Christmas Guide 2017

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Every year for the past half dozen or so I’ve either been asked to write a barbecue gift guide or to contribute to other blogs with a few of my recommendations.  This year, I thought about doing things a little differently.  Yes, I know I could just keep every item barbecue related and that would be fine, but I thought why not open up the list a bit more?  Why not just do a list of the things that I love for one reason or another, that I use often or thoroughly enjoy using when I get the chance?  Along the way maybe a better story of who I am and why I do what I do may find its way into being.  Where possible I’ve posted an Amazon link if you decide to add any of the items to your collection.  Obviously not every item will be available via Amazon, in those cases I’ve provided links to sites I trust.

Also as a full disclosure, I’ve had a part in the success of Grilla Grills.  I am proud to be apart of this team and it is one of the most rewarding barbecue relationships I have ever had.  This includes releasing a signature line of sauces and rubs with them and being closely involved in the sourcing and releasing of several accessories.  So it goes without saying that with that much involvement some of these items made this list.  This is not me trying to convince you to buy anything from Grilla, nothing on this list made the cut if it did not meet the criteria mentioned above.


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Lodge Logic Square Skillet – There are a few standards I think every kitchen needs and a classic cast iron pan is one of those things.  From making corn bread to searing steaks they are just invaluable.  This pan was on my list last year and it still is my favorite pan for just about everything.  When I bought mine I knew I’d be using it a lot so I added the silicone handle cover as well.  I wondered if I’d really think the extra $4 (pricing depends on color chosen) was worth it, and I’m glad to say it still is.  Treat cast iron pans right and you have a pan literally for a life time.  In fact one of my wedding presents from my grandmother almost 20yrs ago was a small round cast iron pan that she used for decades before passing it on to me.  There aren’t a great many things that you can buy today that you can pass on to your grandchildren when they get married, but this is one of them.


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Grizzly Coolers 60 – It’s no big secret that I’ve been on a mission for the past year to test a lot of coolers.  I’ve been sent some as test units, paid full price for others and after it was all said and done there was only one left standing and that was the Grizzly line.  Mark Lambert first turned me onto Grizzly and I have to give him credit there.  I liked the line so much I pushed for Grilla Grills to carry them on their site.  One note on sizes as Grizzly has a lot of sizes available.  I really find that the 60qt size works for me.  Some will want larger, some smaller, but if I were on the competition trail I know I could run two 60qt sized coolers and get the job done.

Let’s talk about what I feel Grizzly get’s right.  First has to be price.  Yes, there are cheaper, but in this market segment there are also some two to three times the price for the same sized cooler.  Second has to be the weight.  I really liked several other brands but what kept me coming back to the Grizzly was the size vs weight.  They are not nearly as heavy as some and when you have to lug these things on and off trailers and in and out of the back of trucks, weight starts to matter quickly.  The last thing I feel Grizzly does better than the rest is the drain plug.  You want to dump out the entire liquid contents of the cooler in a minute?  This cooler can do that without having to tip it over.  This was a factor I never considered until I lived with several other brands and it took forever for some of them to drain after I cleaned them.  And when you are doing everything from brining turkeys to hauling adult beverages, ease of clean up and keeping everything safe matters.

Let’s be real here, all the coolers in the roto molded segment keep ice for longer than anyone frankly expects.  So why pay more for the cooler if you don’t have to?  The only cooler that had a few more tricks up is sleeve that I really liked was the Orion.  Their latching system is better, but I just can’t recommend their products due to the pricing.  Orion was one of the heaviest I tested which really became an issue in the long term.

drifter

While we are talking about coolers let me bring up the soft sided cooler that Grizzly makes as well, the Drifter.  I was fortunate enough to get a Drifter 20 for testing earlier this year.  I have to admit I was skeptical at first, but after living with it on several trips and also seeing that I could fit a whole packer brisket in it I was sold.  We took this cooler with us on a trip to Florida (14hrs in the truck) and a trip to Orange Beach, Alabama (10hrs in the truck) and each time I was more impressed with the Drifter 20.  The amount of storage it has and its innovations make it a winner and frankly make it worth the $150 price tag.  Never mind it’s just plain cool (see what I did there), has tons of storage compartments and isn’t just some flabby pouch when empty.  If you’ve been considering a high end soft sider, I definitely recommend giving this one a look.


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Ticwatch S Knight – I hesitated to put this one on the list since I know the world is divided between Apple and Android users, but what the heck it’s my list of favorite things and this definitely is a favorite thing.  I’ve been on the fence about buying a smartwatch for a long long time, which might sound counter intuitive given that I’m a tech guy by day.  I frankly just don’t think that most smartwatches are worth the cost.  I also never really found one that straddled that line between fitness tracker, heart rate monitor AND personal assistant device.  Several months ago while considering buying one for my birthday I ran across the Kickstarter campaign for the Ticwatch S and thought, for $130 why not.  I figured I would be ok at that price and could stomach not loving it for just over a hundred dollars vice spending the $300 I was considering.  Fast forward to just before Thanksgiving and mine was delivered.  Being someone who is constantly reaching for my phone I wanted something to keep me from doing that as much.  After all more times than not I’m covered in grease/fat when I’m cooking and I have about 5 different company emails I have to keep up with so me digging in my pocket for my phone after receiving an alert is never ending.  I’m super glad to say the Ticwatch S has filled this void and I LOVE IT.  For the money it’s definitely worth it, even at non Kickstarter prices.  If you are looking for a great smartwach for a reasonable price check it out, you’ll be glad you did.


