what does Draper’s BBQ bring to the table in this contest.  Well, we figure you have the pit to cook on, the thermometer to tell when it is done and even snacks to keep you happy while you cook.  So we are there to fill in the remaining gaps.  You will need some great rubs for your meat, so you get 1lb of our A.P. Rub and 1lb of our Moo’d Enhancer.  You need sauce to top that meat with, so you get a gallon of our Smokin’ Sauce.  But you also need something to keep the sun out of your eyes while you cook, so you also get one of our team caps.  These hats are nice adjustable flex fit hats with our logo embroidered on them so you can be apart of the DBQ crew.  We also toss in enough charcoal for your first several cooks on the PBC.

If you have been keeping up with the prices, this is a prize pack worth over $550 delivered to your door.  If you are within a reasonable driving distance we will deliver the prize pack personally.  All you need now is some meat, some free time, a frosty beverage of your choosing and a lighter and you are ready to start your trek towards pitmaster enlightenment.

So now you have to be wondering how do I enter?  Well, stay tuned.  July 25th at 5pm Central time the contest will go live on the Draper’s BBQ FB page and Mike will post the rules on our blog.  All you have to do to enter is Like our Facebook page.  https://www.facebook.com/DrapersBBQ  That’s it, we have made it simple.  Because it is so simple we would greatly appreciate it if you shared our page to your friends after you like it.  If you are one of the 830 people who have already liked our page you are already entered but again we would greatly, greatly appreciate you sharing our page as often as you can to help us out.

If this contest successfully generates the results we are looking for we want to do something like this once a quarter.  Mostly because we just like giving stuff away and making people happy, but also because we have LOTS of things coming up including a new video series that Mike and I are ironing out that we want everyone to see.  Draper’s is being reborn and we want to share everything with as many people as possible, so stay tuned!

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Barbecue Live…..Barbecue Legit

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I made the decision last fall that Draper’s BBQ was going to make a run at the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Competition in 2015.  Now, some may think that is planning too far ahead.  I can tell you it is not far enough after being a part of a few teams that have competed at MIM it is barely enough time.  Even with a team of seasoned veterans of barbecue, you still need time to come together and learn how to sing and operate in harmony. 

So how does a newly formed team prepare for what many consider the biggest dance in all of barbecue?  First you practice, practice, practice.  Most good teams can get 90+% of what they need through research and trial and error, but even the best team needs a sanity check and some insider info to get that last 5-10%.  That last bit is what separates teams from placing in the middle of the pack at MIM or getting lucky enough to be in the top 10 or if the barbecue God’s smile on your team, make the finals. 

To get that last bit you either have to know some great pitmasters who are willing to mentor you or you have to find a class to gain that information.  Draper’s BBQ has a lot of barbecue friends who have done very well for themselves as far as winning is concerned and have shared lots of info along the way, but to be honest we still wanted to get more info before we take the MIM plunge again. 

Competing at Memphis in May costs literally thousands of dollars.  To be willing to write those checks without sponsorship you better know your team is good and you better have every ounce of information you can get your hands on.  That left me searching for a barbecue class, preferably one put on by some MIM veterans. 

My search was very short thankfully because I knew of Barbecue Live from being friends with Malcom Reed.  It is a relatively new class held by Mark Lambert of Sweet Swine O’ Mine and Malcom and Waylon Reed of Killer Hogs.  Two great teams and both have been on a tear the past few years collecting a lot of trophies.  It is one of the only classes ran by a committee of pitmasters who are willing so share all they know in order to help you bring home that Grand Champion call.  As if working with Mark, Malcom and Waylon weren’t enough they are still only part of the story.    

Barbecue Live also includes special guests at each of their classes.  In my class Danny Montgomery of Tuscumbia River Bottom Barbequers and Patrick Banks of Booty Que were there.  I know these names may not ring many bells so let me clarify just who these men are. 

Danny Montgomery is a personal hero of mine.  He is a legend to be quite honest, although he would never admit to it.  Danny has won ribs at MIM was the 2002 Jack Daniels International Grand Champion and only followed that up with winning Reserve in 2003 and 2004.  He has mentored numerous teams from all over the world and has been instrumental in making countless champions.  Danny, for those in the know, is one of the most sought after coaches in the world and still one of the top whole hog and shoulder cooks around.  Danny Montgomery might not be a household name, but he deserves to be.  He is one the best teachers I have ever met and I am proud to know him.

