Product Review: GMG Fruitwood Blend Pellets

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pellets

Our good friends at Green Mountain Grills supplied me with a 28 lb. bag of their new Premium Fruitwood Blend Pellets to try out and give a review on.  Now fans of Drapers BBQ know that we are huge GMG fans.  We love our Daniel Boone’s and our Jim Bowie’s.  I personally have held off using GMG’s branded pellets for 2 reasons.  Number one is there is not a dealer close to me and pellets are like propane when you need them you need them quick.  Number 2 was their lack of fruit-wood flavors.  I love apple, peach and cherry flavor pellets when cooking on my GMG.  The folks at GMG have heard our requests and developed a fruit-wood blend.   How would they compare to some of the pellets I have been using?  Well let me tell you.

I opened the bag for the first time and I was greeted with a fruity aroma.  I could not make out what fruit (as it is a blend) but it did smell sweet.  The pellets were lighter in color that the other brand I was using previously.  I don’t know that this makes a difference at all but thought I would report it anyway.  The pellets appeared to be well made.  They were solid and not crumbly and a variety of different sizes from half and inch to an inch long.  GMG claims that they have less dust than other brands of pellets.  I would tend to agree with that.  I have only ever used 2 other brands and GMG appeared to have less dust.  No scientific test to back that up just my 2 eyes checking.

I cooked 2 different meats with these pellets on 2 different days.  I had a 5 hour rib cook at 230 degrees the entire cook and a 12 hour brisket cook at 225 degrees the entire time.  I added a few different pellets at the end of the brisket cook just to make sure that I did not run out but do not think I used much if any of those.  All in all I got 17 hours of cook time from a 28 lb. bag.  I was pretty pleased with that pellet usage and the usage was right in line with what I usually use.

Results.  That is what we are all about at the end of the day.  Were the ribs and brisket good?  How was the smoke ring?  How was the flavor?  These are the true tests of how good the pellets really are.  rib 6-13Lets start with my ribs.  Excuse the bragging here but I do think these were right up there with some of the best ribs I have ever made.  Tried some new things with this cook.  I tried a new blend of spices (Drapers AP as a base), did not wrap them, and the pellets.  Look at that smoke ring.  It is huge.  The ribs did not have an over smokey flavor.  You could really taste the meat and the rubs used.  My eight year old son ate half a slab and he is like Mikey from the old Life cereal commercial.  He won’t eat anything.  Now for the brisket.  It was a good brisket not a great brisket but a lot factored into that.  I think I put a little to much rub on it and left it on about 30 min to and hour too long.  The bark was a little crusty and I don’t think I got the smoke penetration I was looking for.  It was a little roast beefy but good.

I have only one request for the good folks at GMG.  I would like to see the breakdown of the fruit-wood blend and what type of fruit-wood it contains.  The pellets performed very well during both cooks and I would not hesitate to use them again.  With the fact that GMG gives you 8lbs more that the leading pellet brand for the same price it is a no-brainer to go pick a bag up.  Check your local retailers for some new GMG Fruitwood Blend Pellets.  I highly recommend them.

 

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Code 3 Spices – Eating good with a cause

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While trolling through Facebook a few months back I came across a post from a company called Code 3 Spices based out of St. Louis, MO.  Code 3 has an always expanding line of BBQ rubs and they donate 10% of proceeds to charities involving the families of First Responders and the Military.  I contacted Chris at Code 3 and requested a sample to review for this blog and he was kind enough to send out a 3 bottle sampler pack containing Rescue Rub, Backdraft Rub and 5-0 Rub.  Here are my thoughts and how I used each.

Rescue Rub

This is Code 3′s all purpose rub.  It goes well on everything from veggies to meat.  I chose to use this to smoke 3 Boston butts for our upcoming Boy Scout camp out.  After trimming the butts and coating them with a little oil, I liberally applied about 1/3rd of the bottle over the entire butt.  I let the meat rest over night (5 hours) in the fridge with the rub on to let the flavors of the rub get into the meat.  Upon pulling the meat out of the fridge, I noticed that a nice kind of crust had already formed on the outside and that not a lot of fluid had been pulled out of the meat as some other rubs do.  I put the butts on my Yoder YS640 pellet grill using apple pellets for about 12 hours at 250 degrees until the internal temp of the meat was 195 degrees.  I then let them sit for an hour to rest and soak up some of the drippings in the pan.  I taste tested the pork while pulling it and it had a nice flavor with good balance and one heck of a smoke ring.  One ingredient did not stand out more than the other.  Overall a very solid all purpose rub.

Code 3 Rescue Rub Pork butt after being pulled.

Code 3 Rescue Rub Pork butt after being pulled.