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Camelbak Chute 40oz Insulated Bottle – I know this one sounds crazy on this list, but as someone who packs this thing around as religiously as I do my phone I had to include it on the list.  Ask anyone who travels with me and they will tell you this thing has more miles on it than my truck.  I also credit this bottle with helping me keep extra weight off and it was key in getting my health turned around almost two years ago.

How does a water bottle do that?  Well, its about forming habits and replacing bad habits with good ones.  I quit soda cold turkey about two years ago.  I’ve not had even a sip since.  So what I did to replace that urge was carry around my water with me everywhere, and I do mean EVERYWHERE.  I wanted to find a bottle that was easy to clean, could take a beating, kept stuff cold and flowed easily.  The idea was that I needed to drink a gallon of water a day and I didn’t care to be sucking on a straw all day.  Thankfully I found this water bottle and Stur water enhancer at the same time.  I hate to even think how much money I’ve spent on Stur in the last two years, but I go through about 20 of those little bottles a month and for me it’s 100% worth it to not be addicted to soda’s any longer.

I’m not advocating anyone necessarily do what I did, but if you are sick and tired of being sick and tired, I do advocate for everyone to take a serious look at what they are putting in their bodies, because that is likely the problem.  And believe me when I tell you that your children are watching you and will take their cues from you.  My two boys no longer drink any soda’s either and also drink water about 90% of the time.  They do drink some juices and milk as well, but I was shocked at how much their diets mimicked mine as they started seeing changes in me physically, mentally and emotionally.  Never once did I ask them to make those changes, which was all the better.  My boys even have their own smaller Camelbak Chutes and that is worth way more to me than the cost of the product.


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Perfect Pushup Elite – While I’m harping on health I have to plug these.  Both of my wrists are completely screwed up so it was really limiting me in doing push ups.  One day while visiting with Mark Graham of Grilla Grills I saw these sitting next to his desk and asked if he liked them.  He gave them a glowing review and I thought, “well if its good enough for Mr. Fitness himself I’ll give them a try.”  Well Mark was right, they work and I really love them.  I have an alarm on my phone/smartwatch that tells me to get up and move once an hour.  Since I work at home on a computer all day this is very important to me.  So when my alarm goes off I grab these and bust out as many push ups as I can do then return back to being the sloth that I am.  It’s not that I think these will change your life, its that I think these are apart of changing your life, and that I am all for if you are tired of looking like the “before” picture in a late night infomercial.


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Thermoworks Thermopop – I get asked often, “what’s one thing you will not cook without?”  My answer used to be a Thermoworks Thermapen, now that has changed to the Thermopop.  I still love the Thermapen for sure, but the Thermopop is $30 and it’s much easier for me to recommend.  It’s just as accurate, nearly as fast AND easier to carry around.  There are very few devices that will make you better cook across the board, but this is one of them.  Even if you already have the Thermapen I still recommend you buying one of these.  I have about half a dozen and I keep them literally everywhere I cook and one even stays in the console of my truck and in my knife roll.  I don’t leave home without it and I just don’t think you can find a better thermometer for the money bar none.  Save yourself some headache and just order a couple in various colors because I don’t know anyone in barbecue that has just one of these.


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Meathead The Science of Great Barbecue – seriously is there a better name for a cook book? I really like Meathead’s take on things.  Its one part Good Eats format where the science is the focal point and one part great cook book.  In the end I think we can all agree that Craig “Meathead” Goldwyn and his site AmazingRibs.com has become the encyclopedia of all things barbecue.  I recommend articles from his site weekly and he has made a career of proving scientifically what works and what doesn’t.  Give this book a try, it’s worth the read.

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Extreme Ownership – I stumbled on this book late last year and it changed a lot of things for me.  The past year has been a quest of getting my head right.  If you are looking to be a better leader, make a change in your life or just generally figure out how to be a better human give this book by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin a read.  I’ve bought several copies for friends and I just can’t recommend it enough.  Want to hear more of what Jocko has to say?  Subscribe to the Jocko Podcast.  If you are military or former military this podcast should be mandatory.  Start at episode 1 and work from there.  Believe me it’s worth the ride.