Patrick Banks is a recent Barbecue Live graduate who just so happened to win ribs at this year’s MIM only to follow that up with numerous KCBC Grand Champions.  To put it bluntly, 2014 has been Patrick’s year and he is quick to let you know that Barbecue Live helped light the fuse.  Patrick is also very active in Operation Barbecue Relief and just an all-around great guy.  Not many cooks would show you their exact recipe that just won them the big trophy at MIM. 

I only talk about Danny and Patrick to highlight just how comprehensive the knowledge base is at Barbecue Live, but it in no way is meant to take anything away from Mark or Malcom and Waylon.  Sweet Swine O’ Mine has won MIM several times and it has been hard to find a contest in recent memory that Killer Hogs entered where they didn’t come home with a trophy.

Knowledge base only matters though if that knowledge can be demonstrated and conveyed in a manner in which it can be learned and remembered.  I am glad to say Barbecue Live did a solid job of this, but even happier that they did it in a way that pushes the student to want to perfect a craft instead of just recreate it. 

What do I mean by that?  Well, I have taken a few classes now and many barbecue classes center themselves on providing you with an exact time line and procedure to perform every step.  Barbecue Live is willing to share this with you but they do not base everything on this.  They are more about arming you with a method of preparing your entries that judges can’t help but score well instead of creating a cookie cutter clone of their process.

Barbecue Live is also one of the very few classes that cover all four KCBS meats plus MBN shoulder and whole hog.  When you stop to think about that you really start to understand how much of a value this class is. 

How can they cover all of this in what amounts to about 18 hours of instruction?  First off this class assumes you can trim ribs, pull silver skin and do the basics.  They also have a squad of cooks who are running pits, assisting with bringing meats in and generally doing anything needed to assist Mark, Malcom and Waylon while they are actually teaching the class. 

Then there is Mrs. Rachelle Reed, I could spend a whole page telling you the enumerable things she does to make the class a success.  Chelle not only did the chicken trimming demonstration and parsley box builds, she was in constant motion prepping lunch, ensuring there was plenty to drink available and generally making everyone feel at home.  Rachelle is truly the matriarch of Barbecue Live and a force to be recognized.

I can’t say enough how valuable this support cast is to the overall success of the class.  They operate as an army providing meats to the instructors so they can demo every stage of the cooking process.  The timeline and attention to detail to make this possible is nearly mind boggling.   

While I won’t go into detail on the information covered I think it is important to give you an idea what each day is like at Barbecue Live.  Don’t mistake my lack of detail as lack of information, I do this strictly out of respect for the class.  Barbecue Live answers any and all questions and shows you everything, nothing hidden or reserved. 

The class didn’t officially start until 7:45am on Saturday, but Malcom and crew did something very nice on Friday.  They had a Meet and Greet on Friday evening that was a great old fashioned southern fish fry.  The Meet and Greet was a nice touch and the first glimpse of how useless my diet was going to be for the weekend.

 Day 1

The next morning everyone got registered grabbed a seat and settled in.  I will say this right off the bat, Saturday is a long, long day of information.  It is packed full but a great day.  Chicken is covered first and you barely get the first cup of coffee down before you get to try a piece of chicken.  Ribs are up next and in both cases it was very nice to compare and contrast how Killer Hogs does their entry vs Sweet Swine O’ Mine vs Booty Que.  You really come to understand that while each of the pitmasters do very similar things overall, they each have their own unique and identifiable flavor profile. 

In intermission of ribs lunch was served.  You will find a theme from this point forward concerning food.  The theme….no corners cut.  Every meal provided was awesome and done with care.  Lunch consisted of some awesome sides and headlined by Gus’s World Famous Chicken.  Gus’s is seriously the only place I stop at every time I am in the Memphis area.  Nope, not barbecue, Gus’s.  Gus’s isn’t the cheapest place on the block and it was very nice to have it brought in for the class instead of pizza. 

After lunch the remainder of ribs is covered along with getting to eat them.  Then it is on to whole hog prep, which was great.  Being a future whole hog team at MIM I can tell you even after cooking several and being mentored by some of the best, we learned some amazing tips from Mark Lambert.  I don’t think there is another person on the planet that knows the intramuscular structure of the hog better.  Mark is a credit to the barbecue world and does a great job covering the topic.