Backdraft Rub

This is the spicy rub of the code 3 bunch.  While watching  a BBQ PItmasters marathon on Super Bowl weekend I got the idea from Diva Q to make chicken lollipops for the Super Bowl Party I was going to go to the next day.  This spicy rub was perfect for it .  It was not as spicy as a buffalo type seasoning but just enough kick for you to know it was there.  Coated half the lollipops with Rod Gray’s Eat BBQ The Next Big Thing BBQ (sweet) sauce and half with Angry Nephew’s BBQ (ghost pepper hot) Sauce.  The rub was complimentary to both sauces.  Backdraft Rub gave a little bite to The Next Big Thing sauce and gave a depth of heat to the Angry Nephew’s sauce.  Men liked the hot and Ladies and kids liked the sweet.   I received so many compliments on these that my wife made me make them again.

Chicken lollipops with Backdraft Rub.

Chicken lollipops with Backdraft Rub.

5-0 Rub

The last rub we come to is the 5-0 Rub.  It is a sweet and spicy rub.  I also detected a little bit of a smoky flavor similar to chipotle pepper.  I decided to use this rub on a tri-tip along with a little extra kosher salt.  I reverse seared the tri-tip and it had a really nice crust on it.  The combination of the smoke and the 5-0 Rub made this the best tri-tip I have ever made.  The heat was not overpowering and the sweet was very subtle.  I tasted beef first and spice second as an accent.  I really liked this rub.

All 3 rubs were great.  The only issue I had was with the clumping of the product.  It did clump somewhat in the bottle but a quick shake with the lid closed loosened it right up.  The rubs were very fresh, had good color and aroma and terrific taste.

Once again Code 3 Spices donate a portion of the proceeds to charities involving families of the Police, Fire, Ambulance responders and Military families.  They can also setup a fundraiser for your organization where the organization keeps 45% of what they sell.  This is good spice company, doing good deeds and making excellent BBQ rubs.  You can find them on Facebook and at code3spices.com .

 

 

 

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Eating out of the Box.

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We all seem to find ourselves in a rut sometimes. Whether it is the clothes we wear, the work we do or the places we go out to eat.  Living in Kansas City gives us numerous opportunities to go out for really great BBQ.  Literally hundreds of BBQ restaurants are located in the KC metropolitan area.  Why is it that we tend to migrate to only 2 of them?  When my family goes out for BBQ we tend to go to 2 of the biggest names in KC BBQ Oklahoma Joe’s and Fiorella’s Jacks Stack.  We love them both, get great service and terrific food, but what about all of the others?  Through Facebook, I got back in touch with a friend from high school.  He noticed some of (most of) my posts are related to BBQ.  We wanted to meet up for dinner and he suggested a BBQ joint that I had never been to.  I did not even know it existed and I drive by the area every day on my way to work.  This is not a review of the restaurant, as I did not sample enough off of the menu to give a full review.  This is just about the experience of going to a new place and having things that you would normally not have.  Eating out of the box and getting out of my rut.

My friend, Mike Anani, and I had been trying to meet up for dinner for well over a month and something always seemed to come up.  Finally we found a clear Saturday and made plans.  He knew I really liked BBQ and so did he.  He actually eats at a lot more BBQ restaurants than I do.  He said he had been coming to a new place for a few months and really liked it and wanted to share it with me.  Brobeck’s BBQ is the name of the place. Mike said it was in my neck of the woods.  My neck of the woods?  I had never heard of the place and was very sceptical if I would like it.  How could it be any good if I had not heard of it?

Saturday came and I managed to find Brobeck’s.  It is not really off the beaten path but is tucked away in the back of a strip mall, hidden from the major road I use to get to work.  The parking lot was full.  That’s a good sign that the food is good.  Mike and I walked in and got one of the last tables available and Mike began to tell me about a Ham Salad appetizer they had there.  Ham Salad I thought?  Yuck!  That sounds like something old people eat.  I had never had it before.  We ordered some.  The waitress who was very very sweet, brought it to the table in a bowl about the size you would use for cereal in the morning.  It was a huge portion.  The Ham Salad was served with crackers and Brobeck’s very own potato chips that they make at the restaurant.  It looked good. So I spread some on the crackers and dove right it.  It was fantastic!  I did not ask but I think they used BBQ smoked ham in it.  It was so good if I could get the recipe, I would make it at home and have it every day for lunch.  This was very unexpected.  I never wood have thought that I would have liked that.