 

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Way of the Warrior Kid – Yes, another Jocko Willink book.  This one is for any kid in your life.  I’ve personally bought almost 20 copies of this book and have given to every kid I have coached, mentored or ever worked with.  This book changes things for young people.  It shows them they can make a difference.  They can own their situation.  They do not have to be afraid of working hard.  My 7yr old has read this book and will tell you it is favorite by far.  This story is told through the eyes of Mark a 5th grader.  Mark’s uncle Jake, a Navy SEAL, comes to stay with Mark’s family for the summer and he helps Mark with his fear of water, the school bully, multiplication, memorizing the Presidents and pull ups.  If you have children take the time and read this book right along with them.  It will be worth the time and effort, I cannot recommend it enough.  Our job as parents is not just to love our children always, but to help arm them with the tools and ideas that will make them better humans and citizens.  It all starts at home with you.  There will never be a better time than right now to start making a difference.


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Lodge L410 Hibachi – It seems like everyone is always looking for the best steak searing device and I always wonder why this little jewel doesn’t get recommended more.  It’s compact, you can’t break it and you can get this thing rocket hot for some insane steak searing.  Need some great charcoal you can find in your local big box store?  Check out B&B Hickory Lump, its quickly becoming a favorite of mine.


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Dalstrong Shogun Gyuto – I actually have a few Dalstrong knives now, but I keep coming back to this 8in Gyuto blade.  I just love it.  I’ve tested the Dalstrong Phantom Chef’s knife as well and really enjoyed it for it’s agility and super light weight.  Where the Phantom’s are light and agile the Shogun’s have a weight and strength about them.  I just can’t describe it, but the weight and feel of these knives just feel reassuring in your hand and make you feel more confident.  The pinch on these knives are fantastic and the blades are razor sharp.  I’ve also purchased the Shogun paring and birds beak knives, each phenomenal in their own right.  Dalstrong does a great job of releasing limited run knives and some really interesting options.  Be sure to keep checking them out because if they do not have one that you love right now, give it a month they will.


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Grilla Injector – Let me just say that I love this injector. This is another great example of the partnership between Grilla Grills and I.  At Memphis in May we were cooking whole hog and we had probably 8 injectors on site and throughout the course of injecting both hogs every single one of them failed.  I went to Mark Graham and said “that’s it man, we are going to fix this once and for all and offer it on the website.”  Mark said “lets do it, bring it on.”  Well fast forward a couple of months, a few prototypes I tested and the end result is this behemoth.  It’s heavy, its stainless and I love how the needles thread onto the syringe.  I could wax poetic about this work of art for days, but check out the YouTube video, it pretty much sums it up.  If you don’t have this, GET IT.


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Don Francisco’s Hawaiian Hazelnut Coffee – This is definitely one of my favorite things.  I have one really good cup of coffee a day.  That cup is almost always DF’s Hawaiian Hazelnut.  I know it’s odd to include coffee on a Christmas list, but that should tell you how much I enjoy this coffee.   It’s not always easy to get via Amazon and when it is available I order a couple of tins to make sure I don’t run out.

If you love hazelnut coffee, this one kicks in just a hint of coconut which makes it great black without added sugar.  For me I add the slightest hint of pure Stevia powder and it’s perfect.


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Ion Tailgater Express – I am most definitely 100 percent an audio file.  I don’t do much of anything without music playing.  When it’s not music it’s podcasts.  I bought this earlier this year because I wanted something to take to the pool to listen to with the kids.  It is splash resistant, has a really big built in battery that lasts a long time, has bluetooth and a USB port to allow you to charge your phone.  In addition to all these features, it sounds fantastic.  I like this thing so much that I now travel with this speaker when I go on trips.  If it died tomorrow I would order another immediately.  This little speaker has replaced a Bose unit that I ordered for the kitchen.  I know, crazy right!?!!?  I got the Bose in, unboxed it and listened to it for about 10 minutes and honestly did not feel it sounded significantly better than the Ion so I returned it.  This little box is a strong bang for the buck.


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Ladder 8 Steel Grill Brush – This is probably one of the items I get asked about more than any other in the grilling world.  I don’t know why but finding a great grill brush seems to be nearly impossible.  I’ve gone through about 15 different models over the years and this is the only one that I still recommend.  Now before someone comments about the dangers of a bristle breaking off and being digested let me address that right up front.  First off that danger is slim and if you wipe down your grates after brushing them it is virtually eliminated.  Second the material the brush itself is made from will determine how likely the bristles are to break off.  That is why I love this brush.  The bristles are strong and after over a year of use mine still looks new.  If that wasn’t enough every single one of these brushes are backed by a lifetime warranty and a love it or leave it money back guaranty.

All of that is fine and good but how well does it work?  The 4 head design of this brush and the angle of attack built into the handle make all the difference.  There is very little on your grill that this brush won’t take care of in just a few swipes.  If you are looking for your “next” grill brush, order this one, it will be the last one you buy.


