DBQ at the Ky State BBQ Festival


 Hot off the presses from last night’s Getting’ Sauced with Draper’s BBQ and the Kentucky State BBQ Festival (so dubbed KSBF from here forward because that is a lot to read) webpage, I have been asked to do the cooking demonstrations for the 2nd Ever Kentucky State BBQ Festival.  I am both honored and humbled by being asked to do this by Brad Simmon’s and the organizers of the event.

For those that were not able to attend last year’s event and missed Brad and I talking about it last night on the radio show let me attempt to describe just what this festival is all about.  The KSBF is loosely based on the Big Apple Block Party.  The organizers invite the best of the best in the world of barbecue out to cook for thousands of new friends.  In short, Joe Consumer can come out and eat the barbecue of world class pitmasters.  The list of pitmasters for this event is impressive to say the least, a definite who’s who of Q.  To get to share an event with the likes of Carey Bringle (Peg Leg Porker BBQ), Moe Cason (Ponderosa BBQ), Pete and Melissa Cookston (Yazoo’s Delta Q), Shelly Hunt (Desperados Barbecue) and Craig Kimmel (Firehouse BBQ) is an honor.

Add to that being asked to sit in for none other than Dr. BBQ, mister Ray Lampe is humbling to say the least.  Ray did amazing cooking demonstrations last year and to say one could ever replace him would be a mistake.  Ray is one of my personal bbq heroes, I got to tell him that at last years KSBF when were vending barbeque sauce and rub.  Ray was such a great guy he even used our products during his demonstrations.  The first barbecue related book I ever read was Ray’s Big Time Barbecue.  Ray has had a great influence on not only me, but a whole generation of barbecue pitmasters and I will forever be in his debt.  I can only do my best to live up to the excepti”onal standard that Ray set at last year’s KSBF.

So what can you expect from the demos this year?  Great competition tips adapted for the backyard and awesome samples cooked on a pit that anyone can use.  That’s right we will have a limited amount of samples during each class.  Mike and I have been working on a curriculum for our classes that is based on our Salt, Smoke, Meat concept.  I took this simplified concept and compressed it even further to work in a 30min demonstration.

On Saturday, September 8th I will be doing the following demos:

  • 12:30pm – Chicken – I will show you how to make competition lollipop chicken legs and let you taste them.  You will also get recipes and instruction for whole and spatchcocked chicken as well.
  • 2:30pm – Ribs – We will discuss baby backs vs spare ribs, go over how to properly trim ribs and I will give you instructions on how to cook 4hr ribs.
  • 4:45pm – Pulled Pork – We will coverBoston butts vs whole shoulders, proper trimming, proper injection and how to cook including our competition timeline.
  • 5:30pm – Brisket – I will cover picking a proper brisket, how to trim correctly, injection recommendations and of course how to cook a great brisket.

On Sunday, Sept 9th I will be doing these:

  • 11:15am – Tailgating – It’s all about easy and great entertaining with this demo.  Moink balls, wings, bacon explosion I got it all covered.
  • 1:30pm – Holiday on the Pit – Give the oven a break, I will show you how to great turkey and ham on your smoker.

We will be cooking all of this on Green Mountain Grill’s pellet grills.  We are proud to be featuring the GMG as part of the cooking process because they are a very affordable, highly capable and easy to use barbecue pit.  These pits with just a little bit of know how and anyone can be a super star in their backyard.

In addition to the demo’s we will also have our booth set up selling our sauce and rub. Danvillewas great to Draper’s BBQ last year and we sold out of sauce and rub.  We are coming prepared this year and look forward to meeting even more new friends and visiting with the fans we made last year.

As you can see this year’s Kentucky State BBQ Festival is a big event for Draper’s BBQ and we have gone “all in” on it.  We can’t wait to get there and are proud to be apart of this event!  See you there!


Product Review: Green Mountain Grill Daniel Boone Pellet Grill


As a writer for Drapersbbq.com, it is my job to find interesting things to blog about.  Often I have to cold call different companies and arrange for samples to be sent to me to try out and review.  Small things like sauces or rubs are very easy to ship via what ever postal carrier you choose.  Grills and smokers on the other hand, those are a whole different story.  So right off the bat, I would like to thank Jason from Green Mountain Grills  (GMG) and Bob from BBQ Bonanza in Kansas City, KS for providing me this GMG Daniel Boone model to try out and review for our readers.  Jason made all the arrangements and Bob had the GMG delivered right to my front door, unpacked it and even loaded it with a few pellets.  They could not be nicer folks to work with.

The GMG brand is no stranger to us here at Draper’s BBQ.  Mike has owned a GMG for sometime now and I have a next door neighbor that has one as well.  Our intent is to give you a review through the eyes of a first time user (me) and a longtime owner (Mike).  We hope this will give you some helpful information if you are in the market for a new pellet grill.  You can read Mike’s long term review here.

Lets talk about the features of the GMG Daniel Boone model I cooked on.  The Daniel Boone features a 27×16 inch stainless steel grate for 432 sq inches of cook space.  Team that with a 13.5 inch clearance and you have a very large cook space.  The Daniel Boone weighs 152 pounds which makes it very portable.  Some pellet cookers can weigh over 300 lbs.  GMG gave this machine a digital control for easy use, a meat probe, utility hooks to hang your tools on and a thermal sensor to measure ambient temperature.  This thermal sensor tells the GMG to kick it into high gear if it is cold outside so you don’t have to wait for you grill to heat up in cold weather. GMG also equipped the Daniel Boone with a positive pressure hopper fan to prevent burn-back and a “fan only” mode with auto shut off to blow ash out of the firebox when you finished.  All of this for less than $800, making the GMG Daniel Boone one of if not the most affordable pellet grills on the market.  You can also purchase extras like a stainless steel (no warp) lid, a form fitting cover, a dome thermometer (to measure temps at the top of the grill) and a remote.  Bob was nice enough to include the remote with my Daniel Boone.  I was really excited to try that feature out.  Green Mountain Grills also includes an instruction/recipe book and an instructional DVD to help new owners.

Start up would have been easy if I would have read the instruction book that was given to me.  Being a man,  I did not read it until I became frustrated.  To start up the grill you must turn on the power switch then hold the increase temperature button.  I assume this is a safety feature so the grill does not accidentally get turned on by a child or accidental bump.  This is a very nice safety feature.  Once started, the grill begins to go through the motions of starting up and getting to temp.  The grill is automatically set to get to 320 degrees F, then you must set your cooking temp.  I lowered mine to 230 degrees F and opened the lid to help the temperature decrease.  This entire process took about 15-20 min.

Once I reached my desired temperature I put my brisket on and inserted the food probe so the Daniel Boone could keep track of the meat.  I turned on the remote control and headed inside to relax and watch the BBQ Pitmasters marathon on Destination America.  The remote worked flawlessly.  I could check the temp of my cooker and the meat with just the push of a button.  I waited until the meat’s temperature was 145 then I put it in a foil pan with some beef broth and covered it until it was time to take it off.  Total cook time for a 4.67 lb brisket flat was about 7 hrs and 45 min. This is a picture of the finished product. 

The next day, I wanted to test the Daniel Boone out as a grill.  I cooked a flank steak for fajitas.  I took the grill up to 500 degrees F (its maximum) for this.  The GMG took about 15 to 20 minutes to get to this temp.  I placed the steak on and heard the sizzle.  I could not wait to have those fajitas.  I took about 40 minutes to cook the flank steak to 155 degrees F.  This was longer than it would have taken me on my propane grill but the Daniel Boone cooked an incredible steak.  It was very juicy and flavorful and I did not have to worry about flare-ups with the GMG.  With the fan circulating the heat all around the food, I would almost call this smoke roasting vs grilling.  It takes a little longer to grill on the GMG but the result was just as good.  I did have substantial pellet usage while grilling at that high of temp so the cost to use the Daniel Boone as a grill is higher than a propane or charcoal grill but the products put out on the GMG were very tasty.