After the appetizer, the waitress came over to take our dinner order.  She explained that they were famous for there ribs.  Famous I thought?  I have never heard of you but if it is the best thing you make I am all in.  I ordered a half slab of spare ribs with beans and fries.  The waitress explained that the ribs will come out dry (with no sauce at all) because they are so good you do not need the sauce.  This showed me the pitmaster is very proud of his ribs.  The waitress stated they had 2 sauces on the table Brobeck’s original which is sweet and tomato based and also Brobeck’s mustard sauce if we chose to use sauce.  She continued to say that they had a BBQ sauce bar.  Yes a BBQ sauce bar.  Brilliant idea.  This was a table next to the kitchen loaded with a number of sauces from KC Masterpiece to sauces from many local restaurants including Oklahoma Joe’s and Jack’s Stack.  Honestly, even though it is a great idea and I would like to get Draper’s Smokin Sauce on that table, I did not use it because I wanted to try Brobeck’s Original sauce.  It was tangy, and sweet with good flavor.  Good sauce overall.

Our meals came and my plate was overflowing.  Six meaty spare ribs with a serving of beans and a side dish of steak fries.  Outstanding.  I tried the ribs dry first and the waitress was right, they stood on their own with no sauce.  You could taste the smoke and the rub as very mild.  Not a lot of heat in the rub.  A good solid rib.  I tried it with the original sauce and the sauce  enhanced the flavor slightly but I preferred the dry rib.  What really made the dinner was the amount of meat and the flavor of the rib.  Out of the six ribs I could only eat three and took the rest home for lunch the next day. Overall it was an excellent experience for me and I would not hesitate to go back and try other things off of the menu.  The Ham Salad was fantastic and I would go there just for that item alone.  Maybe get a to go order for lunch during the week.  It is really addictive.

I know everyone has a favorite BBQ joint to go to but with all of the great ones out there you may be missing something special just down the road.  Something you drive by everyday and would never know it was there if someone would not have told you about it.  Look around, slow down and stop and smell the smoke once in a while.  Get out of your BBQ rut and try someplace new.  You may find a hidden gem or a diamond in the rough.

I would be neglecting my duty if I did not give you some info for Brobeck’s BBQ.  Their website address is http://www.brobecksbbq.com/.  Their address is 4615 Indian Creek Parkway Overland Park, KS 66207.  If you are in KC, check them out.

 

 

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Brisket with Butcher BBQ products

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Injecting meat to add flavor for BBQ is all the rage on the BBQ circuit.  Almost everyone (except Johnny Trigg) on BBQ Pitmasters was injecting some kind of meat .  I personally have used injections on turkeys and pork shoulders.  Some injections I have made myself and some I have purchased.  I had never, ever injected a brisket.  I wanted to try this out so I emailed the man that I knew could steer me in the right direction.  David Bouska from Butcher BBQ was the man to help me.  David is the owner of David’s Processing in Chandler, OK, Pitmaster of the Butcher BBQ cooking team and creator of Butcher BBQ rubs, injections, sauces and marinades.  I have seen Butcher BBQ at many of the contests I have competed in and he has always had good showings.  Infact he just won Grand Champion in Liberal, KS this past weekend.  When I emailed David and asked if I could have some products to review for Drapers, he was more than willing to oblige.  I asked David for all the ingredients necessary to cook a competition brisket.  What I received was a bag of Butcher BBQ Brisket injection, a bottle of Butcher BBQ Premium BBQ rub and a bottle of Butcher BBQ sweet BBQ sauce.  Here are my impressions of each.

Butcher BBQ Bricket Injection

I mixed the injection according to the directions on the package.  I whisked the mixture until I could see no lumps.  It did not take long at all. The powder went into solution well and did not clog my injector needle.  The aroma from the injection was not what I had imagined it would be.  I expected to smell spices and a strong beef aroma and that is not what I received.  It was not a bad smell just not what I expected.  I went ahead and injected my brisket in a grid pattern all over the meat and let it rest overnight.  The package of injection stated to let it sit a minimum of four hours.  My brisket sat for about seven hours.  Overall it was a very easy to use product and any BBQ’r should have no problem including this in a competition or home cook.  I will give you my overall flavor review at the end of the article.  This is my brisket after it was injected.

 

Butcher BBQ Premium BBQ Rub

 

I was very anxious to use this rub.  It had sat in my pantry for most of the summer while I was at Boy Scout camp and on vacation.  I did not want to use it until I had time to cook a brisket.  This rub has a great color and added a beautiful bark to the brisket that I cooked that day.  It is a salty and sweet rub.  Salty at the beginning and sweet at the end.  No heat at all.  It was well balanced and I could see it complimenting  the meat not covering it up.  I gave the brisket a good coating of rub (I used almost half the 12 oz bottle) after I had finished injecting the brisket.  Place foil over the top of the aluminum pan and placed it in the refrigerator overnight (about 7 hours).  When I pulled the brisket out in the morning, I  re-coated lightly with more rub and on to the the pellet grill it went.