Next up is trimming of butts and shoulders.  Again, you typically will not get both in the same class and it was great.  Many times I found myself thinking that this really was two classes for the price of one.  There was so much covered between the butts and shoulders and all of it valuable. 

Then we moved into the first part of brisket.  Again, seeing how each pitmaster differed between their prep and products used was nice.  Better than that though was knowing that we would get to taste the two side by side to compare and contrast. 

Dinner is one of the last things on the docket for the day.   It was comprised of an amazing smoked skirt steak, smoked pork loin and sides.  To say it was fantastic is again an understatement.  I have never in my life been so sick from eating so much in a given day, but so happy at the same time.   We all had eaten so many of the ribs tasting the difference between Compart Duroc pork vs regular pork that dinner was nearly an afterthought for most of us.  That did not deter us from enjoying a great dinner though. 

After dinner there was a recap of the day along with a final Q&A.  I would like to say we all went out and had a beer after that, but seriously we all went straight to the hotel and tried to sleep off the food coma.  

After about 12 hours sleeping off the food coma and information overload from the previous day we started again at 8am.  Before I really get into Day 2 let me side track for a minute and highlight something that I really liked.  Barbecue Live used a camera focused on the presenter’s hands and this was shown on a 40in television.  This was great because in some classes a gaggle of students cram around the presenter and only those in the first row or two get to see precisely what is going on.  In this set up people could also sit back and check out the television which lessened the need to be shoulder to shoulder with the presenter.  That’s not to say you couldn’t literally stand next to Malcom and Mark during the whole class, you could, the camera set up just allowed a fair view for all.  So often times many would gather up close to the television as well, it was really neat to see. 

Day 2

First up was the wrapping of butts and briskets, followed by building of parsley boxes.  As with all previous topics everything was well covered and all questions answered including injection and mop recipes. 

Next pork blind boxes were covered in depth.  I will say this is yet another topic where the quote “we will show you how to build boxes that judges can’t help but score well” rang true.  Waylon spent a long time going over every aspect of exactly how he perfects his box and it was great to see firsthand the level of care that goes into that box. 

Whole hog presentation was next.  Mark went through basically a MBN presentation explaining where he would pull from and why.  He even managed to show me some cuts deep inside the hams that I never really noticed before.  Again, demonstrating his amazing knowledge of the anatomy of the hog and proving why he has won MIM a few times.

Lunch consisted of the whole hog and if you’ve never bellied up to a whole hog you are missing out.  To me it is still the pentacle of pork and why we cook whole hog.  It was awesome to contrast our flavor profiles with Mark’s and get a good feel for where we stand.  That piece of info alone was worth the cost of admission for us. 

The class concluded with barbecue business and marketing.  It was interesting to hear how different the paths to success were for Killer Hogs and Sweet Swine O’ Mine.  Again all questions were answered all things good, bad and ugly were discussed.  This info would be invaluable to new teams or a budding sauce/rub company.  This section alone if expanded on could be a complete day and honestly I would love to see it expanded and a few more sauce and rub companies invited to the table to add even more diversity to the conversation.  I for one would make the trek in a heartbeat to be a part of that panel. 

Conclusion

So what is the take away on Barbecue Live?  Honestly, it is one of the best classes in the country bar none.  While it may be a newer class, it is done right and doesn’t miss anything.  If I knew absolutely nothing about barbecue I might find the class, perhaps, a little advanced.  But if I knew that little about barbecue I would honestly be spending my time on the internet watching videos from How To BBQ Right, researching, reading forums and putting into practice what I found before I was willing to part with my money for an experience like this.  On the flip side of that coin, this class would put a fair pitmaster over the top and on the winning track quickly.  Some may find the level of information off putting since it is so in depth, but as someone who has done this for a long time I still found many tidbits of information that were well worth the cost.  The class does not pretend to make you a Killer Hogs or Sweet Swine O’ Mine clone, but they do promise to help you become the best pitmaster you can be and I think they more than deliver on that promise.  So hit up the website and sign up, you won’t be disappointed. 