My overall impression of the GMG Daniel Boone model was excellent.  Start up was easy (once I read the instructions),  the cook was good, and the temp of the GMG only fluctuated a degree or 2 all day.  This was a very hot day in KC (high 101 degree F) and I did not use a lot of pellets.  My estimate was less than 5 lbs of pellets for the almost 8 hour smoke.  This pellet grill has a lot of high end features that you do not find on higher priced pellet grills.  I love the meat probe and the remote control.  I only left my recliner 3 times all day to check on the grill.  A few concerns I have about the GMG Daniel Boone are the thickness of the metal used in construction.  Will it insulate well enough in the cold weather months?  Will it warp and bend over time with the high heat of grilling?  Mike can probably address these questions in his review as a long time owner.  For the price,  I do not think you can beat this pellet grill.  It performs well under normal conditions, has some high end features that you wont find on higher priced pellet grills and the company has been very accommodating and easy to work with.

One footnote to my article:  The GMG Daniel Boone that I tested was an older model and may differ in specs from the current model.  Sorry for any confusion.


Decisions, decisions……


It has been said that in life there are no easy decisions.  I don’t believe that to be true.  I think the decisions are easy it’s living with the aftermath that is difficult.  The same is true in business.

This year for Draper’s BBQ has been a turbulent one filled with success, triumph and a few set backs.  We’ve hit a few home runs and we’ve also struck out on a couple of things.  All I can do as the CEO at the end of each day, week and month is accept what we have and do my best to aim the company where we hope to go and do my best to get us there intact.

We were recently blessed with being picked as the sixth, and final, contestant in Chile Pepper Magazine’s Quest for the Perfect Rib.  Mike Owings wrote up a post earlier this week in case you missed it.  We will be competing against some of the top talent in the country (literally) and it is a great honor to be included on the same contestant list with these other phenomenal pitmasters.

Unfortunately, the actual contest will take place in Houston, Texas right before Paducah’s BBQ on the River.  I know we have many fans, friends and family members that consider BBQ on the River the biggest and toughest event in barbecue.  They also fully expect us to return again this year and claim more of the top prizes there.  It is with a heavy heart that I have to inform you that we will not be competing at BBQ on the River this year.

The time table of events makes it impossible to do both contests at a high level and I refuse to allow us to do anything as a company without the ability to ensure it is successful.  BBQ on the River just takes too much in the way of man power and preparation for us to be able to do it well right after returning from Houston.  We are a very small team and do not have the people in place to make it happen.

I know this disappoints many of our fans.  For that I am truly sorry.  Believe me there is no one more disappointed than I am.  I love to compete and as crazy as it may sound I really felt like this was our year to win it all.

On a positive note the event inHoustonhas national exposure and will go a very long way in helping Draper’s BBQ to become more of a household name.  Every major sauce distributor in the country will be there along with Food Network and many industry bloggers.  To say getting picked to go out and compete in this event with Chile Pepper Magazine is big is an understatement.  This may well be the break we have been waiting for.

I want each of our Western Kentucky and Heartland friends and family to know that you are valuable to us, but we are first and foremost a sauce and rub company.  As the CEO I must keep that in focus as I make decisions concerning what’s best for the company.  At this point in time doing what we can to sell more sauce and rub nationally is of the utmost importance.  Achieving that will allow us to do things like hire local people to be apart of this company and our family.

We wish everyone at BBQ on the River the best and look forward to doing this event next year.  Remember when you are eating that pork sandwich that it typically supports a good cause and while we may not be able to be at this one event, we are here in West Kentucky year round.  Just email or call us and we will do our best to always support your Draper’s BBQ Addiction.

Peace, Love and Pork Grease my friends!



Father’s Day Gifts – 2012


Ok everyone one and their play cousin has published a Father’s Day Gift Guide already. In typical Draper’s fashion we are one of the last to post our recommendations.  It’s ok to save the best and most comprehensive for last though.  You would expect a barbecue company to give a Father’s Day Gift Guide chocked full of grilling related items, accessories and sauces.  You will find some of those here, but being the renaissance men that we are, we wanted to provide you  a list of items that addresses all the parts of good ole dad.  Dad isn’t a one dimensional guy and while he may love barbecue and grilling the most we are betting he also has a humorous side and an intellectual side as well.  So our gift guide was designed to address every side of your special guy’s persona and give you ideas in which we know he would love.

Idea 1 – T-Shirts

Before you think we’ve lost our marbles and have gone all cheap on dear ole dad hear us out.  If your dad is stuck in khakis or slacks and a button down all day, at that 9 to 5 grind he calls a job to put you through school, then I can promise you one of his favorite things to do is put on a pair shorts, a t-shirt and some comfy shoes and chill out.  To add to that putting on a funny t-shirt only makes it better.  So check out some of our favorites from Tanga.com all of which are under $10!

Idea 2 – Bacon

Dad understands that bacon is not a food it’s a lifestyle and we believe it’s one that should be celebrated in every way possible.  We firmly believe nothing says “I love you” quite like bacon.  So here are just some accessories that will be sure to please the giver-o-the-allowance.  If you want even more, even crazier gifts just Google “Bacon Gifts.”

The Bacon Wallet

Bacon Wallet – Because its cool! – $9

Bacon Hot Sauce

Bacon Hot Sauce – What’s better than bacon? HOT BACON! – $7

Bacon Bandages

Bacon Bandages – Because sometimes dad’s Ninja impersonation ends badly. – $5

Bacon Wrapping Paper

Bacon Wrapping Paper – Why? Because EVERYTHING should be wrapped in bacon. – $6


Baconnaise – Want the ultimate BLT? Then you need this! – $15

 Idea 3 – Tech

Every dad is a tech dude to a certain extent, yes we know he still can’t program the correct time on the 15yr old VCR but we promise he will like these tech gifts.

Logitech Harmony 650

Logitech Harmony 650 – Because he deserves the remote control at all times! – $60

 Klipsch IMAGE S4 Earbuds

Klipsch IMAGE S4 Ear buds – Because yes your mother does talk too much…. sometimes.  shhh Dont tell! – $65

Roku LT Streaming Player

Roku LT – A Roku of his very own! He will love recording his favorite bbq shows on this! – $50

Idea 4 – Grilling

We know your dad is already the Greatest of the Grill Grates but just in case he isn’t or perhaps he just doesn’t have these items then you know what to do.  HOOK HIM UP!  These are the our personal favorite things from around the grill and we know your dad will love them as well.


Thermapen – Super fast and now even cooler! – $96

Firewire - Flexible Skewers

Firewire Flexible Skewers – These are awesome for those bbq grills that are tight on space! – $10

Victorinox Knives

Victorinox Knife Set – If dad travels to bbq competitions this is a fantastic set of knives to have! – $130

Grill Grate

Grill Grates – There arent many universal bbq tools that make everyone a better cook but this is one of them! – $55


MeatRakes – Help dad stop fingering his food and RAKE some MEAT. – $20

Draper’s BBQ Moo’d Enhancer with Shaker – No list would be complete without some Draper’s products. This package contains our super successful beef rub and the best shaker dad will ever have! – $20

Yoder YS-640 Pellet Smoker

Yoder YS-640 Smoker – This smoker got the most votes on our panel for its combination of cooking size, features, build quality and pricing. – Starting at $1300

Idea 5 – Books

Before you start saying “books??? LAME!” Just wait and hear us out.  These aren’t regular books, they are reference/recipe books and are of course barbecue related.  These books represent a mix of our personal favorites along with the best that has been released this year.  I can promise dad will thumb through these books over and over again getting ideas and inspiration for his barbecue.  What we love about books is that they work just as well in great weather as they do in bad.  They are a year round gift that keeps us inspired and thinking about what we really love, barbecue.  :)  Oh don’t cry we still love you too.