Butcher BBQ Sweet BBQ Sauce

I usually do not sauce the briskets I cook.  I just prefer to have my sauce on the side when eating brisket.  I used Butcher’s sauce the same way, on the side.  Butcher’s is a dark, rich looking and semi-thick BBQ sauce.  I do believe that it could be used in competitions and at home. I tasted it straight out of the bottle first.  The first taste I detected was the vinegar in the sauce.  The sweet came through next and the finish tasted like raisins.  I know that sounds a little funny to some people but it did give me that impression.  It was sweet with no heat at all.  The vinegar gave it a little bite but was not overpowering the sauce.  The color and the thickness would give a nice competition presentation.

Overall Impressions

The injection worked wonders for my brisket. I cooked it for 7 and 1/2 hours on the GMG Daniel Boone  untill it reached 204 degrees.  I cooked at 225 degrees the entire cook and wrapped when the meat reached 140 degrees.  I used BBQr’s Delight Apple pellets during this cook. The meat was very tender and juicy.  It would have been considered mushy for a contest but that is the way my wife and kids like it.  It had big beef flavor.  I do not think it would have been that beefy and flavorful without the injection.  I loved the rub.  The brisket had a nice bark that tasted great and I think the rub would go equally good on pork or chicken.  Now on to the sauce.  While it is not something I would dip my french fries in, it did taste great on the brisket.  Remember, I dunked mine as I ate and did not coat the brisket in it.  I tasted the sweet of the sauce first then the beef flavor of the meat came through second. Butcher BBQ has a full line of rubs, marinades, sauces and injections for you to try out.  I can attest they make one fine brisket.  This is my finished product.

 

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Product Review: Green Mountain Grill Daniel Boone Pellet Grill

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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.

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Extended Review: Green Mountain Grill Jim Bowie Pellet Grill

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As a companion piece to Ernie Rupp’s excellent review of the GMG Pellet Grill, I offer my thoughts on the Green Mountain Grill Jim Bowie Pellet Grill, which is part 2 in this series of 3.  If you would like to see Jason Baker’s response to our review please check out his post here.

Let’s start off with a quick overview of the differences – the Jim Bowie is the larger of the two standard models.  The main differences are strictly size specs- the cooking surface on my GMG is 600 square inches and the weight tips the scales at 183 pounds.   That’s a gain of roughly 70 square inches of cooking surface for an additional 30 pounds or so.  Both models feature the same pellet hopper/auger system and stainless steel grates for easy clean up.

After reading Ernie’s review, I noted a few more points where the newer and older GMGs differ.  The startup procedure for my cooker is different than for Ernie’s Daniel Boone.  After speaking with Jason Baker of Green Mountain Grills, we determined that my Jim Bowie is actually the newer model than Ernie’s.

Where the older model requires one to keep the “On” switch depressed for an extra second or two, mine just has a rocker switch for power and then uses the temperature “Up” or “Down” button to start the process of filling the firepot with pellets, heating them to ignition and then getting the temperature up to the default setting.   On my newer Jim Bowie, the default temperature is 150 degrees Fahrenheit whereas Ernie’s older Daniel Boone is 320 degrees.

My GMG was purchased in October of 2011 and there haven’t been too many weekends when it didn’t see some action.   The majority of my cooks have been more in the barbecue vein so it’s seen more briskets and butts than burgers and hot dogs but it’s a versatile machine.  The cooking surface will accommodate a ton of food and the height of the cooking chambers means turkeys or several beer-can chickens will fit easily.

When it comes to smoking and barbecue, the GMG is a wonder of convenience.  Like Ernie’s, my cooker has the remote which allows for easy monitoring of both the meat (via probe) and the internal temperature of the cooker itself.  Changes can be made to the temperature and you’ll be notified if your pellet supply gets too low.

Since I got my cooker so late in the year, I cooked a lot this winter.  It never really got very cold for very long in my part of the country but there were a few days of sub-freezing temperatures where the GMG saw use and invariably produced excellent quality food.

What was immediately noted and been reliably repeated is the consumption of pellets increases significantly when the weather is cold.  I don’t have an enclosed area for the GMG when it’s cooking so wind and cold really pull the heat out of the metal.  To offset this, I bought a wool blanket and some magnets at Harbor Freight and fashioned some insulation that would help with the cold.  Wool doesn’t combust until at least 570 degrees Fahrenheit and the blanket never saw use above 275 degrees.