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Draper’s BBQ Bourbon Barrel Art Project Submission

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Anyone that knows me knows I am sucker for charity.  I have gone miles out of my way to raise money for good causes and I think that thought is at the heart of what Draper’s BBQ is all about.  It’s not quite Spiderman’s “With great power, comes great responsibility,” but I do believe that God gives us each talent and ability and that those who are able should use those talents and abilities and our able bodies to help others whenever we can.  Some call it putting good karma out there.  Some call it being a Christian.  Some call it the Golden Rule.  Whatever you call it, we at Draper’s BBQ take it seriously.

A few months ago while visiting our friends Brad and Cindy Simmon’s out in Danville, Ky we were asked to sponsor a bourbon barrel for the Bourbon Barrel Art Project benefiting Heart of Kentucky United Way.  The idea of the project is to have an artist basically make art out of barrel and the barrels are auctioned off and all the proceeds are given to the the charity.  You can read more about the process and see some of the submissions here.

I of course said yes and we loaded up the barrel and the brainstorming process began of what we are now going to do with this large barrel now that I had stuck my foot in my mouth and agreed to sponsor one.

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If you have never seen or handled a bourbon barrel first hand I will tell you they are things of beauty just in their raw state.  They are made of very thick and beautiful oak and you start to admire the craftsmanship it takes to make one immediately.  The smell of the left over bourbon mixed with the oak is awesome!  The more I handled the barrel the more I realized I couldn’t just paint over this barrel.  Some how it’s natural form needed to celebrated.

After much deliberation with Mike Owings and of course consulting with our wives (the real brains of the operation) we decided we needed to wood burn this barrel some how.  Our vision was to make the barrel functional somehow while also making it art, but also maintaining the integrity of the barrel itself.  We wanted to convey that these barrels are still made exactly how they have been for hundreds of years.  They are handcrafted, they have the unmistakable marks of craftsmanship all over them.  They have the sweat and time of the person who built them ingrained in their wood.  We knew that painting over this was just somehow wrong.  So we agreed that we needed to make something out of the barrel that celebrated all these things vice covering them up.

I started looking for an artist willing to take the ideas in our head and put them on the barrel but we kept striking out, either because the artist was too busy or they just didn’t share the same vision we had.

After some more deliberation and some goading by Mike I decided the best thing we could do for our barrel was for US to do the art work and the building of it.  I knew this would be a gamble, but at least at the end of the day for better or worse we could say this barrel represented who we are and what we believe in.

The first thing we agreed to do was make a liquor cabinet out of the barrel to address the idea that it needed to be functional.  So we decided to put a lazy susan inside the barrel. The next couple of pics show the cutting of the barrel to make that happen.

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2013-07-28 19.26.14This sounds like a pretty easy thing to do, but its a bit more treacherous than you think. The bands on the barrel are under quite a bit of pressure.  Mix that with the idea that when you start cutting the slats out that the remaining slats can shift and you have to take some precautions.  My dad Mike Draper was the lead on this portion.  He drilled through each band and put a screw through each slat.  Once that was done he used a angle grinder to cut the band.  This was genuinely a one shot kind of deal.  If we messed it up, I would have been on my way back to Lexington to pick up a replacement.

You can see all the natural char left in the barrel.  Let me tell you there are few things more awesome than smelling a bourbon barrel that has just been cut open.  That mix of charred oak and bourbon are amazing!  Needless to say we saved the oak slats that we cut out to toss in on the very next bbq.

Once dad was done it was my turn to fire up the wood burner and see how bad I could mess up this barrel.  I started with the top band of flames that we ran around the entire barrel.  I freehand drew each one and then came back and burned them in.  I can tell you I was a nervous wreck the first ones I did.  So much so it didn’t even occur to me to practice a few first.  I literally dove right in and Mike Owings came up and asked where my practice wood was and I told him “ummm….wow….that flame right there.”  That was not the smartest moment in my years on this planet, but it all turned out for the best.  I had done some wood burning as a kid (around 25 years ago) and I figured I knew what I was doing for the most part.  Thankfully there were more good flames than bad as I started to learn the ropes again.

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After the flames I began sketching the three animals we decided to include.  On each of the animals we wanted to do sort of an 1800’s style butcher representation that included the primal cut lines for each animal.  I really wanted to label each cut but there just was not room with the wood burner.