Grilla Grills Signature Sauces and Rubs – Before I get into talking about each of the sauces and rubs let me talk about what this product line means to me.  I’ve gone on record as saying this is hands down the best work I have done in my 10yrs in barbecue.  I really do mean that.  My relationship with Grilla is special and there is something about it that has brought what I do to another level.  Everything I do with them I want to be best.  They make me better and I make them better.  It is a rare partnership that works this well.  I was called crazy when I agreed to sign on to help out a company, that at the time was a complete unknown.  I was warned that I would be used for my ideas and kicked to the curb.  I was told that taking a backseat in a larger organization was career suicide.  All I know is that when I sat down with the team at Grilla I knew they were something special and different.  I knew immediately that with someone on board who had been through all the pitfalls in this community that they could be quickly successful.  So I shook the owners hand in that meeting and told him I’d give him everything I’ve got and expected their trust in return to make this company something amazing.

Those ideas and sentiments are what drive me to be the best.  I refuse to release any product before it’s perfect and I refuse to put out any sauce and rub that is not world class.  I have zero doubt that what has come from this partnership is one of the best sauce and rub lines in existence bar none.  That is not said to be cocky, but it is said because I know the amount of time and effort I have put into every single one of these products and I believe that to the very core of my being.  Find another grill company who has sauces and rubs that will say that and can back it up.  It’s a very rare thing indeed.  The core difference is that most grill makers add sauce and rubs and accessories to pad their bottom line.  They just want to make another sale.  They make huge profit margins on those things and frankly do not focus on making them the best they can be.  Mark and I refuse to do that.  Every single product has to be the best we can make it, done so at a reasonable price and delivered as frequently as possible with free shipping.

tbThick & Bold – This started it all and was the basis of the initial partnership with Grilla.  We took this sauce to the World Championships at Memphis in May and tied for first.  It was one heck of a lead off product and is fantastic on everything.  This sauce set the bar really high for me and I knew I could not release anything else unless it was equal in every way.  The thing that makes Thick & Bold special is the balance between the sweet, the tanginess and the way can be used as everything from a dipping sauce to a finishing glaze.  This sauce is as versatile as they come and we have competition teams even using it as part of their brisket program and winning just about every time they cook.

 

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Gold N Bold – I swore for a very long time that I would never do a mustard sauce.  Frankly I didn’t think I had much to say in this genre of sauce and Ron Worby of Susquehanna Blue Smoke had done it as well as it needed to be done.  When I was asked to finally dig in and see what I could do I ordered every mustard sauce I could find.  Frankly most fell into two categories.  Mustard that had some spices added that were very hard to stomach.  Seriously try to eat spoonfuls of mustard and see how that goes.   And then there were what basically were tomato based sauces that had mustard added to make them more tangy.  Neither of these appealed to me.  I wanted to find a mustard sauce that you could eat directly off of the spoon, still top a hot dog/hamburger with it, but had something more going for it flavor wise to make it worthy of doing.  After an insane amount of trying and failing I finally found this sweet spot of balance and I knew I was on to something.  We took this sauce back to Memphis in May and served to the on site judges on our whole hog entry.  When they all freaked out over it and asked where they could buy it I knew it was good.  When the two chef’s on our team told me it was the best they had eaten then I realized it was time to stop messing with it and get it ready for final release.  It took from June until September for the factory to get it dialed in to my requirements, but in the end all that frustration was worth it.  Its a great sauce and even if you think you don’t like mustard sauces you should give it a try.

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Kongo Kick – When it comes to “hot” barbecue sauces I just do not feel there is ever a clear win.  Those that know me well know I will not play if I cannot win.  So when Mark Graham asked me to make one for Grilla I was apprehensive.  The reality is that they are never hot enough for the people who love heat and the mention of heat drives away all other consumers.  Thankfully early on the name for this sauce was decided on and that allowed me to set the tempo for what the sauce should be, a great barbecue sauce with a kick at the end.  I went through about 15 different pepper blends before finding a combination that I felt added a great dynamic to the sauce while also allowing the heat to gradually build as it was being eaten.  Most people are surprised that there is some habanero in this sauce as they assume it would be painfully hot.  I love the flavor of habanero’s but not always their heat.  I was able to find away to add a great robust chili middle flavor profile and use the habanero as the light clear bite at the very end.  Think of a great bass guitar solo where the drummer joins in and ends it all with the crash of a cymbal.  That is exactly what Kongo Kick does and I love this sauce for that reason.  It was yet again me trying to balance all of this flavor chaos like a conductor while not letting any one thing outshine another.  Even if you do not like “hot” barbecue sauces you should give this one a try, it has a whole lot more going for it than just heat.

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AP Rub – All Purpose as a name has been so used and abused in the world of barbecue.  So much so that it’s frankly become a bit of an inside joke.  If you don’t know what you should name your rub, name it All Purpose.  Well when I first came up with AP almost 10 years ago and then revamped it a few years later I wanted something that really lived up to the name.  The balance of salty, sweet, herbs and heat make this great on everything from chicken and ribs to popcorn and veggies.  AP Rub is the first product that I went back and revamped after I really learned how to balance flavors.  That principal has stuck with me ever since and from this product came many successful products after.  There is a reason that Grilla sells out of it…because it simply works.