With the magnetized blanket in place, fuel consumption dropped from about 1½ pound an hour to a much more reasonable pound an hour.  I’m estimating because I never emptied the hopper to weigh the remaining pellets – I’ll do a lot in the name of science and accuracy but standing in the cold, emptying pellet hoppers and weighing compressed sawdust isn’t one of them.

Update: I’ve learned that GMG makes a thermal blanket that provides all the benefits of my cobbled-together solution with a custom fit and much better looking.

The durability of the unit has been remarkable, even when stupidity threatens to destroy it.  I had put some meat on in the wee hours of the morning for a barbecue lunch.  I had just gotten settled into bed when I realized that I had left the wrong flavor of pellets in the hopper.

Knowing the auger was full of pellets, I figured I had time to empty the hopper and refill with the flavor I wanted.  So I drove both hands into the hopper, dumping the pellets into a box then topped the now-empty hopper with the right flavor.

Just as anticipated, the auger tube never ran out of pellets and the flavor was what I wanted.  Mission accomplished.

The lunch was so successful, I had folks asking for more.  So I obliged them, happy that my GMG and I could produce food that people enjoyed.  Two more cooks come and go and I realize I’ve managed to lose my wedding ring in the process.  I figured it was somewhere by the kitchen sink and would turn up eventually. After the second week, I was pretty sure it was just gone.

Wanting to cook again the next weekend, I took a weeknight to clean up the GMG.  I pressure washed the grates, stripped the heat diffuser and re-wrapped it in foil for easy clean up.  I dumped and cleaned the grease pail and vacuumed out the ashes and firepot – where I found my wedding band, now hickory-smoked and crusty with ashes.  It had fallen off while I was pulling pellets out of the hopper weeks ago, made its way through the auger tube and been cooking ever since.

That speaks volumes to the quality of this machine that it would take sizeable chuck of titanium through the auger tube and have enough grunt to push it all the way into the firepot without damaging any component in the cooker.  A panel for emptying the hopper would have prevented this issue but it’s a minor quibble for an otherwise rock-solid design. Oh, and the ring wasn’t damaged either and I can tell people that even my wedding band is a smoke ring!

My GMG has survived pop-up thunderstorms that drenched it but never a drop entered the hopper. The pellets were always dry as a bone.  For those unfamiliar with pellets, they’re compressed sawdust.  Water causes them to swell dramatically in size and then they dry, turning into wood-based concrete.   This is not what you want to happen inside your pellet grill.

So despite my best efforts to kill it, the Jim Bowie has survived without ill effects.  Obviously, I’m not the most careful cook but I do try and keep it inside when not in use.  For me, that’s my basement garage.  Like most basements, it’s a little dank and musty but the pellet hopper is always bone dry.

Speaking of damp, I’ve had very little trouble with rust.   There were a few spots starting to show on the side table but that’s entirely my fault – I had set a sheet pan with a wet bottom on it which trapped water against it.  I didn’t notice until weeks later as I don’t always raise the table.  A quick pass with sandpaper and a light coat of BBQ paint and it’s good as new.

After 9 months of ownership and countless pounds of pellets, I have to give my unreserved recommendation to these grills.  They really perform exceptionally well, are light enough to be part of your competition load-out, and have the best bang-for-your-buck value of any pit I’ve cooked on.   I simply cannot recommend them highly enough.

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BK BBQ Style…..

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You ever do something you are mildly ashamed of?  You know one of those things while you are doing it you are thinking “man I’m probably going to regret this…I know better.”  Well today was one of those days.  The past couple of weeks at Draper’s BBQ have been stress filled and well just a plain mess.  So I found myself in my truck this afternoon on the hunt for some lunch when I glanced down to see a coupon from Burger King (enter Jaw’s Theme here).  On the coupon I saw the picture of the Texas and Carolina Whopper’s.  In what amounts to a moment of self loathing I thought “well, I’ve eaten worse, let’s see how bad this thing is.”

So off I went to the local Burger King which is just around the corner from my office.  My coupon was a buy one get one deal (yes you calorie counters I got TWOOOOO of them, thanks for making me feel worse.).  I got to the drive through and opted for one Carolina Tendergrill (grilled chicken version) and one Texas Tendergrill.  My reasoning for the chicken was two fold.  1 – I needed to feel someone not completely terrible about the calories I was about to consume.  2 – I figured the chicken would interfere less with the flavor of the barbecue sauce.  That after all is what makes these sandwiches barbecue, because it sure as heck isn’t the way they are cooked.

I started with the Carolina Tendergrill.  I have to first comment that this sandwich was actually put together very nicely.  IE…all parts of the sandwich actually made it somewhat between the bun and it at least resembled the picture in the advertisements.  The pic above is what I found when I opened the box.