Grilling & Barbecue - Cooks IllustratedSlow Fire by Dr. BBQ - Ray LampeWicked Good Barbecue - A. Husbands & C. HartBeerlicious - Ted Reader

Alright kids that pretty well covers it.  If you can’t find something on this list for the older dude in your house you call dad, well you just aren’t looking very hard.  We did our best to cover a wide price range and provide you with gifts that any dad would love to have.  In the end though we dads would prefer spending the day just hanging out, manning the grill cooking up something for those that love us and call us dad.  Of course doing that on a new pellet smoker, drinking a nice cold and frosty beverage, using new barbecue tools, to cooking up a new recipe from a book you got us wouldn’t be all that bad either.

Peace, Love and Pork Grease to all the men out there who go the extra mile to be involved in their families lives and earn the title Dad.

- Draper’s BBQ Staff


Texas Jr Brush – Review


I always seem to be the last to be in the “know” or at least the last to actually review / get the latest and best in barbecue gear. My introduction the Texas Brush is no different. I have seen them around on the internet and I’ve even seen some of my good friends, like John Dawson of Patio Daddio BBQ and Robyn Lindars of Grill Grrrl review them.

So when Jay Prince asked me to try out the Texas Brush in the Jr size and write a review I of course accepted. Jay’s idea was that I have several different types and sizes of barbecue pits that might be more of a fit for this hulk of a grill cleaner. For this review I decided to try the Texas Brush (TB from here forward) on our Old Hickory CTO, Tucker Cooker and Grilla Pellet Grill.

About Texas Brush
On the TB website there is a great story about where and how TB got started. I don’t think it needs too much added to it, instead I’d prefer to quote it.

“Founded in 1996 in Beaumont, Texas, the Texas Brush was the brainchild of two retirees eager to make a little golf money. What started as a few brushes, has evolved into a full-scale manufacturer with distribution nationwide.

The Texas Brush is no ordinary brush. Each brush is hand-crafted to achieve consistency and durability. All of our component parts have been carefully chosen and manufactured to our strict standards.

Each wood block stabilizer is cut from an actual tree, chosen for us in Gadsden, Alabama. We discard any discolored or blemished wood, then dry, cut and sand each block. Creating both an attractive and functional brush, for our customers.

Our handles are cut thick, 1-1/4″ and over 4′ in length, for comfort and safety. And as you may guess the handles are also made in Texas.

The brushes we use are tempered carbon steel designed to take the heat.

Our goal is to offer innovtive and durable products that exceed the expectations of our customers.

Thanks for your support,”

EC Tuttle and Alvis Garretson
“The Brushmen”

Initial Impressions
The first thing you will notice when you get the TB is the size of the box. It’s a pretty good clue that this is NOT your average grill brush. The TB is large, heavy and almost menacing in its simplicity. I’m pretty sure the TB shares its DNA with some sort of medieval torture device. Essentially as you can see in the picture the TB consists of a couple of large wood blocks sporting two kinds of wire that is attached to a heavy broom handle.

There is nothing overly complicated about the TB but it is very, very well built.  Holding this thing up is akin to raising Thor’s hammer to the sky and waiting for the God’s open the clouds in an attempt to get a glimpse of this mighty grime buster.  Ok, so that might be over stating it, but you get the idea.

The delivery of the Texas Brush occurred just before my trip to compete at the World Barbecue Cooking Contest at Memphis in May. So I did some basic testing with it and figured what better place to complete the review than at the competition since there are typically 4-5 Tucker Cooker’s there that need cleaning and about 15 different Tucker owners there to provide feedback.

Upon completion of the competition I posted on Facebook asking those that got some time with the TB to post the comments. Again, I think they speak for themselves.

“Well, I have to say this is a very nice brush for gettin’ the crud off… I used it over the course of Memphis in May on some grills that just weren’t going to get clean with some ordinary backyard grill brush. When you take a first glance at the brush you know it means business. When you put this brush in your hand you know you have a brush to clean with and it will get the job done! It wasn’t too heavy in weight but I didn’t have to use much pressure due to it had just enough weight but not overly weighted. You also have a choice of two types of bristles which to choose from aggressive and damn aggressive! The one side has nice stiff bristles to get the grime and caked on matter of the expanded grates with out effort while the other side you could use to get down deep and scrape off paint and rust if you needed too but your grill & grate would have to be a total train wreck if you need to use the side which these grates where almost to that point. It only took me a few minutes to knock out my job and got those cruddy grates nice and ready for the food to be cooked. When I get a chance one of the babies will be in my possession and you should get one too.”  - Capt Ron Worby

“I didn’t use it, but I have to say that thing was MASSIVE!” – Wayne Brown

“I used the brush at the site and ordered one on Monday– delivered yesterday.” – Jim Loggins

“I liked it and plan on ordering one.” – Hoyt E. Liggins Jr

My Thoughts
After Memphis in May and getting the chance to use the TB on a couple of our other pits I really like this brush. In fact it lives inside our Tucker Cooker now as part of our standard load out for cooking. The ultra stiff, thicker bristles will blast though any crud and took my grates down to bare steel with just a couple of passes. The finer, slightly less stiff bristles are prefect for every day clean up and are the side 98% of users will typically use.

The TB is large, that is true. Most who don’t have pro sized cookers will find it to be too big. For those of us though that have had to literally crawl inside of our cookers to clean them properly will love the size and reach of the TB.

The weight of the TB will turn off some, but while it is weighted I don’t find it overly heavy to use. That might not be the case for a petite woman, but I don’t think it would be that big of deal even then. The weight once you get the momentum going works in your favor and helps break up the crud even faster.

Texas is at the heart of the TB when you look at build quality. It is genuinely something you will pass down to your children and you can even order replacement heads and parts if you should ever need them. Seriously though I cant think of a way to use this thing enough to damage it though.

Some will balk at the price. I would equate the TB to the Thermapen. It’s just one of those things that until you use it or been around it you can’t understand how it’s worth the money. Once you have though, you get it and you order one without delay. When I consider that I have probably spent $100 in my life time on several other grill brushes, well the TB starts making a whole lot of sense. This is the last grill brush I will ever use or buy.

What I Like
- The TB just works. Simple as that. It does the job advertised with no fuss.
- Build quality – It’s built for a lifetime, literally. I will be passing this down to my children.
- Design – Simple, effective, heavy enough to be useful but not too heavy that its too big for larger pits.
- Modular Parts – If you ever some how managed to wear out a part of your TB you can order replacement parts, which is awesome.
- Made here – More things should be made in the USA, this is and I appreciate that.
- Options – You can work with the fine folks at TB and basically custom design and personalize your own brush.

What May Bother Some
- Size – Make no bones this thing is big. If you have a Weber Kettle this likely isn’t for you. This is for big pits weighing 100lbs or more. Otherwise I could imagine you could knock them over operating the TB.
- Price – It does have a high price of entry, but dare I say it’s the last brush you will ever buy. Try that with something you can get at Wal-Mart.

All in all the Texas Jr. Brush is a great product.  It is well made in the USA and is exactly what you would expect from something that carries Texas as part of it’s name.  Go buy you one, its the last grill brush you will ever need.



Knives for BBQ – The Great Debate


In the past year I have seen several articles, Facebook debates, forum rants and Twitter tussles over which knife one “must have” for barbecue competitions.  This debate is starting rival the wood versus charcoal versus pellet debate best I can tell.  I’ve read several articles and many blog posts on the subject as I have started to build my competition set.  So I decided why not throw in my 2 cents on the subject and cloud the issue even more.