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Grilla Beef – The lore associated with the Beef Rub has been years in the making.  From the days of Draper’s Moo’d Enhancer to us pulling it off of the shelves and getting hate mail to me finally deciding to redo the product and release it Grilla.  Well, its been one heck of a ride.  This single product more than any other I was so afraid to redo.  Moo’d Enhancer was something special.  It was the first time that I really felt I had caught lightening in a bottle so to speak.  It was 1 part intuition, 1 part happy accident and 2 parts stubbornness.  I really wondered for a long time could I recreate it if I had to.  I frankly avoided doing it like the plague.  I knew it would be the place where I had to face whether I still had “it” or not.  For songwriters and composers they are always worried they will somehow anger the God’s and no longer be able to connect with that part of themselves where the lyrics and melodies come from.  It’s no different for me.  I had been told I was done, I couldn’t make magic any more, that I was washed up and that barbecue as an industry had moved on.  In the end I had to gather myself up, ignore all the haters and self doubt and just get back on the horse and get after it.  I’m proud of every product I’ve ever done, but Grilla’s Beef Rub was a defining moment for me where I proved to myself that I still have something to say.  From this lesson Gold N Bold and Kongo Kick were also born.  I still have a lot of miles left in me creativity wise and I’m glad to get to release those ideas with a company like Grilla Grills.  I am blessed beyond measure just from getting to work with such a great team that believes in me.  I try everyday to measure up to that and do my best for them and their customers.


From this dude in Western Kentucky, that for whatever reason people have decided to listen to, I appreciate each and every person who takes the time to read this post.  I am just a guy doing what I love and I am thankful for every friend I have made doing this crazy barbecue thing.

I hope this list gives you some ideas for Christmas, but more than that, I hope it gives you a small insight into me and what I do.  It’s never glamours, always takes more out of me than I expect and is hard on my family and I wake up everyday thankful for another opportunity to share what I love with you and yours.

 

Have a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, be blessed my friends and always stay saucy 🙂

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Prime Time For Prime Rib

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shane’s Easy Button Prime Rib Rub

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

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

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

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

Shane’s Sorta Secretariat Horseradish Sauce

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

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

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

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

Shane

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Official Rules and Regulations for the Big Giveaway

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This isn’t particularly fun but it is important if you wanna win!

Official Contest Rules and Regulations

Open to residents of the United States of America only and governed by United States of America Law

No Purchase Necessary.
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. The Giveaway Contest on Facebook (the “Contest”) is sponsored by Drapers’s BBQ and Pap’s Foods (the “Sponsors”).

ELIGIBILITY: To enter and be eligible to win, a person must be a legal resident of The United States of America who has reached the age of majority at time of entry in the jurisdiction in which he/she resides and who is not an employee, representative or agent of The Sponsors, any independent contest organization, or their affiliated and related companies and, if applicable, their respective advertising or promotion agencies, dealers, and members of the immediate families of, or persons domiciled with any of the above. In these Official Contest Rules & Regulations, “immediate family” means mother, father, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters and/or legal or common-law spouse.

HOW TO ENTER: During the Contest Period, you may enter the contest at The Sponsors Facebook page. During the Kentucky BBQ Festival held during the Contest Period, onsite entry may be made available at the discretion of the Sponsors.
Be certain you have read, and agree to be bound by, the Official Contest Rules & Regulations and indicate if you do not wish to receive future information from The Sponsors regarding upcoming events and/or promotions.

PRIZING: There is one prize available to be won, consisting of the following: one Pit Barrel Cooker of the Pit Barrel Cooker Co., one ChefAlarm by ThermoWorks, one Meat Maniac sampler back by Pap’s Foods and one Pitmaster Pack by Draper’s BBQ to include A.P. Rub, Moo’d Enhancer Rub, Smokin’ Sauce, team hat and 2 bags of Kingsford charcoal.

Total approximate retail value of prize pack is $500. To the extent permitted by law, The Sponsors makes no express or implied warranties, or conditions of any kind with respect to the safety, appearance or performance of any Prize. Prizes must be accepted as awarded without substitution, are not transferable, not for resale and have no cash surrender value. The Sponsors reserves the right, in the event that a Prize or any component of a Prize cannot be awarded as described for any reason, to substitute another prize without liability.

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Barbecue Live…..Barbecue Legit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Day 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 2

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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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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The Art of the Reverse Sear.

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Some times you try new cooking techniques because you want to make something better, or easier than before.  Some times you do things out of necessity.  Rarely do both occur on the same attempt.  Last weekend my local grocery store, had Hereford Tri-Tip roasts and Duroc pork shoulders on sale for 50% off of regular price. This sale made the Tri-Tips $3.55 per lb (usually $7-8) and the shoulders $1.55 (usually over $3) per pound.  Unheard of prices for these 2 items.  I purchased about $200 worth of meat for $100.  I had the desire to cook a Tri-Tip that night as I had not cooked one all winter.  I have 2 sons with activities on the weekends and I really did not have time to tend a grill for 30 minutes to a hour and cook this wonderful piece of meat.  I thought this would be a great chance to try out reverse searing this steak.  I had heard of the reverse sear before and knew that a Tri-Tip would be the perfect cut of meat to use this technique on.  I scoured the web for about 15 minutes and found some information  on how to do the reverse sear with a Tri-Tip and I was ready to go.