The Burger King website describes this yardbird on bun as:

A juicy fire-grilled premium white meat chicken fillet topped with pepper jack cheese, naturally smoked thick-cut bacon, freshly chopped iceberg lettuce, red onions and ripe tomatoes, smothered with a sweet southern sauce and the tang of Carolina BBQ sauce, all on a warm toasted, artisan-style bun.

Given that description I will respond to each of their claims.  The meat did indeed appear and taste fire-grilled.  It was pretty juicy, at least not dry in any way that I noted.  It was in fact topped with a white cheese, although if it was pepper jack I didn’t get any hints of pepper at all.  It did have nice pieces of bacon, and they were even what some might consider thick-cut.  The lettuce, could have been fresher, but better than what I have come to expect from most fast food establishments.  The tomatoes were ripe and nice.  I opted for no onions, because I personally am not a fan of fast food onions typically due to indigestion issues.  The bun was nice but I would call it “artisan-like” instead of “artisan-styled.”  It wasn’t a bad bun at all, but a stretch to claim artestry there.

Now the important piece, the sauce.  Now being a sauce guy I expected I would rip this area apart.  You know what?  I really have nothing bad to say about the Carolina sauce.  Now is it true to Carolina?  Eh, that might be a stretch much like the artisan bun.  It is however, sweet and tangy and a nice complement to the sandwich overall.  Dare I say that I actually enjoyed it?  Yes, I am ashamed to admit that I did.

Next I tried the Texas Tendergrill.  You can pretty much copy all the features and comments about the Carolina Tendergrill and insert them here.  For the record this is how Burger King describes it though:

A juicy fire-grilled premium chicken fillet topped with a thick slice of melted American cheese, freshly cut iceberg lettuce, red onions, ripe tomatoes and jalapeño slices, smothered in a smoky and spicy Texas BBQ sauce all on a warm, toasted artisan-style bun.

Other than the change in sauce and cheese and the addition of jalapeno’s it is the same sandwich.

My overall take on the Texas version is unfortunately not as favorable as the Carolina version.  The sandwich and toppings themselves are fine, until you get to the sauce.  The Texas sauce was just too heavy handed with liquid smoke.  I, for the record, don’t mind liquid smoke and it has it’s place when used correctly.  Unfortunately, this is not one of those instances.  The Texas sauce in its effort to be bolder just comes off as off putting.  I did like the spice it had, but I think most of that could be attributed to the jalapenos and not the sauce.

So if you find yourself in a moment of weakness and in the line at a Burger King I say give the Carolina Tendergrill a shot, you may find like I did that it’s actually pretty good.  Now….who do I call at BK Corp for making a pulled pork sandwich??!!!! HERESY I SAY!

Love, peace and pork grease folks!

Shane

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Review – Oakridge BBQ Game Changer® All Purpose Brine

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Oakridge BBQ Game Changer All Purpose Brine

Like most on the competition trail, Draper’s competition team is always looking for some way to achieve a higher quality in the food we produce.  Being a sauce and rub company, we tend to focus on the outside flavors but try not to neglect the inside.

It’s with that in mind that I bring you my impressions of Oakridge BBQ Game Changer® All Purpose Brine.

The brine is actually a brine mix – you bring the water.  It’s packaged in a resealable foil bag (a personal favorite here at Draper’s) in 4 sizes, 1, 2, 5 and 10 pounds.  Larger sizes available but you’ll need to contact Oakridge directly.

According to the label, one pound makes one gallon of full strength or two gallons at half strength.  For our preparation, we chose the full strength brine mix.

We pulled the strip off the top of the foil pouch, opened it up and got a noseful.  It’s sweet and savory with a nice balance.  There’s definitely a lot going on in there.  If you haven’t eaten recently, it’ll make your mouth water.

When it smells that good in the bag, you know it’s gonna be good in the chicken or whatever meat you opt to use.  So we mixed it up, full strength and dropped the thighs in.  Per the instructions, we left them in for the maximum recommended two hours.

I’ve mixed up some brines that subtley tinted the skin or made the skin or meat mushy, rubbery and generally off, texturally speaking.  That was not the case here; what came out of the brine looked and felt pretty much like what went into the brine.

We were trying out a new technique with adding more defined grill marks on the chicken and left those thighs stay on the high heat to really develop some good color.  Unfortunately, the heat wasn’t high enough and frankly, we forgot about those test thighs for far too long.  Grill marks were lacking and I was sure they’d be terrible; dry, overcooked and chalky.