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As you can see the oak barrel really responded well to the wood burning.  It was hard to do because the material was so thick so pulling thick, straight lines was very difficult. Shading was also a bit trying, but all in all the animals turned out pretty well.

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After the animals were done it was time to add the next piece, which was the lower band of flames.

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Once these were done it was time to add the next piece, the state logo for Kentucky.  I was really worried about this turning out well for a few reasons.  First because the outline of Kentucky is very jagged and it is hard to get a wood burning to smoothly transition these edges.  Secondly for exactly the opposite reason, I knew if every line in the word “Kentucky” wasn’t nearly perfect the whole thing would terrible since it was such a center piece.

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The final art piece of the barrel project was to add “Draper’s BBQ” to the section right below the Kentucky logo.  Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures of this process.  It was VERY difficult to get something that long and symmetric placed evenly on the barrel and then wood burned.  It was easily the most difficult piece and I am glad I saved it until the end.

Once that was completed it was time to seal it up and have a table built out of white oak. While I won’t show you the final completed barrel until after the auction has completed, I will show you just enough to get an idea what you need to come out and bid on.

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What you aren’t seeing just yet is the completed butcher block table that is being installed and the lights that we put in top of the barrel that will sure to make any bottle of bourbon or wine look right at home.  Unfortunately these last pics really don’t do the barrel justice.  It turned beautiful and I am proud to be apart of creating it.

In the end this barrel isn’t perfect and I’m surely no artist, but it is what it was intended to be.  It adheres to the idea that simple things made well shouldn’t be covered up by paint. They should be show cased, celebrated and honored.  We applied the same principals to this barrel that apply to every ounce of meat we cook.  We kept it simple, we kept it honest and we never tried to make it anything it wasn’t intended to be.

Whoever ends up winning this barrel is more than welcome to hang out with the DBQ Crew any time.

Love, Peace and Pork Grease folks….see you Danville in a few days!
Shane

 

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Draper’s Asian Persuasion Ribs

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I dont have many rules in life as I am a pretty easy going guy.  One of the things I do try to live by though is that I wont sit down and create new recipes or play with new food ideas or write blog posts unless I am inspired to do so or am just in the mood to do so.  Well I have been saving this post and this recipe up for some time.  I have reinvented it in my head a few times and it wasn’t until this past Father’s Day that I just felt it was time to do it up right, pull out all the stops and just knock one out of park if the food God’s were willing.

Most of you know about my previous reviews of my friend’s Tom and Michele’s Intensity Academy line of products.  Well all of those reviews were spurred by a set of ribs that I did using their Chai Thai Teriyaki on that I told Tom about.  Tom sent me a box of products and asked me to write up the recipe and take some pictures.

To be quite honest I have held off on doing these ribs until I knew I had everything lined up flavor wise to do them justice.  I wanted to give Tom something awesome, but also something easily repeatable as a recipe and I wanted to really “Draper-ize” these ribs.  It took me awhile to figure out that last part.  I mean let’s be honest just making a teriyaki rib is easy enough and making a smoked barbecue rib is easy enough.  But in order for me to full on do these justice I wanted to make sure I was paying homage to the products used AND giving full credit to a place that I feel like I grew up in, Japan.  I spent some of my most formative years in Japan and the Japanese sensibilities of cooking, philosophies and flavors permeate pretty much everything I do in one fashion or the other.  So these ribs had to be recognizable as “barbecue” ribs but also had to have authentic Japanese flavors while keeping to the principles of Japanese cooking.  They could not be one note.  They could not just be teriyaki sweet.  They could not just be ribs smoked and sauced with a barbecue sauce that had some teriyaki added.

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So how does one balance this all out and make a rib that is so good you cant stop eating them?  Well you start by considering your anchor product.  Intensity Academy has a winner in their Chai Thai Teriyaki.  It has a great depth of flavor and strikes a real balance.  It is very authentic in its delivery of teriyaki flavor and it has some definite heat.  Most American’s would not recognize Chai Thai Teriyaki as authentic though because we typically associate teriyaki with a very, very sticky sweet sauce. While teriyaki can be a thicker glaze in Japan it is most often used in this thinner consistency.