Seasoned Tri-Tip on the smoker.

Seasoned Tri-Tip on the smoker.

My son and I trimmed and seasoned the Tri-Tip.  Nothing 2 complicated.  It consisted of garlic salt, Western Sizzle steak seasoning and a BBQ rub that I will have a review on in a couple of weeks.  I prepped the pellet cooker, set the temp for 275 degrees and I was ready to start cooking.  I placed my thermometer probe in the thickest side of the meat.  I wanted to reach an internal temperature of 130 degrees before I moved it over to the propane grill to finish it off.  Once on the pellet grill, I left it in the hands of my wife to watch while my sonsand I ran an errand.  The thermometer was set to sound and alarm at 120 and my wife called me home when it went off after about 45 minutes.  When I arrived back home the steak was at 132 degrees and I moved it to my propane grill to finish off.  After grilling (searing) for 15 to 20 minutes more the Tri-Tip was at the desired temp of 145 degrees.  I took it off and waited for it to rest for 15 more minutes to slice it.

Reverse seared Tri-Tip ready for slicing.

Reverse seared Tri-Tip ready for slicing.

Now that I have told my story let me explain want a reverse sear is.  Normally when grilling you sear first and lock in the juices and form a crust on the meat then you cook the meat indirectly until you reach your desired temperature.  With reverse searing, you indirect cook first until the meat reaches a desired temp then you sear at the end to for a crust and finish the meat off.  What I got when I reversed seared was a tenderer steak, a juicier steak and a steak that had more flavor because I was allowed to add smoke into the cooking process.  My meat had a more uniform temperature throughout giving it uniform color except at the ends where it was slightly less rare.  Here is an infographic to explain.

If you added a smoke ring to the example on the right, this is what my steak looked like.

If you added a red smoke ring to the example on the right, this is what my steak looked like.

The reverse sear is not a hard technique to learn or accomplish.  Cook low and slow first the finish hot and fast.  If you watch your temps close nothing will go wrong and you will be rewarded with the juiciest, most flavorful Tri-Tip you have ever eaten.

 

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Ranking the BBQ Meats

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pig parts

I visit many internet sites during the day and one of my favorites is Deadspin.  It is basically a sports website for people with little time to read or short attention spans.  They throw some humor in there as well and break stories about imaginary girlfriends and stuff like that.  Last week Deadspin had an article which ranked the best flavors of doughnuts.  It is not sports related, but I am a fan of doughnuts so I read to find out  if my favorite was near the top.  Vital information that I could not live without.  Little did I know that if this article was a BBQ contest I would be ostrasized for shiggin.  Yeah I am stealing the idea ( thanks Drew Magary ) and writing my own article ranking the BBQ meats.  I will list the meat first then give my reasoning as to why it is superior to the meats beneath it.

1.  Burnt Ends  (Brisket point)- This is my favorite thing to order at any BBQ restaurant.  I am from KC what do you expect.  Tiny little fatty morsels of beefy goodness.  If they were smaller I would swear this is what the fairies used for fairy dust. They are sooooo good.  Smothered in sauce with extra bark.  You just can’t beat them.

2. Brisket  (flat) –  If burnt ends were Miss America then brisket is a close runner up.  When done right it is better than prime rib to me.  The fat just melts in your mouth like butter.  Most people will have a brisket sandwich.  My question is,  Why do you need the bread?

3.  Spare Ribs (St Louis Cut) –  I specify the St. Louis cut because I do not like eating the rib tips.  Too much work for me.  I like the extra flavor these ribs provide in comparison to the baby back ribs.  Ribs are very versatile.  You can have them from spicy to sweet and they are always good.

4.  Turkey –  I already hear the gasps from the audience.  Yes smoked turkey.  Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I could eat turkey any day of the year.  Brine it, inject it, rub it and smoke it.  Always good.

5.  Pork Shoulder (Boston Butt) –  I had never had pulled pork till about 6 years ago.  My mom always called it a pork roast and roasted it in the oven seasoned with salt, pepper and caraway seeds.  Served with dumplings and brown pork gravy.  Wow it was good!  When I made my first shoulder I was amazed how much more flavor this cut of meat had when cooked in a smoker.  This cut of meat is literally a sponge for flavor.

6.  Pork Belly/Bacon –  Now this ranks this high on the list because of one thing BACON!  When I was five years old,  I ate a whole pound of bacon for lunch while my mom was visiting with my dad and his golfing buddy.  Kind of a badge of honor I think.  I have never had the rest of the belly, but hope to remedy that soon.

7.  Tri-Tip –  This is a nod to all my California buddies I met at the American Royal last fall.  This piece of meat is rapidly gaining popularity across the US.  It tastes like the best steak at about half the price.  My thanks to El Fuego Fiasco BBQ Team for the Santa Maria spice.  I have not forgotten that I owe you some Drapers AP Rub.