The very first thing you need to consider when buying your knives is “how much knife can you afford?”  This will depend on how much money can spend obviously but for me it also is a factor of how much money can I comfortably live with if lose the knife or if they were to some how get damaged or stolen.  While I can afford a $200 hand made knife of the finest Japanese forged steel, I think it would be foolish to carry that knife and 3 or 4 of its friends to competitions.  If someone were to grab my knife case they would make off with $800 in steel and I would be crushed.

There is nothing wrong with spending that kind of coin on a knife, but in my opinion those knives have a place.  That place is at home in a fine walnut knife block or in your hand while you are using them.  I have a hard time believing that most real chef’s or people who work with blades day in and day out use these ultra expensive pieces.  To me it’s much like taking a $15000 ultra rare guitar and touring with it acrossEurope.  It doesn’t make sense when you can make the same music with a $1000 guitar and beat the crap out of it without the guilt and still cash checks.  The $1000 guitar is nicer than most guitars out there but isn’t an heirloom and it gets the job done at a professional level.  I think that is exactly what you should look for in a set of competition knives.  Something professional, cheap enough you can lose without too much guilt, but well built enough to take the hardships of real use.

The next thing most people consider is forged versus stamped or laser cut.  I used to believe I would only ever be satisfied with a forged blade and that I just HAD to have forged.  Let me just say I was wrong.  The new process of stamping and cutting is so much better than it used to be and they are putting out near forged quality at a small fraction of the cost.  Forged has it’s advantages, but I think more times than not it’s the perception that they are of higher quality that push the uninformed into thinking they have to have forged.  This article from Mark at Your Cutlery Helper has some great links and makes some great points in the forged versus stamped debate.  I won’t rehash all his points as he does a fine job laying out the argument.

My opinion on the debate between the two was settled when I got my first high quality stamped knife, a 6” boning knife by Victorinox.  I stumbled onto this knife during my research when I found a blog post by Danielle Dimovski (Diva Q) on her recommended competition bbq knives.  Admittedly I got a good deal on the knife as I only paid $18 for it, but I would have paid 3 times that much for it and still be happy with it.  This is the best knife I own for the money.  I feel lost when I am trimming meat without it.  It is simply awesome and means so much more to me than the money I paid for it.  What’s best is that if I lose I can get another one without guilt.  Heck, I could get a new one every year if I wanted to at that price.

Last thing to keep in mind when considering knives for competition is…YOU.  First and foremost do what works for YOU.  YOU have to use them.  YOU have to wash them.  YOU have to live with them.  It’s great to research and read, but never lose site that it’s your money and your gear.

So all of that said what knives do you “need” to compete?  I will be the first to admit I used to be a gear collector, I needed one of everything made and would pack that to the competitions “just in case” I needed it.  My load in and load out was nothing short of a beautiful disaster.  Thankfully, I took a class in this off season that drastically changed my perception of what I really needed to take to a competition.  I now do my meat trimming at home if at all possible which means much less gear and clean up.  That means I can make it through an actual competition with 3 knives, vice the 8 I used to take and much less to clean up.  I used to believe in using every knife for its specified purpose and only it’s specified purpose.  I have sense adopted more of an Alton Brown approach to things and I prefer devices that can “multitask” vice “unitask.”  For the purposes of this article I will include all the knives I use for trimming and turn in so you get a full picture of what is really needed.

Knife 1 – A boning, trimming knife.  You will use this knife to trim up your chicken before the competition, to get in tight spots on briskets and butts during trimming and also for surgical “clean up” cuts before turn in.  It’s small, sharp, pointed and easily maneuverable.  This knife for me replaces a pairing knife more times than not.  You may find you need a pairing knife; I don’t so you may want to add that one into the mix if you feel strongly about it.  As I already mentioned above the Victorinox 6” Boning knife, model number 40615 is the winner for me.  You may prefer a flexible boning knife vice the stiff one I chose.  Both work fine, I just prefer the stability of the stiffer blade.

Knife 2 – a long slicing knife with a granton edge.  This knife you will use to draw through brisket in one single motion for the cleanest cut possible.  It is a little more of a unitasker than I prefer, but a needed one.  You can use it for slicing money muscles in your pork butts and for dividing your ribs as well but its primary shining purpose is perfectly slicing wide slices of meat.  There is debate between 10in, 12in and 14in models and yes there are many perverted jokes about length that can be made here.  For most briskets and applications the 12in will do the trick best I can tell.  The 14in is great, but it can be a bit unwieldy.  No matter which you choose you will want to practice with it.  This isn’t a knife everyone can pick up and be a pro with.  Practice trying to make deli thin cuts on a ham, turkey or some roast beef.  It takes a little bit of concentration to break the habit of sawing back and forth like we are so used to.  That is completely opposite to this knife’s DNA.  It is purpose built for single drawing cuts.  Be forewarned granton edged knives in the 12in size range from $20 to $300 and vary greatly.  One of the best reviewed one’s out there that got the Cook’s Illustrated seal of approval is also one of the cheapest.  The Victorinox 12in Granton Slicer, model 47645 is a clear winner for the money.  For just under $40 it’s the best slicer you are going to find.  There are others that are awesome, but they are also in the $150 range.

Knife 3 – Utility knife.  This can be any size, any brand and any type you want.  I recommend keeping one knife in your mix that you can hack open bags of charcoal, cut rope with, stab creeping marauders who try to steal your ribs, etc.  This is the throw away knife.  You treat it like crap and go get another.  Some folks keep a pocket knife with them, some don’t.  I keep a cheap $6 chef styled knife in my tackle box that serves this function for me.  It doesn’t keep a good edge, it isn’t pretty but it works for opening packages and what not.

Believe it or not these three knives are all that I actually need for the competition.  I am working on becoming a true minimalist.  I know you are asking already what about shears, cleavers, a real chef’s knife, etc.  I have all of those, but they stay at home because the trimming is done at home.  Check out the next few knives for the one’s I would recommend in addition to the boning knife for trimming and prepping competition meat.

Knife 4 – Breaking Knife.  This knife can come in many incarnations.  What you need though is a larger knife that can break down meat and trim fat from briskets and pork butts adequately.  For some that is a nice butcher, breaking knife or cimeter (scimitar) knife.  For other’s a chef’s knife works.  While the chef’s knife is another great multitasker I don’t prefer it in this application.  For me it’s best for chopping and prep more so than breaking down large cuts of meat.  I much prefer the curved blade design of the other types of knives.  For me it really came down to the cimeter versus the butcher knife.  In the end the butcher won out.  It came down to pricing and I was already fairly attached to another butcher styled knife so I knew this one would be an easy transition.  I went with the Victorinox 10in Granton Edge Butcher, model 47638.  Be sure to shop around on this knife as I’ve seen the price vary as much as $30 on it, but for around $40 you will have an awesome knife to break down nearly anything.

Knife 5 – I will throw this one in just because this is the “go to” knife for most cooks.  The chef’s knife comes in a million incarnations and the trend now is between the santoku and the traditional chef design.  I’m not here to really say one is better than another.  For me it was the difference between rocking movements or chopping movements when using the knife.  If you are a rocker you want the curve of the chef’s knife.  If you chop faster than Morimoto then the santoku is likely more for you.  If you still have questions (and you should) as to which is right for you check out this article.  It is a good starting resource for figuring out which is best for you.  Which did I choose? All of them but in 3 incarnations.  I have a standard chef’s knife that I use.  I also own a straight handled traditional santoku.  Then I have what has become the rage in the last couple of years, which is basically a hybrid.  It has the handle more akin to the chef’s knife but a santoku blade.  This is the one I tend to grab out of the drawer more than the others.  I can’t any longer find it online to show it to you, but it is very similar to this one.   Again it’s nothing outrageously expensive, but it works and that’s what matters most.