But in the interest of science, we persevered.  The chicken came off, a bit of rub and sauce went on and we took a bite anyway.  Remarkably, there was still plenty of juice in the chicken.  It was very flavorful despite being on the heat for twice as long as should’ve been.

The thighs we turned in were not overcooked and had that juiciness that brining brings to the party.  The flavor was right what we were aiming for, too.  With the chicken being fully rubbed, sauced and tweaked for competiton, I don’t know that I could really taste the effect of the brine on the bird.  That being said, it was a damn fine piece of chicken.

The first time out with Oakridge BBQ Game Changer® All Purpose Brine, we took 4th place in Chicken.  It’s a fine product, easy to use, does what it claims and earns a spot in my competition load out.

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Make No Q-Bones About It

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I get asked all the time to try new sauces and rubs and to even advise companies on how to get their product to market.  A little over a year ago my friend Chef Ben Wilson started asking me questions about the sauce business and I am proud to be one of the first to publish a review of his product, even if he doesn’t know I am doing it :)

I first met Ben at Memphis in May as part of the Tucker Cooker team that we both are a part of.  The first thing you learn about Ben is that he is an accomplished chef.  Second interesting barbecue factoid about Ben you quickly learn is that he has lived in both Kansas City and Memphis.  So right from the jump you know that Ben does indeed know barbecue and has a great reverence for it.  I will vouch for him, he is one heck of a chef and an even better barbecue pitmaster.

Since that first meeting Ben and I have spend many hours on Facebook chatting, exchanging ideas and he sent me samples along the way requesting input.  Ben has always maintained his own voice throughout the development process and I like that very much about him.  Taking advice from those that walked down the path before you is one thing, but always walking to your own cadence and taking side alleys occasionally is essential to ensuring the end product is what you, the creator, intended.

During one of the chat sessions I remember us having was when he was tossing product names back and forth trying to find the right tone.  He mentioned 5 or 6 and I countered with another 4 or 5.  It wasn’t long that one of us combined one from each side and viola Q-Bones was the working title.  It survived throughout the process and made final cut.


I am proud for Ben because I know what a long road this has been for him.  Ben is a great guy, excellent chef, entrepreneur and an excellent family man.  Friends like Ben are a rare find and I am glad to call him my friend.So all of that said you must be thinking there is no way that Shane will now be fair, comprehensive or honest in his review of anything Ben does.  To the contrary, nothing is further from the truth.  I call them like I see them and I did so each time Ben asked me directly for advice.  So with that here is my 5 minute take on Q-Bones Chipotle barbecue sauce.

Packaging

The first thing you will notice is that Ben obviously spent a lot of time on his logo and product packaging.  It’s smart, fun and welcoming.  It is a touch busy but since he kept the use of color down and contrast high it is a very readable label.  So a solid thumbs up on that part.  My only fear is that the package is so polished it may almost be off putting to some competition folks who are more used to a “mom and pop / small company” feel to the products they are using to compete with.  That isn’t so much a negative as I imagine Ben’s focus is more the Whole Food’s crowd while maintaining his barbecue sensibility.  All in all great bottle and logo.

The Nose Knows

Right away when you open Q-Bones Chipotle you get a nice sweet nose with a hint of tamarind to it.  It doesn’t smell overly spicy or overly sweet.  It does have a background note of smoke to it as well.  Overall pleasing to the sniffer.

Pour Me Out

I poured some sauce on a white plate.  You will notice VERY quickly that this is a THICK sauce.  In fact the picture above was taken about 5 minutes after the initial pour and you can see how it maintained its initial shape with almost no expansion.  This sauce will stay put wherever you put it.  That is both a positive and a negative depending on what you are using it for.

Upon very close inspection you can see some black pepper flakes in the sauce, but there isn’t a lot of spices that are overly large here.  It is a well blended sauce.

Pow Right In The Kisser

Next I tasted the sauce straight up.  I have to say after looking at it on a plate looks are quite deceiving.  I honestly didn’t expect, or even remember, this sauce being spicy but it is.  I for one am glad!  I’m so tired of the word Chipotle being included in everything and never tasting it or getting any heat from it.  You certainly do here with Q-Bones.  In fact the heat factor in this sauce rivals the “hot” version of our sauce that I have yet to release.  So if you like some heat in your barbecue sauce this one is for you.

In addition to the heat (which isn’t over powering, but solidly present) you get some nice bold, round flavors and some smoke.  Ben spent a long time really getting these flavors right.  This is a sauce that stood up to the fattiest pork sandwich I put it on as well as a hamburger that was loaded with cheddar cheese.  This sauce was a bold and unapologetic guest to whatever party I included it in.