8.  Babyback Ribs – See spare ribs above.  These little guys have just a little less flavor than spares or they would be higher on the list.

beef

9.  Beef Ribs – Like brisket on a stick.  They are juicy and delicious and we fight over them at Christmas after the prime rib is carved.  Smoked on the BBQ they are even better.

10.  Chicken –  White meat or dark meat everyone loves chicken.  The trick is to keep it moist and get some flavor into that meat.  It rounds out the top 10.

11.  Pork Loin –  Living high on the hog as they say.  You can roast it whole or divide into chops.  Stuff it with apples or wrap it in bacon this makes a great dinner.

12.  Ham –  Most BBQ joints around KC do not cook a whole bone in ham.  They cook the processed ham loaf that you can get in any grocery store deli around town.  The process of making your own ham is very long.  It takes weeks and even months to get the ham cured and smoked.   That being said, it would be nice to have bone in smoked ham at a local BBQ restaurant.

13.  Pork Picnic –  Incomplete.  I have never had a pork picnic.  Hopefully some day I will travel down south and have some but until then we will have to rate it an incomplete.

Now, this list is not all encompassing.  I intentionally left off sausage and went with the cuts of meat vs combined elements of sausage.  If I had put it on the list,  it would have been pretty high on the list.  It is not good for me and I love it.  This is my opinion only and does not represent the views of Drapers BBQ ( with the exception of leaving mutton off the list).  You know what opinions are like…everyone’s got one.  So give them to me.  This post is meant to start a discussion.  Please post at the bottom of the article and tell me why you agree or disagree with me.  Use our new share buttons and get your friends to sound off on the subject or post it to your favorite Facebook group.  Lets discuss this cause I am sure pork picnic is too good to be left in the south and burnt ends are too good to be left to KC.

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Boy Scout Feast – A Fish Story

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If you have read my posts in the past, you know that my son’s are both involved in scouting.  My oldest son’s troop has an annual feast camp-out in the month of November every year.  Last year, when we were considering joining Troop 10, we were guests at this camp-out.  This year we were full fledged participants.  I brought my GMG Daniel Boone and a salmon recipe given to me by Steven Hartsock of Sock’s Love Rubs prepared for a long day of work and long evening of feasting.

The Grub-master told me I would be cooking turkey breasts and salmon for the feast.  I have done turkey several times before and think I make a really good smoked turkey.  Salmon on the other hand scares the heck out of me.  I really have never cooked a piece of salmon that I would be proud to serve to someone.  I am not a big salmon fan in the first place so anything I am going to serve will have to knock my socks off.  I asked a lot of BBQ friends what they did to salmon.  I received a lot of different answers.  Wet Brine?  Dry Brine?  160 degrees?  225 degrees?  What to do?  I finally settled on a recipe that was given to me by Steven Harsock creator of Sock’s Love Rubs.  It was a wet brine with some unique savory ingredients that just said “autumn season” to me.  The recipe contained brown sugar, whole all spice, clove and peppercorns.  These are things that I never would have thought to put into a brine for fish.  After 2-3 hours in the brine we took the salmon out and rinsed it off making sure none of the brine ingredients clung to the fish.  After rinsing the fish, we let it air dry for 1-2 hours.  When the fish was dry I gave it a good sprinkle with some Drapers AP rub.  I knew that the flavor profile of Shane’s rub would reinforce the flavor of the brine.  I also gave the fish a good coating of brown sugar.  The recipe also gave me instructions on how to make a baste, but I was so busy that I decided to go with just a heavy coating of brown sugar instead.

Salmon fillets after brining on the Green Mountain Grill

I had a little over 2 hours to smoke the 4 large pieces of salmon which was just enough time.  I put them on and set the GMG at 225 degrees and let them sit in the smoker.  Of course I had to open the GMG multiple times to show off the salmon, so it probably would take a little less time to make this at home when you are not looking so much.  I cooked the salmon to a temperature of 140 degrees.  Then placed the salmon in our hotbox for about 30 minutes before serving.

The buffet line was filled with a large variety of delicious meats and side dishes.  We had chuck roast that was cooked all day in dutch ovens, tur-duck-ens that were flown in from Louisiana, sausages made from exotic game meats like deer and alligator, turkey breasts, brisket and 2 whole pigs roasted for us by a local meat market.  It was really quite the spread.  I was hoping my salmon would be a favorite of the crowd.

Salmon fillets after smoking and ready to be served.

As the people got in line and began to fill there plates you could hear comments about everything.  The people loved everything we had on the table.  I tend to go get my food last when I cook usually because I have sampled my product before it hits the table and am a little less hungry because of that.  My buddies pushed me into the line and said I needed to eat with them after I had cooked all day.  When we reached the salmon, only enough for 4 small portions remained.  One serving for me and my 2 buddies and then 1 left for someone else.  The line was only about halfway done.  The Grub-master underestimated how popular the salmon would be.  We went to our table and began to eat and a lot of people went out of their way to compliment me on how good the salmon was.  I was really amazed as this was my first try at smoking salmon.  The ultimate compliment came about an hour later.  I was packing my spices back into the car and I overheard to men talking about how good the salmon was.  It was an hour later and they were still talking about it.  What a compliment!