Other Gear – There are 10 other kinds of knives and gear I could recommend.  Of those I would recommend a good cleaver, a good pair of kitchen shears, blade protectors for every knife and a good sharpening steel.  A quick word on each to help you in your endeavor to find the best your dollars can buy.  The cleaver in my opinion needs to have some heft and weight to it.  The idea is to be able to blow through bones when needed with it.  So keep that mind in your search.  They don’t have to be expensive to work.  The kitchen shears comes in a million varieties.  If you are going to be breaking down whole chickens with them get a hefty pair with good leverage and a set that breaks apart for proper cleaning if at all possible.  The blade protectors many over look, you shouldn’t.  This is for your protection as much as the knife’s.  This will set you back all of a couple of bucks per knife and will keep them from getting nicked and dinged as you toss them in a tackle box or drawer.  Last but not least, actually most importantly is the sharpening steel.  This is the one tool you will use EVERY time you use your knife.  Spend some bucks get a good diamond steel.  They aren’t cheap but makes your knives better and helps them last even longer in between professional sharpening.

Finally you will notice that pretty much every knife I recommended was from Victorinox.  Why?  Well, because they are doing it right at the right price.  They have great blades, non-slip grips and just plain work.  If I had to recommend another brand that is on par with the quality and pricing of this line it would be the Dexter-Russell Sani-Safe line.  Great knives, great value and easily found online or at any Restaurant Depot.

Happy cooking folks, I hope this has helped you make a decision that took me hours and hours of research to make!



Some of Shane’s Favorites From Our Most Recent KC Trip


I don’t often recommend products from other companies.  Its not that I don’t recommend other products or that I don’t find products that I like.  It’s just rare that it occurs to me to do so and when it does I don’t have the forum available to do it adequately.  Thanks to our new blog, where members of the DBQ Crew (name for the members of Draper’s BBQ) can post their thoughts, findings and musings, I do in fact have the ability to make those recommendations.

This past weekend Mike Owings and I took a competition BBQ class out in Kansas City.  It was a great experience, but I will save the actual details of that for Mike to write about from his perspective before I give too many details away.  During the course of this class we tried about 10 different sauces and rubs.  We also made a stop by The KC BBQ Store in Kansas City and tried another handful of products.  Note that all the links are to The KC BBQ Store….yeah they are our newest store so I got to support those that support us.

During the trip I found some products that I really liked.  So what better way to say I like them than to tell you about them so you may add them to your competition or backyard flavor arsenal.  I won’t go too in depth on each product, as this is more to alert you to adding them to your list of “really should give a try” products.

Product 1 – The Slabs Birds & Bones “Stephy Style” Rub
I am a rub and sauce snob, so let’s start there.  I find few if any rubs / manufacturers are taking the time to develop balanced flavors that are more than salt and sugar.  What I mean by that is that many products are developed based on a single flavor or ingredient and then other ingredients are thrown in the mix in a effort to flesh out the rub into something use-able.  I think The Slabs have struck a great balance with this rub and it is a great offering.  Not too salty, too sweet, too savory or too hot.  Just a solid rub that will work in almost any setting.  Very solid chemistry going on with it and I can promise you it is winning on the competition circuit.

Product 2 – The Roasterie Coffee Barbecue Rub
Some coffee rubs I have tried are just too heavy on the coffee and it comes off as almost left over or stale coffee.  That is not the case here.  The coffee is a real, balanced ingredient. In short it was used properly as an ingredient to add an “Earthiness” to the flavor profile.  I can see where it would have been so easy to say “hey let’s add some coffee to our rub” and then proceed to have a rub that just tasted like it had coffee added to it.  This rub is much more than that.  You can tell there was process of testing that netted a formula where the coffee added was just enough to make a difference…but not so much to make it bitter or off putting in anyway.  In the flavor profile you first get savory with a hint of coffee, then you get the typical barbecue mix of paprika, chili, garlic and onion and it finishes with a touch of sweet.  Very solid and unique rub, give it a try on brisket.

Product 3 – The Salt Lick’s Original Sauce
I have tried literally hundreds of sauces.  To the point I am nearly ok with the disappointment that is associated with the process.  So few sauces try to add anything more to the game other than just trying to get their brand on a shelf.  Most are so down the middle that its disappointing.  Those that do try to do more than that typically fumble the ball and end up with something that ends up being flavored molasses.  I like sweet as much as the next guy, but never at the sacrifice of balance and other flavors.  If you built your sauce to compete with or as a homage to Blues Hog Original I probably don’t like it.  I know that is very blunt and not very nice, but its true.  In fairness to those sauces and especially to Mr. Arnold of Blues Hog I do like his two other flavors quite a bit more than the Original as they accomplish more than just being sickeningly sweet.

Enter The Salt Lick from Texas.  I have read several articles about The Salt Lick and their sauce.  I have wanted to try it for such a long time but never ordered any.  Finally I had my chance at The KC BBQ Store and I was NOT disappointed.  This sauce is fantastic.  Its very much a mustard sort of sauce.  You can tell this sauce would be AMAZING on some brats.  It is different, in a good way.  My only criticism is that the first ingredient is Soy Bean oil (I think it was Soy Bean anyway, but I know it was an oil) and while that coats the tongue I can see where it might strike some as odd.  Aside from that though, seriously one of the best sauces I’ve ever had and will be a mainstay at my house from here on out.

Product 4 – Oklahoma Joe’s Restaurant
I know its not actually a product, but they deserve some props.  I have never been to a restaurant where I thought they were doing literally everything well.  I’m not talking competition barbecue, but just plain old good barbecue.  Most restaurants fail at this miserably.  The good ones manage to have 3 or 4 good things on the menu surrounded by 10 other mediocre offerings.  The great ones manage to be good across the board.  Well let me tell you Oklahoma Joe’s is one of the great ones.  I had the pulled pork, the brisket, the sausage, the ribs and the onion rings.  Yeah…I was hungry but hey I was there to see if it was as good as everyone said.

The pulled pork was done KC style.  Meaning it was pork tossed in a tomato based sauce.  Not my favorite way, but there was nothing wrong with the meat.  It was tender, moist and smokey so I have no complaints because most don’t get that much right.

The brisket was great.  Very smokey, nice smoke ring, nice flavor, nice texture and still moist.  Not dripping-ly so, but plenty moist enough.  I’ve turned in competition brisket less moist on a bad day, so it was good.  I had this on a sandwich called the Z-Man which combines brisket, provolone cheese and two onion rings on a nice bun.  Seriously one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had.  The super crunchy onion rings were just the ticket on the soft bun and brisket.  Fantastic combo that I will steal and incorporate into our food truck.

The sausage was a nice offering.  Not my overall favorite but nothing wrong with it either.  Nice pepper coming through, good savory notes, but it begged for some of The Salt Lick’s sauce lol.

The ribs were well cooked.  Slightly overdone, but that is to be expected and ok.  They had great smoke which is so rare in restaurant ribs.  They were not overly saucy, but sauced.  Overall very solid offering.  I have had better, but these were in the top 5 of restaurant ribs still.

So if you are ever in KC hit up OK Joe’s.  Its a great joint and when I finally get sucked in to opening our joint I can only hope we can consistently do as many things right as they do.

Product 5 – The KC BBQ Store
I know this is going to sound like I am sucking up since I just mentioned that they picked us up as a new brand for their shelves.  That said, what a great store and great bunch of guys.  Each were knowledgeable about just about every product in the store, and yes Mike and I did test them.  If they didn’t know the answer, they found it.  If they had not tried a particular sauce they said so, more times than not they had and did a good job of figuring out what we liked flavor profile wise and steering us to some new sauces to try.  I can only imagine they do this for everyone that walks through the door as their wall of sauces and rubs is very daunting.  The huge glass refrigerator set right by the check out counter was filled with pretty much every brand they carry and they allow much sampling.  If you are ever in KC be sure to stop in and say “hi,” pick up a case or three of Draper’s while you’re there, because they are the best in KC period.