Final Thoughts

Q-Bones Chipotle manages to be a contender and not an also ran like so many other sauces out there.  I really like it and even find myself loading a sandwich with it just to see if I can make my nose run from the heat.  For the record…I can :)

Go pick you some up as soon as it becomes available!  Q-Bones also has a regular barbecue sauce and a mustard sauce soon to be released.  All of which will be a great addition to your sauce cabinet!

Love, Peace and Pork Grease!

Shane

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Sauce Review: Cook N Shoupe Hillbilly Zen BBQ Sauce

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While taste testing the bottle of CDubs Original BBQ Rub, I also had the opportunity to test a sauce from a sauce company called Cook N Shoupe.  This sauce is manufactured in Denver, Colorado in small batches.  They call themselves the micro brew of BBQ.  Cook N Shoupe have a line of 4 BBQ sauces that cover a wide spectrum of tastes.  From mustard sauce, tropical sauce, sweet and tangy sauce to the fiery Angry Poltergeist sauce.  The good folks at Cook N Shoupe were kind enough to send me bottles of the sweet and tangy Hillbilly Zen and the Angry Poltergeist sauce I mentioned above.  Since they are so different, I want to give them separate reviews.  Angry Poltergeist will come a little later.  Right now lets concentrate on the Hillbilly Zen.

Cook N Shoupe describe there sauce as, “Our blend of hickory smoke, chipotle peppers and other zesty spices provides a fiery finish.  You will find a perfect balance of sweet and heat to liven any party.”   I hope they do not disappoint.

Appearence

First thing you notice is the type of bottle they use. It is a long-neck beer bottle.  It is even capped like a beer with a pop top.  It really looks very cool.  The only disadvantage I can think of is that you must reseal it with something else.  A wine cork, foil or some plastic wrap would work well for this purpose.  Cook N Shoupe are developing a special cork to be sold with the sauce at a future date. Next here is how the sauce looks.

Hillbilly Zen is a thinner sauce with a wonderful red color and great aroma.  You can smell the vinegar and liquid smoke slightly.  There are 2 types of vinegar used in this sauce, white wine vinegar and apple cider vinegar.

 Ingredients

Cook N Shoupe is an all natural sauce as shown by the label to the left. No corn syrup in this sauce.  It is sweetened by brown sugar, beet sugar and molasses.  The sauce is also gluten free for those with dietary restrictions on gluten.

In this day and age of taking short cuts and using corn syrup and preservatives, it is nice to see a sauce company do it the right way.

Taste

When I tasted the sauce straight out of the bottle, the first taste out of the bottle is the vinegar.  Not heavy on the vinegar but you sure know it is in there.  Secondly the sweet hits you along with a little bit of smoke flavor.  Very pleasant tasting, not syrupy and not overly smokey.  At the finish, you get that little bit of heat that rounds out all the flavors perfectly.  That was the out of the bottle taste, but who eats sauce right out of the bottle.  You have to put it on some meat to get the real taste of the sauce.  I was cooking boneless skinless chicken breasts that night to test a rub out so I used the Hillbilly Zen on that chicken as well.  I was impressed with how it bathed the chicken.  It covered really well and clung to the meat.  After coating both sides of the chicken, I let the sauce caramelize on the meat before i took it off.  This is just the way I always cook it.  I could also see taking it right off and having a wet look to the chicken.  I think it would be great that way as well.

I told this story in my review for CDubs Original BBQ Rub, but I need to share it here as well because this is the sauce I used that night.  My 7 yr old son is a very picky eater.  He prefers his chicken in nugget form as most 7 year olds do.  I had made him a plain chicken breast with just salt on it for him to eat.  Upon seeing my chicken, he asked for a bite…and loved it.  He then asked to replace his chicken with my chicken and I obliged.  I had cooked and extra breast that night to try the rub alone so this was no problem.  He ate all my chicken.  That never happens.  I ate the rubbed chicken breast and dipped it into the Hillbilly Zen sauce and it was outstanding.  I still tasted all the flavors I tasted sampling straight out of the bottle just mellower and the vinegar taste was more of a compliment then the first thing you taste.

Conclusion

Cook N Shoupe’s Hillbilly Zen BBQ Sauce is a fantastic sauce.  It has great taste with lots of balance.  It was named perfectly.  I highly recommend this and cant wait to try the Angry Poltergeist Sauce.  I might have to do that alone because my family might be to scared.  If you are in Colorado, Cook N Shoupe’s sauce can be found in stores or check them out on the web to purchase at cooknshoupe.com

If you have a sauce, rub or bbq product you would like reviewed here at Drapersbbq.com drop me a line at ernierupp@drapersbbq.com or sent me a tweet @qsyourdaddy.

 

 

 

 

 

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