Given Chai Thai being a thinner teriyaki I decided to use it two ways in my recipe.  Firstly as the liquid I put in the foil pack when I foil my ribs.  I knew this would give them a nice rich depth of flavor and the ribs would hold on to the flavors and heat very well by doing this.  Second I decided to make a rich teriyaki glaze in which to finish the ribs with.  Afterall, a rib is just better when its messy and sticky.  That is just a rule when eating ribs.

31xou3WYVNLNext I needed to figure out a rub.  What is a rib without a proper rub?  I could have easily made my own with some ginger, garlic, onion powder and some chile’s but I remembered one of favorite condiments while I was in Japan…..Nanami Togarashi.  I cant remember exactly what the translation means, but to me it is just basically mixed peppers with some great hits of citrus and seaweed that I put on EVERYTHING while stationed there for 3 years.  It’s great on french fries, onion rings, sushi and everything in between lol.  Be forewarned if do order this, it comes in a very small bottle and isnt the cheapest thing you will have in your cabinet, but to be reminded of Japan on an occasion I keep it around.

So now I had the flavor components planned out it was time to throw down and cook.  I was already cooking 15 slabs of ribs that Saturday.  5 I had sold as part of a small party the rest I wanted to eat and just give away as Father’s Day presents to family members and to random neighbors.  So I decided to take 3 of these ribs and give them the Asian Persuasion treatment.  I’m going to start all the way at the very beginning of my cook and talk you through everything I did and do and explain they “why” as much as possible.

The night before I put the ribs on the smoker I always inspect the meat, pull the silver skin, give them a good wash and trim any pieces that dont look uniform or appetizing.  Once this is done I coat the bone side of the rib with a very light coat of yellow mustard…yup the same stuff you put on hot dogs.  More on the why on that in a moment.  I brush on the mustard lightly on the bone side and apply the rub in a good medium coat.  Flip the ribs over to the meat size and repeat the process.  Once this is all done I store them in the fridge overnight.  I like using the mustard for a few reasons.  First it allows me to use less rub since it acts as an adherent.  Second the mix of vinegar, oil and mustard helps tenderize the meat a bit but really helps move the flavors of the rub down deep into the meat.  Third and most importantly I just like the flavor.  Its a faint tanginess that just works in my flavor profile.  You could absolutely use peanut oil or a vegetable oil instead and achieve similar results without adding the flavor of the mustard.  I just like the mustard because it cheap, always available and spreads easily and allows you to see exactly where it is and where it isnt when you are applying.  My only advice is that you do not get too heavy handed with it.  You dont need a lot to get the job done.  Just a light coat will do fine.

After a 6-12hr sit in the chill chest you are ready to rock and roll.  Now I am not going to go through how to set up your smoker or your fire.  I am going to trust you have that much figured out.  If you dont know how to do all of that or even how to cook a good barbecue rib then I would refer you to the 3-2-1 method of cooking ribs that you can Google, but most importantly I would suggest you spend a week or so just reading everything over at Amazingribs.com.  I just cant do it any better than Meathead Goldwyn already has, he is an authority and I accept most of what he suggests as gospel.  Where I will start at though is about the point where your ribs has plenty of smoke and are starting to take on some really good color and you are about to foil them.  If your ribs look like the pic below then you are on the right track.  Note the black specs on the ribs, those are the sesame seeds and the spices that are in the Nanami Togarashi rub that I used.

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As you can see here I have laid out two sheets of foil (I always, always, always double foil ribs) to keep the bones from puncturing through just a single layer of foil.  I have also laid down a good strip of honey.  I take the rib and lay it meat side down into this strip of honey.

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I then of course add another strip of honey to the bone side of the ribs.  Again note the color and the evenness of the rub and the black specks of the black sesame seeds.  I did not over smoke these ribs or let them go too long.  You dont need a lot of smoke for these ribs as too much bitter smoke will take away from the final flavor profile and throw it out of balance.

2013-06-15 09.31.12Next I put about 1/4c of the Chai Thai Teriyaki into the foil packet.  I put about half in the cradle created by the arched bones and the remainder just in the bottom of the package.  You DO NOT need a lot of liquid in the foil package.  You are adding flavor here more so than moisture.  If you add too much in the way of liquid here you run the risk of your ribs having a “hammy” kind of flavor to them.  Believe me when these ribs get to cooking well in the foil packages they will create plenty of moisture that get’s trapped in the packets.  It is not uncommon to pour off over 1c of liquid out of each rib packet.