Overall it was a great trip and even though I came home with a literal bag full of different sauces, rubs and memories these in my opinion were the best in the bag.


Newbie Guide – Recommended Resources


In the past few years since purchasing our Tucker Cooker I have been on a mission of barbecue information gathering, learning, practicing and the overall betterment of myself as a pit master and cook.  I have noticed from talking to other Tucker owners that, even though the Tucker is a larger pit, it is often the first real pit / smoker they have ever owned.  With those things in mind, I thought it would be helpful to put together a resource guide to assist people in their education process.  The lists contained here should not be considered a complete work, but rather a starting point.  These are just my favorites and my personal recommendations.  Take the time to explore and  use these resources to find your own favorites.

Requirements….or are they?

There are just a few real requirements in the barbecue game.  They aren’t difficult, but they are undeniable.  First and foremost, you must have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge.  That is the single most important thing you can bring to the table and will serve you better than any other trait.  Second, you must be willing to tinker with things, such as recipes and cooking methods.  Be willing to take these things and see if you can make them work, adapt them, change them and call them your own.  Finally, keep a note pad and pen handy and take copious notes.  In hind sight, this is probably as important as the thirst for knowledge.  Jotting down times that meat goes on the pit, what temp, how long it cooked, at what temp/time you injected, etc will prove to be invaluable as you grow.  The sooner you adopt the idea you must take notes about everything, the faster you will improve.

Having noted all of these requirements, I am reminded that this crazy culture of barbecue was built by men and women who have accepted that there are really no actual rules, but a lot of strongly suggested folk lore.  This lore, as with most things of legend, is meant to be tested, challenged, changed and changed again. So, I think my greatest suggestion must be to find what works for you. I can only hope some of the things I mention here aid you in finding the magical combination of things that will help you become a true pit master.

The Wide World of Web Info

The Internet is always the first resource I recommend.  It is a pretty obvious one given the age of information we live in…not to mention it’s free. Anything and everything you need to know you can usually find online. The real question then becomes where to find the best, most helpful info. Since the sheer amount of information on the web can be overwhelming, to say the least, the majority of the hints here will help start you on the right path to finding the information you want on-line.

Seek and Enjoy

You can, of course, go with a search engine like Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.  You just have to be willing to type a question into the search engine and see where it takes you.  General questions like “best internal temperature of a pork shoulder” typed into Google will keep you reading for hours, if not days.  The drawback with  this method is that you may well find yourself flooded with too much information.  It may also turn you onto 15 great sites that you become a long term fan of. Be patient! Pick a site that looks interesting to you and see where it takes you. User mileage may very, but never underestimate the power of the almighty search engine.

Finding Your Forum

Forum’s are probably the single best source for the new barbecue pit master.  These jewels of the Internet are loaded with nothing short of experts in the field and you can learn a lot in a very short amount of time.  Be warned though, as with most activities with a learning curve, most forums have little patience for newbies asking the same question over and over.  Take the time to read the FAQ sections of all forums before posting questions.  Be sure to use the search functions of the forum to help find answers.  Take the time to post an introduction telling everyone who you are, where you live, what cooker you use and what you like to cook now. The barbecue community is, by and large, chock full of friendly, helpful and knowledgeable folks who are more than happy to help.  If you follow these few tips you will find yourself welcomed and the volumes of information available to you vast.  

Here are two I personally recommend (although there are literally hundreds to choose from):

BBQ Brethren - Probably the most comprehensive barbecue forum on the Internet.  A vast source of information, a wide ranging cast of characters and a lot of bantering.

BBQ Bug - A  fantastic resource that includes  tons of step by step instructions for just about everything you can think of in barbecue.

Blog Jam

I really love a number of blogs and read them daily.  What I find so compelling about blogs and newsletters is that they are typically written by fans turned experts.  You get several levels of expertise; everything from someone who has never barbecued who just wanted to write about their experience to actual experts who have been brought on by a company to write for them.  Each type of writer has things to bring to the table and each is worth reading.  Blogs and newsletters are great because you can subscribe to them and have every updates emailed to you as they are released.  This allows you to catalog the information and recall it at will.  Some of the resources I subscribe to are:

Amazing Ribs

Big Wayner’s BBQ Blog

Grill Grrl

Grilling With Rich

How To BBQ Right

Nibble Me This

Patio Daddio BBQ

Listener Supported

Lately, my favorite source for barbecue information are Internet radio shows,  also known as podcasts.  These shows are hands down some of the best entertainment for the barbecue pit master.  I know, it sounds a little bit odd at first using your computer to listen to the radio, but just think of these shows as Pandora for barbeque.  Then there is the whole idea of listening to a show about barbecue. Doesn’t  it seem a little bit self indulgent? Well maybe, but the shows really are a great way not only to learn, but to get a real feel for the whole barbecue culture. I understand this may not be for you but I still suggest you give it a try.  Like me, you may find yourself addicted to it.  I love that I can listen to these resources live and participate in the audience or I can download the podcast of the show later and listen on my phone while driving to and from work.  

My favorite shows?  That’s easy, check these out:
BBQ Central Radio Show - This show is also live every Tue, 9pm EST on the Outdoor Cooking Channel  Greg Rempe does a great job of balancing fun and barbecue information and is considered the pioneer in barbecue radio shows.

BBQ Super Stars - Darryl Mast has many shows on his network and does a live call in, free format sort of show that allows anyone to call in and talk Q.  BBQ Super Stars as a site is much more than just a radio show though, check it out as it is a great source for all sorts of barbecue information.  Check out the Tucker Cooker section on the main site, there are some videos there that were shot during the last Memphis in May.

Whiskey Bent BBQ’s “In The Pit” - Is one of the shows on the BBQ Super Stars network.  This show is headed by Chad Ward of Whiskey Bent BBQ, a fantastic up and coming competition team out of Florida.  Chad’s main focus is competition barbecue and the show is always informative and entertaining.  

Birds of a Feather…..Twitter Together

What makes the barbecue community so powerful is the sharing of information and the direct access we have to the “stars” of our field.  It’s impossible to be at every event, competition or show with your favorite barbecue star but if you have a Twitter or Facebook account you have what almost amounts to a 24hr backstage pass with them.  Not every star has or maintains their Twitter or Facebook feed, but the one’s who do are fantastic sources of information. I suggest you follow them and don’t be afraid to interact with them and ask questions.  A word of advice: Remember that these are real people, with real lives, real families, real jobs and real problems.  Be polite, be real, be courteous and, above all, be a friend, not just someone who is trying to gain something from them.  If you do that, you will go a long way towards making some great friends.  In fact, some of my closest barbecue relationships started on Twitter and grew into real world friendships that I consider invaluable.  

So who do I follow?  All the people I have mentioned in his article have websites, Twitter and Facebook accounts. Take the time to look them up even if I don’t explicitly list them all below.  I follow and recommend these folks because they are great at Twitter in particular, all links are to Twitter, but you can find links to Facebook from there:

Brian Henderson

Danielle Dimovksi (aka DivaQ)

Hanneke Eerden

Jay Prince

Kevin Kelly

Larry Gaian

Neil Stawder (aka Bigmista)

Ray Lampe (aka Dr. BBQ)

Wilfred Reinke

There are many, many others. You can do a search in Twitter for #bbq or #barbecue and see what turns up. Don’t be afraid to Follow someone for awhile to see if you like their content.  If you don’t you can always Unfollow them later.

Reading Is Fun-da-mental

If more traditional sources are your cup of tea, there are, of course, tens of thousands of barbecue books out there for you.  I really like barbecue books because they are as much instructions manuals as they are recipe books.  Some include a bit of history, behind the scenes access to legends and some fun tall tails.  One of my first barbecue books was by Ray Lampe.  His book was an integral part of inspiring me to start making my own barbecue sauces.  I would recommend reading much more than just barbecue books though.  Be willing to expand your purview and find inspiration from many types of books.  One of my favorite things to do is find a recipe that has nothing to do with barbecue and take it, rework it and make it my own by putting my own barbecue slant on it.  