I have never had a piece of salmon that I cared for very much.  Most salmon I have had has been palatable, but the it never has been something that I crave or have to make.  I find it is usually dry and very fishy tasting.  It is not one of my favorite foods.  That being said, this salmon was moist, savory, sweet and not fishy tasting at all.  It was the best piece of salmon I ever had (sorry for the brag) and would actually request this again.  I would like to thank Shane Draper and Steven Hartsock for all the help last week.  Without those 2 men, I would not have received all the praise that I did.

 

 

 

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The BBQ Hall of Fame and Guy Fierri.

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Guy Fierri and Johnny Trigg at the BBQ Hall of Fame Ceremony.

On Saturday night, in Kansas City, MO, Guy Fierri along with Johnny Trigg and Henry Ford were inducted into the BBQ Hall of Fame.  Henry Ford was inducted for his work in the creation of the charcoal briquette.  Johnny Trigg was inducted for the many years he has competed on the BBQ circuit and all the championships he has won.  Guy Fierri was inducted for a variety of reasons.  First and foremost, Mr. Fierri is active in the world of BBQ.  His team, Motley Que Crew, won the American Royal Open BBQ contest last year and he has been competing since before he was famous on Food Network.  Second reason is that he has star power and the KCBS hoped it would add a little prestige to the first Hall of Fame induction ceremony.  Mr Fierri’s history with the sport of competitive BBQ is not as long as Mr Trigg’s or some of the other inductees but I do believe that he has a passion for the sport of BBQ and enjoys the environment very much.

Mike Mills, Carolyn Wells and John Willingham at the BBQ Hall of Fame induction ceremony

 

Saturday’s induction ceremony was outside at the American Royal stage and it was pretty cold that night.  Most of the inductees were at a black apron dinner that had ended right before the induction ceremony was about to begin.  The inductees came out 1 by 1 onto the stage and were placed in there assigned spots.  Most came out to little or no applause as I think most of the people there were not aware of the BBQ history that was sitting in front of them.  When Guy Fierri came out to take his spot the crowd erupted with applause and the flash bulbs started popping as fans were anxious to get a picture of Mr Fierri.  Mr. Fierry was very gracious with the fans taking time to talk to a few that spoke to him from the crowd and made a few special poses for the crowds pictures.  Once the ceremony started, the host, Roger Twibell, said a little bit about every inductee saving Guy Fierri for last.  After this, Guy Fierri was the only inductee to stand up and make a statement.  This is what I give Mr Fierri most credit for.  His speech was not about himself and how great he is.  His speech wanted to recognize Henry Ford and most of all Johnny Trigg.  It was a very nice gesture from a celebrity that could have taken the spotlight all to himself.

On Sunday, after the turn ins were done for the American Royal Open contest, Mr Fierry left his cook site and made his way to Johnny Trigg’s cook site about half way across the parking lot.  There were no film crews, no newspaper writers just a few fans of Mr. Fierri that wanted to catch a glimpse of him this weekend.  In a very touching moment, the two men, Guy Fierry and Johnny Trigg, spoke for a few minutes and gave each other a team shirt which each put on at that moment.  Guy was wearing a Smokin’ Trigger’s polo and Johnny was in a  Motley Que T-shirt.  Guy also gave Mr. Trigg a photo that his photographer took Saturday night at the Hall of Fame ceremony framed and everything.  As Mr. Fierri left Johnny Trigg’s cook site he took time to sign autographs for people as he made his way back to his own cook site.

Johnny Trigg and Guy Fierri after turn ins Sunday at The American Royal BBQ contest.

 

I would like to commend Guy Fierri for all that he did this weekend in Kansas City.  Congratulations on your induction into the BBQ Hall of Fame and a huge thank you from all of Kansas City.  Mr. Fierri you could have big timed this event and flew in the day of and out the night after but you did not.  You spent 3 days in KC with your team, Motley Que Crew, made yourself available for your fans and paid homage to BBQ legends at the Hall of Fame Ceremony.  I also might add that you stopped by the BBQ Pitmasters set Sunday to talk and to wish your friend ( I will not give away the name) good luck competing that day.  You sir are a class act all the way around.

I would be remiss in my duties if I did not list all of the inductees in the BBQ Hall of Fame so here they are.  Rich Davis creator of KC Masterpiece BBQ sauce, Fred Gould, Speed Herrig, Mike Mills of 17th St BBQ, Carolyn Wells creator KCBS, Gary Wells creator KCBS and John Willingham BBQ Legend, Henry Ford, Guy Fierri and Johnny Trigg congratulations on your inductions.  It will be great to have you all in Kansas City forever.

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