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If you really like the punch of fresh ginger I would recommend adding some fresh ginger (just a touch!) into the foil packet.  I am a big fan of the stuff from Gourmet Garden that comes in the squeeze tubes.  It’s potent stuff, so be careful and be warned that it can turn off some guests who may eat your ribs if they are not as big of a fan of ginger as you might be.  For me, I love it and cant get enough of it.

2013-06-15 09.33.13Note how well these ribs are sealed up.  This is a small thing, but will cut your cook time by about 15-20%.  If that packet is fully sealed they trap all that heat and moisture and that is a good thing.  I seal up both layers of foil this way.  The good news is once your ribs are foiled and so long as you are not using direct heat to the bottom of the foil packets you can crank up the heat of your cooker to 300 degrees or more to expedite the cooking process. I havent found any issues with doing this and you can easily cut off 45min to an hour of your cook time by doing this.

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Once your ribs are close to done you can start glazing.  Bring the temp back down on your cooker and glaze every 20min until you are happy with the color.  The pic above is after I had opened the foil packet, poured off the excess juice and painted on one coat of glaze.  Before I get into what I did for a glaze let’s talk about “done” and ribs.  This can be measured by a thermometer and that temp would be determined by whether you were cooking baby backs or spares, but I would tell you some ribs are very tender at 185 degrees and others not until closer to 195 degrees.  You just have to use your judgement and look at how much the meat has pulled back from the bone and how they feel more than anything.

The glaze can be done a few ways.  You can take about 2 parts honey or agave nectar to 1 part Chai Thai Teriyaki and mix it together and that will make a fine glaze.  You can also double down on the teriyaki flavor by doing what I did here and taking 1 bottle of Kikkoman Teriyaki glaze and mixing that with 1/3c Chai Thai Teriyaki.  If you want more ‘yaki kick add even more Chai Thai to the mixture.  I found this mixture to give just about the perfect mix of flavor punch and color.

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In the pic above you can see how dark the ribs can get if you glaze them 4 or 5 times.  Since I had 3 racks to play with I glazed them each a different number of times just to see what the end result would be.  I think 3 or 4 times is a pretty good sweet spot for the color  and flavor.

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As a finishing note and more for aesthetics than flavor I sprinkled a little bit of Simply Asia’s Sweet Ginger Garlic seasoning on just before serving.  You can see the white sesame seeds in the pics above.

So how did they taste?  In a word awesome.  The ribs were smokey and sweet for sure, but what I was most pleased with was that the Chai Thai Teriyaki added a heat note that wasnt on the outside of the rib where most people expect it to be.  The heat element was down all the way to the bone but it was not in anyway overpowering.   The ribs hit on all the elements you would expect, but had just enough surprise along the way to keep it interesting.  As a final grading process of whether I had hit the target of balancing between barbecue and Asian flavors I invited my two friends Charlie and Dani Rice over to taste test.  Both know Asian cooking and my barbecue in particular very well.  Each were very impressed with how the ribs were right on the money with the heat, sweet and smoke elements and how they translated so well into a teriyaki rib.  In the end these ribs answered the mail and I am glad to share them with you and our friends at the Intensity Academy.

Love, Peace and Pork Grease my friends….until next time.

Shane

 

 

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In a Trailer….Down By The River

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Many of our friends, fans, patrons, etc have been wondering what we have been up to as of late.  Well in short LOTS.  Heading into the off season this year I was hit right square in the forehead with a great deal of things that forced me to reconsider everything.  More than a few times I had the phone in my hand about to make a phone call that would essentially sell out our operation and end Draper’s in it’s current form and a big piece of me was more than ok with that.  It was a painful, but necessary place to be.  It forced me to realize and also reconcile that we as Draper’s weren’t any longer doing the things that made us happy.  I was miserable, Mike was doing his best to hold things together and everyone was afraid to admit it.  We were very successful in a super short time and we had a large impact on the community we loved, but now we were being driven by the machine of success and no longer enjoying ANY of what we did.  Don’t get me wrong I am not complaining, we are all genuinely thankful for every opportunity that came our way, but somehow we…well…. I forgot that it was ok to say “umm, nah I think we will pass on that one.”