I have included a few of my personal favorite books in the list below.  One of which was written using a Tucker (Championship BBQ Secrets).  Each are great books in their own right and for different reasons.  Check them out, cook along with them and see where they take you.

BBQ Makes Everything Better

Championship BBQ Secrets for Real Smoked Food

Dr. BBQ’s Big-Time Barbecue Cookbook

Peace, Love and Barbecue

If you are looking for a great list of barbecue book reviews, check out  AmazingRibs.com.  Meathead Goldwyn does a good job reviewing some of the best books available.  

It’s All Perspective

While I find myself writing “rules” or “recommendations” for the new barbecue fan, I have to admit there are no actual rules.  Every time a rule has been created in barbecue it has been challenged, changed, rewritten or reinvented.  Some will swear by low and slow while a new breed of pit master is all about hot and fast cooking.  Some will say you can only get great flavor by burning wood while the next guy is steadily winning with charcoal or pellets.  In the end, my earlier premise holds true: this culture of barbecue was built by men and women who have accepted that rules are made to be broken and the folk lore is meant to be tested, challenged, changed and redone.  There is, however, one truth that we cling to:.  No matter what you cook on, cook with or how long the cooking takes, when the meat tastes great, you have cooked with love and passion.  Remember that, and you will have a great dish every time.





The Big Green Egg XL vs The Grilla: A Comparison


When I first saw the Grilla in person a few things jumped out at me.  First, it was very unique but mildly ugly at initial glance.  It took a closer look to really appreciate it.  It was that thought that brought me back to the purchase of our Big Green Egg XL (BGE  XL).  That triggered a whole host of other ideas that basically brought me to the realization that the Grilla, whether it intended to be or not, was basically a pellet powered BGE XL.  

That may sound odd at first but when you stop to consider price point, cooking ability and the size of both cookers, I think you can make a case for a side by side comparison.  So I have jotted down my thoughts comparing and contrasting the two in hope of helping someone who is currently considering either of these two units.  I understand before the first comparison is even made there will be members of both camps who will cry foul and make points contrary to my points.  I completely understand this, as I too am passionate about the barbecue pits I own.  This is just my take and comparison on the two having owned each and it is not a personal attack on you, your choice or your favorite barbecue contraption!  With that out of the way let’s begin.

The list below is in the order that ideas occurred to me and I did not change it for purposes of publishing.  Also in bold at the end of each paragraph I will list which unit is better in that particular category and include a tally at the very end.

- Size / Weight / Cooking Surface - Both the BGE XL and the Grilla take up approximately the same space when the BGE XL has it’s side tables (known as mates) folded down.  They are not the same weight with the Grilla weighing in at nearly 100lbs lighter.  The Grilla has a larger standard cooking area (488 sq in) than a Big Green Egg XL (452 sq in). An additional upper rack can be purchased for the BGE, but the reviews I’ve seen are mixed on this rack so I only compared what comes standard for this one piece.  Winner:  Grilla

- Assembly - For the Grilla there was none.  Once you remove the shipping and packing material, it is ready to go.  Nothing to put together, no shelves, no nest (a cradle of sorts made to elevate the Egg to a comfortable cooking height) to build, no hinge system for the lid, nothing.  (I can tell you there is nothing more unnerving than paying over $1200 for a XL Egg and to sit on pins and needles hoping the nest they provide actually holds this 200lbs + of ceramic up after you have put it together).  I understand why the BGE is shipped the way it is.  It is after all an egg and is fragile so I don’t see any real way around the assembly issue for BGE.  Winner:  Grilla 

- Sturdiness -  I’ve had our BGE XL for almost a year and I have already broken two parts.  Of those two parts, the first (the fire ring) was definitely my fault as I sat it down harder than I should have.  The second part was the plate setter that broke while I had it propped up and was reloading some charcoal while the plate setter was hot.  I don’t know in that particular instance that I was at fault.  It literally cracked like a saltine cracker and fell apart in the middle of a competition.  Honestly, I feel the way I reloaded the charcoal was in a manner in which any cook would have done.  I can’t necessarily blame BGE, I realize I am probably asking more of the unit than it was intended for by competing with it.  The rigors of competition and travelling are huge and unless a unit was designed with that in mind it might be a bridge too far.  I don’t foresee that being a problem with the Grilla as it is 18 gauge steel and has a great powder coat and no fragile parts.  I’ve only had the Grilla for a month and a half, but the Grilla wins here in my opinion.   Winner:  Grilla

- Lid - Each cooker has a unique take on lids.  The BGE uses what amounts to heavy duty springs to assist in the lifting and holding of it’s lid up.  This design works and I would hate to feel the full weight of it’s lid each time I had to open it.  The Grilla addresses the lid with a swing design.  There is no lid to take off or to lift up on a hinge, instead it slides open on a set of very smooth ball bearings.  The hinged lid on the BGE requires more space to the rear of the cooker, meaning it takes up more space while you are cooking with it.  The Grilla lid swings out of the way neatly and easily.  The BGE method of dealing with the lid does provide a little more access to the pit, but it is nominal in comparison.  All things considered for longevity of the moving parts, space, etc I have to give a very slight edge to the Grilla.  Winner:  Grilla

- Made Where? - This seems to be less of an issue for some people in our very global economy.  For me, though, it’s still a very important factor.  I served in the military and supporting products made in the USA is a priority to me, even when they cost more.  The Grilla is made in the good ole US of A by Americans in Michigan.  The BGE XL is made in Mexico.  Most of the Grilla’s pellet pit competitors are made in China.  They may be American companies but there are very few companies who actually manufacture pellet pits here.  Grilla does and, to be honest, that makes me proud.  I guess it is comforting to note that the BGE XL is at least made in North America.  Again for some this is a non issue and is far less important than overall price, for me it is an issue.  Winner:  Grilla

- Full Product Line - BGE is a well established company, with decades of experience and millions of happy customers.  They truly do have a BGE to fit just about every need.  I think most of them are just flat too small and that is why we bought an XL over the mini, small, medium or large.  Grilla currently offers only one size.  I don’t know if there are plans for a larger unit, but I hope so.  I have to give the nod to the BGE XL on this one.  Winner:  BGE XL

- Working Area - I think the BGE XL with it’s accessory “mate” shelves have about the same area as the Grilla’s shelves.  The difference though is that the BGE XL’s shelves are only blocked on the back side.  This allows larger pans to be balanced on the shelves.  If you only considered this factor I would say BGE is the slight winner.  If you take a minute to look at how the working area is constructed and the materials used I think there is a different story to tell.  The Grilla’s shelves are stainless steel and are a fixed part of the unit. They are also so sturdy I stood my 9yr old on one to test it.  I do not feel confident enough to stand a 60lb kid on my mate shelves, especially with as wobbly as the BGE is in its nest.  I am going to call this a draw.  Winner:  Draw

- Cook-ability - I think both the BGE XL and the Grilla win here.  The BGE XL wins because it can hit near crucible temps and you can find Royal Oak lump charcoal at nearly any hardware, big box store or grocery.  The Grilla wins because it is just flat out easier to cook with it.  You flip a switch and you achieve the temp you are looking for.  Some in the BGE XL camp will of course bring up that you can hook up a BBQ Guru device and nearly do the same thing.  Except you really can’t.  The Guru, as amazing as it is, still only works once you have arranged your coal in the BGE XL and lit a proper fire.  So no matter how you slice it, achieving the appropriate temperature is more difficult in the BGE XL.  Both units can cook for hours and hours on end with a load of fuel and both have turned out some of the best and easiest barbecue I’ve ever eaten.  If pellets were more of a mainstay and you could find them at any store I might give a slight edge to the Grilla.  Because they are slightly harder to find I think I’m calling this one too close to call.  Winner:  Draw

- Moving - Every single time I move our BGE XL, I  worry that I might break something.  This may not be as pronounced with smaller BGE’s or for those people who are not moving their BGE frequently.  I worry its going to tip or the nest is going to fall apart.  Sadly for BGE XL it would be so easy to fix this with a much better designed nest.  In fact the more I think about it, 90% of my personal complaints about the BGE XL center around that terrible contraption they pass off as a nest.  If you pay $1200+ for something that is fragile it should come with something that ensures it’s safety, something that adds a sense of sturdiness and stability, something that…well isn’t poorly made to be frank.  The Grilla is solid, easy to move and never gives you slightest pang of worry when moving it.  This honestly is something I probably would never have noticed had I not owned a BGE XL. Winner:  Grilla (by a mile)

- Accessorizing - Some people are all about the accessories that are available with a particular unit.  In this area I have to give the nod to the BGE XL.  There are accessories galore, most of which are over-priced, but they all seem to be of fairly good quality.  The Grilla is so new that there isn’t much in the way of accessories.  I think there will be in time, but I can only comment on what is available at the moment.  Winner:  BGE XL

- Roughing It - One of the negatives of all pellet pits is that they require electricity.  So the ability to take them tailgating or off to a hunting camp where electricity may not be available is a limiting factor.  Of course, some inventive pellet-heads have used batteries and generators but it’s not what the average guy would bother to do.  That said, the BGE XL does not require electricity, so it gets the nod here even though I think it is very fragile and hauling it to a deer camp would give me pause.  Winner:  BGE XL (by the slightest of margins)

- Price - I know the pricing on the BGE XL’s vary and some folks have gotten some great deals.  I will have to go only with what we paid for our BGE XL versus the shipped MSRP of the Grilla for comparison.  Our BGE XL, with Nest, Plate Setter, Mates, taxes, etc out the door was just over $1200.  The Grilla delivered to your door is $1495 (pricing based on information from Grilla and subject to change).  

First off the Eggheads will say “but you don’t have to buy the plate setter or the mates.” My reply would be “Yes, you really do”.  For low and slow cooking the plate setter isn’t an option, it’s a requirement.  The mates (shelves) are optional to some, but not to me.  Furthermore, many BGE owners would consider the purchase of a pit temperature control device such as a BBQ Guru’s Party Q a near requirement.  This unit is the entry level of the BBQ Guru devices and rings in at $130.  So by the time you factor all of that in we are talking very similar money.  

The next argument from Eggheads will be that “I only paid $1000 for the same set up you have”.  To that all I can say is:  “Great!  We worked a deal on ours but didn’t manage as good a deal as you did.”  All things considered such as options, assembly, etc I am honestly going to call this one a draw.  I know the BGE XL is technically cheaper, but I think you have to factor in the assembly time and accessories into the overall cost for this to be a like comparison.  Winner:  Draw     

- Community – For many having a lively community of users and experts to ask questions of and interact with is the single most important factor.  There are literally hundreds of sites dedicate to the BGE and kamado style cookers.  There are nearly an equal number of sites dedicated to pellet cooking.  No, the sites aren’t specifically for the Grilla, but you can bet there are plenty of pellet-heads out there to learn from.  All things considered I would say this is pretty even, but since the Eggheads have been around longer I can only assume they have had more time to amass a great amount of knowledge and recipes pertinent to their specific cooking platform.  Winner:  BGE XL (by a very slight margin)


                                BGE                                  Grilla

Totals*:                       7                                         9

*all draws were listed as a win for both units

By my very nature I hate articles that call both units in a comparison a winner, it really is one of my biggest pet peeves.  The whole purpose in comparing something is to pick a winner.  Car and Driver and Consumer Reports does it and so should we as bloggers / reviewers.  In this case numerically the Grilla did win based solely on the categories but I think more consideration has to be given to the actual cook who is going to use the pit. With that said the big question obviously is:  which should you buy?  Well that depends.  :)

The BGE XL is a fine cooker and I still enjoy cooking on it despite my complaints about the nest and it’s fragile nature.  For those that prefer a more hands on approach to cooking that includes lighting a fire and accessories then I would say the Egg is the winner.  I’ve turned out a lot of great barbecue on our BGE in the year we’ve had it.  I’ve even got a couple of trophies from the entries cooked on it.  It is versatile, it is proven and despite some corners being cut in quality in an effort to make better profit margins, it is still a good cooker.  

The Grilla is a fine cooker as well. I am learning to love it more each day and there really isn’t much to complain about other than price.  I think the buyer who loves the ease of flipping a switch and turning out great food with as little effort as possible will gravitate to the Grilla.  It’s hard not to love just how easy this cooker is and I know I can win trophies with it as well.  As the pellet options and availability are addressed, I think the pellet cooking world as a whole will over take much of the grilling/barbecue market.  That is just my personal opinion, but I think it’s a fairly safe bet at this point.  

You honestly cant go wrong with either choice as they are both fantastic cookers.  This is like trying to pick between a BMW and a Mercedes.  No matter what you will be well taken care of.  All I can say is I have driven both and as of this very moment if I had to write the checks over again I would likely buy the Grilla.  I recommend you taking a hard look at the type of cook you are and what your expectations are of a unit and apply what you read in this review accordingly.  

Happy Grillin’ Folks!




Meat Manifesto


BBQ has crossed into the mainstream recently. This boom in popularity has brought some positive things, but also some negative aspects. I would like to take a moment to define what being a real bbq craftsman (ladies read craftsperson if you prefer) means to me as a competitor, business person and backyard cook. I am a third generation pit master and to say I take this lifestyle, culture and community seriously is a mild understatement. The contradiction of the popularity of what once was considered a counter culture led me to write what has been called my meat manifesto.

I am a bbq craftsman
I had a dream and I pursue my dream with honor, perseverance and respect.

I am a bbq craftsman
I do not rely on gimmicks or trickery. I rely on integrity and a commitment to excellence.

I am a bbq craftsman
I remain open to suggestions, mentoring and teaching at all times. I want to learn and improve.

I am a bbq craftsman
I refuse to do anything that compromises the core values of bbq. I will stay true to the community and the values that make us so different from other groups.

I am a bbq craftsman
I do not subscribe or submit to fads. I only need smoke, heat, spice and meat, everything else can come and go but I stay true to and pay the utmost honor to those core ingredients.

I am a bbq craftsman
I train hard seeking to make the perfect bite of bbq. My skills are tested every time I start a fire but I will not give up or be deterred by nay sayers, lack of sleep or the difficulty of the challenge.

I am a bbq craftsman
I do not do this for fame, glory or riches. I do this for smiles and respect of those that eat my food and the satisfaction that is provided from their happiness.

I am a bbq craftsman
I am humble in the face of great competition, but I remain confident in myself and abilities.

I am a bbq craftsman
I am thankful for great competitors for without great competition there could be no opportunities to challenge each other to constantly improve.

I am a bbq craftsman
I am kind and respectful to my competition even when they don’t deserve it. This is not my weakness but rather the strength of the whole bbq community.

I am a bbq craftsman
I believe in myself, my flavor profiles, my talents and my equipment. On any given Saturday I can be or beat a world champion.

I am a bbq craftsman
I refuse to make excuses. If I do not win then the fault is mine, not the judges. I replace excuses with reasons to improve my product and process.

I am a bbq craftsman
I help new craftsman and peers giving freely of my time, encouragement and knowledge. I do not criticize or discourage others or do anything that weakens this community.

I am a bbq craftsman
I show respect to those who have paved my way. I always congratulate every winner.