So insert lots of time to soul search and I realized that while I love to compete I hated the flavor of competition barbecue.  I also realized that I am most happy when people are just eating my food.  Just handing an old man a simple barbecue sandwich and having him give you that look of “what did you do to this….they don’t make it like this any more” or that nod of “son you did your grandpa proud with this one” is what made me happiest and was better than any trophy.  Simple, honest, nothing to hide behind, nothing fake….just real.  I also started realizing we as Draper’s didn’t do more of that because we weren’t set up for it.  Every time we did, it was with a gang of 10×10 pop ups, coolers, fold up tables and hours and hours of set up and tear down time.  And let me tell you no matter how much money you make doing it, pulling a 16hr day doing that will make you think twice about doing it every weekend.  So the only thing I knew to do was to get serious about taking the company that direction and that led to us considering buying a trailer that was set up more for vending.

So in preparation for this path we sold the toy hauler and started making calls and looking around.  It was about this time that my good friend Brad Simmons gave me a call.  Brad and Cindy Simmons helped bring the Ky State BBQ Festival to the great town of Danville, Ky and we have been fortunate to be a part of the festival the last two years.  The first year just selling our sauce and rub and last year filling in for Ray Lampe (Dr. BBQ) doing demo’s and classes teaching people how to cook competition barbecue.  If you don’t know about this festival go read up on it, it’s awesome!  Basically, 6 barbecue superstars cook for about 30,000 of their closest friends.  People get the best barbecue around from the best pitmasters around.

Brad mentioned they were going to open up the festival this year to another superstar or two to meet the demand they were expecting and asked would we / could we manage a crowd that big.  That more or less cemented the idea that we were buying a trailer, but not just any trailer….a bad a** trailer that would be befitting of the honor of being asked to cook next to Brad, Carey Bringle, Craig Kimmel, Melissa Cookston, Moe Cason and Shelly Hunt.

So now the trailer had to be able to do medium sized events, HUGE events, KCBS competitions and MBN competitions.  This was a TALL order to say the least.  It wasn’t long before we took a trip to meet Steve Farris of Farris Trailers who assured us he could custom build most anything provided we knew what we wanted and had about 8 weeks to wait for it to be built.  After checking out some of Steve’s trailers we decided what we wanted.  A beast of a 22ft long trailer that had 8ft ceilings (we are all over 6ft) and was 8ft wide (and let’s say none of us turn down the extra helping of ANYTHING…ever…hey don’t judge).  The main compartment would be 18ft and there would be a 4ft “porch” for us to mount cookers on, but ALSO it would have a rear ramp that could double as a stage for presentations.  We also went with full heat and air and the full water kit which included water heater, pump and a 50gal and a 40gal holding tank.  We ordered lights EVERYWHERE including the porch and power outlets every few feet.  We opted for upgraded materials on the walls, insulation, etc but asked Steve to leave the trailer blank otherwise so would be free to configure and reconfigure until we got it the way we wanted it and then build in the cabinets that we wanted.

Without making you wait more here are some pics with some descriptions so you can see what I am talking about.

Concession window, side view.

Concession window, side view.

Back porch, window side.

Back porch, window side.

Better view of the deck/stage

Better view of the deck/stage

Pass Through Window

Pass Through Window

Entry door

Entry door

Wheels

Wheels

Sinks in the nose

Sinks in the nose

Handwash station

Handwash station

I am going to save the rest of the interior pics until we get it all done the way we want it.  What the exterior pics don’t do a good job of is really giving you a sense of the scale.  This trailer is a beast.  It’s VERY tall and very wide.  All in all between the tongue and the stage when it’s all splayed out this trailer is about 32ft of barbecue battle wagon.

Once we get all the vinyl put on the outside and a few touches that we are keeping under wraps for the time being this should be one of the sexiest places on 4 wheels that you can buy barbecue.  We wanted to make a statement and that statement is “we are all in and are holding nothing back.”

I recognize we owe much to many, but from here forward Draper’s BBQ will keep the most important thing first…..the love of what we do.  So if you see us out in the battle wagon don’t be afraid to stop by and say hi and chat with us.  We will be busy, but we will always do what we can to share the love of what we do first and foremost with everyone we can.

Love, Peace and Pork Grease………Shane

 

 

 

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